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Boxing Day is the best!

No prep, no cooking, no housework. Everyone is instructed to help themselves to whatever they want to eat.

My sons are game players so there will be an almost ceremonious clearing of the table to set out boards and cards and pieces. It can get noisy and competitive. There’s new music in the house to be listened to, and possibly films to be watched. But at some point we will all retreat, probably late afternoon, into new books… And there will be silence other than page rustling and tea slurping. This I think is my favourite bit. It might last a couple of hours, we will all five of us be in the same room as each other, but isolated and connected by our reading.

Isolated but connected.

I’m planning to draw. I have been given new crayons in new colours, so I have new combinations and connections to try out.

My eldest son and I had a conversation about my work that was quite philosophical … A late night wandering and wondering about the connectedness of all things:
How one establishes a strong position…
How one establishes other strong positions… Isolated motifs that work…
But then you have to find ways to connect that work…
The connections have to be logical and graceful…

We talked about the connections that work as if they were physical, bodily positions in a dance, or exercise… The transitions between one position and the next should be a smooth movement. The same with a song. The chorus can be very different to the verse, but the transition that takes us from one to the other should “feel right”… And there are many ways to achieve that.

My motifs/objects are neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral, but they are organic. If I veer too close to the vegetable/animal/mineral the drawings are rejected. If they hover between or encompass all, they stay.
In my sketch book I have a selection of new, acceptably ambiguous motifs, waiting to be used. Their positions are strong, but they don’t yet have the right connections. Abortive drawings experiment… And are accepted or rejected depending on the grace of their growth and mutation from what already exists.

There are family relationships and common characteristics.
Some shapes move from one state to another, they ripen… Mature… Mutate… Develop… Reproduce… Decay… Infect… Affect… But each change has a logic to it.

I keep my rejected drawings in one pile. They are more informative than successful compositions. Because if it works, it works. It’s natural and obvious. But the rejects are obviously wrong too…. Showing that shape A could never grow from shape B…. Or maybe it could but not with that connection…

Examples of rejected connections:

I’ve proved that my trains of thought are complex. This is why I can’t do the inking when tired: all of these decisions about strength, and grace, and the choreography of growth and movement are nuanced and fine.

I am newly fascinated by my process here. My brain, while seemingly on automatic as I watch the pen glide across the paper, is firing on all cylinders…
These are absolutely NOT automatic drawings. These are purposeful abstractions from concept to composition.

The connections considered while I was stitching have been simultaneously simplified, and yet made more complex. This is the right way to go then. Deeper and broader than my needle could get to… At least at the moment….


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In some respects it’s been a difficult year…
If you are that interested you can read back over it, as I just have. I seem to have apologised for not blogging several times…

There’s a metaphor I shall borrow, again, and pin to this page in order to remind me. I shall probably still forget… But making the effort. I think it came originally from Bruce Springsteen (I know! I lurch easily from Merleau Ponty to Springsteen, Deleuze to Homer Simpson, Bachelard to Terry Pratchett…. Seamless!!)
Anyway…. I’m in this car… Maybe a bus…. Every person I have ever been is in this car with me, telling me what to do. That’s great. But I must always make sure that the person I am now is the one that’s driving.
A useful metaphor that I have often used with students. Mature students get it. Younger ones don’t…usually.
This year I have been affected and influenced by others. I have learned much in the process. But now, as I review, I remember that I am driving the bus.
I must remember how to say no.
And gracefully accept when people say no to me… Even when it’s through gritted teeth…

The year has been a real patchwork of personal and professional overlappings. Someone else once said that it’ll all be ok in the end, and so, if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end.
There have been several moments of not-ok throughout the year. And now I see them in perfect focus in retrospect. And now I can also see I’m heading for ok.
We have studios for the new year I’m reliably informed… My husband appears to be steadily recovering from illness, my sons are settling into new jobs and new homes… The band has some exciting prospects in the new year… And my work continues. It continues to be affected by others, including the rabble of Elenas in the back of the bus. Occasionally one of them gets too rowdy, but that’s ok too.

I have discovered that I’m rubbish at some things, and pretty good at others. I stand by myself. I am the Tenth Woman, and the other nine.
I have discovered what means the most. I have a small but beautifully formed band of friends who I love so very dearly… They know who they are because they love me dearly too, I know this because they show me and tell me frequently. My husband and I hold each other’s hands round Sainsbury’s. It’s not just for physical support either. It’s to remind each other we are still there. We are still affecting each other. I have discovered that some things take up lots of space, make lots of noise, but are actually, in the scheme of things, largely irrelevant. They have a purpose, they might be the B that gets you from A to C, but once you’re at P, you see that more clearly.

So thanks 2017 for the shit that will fertilise growth. And thanks for all the beauty too….
…. Moving on….


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I discovered something interesting last night… I can’t make satisfactory drawings when I’m tired.

When I’m doing these drawings in the middle of the day, they flow unbidden it seems, like automatics, flowing from the end of my pen without a moment’s thought!

