Sunday, March 03, 2019

Hello from Me at March 2019

I've been struggling to find the words to describe my Life since December 2018 to now. In and amongst the tough bits, there have been the moments of joy, creativity and laughter. 

"Challenging" I associate with getting fit or training for a 5K run, at the end of it, there's a feeling of accomplishment despite the effort, the sweat and sore muscles. Cancer isn't a challenge. "Hard" and "tough", the words do start to convey the grind of our day to day living. Is there enough space within the definitions for the sleepless nights, the helplessness, the sorrow, my shoulders locked around my ears, the peri-menopause and my uterus giving me a good kicking when I'm already on the floor, curled up?

Within "hard" and "tough" there's the almost overwhelming senses of horror, disbelief and frustration at the political mess in this country that's been the waste of time and resources of Brexit, coupled with the loss our wonderful NHS. The system as it is, seems to continue through the sacrifice of the good women and men working to heal with in the travesty of the service provided now. I'm often told by hard core Brexiters that I should wait and see, it will be wonderful. Forgive me; my partner's four-year fight with Stage 4 metastatic cancer has pretty much beaten out my optimism. In my reality, Santa and the Easter Bunny seem to have ridden off on a unicorn. Yet I still pray for the strength to search for the rainbows as the storms pass.

The Universe says 'yes' to me and my art and I am too exhausted to follow through the opportunities that turn up like buses. As I let each one go, I recognise my fear that there won't ever be another one, that I'll be waiting on the side of the road. I sternly tell myself that I didn't know there were buses to begin with, therefore they will continue to run. They will just be different buses, perhaps not so comfortable, perhaps packed with other commuters.

I will not offload this cheerless bit of writing without balancing it with the support that's around me, around us. Facebook provides an endless supply of bad jokes, cute kitty pictures and arguments if I've got the energy to debate. It also lets me receive messages of love and support in the middle of the night. It's kind of weird to think that people hold us in their hearts and reach out during their days and nights. They hold my hands during appointments, give me virtual cuddles when needed and a kick up the bum if the Self-Pity Gnome over-stays her welcome. 

Wintery Birches, mixed media.
Art journal

Blogger is being an arse. I can't respond to your comments. I don't know why it's being an arse, it just is. Thank you darlings, much love back to you. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to me. xxx

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Life Post-Exhibition

Hey, did you hear? I had an exhibition! No really, I did! It was an amazing experience.

From the end of August to the end of the exhibition on the 27th October, my head was down and I prioritised like an army general. I had to put to one side anything that didn't directly have anything to do with Dave and/or the exhibition in an effort to get everything ready in time. To say I had blinkers on would be an understatement, to the point where all I could see was the small light at the end of the tunnel that was the exhibition.

And after? Well, darlings I had been warned that I would crash and burn and I'm grateful to those who shared their post-exhibition experiences with me. I would have been seriously worried otherwise. The first week after the end, I managed to put my onesie on and brush my teeth. Outside of that, nothing much else happened. I didn't help that the day after the Private View, Dave had cycle 5 of his chemotherapy. Dealing with either the exhibition or Dave's chemo would be hard enough; together...yeah...I had to pull energetic resources from wherever I could find them (though no Red Bull was consumed. That stuff is disgusting). I am deeply grateful for the support I received through this time. People stepped up and took over when I couldn't. 

The exhibition was called: The Speed of Colour: an abstract encounter with astrophotography. Chris and I were very lucky to have the exhibition as part of the annual Norwich Science Festival and on Saturday 27th, we did a presentation to a small group about our process and the science behind the work. 

Chris sold a piece and quite a few others on the back of the show, I didn't sell anything. In all honesty, I'm not disappointed. I did the exhibition because I wanted to know that I could. I could learn what I needed to know, engage with art and science in a meaningful way and ultimately, that people would consider my work. Which they did. The Private View on the 18th October was very well attended and people really did take the time to check out our work and engage with it and with us.

You will notice I make no mention of "like" or "dislike". The exhibition was about that, it was about getting my audience to take a moment to consider what's out there in the vast universe and the bigger questions that can come out of looking up at the night sky. Some people 'got' my intention, but didn't particularly appreciate the outcome and that was good too. Happily, no one said to my face "my 3 year old can do better than that." I took that away as a win. 

