For those who could not attend Sunday’s milestone celebration of reaching 365 Days of Gratitude….
I am not one for big speeches but I wanted to just take a moment to thank you all for marking with me the passage of a milestone of 365 days of Gratitude practice. Well that’s Actually a year of Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service.
I realise that some of you have followed me on Facebook some have followed my blog and some had no idea I was doing this at all. It really wasn’t something I set out a year ago to do but as is the nature of the process, it kind of snowballed.
What began as a Facebook meme to post 3 things daily for which I am grateful quickly became a daily practice of appreciating 3 good things and noticing moments of joy. I felt the positive effects of the practice quickly and soon added a component of daily service and a daily practice of nurturing empathy, connection, compassion, awe and purpose. What started as a 7 days commitment snowballed into 21 days, a month, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and now…a year of Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service.
And while we celebrate this milestone of a year, I am happy – and a little scared – to commit today to Ten Thousand Days of Gratitude practice and to continue to write about it. For you keen mathematicians and accountants here today, you will already have calculated that by the time I reach that milestone I will be more than 27 years old….er. 27.2 to be exact. If I am still around at that point, I will renew my vows, then.
You might wonder why I am making such a big commitment…well, it’s simple… After studying to write drama and fiction, I quit writing stories several years ago because I just couldn’t find my way to writing a happy ending. Writing about gratitude (and joy, oneness and service) has given me both the experience of and the ability to write about happiness. I think those who have been on the whole journey will agree that I have blossomed and I intend to see it through to the end.
I have already written a year’s worth of gratitude journals and observations on the practice and now it’s time to focus on shaping that into a book. I am also launching a new web magazine Ten ThousandDaysofGratitude.com and I am working to find a way to use my skills to work with the UK charity Action For Happiness.
My wish, if I can put it out there, is that others will pick up the practices and this will spread. So please, do spread the website far and wide.
I want to thank Ruth from Canvas café for giving us this space, Street Art curator, Greg Key (Instagram: @speckles76) for leading our lively street art tour, Dan Shears for providing us with some of his music, Luke Harvest for his work on setting up the website, C Michael Frey for the logo design, Faith Amy Romeo and Natasha Westover for being gratitude wall guardians, Debbie Heath for the original 7 day Facebook challenge, Paula Montgomery for prompting me to add Joy, all the street artists of London for the beautiful art that gave me so much joy, and Louis Masai for agreeing to be my first interview on my focus for the year ahead – Service. It hasn’t happened yet so watch for it in upcoming posts. A big thank you to all my readers here and overseas.
And of course I want to thank You all for being a part of my life. You have each been a part of my daily practice. Without you, I wouldn’t have much to say.
So, here’s to you. Thank you.
A Street Art Walk in Celebration of all the Street Art of London that has been part of the Joy of this year!
Greg Key, Street Art Exhibition Curator and Photographer took us around today and highlighted some of the works that have meant so much to me over the last year. Greg has been one of my street art mentors this year, helping me to get to know which artist is associated with which works and to find the works I’d like to see.
After a career in the entertainment business and in hospitality, Greg’s passions for modern art and particularly street art have created the hottest new curator on the London Art scene. He is curating his first show, “Underhand,” in London, opening 10 September, with a dazzling array of some of the finest talent on the London Streets today being represented. Check out the show:
5 Stoke Newington Road
Follow Greg on instagram: www.instagram.com/speckles76
1. Louis Masai (paint)
Louis paints about endangered species, he says, in order create awareness for beings without a voice.
Louis went on to art college in Cornwall and was rather discouraged by his teachers not to pursue art as a way to make a living. In 2010 he moved to London where he has proved them wrong. While Louis does not like the image that the term ‘street art’ conjures and prefers to think of outdoor art as public art, his outdoor paintings in London, and particularly his campaign to save the bees (with Jim Vision) led to massive exposure of his work through social media. Since 2010 he has had at least 3 solo shows in London and has been included in several group shows. He continues to paint a combination of indoor and outdoor pieces with a focus on animals, giving them a human trait as human beings like to anthropomorphise animals.