Apparently not!

Because when my brain is tired, they don’t. Obviously there is some sort of intellectual process going on between hand and eye at the same speed as the flow of ink (or faster)… It is just at a different level to the watching of Luke Cage or conversations about Internet shopping and Christmas decorations and the clearing of snow from the path…

If I knew about brain activity I’d be able to explain it better!

Three drawings were abandoned last night because the composition wasn’t right, or the lines weren’t right or the combinations of shapes weren’t right!

I have obviously made decisions about what IS right, but I haven’t told myself what the rules are yet.

I have an inkling that as soon as I understand what the rules are I will get bored, or they won’t be as satisfactory… It’s the not knowing that’s fun!

I sort of think it’s about the evolution and growth of the shapes… There has to be a logic about their connections… Even if I can’t quite find the words. But then, if I could find the words, the work would be verbal, not visual.


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I’ve often wondered when it is mentioned in articles, job descriptions and so on, what the difference is between an emerging artist and an established artist. Number of years served seems an inadequate descriptor somehow, as we all start, develop and work at different times and rates. Qualifications also are unfit measures as some people achieve the heady heights of PhD before the age of 30: while some of us see ourselves as unlikely to achieve (or want to achieve) such a thing.
But I have reached, I think, a personal epiphany here. Established means feeling able to say “Fuck knows!” with an air of confident insouciance when asked “What does this work actually mean though?”
I have reached that point, sporadically, and I welcome it. It isn’t a constant, but it does exist.
Take these recent drawings for example. Up until this week I had no real idea what they were for. But I trusted my brain to do the thinking while my hands did the drawing, and that something, some sort of excuse, would make itself known to me. This is happening… in glimpses… in fits n starts… but it is.
That is gratifying.
THAT is what established feels like… I think… trusting the process and not feeling worried about it, or saying it.

So this is it then… I’ve developed over the last few weeks and possibly months now… a collection of ingredients, motifs, ideas. These ideas are related to each other, they ripen from each other, they spread spores, they communicate, pass information, memories and qualities to each other, that communication works both ways, makes connections, and evolves into something else.

I think my textile work had sort of stuck because it could not find a way to evolve past the figurative, whereas the drawings are pushing past the knots and making themselves into something else. It may be that once past the obstacle, I will find a way again to the textile, but in a different way, and with a new language. But for the moment, I shall carry on drawing until something makes itself clear. There is something I haven’t yet pinned down about the quality of drawing that allows this to happen, that the stitching did not…

In the meantime, I shall feel free to answer “Fuck knows!” to anyone who asks, but will listen attentively to anything they have to say… just in case!


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The domestic situation seems to have settled, the health of my loved one improving daily, and I’ve started to lower myself gradually from DEFCON 5 hyper-vigilance, gently down to something currently wavering between 2 and 3, but much calmer, I’m sure we’ll be back to normal in a week or so.

My thoughts then, have time to wander now, and I look back at this ever-increasing pile of drawings that are filling up the dining room table and spilling onto the floor in the sitting room.

Their starting point, a few months ago possibly… is now not really visible, or perhaps only to me.
They started as often happens with me, with an object, a garment, and a scribbled design in my sketch book. An object was made, and sits now on the coffee table with the needle and thread still in it, waiting for completion… maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.

The way that I’ve been doing these drawings has taken me right back to being a child, and I believe the circumstances have led to this escapism. In my head I am in that place half way up the stairs, a small, square landing on the turn, sort of out of sight from above and below. Liminal…?
I’ve sat in my armchair, surrounded with a nest of paper, crayons, pencils, sharpeners, rubbish bin full of sharpenings that seems to get kicked over every time I move! It is booby trapped, this fortress, and there’s no room for anyone else but me. It’s not the sofa. I am completely engrossed. When circumstances allow me to spread beyond the A3, I’ll go bigger/smaller, but for now, there will be more. I don’t feel I have exhausted the methodology yet, because occasionally, mutations appear, and a new “set” emerges, related to that. On the landing, aged 8, I used to draw people. thousands of them, all different, clothing, hair, and colour and type, but all in the same stance, the same cartoonish style (also in pencil crayon?) I wish I’d kept some of them. The memory comes back to me now and I wonder if I could draw them again? Endlessly varied, but with enough similarity to hold them together. I’m sure I could get all metaphorical about all of this, but that would spoil the moment, because at the moment, “The Moment” is the important thing.

While M was in hospital I would sit here in the evenings, into the early hours drawing drawing drawing. And I’m still doing it. It is, like the other work, obsessive, continuous, relational. The objects/motifs I draw are related to each other, they communicate, they hold on, they reach out.

They are simultaneously, and by turns, botanical, viral, cellular, spore-like, diseased, pretty, strange, weird, floral, synaptic, nerve-like, pus and blood, animal, fungal, growing, infecting, nasty, macabre, delicate, angry and scared… and I think, rather beautiful.

 


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