Will Gompertz (2015) Think Like an Artist…and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life.

thinking artist

This is a short book, with some lovely illustrations, but you’d expect that, Will Gompertz is BBC’s Art’s Editor. If I was thinking like an economist more than an artist I’d be thinking ten quid for a couple of wee pages and a couple of illustrations isn’t that great a deal. If I was thinking like a boozer that was an economist I’d be thinking that the opportunity cost of reading this book is four pints of heavy out of the Dropp Inn. If I was thinking like a boozer I’d be thinking I’m indestructible and nobody will ever beat me at pool. Ten quid is twenty games of pool, around the time it would take the average reader to finish this book.

Let’s be clear about one thing I’m not sure what an Art’s Editor does, but I expect he’s got a postgraduate qualification in Art and know a thing or two about pictures. I’ll be creative and work my way through his advice.

‘We are all Artists’.  Discuss? ‘We are all Arseholes?’ ‘The act of making and creating is deeply satisfying, life-affirming and rewarding.’

‘Artists are Enterprising.’ Arseholes are too, but they’re just more annoying. ‘Good business is the Best Art’ – Andy Warhol. Sip on a tin of tomato soup and sell the tin. Or collect lemonade bottles when your Giros ran out to feed your family as one well-known entrepreneur, and little-known street artist, with bad hair does.

‘Artists don’t fail.’ Arseholes never fail. ‘Success is often down to Plan B.’ I’ve got a whole alphabet of plans that never fail, some of them would leave you in gaol. ‘A sculptor carves a stone until eventually a form is revealed’ as another stone I’d guess, then go back to carving cheese with glee and sell it to the cheese factory.

‘I proceed by trial and error.’ Arseholes usually travel by train, although if time flies they are not averse to travelling incognito as white-van man.

‘In art one is either a plagiarist or a revolutionary’ Paul Gaugin. Plan B be neither, nor or maybe. ‘As is often the case with matters creative, simplification was the answer.’ I remember this strategy well, look at the answers on the SRA test before tackling the question. I wasn’t cheating, just being creative with the answers. So there you go Mrs Bridges. I expect an apology. And if I find out where you live I’m giving you two of the belt (I’ll let you off, if you’re dead).

‘Big ideas come from the unconscious. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant,’ David Ogilvy.

I prefer small ideas and cheap cones from Lidl.

‘If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative,’ David Ogilvy. I’ve got a long list of things that sell. I could work my way through the Klingon alphabet and list things that sell, but when it comes to my work it’s easy, it doesn’t sell because it isn’t creative, in fact it’s tautological. Klingon attatck!

‘Passion fires our ideas to come up with ideas.’  Don’t have a wank or you’ll be a wanker, or tosser, bereft.

‘Ideas that are born out of ignorance are invariably weak and most often useless.’ I didn’t know that.

‘Collaboration can lead to unexpected, or otherwise unobtainable, discoveries.’ Please send me your bank details and I’ll be your trusted friend. ‘Make the world to believe in you and to pay heavily for this privilege.’ Gilbert & George. Yes, last three digits. Yes, it’s me honest George phoning from Somalia.

‘Learn to listen.’ Fuck off. If I hear that one more time. Fuck off.

‘The final stage of the creative process is in fact one of the hardest: turning everything learnt, developed, and tested into something concrete.’ Just like laying an egg without the chicken.

‘Artists steal.’ Get your ain egg, I saw this one first.

‘There is nothing new under the sun,’ Ecclesiastes 1:9. What about Curlywurlys?

‘Often the “new” element in really big ideas comes in the form of a disruption.’ That’s why I spend so much time in the lavvy, honest, I’ve not fallen asleep.

‘I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else,’ Pablo Picasso. A Facebook post of your dinner?

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,’ Isaac Newton. BFG Isaac, BFG.

‘Look at the early work of any artist and you will see an impersonator yet to find his or her voice.’ Can I interest any of you in a picture of a soup tin, an unmade bed, or perhaps a product of my lavvy instead?

‘It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to,’ Jean-Luc Goddard, pleading to waive unpaid parking fines.

‘I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need,’ Auguste Rodin. Chip off the old block, chip off the old cock.

‘There is no such thing as a wholly original idea. But there is such a thing as unique combinations.’ Copyrighted.

