As part of the detailed observations of natural objects, I decided that I wanted to examine dead animals. Of these I found that the ones I was drawn to were mackerel and other sea life, and hornets.
In this blog post I will be writing about The Hornet Chronicles- studies in monochrome.
My aunt found a Hornet on the patio one morning and immediately knew that this was something that would interest me enormously!
I immediately wanted to draw this beautiful, dead creature. I have no desire to be around living hornets, but dead, though a little freaky, I felt that it took on a delicate yet somewhat sinister beauty. I must admit that handling the creature- even though dead- was somewhat scary! I had an irrational fear that it would somehow spring to life and get me on the finger or worse, face! but obviously it didn’t….
My initial study of it was in regular hornet colours. which is here:
I was really pleased with this although it was very tricky to draw, they seem huge when they are flying round my head threatening to kill me, but when I came to draw him, all of a sudden the detail seemed minute and intricate. I purchased a magnifying glass. This helped.
This drawing really, really piqued my interest. There was something morbid, curious and beautiful about this creature. They are so scary when they are alive, they are ruthless and horrifying. Dead though, it was amazing to see that the whole creature is covered in hairs, tiny little fine hairs, and the markings are terrifyingly beautiful.
Moving on from this I started to draw the hornet in blues. I drew him first just in solitude as a hornet on a page:
I mixed the media that I used with pencil, colouring pencil and biro and think that this is a very successful study, I am really happy with it. Again, I really enjoyed drawing this. I am realising that my loves for drawing are largely organic items, animals, faces, the human form, living and dead creatures, wood, leaves, life.
I decided to draw the hornet in a matchbox to give it some context and intimacy, given the title of the module. This is here:
I drew the hornet literally just nestled in the corner of the box. I just wanted to ground it rather than have it suspended in space. As it happens I was not as happy with this depiction of the hornet, it just wasn’t as successful as the first blue hornet.
I decided to explore the idea of having another object or subject in the drawing and as I had struggled so much with holding the dead hornet, I decided to draw myself holding it. Holding the hornet, though it was dead, was actually really scary. Like I said, I was somehow afraid that it would spring to life and sting me, even though this was irrational. I wanted, therefore, to portray me holding the hornet in the most uncomfortable way possible. There was a real push pull to the way that I was having to hold the creature. I needed to have it close enough to be able to see the detail on the hand and the hornet, but my instinct was to hold it as far away form me as possible. So I had to contort my hand in a very weird and uncomfortable way to make both of these things possible.
This actually works really well as it happens, I think, because it allows the whole picture to LOOK as uncomfortable as it felt. The push pull I think comes from the pulling the hornet close to me, then pushing it further away in the same movement. The picture really shows this weird relationship.
I was really happy with the way that this turned out. It is really effective. I think that the detail and the tone on the hand is really well portrayed.
Having now established that I wanted to put both my hand and the hornet together, I needed to place it in some kind of background.
I wanted to have a wash or some kind of ethereal looking background that would contrast with the jarring image of the contorted hand and the dead beast, somehow making the conflict even more obvious, the background I wanted to be serene and calm, whilst the blue hand is stiff and contorted and the beast, though dead was once dangerous. I set about trying out different colour combinations for backgrounds using an ink wash. To add to the ethereal nature of the ink wash I splattered tiny dots of masking fluid onto the paper before putting the wash on it, so that it looked almost other worldly.
Out of these colour combinations I decided that the ones that worked best were the yellow/blue/green combination. I felt that the red and yellow was too much like a warning which wasn’t offering enough of a conflict. The purple and blue and black were too dark and brooding and the pinks and blues looked too pretty. The green and yellow and blue seems very serene and that would really conflict with the contorted hand and scary hornet. I wanted it to be a drawing of conflict and each part of the drawing to make all the other parts increasingly less likely and comfortable.
So I went for the green, blue and yellow.
I did a small piece of paper with a wash and the masking fluid. Once the ink wash was dry, I peeled off the making fluid and then drew the hornet over the top of the wash. This was the mock up of what I hoped would be an effective piece.
Next I wanted to do the drawing of the hornet on the background in more detail. I was happy with the way that that the mock up came out and felt confident that it would work on a bigger scale and started out confidently.
One thing I did decide to change was instead of using the masking fluid, I found that when I was trying to peel it off, it was lifting off layers of paper as well as just the dry fluid. Instead I decided to flick tiny spots of white ink which was not as effective but worked out ok.
As it happened, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. I found it really difficult to achieve the same kind of wash as I had in the mock up, it came out rather a lot darker than I wanted and though the hand and hornet were obviously more clear and the colours more pigmented, as I had intended, making them more striking and stand out better, the overall effect was not as pleasing.
