Doodles and the subconscious.
I am interested in the way the subconscious mind works and how it interacts with the conscious mind. I am an inveterate doodler. When I start I’m still listening to the words of the meeting but maybe a word or an oblique thought starts me off. Afterwards I am sometimes surprised at what I have drawn. I enjoy the strange accidental juxtaposition of the words and the images, it seem to add an extra strange dimension. On the one above, I like the way I made the glass and the spiral come away from the main body of the drawing on threads…I wonder why I did that?
I often seem to draw structures, as above and below. I like the chunky solidity that I drew in the top one. The lower one seems more peitentiary like, then there are little pencil drawings round the edge.
I think it could be a good idea to have an exhibition of peoples doodles!
I have no idea why a pony and a bowler hatted man appeared; They just materialised
I have been thinking a lot about drawing today. A friend sent me an article on Facebook from the Guardian about drawing in art colleges. Someone was bewailing the fact that it wasn’t considered important any more, in many art schools it is not part of the curriculum. In the past drawing was an important part of becoming an artist. Could you call yourself an artist if you couldn’t draw? It was also part of your training. In many art schools especially the more traditional ones, if you were studying the figure you started on plaster casts then graduated to life drawing. I would have left out the casts and gone straight on to the model. It did teach you to observe and surely that is useful in anything that you do.
I read a lot of the messages expressing different points of view. There was one very detailed one. He was suggesting that there were now two different forms of art, fine art, which included drawing but which he obviously thought was old fashioned and Contemporary Art where drawing was largely irrelevant. He was suggesting that it only had a place in the foundation courses.
I have loved to draw all my life, but has it made me a better artist? Maybe not. That’s why I don’t call myself an artist. It has made me a more observant person and given me a sense of wonder about the diversity of the world around me. It has enhanced my imagination (back to empathy again the reason I started the blog in the first place) It has been a useful way of exploring ideas, and developing them. I have been able to study movement, light, composition. It has compelled me to make further works.
The advent of the camera, film, computers and video have given another way of exploring; a way that is more characteristic of the age we live in. The concept has become almost more important than the outcome. The advent of Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, Post Modernism could all survive without drawing. I have to concede that you can still be an artist without being able to draw but it makes me feel unutterably sad. The mark left by the human hand holding a pencil or pen can come directly from the heart. Why did I cry when I saw the humanity in the drawings of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, because the marks that they had made distilled their feeling and it came straight throughout all the intervening the years to me from them. Empathy.
There could be hope, the study of art history shows that the current contemporary pre-occupations are often superceded. Pre Raphaelism and Impressionism come to mind, ran counter to the current orthodoxies. Painting and drawing could be rediscovered in a different form…I hope so. Bring on freedom to follow your own path in art school wherever it may lead you, as long as you do it sincerely and well. Bring on unorthodoxy.
Banners and marching.
Carrying on where I left off yesterday with the image of the banners. Finding that photograph reminded me of all the occasions on which I have marched with a banner. When I started I didn’t have a proper camera but I always had my sketch book, Sadly in the early days I didn’t put the dates, it took me a long time to realise how important that can be.
The end of the march in Hyde Park where people rested and waited for friends. When you are marching along you are not always aware of the scale of the whole thing. In Hyde Park you could see banners from all over the country and from abroad.
Friends from Waltrop marching with Herne Bay. Interesting for me to see the curly haired guy with the tie walking in front of the banner, he is Brian, once one of my students who is probably a grandfather by now!
My first march was in 1961, a CND Aldermaston March on Easter Monday. I didn’t march the whole way, just for the last day. I went on several more after that. I do remember being impressed by the mixture of people of all ages, from babies being pushed in prams through to old people with sticks.The government were issuing ridiculous surrealist type booklets giving you advice about how to survive a nuclear attack! I later visited the women at Greenham Common for the Surround the Base day. I have written a five minute radio play about the experience. It was recorded for the International Radio play Festival.
