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Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching

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Take Five with Juliet Brain

Posted on 19 April, 2018 at 5:10 Comments comments (0)



Juliet Brain is a culture activist, creative consultant, producer, active in the promotion, delivery and development of cultural projects and ideas, with a specialism in youth arts and theatre arts. She is also describes herself as a 'habitual' photographer and if like me, you follow her on Twitter, you do get some amazing images popping up on your timeline.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love the producing element of my career. Simplifying the complex, finding solutions to gnarly problems, creating a fluid team that allows for the best in everyone to flow into the end result. As a freelancer it is a joy to work as part of a team as opposed to working alone. Creatives can be tricky, chaotic, demanding and irrational people but when you do your job well and everyone is pulling in the same direction albeit in their own unique way there is such a wonderful sense of satisfaction.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Perhaps I should start by saying it is not generally in my nature to hero-worship, I didn’t have a favourite football team as a child and only put a band-poster up on my bedroom wall because everyone else did and it seemed to be the thing to do. If I admire and respect people it will usually be because they have demonstrated they are deserving of it, and are compassionate and dedicated rather than heroic. But I do have to mention Lynn Wyfe, whom I met in her role as a Youth Theatre Director (later a Performing Arts Lecturer at Bournemouth & Poole University) who scooped me up as a lost and bewildered teenager and gave me a sense of direction and whom much later on, scooped me up once more and gave me a sense of purpose after the loss of my daughter. She has been and no doubt continues to be despite retirement, a wise and smart friend and mentor to many people in the arts world. I might also mention Louise Stewart the Director of Multitude of Voyces, a more recent acquaintance who is outwardly diminutive but inwardly mighty. MoV exists to support Inclusive Community through music with underrepresented, underutilsed, vulnerable or marginalized communities. I have worked with Louise now on three projects involving giving women a voice in the world of Church Music, Liturgy and the world in general. I find myself in awe of her gentle but fierce determination, her vision and her compassion. When Louise invited me to become a Trustee of MoV she mentioned that I would be the non public school representative (sorry Louise I will stop mentioning this soon!) and was immediately horrified that I might be offended but I was, in fact, delighted to be breaking such ground! Don’t jump too quickly to judge dear reader, Louise is all over diversity and accessibility and I am happy to be a seed planted in her garden of empowerment.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Oh, how I love this question! At the beginning of my eclectic and diverse career I was given quite a bit of advice by some of the many actors both young and old that I was lucky enough to meet at Salisbury Playhouse where I was a member of the Youth Theatre and elevated to an assistant director role before leaving for Drama School. But it is the advice given by the brilliant actor, Bernard Finch who sadly died in 1990 that everyone should have when starting out. I had returned from my first job touring Scotland in a play by Mark Wheeler called Too Much Punch for Judy. I have never had another job like it, it was challenging mentally, emotionally and physically and it took me to places I would never have dreamed of going to (Dinner at Edinburgh Castle, lunch at Gleneagles, breakfast in the Glasgow CID Canteen). My world horizons broadened exponentially. However in the last week of the tour my colleague and I got our hair cut in Edinburgh and somehow I managed to let the hairdresser persuade me to dye my hair dark brown and cut it very short… I hated it. When I met Bernard on my return home, bemoaning the fact I would never work again and that I looked hideous, he took my hand and said ‘what are you afraid of?” and talked about fear being a barrier to experiencing life and work more fully and that every time you hear yourself making excuses you should recognize it as a fear and if you couldn’t embrace it, simply brush it aside. “Don’t be your own worst enemy, be your own best friend”. It was excellent advice, I can’t always live up to it. It doesn’t matter how good the advice is if you aren’t in the right head-space to listen to it, but I remember Bernard’s encouragement and will be eternally grateful for his kindness in taking the time to talk to me and help me laugh at myself. Whenever I take on a mentoring role, I tip my hat to Bernard and promise to be as kind and generous with my time and encouragement, as he was to me. I also have a rather amazing friend from youth theatre days called Dominic Tighe, who was an inspirational business manager for Yell as well as being a sportsman, athletics coach and a stand-up comic, even after being diagnosed with MS. He told me recently that his favourite motivational phrase that his children often repeat back to him, is based on the American baseball player Babe Ruth, and it chimes with what Bernard was saying to me - “Pick up the Bat!”. Dom is currently writing a book about living, laughing and working with a positive mindset through the pain and challenges of MS. If you don’t understand what he meant by ‘pick up the bat’ then buy his book when it is published. Buy it! It will be the best investment you make.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

If I get a creative block, it is always because I am tired or stressed. I meditate and if it’s really bad, I walk away from it and don’t give it any attention. When I have refreshed and return to it, I can guarantee the block, will either have gone or I will have realized that I’m doing it all wrong and need a fresh approach.


