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December 16, 2011#

I LOVE FRIDAYS.

This week seems to have flown by.

Monday and Tuesday were spent sourcing materials for and making Christmas presents and  whilst painting on Tuesday, I listened to A LOT of science fiction drama on the radio. Most of the day, in fact. Radio 4 Extra has a great selection of readings and plays and it’s fast becoming a favourite.

I listened to parts of H P Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness. His use of language is majestic and the scientific and fantastical detail he goes into is totally captivating. I also got lost in Ray Bradbury’s topsy turvy world. I’m new to his work and what I love most about it is that it places ordinary human beings, who basically just want to live their ‘normal’ lives, in exceptional circumstances because of some quirk of science or because technology has perhaps advanced a little quicker than human understanding or morality (I know there are many theories about that concept and hundreds of books and articles to get stuck into).

One story I listened to involved young couple who find themselves parenting a baby who is not human but instead a small blue pyramid. This is due to a glitch in a  futuristic birthing technique that accidentally accesses another dimension while the baby is being brought into the world. So they face a dilemma: do they keep their first ‘child’ as he is and try and give him a normal upbringing, knowing the torment and ostracisation he will inevitably face? Do they allow a well-meaning doctor to experiment on him to try and make him human again?  Or do they enter that other dimension themselves, thereby cutting all links with this world, for the love of their child?

Another tale involved a family moving to Mars during the second world war, and, once there, learning that there will be no rockets sent to collect them and take them back to Earth, as they had been assured. At first, the father rallies against integration and tries to build his own rocket to take his family back home. But over time, they are lulled into apathy by the neverending sunshine on Mars; their eyes lose their ‘Earth colours’ and become golden; they begin to speak in a new language that they don’t remember being taught. The story raises interesting questions about the idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’; about the effects our environment has on us; and questions what it really means to come from a place – whether we are products of our heritage or our environment, and asks us to think about how we can tell the difference.

Here’s what else I’ve been enjoying this week.

TO LISTEN TO

of Montreal continue to blow me away. I can’t stop listening to this song at the moment. (There’s definitely a nature/space theme going on in this post today.)

My very talented friend Karlos Bray is a multi-instrumentalist and recorded this cover of Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You with his friend Phoebe Votolato on vocals. I drew the cover art for the EP.

TO READ

Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator and designer from Brooklyn who makes beautiful things to look at and is an awesome blogger. So much of what Jessica has written on the subject of creative freelancing has had a direct impact on me and made me think more about my approach. This excellent flowchart is a must for all those thinking of giving away their work for free. You’ll have to follow the link to find out what she thinks about that.

You can’t have missed the big news at CERN this week, about their search for the Higgs boson particle, the finding of which would offer an explanation as to how elementary particles get their mass. There’s a really interesting article about it here from The Guardian‘s website.

More sciencey things from the Hubble site – an incredible image of the birth of a star with the mass 15 times that of our Sun. I get kind of excited to hear words like octillion bandied about, usually by brilliantly smart people like Bad Astronomer. There’s so much to learn, and this kind of thing blows my mind in a thousand different ways. I feel such wonder and awe at things like this that I feel my brain go and bit fuzzy and I feel suspended in space and time. Which I AM, more or less, so that works out nicely.

TO LOOK AT

 

I’ve just encountered the aesthetic of Nancy Straughan and am now totally hooked. Her style is so simple and elegant. If only it were possible to make a home in someone’s online shop.

I’m also massively cooing about the work of Kate McClelland at the moment too. There’s something stark and direct about her work, whilst maintaining a gentleness throughout. I like it a lot.

Brighton-based Hello Dodo describe themselves as ‘Playful Printmakers’ – you only have to be on their website for about half a second to see exactly what they mean. Humour, cheerfulness and clean design abound in their work. And I’m always happy to namecheck my fellow Brightonians.

Happy last-minute Christmas shopping, lovelies!

 

December 9, 2011#

I LOVE FRIDAYS.

It’s Friday round-up time.

This week has been a bit different for me. Last weekend I did a stand-up comedy course, which is something I’d always wanted to do, more out of curiosity than anything, and to face the fear of standing up in front of people trying to be funny and falling apart on stage. Quite a specific fear, that one, but one I really wanted to face. Thankfully, my fellow students were a really nice bunch, and really funny too, which made it a lot easier to be silly and experiment with jokes and stuff.