I think that the idea is good and I think that it would benefit from further development and thought. I would really like to use the hornet as I LOVED drawing it, it would be a shame to leave it behind completely and I am hoping that there will be an opportunity to ise it again. But I am not entirely happy with the finished article and think that it is definitely still a work in progress.
FOr this part of the module we were asked to design a still life composition and to play around with colour to achieve texture, tone and depth, using colours that were not what we would expect to use, rather than ‘just’ drawing in the regular colour scheme.
I was really looking forward to this part of the module and was developing something of a real respect for the humble apple and banana. I had also become aware of the importance and significance of texture in drawings and therefore decided to stick with my theme of apples, bananas and carrier bags.
I have done extensive drawings in my sketchbook of these things using various different materials and achieving varying levels of success.
I decided to go all out and use bright and garish colours to depict these subjects and dove right in with my first attempt.
I was getting along nicely with this one and thoroughly enjoying it, then massively overworked the carrier bag in the middle of the drawing. I was disappointed because until then it was working rather well. I was having fun playing with alternative colours and thought that it was going to plan, but got a bit obsessed with the carrier bag handle and over did it!
So I started again…. same subject but honestly, lost all interest in it because I think that the colours went from being quirky and fun and a bit different to just looking rank and offensive …. time to try again…..
number three started, I was a bit happier with the colours but then realised that as I had shifted my position without realising it whilst drawing the initial sketch for the shapes, I had inadvertently and unknowingly caused the apples at the back of the carrier bag to appear as if they were floating and not sat on the table top properly. Completely unsatisfied with that outcome, I decided to stop again and start a new one…..
Also reflecting back over this exercise, I had not done a very good job up until this point in terms of making the apples look shiny and round, the way that i have drawn them, the very shiny, round parts of the apples look like they are actually flat and shiny.
drawing the outlines again, I managed to sort out the floating apple issue and get that part of the drawing right, but then managed to pick colours for the bananas which were in danger of triggering a migraine. I am all for creating challenging pieces but added to the frustration at having started the same drawing 4 times was the fact that the colours that I had chosen were making me feel nauseated…. I decided to sling it to one side and start again…..
Studying the still life composition carefully for the 5th time, I managed to draw what I thought was an accurate depiction of what was in front of me, I accidentally ended up with a floating apple. Not deterred, I persevered and finished the outline then plucked possibly the most disgusting colour out of the 200 or so colours that I have to choose from and coloured in the wall behind the fruit all in that colour.
By now I was tearing my hair out somewhat as this previously pleasurable and enjoyable task was now becoming a migraine-inducing, nausea promoting pain in the backside!
I decided at this point to take a hiatus from the carrier bag of fruit and leave it well alone for a couple of weeks and get on with something else.
WHen I came back to it some time later I decided to do things a bit differently. I swapped the plastic bag for a paper one and put a bunch of bananas (obviously not the same ones) on the opposite side of the composition instead.
This actually was way more pleasing on the eye!
The I set about taking into consideration everything that I had learned from my first five attempts at drawing this picture and set to.
This time…. IT WORKED!!!
I think that this works really well. I much, MUCH prefer the colours that I have chosen to use. The only part of the drawing that I am not happy with is the dark shadow on the left side of the apple at the front of the drawing looks like a hole and not like a shadow…
I like the use of light and dark and how I have managed to achieve some quite striking differences in tone with out using obviously contrasting shades of black and white. I am having something of a love affair with brown paper, I LOVE drawing on it and think it gives a really great effect.
Over all this was a really interesting if a little frustrating exercise at times. I think that I have met the required outcomes and I am happy with the result.
More Sketches For Drawing 1 Part 2- Intimacy, Exercise 1. Further Studies and Experimental Drawings.
I started to share in my previous post some of the detailed observations of natural objects that I have chosen to work with. This has been a riot of mess, colour, fun and ideas. Manly I have chosen to work with seafood, fruit and vegetables and this will continue through the next project -I have already made a start to this, and there is a lot of continuation from one project to the next as I read forwards to the next on and find that I have been doing some of it anyway! I like to keep the next project as a surprise. I don’t read forwards at the beginning because I want to be able to approach each topic with my own ideas and not just be led by what is in the folder so that I can see how things develop organically for me. It is interesting how much of what I have been doing already then shows itself in the next project!
I have been doing lots of sketches of natural objects paying attention to the object individually and as a group if there is more than one- as you can see form my perevious post, looking at background as well as subject (something which I have now discovered comes up in project 2!)
I used different materials, papers, drawing implements and styles.
I re-drew the apples from the first part of my sketches using oil pastels to see if there was any improvement on the soft pastels. I actually think that this works really well.
