“One Long Day…”

Coming Home

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It’s been a long while since I wrote anything on here. A good three or so months since my last actual blog post, but I have been writing bits here and there to put on here, none of it’s seems very relevant any more, I have just felt so disjointed and all up in the air, and all of a sudden I feel as though my brain has  let me start being creative again. Hurrah!

Wow.

I’ll start at the end first- logic y’see!

So this morning (Monday 20th March 2017) I posted what felt like an embarrassing SOS on the drawing 1 forum basically explaining that I have been in a terrible place mentally and physically for the last few months. Just leading up to the last few months I was extraordinarily productive and churned out loads of work, something that I will certainly been on the lookout for in future as it was a pretty big indicator that I was experiencing a manic episode. I am diagnosed with bipolar type 1 which if you want to know more about can be discovered abundantly on google with no real effort…. (here is a link to loads of articles on google about it –Bipolar Articles– see, you really didn’t need to put in any effort at all!)

I was amazed at the lovely responses that I received after just a few hours of posting that SOS, I had, it seems, no reason to be embarrassed and every reason to believe that the people who I am sharing the journey of this course with are basically lovely, supportive, and generous folk who are a lot like me…. I had a big grin on my face to replace that glum, solemn grimace that I had been wearing earlier in the day.

As any fellow BP1-er will know, those euphoric highs are pretty much always followed by a crippling low. This was form in that regard.  In addition to that there is also the small matter if the dissociative disorderly stuff, chronic anxiety and various other mental health stuff- and then just to add another layer of fun and games, I hurt my back, which made my physical problems a great deal worse… I have the added benefit of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue… deep, deep, resounding joy!

There I have been since the tail end of that wonderful productive period (I will also be writing a blog post with drawings that I made during that time later, I need to get this off my chest first!) dipping and dipping further and further, until frankly I just didn’t feel able to get back up. The first thing that goes, every time this happens, is the ability to be creative. That’s not to say that the feelings are only there when I am manic, that is not the case, I pretty much feel creative all the time. When I am manic and euphoric that creativity is massively increased, but it never fully goes away, the feelings don’t anyway, the ability to use them, to have those feelings manifest works of art- this is what diminishes. Along with the creative purpose that reduces, I also find that the state of me and my flat are also hugely affected. Often, I end up living in and living as a total mess!

The reason I decided to name this post ‘One Long Day’ is because it feels exactly like that to me. Each day doesn’t seem to end with any kind of satisfying, restful conclusion, boundaried by undisturbed sleep, rather it just drags on and on with unrelenting sadness, emptiness and ultimately despair…

I lived in that one long day for months. Now it is time to start another…

After I posted that plea for support I knew that I had to take action and do something about the situation. Not just sit there and hope that it will go away or somehow magically change into something more positive. This has just been a snag. There may be others, there may not, but it is likely that there will be.

I took out my folder which had somehow acquired the same emotional qualities as a giant five headed monster with big teeth and the attitude of what would happen if Katie Hopkins and a rabid T-Rex were to somehow create an especially angry two-year-old.

With sweaty palms and a raging headache I decided that I couldn’t do it by myself, so I called a friend for the emotional support necessary to open it.

Friend on board, I falteringly opened the folder at the required page and realised that rather than being a hugely pissed off toddler, I was faced with no more than a slightly vexed puppy. Maybe one who had just found out that its tail was attached to its body and endlessly chasing it wasn’t going to achieve anything. Pretty much that. Or maybe the puppy was actually me?

SO the rest of the story is pretty non-descript in terms of narrative, basically I read the stuff I needed to, got some paper, pens, pencils, gel pens, a biro and a drawing board and sat down and sketched several pages worth of drawings, felt really happy about it and now I am writing this. I’ll include photos of the drawings in my next post…

Thanks for sticking with me and helping me to trust the process. It isn’t always easy, painless or fun but the process always wins out in the end.

Turning The Cogs…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Victoria Wood
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John Cleese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Facing the FEAR

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

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

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

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

Hugh Jackman Angry
Angry Hugh Jackman

this one is my favourite though!:

Anthony Hopkins
Mature Anthony Hopkins

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

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

Here is  poem I wrote about facing fear:

FEAR

I sit; Knees to Chest;   

Wondering what to do for the best.    

Then the door knocks.     

At first a gentle tap, tap, tapping.    

Anxiety knots.   

Stomach ties into tangles of snakes    

A tight girdle of worry wraps itself around my gut.    

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

Louder still:    

THUMP,     

THUMP,    

CRASH!    

Head spinning now;     

This is it…     

FEAR knocking.   

Demanding.    

At my door.   

Light spot and electric shocks      

Appear in front of my eyes     

Limbs Freeze.      

Icy Fingertips prize at the gut crushing girdle;     

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

 

Those wings that once held me aloft:      

Flying…   

No,    

SOARING    

Above the world.      

 

Trapped and tattered behind this cage of fright       

Feathers bound by cobwebs, Battered.     

‘ME’ Shattered     

 

And still, FEAR insists… 

“LET ME IN”     

It beats at the door;   

Like so many times before.     

I cower on the floor;      

Like so many times before.     

 

Then IT strikes,        

This urge to say “NO MORE”      

No more kowtowing to the unknown quantity     

This faceless, formless, unknown FEAR      

The owner of this insistent banging      

That unrelenting clamour,     

WAITING outside my door.      

WANTING me to fail, to fall.    

 

So…       

 

I Do Something;      

 

Something I have never done before…      

I answer that door.      

 

It’s just the wind.      

 

So I shake off those cobwebs.     

 

I open my wings, and upon that draft…      

 

I SOAR.

 

 

Caterpillar. (Confessions of a Would-Be Artist)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Starting Out Again!

I decided to start a blog around my art and writing as I will soon be embarking on a new journey at university (at the ripe old age of 35!) doing a ‘BA Hons Drawing’ degree with the University of the Creative Arts. I am taking this degree with a partner of the university as a distance learning degree part time from home.

All through my life I have enjoyed drawing and painting. Recently I took some drawings I had made when I was 5 and re-drew them age 35..

kid drawng 1

kid drawing 2kid drawing 3

In addition to this I have been working on an art journal over the last few months, a few pages of which I will post here:

journal 1

journal 6

journal 8

journal 2

journal 9

journal 3

A couple of months ago I decided to take the plunge and apply for my BA Hons in Drawing and took the leap and applied to do it with the Open College of the Arts who are partnered with the University for the Creative Arts, where a few current artists and designers have enjoyed their education, Tracey Emin, Zandra Rhodes and Karen Millen, to name a few.

Buoyed by the prospect of being able to study part time and at home I decided to go for this university as I have a number of health complications which prevent me from being able to venture outdoors safely all that much, I officially applied and was accepted onto the course and applied for my funding with the Student Finance England- student loans people- and applied successfully for my disabled student’s grant. All this has been approved and the next stage is actually starting the degree!

In this flurry of excitement I actually began to pick up my pencil again for the first time in years with any seriousness.

I began by designing a few things for my parents website (still under construction) for their new business venture- “Pangothica” a realm of all that is alternative in the crafting and sewing and art world, starting with their logo:

pangothica

and eventually designing tattoo and embroidery patterns for use on their site.

Again, fully bolstered with enthusiasm for drawing I began to do something that I have not done in years- draw properly. In the past I have sold multiple paintings and drawings and made a few quid in the process, but after a serious incident in my late teens I stopped drawing and painting altogether for a number of years. Prior to this incident I was a voracious painter and drawer on any and every surface- paper, canvas, walls, floors, velvet, wood, my own body… you name it!

After the trauma of this incident- I won’t go into details at this point but am aware after years of therapy that these things are wont to inform us in our creative endeavours so I have no doubt that it will become the subject of my creativity at some point and then maybe I will discuss it some more- my creativity ground to a halt. Instead of making beautiful, haunting marks on paper I started carving awful, damaging gashes into my own skin with a vengeance. I suffered and stuffed myself through the agony of undiagnosed mental illness and eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction and very nearly lost my entire family completely. It is only in the last 18 months, since I was 34 that things have really turned around with my family, and in the last 6 years that things have turned around for me in terms of my relationship with myself.
2016-05-07 16.53.14I reached critical mass. Literally, I was grossly obese, desperately suicidal and unhappy, terribly lonely and felt that I had nothing to live for. My body is now a faded roadmap of that journey, scars fading into silver lines both externally and internally as I have found happiness with my current partner who has been my rock (and my hard place!) for the last 5 or so years. I also have my beautiful dog, Molly, as ever, by my side (I can’t help but include a picture of her here, she is so beautiful…).

I have since lost in the region of 16 stones in weight, trained to become a highly qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist, (My Website) which I hope will become 50% of my work in the future- the other 50% will be my art, of course! My journal, like my journey- in and round and through this wonderful landscape of creativity and growth- remains unwritten, undrawn and incomplete as I find my own completedness. I will continue to write, read and draw my way through this part of my life with prose, poetry and pictures and will continue to do so as long as I can hold a pencil and draw breath.

I will leave you with a poem I wrote called “Hope”

Hope 

you were lots of things to me 
7 of you, my 7 reasons 
Some stability through 
The changing of life 
If I had known that you’d all cease to be 
As I have known you 
My journey in and round and through 
Would carry the burden of fear 
But knowing that this closeness and 
Directness and the Beauty of Truth 
Never has an ending 
I have been able to live it, 
And I am changed for knowing you, 
Those lessons that caused me pain then growth 
Are now part of the fibre of me 
And that which was a message, a place, a feeling 
Transcends it’s moment in time, 
I could never have walked this path alone 
On craggy cliff tops, with the ocean-wild beating out 
Rough and broken rock. 
And at first even together we could not come to the edge of that cliff 
For we could not fly 
We could not fly because we were too sad, too broken, too afraid, 
But in spite of our selves we ventured to that ledge, 
And they pushed us 
And we flew.

‘Til next time…. Over and Out!