Personally: Louis Masai holds a special place in my heart. In the midst of the first few days after leaving work, a friend posted an article about Louis. My friend and I are both champions of environmental issues and both have a special interest in water. I was aware of the dangers facing the honey bee, but seeing Louis work made me take street art a little more seriously than I had done. I started following him and his work to find that he not only was concerned with the bee but also with endangered species and biodiversity loss. Louis has worked with activists like the IUCN on the RED Endangered Species List to raise awareness through his paintings and of course he and Jim Vision created the whole bee project and worked with beekeepers, honey users in manufacturing things like candles, honey, beer and with seed companies who provided seeds that were distributed where he painted in order to help the public re-conceptualize where and how to plant seeds to protect the bee habitats. Louis doesn’t really sit comfortably with the idea of being an activist per se. The intersections between art and music are another area that interests him. He considers himself an artist, but does recognize that his paintings and his visual language have a power to raise awareness and make people engage emotionally with the issues and he does make visits to schools to talk to young people about art, the environment and about music. When it became clear to me that my friend’s mother was unwell, I made it a mission to find whatever murals still remained of Louis’ bees. I contacted Greg here on instagram and asked the location of the murals. I wanted to send some cheer in a very dark time to my friend. Greg kindly offered to show them to me but given the reason why I was photographing them, I decided to go alone. I didn’t know how serious the illness was and within hours of sending the photos, my friend’s mother passed away. So Louis (and also, Greg) will always be a part of that tender moment. Later, I had the good fortune to be able to attend a solo show of Louis’ and I found what I already knew would be the case – a passionate, purposeful and open hearted soul with a heart breaking sensitivity to the decline in biodiversity and loss of species that is accelerating around us today. That night, I bought my first piece of street art as a gift to myself for my birthday. It really was quite accessible for a painting. Of course, it was a bee. And I plan to buy more and support his work in the future. Follow Louis online: www.louismasai.com Follow Louis on Instagram: www.instagram.com/louismasai Follow Louis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louismasaimichel?fref=ts 2. Anna Laurini (paint, paintedpaste up) Anna Laurini, is an Italian painter from the abstract expressionist school who works in acrylic,collage and mixed media. On the street her paintingsreflect a cubist style. Her work ranges from cubist to non-representational expressionist and touches on a kind ofneo-plasticsm with abstract and vibrant geometric shapes. Shehas been painting for more than 20 years. She has studied at Central Saint Martins in London and at the Art Student League in New York City and the F.I.T. in New York. In case you’re wondering that is the Fashion Institute of Technology. For that past 10 years, she has lived and worked between London, Milan, and New York City.
Personally: Our paths have criss-crossed for those 20 years but we only met this year. She is Italian, as I said, but she lived in New York around the same time I did in the mid to late 1990s. She moved to London about ten years ago and her paintings have been sold in London, New York, Australia, I asked her why she paints on the streets and she told me it was for fun and also because of the same experience I’ve mentioned from the other artists – it gets exposure. Her street paintings currently feature the face of a woman and a man – although she has told me that if you prefer, you can see in them two women or two men. She uses the faces and the couple because they are very quick to paint on the street and as I’m coming to understand, all artists seem to have a character that is associated with them and is in a way – their brand – though this she did not tell me, I’m just figuring this out. When I first saw her faces, I fell in love with them. There is something very different about these pieces to the rest of the paste ups or paintings on the street. They’re cheerful. She must have hit the area I was walking hard because when I first noticed her faces, I suddenly saw three in one day and I was on a mission to find out who painted them. I was certain the person behind the faces was a very interesting person, indeed. Anna often adds the text that inspires the painting to her works – sometimes it is a quote from a philosopher and sometimes it is a song. To me, the reason I love her paintings are that they are so vibrant and positive – something that isn’t popular in art but I think should be – her work enlivens my spirit while making me think. You can’t get better than that as a result, from a piece of art. A sample of Anna’s paintings: http://www.saatchiart.com/annalaurini Follow Anna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/anna-laurini/45169637820 Follow Anna on Instagram: www.instagram.com/annalauriniblue 3. ALO (painting, hand painted paste up) The Saatchi gallery, where ALO had a solo show in 2014 describes ALO this way:
“ALO is an Italian artist based in London. His first works appeared in the streets of Perugia, Rome and Milan. Subsequently, the artist expanded his practice to include works on canvas and found materials as well as continuing to install works on walls in London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere in Europe. The artist describes his style as ‘Urban Expressionism’.”
As mentioned, ALO was the focus of a solo exhibition, Hail to the Loser, at the Saatchi Gallery last year.
I had taken a street art tour in 2010 and I learned some of the main artists around at that time who Greg may show you today – names like Stik, Cityzenkane, and JimmyC. I remembered being delighted to see JimmyC paint while we were walking around Shoreditch and so when I decided to go out and find something to shoot for my new Instagram account last year, I set out to find a JimmyC painting. Across the street was this very interesting paste up of a person that drew me from across the road.
The piece struck me as conveying the angst and energy of German expressionism between the wars with a very modern feel. I looked all around it because his pieces often have words embedded as part of the art as if jar and force the viewer out of any intimate engagement with the representational form and designed to make you think about the image, rather than simply feel it. At least that’s what it does for me.
