Getting Down To Business (Lots of Drawings At Last!)

As I have already shared, this has been a difficult time with my mental health and physical health too. (Actually I think I only shared that my mental health has been poor, I didn’t mention my physical health…) Well my mental health has started to stabilise now, I am feeling a lot more ‘together’ and ‘with it’. Physically though, there is a very different story to tell.

I have been suffering with a huge flare up of whatever is wrong with me. My GP is sure that all that ails me is fibromyalgia, but I can’t help feeling like this is a somewhat ‘dustbin diagnosis’; basically I feel like I have had the label of fibromyalgia slapped on me because nobody can be bothered/will make the effort to run necessary tests and diagnose me with the actual thing that I am ill with! .

fibro

Starting from the bottom up, feet first, there is literally not a part of my body which does not cause me pain, though for the majority of the time it is in my joints, not just soft tissue. I also have very hypermobile joints, meaning that the flexibility in my joints is over extended, even though they are sore and tender. My ankles particularly are very weak and I fall a lot, though this is not just the joint pain causing me to fall, but the fact that in addition to the pain I am in, I also suffer with chronic debilitating dizziness. I have had this investigated and the only things that they were able to say with certainty are that a) I have a rather low blood pressure, which stays low even when I have been standing for a while, and b) I have something called psychogenic syncope which roughly translates as “falls over because of psychological reasons”.

I cannot argue the low blood pressure, there is evidence to back that up, but the psychogenic syncope, which is rather vague, basically means that because of my mental health I have fainting fits. It seems to tie in with the dissociative symptoms a lot. I have had several really nasty falls which have occurred at times when I have been blissfully unaware of the fact that I am even awake, let alone not maintaining my balance.

Twice I have broken bones in my altered state, the first time I cracked my cheekbone, not badly but badly enough that 18 months later it still gives me pain. Then last time I did some serious damage whilst unaware I broke my top thumb knuckle into three pieces crushing it under  a chair. I don’t actually remember the breaking of the bone, but when I woke up, some part inside me had had a field day wrecking my living room in bizarre ways…

I woke up in the morning with an extremely sore thumb. I was, at that time, being assessed to see if I had Lupus- still a possibility but they have not taken that ‘evidence’ seriously or to the next round of testing because I think that they think I am making a fuss about nothing. Anyway I woke up with a sore thumb and assumed that it was joint pain, so I put a heat patch on the whole of my thumb and held it in place with a wrist splint. I then set to cleaning my flat because I had had a huge flood in here, unbeknown to me I was cleaning vigorously with a shattered thumb knuckle. I cannot even describe how painful it was. Anyway, I took the heat pad off and saw that my thumb had gone several shades of purple and was nearly three times it’s normal size, so my friend brought me to A & E and we discovered that not only was it broken, but badly broken. Six weeks minimum in a splint after 2 weeks in a full arm cast. NIGHTMARE. It was also my right thumb I am right handed- which made everything difficult and lots of things impossible.

What upset me the most though was the fact that I had and still have no recollection of the fall. When I woke up the scene in the living room was really disturbing. I had spread several packs of gardening seeds all over the coffee table, I had placed plushy dog toys under all the legs of all the dining chairs. All my photos were upside down. All of the blankets and cushions out of the living room were in a pile by the front door. One of the dining chairs was lying down- which the doctors and so on thought was how I broke my thumb by falling on the chair and crushing my thumb underneath it. scary stuff. I had also emptied two pencil cases FULL of pens and pencils into my bin. It was so weird. Like I said though, I still have zero recollection of what happened that night and it was traumatic piecing it all together.

Anyway, the reason for my bringing this up, and getting side tracked (hahaha, nothing new there!) is because my physical health is really dreadful at the moment. I have had five falls in the last two and a half weeks. smashing my phone, getting gravel all embedded in my hand and knees, covering myself with mud, denting my ego rather spectacularly, and mostly really hurting myself. Part of the problem is lack of awareness and the fact that I have done myself real damage.

So yeah the physical side of things is really not good. I am having to use my crutches more and more to enable me to leave the house, and I HATE it!

Having said that, the lack of mobility means that I have ample time to sit and draw. And once I had gotten over my hump of not being able to draw, I was drained and depressed and mentally not in a good place.

I began to draw things out of the garden, flowers, leaves etc, and from photos that I took on holiday (Pete the Duck for example!) and using different media to emphasise tone and texture.

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Pepper from the garden (graphite pencil)
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Chillies from the garden (Graphite pencil)
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Collection of Peas from the garden (pencil and colouring pencil and biro)
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Banana (colouring pencil and biro on brown paper)

I did a couple of drawings of flowers after I had enjoyed doing my Iris pictures so much, but found that they lacked the depth and detail of the irises, I think that I just prefer the colours and the shape and the unusual markings of the irises more than I do on these flowers… they would make good greetings cards but not much else…

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Asiatic lilies from the garden (pastel and biro and pencil on blue pastel paper)
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“The welcoming committee” pansies from the garden

And then I did a few other different pictures, the “Pete the Duck” pic being one of my favourites!

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“Pete The Duck” Otter Falls Cottages, Devon, drawn with felt tip pens, colouring pencils and minimal biro on sugar paper.
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Sea shell, drawn with colouring pencils on brown paper, experimenting with using different colours for shading rather than just black/grey/brown
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My left hand- soft pastels and biro on sugar paper.

Not so happy with the hand one although I like the colours, it came out somewhat chunkier and more manly than my actual hands! Still an interesting and fun picture to draw, it was difficult to achieve the fine detail with soft pastels on a paper with a bit more tooth.

Finally I drew some pictures of non famous people, one was a commission piece of work for a birthday present for the person who was the subject of the portrait- and she loved it! wow! the other ones are my cousins, Maisie and Reddvers.

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“Tia” Commission piece for the lady in the pictures’ birthday
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“Reddvers” my young cousin, very sweet photo of him taken by his sister, Maisie
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“Maisie” My cousin, given to her as a gift, graphite pencil and biro on white cartridge paper.

Maisie loved her portrait. She is still very young (13? 14?) but an incredible artist herself, so busy drawing everyone else that she doesn’t do any of herself and nobody else does either, so it was a nice surprise for her to get it!

Re-engaging with the drawing of objects form the garden, animals from photographs and other organic items was so much fun. I enjoyed it and managed to include some of the items from previous work

charcoal skull study
Still Life, charcoal on cartridge paper, A1
Charcoal Skll Study Close Up
Portion of the same still life, charcoal on cartridge paper.

As you can see I included the skull that I eventually had in my final piece in these two still life studies. Actually I had never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before and though I was at a disadvantage, my paper was flat on the table as I did not have an easel or a drawing board that would allow me to elevate the paper, thus I ended up with a wonky picture with poor perspective as It was being drawn flat on the table. It actually looks worse in the photo than in real life because I had to angle the camera in such a way that it actually took the picture, let alone managing to get the perspective corrected. I will be investing on a tilting A1 drawing board just as soon as I can afford one as it is absolutely essential unless you keeps stopping and standing over the picture and preparing to draw the lines in using a ruler for accuracy, it would really make my work a lot easier to have a board on a stand so that I am facing my work rather than having it stretched out in front of me looking all wonky when I am done with it! still, I had a go and having never drawn a picture exclusively in charcoal before I was actually pleasantly surprised with the results!

Onward to the next module now….

Turning The Cogs…..

It’s been a weird few months, with my resolve wavering with regards to my degree and my commitment towards it in the actual doing of the work and being able to hand it in. Mentally and emotionally I am totally committed to the degree, I really want it, like really REALLY want to do this. I have wanted an art degree for as long as I can remember, but after pursuing a life of excess and actively living to forget the somewhat harsh reality of the details of my life for so many years after leaving college doing my A-Levels, I had only dreamt that me doing a degree was a possibility.

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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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John Snow- Game of Thrones

When I found the college that I am doing my degree with and found that it was so geared towards people like me, people who suffer with problems that mean that they find it so difficult to leave the house that doing a degree by going to an actual university was nothing more than a pipe dream. That the degree that I wanted actually exists, to do the qualification solely based on my drawing which is indeed my favourite way of being creative- I class painting somewhat under this term too, in as much as it is drawing but with a paintbrush and plan to do at least one painting module as part of this course. Honestly, when I found that there was an achievable way of gaining the long sought after degree that I have tortured myself with the absence of for so many years…. I was a complete wreck of anxiety and excitement- which incidentally feel very similar physiologically, something that I have to remind myself of almost constantly as the anxiety conspires in my belly to make me sick with terror, I have to remind myself that the anxiety that I am feeling could very well be a mixture of excitement and anticipation.

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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones
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Jon Snow- Game of Thrones

When I enrolled on the course, secured my funding and started the degree, as I posted here in the beginning, I was so fired up, though so completely nervous about opening the folder and seeing what was inside that I couldn’t even make a start for over a week and a half. But…. when I started the work, I found that the commitment was further solidified by an absolute joy at what I was doing…. then I ground to a halt.

It was suddenly hard to do the work, suddenly hard to do the written work. Despite knowing that I am most happy whilst drawing and painting, I shuddered to a despondent halt, stopping all working and writing immediately, including writing on this blog for a long while.

I realised with some disappointment that when the college had asked me if I wanted to hold fire on starting until my support worker/mentor was in place so that I would have the right kind of support and not be completely on my own working on a degree in the confines of a space that I hide myself away on from the outside world; I had insisted that the degree would be doable and fine to continue without the support mentor, that I had everything under control…. the truth was that I really very much needed that extra support and would go on to struggle without it.

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Victoria Wood
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John Cleese

I finished my blog post about the artist Odilon Redon- Research Point, but failed to publish it, and began to immerse myself in a world of practical need and need fulfilment, such as ‘I’m hungry- I’ll eat’, ‘I’m tired-I’ll sleep’. Neglecting all but a small number of portraits, all of which (bar a couple) have been stuck in my sketch book as I figured that any and all work was relevant to the module I was doing as it had organically evolved from found objects and still life to looking at the textures of skin and hair and fabric, all of which are a major part of my portraits. In fact this was all I managed to do except for the final piece as the first part of the module….  I entitled it “A Few Of My Favourite Things” as it is a group of objects which are meaningful to me for different reasons…

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“A Few Of My favourite Things” Final Piece for Drawing 1 module 1

I chose the boot because it belongs to my partner and she wears them literally ALL the time. I bought them for her for Christmas a few years back and they still creak like new shoes, gotta love a pair of decent quality boots that also look awesome….  I chose the glass bottle because I love glass bottles, and the reflections and the way that light catches the bottle in different ways really intrigues me. I chose the stuffed bunny rabbit at the back because my Aunt gave it to me after she made it and I chose the skull, shell and starfish as they are all organic objects which appeals to me enormously. I really enjoy drawing anything that you can find in nature, that, along with drawing the human form and faces fascinate me as I draw them due to their organic and fluid nature. I love irregularity and imperfection and getting my hands dirty, I guess all this is true in my life outside of art as my partner and I maintain a wonderful veggie patch in the back garden as well as cultivating beautiful flowers and shrubs. I chose the mannequin because it reminds me of my folks who always have been and still are my biggest supporters when it comes to my creative endeavours… They bought it for me from IKEA when I really insisted that I needed it for my art work… well it came into it’s own! And I chose the green fabric because I love drawing the way that fabric falls and love it as a backdrop to most items that I draw. I spend as much time working on the folds in fabric and bringing that to life as I do on the objects in the foreground.

I decided to draw the final piece in colouring pencils and pencil primarily, mainly because I was really excited by the colours of the objects that I was drawing. Also I have done lots of studies using colouring pencils but not many larger pieces * the  final piece is A2.

So that was my final piece drawn and done. Very happy that it is done, not so happy with the result if I am honest. It is mediocre at best, but it is done and I have done the net step too of sending it off to my tutor!

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Steve Hogarth “H” Marillion Lead Singer (2016 photo shoot)
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Steve Hogarth “H” Marillion Lead Singer, younger days photo shoot, with the album Afraid of Sunlight

Anyway after much dilly dallying I actually had my learning support worker/mentor approved and was able to make my first contact with her a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Becky and she is lovely. I was so happy that I had been allocated a learning support mentor that I actually feel safe in the presence of and happy that I feel comfortable with her and have to say that I wish, in way that I had started my degree once I had her support in place, as I have found that it is so much easier to make deadlines and stick to them with her support. As it was I didn’t and have struggled somewhat to keep on track.

Our first meeting we decided that I would have a deadline of a week to hand in and complete the first module, at least to the point where I could hand something in. I had been in contact with my tutor via email to apologise profusely about not having handed in my work yet and that I have been struggling with my mental health over the last few months. Moving from a manic phase to a crappy, depressed phase which has been hard. She was really nice about it, reminding me that I am in no rush, not that I have to make sure everything is perfect before handing it in. This is a huge problem for me. Unless something is perfect and presentable and exactly-just-so, I find it incredibly difficult to hand in work, or pass on a portrait that I have completed…. or what ever really…

Anyway, I booked the collection of my portfolio from my home at 10.30 AM on Tuesday 11th October and by 1.30 PM it had been collected by a nice man from ParcelForce and then it was delivered and signed for at midday the following day. I can’t fault their service and the cost was reasonable too, I also managed to find a shop on eBay who sell A1 sized postage bags that I can fit my art folder in comfortably. So off it went, delivered and received and it is in the lap of my tutor now to decide if I am actually on the right track and have what it takes to do this qualification. I am not going to lie, I am terrified about receiving it back. hey ho.

