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We are dying from over thinking.

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It's a death trap.

Sir Anthony Hopkins

My artistic journey

Art and the ego

The self-described scoundrel and philosophical entertainer Alan Watts once said something along the lines of "the biggest ego trip going is the one where you try to get rid of your ego". The harder you try, and the more you subscribe to a guru or a set of fixed ideas, the further away you get from where your authentic heart wants to be.

 

This seems to be the great paradox of life, and as it turns out it's also the paradox of art. For me the most interesting art is not that which shows great skill and technical accomplishment; in fact, I realise I distrust art which feels too studied or over thought. For me, the most interesting art is that which is visceral, and made by those who are able to express themselves freely and openly and who show no fear - a few artists I admire for this are Tracey Emin, and David Bowie.

Over-thinking

I've been an over-thinker for as long as I can remember and often consumed with self-doubt. I can vividly recall the moment when my artistic instincts were tainted. As a young child I would lose myself to the careless abandon of drawing and painting, until one day, aged seven, someone's careless comment gave me a feeling it wasn't much good and 'Bam!' that was it, the narrative had been struck. In that moment the tyranny of 'good' and 'bad' set in and my instincts, together with my innate energies as an artist, were shredded. It felt like there must a right way to do something and wrong way - and that I was making mistakes. A belief that became an enormous burden to take on at such a young age.

Curiosity

However, a benefit of being an over-thinker has been an insatiable curiosity, and this stayed with me. I'm not an academic but I do possess a thirst for knowledge which sits outside the conventions of education. It wasn't through a lack of intelligence I found myself leaving school at 16 with no qualifications to speak of, it was most likely due to some still undiagnosed spectrum disorder that has made structured learning extremely difficult for me. I have never been able to sit a formal examination of any kind and, although I can barely follow a recipe from a cookbook, I have found my own ways to use my imagination which, combined with an innate belief in the possible, has been enough to start successful businesses and cook delicious food. To this end, I have never stopped teaching myself what I wish to learn and would probably be classified an autodidact.

Confidence

So this idea 'I couldn't do art' had engrained itself in my internal narrative; a belief that contributed to feelings of doubt and insecurity. One Friday, aged 16, I left school and the following Monday morning found myself crammed in with the commuters on the 7am train to London for a job in which I had no interest. Miserable, and experiencing an immense hypersensitivity to everything around me, I was weighed down by an artistic set of sensibilities I desperately needed an outlet for. 

I spent much of my twenties in rudderless pursuit of something. I just didn't know what. I was fortunate to earn money as a freelance costumier on movies which enabled me to go backpacking around the world but, despite such privileges, neither furnished me with the confidence to pursue anything artistically or creatively.

Over-trying

Somehow though, when we stop trying too hard or feeling overly self-conscious, that's when good things start to happen and, encouraged in no small amount by a photographer I'd met who taught me some darkroom skills, in my late twenties I applied for a Photography degree at an art college and this changed the course of my life.

 

During my time at art college I continued to wallow in the false belief that mistakes were the worst thing you could make, but it did offer a wider theoretical context and apply some intellectual qualities to my life that opened me to a much wider set of possibilities.

Imagination

In 1991/92, my final year, everything changed as I learned of the potential of desktop computing and the Apple Macintosh. I immediately recognised that interactive media was the future and my imagination was fired up with the boundless possibilities for new and exciting applications. I soon resolved to start a business in what was then called 'multimedia' and within a few years I was married with children and, together with my wife, had started one of the first digital media companies in the country.

 

Driven by the creative challenges and opportunities to create applications that could change people's lives, in particular the possibilities for new concepts for learning, we soon became a successful award-winning business. I realise now we were part of a small movement who were inventing a whole new medium without any of the usual conventions or constraints to guide us.

 

Sadly though, the more successful the company became, the less inspired I felt by the business side of it and despite an excellent reputation, my enthusiasm waned. I gradually felt torn between an unrelenting responsibility to follow the conventional rules of business in order to pay the wages of our ever-expanding team and my need for the freedom to express myself and satiate my instincts as a frustrated artist.

 

Education 

In his 2007 TED Talk, Sir Ken Robinson famously said "Education is run on the basis that mistakes are the worst things you can make", and that "We are educating people out of their creative capabilities". I realise of course that businesses are also run on the same principles and it took me some time to understand the world I had created around me was one of constraint in which I felt deeply unsuited.

Artistic liberation

I have no recollection of the reasons I decided to start painting but can still feel the excitement of those first tentative steps. They had the most extraordinary impact.

I was in my early fifties, recently separated and living alone in a challenging period of turbulence, when I purchased a large piece of board and simply started spreading some paint across it without any thought or particular care. The sense of not caring and just doing as I pleased was liberating. I gradually began to feel an immense artistic freedom I'd never experienced before; the sense that nothing mattered, that there were no mistakes to be made; that whatever anyone else thought wasn't relevant. I felt a sense of relief and understanding that every day of my life had been spent trying to please others with the burden of believing "I must not make a mistake".  

To paint with the freedom and the abandon of a child once more was addictive and I managed to produce some paintings I was pleased with without the constraint of any value judgements. The irony is that, having displayed my first painting on the wall of my home, within weeks a visitor expressed a desire to purchase it. I had not made any effort to produce a painting for other people, it was purely to satiate my own spirit; so in going beyond my comfort zone and letting everything go, I'd found success in something I greatly enjoyed doing.

Cy Twombly

Initially, when I first embarked on my journey into painting, my knowledge of artists and art history was quite limited. When I stumbled upon the works of Cy Twombly, he became an unexpected (albeit vicarious) mentor to me. I distinctly remember sitting at the back of Waterstones, captivated by a book detailing his artistic legacy.

 

Perplexed by the emotional impact Twombly's creations had on me, I struggled to comprehend why seemingly simple and erratic automatic marks, reminiscent of a child's scribbles, could evoke such a deep response. However, as I delved further into my own artistic endeavours and gained more experience, my perception underwent a transformation.

 

Now, I appreciate the challenges embedded in each of Twombly's paintings. I recognise the hidden depths within his seemingly chaotic marks and brushstrokes, which I find beautiful and moving. His abstract forms convey a unique, ethereal language with a distinctive charm of its own, adding a layer of complexity to his body of work.

David Bowie

In 2019 I became a full-time artist and as I progress on my own journey I'm continually reminded of David Bowie's wise words for artists: 

"Never play to the gallery ... never work for other people in what you do ... always remember that the reason you started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt that if you could manifest it in some way you would understand more about yourself and how you coexist with the rest of society .... I think it's terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfil other people's expectations, they generally produce their worst work when they do that. ... if you feel safe in the area that you're working in, you're not working in the right area, always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in ... go a little bit out of your depth and when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're in just about the right place to do something exciting."

Never too late

Each person's artistic journey is distinct, lacking a predefined path. Reflecting on my own experience, I believe if I had sought guidance and mentorship in my late teens or early twenties, my life's trajectory would have been altered. Nevertheless, life has taught me the valuable lesson that it's never too late to begin again and to follow your heart and stop believing in the deception of your own mind.

 

In my coaching practice it will be a privilege to share my understanding and experiences, using them to inspire and support you as you venture into deeper artistic waters - where your feet may not quite touch the bottom.

Questions?

If you have any questions prior to committing to the Introductory Session or the full programme, please don't hesitate to contact me, either by phone or email, and I will be pleased to answer them.

07775 584572

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