Later I went on a demonstration and march at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. The Americans had a missile base there. It was pouring with rain and part of the way was around fields outside the perimeter fence. There was so much mud that everyone was caked with it, of course the objective was a serious one but that didn’t mean people couldn’t laugh and sing. By a strange serendipity I have the radio on in the background as I write this…and what have I just heard ‘Ubi Caritas’ which is one of the chants that the marchers sang.
In those days I was just as worried about chemical and biological weapons (how right I was) and I remember one all night march around the perimeter of Portion Down with stops for silent vigils. I think that one is still fresh in my mind because of the dogs and soldiers… always about thirty yards from us inside the facility. It now seems that chemical weapons and cyber war are the danger zone of our age.
I usually marched with the Quakers but I knew lots of people in the Herne Bay CND. and sometimes joined them. I took some iconic shots in London, I wish I had taken the time to get the right exposure, not easy against the huge light of the sky, my focus was ropey too!
It must have been a hot Easter that year. People had begun to straggle by this time.
Banners, there were always banners and posters, some home made and some professional.
My friends Ken and Rose carrying a nuclear winter banner.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation with a striking transparent example.
Now this really is a professional historic banner belonging to the Kent Miners Union.
I made this banner recently to be carried in procession in the Cathedral service for Peace and Reconciliation.
Herne Bay CND had the best on foot entries in the Herne Bay Carnival. Here is a very stylish offering but I also remember a really imaginative and well made chess set.
There have been issues closer to home, the Americans were going to use Manston runway for their bombers.
I don’t think we posed much of a threat to public security but we had to give our names.
I went to the march against the war in Iraq. It was pretty plain that my marching days were nearly over as I was already using a stick. I had intended to just go to Trafalgar Square, stand on the steps of St. Martins and cheer them on but I got swept up in the crowd and found myself in a kind of pen on the Embankment There were so many people that they were not letting too many people start marching at one time, probably sensible to avoid a crush. We waited so long to start moving that the front walkers had already got to Hyde Park before we could even begin.I only managed it to Trafalgar Square but I am glad I went to make my last on foot protest.
I am an (almost) lifelong socialist. I admire William Morris and his ideas. Today I have been trying to think how I developed my convictions. I was six when the second world war broke out, I benefited from the 1944 education act. It was designed to give working class children a chance to go to a grammar school. I lived in a council house at the very edge of Didcot, only a hundred yards away, across a railway line,, from the village of East Hagbourne. Didcot was largely a town of council houses that had been built in the thirties for workers on the Great Western Railway and in the large Army Ordnance Depot. There were a few privately owned houses but not many. I went to the small church primary school. When we were ten the top class took the scholarship exam for the grammar school, no one had ever been. Much to my surprise I won a scholarship. It must have been because I was hooked on poetry, my arithmetic was terrible (still is) In the interview I was asked if I could recite a poem by heart…of course I could. I gave my dramatic rendition of ‘I must go down to the sea again’ the head master was smiling. I cracked it! We did have to write an essay as well and I enjoyed writing so that must have done the trick.
We had no grammar school, the nearest one was in Wallingford seven miles away. Most of the time I had to cycle to school only later did they lay on a school bus. The sad thing is that I was immediately cut off from all my friends. Of course I made some new ones but they were nearly all from middle class families, they did tend to look down on people from Didcot, I would never have dreamed of inviting them to my home. When I said the ‘almost’ lifelong, I was remembering the time when I belonged to a debating society and I always seemed to be representing the right wing view, Looking back on it now, there was some snobbery in it, most of my school friends belonged to the Young Conservatives. I suppose I wanted to put forward my credentials. In reality I didn’t like the feeling of us and them and my sympathies were with the families that I knew and loved around me at home.
What I like about Morris is his idea that the arts should be for the benefit of everyone. Artists should be prepared to design for utilitarian purposes as well as practicing art for arts sake.I have always thought that if we have any skill it should also be used for the benefit of everyone.
It soon emerged that I was the ‘go to’ person for posters and cards and that chimed with my feeling that we should do what we can for the common cause. If everyone thought this way how much easier life would be. I am always struck on the local Facebook pages by the number of people who expect things to be done for them without ever volunteering or even thinking that they should contribute something.
I liked playing with the colour and overlapping letters in this one, There is often a dosappointment i.e the colours look good on the brightness of the screen but muddy when printed on paper.
I have never had a graphic design course so my efforts with Photo Shop are probably rather simplistic but I knew a bit more than most people (with the exception of Nick Godsell) So I have done rather a lot over the years, if I have time I enjoy the process.I have upgraded my Photoshop twice but I still prefer my very old version.
I knew what I wanted for the radio drama poster, the old transmitter from Daventry, I associate them with listening to the radio as your only form of entertainment before TV ‘This is Daventry calling’
I’m getting better at readable print, it really bugs me on posterts when the print is put on a background colour that means you can’t read it.
This was the second Sketch Jam session and it really pleased me to be able to include some of the drawings that had been made in the first one.
This was fairly hard, normally I have a free hand but this time I was following a brief. It involved lots of cutting and pasting. I’m not happy with the readability of ‘drinks, cutting cake. I think I should have darkened the background there and made the lettering white.
I had the matroshka doll on my shelf. I liked the idea of the smaller one coming from inside the other one. Readability…not too bad.
This is the latest one, hot off the press. This is it’s first appearance (I think)
I made all these banners and I have made quite a few more in my time. Because I have made so many my art pieces are often also in the form of a kind of banner. I love to see the historic union banners.
Understanding personal imagery and the origins of CT6.
I started this blog because someone wrote in a local Facebook post about the lack of empathy in society It prompted me to think about the importance of imagination in both empathy and in art. Because I have been an art teacher all my life I think a great deal about the role of visual and tactile art in society. All sorts of things that I see and hear start me off!
Yesterday I visited an exhibition of water colours, there were lots of them representing hours of dedication and all beautifully framed. I like to talk to people about their work, I know how encouraging it is if anyone shows the slightest interest in what you have been doing. I said which one I liked best and why I liked it and then I asked which one he was most pleased with and why.
Of course it soon came out what I already could see, they were all meticulously copied from photographs. Why? Why wouldn’t you just have the beautiful photograph in the first place? I recently saw an ad in the local Herne Bay Chatters Facebook page, it showed a rather good photo of a dog with an exact hand painted copy next to it. ‘Get a beautiful painting of your dog’ as though there was something holy about the hand rendered image.
There is no doubt that the water-colourist had a wonderful technique, but what a terrible waste. We only pass through our present life once, no one is ever going to see or experience the world exactly as we do, can we not show something of the world as we see it or think about it. Young children can do it so why can’t we as adults?
The rot sets in when someone says ‘She’s good at art’ as they did when I learnt how to copy Mickey Mouse. The temptation is to keep copying because that is obviously what brings public praise and admiration. If I hadn’t gone to art school gained a deeper understanding plus a vivid imagination, I would have been seduced into thinking that was where it was at.
Having said that, the huge popularity of the major art galleries show that there is a fsacination and interest in a wider understanding. There are only going to be a few ‘cutting edge’ artists in every age, the rest of us should produce something more personal My most common question for my students was ‘What do you want to say?’ later ‘How can I help you to express it?’ ‘How can you use materials in an exciting and experimental way?’
Back to the main story line (but there is a relevance.
I was on my own now (except for the support of Ken’s family) but it did give me time to pursue my own work for the first time for years. All I could do before was to draw in my sketch book, whatever has been happening in my life I have always drawn.
One day I was walking past the library when I bumped into one of my ex mature students. We had a long chat. He said how lonely it can be to carry on making art when you have left college. At college everyone in your group is interested in what you are doing. There is a buzz and a collective excitement about ideas coming to fruition or a support when things get hard. Unless you happen to be surrounded by ‘arty’ people when you leave, you have lost that interest and encouragement.
