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! .

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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

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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….

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Some More Texture and Nature Studies & My First Still Life

Having enjoyed the texture studies so much I decided to carry on doing some drawings of items from nature to explore texture using other drawing media than just pencil. I particularly enjoy drawing with biro, colouring pencil and graphite pencil together for a really dark and detailed effect. I started out drawing this shell from two different angles, the top and the underneath:

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Spiny shell from above, biro, graphite pencil and colouring pencil
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Spiny shell from underneath with graphite pencil, biro and colouring pencil

Having enjoyed drawing this object from nature I decided to collect a group of objects from a dog walk and my garden, an iris, a stick, a stone, some fuchsias, holly and a pine cone. I decided to draw directly into my sketch book onto the brown paper rather than on white paper and sticking it in. This was the result:

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Brown paper study, Stick, Iris, Holly, Stone, Pine Cone, Fuchsias; Biro, graphite pencil and colouring pencil.

I’m more or less happy with this, although it is a study I still like the composition of this the way the items are stacked together, though there are no real shadows cast between the objects as the light was really bright in the room and not from any particular direction, I will be using a spot light in future as I will need to light still life set ups from at least one side and my table is in a dark corner f the room.

In the future when my studio is built (it’s being built on September 8th, I’ve been keeping a countdown calendar!!!)I will have a huge table to draw on (80cm deep by 180cm wide) which will be height adjustable and a MUCH better chair that has been made for me to suit my needs. I went to get assessed or these a few days ago and they should be manufactured by the time my studio is finished being built. The table will be side on to the window in the studio so there will always be a side on light naturally but I will also be investing in a lamp with a daylight bulb and spot lights for lighting up still life and objects to be built. I really cannot wait for this to be built as it will help me enormously in the pursuit of the right working environment…..

Anyway, after the mixed natural objects texture study with mixed media on brown paper, I realised that the combination of drawing media and the brown paper was beautiful, so I decided to do a more detailed study of just irises, which in my opinion were the better of the flowers that I had drawn in the previous study and chose a photograph of last years irises and long grass like leaves.I really really enjoyed drawing the picture that I ended up with:

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Irises and buds on brown paper, Biro, Graphite Pencil, Coloured Pencil

Like I said, I am really happy with the outcome, I love the detail and the many, many shades of blues and purples in the flowers. Again, drawing these irises has increased my respect for nature, the exquisite detail on the petals, all the different shades of burnt orange, blues, purples and greens, as well as burgundy, red…. the veins in the petals….Here are a couple of drawings of my progress whilst I was doing the picture, different stages and although I think that the detail is lovely without the finer detail being added by biro, I still think I prefer the more detailed version.

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Irises Progress 1- first basic iris drawn with graphite pencil and colouring pencil, not yet complete
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Irises Progress 2- Getting the second flower down, looks a little fuzzy round the edges until I  added the finer detail in with biro

I love the brown paper as a backdrop and can’ believe I have never used brown paper to draw directly onto before and I am thrilled with the results so will be investing in some large sheets of it for future work.

I have also constructed and drawn my first collection of objects for still life work. I chose a sheep’s skull, two class vases, a glass bottle full of water, an empty glass jar, a leather bound book, a glass paperweight and a large piece of calico fabric. I set up the still life on my table and because of the lack of natural light I decided to play with ways of lighting up the piece with different forms of light to cast interesting shadows and to play with reflections and shade In the end I decided on two sets of 4 tea light candles in two spaces in front and to the side of the still life set up, this made some beautiful twinkly light reflecting off the glass and shiny objects as well as some really interesting shadows on the non shiny objects.

I chose to work on off white cartridge paper, A2 in size and use charcoal, just plain willow charcoal sticks in various widths and a putty rubber. I have only ever used willow charcoal once and that as for lie drawing multiple five minute rapid pose sketches and am not familiar with it’s imitations or benefits, so I thought  would give it a shot.

I decided to do the whole still life arrangement first on one sheet of A2 paper and found charcoal really difficult to work with I would like to redraw it on black sugar paper with chalk and charcoal together. It was a difficult medium to use as it smudges really easily and makes a huge mess! However as this was my first ever attempt at drawing seriously with charcoal I am pretty happy with the results. I think I got enough detail to make each aspect of the arrangement identifiable. The actual picture is not on the tilt like the photograph depicts it to be, the lines are pretty much straight, though this was difficult to achieve because I don’t have a tilted drawing board at the moment so I was working flat which messed somewhat with my ability to get the perspective correct. When I get my art studio I will be investing in a table top drawing board which tilts to avoid this difficulty occurring in the future.

This is a photograph of the first drawing:

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Still Life- Charcoal on Cartridge paper, first attempt at using charcoal to draw such intricate detail.

Although the photograph makes t look wonky, the actual still life looks better, it is still clear that ll the objects are recognisable and that the picture mostly works. The only part that really sticks out to me as being wrong is the small jar in the bottom right of the picture, it looks like it is floating  because I wasn’t heavy handed enough with the charcoal. I also realised how hard it is to achieve minute detail with a drawing implement that blunts so rapidly. I am pretty much happy with the over all look except the fact that the photograph angle that I took it at makes it all look like the tall items are drastically leaning inwards, I know that they do to some extent on the actual picture but not to this extent.

I decided to pick out a corner of the still life and draw it bigger  with more detail. Again the photograph makes it look wonky and again the actual picture is not as only, but this again really highlights the need to invest in a proper tilted drawing board.

Charcoal Skll Study Close Up
Still Life close up Study

I think that this works better in terms of the weight of the objects is far better conveyed,  also felt like I was finding better ways of using the charcoal and the putty rubber to better effect, especially on the skull and vases behind it. I ill be doing a couple more smaller A3 drawings of the same still life using other drawing media, maybe mixed media on A3 cartridge paper and maybe an A1 black sugar paper piece using charcoal and chalk, just to see what works well and what materials I am comfortable working with and which ones I need to revisit and practice using more.

I might even do a smaller one directly into my sketch book so that I can check out the effect of working with graphite and biro with this kind of still life on brown paper…

I picked these objects because I LOVE my sheep’s skull, it is old and perished and so full of history,. I chose several reflective objects so that I could pay with the reflections of reflections of reflections, also I wanted completely transparent objects because I wanted to be able to see the calico behind it. I chose the book and jars as they are typically rectangular boy shapes as well as the jars having circles and ellipses, and I chose the flower because I wanted something living in the picture full of inert objects. I don’t actually like the way the flower turned out as a drawing though I do like the way it adds eight to the collection of objects which would otherwise have ended up being all the same height and have no kinds of interesting levels to it.

I did really love the way that the candle light lit up the picture. I would love to try adding just a couple of colours to add warmth to the drawing. I may take a couple of photos of the set up still life so that I can revisit it later when I have time to really get stuck into it as I really do believe that it is worth revisiting…

Til next time Xxxxx