Monday, 29 December 2008
Had a wonderful Christmas, doing very little, with my mum and elder brother. Ate rather too much, drank relatively little, took EXTREMELY bracing walks on the north Kent coast (in a howling north easterly gale), and talked. Read my Christmas present books (finished one and started the second, out of four, but one is an Editors' Dictionary so I probably won't settle down to read that cover to cover). Caught up on some sleep. Watched the birds on mum's assortment of birdfeeders. Counted the plants in flower in her garden on Christmas Day (18, down from the usual 23 or 24). Peace and quiet...
I've been asked why I have a link to "that dreadful right-winger Orson Scott Card"'s website. Ahem, well; I think he's a good writer and an interesting bloke. And he's fairly centrist, politically. Mormon's don't tend towards socialism, as a general rule, do they? I don't agree with some of his views, being non-christian and a dyed-in-the-wool leftie, but everyone has the right to hold their own opinions, and at least his are thought-through and coherently argued. I'd much rather be able to have an intelligent conversation with someone I don't agree with than be scared of them punching me. Heavens, I didn't agree with a great many of my late father's ideas about life, but that didn't stop me enjoying talking to him, nor for that matter loving him, even when I wanted to yell at him. How insufferably bland life would become if I only sought the company of those who shared my world view in every detail, and did nothing but echo my own words back to me. Not only bland, indeed, but extremely creepy, too. I find OSC's essays interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining.
No-one else has to follow that link if they don't want to. You don't have to follow the Geek, either. If you don't like it, don't look at it.
On the which for-me pugnacious note I'll take my dirty plate (Sainsbury's Instant Curry Noodles, a real cop-out lunch) to the kitchen and get on with some work.
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
It was Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm", and I had never seen any reviews when it came out, but Gilliam is an interesting - and staggeringly imaginative - film-maker and I thought it should be a great evening's entertainment. Instead of which it was - well, great fun, certainly, but total chaos, rambling and badly plotted, at times really badly edited (which was unexpected) and almost an outright waste of the very capable leads. The plot was a close echo of Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" (a film which has the added benefit of total coherence [& Johnny Depp at his most hauntedly beautiful!]) with a lot of baroque trimmings flung on top, scattershot, in classic Gilliam "more is more" style. It had wonderful moments, and I liked the genuinely tough (rather than Hollywood "feisty") heroine. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon did their level best with underwritten and undermotivated parts, and both produced very creditable english accents. The set and production design was of course absolutely terrific. But it was an odd mixture, overall, of Gilliam-lite and what looked frankly like amateur pastiche Gilliam. As in "If we have a vaguely literary-referenced script and a real mess of a narrative everyone will think 'O, a Terry Gilliam movie', and we'll get away with it lacking the very real depth of ideas that a REAL Terry Gilliam movie has."
I think what pissed me off the most was a little moment near the end, when Jonathan Pryce's cardboard cut-out villainous french general is killed and his dying words are "All I wanted was a little order..." And I thought, Oh, Mr Gilliam, cheap shot!
Anyone who likes Terry Gilliam's work knows he is seriously into chaos; it is meat and drink to him, and I think in his book order is very probably toxic, inimical to life. But order is NOT inimical to life. It is inherent in all life, just as much as chaos. It's a fallacy, not to mention shooting at an an easy target, to say "Order is BAD, only chaos promotes life and growth!". Are the cells in a beehive disorderly? Are the petals on a dahlia, the scales on a pinecone, disorderly? No. But that is No and simultaneously Yes! And yes only because no, if you get my drift. In nature the two coexist, and cannot but do so. Order works because chaos breaks in; chaos works because it disrupts and revivifies order. As my favourite baritone is fond of saying, it's all about subtleties, nuances and laminations. I know that this praise of the multi-layeredness of the universe is itself a grotesque oversimplification of the complexity and subtlety of this interplay between forces, and my apologies for those who would articulate it better than I.
I was on the Tube a few nights ago next to a guy who had clearly come from the USA that evening - he had a huge suitcase with a tag from NYC, and was reading the New York Times. I looked over his shoulder at one point and saw an advert whose headline was "No-one was ever reassured by complexity". And I wanted to shout "Speak for yourself, you lack-wit advertising copywriter, you!". Because I, personally, am enormously reassured by complexity and almost invariably am dubious about, or even alarmed by, simplicity. Simplicity, in my experience, too frequently means active and deliberate over-simplification. Long live the complex, the intertwined and the nuanced, and the interplay and tension between tangled forces! Long live frenziedly busy weeks of rushing about, drinking rather too much, dancing, seeing friends and family, getting to bed late, singing in public, smiling at the choirmaster, and having fully-decorated christmas trees fall on me, as well...
Probably won't get to write any more until after christmas, so on that perhaps apprpriately chaotic note, Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy new year to you all.
Thursday, 18 December 2008
I was then rather rude about Ms Church.
Crikey, voice of an angel, that tripe? Eeuch.
Going home to listen to some decent music!
I think I have finally gotten all the sharps and flats into my head - and I don't need to know them any more. I have in fact got the four pieces we sang as a choir, and the five congregational songs, all on the brain constantly at present. It's bizarre, like being becalmed in a Sargasso Sea of carols.
I do love singing (as those who work with me know!) although I know I'm not much good (and I can't read music, which hampers me at times). I wish the staff choir ran year-round. And then, casting my mind back to school days, I remember Miss Porrer (if there are any old Langtonians out there you may find this rather controversial) and her teaching technique, and it astonishes me that I can even open my mouth at all. She was, apparently, the Greatest Music Teacher Ever - IF you were musical. I was officially Not Musical; I didn't play an instrument, and there was no money for me to learn one had I wanted to; my singing voice was low, scratchy, and rather unnattractive; I couldn't read music, or even grasp the basic concept of how one does read music... And I was ignored at best, and frequently shouted at and told to be quiet. I think perhaps music really was a sacred art to her; one that was profaned by talentless people like me who just wanted to enjoy themselves with it.
