“One Long Day…”

Coming Home

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.

Part 2 Intimacy- Initial Struggles and Sketches

Beginning part 2 of my degree course, with lots of sketches of organic subject matter, really exciting to be moving forward with this and getting ready to release the might of my passionate self! Hear me ROAR!!!

Starting part 2 of the first part of my degree has been somewhat easier than the first part. I seem to be finding my pace a little bit and enjoying the process a LOT more.

I am really happy with the comments from my first assignment, lots of positive feedback and comments that I can work on (such as adding a separate menu to my blog for the assignments and learning log relevant to the degree course and several artists who I will go and research who might inspire me and be relevant to my studies!). I was amazed most of all about the fact that my tutor said that I had submitted a lot of work, when I thought for sure I hadn’t done nearly enough!

One thing that I was really thrilled by was the suggestion that I might do more of the personal art that relates to my feelings and enjoy doing so, connecting more with whats going on and being more passionate. I feel that I have managed to do that more in this second part and also stay more relevant to the degree course in the process. Athough still life is not something that I have really felt that I could throw myself into in the past, I have REALLY enjoyed the process so far and have heaps of ideas that I would like to explore moving forwards.

First I just put a load of natural objects that I found in the house in a still life arrangement to do some preliminary sketches. I photographed the still life from several different angles to see what they looked like at a glance, some of which I have included in my sketch book, then I did a sketch of the whole thing from above and front and then a few more sketches of the angle that I most liked the look at and refined the idea of using negative space. I have researched several artists using negative space and still life subjects online and really enjoyed looking at other artists work.

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“Guernica” Picasso

I chose this hugely famous and enormous piece of work by Picasso as an example of work to look at and explore because of his use of lots of contrast, though it is not a still life piece, I love how he has managed to create such an imposing piece of work that feels oppressive with so few colours. I have not seen the originals to any of these pieces of work that I have chosen, sadly, though can only imagine how completely overwhelming this piece of work that he created must feel in person. It is absolutely huge for one thing and the subject matter, though disjointed and in the cubist style is disturbing and feels almost aggressive. I am not fully “au fait” with the actual meaning of the piece of work as I refrained from looking at the intention of the piece until I want to look at it in more depth wanting more to explore my reaction to it and understand how it makes me feel just by looking at it and absorbing the feeling that it evokes. Honestly it reminds me of the feeling that is in the world around me at this point in time, in a political sense. I can feel a real sense of despair when I look at this painting and feel exhausted and despondent, there is a really impactful aura of loathing that I can’t tell if maybe I am feeling because of what is happening in the world in real time and I am looking for in this painting, or if it was actually the artist’s intention to evoke that kind of real visceral response?! It reminds me of people being forced to do things against their will and being hurt in the process. This is the first time that I have really allowed myself to look deeply into a cubist painting, (which is probably shocking for an artist!) and I must say that I am surprised at the level of the feeling that it has triggered in me. I feel almost breathless with the heaviness of the feeling of being almost crushed.

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Giovanni Ambrogio Figino- “Metal Plate with Peaches and Vine Leaves” 1591-1594

I love this painting, the peaches are so soft and real looking. One thing that I thought looking at this picture was that when I am drawing a still life picture, something that I would like to do is marry up the detail and realism of the subject matter- fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood maybe? with the stark and plain negative space. I love how the focus is all on the fruit and the foreground- in this case the fruit and the leaves and the plate, but if the background was detailed or a lighter colour, the fruit and plate and the leaves would lose all context and vibrancy. There would be a real sense of things being lost if there was a paler or detailed background in this picture and the heaviness of the negative space lends a real warmth to the peaches that I think would be lacking if there was any more detail in the background. This is something that I would really love to use for my own work. I will explore more about negative space and incorporate this into my own work. I adore drawing organic objects and would love to tun out something with this much warmth and gentleness.

 

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Enter a Georgie Morandi “Grande Natura Con Lampada A Destra” 1928

This is the only drawing (as opposed to painting) that I have included in this selection of other artists and I included it partly because of this fact and partly because I liked the effect of the use of negative space (again) and the mixture of shapes in the subject matter. It is somehow a combination in some ways of the Picasso piece and the still life above, in as much as it is very geometric (such as the cubist Guernica) and it includes really good use of negative space. I have never heard of this artist before and though this is not a piece that I particularly enjoy looking at, it is useful in terms of how I can use it to influence my own work. This really makes me interested in using negative space and actually at the point at which I saw this drawing I started to sketch my still life with more negative space in the background which was an effect that I really like. Again I find this piece rather bleak and depressing and heavy, which I am surprised at because I wouldn’t expect to have an emotional response towards a collection of jars and containers drawn in blacks, whites and greys… I have decided for sure that I am way more interested in drawing and depicting images of much more organic subject matter. I love the twists and turns and curves and dips and divots and beauty of natural objects and the human form (though I will have to wait my turn to get into the drawing of bodies jsut yet!)