Following is my work that was included in the exhibition. Thanks to an amazing brain fart on my part, one of the pieces didn't get framed which I didn't realise until we were at the gallery, hanging paintings. By then, I was too far gone to worry. And truthfully, the work wasn't missed (whoops!).

On the Surface
Acrylic on board
3ft x 2ft

Acrylic on board
3ft x 2 ft

3am Anywhere
Oil on board
3ft x 2 ft

Oil on board
3ft x 2ft

Acrylic on board
3ft x 2ft

Joy. Equanimity. Despair
Acrylic on Board
3 x 2ft x 3ft

Speed of Colour
Oil on board
3ft x2ft

Let There be Colour
Oil on board
3ft x 2ft

The Private View was an amazing experience. In fact, preparing and doing the exhibition was one of the most challenging, terrifying and exhilarating experiences. I now know I can do it...yes I'm already plotting....


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Space Between

The Speed of Colour
oil on board, 3ft x 2ft

I'm in that weird space between the body of work having been finished and the exhibition date. Last Monday evening I crashed and burned. I was exhausted. I can't find the words to tell you how bone tired, ass-dragging knackered I felt. My brain ground to a complete halt. It got to the point where I could only sit on the sofa and drool. Last week, I rested. I'm still not at 75%, but I've got enough juice in the tank to start encouraging my ducks to line up. This week, I don't have high expectations for myself and I'm okay with that. That's what next week is for (fingers crossed).

My To Do List, pre-exhibition spans two pages and is frankly scaring me to death. Almost as much as the exhibition itself, and that's saying something. Rather than lie on the floor quaking (as I really would like to do), I've broken down all of the tasks into chunks and I'm going to trust that everything will get done and to a good enough standard. Yes, I would like everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, 'perfect' is not within my abilities. 'Good enough' will have to do. 

After I finish this post, I will start writing both the exhibition statement and my artist's statement. Given I've been working on this project for two years, you'd think I'd be all over this like white on rice. Yeah, no.

Rowan asked me last night why am I doing this? What is it I hope to achieve? I stuttered for a long time.

Why am I doing this? It's obvious, isn't it?

Actually, no it isn't.

I'm an artist, because I do the art work. Whether I'm a good, bad or indifferent artist is another question I am not qualified to answer. I'm too close to this body of work to judge it's success or failure or quality.

I do this for the same reason I blog. It's a my way of communicating, I am reaching out beyond my small sphere to offer a glimpse into my reality. I hope to connect with other people who are willing to have a conversation about what comes up in my life, in my thoughts. My blog does this with words, my art does this visually.

My blog has been a vehicle in which I've explored how it's been to be Me dealing with various challenges, issues, people, situations. My art is taking things a step further. It's an invitation to have a conversation about what it is to be human and look up at the Universe. What do we see?

I believe Life is a paradox. On the one hand it is meaningless. You're born, you live, you die. There are seven billion of us on Earth currently going through this process. The only two certainties in life, often quoted, are death and taxes. If life itself is meaningless, what then? It is up to the individual to create meaning. Therefore everything then becomes full of meaning. The decision to connect, to create, to communicate becomes the starting point of a meaning-full life. 

This morning, I realised the work for this exhibition is not going to be good enough; it never was going to be. With this exhibition, I stepped up and stated "this is what it's like to be human, looking up." This is the kind of subject best left to the end of an artistic career, after many, many years of practice, honing of skills, success and failure, trial and error. I've gone and jumped in at the deep end at the beginning of my artistic career. This is Big Picture stuff and who the hell am I to have an opinion about anything?

Who am I? I am an artist. As an artist my job is to start the conversation, to ask the difficult questions. I'm not here to paint pretty pictures. I'm here to highlight the difficult things about being human: the fear, the anger, the hurt, the loneliness; as well as the positive. 