I included this doodle in my sketchbook after reading about ‘Memento Mori’ and being inspired somewhat by the subject matter that these artists paint and draw. I decided to keep it in my sketchbook as it was interesting. What amused me greatly though was that when I photographed it and looked at it as a whole picture and not just the individual aspects of it, I realised that the silhouette in the middle bottom of the doodle looks remarkable like a female bottom wearing slinky knickers. This was quite by accident, though I wonder what my unconscious mind was trying to tell me!!?
This is a bit of a study on just the negative space aspect of the drawings that I was doing initially after researching artists who use negative space in still life. I used a piece of plain cartridge paper and a black felt tip pen for speed. I wanted to have an experiment with negative space in more fine detail as I think it would work better with the style of drawing that I prefer.
These were some really simple doodles on the back of the cabbage study that I included in my first blog post of this part of the course. I used different colours of felt tip pen and a white pencil just to get some idea of colour choices.
This is a group of garlic based on the study that I did of the garlic. I used garish colours of felt tip pen just to try something new. I actually really like this drawing even though it is nothing like I have ever drawn before and is not anything like the kind of thing I would normally have in my house, I would actually really love to have this on my kitchen wall, it’s great fun and quirky and quite a joyous little sketch!
Another experiment that I did with the drawing of the pepper that I drew (example in the previous post) I decided to experiment with lines to imply the shape and form of the pepper. I actually really like this one too. It is fun and colourful and I like the way that it gives a sense of looseness but in actual fact is really carefully drawn. I used fine liners an biro and just layered up lines and colours to make this effect.
This is a sample sheet of some paper that I made. I used pieces of crumples greaseproof paper which I painted a square of white acrylic pain. I had planned to just do that and draw directly onto it but the paint made the greaseproof paper really flimsy and thin and it would have been impossible to make any kind of marks on it that were pressed harder than a very delicate touch. I decided to persevere with the idea of making this paper and tore up a piece of plain cartridge paper into small pieces and layered them up onto the greaseproof paper with the acrylic paint then finished it with a thick layer of white acrylic paint to make the drawing surface. This made a really robust drawing surface once it had dried, albeit a little bit shiny. I experiemented with a dozen or so different drawing implements (from top to bottom):
Broad black felt tip pen
Colourful artists ink pens
Soft pastel (I had to put a layer of stick tape over this to stop it smudging as I couldn’t use fixative)
Oil Pastel (again added sellotape)
Regular HB pencil
Ink Fine Liner
Gold Permanent Ink Paint Pen
The most successful of these with this drawing surface were the HB pencil, the biro, the colourful artists ink pens, the fine liner and the roller ball pen.
With this in mind I did a few sketches on the handmade paper:
This was the first, a whole mackerel which is not that successful. I was really getting to grips with the surface ass I was drawing on it. It was really lumpy and shiny and hard to use but I thought if used in the right way could produce some interesting results.
Mackerel head based on the larger drawing of the mackerel that I did in soft pastels (further down) I think that this is much more successful. I used biro and artists ink pens, smudging and blending the colours for different effects. I used the white background to pick out shiny parts of the fish… And finally:
A brown crab. I think that this one works really well! Again I used biro and ink pens. It looks like watercolours and I think works really well. This drawing is based on the sketch that I did of a crab that I bought from the fish market. I really like this one and think that it is the most successful of the three that I did.
This is a detailed sketch of one of the whole mackerel that I did then cut out and mounted onto a crumpled piece of greaseproof paper which I mounted onto a piece of heavy brown paper. This was not without difficulty as the greaseproof paper did exactly what it was designed to do and wouldn’t stick! In the end I had to use gorilla glue which kind of leaked from behind the sketch and left some weird discoloured patches. I need to look at different types of glue rather than just relying on pritt stick!
This is an A3 sketch of a brown crab bought from the market. I don’t normally have an issue with dead animals, I love skulls and such like, but this felt rather macabre drawing something that actually still looks alive once it is posed. I did this by just drawing in the dark patches and the shadows using cross hatching.
I decided to do a more detailed drawing of just the crab’s leg which I had to pull off. I think this is rather successful though it looks better in the photo than it does in the original drawing- as is the same with the whole crab sketch. I included more detail of the tezture and tone in the crab’s shell.
And finally…. This is an A2 sketch/drawing of the mackerel head done in soft pastel. Though I had sworn off soft pastels I decided to give them another go on a much bigger piece of paper. Gosh, I love this drawing! It is beautiful to look at, really love the detail, which I have struggled to achieve before. What I did differently was to draw it and blending the colours then putting a bucket load of fixative on it to stop it from smudging but also to give the drawing a rough texture again. I have always found that after a while the grain of the paper becomes saturated with the soft pastel and it becomes impossible to get detail onto the paper. From experience I know that fixative makes the surface rough again in the right quantities and I was able to draw onto the fixative with a small amount of biro and then another layer of soft pastel and then more fixative. I think the colours look sublime and I am really pleased with it. My partner really loves this one. It is big and bold and colourful and rich.
