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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


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Take Five with Brad Kenny

Posted on 20 January, 2020 at 8:15 Comments comments (0)

Brad Kenny is an international contemporary artist, with works in collections in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Russia.


With an MA in Fine Art from the University of Chichester, Brad is attracted to Expressionist characteristics of strong colours, abstraction/distortion and individual experiences, exploring emotions, identity, character and narrative through portraiture. Being a dyslexic artist, Brad sees painting as a language, that is not easily written or expressed; it is a way of communication and interpretation. Brad's style, technique and subjects continue to develop; the abstract element of his paintings, allows him a form of expression which focuses on the human condition for the contemporary age.


Brad is an Artcan Member.

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

I love the fact my artwork is down to my own creativity (albeit, sometimes influenced by the world around me), that I can create and develop anything within my art practice, under my own control. I can focus on anything that inspires, interests or challenges, it is limitless on what I can create and how I go about it.


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


I would say a recent new hero of mine would be Muhammad Ali. During my time in studio, I listen to motivational videos and what I love is hearing how much Ali talks ‘’BIG’’ about himself. Some may say ‘’it’s being cocky’’, but I think lots of us lack that self-confidence or belief to say "I AM THE GREATEST", and if we don’t believe, why should we expect others to?

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


To have a side hussle or side project. My main practice is painting, my side hussle is framing, photography and commercial drawing.


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


When it comes to artist block my top tips would be; to become an observer and absorber. Take a step back and look at art that catches your eye, attend more art fairs, galleries and exhibitions, surround yourself with other creatives, and listen to them speak about their work, gather information and you will naturally begin to think. This perhaps will encourage a wider experimentation with your materials, challenging you to try new and varied subjects / works to create, this will often lead you to discover a route out of your artist block.


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


I would be a toe caped boot, wear them down the street as well as jumping and the mud and getting messy. Also looks like a normal boot but tough on the inside it could stop a nail.



Are You An Imposter?

Posted on 15 January, 2020 at 7:05 Comments comments (0)

Many years ago, I read a book by respected journalist (and later MP) Martin Bell. Amongst all his fascinating experiences and insightful analysis, there was one little bit which jumped out at me as a revelation.

He said he was always waiting for the moment when someone realised that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

What?! But surely it was only me who thought that? Only me who thought that any moment my cover was going to be blown and I was going to be exposed as a total fraud.

It was a marvellous moment to read this in Bell’s book. This multi-award winning journalist, respected by his peers and audiences, had the same concerns as me. I was “normal”!

Imposter Syndrome is a recognised condition that happens to most of us at some point and has been discussed by people with far more knowledge about the science of it than me. My knowledge comes simply from my own experience of those “who, me?” moments. But the important thing is that it is not my issue - as the marvellous, Award-winning musician Tim Minchin said in his excellent interview on the Inside the West End podcast, anyone who says they haven’t experienced imposter syndrome is lying.

It can pop up when you least expect it and the trick is to not let it get in your way.

Acknowledge what is happening and then keep going, using it as energy to power through.

Look back on your successes.

Acknowledge your individual, unique experiences and insights.

And if you want to remind yourself it is not just you, check out the link below to a great story from Neil Gaiman - another person who gets attacks of Imposter Syndrome. 

If this has struck a chord with you and you want support in getting passed this or other issues, check out how we could work together and get in touch.




The Difference a Decade Can Make

Posted on 8 January, 2020 at 8:10 Comments comments (0)


"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.

Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."   

Bill Gates


If you are making plans for where you want to be in ten years time, the best way can be to start by looking back.


It is so easy to defeat yourself before you even start out. You have a great idea for a project, for your life, but because you can’t see it happening in the immediate future, you take your foot off the pedal or throw in the towel completely.


But what would happen if you dug in for the long term? As Bill Gates says, we underestimate what we can achieve in 10 years. (Indeed, I have seen people put together a 10 year plan and see it fulfilled within year 7 or 8.)