I remember looking at the writing on the side and thinking AILO? What is AILO? I didn’t realise it was ALO but it was one of the first pieces I posted in an attempt to identify the artist.
Recently, I saw another piece of ALO’s work near Liverpool street and I noticed the word ribbon in the hair of the figure. I really hadn’t noticed those details when I was looking at the art on the street. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to look at art very very slowly and I take my time with a piece so you don’t really want to go to a gallery with me…I will spend the whole day there. On the street, however, I look quickly. I snap the shot and move on because I am influenced by the hurried feeling of being on the street in London. When I saw that detail, I realised that I wasn’t giving these pieces their due and I decided to go out and find a piece by ALO and when I did, to let his work remind me to slow down and really take in the art on the street as if I were in a gallery. It was a wonderful lesson for me.
Follow ALO online: www.aloart.org
A sample of ALO’s paintings at Saatchi:www.saatchistore.com/74-alo
Follow ALO on Instagram: www.instagram.com/alo_art
Follow ALO on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/aloartofstreet?fref=ts
4. Skeleton Cardboard (paint)
The bio on the website for Well Hung Gallery as this to say about Skeleton Cardboard (https://wellhung.co.uk/artists/skeleton-cardboard/):
This anonymous artist has littered the streets of London with his skeleton figures for the past few years. Painted on walls around the east end of London and on discarded pieces of cardboard free for passers by to admire or to take – These macabre yet playful figures on one hand remind us of our own mortality and on the other show a whimsical take on our existence.
Like Basquiat, Skeleton Cardboard uses primitive images to challenge the consumer culture that alienates the individual in a world where technology creates the perfect image at the expense of intimacy.
Skeleton Cardboard’s recent show in Shoreditch was a smash success and he currently has installed a piece in a group show at the Lollipop Gallery in London.
Personally: When I was walking around the streets in East London, I found these cheerful skeletons that looked like they were dancing and making fun of the consumer culture of the 21st century. They made me laugh and as I anonymously appreciated and photographed the street art around town, I found the skeletons became like friends, meeting me here on Redchurch street, popping up over on Sclater street and then surprising me with a big fat hello on Bethnal Green Road. The first ‘secret location’ show I attended (at the invitation of Savant) was Skeleton’s show in London. A delightful man, I ventured to tell him what I thought about his art and I mentioned another famous street artist. I hoped he wouldn’t be offended that I had to resort to a comparison, but it was the right thing to say. He had been greatly influenced by the other artist and I was happy that the way I had interpreted his work aligned with his intent. He has given me confidence to say what I think when I engage with art. His work makes me smile and it also makes me think. A sample of Skeleton Cardboard’s paintings: https://wellhung.co.uk/artists/skeleton-cardboard/ Follow Skeleton Cardboard online: www.Skeletoncardboard.tumblr.com Follow Skeleton Cardboard on Instagram: www.instagram.com/skeletoncardboard Follow Skeleton Cardboard on Facebook: Scot Bared Kolanerd / Skeletoncardboard 5. PLIN (paint) PLIN is an anonymous US based artist who works with paint and paste up. His figures create a whimsical look at modern man in all his angst and joy. PLIN’s art celebrates the potential of positive images to create a more thoughtful, engaged and happier community and society.
There is a running theme in a lot of the art that has been part of my life and my practices this year has been that which is cheerful, intelligent, makes me laugh or becomes a ‘friend’ on the street. I started noticing PLIN’s toothy faces some time ago, and for the longest time, the piece on Quaker street made me smile every time I passed it. Like a friend saying hello on Brick Lane, the face on the corner told me to have a great day photographing art or wished me to get home safe when I was heading down to the night bus. They look a bit ferocious these faces, but to me, like an older brother that looks out for you, they are comforting.
I had the pleasure to meet the artist recently and discovered an intelligent, poetic soul. I will never forget what PLIN said to me: ” Street artists have a duty to paint every day here” because of the relative freedom that artists in London enjoy. It made me think of my own writing and the fact that I have lived in reasonably free societies. I think its a duty to write every day and maybe sometimes to say some uncomfortable truths. That is how we defend our right to free speech and truth – by exercising it. I am grateful to PLIN for that insight.
Follow PLIN on Instagram: www.instagram.com/monsu_plin
6. Fanakapan (graffiti artist and painter – paint)
Fanakapan is a British artist best known for his realistic yet whimsical and luminescent balloon animals and letters. He is a pop artist, using commonly known images in uncommon and unexpected ways. His images often evoke memories of childhood, sometimes evoking happier times, sometimes injecting a dark sense of humour to his images of innocence. Fanakapan works throughout Europe and in collaboration with other artists.
