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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An introduction to Jon Young and the Art of Mentoring

Jon Young, founder of the Wilderness Awareness School, runs his Art of Mentoring course in the UK for the very first time between 4th-10th July 2010. I caught up with him beforehand...

Written by Amelia Gregory

thumbnail Kirsty

Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

There is nothing generic about Kirsty Almeida; she was not artificially created from a record labels wish-list, site nor manufactured during an X Factor audition. Navigating her own path, pharmacy she is very much the modern Renaissance Woman: artist, this web experimenter and a true creative. Before meeting Kirsty to chat about her new album Pure Blue Green – a rich tapestry of blues, folk and jazzy pop – I watched video clips of her performances. Singing live, she is mesmerizing, a powerhouse! Free spirited and alive, at times she is an enigmatic chanteuse, and other times she is a ringleader to a raucous vaudeville troupe. She sings with a passion that leaves us in no doubt that her music come from an honest and heartfelt place. Her voice is tender with sparkles of underlying inquisitiveness and humour and it only takes a minutes listening to see that her life, thoughts and loves are entwined within her lyrics, revealing an existence lived to the full and one that is continuously questioned. So it comes as no surprise that our conversation becomes an all-encompassing discourse that occasionally touches on her album and then soars off in the direction of magic, art, self-development, women’s rights and the dubious ethics of the music industry….

I love how visual your shows are…..
I love the big show thing, I think that people want to be entertained; because music is so accessible, and more downloadable now, people really like going out to live shows. I like to do something thats entertaining, but I also love the little live acoustic shows, those are some of my favourite gigs to do. I’m doing a gig soon that will be just me with a guitar and a girl called Lucinda Bell on harp. I’ve had a six foot bird cage designed and built for me, and we’re going to do a series of exhibitions and art galleries where I will play sat in the cage that will be suspended from the ceiling!

There is a lot of creativity in your performance…
Truthfully I am a visual artist, so I can’t help but look at things and go “well if you just stuck a massive big flower there, and that was attached to an umbrella with a bath chain and then water came out of it…. ” (laughs) and thats just how my mind works; it’s really visual and my work is really visual, I can’t help it!

What do you see first?
When I’m writing a song, I always see colours. I see music in colours and textures. so the first thing that will happen will be that I will be playing guitar and then the colours will come together and at that point I will know that it’s right and then I just have to close my eyes and wait and then the lyrics come.

So the song arrives together?
Always!

Do the visuals come at the same time?
No, when I write, it is just about the song and being a channel of creativity. I try and let the song happen, and then afterwards when it’s on loop I get the visuals.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by a day, every day there is a million things that inspire me. I’m inspired by clothes, people, situations, conversations that I hear from other people, situations that I get into, trouble, butterflies, birds, nature, trees….. everything!

Do you paint?
Yeah, I paint a lot. But, (sighs) there is never enough time. I also run a collective called Odbod. I set it up in Manchester where there’s a very strong support network of artists, musicians and composers who work together but because you don’t normally get paid to do original music, you have to call in a lot of favours, and in the Manchester scene there are a LOT of favours, people calling each other all the time and helping each other out on each others projects, but there is no set network so there is no way of getting funding or help and I realised that a lot of the artists needed support and advice and people were coming to me for advice, so I thought if we had a collective, we can all get together and say to each other, ‘what do you need, how can I help?’

It’s a genius idea! Would you consider expanding the Odbod’s collective to London?
I would love to! It’s hard to contain it, there are so many people who want to be involved and to everyone who wants to get involved, I just say, come along, support us and we will support you. Hopefully none of the Odbods will be there in a year, they will have flown the nest and it will be time for the next lot of artists to come in. I’m also managing an Irish singer called Rioghnach Connolly, she’s amazing, that girl blows my mind! I’ve watched her and given her advice along the way; I’m quite good at keeping peoples motivation up and helping them to see where they are messing up, and where they are putting in energy where they don’t need to be putting energy in. The whole psychology of being an artist is quite self destructive and I really recognize that so I’m good at pulling someone out.

Do you have that self destructive side to you?
Yeah, there is an element of that in all of us. To be an artist you have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day and to be a true artist you have to get to a place where you actually see what’s not in the mirror, and then separate that from yourself and that’s really hard. You judge yourself very harshly and artists are especially hard on themselves. I have a lot of issues with balance, so I spend most of my time trying to achieve that balance in my life.

