Art has always been important to me… exploring materials; expressing what’s inside; liberating my creativity. Sometimes, it is a solitary, often therapeutic activity. On other occasions, I may work with a friend or a group, side by side or collaborating. The outcome is not always clear when I begin, but I always approach the process with a commitment to the same playful creativity that I enjoyed as a child before the fear of being judged and of my art not being good enough set in. Thankfully, through commitment, persistence and a process of letting go, my connection to my art has strengthened in recent years and I now feel as comfortable working out in public, on pavement, beach or bench as I do at my dining room table. Occasionally, a passer-by will comment, but usually it’s just me, immersed in the moment. An opportunity opened up recently which enabled me to be the observer of my own creative process. The video above is the evidence, filmed during a London beach art outing.
Content with my camera in hand, I am almost always the one behind the lens; rarely in front of it, so when asked by Julia Barnickle to be the subject of one of her London Cameos recently, I did not hesitate. Her idea with this series is to film a number of different areas of London through the eyes of her friends. We chose the beach at Gabriel’s Wharf as the venue for our film. It is one of the places I love most in London. Many long time London livers and lovers do not know of the beautiful beaches revealed along the Thames when the tide is low. They are not the cleanest, but there is plenty of golden sand along certain stretches. The tales of the Thames are many and varied and the things you can find there hint at some of these stories… soles of old shoes; battered old bones; London bricks and water-worn leather belts were just a few of the things I discovered on my last visit.
Blessed with glorious early Spring weather on the day we chose for filming, the day unfolded perfectly, starting slowly over coffee, we strolled the South Bank deep in conversation and Julia B began filming silently when the tide was at its lowest and I was able to stride over stones and other assorted debris to collect a variety of items that would bring forth, soon enough, the seed of an idea for what I wanted to make. I gathered materials and ordered them on the sand as Julia B stood back, quietly observing and recording. Knowing that my friend was close by, it felt good to share the joy of finding a peculiar shaped piece of wood or a funny little something I cannot even identify. She captured these moments… the moments of discovery; immersion; creation. I capture such moments myself as I photograph works in progress and take one last shot of a piece of art before leaving it for nature and the elements to claim as their own and disperse the contents once again. But here, Julia B captured something else… the process as a whole… the parts I cannot easily record myself. What she captured, I feel, are the ambiguous parts, so much trickier to convey in words… from the wind in my hair to the simple pleasures of discovery and creation and everything in between.
My first viewing of the finished video was an emotive experience. I felt tearful watching. As someone who is always trying to capture the essence of the person I am photographing, I felt seen and understood in a way that I so rarely do. The whole process was a privilege… to spend slow time with a friend I had known for a while, though not well. To observe each other in action doing the things that make our hearts sing… Julia B photographing; me art-making and getting to know each other a little better in the process. Together in the sunshine, having both given ourselves permission to connect over the things we love to do with no fixed outcome, something magical emerged.
I am so very grateful to Julia B and feel proud to share this video with you… this me, doing what I love in a place that is special to me.
Creativity is one of the keys to living a more joyful life… it is so important to find a way of expressing yourself.
What simple pleasures bring you the most joy? I would love to know…