Just before I went away, I wrote about how for the first time, I felt that I’d actually earned a holiday this year. I’ve been thinking about this, intrigued about where this new train of thought has come from. I’ve had other holidays – why did this one feel more ‘deserved’ than others? What was different? What has changed?

It’s now six months since I decided to become a part of the studio hub spearheaded by the founders of Zeitgeist Arts Projects (ZAP), Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley. Despite its initial, obvious attractions for me, it still felt like a brave decision at the time, not least because certain aspects of the actual physical space didn’t appeal. I also had my doubts about whether as an artist, I was good enough to be a part of such a dynamic group. Doubt and anxiety – it all takes energy!

Although I’m now comfortable with the decision I made, I’m conscious that the move has affected me in ways I wasn’t quite expecting. The significance of immersing myself in an artist-led space only really struck me as I became a part of it. And the more I’ve been a part of it, the more I recognise its advantages.

Hand in hand with writing this blog, my place in it has given me far more exposure than I’d ever anticipated, not just as an artist but also as a person. I feel like I’ve flourished within a very short space of time – it’s as if being part of this new space has required me to do so; there’s no place to hide – both literally, because of the lay out of the open plan space (specifically designed for our purposes), and metaphorically, through being associated with eight other artists whose work is vibrant and essentially, happening. We’re open to each other, to debates and conversations about our work and support and encourage each other in the making of it; the energy that pervades the space is contagious.

It’s in stark contrast to the more closed off way in which I worked in the studio space I rented 15 months or so ago. My studio is now in an environment where creative work is constantly visible, both to immediate studio hub members and their visitors. And to other artists and curators who are encouraged through the doors by ZAP’s ethos of sharing, supporting and nurturing – not to mention the frequent visitors to their extensive DIY Educate programme.

My work in the studio is potentially then, being engaged with pretty much all of the time and nothing to my mind can be more conducive to keeping up the momentum for creating work than the knowledge that an ever increasing audience is interested in seeing it. I had been wanting people to see my art for some time. I also have considerably more conversations about my work these days and am gaining confidence in speaking about my practice through them.

And despite being autonomous in terms of my own creative practice, I’m also part of a team; there’s a wealth of experience and knowledge within that team – painters, photographers, film makers – and amongst them too, a real spirit of generosity and a genuine willingness to share and exchange their areas of expertise. It’s DIY education and artistic learning and development at its best, challenging the established teaching systems of art colleges and their ever increasing tuition fees.

There’s strength in numbers and much to be gained through artists pulling together to make things happen; strength too, to be gained from connecting and collaborating with other artist-led groups and keeping alert to what’s happening in a more global sense. I feel I’m in safer hands through being associated with artists who aren’t afraid to acknowledge the truth and their position in a constantly changing political and cultural climate. As the recession continues to bite, government funding dries up and college tuition fees continue to rise, there’s so much to be gained through the knowledge sharing initiatives that artist-led spaces are able to offer.

It’s been a fascinating journey so far. But survival is very much at the core of what we do these days – and that in itself takes energy. Small wonder then, that for this year’s annual summer break, I was ready for a rest – and crucially, felt like I’d earned one.




I still seem to be playing catch up after the holiday; there’s a real sense that I’m clearing the decks in preparation for some hard work ahead. I feel in limbo with regards to 10 x 10 as there’s nothing much I can do now until the installation on September 18th. I’m grateful to Coastal Currents staff in the meantime who’ve been brilliant at getting some great publicity for 10 x 10 in the local press: http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local-news/… I’m hoping it will help to bring in an audience for the exchange on September 22nd.

The importance of documenting my work is something I’ve learnt from others and I’ve got better at it, the more work I produce. It feels particularly important for events that involve audience participation – catching the moments, preserving snippets of conversation. Shelley Rae kindly captured a couple of ‘Going for Gold’ moments on film when she participated in the event. They’re seconds long but nevertheless sum up the energy and enthusiasm of some of those who took part. I’ll post Shelley’s films on here just as soon as I’ve worked out how. I was also able to document the evening with a series of photographs.

So, for the recent open studios, I invited people to celebrate the Olympics in their own way. Whether feeling curmudgeonly or filled with joy about the Games, moaning about the traffic queues or feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of athletic talent worldwide, I assumed that people (surely!) had something to celebrate – either for themselves or on behalf of someone else.

As the world’s top athletes continue to celebrate winning gold medals – the amazing David Weir just last night – I invited people to celebrate personal achievements in other fields, to reward themselves or someone they knew with a piece of gold from my ‘Going for Gold’ assemblage. Made up of golden objects, some in their original state but many of them sprayed gold, giving the most mundane objects a whole new lease of life, the objects were laid out to form the numbers 2012. As visitors to my studio gradually felt more comfortable and able to reward themselves with a golden object, so the original outline of 2012 started to disappear, echoing the impending end to the Olympic and Paralympic events.

