It’s not me… It’s you!

It was a strange moment for me when I realised things could be the fault of someone else rather than myself. From an early age I have been bought up with a distorted perspective on how things should work. My upbringing was strange to say the least and it took many years and a great deal of work on myself to even begin to put right. In a strange twist of fate that has actually become an advantage as it has given me a better sense of perspective in regards to what normal actually is.

I got badly burnt recently by having to deal with an assortment of warped and damaged people and I could feel my sense of normality being shaken by getting too close to the black hole of toxicity that is the seedier elements of where I happen to live. It took a close friend’s wise words and a great deal of pro active avoidance to get my equilibrium back, but it wasn’t easy.

Of late it has become apparent how some people I have had dealings with have managed to ruin their own lives. They have painted themselves into corners, mostly due to a series of poor decision, one, after another after another. Combine this with the lethal triumvarent of inaction, denial and avoidance and what you get us a mess that is beyond repair… Well, for them it is as it is impossible to fix anything without admitting that it is broken in the first place. Which they won’t. The thing that stops people from sorting themselves out most often isn’t time, or money but pride and a fear of the consequences of change. It’s hard to admit you are wrong and harder still to walk away from the people you have surrounded yourself with whose warped perspective will make you seem perfectly normal. 

The chaotic and the messy have a nasty habit of damaging the lives of those they are close to and because they are either unable or unwilling to change, all you can do is get out of their way.  It’s horrible having to watch people perpetually screw up, but not as horrible as when they inevitably try and make you take the blame for their failings. It’s one of the nastier tricks in the armoury of the perpetually messy and it is a signal to steer well clear.

The only saving grace is that when some becomes spiteful enough to try and put their failings onto you, you rapidly run out of sympathy for them. Now, when I hear about one disaster after another and of the grandiose plans that have blown up in people’s faces, I no longer feel pity or empathy, I just feel bored.

Childlike not childish.

Some words in life have a subtle but vitally important difference. Take the difference between childlike and childish for example. To be childlike is to retain that essential curiosity that children have, that need to explore and ask questions, to want to know ‘why’ to the point where it infuriates others. Albert Einstien is a brilliant example of being childlike as is contemporary artist Takashi Murakami.

Childish is something less positive, it’s negativity unchecked, it’s a failure to aquire wisdom as we grow. To see the childish in action, look no further than the British Parliament where a a room of fully grown men and women hurl abuse at each other as the county slowly rots from neglect. There is a point to stop the nastiness and that is clearly where the innocent suffer.

I see the consequences of where adults fail to act like one whilst they are responsible for children and I see the damaged human beings that have been raised as a result. Lowering yourself to the maturity level of children or young adults is a deeply troubling thing to witness. It sets a poor example to them and it keeps the adult stuck intellectually and emotionally. There is also something about it that makes the flesh crawl… Perhaps it is something to do with the numbers of disc jockeys and children’s television presenters who are later discovered to be  paedophiles but there is something deeply unwholesome about those who have people much younger than them as their best friends.

Me, I have one foot in the childlike camp while the other is deadly serious about everything. I have a massive collection of toys, which tends to confuse people into thinking that I am some big kid but I appreciate them for being the tiny sculptures that they are. I also make teddy bears which confuses people even further. I have retained a love of bright colours and wide eyed wonder and I keep asking the ‘whys’. I try and temper this with wisdom though, and an understanding of my responsibilities to others. I try and retain that naivety that tells us to be honest to ourselves and others and to do the right thing. It’s not easy in this world, but I keep trying…

I’m very trying apparently 

Once you eliminate the impossible.

I am one of life’s problem solvers. This is not actually a good thing in most cases as the problems I try most hard to solve bear little relevance to the rest of the planet, like what’s behind the back of that row of terraced houses? You could fit a submarine in there I reckon. I once designed a load of textiles that only looked good whilst standing under sodium street lamps and the weird amber cast of the lighting would cause colours to shift strangely. Some of them turn up I my artwork, like how I believe the four faced clock I often see is powered by a tiny little person, that made it into one of my colouring books, it makes perfect sense… Well, to me anyway.

None of the problems I try and explain have any practical use and only serve to give me a bloody big headache. Like this old chestnut… 

If you know someone and every other person in their life is utterly vile, then what does that mean? Does that mean that they are vile too and that logic dictates that I must be also? Or are you the exception to the rule? The sheer fact that I am no longer part of that person’s life would therefore mean that I didn’t fit into their life because I am not awful. Personally,  I like that theory, it makes me come off rather well I think.  But how did it explain that I was there in the first place? The most common theory amongst my friends is that I was being sold a lemon, so to speak. That the person in question was making a concerted effort either not to be an arsehole or to cover up that they were. Both of these theories explain the blip of associating with a non arsehole for a brief amount of time.