Incidentally, I still can't really grasp how one reads music, unless one has perfect pitch. Sure, "that line there is the first note of the national anthem". But do I start 'God Save The Queen' in the same key every time I sing it? Frankly, I doubt it. So how can I know that any note I sing is right? And how on earth does anyone calculate an interval of a third, or a fifth, or whatever, in their head, in silence? Maybe there is something missing in my brain.
At any rate, confronted by a choirmistress who glared at me and told me I sounded like someone driving nails through sheet metal, I cringed and failed and felt sick with shame and inadequacy; confronted by a choirmaster who beams at me, and whose teaching method boils down to Boundless Encouragement!, I sing out gladly, practice endlessly (even after the event...), and watch him giving the beat as if the future of life on earth depends upon it; and am simultaneously terrified and blissfully, indescribably happy.
So, no, I don't think Miss Porrer was the greatest music teacher ever. I don't think she was even a good teacher. No-one who subdivides her students into those worth bothering with and those not worth bothering with, and has such obvious total contempt for the latter group, can be called a good teacher. You can keep your great music teacher; give me a scientist who does it for fun, any day.
Which gets me on, in a sideways sort of way, to one of the topics of conversation last night at the Kew Inn; how does one give one's children an appreciation of something one is not terribly knowledgeable about? I was astonished to hear one of my friends saying she would not feel able to introduce her (at present hypothetical) children to classical music, history, The Arts in general, as she knows so little about them. I've always thought that if I had kids (increasingly unlikely these days, sadly), I'd rely on exposure to the natural world and the wonders of nature, etc etc, to give them an avenue into the Sciences - about which I know sod all, in truth. Would I in fact be unable to avoid predisposing them to have a bias towards the Humanities?
But what the heck is wrong with us, or our culture, or our school system, that an intelligent, articulate adult can feel that their reasonable layperson's knowledge is so useless, so inadequate, that they cannot introduce even a child to a whole area of human culture? Rhetorical question, I know, but I like my rhetorical questions, and it is going to bug me... As is this whole issue of the great Sciences/Humanities divide. "And ne'er the twain shall meet..."
Time to get back to work, Imogen!
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
A pity, as the last week has been good in many respects. I went to a wonderful performance of "The Messiah" at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday - period instruments and a smallish choir, very clear bright sound (though they did still manage to sing "Oh we like sheep" instead of "ALL we like sheep" - enunciating l into w clearly, and on a rising note as well, seems to defeat pretty much everyone). I didn't like the soprano soloist, a plump blonde with a very wobbly, vibrato-heavy voice; but the tenor was good, and the mezzo and bass both were excellent. The bass was built like the proverbial brick outbuilding, but with a lovely, rich, dark, 80% cocoa solids kind of a voice. The mezzo was the New Zealander Wendy Dawn Thompson, with whom I once briefly corresponded (in before-she-was-famous days). I remember her performance of "Musik ist eine Heilige Kunst" at the Cardiff Singers competition a few years back as one of those moments when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She hasn't a huge voice, but it is plangeant and expressive and has a wonderful tone - I'm thinking Highland Park and roasted hazelnuts. Her "He was despised" was heart-rending.
Saturday I met up with my stepmum Jane, had a meal out and a good old talk about everything under the sun, and then came down to Kew for a brisk walk in the rain and a spot of open-air carol singing, also in the rain. According to Jane, who listened with interest to the peculiar sound I produce, my singing voice should be classified as "contra-contralto", whatever that is. Dad was a very deep bass, basso profundo, so maybe it's genetic.
A lot of singing lately - I sing in the Kew Staff choir christmas carol service, and we have been rehearsing quite frequently and then yesterday afternoon were doing our thing in St Anne's church. Our immensely hard-working and supportive choirmaster Nigel turns out annually and with ineradicable good cheer and patience encourages us into giving a performance worth hearing. Every year at the first rehearsal I think "Oh god, we're going to be hopeless!" - every year Nigel calls forth gold from straw, and behold, our nervous pipings and creakings become music. I know he does something involving nuclear magnetic spectroscopy in the Jodrell Laboratory, but I suspect he may also be a bit of an alchemist on the side...
The carol service was followed by the famous (?infamous?) "Pies and Punch", and then full of mulled wine and goodwill to all men I hurtled across Town to meet Helena at Edgeware Road, got out at the wrong exit and stood flabberghasted by the Marylebone Flyover at rush-hour. Hell on earth would look something like this, I think. Managed to connect with Hel and had a lovely meal and a great deal to drink, and again talked our heads off. Got home at about 2 a.m. I am so knackered I am not for real! And in theory tonight I am going to Jill Preston's Christmas drinks and then the Visitor Services Christmas bash at the Kew Inn. I'd hate to miss the latter as it was so pleasing to be invited when I left VS nearly six months ago. But I don't think I'll last very long. It's also Hernàn's leaving do, and I really want to bid him buen viaje y buen suerte.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Work is busier now, as Christmas is upon us. And life is also busy - friends and parties, carol concert practice, "Messiah" (in period costume!) tomorrow evening, trying to catch up with all the family, trying to find time to write and post greetings cards and presents...
But I had an amazing dream last night about going to a drawing class and then starting to make huge charcoal drawings - woke up with almost the same feeling of exhileration that I would have had if I had been drawing. It reminded me all over again of why I have to keep the creative juices flowing, somehow, because it is what makes me feel more alive than anything else I know - better than being drunk or being in love, even.
Monday, 17 November 2008
So - if anyone has the second volume or the fourth onwards of the "Crown of Stars" series by Kate Elliott, and doesn't want them, a) you don't know good fantasy when you meet it, b) can I have them, please?(!)
I've also discovered, sideways from this, that one of my favourite SF authors, Orson Scott Card, has a personal website full of his thoughts and opinions. I've tried to list it as one of my fave bloggs but I don't know if I did it right (given my general hopelessness with computers). If it's there, tho', do have a look. His review of "Mamma mia!" is quite something.
Hurrah for this, too:
Even if you have to cut and paste to get that into the address bar, do have a look at it. Johnny Marr of The Smiths writing incredible inspirational common sense.
