Special Projects Newsletter | October 2021

To You, From North London


In this month’s livestreams, I shared images from what I hope might become one of my next books. I call them PotAias, which is a shorter way of saying, “Portraits of the Artist in a ________”.

In the first (at lunchtime) I showed some sketches I made while I was training in impro – to give a sense of how much I learn from embodying something – and how drawing is similar to that. I went on to explain how the PotAias started without a plan, and how I kept looking at what I had amassed to try to understand what it added up to – and to stop myself falling into a rut.

It was great to have a willing audience listen to me as I worked my way through this work in progress – thank you.

I talked about some ideas for text to go with the pictures, and my worry about copyright issues.

The session was billed as 45 minutes, but I had decided beforehand to end at 30. You can watch that lunchtime session here:

In the afternoon, I added titles to most of the pictures, on my Photos app (Apple computer), and using the same thing I “laid them out” (digitally) as a kind of book project. In the early evening (7pm my time) I started the second livestream, also for 30 mins:

The following morning, I received an email from a member who joined one of the livestreams.

Dear JP

Your collection of paintings – potaias – is wonderful. Really. Because of your glasses, there’s a lovely casual whimsy to how you have inserted yourself in all these works of art, and the effect builds charm.

It’s almost as if you’ve created a comic character. I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but there’s a classic Eric Morecambe, Vic Reeves vibe.

The email went on to suggest, rather brilliantly in my opinion, that perhaps the pictures could do with accompanying text that was (at least somewhat) serious, rather than light.

Please excuse me for discussing a personal topic for you, but you wrote so beautifully about your emergence from depression in The Idler (it was that piece that connected me to your course), that such a subject might work alongside this art. Not necessarily your depression, but depression in general, leading to art therapy, or even some broader, weightier topic. This might even fit well with “How to change the world” “Write to change the world” – “draw to change yourself”…

I say that out of total ignorance, without any idea of any connection whatsoever, but just from a tonal perspective – how the best comedy has a light touch over a hint of sadness.

Please excuse me if that’s a step too close to the bone for someone you’ve only met on zoom.

I replied, saying that no apology was needed and that I was extremely grateful for the suggestion (as, indeed, I was).

Back to top


Write To Change The World

Ten years after writing my most successful book (so far, as I insist on adding), I wrote a series of essays looking back on it.

The anniversary gave me an excuse to look back on work just old enough to have stopped even feeling like it was mine. I wanted to revisit it, to see if it still resonates. Also, the anniversary gave me a reason to contact the other authors of books in that first series published by The School of Life, in partnership with Macmillan.

Only one didn’t reply (I fear I must have an old email for him). It was good to be back in touch with the others, and to note that their work:

a) continues along similar lines
b) has changed.

I daresay that I too do much the same work as I did then, if differently.

The essays are available to read on this site. The first one is here:
Riots, Brooms and Giant Whales

Back to top


Better Speaker in 30 Days

Starting in just over a week, I’m running an interactive course on public speaking – the first for nearly a year and the first since publication of A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech.

There will be practical exercises, a community to share encouragement and five interactive sessions, as follows:
  • Saturday 16 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 23 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 30 Oct, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 6 Nov, 1pm UK
  • Saturday 12 Nov, 1pm UK

I know that time won’t work for people in distant time zones, so if you’re interested please let me know (no commitment) and I’ll see if I can find a work-around.

This isn’t a place for hard-sell. So I’ll just say this: I believe that we all have a voice, something to say, and some kind of audience. If you say nothing – well, you can be sure your audience will hear nothing.

This course will help take your self-expression up a level, whether that means improving the talks you already do brilliantly, or starting from scratch.

Back to top


Upcoming Livestreams

9 Nov 2021 12.30pm to 1.15pm | 7pm to 7.45pm (UK times)
Click here for the Zoom link

14 Dec 2021 12.30pm to 1.15pm | 7pm to 7.45pm (UK times)
Click here for the Zoom link

Please Note: The times have changed.

Back to top


Office Hours Calendar

Newcomers, old-timers: I love to meet members, say hello, and talk about anything you like. I’ve created a Calendly page just for Special Projects members so that you can book a one-to-one with me.

I’m unsure how long I’ll be able to do this as the membership grows, but there should be enough slots to go round, for now, if you don’t book more than one session in advance.

The Calendly page is here. It should be fairly straightforward, but if you have any problems please let me know.

Back to top


Thank you for reading.
Please tell me if there’s anything that stands out, or just say hello.
Send me an email