Threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes…

… and the ongoing exploration of drawing…

 

 

(Occasionally, images posted here do not display correctly depending on your browser or devices, if this is the case, please try my website where these problems don’t seem to occur: www.elenathomas.co.uk )


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The good thing about pressing the submit button is that at last you can forget about it for a while. (Apart from the occasional cold-sweat moment when you are SURE you have left out something crucial.)

There. Done. The rest is up to someone else now. I’ve worked on it, researched, spoken to lots of people, got other people to read bits of it. It has actually been months in the making. I’ve done my best. In six weeks time I either to get to re-do bits of it and resubmit, or I get the money and can get started.

I remember this little hiatus from last time. It’s Schrodinger’s Arts Council Funding Application. During these weeks I can exist in a state of funded/not-funded. All things are possible. I could talk about probability and such. But the only thing definite is that if you don’t press the button, you don’t get the money. So I make myself do it. I have nothing to lose and much to gain. But we artists know about rejection and failure better than we know success (most of us anyway). So there is a real pull to NOT do all that work, for no pay, on the off chance… because that feeling is more familiar, it is the devil we know.

There’s also the feeling that I shouldn’t tell people I have applied, because then I will have to tell them if I fail. But the thing is, most people who know me personally, or those who know me closely enough on a professional basis will know too, because it’s pretty likely that I’ve asked them to read the form!

Also… if you have read much of this blog you will know that I am not that person. I am not that artist that pretends I only know the cool people, do the cool stuff, get in the cool shows and earn the cool money, without having to do things like stack shelves, wash cars, work in education or health, walk dogs, child mind, wait on tables. I know artists who do all these things. I have done most of them. But some keep that hidden, for fear of not being regarded highly by the Real Art World. Bollocks to that. I hope that this blog is a bit more down to earth. Yes, I like to bask in a bit of glory occasionally, but I like to think that I’ve earned the right, by also letting you see me make an idiot of myself, fall flat on my face and haul myself back up to give it another go when I’ve had a period of mourning and moaning. Oh boy can I moan!

So yes, I tell you. I have been writing, budgeting, negotiating, discussing, researching, refining, rewriting and editing over a period of months in order to get this form in a condition that I am happy to submit it. Ten minutes after pressing submit, I HAVE remembered something I should have included. Too late now. I tell you because this is the reality isn’t it? We are (most of us) not cool. I am certainly not cool. But I do plug away at stuff. I do work. I do try.

I have come to realise that representation is important. We need to see ourselves in the positions we would like to inhabit. Whether you are black, white, disabled, gay, young, old, male, female, single, married, a parent, a child, fat, thin, bald or hairy, ugly or beautiful, and all the glorious and infinite combinations of all the above and more, we want to see someone that makes us think something is achievable, and that we have the right to be there.

So all you 57 year old, fat, grey-haired weary women of Serbian-Irish descent, with hedge-hair, dodgy knees and slightly strange dress sense… I am here, representing you by applying to the Arts Council for a grant. I might get it, I might not. But I’m having a go, and if I can, you can.

Be The Tenth Woman.

Break out of the mould.

Be terrified, and do it anyway.

If not you, who?

If not now, when?


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There are times when embodying The Tenth Woman is a Herculean Task (female equivalent suggestions please?)

Small things irritate me to the point of being able to incite violence. Things that would normally make me laugh make me want to slap someone.

It’s hot. I can’t tell you how much I hate hot weather. Give me frost/boots/jumper any day. Hot makes me irritable and I feel out of control. Miserable. And I am expected to like it. I don’t.

People who continuously grin at me saying “Isn’t it LOVELY!?” frankly should be grateful I don’t possess a firearm.

It’s World Cup Year. I have a houseful of sport-loving men. Two of which are season ticket holders to arguably the worst team in the midlands. They are used to losing. The heady heights of England in the semi-finals is too much for them. I play avoidance games… probably resentfully. I shut myself in another room, but because it is hot, the doors are open. I get the full HURRAYs from all the neighbours too. Headphones? Too hot. Studio then? Better. But due to other factors I timed my departure yesterday all wrong. At a major set of traffic lights, the pubs spewed out about two hundred half naked men who proceed to stop me and all other cars moving when the lights turn green. They press their sweaty torsos against my windows and bang that “DA DA DADADA DADADADA ENGLAND!!” rhythm on the roof of my car. They steal the sun hat off the man in front of me in his open top BMW and ruffle the hair of his horrified, immaculately coiffed passenger. One man pisses up a lamppost. I feel threatened, assaulted and I start to cry. I know.

Mitigating circumstances which cause me to be in this place at this time are that I have left my studio in pain. I had intended to stay longer. My left knee as always is the culprit. I was unable to do the task I had set myself, and I was cross. I wanted to cover my tables with greyboard, to smooth out the lumps and bumps a little in order to roll out some larger paper to draw on. I couldn’t stand long enough, or manoeuvre well enough to get it taped across the width of the table, and the edges cut to size… so I abandoned it. So I was angry and frustrated before I even set off. By the time I got home I was a complete physical and mental wreck and probably shouldn’t have been driving if I’m honest. I slammed about like a tantrumming child. I took the painkillers half an hour before I should have done. I shouted “I FUCKING HATE FOOTBALL AND FUCKING DRUNKS AND ALL THE FUCKING IDIOTS WHO WATCH IT!”