Looking back in my own life, a decade ago I was a year into my new business. (Just 18 months prior to that, self employment hadn’t even been on my radar!). In the last 10 years, I worked with an amazing array of clients around the world, created collaborations with great organisations, become a public speaker, created videos and written a book!


Frankly, if the me of today had gone back in time to the me of 10 years ago and painted a picture of my life now, the ‘old’ me would have thought, “This is going to be worse than I thought - she is obviously on medication.”!  


There was no way the me of 10 years ago could have foreseen all the brilliant and wonderful things that were going to open up for me. However, I sat down with a coach and started creating my own possible future, rather than just hoping it would all get better.


So, where will you be in 10 years’ time?


Posted on 2 January, 2020 at 3:45 Comments comments (0)


"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

Maya Angelou



The last year has just come to an end and the new year has just begun. Fact. But how do you view that fact?

Do you see last year as a wasted opportunity? Or are you focussing on this year as a wonderful blank sheet on which anything could be written?


You stuck in your work and need support.

Do you see this as a weakness or as an opportunity for others to express themselves and share their skills with you?


An element of your project doesn’t work out as expected.

Do you see this as a failure or a chance to find a new way of doing things?


Whichever side you came down on (or anywhere in between) in the examples above, it was just your way of thinking or feeling about the situations. These are your attitudes.


Attitudes can be positive or negative. They can sometimes be long standing, hanging around your mind almost like a habit. But if they aren’t working for you, they can be changed.


When things don't quite work out or you are feeling panicked or uncertain, adopting a positive attitude can help you see new opportunities and break through barriers. Even if you find this difficult, at least giving yourself the space to step back and see a positive attitude as an option can help you to look at alternative solutions. This is not about having an unrealistic outlook, only about knowing you have a choice on how to view situations, finding the lessons and opportunities out of them.


If you can have a positive mental attitude, it will often take on a tangible form, with others seeing you as a positive, confident person who is enjoyable and inspiring to be around and to work with.  And funnily enough, you may find that more and more positive things start to happen around you!


For more advice on how to change your attitude, check out my vlog Catch It, Check It, Change It.  https://youtu.be/PSLU96Vx5i0

Christmas Greetings!

Posted on 18 December, 2019 at 4:05 Comments comments (0)


and all best wishes for a marvellous 2020

- the beginning of a new decade!


The Catching Fireworks® office will close from 24th December, reopening on 2nd January 2020.

In the meantime, you can still:


Book for 2020: Creating Your Year Vision (and Beyond) Friday, 10 January 2020 2pm to 3:30pm, Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 (https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/public-speaking )

Register interest in #ArtBizBootcamp 2020 - Be Smart About Art's signature 10 month online course, with Susan J Mumford and myself, starting February 2020. (https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/public-speaking)

Start 2020 (and the new decade!) by investing in yourself. Apply for a coaching place and a free consultation phone call. (https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/coaching)

 Buy What's Your Excuse for not Succeeding as an Artist?: Overcome your excuses, nurture your creative potential and thrive. (https://www.catchingfireworks.co.uk/my-book)

Christmas Lessons on Time Management

Posted on 11 December, 2019 at 5:20 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Barry Plott from Pexels


I had a conversation with a freelance colleague recently about Christmas and the lessons we can learn from it.

As a freelancer, with a freelancer husband, she was talking about the dilemma of having to work for some of the time during the holiday period, whilst also wanting to give their young children a great Christmas break. This is a situation which many people find themselves in.

We talked through all the possible logistical options, for example: 

  • deciding in advance which days were going to be their ‘working’ days and which ‘holiday’ days with their children; 
  • agreeing with two sets of grandparents, very eager to babysit, when they would take the children on treat days; 
  • setting up one play date in their home in exchange for their children going to other childrens‘ play dates; 
  • finding out what activities there are in their local area;
  • each parent having a special day with the children, whilst the other one worked, etc.