If there are particular issues that are bothering you, do you ever find the answers in your songs ?
Definitely! I usually find out what’s going on in my life when I write a song, I have no idea otherwise! Most of the time I don’t know what day it is!

Are you on the road a lot?
Not as much as I would like to be. I would really like to go around the whole world, that would be great…

You are quite a wondering spirit (born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, Kirsty grew up travelling the four corners of the globe) Do you feel like an outsider, or can you fit in anywhere?
I empathize with people, I find it easy to talk to anyone or any culture; I’m just fascinated by people. I never felt like I didn’t fit in, it was only as I got older that I thought, I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m the wrong shape for everything! And it took me a long time to work that one out.

How did you reconcile that?
By being really honest with myself. I did a course called The Artists Way. One of the tasks that you have to do is write every morning; first thing you do is write all of your thoughts, and you write out your negativity, all those thoughts that say “I’m not good enough, I’m not happy…” and at the end of that you rip up the paper and throw it away and after a few months you notice that what you write is more creative; you are writing more positive thoughts. You cease the negative voices, and those are the words that say that you don’t fit in. And through that and meditation, I just kind of found out who I was and realised, you know, I am different, and everyone is different, and that is something to be celebrated.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

I read you saying that the future of women worries you, can you explain that? What specifically concerns you?
We still have so many issues in our sexist world, we still have so many places where men are in charge of things that women should be in charge of, and that concerns me. I am most concerned by the fact that magazines and newspapers are airbrushing us out of existence, and airbrushing us into mental hospitals! I’m really worried about the next generation of girls and how they will deal with this; their idols aren’t real – they are not real human beings! They don’t have curves, they don’t exist, you can’t women who look like what they think these women look like. It’s a unreal ideal. I’m really worried about the music industry too – especially what Simon Cowell has done to it! When I go to someone’s house and there is a TV on and they have X Factor or Idol, and I go, “is this what people are watching?” It’s a mind numbing existence for people who should be out living rather than watching.

And the music industry certainly has some interesting ideas about how to market their female artists!
There are a lot of issues and struggles; it is incredibly difficult for women in the record industry; it drives me mad! No matter how good you are, you are solely competing with say, KT Tunstall, Corrine Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May; the labels always pit us up against each other and say “You have to be the new….” You are not out there and being celebrated as a good musician. If people can’t pigeonhole you, you are seen as a bit of an oddity. Had I been a man in this industry I would have been dealt with differently; I would have been celebrated for the way that I handle myself, but if you are a female, and you have opinions then you are seen as being difficult.

It must be hard to maintain your confidence, and sanity and creativity, whilst these obstacles come your way.
If you realise that creativity, well this is my perception of it; that creativity comes from creation, and that it’s all already there and you just have to become the channel and keep that as your focus and centre. Then none of that other stuff can touch you.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

There is nothing generic about Kirsty Almeida; she was not artificially created from a record labels wish-list, malady nor manufactured during an X Factor audition. Navigating her own path, generic she is very much the modern Renaissance Woman: artist, experimenter and a true creative. Before meeting Kirsty to chat about her new album Pure Blue Green – a rich tapestry of blues, folk and jazzy pop – I watched video clips of her performances. Singing live, she is mesmerizing, a powerhouse! Free spirited and alive, at times she is an enigmatic chanteuse, and other times she is a ringleader to a raucous vaudeville troupe. She sings with a passion that leaves us in no doubt that her music come from an honest and heartfelt place. Her voice is tender with sparkles of underlying inquisitiveness and humour and it only takes a minutes listening to see that her life, thoughts and loves are entwined within her lyrics, revealing an existence lived to the full and one that is continuously questioned. So it comes as no surprise that our conversation becomes an all-encompassing discourse that occasionally touches on her album and then soars off in the direction of magic, art, self-development, women’s rights and the dubious ethics of the music industry….

I love how visual your shows are…..
I love the big show thing, I think that people want to be entertained; because music is so accessible, and more downloadable now, people really like going out to live shows. I like to do something thats entertaining, but I also love the little live acoustic shows, those are some of my favourite gigs to do. I’m doing a gig soon that will be just me with a guitar and a girl called Lucinda Bell on harp. I’ve had a six foot bird cage designed and built for me, and we’re going to do a series of exhibitions and art galleries where I will play sat in the cage that will be suspended from the ceiling!