Friday, 14 November 2008
Off to see Femi Kuti at the South Bank tonight, then another quiet weekend - but I must sort out some things before I go on holiday next sunday. My trip is just beginning to seem real now that I've had my jabs (yow!). I need to get a couple of good books and a new pan of ultramarine blue for my watercolour box. I wonder if I'll have time to do much painting during the first week? - it's one of those move-on-every-other-day tours. Followed by four days sitting on my backside on a beach, swimming in the Caribbean and drinking fresh mango juice (& stronger stuff in the evenings...)!
I've never had a long-haul flight before and this is the one thing I'm really NOT looking forward to at all; the boredom of air travel is horrendous. The bad movie, the staggering view of the back of the seat in front of me, the stiff butt, knees and ankles, and, if I am really lucky, the half-a-pocket-handkerchief sized window on my left, showing a totally featureless cloudscape for ten hours... But hopefully it will be more than worth it!
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Friday, 7 November 2008
Have also now had a fairly busy afternoon at work, and some fairly odd enquiries. But I have a completely clear weekend and am looking forward to doing some STUFF, finishing my latest sewing project, and possibly going to the WWT in Barnes for one of their indulgent veggie sunday lunches and a damp afternoon with (hopefully) lots of lovely migrant birds to sketch. Of course, I also have to do my grocery shopping and run the washing machine, and I need to find out where in Shepherd's Bush Kerry's film is screening on Monday night.
Have a good weekend, everybody!
Friday, 31 October 2008
Talking yesterday to Katie (next office along) I found that she too is an enthusiast for reworking second hand clothes. Yet another exciting (to me) scheme springs forth (hmm... fully armed from my brow, like Athene). A new fashion house! Operating out of Kew!(OK, perhaps not that last - or if so, then very much on the QT). Recycling second-hand clothes and producing amazing, tailor-made one-off garments. Call it Weaver and Dent? Or Weaverdent? Somehow I don't feel our names combine to great effect. If my surname were Bird that would work better - but on the other hand Weaverbird perhaps doesn't have quite the right connotations... Also maybe Katie is too busy to have a whole third career (on top of Kew and motherhood). Or how about calling it something rich and bizarre like Heartbreak House? "Polly's dress - unique piece by Heartbreak House, prices on request" - I can just see it in the picture credits to a magazine fashion photo shoot...
Down, girl. Too many new ideas and not enough follow-through. Not enough follow-through, of course, becasue not enough capital (ie none at all). And now is not the time to seek venture capital funding for my dream of a vegetarian bistro and guest house with artists' studios and artist-run gallery set in a private nature reserve and organic smallholding on a Greek island. Sadly.
There was a television programme about this (rehashed fashion, not my bistro/gallery/greek island fantasy) a couple of weeks ago, but I was pretty disappointed by it. I wanted serious how-to tips, not Twiggy cooing over how wonderful people looked.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I've also been having some totally non-creative but interesting fun with an online dating agency... A couple of guys have messaged me but nothing more; all rather bizarre. But I'm tired of waiting for interesting men to surface near me; face it, there aren't many at Kew and those there are seem to be either already taken, weird, or very weird.
Trying to describe oneself without sounding either big-headed or terrifyingly insecure and self-deprecating is tough going. At least I have a few pictures of myself - the same ones I have posted here at some point (Imogen the student radical beating her doumbek on a demo, Imogen on board a sleeper to Barcelona, Imogen looking quizzical in an orange suntop, Imogen drunk but very happy at her graduation ball.) I'd love a decent current picture of me on my bike, just to counter the decidedly indoor feel of most of those. When one has an old-fashioned 35 ml film camera and a mobile 'phone that predates mobiles having built-in cameras, getting photographs in an electronic form is surprisingly difficult.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Monday, 13 October 2008
At least I have three new jumpers now - as well as a leather waistcoat, a new shirt and no less than four evening frocks (two of which need adjusting, so more sewing for me). All for the princely sum of £53 in total, going to the British Heart Foundation, the PDSA and Cancer research. I'd have been lucky to get one sweater from Marks and Sparks for that!
Going to reheat and eat my leftover stir-fry and then get back to work.
Friday, 10 October 2008
However, my creative activities over the last week have been limited to sewing, which one can do sitting up in bed fairly easily. I've cannibalised a baggy sweater and made from it a sweater that fits me, and have nearly finished doing the same to a cotton suntop for next year. And I strung some beads. Strenuous stuff. Apart from that I have read a great deal, which is always good even when the circumstances are horrible; a Dorothy L Sayers I picked up for 50 pence at a Lifeboat Station Open Day books-and-junk-stall, a guide to Cuba and a fascinating book by a guy called Phil Cousineau about the philosophy of pilgrimage.
The washing machine still hadn't been fixed when I left for work this morning - that's three and a half weeks now of handwashing my socks and underwear - good thing I'm not squeamish (or leaky). I'm not used to it any more, though I've done plenty of it in my time, mostly many years ago when a student, in digs with no washing machine and no local laundrette.
Have drafted some material for my putative Creativity magazine but am now wondering if I was barking to moot the idea in the first place, as no-one I asked for input or suggestions has got back to me at all. Not even to say "You're barking." Hmmm. Watch this space. I'm sure every creative innovator has moments of terrible self doubt (says she, attempting to aggrandise a very unimportant issue). But after all, it may have been a really silly idea...
Hoping all are well; have a good weekend.
Friday, 3 October 2008
time to know where we are in our life right now...
answer this form to seeforyourself how well you really are!
peace and blessed be.
1. how is your life in general right now?
2. what are the good things that have happened? how do you feel about them? akawhat are you grateful for?
3. what are the things that have happened that you don't know whether or not itis really good or bad? lol.
4. compare numbers 2 and 3... which list is longer? do you like the parts thatyou are focusing more or not?
5. how is your physical health right now? why do you think it's like that? howdo you plan to improve it?
7. how is your spiritual health right now? are you more spiritually content ordisarranged?
8. on a scale of 1-10 how stressed are you? (ten being very extremelyhumungously lol stressed... and one being as peaceful as i can be)
9. goals achieved:
10. goals pending:
11. new goals:
12. notes to self:
13. praises to self:
14. how much do you love yourself? at a scale of 1-10 (ten being highest and 1being lowest)
15. did you treat yourself to something great within the month? what was it? didyou like it? would you do it again?
feel free to post this to the group or just answer and keep it to yourself. lol.at the end of the year, take a view on all of them and you'll see how far youhave grown as a person! lol.