Beginning part 2 of my degree course, with lots of sketches of organic subject matter, really exciting to be moving forward with this and getting ready to release the might of my passionate self! Hear me ROAR!!!
Starting part 2 of the first part of my degree has been somewhat easier than the first part. I seem to be finding my pace a little bit and enjoying the process a LOT more.
I am really happy with the comments from my first assignment, lots of positive feedback and comments that I can work on (such as adding a separate menu to my blog for the assignments and learning log relevant to the degree course and several artists who I will go and research who might inspire me and be relevant to my studies!). I was amazed most of all about the fact that my tutor said that I had submitted a lot of work, when I thought for sure I hadn’t done nearly enough!
One thing that I was really thrilled by was the suggestion that I might do more of the personal art that relates to my feelings and enjoy doing so, connecting more with whats going on and being more passionate. I feel that I have managed to do that more in this second part and also stay more relevant to the degree course in the process. Athough still life is not something that I have really felt that I could throw myself into in the past, I have REALLY enjoyed the process so far and have heaps of ideas that I would like to explore moving forwards.
First I just put a load of natural objects that I found in the house in a still life arrangement to do some preliminary sketches. I photographed the still life from several different angles to see what they looked like at a glance, some of which I have included in my sketch book, then I did a sketch of the whole thing from above and front and then a few more sketches of the angle that I most liked the look at and refined the idea of using negative space. I have researched several artists using negative space and still life subjects online and really enjoyed looking at other artists work.
I chose this hugely famous and enormous piece of work by Picasso as an example of work to look at and explore because of his use of lots of contrast, though it is not a still life piece, I love how he has managed to create such an imposing piece of work that feels oppressive with so few colours. I have not seen the originals to any of these pieces of work that I have chosen, sadly, though can only imagine how completely overwhelming this piece of work that he created must feel in person. It is absolutely huge for one thing and the subject matter, though disjointed and in the cubist style is disturbing and feels almost aggressive. I am not fully “au fait” with the actual meaning of the piece of work as I refrained from looking at the intention of the piece until I want to look at it in more depth wanting more to explore my reaction to it and understand how it makes me feel just by looking at it and absorbing the feeling that it evokes. Honestly it reminds me of the feeling that is in the world around me at this point in time, in a political sense. I can feel a real sense of despair when I look at this painting and feel exhausted and despondent, there is a really impactful aura of loathing that I can’t tell if maybe I am feeling because of what is happening in the world in real time and I am looking for in this painting, or if it was actually the artist’s intention to evoke that kind of real visceral response?! It reminds me of people being forced to do things against their will and being hurt in the process. This is the first time that I have really allowed myself to look deeply into a cubist painting, (which is probably shocking for an artist!) and I must say that I am surprised at the level of the feeling that it has triggered in me. I feel almost breathless with the heaviness of the feeling of being almost crushed.
I love this painting, the peaches are so soft and real looking. One thing that I thought looking at this picture was that when I am drawing a still life picture, something that I would like to do is marry up the detail and realism of the subject matter- fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood maybe? with the stark and plain negative space. I love how the focus is all on the fruit and the foreground- in this case the fruit and the leaves and the plate, but if the background was detailed or a lighter colour, the fruit and plate and the leaves would lose all context and vibrancy. There would be a real sense of things being lost if there was a paler or detailed background in this picture and the heaviness of the negative space lends a real warmth to the peaches that I think would be lacking if there was any more detail in the background. This is something that I would really love to use for my own work. I will explore more about negative space and incorporate this into my own work. I adore drawing organic objects and would love to tun out something with this much warmth and gentleness.
This is the only drawing (as opposed to painting) that I have included in this selection of other artists and I included it partly because of this fact and partly because I liked the effect of the use of negative space (again) and the mixture of shapes in the subject matter. It is somehow a combination in some ways of the Picasso piece and the still life above, in as much as it is very geometric (such as the cubist Guernica) and it includes really good use of negative space. I have never heard of this artist before and though this is not a piece that I particularly enjoy looking at, it is useful in terms of how I can use it to influence my own work. This really makes me interested in using negative space and actually at the point at which I saw this drawing I started to sketch my still life with more negative space in the background which was an effect that I really like. Again I find this piece rather bleak and depressing and heavy, which I am surprised at because I wouldn’t expect to have an emotional response towards a collection of jars and containers drawn in blacks, whites and greys… I have decided for sure that I am way more interested in drawing and depicting images of much more organic subject matter. I love the twists and turns and curves and dips and divots and beauty of natural objects and the human form (though I will have to wait my turn to get into the drawing of bodies jsut yet!)
