The Pneumonia Drawings

I’m not terribly fond of winter. That said, what I do like is that the trees are leafless and their forms are in their starkness to be seen and to be seen through.

There is a lot of darkness, as I write this it’s just two days away from the Winter Solstice on the 22 December and I for one will count every extra little bit of light that is added on to each day after that.

I’ve been pretty much out of action for the last eight weeks. Pneumonia seemed to sneak up on me without a lot of warning. It’s a debilitating illness. I guess ill people are called patients because they have to be patient, some things will just not be rushed and recovery from Pneumonia is one of those things.

It seemed that fate was conspiring against me getting the studio ready to use, but then I decided that was just being paranoid. There are circumstances that pile on top of each other to prevent the result I want but that’s all it is.

I have so missed Alberto, my husband of 54 years. It will be the second anniversary of his death in January. While I’ve been ill I’ve recalled how he would have made sure I was coddled through an illness, we did that for each other..

I’ve also been grieving for where my country has gone. Turbulent times and not ones I ever expected to witness.

I’ve wrapped up warm in the middle of some nights and gone into the dark of the garden. The eight hundred year old church across from the garden is lit for most of the night, and is more visible through the bare trees than in other seasons. I like the borrowed landscape across what was the glebe field and the darkness is both a blanket and a parachute to soften the feeling of falling off the world.

Coughing is a sleep stealer, so I’ve sat up and just let my drawing pen take me where it wanted to go. It’s an odd feeling to put pen to blank paper without a clue as to where it will take you, unless of course I decide to draw a dried leaf that festoon the bedroom windowsill.  Hours were spent on one drawing, stopping when tiredness dictated rest so that some drawings spread over several days. It didn’t matter when I started or finished. In a way pneumonia was a gift of time, if I wasn’t drawing I couldn’t be doing many other activities.

I started to call the drawings the Pneumonia Drawings, I might get around to putting a number on them to separately identify them, eventually. For now I’m trying to pace my energy into getting ready for Christmas and an upcoming trip to Wales and a whole lot of sea air.

I wish you all the Season’s greetings, Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, good fortune and health.

 

 

In my bedroom

I wake to Tractus Daydreaming #4.   Hung in my bedroom it is one of the first things I see when I open my eyes in the morning. It gives me pleasure.

I remember making the painting one of a series. It’s likely to stay in my bedroom unless it sells in which case I’ll choose another painting to wake up to.

Tractus Daydreaming #4 is a painting that combines painting and drawing. An adapted small remote control car (a Ferrari) was directed across canvases contained within a restraining frame. When activated, pens left the marks of the device’s journey over undulations caused by interruptions of objects placed under the canvas.

It was fun putting the Ferrari through its drawing paces, yet fun with serious intent. I wanted to trace the impact marks where it crashed into the boundary frame. To record jolts and percussion from crashing that forced both car and pens to jump, leaving staccato marks along the edges, to trace speed, impact, change of direction and gaps as it mapped the underlying fabricated landscape.

Tractus Daydreaming #4 (2)

The ‘Art’ of Tidying.

This morning I am thoroughly fed up health-wise. Putting aside all the other health stuff, in the last two weeks Pleurisy, and now just for fun a sore throat and sneezing. So much I want to do but the body says ‘think again’ #Frustrating. However with time not spent on other things I have read through Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying:  A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever’.

It’s so odd that this book seems to have done more for me mentally than all the books on grieving I’ve read.

I started reading it and quickly applied the ideas to my sock, knicker drawers, etc (pun intended) and quite quickly started to realise it’s more than just about tidying clothes. It’s about baggage and how we deal with it. It uses the deceptively simple use of categories, and it recommends doing it quickly, not dragging out what could be a boring job.

It’s not obvious when you read the book, but just by following a few basic precepts (such as thanking whatever it is you are no longer keeping, thanking the objects/clothes whatever) you acknowledge they’ve had a place in your life, you don’t feel guilty about letting them go, (even if you bought something you never used).

I sorted out my sewing stuff the other night and was astonished that I had a supermarket sized bag of stuff that has now gone. Seriously, why did I keep two wooden mushrooms for the mending of socks thereof? Now I have none. I remember that Hubs, Alberto, asked me to mend a sock of his not long after we married and I replied I would never mend a sock, not only did it make them uncomfortable, it just wasn’t something I was ever going to do. Yet 56 years after that conversation and nearly two years after his death I still had two wooden mushrooms! One I inherited from my mother and one my own. Thanked, acknowledged, and now gone to a charity. It feels good.