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Jan Bruegel “Bouquet” 1599

I’m a huge fan of Bruegel, I studied some of his work for my A-Level, and wasn’t so much aware of his still life work as I have really only looked at his more sinister scenes of death and destruction with skeletons and mounted warriors and their wholesale murdering of crowds of people in bleak and depressing landscapes. This was a surprise and I saw the picture and selected it before I even knew who had painted it. Again, flowers are not something that I would necessarily choose to draw myself, I love them and have painted hundreds of them but they are not something that I have drawn many of, the reason I chose this painting was because here Bruegel has chosen a very organic subject matter and as I said, this is what I like the best. I also was really keen to seek out more work from artists who place emphasis on both the detail and tone and feel of the subject matter using colour and realism to depict the flowers in this case- the peaches in the painting above- and the heaviness of the background and the monotone of it which in relation to the detail of the fruit I would have imagined would have almost ‘drowned out’ the colour and the tone of the natural object but in actual fact I am amazed that rather than the background jumping forward and obscuring the beauty of the natural objects, actually helps to bring them forward and define them, making the softness even more so by way of being such a stark contrast. Almost as if in juxtaposing the softness of the detailed fruit with the blank and stark darkness of the background, both are emphasised and compliment each other. This is a surprise to me and something that I hope I can do justice.

So this is the still life that I put together on a board on a Lazy Susan so that I could move and turn the still life to get an angle and frame it in a way that I liked best. I took a good number of photographs and sketched a couple of different angles until I found the one that I liked best.

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This was the first sketch I did of the whole still life. I hadn’t really given much thought to the idea of using just a section of a still life composition before, pretty much always just assuming that if I put together a still life set up, then I had to draw the whole thing in one go! when I started looking at the photos that I had taken I realised that the reason that this sketch is not very successful, for the most part is because there is no sense of a focal point in this sketch, there is too much going on, the eye is not drawn to any particular part of the drawing, there is just too much going on. I realised that there doesn’t even have to be an object in the focal point of the picture for it to work either as I moved forwards drawing different sections of the composition, there simply has to be a flow and a place to which the eye is drawn. In later sketches I used the lines of the bananas and the framing of the apples and the negative space to being a sense of completion to the pictures.

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This was the second sketch I did, drastically decreasing the number of objects in the drawing and wiping out the background, giving the drawing a bit more negative space. Removing a majority of the objects in the picture immediately improves it, though i was still not happy with the overall look and framing of the objects nor the angle that I was happy with, I think that this drawing is much more successful than the first.

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I decided to experiment with different materials at this point whilst I made my mind up about which angle I liked best. This drawing was done on a coarse graned paper using black biro and graphite pencil. This is in more extreme close up than the first and second as I was more interested in the look of the materials that I was using. I like the detail in the drawing but I think that it really loses something by not having any colour in it, I also really think that it needs more negative space in the background and a better sense of flow and direction to make it work.

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This was the first picture that I drew with colour for this composition. I used a coarse grained paper again and used soft pastels. I was not happy with the result of using jsut soft pastels, though I liked the colours, I was unhappy with the level of detail that I was able to achieve using just the pastels because they don’t lend themselves to the kind of realistic fine detail that I like to portray in my drawings. I was really getting into the process of finding the materials and composition that I wanted to settle on at this point and really finding pleasure in the work. I decided to use the colouring pencils that I so love to use and try a different angle with more negative space in the background too.

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For this first sketch using a different angle of the still life I just used pencil and did a quick sketch, for speed more than anything just to see if this change in angle was what I wanted to achieve. I was really pleased with the look and the feel of the picture and felt really excited about drawing the picture with colour. I love the use of negative space, mixing up detail in the foreground and then just drawing the outlines and using monochrome in the background leaves. As it turned out I really really like the composition of this drawing. It really works. So I decided that this was the composition that I would like to use if I take this drawing further. I went on to draw this using the colouring pencils and being a lot more heavy handed with the background negative space.

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I love this drawing. I love these pencils so much! I think that the detail on the fruit works really well with the plain black background. I love the different colours in the apples and the cheerful bright boldness of the bananas. I love the way that the leaves and twigs pop out in the background juxtaposed against the heavy black of the negative space and really emphasise that space, without the colours and the warmth in the foreground fruits would be lost. I think this works really well, however I drew some tiny sketches in my sketch book, increasing the height of the background and making the overall feel and direction to the drawing much more pleasing. I don’t have a photo to share of those pictures. I plan to draw the picture larger and in those dimensions as a sort of ‘final piece’ as I think it works so well in a small sketch.