I’m a huge fan of Bruegel, I studied some of his work for my A-Level, and wasn’t so much aware of his still life work as I have really only looked at his more sinister scenes of death and destruction with skeletons and mounted warriors and their wholesale murdering of crowds of people in bleak and depressing landscapes. This was a surprise and I saw the picture and selected it before I even knew who had painted it. Again, flowers are not something that I would necessarily choose to draw myself, I love them and have painted hundreds of them but they are not something that I have drawn many of, the reason I chose this painting was because here Bruegel has chosen a very organic subject matter and as I said, this is what I like the best. I also was really keen to seek out more work from artists who place emphasis on both the detail and tone and feel of the subject matter using colour and realism to depict the flowers in this case- the peaches in the painting above- and the heaviness of the background and the monotone of it which in relation to the detail of the fruit I would have imagined would have almost ‘drowned out’ the colour and the tone of the natural object but in actual fact I am amazed that rather than the background jumping forward and obscuring the beauty of the natural objects, actually helps to bring them forward and define them, making the softness even more so by way of being such a stark contrast. Almost as if in juxtaposing the softness of the detailed fruit with the blank and stark darkness of the background, both are emphasised and compliment each other. This is a surprise to me and something that I hope I can do justice.
So this is the still life that I put together on a board on a Lazy Susan so that I could move and turn the still life to get an angle and frame it in a way that I liked best. I took a good number of photographs and sketched a couple of different angles until I found the one that I liked best.
This was the first sketch I did of the whole still life. I hadn’t really given much thought to the idea of using just a section of a still life composition before, pretty much always just assuming that if I put together a still life set up, then I had to draw the whole thing in one go! when I started looking at the photos that I had taken I realised that the reason that this sketch is not very successful, for the most part is because there is no sense of a focal point in this sketch, there is too much going on, the eye is not drawn to any particular part of the drawing, there is just too much going on. I realised that there doesn’t even have to be an object in the focal point of the picture for it to work either as I moved forwards drawing different sections of the composition, there simply has to be a flow and a place to which the eye is drawn. In later sketches I used the lines of the bananas and the framing of the apples and the negative space to being a sense of completion to the pictures.
This was the second sketch I did, drastically decreasing the number of objects in the drawing and wiping out the background, giving the drawing a bit more negative space. Removing a majority of the objects in the picture immediately improves it, though i was still not happy with the overall look and framing of the objects nor the angle that I was happy with, I think that this drawing is much more successful than the first.
I decided to experiment with different materials at this point whilst I made my mind up about which angle I liked best. This drawing was done on a coarse graned paper using black biro and graphite pencil. This is in more extreme close up than the first and second as I was more interested in the look of the materials that I was using. I like the detail in the drawing but I think that it really loses something by not having any colour in it, I also really think that it needs more negative space in the background and a better sense of flow and direction to make it work.
This was the first picture that I drew with colour for this composition. I used a coarse grained paper again and used soft pastels. I was not happy with the result of using jsut soft pastels, though I liked the colours, I was unhappy with the level of detail that I was able to achieve using just the pastels because they don’t lend themselves to the kind of realistic fine detail that I like to portray in my drawings. I was really getting into the process of finding the materials and composition that I wanted to settle on at this point and really finding pleasure in the work. I decided to use the colouring pencils that I so love to use and try a different angle with more negative space in the background too.
For this first sketch using a different angle of the still life I just used pencil and did a quick sketch, for speed more than anything just to see if this change in angle was what I wanted to achieve. I was really pleased with the look and the feel of the picture and felt really excited about drawing the picture with colour. I love the use of negative space, mixing up detail in the foreground and then just drawing the outlines and using monochrome in the background leaves. As it turned out I really really like the composition of this drawing. It really works. So I decided that this was the composition that I would like to use if I take this drawing further. I went on to draw this using the colouring pencils and being a lot more heavy handed with the background negative space.
I love this drawing. I love these pencils so much! I think that the detail on the fruit works really well with the plain black background. I love the different colours in the apples and the cheerful bright boldness of the bananas. I love the way that the leaves and twigs pop out in the background juxtaposed against the heavy black of the negative space and really emphasise that space, without the colours and the warmth in the foreground fruits would be lost. I think this works really well, however I drew some tiny sketches in my sketch book, increasing the height of the background and making the overall feel and direction to the drawing much more pleasing. I don’t have a photo to share of those pictures. I plan to draw the picture larger and in those dimensions as a sort of ‘final piece’ as I think it works so well in a small sketch.
I then moved onto my next subject matter and drew a bunch of detailed veggies and some mackerel.
