Some Reflections on Survivor Art…

I wrote an email to my Course Tutor last weekend about the updates to my blog and the work I had started for my degree and she got back to me stating that my story brought to mind three artists who she recommended that I look up; Tracey Emin, Richard Billingham and Artemisia Gentileschi. All of these artists have experienced either rape or abuse in their childhood. I have both rape as adult and sexual abuse as a child,so there were a number of pieces which really resonated with me. I have picked out one of each of these which had the most profound effect. By Tracey Emin I have picked the drawing “I want you so much” drawn in 1995; Richard Billingham’s picture from his book of candid family photographs, ‘Ray’s A Laugh’, taken between 1990 and 1996. Finally I have looked a the Baroque period female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, in particular her painting ‘Judith slaying Holofernes” painted between 1616 and 1620.

The first picture “I want you so much” by Tracey Emin, to me spoke of the rape I experienced. She has drawn prolifically around this period of over-sexualised women and raw pictures depicting female genitalia using words as well to express some disturbing almost childlike writings, in a very childlike script. This picture though, really reminded me of my own rape. Being face down and feeling the pressure of a dark, menacing presence on my back, crushing the life and freedom out of me:

tracey emin
Tracey Emin- “I Want You So Much” 2015

The way she has blacked out the face of the woman to me felt like the dehumanising effect of being treated like a piece of meat and the fact that the figure on top of her has taken the form of some kind of monster with a beak. I would not necessarily have chosen a bird type depiction of the perpetrator of my rape, though I guess it could also be a horned beast, indeed there is no explanation that I can find about this picture to suggest that it was directly about her rape aged 13, but I strongly believe that we are informed in our artwork that is most emotive by our experiences throughout our lives and can’t help but feel that the blacking out of the face, the fact that she has used lots of heavy dark ink add weight and menace to this picture that gave me a stab in the chest when I saw it.

I love how she has portrayed so much with so few lines and so little detail, it really speaks of the power of such a critical event on the victim, the blackness to me indicates shame and dehumanisation as I previously mentioned and the need to not be identified by something that so very much identifies us.

The second picture I have chosen by Richard Billingham taken between 1990 and 1996, from his autobiographical photo book/album named “Ray’s a Laugh” depicting his abusive parents, his grossly overweight and abusive mother and his classically alcoholic and abusive father. I picked this one:

richard billingham
Richard Billingham from his book “Ray’s a Laugh” taken between 1990 and 1996, of his Father, Ray.

I chose this picture because after my own experiences of childhood sexual abuse and adulthood rape turned to alcohol and drugs to cope. This picture to me speaks of the despair and hopelessness that I felt during my late teens and early twenties whilst experiencing full blown addiction. He looks so pathetic and lost which reminded me of the pursuit of escapism through substances only to find oneself hopelessly lost. I don’t know Ray’s own history, whether he too was abused which informed his own behaviour towards his children, without talking to him it would be impossible to know. Interestingly, I could relate this despair and hopelessness to being a victim as well as an addict as in effect with either of these situations one is consumed an controlled by something outside of oneself.

The seediness and vileness of the surroundings, the vomit on the outside of the toilet bowl, captivate me, as something that the individual would swear blind was under his or her control, but clearly it isn’t the case, for Ray or for me.

I think that Billingham has cleverly reduced his abuser to become something pathetic and harmless, something that I am guessing was somewhat cathartic for him along  with all of the other pictures, proving beyond doubt that his family failed in so many ways.

The third picture that I chose by Artemisia Gentileschi, “Judith Slaying Holofernes” is a depiction of an old testament biblical story of Judith overcoming her more powerful superior, who had raped her, with the help of her maid, beheading him in bed. It has been depicted many times throughout history but to be drawn and painted by Gentileschi, somehow seems more significant:

judith
Artemisia Gentileschi- “Judith slaying Holofernes” panted between 1616 and 1620 during the Baroque period.

For one this painting seems almost photographic in its delivery. I read whilst researching this painting that she had been raped by her father’s painting pupil, though what happened to me was not the same, it still revolved around my art and I am certain that there must have been some catharsis in her painting this picture in that she got to inflict the rage and pain that she felt towards her father’s friend and pupil in painting two women overcoming a man who had raped one of them. Maybe the young, fresh faced girl, the maid who is holding the man down yet being strangled by him represents the innocence that/who was stolen from Artemisia?

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Artemisia was forced under torture to give evidence at the rapist’s trial before her father’s death, and I’m sure that this would have left her with some serious unexpressed rage. Though maybe I am projecting my own feelings, how else do we view the work of others but with our own eyes and experiences? Maybe this painting was a way of expressing some of the rage she felt towards her own perpetrator in safe way and is in some way an intuitive and repressed ‘autobiographical’ piece based on what she would have liked to have done rather than the actual outcome?

