Sunday, 31 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 31 - I like lists

"The final challenge is to celebrate success by creating something that sums up your month. A drawing, a piece of writing, some photos. What's changed about you? What have you learned? What are you taking away from this month? Tomorrow we'll send some ideas about what you might do next, but today just enjoy celebrating yourself for getting this far."

These are the things that were excellent about this month - the things that the January Challenge was running alongside. What I'm going to take away from doing the challenge is the reminder that I'm an artist every day:

1. Began the year with a few days work, contributing to some research and development for Give It A Name. I don't think I've ever had to set an alarm to wake up on 4 January before. It was probably good for me.

2. Spent four days in Rome with my parents and sister. Amazing, beautiful AND bottles of good prosecco for under 4 euro. Winning all round.

3. Did an inspiring photo shoot with Grace Gelder on the theme of "new year, new desires". I've had a sneak peak at the results and I love them. Grace has captured the person I think I want to be (and probably am already).

4. My partner and I found the next house we're going to live in. We move tomorrow. We want to make it into a playground and fill it with art, creative inspirations, dinner parties, plants and a dog.

5. Took part in a dance workshop with Jo Fong, who is currently touring An Invitation. It was wonderful just to move and play and be in my body.

6. Found out that my Arts Council of Wales grant application, which I'd spent a stressful christmas writing, was successful. So February is also going to be filled with creativity. And then in March I am going to debut my solo theatre performance Worse Things Happen, about depression and mental health stigma. I'm simultaneously excited and nervous and confident and nagged by doubts, which is probably normal.

Friday, 29 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 29 - revisiting 3 songs

"We're nearly at the end of the January challenge so now it's time for you to take a bit more choice. Look back over the challenges you've done and pick your favourite or one you weren't happy with before. Do it again. Start from scratch or develop what you've done so far, or maybe collaborate with someone. Just try it one more time."

I decided to revisit the Day 9 challenge, because on that day I was travelling and didn't have any music with me. But it really appealed; I meant to go back to it at another time, and here it is:

"Choose three songs that mean something to you. Play them and take time to listen to the lyrics, the melody, the tune. While they are playing, write. Don't think about what you're writing, just write. See what you come up with." 

On the road again, always happy when I'm in the van with him and we're headed somewhere anywhere. It's summertime trips to festivals, to Glastonbury, or somewhere in Europe on a gig and I think I would be happy driving to the end of the world with you. And the song started as a joke sung as you started the engine because you were always working away and you hated the long drives and then I made a mix for you with it as the first track and now for me it's joy but I wonder how you feel about it. A song best sung together loudly. Cheers and affirmation. Willie Nelson, and then Willie Nelson again, singing a cover, a bit by accident because I don't listen to him all that often, though I went to see him at Glastonbury and he was great - old, and he sang a song about a bird flying away and I thought, he knows he could be that bird. But this song always made me think about someone else, I don't know why. It's being in love with someone who loves me but doesn't love me back, which is a huge distinction actually and one that resulted in a lot of tears and one particularly unfortunate visit. And then it's funny to look back on so much emotion from a distance and it's like looking through a thick piece of plastic - all the edges are blurred and indistinct and it's hard to believe that the emotion is mine, it feels so much like it was someone else doing all the feeling. But the song still makes me nostalgic and it's a secret pleasure because the band is kind of embarrassing. And then this song, this song, this song that I wish was my life, wish was my life philosophy, singing the rules I want to live by. Dissatisfaction, no not dissatisfaction, not the right word  - restlessness, that's the right one. And no bad thing I guess though I've often worried it was. I read that Bowie obit the other day and that's what it said about him, didn't it - "creatively restless" his whole life. And that's no bad thing, I'd like to be creatively restless - I don't want to be satisfied with what I make because if I was I might as well stop and just take up gardening full time. Which I may well do at some point - tend a vegetable plot and decide that nothing else in the world matters except these ripening tomatoes. Hard to imagine ripening tomatoes on day like this, 90mph winds in some parts of the country and this morning I had to stand on my bicycle pedals on flat ground just to keep moving. It's a lack of fear of failure, this song, that's what it is, and what I like to think I aspire to, which is very different from actually aspiring to it. Or is it? Your own worst critic as always. The song has these moments that sound quiet to me, even though they're not - maybe it's the simplicity in the midst of musical lushness.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 28 - Celebrate

