Thursday, 6 October 2011

Happy Anniversary Wolfie!

The thing about writing a blog is that i don't. Or at least not very often. And unlike other activities i also don't do much (like ironing or going to the gym) i always know exactly how long i've not been doing it for. Each time i check in here i see how long it is since i last wrote anything, i end up feeling vaguely silly and run away. Months pass...
September is the cruellest month. It's the month Summer ends, sometimes slowly, but always inevitably ceding to Autumn. It is the month my children go back to school and we all pick up the threads of our lives, after that close and precious holiday time. To me September has an ache of melancholy to it. Once i've let go of Summer i can enjoy Autumn but the letting go, of our family time, of my children and of long, warm, lazy days is hard.
On the positive side September is the 'start' of the year for those of us still dominated by the academic year. It is the time of fresh starts and new beginnings. A few years ago i decided not to make New Year's resolutions any more (you can guess why) but Autumn seems a good time to plan my year and look ahead a bit, and to make a few decisions about how i want the next year to be. So that's what i spent September doing and now here comes dear old October.
It is almost exactly a year since i was diagnosed with Lupus. The list of things i haven't done or have missed is long - projects lie unfinished, blog unwritten, photography 365 project shamefully uncompleted, novel still just scraps of ideas in a tatty notebook. I've spent days in bed or on the sofa, missed parties and get togethers, had weeks off work and struggled to find the energy to do anything at all at times.
Yet when i look back at this year i'm surprised at how much i've achieved and at what a great year i've had. I've completed one big project, held a successful Open House, did my art course and produced my best work so far for the end of year show, and made sales of both my photographs and drawings.
My consultant said to me this time last year "Give yourself a year to accept and cope with this disease" and she was right. It has taken me this long to accept it and begin to manage it effectively. I now know i will have about one awful week to two better weeks, and my drugs are still helping me to improve. It's not bad. Not bad at all. I can get enough done in my two ok weeks to see me through my bad week. And i'm working on ways to enjoy the 'bad' week more too. The photograph above shows my bedroom window, which i love to look out of when i'm poorly. It's good to lie there and think how lucky i am to have such a great view, always changing with the seasons and reminding me the world is there for me to step back into when i fell better.
Looking ahead i feel only optimism. This must have been one of the toughest years of my life and it was brilliant! Next year can only get better... Happy Anniversary Wolfie.
p.s. Sorry for banging on about Lupus but October is Lupus Awareness Month, so i feel i ought to mention it. Next entry will be disease free :)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bungaroosh Gallery Christmas 2010

The Christmas Open Houses are a familiar part of Brighton life and this year i am lucky enough to be showing some work at the Bungaroosh Gallery. As well as some large framed photographs i have been experimenting with applying digital ground to reclaimed antique papers and making inkjet prints. What i love about this process is the introduction of brush marks to my images, which give a sense of gesture. The mottled, aged patina of the papers i print on (usually the endpapers of old books sourced from charity shops) also add random marks to each image which not only makes each unique but also give a lovely aged feel to the image. It's as if my modern images are having a conversation with the history of the paper they are printed. A favourite example is a flyleaf that said "Wishing you a Happy Christmas' in beautiful old fashioned handwriting which looks great under an image of a snowy tree. As a photographer the aim when reproducing work is usually for every print to be identical, so it is lovely to be working with a process which is more experimental, and one which rejoices in the imperfect and the random.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dancing with Wolf

illustration by Miranda Vincent

There is a new man in my life. He is a Wolf, he is mean, hurtful and dominant. He has been here for over a year, his name is Lupus. At first no-one recognised him, so it was worth getting that second opinion at the hospital, the one where the consultant said the 'L' word and told me his name. I think i already knew, i'd felt his claws gripping my limbs and felt his breath on the back of my neck whenever i tried to do something and found myself too tired or in too much pain. But now i know. Sort of... it may take a couple of years to get a firm clinical diagnosis, but it's highly likely Lupus is the name of my new companion.
The thing is i am very lucky. Some people with this disease are so ill, i have only a mild form. Yet still the Wolf tries to make me change my life. I have to miss parties and events i am too ill for, at times it takes all my effort just to get up. My trainers gather dust as i cannot run. Sometimes it hurts to hold my camera. I'm a photographer but i can no longer do weddings as i can't work more than half a day. At my lowest point it took all my concentration to remember how to swallow. What should have become an automatic response became an effort of will. It was terrifying and I lost my appetite for a while. It's fine, i can still manage about 60% of my life ok. Some days i feel ok. So i am grateful for that. I am not dying, i am not disabled.
It's the little things that get me sometimes. Who would have thought you'd miss painting ceilings, nit-combing your daughter's hair (a vile job but i get tearful when my fingers ache too much to hold the comb) emptying the bin and lifting heavy things like the recycling? Yet i do... the frustration at not being able to do those things is huge. I feel so pathetic. In those moments the Wolf has won and i loathe him.
So i am refusing to dance to his tune. His teeth may be sinking into my joints 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he may make me poorly at times, but i shall not let him force me to give up. There is a whole new me he doesn't know about. I am finding new ways to live that he cannot prevent me from enjoying. Sometimes i find myself filled with a new intense joy springing from a heightened appreciation of all that i can still do. Now i am living a different life but i take delight in planning it. Do we not all moan we are too busy with no time for quiet reflection, for rest, never enough time? Not my problem any more. I have time enough now that the Wolf drags me to my bed in the afternoons. I am redesigning my life and it will be better than before. I have time to write, think, read, draw, rest, i can even watch a film in the middle of that day if i want to! Such decadence!
I wrote to a friend of mine that i was thinking of buying a chaise longue and some seriously glamourous lounge wear so i can recline decoratively and receive visitors, or maybe dictate a novel to a handsome young literature student (if you know one please send him to me). Perhaps i can even start other decadent horizontal pursuits like smoking opium or embroidery, really the world is my oyster. Wolfie cannot stop any of that. I shall take rest to new and glamourous heights.
When i wake up in the morning, often tired from a painful night, i stretch and feel the Wolf's teeth sink into my elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Every little joint in my hands complains as i walk slowly and painfully to the bathroom flexing them. But i am smiling. He thinks he will make me dance a sad little dance of defeat but i am not this body. My breath, mind, heart, joy, love, family, friends, photographs, words and memories are all beyond his reach. The birdsong in the garden calls me to the day, my day. Behind me lurks the Wolf, but i shall surprise him by turning to him and reaching out to welcome him. Then he will have very little power at all.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Blogging Boot camp here i come!