Packed into two days were warm-ups, quickfire questions to get us to think beyond our normal responses and therefore try and get to the funnies underneath, and loads of tips on writing and editing (which fellow student and BFF Caroline Leon has written about on her ace blog).

To say the weekend was intense is a massive understatement. On the Saturday night, I stayed at a friend’s in London and, though my surroundings were perfectly comfortable and cosy, didn’t sleep a wink. I’m a fairly regular sufferer of insomnia and hadn’t been sleeping all that well for three or four weeks previously, but the one night I would have benefitted from some rest, it just wasn’t forthcoming. The next day was really difficult. Somehow, though, it made my practise performance of the material I’d written that morning – a 5-minute stand up routine – easier and more fun, as I was in that spacey, surreal place of feeling a mix of confidence and dispassion. I was really proud of what I’d written and I got some lovely reactions so, now I’ve got 4 days’ distance from it, I’m marking the whole thing up as a success.

Something else I learnt that weekend is that I cannot function on no sleep. I realised that for years I have been trying to outwit my body and mind by making it stay up until all kinds of crazy hours to draw/paint/mess about doing not-much-really, without considering the repercussions. The repercussions, my friend, are regular bouts of insomnia. I would have a week of fairly consistent sleep, then three of real difficulty, which meant the next day I was wired and sought comfort in too much coffee and lots of activity, and so the cycle continued.

A big part of the problem for me is that I love the idea of being a ‘night owl’. It seems so romantic and artistic to  stay awake (probably – in my head – by candlelight, as impractical as that would be) scribbling and writing and making, while every other sucker sleeps. And this – bar the candlelight – is what I’ve been doing for years and years, but to the detriment of my waking hours. I do love the peace of the wee small hours, but I get up early the next day too, so those valuable hours of rest are never replaced. I know it doesn’t really work like that with sleep – once you’ve missed it, you’ve missed it, that opportunity has gone and your brain is affected by it – but I’ve been telling myself that getting up early is the best way to get a decent night’s sleep. Yeah, that hasn’t worked out so well.

SO: since last Sunday,  I’ve been in bed by 11pm each night. And I’ve slept for at least eight hours per night. This feels miraculous. I NEVER thought I could be one of ‘those people’ (you know, the people I referred to as ‘suckers’ earlier?) who slept a full night, night after night, and then felt, well, ‘normal’ the next day. No heavy eyelids. No spaced-out walks to grab lunch. And productivity. Which, when I think about it, was the thing I was seeking all along. Huh.

The key to this being successful has been making it a priority to start winding down at 10pm. I know my 11pm plan wouldn’t have been as effective had I raced to jump into bed at 11pm on the dot, only to lay awake for an hour while my mind stopped whizzing and whirring. So at 10pm I’ve closed the laptop, had a little tidy, written lists of things to do the next day so I’m not thinking about them in bed, and really wound down. By the time 11 o’clock comes, my eyes are already closing. And I’ve been so much more organised with my evenings as a result, making sure I do everything I need to by 10pm.

I can’t say I’m going to stick to this method forever – I know there’ll be times when I’ll want to stay up later, and times when I’ll need to, when deadlines approach – but for the most part, when there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on, I want to try and stick to this method. Late nights are rock and roll, I get that. But I’ve always been a bit more lo-fi indie in my tastes, so this is a much better fit for me.

TO VIEW

I work in a non-creative job three days a week. It’s fine, but I rarely get the opportunity to bring what I really love doing to the office. Until this week! I designed our Christmas window signage – simple and clean. I got technical help from the wonderful Mark Standbrook and the guys in the office are really pleased with it, so yay! (Photos to follow. :))

My childhood friend Dave Evans  is a director and made this ace video for a local artist in his new hometown, Atlanta, Georgia. It is simple and clean and ace. An actual modernistic, minimalistic hip-hop video. Love it.

Incredible miniature pencil carbon art made with tiny tools by the superskilled Dalton M. Ghetti.

Zander Olsen creates amazing treescapes – I’ve never seen anything like this before, so delicately crafted and beautiful.

This is basically my dream apartment. If I can’t own Virginia Woolf’s Richmond house. Which I don’t think I can.

Elegant, beautifully-rendered drawings on the tres-chic French blog Les Passants d’Avril.

Dear universe, I would like one of every single item from this Etsy seller, please.

Also, yeah, universe, while you’re at it, one each of these gorgeous items, please. Thanks ever so.

Tatty Devine is selling a lovely range of colour theory jewellry at Tate Modern at the moment. I love the simplicity and boldness of the designs. If you prefer something from a more up-and-coming designer, check out my gorgeous Twitter pal Jenni Sparks’ awesome jewellry line. I also want to marry her hipster wolf t-shirt. But that’s just not possible.

Sleep lots tonight and have a brilliant weekend, my lovelies.

 

December 2, 2011#

I LOVE FRIDAYS.

I love Fridays.

Friday has always been my favourite day of the week. For me, it carries a sense of anticipation like no other day.

I work in my office job on a Friday and after work, I love going home, sitting at my desk, putting the radio on and listening all evening while I draw or paint or sketch out ideas, stopping only for cups of tea and the odd meander online. And I know that the only thing that will interupt that weekly date with myself is seeing a friend or going out to do something fun or having someone special come to visit, so it’s always win-win.

To celebrate my love of Fridays, I’ve decided that each Friday I’m going to make a round-up-of-the-week post, which will include photos I’ve taken, pictures of beautiful things I’ve found online and links to interesting articles/blogs I’ve read. Things that have inspired me.

The idea behind taking photos came from my lack of confidence with a camera. That thing some people have? Not me. Although my brother Tony takes amazing photos, so maybe the photographic gene (you know, that one) is in there somewhere, but it hasn’t quite surfaced in me yet.

Something I’ve learnt over the past year or so is this revolutionary nugget: if you practice at something, you’ll get better. I KNOW. Shocking stuff. Imagine my surprise when I tried doing something more than once and found that, after a few times, I was better at it than before I’d ever tried it. Oh, how I’d dismissed that approach over the years – I can recall many situations in the past in which I didn’t pursue something if I wasn’t instantly good at it.

I’ve learnt that if something appeals to me, there’s no reason I can’t improve at it if I just do it once, then do it again, then do it another time, and slowly over time, do it regularly, and, well, you catch my drift. That’s how I went from being the least athletic person I knew (seriously, I had no active interest in anything remotely ‘sporty’ – in my head, yes, but not in the real world) to training for and completing a 5k running event (more on that in a forthcoming post).

So practice: it does work. If I keep taking photos, I hope I’ll reach a stage where I’m reasonably happy with what I capture. It also means that I get to do something creative during my workday. I work three days a week in a non-creative job, which is fine, but by lunchtime I do start to miss my desk at home and my nice pens and paper and things, so going out for a walk with my camera is a nice chance to incorporate something creative into my workday.

I also want to share here, on a Friday, things I’ve found inspiring, or just plain gorgeous. It’ll be a good record for me, and maybe it’ll even provide you with some pretty things to look at and read over the weekend.

TO READ

An inspiring piece on inspiration by the wonderfully gifted writer (and my BFF) Caroline Leon, over at her awesome and motivational blog LifeisLimitless. If you visit for this particular article, you’ll stay long after you’ve finished reading it, I guarantee it. Wisdom abounds over there.

TO LISTEN TO

Richard Herring’s Objective on the Old School Tie and it’s place in today’s society. I was a HUGE ‘Fist of Fun’ fan at school (and fancied Stewart Lee rotten, with his Moz stylings and funny accent) but it’s only recently that I’ve been reintroduced to Richard Herring’s work and I’m right back in like with him. Listen to these while you still can – each of the four episodes is essential listening for anyone who cares about anything.

TO VIEW

Office Milano

Beautiful and covetable notebooks by OfficeMilano, for Ogami (via Design Milk).

Stunning Fleet Foxes animation by the wonderful Sean Pecknold.

Another film: Mound by LA-based artist  Allison Schulnik. Haunting and moving and just brilliant.

The sometimes angular/sometimes heartwrenchingly gentle world of Rob Bailey.

Colourful, clever and mesmeric work from Danish artist Nan Na Hvass and the design studio she shares with Sofie Hannibal.

If you’ve got any comments on any of the above, do write them below. You might like to subscribe too by entering your email in the box next to the header. Exciting!

Have a great weekend.