My cup overflows………

So its Friday!!!!  and in the world of Twitters and Tweets it’s that time of the week when you grab the finest coffee beans which the grocery cupboard has to offer, brew the brew, find a quiet place in the garden or studio and, as the caffeine works its magic, begin to reflect on the past week and who you would like to #FF,  recognise, honour, mention or avoid.

My reflections and thoughts this morning revolve predominantly around the amazing world which has been created by the internet and it’s associated links and streams. I have already said something about this previously so won’t go there again but thought that today I would share a little of my experiences “on the net”.

People that are cleverer than I have suggested that there is a finite number of social connections which an individual can have before managing the associated social interaction becomes impossible to track. This magic number is called the Dunbar Number, please allow me to quote from Wikipedia (I told you there was someone cleverer than I):-

 “Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person.[1] Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar’s number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number

If this is true and my social interaction is to be made more difficult exponentially as my follows, friends or fan numbers grow, what will this mean and how will it impact my day and the available time I have to designate for social media interaction. You see for me the problem is this, I love people and especially those people who are engaged in life, living their adventures and pursuing their passions i.e. bloggers, Twitterers, Tweeters, artists, writers…..you get the picture. Ten years ago such contacts were limited to perhaps a small local group or one or two national groups and with any luck, an international group. Correspondence was either done through news letters and the odd email which allowed sufficient time between meetings, reunions or exhibitions to digest the news and get the picture of what was going on in your social/organization or interest group.

Not so today! In the last week I have been exposed to so much amazing material,so many thoughts, ideas and people, all of outstanding abilities and skills that my spirit is overwhelmed. Perhaps its time for the second cup of that coffee which I call snake-bite. Maybe a caffeine induced trance will offer some solution to my condition. The point I am making is this, the speed at which these opportunities to engage arrive and the frequency at which they present themselves is outstripping my ability to honour all that I would like to.

Lets take #FF on Twitter for example. This is a great way to recognise people who make the Twitter experience so colourful and worthwhile. This week I have tried to check each profile on my followers list to “get to know” the faces behind the Tweets. In the process I have visited websites, blog sites, journals and galleries all of which have been so very interesting. I have read short blogs, long blogs, looooooooooonger blogs, comments and viewed some work and art of the highest quality and finish. Here’s the rub, I have  so much to say to each one I visit that all my available social networking time is blown in a flash…..and I still have not even visited Facebook where I have 250 friends, some of  whom I am corresponding with now for the first time in 30 years. Oh, did I mention that I also write and manage a few commercial blogs and tweets; you can see my problem, so many wonderful opportunities and people……not enough time. Alvin Toffler the American futurist, in his book future Shock, held the hypothesis that in the future technology would outstrip humanity’s ability to keep up with the speed and volume of information which was to be created; Alvin, buddy, I know what you mean. 

I am now on my third cup of caffeinated venom and all is becoming clear. If Dunbar and Toffler are right then their ideas trash the modern concept of having 2000 people who you can possibly follow with any grain of integrity. Even Jesus decided on 12 as the most effective number to disciple and just in case you have forgotten, He is God.

Here’s what I propose as the solution to my current state of self-imposed overload. I am going to be led by my heart, which after my scan in May I am assured is working just fine. I am going to allow chance, providence, artistic energy, spirit and faith to each play their part in directing me to the relationships and experiences which present themselves. I will resist the temptation to feel guilty about who I have not touched base with for a while, who I have not heard from in a weeks or who I have forgotten to #FF or email. In short I am going to let my cyber-life evolve and just see where it takes me; this seems like the most creative way to go about this adventure.  So when we run into each other again, share a tweet, blog, direct message, fan page, group affiliation, email or call,  it will be sweet, it will be fresh and it will be unforced……it will be serendipitous.

Oi! waiter….bring me another cup and make it a double Americano please, I think I am beginning to see the light. 

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True Colours

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way we engage with each other. In the last month I have given much more time to Facebook and Twitter than I normally do. The results have been very encouraging and I have met, in a cyber way, with a number of amazing and talented people. They include artists, writers, creative manufacturers and social media specialists, all of which have embraced social media as a means of sharing their passions and engaging with the  like-minded .

All these new contacts and followers are enhancing my own experience and passion for creativity and engaging with creative people. I find it very interesting each time I receive a new friend, follow, group or contact request, in discerning at what level the request is made. Some people engage immediately with open informative bio’s and profiles. In fact, after a quick read there is generally enough information to get a very good idea who you are linking with. Others however leave you wondering about who they really are, what they really do and what type of conversation they will respond to or even want to have?

I have a simple rule to help me navigate the social media world of friendship and communication. Come to think of it, it is no different to the rule I apply to face-to-face everyday contact with people.  I work on the assumption that everyone I meet is a potential friend and I then send out some sort of “social sonar”, like a submarine navigating a path through unknown waters; I bounce a greeting, a comment or a sign off of them and see what I get back.

At first the internet appeared to be a place where people with ulterior motives could hide out, like highwaymen waiting for passing traffic, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting. In reality though, we have all become very good in our ability to cognitively access people, websites and blog-sites. It turns out that the internet and social media is a very transparent place, if you know what to look for that is. The phrase, “if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, walks like a duck and smells like a duck……it is a duck” fits well.