It also begs the question, is all art made by survivors then intrinsically ‘survivor art’ by the very nature of the artist being a survivor? Or can we shake off that title and make something NOT influenced by those experiences? My thoughts are that we cannot as we are more than a sum of our parts but also equal to a sum of our parts, we cannot remove that survivor self any more that we can deny the female or male, young or old self. We cannot not be something that we are.

As I said all of these pieces really resonated me and I would love to think that I would some day have the courage to express my feelings about what happened to me as a child and as a adult in such a way, using art as a way to play out my feelings and use it as a catharsis of my own, resolving some of the years of madness that plagued me after such events. Time will tell I guess.

Texture Sketcher

Studies and Sketches of Texture

Part two of the course, drawing texture…. this was an interesting one. Once I had de-bugged a few demons I have been raring to go. The brief was to draw a few examples of texture. I did a few but had so much fun I decided to keep going. Obviously there are some that are better than others. I have found that the more I enjoy working on something the better it turns out…. simple reasoning there I reckon. Anyway here are the texture sketches that I did with some self reviewing comments underneath….

monday daffs
daffs

So this is one that I am not so happy with, it’s a picture of those ‘Tête á Tête‘ daffodils the double headed ones, They were virtually transparent with the light behind them and though I think I have achieved a level of transparency it is rather clumsy, but then I didn’t really enjoy drawing them…..

monday feathers
white feathers

I was more pleased with these very fast sketches, as I think that i have managed to capture something of a lightness that feathers have. I have quite a collection of white feathers that I find around the place, I like to think of them as angel feathers (waits patiently for all thee non-believers to finish shaking your heads….). These sketches literally took about 6 minutes to finish and I think that even though they were fast they weren’t rushed, and they have a kind of ethereal floaty texture….

monday nail brush
Nailbrush

I picked this one because of the texture of the bristles, I think the handle looks rushed, because it was and because I was more bothered about the bristles than I was about the plastic handle. I did my best to stay true to the original object even though it makes me look like I need a new nail brush as all the bristles are wonky and dishevelled looking… Over all I am pleased with how the texture of the bristles came out.

monday knitting
Section of a knitted cushion cover

Though I am pleased with the over all ‘feel’ of the drawing, it is far too uniform and regular to look real. It looks comfortable ad warm, but it is not as imperfect as the original item, it doesn’t show any of the pilling that has occurred on the cushion cover. I think this proves that I am not a fan of regular pattern reproduction, I found it petty boring to draw, possibly made worse by the fact that the night before I had tried to draw it in failing light and cocked it up completely, even though the original picture was cocked up, it somehow had more ‘life’ to it, but in my annoyance with the failing light I screwed it up and threw it away.

monday stick
Dog-chewed stick

Molly had a good go at this all over the living room carpet….. joy! But I rescued it and was fascinated by all of the little shreds of fibres, however, even though it is a pretty good representation of the original item, out of context it doesn’t seem to mean as much as the item does in my hand. Maybe with some other natural objects it might have more presence and seem less like a collection of lines floating in space. though I do like the texture over all.

monday paperweight
dandelion clock paper weight

I liked the *idea* of this one, I liked that it is dual textured, the fluffiness of the dandelion captured in acrylic that is hard, reflective and shiny. The photo doesn’t do the drawing justice because I couldn’t angle the camera without getting a ruddy great shadow in the picture, so I have ended up taking a picture that makes the drawing look squiffy and out of shape. In real life the dome is not on the tilt. I am happy with how the shine and the reflectiveness of the surface came out in the drawing but the dandelion clock is kind of sparse and not very detailed and I kind of lost interest in it half way through doing all those dandelion spikes….. My dad says that it looks like Darth Vader’s helmet if Darth Vader had been a hippie. He also recognised the picture as being of the paper weight he had bought for his parents in law many years ago. I guess tat is a ringing endorsement that it does indeed represent the item it is meant to be….

monday shell
Broken Sea shell

I actually really enjoyed drawing this and yet am slightly disappointed with the results. it has nice texture, which is good, hits the brief, but again looks kinda clumsy, I know I could do better, but this bucks the trend because it is one which I really enjoyed but which came out not so good.

monday leaf sprig
Sprig of leaves

Pretty standard, I’m nether here not there about this one. I went into the garden, picked the top chunk of a weed and came back and drew it. I enjoyed drawing it and was fairly in my stride by this point and the texture of the leaves is pretty evident, but I can’t help feeling that I would have felt more in my element drawing something ridiculously bubbly like a savoy cabbage leaf instead. I did enjoy this and will definitely be drawing more leaves as I LOVE nature and growing, I have a fertile garden FULL of things growing so there will be plenty of opportunities to draw natural things…..