Then I went to bed.

This morning the pain has eased a little. I am told there is no sport on today. My mood, although still fragile, is no longer murderous.

And so then, I find myself counting the days in my diary….26…27…28…29…30…31… ah… ok… three days late. The hormones are stacked up behind the barricades and are making themselves known. I will feel better soon. Well… I’ll feel better if it starts! Two months ago I missed a period for the first time. Weird. And last month the horror continued for 15 days.

I’m sorry if you think this blog post has little to do with art. Actually no, I’m not sorry. I don’t give a shit. It does. This is the point of it all at the moment for me. The Tenth Woman has crap to deal with every day. We are supposed to be nice about it all, when we feel anything BUT nice. We are expected to not say that we feel rubbish about our bodies falling apart and losing our minds every month. The causes, and the effects are expected to remain hidden from society. Especially from our colleagues, and friends and especially men we have any dealings with. These feelings should not be expressed in polite society.

Well fuck that.

I know that on the whole I have a good life. A privileged life… I have friends who are currently dealing with much worse things… but awareness of this matters not a jot, because there are a few days every month when the whole lot of it can FUCK RIGHT OFF.


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After my last post about getting on with my application, and stop fannying about, I’ve been looking around for examples of manifestos. At this point I’m not really bothered what sort, just gathering, you know?

…also gathering ideas on how to write one. “Short and snappy” being my only bit of self-guidance so far.

I found this, ironically, here: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-and-why-to-write-your-own-personal-manifesto/

“…a statement of principles and a bold or rebellious call to action by causing people to evaluate the gap between principles and their current reality. The manifesto challenges assumptions, fosters commitment and provokes change.”

So there it is. That’s what I want to write!

It will be for myself, in a bid to embody The Tenth Woman, but I will publish it, in some format yet to be decided (Tea towel? T-shirt? Poster? Scroll? Nice little handbag sized booklet?)

I have been talking to prospective collaborators and partners in this adventure, about what it means. For me, this is a crucial part of any piece of work undertaken. I know that some artists like to play things close to their chests, but for me, it is only in the conversations and discussions that I discover exactly what it is I mean! Each person I talk to edges me closer to the little nugget of loveliness the idea will become. This can be an almost imperceptible drip drip drip, or it can be a smack round the earhole with a wet kipper that shoots the pervading idiocy right out of the opposite ear.

Such idiocy is illustrated by my own conflicting thoughts. How amazing the brain is to hold such things in the same space? I have written before I am sure about the artist’s capacity for cognitive dissonance…

I draw your attention to the bit about “the gap between principles and their current reality”: I have these principles, that are becoming firmer all the time, and I am almost by the day, more able to articulate them, and yet it seems my current reality is nowhere even close! Ha ha! I am that duplicitous being that says one thing and does another. I am the two-faced, I am not practicing what I preach, and I am not walking the walk!

And this my patient reader is precisely why I need a manifesto!

I sat brazenly talking to Dan yesterday afternoon about the principles involved. All very smug and admirable, when with a raised, surprised eyebrow he asks “Why are you saying you only want to do three songs at the performance? Why only one gig?”

Why indeed.

Because I’m scared.

Because I’m still fannying about.

Because I let myself off the hook far too easily.

Because I always want to leave the back door open so I can run away at the first sign of trouble, in my sensible shoes.

THIS VERY THING is the thrust of The Tenth Woman.

There I am, exposed for what I am.

There is much work to be done.


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I’ve said before that I am essentially lazy, and risk averse too.

There is something satisfying in being paid to help other people access the Arts Council funding application website, which I can do to the best of my ability, and get paid even if they are unsuccessful. Actually, so far, every artist I have helped has been successful, which is great, but the axe must fall sometime, right?

So the time has come round again for me to face the fear and introduce some jeopardy. I will apply for funding for my own project, with no one to blame but myself. I started this a few months ago, registered it, changed the title, worked on it, then it was temporarily abandoned while I worked on a client’s. I am due to start work on another with someone else, in the first week in July, so I have a small window of opportunity to polish my own up and give it my best shot. (I can’t do two of these applications at a time… oh! the confusion! the headaches!) I have to face the fear, because actually, that is what it’s all about. The Tenth Woman. The Tenth Woman recognises the fear, and does it anyway. The Tenth Woman doesn’t hide, she stands up straight and goes for it, red lipstick on, whilst quaking in her boots.

So as I embark upon the manifesto of The Tenth Woman, I am completely aware that there cannot be any excuses. None of this “it’s too hard”… none of the “they’ll never give it to me so it’s not worth the effort” because no, they will NEVER give it to me if I don’t put the work in. My plan is to put lots of work in: to get people to read it, get people to check, get someone vaguely numerate to check my budget, phone up ACE and talk about it to whichever poor soul answers the phone, send querying emails, talk about it to everyone who will listen in order to get it straight in my head before writing it down. Then EDIT EDIT EDIT… it’s the key, really it is.

So… there it is… head down, elbows sharpened, I’m going up The Portal for a while. I could be some time………….


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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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