(About Tom Cousins)

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I do two types of work, painting on walls, and pursuing artworks exploring and promoting environmental issues.

 

I like the challenge of working out what wall owners would like painted on their walls. I like the pressure of people caring about the result, passions on the street are stronger than in the art gallery. I like the scale - being dwarfed by my canvas, the size of the brushes and paint tins, the textures, and the physical exercise. I'm not generally fussed about what I'm asked to paint, I can't remember the last time I didn't like what I was asked for.

Its an old habit as well, one of my first memories is of coming home from school having learnt to write my name, and being so proud of my new found skill I wrote it up on the lounge doors, and then drew a traffic jam aound the bottom of the room for good luck. The feedback to my work that day was complicated, partly because I spelt Tom backwards.

 I've now been self employed painting murals since 1990. For town halls such as twin exchange town murals or local history promotions, in school playgrounds working with children, in nightclubs, shops, restaurants, youth clubs, or building site barriers. Mostly public but occassionally private. I've lived in the Forest of Dean since 2000 and rarely paint away, I think it'd be good if everywhere had their own local mural painter.

My work in schools used to be paid for through playground improvement funding - the costs of a mural being tiny compared to other playground upgrades. Then the fashion was to be asked to run art workshops with educational gain. This was really good education for me, to be able to design and deliver workshops about action painting or grid enlargement I had to really get to grips with what they are about. It was extra interesting because it happened at the same time I was home schooling my kids so my head was on it. Now the money in schools and youth clubs has disappeared, along with my kids.

Currently in 2018 there is a lot of interest in local heritage based murals. Which is great, go for a walk in any direction in the Forest of Dean and you'll be tripping over heritage in no time.

 I'm most proud of my work for Hands Off Our Forest and Frack Off our Forest, we've turned round 2 govt bills trying to sell the Forestry Estate, and sent our frackers packing, good riddance.

I dug ideas of 'sustainable development' as soon as I read them in the Rio Earth Summit 1994. From the idea that everyone should creatively address all aspects of their lives to make a more just and clean world, that since the world's resources are finite therefore they should be shared equitably, to the idea that if everyone makes continuous small changes to their lifestyle we may just avert ecogeddon without great inconvenience. But what kind of cultural input does it take to persuade people to adjust their habits, and what are the alternatives? To help explore these issues I did an MA at Manchester part time looking at how culture might be used to propagate the aims and objectives of Bradford Local Agenda 21.

I began making propaganda artworks (Claremont Road, the 4 Lunches, Power of the People), but increasingly my environmental based 'artworks' ('Project Peasenting', 'My Vegetable Patch', 'Bodging') aim to be an exploration what happens when I change my habits rather than persuading other people to change theirs. Habits are not easy to change, and the answers as to what 'works' and in what way are not obvious untill I try them out.

The question I can hear people asking is - 'but how is his habit change art?' Well, we can do anything anytime, but we normally shun our creative opportunities from breakfast to bed in favour of habit, fear and consumer choice. If we can defy our habits, fears, and consumer choices we realise our creative potential and become 'artists of life', and if our new choices are more CO2 neutral we are 'environmental artists of life'. However, our possibilities are limited, the sense and scale of what we can do only becomes apparent when the reactions of environment and other people are considered/intervene. (Beuysian thinking with a finishing twist of Sartre).

'Everyone needs to become an environmental artist if we are to avoid ecogeddon' Tom Cousins 1997.

 

Apart from that I've got a BA - Fine Art, Middlesex Poly, MA - Art as Environment, Manchester Met Uni, a mural covered house, a vegetable patch, a blossoming collection of water butts and solar cookers, and a nuclear family of 4.

I am qualified to use and maintain a chainsaw CN30/31.

A qualified First Aider at Work.

Am regularily CRB checked

Have a clean driving license.

 Am familiar with digital film, animation, website design, and photoshop programs.