It’s ten years since I attended a series of meetings in which a number of regular a-n bloggers were invited to speak about the advantages of writing as part of their creative practice: Alex Pearl, Emily Speed, Rosalind Davis, Rob Turner & Jane Boyer are some of the names that immediately spring to mind – I’m sure there were others. And Andrew Bryant, editor of what was then, Artists Talking, was of course, instrumental in co-ordinating and overseeing the whole thing. I was inspired by what was said and though I had no idea when I started out just how advantageous maintaining a blog would be, I’m so glad that I made the decision to do so.
Yesterday was a case in point: via a facebook memory, I was reminded of a blog post, written almost to the day in 2017. It’s so good to have a record of it – an accurate description of what was going on in my life, both creatively and personally, four years ago. I’ve never managed to maintain a journal or notebook. I’ve started one every year with great intentions, but manual note-taking has always fallen by the wayside – unlike writing here, on this blog. This year marks the ninth year of pretty consistent writing here.
The image included in the blog post (above) is from an ongoing body of work, ‘Och, Daddy.’ It felt timely when it appeared on my timeline yesterday, at a point in life when themes relating to family, friends and relationships and an appreciation of those we love and hold dear have taken on an even greater significance. The roots feel particularly symbolic – of the way in which we’ve been forced to live our lives this year – digging deep, holding on tight and staying strong – grounded and rooted. The rules we’ve had to live by have also played a significant part in how we think about the places in which we’ve put down roots – our homes, essentially, for those of us lucky enough to have one. Where we live, who we associate with, who and how many people we’re allowed to let in are questions that have become a way of life that we could never have anticipated. If there’s ever been a year to stop and think about who and what we value, that time has been over this past year.
Re-reading this post has made me think about just how much the past four years has brought in terms of life events – how they’ve affected me and crucially, how many of them could never have been predicted. Being ill and needing to take a lot of time to recover wasn’t something I could have predicted at the start of 2017. It changed my life, and the way in which I now approach it, quite considerably. Physically pacing myself became key and, just at the point when I started to feel that I was slowly emerging from this extended hiatus, the pandemic struck. Life as we knew it, changed spectacularly.
I always feel sentimental at this time of year. Over Hogmanay and the days that follow, thoughts inevitably turn, even if just for a moment, to those I have loved and lost. My late Scottish father is more prevalent in my thoughts at this time of year than any other – and 2020 of course, has been an exceptional one, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected everything. Looking back on the comments here from 3-4 years ago, it feels completely surreal. How dramatically life has changed since I wrote it!
The past 10 months or so have been a sharp reminder that not everything in life always goes to plan – or more appropriately, to use the classic quote from the great Ayrshire born poet, Rabbie Burns: ‘The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley …’
Meantime, in the studio, themes of love and loss, specifically around my late father, forms the bulk of the work I intend to focus on when I return to the studio. It’s all there, waiting for me – a pile of Scottish paraphernalia stacked up on the studio floor, gathered together in my recent sorting in the shed, all waiting for the day I’m ready to relaunch myself into work again.
In the meantime, here’s a link to the post from January 2017 (scroll down to second post) in case you’re interested: