Start with where you are


Shitty first draft

This morning, in my email, I was asked, “What’s your learning edge right now?”

My learning edge is doing the task/action/thing that will really take me closer to my goal. This often means letting go of the tasks I find easy or more attractive and instead doing that one thing sitting on the edge of my discomfort zone, niggling to be done. It’s the one that will move me closer to my goal.

Part of this edge is focussing on the necessary, the essential.

In 2004, the software company 37 Signals launched Basecamp, an online project management software for teams. You got a 30-day free trial and would be billed monthly. The thing is, when launched, for several reasons, 37 Signals had no way to bill customers. They gave themselves 30 days to create a payment system.

I love this. Shipping/launching with what is necessary. Nothing more, nothing less.

I was also asked this morning (so many questions!) if I could do anything today, what would I do? My answer was, “I’d paint”.

To do this, I’d need to go home, get out my paints and brushes, a canvas or two, and a drop cloth to protect the new floor, and I’d be good to go. I don’t need a studio (though it might be nice), I don’t need new surfaces, or to wait for inspiration. I can start with what I already have. And yet so often, I have found myself getting caught up in solving future problems I don’t yet have and will never have unless I take the first step and start with what I’ve got and where I’m at.

I realise I’m saying a couple of things here:

  1. Start with where you are and what you’ve got. You can make the rest up later when, and if, you need to.
  2. Asking (and identifying) what is the one thing that will really move you closer to your goal is a great way to focus on the essential thing to do.

Strategy in a sentence


My broader practice

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about creating a “strategy in a sentence” for my broader practice. Developed in a one-hour workshop with Chris Jackson of We Create Futures, here it is:

I want to be recognised as a successful artist and valued mentor for local artists and non-artists by delivering methods and perspectives that catalyse a personal ‘aha’ moment to unlock insight and opportunity or unblock their creativity.

Parts are woolly - How am I defining and measuring success? What “methods and perspectives” will I be delivering, and how? - yet workable. It’s a “shitty first draft”, a living thing to be iterated and refined.

The workshop helped me clarify how “Art” and “Consulting” can (and do) make up my broader practice. They are different and complementary disciplines, supporting each other. My art is something I want to do on my terms; it’s for me. Consulting work comes from a desire to be helpful to others. It recognises I’m good at listening, asking questions, and assisting others in finding those “a-ha” moments.

The next step is running experiments and seeing how this hybrid career of mine operates.

Clarifying Colour


Sketchbook drawings with watercolour

In limbo, any art I make takes place in my sketchbook. Add a single colour to the small ink compositions, and space and form come into focus. Add several different colours and the drawings become strange paintings.

I’m clarifying my thinking about my broader practice, what I want to achieve, and how I operate. This includes developing a strategy in a sentence. Next is brainstorming, followed by running experiments to test my ideas. Exciting and scary times!

Question your teaspoons


Recent sketchbook drawings

Question your teaspoons

In his short essay, Approaches to What? Georges Perec writes how the daily news focuses on shocking things going against the norm, rarely addressing the daily. Nurses striking to get better pay is shocking, yet the day-to-day reality of low wages for nurses is genuinely upsetting and can be missed.

Perec continues writing, turning to the importance of questioning the habitual – examining what we do, believe, and encounter (without a second thought).

Why do I walk this way to work? What if I took the other street? How can I make the journey enjoyable? Why not buy something unusual from the supermarket?

An artist may ask, why am I using this tool over that one? Why this piece of paper and not that one? How can I make this easy for myself? What can I change?

Perec notes the more trivial the question, the better.

I’m struck by the curiosity involved in asking these sorts of questions. I can see how questioning our norms leads to breakthroughs, new ideas, and insight.



St. Clair, Dunedin.

My routines are busted, the breaking waves are constant, my throat is sore (hence the rest), my drawing is sporadic amidst the change, and I am learning to use my new camera.

Today, however, I’m taking a break and recharging.