I want to contribute to the Big Picture. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Waiting for Paint to Dry

Yesterday evening, I thought I'd finished the triptych. I kicked back, drank a glass of raspberry beer and contemplated my work. As I contemplated, I realised as much as I like the piece I've done, it doesn't work with the triptych.*sigh*

Earlier in the week, I had another realisation: while my first love is oil, one of the pieces really did not work in that medium. The acrylic paint I've been using with the triptych gave exactly the effect I wanted. *bangs head on wall*

Dave and I hit the DIY store for more MDF boards and yesterday I started on that piece of work. Of course it meant emergency buying of yet more art supplies and quite a lot of stressing about varnish to finish the pieces off. Everything I had was geared for oils. I've had to learn about acrylic paint from scratch. It was never a medium I liked. The paints I'd used just weren't up to much.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a piece of unsolicited advice, if I may? If you are thinking of trying out something new in the art and craft world and you're standing in front of a few racks of shelves of materials and you think "I'll get the starter stuff, there's no point in spending a lot of money, if I don't know if I'll like it." STOP. Step away from the cheap supplies. Find someone who uses them, ask them what the middle of the road version is, swallow your uncertainty and buy that stuff. Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Art. Supplies.

Seriously, don't. 

My experience with cheap-ass acrylic paints was so disappointing, I walked away and never looked back until I had to use a different brand entirely. 

Also, just because you see 'that' brand in every other art shop and it gives good bullshit marketing in the blurb, don't believe it. Art materials are not made equally. There are some that are truly dire. Then there are some that are excellent value for the money. You've got to experiment.

Anyway, I'm currently multi-tasking like a boss. I've got a piece varnished and drying, two other pieces drying. All of them are quite large, 3ft x 2ft, cause I deal in old money, as they say here. And yes, before you start, size does matter. In this case bigger is better. No, it's not negotiable. In this case, I'm right. It's my work damn it.

Dry damn it.

While Dave was driving me towards the DIY shop so I could get more MDF, I realised he's my muse. All artist's go on about their muses, well he's mine. Dave did give me a funny look when I said that to him. Muses inspire, challenge and generally put up with a lot of shit from their artist. Tick, tick and tick.

Me and my muse!

Therefore, I roped him in to providing some assistance with the piece I was re-doing....

Every journey...

I've glanced across and I think one painting is ready for more.

Laters darlings.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

It's Been Awhile

I've been busy...I've been arting, chasing chickens and coming to terms with the difficulty of living with Dave's cancer. Since I last blogged and not that long ago, his cancer began progressing which means he's back on the chemotherapy. It's hard people, it's hard. Life is uncertain and has meant I focus pretty much on a week at time now. Planning further than that is harder. Dave is coping with the chemo as best he can, which frankly is like a super-human. Given the level of pain, the effects and side-effects of the treatment, he remains stoic, I'd be whinging like I was training for an Olympic sport. When I hurt, everyone knows about it. 

In the meantime, in between hospital appointments, travelling for treatments and generally trying to live, I've been working towards my first joint exhibition in October. I find it difficult to write about my art, it's personal and I'm insecure. Now's the time to get over myself. The exhibition is coming up, whether I'm ready or not. I'm working on the last pieces that will form a triptych and will be the centre-piece over the fire pressure then. exhibition....

It's called The Speed of Colour: an abstract exploration of astrophotography. I'm doing it with astrophotographer, Chris Grimmer. I had this wacky idea, talked him into it, now I'm reaping what I sow.

I've got three more pieces to do before the work goes off to be framed at the beginning of next month. 

This has been a very steep learning curve. I've had to learn as I've done...and I'm still doing...I've gone from planning everything to working intuitively, the results are a bit variable but on the whole I think the work is stronger for it. 

I'm going to leave you with my latest obsession: lemons.

Earlier this summer I couldn't stop painting and drawing lemons. I did them in as many different mediums as I could...though thinking about it, I didn't do pastels. I'll have to rectify that. Anyway, here they are:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Greetings and Salutations from 2018

I won't start with an apology, give the reasons why I stopped blogging. The words left. Simple as that and I'm not sorry they did. I didn't miss blogging or I would have done it sooner...or would I? I don't know. All I know is that I didn't blog. I'm not entirely sure the words are back, they could be just visiting. Passing through on the way to a better conduit and to have a last hurrah with me before they go on their merry way.

I like the idea words look for their hosts. There are a lot of words that seem to make do with poor hosts and I suspect I was one of them. I didn't indulge their endless rambling at 3 am, I wasn't quick enough to refill their glasses with wine after dinner. I think I only offered them discount supermarket sherry and port from the discount bin. Such meagre fare indeed.

And yet...and yet here I am. A whim whispered to me and I thought I'd go with it, see if there were more adventures to share, worth sharing.

It's been a busy time. 

I am an artist. 

Did I tell you this? Oh yes. I'm an artist. 

Keep the evening of Thursday 10th October 2018 free. I've got my first exhibition at Anteros Arts in Norwich. I'm working with Chris Grimmer, an astrophotographer. He's showcasing his amazing photographs and I am creating work out and around what he does. Exciting stuff. I'm pretending I'm a snowball rolling down a mountainside, gathering momentum as I go.

It's led to me expanding my horizons somewhat as I'm doing several courses to better understand my subject matter. I did no science for my GCSEs, the lack of which I am feeling every time I step up to my easel. That's okay. I'm best when slightly overwhelmed with lots of stuff to do and learn. October is ages away; I keep telling myself. I've a few more months to go before I'm officially allowed to panic at my lack of paintings.

See, here's the thing: the painting is the very last thing in the artistic process and for me, if I don't get the process right, it doesn't end well. I'm trying to start well, to mean to go on well, to finish on time with minimal stressing. Bwahahahaha! That's a road to nowhere if ever I've seen one. Yeah, right.

Anyway, in the meantime...

What I feared most came to pass. Dave's cancer came back and then some. He was accepted on to a ground-breaking treatment trialing two immunotherapy drugs. There was a rigorous selection process and when he began treatment we feared the delay would be costly. Nothing has gone according to Plan. There have been hiccoughs and surprises and detours which have meant I now consider myself an expert on hospital catering. The people around me leaned in and held me up since that awful day in mid-June.

At the moment, Dave seems to be doing much better. When he does better, I do better. Bad news crushes me, good news sends me soaring. This is a helluva ride. I won't say more than that, it's not about me; which quite frankly, is just as well. I would not be as physically or emotionally strong as Dave. I say to him I hope something like that never happens to me, my friends and loved ones would fight to hold the pillow over my face because I'd be whinging, whimpering and complaining so much. I'd be the most high-maintenance patient ever. 

Back at the ranch: in the autumn the pheasants and George the Herring Gull came back to demand breakfast. I've taken a mortgage out to pay for the tons of bird food I go through every month. It's worth it. Yes, I grumble on grey, damp days, or when the wind is blowing an absolute hoolie as it was early last week. I wouldn't be without my creatures. Thanks to a broadened menu, one platter does at least three sittings, starting with George and the pheasants. After they've gone the crows, magpies and blackbirds move in and finally, the partridges, robins and other small birds and a couple of very fat pigeons and a few collared doves come a-munching. 

George the Herring Gull and the Pheasants
(I wonder if they take requests?)

My flock of velociraptors are well, though not particularly happy with me as I'm keeping them mostly in due to the bad weather and the fact that I re-seeded my lawn in November. Happily, it's coming on well.

From left to right: Polly, Jenga, Canasta and Scrabble

I spent the summer in the garden freeing it from the clutches of the perennial weeds, planting, plotting and re-arranging. Gardening was my tiny act of rebellion. I created something for the future: colour for the spring. It's hard to be a cynic and garden. When I planted I wasn't thinking of the Present or even next month. I plant for five years' time. It's good to see the bulbs rising to my challenge as they poke through the cold ground. It won't be something a magazine will come to photograph, not if I do it right. I want it to be a scruffy, sensual place to be home for chickens, creatures, cats and creepy crawlies.

This is Chip
Haven't had him long and I've broken him already

Speaking of cats, Rummy now has a room mate Chip, which he is not best pleased about. And if Rummy isn't best pleased, Eloise the cat is downright furious at the intrusion of her territory. Let's not forget she is the Queen of All She Surveys and while she might see herself as Rummy's little sister, she'd rather Chip jumped off a cliff. Chip for the most part is fairly pleased with his change of circumstances. There's a lot to see and people to interact with if he fancies it, which he doesn't very much, it has to be said. He's established himself as head honcho and Rummy doesn't seem to mind too much as long as he still gets unfettered access to me. 

Herb planter by the kitchen door

Artist, gardener, creature lover, mad chicken & cat lady, me.

