The increasingly intense exploration of drawing…

and the threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes…


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I suppose my work has always had women at its heart… mothers, daughters (I am one, but I haven’t got one), sisters (not that I have one) and so on…

Women as parents, carers, teachers, lovers, as wives, as people whose role as an individual can be subsumed. I have become more actively feminist as I have got older, more aware of unfairness. I don’t know if this is an age thing, a maturity, an ability to step back from it all a little perhaps, seeing the big nasty picture…

But if my work has ever been sexual, it is almost by accident, a sideways glance. And to be frank I have probably avoided it because I don’t know how to have those conversations really …I don’t think…

But, this morning, unexpectedly, my drawing has taken an alarming turn and I am beset by a string of connected vaginas.

This is the drawing I started after the gig on Sunday, that I wrote of in the last post. This drawing had a title before it started. ‘The Grey Women’. It was for them and for me. I lay down some paint yesterday and came back to it today and washed most of it away and gently dried it off. I had been thinking about hair, styled and dyed, and hair left naturally grey. But when I look at the remnants and stains of the lamp black paint, all I see are vaginas.

So I have to go with that don’t I?

I’ll figure out the conversations when they happen.


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Stick with me… there is a point to all this rambling about the olden days… this kind of follows on from the previous post…

I remember a time when I didn’t think I could mix it all up.

And when I look back at that, I am proud of the growth I have made as an artist over the last ten years or so.

The biggest thing, obviously, is confidence. I now have inside me the KNOWLEDGE that in terms of my art practice I can do what I want because it’s MY art practice. I used to worry about what was acceptable, without even knowing who I was wanting to be accepted by.

I can remember thinking I had to be a painter. Thinking that quilts didn’t count. Thinking that I would never/could never do installations. And then when I did that, thinking that I could never do music. That it didn’t count. Then I remember coming to terms with yes, music does count, but only in the gallery as part of the aforementioned installation. Then thinking I’m not a performer. Performance art is something else, it’s not what I do. Then I sing with the band, but that’s not really part of the art is it?

Somewhere along the way, I really can’t pin it down, it being so gradual a process, I learned to trust myself. I learned to trust my thoughts, my processes, my skills: both long established and newly hatched.

Now… I trust that what goes on in my brain isn’t always shown to me consciously until it’s made and done. Sometimes, other people have pointed out to me connections that I hadn’t twigged. The thoughts join up, because they are all mine. And if I am true to my thoughts, those trains of ideas, principles, beliefs… then all will be part of the whole and one area enriches another.

So… I love writing and singing with the band so much it has just become a huge part of my life and my thinking, and I give no thought now to if it’s ‘allowed” or not.

But there it is you see, if you have faith, confidence, self belief, trust, or whatever you want to call it, the meaning arrives later. Make the work, sing the song…

We did a gig this weekend, the standard pub gig, but Sunday afternoon, so perhaps a different crowd to the post 9pm Friday night lot… we did about 6 songs all squished up into the bay window of the crowded pub. It was fun. It didn’t go perfectly, but then it never does! (you learn to trust that too).

Afterwards, as we packed up, and moved through the room, I was approached by four people… all of them women, and three of the four with grey hair, I suspect the fourth was dyed. All of them were so complimentary about the lyrics, my voice, and also the fact that I was up there doing it. One said I was “rocking it for the grey women”.

And there it is. That is my connector. If I had waited for someone else to give me permission, If I hadn’t gained the confidence to just do it, I would never have known the connection to all my other work was so very real.

The cross pollination continues. I have a drawing in my head that I want to do, dedicated to the grey women.


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My own words come back to bite me…

Lately I’ve been banging on to a friend about “Authenticity”.

I’ve clearly been ignoring my own actions in this.

There’s a back story to why this is happening. It is to do with me thinking about The Artist I Ought To Be. It is a constant battle I find, being true to myself. I strive to be a better version of myself, of course. Sometimes. When I’m not being lazy and oblivious. But… I don’t need to strive to be a worse version of other artists out of a lack of self-esteem do I?

