A job became available so I jumped at it. You know how it is. Life is long while money is short.
If you’ve got health, you’ve got wealth, said my Jewish aunties, followed by a chorus of approval from the entire rest of the family. Of course, they meant good health, not just any old health. In those days, health was what you had if you weren’t ill.
Nowadays governments say we must have health and well being, healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships and a healthy bank balance.
We don’t hear much about wealth; it isn’t done. The rich have wealth and they don’t need to discuss it. Take it as read.
So for six weeks I’ve been working with words - typing, talking, thinking and writing, in that (descending) order. Images have been out of the picture, save for a few bits of tightly word-wrapped clipart here and there.
For a moment, it looked like my art days were behind me. Although I’ve seen that many times before.
No, it was just another blip.
The job lasts for another seven weeks. But this is Friday night/Saturday morning, and I have to make a picture. Not enough light to draw, and I don't have time. I need to make a picture, now.
Here is the result. Pink rabbit on the hosptal roof and me sick with grief. Bad boy Foxy threw it up there. Will I ever forgive him?
Next time I'll write more about the picture and how I made it; it's interesting.
I’ve lived in so many places; I’m amazed anything important has survived. Drawings, oil paintings, sketch books - lost, stolen, destroyed (by me) or just gone…
A few oil paintings were recently discovered in the form of two and a quarter inch square negatives. I hope to have these digitally rescued soon.
The earliest surviving example of my artistic output is this scribble, from my skooldaze. I was about 12 years old.
The picture (scanned and edited in Photoshop) shows the back and front of the wrapping band of a packet of envelopes, which I expect was bought from the school tuck-shop (because the local shops were out of bounds.)
Fellow post-war baby-boomers may recognise the MainLine branding. Look at the price: 3d three old pence. Today’s 5p is the equivalent of twelve pre-decimalisation pence.
The doodle was done in red, black and green biro, probably one of those fat things that had three or four colours in one. Great, but why did they always break before the ink ran out?
Despite its lack of monetary value, the object sheds light on a number of factors that resonate and still have meaning.
For example, I was unsure about the spelling of ‘boring’. It still doesn’t look right to me. If not for my word processor’s spell checker, I would still be doubtful.
To whom was the message shown? A friend, of course, but who?
The bearded chap was my class and art teacher, Mr Pinner. He looks a lot like Jesus.
The drawing on the right shows his talent for raising one eyebrow. The upwards turn of one side of his mouth suggests he’s annoyed. He used to call out: ‘Gas bags - deflate!’
Apparently I was always talking and giggling in class. My school reports testify to my annoying (for adults) habit of being more interested in having fun than knuckling down to hard work. My parents were furious; double trouble.
Mr Pinner often referred to me as ‘Cackling Witch’ because of my laugh. Was this funny or cruel?
Drawing caricatures was possibly a way of coping with feelings of powerlessness. Mostly it was an escape from soul destroying tedium and a relief from the mind numbing boredom.
Two friends wrote to me recently, after seeing my blog. Both are writers, sometimes stuck and not yet published. One wrote:
"I've just kept the doors closed on so many things which I now find almost impossible to express … as if I always need to air my feelings and thoughts first to an objective person, to get their approval and permission to feel the way I do. …so difficult to get back into my writing … things I need to write about but feel far too inhibited."
Another friend sent me this poem (it inspired this picture) and permission to publish it anonymously.
Unwashed unshaven his smell filled her room
Belching loudly he peered into the gloom
Staggering forward he stood by her bed
His rough calloused hands caressing her head.
Pulling aside her ladybird vest
He pinched and bruised her newly formed breast
Her body cried out in fear and disgust
This was her stepfather the man she should trust.
Pulling the sheet tight under her chin
She can see his face clearly
The cruel sneering grin.
No one will help her she can't understand why
As she curls into a ball to silently cry.
About the picture my friend wrote:
"The Clown with the psychedelic colours .. phew .. pretty scary !!
It has always been a dark secret deep inside me .. so the picture .. as I see it ... is like a release after all these years to actually tell someone else about it ...an explosion of feelings .. shown in your picture by the psychedelic explosion of colour ... yet still a bad memory ... my overall feeling at the time .. was having to keep it secret .. that made it so much worse and the guilt of course... it cut me off from people ... hard to explain in writing easier when speaking to you. .... !
Not sure about Teddy with that smile on his face ... if he had known what was happening .. he would have been sad ..."
I replied that the teddy bear symbolises the trusting innocence of childhood. I had thought of doing a child's hand, and might put this in the next version.
These days I draw without passion or compulsion. I do it with complete acceptance and absolute commitment. I don’t have to do it. It’s not a problem.
Drawing is a conversation between me and the world. Everything I see is a potential picture. When I’m drawing (I sometimes use water colour and coloured pencil) I feel I’m connecting with the subject, and with the space around and between us.
These are moments of being.
Drawing is handy when not much is happening. There are always interesting shapes to look at and do something with. Station platforms and hospital waiting rooms are excellent places to see people shapes. Parks are good for trees and dogs. Gardens give me cats and birds. The view from my window is all roof tops and cars.
Occasionally I draw from imagination, old photographs and memories. But the marks in these pictures always seem to lack the vitality and variety of my ‘seen’ work. I’d like to make pictures that say something about disability, but it’s a struggle.
Writing is different. Words are like the cartilage in my joints, the oxygen in my blood, and the pigment in my skin.
Words give me direct lines to people I love and need.
Words come from a different place in my head. It’s a word-eat-word world in there, a jungle of thoughts running and jumping around. Like wild beasts who have been caged for too long, they’re ambivalent about freedom. I won’t throw away the key yet though, just in case.