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Book Club feature by Jana Oliviera

Posted on 23 September, 2021 at 8:50

I am delighted that my book is featured in the new book club from Jana Oliviera - check out her blog and podcast about it! 

"If you’re in that phase that you feel stuck in your art, with fear and feeling that you’re wasting time this book is a perfect choice." 
Jana Oliviera


Posted on 8 September, 2021 at 6:00


"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

Johnny Cash



I hate making mistakes, of looking 'bad', or like an idiot or of letting people down. Or rather I should say, I hate me making mistakes. If other people do it, I encourage them to see mistakes as life lessons. I always say that the only person who lives a mistake free life is the person who is doing nothing (although that could be their biggest mistake of all).


But when I think back on my many mistakes, I have gained a wealth of experience and learning. For example:


My four failed driving tests (devastating to my confidence at the time) meant I had to have more lessons and driving practice. By the time I passed my fifth test, threw away my L plates and finally hit the road, I was a reasonably accomplished driver.


When training as an Image Consultant, I sailed through the first few weeks getting every client right. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea how I was doing it. This was great for the ego but I knew that I had nothing to fall back on if my instinct let me down. Then one day, in front of all my fellow trainees and all the tutors, I got a client completely wrong. But as my errors were explained, my audience could almost hear the sound of the pennies dropping as I finally grasped what the process was all about. At that moment, I became more confident as a consultant.


Not making mistakes can also create a barrier between you and others. I was once a secretary to a quite high flying Board of Trustees, made up of CEOs and Senior Management of big blue chip companies. I would write up minutes and then before the next meeting, I would have to phone all these powerful people, chasing them up to make sure they had done their actions. Although individually these were nice people, I was intimidated by their positions and found phoning them a real discomfort. Then at a meeting reviewing minutes of the last meeting, I noticed I had made a huge, glaring mistake. I prayed no one had seen it. Alas, when we got to it, one of the CEOs pointed it out with great glee.  He was delighted to see that I was capable of making a complete dog's breakfast out of something. It seemed that whilst I was anxious about making the monthly calls to him, he was equally anxious about getting the calls, because he usually hadn't done what he was supposed to, and I, as far as he could see, was always perfect. I found out the rest of the board felt the same. What for me seemed a horrendous mistake which would ruin my reputation FOREVER actually created a much better relationship between me and the board. Who'd have thought it?! 


We all make mistakes. That isn't a problem. The problem is if you let the mistakes define you, where you create the self image that mistakes = bad person, or hold yourself back in case it all goes horribly wrong. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons and move on, a more knowledgeable and experienced person.


And if all else fails, just remember what Fred Astaire said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."


How stylish will you be today?

Can You Believe What You See?

Posted on 9 August, 2021 at 10:00

Have you ever looked at a parking meter, or a house front, or a cloud and seen a face?


This has a name - pareidolia, a “tendency for perception to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous stimulus, usually visual, so that one sees an object, pattern or meaning where there is none.”


I only found this out during a most fascinating conversation with the artist Mazarine Memon. Mazarine has just published a book, Mysteries In Colour, containing some beautiful inkblot designs she has created. The idea is that as you look at the inkblot, your mind will want to try and find something familiar within it to latch on to. When you do, you can begin to draw it in and spend half an hour in creative mindfulness as you expand the image and make it your own.


As we were talking, I started linking this concept of pareidolia with a couple of issues which often come up in coaching sessions.


The first is how we can often take one piece of random information and make up a whole story from it. Not only a whole story, but often totally incorrect. (Let’s face it, this is the basis for probably 80% of any romantic comedy we have ever watched! She sees her boyfriend having dinner with a lovely woman and storms off thinking he is being unfaithful. But if she had only gone up to them and asked the question, she would have found out it was his cousin on a rare visit into town.) In our lives, we’ve seen ‘the fact’, created the story, totally believed it and haven’t stopped to ask any questions. Which is usually where I step in (in coaching, not in the romcom!).


I have been guilty of this. I once built a whole story around how I hadn’t got a job because I wasn’t good enough / too old / out of the loop to even get an interview. The only fact I had was that I hadn’t heard back from the company by a week after the cut off date for applications. In truth, they had so many applications they were still sorting through them. (I got the interview and the job.)


The second point is how we think the way we see something is the only way to see it. But as demonstrated in Mazarine’s amazing inkblots, however much you know an image is of a dragon wrapped in a duvet, someone else will also absolutely know that it is a punk angel on a cloud.


Again, we build a certainty and believe in it. And again, as a coach, this is where I can come in and invite you to see another viewpoint.


Do you have a story you are telling yourself which you absolutely know to be true?


Is it based on just one fact?


Or could there be another interpretation?



If you want support to see other ways of looking at your situation or to get clear on what is really happening, book a clarity call and let’s start a conversation.


Art Talk - 23rd July

Posted on 21 July, 2021 at 7:15

I am delighted to be a guest on Art Talk on IGTV Live on Friday 23rd July at 7pm UK time with artists Marina Emphietzi, Jana Oliviera and Mazarine Memon.


Have you ever wondered what your favourite artists are up to when they aren’t creating their collections? These three artists have all been busy with interesting projects, like new workshops and a book launch. Together, we will be talking about the many facets of an artistic lifestyle.


Join us as we go live through one of our Instagram accounts: @fireworksdhp, @marina.emphietzi, @jana_2worlds or @mazarinememon


(You can catch this and our previous conversation on my Podcasts page.)

Keeping a Positive Mind

Posted on 14 July, 2021 at 3:40

I often write and talk about the importance of having a vision. This is really powerful and if you write it down, draw it, or make a mood board, you can read/look at your vision paper whenever you want.


But how can you keep it real, as they say, everyday? Particularly on a bad day?


One way is to distil your vision into a few words, an affirmation that means something to you. Your subconscious mind will give you exactly what you tell it. By repeating an affirmation again and again, you will hard wire your mind to think positively and your vision will become more of a reality to you. (Don’t believe me? Have you ever felt a bit bleurgh but have had to mentally gee yourself up because you were going to a party, meeting friends, etc., and didn’t want to be a wet blanket? It’s just the same principle.)


How do you go about creating your affirmation?


The first place to start is with yourself. This affirmation is all about you, what you want and how you want to inspire yourself. So this is one occasion when the key word is “I”, for example:



  • I am a great artist
  • I am a successful writer
  • I am awash with creativity
  • I am great at public speaking
  • I love networking
  • I am confident


Notice something else about those statements? They are all quite short. These are sentences you want to be able to remember and repeat quickly to yourself, so you don’t want an essay. Also, the subconscious mind likes simplicity.


Did you also notice that all the statements are positive? Affirmations must be done with an upbeat twist. Why? You have to focus on what you do want because whatever you think, your mind conjures up. Don’t think of a blue rabbit in a tutu. Ah ha! I said don’t think of a blue rabbit in a tutu, but I reckon that little bunny is hopping around your brain just now. Blue bunnies are not a problem, but if you are saying “I don’t want to be a failure”, it puts the concept of failure into the brain. And be honest, which is more inspiring:



  • I don’t want to be ill
  • I am healthy



The last thing about the affirmations is that you put them in the present tense. This is telling your subconscious mind what you want in a way that makes it real. If you say “I will be a successful artist”, there is still a bit of doubt with the “will”. When you say, “I am a successful artist”, you can start believing in it and behaving accordingly, which can give you confidence.


Obviously, it doesn’t matter how much you say something if you don’t put in the work to make it happen. However, if you have the vision, your affirmation is a little language device you can use to keep you on track and give you confidence.


I created an affirmation for myself which is at the back of my mind when I am working with clients:



  • “I light the blue touch paper”.



What affirmation will take you to your vision?


What can make it difficult to effectively provide coaching support?

Posted on 9 July, 2021 at 4:55

I was asked this question recently.

The biggest difficultly comes if people think that I am going to give them the answers, create the plan and/or do the work for them.

Managing peoples’ expectations and explaining the difference between coaching and mentoring is a key part of my initial conversations with people.

As a coach, my role is to be objective and non-directive, to draw ideas and actions out of the client. As coaching expert Nancy Klein says in her book 'Time to Think', "Usually the brain that contains the problem also contains the solutions - often the best one."

If you are a creative professional looking for ongoing support and accountability, book a Clarity Call and let's start a conversation.

How Do I Support My Clients?

Posted on 24 June, 2021 at 4:15

People have asked what type of support I provide to creative professionals.


I work with people who are serious about making a change in their creative life, however big or small, and want to get into action. This could be through finding ways of working which support your practice or getting you through blocks caused by lack of confidence, negative perception or unhelpful attitudes. I listen intently with no agenda, ask questions and dig deep to find out what you really want. I find that most of you know what you really want to achieve in life, but sometimes it is hidden so deep down even you can’t find it.


I work on the principle that you know your areas best and have all the knowledge you need to do what you want. The issue is often that you might not recognise that in yourselves, or you are stuck in some way.

I help you to: find clarity through creating a clear vision of what you want to achieve; give an objective space where you can get perspective and help you put things in context; and give you ongoing support to keep you accountable as you take action.


If this sounds like something which chimes with where you are now, book a Clarity Call and let’s start a conversation.

Circle of Control

Posted on 25 November, 2020 at 4:20

In the confusion of what we can/can't, should/shouldn't be doing, this is a tool I have been using with some of my coaching clients during these times when it can feel that everything is out of your control. It might be of use to some of you.


