A New Mutation

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The thoughts remain in a little side shoot of my brain. Not at the forefront, stopping me from remembering to buy the eggs, but neither at the back. A sort of bubbling under. Since the crit session I suppose. That thought that tells me what I’m drawing, and how it is tied to my mood, and my sense of self, and also… actually more than I thought… physically. What I’m drawing and how I’m drawing is deeply connected to how my body feels. This hasn’t come as a big shock as I knew it was in the mix somewhere, but yesterday I was ill. Really ill. The dodgy prawn sandwich sort of ill. And today although no longer “sick”, I am weak, wobbly, my muscles ache, my head aches, and I’m exhausted by walking from one end of our mansion (3-bed semi) to the other… especially if I have to bend down.

I have managed to do some drawings just in my sketch book while at home and curled up. They’re not great drawings, but they do have a tortured entanglement that is interesting. My pain has led me to break one of my own rules. This is when the mutation happens, and I might set some new rules.

There has been a general “no overlapping” rule to the compositions, led in part by the influence of botanical and scientific drawing, things pinned down and laid out in a single layer for clarity. Not two-dimensional as such, but definitely not entangled. A dissected rat or plant specimen…

So these new drawings in the sketch book don’t obey that rule. This is the first mutation for a few weeks, so I will explore and see if I like it!

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Seeing Value, and the Joy of Skip-Diving

Yesterday I became extremely excited by the skip outside a neighbour’s house. They were having a new kitchen fitted and I watched as the day went by, large, clean wonderful pieces of flattish cardboard boxes being cast into it.

My mind raced to my former life and the things that I could make with groups of children out of this immensely valuable material resource! Thwarted by the fact I no longer have an outlet for this I put out a call to anyone else who might be interested so that I could rescue it. I talked to the neighbour who then promised to intercept the card between fitter and skip, and store in his garage to keep it clean and dry until I could get it into my car to get it to the studio.

“I’ll take ALL of it please”

“All of it?”

“Yes.”

“But there’s tons of it!”

“Yes I know, that’s the point!”

“ALL of it??”

“Yes please.”

“What will you do with it?”

“I don’t know yet, I can’t use it but I know loads of people that would love it!”

“ALL OF IT???”

“Yes!”

“But you don’t know who will have it?”

“I know that someone will, and will be as thrilled as I would have been!”

“But it’s just brown cardboard?”

“Yes, but there’s LOADS of it… which means the potential is enormous!”

“OK…”

Then this morning, as I had loaded my car, and they were reversing off the drive, they wound down the window and said:

“There will be some more card today, do you really want that too?”

“Ooh yes please!”

“ALL OF IT?”

“Definitely, yes, all of it.”

“We can’t imagine what anyone would do with it all!!”

“Just pile it up, I’ll take it away, and when someone makes something with ALL OF IT, I’ll get them to take photos and I’ll show you!”

So, Bo Jones, When I cram this lot into your car boot, you’d better make sure you take some photos of what gets done with it!

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The Door

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I now have a door to my studio space.

So I am now able to consider the door and not-door as two distinct states of working. Already. It only went up this morning!

When there was no door, because not many of the other artists were there as often as I was, It seemed ok. I wasn’t interrupted, I wasn’t disturbed. I could play my music without fear of disturbing anyone else.

But now, I have one. Already the increased traffic of passers-by now have something to knock. They don’t feel obliged to call a greeting across the open threshold… or politely tip-toe past. Already I have given vent to my full vocabulary (dropped roll of paper on my foot) without someone calling “are you ok?”

These are all nice things, I know… but the real threshold behaves differently to the implied threshold. Before I had carpet, then tiles. The edge of one marking the end of one space and the beginning of another. Now I have a door. There’s no glass. It is completely solid and heavy and lockable. I have now taken my looper out of the box. Those who have followed this blog know already that the position of the looper and its operational state are a true indicator of my state of mind.

I have a door that locks, can’t be seen through, is actually quite soundproof, and the looper is out. It isn’t yet plugged in (tomorrow!) but it is out. The mic is in the stand, and the interface is lodged next to where the laptop sits.