I then moved onto my next subject matter and drew a bunch of detailed veggies and some mackerel.

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First up was this cross section of a red cabbage. I drew it using prismacolor premier pencils on brown heavy brown paper. I really loved drawing this cabbage, it was a really wonderful thing to draw. I was amazed at just how many colours were in the cabbage. It looks at first glance to be “just” purple and white, but on closer inspection there are all layers of purple, burgundy, mauve, red, white, grey, creamy yellowy colours, brown, it was absolutely fascinating to draw. I love how the lines are so swooping and curvy and the layers remind me of the cross section of a tree trunk. I love the way that the purple started to bleed more and more into the white with different tones of red and purple. I decided to draw more vegetables and other food with the same materials in order to study them more closely. I really love the effect of the lovely vibrant colouring pencils on the brown paper, though I will be exploring other drawing surfaces too.

After I had finished the cabbage, I decided to look at a red pepper in detail. I chose the same materials to draw with as the cabbage had been so successful. I realised that I have drawn multiple peppers over the years but never truly looked at one in great detail and just on a whim I decided that I would like to take photos at regular intervals whilst drawing this picture. I wanted to learn a bit about my own process, how I put together a sketch and the different stages of it. To my amazement, when I looked back over the photographs I realised that I am actually incredibly organised and methodical when approaching this type of drawing. In my life outside of drawing I am so messy, disorganised and somewhat chaotic at times. so it was a real surprise to see that there are also times when i am able to be very neat and considered. I think that this is something that I need to harness in other areas of my life, such as meeting deadlines for important events, both in and out of my degree course, and being more organised in general, I have the ability I just need to grab hold of it! I also thought a bit about how much I struggle to create when my home is in a mess. This has been something that has held me back enormously in the past. I have literally held the art of creating as being something sacred and had a distinct need to be organised and ‘proper’ about it. This really makes me sad because it contradicts what I know about my need to be creative… Yes it is a sacred and wonderful part of me, the ability to create, however, I think my need for perfection, that is unattainable for one thing, is so intense that I actually think that I hold myself back in so many ways. I think that particularly after the rape when I was 19, the fact that it revolved around my artwork has really thrown me off kilter. I have, since then, had a need, a genuine desperation to almost keep my art sterile, to stop it from bleeding out from its neatly contained edges. This has meant that the actual work that I have allowed myself to do is most often involving me really holding back and not putting all of that raw passion that I know I feel into the art work.

Being bipolar particularly has a huge impact on the way that I feel about my artwork, not just art in the classic, visual sense either, other disciplines such as music, drama, dance… All of these things move me deeply and I feel such a huge visceral reaction to hearing/seeing/experiencing beauty and pain and fear and sadness and love in a creative sense and I know that this is something that lies bubbling under he surface just waiting for an outlet to really get going with it. I have so many ideas and thoughts that I literally yearn to produce and make into a real tangible work of art, yet for the reasons I have said, the need for sterility is so pervasive. I can’t adequately describe using words the feeling of absolute euphoria that I get when I am manic nor can I find the ‘right’ words to describe the despair that I feel when my mood plummets. The contrast I guess like the fruit and the negative space, only more so. Maybe this is what draws me to the concept of the beautiful, natural raw warmth of the organic matter and the juxtaposition against the cold, hard, black negative space. It literally somehow describes me, albeit in a watered down kind of way.

What I really want to achieve is the reality of those feelings-NOT the watered down version! If I can’t say them, I can’t sing them, dance them, describe them…. The obvious solution is to create them using art as my medium….

I feel like I am on the cusp of something wonderful, though maybe that is just my mood?!

Reigning in those thoughts for a moment and coming back to the methodical and purposeful creation of the pepper sketch, this was the final outcome of all those stages of creation:

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I was happy with the pepper, I still am, but I really, really want to let loose, not be so controlled and contrived, let rip with all of that raw passion and joy and aching pain that I feel so much of the time.

I think that the next sketch, a small sketch of a garlic bulb  with a couple of loose cloves that I pulled out of the bulb is rather sweet, but again lacks the passion and feeling:

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I do like this sketch but I think it lacks definition, though again I was amazed by the number of colours that I had to pick out of my pencil tin in order to capture the true likeness of the vegetable. I think that I have also managed to achieve a good sense of the papery skin of the bulb, and I really like the natural sweeping curves and lines of the drawing. It is pleasing to look at and it is something that I would consider using in a final piece.