First up was this cross section of a red cabbage. I drew it using prismacolor premier pencils on brown heavy brown paper. I really loved drawing this cabbage, it was a really wonderful thing to draw. I was amazed at just how many colours were in the cabbage. It looks at first glance to be “just” purple and white, but on closer inspection there are all layers of purple, burgundy, mauve, red, white, grey, creamy yellowy colours, brown, it was absolutely fascinating to draw. I love how the lines are so swooping and curvy and the layers remind me of the cross section of a tree trunk. I love the way that the purple started to bleed more and more into the white with different tones of red and purple. I decided to draw more vegetables and other food with the same materials in order to study them more closely. I really love the effect of the lovely vibrant colouring pencils on the brown paper, though I will be exploring other drawing surfaces too.
After I had finished the cabbage, I decided to look at a red pepper in detail. I chose the same materials to draw with as the cabbage had been so successful. I realised that I have drawn multiple peppers over the years but never truly looked at one in great detail and just on a whim I decided that I would like to take photos at regular intervals whilst drawing this picture. I wanted to learn a bit about my own process, how I put together a sketch and the different stages of it. To my amazement, when I looked back over the photographs I realised that I am actually incredibly organised and methodical when approaching this type of drawing. In my life outside of drawing I am so messy, disorganised and somewhat chaotic at times. so it was a real surprise to see that there are also times when i am able to be very neat and considered. I think that this is something that I need to harness in other areas of my life, such as meeting deadlines for important events, both in and out of my degree course, and being more organised in general, I have the ability I just need to grab hold of it! I also thought a bit about how much I struggle to create when my home is in a mess. This has been something that has held me back enormously in the past. I have literally held the art of creating as being something sacred and had a distinct need to be organised and ‘proper’ about it. This really makes me sad because it contradicts what I know about my need to be creative… Yes it is a sacred and wonderful part of me, the ability to create, however, I think my need for perfection, that is unattainable for one thing, is so intense that I actually think that I hold myself back in so many ways. I think that particularly after the rape when I was 19, the fact that it revolved around my artwork has really thrown me off kilter. I have, since then, had a need, a genuine desperation to almost keep my art sterile, to stop it from bleeding out from its neatly contained edges. This has meant that the actual work that I have allowed myself to do is most often involving me really holding back and not putting all of that raw passion that I know I feel into the art work.
Being bipolar particularly has a huge impact on the way that I feel about my artwork, not just art in the classic, visual sense either, other disciplines such as music, drama, dance… All of these things move me deeply and I feel such a huge visceral reaction to hearing/seeing/experiencing beauty and pain and fear and sadness and love in a creative sense and I know that this is something that lies bubbling under he surface just waiting for an outlet to really get going with it. I have so many ideas and thoughts that I literally yearn to produce and make into a real tangible work of art, yet for the reasons I have said, the need for sterility is so pervasive. I can’t adequately describe using words the feeling of absolute euphoria that I get when I am manic nor can I find the ‘right’ words to describe the despair that I feel when my mood plummets. The contrast I guess like the fruit and the negative space, only more so. Maybe this is what draws me to the concept of the beautiful, natural raw warmth of the organic matter and the juxtaposition against the cold, hard, black negative space. It literally somehow describes me, albeit in a watered down kind of way.
What I really want to achieve is the reality of those feelings-NOT the watered down version! If I can’t say them, I can’t sing them, dance them, describe them…. The obvious solution is to create them using art as my medium….
I feel like I am on the cusp of something wonderful, though maybe that is just my mood?!
Reigning in those thoughts for a moment and coming back to the methodical and purposeful creation of the pepper sketch, this was the final outcome of all those stages of creation:
I was happy with the pepper, I still am, but I really, really want to let loose, not be so controlled and contrived, let rip with all of that raw passion and joy and aching pain that I feel so much of the time.
I think that the next sketch, a small sketch of a garlic bulb with a couple of loose cloves that I pulled out of the bulb is rather sweet, but again lacks the passion and feeling:
I do like this sketch but I think it lacks definition, though again I was amazed by the number of colours that I had to pick out of my pencil tin in order to capture the true likeness of the vegetable. I think that I have also managed to achieve a good sense of the papery skin of the bulb, and I really like the natural sweeping curves and lines of the drawing. It is pleasing to look at and it is something that I would consider using in a final piece.
After I had drawn some vegetables and really examined them, I read onto the next part of the folder and discovered that I had wandered unwittingly into a wonderful part of the course, where I get a whole chunk of time to devote to drawing natural objects. It was suggested to me that I might look up the ‘Memento Mori’ arena of artwork. A short definition here: “Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hour glasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers.” (taken from this website here). All of these suggested objects are things that I am interested in and the idea of the memento mori style of working really appeals to me, especially in my darker moods, but not restricted to those times. I love skulls, animal and human and am desperate to procure more of them to add to my collection (currently consisting of a single sheep skull! So not quite a ‘collection’ yet, per say….) I remember drawing a skull several times when I was a teenager as we were lucky enough to have a real human skull in the art department at school, since then I have been on the look out to get hold of a real one myself. Though I guess a really good replica would suffice.
