Muscle Memory

I’m expecting some warehouse steps to be collected today, Sunday 9 Feb 2020, (hopefully the current high winds won’t cause delays on the motorway for the person collecting them).

It was lovely having the steps in the last studio. The Studio was vast and they were really useful.  Even if only for being able to take a lofty view of work in progress, The new studio is small and they are taking up too much room.

I have spent time rationalizing what I do and do not need/want in the new studio so that the room is maximized. Even so I love having certain things around. Things that may not be immediately necessary to painting etc. However somethings just feed the process, they make me feel good when I look at them. The driftwood is like that. It’s the next best thing to me having a studio near the sea.

After the hiatus of the last few three to four years I thought I’d get straight into painting but then realise I need to get some things photographed. Anyone who has to photographed artwork will know this is a very time consuming activity. I am still expecting the studio to be invaded by folk completing Trades type activity so the studio is still feeling not completely mine yet.

This is the first time in a long time I’ve felt the ‘memory muscles’ (as a dear friend reminded me it is called) start to stir properly. Even so, when it comes to using my Nikon D90 camera, the muscles are sluggish!

I asked for help from another dear friend, a photographer,  he suggested some settings for the not so easy task of photographing drawings (I’m talking high quality photo for reproduction here, not the usual phone camera shots I share on social media).  I have to admit to not having listened to him attentively enough (even though the advice was written in a message) so that yesterday I took some photographs that were not up to scratch. However, that’s OK because what it did what kick start the memory muscles and I’ve re-read the advice, looked up stuff on youtube and will be ready for the next session.

I’ve been really enjoying drawing, it eats huge amount of time and I am often astounded to discover how many hours have gone while I was engrossed. Studio time will be occupied as needed while the new space wraps itself around me.

So many skills needed in other than the creative one chosen!

Wish me luck with the photography!

 

Update:

Just had a message to say the guy coming to collect the warehouse steps is not coming because amber warning issued for people with vans. Relieved really as would hate to see someone at risk. Can’t be too much fun on the motorway in this wind. #stormciara

 

Aftermath

It has been strange getting unfinished paintings out to inspect after the hiatus between the before and after, the then and now. 2017 and 2020.

In the pleasant months of Spring I had been drawing in the countryside. Drawing that eventually led to the ‘Call of Nature’ paintings completed in the old studio. Experiments with acrylic skins followed and another series of paintings called ‘Plato’s Cave’ finished. More explorations with acrylic skins were on-going when was everything was interrupted by having to vacate my rented studio with extremely short notice. This was stressful to me, as well as to other people in the complex who had to vacate studios in similar circumstances.

With so much to move so suddenly and no time to find an alternative studio, everything went into store in someone’s workshop in the same complex but soon they too were given notice so all my studio contents had to be moved yet again.

The plan had been to use the space above a wood workshop as a studio. It didn’t work out. Not only was the space lacking in any natural light which could have been overcome with artificial light, but the atmosphere was polluted with sawdust much of the time.

During this period my husband’s dementia was deteriorating and it became obvious he needed constant company as he couldn’t safely be on his own. Soon, my days and nights became filled with his care.

A house move followed.  A Heart-breaking death followed. Other, not so good stuff followed.

So now looking at the abruptly halted work it’s odd, scary even. I’m beginning to get my head in the right place just by being in the new space. I’ve worked on setting out the studio so that it feels like I’m wearing it as I do my clothes. It is getting there but still not quite, that will happen when I know that no one will need to go in there to do tradesmen type things, then the space will be a place for natural interruptions my interruptions, interruptions where I can just leave everything as it is ready to be picked up after an hour or overnight, a day or even a week or so.

I can’t recall if the halted work had a particular direction as such other than trying out the materiality of the acrylic skins. For sure I was thinking that they looked rather dull until I realised they were some of the very few things that hadn’t been thoroughly wrapped to protect them. A good cleaning brightened them up!

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few months, whether I’ll be able to pick up where I left off with those particular explorations. I’ve felt all along I would be able to. I’ll give myself enough time, despite having a slight feeling of pressure (self-inflicted) after all the time away from the studio.

Years ago I used to write notes/thoughts onto the studio wall then inevitably I’d have to paint over the notes, I learned to put plastic up to write on and have done that in the new space. I’ve written one thing on there so far: Aftermath.

 

Studio views: View to outside – drawings on newly installed tab grabs – driftwood from a favorite beach in Wales – Interrupted explorations in acrylic skins.

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.