What has all this got to do with True Colours, the title of this post? I guess I am simply trying to make the point that our websites, blog-sites, Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook bio’s should be a true reflection of who we are or who we are trying to become. It’s the up-front stuff, the showcase info about “us” which needs to be clear from the start and which makes the rest of the social media experience worthwhile and, dare I say it, great fun.

I take my wifes point when she says that some people are shy, reserved or suspicious. However, it seems that if we are going to commit ourselves to the amazing opportunities which are to be found in genuine social media relationships then we need also to be open to the various degrees of vulnerability which those friendships and contact will create.

A friend recently complained to me that no one was following him or commenting on his posts. I had to agree because I was one of those who didn’t post on his site and the reason, as I showed him, wasn’t hard to find. His site was neat but almost sterile and void of any of his personality, and the information he did volunteer was so sparse that the FBI would have had trouble working out either what he did or what he was hoping to find. His reason for this was, “I just don’t want someone using my details to screw with me”. After a cup of tea and a short chat about transparency,vulnerability and the nature of social media and it’s potential, we rigged his sites and it seems to have done the trick. What magic did we perform?, none,  We simply showed his true colours and communicated his intention to engage with others who were as interesting and available as he was.  He left his personal fingerprints all over his site  together with a true Bio which added the personality and warmth needed to attract and engage other people

I will continue to foster, nurture and enjoy the wonderful friendships I am making through Social Media  and its many avenues and in doing so I hope to advance my interests and the interests of others. What method will I use?……..Esse quam videri , “to be rather than to seem to be” or in my language……showing my true colours.

Catch you in cyber space and who knows, we may even run into each other in the local coffee shop……Oh, by the way, I’m the guy at the table near the window, the chap with paint on his hands.

Real value is enhanced by the prospect of loss….

I noted this morning during a discussion about the disappearance of a number of “Henry’s” from public spaces, that for fear of loosing some of Henry Moore’s work, The Henry Moore Foundation are removing sculptures for safe keeping.

It appears that one of the 20th Centuries most prolific and best known sculpture’s works are suffering theft, vandalism and relocation. Some of these works have held pride of place in many community parks and public open spaces  across the world for many years.

I suddenly realised that part of the beauty and value of art lies in its vulnerability to loss and the possible frailty of its true nature. By this I mean, that in the same way as we may appreciate a delicate wild flower, we do not in the same action sacrifice its availability by picking the flower. Then by having picked it,  removed it and restrict access to it we have somehow preserve or enhanced the spirit of the flower. Of what value to the senses would picking that flower and locking it away from harm be to its essence.

Once the joy of creating a work of art has passed for the artist all that remains is the joy of sharing that moment through the life of the work. This can only be done if the work is visible, within reach or available for the tactile pleasure of touching it. To lock something away, remove it from where it “lived” or restrict access to it somehow drains the work of its life.

I would like to suggest that whatever we place value in, that value is enhanced by the prospect of loss. Somehow the threat of loosing something or someone special deepens the desire to enjoy the fullest meaning of that  relationship.

I would rather live with the total loss of something than be restricted or denied from access to its “life”, separated by imprisonment. I can deal with death and loss easier than incarceration. To see a “Henry” which lived and breathed and which was created for a specific location suddenly moved into “care” would be akin to watching a loved one languishing in prison, stripped of dignity simply for being beautiful and valuable.

Original or not?

Is a piece of art an original because no one else has thought of the technique, subject or composition or is it simply original because, by definition, you have done it with your own hand and it’s “….not a print”.

When I refer to the idea of “original”, what I really mean is, is the work the product of an inspired moment and has that moment or idea become an extension of you, your technique and style; this is regardless of how many times it has been reproduced.

Let take Jack Vettriano’s work and in particular, The Singing Butler . As much as I would love to have the original, I am really happy with a reproduction hanging over my bed. This has nothing to do with the £££ value but has everything to do with the sentiment and the personal meaning it represents for me.

I guess that is why one person is prepared to pay £2k, £10k or £30k for a picture. Only once in my time of hanging fine art for people have I head someone say, “I don’t care what someone offers me for this painting…. it’s not for sale!”. Now that’s the type of people I would really like to paint for, the ones who buy for the emotional content and context rather than the investment.  Let me insert an exception here, this is only if my value as an artist does not depend on the sale.  It is another question if you are painting as for a career and your commercial value depends on your style.

Today I spent some time looking at a new collection of pieces which Whitewall Galleries have released in preparation for spring. Now, you know me, I just love anything creative and enjoy examining fine art “up close and personal”. So today when I visited the gallery I had a shed load of fun looking at pieces I had never seen before….or had I?

The paintings in the collection are, for the most part,  all new and the styles are the same but the pieces did represent some  new adventures in the lives of the artists, this is true in Philip Gray’s case anyway. Philip has a way of capturing “emotion” and his paintings stir the sences.  His recent trip to Mt Everest clearly made some deep impressions on him. Philip’s latest collection is clearly painted from the heart. By this I mean that the style of the painter was obvious but so were deeper themes of his journey.

Philip Gray has an original and predictable style, it is collectable, investable but most of all he paints this way because it is the style that gives the greatest expression to his personal experience and for that reason I would suggest that he is an original, regardless of whether you buy a print or and original.

Philip will be exhibiting on Friday night at Whitewall in Bournemouth. The title of the exhibition is….  Altitude, based on original impressions of his trip to Everest……see you there!