What I have discovered is that in weak moments I try to be a Serious Artist. As opposed to a serious artist. There’s a difference. I DO take my work seriously. I am trying to say something with it… but…I do try to not take myself too seriously. I try. When I try to do that “ought to be” thing everything fails miserably.

Thing is it’s not much fun being Serious.

Those who know me well will know that yes of course I’m not a miserable git all the time, nor am I a clown. But I do have a playful and mischievous nature perhaps… (do I still?) and although my work is sometimes macabre, sinister… it is also a bit naïve and child like.

Child like.

There is the thing you see.

Here is a tale of my son:

Cricket practice on a primary school playing field. Head Teacher is coach and he says:
“Now, I want you to just tap the ball to the ground, just there, ok?”
“Yes Sir”
Son lamps the ball across the field. 29 other children run to get it.
“Now, you’re not going to hit it hard again are you?”
“No Sir”
Son lamps the ball across the field. 29 other children run to get it.
(repeat until Head Teacher is shouting, son is crying and the 29 other children want a turn with the bat.)

What can I say? He is a Sixer…

It is in his nature to whack the ball as hard as he can. If you don’t want him to do that, don’t give him the bat.

Back to my drawings.

Every damn time I say to myself when I lay down the pre-drawing watercolour:

“Now, I just want one area of paint there, and one there, ok?”
“Yes”
“Now you’re not going to splash it everywhere are you?”
“No, not this time, I promise… this is a Serious Drawing”
“Ok, just there. Don’t blast it with the hairdryer like a five year old with a straw will you?”
“No”
(Blasts puddle of Alizarin Crimson across paper with hairdryer like five year old with a straw)

Here we are then.
My son will ALWAYS lamp the ball across the field.
I will ALWAYS blow hell out of the paint across the paper.

Authenticity.

I’d better learn to work with who I am.


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There’s a cycle.

I do wonder if being a woman, I’m more tuned in to these things? If you are a man and you feel that you are tuned in, do tell. It is of interest…

I decided to have a “day off”. Sundays aren’t usually days off, they are usually studio days. This is largely, but not totally, due to the watching of loads of football in my house, and I can’t be doing with it all!

But today, apparently not. I’ve not asked why, because this sort of question often generates a one sided conversation that I’m not interested in, and always wish I hadn’t asked, but feel that I need to smile and be polite, having initiated the exchange.

So… a Sunday, seemingly not engaged with Art with a big A, in Studio with a big S.

There are studio days when I’m all fired up to draw. Others when sewing is the thing. Others when procrastination by tidying is the key to joy.

Rare, but also featured, is the Admin Day. These activities can be allotted time percentages as follows:

Drawing 75%

Sewing (recently less than previously) 5%

Procrastination 15%

Admin 5%

Admin should probably be more, procrastination less, but in reality it facilitates the rest, so I let it be.

Yesterday was an Admin Day. I am completely unable to focus on these tasks unless the mood strikes, so when it does, I yell “hallelujah!” don my business cardi and dive in!

I filed a few receipts, to warm up, straightened a few piles of paper and logged in to the Arts Council funding portal. Not for the faint hearted.

Towards the end of 2018 I submitted a bid which was unsuccessful. I sulked and chucked stuff about for a bit, decided not to rewrite the bits criticised and resubmit… but sit on it for a while and rethink.

In January I applied for an A-N bursary and that was unsuccessful too. I did a bit more chucking and sulking. The effects of rejection on the artist is a big thing. Puts you back doesn’t it? Shakes the confidence?

But, because the A-N bid was smaller and quicker, at least I didn’t feel like I’d wasted weeks of unpaid time putting it together. If they say yes, the time is worthwhile. If they say no, you feel like you should be able to demand 10% for effort!

So what I had decided to do was a merge the two things together. I needed to simplify the ACE project I had submitted. So using the A-N writing as a guide, I decided I could maybe make a hybrid bid that would pare it down, but still allow me to do what I wanted…

I sat thinking about it for a couple of weeks but had made the decision to do this. It takes me ages to filter and mull… but yesterday was writing day!

