Dark Angels Note 98

Dearest Friends,

Put the kettle on. You’re going to want to get comfortable as you spend joyous minutes in the company of the extraordinary artist, writer and speaker, Steve Chapman


1. Tell us about something you’re working on right no

At the moment I’m immersed in a few things that are really exciting, one is preparing for my week long artist residency at Glen Dye in Scotland where, along with some other artists I’ve invited, we’ll be making stuff and running workshops in a beautiful forest.  I’ve also a number of exhibitions coming up, one of which will hopefully involve one of my paintings being turned into huge billboards.  I’ve also various workshops coming up including my legendary Mask one.  Oh, and of course sending out posters all over the world as part of my utterly pointless and life-consuming (Not a) Lost Cat Project.


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

I very much love reading existential philosophy.  For me it is essential reading for human beings, especially any  human beings who are making art as essentially art is an exploration of not knowing.  I’m currently re-reading* Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death which might not be most people’s cup of tea!  I don’t find this kind of writing depressing, I always have moments of insight and jumping-up-and-down excitement when my fixed perception of the human experience is shattered!  I really like reading this on a train as I watch everyone go about their daily lives whilst reading about how it is all a response to our fear of insignificance and impermanence. 

* I have to confess that, as a dyslexic, my reading is really listening to audiobooks which makes the whole process much easier for me.


3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever read or received?  

The theatre director Keith Johnstone was (and still is) a big influence on me.  I spent three years training with him in performance improvisation from 2012-2014 and there are so many quotes/advise I picked up there but I think the best one was “Be Obvious.”  This can sound counter-intuitive out of context but what Keith was telling us to do was to stop striving to be original, stop striving to be clever and steer more towards being more ordinary, more boring, more obvious because then we are moving towards being our authentic and totally unique selves which other then experience as wonderful. Arnie Beisser’s paradoxical theory of change basically says the same thing – we get more change by becoming more deeply aware of who we already are than we do striving to be something we are not.

4. Share one thing you do when you get stuck.

I like the Buddhist saying that “the obstacle becomes the path” which encourages us to move towards the thing we’re trying to get away from.  So if I am stuck say in making art I will paint my stuckness.  Or in writing, I will write about being stuck.  I do a similar thing in the 1:1 work I do with people.  If somebody says they can’t draw I ask them to prove it by doing the worse possible drawing they could possibly do. Or somebody says they can’t write poetry, or do a dance or do a talk – I ask them to do the worst ever poem/dance/talk which results in one of two outcomes – it doesn’t come out as bad as they thought or they laugh at how ridiculous it all is, both of which are magical interruptions to stuckness.


5. What’s your desert island book and why? 

Ooh, this is difficult as I really don’t read much (which makes me feel like a right imposter on this newsletter!) But I do have lots of art books which don’t have many words but I guess they count?  Also there will be nobody else on the desert island to tell me I’m cheating so what the hell!  I think I’d probably take a David Shrigley book with me.  Maybe A Fully Coherent Plan for a New and Better Society.  I guess that would be helpful as I start to rebuild my life on a desert island.


Many, many thanks Steve. Brilliant rabbit holes for us all to explore ☺️. And don’t forget you can spend an hour of unexpected delights with Neil and Steve on the virtual tour of the Spongleheim Gallery on 25th May. Details below. 


Save the Date for Aracena: We are Nature
This September (23rd – 28th), Dark Angels will be making a long-awaited return to Finca El Tornero del Rebollar. Neil and Gillian will be hosting a lightly structured few days of writing, reading, making, walking, thinking and sharing. There’ll be lots of creative invitations as you would expect, many with a strong connection to nature and the Andalusian wilderness. Everyone is welcome. There are more details to come, but registering your interest with Susanne now will help us plan accommodation and hospitality. 

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry
from New Collected Poems (Counterpoint, 2012)


Join us at The Spongelheim Gallery on May 25th
Do you fancy a somewhat strange and quirky writing experience? If so, climb aboard the Dark Angels tour bus and join me for a virtual excursion to The Spongleheim Gallery of outsider art on Wednesday May 25th (2-3pm UK time on Zoom) We’ll have a guided tour from the gallery’s curator,  Steve Chapman, and we’ll write in response to the art we experience. Along with your normal writing tools, pack some sheets of A4 paper and something like a marker pen or crayon. There’s no need to register in advance, no charge, and no need to share anything you write. Just click here to join on the day. This is our fourth visit to The Spongleheim. Each one has been brilliant. Feel free to share this invitation with a friend. Hope to see you on the 25th.

Weekly Tuesday Gatherings
Join us for a lovely hour of reading, writing and communing led by Neil Baker. Everyone is welcome; in fact invite a friend along. We meet at 7pm UK time. To join us, click here on the night. There’s no need to register in advance and we’ll be using the same link every week from now on. 

There will be no Weekly Note next week, but we’ll be back in your inbox on Friday 27th May.

Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here.. 

From everyone at Dark Angels


Also published on Medium.