My colleague, already excited about getting Christmas handled, had a real lightbulb moment when she realised she could actually think like this all the time. She could plan ahead, to try and make her work and childcare balance better, giving both her and her children a better experience. And even those of us without children can use forward planning to make sure we make the best use of our Christmas time - and any other time for that matter.  (Obviously, life is never straightforward and something will often come along and throw things into disarray, but at least a good chunk of your planning will turn out as you expect.)

The second lesson to take away is that if you have identified a ‘work’ day and a ‘play’ day, then make sure you enter into it fully.  Don’t spend your work day feeling guilty about (in this case) not being with your children. And definitely don’t spend the play day feeling guilty that you should be doing working.  Be mindful, savour what you are doing and do it wholeheartedly.

However you decide to work, have a happy Christmas!

Take Five with Helena Appio

Posted on 4 December, 2019 at 4:45 Comments comments (0)

Helena Appio is a multi faceted creative with parallel careers as an award-winning film-maker, textile designer, artist, writer and educator. Her creative output defies easy classification but exhibits a profound commitment to the stories of humble people existing outside the media limelight, whose everyday work makes a difference in the world. 

Helena has recently created a suite of paintings, 'The Wisdom Of Angels' combining imaginative portraits of women with the talismanic iconography of traditional African indigo textile designs. 'The Wisdom Of Angels' draws our attention to the women who distribute good wishes and the protection of love, without name or acknowledgement. It is a tribute, celebrating female industry and creativity, and holds a critical mirror to the hierarchy in Western art criticism between ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’. It is also a manifestation of Helena's intention to extend the magical tradition – each piece is intended to act as a shrine, conveying a blessing to its audience.

Helena's pieces will be on display in a group show, 'Other Perspectives" with three other artists, from 6th December 2019 to 4th January 2020 at J Brown, 281 Portland Road, London SE25 4QQ.  (See Links below for more details.)

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

I love working in many different mediums, painting, film making, drawing and writing. My perfect project would be one where I can bring all these elements into one place. I’m currently working on a multi media, partially written, partially graphic novel, partially filmic piece about my mother! Ideally I’d like the project to include images of embroideries I created about her and fragments of films that I have produced about her.


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

I admire all those women artists who just kept on working whether they received recognition in their lifetimes or not, so, Alma Thomas, Frida Khalo, Annie Albers, Elaine de Kooning, Harriet Powers.


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

I made a documentary for The Arts Council many years ago called “A Portrait Of Mr Pink”.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXh_sho2NGw) Mr Pink had come to the UK in the 1960s from Jamaica and had bought a house in Lewisham, London which he decorated himself with vibrant colours both inside and out. It became a local land mark. I found the experience of making the film profoundly moving. Mr Pink had created a world for himself and had not allowed the opinions of others to influence his creativity. At one point in the film he says about his house, “Some people may like it, some people may not, but I like it myself”. His attitude taught me not to compare myself to others and to accept that not everyone will like everything you create.


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

Have a rest, go out, see a film, go to an exhibition, meet friends and take some inspiration from life, then start again, things often don’t look so bad after a rest. If a piece of work is really not what you want it to be, try re working it, cutting it up using parts of it as a collage etc.


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

I’d be a sparkly shoe of many different colours covered with all sorts of feathers, jewels and embroidery. I trained as a textile designer and I can’t resist collecting buttons, fake jewels, votive ornaments, sequins and vintage embroidery.




A Thank You Goes a Long Way

Posted on 27 November, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)

Let me tell you a story.

A woman has a painting which was created for and given to her late father.

Enjoyed during his lifetime, the painting continued to give the woman pleasure after his death, for itself and for the family link.

After a few years, the woman decided the get the painting reframed, to suit her new home and to give the painting a longer life. This made her think about the artist, so she Googled him. Luckily, he was still alive so she wrote to him, to thank him for the joy the painting has given; she included a photo in its’ newly reframed state.

A few weeks later, the artist phoned her. He was delighted to see his painting and to find out it was still much loved.

The woman was delighted to hear the full story of how the painting came into being, instead of the sketchy details which had been passed down. Between them, they shared stories of the man for whom it was painted - a friend to one, a father to the other.

Both went away from the call having shared some lovely memories and happy to have enjoyed the glow of gratitude, as receiver and giver. (It is lovely to receive a letter of thanks out of the blue and just as lovely to write one.)

So, who could you write a thank you letter to today?

Take Five with Ruth Thomas

Posted on 20 November, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)


Ruth Thomas is a printmaker who graduated in 1985 with a degree in Fine Art. Then she concentrated on painting, collage and drawing. Since the early 1990s Ruth has concentrated on etchings, screenprints and drypoints but the process which allows her to express herself best is collagraph, a print from a collage, particularly an intaglio print. (If you folow her on Facebook or Instagram, you will see fabulous time lapse videos of her at work.) She has had several solo shows, won awards and in 2019 was selected for the Royal Academy Exhibition. She is currently represented by London Contemporary Art.

As well as making, Ruth also gets huge satisfaction from sharing printmaking skills with others. She regularly leads workshops and undertakes artist residencies in schools, galleries and community centres. She finds that running workshops for others also gives her ideas for her work.

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

I just love making, being creative, and it is even better if the end result is something that seems to work. Exhibiting, selling, workshops are all wonderful but to spend time in the studio, drawing, cutting, sticking, applying ink and so on, is bliss, even though it also has its frustrations. The process of exploring and discovering is the single best thing.

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

Not really but I relate to the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long for the way they work directly with natural materials and in the landscape. I very much admire the work of Rachael Whiteread for the way she explores negative spaces in her work and makes casts of unusual objects. So much of printmaking is about taking an impression from an object, particularly so in my case.

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

That suggests that I am wiser now and I still feel I have a lot to learn!

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

I haven’t really been troubled by creative block, but I do know that it’s no good waiting for inspiration – the best thing is to start making and ideas will then flow. Being creative is so much easier if you can keep the momentum going.

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

 We live in rural North Wales and I gather a lot of the materials I use in my work from stepping out the door and going for a walk. So, I would be a walking boot, something practical and good for exploring the outdoors and getting muddy!




Too Early To Start Thinking About Next Year?

Posted on 7 November, 2019 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

Does this seems familiar? January 1st, all fired up with good New Year intentions, you decide you are going to lose weight, exercise, eat more healthily, read more, learn an language…

You try to change everything at once and it all gets too much. You go to the gym a few times then decide you don’t like that environment and getting fit sort of goes out of the window. Or you decide that meditating first thing in the morning, but it is all too rushed and meditation falls by the wayside. For many of us, by mid January all our good intentions have disappeared like an ice cream in a heatwave.

Talking with clients, one of the problems is that, for instance, you have your mindset on one thing - say lifting weights - and when that doesn’t work out or feel right for you, that’s when the “give up” gene kicks in, often followed by its close friend, the failure gene.

So here’s a trick I’ve used with clients (and myself). Use November and December for test runs. For example, say you want to get fit. Use the 8 weeks before the New Year to try out different types of exercise. What suits your personality best? Which activity do you enjoy most? Do you prefer being on your own or working in a group class? What time of day/week suits you best? You may think after work is best and there is a class near you. But if you are always exhausted at the end of the day and just want to get home, chances are you will find any excuse to get out of the class. Maybe you need to get up earlier in the morning to work out in your sitting room, or go for a lunchtime swim?

I’ve used exercise as the example, but it could be about when you meditate or start writing your novel. If you want to change your diet, it could be when you try out different foods, recipes, etc. This year, I wanted to listen to more podcasts, but wondered when I would get the time to get into the habit. Before the New Year, I played around with times: during lunch? This ran into coaching time and mindset. At the end of the day? I was often going to private views and events. I tried out several times and in the end, I found that best time for me was in the morning whilst getting ready for the day.

You can’t always change habits overnight or even find the right thing straightway. By doing some experimenting for a few weeks with new routines, tools, etc., you can give yourself a better chance to hit the ground running in the New Year and succeeding in your new habits.