Art Flow

About being bullied, civil service and how storytelling, painting, humour can help

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Let me tell you something ....  I believe in the Patch Adams (you might have seen the movie, go and get the book as well) theory of healing through humour. I also believe art in any forms heals. I don't speak from books or imagination but ... I've been there. I left a  bullying environment 8 years ago and an article I came across earlier today made me  dig through my blogs and decide to republish something I posted on this topic. It is clear to me that old, bad habits die hard and bullying in the civil service is still going strong. Probably many still suffer in silence, taking their daily anti depressants, abusing their bodies and souls in all sorts of ways ... desperate to survive a hostile environment. I simply want to tell you that .. I hear you, I understand you .. I've been there. Below you will hear my voice (as it was at the time),  my way of illustrating  the way I was being bullied, the sort of workplace situation I faced daily. I would like to inspire you, the one who suffers to write your story, to look for humour, to paint, express what you feel creatively, get the support of your union rep and make plans to get out of there fast. It helps! It really does! So let me say it again ..... what helped me at the time was my union and my union rep. The story below has been shared at the time with the top man in the organisation I worked in and was part of my defence as ... yes I did complain (I encourage you to speak up) about the abuse I was suffering and yes again I faced the managers asking for justice. Yep I received apologises and so on but this is another story ... 

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So here we go, this is how the whole situation felt like ... of course in a  ... different setting:


" The western front, april 1943 ...

The war in Europe is reaching a climax. There have been battles but the big spring offensive is being planned by military command. Plans are having to be changed as our scouts bring more intelligence from the field and the timing of the offensive is being delayed because of other issues in the theatre of war. The Colonel (my manager's manager) responsible for the central push of our army is highly experienced, is calm under fire and has a clear view of military priorities.

One of his brigade commanders has retired and, pending the arrival of the new commander, the colonel shortens the chain of command, dealing directly with 1st Company under the control of a Polish Lieutenant (me) a structural engineer by training, who fought in the ice and floods of the Eastern Front against the Russians - and dealing directly with 2nd Company under the control of an experienced officer.

The Polish Lieutenant was well trained (this was carefully assessed at training camp by the excellent recruitment team lead by General E) and the Lieutenant has got to know his men well. His men (agencies, press, events) are located in different pockets across the planned front with his support close behind. 1st Company has a well researched battle plan that has been approved by the Colonel and General Command. The chain of command is understood and his men, all experienced army fighting men, are charged with preparing their own units for battle.

The Lieutenant takes a well trained leave to sunny Tripoli.

While he is away, a young Captain (My new manager) arrives to takes command of the brigade. The Colonel briefs him on how important to the success of the war is the planned central push of 1st Company. The Captain recognises this treat to his reputation and responds by taking day to day control of 1st Company (my team), explaining to the men that he is now in charge, without explaining why - unfortunately he did not tell the Lieutenant (me) this on his return from leave and, as a consequence, one of the worst things followed that can happen to an army in battle, there was complete confusion, with the Lieutenant issuing orders and the new Captain issuing other orders.

Gradually it dawned on the Lieutenant what was happening - but it was too late. His position with his men had been undermined and he looked silly in front of them. The new Captain signalled to the Lieutenant (me sitting next to him) that he, the Captain, is now in direct command of 1st Company and that he (me) is therefore demoted to Sergeant without clear portfolio.

The Captain's first acts are to ridicule the Sergeant's placing and equipment of 1st Company's left flank platoon, the first of many many similar criticisms. He commands the Sergeant to move and re-equip the platoon. The Sergeant points out to the Captain, who was once again not listening, that the men on the left flank were there for a good reason. The Captain repeated again and again, that the positioning and heavy equipment of the left flank platoon was all wrong, that he knows better -they should be facing the other way.

Again and again the Sergeant pointed out that there was a good reason for the heavy night sight rifles and their location. The Captain was not interested because it was all wrong in his opinion - finally the Sergeant was able to make it clear to the Captain that forward scouting intelligence had reported that the enemy was camped just in front of the men, behind the privet hedge waiting to attack - which is why the Colonel and General Command has approved the forward position of the left flank platoon and a night attack.

The Captain fell silent as he thought of other battle planning issues to criticise as he liked to do this, he liked to criticise, that's what he had been told that officers do. The situation was repeated time and time again. Unfortunately this constant criticism meant that the Sergeant could not lead his men who were depending on him for new battle instructions."

....... TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW 

 


How do you open your creativity gates

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Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I was getting close to graduating from my mechanical engineering university in Bucharest and, whether by good luck or good forethought, I found that I did not have to look for a job in the engineering field because I was at the time, by pure chance and to earn some money, working part time as a PA for an English tv company attempting to negotiate a joint venture with our state broadcaster to operate a new commercial television channel. 

