Sunday, August 20, 2017

Leave of Absence

It has been a long time since I last updated you on my work. I apologise to those who have been popping in to check now and again and found nothing new, if you are one of those people I thank you for being here now. If you are new to this blog.. Welcome, thank you for your interest, I hope you will enjoy my scribblings.
So.. to explain my absence...
To be honest, I struggled after the exhibition in 2015… having put my ‘all’ into preparing for, and being at the show for the three weeks it was on, I was left mentally and physically exhausted. I was so happy, proud and pleased as punch that it was so well received and did so well for the conservation research charity it was supporting, but the stress and effort of the 8 years it took to see the project through, took its toll and I think my mind and body had a little something to say on that. Once it was all over, all manner of health issues raised their ugly heads (as is often the case after the body relaxes after a prolonged period of stress) and have pestered me ongoing since then, one thing after another. I am hopeful that my present condition of a frozen shoulder is the last for a while…. it’s really not funny anymore.
On top of that there was the added worry and involvement with my mother’s dementia, trying to help her and Dad in the ongoing slow progress of her deterioration. She was diagnosed some 18 years ago… and in the last few years been getting noticeably worse quicker.  Sadly in June, after suffering a very bad fall, she passed away nine days later.

I know, perhaps on blogs and such, one is supposed to appear invincible and at the top of one’s game… but truth is I see no point in hiding it when things get tough. I have friends in the art business who seem to thrive and be inspired when things are tough. Me? Not so much.
After the exhibition I could not face picking up a pencil or brush, thinking about art or dealing with the business side of things made me angry (Don’t know why, it just did)…. so I let things slip for a year… giving myself that much needed break, particularly as I seemed to have other things to deal with like my health and my parents situation. My mindset could not handle any thought of art or any of the peripherals of the job like promotion (blogs, Facebook, Twitter), sketching days out, workshops, demos, talks... even just speaking about art to friends. I had to step away to give myself time to come back to it. That year turned into two and only in the last month or so have I warmed to the idea of painting again.
To be honest I did think about stopping painting for myself altogether… and that thought lasted a long while. The whole business of art… Was it for me?  I’m not ‘into art’, I don’t consider myself ‘arty’ and as a job, I felt jaded by all the business side. I was just lost and fed up, questioning everything and wanting to spend my time doing other things.
So after two years of relentless consideration it comes down to this... My interest in art is based mainly on the fact that it is a way to connect to that which does inspire me. Through painting or drawing I have that vital connection I need to the Natural World where I can recreate and tell a story about those precious landscapes, species and individuals that I have seen and that we share the planet with. And I want to continue doing that… so that means continue painting. Maybe I just need to change, re-evaluate some aspects of the business side for a while, or indefinitely.

So here I am, two years on since the exhibition and finally thinking about painting again. Having said that… I have continued painting at the zoo where I work, but it was a struggle (concentration was difficult to keep a reign on.. I found lots of other little jobs that needed doing when I could, but the workload is high, so I had to force myself to paint - not something I usually have to do. That feeling of forcing myself, didn’t help me be inspired to do my own art… and it certainly didn’t help me create work I could say I was particularly proud of. But that has improved, and it helps that my work at the zoo is different to my own work; it is much more straightforward (less to plan and compose) and doesn’t involve any of the ‘officey’, business side of things. So I didn’t stop altogether… just my own work. 

At the beginning of this year I decided I would play with my art… not set myself deadlines, goals etc.. just try and find the joy in the paint again. Gradually I began dropping by the studio, sometimes for a brief visit of about 5 mins, sometimes just to sit and think about things, sometimes I played about like a kid doing speckle patterns that I could use maybe as greeting cards (don’t know if I will, but it was fun to do), putting colour in designs in a colouring in book… silly little things that meant nothing, other than finding a bit of fun. I haven't finished with this approach.. there's loads more I want to play with.

Gradually thoughts on how I would proceed with my art began to congeal.

I plan to take things slowly… rebuild my enthusiasm… get my painting mojo back! 2017 I was gonna paint again… at some point.
After a break in 2016 of being Artist in Residence at Nature In Art, I was delighted to be asked back for a week in January at the beginning of this year. It was perfect timing… just what I needed to spring me back into the idea my own work again. Surrounded by enthused people and wonderful other artworks and surroundings… it was the perfect place to dust off and try out the old painter in me again. I worked on a pastel piece, a commission of some hens. Surrounded by the arty atmosphere helped and I managed to get some work done and the piece almost finished… that’s a start!

Then later I was invited to exhibit a piece in the TWASI 25th Anniversary Early Founders Exhibition. Now I know I said I wasn’t going to be doing any shows etc… but I couldn’t say no to this particular one, as it felt like a debt owing… I learnt much from my years as a member of that society… particularly in the early years, so I was happy to be asked and support them. But I needed a new piece of work… so... I managed to finish the giraffe piece I started (but never had time to complete) for the elephant exhibition, shown below. 


It was a pastel piece that was half done in 2015… I only had the other half to do…. easy, right? Ha! Suffice to say; I had to do short sessions, as my concentration kept ‘switching off’  and wandering. I did finish it in time… just (by the skin of my teeth); it was good to get it done… could I do it again? Only this time start from the very beginning… not just pick up on a piece where I had left off. 

A few more months pass and suddenly yesterday my brain said. “Let’s go to the studio and see about starting an oil painting. Now that would be something wouldn’t it Su.. huh? You ready?” 

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