Tuesday 23 June 2020

Creativity in Lockdown

My wife was on a zoom meeting this afternoon with some friends, catching up on news that would normally have been discussed on a Friday night in our local pub, plus of course, how we are all managing with the lockdown.

During the conversation, one reflected on, we as a group, had joined in the ‘re create a piece of art’ challenge and that we needed to collate them into a poster of some sort. Towards the beginning of lockdown she, along with her husband, had recreated, rather successfully I thought, Judith beheading Holofernes by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1530).

This is now one of a huge number of ‘ways to keep ourselves entertained and occupied during this period of lockdown. This got me thinking about my industry, the subject of art and culture, and eventually, onto our school curriculum, a long-held annoyance of mine. Probably because I was not too good at the sciences or numbers.


I began to think about what we have already done, and what we may continue doing as lockdown eases, what will provide us, not just with distraction, but with meaning.


We have seen online streaming with the Italians singing from their balconies, the Spanish exercising to music and a Russian Ballet company entertaining us all from their own homes. It eventually spread to the usually reserved UK. We now have online bands and choirs, music lessons and art lessons. All these things are creative, collaborative, building trust and encouraging optimism and fostering a sense of purpose as we work towards normality again, whatever that will be.


Being creative is something that few of us would say we are, how often do we hear people say, ‘oh, I am no good at art, I don’t understand it”. Nobody said that when they were taking home that painting of the tree with the massive sun all over it to proudly put on the fridge at home, aged 5. No, we were positively praised by teacher and parents alike, we had not yet been told we were no good at art because we were not as good as Millais or Canaletto, we had not been told that the arts are not a real job, pointless studying them, pointless getting a qualification in them, it will be better to concentrate on science or maths. To this day I have not had to use trigonometry or a quadratic equation (luckily).

In moments of crisis things change, things evolve, when we are being pushed we have to make decisions, to reinvent ourselves. It is in these moments that our long forgotten creative side is activated, when the right hemisphere of the brain begins to work and starts to generate new ideas and create different solutions to this new problem. When we are in this new situation, creativity is what will allow us to adapt to change. In short, in times of crisis, our best ally is creativity.


I have not yet seen, but I am not saying there isn’t one, a group of people streaming the resolution of a particularly taxing maths problem and it going viral.

Art shops have enjoyed an increase in demand and online art classes have taken off. There are more people painting, crocheting, sewing, sculpting and drawing than before lockdown.

Being creative can help you become a better problem solver in many areas of your life and work. Creativity helps you look at things differently and makes you better able to deal with uncertainty. Studies have shown that thinking creatively, you are better able to live with uncertainty because you can adapt your thinking to allow for the flow of the unknown.


I guess what I am ranting about here is, with headlines like “Creative industries are driving economic growth across the UK, on track to create one million new creative industries jobs between 2013 and 2030” why in schools do we have STEM and not STEAM? Is it not time to re look at the national curriculum, first introduced in 1988 (England), and little changed since. 


We all had to look after the banks with their “little issue” a few years, lets now look after the museums, cinemas, theatres etc. and teach our young to appreciate/use them, be part of them, and even, possibly, show/perform in them.

Monday 9 December 2019

On 29th December 2013 I wrote the following article.

6/10, could do better.

Are we preparing our design students for the reality of work in the industry? This question has been asked over and over, and as a practitioner and educator myself, one that constantly crops up in conversation.

The UK has a tremendous reputation for creativity, and within its design education system, huge reserves of new talent. I do find that in the first year of the degree programme, the students have to be taught how to think both creatively and independently again, having been through a secondary education system that focuses on collective results for league table standings rather than the individuality of the arts.
Once de-institutionalised, there is of course a danger that letting the creative student simply become self indulgent will only result in folios resembling those of fine art students. 

We need to remember we are in the business of problem solving, graphic design is applied creativity. We must show our next generation of creatives how to combine art and commerce, to make them fit for purpose. I believe this has to be done by giving real life problems to be solved in real life timescales. Of course, having said that, there must not be too much emphasis on tight deadlines and commercially ready design, most graphic design degrees are not vocational after all, and that would also make the job of design agencies too easy. They do, seem to want their junior designers to be the 'just add water' kind. I guess they simply don't want to spend too much time actually showing them the industry from the four teas, all with milk, two with sugar, one coffee, decaf of course, oh and pop out and get some jammie dodgers and six jam doughnuts, up to the client presentation and ego stroking end of the business.

So our challenge is to prepare students for the realities of the studio, large or small, whilst leaving their imagination free to wander. On the whole, I think we are getting it right, but as the title of this rant suggests, we could do better.

I was an associate lecturer then new to teaching. I am now a senior lecturer responsible for the graphic design course at Solent University and have produced the following manifesto for the lecturers on that course to try and adhere too.

series of abstract symmetry from coquina shells

abstract symmetry using found image

Start of a project using found image and abstract repetition to create symmetrical images.

Friday 16 March 2018

A couple of my posters doing well in the #loop.gl london competition. Vote if you can!!

Friday 23 February 2018

Popular posters now for sale





A1 posters now available at £25 per print or £80 for all four. Printed on 
Somerset 300gsm paper unmounted.