Anyway, I somewhat deviated from the subject matter of a typical memento mori piece of work, but feel that with the next couple of sketches (again using prismacolor premier pencils and and heavy brown paper. I bought and drew three whole mackerel. These fish are astonishing to look at. The colours that they are made of are absolutely beautiful and the beautiful gloss and shimmer of their skin is just a joy to behold.
This was the first drawing I did of the recently deceased trio of fishies, I was again amazed at the colours, this has been a theme so far in this part of the course, ans I was also amazed at how much the facial expressions varied from one fish to the next. Interestingly though several totally independent bits of feedback have been given to me that the fish look really sad and despairing. I didn’t draw them deliberately with this in mind, but with the political climate the way that it is at the moment with the calamitous outcome of the Brexit vote and terrorism being rife in all corners of our spherical home, then most recently the rise and rise of Donald Trump dominating the world media, I have really been feeling the anxiety and confusion that so many of us are feeling during these uncertain times. It is no surprise then that the objects that I chose to draw that were once alive and have faces show some of that anguish that is malingering in our communal headspace right now.
I was really engaged in drawing these fish, I truly loved the whole process. It was a joy, a real genuine exciting joy to draw them and to work at figuring out ways to do the beautiful animals justice.
This was the second mackerel drawing, again the same challenges, colours, the shine, the expression on it’s face, the last remaining vestiges of a short life, forever captured in my sketchbook!
They are a true rainbow of colour and a blaze of shimmering and fiery gloss. Simply beautiful, sometimes silver, sometimes golden, sometimes blue, sometimes green, Even their eye colour varies from fish to fish. I had no idea. I thought they all pretty much looked identical!
After drawing these fish I feel moved to draw other seafood, crabs, prawns, a lobster if i can afford one! Other fish, different types. And a HUGE urge to pursue my need for at the very least a convincing replica of a human skull….!
I have also decided to experiment with not only other drawing media but other types of drawing surface, fabric, different types of paper, card, plastic, metal, tin foil. After drawing the last mackerel I actually created my own drawing surface out of a piece of screwed up grease proof paper, onto which I painted a block of white acrylic which I planned to draw directly onto. This was not actually possible as the acrylic was wet and made the grease proof paper very flimsy and thin. So I used my imagination and tore up a piece of white cartridge paper into small pieces and stuck it in layers onto the acrylic paint with layers of paint in between the paper and finally a thick layer of white acrylic over the top of it. I was planning to draw on to the dried rough surface with graphite pencil, but when I tried to make a mark on the ‘paper’ that I had created with a graphite pencil it barely left an impression on the shiny surface, I decided to have a go at drawing a rough sketch of the mackerel directly onto the paint with blue and black ball point pen. This was somewhat successful, however I plan to experiment with making more of these alternative drawing surfaces and trying out other forms of drawing materials on them, ink, pastels, oil pastels, charcoal if it will work. I will include samples in my sketchbook and upload photos when I have them.
Over all I am thoroughly enjoying this part of the degree course and my art studio is nearing completion at long last, so in the near future I will be able to move in there with all of my materials and a huge dose of enthusiasm to get things moving….
But that’s another blog post entirely.
For anyone who has stayed with me to read til the end of this enormous blog post and stream of consciousness, I thank you and I am grateful for your time.
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! .
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.
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…
And then I did a few other different pictures, the “Pete the Duck” pic being one of my favourites!
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
sometimes life just shudders to a despondent halt…..
I realise that it has been some weeks since i last posted a blog update. Two of those weeks have been spent on holiday in Devon- a perfect excuse to bring out the pencils and paper and draw to my heart’s content… the other weeks I cannot account for other than a feeling of bewilderment and discontent. I have struggled to manage my time, I have struggled to manage my moods and I have struggled to manage my motivation In short I have drawn and written very little and done very little else of consequence with my time- other than waste it!
The date is drawing ever closer and I am drawing ever decreasingly towards the installation of my art studio. I should be excited, I should be climbing the walls with joy and gratitude, and instead I feel as flat as a pancake.
I have nearly finished my research point, the first one in the first part of Drawing 1, discussing some of the works of Odilon Redon. I anticipate that this will be complete some time this afternoon and I will publish it before the afternoon/evening is over then I can dedicate the rest of the week to finishing and handing in the first part of my degree!
