What can you work with right now?

Frank Bowling at Tate Britain, in front of his painting ‘Wafting’. Photo: Tate/ Matt Greenwood

Frank Bowling at Tate Britain, in front of his painting ‘Wafting’. Photo: Tate/ Matt Greenwood

Frank Bowling, born in Guyana in1934 and is currently 84 years old and paints every. single. day.

…yeah, that jolts me awake too!

So much of his work explores this idea of home, identity and displacement and he is described by the Tate as an artist who “embraces changes, circumstances and opportunity in every piece.” 

Frank is my people

As i wandered through the exhibition in awe last month, i regularly stopped to catch my breath. 
There were so many points where a painting yelped at me to stop and drink it in. and i was particularly struck by a piece called Remember Thine Eyes (2014)

It was a giant canvas which took up most of a wall.

Here it is:

Frank Bowling Remember Thine Eyes 2014

And as you do, i checked the card to read about it.

“As his mobility has decreased over the last ten years, Bowling has conceived different ways to work from a seated position. He has turned his physical limitations into productive constraints. The structure of this painting, comprising four horizontal bands of colour, derives from a narrow table he used at this time. The round elements were produced by buckets left on the wet surface of the painting, an effect he has used since 1981.
These two circular marks suggest the poetic title: a line borrowed from Shakespeare’s King Lear

Frank had struggled with his health at periods, particularly with back pain, and at the time he made this piece, he was confined to a chair. 

…Let me reiterate, this canvas was huge. 2430 x 1947 x 44 mm to be exact! 

Frank not only worked with his limitations but he embraced them. He “poured, dripped and spilled paint covers the canvas….” and managed to create a piece even more interesting because it is authentic to who he is. He’s working with what he has. 

So many of us get distracted by what we don’t have, feeling we need to have our shit together, all the goods the tools and the answers.

I know i can get caught up in that too, so no shade if you feel read, darlings. But i find it a helpful reminder always for myself and for every one of my clients to hold space for wherever you’re at. Cause we can work with that. 

what if instead of needing to have the best equipment we can afford, or needing our whole 10 year plan together, we instead worked with what’s right here.

i’m not against business plans, but back when i was starting out in the working world in the early 90s, you were encouraged to have a 10 year plan and know your career route (cause back then, people believed you had a “career for life” which is very lol-able now, right?)
that 10 year plan got reduced to 5 years in the mid 00s, and now, although i think long term planning can be useful, i’m interested in equally considering what you can work with right now, this year, this month, this week, today, in order to edge you closer to your goals in a realistic and sustainable way.

what’s already available?

for example. back in the 90s (again) or even 5 years ago, there wasn’t the capability and access many of us are now afforded from our mobile device. i mean, this object is truly at the heart of so many of our lives, think about it, when is anybody who owns a phone further than a metre away from it? 

when are you not near your phone? 

what opportunities and access does that afford you that you haven’t explored? 

what ideas and dreams and goals do you have that you keep putting off and how can you put that into action today using that device?

let’s explore:

  • making a post on instagram

  • creating that blog post

  • sending that email to your inner circle which might be your family or friends and telling them about an idea you have for something

  • watching that youtube how to video

  • reaching out to someone you admire and telling them so

So, over to you! (+ a case study)

What have you been putting off because you’re convinced you don’t have the right stuff right now in order to do it?

Granted, it might be confidence that you feel you’re lacking but we can work with that too!

Case study

For example: a client of mine really want to start making IGTV videos. 

However they feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the thought of being in front of a camera. Worried they won’t know what to say or that people will judge them. 

(May i remind any of you in this place that number 1: we can work with that too- if you don’t know what to say, you can write a script or use prompt cards. Or even do a voice over! and number 2: people might judge, however usually people are too busy thinking about their own stuff to pay much mind anyway, so….insert Oprah shrug.
….Shall we get back to conquering lack of confidence in doing an IGTV?)

It’s interesting that we might tend to make an immediate jump to feel like we need to be the perfect tv presenter. To be poised. Slick but not cheesily so. To nail every second. And other lofty highly self critical ideas.

Do you see where i might be going with this?

We all tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. To have it all figured out. Neat. Flawless.
The judgements we worry others might have about us usually start from ourselves. 
Heavy pressure and loaded expectations that make us understandably overwhelmed!

So, same principle applies:

What can you work with right now?

Being a little more compassionate with yourself?

And practically, easing yourself into action without freaking yourself out too much?

Making a video where you talk to camera is pretty nerve wracking for most people, especially if you don’t have a regular practice of it! So, start where you are with what you have! What do you enjoy and what are you good at?

Aforementioned client is an amazing photographer. They have a brilliant eye. And they love it, which really helps!

So, a starting point of their idea into action could be, using photos or video to illustrate their topic, and making a voiceover with subtitles to accompany those images.

The next stage of taking their idea into action might be making a video where you are in the video but the canvas might be your hands making or demonstrating something. And your voice speaking from behind the camera. 

…Get the gist?

You can apply this in so many ways, for example, if writing is what you’re good at, there are apps to help you animate text to make it visually appealing, so you can play to your strengths.

Working with what you have right now, until you develop that kind of resilience to step outside of your comfort zone. And i truly think confidence and resilience are connected. I spoke more about that here.