I start with a nursery rhyme, and my dishevelled train of thought circles round to Deleuze and those very useful rhizomes…

The reason this bit of Deleuze thinking stuck with me while doing my MA is that it felt familiar. It felt like the way that I work. I collect seemingly unconnected ideas, they sit under the ground slowly growing… then the connection is made with another separate idea, it grows and starts to sprout into something bigger.

The nursery rhyme connects to all the collecting of sticks I have been doing, in order to draw them. I posted a photo of my husband on social media, he collected “an interesting stick” for me.

I think it is wonderful that he doesn’t buy me flowers because they make me sneeze, but he has started to look at sticks and bring them home. Hilarious, and lovely. My god daughter posted in response that her 2 year old daughter had brought back from nursery in her book bag a selection of good sticks to show. Excellent work!

My mind wandered back then to my Are You Listening? Work for my MA, ten years ago. It was all about childhood, the overprotection of children, the loss of childhood… and so on… This is a subject close to my heart, having worked with children, and also adults who work with children for most of my working life. Play and creativity are important to all humans. Adults as well as children.

Recently my work physically has changed. It is abstract, drawn, metaphorical. It speaks to the cellular and the heavens… But in my head the same thoughts ebb and flow. It is still all about connections, and still about relationships, childhood… the drawings and songs are informed by a lifetime, including my childhood, of drawing the world around me… flowers, trees, the Worcestershire landscape I grew up in. (a link here to the song Long Grass) I have a realistic respect for nature, the farming community, and where my food comes from. The abstractions right at this moment are being informed by the drawings of twigs I pick up around my garden and on walks to the park. So many more brought down by the storms. I pick up sticks, I don’t cut them down. We play to discover. The discovered knowledge and practice transfers itself to our lives in all sorts of ways. I draw closely to discover. Those discoveries spread to other works.

I watch with horror the unfolding of the life and work of olympic skater Kamila Valieva. The loss of her childhood: did she ever have the opportunity to wander and pick up good, interesting sticks? I am reminded of the book Reclaiming Childhood – Freedom and Play in an Age of Fear by Helene Guldberg. The balances between play and work and fear and courage and exploration and discovery of our world and ourselves. My heart broke for that child, left uncomforted, made to feel shame?

These thoughts swim and swirl in my head. They are separate, right up until the moment they connect, and then they are not.

The rhizomes grow, whether you are aware of them or not. I’m wondering whether these re-surfacing thoughts of childhood will start to make other connections? This is how my brain works.

In my recent Drawing Songs talk with sound artist Bill Laybourne, I explained how my songwriting works… and how I have these small ideas that sit there, until something else crashes into them, and then something emerges. The song Undertaker Bees is a perfect example of this, and lyrically relates yet again to the reclaiming of childhood…

1… 2… buckle my shoe

3… 4… knock at the door

5… 6… pick up sticks

7… 8… lay them straight…


I forget sometimes, how I work… I go down the rabbit hole, emerge, then have to learn all over again that this is how I am!

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I bent down and picked up another…

“Haven’t you got enough bloody twigs?” Asked my husband.

“I haven’t got one like THIS!” I said as I straightened up with a groan.

And there it is. 

I’m collecting twigs from the park every time we go. I have a special bag to put them in.

I think he is a little disturbed by the associated creepy crawlies that inevitably end up on the dining table as they dry out, on kitchen roll on a tray. Twigs contained, creepy crawlies not so much.

I am doing some old fashioned observational drawings. I had originally intended to draw all sorts of natural forms: sea shells, leaves, feathers, flowers… but I seem to have got stuck at twigs (nearly but not quite a pun).

The idea is that I will use these closely observed drawings to feed my abstractions. A series of different marks, pulled from reality and re-used. I also have in my head that when the weather gets better I shall immerse myself in these drawings, and do them sat on the bench actually in the park. For maybe every day for a week. I am a big believer in immersion for all sorts of tasks that need doing. Songwriting works particularly well in the Immersion Method. 

Anyway, dear husband, no, I don’t have enough twigs. I have barely started!

Each twig I pick up has different characteristics, a personality… and this is why there won’t be any sea shells or feathers just yet. I’ve barely scratched the surface with the twigs!

At the moment I am drawing with very simple ink lines. I suspect I might start again, with the first twigs, but use graphite. Maybe watercolour? charcoal? But only when the inky lines have stopped satisfying me.

What is interesting is that I started with the thoughts that the observed will feed the abstracted, but as I do more, I find the abstract is feeding the observed…