Thank you, NYC

 

How do you find New York?

In July, I made my first visit to the big apple, and made every effort to experience it on my own terms even (especially) in hitting some of the iconic sights. In making pictures, it’s a great challenge to capture everything we know a place is, yet bring yourself to the picture too! I really wanted to explain what it was like taking part in the NY thing, as well as being true to my personal reality which is about space, and peace, and breathing in and out.

The thing with NY is, we all know what it looks like as the backdrop to so much of our movie culture. There is a huge temptation to make something look like another picture I’ve seen, but I struggle with the point of doing that because what really needs to happen is we work on explaining experiences in our own voices. That’s how we get past the homogenous, corporate exterior of what we’re fed, and remain connected as human beings.

It was a massive challenge making a mini-portrait of my personal journey in NY—no more than one minute—and so much I had to leave out! I had a go though, without a plan, just to feel my way around with a camera, to see what would happen.

The place is frantic.

But amidst the street vendors clattering under hanging yellow traffic lights, and grubby subway rides downtown, I paid attention to quieter things too – to stay connected to moments and places where I could breathe and stop a while to digest that big, juicy bundle of apple-like life.

Thank you, New York, you and your Central Park roses were ridiculously, fragrantly lovely.

This was all shot on an iPhone SE and edited in After Effects. Music: ‘Raindrops’ by Grapes, under a CC License.

Settling Again

lizzie-table-corner

It’s been a really busy little while lately, settling back in the studio after lots of adventures and inspiration over summer. I’m sure you know what I mean!

Along with all those holidays and long, warm days, Summer’s a great time to step back and take stock, don’t you think? Although I find it does bring disruption to a more regular work flow with commissions and projects. It can be a bit of a ‘hold your nerve’ time in that respect if you run your own business.

To make ideas sing, to get into the heart of them and find their character, sometimes a change of scene is really helpful. And then sometimes, coming back to settle at your table, and pick up your tools to make them happen is the only thing to do next, even if you find it really hard to sit still! 

But I think the benefits of stepping back are always worth it. Drifting away from summer into autumn now, I have a couple of ideas to share which linger on the inspiring moments of summer a little longer, bring them inside with us, and keep the ideas and dreams flowing through a season of practical action ahead. Look out over the next couple of weeks for those which I’ll be posting about.

Meanwhile, life here in the studio is busy as ever – a heap of projects on the go, and personal work to push myself and keep learning. I’m a bit overwhelmed to tell you the truth, but trying to heed Victore’s advice that says “Ideas without action are just BS”! It helps to have a work table that feels like a treat to sit down at, and moving into The Forge earlier this year was a brilliant opportunity to switch things up and create a space that will do justice to the plans I have in my head. It’s really nice coming back to this after summer, a safe place to let things out and breathe life into them.

No more distractions. It’s time to honour the loveliness of all those ideas and get on with making them happen!

Happy settling friends, and may your work spaces be buzzing this autumn.

Sketchbook Pages

While making Seashore Slowdown, I wondered what words it may need to help the flow – default setting for an expressive typographer! Realising it could stand as a more pure edit with straight film, I decided to be brave and leave it alone. So, these words I explored—little haiku poems—will probably stay on their sketchbook pages after all. It was a neat writing exercise though.

The haiku, as I discovered, tends to contain two different ideas and reference to the natural world, as well as the 5-7-5 syllables rule.

I found it hard to keep things simple, but this did feel like a great way to practice being eloquent with fewer words when it comes to writing the next animation script.

Softly blazing? Thinking about it, I don’t know, I bet there’s a short film ready and waiting for these wordy ideas just up ahead.

{Today’s Soundtrack: P Sol –This Must Be Home}

Seashore Slowdown

Here’s a little (tiny) film I made to say ‘thank you’ to those small seashore moments of summer—trying to capture something of that easy feeling when you’re sitting at the water’s edge with your toes in the shore break and breeze on your face—and bring it on home.

