The Bird man of Alcatraz shows Bert Lancaster is a ‘lifer’ who gets up every day to tend his collection of birds; he feeds and nurtures them lovingly. He cures their illnesses and becomes an expert on them.

In a way I see this is a romantic parallel to the expected life of an artist with a ‘true practice’!

My wife says that my life as an artist has been more like the Great Escape. I have worked to commissioners briefs, tried to define my practice and jumped through more hoops than you can shake a stick at. But still working inside the defined parameters of the brief I have explored a huge range of areas of interest to me. I have emptied many many hidden bags of soil into the commissioner’s plans and schemes without them knowing, right under their noses.

These bags of soil from the hidden escape tunnel of my artistic ideas and values have been distributed all over the country. I have explored and researched new mediums, new materials, new subjects, colour schemes, ways of working and topics I’m really interested in, just the same as non commissioned artist investigations. The difference might be I have had to wait some time for the opportunity to follow on with a subject which had formed part of an earlier work. Over a period of years and years revisiting certain ideas or techniques builds a body of work in that area. If you have lots of these little ideas following their own pathways simultaneously then you are always ‘finding yourself’ as an artist even though you are working to a specific brief. My training as an artist taught me to follow ideas in a straight line. My working life post education has taught me to meander, wait, work with other people’s ideas, work with things you never expected you would ever think of and work quicker than perhaps you want to.

The constant pressure to define my practice is intimidating and the use of language used by those who want to potentialy work with me or know more about me is creative, but it does not make me feel confident or able to talk back and allow me to sound like I know what I am talking about. I am sure me and many artists want to work as artists within commerce, education, local government, services and industry. Are artists expected to converse in the same language, and if they can’t, is their work rubbish? I feel intimidated by this and worry that if my letter of application or my expression of interest doesn’t use their language or their kind of visioning, if my ideas are not razor sharp and clearly described to reveal some kind of Blofeldian master plan, that I must be below the standard they are looking for.

Perhaps if I could describe that I didn’t have a deliverable concept yet, in a clever enough way that would be good enough and they would take me seriously.


It’s one of those parralell walks, Cosmo’s in his world and I’m in mine. Just following an unknown path in the woods. Paths in the woods are a bit like paths in real life.

Feeling overwelmed, small, grumpy and anyoyed that I have got to answer the same old questions, those same old questions for every job application. You know the ones, those ones you can never answer because you dont know the answers, yet you’ve had to answer them loads and loads of times before.

‘outline your ideas…. and how you might approach this….. and why are you interested….. how will you fulfill the aims……. how do you meet the person specifacation……..outline relevant experiance and show evidence of interest in this project?

I’ve gone all sulky and I’m walking in the woods saying….. Well…I dont know do I, because I’ve never been there have I, I havent met anyone there, I dont know how the dynamic between the stakeholders works, and I dont know what people living there think. I dont know whats interesting yet or how I’m going to do all the stuff you want to know. I’m not sure whats relevant and I think your person spec sounds like an administrative position and I dont know how to show you evidence of interest in this project either. Is’nt an application evidence of interest, what sort of questions that?

Now….do some peole who think in logical organised processes have generic systematic answers to all these questions and they apply a formula to cover the range of stuff required. Can they invent hypothesis and systems they are going to use, without knowing what they are going to use them on.

me…..I don’t know how I’m going to do it, and when I write what I’m going to do, when I get there I might need to change it, as I can see a better way of doing it, as there are other intersting things i didnt know about before. But I can do it, I just cant tell you yet!

Not much good sending that.

So in the end you just write something and dont agonise over every paragraph cos who ever reads it does’nt know you agonised over it and you really tried hard to answer the questions and it took a day to choose the things you wanted to show them.


you just cut and paste from the last two or three applications you made, selected several nice photos and sent the whole thing off before 10.30 in the morning?

So what are the best questions to ask then? oh …. It’s allways about writing, it frustrates me and I’m not in the mood for it. Just get on with it and DO IT, anything, it does not matter, so what if it misses the target. Next time move he target and you might hit it.

These woodland paths widen, narrow, open out, take you to places you dont know, become impassable, lead you into sunny clearings, or go all bumpy. Metahors for life really.


I think our stars must be badly aspected at the moment. (thats mine and Cosmo’s)

I’ve got feckin tooth ache, Gordon Bennet, Jesus H Christ I’ve got tooth ache.

Cosmo was surrounded suddenly by about 4 dogs on the beach and it developed into a bit of a tear up with a Beagle. These make short work of foxes, and it must have mistaken Cosmo for a large yellow fox (retard) and it attacked Cosmo really bad. Do you remember Bjork attacked a cameraman in an airport, it was on the 10 o’clock news years back. This apparently was because she felt her child was in danger with all the Paparazzi in its face, so she took out a cameraman with a rush of protective adrenaline…some story here, I ran into this pack of dogs picked up this Beagle and threw it belly up, head height into the air. This stopped the fighting and we walked off, some woman came up wearing a wet suit and took her beagle away, she did not say a word. Cosmo later I discovered was bleeding from a bite on his ear and by the time we got home he was soaked in blood.

When were up the woods he also had a run in with Sid the Schnauzer, who charged 100 yards (ignoring his owners call to heal) to confront Cosmo, went all kind of flat and low and the inevitable happened as I expected, Sid was out for revenge over the chicken incident some while back now. I could hear his owner shouting out ‘if he gets aggressive kick him hard’. Again I had to separate fighting dogs.

What’s going on here, I am a responsible dog owner?

other news is my wild flower seeds are a disapointment, but some are growing in a bucket in my garden.

I am slightly frustrated as I had wanted to read more about Emile Durkhiem, and totemic societies, but that will have to wait. I have noticed over the years that interests and research for art is often truncated and goes in steps, with other stuff happening in between. The current example of this is my work with maps, been interested in maps for a several years now and have made about 4 large scale mosaics using maps as a theme. I will probably have to make a 5th one soon. This means picking up dormant map ideas (if I have any) and going back to maps. Over the years a body of map work has built up, just that it doesn’t flow in a joined up line. This is a result of of working only on commissioned projects. I dont think there is anything wrong with this, only you can’t strike while the iron is hot, if you see what I mean. Compared to gallery artists who can work in straight uninterrupted lines on their ideas, or can they? blogs show the same pattern due to commitments etc.

So totemic exploration will have to wait untill my ‘little blue hut’ residency later this year.

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