‘Artists are Sceptics.’ Never!

‘Creativity isn’t about what somebody else thinks; it is about what you think.’ I’ve no opinion on that.

‘The most terrible obstacles are such as nobody can see except oneself,’ George Elliot, for example, being a woman and not a man.

‘A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament,’ Oscar Wilde, too many uniques makes for a poor boy.

‘So vast is art, so narrow human wit,’ Alexander Pope, listen up Oscar.

‘Questioning does not make creativity more difficult. Rather it brings clarity and brevity and purity to our ideas.’ You can say that again and again and again.

‘Artists Think Big Picture and Fine Detail.’ Think big and small, after that it’s your call.

‘There’s nothing worse than a sharp image or a fuzzy concept,’ Ansel Adams has obviously never tried broccoli.

‘An artwork should point in more than one direction,’ Luc Tuymans. Satnav should not point in more than one direction, but it does, it does and it was always back there. Make a turn after 29 miles.

‘One dab of colour can radically change the appearance of the largest painting,’ but two dabs of emulsion and you’re getting a bit handy. Three dabs and you’re taking the cunt.

‘The big picture of the past can bring in the fine detail of the present.’ The past can affect the present, wish I’d thought of that before I had that last pint.

‘Creativity is more than just being different. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that creativity.’ That’s Spangles. I like the red ones.

‘Every painting has a point of entry. A small detail that draws your eye and draws you in,’ Luc Tuyman, pay by Apple, PayPal, debit or debit cards. Thanks for your custom.

‘When the point of entry to the picture changes, it alters our reading of it.’ I’m not paying twice for the same unmade bed.

‘Artists Have a Point of View.’ I think we can all agree on that Sherlock.

‘One eye sees, the other feels,’ Paul Klee. I actually quite like that. Just as the body blinks at orgasm, the brain blinks when we gain insight, a kind of slowing down and speeding up at the same time.

‘Our point of view is our signature.’ No doggy paw prints on the paper please.

‘In the creativity game you are not a player unless you have something to say.’ Here’s another picture of my dinner, macaroni and cheese, emm yummy!

‘Once we discover what we want to say, everyday life can become a potential source of creative stimulus.’ Sounds a bit like porn, but without the squiggly bits.

‘It’s the artist’s job to pay attention to prompts, to trust their feelings and instincts.’ Trust if you must, but it’s a novel way to spend a day, laying out that box of feelings and beginning to play.

‘We have to be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down,’ Kurt Vonnegut. Please note Kurt doesn’t mean this literally, put the paper wings away.

‘Peter Doig found inspiration in physical spaces, Rembrandt in personal places: Marshall in the politics of race.’ I found space in the bottom sock drawer, but I guess I’m lucky that way.

‘We’re not robots. Life is more exciting when you have an opinion,’ Cheryl Lynn Bruce. Robots don’t eat Wotsits. My life would be more exciting with a packet of Wotsits, but they make your fingers minging, but that might just be me. Discuss.

‘Artists Are Brave.’ Artists are Cowards. Artists are humans like everybody else, but not like robots, because robots cannot be brave but they can give you the correct change 99.9999999999999999999% of the time.

‘To Create One’s World In Any Of The Arts Takes Courage,’ Georgia O’Keefe. It also takes lots of higher-case lettering.

‘Psychological courage is needed to stand up and express your feeling and ideas in public.’ I thought all that was needed was a few drinks and a Karaoke machine.

‘The Most Courageous Act Is Still To Think For Yourself Aloud,’ Coco Chanel. No comment.

‘The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience,’ Emily Dickinson. God knows.

‘Creativity does not exist in isolation. [eg] There would be no Sistine Chapel ceiling if it hadn’t been for the dogged persistence of Pope Julius II.’ There would have been no David Cameron without Mrs Cameron and her dogged persistence with Mr Cameron. They should have stuck to touching fingertips together.  Cor blimey. Wipe clean the slate.

‘Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it,’ Salvador Dali. It’s a bit like a motorway chicane that takes you a little off the main route and you end up back where you started.

‘Creativity gives a voice to democracy and shape to civilisation.’ Please note, conditions apply, minimum income £500 000 per annum.

‘Artists Pause For Thought.’ We’re waiting.

‘When Artists Sit Down In Their Chair They Stop Being The Creator And Turn Into A Critic.’ I don’t mind that, just as long as they’re not Ranger’s supporters.

‘Art is not about itself, but the attention we bring to it,’ Marcel Duchamp. Voila, here are my thoughts!

‘All Schools Should Be Art Schools.’ So we can shut them down quicker and subsidise the good old Tory boys that know how to get things done? No surprise that the revelation that a young Cameron put his penis in a pig’s mouth got the most publicity. No great reveal that he didn’t give a toss about educating the poorer plebs. Yes sir, I can boogie.

‘Art School teaches you how to think NOT what to think.’ Really? I was just thinking that. I’m psychic and can spend spoons. Hire me please, I’ll not play with your cutlery.

‘Why did Damien Hirst blossom at art college and not before?’  I’ve read the answer a few times and I’m still not convinced.

‘Could it be that students learn what great minds achieved, but not always the far more valuable lesson of how they did it?’

I must admit I prefer the penis in the pig’s mouth answer.

‘Maybe rewarding New and Interesting rather than Right or Wrong would help develop more of the skills needed for a creative economy.’ Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe some of my Wrong answers were New and Interesting. Please send cash.

‘Creativity is contagious, pass it on,’ Albert Einstein. Never argue with Uncle Albert. More tea, vicar?

‘Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up,’ Pablo Picasso. The problem Pablo is we have the wrong kind of children.  Poor children as we know become poor adults. Poor children cannot afford to dream.

‘A Final Thought.’

‘You can’t wait for inspiration you have to go after it with a club,’ Jack London. Might have known, London gets all the resources and now they’re offering advice.

‘The Main Thing is to be moved, to Love, to Hope, to Tremble, to Live,’ Auguste Rodin. I’m not moving to London and that’s that.

If you’ve read this far I’ve just saved you a tenner. Slip me a fiver and we’ll call it quits?


Ajax 2 – Celtic 2

I’d have took a draw before the game kicked off. But I must admit of being a mite disappointed. Celtic are ahead 2-1, there’s around fifteen minutes to go. Izzaguire makes a stupid challenge that gets him booked in the opposition’s half near the corner flag. Two minutes later he makes a rash challenge that should have resulted in a double booking and red card. Stupid is as stupid does. Izzaguire gets away with it. Seconds later he hangs out a big sign saying send me off. The ref obliges. Celts are down to ten men and the clock is ticking. I expected Ajax to score. They did. Another Keystone cop’s type of goal. The ball is swung in. Gordon flaps (as he’s been prone to do, most recently at Aberdeen) the Celtic defenders do what they usually do and let the ball go over their head. Ajax goal. I wasn’t sure if the home team had time to get another. We were lucky for once. Four six foot Celtic defenders again standing in a line, an Ajax player, home substitute, Milik, flashes a header off the inside of the post.

Plus points, we saw it out.  We got a deserved draw. Izzaguire started and was good, as he usually is, going forward. Defending he was Izzy. Can’t fault the ref for sending him off. Gross stupidity should always be punished.

It was good to see Commons start. A man that scored over 30 goals from midfield should in my book always be give the nod in front of plodders that can’t tie their laces. He set up the first and had a goodish game creatively, if not defensively.

Lustig scored a good goal, but wasn’t great and it seems a long time since he lasted ninety minutes. Bringing Ambrose on in the last stages of a game is sometimes an advantage. It means you can’t bring him on again. Ambrose’s first action was to gift the ball to the opposition on the edge of the Celtic box.

I’ll accept the first goal from Ajax was well worked. The second goal was another Aberdeen type. The ball hooked into the box. Defence is no defence and seems to concede the same type of goals week after week. A clean sheet is something I remember from long ago. The worry is we know Ajax will score at Parkhead as will every other team in our Europa league group. Can we outgun them?

I’m not so sure. I expect Ajax to get a draw at Parkhead. But I’m pretty sure we will beat Dundee on Sunday. Hopefully Kris Commons will take part, but don’t hold your breathe. Ambrose will probably start, with Lustig injured (again). Izzy will play, but really I love the wee guy going forward but if he’s going to be that stupid he’s no future at Parkhead.

