Shuddering To a Despondent Halt….

sometimes life just shudders to a despondent halt…..

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Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman ‘Life is difficult sometimes’

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.

alanrickman2
Alan Rickman ‘…But it’s not all bad’

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!

Until Next Time….

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:

shell 1
Spiny shell from above, biro, graphite pencil and colouring pencil
shell 2
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:

brown paper study
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:

Irises both
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.

irises progress 1
Irises Progress 1- first basic iris drawn with graphite pencil and colouring pencil, not yet complete
irises progress 2
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:

charcoal skull study
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

Some Reflections on Survivor Art…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texture Sketcher

Studies and Sketches of Texture

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

monday daffs
daffs

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

monday feathers
white feathers

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

monday nail brush
Nailbrush

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

monday knitting
Section of a knitted cushion cover

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

monday stick
Dog-chewed stick

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

monday paperweight
dandelion clock paper weight

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

monday shell
Broken Sea shell

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

monday leaf sprig
Sprig of leaves

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

monday stone
Ocean Battered Stone

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

monday log
Rotting Tree Trunk

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

Monday starfish
Starfish

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

and finally…..

monday pineapple
Section of a Pineapple

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

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

Drawing Feelings (Traumatic!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

here are my feeling pieces throughout this process:

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

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

Vitriolic Hate Poem

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

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

Just YOU 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squeal! SO much EXCITEMENT!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Molly-Moo chewing a ball

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

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

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

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

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

Facing the FEAR

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

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

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

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

Hugh Jackman Angry
Angry Hugh Jackman

this one is my favourite though!:

Anthony Hopkins
Mature Anthony Hopkins

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

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

Here is  poem I wrote about facing fear:

FEAR

I sit; Knees to Chest;   

Wondering what to do for the best.    

Then the door knocks.     

At first a gentle tap, tap, tapping.    

Anxiety knots.   

Stomach ties into tangles of snakes    

A tight girdle of worry wraps itself around my gut.    

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

Louder still:    

THUMP,     

THUMP,    

CRASH!    

Head spinning now;     

This is it…     

FEAR knocking.   

Demanding.    

At my door.   

Light spot and electric shocks      

Appear in front of my eyes     

Limbs Freeze.      

Icy Fingertips prize at the gut crushing girdle;     

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

 

Those wings that once held me aloft:      

Flying…   

No,    

SOARING    

Above the world.      

 

Trapped and tattered behind this cage of fright       

Feathers bound by cobwebs, Battered.     

‘ME’ Shattered     

 

And still, FEAR insists… 

“LET ME IN”     

It beats at the door;   

Like so many times before.     

I cower on the floor;      

Like so many times before.     

 

Then IT strikes,        

This urge to say “NO MORE”      

No more kowtowing to the unknown quantity     

This faceless, formless, unknown FEAR      

The owner of this insistent banging      

That unrelenting clamour,     

WAITING outside my door.      

WANTING me to fail, to fall.    

 

So…       

 

I Do Something;      

 

Something I have never done before…      

I answer that door.      

 

It’s just the wind.      

 

So I shake off those cobwebs.     

 

I open my wings, and upon that draft…      

 

I SOAR.