My next wave of work will be to explore more closely the integration of the audio with the visual. This door is the thing I’ve been waiting for to allow that to begin. I’ve been working, but I’ve not been REALLY going for it in an uninhibited, un-self-conscious manner…

Another thing that poked at this a little today was a brief conversation with the builder’s mate about my work. He was curious… About the drawings, the fabric, the chairs and most of all, the looper and the microphone… so we spoke of all these things: Stranger Things, Alien, The Goonies, ET, bacteria, illness, David Lynch, bed bugs and fleas and sprouting potatoes. (It was too short an acquaintance to overtly refer to the penises and vaginas.) The builder looked somewhat bewildered, but this young man was OPEN. I realised that this was one of the things I miss about teaching… that thing when you come across someone who is completely open to the ideas that run together and shoot off in different directions. It was a brief conversation, akin to one I had in a lift with a ten year old in New Art Gallery Walsall, in which between the ground floor and the fourth floor we talked of Converse Allstars, The Poundshop, biros and Laura Oldfield-Ford.

Inspirational.

So tomorrow, I shut my new door, and connect up the looper.

Got that.

In 7 years of blog writing:
Got MA
Got son no2 in and out of university and into a job
Got son no1 married and with a mortgage
Got husband retired, and in and out of hospital
Got me out of a job
Got me inventing a mini arts festival
Got no cartilage left in my knee
Got me into my third studio
Got me writing songs
Got me one and a half ACE grants and one a-n bursary
Got to help two visually impaired artists get ACE funding too
Got me recording a cd and producing a lyric book
Got me a band
Got a band EP recorded
Got me singing in public, sometimes for money
Got to sing live on the radio three times
Got work shown in US, Sweden and various points across UK
Got back into drawing
Got rid of a couple of old friends who didn’t get it
Got more than a couple of new friends who definitely do.
Got to know myself a bit better
Got to like myself a lot better
Got to forgive myself for all sorts of crap
Got to take responsibility for some crap too

Got myself half way through another ACE application for the next adventure…….

 

Accountants and Plumbers (and a sense of mortality)

I’m sat in yet another hospital waiting room. This time rather less acutely stressful than the last. I find myself pondering the way that I consider my work…. Again… Am I boring you? Sorry.

It is the way I make sense of what is happening around me. “But what about the accountants?” I ask myself… “What does the plumber do to make sense of it all?”
Well they count and they plumb of course. We all find the sense in what we understand best. Plumbing and accountancy are as good a means of sense-making as art. Some would say better. How the money flows and how the water flows probably both give you a sense of how much of the world you feel you can control – or not. Both are useful.
All of these ways of thinking are precisely that. The depth is what is important (to me). Analogy and metaphor are aids to thinking. The application of analogy is a very human trait.

My drawings (in my head, I don’t know how they are received in viewers’ heads) are representative of the emotional turmoil (or not) and so on. What I draw and how I draw are, to me at least, directly related to what I feel… Tightness and release… Stress and relief… A gritting of teeth and a sigh… An in and an out.
I’m not blind to how sensual and/or sexual some of the elements of the drawings can appear. One of the most recent drawings gained its unofficial title “Decidedly Knobby” only after it was finished and pinned to the wall. It would seem I am becoming slightly fixated on the vaginal too. Menopausal woman and all that it encompasses… All about me isn’t it? Well… Yes and no…

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“Decidedly Knobby”

It’s a filtration system. I’m absorbing and then processing and the drawings are the by-product that gets spat out at the end. A by-product, but also the MOST important thing. The elephant in the room that’s only seen in a certain light, in the negative spaces, when you screw up your eyes and squint in the corner of the mirror. THERE it is. The Thing. I feel I’m sneaking up on it. Then one day I shall look The Thing in the eye, we will know each other and nod.

That, I romantically hypothesise, will be death. How glorious it would be to meet death as a final satisfaction, rather than a cutting short?!

The Crit

The Crit.

It is a phenomenon that can strike fear into the heart of an art student, and many an ex-art student too. Depends on your experiences. Some that I’ve heard about, frankly, leave a lot to be desired and say more about the tutors’ quest for power and control that the desired development of the artist.

I know that I have been lucky. My experiences have been good, supportive and enlightening!

(There was one exception from a visiting artist during my MA that really upset me… it was of the leap to conclusions variety… “Ah! I see before me a middle aged woman with a quilt, probably bored housewife… therefore I shall be vile to her to make me feel all powerful… MWAH HAHHAAAA!!!”
I was saved from destruction by The Sainted Henry Rogers who said “You don’t have to believe her if you choose not to. It’s your work!”)

I digress…

The Crit then… I decided ages ago that I wanted to set up a crit group of some sort, the positive, enlightening sort, not the other sort. So now having moved into the new studio I got it started. I was determined to start, just to get going, even if there were just two of us to begin with, to establish a habit and a pattern for myself as much as anything.

Yesterday was the first one, and it was just the two of us really, Just me and Bo. But I can’t tell you how much it helped.