There is a lot of creativity in your performance…
Truthfully I am a visual artist, so I can’t help but look at things and go “well if you just stuck a massive big flower there, and that was attached to an umbrella with a bath chain and then water came out of it…. ” (laughs) and thats just how my mind works; it’s really visual and my work is really visual, I can’t help it!

What do you see first?
When I’m writing a song, I always see colours. I see music in colours and textures. so the first thing that will happen will be that I will be playing guitar and then the colours will come together and at that point I will know that it’s right and then I just have to close my eyes and wait and then the lyrics come.

So the song arrives together?
Always!

Do the visuals come at the same time?
No, when I write, it is just about the song and being a channel of creativity. I try and let the song happen, and then afterwards when it’s on loop I get the visuals.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by a day, every day there is a million things that inspire me. I’m inspired by clothes, people, situations, conversations that I hear from other people, situations that I get into, trouble, butterflies, birds, nature, trees….. everything!

Do you paint?
Yeah, I paint a lot. But, (sighs) there is never enough time. I also run a collective called Odbod. I set it up in Manchester where there’s a very strong support network of artists, musicians and composers who work together but because you don’t normally get paid to do original music, you have to call in a lot of favours, and in the Manchester scene there are a LOT of favours, people calling each other all the time and helping each other out on each others projects, but there is no set network so there is no way of getting funding or help and I realised that a lot of the artists needed support and advice and people were coming to me for advice, so I thought if we had a collective, we can all get together and say to each other, ‘what do you need, how can I help?’

It’s a genius idea! Would you consider expanding the Odbod’s collective to London?
I would love to! It’s hard to contain it, there are so many people who want to be involved and to everyone who wants to get involved, I just say, come along, support us and we will support you. Hopefully none of the Odbods will be there in a year, they will have flown the nest and it will be time for the next lot of artists to come in. I’m also managing an Irish singer called Rioghnach Connolly, she’s amazing, that girl blows my mind! I’ve watched her and given her advice along the way; I’m quite good at keeping peoples motivation up and helping them to see where they are messing up, and where they are putting in energy where they don’t need to be putting energy in. The whole psychology of being an artist is quite self destructive and I really recognize that so I’m good at pulling someone out.

Do you have that self destructive side to you?
Yeah, there is an element of that in all of us. To be an artist you have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day and to be a true artist you have to get to a place where you actually see what’s not in the mirror, and then separate that from yourself and that’s really hard. You judge yourself very harshly and artists are especially hard on themselves. I have a lot of issues with balance, so I spend most of my time trying to achieve that balance in my life.

If there are particular issues that are bothering you, do you ever find the answers in your songs ?
Definitely! I usually find out what’s going on in my life when I write a song, I have no idea otherwise! Most of the time I don’t know what day it is!

Are you on the road a lot?
Not as much as I would like to be. I would really like to go around the whole world, that would be great…

You are quite a wondering spirit (born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, Kirsty grew up travelling the four corners of the globe) Do you feel like an outsider, or can you fit in anywhere?
I empathize with people, I find it easy to talk to anyone or any culture; I’m just fascinated by people. I never felt like I didn’t fit in, it was only as I got older that I thought, I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m the wrong shape for everything! And it took me a long time to work that one out.

How did you reconcile that?
By being really honest with myself. I did a course called The Artists Way. One of the tasks that you have to do is write every morning; first thing you do is write all of your thoughts, and you write out your negativity, all those thoughts that say “I’m not good enough, I’m not happy…” and at the end of that you rip up the paper and throw it away and after a few months you notice that what you write is more creative; you are writing more positive thoughts. You cease the negative voices, and those are the words that say that you don’t fit in. And through that and meditation, I just kind of found out who I was and realised, you know, I am different, and everyone is different, and that is something to be celebrated.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

I read you saying that the future of women worries you, can you explain that? What specifically concerns you?
We still have so many issues in our sexist world, we still have so many places where men are in charge of things that women should be in charge of, and that concerns me. I am most concerned by the fact that magazines and newspapers are airbrushing us out of existence, and airbrushing us into mental hospitals! I’m really worried about the next generation of girls and how they will deal with this; their idols aren’t real – they are not real human beings! They don’t have curves, they don’t exist, you can’t women who look like what they think these women look like. It’s a unreal ideal. I’m really worried about the music industry too – especially what Simon Cowell has done to it! When I go to someone’s house and there is a TV on and they have X Factor or Idol, and I go, “is this what people are watching?” It’s a mind numbing existence for people who should be out living rather than watching.