I’ve been trying to stretch myself to work with film as well as pure animation techniques, so these clips are just me getting used to what my iPhone can do for quick, sketchbook captures. It makes me smile – right back in the oh-so-simple escape of it all!

Hope it helps you keep your inspirations of summer flowing too.

 

{Soundtrack: ‘Woman’ by Rocovaco, under a Creative Commons License}

Finding Forward

central-park-arrow

This little brass arrow sits in the concrete somewhere in Central Park, New York.

I was taking care of my friends’ kids for a week back in July, my first trip to the city, and we were having a lot of fun deciding where to go and what to do with our times together. So much to soak in, and maybe its because it all just makes you want to look up that you get a big, gulping sense of opportunity and ‘skies-the-limit’ sort of inspiration, so we ran around and ate waffles and swam and went to the zoo and ended up in A&E and rode buses and bought sacks of M&Ms and took funny pictures…

It was great. And I saw that arrow, and somewhere in the middle of signposts pointing in fifty different directions, I clung onto this photograph of a solid, anchored thing that shone out from the floor and told me which way to look.

After travelling through summer with a sense of barefoot freedom, its time to carry some of the fresh feeling forward into a new season of projects and plans back home. Bumping into friends all over the place, I get a sense that for many of us, this summer has been a time for rethinking, gaining clarity and gathering courage to act on new ideas or even close off old ones. It’s exciting – loads going on if we can settle back in carefully and figure out how to do what next.

But wait! Please! Don’t make me sit down at a desk and pay attention, I’m thriving out here in the world’s wide open spaces, running around, having ideas, drawing nice pictures and playing petanque on the beach!  

In the business of ideas, time out is a pure gift, but we all know it only really means anything if we get down to some practical reality and planning, and doing. 

Direction, that’s what we need, out the back of free-spirited imagining.

But I do find this hard, don’t you? A transition from one season to the next; moving through a sort of liminal space after leaving one state of dreaming and before fully grasping the new state of doing.

Direction. Commit to a path, and keep moving forward.

So this week back at my desk, despite inevitable fears, I’m having a go at making it happen. I’m filtering the coffee, working through my list, braving the thought that some of this might not work, and I’m giving it a go anyway. And I know the same is true for many of us. I think it helps to keep finding time and space to be quiet, distill the options and discern next steps – like gazing up through cool trees in Central Park after scampering through grubby, hot and hectic NY streets. Taking a breather, to figure out what to choose when you’re back to it?

Seeking stillness is never an excuse for inaction, so long as it’s done with a willingness to drop the distractions and be present to the day, and what it asks for. So along with thinking about that quiet little brass arrow, these are some of the words I find helpful at the moment:

Be still; find your forward.

Here we are, back in the loop, no more freestyle for a while but plenty of plans, and all the love in the world to make them happen!

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: Bob Moses – Like It Or Not}

Meeting Cartier-Bresson.

Flower Cargo 01

Working with legends is a beautiful thing, but it can also screw with your head.

What can we learn from stepping in alongside the giants? So much gorgeous wisdom — work ethic, courage, stamina,  perseverance, how to have and hold an opinion, tricks of the trade, identity and empathy … shall I go on?

To work alongside a true legend and—joy of joys—discover mutual empathy will provide massive affirmation: “Ah, I’m not mad to be feeling this after all!”

BUT, it can also massively backfoot you. Damn it.

Recently I found myself in London and back down Old Street again, a number of years since working at Magnum Photos. Far, far (yet only one hundred yards) from that world of stubborn, iron-minded war photgraphers and photography heroes, this was an altogether different kind of shoot. It was a really odd moment, sitting on the steps of the tube station watching my fellow ‘photo-walk’ friends—fun, fashion conscious women—enjoying the clash of funky clothes against bright yellow walls. Happiness in the surface colour of things, new friends chasing common, simple perspectives to unite around. Why was it so hard to relax and just go with this? Issueless – what would those gnarly war-bound photographers make of it all?

My time at Magnum was an incredible couple of years. Many stories I could share, but meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson is what really threw me – I simply had nothing to say while gauping into those watery blue eyes, making contact with the legendary gaze which has discerned some of the most influential images of our time.

