How to ditch those dragons & grow as an artist

In Features, Opinion by Chris GradyLeave a Comment

I was at a Shadows workshop at the weekend with the amazing and challenging Jamie Catto, who is Insanely Gifted. I had the privilege to work with 12 of the Authentic Artists who are on a two year pathmaker programme with Kath Burlinson. They are delving deep into themselves and their artistry so that they can speak to the work through their art and life in the most authentic way possible.

There was a beautiful metaphor offered by Jamie exploring how we see our edges. He suggested that too often we see dragons on the edges of our comfort zones, dragons which stop us from exploring new realms of experience (and indeed old realms which we may have happily inhabited in our childhood before we grew up and behaved). He wanted us to see these dragons as if they were drawn in chalk by the child we were, as we learnt to close down our open attitude to play or trust, or as we were told off for venturing in this or that direction. They are not fiery dragons, but chalk dragons which can be blown away, rubbed out, cleared away, if we so choose. Each time we clear a dragon we open up another edge as a place to explore without fire breathing dragons seeking to contain our play.

There may be the odd Buddhist monk with none or very few dragons, but for most of us it is not difficult to think of areas of life which are scary, or which we don’t contemplate because it is not “sensible”.

But we need the dark and the light, and the rainbow of life. And going into a scary place can sometimes uncover the treasure. Another wise fool Jonathan Kay talks of the juiciest fruit being at the end of the branch. Maybe creep along that branch carefully, but having climbed the tree of life so far, it is worth reaching along to get some juiciness.

I’m on my way to the University of the West of England for two days working with the undergraduate theatre studies folk on their future planning. A mix of group coaching, and small team seminars looking at the outward facing work they will be making for themselves as part of their degree. I am sure I will be greeted with a heap of questions (well I hope I will…) which ask how to make a journey, how to get there, how to make something happen. So much of what I will talk through with them may also seem scary and impossible. Some will be hyper positive about the prospect, others may think that their dreams are impractical and they should take the easy path.

Through the two days I will be asking more questions than giving answers. Questions designed to challenge their inner demons who say “I can’t” , “I don’t know”, “I’m too x or y”. I will ask them “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” “what would you do if you had all the time in the world?” “what would you do if you had all the money you needed ?” “what would your best friend, who believed in your talent, suggest you do. ?” Lots of questions to inspire new thinking and a bit of light where there may have been shadows.

Now is not the time for them to draw any new dragons to contain them any further. Now is the time to blow a few chalk drawings away and see what edges they may now feel more confident to explore.

The title of this blog relates to the fact that I seem to be using my writing to open myself up, and challenge myself by talking about my dragons, my edges, and some of the steps I take to blow some of those chalk dragons away.

As Jamie also reminded us – we are winners. Most of us came 1st in a 200 million contestant race. We are the result of the sperm that made it out of 200 million swimmers. Having won that style of race, against those odds, then this next 80 years is the after show party, Olympic gold celebration – we can make the most of it.   Some readers may have had a wee bit of help to get to the finishing line of fertilization, in which case you are the winners of decades of scientific amazingness, and again we live with Olympic gold celebrations. Now is not the time to surround yourself with dragons which restrict you unnecessarily.

Thank you Jamie and to my fellow Authentic Artists for inspiration in the art of chalk dragon blowing.

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Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.
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Chris Grady on RssChris Grady on Twitter
Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.

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