"Write your own obituary or a speech someone might give at your 90th birthday. How would you like to be remembered or thought of? Think of this as a celebration of your life and the things you've done or would like to do."


We will celebrate her through the art she made: work that was always underscored by honesty, a sense of poetry, and a deep belief that our daily lives are epic stories worth telling.

We will celebrate her by remembering the love she enjoyed: the friendships that spanned decades, her family of adored siblings, nieces and nephews, and of course, in her words, her "life double-act partner".

And we will continue to celebrate her daily through the things that gave her pleasure her whole life: meals cooked and shared with loved ones, wine, swimming in the sea in all weather, books, vegetable gardens, dancing, bicycles, poetry, and theatre.


This was really difficult! I think I was scared of doing it most of the day... And then I remembered this amazing piece by Laurie Anderson, and I thought I should try to express what I could as simply as possible and hope that when I actually die someone writes something equally amazing about me.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 27: "Ordinary Beauty"

"Create beauty out of the most ordinary things. Take photos or make something out of things that are usually seen as dull. Turn something ugly into a thing of beauty."

I spent some time on trains today, so had plenty of opportunities to try to make beauty out of ugliness... these are a couple of shots I particularly liked.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 26: Summer time...

"We don't know about you, but we're ploughing through January dreaming of warmer, lighter days. Make a collage or drawing in celebration of summer. Use old photos, or pencils, paints or pastels, or scraps of whatever you have lying around. Spend time imagining the sights and sounds and smells of summer, then go for it."

I wasn't sure I was going to do today's challenge. I've been having a bad mental health day and the rain, darkness and actual rivulets of water running down the walls in the place I'm living isn't helping. But actually doing this really helped - that's a photo of me on holiday a year ago in Morocco, not technically summer, but close enough.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 24 - Red

"Pick a colour, any colour. Then, throughout the day keep your eyes peeled for it. Document where you see it. In cars, litter, nature, on the street or just in your house. How many variations will you see?"

plus many, many more cars, taillights, traffic lights, litter...

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 20 - We break and we mend

"Write a set of instructions for an alien who has just arrived on earth on how to fix a broken heart. Lay out how to do this in the simplest words. How would you describe it? What would you advise them to do?"

Hullo and welcome,

We are strange creatures, here on this planet. We form deep emotional attachments to all types of creatures and objects. What I mean by emotional attachment is this: I can reach out with my hand and grasp the shoulder (or arm, or hand) of another human standing beside me, and never let go. Then it would be as if we two were physically attached to each other. Humans do this all the time, but we imagine we are doing it with our minds. And we do it not only with other humans but with animals, with objects, with places, and even with ideas. Doing this can sometimes make us feel as though that other human, or thing, is a part of our own body. We call this love. And if what we love goes away or disappears, then we can feel pain in much the same way we would feel pain if we were to lose a part of our physical body. We call this heart-break, and this can be confusing, because it is little to do with the organ in our chest that we call our heart. You will find we often claim the heart has more power than it actually does. There are other words that mean much the same thing as heart-break, like grief

There is no way to fix this. All you can do is try to make the human with heart-break comfortable. Sometimes it helps to give them an occupation - an activity for their body or their mind that will take their energy and thoughts away from what they have lost. Occasionally it may help to give them another thing to love, but this works less often when what they have lost is another human. Usually it helps just to sit with them, and let them talk about what they have lost. They may cry, which means they may make noises they cannot control and salty water will come out of their eyes. This is not a reason to be alarmed - it is one of our human ways of expressing ourselves, like smiling, or laughing, which you will also encounter.

