A Rude Awakening


This morning I was abruptly woken by what I thought was a crashing noise. I listened for a few minutes to see if I’d really heard a noise or it had just been the tail end of a dream…nothing. I looked at the clock, it was a little after 3 a.m. Thinking everything was OK I began to drift off again. The next thing I was woken by a massive crash and some scraping noises. This time I new exactly where the sound was coming from. I’d heard very faint noises coming from the old fireplace in my bedroom about 2 days earlier. They were just the noises of some light debris trickling down the chimney, which happens from time to time after bad weather – or so I thought.

This morning there was no denying there was something big in there. The opening to the chimney had been blocked off by cardboard which had been taped into place and then covered with gloss paint. I remember laughing about this when I moved into the house when I saw how it had been cobbled together. Now I was feeling distinctly vulnerable having only a flimsy bit of cardboard between me and whatever terrifying beast was making all that noise. In the darkness of the room I imagined an enormous (man-eating) rat or a seething mass of (unusually heavy) spiders. That was it, I gave up on the idea of sleep and went up into the studio to await the sun.

At an altogether more reasonable hour, I went back to the bedroom armed only with a small craft knife and a towel (quite what the towel was for I cannot remember – perhaps I was going to hide under it?  Or use it as a matador uses a cloak with whatever was going to come charging out at me?  I don’t know, but it seemed vital at the time). I cut the tape around the cardboard and pulled, all the while ready to run the hell away from whatever may come out of the hole. The next moment the fireplace was overwhelmed by soot, brick dust and a huge amount of really old, filthy nesting material (I suspect mice nests mostly…eww!). Under the cardboard was a metal flap, partially shutting off the flue. I just couldn’t move this at first and started to panic that I’d have to listen to some poor, trapped creature die all alone in the chimney (funny how it went from being a terrifying, man-eating beast to being a “poor creature” in the blink of an eye!). I managed to push the flap up, twist it around and pull it back through the fireplace to reveal the chimney entrance. After it, slid out much fresher twigs, leaves, debris…and the beginnings of a small leg! It was the leg of a pigeon and the owner was obviously very much alive.  It sent huge plumes of soot down the chimney with every flap of its wings. And boy, did that bird flap!

It was obviously very distressed so I decided to leave it to find its own way out into the bedroom, as I had to get to work. The cat, waiting excitedly outside the door, was miffed to say the least – she usually sleeps in my room while I’m at work and she just knew there was something interesting in there. I’ve just had a text from my house mate saying “1 bloody big pigeon now released & unharmed, 1 bloody big cat now furious & waiting 2 tell u all about it!”.

And why am I telling you all this? Because, what was the first thing that I did in my hour of need, at the height of my imagined terror? I sat in my studio at 03:30 waiting for the sun to rise, grabbed my sketch-journal and quickly illustrated how I was feeling at that very moment. That means the journaling/sketching habit is sticking! Hooray!!! (Let’s ignore the fact that when I get home I have to clean, disinfect and flea-spray (just in case) my bedroom, clean the carpet, block the flue again, sleep the night on the sofa (due to flea spray) and appease a cat who won’t be talking to me by then!). The journaling/sketching habit is sticking!

Putting my world back together.

At the end of January my world blew apart at the sudden loss of one of my family members. I adored them.

Almost 4 weeks on and my mind has now rejoined my body – my body went about its usual routines, catching the bus, going to work, shopping etc but my brain remained completely AWOL. I’m ready to begin the slow process of putting my world back together, even though huge chunks of it are (and always will be) missing. Bereavement sucks, but Art is helping. I started drawing in my journal again about 5 days ago and those pages are some of the best work I’ve ever done. The drawings themselves have nothing whatever to do with bereavement, but watching someone I love die before my very eyes has freed me from fear of failure and filled me with determination. And Danny Gregory’s books on drawing came into my life at just the right time.

My Etsy shop is in vacation mode for the foreseeable future, not just because of bereavement. I’m having serious internet and computer problems too (I’m typing this at work!). All this gives me the opportunity to once again rethink the shop and inch my way closer to whatever it is I really want to do with my future.

