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Fancy joining in a national art project to be put together during the Edinburgh Festival?  Check this out (I plan to join in too, if it’s not yet too late):

The National Portrait Gallery of Scotland will be hosting an exhibition later this year entitled Rough Cut Nation.

This unique multimedia project draws together a group of young artists from around Scotland to create a dramatic collaborative installation. For the Edinburgh Festival they will construct a remixed version of Scottish history as informed by street art and graffiti culture, painted, pasted and projected directly onto the walls of the Portrait Gallery.

The project updates William Hole’s original decorative mural scheme of 1889-1898, depicting important events from Scotland’s past. This new installation exploits the empty space produced by the Gallery’s current closure for redevelopment.

The original mural by William Hole portrays elements of Scottish history with strong religious and at times Protestant overtones.

As one of the artist duos involved, we are interested in exploring religious iconography and the use of Jesus as a moral or social catalyst within both Scottish history and contemporary culture.

With that in mind we would like to ask you three questions:

1. In one word, describe who was/is Jesus?
2. In one word, what does Jesus have to do with Scottish History?
3. What impact has Jesus had on Scotland past, present and future?

The answers that we collect from these questions will potentially form part of the final artwork, but will not be attributed to any one individual.
Thank you for your willingness to participate in this project, please send your answers to DUFI.JESUS@GMAIL.COM

DUFI ART | Guerrilla Art & Creativity


Well, BK did it, and I couldn’t resist so here’s everything you never wanted to know about me.  Thanks to BK for leading the way, it’s been great fun doing it. 

1. First thing you wash in the shower? I begin at the top and work down…

2. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again? Absolutely (it was my little girl, and before that my husband)

3. Do you plan outfits? Well, I don’t close my eyes and randomly select clothes from my wardrobe/drawers, so in that sense I do plan.  Do I spend time thinking through combinations of clothes, and weighing up relative pros and cons?  Virtually never, and it stresses me out when I have to do it (like picking out what to wear for a special occasion because I always discover a wardrobe deficiency somewhere

4. What are you craving right now? Sleep

5. Do you floss? Tried it, strangled my tonsils (suspect I need to practice)

6. What comes to mind when I say cabbage? Slugs (as in slugs ate the cabbages I tried to grow last year)

7. Are you emotional? At times. 

8. Have you ever counted to 1,000? Don’t think so, but I’m pretty sure I know how it goes… 

9. Do you like your hair? Sometimes.  It looked nice yesterday for some reason, today not so much

10. Do you like yourself? I don’t know how to answer that honestly.  Counselling here I come!

11. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush? Don’t know.  I’ve heard he’s a personable guy, and might be good company, but I’d probably get indigestion from all my inner seething.  It would be interesting to get an insight into someone who so recently (and disastrously) shaped many world events.

12. What are you listening to right now? The distant sound of a radio, and various fans around the place trying to cool it down.

13. Are your parents strict? Well, I’ve been an adult for a long time, so their strictness doesn’t really factor into my life these days.  But when I was younger, they were moderately strict and probably could have been firmer with us.

14. Would you go sky diving? Categorically, no.  Why jump when there’s a perfectly good plane to stay in?

15. Have you ever met a celebrity? Celebrity is a relative term, so when I was younger meeting a local radio DJ counted as meeting a celebrity, a little older and meeting people in bands I liked was really exciting.  A couple of weeks ago we were close enough to Jamie Oliver to (nearly) touch him.  He didn’t speak to us though (someone else was talking to him at the time, I like to think he’d have had a good chat otherwise….)

16. How many countries have you visited? England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, France, Andorra, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, USA.  Think that’s it.  We’ve not been abroad for a few years now, lots of UK holidays these days.  Hoping to go to Italy for the first time next year, and I still look longingly at our guide books for a return visit to New York, or San Fran, or a first visit to New Zealand, or Canada or Alaska.  Or any of the Scandinavian countries…the list of ‘would like to’s is really long.

17. Have you made a prank phone call? No.  I’m more of a prank recipient, and have always hated it so wouldn’t do it to someone else (unless it was a really close friend I knew could take it?)