Heart-break will only heal with time. If you have made your human as comfortable as possible - made sure they have occupations, listened to them them cry - then you have done all you can do. Return to them after the earth has made one full passage around the sun and you may see a change. Return after two passages and the change may be even more pronounced. There is no universal law about how long it takes for a human to heal from heart-break. They will never go back to being exactly the same human as before, but that change is normal. That is one of the ways that humans' minds grow and expand.

Good luck.

Monday, 18 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 18 - I dream (of an utopia)

"Celebrate Martin Luther King Day by writing your own "I have a dream" speech. What's in your vision for a better world? What would be your rallying cry?"

I dream of the day when a person's sexual identity is considered as unremarkable as any other facet of their make-up.

I dream of the day when the right to love and have sex with whom we want as an adult is considered sacrosanct. 

I dream of a world where war is a distant memory, and the idea of solving disagreements through violence is universally repellant.

I dream of a time when we are unified in our desire to protect the planet we live on, above concerns about profits and easy energy solutions.

I dream of a society where poverty does not exist because we share resources and opportunities willingly.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 17 - it's getting better all the time

"Alter the lyrics to your favourite song. Change some key words or phrases to make a brand new song. Use rhymes and the rhythms of words to play with your song and create something new."

Thursday, 14 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 13 - count 100

"Whatever the weather head out for a quick walk. Count to 500 in your head. Every hundred paces stop and look around for a minute. What do you notice? What colours are there? Sounds?"

Crossing Waterloo Bridge at 11 p.m.

(count 100)

The traffic is loud. Raindrops are peppering my forehead.

(count 100)

A couple ask me to take a photo of them (they've stopped their car by the sidewalk). The National Theatre and the London Eye are both lit the same shade of red.

(count 100)

There's a lot of boats moored in the middle of the river. I can see a bit of a beach on the south bank.

(count 100)

The beach is large - the tide is out.

(count 100)

The rain has stopped. The pedestrian bridge to the right of me is lit with strips of cold blue-white lights.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 12 - dear Kylie

"Write a letter to someone you've loved and left behind. Spend time thinking about what makes them special to you and write the letter you always wish you'd written. If the person is still around and you want to send it, then do, but otherwise just keep it for yourself."

Dear Kylie,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you Kylie. You probably don’t - I don’t really listen to your music now, but as far as I know I think you release it as “Kylie”, and forget the “Minogue”. I thought I should write you this letter, because David Bowie died yesterday and I cried for him. And it reminded me about when I learned that you had breast cancer. It was like finding a hairline crack in a delicate blown-glass vase, sitting high on a shelf filled with other beautiful things made from my childhood loves. Apart from the very human sympathy I felt for you, I felt a deep unease in myself. The world felt less safe.

I don’t remember the moment I first fell in love wth you. I had your single “I should be so lucky” on vinyl. I feel like it had “Locomotion” on the b-side, but I may be misremembering. I was young - pre-teen I think - and you were a gorgeous early nineties goddess on the sleeve. A black stretchy off-the-shoulder top, and a pile of blonde curly hair on top of your head. That megawatt smile. I think in the music video for “Locomotion” you wore a series of dresses with hearts on them, and even though I wasn’t really into love-heart patterns I thought you were so pretty. I thought, “I’d like to wear a dress like that”.

I even tried to watch Neighbours for you, and that was a challenge because my parents were pretty strict about what television shows we could watch. Neighbours was definitely on the No List. I thought you were great, a rebel in your double denim, and I thought you and Jason Donovan were just perfect for each other.

Maybe it sounds like my love for you was shallow, just a surface attraction. I think it was more. You seemed so sunny and bright - and I wasn't a very sunny child. Opposites attract, right?

I’m still pleased to see you, but I don’t seek you out. It happens sometimes by accident - like when I watched 20,000 Days On Earth, and there you were in Nick Cave’s car. I felt a glimmer of old feelings - like catching sight of a old lover across the street, when they’ve not seen you. And letting them walk away.