I saw my support worker again this week and she was hugely helpful, doing a short guided relaxation and breathing exercise and we set a couple of deadlines for me to meet, such as finishing the second module by Christmas at the latest. I have another appointment with her next week…. I am actually looking forward to it, now that I have a weekly point of contact, suddenly deadlines seem like my friend and not my foe!

On another note, I do feel like my portraits are improving immensely, I have practised quite a lot and feel that I have moved forwards in the quality and feel of my drawings and seem to be getting a lot of feedback that backs this up!

 

Odilon Redon- Research Point

Odilon Redon - Two Trees 1875
“Two Trees” 1875

Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux on April 20, 1840 and died on July 6, 1916. The young Bertrand-Jean Redon acquired the nickname “Odilon” from his mother, Odile. He started drawing as a ten year old and even won a prize for his drawing but upon his father’s insistence switched to architecture as a teen. He failed to get into the architecture school at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts which ended that career before it started however continued to study painting there in 1864 under Jean-Léon Gérôme before returning to Bordeaux, where he took up sculpting. He studied with the draughtsman and engraver  Rodolphe Bresdin who introduced him to etching and lithography.

He continued with his artistic career until 1870 when he was called to fight in the Franco-Prussian War.

After the war he returned to Paris and worked almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography and entered his “Noirs” period, making what he called his visionary works, almost entirely in shades of black. This picture above and the one below are very similar in their composition and feel, though done almost 20 years apart:

Odilon Redon- The Trees
“The Trees” C1090’s

I have picked out a number of his works spanning the era of his use of charcoal and which reflect a wide variety of his works during the period of 1875 up to 1900, all of which show great depth, tone and shading which Redon portrayed so well.

In the first two pictures I am instantly drawn to the centre of the picture by the lines of the trees, the depth and shading give the picture a feeling of mystery and gloominess. I feel a heaviness in these two pictures which is alleviated when I inspect the pictures more closely and see that he has picked out spots of light and dappled greys on the bottoms of the trees, implying a more fantastical quality to his work, almost like he is illustrating a fairy tale about a deep dark woods.

At first the pictures look heavy, verging on  clumsy, but when I study them more closely, there is fine detail in the twigs and fronds of leaves  in the undergrowth. In the first picture I feel almost as though the relationship between the two trees is almost conspiratorial, secretive and as though one tree is whispering to the other, the trees seem to take on a more human form. In the second picture the trees are leaning away from each other, like they have  fallen out, it is almost as if the second picture is the conclusion to the first picture when viewed as a pair.

I decided to look at the way that Redon has used shading on more spherical objects, using the patches of light and dark to give weight and imply lightness also:

Odilon Redon - Exhibition in 1882 1
Unknown. (could not find a title or year for this but it fits in with his other ‘noirs’)
Odilon Redon - Sphere
“Sphere” C1890’s

What I think is amazing about these two pictures is that the subject is the same, the sphere, yet with a difference in shading makes the top one have such a hugely heavy weight like a giant cannonball and the other looks light as a feather, like it is floating. It shows that with the right kind of shading any ‘weight’ of object can be achieved and the shading that he has used in these pictures gives the objects a very 3D appearance. I also really like the delicate use of shading on the lighter areas of the object and the lighter areas on the pictures as a whole. There is no solid ‘line’ around the whole sphere in either picture, all of the shape is implied using shading.

Odilon Redon - The Smiling Spider 1881
“Smiling Spider” 1881

Odilon Redon was greatly inspired by the author/poet Edgar Allen Poe, though he had been dead for 33 years at the time that Redon was involved in making lithographs. Although his picture seem somewhat surreal, they are not classed as such, instead being described as realistic yet macabre and ethereal, Redon described his work in the following way: “I approached the unlikely by means of the unlikely and could give visual logic to the imaginary elements which I perceived.” [more about this can be found here]. Above and below are a couple of his Edgar Allen Poe inspired pieces:

Odilon Redon - Crying Spider 1881
“The Crying Spider” 1881

I really like how Redon has implied menace and the macabre through his use of heavy black and minimal light areas picked out of the blackness. Again on first viewing these pictures they have an air of naivete but on looking, and really seeing the mages, there is a certain maturity, a conveying of real emotion which is achieved purely through the sensitive use of one colour.