And at this juncture, perhaps I should step up and reveal one of my big secret tips for keeping the creative flame alight: Self-help books.
Don't laugh - seriously, titter ye not; these things have their uses, and, to add clitch upon clitch (as my dad used to say), if it works for you don't knock it. There's plenty of idiocy, capitalist self-congratulation, and fluffy white-light-ism out there, but if you find a tip that works for you in a self help book, a magazine, a website, Woman's Own or anything else, use it and be unashamed about it.
What else has been going on? Got home late last night, found the washing machine still hasn't been fixed and now apparently won't be for at least another week to ten days. Sandra (landlady) so embarrassed as she had faithfully promised it would be operating by end of Thurs, she had been raiding all of our dirty-washing baskets and conducted the mother of all visits to a launderette in Southall. So alarmed was I at the thought of her seeing the pigsty my room is at present that I spent the rest of the evening tidying instead of doing some prints as I'd planned. >sigh<
Not much on the tele tonight, though, so maybe I'll get all inky this evening.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
I've had more thoughts re the possibility of launching a magazine. Clearly the tube journey home from the West End is conducive to same. It's going to be a quarterly, featuring new writing, both non-fiction and fiction, visual imagery, and poetry, with a strong Goddess/pagan focus, and a general remit of "Creation Spirituality and the Spirituality of Creativity".
I will sort out a snappier title, though.
And for those who are reeling at the above, if you haven't heard of Creation Spirituality, be not afraid; it has absolutely bugger all to do with Creationism. I do not believe god created the world in 7 days. Not my god, not yours, not any bally god. Why bypass a perfectly good process like evolution, and at enormous effort, expense and general trouble, just to show off the fact that you can? The gods have better things to do, I'm sure.
Anyway, I'll be preparing a first issue over the next few weeks, with an aim to launching at Samhein. If anyone wants to contribute, let me know!
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
I'd love to go back to Granada some time; ideally for Las Cruces, when the whole city turns itself out of doors and makes a fiesta in every square for three days. >sigh< Happy memories...
Coming home on the tube, I was seized by a sudden desire to start a magazine. It would have to be a quarterly initially, to give me time to put an issue together, but I found myself thinking of all sorts of things I could put in it and people I could get to contribute, and getting raher excited. Watch this space. Goddess only knows if I can do this, but it feels like a living idea...
Monday, 22 September 2008
I'd had a lovely weekend, too. Very lazy on saturday, then sunday I went down into Richmond with a sketchbook and had a great time painting and drawing. Richmond Green v odd - full of (forgive me, but they were) braying yuppies shouting "Horatio!" and "Pandora!" and so forth after their children as said children gambolled happily in other families' picnics, took off with other families' footballs, chased other families' dogs, etc. I did some pastel sketches of light under trees and kept a low profile.
Then I moved to the riverbank and suddenly was in heaven. Sunlight pouring down, creating wonderful colours and reflections, shadows and depths in the water. Happy, relaxed people wandering along, having a beer or a meal, sitting in the sun. Ducks and swans getting fed with bread crusts. Dads rowing their kids and lads rowing their loves (and one love nobly rowing her lad) about in skiffs on the river. A guy and a little boy in a motor launch heading upriver with loads of supermarket shopping bags (I guess with the state of the roads round here maybe the river is a better traffic route if you live in Teddington or Twickenham or on Eel Pie Island...). The atmosphere was peaceful, chilled, warm (excuse contradiction in terms!) and happy. And it was HOT. It was glorious. I painted a rather splashy watercolour of the view upriver and did some studies of waterfowl. There was even a great crested grebe, briefly surfacing, surveying us all regally before vanishing with an elegant dive and reappearing in the blaze of reflected light to westward. I managed to catch the tiniest painted dabble of a sketch of him before he dived again and was gone.
I've been listening to Kerry (flatmate, origami-butterfly girl, remember?) talking about lots of exciting things going on in her life at the moment, and it is pretty inspiring. Then factor in the sense of wellbeing that comes from a happy and successful sketching and painting session like that; add on the bliss of having sat in the sun for several hours; and altogether one feels fantastically happy and ready for anything.
So now it is raining and I have a week's backlog of complaint letters to deal with (Julie's legacy, rats). But I call to mind the sunlight and the shifting deep colours and dazzles of the water, the swans with their cygnets, the willow boughs shifting and drifting across on the far bank, and the blessed heat on my skin, and I know I am not really being overwhelmed by the stupidity of these letters and emails. I am simply doing this for a living. I am doing this to live, because real life is out there - not in here. Out there in the daylight, be it sun or shadow, in the fascination of laminations of tone and subtle nuances of colour and light, and the heart-opening of doing my true, real work for a day.
Friday, 19 September 2008
I'm going to do something constructive, and answer a complaint letter - a v silly complaint (like most of them). Why do people complain about unutterably stupid things that can't be remedied, while suffering in silence through some of the appalling customer non-service that happens every day? People are odd.
It occurs to me that one of the other reasons I will miss Julie is that she is far more computer-savvy than me and I have been picking her brains to solve my computer difficulties for absolutley ages... "Julie, how do I ~?" "Julie, where would I find a ~?" "Julie, I'm having problems with Excel..." etc etc. I'm just going to have to cope without.
Think positive, Imogen. The woman behind me at the Opera House last night was reading "The Power of Positive Thinking" in the interval; an odd conjunction with Don Giovanni. I wonder what a really trendy director would make of trying to relate the two...
I'm rather embarrassed by my last entry - what a dismal soul I am sometimes, all scratchy and ranting. Proper grumpy little miss, in fact.
Very tired today, with back ache and period pain, and not much sleep after getting home after midnight from "Don Giovanni" to find the house full of people who wanted to talk... to me... Lovely, except I'd prefer to be popular at 10.30 than 12.30 pm! Then tonight is the leaving "do" of my colleague and dear friend Julie, who is going off to do a Phd, half in Durham and half in The Gambia. I'm going to miss her dreadfully, though I know she is going to have a much happier time using her brain to research control measures for the flies that transmit trachoma than she has done answering 'phones at Kew. Our loss is, hopefully, medical science's gain. Well, medical science in the eventual long-term, anyway. Initially just scientific knowledge about flies and their habits. I'm being very decorous here - her field trips are going to involve collecting large amounts of human excrement, so I probably ought to be making all the crap jokes I can. Anyway, I'm going to miss her and want to give her a good send-off. But then I have a free weekend, whoopee...