If you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

Oh la! Am I a wellie or a walking boot? Sturdy and practical, often outdoors in all weathers? Hmm? My friend Angie suggested I could be an old loafer, and I do like to mooch around and think about projects I’m working on, less of a ‘mind palace’ more of a comfy sofa with a cup of tea and a biscuit… Or maybe I am a soft, well worn, black leather dancing shoe with a strap and solid but shapely heel? I think I would actually be a ‘Wedged Sandal’. A sandal that gives you extra height to see more of the horizon, that doesn’t have silly heels that get you stuck in-between the cracks. A sandal that makes you feel elegant. Wedges have weight to them and keep you grounded yet still enable you to dance. Although, if I were a wedged sandal, I’d have a neoprene cover to fit over me like a galosh to enable walking about the muddy countryside because much of my creativity these days is rooted in the countryside. That said, I do like a nice dancing shoe….


Links:

https://www.artsmonkey.com

Twitter: @Artsmonkey1

Take Five with Mark Powers

Posted on 17 April, 2018 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)



Mark Powers is an author of children' books. I first met Mark many years ago when we were both working in theatre and it was clear then that he was going to have to find a way to harness his over active imagination and sense of humour for the benefit of a reading public! Luckily for us, he has brought both together for his new series of Spy Toy books. The premise of the stories is that "the world's leading toy manufacturer makes playthings for the rich and famous, and every toy they create contains a tiny computerised brain and a unique personality. These toys are seriously awesome! But every so often there's a faulty toy ..." And suddenly, we are all looking at our toy boxes a little differently.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love writing so to be paid to do it is an absolute dream. Time vanishes when you're at the laptop working on a story. I get a bit grouchy if I go a day without writing. That might be the definition of a writer: someone who, when they're not writing, is a pain in the backside.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

PG Wodehouse is a huge creative hero. He was a masterful prose writer and created so many wonderful characters. And the sheer output of the man! 92 books published - one for every year of his life. What a work ethic!


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

I started out writing jokes and sketches for radio and TV and it took me a long time to get around to learning how to construct longer narratives. So I wish I'd read books like Robert McKee's 'Story' when I was a lot younger.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

I introduce some totally random idea into the mix and see how it affects things.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I'd be a navy blue low-top Converse All Star, of course! Like me, Converse All Stars are fun, ancient and not nearly as fashionable as they think.


Links:

https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/spy-toys-out-of-control-9781408870891/

Take Five with Lene Bladbjerg

Posted on 12 April, 2018 at 10:30 Comments comments (0)



Lene Bladbjerg is a Danish graphic artist based in London, via time spent in Brussels and The Philippines. This multinational environment prompted Lene's passion for exploring new countries and cultures, which has influenced her work as an artist. She now works from her studio in Crystal Palace, South London, as a full-time visual artist and freelance graphic designer. Lene's work is influenced by her background as a graphic designer. It is crisp, thought-provoking and often humorous and she often creates her work by incorporating unusual materials, often re-cycled. I am particularly fond of her beautiful butterflies created out of Stanley knife blades. You can find some of Lene's work on the A L'etage 2 online gallery, a wonderful one shop where you can find the most beautiful gifts.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love my job and feel very privileged that I’m doing something I love as my job. I love seeing people’s reaction to my work when I do shows. Especially, if I can make people smile!


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I am inspired by lots of people, but my sister Tine Bladbjerg is definitely a creative hero. She’s a fantastic designer jeweller and we share a workshop in south east London. We don’t work together but give each other feed back, which is great. She is the reason I came to the UK to study as she was already here. As well as running her own business, she has just set up our online gallery shop A l’Etage 2, where we sell amazing pieces by talented designer makers.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Not to get too emotional about people’s negative feedback.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

I have been very lucky and don’t feel I have ever hit a serious creative block. Of course there are days, where I don’t feel very inspired. On those days I do other things -like admin. I always keep a sketchbook and write things and ideas down all the time without thinking too much about it. Then I look through these on my ‘off days’.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I think I would have to say a flip flop... like my designs they are simple with an element of fun!


Links:

https://www.lenebladbjerg.com

https://www.aletage2.com

originally published 19/11/15

Take Five with Caroline Banks

Posted on 12 April, 2018 at 10:20 Comments comments (0)



Caroline Banks is a London based artist whose work is drawn on the nature of time and memory, recording the intangible. She uses brush and ink, as well as gesso, paint, gilding and piercing to capture the circle, a constant preoccupation which forms the core of much of Caroline’s current work, which is beautiful and contemplative. She has been a regular exhibitor at the Other Art Fair in London and Bristol. Find out where you can see Caroline's work in person via her website, or online via her Instagram account.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

The sense of wonder that comes from releasing something I need to express into the outside world and finding that people connect with what I'm getting at. Actually making the work comes pretty close to the top too.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

So many artists have and continue to inspire me. Direct influences include Egon Schiele who I was obsessed with at the age of sixteen for his raw, unflinching drawings which revealed the truth beyond appearances; Robert Rauschenberg whose multimedia paintings inspired me to hijack the functionality of everyday materials and mix things up; Bronzino for the perfection of his painting; Louise Bourgeois for her obsessiveness, tenacity (and longevity); Richard Long for distilling experience into elemental simplicity; Kate MccGwire's sensual and unsettling sculpture. Sorry, I couldn't choose just one.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Surround yourself with a support network and be gentle to yourself. I pushed hard at the beginning of my career with a lot of drive, very little focus wanting everything to happen quickly and ended up burning out. It took a very long time before I was ready to put myself out there again. Looking back I can see that I needed those experiences to get me where I am today and can now enjoy the many facets involved in being a self-employed professional artist with everything it entails.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Play. Whether it is dancing madly or yelling whilst throwing paint around (make that all at the same time). Anything to break through the intellect and regain connection with my core being. After having conjured up that vivid image I'd say that activity with meditation works too for minor blocks: swimming, going for a walk, something where my mind can be quiet and the monkey on my shoulder will shut up.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

Ooh, this is something I have seen and am coveting: a pair of bespoke black pony skin riding boots. Timelessly stylish, practical and understated with an edge of subversion and humour


Links:

http://carolinebanks.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/cvbanks_art/

Originally published 26/11/17

Take Five with Alex McIntyre

Posted on 12 April, 2018 at 10:10 Comments comments (0)



Alex McIntyre’s art is inspired by walking and running which enables the close, embodied observation of changes of light, land and sky connected with breath and movement. Whilst making in the studio she tries to re-capture an impression of a particular journey. The creative process then parallels the original journey resulting in a series of visual discoveries led by interactions with materials. The completed works are a conversation between the pictorial surface, materials and the memory of movement and places. Recurring themes include explorations of space, movement and stillness, noise and silence. Check Alex's website for where you can see her work.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I spend time daydreaming outside and then find ways to translate those wanderings into paintings and drawings. The best bit though is when someone sees a painting and they form a personal connection with it. I love to hear about how they relate to that piece of work and what it means to them or what it makes them think of. That's really where the moment of art happens for me. Writing this, I remember hanging a large painting at a show. The painting was essentially enormous clouds and a big open expanse of green. I wasn't sure about it and was feeling antsy about sharing it. Then something unexpected and magical happened - family groups, couples and friends started to cloud-watch. My favourite question that day was, 'Did you mean to put a dragon in it?'


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

This is a tough question. I go to different artists for different sorts of nourishment and friendship. I love the work of Viera Da Silva and often look at her later paintings to find a sense of peace. I was first introduced to John Virtue's paintings by a client and I adore the fierce, driving energy of his work. Ben Nicolson's drawings remind me of the importance of line and space. Jo Shapcott's poetry helps me seize life and to catch at the space between words whilst writers like Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin connect me to the landscape, its history and lexicography.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

You are not alone. Making art can be a very solitary activity and pursuing a career as an artist can feel like insanity to everyone around you. The more artists and creative professionals I meet, the more I know that working in the arts is the best gift, and the more I understand that this tribe is welcoming and global.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Go for a walk or run. Move until your mind stops and you cross over into a space of noticing and curiosity. If that doesn't work, reach out to an artist friend and have a chat. Their passion for what they are working on will be infectious, or alternatively if they are also stuck, then this can be a healing moment for both of you.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

A paint splattered trainer with holes in the toe. This shoe is not beautiful, but will get you where you need to go, in any weather and on most terrains. It has had lots of adventures already and is up for many more.


Links:

http://www.alex-mcintyre.co.uk

Originally published 17/8/17

Take Five with Jon Jacob

Posted on 3 April, 2018 at 10:20 Comments comments (0)



Jon Jacob is a freelance journalist, digital producer, and accredited executive coach. He writes an excellent blog, Thoroughly Good Me, about his love of the arts, classical music in particular, with smatterings of Eurovision and Strictly Come Dancing. (As well as these shared interests, we get on well because we share a sense of privilege at being allowed to coach and a deep love of stationery!) He curates a weekly playlist of classical music on Spotify and has recently launched the Thoroughly Good Podcast which lives up to its' title. These take the form of unscripted, unplanned 45 minute conversations between Jon and 2 guests and have the feel of eavesdropping (in the nicest possible way) on those really fascinating people at the next table in a coffee shop.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I have the freedom to pursue projects that capitalise on the things I love doing, and develop things I want to be better at. What links all of these pursuits whether it’s making podcasts, interviewing people, making videos or coaching new leaders – is listening. I derive an enormous thrill from listening to people. It’s central to my work as a coach. It’s a privilege to be able to listen to people.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Benjamin Britten. Not necessarily a lovable character, but a resolute and pragmatic composer who used his art to explore the darkness in life. He didn’t always write for the audience and sometimes that’s seen in his most stark and seemingly inaccessible writing. That’s the stuff I love best.


Peter Grimes and Rape of Lucretia (the ‘Goodnight’ sequence is exquisite in its simplicity) demonstrates his deft skill deploying concise musical material with devastating effect. Despite his comparative musical orthodox, Britten’s story still seems to me as though he doggedly pursued his own path. He’s also a Suffolk chap - Suffolk doesn’t have enough heroes, to my mind. He was a diarist. And importantly for me and the rest of us who love poring over the minutiae of his life, he was also a hoarder.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Just because someone has Director in their title doesn’t mean that they’re right - stand up to that person. Don’t throw in the towel because someone’s repeatedly asked you to do something which is way below your pay-grade. Be gracious. Dare to come up with new ideas. Then sell them as hard as you can. It will all pay off eventually. The wheel will still start turning. Also, lose the Walrus Glasses, and for goodness sake get your haircut.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

It’s a writing exercise. It has to be done quickly. Don’t let your pen lift from the page.


Look at the thing that is blocking your way. Then open a new page in your notebook and describe what it looks like, what it smells look, who it reminds you of, and what they’re saying. Write down what you like to say to it if it was a person. Then describe what that person looks like when they’re sat on the toilet. And finally, write down what they’d say or do if you were in a relationship with them and you told them you were leaving them for someone younger with considerably more money. At some point in all of this, something will emerge and you’ll be back on track. Guaranteed.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

A slip-on weathered leather ankle boot with a firm heel that clicks on hard floors. I provide support, and will stretch when the need arises. I also look effortlessly stylish. The shoe not me, obviously.


Links:

http://www.thoroughlygood.me/about/

https://audioboom.com/thoroughlygood

Take Five with Kate Enters

Posted on 3 April, 2018 at 10:10 Comments comments (0)



Kate Enters is an artist, the Founder & Director of ArtCan, Editor at Large for STATEf22 magazine and monthly arts Features Writer for Wall Street International magazine’s online arts pages.


As a painter, Kate responds to her contemporary life in London creating paintings that depict moments in time through stylised compositions borrowing from vintage scenes, quotations, book titles as well as taking a wry look at social media, all conveyed through her own mix of wit and pathos.


ArtCan is Kate’s innovation, a non-profit arts organisation that supports artists through profile raising activities and exhibitions, an open network of ‘likeminded’ peers, and practical support structures. Kate’s ability to curate, produce and manage art events, honed through her background in events management for high end art museums and celebrity charity events and arts PR, responds to the need for more opportunities for artists to show work on their own terms.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

The fact that I am surrounded by creatives. The energy and vibrancy of how artists look at the world means I am always learning and kept on my toes. And if you’re not constantly learning and growing in your professional and personal life then what is the point? I also firmly believe that creatives are an essential slice of society and I will do all I can to provide platforms for their voices to be heard and supported.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Frida Kahlo. Her art was truly a genuine extension of herself and the world she lived in. This confidence of personal expression is inspirational, and I remind myself to trust my individuality even when it seems to be going against the grain. The fact she maintained such poise despite her serious challenges and struggles provides a serious reality check when I am low and questioning my own art and its placement within the world.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

I feel lucky as was given a brilliant piece of advice when I came out of art school. And that was that everyone is human, and clear communication is key. Therefore be brave, just ask if you need answers, be generous and adaptable and know that absolutely everyone is still a little kid who loves hugs inside.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Do something else. Just stop that particular world and get off it for a while. It’s amazing what head space can do to re-set your priorities and give you the perspective you need to continue your creative path. Sometimes that block is there for a reason – respect it, give it space and then acknowledge it for what it is. As an artist I have learnt to feel absolutely fine with leaving something that wasn’t working behind me. It is what it is and it just wasn’t meant to be.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

On my right foot I’m a glorious sparkly stiletto, tip tapping and dancing my way through my life. On my left foot I am a sensible, brilliant and sturdy boot, grounding me. It is a reminder to look after myself, take stock and feel balanced. This is not an incidental scenario, my weak ankle (I snapped my Achilles four years ago) has proven to be a barometer to my life and how much I can take on at any one time.


Links:

https://www.artcan.org.uk

http://state-media.com/state/

https://wsimag.com

Take Five with Rosa Doyle

Posted on 29 March, 2018 at 6:35 Comments comments (0)



I first met Rosa Doyle in 2014 and was immediately taken by her beautiful, vibrant prints and paintings inspired by her love of nature. She graduated from Camberwell College of Art, University of the Arts London in 2009, was featured in '10 best prints for under £100' in The Independent in 2015, and exhibited at the Westminster Reference Library in 2016. A selection of her bird greetings cards (including those above) are sold in The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) shops around the country. 


If you are based in London and want to see Rosa's work in person, she has a forthcoming exhibition which focuses on paintings inspired by her recent time spent in the small village on the edge of the Amazon Jungle in Peru. The Fruit Saloon exhibition will be at the Gallery Cafe, St. Margaret's House, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PL and opens on 5 April.


In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

Having the opportunity to share my passions and ideas through visual media and seeing the responses from other people.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

This is a difficult question. At the moment I’d have to say its Marianne North. Marianne North was a Victorian adventurer and Painter who travelled the world and created so many beautiful paintings on her way. These paintings are on permanent display at the Marianne North gallery in The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Lots of colour and exotic birds, animals and flowers – not only do I love the paintings themselves but I find her story deeply inspiring on many levels. Having seen her work for the first time a couple of years ago she has inspired me so much.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Be patient. Be curious. Be grounded. Have fun!


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

When I feel creatively blocked I try to connect with something I find inspiring, whether it be a favourite poem, walking in nature, a visit to a museum or gallery. Whatever feels most relevant at the time.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

Another difficult question! I’m torn between practicality and glamour at the moment. I’d like to be a hiking sandal as they are super comfortable and versatile. They can get you through most situations be it river wading or desert wandering. But being visually minded I am also drawn to beauty. So part of me would have to say a ridiculous and beautifully hand crafted dip dyed and bejewelled ballet flat.


Links:

https://www.rosadoyle.com

https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/shop-locations

https://www.rosadoyle.com/fruit-saloon-exhibition-st-margarets-house-london/

http://www.stmargaretshouse.org.uk/contact-us/

What I Haven't Blogged Recently

Posted on 28 March, 2018 at 9:55 Comments comments (0)


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will have noticed that I have not written new blogs for a few months. This is because I have been concentrating on writing a book.


I was approached last year by Joanne Henson, publisher of the marvellous What's Your Excuse series of books, to write What's Your Excuse for not Succeeding as an Artist? Overcome your excuses, nurture your creative potential and thrive.


This whole series of self help books are written by different coaches and offer light touch, supportive answers and ideas to help people address the things which stop them in their lives and plans. As a reader and coach, I have enjoyed each book and was delighted when Joanne suggested I join this esteemed group!


Writing the book has been a fascinating process which has meant me overcoming some excuses of my own! “Not good enough”, “why would people be interested in what I have to say”, “what do I know about this”… Yes, having to read the advice you give to others and apply it to yourself is a slightly bizarre and very humbling experience!


I also had to open up my work to criticism by others. Four marvellous artists read through the almost final draft and I had to make myself vulnerable and open to their very clear and excellent critiques. I have made changes, tightened up copy and it is now with Joanne for her very close scrutiny. (Someone said that once you have written your first draft, then the real work begins - they were not kidding!!) It has been marvellous to have others’ insights and feedback, good and bad, and to be able to improve and develop the book.


We still have a way to go until the book is finished, but we have a publication date of 1st October, and a beautiful cover designed by Annette Peppis (teaser above!). We will be having a launch event in London in October so watch this space!


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