He wanted me to meet a sculptor friend of his who had been kicked out of art school because his work didn’t chime with the accepted style.
Most towns have a local art society but they often have limited ideas with a vast sprinkling of the dreaded copying from photographs or hackneyed subject matter. We met in my house, gathered some other interested artists and started a new group, which we called CT6. It was decided only to include art graduates, though we did have to relax that rule later.
In the mean time I now had started to produce my own work and concentrated mainly on textiles. Passing the museum one day I saw a postcard it said ‘Is there anyone out there making textiles? I am a textiles student and I have just graduated from Manchester College of Art. I’m looking for other makers with a view to have an exhibition.’ Her name was Janice Lewis, we met up and had an exhibition together in the museum gallery.
The CT6 group agreed to have collective exhibitions once or twice a year. There was only one possible space and that was in the library. Given it’s limitations we managed quite well, bringing in screens and plinths. The useful thing about exhibiting in the library was that you had a captive audience. The people coming in to borrow books were interested as can be shown in our book of comments which I still have. To make it cohesive we usually decided on a theme. We were there for about three years until they took over the space to house their public computers.
Some of our posters in the first years
Our first exhibition in 2001.
My first poster.Nick Godsell designed our logoMy first Open House Exhibition with the group. The red hanging is mine.
In the meantime Ron had opened his small gallery BAG in William St. we then had our exhibitions there and in the Fish Slab Gallery in Whitstable, the Horsebridge and twice by invitation in the Herne Bay Gallery. Having different themes added a bit of excitement but it did mean that there was no real thread of development in my work.
In the term that I retired from Christchurch they had just brought in a computer with graphic design software for students to use. I didn’t have a computer at that stage but I was longing to learn. I went on a residential absolute beginners course at a college in Worcestershire. I loved it, when I got home I set myself up, bought Photoshop Elements and taught myself to use it. It has been so useful to me, I can’t imagine what I would do without it now.
First time playing with Photo Shop Elements.
I haven’t said anything about Betty (see earlier posts) since I wrote the piece when I married for the second time, this happened shortly after Betty and I came to live in Herne Bay. She was very upset when I married Ken. I had been her companion and substitute daughter for so long that it was a shock to her. She had been away in Austria working withe refugees from Hungary and running their hostel when I first met Ken. Naively I had thought we could all live together like a family (after all I had already experienced it with my first husband’s family), but of course we couldn’t, there was too much tension. I could have gone to live in Ken’s bungalow in Blean, but Betty could never have managed financially, she had no money to speak of. The solution was for Betty to have the nicest rooms at the top of the house and for Ken and I to have the ground floor and the condemned basement.
Ken and Betty shared a love of music.
It was condemned because the sea came in in the great floods of 1952. The plaster wouldn’t stay on the walls as the bricks had salt in them. we had it ‘tanked’ twice by professional builders. It always worked for a while but then the plaster started to come off again. In the end we hacked off the plaster and mortar down to the bare bricks, sealed them with dilute PVA and then tiled them. The parts that we managed are OK but we didn’t complete the whole area, the plaster still comes off the rest of the walls but I’ve just had to learn to live with it. Now there is central heating down there with just a kitchen the other room is my art store and since I use all manner of materials it is very full.
I had my gall stones catastrophe (see previous post) after Ken had died (thank goodness it would have been really difficult for him to cope with) All my friends and family visited me regularly but Betty was my rock, she was there just about every day during the worst part. She stayed with friends in Canterbury.
When I had just about come back to the land of the living again, some friends asked me what I would most like them to bring and I begged for a sketch book and drawing pen. I was so delighted when they brought it. I tried to draw but there was no connection somehow between my brain and my hand. I felt quite distressed but I kept trying and my capacity gradually came back. Somewhere I have the strange little drawings I did at that time but I can’t find them..
As I have written elsewhere Betty was an extraordinary person full of energy and good will but also with a great skill at organisation. She was a talented linguist, with friends all over the world. When we lived in Stevenage she was learning Chinese going up to the School of African and Oriental Studies once a week. She went to China for three weeks.
When she came down to Herne Bay it was just too far to London on the train to continue her study…so what did she do ? She started to learn Arabic with an Arabic speaker. She just loved languages.
She was instrumental in starting both the WEA in Herne Bay and the Three Towns twinning association between Canterbury and district, Vladimir in Russia and Bloomington USA. Both these organisations still exist and both have honoured her.
In her mid eighties she became seriously ill and had several spells in hospital losing consciousness and hallucinating ( I knew where she was coming from on that one!)
Betty waiting for an eye test.
Eventually they couldn’t do any more for her. I converted the downstairs front room, my living room, into a bedroom for her and nursed her for about a year, it was hard demanding work, unrelenting because I couldn’t leave the house. She had nurses to deal with her medical needs but during those times I had to go out and buy our food supplies. I set up a baby alarm between her room and my bedroom and frequently had to get up in the middle of the night. She kept falling out of bed or off her chair and I had to get the ambulance men to lift her back. I felt apologetic but they assured me that they are quite used to it. You can get very tired and ratty, and then you feel awful that you haven’t been patient. One night she didn’t ring the alarm but when I went in in the morning I found her sprawled on the floor half naked and cold. Her clothes had come off as she fell.
When the nurse came that day she told me that I couldn’t go on like this, Betty needed to be in a nursing home. I’d known this in my heart for a while but how can you find out about which homes are suitable and also Betty didn’t want to go. I asked the doctor for advice and he said they are not allowed to give it. There you are… looking after a person full time so how can you investigate the different qualities of the homes. I had been in lots of them with the band and I knew how they varied in quality. Betty was an intelligent feisty woman, she was physically ill but still had an alert mind, I didn’t want her to go somewhere where she would be treated like a child. Then the dear nurse said to me ‘I’m not supposed to say this but I know just the place for her, I’ll arrange it’ I was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. I knew Betty would resist but fortunately in a way I was due to go into hospital for the replacement of my hip and we told her that she would be there whilst I was in hospital.
The nursing home was St. Benedicts on the sea front just beyond St. Georges Terrace. She had a room of her own at the back and I tried to make it homely with her own things around her. I had my op. then she kept saying ‘When am I coming home?’ I felt such a traitor as I knew she was never coming home. She had more spells in hospital and I always went with her. I visited her every day for nearly two years, she also had visitors from all over the world including ten of the choir from Vladimir. She soon got a room at the front so that she could look over the sea which pleased her. I read to her most afternoons. One afternoon she said ‘Could you read me some Harry Potter?’ I was amazed that she had heard about him, she had heard a programme on her radio!
Eventually my dear friends invited me to go and stay with them for a few days in Malvern for a respite period. On the second day we received a phone call to say that Betty had died.
When she was in hospital I did make some drawings, I feel a bit unsure about it but I’m going to include some as they were done with love and respect for a remarkable person.
It wasn’t the end of my experience of hospitals. In my early seventies it was discovered that I had gall stones. I needed an operation to remove them, it was set for January.
Just before Christmas I met my friend Peter, he was tucking into a piece of Christmas cake, he had had the same operation the week before. ‘No problem’ he said ‘Easy peasy with this new keyhole surgery, you’re in one day and practically out the next day’ The specialist that I had see was a lovely man, full of humanity, Mr. Heddle. He also assured me that the operation was an easy one. I had every trust in him as I thought he would be doing the operation himself.
I went in with no fears, but it was six weeks before I came out again and even then I had to convalesce. People told me what had happened because I was ‘out of it’ for a lot of the time.
The surgery was performed and I was put in the recovery ward but I was not recovering I was getting worse, no one could understand why. It was a student doctor who solved the problem. The surgeon wasn’t Mr. Heddle but was a new man, he had cut into my duodenum by mistake. It was rumoured (though I am not sure of the truth) that it was the first time this surgeon had done a keyhole operation. It is difficult because you are operating looking into a screen, I believe it is a little like a mirror,
I was seriously ill, they thought I might die. I had sores all over my face and my mouth and throat felt completely dry all the time. My lips had to have water dripped on them, they were all cracked and white. I was in a lot of pain therefore on morphine. My breathing was difficult and I had to use a nebuliser. The nebuliser was like heaven, suddenly you could breathe clean air and it made a comforting bubbling sound like a hookah. I felt disgusting because my blood soaked bandages were dirty. Why didn’t they change them? I learned later that disturbing the wound and exposing it to the air by continually putting on new bandages, is often more harmful. I had the dreadful agony of bedsores.
I was hallucinating in a completely surreal parallel world. Even when I came out of hospital the alternative world that I had lived in seemed more real than the actual one. The hallucinations were very archetypal. I was on a lonely beach, behind me were sand dunes and a large grassy hillock. Two women with shawls over their heads came to me offering two keys for a wooden door in the hill. They seemed to be offering two choices, one that I would live but have a dreary life or two, that I might die but that if I lived my life would be fulfilling. I felt emotional and terror but I chose number two. It took me ages to differentiate between the reality and the hallucination.I couldn’t find the drawings I did for this one, if I find them I will add them later. I’ve done so many drawings in my life that it is difficult to keep track of them all.
In another dream I thought I was in charge of a storm that could overwhelm the Hebridean Islands. I kept hearing the words of the weather forecast. I knew I was on a bed but behind me I thought there was a glass case containing ancient tools and knives with leather thongs attached to them. I somehow knew I was on a bed and that people were looking at me.
The Hebridean hallucination was all tied up with Celt imagery too. When you think of my travel history to the crosses and the islands I suppose they all came together in a mish mash in my mind.
When I left hospital I was haunted by thoughts of what might be going on in the other world that I had inhabited. This went on for months and was disturbing, in the end I got rid of the hallucinations and ghosts by drawing the main incidents. I found that I could deal with them then. I think I am still affected by them.
I had some terrifying ones too. I thought I was being attacked by birds and having to swallow the feathers. Possibly the strangest one was Oriental (where did that come from?) I was in a room with Buddhist looking men, one of them was praying. They were breeding some kind of insect/worm in glass cages and I was sure they wanted to put me in one.
On another occasion I was in a maze of boxes and I couldn’t get out.
They then had to cut my stomach again and this time I lost my belly button! Finally I was allowed to go to a convalescent home. I chose a rather luxurious one, the Old Rectory in Ickham , the rooms were comfortable with fine furniture. I thought I deserved nice food and a lot of comfort after my ordeal. Sadly it wasn’t to end there. I had to go back to the hospital for a routine check after a few days. I was taken in the hospital transport and brought back afterwards to my beautiful room, so calm and quiet after the hubbub of the hospital ward. The next day the home received a phone call it had been discovered that I had a bad infection. Only people dressed in protective clothing were to come near me and some of the sheets had to be burned. I had to go back to hospital for further surgery. I felt like a leper, unclean and apologetic. It was awful.
Afterword………. The husband of the owner of the convalescent home was a lawyer. For some reason or other I was reluctant but he persuaded me that I had a case and that I should sue. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to look after myself for a while. I needed paid help for the cleaning and the gardening for nearly a year. The case took about a year and in the end I got £15.000. The rather funny thing is you get nothing for the suffering and pain and the lawyers have to find a precedent case. The precedent was a case where a woman successfully sued because she could no longer wear a bikini, they also cited the fact that I had no belly button.!!! How ridiculous. Plus of course the expenses that it had incurred.