And the music industry certainly has some interesting ideas about how to market their female artists!
There are a lot of issues and struggles; it is incredibly difficult for women in the record industry; it drives me mad! No matter how good you are, you are solely competing with say, KT Tunstall, Corrine Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May; the labels always pit us up against each other and say “You have to be the new….” You are not out there and being celebrated as a good musician. If people can’t pigeonhole you, you are seen as a bit of an oddity. Had I been a man in this industry I would have been dealt with differently; I would have been celebrated for the way that I handle myself, but if you are a female, and you have opinions then you are seen as being difficult.

It must be hard to maintain your confidence, and sanity and creativity, whilst these obstacles come your way.
If you realise that creativity, well this is my perception of it; that creativity comes from creation, and that it’s all already there and you just have to become the channel and keep that as your focus and centre. Then none of that other stuff can touch you.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

There is nothing generic about Kirsty Almeida; she was not artificially created from a record labels wish-list, shop nor manufactured during an X Factor audition. Navigating her own path, order she is very much the modern Renaissance Woman: artist, experimenter and a true creative. Before meeting Kirsty to chat about her new album Pure Blue Green – a rich tapestry of blues, folk and jazzy pop – I watched video clips of her performances. Singing live, she is mesmerizing, a powerhouse! Free spirited and alive, at times she is an enigmatic chanteuse, and other times she is a ringleader to a raucous vaudeville troupe. She sings with a passion that leaves us in no doubt that her music come from an honest and heartfelt place. Her voice is tender with sparkles of underlying inquisitiveness and humour and it only takes a minutes listening to see that her life, thoughts and loves are entwined within her lyrics, revealing an existence lived to the full and one that is continuously questioned. So it comes as no surprise that our conversation becomes an all-encompassing discourse that occasionally touches on her album and then soars off in the direction of magic, art, self-development, women’s rights and the dubious ethics of the music industry….

I love how visual your shows are…..
I love the big show thing, I think that people want to be entertained; because music is so accessible, and more downloadable now, people really like going out to live shows. I like to do something thats entertaining, but I also love the little live acoustic shows, those are some of my favourite gigs to do. I’m doing a gig soon that will be just me with a guitar and a girl called Lucinda Bell on harp. I’ve had a six foot bird cage designed and built for me, and we’re going to do a series of exhibitions and art galleries where I will play sat in the cage that will be suspended from the ceiling!

There is a lot of creativity in your performance…
Truthfully I am a visual artist, so I can’t help but look at things and go “well if you just stuck a massive big flower there, and that was attached to an umbrella with a bath chain and then water came out of it…. ” (laughs) and thats just how my mind works; it’s really visual and my work is really visual, I can’t help it!

What do you see first?
When I’m writing a song, I always see colours. I see music in colours and textures. so the first thing that will happen will be that I will be playing guitar and then the colours will come together and at that point I will know that it’s right and then I just have to close my eyes and wait and then the lyrics come.

So the song arrives together?
Always!

Do the visuals come at the same time?
No, when I write, it is just about the song and being a channel of creativity. I try and let the song happen, and then afterwards when it’s on loop I get the visuals.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by a day, every day there is a million things that inspire me. I’m inspired by clothes, people, situations, conversations that I hear from other people, situations that I get into, trouble, butterflies, birds, nature, trees….. everything!

Do you paint?
Yeah, I paint a lot. But, (sighs) there is never enough time. I also run a collective called Odbod. I set it up in Manchester where there’s a very strong support network of artists, musicians and composers who work together but because you don’t normally get paid to do original music, you have to call in a lot of favours, and in the Manchester scene there are a LOT of favours, people calling each other all the time and helping each other out on each others projects, but there is no set network so there is no way of getting funding or help and I realised that a lot of the artists needed support and advice and people were coming to me for advice, so I thought if we had a collective, we can all get together and say to each other, ‘what do you need, how can I help?’

It’s a genius idea! Would you consider expanding the Odbod’s collective to London?
I would love to! It’s hard to contain it, there are so many people who want to be involved and to everyone who wants to get involved, I just say, come along, support us and we will support you. Hopefully none of the Odbods will be there in a year, they will have flown the nest and it will be time for the next lot of artists to come in. I’m also managing an Irish singer called Rioghnach Connolly, she’s amazing, that girl blows my mind! I’ve watched her and given her advice along the way; I’m quite good at keeping peoples motivation up and helping them to see where they are messing up, and where they are putting in energy where they don’t need to be putting energy in. The whole psychology of being an artist is quite self destructive and I really recognize that so I’m good at pulling someone out.

Do you have that self destructive side to you?
Yeah, there is an element of that in all of us. To be an artist you have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day and to be a true artist you have to get to a place where you actually see what’s not in the mirror, and then separate that from yourself and that’s really hard. You judge yourself very harshly and artists are especially hard on themselves. I have a lot of issues with balance, so I spend most of my time trying to achieve that balance in my life.

If there are particular issues that are bothering you, do you ever find the answers in your songs ?
Definitely! I usually find out what’s going on in my life when I write a song, I have no idea otherwise! Most of the time I don’t know what day it is!

Are you on the road a lot?
Not as much as I would like to be. I would really like to go around the whole world, that would be great…

You are quite a wondering spirit (born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, Kirsty grew up travelling the four corners of the globe) Do you feel like an outsider, or can you fit in anywhere?
I empathize with people, I find it easy to talk to anyone or any culture; I’m just fascinated by people. I never felt like I didn’t fit in, it was only as I got older that I thought, I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m the wrong shape for everything! And it took me a long time to work that one out.

How did you reconcile that?
By being really honest with myself. I did a course called The Artists Way. One of the tasks that you have to do is write every morning; first thing you do is write all of your thoughts, and you write out your negativity, all those thoughts that say “I’m not good enough, I’m not happy…” and at the end of that you rip up the paper and throw it away and after a few months you notice that what you write is more creative; you are writing more positive thoughts. You cease the negative voices, and those are the words that say that you don’t fit in. And through that and meditation, I just kind of found out who I was and realised, you know, I am different, and everyone is different, and that is something to be celebrated.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

I read you saying that the future of women worries you, can you explain that? What specifically concerns you?
We still have so many issues in our sexist world, we still have so many places where men are in charge of things that women should be in charge of, and that concerns me. I am most concerned by the fact that magazines and newspapers are airbrushing us out of existence, and airbrushing us into mental hospitals! I’m really worried about the next generation of girls and how they will deal with this; their idols aren’t real – they are not real human beings! They don’t have curves, they don’t exist, you can’t women who look like what they think these women look like. It’s a unreal ideal. I’m really worried about the music industry too – especially what Simon Cowell has done to it! When I go to someone’s house and there is a TV on and they have X Factor or Idol, and I go, “is this what people are watching?” It’s a mind numbing existence for people who should be out living rather than watching.

And the music industry certainly has some interesting ideas about how to market their female artists!
There are a lot of issues and struggles; it is incredibly difficult for women in the record industry; it drives me mad! No matter how good you are, you are solely competing with say, KT Tunstall, Corrine Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May; the labels always pit us up against each other and say “You have to be the new….” You are not out there and being celebrated as a good musician. If people can’t pigeonhole you, you are seen as a bit of an oddity. Had I been a man in this industry I would have been dealt with differently; I would have been celebrated for the way that I handle myself, but if you are a female, and you have opinions then you are seen as being difficult.

It must be hard to maintain your confidence, and sanity and creativity, whilst these obstacles come your way.
If you realise that creativity, well this is my perception of it; that creativity comes from creation, and that it’s all already there and you just have to become the channel and keep that as your focus and centre. Then none of that other stuff can touch you.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

There is nothing generic about Kirsty Almeida; she was not artificially created from a record labels wish-list, information pills nor manufactured during an X Factor audition. Navigating her own path, cheapest she is very much the modern Renaissance Woman: artist, experimenter and a true creative. Before meeting Kirsty to chat about her new album Pure Blue Green – a rich tapestry of blues, folk and jazzy pop – I watched video clips of her performances. Singing live, she is mesmerizing, a powerhouse! Free spirited and alive, at times she is an enigmatic chanteuse, and other times she is a ringleader to a raucous vaudeville troupe. She sings with a passion that leaves us in no doubt that her music come from an honest and heartfelt place. Her voice is tender with sparkles of underlying inquisitiveness and humour and it only takes a minutes listening to see that her life, thoughts and loves are entwined within her lyrics, revealing an existence lived to the full and one that is continuously questioned. So it comes as no surprise that our conversation becomes an all-encompassing discourse that occasionally touches on her album and then soars off in the direction of magic, art, self-development, women’s rights and the dubious ethics of the music industry….