After I had drawn some vegetables and really examined them, I read onto the next part of the folder and discovered that I had wandered unwittingly into a wonderful part of the course, where I get a whole chunk of time to devote to drawing natural objects. It was suggested to me that I might look up the ‘Memento Mori’ arena of artwork. A short definition here: “Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’. A basic memento mori painting would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hour glasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers.” (taken from this website here). All of these suggested objects are things that I am interested in and the idea of the memento mori style of working really appeals to me, especially in my darker moods, but not restricted to those times. I love skulls, animal and human and am desperate to procure more of them to add to my collection (currently consisting of a single sheep skull! So not quite a ‘collection’ yet, per say….) I remember drawing a skull several times when I was a teenager as we were lucky enough to have a real human skull in the art department at school, since then I have been on the look out to get hold of a real one myself. Though I guess a really good replica would suffice.

Anyway, I somewhat deviated from the subject matter of a typical memento mori piece of work, but feel that with the next couple of sketches (again using prismacolor premier pencils and and heavy brown paper. I bought and drew three whole mackerel. These fish are astonishing to look at. The colours that they are made of are absolutely beautiful and the beautiful gloss and shimmer of their skin is just a joy to behold.

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This was the first drawing I did of the recently deceased trio of fishies, I was again amazed at the colours, this has been a theme so far in this part of the course, ans I was also amazed at how much the facial expressions varied from one fish to the next.  Interestingly though several totally independent bits of feedback have been given to me that the fish look really sad and despairing. I didn’t draw them deliberately with this in mind, but with the political climate the way that it is at the moment with the calamitous outcome of the Brexit vote and terrorism being rife in all corners of our spherical home, then most recently the rise and rise of Donald Trump dominating the world media, I have really been feeling the anxiety and confusion that so many of us are feeling during these uncertain times. It is no surprise then that the objects that I chose to draw that were once alive and have faces show some of that anguish that is malingering in our communal headspace right now.

I was really engaged in drawing these fish, I truly loved the whole process. It was a joy,  a real genuine exciting joy to draw them and to work at figuring out ways to do the beautiful animals justice. 2016-11-08-22-33-45

This was the second mackerel drawing, again the same challenges, colours, the shine, the expression on it’s face, the last remaining vestiges of a short life, forever captured in my sketchbook!

They are a true rainbow of colour and a blaze of shimmering and fiery gloss. Simply beautiful, sometimes silver, sometimes golden, sometimes blue, sometimes green, Even their eye colour varies from fish to fish. I had no idea. I thought they all pretty much looked identical!

After drawing these fish I feel moved to draw other seafood, crabs, prawns, a lobster if i can afford one! Other fish, different types. And a HUGE urge to pursue my need for at the very least a convincing replica of a human skull….!

I have also decided to experiment with not only other drawing media but other types of drawing surface, fabric, different types of paper, card, plastic, metal, tin foil. After drawing the last mackerel I actually created my own drawing surface out of a piece of screwed up grease proof paper, onto which I painted a block of white acrylic which I planned to draw directly onto. This was not actually possible as the acrylic was wet and made the grease proof paper very flimsy and thin. So I used my imagination and tore up a piece of white cartridge paper into small pieces and stuck it in layers onto the acrylic paint with layers of paint in between the paper and finally a thick layer of white acrylic over the top of it. I was planning to draw on to the dried rough surface with graphite pencil, but when I tried to make a mark on the ‘paper’ that I had created with a graphite pencil it barely left an impression on the shiny surface, I decided to have a go at drawing a rough sketch of the mackerel directly onto the  paint with blue and black ball point pen. This was somewhat successful, however I plan to experiment with making more of these alternative drawing surfaces and trying out other forms of drawing materials on them, ink, pastels, oil pastels, charcoal if  it will work. I will include samples in my sketchbook and upload photos when I have them.

Over all I am thoroughly enjoying this part of the degree course and my art studio is nearing completion at long last, so in the near future I will be able to move in there with all of my materials and a huge dose of enthusiasm to get things moving….

But that’s another blog post entirely.

For anyone who has stayed with me to read til the end of this enormous blog post and stream of consciousness, I thank you and I am grateful for your time.

Peace! Until next time….

Turning The Cogs…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Victoria Wood
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John Cleese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Odilon Redon- Research Point

Odilon Redon - Two Trees 1875
“Two Trees” 1875

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shuddering To a Despondent Halt….

sometimes life just shudders to a despondent halt…..

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 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:

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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.