19. Do you have a cell phone? Like BK I can only acknowledge it to be a mobile, but yes.

20. Can you use chop sticks? Very badly, so I prefer not to.  Don’t want my food to go cold / land on the floor.

21. Are you too forgiving? No.  Can you be?

22. Ever been in love? Yes.

23. Last time you cried? Can’t remember

24. What was the last question you asked? “Can I have a kiss and a cuddle?”  (context: saying goodbye to my daughter at nursery this morning)

25. Are you sarcastic? hmm…sometimes. 

26. Do looks matter? Define “matter”.  In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty sure looks aren’t important, but in the everyday world they do affect things (e.g. us getting upset because a child in my daughter’s class called her fat, and even more heartbreakingly, our daughter reassuring us it doesn’t matter.  But her feelings were still hurt, and she’s still little so we don’t want her to be worrying about stuff like that)

27. Do you like your life right now? Yes

28. Can you handle the truth? I’d rather know the truth.  Handling it can be another matter

29. How often do you talk on the phone? Not much, I’m not much of a phone person.  Love texting since I got my new phone though, but calls are expensive

30. Where was your profile picture taken at? It’s part of a piece of art I did a few months ago, so it’s come straight out of my head… 

31. Can you hula hoop? Used to be pretty good, but not so much these days, although I have the occasional secret practice with my daughter’s hula hoop when no-one’s watching…

32. Do you have a job? Yes, but I’m leaving in 6 weeks to pursue a different kind of life, for a while.  Very exciting!

 33. What was the most recent thing you bought? “The Guardian”, a bottle of diet coke and a tub of grapes from Scotmid.

I’ve just been doing some research for work-related art projects and have discovered the most AMAZING place, just here on our doorstep, with sculpture by the most incredible artists, and a fantastic vision and resource for Scotland…  I’d not heard of it before, although apparently it has only in the last couple of months opened it’s doors to the public.  I wanted to share my discovery of Jupiter Artland with you.  I’m currently planning visits and workshops and more visits and more workshops…

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

The funny thing is, I’d been planning a quick Andy Goldsworthy blog based around an article in The Guardian’s Travel section a couple of weekend’s ago – he’s been steadily installing artworks in mountain huts in a particular part of France, for discovery by visiting walkers.  Never really wanted to go on a walking holiday until I read about it, so I might yet come back and share that particular source of inspiration with you.

I’ve finally had some time over the last few weeks to get back into reading.  For months I’ve been half-heartedly starting reading books then setting them aside to do the same with a different book.  Or I’ve been so tired and overwhelmed by stuff that I’ve just reverted to my tried and tested ‘comfort reads’.  It has therefore been an absolute joy to lose myself in a book where the story or the central thesis is unknown to me and is just awaiting discovery as I turn the pages.

So in the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading these books:

Thousand splendid suns

” A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.  This was lent to me by a friend from work.  We’d been in a book group together and had read “The Kite Runner”, and this book is really in a similar vein.  I enjoyed it, and found I couldn’t escape from thinking that although it is a work of fiction (and subject to feeling a bit derived in places because of that, I felt) the experiences of the characters are not fiction for people who lived through those times in Afghanistan. 



The next book I read on holiday was Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”.  Oh my goodness, this is a breathtaking, terrifying, and traumatic book to read.  The Guardian’s reviewer said it better than I could, so check their review out.






Art for God's sake

I read “The Road” over 3 evenings, but found it so overwhelmingly bleak that I had to read something else more positive and hopeful before I finally went to sleep.  This little book, barely more than a pamphlet really, was the solution.  “Art for God’s Sake” by Philip Graham Ryken came to me by happenstance.  A friend had been looking in a second-hand bookshop, noticed this wee book and bought it thinking I might like it – I was touched by this in itself.  The book itself is great, thought-provoking, clear, and, for me, inspirational as I think about returning to some form of art practice in the autumn.






the price of water in finstere

” The Price of Water in Finistere” by Bodil Malmsten is another book that sort of came to me, although this time I actually purchased it myself.  A good while back, perhaps during one of the times I was off work ill for a while, I had been listening to Radio 4 and this book (although I never picked up the full title, I didn’t forget the name Finistere) was a serialised ‘book of the week’.  The parts of it which I heard were just fantastic, and I still hear the narrator’s voice as I read it now.  I’ve only just started this one, and am in love with it already.  It’s witty and cutting, and paints a picture of a particular part of France which I would now love to visit.