Anything else, I'll let you know.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sardines & Beer

The last two weeks have been unbelievably hectic and I'm only now finding the space to sit down and actually relax. Hence being a bit slow to blog about it.

On Wednesday, I decided I'd been big and brave enough by myself and met up with Nicola, my art mentor for some gentle hand holding and reassurance. I'm glad I did. She reminded me of how far I've come, complimented me on the quality of the work, its presentation and my preparation. Perhaps more importantly, we talked about my scheme of work next week and for the next month. It was crucial for me not to get to this weekend and fall flat after the event. It seems I worry and stress unnecessarily. The self-inflicted pressure is counter-productive. May's objective is to lighten up a bit. To take more breaks. To breathe more deeply. 

That probably tells you my state of mind Thursday morning. Poor Dave, I volunteered him to babysit me as I waited for the gallery to open. Happily, I was not first in the queue, I was third. What I am particularly proud of, was the fact I did not gush, I did not do my wet spaniel impression all over everyone involved. I calmly handed over my two pieces of work (the framer had ignored Dave's instructions and I wasn't happy showing the sunflowers in the end) and then Dave and I went on our way so I could complete my preparation for the evening. I needed good nails and two eyebrows stat!

I think I probably over-thought the whole thing as I planned everything down to my outfit. Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's iconic style, I made an executive decision and bought a man's suit. I don't have the income to be a fashion plate and I'm not interested enough to do it on a budget. Neither am I retro, vintage or hipster in any form. Classic fashion is beyond me, though I can do it if pressed. I'm too old and cranky to be sexy-chic and I didn't want to present myself as an artist as a sexual being. Don't get me wrong, I am a sexual being, but I don't want it to be part and parcel of my marketing. I'm not interested in flirting for the camera or anyone else for my art. Hence, the suit. I'd read this article about a woman wearing men's suits for a month and it appealed. A suit would be stylish, classic and comfortable. I talked to Dave about it and boy did we have fun, we went to Moss Bros and got the suit. I did have to get the trousers and the vest adjusted though; with the best will in the world, I'm still a curvy woman trying to fit into clothes that were meant for frames more straight than mine. I found women's double-cuffed shirts online. My neck size is 11.5 inches, men's shirts tend to start at 14 inches and any smaller are for boy's clothes which I'd have never buttoned up. Dave was my valet and did my tie for me.

Once dressed, I felt amazing. Power dressing at it's best. I sat and walked differently. And darlings, pockets. Men's tailoring has pockets in so many convenient places, it was just a question of where I put things.

Letting social media know I was on my way

Thirteen A is a small gallery. It's more the size of someone's front room than an exhibition space. We were definitely sardines. There were bottles of beer and ice in a large plastic tub in the middle of the room. I had an absolute blast. 

The Private View was mainly attended by artists and their friends all crammed into this small space. We spilled outside onto the pavement as well, when it got too packed inside. I got to talk to so many incredibly interesting people. The show was an open submission and yet it worked. The diversity of styles and media meant it should have clashed, it shouldn't have made sense. And yet, it did. The synergy was astonishing. There were oil paintings, lino prints, acrylic paintings, drawings, 3-D pen sculptures and of course my work.

The whole point of the experience for me was to put my intention out into the world. I did what I set out to do. Earlier in the week, I watched an amazing talk by Paul Klein on YouTube, on How to be A Successful Artist. Amongst other things he talked about not the Art World, but Art Villages. He said the challenge artists face is to find their art village, the place where they can call home i.e. the internet, the gallery space, etsy, it's not so much about geography per se, or the base market, but an amalgamation of the two. There's also an expectation that an artist will move around for a while before they find their art village. Thursday night for me was my first exploration into the art village in Norwich. 

I very much doubt I will sell my work this weekend, and that's fine. I was pleased to be there. I was after the experience, and I feel I presented myself well. I intend to create an art career that will continue into my dotage. This was the first step. 

Yesterday, I went on a day's course on pastels. I had an absolute blast; it turns out I love soft pastels and it's mutual. Please bear in mind I was basically colouring in the tutor's tracing of the reference photograph next to me. But this is what I did. Yeah, I'm beginning to think I've got a good shot at this.
No biting

Hello from Me at March 2019

I've been struggling to find the words to describe my Life since December 2018 to now. In and amongst the tough bits, there have been th...