I found myself translating at high level and learning how to use a computer .. an Apple computer by the way. It was 1993 and I had never had access to or used a computer until then and, yes, once again .. with very little help I had to figure out how to use it .. on my own ... with tears, sleepless nights, and again tears . 

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I don't really know if that was the moment that was going to put a huge imprint on everything I was going to do further on in my career and life ... having to feel the fear and to start to figure things out for myself ... taking the road less travelled on so so many occasions. 

Years later,  here I am in a field I'd never dreamed of being in ... the creative field. Over the years, many people have asked me .. where do the ideas come from, how do I access the creative side of my mind, something so needed especially nowadays when stress, media over-consumption, electronic gadgets leave us drained, depleted. 

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That is why, as a response, some months ago I decided to self publish a workbook, something that people can take with them on the train, on the bus, on holiday, during commuting trips, when they go for a coffee .... when they sit at the kitchen table with 5 minutes for themselves or in the garden while relaxing on a Sunday afternoon .... 

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Just like it happened years ago ... I had no experience of putting together this type of workbook (yes I have self-published two creativity books, mainly about colouring, but this was a while ago) but I knew that perseverance, determination and purpose will help me find the way. And it did. 

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My  BE A CREATIVE EXPLORER workbook is about the fun of stimulating the imagination. It consists of 12 chapters, one for each month - below you can see what my first month's work looks like now that I have finished it. I am sure yours will look different but it's just to give you an idea. 

What each chapter does is to invite you to draw, to read (you have book recommendations, inspiring quotes) to colour in, to create collages, write your thoughts ... most pages have prompts to help you on your way ... You are invited to use watercolour crayons, acrylic paints, juicy pens (the really lovely ones to work with!) of all kinds, collage bits from your favourite magazines ..... 

Because creativity starts with a step ... followed by another one ... and another one .....it's  about what comes into your mind and the absolute joy for the mind of "what if...." I never look for perfection because it doesn't exist. Real life is all those things you just did and do, whatever the outcome, because in the end it's your work, no-one else's and memories are made of such things.

Be a creative explorer is available from Amazon, wherever you are. 

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About green, the heart and a soup

I am an artist! Colours mean a lot to me ... they heal, nurture, talk to me .... they call me and not the other way round. Green is not at all a colour I use in abundance in my paintings .. on the contrary .. and it is the same with my clothes ... up until 2 days you couldn't have found anything green in my wardrobe. But things have changed ...... 2 days ago I've felt an intense need for green in various shades ... so I have now a baggy green summer dress, Turkish trousers, a funky bag .... and yesterday I felt the need to cook ... a green soup ... all of this out of nowhere ... but was it really out of nowhere? Nope! I've realised that ... a year ago to the day.... .. my mother was leaving this Earthly dimension ... it was a blessing ... a big blessing for her... 

So ..... GREEN ..... I did a bit of research and green actually corresponds to the HEART chakra .... it's all about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ... it is also the colour associated to my astrological sign .... 

Coincidence? Oh no ... I don't think so ... it's a sign ... a sign from the other side ... at least this is how I want to interpret it. Believe what you want to believe .... this is what you would hear me telling you time and time again if I were to know you in person. 

So ... I cooked a GREEN SOUP ... listened to Russian music (yes..... my mother was Russian)) ... and celebrated her departure ... celebrated my belief in reincarnation and my heartfelt wish for her to have a better and more exciting new life. 

And now .. here is the recipe just I case you might want to cook my green soup as well ... and a link to beautiful Gypsy Russian music. 

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Green Spinach and broccoli soup 

200 grams spinach leaves

1 small broccoli head (do chop it guys)

2 tsp butter or sunflower oil

2 leaks chopped

1 big onion chopped

2 garlic cloves

3 small carrots

a handful of parsley and lovage if you have 

1 chicken stock cube

1 litter of water 

juice of 1 small lemon 

salt, pepper, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of turmeric powder 

Add sour cream in your plate and freshly cut chives from the garden. 

Soups are the easiest thing in the world to make ... just melt the butter in a pan, ad the chopped vegetables, cook over low heat, add the water, stock cube, bring to boil and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Puree everything , add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and simply enjoy with a slice of cheese on toast .... and then,  put your feet up and watch a mesmerising gypsy music and dancing concert! 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Spring time and the exhibition at the Hop Gallery

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I love spring! I love paying attention to the leaf buds appearing slowly on the birch tree in my garden, the Carmelia showing the first flower buds early in February followed by the daffodils appearing in unexpected corners of the garden, then the rhododendron and azalea (which are waking up slowly at the moment ... always in the same time).