I love how visual your shows are…..
I love the big show thing, I think that people want to be entertained; because music is so accessible, and more downloadable now, people really like going out to live shows. I like to do something thats entertaining, but I also love the little live acoustic shows, those are some of my favourite gigs to do. I’m doing a gig soon that will be just me with a guitar and a girl called Lucinda Bell on harp. I’ve had a six foot bird cage designed and built for me, and we’re going to do a series of exhibitions and art galleries where I will play sat in the cage that will be suspended from the ceiling!

There is a lot of creativity in your performance…
Truthfully I am a visual artist, so I can’t help but look at things and go “well if you just stuck a massive big flower there, and that was attached to an umbrella with a bath chain and then water came out of it…. ” (laughs) and thats just how my mind works; it’s really visual and my work is really visual, I can’t help it!

What do you see first?
When I’m writing a song, I always see colours. I see music in colours and textures. so the first thing that will happen will be that I will be playing guitar and then the colours will come together and at that point I will know that it’s right and then I just have to close my eyes and wait and then the lyrics come.

So the song arrives together?
Always!

Do the visuals come at the same time?
No, when I write, it is just about the song and being a channel of creativity. I try and let the song happen, and then afterwards when it’s on loop I get the visuals.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by a day, every day there is a million things that inspire me. I’m inspired by clothes, people, situations, conversations that I hear from other people, situations that I get into, trouble, butterflies, birds, nature, trees….. everything!

Do you paint?
Yeah, I paint a lot. But, (sighs) there is never enough time. I also run a collective called Odbod. I set it up in Manchester where there’s a very strong support network of artists, musicians and composers who work together but because you don’t normally get paid to do original music, you have to call in a lot of favours, and in the Manchester scene there are a LOT of favours, people calling each other all the time and helping each other out on each others projects, but there is no set network so there is no way of getting funding or help and I realised that a lot of the artists needed support and advice and people were coming to me for advice, so I thought if we had a collective, we can all get together and say to each other, ‘what do you need, how can I help?’

It’s a genius idea! Would you consider expanding the Odbod’s collective to London?
I would love to! It’s hard to contain it, there are so many people who want to be involved and to everyone who wants to get involved, I just say, come along, support us and we will support you. Hopefully none of the Odbods will be there in a year, they will have flown the nest and it will be time for the next lot of artists to come in. I’m also managing an Irish singer called Rioghnach Connolly, she’s amazing, that girl blows my mind! I’ve watched her and given her advice along the way; I’m quite good at keeping peoples motivation up and helping them to see where they are messing up, and where they are putting in energy where they don’t need to be putting energy in. The whole psychology of being an artist is quite self destructive and I really recognize that so I’m good at pulling someone out.

Do you have that self destructive side to you?
Yeah, there is an element of that in all of us. To be an artist you have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day and to be a true artist you have to get to a place where you actually see what’s not in the mirror, and then separate that from yourself and that’s really hard. You judge yourself very harshly and artists are especially hard on themselves. I have a lot of issues with balance, so I spend most of my time trying to achieve that balance in my life.

If there are particular issues that are bothering you, do you ever find the answers in your songs ?
Definitely! I usually find out what’s going on in my life when I write a song, I have no idea otherwise! Most of the time I don’t know what day it is!

Are you on the road a lot?
Not as much as I would like to be. I would really like to go around the whole world, that would be great…

You are quite a wondering spirit (born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, Kirsty grew up travelling the four corners of the globe) Do you feel like an outsider, or can you fit in anywhere?
I empathize with people, I find it easy to talk to anyone or any culture; I’m just fascinated by people. I never felt like I didn’t fit in, it was only as I got older that I thought, I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m the wrong shape for everything! And it took me a long time to work that one out.