It was a simple idea – one that grew out of consciously wanting to inject some fun into whatever work I presented for the open studios. Those of you following this blog will be aware of how a negative experience had impacted on me in the previous weeks. People’s positive response to ‘Going for Gold’ felt good, then – and retrospectively, was brilliant in helping me restore my faith in humanity.

It was interesting to see people’s response to being invited to take away something for nothing – a different experience from 10 x 10 where people are asked to leave something in place of whatever they take. Exchange adds another whole dimension – all the emotional implications associated with it come to the fore, raising the question around how much you actually want an object, what it’s worth to you and ultimately, what you’d be prepared to give up to secure it? Did the objects I offered for free, immediately diminish in value on account of costing the receiver nothing? Did it make the objects more difficult to accept?

There was a bit of hesitancy amongst some who said they didn’t feel right about just taking things and there were suggestions amongst others about leaving money in place of what they’d taken. Others entered into the spirit of rewarding either themselves or someone else who they felt deserved it by simply taking away a golden object. There were a few pieces left over but the numbers 2012, just as I hoped they would be, were indecipherable at the end of the evening on Saturday, August 11th. I rushed home afterwards, just in time to witness one of the most incredible live televised evenings of athletic history ever – to see two of the world’s top athletes Mo Farah and Usain Bolt achieve their considerably more challenging attempts at ‘Going for Gold.’



Am I able to sustain my practice at the same time as maintaining a blog, I asked when I started writing ‘Keeping It Going.’ In the absence of a studio and access to this blog over the past two weeks, I’ve been giving this question some thought. My hope is that I can and that the two will coincide and complement each other, the writing in some way providing the groundwork and the impetus for periods of creativity.

I thought that being away from the studio would make me want to get straight back there on my return – to get busy, creating the things I’ve been thinking about making while I was away. The space will still be bearing the marks of Going for Gold, created for the Deptford X Open Studios just before leaving for my holiday – there’s clearing up to do when I do get myself back in there.

And yet I’m drawn to prioritising writing this, not quite able to motivate myself to be in the studio just yet; there’s work to be done in preparation for two upcoming exhibitions in the Autumn and I’m still in holiday mode – nothing like easing yourself back in gently, I suppose.

The family holiday I’ve just returned from was good – everything I’d hoped for, in fact – hot, sunny temperatures, warm sea to swim in and time for being together as a family as well as plenty of time for relaxation and quiet, reflective time to myself. I’m conscious of trying never to take things for granted and I feel very lucky.

I’m also conscious not just of how ready I was for this break, but also the feeling I had that, this time round, I’d somehow earned it. This marks a real change in my thinking because up until now I haven’t believed deep down inside that I had any real entitlement to a holiday. It’s all part of the ongoing reservation I’ve written about on here before – about how hard it’s felt for me at points over the past few years to quantify and justify my existence as an artist; that inherent Protestant work ethic worming its way to the surface.

It’s all tied up with why holidays have proved problematic for me since giving up my ‘proper’ job and becoming an artist. I knew where I stood as a public sector worker in relation to annual leave entitlement and other terms and conditions of employment. Hours of duty, salary, sick leave entitlement and so on were all clearly defined – boundaries are useful. It’s been a real learning curve working in a profession where employment rights have been considerably thinner on the ground, and of course, I was able to rely on guidance from the unions who have traditionally been strong and consistent in support of their public sector workers. Thank goodness, then for A-n – I’ve just literally, this minute renewed my subscription!

But as I said, this year was different in that I felt I had earned and deserved a break. But what had changed to make me feel this? I’ve always worked hard. What was different about now?

As is so often the case, it comes down to timing. Changes taking place for me on the work front were happening because I was receptive and ready to embrace them. I was at a crossroads when I made the decision to move into the ZeitgeistAP studio hub in February of this year. I made the decision to continue and move forward within the hub and on a personal level, made a further commitment to sustaining my life as a working artist.

There’s been a significant internal shift as a result and the way I feel about being an artist has altered. I feel like I’ve grown comfortably into the role and a lot of the anxiety I felt in the past has reduced as a result. It’s taken time, but I feel liberated by it, this trust and confidence in a new found vocation – hence I believe, my strong desire for a break, for a chance to stand back from it all and celebrate how far I feel I’ve come – not just in the past six months, but in the past five years, too.


Writing an honest account of what happened last week was cathartic – ‘better out than in’ as my Nana always used to say. She was right of course – sharing the angst felt liberating and brought in some unexpected but welcome sympathetic support. I’ve successfully got myself back on track this week and have been more effective in applying myself to my work.

The impact our emotions can have on our creative life is obvious and goes without saying probably but I do think it gets a bit lost sometimes. We soldier on regardless – struggling and wrestling our way through creative deserts, not making the connection between how an unsettled emotional life can affect everything around us – and not least, our creative life.