More than all the above though, the other day I didn’t buy something that would ‘do the job’. I’ve always been patient in waiting for the right piece of furniture for my home, but didn’t always apply the same criteria to other things, I need new PJ’s and can’t find what I want. I nearly bought some that ‘would do’ but then thought of what I’d been absorbing from the Kondo book: would these not quite right pyjamas give me joy? Answer no, so I didn’t buy them.

I have been slowly going through studio stuff since it came out of store, soon though I will go through it again using what I have learnt from this young woman.

I often say there’s not much fun about getting old, however there is an advantage, you have had enough time to learn something new. As it says in the title, Magic.

Now, to go through those old portfolios…..

Leaf skeleton - pen on sketchbook - Linda Sgoluppi

Mobile walls

While the heating and electrics are being worked on in the new studio it seemed a good time to sort out a mobile wall. I’d commissioned one some years ago. It wasn’t quite what I’d asked for but did a good enough job in what was then my vast studio. In the new, reduced sized studio, mobile walls need to work harder so the old one is becoming two with storage inside. One is finished and provides a stable mobile double sided wall with room to store things inside, the other is part finished. Both will also serve as ‘blinds’ when I feel the need to shut out the outside a bit from the glass doors.

I love studio ‘furniture’ to be on castors, having everything mobile gives great versatility. Other studio ‘mobiles’ are ex library trolleys and ex cafe tray racks. The library trolleys hold paint while the tray racks are for storing drying acrylic skins.

Getting to this studio has been a long journey and is still on-going. I will write on the emotional part of it another time but for now will just say that the start of the build was at a time when my husband of 54 years was part way into his Alzheimer’s journey. I became his full time (and it was very full time) carer. He died 21 months ago.

Time is a strange thing, it feels simultaneously like yesterday and it feels like a lifetime ago. I’m feeling my way through a tunnel. I think there might be light at the end of it.

Erasers

I am lightening the load in my studio.

It’s amazing the sort of stuff that is accumulated over the years. There is a rational for not getting rid of anything if you are an artist. Your studio is different in this aspect to your home, knowing you can scrabble through drawers or boxes to find just what you need to make your latest Opus is very useful.

However, size of studio becomes an issue when you move from a vast space to a relatively small one. Plus, in the past I’ve supplemented my income by teaching art and offering art courses, for which I had a stock of art materials. There was also a time when I had more than one studio with the consequential doubling up of materials, a rented studio and a studio at home. (Happy days) .Then there are times when certain tools were being used at such a rate (read erasers) that when I found them at bargain prices, well you get the picture. In case you don’t, yesterday I found four different containers of erasers. I went through a period when I used erasers as a drawing tool, al la Robert Rauschenberg’s erased de Kooning drawing.

Then there was the time I found bargain priced little sets of exquisite Chinese calligraphy brush sets, I loved the brushes and bought quite a few sets with the idea of giving them as parting gifts to students but before that happened fate stepped in and I no longer offered courses. Yesterday I photographed them, put them on FB Marketplace, they are being collected this morning.

I have other multiples of stuff, metal plates and the like, all at some time relevant to the work I was doing.  I have a load of short pipes, they are specific diameters to fit paint rollers. I have a lot because there had to be a minimum order. I use these plain basics to make my own specific paint rollers, however I’ll probably need to live to a hundred and fifty to use them all. So the question becomes how many do I keep?

There is another aspect to clearing the studio, besides physical space.

I am scared.

I am scared because it has been such a traumatic few years that I feel in some ways as if my confidence has gone. Goodness knows if you ask anyone who knows me, the chances are they will say I’m a confident person. There are physical reasons for my confidence reduction, my body likes to remind me it is not what it was, but it is not really the physical part that I’m referring to. I have paintings in private collections on different continents, yet I still have plenty of paintings in store. So there is a little gremlin whispering in my ear that making more paintings is sort of self-indulgent (I kick that gremlin out but it keeps coming back). Then I just feel it’s all a colossal waste of effort, given that I’ve spent the last few years caring for my husband through his Alzheimer’s disease until his death. Am I still grieving? Yes I am.

The studio isn’t finished, it needs the heating finishing as well as other things, but at least I have my stuff under my own roof,  body willing can slowly sort through stuff.

It’s in my head that ‘stuff’ needs sorting I cannot erase the difficult stuff and nor should I want to although some things would be better not having happened, erasing them does not alter the fact it did. All that stuff makes me who I am and that manifests itself in work.

Ultimately to make something work you just have to keep showing up, if I don’t get into the studio to work no work will be done, so I will show up, I’m moving back into that by ‘showing up’ to sort out the excess baggage. When bodily-pain gets too much I rest and take more painkillers, when the emotional pain gets too much I cry, shake myself up and get on with things.

Is it a colossal waste of time? Probably no more so than anything else, give it a thousand years and most things will have gone however whichever we look at it.

Am I still an artist? Yes I am.

 

Such is the journey.

Sometimes we forget the journey we’ve made so far.

My studio had to go into storage when the new landlord wanted to triple my rent which took it beyond my reach. Then caring for my ill husband took over my life until his death all this, at the same time that building a new studio at home hit problems. So, the passage of time, like sand through an hourglass, has moved on.

The new studio still isn’t finished, I just don’t know where the 22 months since my husband’s death has gone. Time does move on. Finally however the studio contents were transferred from storage last week and I have a big job of sorting through everything.

Yesterday I was organizing drill bits, sitting on a sofa to do it, I did wonder if I would ever need them again. I like my tools to be meticulously organized. I smiled, wondering if I’d need to use them in the way I have in the past.

My body is paying me back for having done things beyond its natural capabilities in the past. I’m thinking here of when there was a shortage of building materials way back in the ‘70’s and a large truck full of concrete blocks were delivered. This was in the days before trucks came with unloading lifts. We had been waiting months for the delivery, Alberto, my husband was on his way back from Oxford but got stuck in traffic from an accident. The single delivery man said he couldn’t unload the blocks on his own and would take them back and we would have to re-order. No said I you can go if I don’t keep up with you unloading them….. Yea, it was stupid of me but hey-ho….

Anyway, stepping back from my digression, I was also thinking of how versatile Alberto was, there was nothing he wouldn’t put his hand to, and every job he did was so well done. However the way he kept his tools in buckets…. drove me nuts, of course he always said he knew where everything was but couldn’t find things …..  I’ve had studios in different places over the years, and sometimes at home. When I had the studio at home Alberto would always come to ‘borrow’ tools, because I always knew exactly where mine were. He always returned them back knowing it wasn’t worth the angst he’d have if he didn’t!

Other than drill bits (I’ve colour coded sizes using nail varnish (I know, I know, but I did say I could be a bit OCD at times), I’ve also been looking through some old sketchbooks with the intention of dumping a few (I have done that). I came across a couple of quick sketches from decades ago of dear friends and relatives. They aren’t technically great sketches ( so what) but they hold the essence of these two people, my friend the late Harry Blackburn and my late brother-in-law Shawn McDonnell. They bring back so vividly the time I was drawing them. Such is the journey.

 

 

A quick swipe

I find it endlessly fascinating to see how communications evolve on social media. Sometimes I actually feel a sense of relief when someone who from long observation of their styles and communications do respond to having their buttons pushed once too often. I think that there is a genuineness about that that separates them from the robots. I’m not talking about nastiness but more that sense of riotous indignation that can surface when some ‘dick-head’ has gone too far. It’s a sort of genuineness that tells you, this is a real person who is normally a calm and considered person with, or without passion on a subject, but thoughtful whatever. Those that try to be the best they can rather than those that seem to be the worse they can, of which we’ve seen too many in the last few years.

It is almost like watching a cat that’s being tormented by a young dog and the cat shows lots of patience but after having its ear nipped once to many times gives the dog a quick swipe of its paw. That look on the dogs face when it realises the cat has claws, but usually does not choose to use them. The cat goes back to being patient and calm, the dog goes back to play at tormenting the cat but with a new wariness, now understanding the cat chooses to not whack the dog most of the time.

Having written what I just did, it has made me think that maybe we’ve all been a bit too patient and that’s why both the US and UK are in such a mess, we took too long to give that one swipe when it was needed, it means we let the dog think it was all right to torment, we let the dog think its way was OK and there were no consequences to its excessive actions.