How did you reconcile that?
By being really honest with myself. I did a course called The Artists Way. One of the tasks that you have to do is write every morning; first thing you do is write all of your thoughts, and you write out your negativity, all those thoughts that say “I’m not good enough, I’m not happy…” and at the end of that you rip up the paper and throw it away and after a few months you notice that what you write is more creative; you are writing more positive thoughts. You cease the negative voices, and those are the words that say that you don’t fit in. And through that and meditation, I just kind of found out who I was and realised, you know, I am different, and everyone is different, and that is something to be celebrated.


Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

I read you saying that the future of women worries you, can you explain that? What specifically concerns you?
We still have so many issues in our sexist world, we still have so many places where men are in charge of things that women should be in charge of, and that concerns me. I am most concerned by the fact that magazines and newspapers are airbrushing us out of existence, and airbrushing us into mental hospitals! I’m really worried about the next generation of girls and how they will deal with this; their idols aren’t real – they are not real human beings! They don’t have curves, they don’t exist, you can’t women who look like what they think these women look like. It’s a unreal ideal. I’m really worried about the music industry too – especially what Simon Cowell has done to it! When I go to someone’s house and there is a TV on and they have X Factor or Idol, and I go, “is this what people are watching?” It’s a mind numbing existence for people who should be out living rather than watching.

And the music industry certainly has some interesting ideas about how to market their female artists!
There are a lot of issues and struggles; it is incredibly difficult for women in the record industry; it drives me mad! No matter how good you are, you are solely competing with say, KT Tunstall, Corrine Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May; the labels always pit us up against each other and say “You have to be the new….” You are not out there and being celebrated as a good musician. If people can’t pigeonhole you, you are seen as a bit of an oddity. Had I been a man in this industry I would have been dealt with differently; I would have been celebrated for the way that I handle myself, but if you are a female, and you have opinions then you are seen as being difficult.

It must be hard to maintain your confidence, and sanity and creativity, whilst these obstacles come your way.
If you realise that creativity, well this is my perception of it; that creativity comes from creation, and that it’s all already there and you just have to become the channel and keep that as your focus and centre. Then none of that other stuff can touch you.

june-chanoomidole-jon-young art of mentoring
Jon Young by June Chanpoomidole.

Next week I am away yet again, what is ed this time on the Art of Mentoring course being run for the very first time in the UK by tracker Jon Young, look founder of the Wilderness Awareness School. Jon Young was personally mentored by the American wilderness guru Tom Brown, information pills Jr. and is an expert in bird language, alongside an old friend of mine Alex Travers (known as Feathers) who will also be on the course.

For the past 25 years Jon Young has taught groups and individuals how to create a positive vision for the future through a deeper sense of community and connection to nature. To say I am excited about the opportunity to spend a week learning mentoring skills from Jon Young alongside fellow teachers, Mark Morey and Evan McGown, (a nature based poet and musician who co-authored The Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature with Jon Young) would be an understatement.

june-chanpoomidole-jon-young gerry brady
Jon Young plays the bones with Gerry Brady, by June Chanpoomidole.

I got to meet the sparkly eyed Jon Young – who like me is a big fan of barn dancing as a way of bringing people together – when he visited London a few months ago to give a talk in a darkened room at the top of a pub in north london.

The evening was an informal occasion peppered with frequent anecdotes from Jon’s Native American friend Paul Raphael, Peacemaker of the Odawa tribe, and finishing with some acapella singing accompanied on the “bones” by long lost Irish friend Gerry Brady.

june-chanpoomidole-jon-young maeve gavin
Organiser Maeve Gavin with Paul Raphael, by June Chanpoomidole.

Here is what I learnt…

Nature connection works best in a community setting.
Many of us have lost touch with animals and the earth but it’s easy to trigger subconscious feelings of connection. This is not about passing an ecology literacy test because everyone loves trees on an energetic level… but the woods can be scary so we need people with us along the way. How can we recreate these communities?

Greetings customs and rituals matter.
Greetings have been profoundly important for many eons of humanity – sometimes being so elaborate they could take days. Even though you are lucky if you get much of a greeting in New Jersey they have become more careful, sincere and authentic since 9/1, even from those you might expect to be grumpy. Everyone feels that needs to be welcomed and able to express themselves without pressure.

WillaGebbie_baggyclothes
Illustration by Willa Gebbie.