As you have probably picked up by now, I do not want to be an arsehole but I am worried that I could be. There  are definite bottom orifice traits in my close relations and I am always terrified that they could be in me. I have in the past sent myself back to my ex therapist to have a quick check up if anything bizarre happens in my life, just to check that I am ok. So far I have always been found to be perfectly level, if a touch perturbed by whatever had occurred to send me there. Apparently, the last thing someone suffering from either, narcicism, severe personality, delusional behaviour or any of the other things that would be indicated by acting like a complete arse, would be to worry that they were.

On their best behaviour for a short while seems to be the most logical working theory still…

There is another one though, which is that this person was actually some kind of strange alien from another planet or a demon from some hell dimension and that my association with them went awry because there mask was about to literally slip off at any second. This could explain the associations with other monsters quite nicely. Or it would if it wasn’t an impossibility.

Arthur Conan Doyle said through Sherlock Holmes that, Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. So I guess that means the ‘best behaviour’ theory is the one to go with.

Pity though, I liked the idea of demons in human guise, it would explain a lot of things in the world.

Anyway, you can buy that colouring book here.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/221170852/st-leonards-on-sea-colouring-in-book


A butterfly in a bell jar

Sense memory can be a bittersweet thing. Take this morning for example, I was walking by a perfectly flat and deep blue sea. The sun was glittering on the surface, the same sun that was still warming my skin in September… Then… Wham! Back came the memories from this time last year of a girl and a beach and salt on warm wet skin. Followed by other memories that were much less pleasant.

The brain is a treacherous device, the way it stores things by linked emotions. The way that when we are sad, we remember all the other sad times or when people drink to forget, they end up in a drunken state where they remember more, all the other drunken misery.

That happy moment on the beach is one I don’t want and there are many others like it. One picosecond of perfect bliss surrounded by aeons of lies, deceit, hurt and betrayal. A candy coloured door on a gingerbread cottage filled with unspeakable horrors. 

Those fleeting moments of joy are worthless to me as they have no right to exist anymore. They are a beautiful butterfly in a bell jar, dead and lifeless as the air is pumped out. Lifeless in a void of someone else’s making.

10 things I don’t hate about…

Falling out of love with a place is like falling out of love with a person. You see every fault writ large, you see how it’s changed for the worse and it makes you cringe you want to distance yourself as much as is physically and mentally possible. 

An abstraction from a community worker’s cigarette smoke
I used to love where I live, I did a whole art show about the people of just one road yet now I scurry through with mental blinkers on. So what has changed? 

Partly it is how some of the people have changed for the worse, heads have got bigger, the corrosive effects of booze, drugs or just being simply rotten inside have started to be the most visible thing about them. Things that once seemed edgy and new have just become another hackneyed thing on the social calendar. 

The house that looks like Bela Lugosi
The environment has change too, shops that were useful and had seemingly been there forever have closed only to be replaced with pointless crap aimed at people who only use the place for little holidays, racking up the house prices and rents, forcing out the locals.

It’s not just me though, it’s been an exodus of the nice just recently and it becomes clearer that the monstrosities ruining the place for everyone aren’t going to sod off at any time soon, then it is clear that the lovely people  have to. 

Over the past few months I set myself a little project, to find ten things I didn’t hate about… Well, I’m not going to even name it any more. It wasn’t an easy task, so much that I see now is so contrived, from intentionally bad posters, displays of artfulness in street visible windows, protests to show nothing more than how right on the protester is and a parade of silly beards and middle aged people dressing like teenagers. Many of the community projects  are just scams designed to grab much needed money by silly bored middle class people trying to kid themselves they are helping rather that just amusing themselves and much of what goes on is deeply insincere. This meant anything and anyone real has become more precious than platinum.

A pie of rubbish in the road that reminded me of the Lone Ranger
I did it though, in my own strange way. From detritus lying in the street, happy accidents of nature and architecture, the signs of children recently at play and people just enjoying things and one of the genuine, honest souls that does things for no other reason than someone needs to and it’s the right thing to do. I found them! Ten things amongst the toxic effluent of egos, pretentiousness, vanity and smugness. 

I found the last few things under my very nose in my own home, the beautiful, sunlit view from my bed and a care package from my mum on my doorstep. 

To an extent I think we all control our own perception of our environment, but sometimes the flaws in people and places are too much to ignore. Given time, things change, they get worse, they get better. With people though, the timeline is often too short as they age, do things that emotionally and psychically scar them or the consequences of drink, drugs, bad living and bad diet ruin their brains and bodies. People become too broke to fix when, given time, places go full circle. Whether I personally stay or go is down to many factors, some under my control, some not, but in the meantime I can make the most of all I have and this little project is one way to do that.

A care package from my mum on my doorstep.

Erm, why?

Why are some people attracted to those that are utterly vile?  I’ve been trying to fathom this out recently. It seems to be fairly common and I am curious to know what causes it. Is it some weird kink? Like needing to be tied up and spanked to get your jollies, or is an inability to be able to differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong and all that sort of thing.

There are so many truly lovely people in the world and I’m privaledged to know a few of them. There are many more lovely people out there in the big wide world too, you can see their traces in everything good in the world, all those things that give us hope. 

Given that there are statistically so many marvellous people out there then why on earth would anybody want to associate with anyone revolting? 

I have a particularly unpleasant family member that I used to have in my life. I can understand why one would have to put up with someone awful if they were related to them but to actually aquire more? And yet people do it all the time. Does having someone awful in your family make it more likely for you to aquire more? Is unpleasant behaviour normalised by constant exposure?

Perhaps a person is attracted to nastiness because they are nasty themselves? 

Do nasty people actually know they are nasty? This is something I think about a lot.

Take British right wing politician Ian Duncan Smith, he is responsible for some of the most unpleasant policies in British political history and is indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, yet he regards himself as a moral person. Perhaps that is what makes him so unpleasant, that belief in his own rightness? 

I have personally had damage caused to me by someone who would regard themselves as a good person and I am not the only one they have affected. Their track record of hurt, harm and manipulation goes back at least thirty years to my knowledge from a wide range of sources and they have still managed, albeit briefly, to hook more people in regardless of being so thoroughly horrible. Does feeling that you do some good excuse the bad you do? Or is the good there as a salve to the rottenness bad people feel inside? I guess someone like that must have their reasons, however mystifying. 

I think the reason I am asking myself these questions is to make sure that I never go down that path, granted, I am perfectly sure that there are people in this world who dislike me but they seem to be those who have a tendancy for displaying  before that ranges from the antisocial, the immoral through to the illegal and the cruel. I can’t think of anyone I would describe as a decent human being on that list, but then I wouldn’t would I?

I guess the important thing is to keep asking the questions; Am I a good person? Is what I’m doing actually good or is it to make me look good? Am I really being honest with myself? Am I conveniently omitting anything? Complacency and being self satisfied is the start of a slippery slope into being horrible, it’s something best avoided.

Nemesis 

There is a lot of art I make that never sees the light of day, it’s deeply frustrating to me but if I posted my most personal, most pure, expressions of feeling, I would be in deep doo doo within the day. Most of the art in this category is trying to make sense of things which don’t make sense and never will. The situations that I am describing and the characters that I am depicting are impossible to rationalise because they are far beyond any level of insanity that I have experienced myself and that is saying something. I have not been a well bunny mentally in the past and I can tell you from personal experience that going bonkers seems like the most sane and normal thing in the world at the time you are doing it. The key thing that escapes most people is that if you do anything, to you, that is normal, it’s just another day in your world. That simple fact is equally true for the most sainted of humanitarians or the most appalling or mass murderers. What you do is normal to you and it is nigh on impossible to rationalise with someone whose lifestyle is intrinsically insane that their’s quite clearly isn’t.

As I said, I’ve been making a lot of unshowable art, much of which is a visual diary or aid memoir of events that actually happened and, as I look at them, I am appalled by what I experienced, just what I put up with and for how long. What appalled me most is that I allowed it to happen… Of course it’s easy to say that in retrospect but when you are in the moment of dealing with some kafkaesque nightmare of someone else’s making all you are focused on is getting through that moment. Weirdness increases little by little and before you know it, you are living in a David Lynch film, it’s only when you get some distance on such bizarre goings on that you can actually make sense of the nonsense, if that isn’t an oxymoron. 

When someone can present as sane in the workplace whilst the rest of their life is, frothing at the mouth, howling at the moon crazy and more chaotic than your average tornado, they can do far more damage than someone who is just a little bit nuts all of the time. If you are unlucky enough to have such a person work their way into your life, not only will they proceed to wreck your world, they with also bring the products of everything they have already ruined in with them. Then, when they finally get bored and waltz away onto their next bit of carnage, you are left not only to pick up the pieces but to try and explain how someone so seemingly functional and congenial could do quite so much harm.