Personally: It’s no surprise that these cheerful and sometimes darkly comic figures would appeal to me. When you see Fanakapan’s balloon figures lighting up the streets, its like there is a birthday party going on everywhere. In a difficult time in my life, Fanakapan’s art made me happy. My favourite piece that I had the good fortune to see has been painted over but that is the beauty of photography. In fact, when I saw it for the first time, Pharrel’s song ‘Happy’ came to mind. I know its not a deep analysis of his work but I don’t care. It moved me and it made me feel good. We need more of that in this world. The very first live painting event I ever attended was because I saw that Fanakapan was advertising it on Instagram and I wanted to see the artist paint. I was still too shy to say hi, but I loved watching the artist paint. Follow Fanakapan on Instagram: www.instagram.com/fanakapan 7. Savant (painting, paste up and collage) Savant is an anonymous British paste up artist whose art is of the original political genre of art with disruptive messages. Savant’s work challenges the structures of society and the loss of critical thinking. His works include both images and words and displays a wry sense of humour. His images depict the sinister side of complacency and the death of the “individual” in the modern world. His paste ups which use words, on the other hand, prompt the viewer to stop and to think, and moreover, to question the process of thought itself, thereby saving themselves from the oblivion that is the modern consumer culture. Being paste up, these works are more transient than paintings and are part of a street conversation where other artists and viewers contribute to the dialogue with their own disruptive messages. In this way, Savant is one of the artists on the London streets that is upholding and defending free speech and political discourses of the “common man on the street.”
The first day I went out photographing street art to do something with my instagram account, I encountered several artists that I would continue to follow in the future. Savant was one of these first. The first piece I saw by Savant was a collage paste up that said “Art is Dead” but it had been degraded and hit by a graff who had ripped off the “Dead” and had written in the word “Jesus.” I liked that: Art is Jesus. I really liked that. It not only spoke of a dialogue between Savant and the anonymous graff, but it challenged me to think – what did I believe? – Is art dead, or is it a spiritual salvation. For me, I knew it was the latter.
Savant was really the first artist who invited me to meet other artists. I had given the artist a positive quality of them and their work on my How to Fall in Love with Anyone photo series on Instagram and I received and invitation to a Skeleton’s show with Savant’s partner and friends. I felt very warmly welcomed into a world full of wonderful, creative, intelligent and positive people. I am grateful to Savant for that and I love to find new pieces that make me think.
Follow Savant on Instagram: www.instagram.com/seanussavant
Follow Savant on Facebook: www.facebook.com/seanussavant
8. WRDMSTH (paint stencil and paste up)
WRDSMTH is an American artist. He is a street artist and writer living in LA and he posts a new piece daily around the world. His signature is a stencil painted typewriter with a pasted up saying above it. Each of his paste ups are inspirational or romantic in nature and are designed with the feel good factor. He began pasting up the street art in November, 2013 and intended only to continue until he had 1K Instagram followers. He currently has just shy of 50K followers and continues to post daily. WRDSMTH has always loved street art and as a kid was intrigued by the graffiti messages he would see on walls. After a good year creatively (ie in front of the computer) he took up street art as an active and creative outlet that would give him a daily break from the relentlessness of sitting in front of a computer screen, writing.
He was born in the Midwest, worked as an advertising copywriter and then moved to LA to pursue his dream of writing. When asked why he has taken up street art, he has said: “I write things on walls that I wished people would have said to me when I first moved here.” (TheLAgirl.com)
When asked for his mission statement, WRDSMTH has said “WRDSMTH aspires to inspire others on a dialy basis with colourful and well-chosen words crafted into indelible thoughts that are temporarily tattooed onto walls around the world…” (hdfmagazine.com)
Personally: For me, WRDSMTH is extremely dear and speaks to the writer in me as well as the person who has struggled from a rather beaten down and physically unwell individual a year ago to who I am now. In the course of trying to get well this year, I dusted off the old writing pen and paper and tapped the keyboard for months until the rust was gone and things started working again. For me, both my writing and my sense of positivity has grown in the process and along the way, this anonymous fellow writer was sending out positive messages that, some days, I needed so very badly. I follow him on Instagram and Facebook because I don’t always see a new piece in London but I can see a new piece daily on social media. WRDSMTH has come to be a little bit of a cheerleader in my head and really represents for me, personally, what PLIN talks about – the positive power to street art to change the world. Follow WRDSMTH on Instagram: www.instagram.com/wrdsmth Follow WRDSMTH on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WRDSMTHinLA?fref=ts 9. D7606 (paste up) A relative newcomer to the London street art scene, anonymous paste up artist D7606 juxtaposes vibrant crayon box coloured images of iconic objects with iconic star personalities to create pop art paste ups that brighten the city streets. A pop artist, he collaborates with other artists and has made a name for himself for being a great collaborator. Most notably, his work is usually seen with painter and paste-up artist C-3. The name D7606 is taken from the model of a British train engine from an era when he was a train photographer, but he is quick to note that he is not a trainspotter. He is not an artist by trade or training but his passion for the street art he was photographing on his rambles in East London took him into creating his own works. He takes great joy in seeing his work up on the streets of London and being seen, enjoyed and photographed by thousands of people a week.
I knew D7606 on Instagram before I had ever seen a piece of the artist’s work. Mr. D kindly tagged the art that I was photographing and posting on Instagram and quickly became a street art mentor to me. When I photograph a piece of art, I am well aware that the beauty of it is all in the artist’s hand, not my camera. My job is to hold the camera straight and still, not to add weird photos and then to give proper credit to the artist. Mr. D helped me to do that. I don’t actually think I would have become so interested in street art this year if it hadn’t been for Mr. D. The day I spotted my first piece by D7606, I was so excited – here I had found a treasure left behind on the London streets by Mr. D. I went to Upfest specifically to meet Mr. D and say thanks for all his help this year.
Follow D7606 online: www.d7606.co.uk and www.d7606.bigcartel.com/
Follow D7606 on Instagram: www.instagram.com/d7606art
Follow D7606 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/D7606/395466227213600?fref=ts
10. Zabou (stencil and freehand paint)
The Upfest Website describes Zabou (http://www.upfest.co.uk/artist/zabou)
Originally from France but based in London, Zabou is an exciting street art talent who, since bursting onto the scene in 2012 has been gaining a growing reputation for her striking art. Her images are a mixture of stencil and freehand technique, combining both sharp lines, colourful shades, dripping and splashes of paint. She plays on stereotypes and pokes fun at conformity, from spray painting nuns to satirical takes on the surveillance state.
Personally: You will recognize Zabou’s art from the image used for the milestone event today. Zabou’s work makes me smile and is bright and cheerful and that’s why I like it. She is irreverent and that aligns with my own sense of humour. I had the pleasure to briefly meet Zabou artist at Upfest and like many of the street artists we finally meet, she was nothing like I expected her to be. Firstly, I thought she was a he. I somehow thought that her large scale murals were the work of a man. It was a delight to find that she was a charming young woman with the courage to be so wonderfully outspoken through her images. There are a couple of pieces by Zabou on the streets of Paris that I hope to see. They are much more poignant and beautiful. I’d very much like to see that side of her art. Follow Zabou online: www.zabou.me Follow Zabou on Instagram: www.instagram.com/zabouartist Follow Zabou on Facebook: www.facebook.com/zabou.artist
The Music of 365 Days of Gratitude
Dan Shears EP’s were available for those who attended as a little thank you for coming. A little taster from Dan’s Youtube channel for those who could not make it:
As you know, Music is one of the things for which I am most grateful. And, over the year, I have written many times about how much I am grateful for music. Many times it has been for certain artists that have meant so much to me like Jesse Cook, Dan Shears, DJ Sheb i Shabbah, Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, but over the year I have posted happy songs as well, and so I put together a playlist of music that meant something to me this year for the party. I have to thank Milo V- for adding a few updates to my music taste which tended to run from sappy housewife to runaway yogi to 50 year old gay man. You’ll still find my personality all over it, don’t worry. I chose all the songs and their order. DJ Pinkstarpix Lola Sumangali in da house! Don’t be put off with the Sanskrit at the beginning. I have played Jai Uttal to invoke Ganesha because it is good to invoke Ganesh at the start of any new venture (oh I dunno – like TEN THOUSAND DAYS OF GRATITUDE, perhaps?) and I have closed by thanking the patron God of all Bhaktans like me – Krishna. I have had the pleasure to sing with both meant at kirtan and they fill my heart, always. If you couldn’t be there, I hope the videos will give you a sense of the spirit of the day. As always, please buy the music. I have chosen youtube videos rather than Spotify simply to encourage you to support the artist by buying the actual songs. DJ Pinstarpix Lola Sumangali’s 365 Days of Gratitude Mix
Spreading the Practice:
I want YOU to be happy. No strings attached. I just want you to be happy. Please consider taking up some of this practice into your own life? Almost everyone attending today’s celebration wrote something when asked for 3 things for which they are grateful. Here is the result:
Won’t you add your three things in the comments?