monday stone
Ocean Battered Stone

I LOVED drawing this one. I thoroughly love this stone anyway, I love the pitted parts and the holes which go all the way through. I am so happy with the pitted areas and the depth of the picture, it looks almost real to me. I also like the way it looks smooth but still rough which it absolutely is.

monday log
Rotting Tree Trunk

I really engaged in drawing this one. Like I said I love nature and organic material to draw, I love and adore nature and faces and features and life drawing too, anything with organic lines and shapes and forms. I love the twists and turns in this log, and the different textures, from the algae mouldy bits to the wood and the bark, I love the fact that I just did a section, though also understand that without the rest of the tree or other objects the drawing again is a little bit out of context, though also understand that this is a matter of a study, not a complete ‘picture’. I am really looking forward to putting objects together and exploring more natural shapes, especially outdoor nature and the human form. This one really made me want to do more pictures of natural objects, but also reay made me want to keep drawing in general!

Monday starfish
Starfish

This one was a LOT harder to draw than I thought it would be! When I picked up the dried starfish out of the bathroom (Actually I don’t agree with the drying of starfish for bathroom decorations, but I do love starfish and was also given this one a a gift so didn’t want to waste a life by not keeping it!) I picked it because of its knobbly bits and bobbly bits. It was only when I had started to draw it that I realised just HOW knobbly and bobbly it actually is! I have a whole lot more respect for this starfish having drawn it than I did before hand. Nature is a fantastic thing! Although I am pleased with the outcome of this one, and the people who I have shown the pictures to unanimously vote this one as their favourite long with the pineapple one next, so there must be something of a unique and interesting quality to the drawing as well a some skill. I’m still not entirely happy with it, but I am a relentless perfectionist. I do, however, LOVE the texture and the way that despite it’s complicated texture the end result is pleasing.

and finally…..

monday pineapple
Section of a Pineapple

I think that this picture was my favourite one to draw out of all of them, and I think it shows. I love the fact that the texture looks like a repeating pattern at first glance and in actual fact is anything but. I think this is one reason that I loved drawing it so much, because it was so subtly different in every part of it. Each spiky leaf is totally different, each segment of the fruit differs completely from the others. I do happen to love pineapples a lot, though I hate prawns and crab and yet drawing those excites me too.

This exercise has really piqued my interest in texture, particularly textures found in nature as opposed to man made ones, and I am so looking forward to drawing faces, bodies and more organic items and doing individual studies has made me really keen to more onto drawing collections of items as it has made me far more aware of the importance of context.

Drawing Feelings (Traumatic!)

My journey from fear and trauma to freedom and peace in myself. Some graphic content.Honesty that I am a bit scared of posting,

This is a particularly difficult time of year for me. I had written no more than two weeks ago that I wouldn’t go into any traumatic stuff unless it came up in my art- knowing that at some point it probably would. Well, it did. In spades.

I feel compelled to share with with anyone who wants to read it. Partly because  a close family member shared her own experiences with a group of total strangers, breaking down those barriers of shame and secrecy that bind survivors of trauma of this kind and in effect, handing back the shame and the ownership of the event to the perpetrator rather than having to carry the weight and burden of it herself. Now is my time. I have done a lot of work on this but still on this date, every year it rears it’s ugly head, as today is the anniversary of the event. I have talked about it many times in the past, but somehow this assignment, having  to draw my feelings on this day brought up so many feelings that for the first time I was able to actually work through and come through the other side, realising for the fist time that actually feeling those feelings doesn’t lead to imminent death and doom as they feel like they will, but relief and even joy!

On 21st May 2000 I was 19 years old and my life changed completely in just a few hours.

The previous day I had been standing at the bus stop wielding a huge carrier bag of poster paints that I planned to make a mural on my bedroom wall with. the bag broke and out tumbled the several bottles of paint prompting a well dressed man to ask me, as we chased the paint bottles across the pavement, if I was an artist. I had no problem in those days with describing myself as such and proudly announced that I was. He said that he was looking for a local artist to do a collection of works for his practice- Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture- not far from where I lived. He asked if I could bring my portfolio over to his practice the following afternoon so that he could see some of my work and if we decided to go ahead with it, I could measure up the space he wanted work in.

I was utterly elated at the thought of actually doing some paid work and phoned my mum when I got home who did the worried other part and said to bring someone with me to the place for my own safety. I was gung ho about it and said something along the lines of ‘For God’s sake mum, I’m a GROWN UP. I can do this by myself!’.