Each of these books has fed, and is feeding, me, mind and soul.  God bless writers everywhere!  Have you read any good books lately?  I’ve also been pondering how I’d feel about one of those e-book things, the Kindle etc.  I think I would miss the feel of pages, I’d miss the texture of a weighty cover or a beautiful binding.  Give me another 10 years, I’m the living definition of a late-adopter.

To be honest, I’ve always been both fascinated by and simultaneously repulsed by Tracey Emin’s art.  It’s always seemed to me so brutal and so ‘flesh ripped open, here, look at me, look how gross this can be’.  It makes me feel uncomfortable, but somehow, like driving past a car crash, I just can’t stop myself looking at it.

I have a Tracey Emin book which I’ve only managed to glance at (am I afraid of her?).  It was a gift from my sister, very thoughtful and shows me she knows my fascinations, but I can’t quite face up to it somehow.  Even now a quick flick through has shown me at least half a dozen chapter headings my inner schoolmarm feels queasy at contemplating. 

But today I found myself getting excited as I jumped into my car to drive to work after stopping to pick up The Guardian to read at lunch time.  “How to draw by Tracey Emin” the header said.  So at lunch time I lost myself in the 3 pages of her drawings and her writings about her drawings.  Now, Tracey’s not one for a subtle image, nothing coy or twee.  And, being easily embarrassed, it was surprising to me that I was so blown away by her drawings that the content of a couple of them didn’t cause me to hide under my desk while I looked at them. 

In fact, her love for drawing and the power of art to become what we feel and what we remember is infused through the whole feature, for me anyway.  I was especially -moved? is that a bit cliched? – by her drawing ‘Ripped Up’ from 1995 and the accompanying text about the memories of having abortions.  Tonight I found a related section in her book ‘Strangeland’ and it stopped me in my tracks with it’s pain and honesty.  I can’t quite bring myself to quote it here, but instead I’ll quote her text from The Guardian today:

In 1995, even though things were going much, much better for me, I was still plagued with the memory of my abortions from 1990.  Mainly, because the first abortion I had didn’t work.  I was very ill and had to have another emergency operation.  Along with the pain and the guilt, I felt that I had to find a way to deal with this.  I made a series of drawings called Abortion. How It Feels, followed by another series called A Week from Hell.  I have tried to do abortion drawings since then, but they have never had the same intensity.  I think in 1995 I was still feeling the trauma of what Ihad been through.  I had just about stopped the yearning for a baby, and was coming to terms with my own creativity instead.  I know abortion is different for every woman, but I suffered the most digusting amount of guilt – when, actually, all I had done was make the right decision.

Tracey Emin's Ripped Up, 1995

“Ripped Up” 1995 Tracey Emin

I find it so challenging to contemplate that depth of honesty and truth and personal pain in someone’s artwork.  I admire it, although as I look at a return to art-making myself I wonder if it’s something I wish to aspire to.  My illustration background was always about expressing other people’s ideas, other people’s thoughts.  Why do people enter the art disciplines they do?  Are illustrators there to represent the world on behalf of others or to carve their own unique path of expression? 

Anyway, I’m no Tracey Emin but there are lessons  I should learn from her I think.

So this last week saw me take what I feel is a pretty momentous step, and which I’m both delighted with and terrified about.

I qualified as a community education worker 8 years ago, and that role has both defined me and expressed what is important to me ever since.  It took me a long time to ‘find’ the profession too, I’d had my fair share of years in the wilderness wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my time here on earth, and I suppose it was no small coincidence that all the various little jobs, volunteering roles and areas of interests were what eventually channelled me into doing a postgrad professional qualification to enable me to practice as a community educator.  I have also been so blessed to have the chance to work for an amazing organisation for most of my post-qualification years.

So why, then, have I just quit my job?!

Since becoming a mum, in fact since becoming pregnant 5 years ago I’ve had a sort of split in my mind.  I wanted to continue to do the work I loved, that I could see also did so much good, but I wanted to not have the mad juggling act of parenthood combined with busy working life.  Financially we were in no position for me to stop working, and to be honest when our daughter was a baby I was glad to reclaim my self, to have a space where I was independent again (as much as any employee can be anyway).  As the years have gone by we have intermittently re-examined that position to see if our finances offered flexibility for other choices to be made, but until now that has been a pretty laughable proposition.

But this last 6 months or so have brought together a number of jigsaw pieces.  I’ve rediscovered a passion for art practice, and have had some creative juices stirred which could do with an outlet.  Our daughter is about to begin school and that presented new organisational challenges which we were struggling to reconcile (whilst being aware that everyone else manages these things somehow!).  As my mum is facing a longish period of ill-health and I’m feeling the distance between us, it would be great to have a bit more time and flexibility to head up to my parents to help out now and again.  And finally, once our daughter heads off to school we’ll free up enough money (from nursery fees no longer being paid) to make a career break for me a realistic idea.

We worked all this out about 3 weeks ago, spent a couple of weeks mulling it over, praying it through, and finally, last Monday I handed in my notice.  I’m not leaving immediately, I’ll be there for the rest of the summer but already my mind is shifting to new projects for the autumn, my eye is being cast calculatedly around the house as I assess areas to tackle when I have time.  I’m reimagining my mornings, getting up very slightly later, walking our daughter to school rain or shine (I’m getting rid of my car too, won’t need it) and getting to know other parents in the area as we gather at the school gates.  I’ve been busy looking at art and craft workshops I’d like to do, pondering possibilities and just listening to what excites my soul as I consider opportunities.

I also had a small crisis moment, induced at last week’s small group in our home.  So tell me, what do I say now when I get asked what I do?  I hate ‘housewife’, it sounds empty and demeaning.  (is that just me?  would I feel different if I hadn’t been a working parent?)  Apparently I’m going to be on a ‘career break’, but since I never regarded myself as having a career that doesn’t seem right either!  And although I have an art degree and I’m planning on (in a gentle and not particularly purposeful way) taking time to do more art, I baulk at calling myself an artist – artists are people other than me, I feel.

Can I still be a community educator even if I don’t have anyone to ‘educate’?!

I wonder how long it’ll take me to reconcile this?  I’m sure I’m not the first person, the first woman to feel like this, and I certainly won’t be the last so any insight and guidance will be much appreciated.

Found this remarkable interpretation of consumer society.  Statistics as art…now that’s got to be worth a little look.  The world really is a greedy place.  Or should I say full of greedy people?


How exciting!  Lucy has given me a blogging award (along with some of my other favourite bloggers too, I feel very privileged).  Here’s what I need to do in exchange:

  1. Post the award on your blog, and link to the person who gave you the award (done that, and please check out Lucy’s lovely blog)
  2. List seven things you love
  3. List seven blogs you love (just seven?)
  4. E-mail or comment on those blogs to let the people know you’ve given them the award

Seven things I love?

  1. My little family – husband and daughter, and the collection of special toys who play such an important part in our four year old’s life that they Had Better Never Get Lost
  2. Following Jesus (although, to be absolutely honest, there are also times when I grind my teeth with frustration at how this works out in my life)
  3. Our church and in particular our small group, not forgetting the friends, near and far, who are extended family and form our daughter’s God Squad (because we couldn’t choose between them when it came to thinking about godparents, they’re all so amazing and special to us)
  4. Painting, drawing, making. I do this in spurts of energy and then long periods elapse where it just gets sidelined…
  5. …but the compensation is I get to work somewhere I can enable children, adults, colleagues to be creative and that is often enough
  6. The sea.  It scares me but I love it.  Beautiful sandy beaches are great but I’ve almost always lived in proximity to the North Sea, and so it’s the wind-swept dunes and grey thundering waves that make my heart beat a little faster
  7. Books.  I love reading, and always have way too many on the go at once, so it takes me ages to get any one book finished unless I’m using it as a ‘comfort read’ when I’m feeling low or as a break from more challenging reads.  I confess I also love books as objects (our oversized living room bookcase is testament to that), and am trying hard not to be envious of one of my colleagues who is also a book-lover and collects first editions.  THAT would not be good for me.  Maybe one day I’ll go and visit her books. I mean her.