Get a piece of paper and draw a circle in the centre.


Around the outside of the circle, write down all the things your can’t control. For example:


- other peoples’ feelings, actions, opinions

- how the news is reported

- food supplies in shops

- how long this situation will last

- etc…


As much as possible, let go of worrying about these things.


In the centre of the circle, write down all the things you CAN control. For example:

- how you feel, your behaviour, your thoughts

- how you limit your news consumption

- how you use your food supplies

- your own wellbeing

- etc…


These are the things you can focus on.


Keep the circle near you and if you feel panicky, take a breath, remind yourself of what you can control and refocus.

Take Five with Brad Kenny

Posted on 20 January, 2020 at 8:15

Brad Kenny is an international contemporary artist, with works in collections in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Russia.


With an MA in Fine Art from the University of Chichester, Brad is attracted to Expressionist characteristics of strong colours, abstraction/distortion and individual experiences, exploring emotions, identity, character and narrative through portraiture. Being a dyslexic artist, Brad sees painting as a language, that is not easily written or expressed; it is a way of communication and interpretation. Brad's style, technique and subjects continue to develop; the abstract element of his paintings, allows him a form of expression which focuses on the human condition for the contemporary age.


Brad is an Artcan Member.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love the fact my artwork is down to my own creativity (albeit, sometimes influenced by the world around me), that I can create and develop anything within my art practice, under my own control. I can focus on anything that inspires, interests or challenges, it is limitless on what I can create and how I go about it.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?


I would say a recent new hero of mine would be Muhammad Ali. During my time in studio, I listen to motivational videos and what I love is hearing how much Ali talks ‘’BIG’’ about himself. Some may say ‘’it’s being cocky’’, but I think lots of us lack that self-confidence or belief to say "I AM THE GREATEST", and if we don’t believe, why should we expect others to?

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?


To have a side hussle or side project. My main practice is painting, my side hussle is framing, photography and commercial drawing.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?


When it comes to artist block my top tips would be; to become an observer and absorber. Take a step back and look at art that catches your eye, attend more art fairs, galleries and exhibitions, surround yourself with other creatives, and listen to them speak about their work, gather information and you will naturally begin to think. This perhaps will encourage a wider experimentation with your materials, challenging you to try new and varied subjects / works to create, this will often lead you to discover a route out of your artist block.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?


I would be a toe caped boot, wear them down the street as well as jumping and the mud and getting messy. Also looks like a normal boot but tough on the inside it could stop a nail.


Take Five with Helena Appio

Posted on 4 December, 2019 at 4:45

Helena Appio is a multi faceted creative with parallel careers as an award-winning film-maker, textile designer, artist, writer and educator. Her creative output defies easy classification but exhibits a profound commitment to the stories of humble people existing outside the media limelight, whose everyday work makes a difference in the world. 

Helena has recently created a suite of paintings, 'The Wisdom Of Angels' combining imaginative portraits of women with the talismanic iconography of traditional African indigo textile designs. 'The Wisdom Of Angels' draws our attention to the women who distribute good wishes and the protection of love, without name or acknowledgement. It is a tribute, celebrating female industry and creativity, and holds a critical mirror to the hierarchy in Western art criticism between ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’. It is also a manifestation of Helena's intention to extend the magical tradition – each piece is intended to act as a shrine, conveying a blessing to its audience.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

I love working in many different mediums, painting, film making, drawing and writing. My perfect project would be one where I can bring all these elements into one place. I’m currently working on a multi media, partially written, partially graphic novel, partially filmic piece about my mother! Ideally I’d like the project to include images of embroideries I created about her and fragments of films that I have produced about her.


Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I admire all those women artists who just kept on working whether they received recognition in their lifetimes or not, so, Alma Thomas, Frida Khalo, Annie Albers, Elaine de Kooning, Harriet Powers.


What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

I made a documentary for The Arts Council many years ago called “A Portrait Of Mr Pink”.( Mr Pink had come to the UK in the 1960s from Jamaica and had bought a house in Lewisham, London which he decorated himself with vibrant colours both inside and out. It became a local land mark. I found the experience of making the film profoundly moving. Mr Pink had created a world for himself and had not allowed the opinions of others to influence his creativity. At one point in the film he says about his house, “Some people may like it, some people may not, but I like it myself”. His attitude taught me not to compare myself to others and to accept that not everyone will like everything you create.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Have a rest, go out, see a film, go to an exhibition, meet friends and take some inspiration from life, then start again, things often don’t look so bad after a rest. If a piece of work is really not what you want it to be, try re working it, cutting it up using parts of it as a collage etc.


And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d be a sparkly shoe of many different colours covered with all sorts of feathers, jewels and embroidery. I trained as a textile designer and I can’t resist collecting buttons, fake jewels, votive ornaments, sequins and vintage embroidery.