The following day came and I gathered up my work and headed down the five/ten minute bus ride to his place of work with my art folder, just a small one, A3 to show him some of my work and was trilled when he said that he loved it and wanted to spend around £1000 on a few pictures for various spaces, something that to me at the time was riches untold.

He was a Chinese guy and obviously first generation in this country, his English was good but not perfect, he said his name was Charlie and I thought that he probably had a name that was difficult to pronounce and went by that name and didn’t question it. He then asked if I would join him for dinner, and in my naive head believed that this was just part of the process, he was going to ‘seal the deal’ so to speak, and build a business relationship, so I gathered up my work after measuring the space and off we went on the bus into the city centre to his favourite Chinese restaurant.

I began to feel uncomfortable when he began to buy me drink after drink, alcoholic and seemed to be trying to get me drunk. Like in the films, I was pouring drink after drink in the nearest plant pot when he wasn’t looking because for some reason my head told me that I needed to keep my its about me and didn’t feel comfortable. The food was awful, loads of slimy stuff in big bowls with whole octopus corpses floating in them and other gross stuff that I did not want to touch, so I pushed a few things round my plate, at this point really wanting to leave.

I told him that i had to go and meet a friend- at this time it was about 6pm and I made moves to go. He stood up and pushed me back into my chair and said that we needed to go back to his shop to finish talking business and to measure the space. I said that I HAD measured the space and that I really had to go, but he was insistent and because of other experiences in my life I didn’t feel that I could walk away or escape. This is something that has plagued me for years, that I didn’t just leave that i stayed that I didn’t ask for help, that I didn’t fight back.

He paid then held me hard on the elbow and arm and steered me back to the bus stop.I KNEW exactly what was going to happen, I knew it and I didn’t run, I still didn’t run, I still didn’t shout, or cream or fight back. I was frozen with fear, the scream was lodged in my throat, I had this learned feeling that to go along with the whole scenario was somehow going to keep me safer than if I tried to fight against it.

He sat in the aisle seat on the bus, trapping me against the window and when we got back to the shop he pulled down the shutters once we were inside and locked us both in and locked the door. He put the key in his top pocket.

Then he turned nasty, he started insulting me and forced me up the stairs to his bedroom which was in the flat above the shop. It was vile in there, probably because of how I felt, but he stripped me of my clothes completely and took them away then began hours of him raping me and telling me how gross I was and me laying face down willing thoughts of politics into my head to dissociate away the shame and pain and fear and terror.

I don’t know how long exactly this went on, this raping and insulting and terror but i know that when I finally got my clothes handed back to me I was a numb, frightened wreck, but I had to keep up this pretence that it was ok, that I was ok, that he could trust me to let me go, that I wouldn’t run to the police and tell on him.

He wouldn’t let me out of the shop and kept trying to drug me with tablets but I refused to take them, he said he would phone me a taxi in the end after I begged him to let me leave as my friend who I was meeting would be worried he said ‘I will call you a taxi, it isn’t safe for a girl to be out on her own at this time of night’ (!) . I watched as he unplugged the phone and then denied that there was an outside line and really began to fear for my life.

Eventually he agreed to let me go, there was a phone box about 50 yards away from the shop and I told him that I would call a taxi and then go and wait on the corner for it He finally agreed and unlocked the door and shutters. Then the final insult, he pulled me into his face and kissed me. I had to reciprocate though it nearly killed me to do so. I had to keep up the pretence that it as ok, that I was safe to let go. But that kiss, the feeling of his tongue has never left me.

I walked slowly to the phone and to my horror it was out of order. I faked a conversation with an imaginary operator and pretended to arrange a taxi hen walked, still with him watching me from the shop, to the corner, at which point I broke into a run and ran up the road round the corner, banging on doors begging for help only to have door after door slammed in my face.

Eventually, just by luck, a black cab saw me and pulled over and I got in and went home.

I got home to an empty house, my house mate was out and I burned myself with bleach and boiling water in the bath. The next day I painted a monster on my bedroom wall that was so terrifying that I couldn’t sleep in there for the rest of my time in that shared flat.

After I painted that monster, I didn’t pick up a paintbrush for years. Or a pencil, or write anything. My creativity had been stolen from me completely. Eventually  started to draw again but I could never connect to my drawing in the same way, the same with painting, there has always been a disconnect between me and what I was creating, like I was creating without the creativity.