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Paying attention .. doesn't come naturally to me ... not at all ... back in Romania I don't remember noticing the nature around me ... things were happening .... but somehow it seemed as if it was in a parallel world. I was busy ... very busy ... studying, preparing for exams, passing exams after exams, going by bus to and from school, college, university, jobs ... I was coming ... going ...in a hectic rhythm ......... I was in a hurry .. always living in the future .. studying for the future, planning events related to my job .. in the future ..... the truth is that ... I did not miss nature, I did not have time to miss it. It was my normality. 

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But things change, life rhythms change .. and I find this fascinating! 

Fascinating is also the fact that ... nowadays .. I paint ......... I have never painted in Romania but here, by the sea , in a different country, i do and it seems natural, it seems normal. It is another normality, connected to the who I am now and here.  If you are in the East Sussex area, do visit the exhibition I am taking part in at the HOP GALLERY in Lewes. The exhibition is open until May 5th, every day from 10.30 - 5 pm. You will have the chance to connect with 12 dynamic artists, 12 different styles, 12 different ways of interpreting .. reality! Enjoy! 

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Viv Cecil and painting with the elements

What would you say if I tell you that I became aware of "the elements" while living in England? Yes, earth, fire, water, air is everywhere ......and they were in my home country too but we did not spend a long time thinking about them. We used to take them all for granted and ignored them. Life was  too busy, people were  too consumed by the crowded buses, and the trams, and the heat, and the cold, and the occasional earthquakes and the queues, and  .................

It took me 4 years in England to get used to the idea that I have a garden, a smallish one where I can stop and sit on a chair and enjoy the plants around me. It took me 4 years to acknowledge that the garden is not a space between 2 doors to be crossed quickly but one to dwell in, to be enjoyed. It took me a while to "stop and smell the roses". It took me a while to become truly aware of the elements!

Viv Cecil grow up among the hills, and the plains, among the rich, vibrant, earthy colours of India.  Seeing members of his family paint, kicked off the idea of expressing himself artistically as well. He grew up feeling, knowing, wanting to become an artist.

For some people, painting is a Saturday hobby, something one does once in a while, opening the tubes of paints, picking up a brush and voila ....the "play" time gets going. For others, painting is a burning desire to communicate, to express ones feelings ..... through images. It's about pushing the frontiers .........pushing the frontiers of experimentation, transferring the daydreamer's world onto the canvas, again and again and again.

7-Darkmoon-No3 Viv's paintings are a dedication to the elements, a recognition of the fact that art and nature are one. Do not be surprised to hear that soil, and leaves,and imprints of rocks are used regularly on his white canvases. Taking a bit of nature with him begins a new idea. Just the beginning because "if you think you know where the painting is going you are kidding yourself".  The truth is that each painting has a life of itself, a personality that emerges slowly, through layers and layers of paint, totally, entirely absorbing.

If you like to be challenged by paintings, if you like to wake up in the morning and discover another element in the painting you  bought the other day, Viv is your artist. His paintings will make you think, his paintings will invite you to join him in the conversation he constantly has with the elements, even with his past.

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Trained as an illustrator and draughtsmen, having to reflect the detail of a subject made him want more and more to break through the straight lines, break free and express himself freely with fluidity.  Who knows, maybe this is why he loves abstract expression, maybe this is why he is all in favour of the "controlled accidents" on the canvas.

His attitude to painting is clear "the more you put off starting to paint, the more afraid you are of the white canvas".  It is so true! I know it .. its why I'm going right now to paint on the big canvas waiting for me on the easel. Right now, I'm starting with a dot, an elemental object! Thank you Viv!

You can meet Viv and enjoy his  art in August,  together with other members of Artflow and also by visiting his website www.artburngallery.co.uk.  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit http://www.artflowsussex.co.uk/.

 


Mary Beaney and the Byzantine inspiration

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Born as a Christian orthodox I was exposed to icons from an early age, although going to the church was not such a popular activity in Communist times. For the ones interested in Christian iconography Romania is quite a destination!  For example, the painted monasteries in Moldova - listed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage site - provide an infinite source of amazement and inspiration.

For all of us there is a moment in time - be it meeting an inspiring person, or artist, or seeing a book, or visiting an exhibition - that inspires us, changes the way we look at things, the way we interpret the reality around us. 

Mary Beaney had such a moment  18 months ago when she visited a "Byzantine Art" exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.

Portraits have always occupied a special place in her  art, ever since she studied at Southdown College a place where she met like minded people, people who became her friends and for many years co-exhibitors. The college  encouraged her to investigate various forms of media from oils to printmaking, from drawing to ceramics in a continuous search for the perfect painting, a search for that special thing, the thing that motivates...............the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, what about Mary? For her art is a way of projecting emotions onto the hungry canvas.  As simple as that!

