Mick Dean was a really successful advertising photographer.

He gave it up because he wanted to be an artist.

Now he spends all his time painting.

He loves painting scenes of erosion, around London.

In London of course, a lot of the erosion is due to water.

So naturally, Mick spends a lot of his time painting around The Thames.

When he’s painting, he hates the rubbish strewn everywhere.

Plastic bags, plastic bottles, beer cans, condoms, burger wrappers, shopping carts, bikes, tampons.

All left on the banks, or in the mud, or just floating by.

So Mick joined a group called Thames 21.

Volunteers who meet up to help clear up as much rubbish as they can.

I asked Mick how it worked.

He said, “You turn up with your rubber gloves and wellington boots, and off you go.”

So these are quite dedicated people.

While he was picking up rubbish one day, he got talking to a woman who was also helping.

It turned out she was an estate agent.

He asked her how business was.

She said not so good.

She had lots of empty properties people weren’t even looking at.

She asked Mick how his business was.

He said not so good.

He had lots of paintings but nowhere to exhibit them.

They carried on picking up rubbish.

Suddenly a lightbulb went ‘ping’ in Mick’s head.

He said, “How about if I could get a lot of people to visit one of your properties? Somewhere you think is really nice, but you’re having trouble getting anyone interested at present.”

She said, great, but how would you do that?

He said, “Well, I need a place to hold an exhibition of my work. If I held it in one of your properties, lots of people would turn up.

A fair proportion of art lovers are well-off and well-connected.

So you’ll be getting a lot more people looking over your client’s property. Maybe thinking about it, maybe spreading the word, you never know.

Meanwhile you’ll be showing it off in its best light, because the property would look really busy and attractive.

Instead of just be sitting there vacant, looking undesirable and empty.”

And that’s what they agreed on.

Mick got a really nice gallery space in a large shop, next to the Thames in Limehouse.

He also uses it as a studio.

Which means Mick can do several jobs at once.

Supervise the gallery, chat to the visitors, and paint.

People come to look at the pictures, and stay to watch Mick paint.

And to talk to him about his technique, his life, and his paintings

So far Mick’s sold five paintings.

Meanwhile the exhibition has created an aura of desirability around the otherwise empty property.

Plus the activity lifted the mood and energy level in the area for the local residents.

The café nearby want Mick as a permanent feature, because of all the extra business they’re getting.

Everyone wins and not a penny has changed hands.

He didn’t wait for a brief.

He didn’t complain there was no budget.

He didn’t grumble about the client.

He made it happen.

There’s a very nice walk along the Thames right by Mick’s exhibition.

He wanted to put posters up along it, telling people about the show.

He asked the owners of one of the wharves, but they said no.

He asked the owners of the other wharf, and they said no.

So that’s the end of it right?

Not quite.

Mick investigated ownership of the water front.

He found a tiny strip between the two wharves that neither owned.

So he put a poster up there.

Between the two people who said no.

I went to visit Mick’s exhibition yesterday.

A very nice Scandinavian lady and her friend came in.

She said they’d seen Mick’s poster as they were walking by the Thames.

She watched Mick paint and chatted for quite a while with him.

She said she put on art exhibitions, and she’d like to do one of his work.

She gave him her card and it said Baroness somebody.

Now if Mick had let all those excuses stop him, none of that would have happened.

That’s real creativity.

Creating from nothing.