I can’t help feeling that this is something of self sabotaging behaviour. I have enviably got exactly what I want, the course, the support of my partner, friends and family, the promise of an art studio…. plus all the basics, a roof over my head, more than enough food in my belly, people around me who I love. This should be easy.
But it isn’t. Life with some mental health difficulties is not easy, there is much that I don’t understand about myself and much that I do. I understand, for example, that I am given to sabotaging myself when things are going well, I do not, however, understand why I do that. Maybe it is fear of succeeding, of actually getting something right. I am managing to sell portrait commissions both of animals and people and these are very warmly received and appreciated, this is good, so what do I do on the back of this? I retreat further into myself, find that space of safety inside and put on that brave face for the world to see when inside is just chaos.
Let me give you an example, for want of a better way of explaining it, imagine that you are made up of lots of different parts. It isn’t difficult. Imagine the language you use when you are talking about an inner conflict about making a decision about something, for example. You might say ‘On the one hand I feel like <example>BUT another part of me feels like <example>….’ or ‘part of me KNOWS that isn’t the best way of doing things but a bigger part of me just thinks ‘fuck it!”. Now you have in mind those conflicting parts of yourself, we all have them, nobody is just a straight down the middle, always in one mind about everything kind of person, we all experience internal dilemma. So imagine then that those inner parts of you are actually very defined and have their own personae, they don’t just represent a differing point of view that you have to yourself, but actually take on characteristics that are completely different to your main character. Like me, I am, in my core self, the part of me who does the most me-ing, pretty flighty, given to swings of mood and temperament, sometimes, sometimes often,anxious about a lot of things. I am driven, I am creative, I am a lover of life, an optimist, despite the anxious streak. Now imagine that there are other parts of me who are well developed and conflicting with the core me, there might be, for example, part of me who is oblivious to any of the trauma that I have been through…. There might be younger child parts who are, in turn, skittish, playful, funny, childish, traumatised, curious, Yes I contain all of those qualities as core me, but those child parts might embody a certain quality in particular, so one child part might be particularly curious, another one particularly playful, one very traumatised, one pre-verbal, one very noisy and bull headed. Maybe there is an adult part who is able to deal with the bill paying, the refund getting when something isn’t right, the phone answering the taxi calling, the doctor appointment attending. There might be an adult part who is very, very critical and mean, a masculine part or maybe two, maybe a self abusive part who likes to sabotage things for the other parts when they are going well, because if we sabotage it for ourselves then nobody can wreck it for us…. Just imagine, for a second, ALL of that happening. AT ONCE.
It gets VERY noisy in here.
I feel weird even posting this as it is so personal, but I promised myself that I would share uncensored the process of this journey and this is something that plays a very big part for me. I am not on my journey alone with this degree, with anything, even when I am by myself. Of course there are times when none of this matters, when I am able to just ENJOY something…. like Game of Thrones, for example. Its not suitable for the younger bits of me, but they can take themselves off to a corner of my mind and amuse themselves whilst adult, coping, managing, grown up me gets to do something for myself. And it’s not all bad, when there is something that I, core me, finds too difficult to cope with, there is always some other version of me who can pick up the pieces and carry on. But it is not without complications. There are very stubborn combatant parts of me who like to cause arguments and trouble for core me, I’m not always aware of time passing or when someone else is doing something, I am not always aware of it. Like the part of me who is writing this, I am very aware of what I am writing, some other part might get a nasty shock when they read it later though!
The upshot of all this is that I have to take things easy and be gentle with myself. I have to be kind to myself and patient because not all the me’s are up to date with the other ones, and most of all I have to remind people around me that I am not always firing on all cylinders. Something that to part of me might seem very straight forward and simple, might suddenly become completely impossible and difficult. I am lucky.. I have a family who are willing to make sense of this with me, I have a partner who is supportive of my pursuits though doesn’t always understand my reasoning, is for the most part willing to join me for the ride. I have good friends and a support network who are helping me to figure things out as I go along.
All these things impact on my ability to function on this degree course.
So on that note, now that I have got that off my chest I will resume with my work, my writing and my drawing work, I will continue to plug away at the degree course and do my utmost to get a good result.
Thanks for trying to make sense of something that doesn’t really make sense to me. I appreciate the concentration span of anyone who got through all that in one piece! off to work I go!
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:
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”
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.
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….
Otherwise the portraits are still coming and I think I am getting better at them.
this one is my favourite though!:
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:
I sit; Knees to Chest;
Wondering what to do for the best.
Then the door knocks.
At first a gentle tap, tap, tapping.
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…
Head spinning now;
This is it…
At my door.
Light spot and electric shocks
Appear in front of my eyes
Icy Fingertips prize at the gut crushing girdle;
Icy toes, feet and legs cannot support the weight of this worry
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!
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: