Time to Reflect or Out of the blue

Posted by Ivan Grieve on

The last blog included some thoughts on collaborative work and the advantages that such ways of working may offer. Collaboration really does take all forms and may well involve doing things that one never expected. Just after Easter I put myself somewhere well out of my comfort zone.

I am a fairly private person and generally work alone, as do many artists I would imagine. Whilst I would not want to bang on about my personal ailments or hardships, something that has prevailed on me for over forty years is Alopecia universalis.



I was in my mid twenties and working not far from the city of Siena at Brolio Castle in the beautiful Tuscan hills. A very wonderful place to be during the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s, I spent my time with Italian friends and colleagues, made easier by my good knowledge of the language and willingness to embrace the culture. The “Chantishire” set at the time were not for me.

 I woke one morning  realising I was covered in hair ..the bed, the pillow, it was everywhere. It was like a scene from the Godfather (the horse head). Quite out of the blue…over the period of about two weeks every single hair fell out. Coming away in great clumps covering my clothing and bedding, in short I was terrified.  People looked at me in disbelief and with a hint of ridicule. I was persuaded to see a specialist in the U.K. On the surface, this perhaps was not too daunting. However….I thought to myself…” ay there's the rub” (as Hamlet declares whilst contemplating suicide) as this meant seeing my family and friends. But I had lost me, lost my identity, I was beyond recognition lying in clumps in the bin. I literally hid from family until dusk and avoided anyone who knew me as I was. I had absolutely no place to go to, to hide. I had never felt as low and I was only in my mid twenties.



For years I lived without a single mirror in the house avoiding even my own gaze.

Life evolved and I have learned to wear hats and glasses, this is to frame a face that has no boundaries. Staying out of the sun and away from public beaches, self conscious and lacking self esteem.

(Below: the usual disguise)


Around Easter this year by chance I was looking on the website of the charity Alopecia U.K.  


… I noticed that a photographer was looking for men with Alopecia for a project he was working on for the Wellcome Collection. https://www.alopecia.org.uk/news/new-alopecia-photography-project-from-orlando-gili-and-wellcome-collection

A couple of e mails exchanged between the photographer Orlando Gili and myself and I had committed myself to a photo shoot and an interview. This is one of the photographs he took during the shoot here in Devon.





The agreement meant not wearing a hat in photos and sharing my story. Thankfully it was to be photographed in and around my home  and in the studio so no fear of travelling to London all hatless and self conscious.

(Below; a studio shot)


Above all, it was about encouraging other men to step forward and talk about their feelings and not simply to suffer. Perhaps a kind of we can do this together.


The next stop for the “comfort zone experience express” was learning to take a break and step back from it all. Yes a proper rest, the opportunity to remove oneself from the studio to have a break and reset is key.



Reading essays and novels and meeting local people on an island in the Adriatic was just what I needed.  



Just after sunrise each day, to swim along the coast, in calm clean water was meditative and restorative. To give the mind space and tranquility was so energising. A lemon eaten as is best, straight from the tree and then a cup of coffee.


          The excitement of seeing new tones and textures had me hooked.


I embraced new colours, noticed different patterns and begun to see things in a new and refreshed way.



         I was learning to let go of repeated habits and ways working or thinking.




Back to the studio with a mind filled with exciting ideas I want to explore including embracing, rather than running from, technology. The lack of cleanliness of our waters and the effects of climate change are becoming ever more evident and it is clear to me that this is something I would like to raise awareness about. I am embarking on a new project and will be sharing the works as they emerge. It should make for a a really refreshing body of work, as ever subscribers to the website are entitled to a 10% discount from the listed sales price.  

Below; “Out of the Blue” completed in July 2024.


One of the tools I shall be working with will be virtual reality and 3 d painting. The final stop on this “comfort zone express” itinerary. All totally new to me and quite a steep learning curve.




Thank you for reading and do please contact me through the website or the web chat I will be pleased to answer any questions. Letting go seems to be very important and stepping out of a comfort zone does help. 

Here is link to 1minute video looking at the lovely patterns and colours in blue…



By giving and sharing my feelings here the charity Alopecia U.K. added this blog to their website.




artistic process artist’s mind artist’s project colour emotions inclusion natural story

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