This first exercise in my degree course was to draw feelings. To take four pieces of A1 paper and to fold them into four A3 quarters then to take the words Anger, Joy, Calm and another emotion- I have chosen Anxiety as I had it in spades at the beginning of the exercise. Then I had to draw using one colour in each of the four corners of the paper and one type of drawing medium, I chose oil pastes, soft pastels, ink and coloured pencil; and to show dark and light, heaviness and lightness of pressure and to convey those four emotions as they feel to me.

I started with anxiety as this reconnection to the feelings around drawing was making me icy cold with fear and with the tie of the year being as it is the anxiety levels were very high. I started off in the top left and corner with charcoal, then clockwise, black oil pastel, brown pencil and purple-pink ink. As I worked through this anxiety I started to feel anger. Anger that this had happened, anger that I have spent so many years not connecting to my art, the very thing that kept me going throughout my childhood and teenage years. Anger that it was stolen from me. So I proceeded then with the Anger page. After anger came a feeling of calm as I began to get into the flow, then finally joy.

I have decided that this date no longer is the anniversary of the rape, it is MY anniversary, the anniversary of the day I got my feelings and my creativity back. the day I made that commitment to myself that NOBODY can take that away from me again.

I was actually feeling guilty, after the initial excitement of the gift of the art studio had been promised to me, I started off feeling excited and happy and full of beans but after a day or two I began to feel terrified. This time of the year reminded me that I am not worthy that I do not deserve nice things, that I am a failure that I let people down. NO MORE.

I AM WORTHY. I DO deserve this art studio, I WILL succeed, I already am a success in so many ways, I do not need to feel guilty or ashamed or fearful, I have done nothing wrong. This is HIS shame not mine. I DESERVE GOOD THNGS.

So this date. The 21st May 2016 is the day that my feeling for art came back.

here are my feeling pieces throughout this process:

anxiety
Anxiety: clockwise from top left-black charcoal, black oil pastel, brown coloured pencil and pink-purple ink
anger
Anger: clockwise from top left- Black charcoal, black oil paste, black colouring pencil, black ink
calm
Calm: Clockwise from top left: Blue oil pastel, blue soft pastel, grey colouring pencil and blue ink
joy
Joy: clockwise from top left: Purple soft pastel, Purple oil pastel, purple pencil and purple-pink ink.

I thought it was fascinating how the feelings pictures moved from spiky jagged edges to soft swirls and calmer colours. It was not an easy process but a very fruitful one and though at first I felt frustrated that I wasn’t drawing something technically difficult like a portrait, it was almost more difficult drawing from the heart. I’m going to leave you with a poem I wrote about the rape a while ago where I felt angry, it was something that was very much in my head whilst I was drawing the anger picture. Though now I don’t feel like it is a life sentence, it is a life changer for sure, but now I have my day back I feel ok sharing this knowing that it is a thing of the past, my future is more colourful and joyous.

Vitriolic Hate Poem

I fucking hate you 
you evil piece of crap 
low-life scum 
worthless, vile cretin 
and you share this earth with me 
have the audacity to breath the same air 
feed yourself 
wash yourself 
buy yourself nice things 
and probably don’t even think about what YOU DID 

hate you 
I really fucking hate you 
not even “what you did” 
or “how I reacted” 

Just YOU 

with your roving eyes 
pestering fingers 
sweaty, stinking skin, 
desperate dick 

Is that all you thought about? 
I suppose I was an easy fuck? 
what value has a life like that? 
more than yours. 
more than yours. 

and God, what “lesson” should I learn from this? 
what clever part of the plan was rape? 
are you making him pay for his sins? 
does he pray to you to “let go” like I do? 
was that his drug of choice? 
power? 

I don’t want a life sentence 
for some crime I never committed 

Instead let me commit one. 
let me tear him apart, limb from limb 
castrate him 
pull out his nails, is eyes, his tongue 
let him feel REAL pain. 

tattoo “pervert” across his face 
for the world to see who he really is 
put a gun to his head, 
show him real fear. 
make him remember it every fucking day until he dies 
Give him a feeling of terror when he hears footsteps 
in sync with his at night 
make him lock check lock check lock check the doors 
make him afraid to be touched 
scared to be held 

and then help me let go 
please help me let go 
I cannot carry it any more. 

But I want you to imagine now after reading that that it was a poem that was written about a closed fist, an angry closed fist with no potential, that fist has opened now and can hold things, pain, joy, sadness, elation, calm, peace and above all a pencil. That is where I am at.

Squeal! SO much EXCITEMENT!!!

2015-12-19 17.37.18
Just a *little* bit excited!