It is possible to create new rituals to suit us today.
The youth today carry the subconscious weight of their woes in over-sized clothes, but Jon has mentored both privileged and deprived children and all of them thrive when given space to express themselves. He recounts the story of a scholar from the best family and school in town, forever struggling to stay the best in his class, and thoroughly depressed as a result. After a few months of mentorship with Jon he tearfully declared that he was finally able to be himself and went on to became a mentor to the younger kids. Greeting customs can forge strong bonds and that is why the elaborate bonding rituals of gangs are so successful.

Everyone needs to feel recognised and blessed, at every age.
Young people need affirmation but so do their parents, many of whom will have missed out on it themselves as youngsters. If all generations are not cared for there are likely to be cultural gaps that can cause problems; for example a whole generation can feel threatened or alienated, and the worst outcome of this could be the sabotaging of change.

Maple Syrup as teacher.
When Paul’s family makes maple syrup they thank the trees with a special ceremony before boiling up the sap. This is a delicate operation that takes 2-3 whole days of pan-watching, for if the sap burns it will spoil, which is tantamount to violating the laws of nature. If this happens it will haunt you, but you will learn. As such it is an ideal teaching tool, especially for young men.

WillaGebbie_Paul Raphael
Paul Raphael as mushroom picker by Willa Gebbie.

Remember to leave the seeds behind when picking morel mushrooms.
Paul lives life by the seasons, and has just two short weeks to pick morel mushrooms from a special place in the woods – unfortunately it’s impossible to keep his spot secret in a small community. He carries the mushrooms home in knitted orange bags that allow the seeds to fall to the ground; that way ensuring a crop for the following year. So much ancestral knowledge has been lost that some of the kids make huge amounts of noise crashing through the wilderness. Even in Paul’s community there is much disconnection from nature, and he spends much of his time finding ways to empower the elders.

The government can learn from Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in 1992.
This huge hurricane stripped houses from their foundations and denuded vegetation, yet only six people died. It took the government nine days to get aid out to Hawaii, but instead of panic officials were met by people at the docks who did not want to fix things too quickly, because then they would have to return to work. Everyone was relaxing, taking it easy, having BBQs and helping each other. Because of interwoven cultural relations present before the storm there was a built in community resilience that meant the people responded collectively as one living organism, instead of separate units. Here is a lesson in how to cope during disasters.

Jon was taught to play the bones twenty years ago when he last met Gerry (then working as a labourer on the East Coast), and has since taught Paul how to play the bones too. Here’s a video of the three of them singing together. Cross generational and cultural mentoring in action!

YouTube Preview Image

You can read another account of the night here. I am looking forward to learning so much more next week. See you on the other side.

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5 Responses to “An introduction to Jon Young and the Art of Mentoring”

  1. Sarah Dixon says:

    This is really interesting – especially when you mentioned the kids crashing through the forest. I am involved with helping at a nature reserve in London. Some local kids love to play in the reserve, making noise and sometimes breaking trees or throwing logs around and I don’t expect to be able to completely change this. However, some parents encourage or disregard this but I am concerned about the disturbance to the wildlife – bugs in the long grass, frogs and birds at the pond, and foxes and badgers in the dens. In fact, many of the local adults like to have parties in the reserve too – for kids and for themselves. What kinds of things can I do to engage local people with more complex ideas about nature? Many seem to think of it as a kind of playground to let loose and escape from the constraints of the urban environment, but I am concerned that if it is disturbed too much it will slowly evolve into exactly that – a safe but sterile playground. Ideas welcome…

  2. Amelia says:

    Hi Sarah, thanks very much for your comment – I am not sure that it’s a totally bad thing for kids to have fun and make lots of noise out in nature, so long, as you say, they have a respect for it. There are many ways in which to engage kids in more thoughtful activities. I haven’t yet got a copy of the book that Jon Young has just written with Evan McGown, both of whom were teaching on this course – but I am sure it is full of games and so on that you could get kids of all ages involved with. Here’s a link: http://www.coyotesguide.com/
    Amelia x

  3. mark morey says:

    Hi amelia, this is great. I’d love to see an article about your week at the art of mentoring itself ! fantastic.

    mark

  4. Peneleapaí says:

    hi, any more events in the UK (or better yet, Ireland, closer to home!) please let us know, Thanks!

    Px

  5. Amelia says:

    Hi there P, you may have to get in touch with the Art of Mentoring to receive such information – there are many things going on all the time.

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