grace acton roberts jdwoof jo wood applecart arts painting conversation
conversation 2, Grace Acton Roberts, 9th February 2023, Applecart Arts

In January 2023 I started a conversations project during my residency at Applecart Arts. I sit down and have a conversation of approximately one hour with someone I am interested to have a conversation with. Whilst there might be particular things I am interested in, I don’t have questions planned in advance and what happens is organic. Whilst we talk, I paint. What I share here is the painted/drawn outcome of the conversation. Afterwards, I write up my reflections which come from the conversation. Then, they go into my gallery of conversations, which you have found yourself in here…

I met Grace last week, the first conversation since getting back from the Art Adventure on Ocracoke. She is Operations Manager at Applecart and an art curator, who supports visual artists in residence, like me. She is the person who I check in with about how my residency is developing, is there for general life chats and also lets me use things like the badge maker and shrinky plastic. Much of Grace’s role at Applecart is supporting the creativity of others, much like her work as a curator. Our conversation started by her telling me about a recent slime workshop where she got kids making and playing with multiple types of slime. I liked her dedication and commitment to a workshop on slime.

When we spoke the other day, as with the other conversations, I was painting at the same time. When one of us (usually Grace as I find it hard to talk and paint but easy to listen and paint) would say something interesting or that I wanted to grab at and remember, I would either paint the words or some kind of image associated with it. 

One phrase that she said was about when you are fascinated by something and it is an obsession or “itch in your brain”. We talked about how artists are compelled to follow the things which invoke wonder or awe in them. This also reminded me of something Steve said on the documentary filming day in Ocracoke about “follow what you’re interested in rather than trying to be interesting.” 

I love these ideas. I also think that it can be hard. One reason, which I also talked about with Grace, is the belief that the things that are mysterious and wonderous to us, might not hold that much value to other people. It might seem pointless and senseless for me to get really into drawing a single eye on each page of multiple notepads and sketchpads, as I used to do for years as a child. It might seem childish and frivolous to spend hours at a time on my own in the garden, searching for bugs, documenting what I found and making membership packs for my own bug club. It might even be embarrassing to record my own radio shows on cassette tapes and get caught joyfully dancing to the music. I think for many people, as we grow up we gradually learn that these forms of creativity, curiosity and self-expression are not valuable or worth putting time into. They also contrast strongly with a lot of formal education.

Another kind of boring adult reason for this being hard is that we don’t leave time free to be bored and come up with ways to use that time, to follow the things we’re interested in. We have responsibilities and phones to scroll through and bills to pay and paying work to be done. I’m not making that bad or wrong or judging us as individuals. It just gets me thinking about my own current conundrums and questions about the ways in which I want to spend my time and the ways I wish to earn money.

To learn more about Grace and her work, you can take a look here.