I’m so excited to announce this upcoming event in my life (it will probably be much more exciting for me than it is for anyone else….) I had been planning to get a huge shed for the back garden in order that I have got my own art studio to work in, somewhere to keep my art materials in their ever growing collective state, somewhere to sit on a comfy chair in front of an electric fire and crochet and listen to music, somewhere to sit and write and enjoy solitude and creativity…. All this planning has been in the pipelines for the last couple of months since I thought about it and made plans to start saving up for the beloved, proposed shed, then out of the blue after a conversation with my mum this morning about how I was going to afford it and go about making it a reality, my lovely parents called me up and told me that they were going to buy me the perfect shed!!!

the shed of dreams
The Beautiful Shed Of Creative Dreams!!

This is the fine specimen, with a few alterations, the bottom windows on the double doors will be bocked up to make the doors into double stable doors and the height will be increased to be 6’6″ at the lowest point and 8′ at the highest. It is 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide and plenty big enough for a good sized art, writing and studying studio! I have a man supposedly coming this evening to give me a quote for clearing and flattening the ground where the shed will go and putting in three rows of 2 foot squared two inch thick slabs for the shed to rest on, and then I need to sort out the materials to insulate and clad the inside of the walls and roof to keep it warm and dry,, then I need to get the shed put in and built (can you believe it, they will deliver it for free, then put it up for me as well!?!)

20160514_175330
My going to be beautiful in the summer garden….

When the shed is in place I will be filling in the gaps between the joists with 50mm Celotex insulation sheets cut to size both on the walls and roof, putting down a piece of decent lino, and cladding the whole inside of the shed with reasonably thick MDF/Plywood or similar, filling in the joins with silicone sealant and then painting the whole inside white for maximum light reflecting effect.

When all this is done I will be sourcing a big work table and I already have a swivel chair that I can reupholster and then I can move in my huge book shelf and a couple of chests of drawers and all of my art materials! I am going to get an electrician to run an outside socket from the house so that I can power the shed and heat it in the winter and I will be getting a leather type reclining arm chair with a foot stool or similar in order that I can sit and write and do crochet in there, and jot own ideas in comfort a well as receive visitors to my little workshop!

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Molly-Moo chewing a ball

I have so many ideas and plans for this and cannot wait! (Though I have to sadly!) They will be delivering and erecting the studio-shed at the beginning of September, and I am SO excited! I know that it will be a few weeks of working with the place to get it just so before I move in officially, but I am so excited to get all my things in there and start working in there! The company supplying the shed are really popular and booked up all the way until August, so I will just have to be patient!

I can’t wait to put pot plants outside the widows and hang hanging baskets off the corners, then I would REALLY like to get some jasmine or wisteria or clematis to grow up trellising all around the end side of the building, something really beautiful and butterfly and bee attracting so that I can enjoy the local flora and fauna whilst I work. Our garden is already a haven for beautiful things, we are avid growers of fruit and veg and herbs and flowers and the garden is looking set to be beautiful this year with nearly 60 varieties of edible plants, strawberries, apples, pears, cherries, peach, plums, so many veg I couldn’t name them all and loads of fragrant herbs and spices too. We do all our growing in pots and raised beds so it’s all very manageable and this year we put up a screen fence to stop the neighbours cats from coming in and crapping in all of our plants and also to stop Molly the hooligan pooch from buggering off next door to chase said cats (and being unceremoniously swiped across the face with a set of razor sharp claws in the process!) and all the veg we have sown is starting to come through in their plug pots. We even have Kohlrabi and butternut squash this year!

FENCE!!!!
getting there in the garden- the shed will be on the far right hand side of this picture….

I know this has been a bit of a deviation from the usual art related posts but I am so excited about this development because it will enable me to completely immerse myself in the creative process and really turn out the work that I feel I am capable of. Rather than sitting in front of the television with a drawing board on my lap and getting distracted by whats happening in the house like the need to wash up or do laundry or clean or cook or…… all things that are procrastination and deflecting techniques that my brain throws out at me because I think that there is still a little part of me that is frightened of making art because of what happened all those years ago. Well, guess what. It’s time to take my art back. It’s time to reclaim my creativity and flourish in my own creative space.

EDIT: news just in…… my folks have offered to pay for the ground to be cleared and prepared and the slabs laid!! I can’t believe it! I’m so excited!!!

Facing the FEAR

I have been particularly productive over the past few months, meaning that I have a large number of drawings that I have taken photographs of, some my own for my portfolio and some for commission…

I am taking orders for pet portraits, any animal! As well as commissions for pretty much anything else you would like, all requests considered including portraits of family,friends and loved ones of any age…If you are interested then please just contact me with my contact form I will have more examples of my work coming….

betsy cmmission
Commission, “Betsy”
commision tree
Commission: “Tree of Paradise”
commission skull
Commission: “Skull with Snake”

Otherwise the portraits are still coming and I think I am getting better at them.

Hugh Jackman Angry
Angry Hugh Jackman

this one is my favourite though!:

Anthony Hopkins
Mature Anthony Hopkins

In other news, I am still fearful of starting the degree work, I have opened the box properly and even removed the contents, but I am yet to actually read any of it…. I will make that my mission for today, stare fear in the face and go for it…

I am very nervous about starting this whole process as I feel that once I begin there is no turning back. Also I am just plain scared that I will fail. I know that I am perfectly capable of doing this though I am also worried about the massive changes that will take place to y life when I begin…

Here is  poem I wrote about facing fear:

FEAR

I sit; Knees to Chest;   

Wondering what to do for the best.    

Then the door knocks.     

At first a gentle tap, tap, tapping.    

Anxiety knots.   

Stomach ties into tangles of snakes    

A tight girdle of worry wraps itself around my gut.    

Then the tap increases to a rap, rap, rapping…    

Louder still:    

THUMP,     

THUMP,    

CRASH!    

Head spinning now;     

This is it…     

FEAR knocking.   

Demanding.    

At my door.   

Light spot and electric shocks      

Appear in front of my eyes     

Limbs Freeze.      

Icy Fingertips prize at the gut crushing girdle;     

Icy toes, feet and legs cannot support the weight of this worry      

 

Those wings that once held me aloft:      

Flying…   

No,    

SOARING    

Above the world.      

 

Trapped and tattered behind this cage of fright       

Feathers bound by cobwebs, Battered.     

‘ME’ Shattered     

 

And still, FEAR insists… 

“LET ME IN”     

It beats at the door;   

Like so many times before.     

I cower on the floor;      

Like so many times before.     

 

Then IT strikes,        

This urge to say “NO MORE”      

No more kowtowing to the unknown quantity     

This faceless, formless, unknown FEAR      

The owner of this insistent banging      

That unrelenting clamour,     

WAITING outside my door.      

WANTING me to fail, to fall.    

 

So…       

 

I Do Something;      

 

Something I have never done before…      

I answer that door.      

 

It’s just the wind.      

 

So I shake off those cobwebs.     

 

I open my wings, and upon that draft…      

 

I SOAR.

 

 

Caterpillar. (Confessions of a Would-Be Artist)

On Wednesday I received a very exciting phone call, that my chosen university had processed all payments and application and would be emailing my initial course materials to me along with sending them to me by post as a hard copy..

Needless to say I am (in equal measures!) both elated and scared witless! I can’t wait to start on the degree course but my anxious head is telling me all sorts of things like ‘You’re not good enough’, ‘It’ll be too much to handle’, ‘You’ll start it but you wont finish it!’, ‘What if you hate it?’ and the bold courageous part of me is jumping for joy and yelling ‘DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!’

With great trepidation I am at here now with the box full of folder, notebook, study guide and pen and gripped with what can only be described as ‘doom’. Where the heck has this come from? I have been waiting for this moment for months! Why have I suddenly got such crippling performance anxiety when the only person I have to perform for is myself?!

My only guess is that it is fear of the unknown, fear of putting myself out there to be judged. Somehow posting pictures here on my blog and on facebook pales into comparison to having them graded!

I have yet to read any of the course materials, that’s for later today when I am not on my own, having some support to go through them, I am sure will take some of the fear out of the whole process…

Here are some of the more recent portraits I have drawn, I am including them to inject a bit of enthusiasm to carry on with this despite the obvious anxiety!

Daon ALbarn
Damon Albarn
see no evil
See No Evil
hear no evil
Hear No Evil
speak no evil
Speak No Evil
RObin WIlliams 1
Robin Williams

At the moment I feel like I am on the verge of transformation, like a caterpillar, waiting to flourish. It might seem like an obvious reference, I prefer it to being a tadpole, though a decent runner bean seedling would be ok. I am going to spend much of the day in the garden helping things outside to grow, maybe this will inspire  my own growth…

With working through this degree on my mind, I am drawn to a short poem written by Apollinaire, I will leave you with this:

Caterpillar
 
Work hard, poets work hard with good cheer:
Work leads to wealth and freedom from fear;
And butterflies, for all their graces,
Are merely caterpillars who persevere.
 
~Apollinaire~

 

 

Some portrait work

Portraits and dogs…. they go together like birds of a feather….

Once I had drawn the logo for Pangothica I was so fired up to draw something else that I jumped on it straight away! I started doing some portraits. Actually, this started with drawing a friend’s dogs for her birthday. Two miniature schnauzers taken from separate photographs and made into one picture. this was the finished result, and a gift that was happily received:

schnausers
First Dog Portrait Ever! Two Mini Schnauzers

 

potrait H singing 1
Steve Hogarth, Marillion

This spurred me on to find other things that I could turn my hand to. Gem, in fact, asked me if I could draw her favourite musician (Mr Steve Hogarth from Marillion) and handed me a photo which was quite difficult to draw. Major facial expression going on and lots of passion in the photo. I gave it a go and despite some issues with the technicalities I came up with this which I was very pleased with I think it captured the emotion of his singing very well, personally so I shared it on the fan page to a positive audience for the most part…

I moved onto another picture of him which was not so successful and looks a it like him and a bit like Alice Cooper, though still not bad considering it was only my second ever portrait. I shared it again, this time to a more lukewarm reception, but hey, I’m still learning!

portrait H 2
Steve Hogarth Second Portrait

Basically I think this one is overworked and I was using pencil and biro together to draw and the overall effect is a little bit dark. I decided to do another one in biro and pencil, still only my third ever portrait! This time of Mr Steve Rothery, the guitarist from Marillion and all round brilliant Rock God (And a thoroughly nice chap, I met him in a church in Oxford at the Christmas gig of the aforementioned Steve Hogarth!). This one came out MUCH softer and a much better likeness of the man himself. Again shared to the fan site and this time to a better reception.

I did a lot more work in pencil which worked better for tone and shading and then added in accents of biro for depth and to pick out the darker elements.  This had an overall better effect than over-using the biro and I was much more pleased with the result. I was finding my feet at last with the drawing malarky and was loving every minute of it!

Rothers Portrait 1
Mr Rothery, Marillion.

I was sussing out how to do this portrait thing at last and discovering something about the way I work that I had not thought much about before. I actually much prefer to draw using subjects that are actually doing something. Incidental poses rather than contrived ones. Action shots, if you will. I really prefer my subjects to be caught in a moment in time rather than posing for the camera, unless of course they have an unusual expression or are pulling a face.

My training in hypnotherapy and NLP comes in here I think. One of the subjects that I have studied at some length is “micro facial expressions”. Have you ever seen the TV series ‘Lie to Me’? with Tim Roth? Well… That. How the face betrays a feeling in a fleeting moment in time, how we express our innermost feelings in that millisecond that sometimes people are lucky enough to catch on camera. So to me a face with expression is FAR more interesting and also difficult to draw. I do like some posed photos but they ave to be interesting not just gazing at the camera… In this last of the set of drawings, I actually sold the final piece… here:

Steve Hogarth Singing Portrait 2
Steve Hogarth, Marillion, Live

I am waiting for the framing to be done and then I will post a picture of the finished product!

I will leave you with a poem about a lethal addiction….

“A Cautionary Tale…”

It’s a terrible tale 
I’m going to tell 
‘bout an aspiring young writer 
Who started to swell… 
It started on Thursday, 
At just about noon, 
Her face went all round 
Like a full, silver moon 
By lunch time on Friday, 
Her cranium inflated 
Her chin couldn’t take it 
Her jaw dislocated 
Into the weekend 
The swelling continued 
Puffing up ligaments 
Tendons and sinews. 
The spherical authoress 
Was more than bemused 
(once pretty and slender, 
Her ego was bruised) 
The doctors were baffled, 
Experts confused;
Test after test… 
“What’s behind this?” They mused. 

Several days later 
Our tale takes a twist, 
Our beach-ball –like heroine 
Rolled over her wrist 
She punctured her forearm 
And out shot some ink 
The cause of the swelling 
Was her favourite drink! 
What had started off as 
An innocent nibble 
Idle chewing of pens whilst 
She thought what to scribble… 
Developed and grew into 
Quite an affliction 
As she succumbed to 
A full blown addiction 

Nightly in private 
She’d been sneaking around 
Supping on biros and 
Pens that she found. 
The result was: Disaster! 
A sticky ink river 
Her kidneys were inkwells 
Pools of gloop in her liver. 
Her tummy was bloated 
with chewed fibre tips 
Remains of a fountain pen 
Staining her lips 

Sadly for our comrade 
There’s never a return 
Once you’ve swallowed a pen, 
Your insides will burn… 
the addiction takes over, 
Like a wild forest fire;
Only the inkiest tidal waves 
Will quench your desire!
Your resolve will soon waver, 
You’ll be swallowed whole, 
Soon guzzling ink 
Becomes your only goal… 
Of course, the outcome 
Of this tale is tragic, 
No happily ever after 
Nor fairy tale magic… 
She lay on the floor 
And gasped her last breath 
And in full technicolour 
She waited for death.

‘Til Next Time…… Over & Out!