That gaze felt like a gun to my fragile opinions, a barrel pointed at my newly awakening sense of social justice. It was also—in the true spirit of Magnum—a cork popping loud on the helpless desire to make thoroughly beautiful images and record life as it explodes.

Cartier-Bresson’s view on, and expression of, the world is utterly compelling and irresistibly persuasive. How do you hold—or even discover—your own in the face of that?

Thankfully people like Bruce Davidson came to the rescue with long, lovely chat, swapping notes about what it feels like to do our work. (Such a sweet, crazy, and exceptionally clever man.) Here’s what it boiled down to:

Stop stalling against the opinion of other people, and just flow. No one sees through your eyes, with your heart and mind behind them. The spark exists. Just shoot.

And this is true whether your tool is a camera or pen, your voice or mind, an axe or a needle or a lathe. How do you find—and hold—your own?

“Go forth on your path, for it exists only through your walking.”

– St. Augustine

My friends, there are brilliant things up ahead. Let the legends challenge and inspire, but we have our own work to do now too.

I paused in Shoreditch that day, thinking about all this, watching those lovely women making friends over photography, opening up, shining little beams of light on each other, and wondering what sort of photograph is valid, has meaning, is true of life. And you know what? Man, woman, war, peace or disruption, I think we just have to get on with it.

Joy so simple.

Flower Cargo 02

 

Life, Abundantly.

Hydrangea

We all know that the path of life is not a straight one. Learning how to walk it with grace, peace and style may well be the ultimate art.

Recently, I found myself sitting around tables and campfires out in the wildest of West Wales at Fforest, drinking and chatting long into the nights with some seriously impressive and beautifully real women. All (mostly) making a living through our creative work, there we were throwing logs onto the flames, sharing happiness, hopes, fears, frustrations.

The thing that has brought most of us together is—I suspect—a commitment to that wild journeying, not only of creative living, but the desire to live wholeheartedly through all of life’s twists and turns and find kindred spirits along the way.

We want to make all our opportunities count, capture the day and search for the light, beauty, joy within all the heartache and mess that life inevitably has to be. Express it, soothe it, counsel it, celebrate it.

Breathe something into nothing – give birth and nurture. And most of all, chase that insatiable urge to make gorgeous stuff!

This is Sisterhood.

Today, July 8th, is my Ma’s birthday. She was the most lively, lovely, irresistibly creative and spontaneous soul I ever knew. But she wasn’t encouraged to be that because, well as I’m sure you may have heard, creative explosions can be so inconvenient, darling, and just not the done thing. Poor love. She died when I was twelve, setting us off alone like little boats sailing over a big sea, with my hugely practical Pa skippering us through rough waters. At times like that it is very helpful to have an engineer dad who keeps the machine running smoothly. Lovely old Pa.

The three decades since then have been an almost unbelievable voyage of discovering all and more of what she gave me, that she couldn’t help me find in person. Yet because she’s here in so much spirit it was just inevitable that some of the most insanely great encounters would fill these soft sails.

All that creative adventuring, and now it seems there are safe ports to rest in, at last. Enjoy safe harbour, find fires, seek out the sparks, and allow big lights to come on for the ‘thing back then’ and how it fits with the ‘happening over here now’, not to mention graciously acknowledging the ‘bizarre detour halfway along’.  Just sitting, watching and listening, accepting, like a dawning…

Life-giving. That’s what Sisterhood has been.

So this morning, 30-odd years later, I arrive at our studio here at The Forge for a day’s work and gorgeous Silkie catches me, a little tearful and wielding a top-heavy hydrangea stem – Ma’s birthday present. It’s a celebration of her and all the creative loving she’s passed on, a ‘thank you’, and a continuing promise to keep pursuing life, practising that ‘grace and peace’ walk, and cherish each wide open moment that shouts ‘YES!’ for our million and one ideas and inspirations.

Life—all it is and all it could be—is what this flower means today.

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: Luke Howard – Portrait Gallery}