According to a dear friend of mine, I met my nemesis, that which utterly destroys you. It didn’t though, but it came close. I learnt a lot though, not all of it good. I learnt the phrase ‘flying monkey’ for a start, a person that is aimed at you to cause harm on behalf of another. I’d rather not know that but I’ve had a few of those lately.

My nemesis has moved on now, presumably to wreck more lives and do more damage elsewhere, either blissfully unaware or totally uncaring of the harm and hurt they left behind. I still have to make a concerted effort to avoid all the crap they spread around as they hurtle from one public disaster to the next. I am left trying to process the psychic fallout of the muck they laid at my door. There is some really interesting art in there amongst the pain and hurt, I doubt it will be made public in my lifetime for legal reasons, but it’s there and the folio keeps growing. I just can’t show you it… I’m not that mad. 

The quiet way

It’s six am and it’s perfectly silent, and that’s the way I like it. It’s so hard to find quiet in towns, so much so that a lot of people are unnerved when they do, feeling a need to fill it with background noise like the radio. It’s so hard living alongside noisy people as what they do and are takes up your psychic space too. It’s particularly hard living in a town that seems to attract people who feel the need to broadcast themselves constantly at every opportunity, occupying physical public space and filling it with their racket. You can turn off the radio when  it annoys you, sadly, people don’t have a mute button.

I gave up engaging with loud people a long time ago as I find it exhausting, fighting to squeeze a few words in between torrents of self absorbed garbage. What is the point in trying to converse with people who are only interested in themselves? 

I guess that is why I do most of my communicating through painting and drawing. You can whisper in pencil, speak in pen, sing in gentle watercolours, shout in thick black ink and positively scream in jarring colours and broad strokes of paint. All without wasting your breath on anyone. Plus, once it’s said it’s said, you don’t lose the moment as the conversation moves on to the next inanity.

I’m not a writer, I find it hard not to say things. I know that sounds perverse for someone speaking about the joys of silence but it has been scientifically proven than introverts have a tendancy to be dangerously candid in blogs and on social media. We tend to overshare because we are so unused to getting a word in edgewise that we go hell for leather when we finally get the opportunity to be heard. 

Speaking through pictures is much more fun, you can layer information, hide in plain sight, create allegories, use symbolism or just bury things in shaddows. You can also go mad and put it all out there… On second thoughts, don’t. I tried that, it’s not pleasant and you always end up being seen as the bad person, no matter how disgusting or obscene the things you were passing comment were in the first place. 

Visual expression has a permanance that loud people and their chaos and noise do not. Once the noise dies away, their hangovers or drug come downs subside and all that is left is to check for std’s and clean up the mess. Maybe there are a few photos of drunk people acting like fools but that is it, the noise is gone ’til the next time. The world is sadly full of loud people and drunken idiots and the images that are left are inane and blur into one… A good bit of art though, it jumps out from the page. 

I can see the light of day creeping in from behind the curtains and soon the background noise will start. The footsteps, the car engines, the stray voices and then the telephone ringing. That perfect silence has gone ’til tomorrow.

Fail better!

Something has clicked in the last year and as I parcel up another big sale to go out into the big, wide, world I am reminded of this. My friends think it is because I have got all the arseholes out of my life, I think there is some truth in that but the main reason that I believe things are starting to sort themselves out is because I try and learn from my mistakes.

I touched upon something the other day, about how a bunch of disaster areas in my local community were organising their own singles night. Without knowing the people involved, it sounds a perfectly reasonable and pragmatic thing to do. The organiser was complaining about the lack of eligible men in the community and how they were musing about busing in some replacements from somewhere else… Now being a bloke and knowing enough about the person in question to steer well clear, it is safe to say that the problem isn’t with the local men, but with her. The article also describes her as ‘beautiful’… Now it’s a big old world out there and there is someone who will find anyone attractive but I suspect the market for boss eyed women with flared nostrils that look like they have been used as sausage holders since birth, badly dyed hair and no figure narrows the field somewhat. Whilst I am happy to admit that I am a podgy balding man with too much body hair in an attempt to deflect critism of hypocrisy and spitefulness , we all know that true beauty comes from within, or should do, and in that regard this person criticising the men where I live is positively repulsive in the personality stakes. I must add in case of potential legal problems that I use the word ‘repulsive’ in terms of its truest meaning, i.e to repulse people. 

I say all this for one reason, it is not easy for some people to acknowledge that they have a problem that needs addressing and in this example it was easier to set up and promote an event and rather than admit that the reason she couldn’t find a suitable man was because she isn’t actually a very nice person and that is what needs to change. The world is full of people like that sadly, going to great lengths to run away from their own truths. There are those who go on great quests to join everything going, throw themselves into causes, pastimes and good deeds rather than look at themselves and try and change. If you do it for long enough you can die of old age before you have to actually start living your life properly, many people do just that.

Me, I had the mixed blessing of having a complete nervous breakdown in my late twenties, I had to re-learn everything from base principles and learn it properly. I did a lot of work with some wonderful therapists to pick up my life and put it back together minus all the wrong assumptions that lead me crashing off life’s motorway and into the ditch in the first place. It was a long time before I felt strong enough to get back in the dating game, it took longer still for me to realise a basic truth about the world in which I live, which is that there are a lot of very damaged people out there. 

The key issues come down to awareness, awareness of how damaged we are inside, awareness of the potential problems in our families, our friends, what we do for a living and how we spend our time. There is no point repairing a puncture if you choose to go straight out and ride down a road surfaced with broken glass and there is no point trying to start a relationship when your world is equally inhospitable.  Granted, you can find someone as equally broken inside as you are who is oblivious to the problems you have but in the long term it will end in disaster. It didn’t work for Sid and Nancy, it didn’t work for Kurt and Courtney and it won’t work for anyone else.

Fortunately, being without a terminally damaged relationship to keep shawing up, it has allowed me to concentrate on the more easily fixable parts of my world. I’ve extricated myself from Facebook and in turn the poisonous self absorbed ant farm that is my local community. I have rebuilt my blog, minus the sweary and ranty stuff, I have focused on improving myself, my career and my health and it is allowing me to cope better in this toxic mess of a world. Most importantly, I am learning from my mistakes and I try and make a different one each time rather than the same one over and over again.

In his play, Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett wrote, “I’ll try again, I’ll fail again. I’ll fail better than I did before.” In there lies the answer, if you can wrap your head around Beckett’s circuitous language. Keep trying and every time you mess up, learn and mess up differently.

Being an artist you get used to failure. You get used to rejection emails for prizes, jobs and shows. You get used to wilderness periods of not selling a thing. You get used to making art that is crap, less crap, then okay, then good. One day I hope to be brilliant but that’s all it is right now, hope. I’ve done some good shows, some stuff I’m very pleased with and now fairly regular sales, work and commissions, all from knowing that I need to keep working and, more to the point, working on myself. 

Working on yourself is not a universal panacea but if things keep going wrong for you and you aren’t sure why, don’t blame others and do more and more grandiose things to fix that which is going wrong. Take a long, hard, look in the mirror because the thing that is causing you misery might be staring straight back at you.

Looking for light in the heart of darkness.

It must be easy to live life as a shallow person, to not be touched or feel much at all but a constant need for novelty as there is precisely nothing going on inside you. I think that a lot. That said, I think too much, it’s one of my faults, of which I have many. I know each and every one of them like the enemy they are. Knowing your enemy is the key to beating them. It’s easy just to blame others for your problems, easy and fundamentally useless. That said, it you are like me, it’s just as easy to blame yourself when someone else is actually the root cause of them, the key is telling the difference.

We are all the gatekeepers to our own worlds and who or what we choose to let in determines the kind of people we become ourselves. If you are one of life’s people pleasers it’s imperative to avoid people who will want to take over your life, there are plenty of horrible creatures out there who do nothing  but use others if they get the chance. Ideally, the best course of action is to sort out that self esteem issue that triggers that need to make others like you, but that takes time and hard work and I am still working on it.

We can go the other way though, thinking everything and everyone is bad,  and close our world off to all, that way lies extreme loneliness and a lack of spirit. We can starve ourselves so much that we end up becoming dead inside through lack of interaction. Everything becomes a fine balance of too much or too little. 

To think that people are basically good is the path of a fool, before you know it you will have nothing but misery in your life as a swarm of human locusts descends, strips you bare and sucks you dry. Plus when you fill your life with unpleasant people, you will soon find that all the truly good people will disappear as they are barged out of the way by a string of users. 

The art is in the balance of how everything and everyone weights out and it is a skill that takes a long time to aquire, if ever.

There is a sad strain of humanity, though, who can’t differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong or anything inbetween. To those poor souls, the world is a constant succession of things going horribly wrong and for reasons they can’t comprehend or even begin to. The only thing you can do with people like that is to save yourself, back away, run! Learn to avoid them before the disasters of their life spread into yours.

 It’s a sad truth in life that some people are too broke to fix, just don’t be one of them.