It is a very sad time but also a very exciting time. I’m in that in-between space -
life and death,
past and future,
failures and possibilities,
pain and healing,
sadness and hope.

Isn’t life exquisitely complex?

Letting go of ego

I’m amazed, A M A Z E D, to report that for once in my life I have stuck to a plan. I’ve been keeping a visual journal of sorts and I’ve been doing it every day. This is particularly amazing to me because, even as an art student, I never drew everyday and in all my life I have only ever completed one sketchbook (completed a couple of weeks ago, but started about 4 years ago). But I have lived and breathed art in the last couple of weeks and finally, FINALLY I am treating it as the passion I always felt it ought to be. I told you a couple of posts ago that I knew at the first chapter that Danny Gregory’s book “The Creative License” would change my life and it is already beginning.

I work as a graphic designer and spend my days on the computer, so designing my own stationery etc for my etsy shop was fine, but I was truly frozen with fear at the thought of producing my own hand drawings and illustrations – what if I wasn’t any good? Rather than find out I just stopped drawing. But now I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about producing art and *shock, horror* I’m actually putting pen to paper. I’m gradually getting rid of the fear of failure, letting go of my ego and starting afresh. I’m practising. I’m sketching. I’m trying out new techniques. I’m producing wobbly, bad, amateurish but honest drawings and really learning from the process. I’m LOVING the process. I’m loving the process more than the results. Blimey, I sound evangelical don’t I?! But seriously, I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought that I could let go of my ego and competitive nature enough to just surrender myself to the process and really learn something new with every drawing. Finally I really understand what a sketchbook is for.

Just to illustrate how far I’ve come, above is a wobbly example of the sort of drawing I’m enjoying just making. It’s a sketchbook drawing, just a sketchbook drawing and nothing more, but at one time I’d have rather cut off my own ear than ever let a drawing like that see the light of day. I’ve still not fully let go of ego, because there are much worse drawings than that I could have shown you, but hey, one step at a time ;)

Neglecting the blog

Let’s pretend it is unusual for me to suddenly get involved in something else and leave the blog idle, shall we?!

Last Sunday my family received some pretty devastating news about one of our number and we’ve all been left reeling.  I wasn’t sure whether to bring something so personal to the blog, even though it would have helped a bit to just blather on about it instead of trying to remain strong for the family.  In the end I decided to be really British about the whole thing and not bring it here in any great detail.  I’d like to try and keep this little corner of my world as pure and safe as possible in terms of situations out of my control.  Nobody has died, thankfully, but like millions of other families out there we now have an uncertain and scary road ahead.  I’ve been through the usual spectrum of emotions and have come to an uneasy, partial acceptance of the bare facts at least.   I’ve accepted that life has to go on and I have to find a way to sleep and eat and laugh and value every little detail of life.  I’ve also come to realise that actually even though a big, scary, bad-news bomb just detonated, life has always been precious and uncertain and precarious and hanging-in-the-balance.  That’s just what life is, so nothing has really changed in that respect.

The funny thing is, just how many little things have been happening in the run-up to the bad news.  It’s like the universe was setting things in motion to help us all cope with the impending uncertainty, even before we knew we needed to cope.  It’s comforting to think that there may be a plan out there for us.  Most of the examples are too personal to bring here or not my own stories to tell, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I decided to buy those art self-help books when I did.  I’d already (reluctantly) begun journaling when the news hit and it’s been immensely helpful just to look back and see my changes in attitude over the few pages that have been completed so far.  It’s been a way to unscramble this huge knotted mass of emotions and thoughts and make sense of at least some of it.  It’s certainly helped me let go of ego and fear of failure and just get the hell on with it, living in the moment.

Although huge life-changing events have happened, my art (therapy?) has only been concerned with small mundane things.  I might be worried about life and death situations on the outside, but inside my journal I’ll probably react by drawing my coffee cup and saucer or my lunch or the toothpaste on the toothbrush.  The more these huge events weigh on my mind, the further I retreat into the tiny everyday details.  I guess there must be some kind of weird comfort in that or maybe I’m just trying to get some control back in my life wherever I can.  Whatever else it is, it’s really interesting.  And hey, if it helps hone my drawing skills at least that’s already something positive to come out of it.  I knew that art was a huge part of my life, but I’ve never known what solace could be found in it before.  Who knew?

Back to the beginning … again.

For the longest time I’ve been dissatisfied with my career. For the longest time I’ve been trying to change directions whilst unsure of exactly which direction I’d rather go. Consequently I’ve spend the longest time going round and round and round in circles. Actually the directions I’ve traveled are nothing like as organised as circles. I have traveled in a big messy scribble. And the more confused I’ve become, the less I’ve felt like creating, until eventually I wound up where I am today – only drawing at work and not at all for pleasure. Ever.

So I decided to do something for my future and try a little retraining. I looked at doing a part time course that I could fit around my job, but there was nothing locally that came anywhere close to being what I want to do. I looked at learning online but this again didn’t quite have what I was looking for. I was left with one option – researching my favourite subjects myself. I decided to buy what I hoped would be the artistic equivalent of self-help books. I am so glad I did. Half way through the first chapter of the book at the top of my reading list “The Creative License” by Danny Gregory, I just knew that I had in my hands the book that was going to change my life. No exaggeration. He put into words everything I’ve been feeling for years and I instantly knew I was in safe hands.

I’ve only just started the book but through it I’m going to relearn the joy and the habit of drawing and being creative every day. I really want creativity to once again be my reason for waking up in the morning. It’s felt like a chore for so long now. I’m just taking those first wobbly steps but with renewed enthusiasm and strangely enough, confidence. I can’t wait to see where this path takes me, but it’d better not be in a bloody big scribbly direction again!

The new postcards

The new postcards arrived in double-quick time and they turned out better than I could ever have dared hope.  The colours are utterly perfect and the finish is superb.  Thanks so much MOO.com

I’m busy listing them in the shops and have the new postcard sections here on Etsy and here on Zibbet.  I’ve begun to list unique items in each shop, but I’m keeping a few of the best sellers as cross-overs in both.  And there’ll be plenty more postcards in the future as these have really whet my appetite and there are so many possibilities.

This weekend I’m going to try (but no promises!) to get some of the designs reinterpreted as 3D characters.  I only promise to try because I know just how bloody fickle I can be.  I am, however, pretty damned certain that this weekend will be all about creativity, as I have the dreaded task of dying my hair.  I’ll therefore be a virtual prisoner in my home – I mean, who’d venture out with what looks like a cling film covered cow-pat on their head?  I wouldn’t even answer the door to the Postman like that, no matter what parcelled up treasures he was trying to deliver – there are standards you know.

I use those awkward solid blocks of henna and although I love the results, the method is so, so tedious (chopping, grating and mixing to the perfect consistency), the application is so unbelievably messy (if you’ve ever seen how a Hippo distributes its hippo-pats you’ll understand what state the bathroom looks with splatters of grassy-looking henna EVERYWHERE!), the resulting get up is eccentric-looking and uncomfortable (cow-pat on head covered with kitchen towel, covered in clinfilm, covered in a soft hat).  But the greys need to be tamed as they’ve been running rampant recently.  Which leads me to ask, where do the grey hairs hide while they are growing?  I only ever seem to discover full length ones, I’ve never yet managed to catch one that’s only half the length of the rest of my hair or a tiny one, just beginning to grow.  It’s like they leap on your head, fully formed whenever you’re not looking!

So imprisoned I shall be and working hard on my artwork if only to make the time go quicker.

My first sales on Zibbet

Just a quickie to say Hoorrrraaaayyyyy!  I’m so happy (and lucky) to have made my first sales since starting the new shop.  I’m even happier to have a really patient and understanding customer, because the details of the order were messed up and confusing and were delayed (nothing to do with either of us).  Thank you so much patient and understanding customer  :)