Drawing the Lines

The boundaries we draw as artists I think are essential to our well-being. Whether that is space, or time, or privacy… even a sense of gentle respect… They mean something. They enable the work to happen. I need to be able to choose how I interact and who with, on some days. Some days that might mean no one. Silence. The right to be at one with my thoughts… to let them wander as they will.

Of course this doesn’t often happen. Even when you plan it. The real world encroaches.

Today I realised something though… it is possible to forgive the breaches of the boundaries… if the circumstances are in my favour.

I have planned for this week to be just me, in the big space, with big paper, exploring the music and the drawing. Just that, for a week. A Big Ask as they say. Over breakfast and before I even left the house there were several interruptions to my peaceful, preparatory thoughts. I left the house resentful and bad-tempered. But I determined to start the day as planned. Made tea, of course, in the insulated cup that would keep it hot for longer. Then set to.

I have gathered around me materials, charcoal, pastels, pencils, pens. I have covered the walls with a large roll of decent quality paper. I had charged my bluetooth headphones, and prepared a playlist. I have just a couple of books with me: Tim Ingold’s Lines, and Tania Kovats’ Drawing Water. I also have my collection of pages torn from Oxfam-rejected paperbacks, some glue, and some felt pens. And the last three completed sketchbooks.

I don’t know where this week is going to lead me so I wanted to gather everything around me so that I didn’t have to break out, or have the excuse to break out. (Although I did have to go home late morning to get a different pair of glasses.) I also have my laptop, phone and iPad. Device overload really, considering I want to be alone. But this is where the music is, where the lyrics are, and the recording technology, whether that’s sound or video.

Having had the disruptions, I wanted to start off by just getting myself centred. Try to shake things off and let myself slip down a little…

So I put the playlist on shuffle, just to see what random song it would throw at me to start. Alarms. So this was the song to start me drawing? Still feeling unready to make a mark on this huge expanse of paper, I started off by tearing words out of the pages, while listening. I found myself drawn to the negative, naturally, feeling unsettled… but allowed it to happen… then found myself selecting some transitional words that helped steer me out of my mood, and soften my demeanour. I glued them to the paper hanging by my table, and decided I could face the drawing paper. If you have new sketch book freeze, this is a killer! 15 (ish) metres of paper stapled to the wall. But all you need is a spot. The sweet spot from which to venture out with the lines.

Alarms is a weird song… of two halves maybe… a song of introversion, of boundaries. It has an internal and an external. If you believe in coincidence, or fate, or even God, this was a good choice for the shuffle mechanism to come up with.

As I drew to it, and as I wrote new words and collaged old words, its meaning expanded to include my mood, my morning, and allowed me to assimilate and absorb the negatives. I put lyrics and music to work. I found new harmonies. The barricades had been breached, but through them I reached out, drew another line and found some peace.


Under a blanket
Made a den inside my head
Piled the chairs against the door
Barricaded in my bed

I’m not playing these silly games any more
I see them for what they are
I can see you coming through a hole in my guilt
You’re not getting very far
I see you for what you are

I hear all the old words that used to work
Rebounding off all my defences
Can’t believe I thought it was all my fault
I fell for all of your pretences

You set off all the alarms
All the alarms
All the alarms
Don’t rattle the door
Or knock down the walls
Inside my head
Inside my head

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