Being me, being her

‘To make art is to sing with the human voice. To do this you must first learn that the only voice you need is the voice you already have.’

Bayles D and Orland T, 2001

I love this quote, but you know what? There are a thousand whispers seducing me away from my true voice, and most of them seem to be coming from me.   I have spent a couple of months wrestling with a growing realisation that I have accepted some internal ‘shoulds and oughts’ which have stopped me moving forwards.    I will sum up in one sentence what has taken weeks and weeks; I am committed to being me.   Again.

I won’t go into all the epiphanies and no need to envisage me lying down on a couch in a darkened room, I’m actually eating porridge in bed, so everything’s good.   But one of my decisions is about posting just when it feels right so there may be a few gaps, and that will be OK.

I have been leading a couple of two-day ‘Natural Selection’ workshops and what a delight they were!  The participants were a joy to get to know and I found a lot of pleasure teaching.

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I also had a table across the road from me at a local art exhibition.  It was wonderful to be part of something local, and I will be offering a few taster sessions in the New Year for folk wanting a Saturday morning play with different media.

IMG_0273I have recently spent a day ripping up a couple of sketchbooks.  I started them in attempt that they should like ones other artists keep – ‘proper’ ones.  Some of you will know that I have struggled with a love/hate relationship with sketchbooks as I love looking at other peoples’ and many have enjoyed looking at mine, but in an act of being authentically me I have put everything back into a size I enjoy and in a way I now recognise as my way of recording and keeping information.  I am clear about how I use one now, and what is my ‘sketching’ process because it isn’t sketching.  It’s photographing, smooshing paint around in a frenzy, grabbing a ripped piece of paper and biro and scribbling, or using my digital sticky notes on my phone to note a name, or phrase, or idea…  Bits then find their way into a book for safekeeping retrospectively.

Seriously, how has it taken me so long to learn these lessons?  It would appear that I’m not alone though and I have been enjoying some artist interviews on around some of the same things.   Which brings me to epiphany number two, I think I need to paint more.   I have been looking at a lot of abstract art and watching artists on YouTube which is feeding something deep down inside like an itch.  I have been feeling that paper has taken a bit of a back seat to fabric so I’m playing a bit more in that direction.

A recent exercise I did for a course proved helpful making me research other artists and think about what aspects of art making are important.  These are truly important things as opposed to those I talked about in my last post.  These are things that have I am trying to consider and work with.  They include the use of intuition, abstracting the unnecessary, making a ‘soulful act of art’, enjoying tones and shades, simplicity of form, and the experimental process.   My hope would be that they become recognisable nuances in my voice.

Now enough of being me, I want to introduce you to her.  Helen Keller.  In looking at how we contain ourselves with all sorts of walls (emotional, physical, psychological) I came across the ‘Song of the Stone Wall’.  It’s the most amazing poem from a lady who fell ill at nineteen months old and became deaf and blind.


How she was able to do this leaves me speechless, and very humbled by her life of social concern and campaign for justice.  Her words in this poem describe colours and shapes of stone which are spectacular in her imagination.  I, who can see, feel limited by my sight.  The poem is very long but if you have time, just read a bit.  I love the beginning parts where she describes the wall a little more physically before telling a historical narrative.  She describes the wall as a scroll or Iliad or winding.  I can relate to this living in Yorkshire.  Here are a couple of windings from my photos of the Peak district:

IMG_260418Through a lot of scribbles and photos and thoughts I knew I wanted to create a piece which would reference Keller’s voice and my own, and to represent something of the scroll or winding that provided the vehicle for her song.  Stone walls contain our life in many ways but in Keller’s poem the history of land, community and creation are celebrated so wonderfully that she and the wall become one.   In attempting to abstract the unnecessary I wondered how to represent her and ended up with the idea of using lines in the work to suggest fingerprint lines.  These are how she sings her song and are so deeply personal.   The piece will be lots of individual curves which can be assembled in different ways: one side contrasting with the other, one side her voice with colour and lines, and a bit of text, and the other my voice with textures and a ‘thousand hues of grey’.


Playing with rubbings


Exploring curved shapes

First experiment with paper twists…not too sure about these…

I am talking with a friend as I feel a bit stuck about progressing at the moment.  I think perhaps the above inner wrestling needed to take place before I could work through doing this piece.  I decided to post anyway, I think everyone has times like this.  So I still don’t have much to show at the moment, but it will get done eventually.


In the meanwhile, I have become fascinated with a small lump of burnt wood so more of that next time, which will give me time to explore the bonfire night ashes for interesting offerings.  I feel like an old bag lady, but it has to be done… 🙂

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