There was a lot of sitting and looking, not saying much. Bit of thinking, humming and hawing too.

But what was said was interesting. The discussion prompted me to think about different angles. I considered everything in front of me, and some things once I got started, were obvious. You just don’t look at your own work “properly” without an audience I don’t think. The Crit, when conducted properly, constructively and respectfully, helps you see it through someone else’s eyes.

While I was doing the MA it used to take me about three weeks to process the content of a crit, not able to work until it had all sunk in. But even today I can see ways that I can try a few things out to help the thinking. It also can take a while to filter out what you disagree with. As with the dreadful woman described above, there will always be a percentage of things I disagree with, either to do with content, or concept, or process…

Bo is very good at pushing the thought along for me. There are things I disagree with… I’m currently thinking that I don’t need to separate the elements out so much as he suggested… But I may change my mind as I work. He has always been good at snatching away the comfort blanket I am prone to wrapping myself in. He has a way of raising his eyebrows… “really?”… He is a good teacher. I continue to learn.

The work is very close to me. It has a high emotional content. I am perched close to an edge. I am protective of it, and myself. It is hard to trust it to the crit… so at the moment I am only inviting people I know. Bo knows that this work has emerged from a tricky place. But he also knows that because it means a lot to me, I want it to be critically sound… I don’t want to be making excuses for it.

Deep breath…

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The Pursuance of Motes: Laziness and Obsession

Is it possible to be both lazy and obsessive?

Is it possible to be lazy and ambitious?

Parents, teachers and employers have in turn told me I’m lazy. I would agree with them. Unless I am totally engaged I don’t give a fuck.

However… It would surprise some of them to see me these days I think. Well… some days…

It has taken me quite a lot of years (decades even) to find my work ethic.

I didn’t know I had one!

But over the last few years, when I’m doing MY OWN work I am anything but lazy. There it is. I am self-motivated, self-obsessed and self-interested. When I’m engaged in the things that interest me I  behave myself (ish); I learn; I work hard! The signs were always there: my teenage exam results read as if two distinct people sat them: A grades or ungraded. Can’t tear me away, or can’t be arsed!

So here I am, in my mid 50s… yes, I’m clinging on to the “mid” for at least another year… and I find I can’t stop working at this. This thing, whatever it is. This practice. I find I am obsessed with getting to grips with a “something”, but I don’t know what it is. In my dreams it is the thing beyond the locked door, the thing at the top of the hill I’m struggling to climb. Occasionally it is also the thing I am running away from, with my feet stuck in treacle/custard/cement… But I KNOW with a certainty it exists, and I pursue it relentlessly. I pursue it with pencil, stitch, eyes and ears and voice and hands… oh god don’t forget the hands… My friend~studio mate~colleague Sarah Goudie says that the brain is also in the fingers. This is a mote of hope for me… another mote… another mote… collect them and keep them safe. Everything could be significant… Everything… so it has to be done. If I have an idea then I must follow the line~thread~note~words…

Sometimes I can feel something between my thumb and fingers, something between and beneath the skins. I see it out of the corner of my eye. This morning I swear I could hear someone playing “Food Glorious Food” on a glockenspiel. What the fuck is that all about? This is my problem you see… is EVERYTHING significant, or is NOTHING significant?

I expect one of those dead French blokes has the answer here, if only I could be arsed to read more. Tell me if you know, and I’ll just read that bit. Add another mote for me.

I also fear that the pursuance of the motes might be seen by some to be some sort of mental health issue. I’ll keep an eye on that. And I think I have enough people around me to let me know if that’s the case. A small detour… not that I’m comparing myself to such a genius, but John Nash (in “A Beautiful Mind”) said that the maths and the madness felt like they came from the same place, so how could he know the difference?

Anyway… ambition… yes, I am ambitious but very specifically… to be in a position to continue the conversations at a high level, to keep challenging, to do the research of my own making: materially, conceptually, philosophically and in methodology. I need to make some money of course, but I’m only bothered about the amount of money that will enable this very specific ambition: to be in those places where those conversations happen. It might be about Art, but it might also be about music, education, health, science, philosophy… I might be too lazy to read it, but I want to hear about it, and think about it. I want the motes that float about in my brain to be electrified to an extent that they zoom out of my fingers into the work.

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Research and Discovery

Why do I (we?) need permission to do things our own way?

Art research is a thorny, prickly, uncomfortable thing for me. I don’t really like reading other people’s thoughts and opinions… although I do like it when something is pointed out to me in conversation… I really don’t like to engage in what a bunch of old or dead French guys think.

I like my own personal discovery process.

I have been through periods of pretence here. I have hidden parts of myself over the years. And now, I fight against it, or at least try to be aware of the hiding, and try to make it a conscious choice.

If I hide parts of myself, my thinking, then the bits I don’t hide make no sense (I think?)… it is only in the total openness that it will make a coherent artist… a coherent human. Hiding the child-like; or the grief stricken; or the sexual being; or the deliriously happy from making lemon shortbread; or the fucking miserable… makes the picture skewed. The composition is wrong.

This is currently where my research is hovering. This is where my personal voyage of discovery lingers… this composition of my self… and my interaction with the world and those around me…

My drawings are emerging as that connection between the inside and the outside and the inside again. The interaction with materials is either satisfactory or not. I explore and try to push at things… Ink and brush is good, charcoal is not… pencil is good… pastels are not… gliding is good… scratchy is not… watercolour is good, acrylic is not… Gluten free sponge cake is good. Gluten free bread rolls are vile. We live and learn.

Performance is also part of this process… I put part of myself out to the audience, and get something back that provides another piece of the picture. The audience reaction to me (us) and my returned response is the research too. The breathing in and out here… the inside and outside and the connections between. It doesn’t matter that no one else can see the connections between me singing with the band, and these drawings.

I see it. This is all about me after all…

However…

It is a truth of mine, that the personal is the universal. If I make my work generic, no one relates, it is too bland and unrelatable. The closer my work is to myself, the more open and honest I am, the more people relate to the humanity of it.

In my research then, the research that happens in my daily art practice of life-living, if I dig deep into my place in the world and present these findings in the way that feels right, someone, somewhere, will relate, and find it useful… maybe?

Napping During Pointless…

Maybe there’s some sort of transition going on in my brain/body/life?

I’m a night owl. Or a sporadic insomniac. Have been for years. It can be useful, I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve developed a way of coping with free, alone, silent waking hours when it’s dark… I like it now. I get stuff done and get thoughts thought.
But recently there’s been a disturbing change. I’m in bed, but typing this into my phone at 6:45am. The birds are shouting at me. I do feel the impulse to ACTUALLY GET UP. This hasn’t happened before. When I had to get up at this time in the olden days I didn’t want to. I didn’t like it. It made me grumpy till 10:00.
Do you think my husband would think it weird if I just went to the studio now? I could possibly get three hours in before he noticed I was gone? Then come home and bring his tea and toast up to bed on a tray as if I’d just got up…
I want to get that list of things done. I’ve got stuff to… Write… Draw… Record… Make… Think…
The problem is the transition period… I can’t sustain going to bed at 2 and waking at 6. Not without napping during Pointless.

New Studio!

I feel I’m properly in now, which is surprising seeing as I haven’t got a door yet.

The shelves have nearly filled up. I do think I could probably bring some of the stuff in from the loft, so save us worrying about ten tons of fabric crashing through the bedroom ceiling, and it would make me sort it all out. Maybe.

It feels right. Home, but not home. The only space in the world that is totally mine. I have been without for eight months. People who follow this tale will know that in some ways, that’s worked out fine. But oh boy I was ready for it. It’s been on and off and on and off and on again for so long!

It can be an expense, yes, obviously. But the feeling you get from working in a studio is different. It is my professional space, not my hobby space. It is where I earn money – or at least initiate the process of earning money. It involves professionalism, validation, a seriousness of intent… That this thing I do here is legitimate. I find it hard to feel like the real thing at home. I know this sounds self indulgent and that many artists work at home, but I find I don’t think ”properly” at home. I pick at it. I write a bit, maybe for 15 minutes, then make a cup of tea. Then I might draw for an hour while someone is watching Pointless. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching Pointless as much as the next retired teacher or geography student, but that’s not where my head should be.

and I’ve just read that paragraph back and it annoys me…

If I was an accountant no one would think that having an office was self indulgent, so why the hell is an artist’s studio? It isnt! I have to stop saying these things, we have to stop each other saying such things. We all do it. I’ve heard you!

Anyway…

I’m getting to the point now where I have done most of the unpacking and sorting and shelf stacking and can get on with the task of actually working.

Today Ian my band-mate popped round for a nosey, a coffee and a cake, and a bit of a strum and a sing. So that was good – even without the door! (we were the only ones in the building).

I have a proposal to write, an ACE project application, someone else’s application to support, I have recordings to make, drawings to draw, songs to sing…

And now I have a place to do it.

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(I’m going to try to post one of those panorama photo things… if it doesn’t work I’ll take some ordinary photos tomorrow.)

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