Seven blogs I love (Nb. Lucy’s already namechecked a couple of my favourites, so I’ll let them enjoy their awards from her and award seven completely different ones)

  1. I have to mention my husband’s blog (The State That I Am In). It’s a fantastic blog with a strong musical undercurrent. I would love it even if he wasn’t my husband, I promise!
  2. Fourth Space is the blog of one of our small group friends.  It’s so thought-provoking, lots of creative and analytical thinking and processing (for both blog author and blog reader).
  3. Have you checked out Coffee Shop Journal? It’s a really great read, reflections on life, faith and more, book reviews and thoughtful applications of lessons learned, and always written with grace and humility. 
  4. The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus is in many ways (for me) the perfect blog.  All pictures!!!  I don’t know how he comes up with these fresh, funny and often cutting images so frequently.  Man or machine?! No machine could be this creative and offer such a human and humane perspective on the world.
  5. Without Wax (I even love the name of this blog) is another thought-provoking look at the world through the eyes of Pete, a pastor at Cross Point Church in Tennessee.  He uses video clips and other resources really well, and has got a massive readership judging by the average number of comments each post seems to get.  It is also one of the blogs I read that reminds me that there is a cultural difference between our two countries, which I really enjoy being exposed to.
  6. New Life From Old is the blog of another small group friend.  He doesn’t post too often, but always has something worth checking out.  He’s a scientist and is rigorous in his examination of faith through this lens.  He’s really creative in how he works this out in his life and the world (although I don’t think he’d use that word about himself), and deserves massive respect for his engagement with difficult and controversial issues.
  7. Last but not least I’ve just got to mention Wish Jar,which is the blog of author, illustrator and guerilla artist Keri Smith.  I LOVE her work, and every time I read her blog I get exposed to something I’ve never come across before.

I hope you enjoy checking these guys out if you’ve not had a look before.  (By the way sorry about the weird mix of fonts and sizes, can’t seem to fix it today for some reason.  Hope it’s still readable)

I have just been having a browse through Keri Smith’s blog “Wish Jar”, and found a link to this artist, Bas Jan Ader.  Go to ‘Selected Works’ and watch ‘Fall II’ (I tried to put a direct link in to it but it wouldn’t work; but I’m sure you’ll enjoy a little look around his website anyway).

Fall II

Fall II

After a brief hiatus my husband has resumed cycling to work, this time on his new, fit for zooming at high speed, bike.  Watching the film clip made me thankful we don’t live in Amsterdam, one less thing for me to worry about as he sets out in the morning…
I’ve not come across Bas Jan Ader’s work before, although reading about him now it seems like I really should have.  Apparently he’s explored the concept of gravity a lot in his work.  I found myself wondering if this particular piece was fun to do, or if the person (is it Bas Jan Ader?) landed in the canal and came up with a mouth full of dank water and bits of litter hanging of them.  And it’s thoughts like that that make me realise why I’m not ever going to be a ‘real’ artist with work on display at the Tate Modern (well that, and lack of talent…)

Okay, so my first RAOK was a washout (although in the end I got to eat all my chocolates myself, so I was happy), but the next day I decided to bring joy to my workplace and take some yummy Green & Blacks chocolate in to the craft class I teach on Fridays.  The previous week there had been grumblings about our centre’s ‘rubbish’ healthy eating policy, which if truth be told isn’t very hard-core anyway.  So I took in the chocolates and watched the pleasure unfold.  The remaining chocolate was shared at the staff meeting and went down pretty well too (although some people discovered they don’t like ‘good’ dark chocolate, philistines…!).

Phew!  Just got to find the right recipients.

Other RAOKs this week have included giving away something I spent a long time making, which a friend coveted and I was glad to give to her. 

But there’s going to be more I’m sure. 

Anyway, this is the big week for The Art of Joy.  If you haven’t already had a look please visit, and if you are anywhere in travellable (is that a word?) distance come along to the opening night of the exhibition this Wednesday night at The Lot, on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh.  It will be fantastic, the artwork looks great and The Lot is a great venue, a lovely building in it’s own right sat at the foot of Edinburgh Castle surrounded by the history and the hubbub of our capital’s heart.

July 2018
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