Which means some R&R, a nice long walk in the park, and some painting.
I started some more greetings cards, with stars and what were meant to be angels. The angels came out rather hefty and, frankly, menacing looking. Since I do not accept that idea that angels are the Almighty's vigilante force, I will have to work back into them again, thoroughly, probably using a lot of glitter, coloured ink washes and maybe snippets of collage. The stars, and some swirling patterns like spiral galaxies, are rather effective, though. I am running out of blank cards, which is a problem, but I'm sure I can track more down somewhere.
I think I will have to add it onto my list of tips for stimulating one's creativity; buy a box of blank greetings cards. The fact that one sees some progress, and so quickly, with card after card suddenly having colours and images on it, is exciting and inspiring.
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
Horrow Stories I Have Heard
& Bad Reasons To Make No Art
1) "I'm an artist because I think like one, I don't need to be making art to be an artist."
Er, huh? Sorry, but I think that is just plain wrong. If you think like an artist but don't make anything that could remotely be called art (and, let's face it, "anyhting that could remotely be called art " gives you a pretty large field of play, to begin with!), then you are a creative person who is stymied, blocked, suffering from depression, or downright lazy. PLEASE! - if you are stymied, blocked or clinically depressed, get help, grieve, struggle, but do something about it! If you are lazy - well, what can I say? Get off your btm and find a creative outlet of some kind, and stop making really daffy excuses for yourself.
2) "I'm not going to show with those amateurs/in that pathetic little space/unless it's in Hoxton or the West End; I'm worth more than that."
Don't be a snob. Yes, of course you are worth tons and tons, you are unique and only you can make your art, have your thoughts, etc. BUT - to the art-viewing public you are just one of tens of thousands of other artists they haven't heard of. Get yourself heard-of. Get your stuff seen. "Those amateurs" have got their work in a show - have you? That "pathetic little space", however small and cramped, is on public view, which your bedroom wall, your loft, or your parents' garage, are not.
3) "I'm a creative person! I can't be expected to organise setting up shows and running mailing lists and so forth; someone else must do all the organising for me so I can concentrate on creating."
And the person who said this to me is going to have a tough time of it in adult life in general, not just in their putative career as an artist. No-one gets to do just the things they enjoy, and hand all the boring, complicated and messy stuff to someone else, except the filthy, filthy rich. That's life. Do you want to wind up co-dependent on a control freak? Then get your act together!
4) "I've been treated so badly, I can't get over it; my college didn't appreciate me, my tutors didn't give me the grade I deserved! I'll never get over it, never!"
My tutors also didn't give me the grades I deserved. Nor did heaps of other folks' tutors. School sucks (excuse me, sudden americanism there). Lots of other peole won't appreciate you, or your work. Or me and my work. Again, that's life. And, yes, it still hurts, and yes, it was miserable. Those big rejections, when all your hopes were pinned on something, are utterly flattening at the time. But the only person who suffers from you brooding on it endlessly is you. Those mean old tutors of ten years ago don't give a toss; they've probably forgotten your name, at least nine and a half years ago.
I'm going to have to stop this, I'm just getting nasty, remembering rows I have had with people I was at college with who came out with stuff like this. I saw so many people with real talent come out of art school and trail off into doing dismal underpaid jobs and whinging in the pub about all the "reasons" why they were absolutley helpless in the grip of a nightmare situation where they couldn't do anything at all creative. I would try to buck them up, be positive, then try a little gentle nagging, then make suggestions and point out opportunities and bright ideas I had come across that would suit their ouevre brilliantly, and generally make a thorough pollyanna-ish nuisance of myself. One lass in particular I remember would just get more and more downcast, the more I pointed out to her all the avenues open to her, and finally would start telling me I just didn't understand and I was simply trying to put her down and make myself look as if I had all the answers. I gave up in the end and decided that actually I was wasting both her and my time, and being both masochistic and a self-righteous bitch, preaching at her like this, trying to help someone with no real desire to stand on her own feet.
I am preachy, and self-righteous, and I do think I have all the answers! - it's my nature! I was brought up that way! So it's my parents' fault! Wah, wah, wah... Sorry, meltdown complete. Tomorrow I promise to post something positive and not whingey at all. Good for you if you ploughed through all this. Please come back another day and see how cheerful I can be!...
Monday, 8 September 2008
But perhaps it would be more use (not to mention far more upbeat) to work on a list of tips and tricks to beat those procrastinatory excuses...
Friday, 5 September 2008
Feelings of mixed melancholy and hilarity as I find this lovely pic of myself slightly (or maybe more than slightly) drunk at my Graduation Ball... I particularly like the classic end-of-term student poster on the pillar behind me...
Second picture is me on a night train to Barcelona, taken by 'Nat Shillor when we both bunked off from revising for Finals and went to Spain for a long weekend of sunshine, culture and a certain amount of sangria. And churros. And a scruffy hotel room with a balcony overlooking the beautiful gothic church of San Josep Oriol.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
In this dream I was standing in the Orangery at work, in Edwardian costume, surrounded by other people in similar clothes. I had a very strong impression that this was because it was 1908 or thereabouts, not because we were wearing fancy dress. There was a carol service about to start and I was clutching a service sheet. Music began, and just as I drew breath to sing I realised I was alone right at the front and so my loud and very distinctive voice would be very noticeable and possibly even drown other voices out. I felt a rush of fear and embarrassment. Suddenly someone was beside me who took my hand. I looked round to find a red-haired man standing there, who grinned at me and began to sing; I took heart and sang too, no longer caring at all the other people staring at us. We sang a hymn beginning "Alleluia, the streets of London/ Echo with resounding joy", which certainly has a confident, days-of-Empire ring to it! The tune, a four-square chorale type of thing, has been going round in my head ever since.
I know this is silly, but this really boosted my spirits this morning, despite the rain. The red-haired man looked like the actor William Houston, who would be perfect casting for Simon Cenarth, the protagonist of "Gabriel Yeats", if it were ever to be filmed. It left me feeling vaguely encouraged and once again contemplating the idea of trying to find a publisher for "G.Y.", although the idea scares me dreadfully.
Writing was always my other great joy besides painting and drawing, right from early childhood. Telling stories, and always, mysteriously, having more stories to tell coming up where the last one had come from. Yet the thought of trying to get my work published is even more intimidating than the prospect of trying to get my art work seen and sold.
I must learn to act without fear.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
I am thinking of setting up a postal project - obviously for Kew people we could use the internal mail, which while erratic is at least free - anyone else would need to use the old-fashioned postal post.
Basically, the idea this: A sheet of A2 paper, marked up to become sixteen sheets in an A5 book, circulates among sixteen people, and each one paints/draws/collages/knits/sews/prints/rubs in dirt/sticks on a photo/sticks on dried plant specimens/or whatever else you feel inspired to do; doing this onto one of the sixteen marked "pages". When it returns to me I fold, cut and stitch it along the marked divisions to make the first eight leaves of a little book, then start a new sheet doing the rounds. If more than sixteen people are interested then more sheets can be in circulation... or more could circulate anyway, who knows? Would anyone be interested in participating? You could do anything from a quick sketch or daub or gumming-in a picture to doing something elaborate. You could write if you prefer. Whatever you like. If you're busy, rush it through - if you're out of work, take advantage of the leisure time - if you're on holiday or on a field trip, do something inspired by your surroundings... you name it, stick it in. If you can't do anything at all, just pass it on and ask if you can have it back later (if you want it back at all, that is). Just don't hang onto it for months - it will work best, I'm guessing, with either a quick turn around or a quick pass-on.
Put a comment on "comments" if you are interested (and give me an email if don't have one for you) and I'll get in touch.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Stephen remarked that he wished there were some chance for people like him (he's a freelance graphic designer) to do something creative occasionally without having to risk losing work in order to have the time. His idea was that companies employing people in so-called "creative industries" should run a kind of staff personal development scheme whereby their creative employees could take a day a month, say, to do something that was not work related but that would stimulate them and thus improve their productivity, enhance the originality of their thinking, etc, by letting them spread their thoughts a little beyond the usual end-oriented get-the-job-done way of working. I think that's a lovely idea! - if wildly idealistic... He'd been inspired by the discovery that during World War Two, when the war office hired artists to design camouflage schemes for naval and army use, they encouraged them to also continue their personal art practice in the belief that keeping their creativity flowing as freely as possible would enhance their ability to produce good designs for the forces.
A creative personal development scheme at work... Hmmm. How about trying to get Kew to set that up?!
I urged him to start carrying a sketchbook. That's been one of my solutions to the problem of finding the time to make art of some kind. I never read on trains, for instance, but I often draw. If I'm riding more than a few stops on the Tube I draw the people sitting opposite me (slyly!). I used to pick up a leaf and draw it at work, on quiet days in my old job at the gates (days like today with its interminable rain), or during those foot-chewingly boring hours of reception duty at the Herbarium (enlivened only by occasional moments of intelligent conversation with Herbarium staff passing through reception- I'm sure, looking back, that I must have sounded a little desperate as I tried to get those friendly souls to stop a few seconds longer!). The new job is more humane in hours and in work conditions, but doesn't provide me with those enforced quiet patches.
But still, one can sketch, or knit, or sew, or crochet, or make notes, or write a novel, on the bus or the Tube or the train to work...
Another thing that came up this weekend was a comment from a friend of Mum's, relayed to me by her in some irritation, & equally as irritating to me. It came from an elderly lady called Bennie who used to come to all my private views when I was living in Kent. She always had a glass or three of wine and always thanked me for the invitation and said how lovely my stuff was; last week she stopped Mum in the High Street to ask how I was. Hearing I was now working full-time, she exclaimed how sad it was as I would not now have time to exhibit as much. Very true; I don't have time to exhibit as much, or to seek out exhibition opportunities, or to meet up with other artists, or indeed to make new work in the first place. I plug away with it, but time is short compared to when I only worked three days a week and crawled along on financially what I could earn by that (& a bl**dy struggle it was, too). I am acutely conscious of how little painting I generate compared to four years ago. Apparently Bennie then went on to tell my mother that I had made the wrong decision and that she was disappointed in me when she had supported me for so long, and that I should be disappointed in myself, too.
Well, all I can say is that in the five years I was struggling on on about £4500 per annum, living in Mum's spare room, and painting and exhibiting every chance I had, this person never once bought so much as a £10 sketch from me. Her "support" of me amounted to turning up, saying "Oh well done", and drinking my wine. And she is not badly-off, and I know she buys original art works from other - successful - artists. I don't think I've sold out in wanting to make sales, but, hell, one must have an income from SOMEWHERE. If she supported me so much, she could have demonstrated it.
I am not disappointed in myself; I think I've done well. I'm still here, albeit right out on the furthest margins of creativity. So, sorry, Bennie, but it wasn't a helpful comment.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Why do I do this? Am I the only person who does? I'm pretty sure I'm not... certainly HOPE I'm not! But how stupid of me. There never yet was anyone who successfully promoted their work by disparaging it; it's just false modesty and a nervous reluctance to sound as if I think much of myself - what my maternal grandmother called "thinking yourself Big".
A colleague points out that christmas designs would sell better at the moment anyway. I can take that on board; angels and stars coming up, soon as I get the chance! A couple of the more indeterminate designs could even be christmas-icised without too much difficulty, and I have lots more blank cards to use, too.
At least I have other creative things going on; like cookery. Just finished the last of the roast veg from Tuesday - stuffed roast vegetable marrow (with rice, tomatoes, pine nuts, feta cheese, parsley and paprika), and roast beetroot. The beetroot were so much better roasted than boiled that I don't know if I'll ever bother boiling them again... Yum. Now feeling slightly sleepy as I'm so stuffed with food. Back to work...
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Had a good evening on Tuesday; I came home, put some veg on to roast and then picked up my three funny, amateurish-looking little collography blocks to have a go at doing some printing for the first time in years. Mixed results! But got the buzz again and then went on, this time to start trying to do some monoprints. I had a box of pre-cut greetings card blanks, and began making cards for all I was worth; collograph, monoprint, monoprint on top of collograph, two layers of monoprint in different colours, ink painted over the top, and so on. I've still got pink ink under my fingernails two evenings later, but I was very happy crawling about on the floor like a baby, slinging ink, paint, glue etc around. Luckily kept it off the carpet (not my carpet and landlady although tolerant is bound to have a breaking point somewhere!..). Twenty-one greetings cards later, I'm not sure what to do with them all - but it was a satisfying evening. Most are themed around either hearts or spirals... If I have someone to send a Valentine to next year, at least I'll be spoilt for choice.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Drinking green tea from Laos (a present!) at work while a bell tolls endlessly from St Anne's church opposite - the bride is 20 minutes late for a wedding and this seems to be their idea of entertainment. In a few minutes I must get back to dealing with some more odd enquiries. As I work my way down through one file, another one is slowly filling up... If one must have a day job, and clearly I must, at least this one is never dull.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
It's been pointed out to me that I began a little history of the reasons for the site a while back, and then left it with an image of myself looking round a lecture theatre at art school in the spring of 2000 and thinking "How do I get to carry on making art, then?"
Basically, what happened then was that I began looking for any and every tip and trick and piece of advice on the problem that I could find. I asked anyone who would listen to me if they had any suggestions (except those whose opinions I didn't respect in the first place - most of whom funnily enough gave [completely useless] advice even so!).
I realised that one of the key problems was lack of time when I saw that within a matter of months most of my college friends were saying "I simply haven't the time for art, I'm too busy/too tired/my job is too demanding". So I refused to solve my student debt problem the obvious way by getting a decently-paid full time job, and instead worked part time and painted in my spare time.
One of the best bits of advice I received came from an art teacher I modelled for. She had recently been given the chance to put a piece in a small show and was rejoicing that she had been doing some painting recently, and so had something to hang. She told me "Most of my fellow-students from Royal College days are still showing their degree show work if they get an exhibition opportunity, because they haven't done anything since, and I know how much it depresses them every time they drag the old stuff out." That stuck with me, as I'm sure you can imagine. They "drag the old stuff out". YUK.
Another thing I noticed a lot of people from college doing was rejecting possible chances to exhibit their work for reasons that were essentially snobbish - "I can't exhibit with Whitstable Art Society, they're all kitten-painters!". Mostly they are, kitten-painters that is; but they still have an annual Open Exhibition for local artists. I shamelessly exhibited with the kitten-painters and the Sunday painters. I even ended up as Acting Chair of the local Art Society for a year (after the chairman was thrown out of office for trying to defraud the society's main sponsor!). If it works, don't knock it, as the saying goes. It got me exhibited and it got me sales, and all the satisfaction of knowing some of my work was hanging in someone's home or office, instead of sitting propped against the wall in my mother's garage.
It seemed to me that the big hurdles I had to get over were
1. keep making art work
2. get it shown - somehow, somewhere
3. keep in touch with other artists
4. don't give up!
So I focussed on those things.
More tomorrow... Going home.
Temple of Light, 2002. Oil on canvas.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
"...bold, and asking for more than you think you deserve"
and that just about sums it up, doesn't it? The biggest hurdle to creativity is not the infamous blank page, and certainly not, in my case at least, the pram in the hall, it's the personal insecurity and the effort involved in asking for "attention to be paid". No matter how much one tells oneself that one is a grown adult, capable, talented, with successes and triumphs under one's belt - still those little nagging inner voices are there in the background, saying softly and insidiously "you don't deserve to get anywhere, stay safe, don't try anything risky, spare yourself the humiliation". UGH. The legacy of internalising goddess-knows-what individually-harmless minor comments in early childhood. I do not believe for one moment that any of the people who said to me "Don't overreach yourself, play it safe" when I was a small child had any desire to undermine my confidence; I was, after all, a demanding, ferociously bright, competitive and short-tempered kid endlessly trying to beat an equally bright, taller, stronger elder brother. Not match him; beat him. Hence the broken collar bone, the impalement in the laurel tree, and a number of other injuries (- A&E Doctor:"Where did you land, dear?" Me, aged six: "Half on the stairs and half in the hall, but it would have been all in the hall if Stephen had let go of my leg." Another A&E doctor, on another occasion: "What was it that hit you?" Me, aged seven: "The toy rhinoceros my brother threw at me.").
Lack of self-confidence is one of the most crippling things I ever deal with. At least nowadays I DO deal with it; for years, I just hid. It took a very odd experience to force me to see that I was not helping myself by never facing up to anything that scared me.
I was discussing "Red Dwarf" (remember "Red Dwarf"?) with a colleague and found myself saying I identified with Rimmer. Her appalled disgust and disbelief brought me up short. Was this really such a dreadful concept? I found myself seeing myself momentarily through another's eyes, and it took me aback. In my lunch break I went out and sat in the rose garden of Eliot College, and thought about the whole Rimmer/me issue at some length. I saw myself over time turning more and more into a Rimmer-like character. The sun was shining, there were roses blooming all around me, and I was imagining a future as a sour, embittered, disliked tagger-along on the lives of others. I took my diary and wrote in it "I have seen the future, and it doesn't work."
A week later I went to an open day at the local adult education centre, got chatting to one of the art department staff, and on impulse signed up to do an art course in the autumn term. It cost me £120, and it was the best £120 I have ever spent, because it changed my life.
If I ever meet Chris Barrie, I must thank him, because in a way he changed my life, too.
Since then - that was in 1993, good grief - I've overcome many blockages, done many things that were difficult or challenging, and faced many fears. It does get easier with time and experience. But I wouldn't say I'm particularly good at it yet.
I'm in a new job at the moment, and it's bringing me up against some of the same issues. I cannot bear getting things wrong. Other people can make mistakes when they are learning a new rôle; I cannot. I feel like screaming with frustration at my inadequacy, over minor errors that I would comfortably excuse, were someone else to make them under my tutelage. It's as if the job is a new Stephen, and I'm playing catch-up once again, competing against a standard I cannot beat.