I don’t recall when I stopped loving you. It was just one day I didn’t. I still care though, but it’s an intellectual sort of caring, the kind that has little warmth in it. I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you. But I could say that about a lot of people - about a lot of strangers - and that’s not love, is it? At least not the type that can sustain you. I’m just going to leave this letter here, in case you find it one day; I want you know that although I may not love you anymore, I do wish you well. I hope that’s enough.



Wednesday, 6 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 6 - abstractedly tired

"Give yourself some time to draw how you feel. Don't be concerned about the quality of your drawing. This is an exercise in free drawing - just put your pen or pencil to paper and start to draw. Don't think about it too much. Just draw how you feel for up to 20 minutes."

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 5 - Chris

"Write a story about a time you lost something, or someone. It can be a funny story, or sad. However you'd like it to be. Remember the details.. and feel free to make up a new ending."

I was 18 and he was beautiful. Actually beautiful. An Adonis in the back of a canoe. His name was Chris. We both worked at a wilderness canoeing camp over the summer holidays, leading canoe trips in northern Ontario. I had started out as a camper, and had worked my way up over the following summers until I was assistant trip leader. This was my last summer canoeing; my family was leaving the country, I was going away to university and I was not coming back to that city. 

The camp was run by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. It didn't have a physical site, just some offices in which we stored supplies over the summer, with our ancient aluminium canoes stacked outside. We'd meet the campers on the first day in the street, and then have journey in a mini-van, towing the canoe trailer, for several hours north to Algonquin Park. The camp didn't have very much money, and we weren't paid well, but it was - and still may be - the best job I ever had. The kids who came to camp were also not very well off. Sometimes the Children's Aid Society sent us kids, who were blown away by the sheer number of trees they saw on their week away from the city. And once, a young boy, who had as his water bottle an empty mickey, clearly once filled with booze.

It seems remarkable to me now that we - in our teens or barely clear of them - were given responsibility for those kids. We were supposed to provide spiritual leadership too, which seems incredible. Mostly we'd read a poem, or a thought for the day, out of a water-stained photocopied sheaf - and then let nature do the rest. Chris was pretty good at this - he actually seemed to have a belief system of some sort. I'm not religious now, and back then I didn't know what I thought about anything - I was awkward, sheltered and shy. But he was nice to me - he treated me like I was none of those things - and I had a huge grateful crush on him.

He was the trip leader on my last canoe trip of the summer. Even now, looking back, I can still feel the magic of it. I loved being around him. The weather was perfect. The kids were great. One night, we managed to reach a coveted camp site - a small sandy peninsula - before anyone else, and so we decided to have our rest day there the next day. I got up early before anyone else and swam in the lake while the morning mist was still rising off it, before sitting on the beach in the sun with my journal. That night, we had a bonfire. The night was clear and as we scanned the skies for the Perseids, the meteor shower visible every August, we realised we were seeing something else - the Northern Lights. We were all carried away by the sight - actually euphoric - running and laughing away from the bonfire to the darkness of the beach, and lying on our backs on the cold sand to watch the shifting patterns in the night sky until we were chilled and shaking.

I felt like I had a connection with Chris because of the magic of that trip. It gave me the courage to suggest we meet up after the summer. I was going to be in Toronto, and he was at university a few hours away in a town called London, where my sister happened to live. Chris said it was a great idea. I went to see my sister for my birthday weekend, a month or so after moving to Toronto. I arranged to meet him for coffee. It's funny how well I can remember the meeting. Chris arrived by bicycle. He offered to buy my coffee. It felt really easy to talk to him. And then he told me he was dropping out of university. He wanted a change of direction. He'd decided to become a Roman Catholic priest.

There wasn't much I could say to that. We finished our coffee. I went back to my sister's, and then I cried and cried. I'd lost any hope of realising my crush, I suppose, in a fairly inarguable way. But I think also I cried because everything in my life was in motion and there was so little to fix on. Sand underneath, the shifting night sky above. Beautiful and terrifying, all at once.

Monday, 4 January 2016

64 Million Artists Day 4 - message to my 8 year old self

"Make a list of 10-20 things that you would like to tell your 8 year old self AND/OR that your 8 year old self would tell you. What have you learned that you'd like to pass back, OR what did you know then that you'd like to remember? Think about it throughout the day and notice how it affects you."


1. You're good at playing. You think up some pretty great, elaborate games - alone, and with your sisters and brother. That's a special skill. I want you to know that, because people are going to tell you that other things are more important. But always remember how good you are at playing.

2. Practise piano. Keep practising piano. If you quit piano lessons - as you may well do - you are going to regret it FOREVER. Don't argue about this. Just go practise.

3. Enjoy your sisters and brother. I know they drive you crazy sometimes, but these next few years are the last few that your whole family will be together under one roof. It's not bad now - it's just different. Enjoy what you have.

4. You're going to stay in touch with one of the friends you've just made, for almost the next thirty years (and likely longer). I wonder if you can guess which one?

5. I know you've just had to move countries and schools again, and you didn't really like your last school. But you're really going to love this new one, and the friends you make here. So even if it feels strange and new, it will soon get better.

6. I'm glad you keep a diary. Keep writing. Don't worry about anyone reading it except you. Write for yourself.

7. Don't be scared of that bicycle Dad bought you. Cycling is great. The sooner you learn how to ride a bike, the sooner you'll figure this out.

8. You know that special dance you do on the beach - your Happy Dance? Keep doing it - it'll still be important to you when you're older. Everyone needs a Happy Dance.

9. You are really going to change your mind about avocados. Trust me on this.


This challenge actually made me a little sad. Perhaps it's because I've been thinking about my depression a lot recently, in conjunction with the solo show I'm making, while also struggling through the depression that christmas always lands on me. I don't remember being depressed when I was 8 years old. What would I say to 8-year-old me, that wasn't "enjoy this - life gets complicated and harder"? As you can see, I did try to keep it positive. Couldn't quite make it to ten points though.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Saturday, 2 January 2016

64 Million Artists: January Challenge Day 2 - recycled stars

I really enjoyed today's challenge! It was to make a sculpture out of objects in the recycling bin. I appear (ahem) to have a few empty prosecco bottles. And a bit of wrapping paper - we don't do christmas gifts, but it was my sister's birthday right before christmas.

So this is what I made (I did have to use a bit of sticky tape, not from the recycling). I gave myself 20 minutes and stuck to it, only because there's other stuff I need to to this morning. But I might return to this later. Cutting out paper stars is soothing.

Friday, 1 January 2016

One in #64millionartists

A couple of days ago I signed up to the 64 Million Artists January Challenge - it's a scheme aimed at getting people more creative on a daily basis. I thought it would be a good way for me to combat January's darkness, so I'm getting a daily exercise emailed to me.

I didn't exactly spring off the starting line, I have to say. In fact, I squinted at the first emailed exercise on my phone in bed this morning, then grunted and rolled over and back into my hungover snoozing for a few more hours. But now I'm up and I've had coffee and tidied away the ruins of last night's dinner party...

So, the January Challenge Day 1 exercise was: 

"To celebrate the start of 2016 we'd like you to draw or make a picture of how you'd like your year to look. What are the highlights? Where will you go? What are you looking forward to? Use whatever materials you like."

Here's my picture:

This is part of a pair of socks hand-knitted by my mum, that I instinctively put on this morning (as I said, hungover). I don't know the specifics of what my year will hold. No one ever does, I guess. But I want this year to be colourful; I want it to be textured, with variety and surprises; I want it to be filled with warmth - actual temperature warmth would be nice (I always hope to travel), but also the warmth of love and friendships and family and the satisfaction from good creative work.