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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Watching the paint dry.



On safety stand-down day there was a shuffling of feet.  There were hands straight-armed into pockets and shoulders stiff.  Backs leant against cold brick walls.  Waiting for nothing to happen.  A day of tick boxes and slow time.  Someone cleans a wing mirror and someone fumbles with a phone and I sit in the van and draw and write down the boredom - the extravagant waste of non-refundable time, and thinking
    “If I’m drawing, I’m doing something with this time.”
We wait and wait while the minutes die like autumn leaves; when they’re gone, we won’t get them back.  Every dead minute is a travesty; a crime against sense.  The world doesn’t stop for safety-stand-down day.

The autumn palette of  leaves curl up like old paint, revealing the bones of trees beneath -  watching paint dry.  And that’s what I do.  I steal every spare moment from my work life to do something creative.  If I have to watch paint dry, I’m going to record it, write it down, play its tune or paint its portrait.  I realise that drawing trees is still more important to me than pruning them (even though it’s pruning them that pays the bills).  Being a poor artist is fine when young and idealistic, and I’ve not become cynical and given up these ideals but the reality is I like having a job, I like it when I go to the cash machine and it doesn’t laugh and tell me to come back when I’ve got some money.  I like having a car, I like going for a pint and not worrying about how I’m going to buy my next meal.

I recently had a couple of days off to extend my weekend and made the most of my time to play guitar and draw.  I’d been asked to make some cartoons for a friend to use in a university presentation and spent a blissful couple of days in my kitchen with a big fire on, cool tunes on the stereo, plenty beer and the kitchen table covered in pencils, pens and paper and once again, for that brief time, I was lost in the world of the artist - a world I feel very at home in, and miss very much.

It’s another morning and we’ve been parked up at Gayles for an hour.  A wet grey mist hangs in the air like stale cobwebs on a old window.  All the lads are stood around talking and I’m in the van drawing.  There’s opinions, jokes, shuffling of feet and hands in pockets.  My work/life balance is such that these moments are all I have to cling onto any artistic ideas and I’m acutely aware that by its nature, makes me quite antisocial at times.

A burglar alarm cuts clean through my wandering thoughts; that’ll be the power switched off and work-time started.  My artistic moments are over until next time… put away that pen and pick up that chainsaw.  I wonder which is the mightier?

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About Me

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up in the hills, Co Durham
tree climber, painter, stilt walker, musician. After 20 years of city life and all the late nights and fun, returned to my country-boy roots. Open fires, tranquility and muddy boots.