Tag Archives: Inspiration

Things I am grateful for #5, 6, 7.

Notebooks. Pens. Pencils.

In an age where everything has an electronic hardware alternative – laptop, smartphone, tablet – notebooks seem to be a thing of the past. I always make sure I have one or two notebooks on the go, depending on what I’m working on. A small one for my pocket and a larger one for the home/office.

I don’t know about you, but if I have an idea, and I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it. Which can be intensely frustrating.

I have scores, if not hundreds, about the place. Mostly filled with drivel. But, occasionally, I come across something that merits developing. A few lines of a poem, an idea for a script, a conversation overheard in a café.

I know for a fact that most ideas that have manifest, have generated themselves into something, from notebooks. If I hadn’t had one to hand, the idea would be lost. And so would I.

Sometimes, my notebooks are simple Moleskins. Sometimes, from Laura Ashley. Sometimes, they are from exotic countries I have visited.

Once, I had this ornately crafted, leather-embossed notebook I bought in Amalfi, Italy. I was too afraid to write anything in it. It was too beautiful for my incoherent ramblings. After a while, I realised that if I waited for ‘exceptional’ things to spring to mind, I would be waiting a long time before I put pen to pad.

So I dived in.

The notebook isn’t the beauty. It is what is contained within. Sometimes, it might not be ’til near the end. But at least it will be in there.

But what good is a notebook without something to write with?

Now, I’m quite particular about my writing implements. I absolutely abhor Biros and ballpoint pens. They are the work of the devil. I have to have a fibre tip pen. Probably has something to do with my 30 years in design/advertising. And, if there aren’t any pens available, there’s nothing wrong with the good old fashioned pencil.

So simple. So invaluable. (To me, anyway.)



And no, these sketchbooks aren’t mine.

You might have gathered by now that I’m going to write a Things I am grateful for post for every day of 2014. Some will be incredibly simple things that we take for granted, such as water. Whilst others might be a bit more eclectic, like my obsession with art and tomato-based foods.

And why should you care about this? Perhaps you shouldn’t. It’s just my way of acknowledging that, despite all the trials and tribulations that modern-life brings, just how lucky most of us actually are. Whether that’s because we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, or simply because we are loved.

Anyways, I might not write one every day. Some might come in an advance bundle, like this one. Others I may write in retrospect. But by the end of 2014, there’ll be at least 365 things that I am grateful for.

They’re not in any order of preference – apart from the first one. For them, I shall be eternally grateful. (And tired.)


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While there is still time…

Funny old thing this t’internet.

I was chipping-in to a thread on Linked In about poetry when I got chatting to a young lady from India, by the name of Asha.

She has a blog called While There Is Still Time which is quite inspirational. There, you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of literary prowess to satiate your creative soul.

The name of the blog is from a line in one of Philip Larkin’s poems, called The Mower.

It’s a poignant poem about cherishing what we have before it’s too late.

After you’ve read it, you might want to pop over to Asha’s blog and immerse yourself into a sea of semiotics.

By Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found

A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,

Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.

Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world

Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.

The first day after a death, the new absence

Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind

While there is still time.


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Me, the thief.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get asked this all the time in my job.

I usually reply that the ideas come from the information I am supplied with to do the job.

All you have to do is jizz it up a bit in your creative cocktail shaker and see what comes out.

Sometimes it tastes like piss.

Other times it tastes like a Mojito mixed by Mr Hemingway himself.

But there are a few other ingredients that go into the creative cocktail shaker that aren’t in the brief.

These are taken from all the stuff you soak up in your daily life: art; literature; music; ads; news; gossip; film; blogs; tabloids; soaps; comedy, et cetera, et cetera.

What turns your cocktail from being piss into ambrosia is what bits of your own inspiration you put in there.

I came across this quote on the Gutenberg Press II:

I read something similar by Picasso a few years back. But in the spirit of the quote – he probably pinched it from someone else in the first place.

Here are a few bits of graffiti that you may have seen before, but what I like about these are how they integrate their art with the environment, rather than the environment being purely a canvas.

Whilst out for a saunter with my two girls, the eldest, who’s 5, said: Daddy! That looks like a cup!

This is what she was looking at…

Kids get it.

It’s adults who unlearn it.

Inspiration lurks everywhere, if you want to be inspired.

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Inspiration V Plagiarism

I saw this mesmerizing portrait by Norman Parkinson on a postcard when I was on a recent jaunt to old Londinium.

Stunning shapes, texture, composition and colour.

I didn’t realise that when he took this shot he was actually paying homage to Dutch painter, Kees Van Dongen, 1877-1968.

Whether we use art directly to influence our work or only in part doesn’t matter.

What is important is that we continue to absorb inspiration wherever it lurks. Whether that be an old master who can teach us about perfect composition or a graffiti artist’s integration of the environment as a canvas.

Courtesy of Street Art Utopia. (And my mate, Markham.)

The ad industry is rife with plagiarism – “Wassup”, by Budweiser was a short film by a new director. Honda Cogs was an art installation.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being inspired by art. Where it falls down is if you try to pass off the originality as your own.

If you can’t physically credit the people whose idea you’ve been inspired by – i.e. you can’t put a credit on the end of a TV ad – then help out in other ways. Either pay them to be involved in making the project, or at the very least donate some hard cash to help further their art. (In the cases of Budweiser and Honda the ad agencies or client may have done this, I don’t know.)

With the infamous Guinness “Dancing Man” commercial, the agency saw the short film – again, a promo piece by a young director – and approached him with a view to remaking it for Guinness.

He said no because he’d already made that film and didn’t want to make it again.

So the agency made it anyway with a different director.

The director sued. And lost.

Not sure why. Perhaps you can’t copyright a man dancing. Or maybe the judge felt the new film was sufficiently different. (If you see them both together, you’ll see that it isn’t.)


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If “Om” is the Sanskrit word
For the sound of the Universe vibrating,
Then “Omagh”, is the sound of it grieving.

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Do you care about what you do?

A few years ago I went to see a lecture by Trevor Beattie, then Creative Director Of TBWA. I have stolen this from him. (Paul Arden said it was okay to steal.) It was, for me, the most memorable part of his talk. It is something I like to remind myself of every now and then. He used the picture to illustrate how someone had taken a ‘shortcut’. The person doing the job hadn’t done it to the best of their ability, nor to the required standards. It wouldn’t have taken much to nudge the dead bird to one side with a flick of a Doc Marten or a broom handle. Instead, they decided to opt for the path of least resistance, resulting in a shoddy job.

It takes effort to do a good job. I don’t believe people are born with this gift or that. I believe you either want to do something, or you don’t. Once you’ve decided that, you need to work damned hard to be great at it.

Moreover, you will be more inclined to do a good job if you know that other people want you to.


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Today’s haiku

Just for you, bro.

Empty rowing boat,

Bobbing giddily downstream,

Towards waiting sea.


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Today’s haiku

Forests destroyed

As far as the eye can see;

Big Mac and fries, please.


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