So how do you move on?

Pain and ongoing ill-health will undoubtedly continue on both fronts as my husband and I straddle that (in?)significant number 60.

I think, by way of looking back and realising that growth is possible under difficult circumstances helps. I can plod on when feeling dull and delicate. Then I can zoom about when feeling energised and well. I shall try not to hijack myself as I am prone to doing. By seeing myself as unworthy, not seeing the value in what I have to offer, I scupper myself. I might not be what other artists, singers, songwriters are, but I do have an all-pervading Elena-ness that they cannot hope to achieve. I hope that the looking back enables me to be brave as I look forward… that I learn to persevere and accept.

Elena-ness is a daft word I know, but it encompasses everything I am or have been: the child, the mother, the woman, maturing with inherent wisdoms and invisibilities too. The artist I now am, and the singer and songwriter that I’m still shy to admit to being. I recognise individuality and the value and strength in it. My reach may become less as I become physically restricted. But influence and affect is not about physical size or fitness.

2019 is already looking interesting in the planning – especially musically to push the year off. I’m looking at the songs that are not band songs, but most definitely Elena songs. I’m pushing them as far as I can, so that I know who they are and the shape of them before I take them to someone else to help me record, play, produce… I have things to say in songs that are different things to those in my drawings, or they are needing to be said in a different way.

I will be working with people who I love, admire and respect, who I feel give me the same in return. These people recharge me and I leave them always with a full heart and a smile, with a brain buzzing with inspiration. There have been some in the recent past that I have allowed myself to be used by, taken advantage of, who have discarded me with no concern. So now, with wisdom hard earned, I don’t do that any more if I can help it. If I surround myself with the ones I know to be warm and encouraging, the pain in my joints will feel less significant.

In 2018 my work came closer to my skin.

It has become more real to me.

I came to love it more deeply.

This is where authenticity sits.


I tend to do some sort of year-end review, and write my findings. These can be a bit of a slog, they are ostensibly for my own benefit, although I welcome any comments that I might have struck a chord, in agreement or otherwise!

I’m not one for New Year Resolutions. I prefer, (because the resolution is a fixed-point) to go with the flow. Often by mid February the resolution has become redundant, and so there is a tendency to feel you have failed. But I do find it useful to look back at what has been achieved through following interest and inclination.

Early in the year I wrote about insignificance and significance and how it can be tricky to spot the difference. Seemingly big things that take up your time and your complete field of vision turn out to be walls. Small items and moments turn out to be seeds that grow in significance. It’s possible to miss them.

Seeds then… I talked a couple of times about regression and how I acknowledged the need to recognise old memories and states of being as instrumental in who I am now. I regress, pare back, expose a preference for the simple things. I like a stitch. I like a line drawn on paper. I like a song sung by one person with one instrument. I like those places where there’s nowhere to hide. I like the bones to show. I like process yes, but not if it muddies the water. In my own work, the drawing, stitching and songwriting, I see the processes as those of thought rather than a complex product. The complexity is in the tale, the idea, not necessarily how it is then communicated. That, I should be able to do with very little. I try to avoid tautology. A good habit of self-review guides my methods…my judgements are of myself, my “value”. This naturally wavers between the capable and incapable, the novice and the accomplished. The child and the adult. I blow paint around the paper… the large paper perhaps in the scale of the work rendering me childlike again? There is perhaps then a relevance previously unnoticed in my choice of material and scale and method?

I give myself restrictions and rules all the time. I do this in order to build a vocabulary, to get to know something both visual and sung, in order to convey meaning succinctly, simply. I strip back lines, words, marks, colours… to an essence. An essence of myself in the work.

Things have shifted this year I feel. Which is why that self-critical review process is invaluable. I have not been “comfortable” for much of the year, despite trying to cling to that much-maligned “comfort blanket”. During the year I bemoaned the peri-menopausal unpredictability of mind and body. This now seems to have stabilised! Thank god! Age has worked its magic and I’m ok with that now. I’m ok with a lot of things that used to bother me. I used to pride myself on the accessibility of my textiles work. Abstraction has rid me of that. I really don’t care. It is what it is. I’m not doing it for you. If you find a connection, that’s great, let’s talk. But regardless, I’m working like this. I will find my own significance. I am protective of my right to make whatever I please. My responsibility as a professional artists is to do so with as much critical awareness as I can muster.

I think the biggest factor in my work over the year has been the influence of pain.

The first concern of the year continuing from the one before, was my husband’s health. In the coming months I was limited in thought and action by my own pain from rapidly developing osteo-arthritis. The way we shuffled around each other was a slow dance in which you couldn’t tell who was supporting, and who was being supported. In October I had a steroid injection in my knee which resulted in a short lived freedom from distant car parks and flights of stairs. In my optimism in having 5-6 months pain free, I neglected to notice those small but significant words “up to”. At the beginning of December, despite me trying to ignore it, the pain started to return. It is now clear that some of my symptoms are due to my spine, not my knee after all. I have been very grumpy coming to terms with what this might mean. Maybe that is the reason for the dearth of December blog posts? I’ve encountered turmoil in my self-reflection. Returning pain and the rejection of a funding bid knocked me back, but I’m wondering now if my own doubt or lack of the elusive clarity showed in my writing of the bid? If they had said yes, there may well have been problems with how I delivered the project. There wasn’t a great deal wrong with it, I could have rewritten the bits required, and resubmitted, but in the intervening weeks, things changed. It turns out this was one of those big things that turned out to be less significant than I had originally thought.

I had enough going on.