steve chapman


In a time where society is obsessed with common sense and expertise, it’s important that we embrace the creative revolution and find our unique wonkiness. This week, AMBITIOUS attended Bristol Media’s ‘You’re Beautiful Wonkiness’ vision keynote event with artist, philosopher, and TEDx speaker Steve Chapman to hear all about the rise of the outsider and the revolution towards non-sense.

Steve Chapman has long been a supporter of the weird and wonky, something which he’s championed throughout his career. From his work as an outsider artist and his role in the inexpert conference to the creation of his ‘Sound of Silence’ podcast, his work repeatedly breaks society’s unhealthy attachment with expertise and linear thinking.

Drawing on his experience, Steve gave us a unique insight into the process of nurturing his wonkiness and how it became his creative superpower. Hannah popped along, so here are some of her top takeaways from the event ….


Dance with your demons

Self-doubt often prevents one from pursuing a different path and this was Steve’s biggest hurdle when leaving the corporate world. In order to overcome his self-doubt, he started an investigation into his inner critic. By putting the most shameful part of himself centre stage, it allowed him to better understand it and thus, use it as a source of inspiration.

Find your sweet spot of discomfort

Described by Chapman as ‘the world of just enoughness’, this is the spot between feeling too comfortable and too uncomfortable. Steve’s example drew on his role as an outsider artist and the desire to share his work with the world. To share it on Instagram would have been a safe step and one which he felt too comfortable in doing. On the other end of the scale was graffiti, which was too far out of his comfort zone. In identifying what his comfortable and uncomfortable spots were, he found his sweet spot of discomfort and created the Hungerford Bridge Gallery of Outsider Art.

Hangout with weirdos

Wonkiness is relative and Steve encourages people to surround oneself with weirdos. Weirdos could be extremely unorthodox or relatively conformist – what’s important is that they’re different to you.

Tilt platforms

According to Steve, an outsider will naturally tilt platforms however it’s important to first identify the platform in which you wish to tilt. Using the Portsmouth Sinfonia as an example, Steve Chapman illustrates how the group of inexpert musicians tilted the platform against the elitist to create a platform of their own. Despite strong opposition and criticism, the group’s passion and risk paid off as they released their album and performed at the Royal Albert Hall.

Find out what works best for you

There’s no one way of finding your wonkiness – it’s important to experiment with different methods and find the right approach for you.



Swap your wonkiness for acceptance

Steve talks about how he lost his wonkiness in his teenage years as he swapped his wonkiness for acceptance. Years later in his early 30s he found himself questioning what happened to the person he was as a child. Quoting James Victore, Chapman stresses “the things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow” and the importance of breaking free from loops of common-sense where creativity and change stifle.

Compare your sweet spot of discomfort to others

Everyone feels comfortable at different levels, so it comes as no surprise that everyone’s sweet spot of discomfort is different. For this reason, Steve emphasises the importance of not comparing yourself to others in order to find your wonkiness.

Try to be intentionally wonky

“Once a natural practice becomes intentional, it loses its magic” explains Chapman. To be truly wonky and weird, it must be natural, untaught and genuine.

Thank Bristol Media for putting on another great event. Did you attend? Let us know in the comments below – or connect with us on Twitter @Ambitiouspr.