I was amused to read a message on Facebook recently in which someone had appealed for help starting a blog and a friend had replied saying 'Write often' repeatedly throughout his other suggestions. Every second sentence was 'Update regularly' or 'Write often'. The phrases were repeated like a mantra throughout. I thought with some regret and even a touch of guilt about my little blog and how very long it is since i have written anything. It barely started before it just dwindled away. Writing regularly is a thing i must do i told myself (i have been experimenting with some fiction writing and thought the discipline of a regular blog would be a good way to encourage the writing habit). Then in one of those lovely little coincidences that life sometimes gives us as an unexpected gift, i received an e-mail about a "Bloggers Bootcamp'. Too good to miss i decided. So i have enrolled. It hasn't started yet... but i have.

Winter Tree from a series i will be showing at the Bungaroosh Gallery this Christmas:
Blogger's Bootcamp:

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

technology is a wonderful thing

Self portrait in a digital age

Does anyone else miss polaroid photographs? i know i do. Luckily help is at hand, for i have just discovered This is a great site where you can download free software to make any image you have look like it is a polaroid. Try it - it's serious fun.

Another useful piece of software i've just discovered is Silver FX Pro. This is a great program designed to make digital images look like they were taken on film by mimicking the main characteristics of certain film types. So those of us who are missing grain for example can just select a classic grainy film type and voila, the digital image is processed to look as of shot on that film. You can chose from 19 different film types. So far i've read rave reviews of it in all my photography mags and heard good things from other photographers.

Now much as i love this and will definitely be forking out for it soon (how i long for the grain of Kodak T Max) i can't help thinking there's something wrong here. In the past few years, like many photographers, i've traded in most of my film cameras and spent thousands getting a great digital kit together. Now i need to spend just a little bit more so that my images will... look like they've been shot on film!! Hmm. Is it me or could i not just have saved myself an awful lot of time and money by missing out the middle step there? Technology, it's a wonderful thing...

Friday, 15 May 2009

digital art

i was reading a book of ideas for photos recently as i'm doing a photo-a-day for 2009 and was feeling a little bit uninspired, and i came across the idea of photographing your own art work but with camera movement. i thought it was a bit of a daft idea until i tried it and not only got some decent photos but also got re-inspired about some of the pieces of art. The nice thing is how some pieces came out as pure abstracts whilst others still have the human form clearly in them. i also liked the sense of movement that the camera movement gave to the figures. It's one of the joys of the digital age that you can mess about with this sort of thing to your hearts content with no cost or wasted shots thanks to being able to delete. i am now going to use the digital photos as the starting point for new drawings, thus bringing the process full circle. Great fun. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

every mark matters

My art teacher was saying recently that we ought to be braver and less timid with our art. She said we ought to remember that 'every mark matters' and then just go for it. Her words were inspiring, if a trifle daunting, but i decided she was right and that i would give it a go. i could hardly wait to get back to my easel where i splashed around ink and watercolours, and layered chalks, charcoals and pencil with a delicious sense of abandon. This was it - i was an artist now, my materials flowing onto the page as i created my master work. i stood back from the easel, having really enjoyed applying my marks so deliberately and confidently, to find myself looking at one of the most appalling unappealing messes i've ever had the misfortune to put on paper. i was stunned at how childish and amateur it appeared. i saw teacher heading for me. Usually i think of her as a friend, someone i'm rather fond of in fact, but now i felt like i was back in school - how could i hide from her or at least hide this rotten drawing? Would she be cross with me, i'd been doing exactly as she asked hadn't i?! She looked at it in surprise, made a few suggestions (i think rubbing out over half of it was the main one) and then mercifully moved on to the woman next to me who was paralysed by the thought of every mark mattering and so couldn't begin. Thinking about it later i realised that my teacher is right - we should know every mark matters, we should be less tentative. i also realised that the huge gap between our intention and our abilities is hard to bridge. When i watch my art teacher draw i marvel at the confidence of her line, her sureness of execution. For me, what my brain wants and what my hands can do are two very different things. i try to practise as often as possible in the hope this will change, but for now, i must live with it. It was nice to draw for a day as if i believed i could, even if the results were as flawed as ever! 
One good thing did come out of the lesson. My terrible drawing (even my teacher, usually gentle in her admonishments asked why on earth i'd made the arm look like a sausage) was rescuable. Taking her advice i rubbed out, drew over, rubbed out and drew over until i at least had something i didn't feel had to go straight in the bin. i decided i would photograph it and post it here first. At home i would have given up, but i found that being told to keep reworking until it was better is a possibility. Learning to push through and redraw was a good lesson.
Every mark matters, and if you don't like the ones you've made you can always make new ones.

top: the offending drawing, post rescue
left: detail of the face which i quite like and other drawings from the same day in class.