Delia? Emm. Win the league or resign. Win the treble or get to fuck. Jozo Simunovic, I’ll wait and see, at least he’s not Ambrose who’s moved up the pecking order now we have Boyata. Six foot two, eyes not blue, can’t heid the ball and passes to the opposition, you’ll do? Physically Celtic are bigger and stronger than most teams, why do we lose so many goals from insipid cross balls into the box? If we can’t fix that one then either we’ve got dwarves in disguise or we need to get rid of a few players. Simple.

Aunty Cathy

I shed a few tears at a funeral today. Or to give it the proper name the Requiem Mass for the Repose of the Soul and in Thanksgiving for the Life of Cathy Cunnigham 7th January 1926 – 3rd September 2015, St Bartholomew’s Coatbridge. That’s a lot of capital letter to live up to, but I’m sure she managed it. God knows, funerals can be boring. And with a son Brian a priest and so many fellow celebrants also priest, with a sprinkling of nuns, you can usually multiply that by ten. ‘Suffering Jesus my old man used to say from the back pew, just hurry up and get on with it.’  Dying is not for the living, but faith she believed takes you a long way between the pains of the two.

Aunty Cathy’s husband died in 1975 and she had to bring up a family of ten for almost forty years in Coatbridge on the faith of soup and potatoes, two sittings at dinnertime, with the eldest eating first at the table. No seconds, just be grateful you had firsts. Faith was a big part of Auntie Cathy’s life.

Aunty Cathy’s prayer was reproduced in the missal for the celebratory mass. ‘Most loving father, strengthen my trust in you. Help me to bear patiently everything that your holy will asks of me.’

The secret of Aunty Cathy’s faith was love. She loved her family


But her heart was a cathedral in which she allowed others to shelter. Including mine. When her wee sister (my mum) developed dementia, Aunty Cathy visited more frequently and stayed for the weekend. Unhurried, she calmed mum. Old stories such as the time my Aunty Phyllis visited her in Aitkenhead Street trailing two wains up the wrong close and berated Aunty Cathy with ‘you must have changed the curtains’ remains family folklore. Aunty Cathy’s presence soothed my mum and she gave her the precious gift of time. Aunty Cathy’s time was not her own, it was for whoever needed it most.

It was good to see my cousins. On bended knee I paid homage to this great lady. If there were more like her it would indeed be paradise on earth. God bless. And if He needs telling I’m sure you’ll have a quite word in His ear.

how to be stupid


Reading is the engine of writing. Tune up. Breathe in the perfume of words and phrases. Become familiar with ignorance. Recognise it in yourself. Admit to being an unbeliever who does not believe in unbelief. Hallucinate a rational and sound mind. Let nations and notions roam between birth and death. Make them rattle with the ecstasies of a puritan until there is no way of bullying them back. Make sure there is insanity to hide behind.

In Bill and the Ufo, for example, there’s no spirit-like guide, but weegie shame, no man of sound mind wants to claim – they live in Faifley. A council policy of putting warty wards on the periphery of faraway places, where farmers grow fields of swedes and turnips breeds familiar faces. A place for novice angels to don a big coat and flutter free, just like you and me.

Fate is born every second. Forget what you’re trying to dismember and might have known; normal is soon outgrown. What remains? A story of chocolate, booze and wains.

Stagger onto the next truth. Writing is a mugs game where only the foolish find fame. I want to hang onto their coattails, think me brilliant, self-effacing and wise. A phoenix that tells no lies. My dears, I don’t want you to realise how half-cocked are my ideas, as I masturbate words on a screen and colour a page.

Writing makes our world a democracy. Strange jerky notions become pixels of everything and nothing, a jaggy raggedness where screen-time forms the norm. Words beaten out of truth, mark the score – loser, once more. Thank you for your custom. Play again.

Rise again. Take shelter in unbelief. Ignore the grief. Write from the heart. In a Kantian voice question: For what can we hope? Writing is the poorest cosmic joke. Throw rocks at the moon. Blame the big boys that did it and ran away. Take a stand and carve out your own hallowed land in which the eyes, nose and mouth of strangers you see all belong to me. Here’s the biggest lie. I know what I’m doing and you can see the reason why.

The world is full of good news. Listen to yours. I don’t want to see angels, but to read poetry in your eyes. Hope is the last laugh, before love, the highest reunion. Blind is the heart that is justified, books are holy things, make more fool me.