After the upset of last week, I’m slowly beginning to regain my composure and have started to feel more centred; that’s after a lot of talking. And though not created on a conscious level, it’s interesting I think that I’ve opted to present a piece of work for this weekend’s Open Studios that has essentially put a real sense of fun back into my practice. Creating an entirely new piece of work, Going for Gold actually felt quite effortless, namely because it was easily executed and great fun to make. And simple but true – it really is a genuine pleasure to see rather dull looking objects transformed into objects of beauty and splendour with a spray of gold paint. I know! … the phrase ‘Little things please little minds’ is conjured up, another of my Nana’s favourites – but it’s exactly what I’ve needed this week, a bit of fun and some respite from the emotional intensity of last – I’m playing!

Going for Gold is made up of discarded objects. It’s laid out on the studio floor, ready and in preparation for Open Studios during the last weekend of the Deptford X arts festival, this coming Friday and Saturday. In line with the Olympic Games currently taking place in London, the piece is all about celebrating; while the world’s top athletes celebrate winning gold medals, I’m inviting an audience to celebrate their own personal achievements in other fields, to reward themselves or someone they know with a piece of gold from my assemblage of golden objects.

Unlike with past projects like 10 x10 and The Stock Exchange, I’m not asking people to leave anything in place of what they take; I’m asking them simply to take something away. I hope that as the Olympics 2012 comes to an end over the weekend and the crowds slowly disperse, so too will the assemblage of objects – depending of course on how much of an audience the Open Studios attracts.

It will be fascinating to see how an audience responds to being invited to take something for nothing as opposed to taking something in exchange for something else. The objects in this particular project aren’t promoted as being precious to me – and they’re golden, not gold. Their true, intrinsic value can only be found in the eye of the beholder; it’s the emotional associations people make with the objects that determines their real value and worth. I’m intrigued to see how it pans out – will people feel less comfortable about taking an object without being asked to leave some sort of token in its place? Or will being allowed to take them for free make it more difficult? Will the objects perhaps seem less attractive through being free?

I can but wait and see. For today, it feels good to be back on course. I have a holiday planned after this last burst of energy required for the Deptford X Open Studio weekend. I’m looking forward enormously after that to having the opportunity to take a break, to be able to stand back from my work and to look at my practice in terms of the bigger picture – how to continue to sustain it and essentially, keep it going.


I usually have a clear vision of what I want to say and the direction in which my thoughts will take me when I sit down to write these posts – this week is different. It’s been a week of extreme emotions and there’s been a significant shift in my focus. If writing this blog helps me in some way get back on course, then the answer to whether or not blogging helps or hinders my practice is, in this situation at least, obvious.

Experience has taught me that in order to get back on track with any kind of creativity, I need to get back to paying attention to what I’m doing and get myself grounded again; back to being focussed.

And so, honouring my commitment to writing this blog is a first step in trying to do that; this blog after all, is about keeping it going.

That said, it’s clearly not always easy to stay on course, especially when there’s been some sort of disturbance or disruption as there has been for me this past week, one which is too hard to talk about openly. My mind’s been elsewhere for a lot of the time and the flow of things has been interrupted. I’ve hesitated many times about posting here this week, wrestling with the question: what do I feel comfortable with being made public versus what do I prefer to keep to myself? Do I indeed, need to say anything at all? It’s that old familiar dilemma.

On the basis that this blog acts as a place to record both the highs and lows of my artistic practice, however, it would feel strange to simply ignore the fact that in the days since last posting on here, something bad happened; something that knocked me completely sideways – I’m still reeling slightly from the impact. I don’t want to go into the details, but suffice it to say that, in the course of doing someone a favour, some accidental damage occurred, for which I felt at least partly responsible. The person involved has been incredibly kind and forgiving – I however haven’t found it quite so easy to forgive myself!

Over the years of following other artist/bloggers on this site, I’ve read many of them discussing how difficult writing about the real truth can be. What’s said is said in a wide-reaching public domain and fear of perhaps offending or betraying the trust of college tutors, employers, colleagues or even other studio group members is an expressed concern. There’s a tendency towards skirting around certain issues and the whole truth’s never quite revealed; deemed too risky and potentially detrimental to an artist’s professional practice.

My focus is now on getting back on track and concentrating my thoughts on the positive things that have arisen out of this particular incident. As things have turned out, my inherent faith in humanity has yet again survived intact in spite of the most difficult of circumstances.

I believe that most people are essentially decent and good and that such people tend to gravitate towards each other and act in each other’s best ethical interest. I’m delighted to see the things I fundamentally believe in playing themselves out so positively and if I am to continue to promote my work as being primarily about the wonders of humanity, then it only feels right to write about it here. Humanity yet again has proved itself to me to be a wonderful force for good.

Back to that Lemonhead’s song, then – I know a place I can go when I’m alone. Into your arms, into your arms. I can go. I’ve found my place amongst some artists who are decent, sincere and have great integrity; are sensitive, generous and kind as well as fiercely protective and supportive. It’s a wonderful environment in which to thrive creatively and despite the disaster that occurred this past week resulting in me feeling utterly crushed, I know that the hub I’ve become a part of is a place that’s conducive to surviving bad things happening. I feel nurtured and supported by my peers and I feel very lucky; I’m in good hands – especially for the future of Keeping It Going, in what feels like all senses of the word.