Anyway, I’ve started… it could take a while, but the bee has taken up residence in the bonnet, and it will be done!

So this is the thing about cycles… one phase not only leads into another, but actually allows, creates the space for it to happen. I’ve had a few weeks of steady drawing. Immersed. And while immersed, mulling things over. Loads of things… lyrics, gigs, rehearsals, blogs, workshops, drawing sessions for Drawing Your Space with Sarah, making stuff… selling stuff… (YESSS! WOOHOOOO! Three drawings over the last few weeks!) And of course, the writing for the Arts Council.

Having spent about three hours on it yesterday, I then had another couple of hours drawing before I came home.

So I’m tired. Hence the “day off”………… but it isn’t really is it? It’s just another phase of the cycle. We are just us two living under this roof now, so we do what we want when we want to. Our mealtimes often don’t have names, because they fall in gaps. Weekends often have a little bit of something to eat after a lie-in… about 11:00… could be brunch, but can be all manner of items, that wouldn’t be considered normal for brunch. Then we might have something about 4…. Then a crumpet or something with a late film?… maybe… the thing we should have had for the breakfast that we didn’t have.

Meanwhile, in amongst all this revolutionary, anarchic tomfoolery, my brain wanders about on its own…making shit up…and smashing it down.

I have ironed some clothes, folded, put them away in colour order. I have hung a selection of tops and dresses in the wardrobe, in a colour coordinated floral arrangement. I have placed plants still in pots around the garden, deciding where they should go.

I curate my home.

And while I do so, I filter and mull… preparing for the next round…

 


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This morning I am delaying the start of the drawing, in order to write about the drawing.

People have asked me why I have not been stitching, and why I am drawing after a lifetime of stitching. This blog post, the moment I hope to capture with this, is an attempt to address that question.

I love stitching. It’s my native tongue. It comes easy to me. I know the nuances of stitch and fabric. I have done it for years, decades, and it has served me well in both functionality and art form. I’m not boasting by saying I have skills. I have. True story.

I had a good four hours intense drawing yesterday.  And I left the studio exhausted without a backward glance. Satisfied.

This morning I came in, dumped my bags, hung up my coat, put the kettle on, kicked my boots off, put the heater on (snow, hail, sleet, driving wind!)

Then I sat at the table, thinking I would take a couple of photos for instagram maybe. So I got out my phone….

Only then did I look at the drawing.

I gasped.

I dropped into my chair.

I swear my breathing got faster and I could feel my heart beating.

The drawing speaks to me.

It matches the weather.

It certainly matches my mood.

Stitching NEVER did this.

If I take as an example the Nine Women project, yeah, the one with the bras. The textile and stitched elements of that were planned. There would be nine, I would choose the bra, respond, imagine the woman, and then know instinctively how to stitch to convey the thoughts I was having. I am very proud of that project. It stands I think as a good body of work. But in terms of its processes, it doesn’t come close to this.

I can track and trace the path to the drawing, in my life, my head and my sketchbook. I know how it happened. I am still unsure why, and when circumstances returned to some sort of normality, why I didn’t return to textiles. I think, much like Forrest Gump, I just stopped. It wasn’t serving the same purpose any more.

This drawing then…

It is the immediate connection between brain~hand~pencil~paper.

I’m thinking but not thinking.

Deep thinking.

Not thinking.

But the resulting drawings are some sort of emotional purge.

They are indeed academic.

There is knowledge, and skill, and experience there.

But there is also a sensuality here.

A light touch… and a depth… like a carving…

There is violence almost… implied if not actual.

And a soft kindness, sympathies and empathies.

There is most definitely love and all its physical manifestations.

What enables this to happen on the paper is the paper itself. It just takes what I give it.

And this is it too…

The paper responds to me more than I was finding with textiles. They did as they were told and I was master of them. The paper is doing its thing. The paper is a living thing it seems to me. We have a conversation. I tell it my secrets and overnight it becomes something else while I am not looking. And in the morning it shows me an answer.

This morning I get to think about the next question to ask of it.


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