Spell books

When I was an art student, we were encouraged to voraciously fill up sketch books.

At one point, I was filling up a whole sketchbook every week.

The object of the exercise was to teach us to actively see the world the around us - to find new ways of visually interpreting it rather than to just passively observe.

I'm certainly not filling a sketchbook week at the moment, but I still nearly always have a sketchbook or a notebook on my person.

I don't often look back through them though – until this evening.

I found some wonderful visual 'spells' – I'll share them with you at some point.


A different kind of freedom

A long time ago, I took some classical dance lessons.

As I launched into an ungainly pirouette, the teacher announced that you can never have freedom without discipline.

I was struck by her words, because I would never before have considered that discipline can lead to freedom.

Surely discipline was all about the opposite? Regimen, control, authority – the antithesis of freedom.

I am an artist! I thought. I need to be free to catch inspiration in the ether, to find my muses, to follow the glittery trail of magical intrigue.

I still struggle with discipline, but at least these days I understand that it's a necessary instrument in the creator's toolkit. It takes time and practice to successfully enable magic to flourish in your life.

Over Christmas, I created a time management system to help me keep track of all the things that need to be worked on and taken care of. But don't worry – I fully intend to decorate it liberally with glitter...

Kings and Queens of inspiration

My brother gave me a gorgeous Alexander McQueen coffee table book for Christmas.

It's packed with amazing photos of his work, and weighs a ton. I've barely even got past the first few pages so far, because I like to sit and gaze at the pictures for ages, absorbing every detail.

When I was at art college, John Galliano's star was still a bright and rising one. He was still lecturing at my college, and using the library.
When he came in with his assistants, everyone would act very cool, but I'd go and stand behind one of the bookcases so that I could watch him work from between the books on the shelves.
The energy that was pouring off him was incredible – I could almost hear it crackling. He would have stacks of books piled up on his table, and he'd tear through them with post-it notes like a tornado, while his assistants rushed back and forth to the photo copier.

While working at an opera house last summer, I got to witness director Barrie Kosky working on his production of Saul. From my shadowy hiding place in the Gods, I was blown away at how Kosky completely owned the entire stage and auditorium – his energy was huge, bouncing and electric, igniting passion and vigour from everyone around him.

I'm sure I'll write more about people who inspire me – but when I'm looking for motivation and spark to help turn the early January wheels, I find it usually helps to check out my heroes and heroines.

Mighty pens

I performed a quick Google search to see who first came up with the words, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.

Turns out, it was the novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1839 play, Cardinal Richelieu

I don’t know about you - perhaps I'm not very well educated - but I am not familiar with Mr. Bulwer-Lytton. Yet I’m sure most of us are well acquainted with his adage. 

When I was a kid, I asked my dad why football is such a popular game. His reply was something about the idea that pretty much anyone can kick a ball around. You don’t need to be rich or famous, or even particularly skilled, to enjoy a game with your friends. 

So I wonder if a similar reason could explain why a 178-year-old phrase about pens and swords is still with us? 

Anyone can pick up a pen and, Jedi-like, wield a unique kind of power. You don’t need to be a sparkling wordsmith to write a love note that could make someone’s day, or the next Picasso before you can scribble a cartoon that could raise a smile. 

If you have three minutes today, why not root out that old, lid-less Bic pen from the back of your kitchen drawer, and let it take you for a little adventure across the back of an envelope…