My life has changed, it was not a change I looked for or wanted but sometimes things happen that leaves little choice in the matter. I am de facto carer for my husband, Alberto. Alberto has Alzheimer’s disease and as the disease progresses and becomes bigger in our lives so our choices become smaller. Alberto’s world becomes, frighteningly, about a shrinking brain and perceptions, mine about shrinking options.
My path to becoming and being an artist was a thorny one in our relationship. Also, as most artists know, it wasn’t and isn’t easy to find opportunities to get work shown or to sell it. I’ve had some success for my work in those areas, I’ve exhibited and sold but I’d still like to have much wider recognition, be in some public collections etc.
While being interviewed on a radio show recently I was asked why my work was ‘abstract?’ I replied that it just came about because I have a passion to explore the stuff of paint, to explore ideas, to connect with the inner ‘thing’ that drives me and connects us.
There have been many changes in the last two years, some indirectly and some directly linked to Alberto’s Alzheimer’s. We’ve moved home in the last year and I also had to move from my much loved rented studio. I am waiting for building to start on a new studio which will be in the garden of my new home.
When the new studio was planned it would have been possible for me to work in there while keeping a light eye out for Alberto, however now things have changed and I’m fairly sure I will have to have help in having someone with him while I’m in the studio even though it will be just yards away.
I have not had a studio where I can work for some months now and I find that very hard and frustrating. This has also coincided with Alberto needing more supervision, it’s now 24/7 and that is also hard. For a little respite for me and a change for him he has now attended a day care centre. Alberto attends the Centre for just one day a week from 10 until 3 o’clock. He has now been three times. It is this, my day ‘off’ that I find to be rather strange.
In theory I will have time to work in the studio when it is built on this day ‘off’.
On the first day I rushed around like a mad thing doing all the errands that are difficult to do when I have Alberto with me. The second day I met friends for coffee as well as doing all the errands.
The last day ‘off’ I spent the first hour trying to sort out Alberto’s medical appointment by having to actually go to the hospital. It was an appointment that arrived in the post the previous day and was for the one day where I have managed to organize home care for him so I can go with a friend to London to visit a gallery. I’d tried to change the appointment by phone which embroiled me in a Kafkaesque nightmare with the hospital’s automated phone system so it seemed simpler to just go to the hospital and rebook it.
After a couple of other errands I consciously gave the rest of the time to me to do as I wanted. That was when I realised how insidious the situation I’m in is. I realised I wasn’t sure what to do with my time. I couldn’t go to the studio as I don’t have a working studio yet. There wasn’t a lot of time before I’d have to collect Alberto from the Day Care centre.
I felt cut adrift. I guess that is the danger of being consumed by circumstance, it is so easily all consuming. It scares me because I still have ambition to work, to have my work recognised more widely, to feel satisfaction at the end of the day, yet here I am feeling adrift.
In the end I took myself off to a bookshop and did what I haven’t had time to do for a very long time and just mooched about in the shelves and sat looking at books I wouldn’t buy as well as a couple I did. I went for a Japanese noodle lunch then drove to Abington Park in Northampton and looked at the gorgeous autumn colours of the leaves on the trees, watched squirrels squabble then got out the new sketchbook and drawing pen I’d just bought and sat and drew.
Over the years I have had periods when I sketch/draw and other periods when I don’t. Sometimes I draw what I see from life. Sometimes the drawings please me and sometimes they don’t but that’s OK because I strive to capture something in the drawings and it isn’t always what is literal. I know that when I look at the drawing I did, whether I look in a day’s time or ten years’ time, I will be back in the time I was drawing, it’s a peculiar aspect of drawing that is just not the same as if I take a photo.
I’ve decided that as long as my energy holds up and especially until I have a working studio again I will draw, and it doesn’t matter what I draw. The drawing is for me, even if on occasion I share what I’ve drawn on social media. I hope the drawing will tether me from that feeling of being adrift.
Oddly after drawing yesterday I started thinking of another possible project, one of my occasional forays into installations. Maybe, maybe not.