So, the last 18 months brought a new dimension into Mary's paintings. It allowed her to combine her lifelong passion for portrait art with her interest in Byzantine Art    ........ giving icons  a contemporary feel.

You will surely be intrigued by the images that populate Mary's paintings. They all have a story and they all tell a story. Listening to Mary telling the story of an old, very old picture album discovered not a long time ago in a dark corner of the attic is intriguing and mysterious. She incorporates them, the fading, monochrome images from the past, in the Byzantium inspired paintings and this is when magic starts and another story unfolds.

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As for the viewer, trust me .......... you will never look at that old, shabby photo album you inherited from your loved ones in the same way.  It will inspire you to start start discovering your own roots, discovering your family's hidden stories,  maybe even expressing them creatively in a collage, or a poem, or a story.  Because her work  inspires,  her paintings take you by the hand and invite you to imagine, dream, create your own story. Check on the following link and you will enter into Mary's world 

Painting is not a smooth journey! It never is, it never will be.  Painting is an all consuming process. One that leaves you empty of emotions, frustrated, sad and also happy, absorbed in a world of fantasy, enthusiastic, passionate. Painting is just like stepping in a tunnel and searching for the light!    

You can meet Mary and enjoy her art in August  together with other members of Artflow.  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit http://www.artflowsussex.co.uk/.

 


Jill Emslie, pilot and artist extraordinaire

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One of the reasons  why I really appreciate England is the attitude to life of that special breed of not so young in years, be they men or women!  I really do! You will not see them in dark, post war M&S garments, clearly re-laundered for the 150th time, or as prisoners of their jobs and homes, or completely subordinating their lives to their children, nor talking about all those sacrifices, or about how life was - as if that was it .......no more discoveries, nothing enjoyable to look forward to other than the arrival and raising of lovely grandchildren. The world I left behind over the water and a bit further on still plays by these unwritten rules. That was the world I left behind!

My theme today is about embracing change, pushing your boundaries, experimenting, still making things happen ..........doing all of this and more, with a smile that says so much about attitude. So let me introduce you to one Jill, amazing Jill Emslie! But before eulogising, first let me ask you what was your dream as a child? Was it to become a fireman, or doctor, or singer, or writer, or maybe architect or ...........

As a tiny child during the second world war,  Jill would look at the dark, foreboding London summer skies , longingly following with eager eyes those Spitfires weaving and rushing bravely to unknown battle, fighting with an awesome growl for a peace that some would say was too much to achieve. Her imagination had no limits! In her mind, she invented stories about the brave pilots, their lives and how it must feel to look at the beautiful planet Earth from the cockpit of a plane. She dreamed about being one of them .......of flying and piloting those amazing machines.

An unexpected trip to the Shoreham museum ( for information about the museum click http://www.shoreham-aircraft-museum.co.uk/) led her to fulfill this dream. Even if it took Jill almost 50 years to reach this dream  let me tell you that .... yes ..... she did it, she embodies the qualities of that breed. Although it is not a Spitfire, Jill speaks with great love about the Cessna airplanes that became her friends , that joined her in her many air adventures. 

Flying across the English countryside had a big impact on the way Jill paints, on the way she sees and interprets landscapes. Yes, Jill is a very talented painter as well. She picked up paint brushes almost at the same time, and started painting about 20 odd years ago.  It all started with joining the Eastbourne College of Art and Technology (now known as Southdown College) and doing a diploma in Fine Art.

As a young artist, I couldn't resist asking Jill how does she paint, where do the ideas come to her mind.

" I hit the canvas with a complete blank mind and start adding layers to layers. For me it is like a walk in a new park. It can be a lovely surprise or a complete disappointment."

In her own words, Jill told me that she is inspired  by big historical moments ....like it was in the case of the Gulf wars, the Romanian revolution, or 9/11. Now she is in the middle of expressing on canvas the emotions of the Arab revolution. In the upcoming exhibition in August (5-11th) at the Lansdown Gallery in Lewes visitors might see her completed 9/11 picture. 135

Because of her flying experiences skies, clouds have a completely different meaning. They have a personality, they  have distinctive smells, textures ....... they can be fluffy and white and light and also black and gloomy and sticky like glue!

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Art gave Jill an intense sense of excitement, creating something that makes her feel proud, in a studio that insulates her from a competitive environment (not that she would ever join being there)!

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You can meet Jill and enjoy her art in August  together with other members of Artflow.  Artflow is a recently formed group of semi professional artists living and working in the Sussex region. The members of the group also exhibit individually and with other groups and galleries. For more information visit http://www.artflowsussex.co.uk/.