Sorry, this has all gone rather cod-psychology tonight. I'm tired after a rather mad day and last night's very enjoyable (if frustrating at times - why? - because I'm not good enough at it!!) lesson at the Lindy-Hop club. I'm going home now, which means cycling in the rain because like a mutt I came to work by bike today in defiance of the weather forecast.
Not feeling terribly creative; I chiefly want to sleep, in fact. The fresh (& wet) air will do me good, no doubt. Goodnight, all.
Monday, 18 August 2008
I've always felt very strongly that there is a totally unnecessary prejudice (within the arts as a whole) against certain types of creative self-expression - cookery, gardening, but also everything classified as a "craft" rather than an art form, and all the illustrative types of art such as archeological and botanical draughtsmanship. It furthers a snobbish and heirarchical (have I spelled that right? it's one of my blank spots) art world, and creates a system that shows preference to its own, and dismisses most of the world as mere lowly mortals who haven't got talent. Considering some of the twerps who are officially sanctioned as being "talented" I think I'd rather keep company with the gardeners and the craftspeople!
Dear me, I'm ranting, and I'm cross enough that my grammar is slipping.
Change of subject, quickly.
I started trying to do some collography on Sunday - hindered by having rather thin cardboard, but bashing away at it nonetheless. Two plates are drying at home and tomorrow evening I'll have a go at printing from them. Who knows? - I may take one look at the results and retreat whimpering, but I thought I'd have a try.
I'm also trying to keep galvanising the Creative Arts Club I've started at the place where I work. Everyone is busy and burdened with other commitments, but we have managed to have a couple of sketching evenings, and three of us went together to the RA Summer Exhibition (this was the mixture as usual, and it was fascinating to go around the show with someone to talk-to). I don't like coming over as a badgery sort of person saying "Come on, folks, let's have a get-together!" - like some demented school games mistress - but if we don't meet we don't have a group. Everyone was so enthusiastic when I first mooted the idea, but we're all so busy.
I'm finding the tendency this system has to revert to this seriffed typeface every time I take my eye off it very irritating! Drat it, I want Arial! Give me Arial! Bah. I think maybe I'm tired; I will stop looking at this screen and go out dancing for the evening instead.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
When I left art school in the summer of 2000 I felt pretty cynical about my degree; it had cost me three years of my life, not to mention the proverbial blood, sweat, toil and tears, and a great deal of money I could ill afford. By contrast, my previous college experience, a two-year foundation course leading to a BTEC in General Art and Design, had been terrific, two of the best years of my life. But the degree course had in large part been grim. As a figurative landscape painter in a provincial art college determined to move itself into the leading rank of proponents and producers of Conceptual Brit-Art, I had had a rough time of it, and I was tired and depressed by the time I eventually emerged clutching my degree certificate.
I was lucky enough to get a small break straight away; a family friend was organising a fundraising exhibition in aid of the local branch of UNICEF, and asked if I'd like to put a couple of pieces up, with 30% commision on any sales going to UNICEF. I said yes, and a month later I had made my first sale, and could list an exhibition on my cv. It gave me a hell of a boost. All my college friends (that I was still in touch with) were either up to their necks in new career-type jobs or else sitting around at home, despondently complaining that there was no system for them to get exhibited and no established pattern for them to follow to move into being practising artists, and that they didn't know what to do.
We had been told at college, about three months before graduation, that statistics show that 96% of Fine Art graduates, unless they go on to do a Masters, give up producing any art within two years of leaving art school, and never go back to it (the cynicism of telling us this fact at that stage in proceedings appalled me, though it was par for the course at that particular college). I remember this as one of the defining moments of my adult life. I looked around the lecture theatre, to see faces falling, expressions of horror and disbelief, slumping shoulders and sour grimaces, and I realised that most of my fellow-students were thinking "Oh shit, that's me done for then", and were giving up mentally right then. Whereas my reaction had been to think "Okay, so how do I get to be in the 4% who manage to carry on?" To my immense surprise, it was a minority reaction.
It became my focus. How was I to get to be in the 4% of art school graduates who carry on producing art? And for five years I worked my arse off to try and achieve this.
I'll go on tomorrow; my lunch hour is over...
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
It's gone half-five now and I have finished work but will stop for five minutes to add a little more to this. Then I am heading back home to cook some supper and amuse myself for the evening - possibly with sewing. One of my big tricks for keeping creativity going is telling myself that doing anything creative counts - and I really enjoy making stuff out of other stuff and in particular making interesting clothes by cannibalising things I bought in charity shops. Present project is a velvet skirt, which I aim to turn into a different velvet skirt (one that fits me!). I just finished making a hat - or possibly a fascinator, I'm not certain where the boundary lies - for a friend, out of a piece of net, 1/2mm gauge wire, some feathers and the right boob of an old evening dress (bust stiffeners are very useful things). Result was apparently a hit at her cousin's wedding, much to my satisfaction. It does boost the spirit when one gets some appreciation!
This is intended to be a blog about being a struggling artist/writer/general purpose creative person, and about the bizarre business of trying to keep the creative fire alight (hence the title) when one has an "official" life of job, rent and bills, family and friends, etc, as well. That official, worldly life tends so easily to dominate the creative life, yet the creative life is one's reason for being here in the first place; one can end up profoundly depressed, floundering in unrealised projects and unfulfilled dreams.
OR not. Because one can also end up managing, by many and varied means, to keep the fire burning and keep the creative juices flowing. It can be done; I'm doing it (although at times I'm only just doing it!).
Sorry about the clichés, by the way. I'll get used to this.
My name is Imogen and I am an artist. I fought my way through five years of art school and five years of trying to "make it" as an artist after graduating, before I succumbed to the bitter reality of having to take a full-time job, and the seemingly-inevitable result of my work as an artist becoming effectively no more than a hobby. That was three years ago, in the spring of 2005.
But this is what is surprising; it never quite goes away. I literally CAN'T stop - creating things is one of my greatest pleasures and I have always felt very strongly that it is my main reason for being alive. And so, I have found ways to keep going.