Saturday, 27 February 2010

Self-imposed exile

Returning from some time away, it’s amazing how quickly a week of peace and quiet relaxation can be wiped out when one steps back into the fray! It was a restful week though, out in the middle of the New Forest with just the birds, squirrels, horses, the odd deer and very patchy mobile phone signal. I recommend it.

I had planned to do some drawing and writing whilst away but didn’t get around to either. And that’s fine (she says, trying not to beat herself up for wasting all that potential creative time) because the purpose of the week was to wind down from a gruelling couple of years, the first proper break in that time.

I did read a book about creativity however. It isn’t the greatest book by any means (a bit cheesy and RIDDLED with typos) but it gave me one or two things to think about. The author makes the point that it is essential for us to express our creativity in order to lead fulfilling lives and not to feel impoverished mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Whilst this may be obvious to those who spend a significant proportion of their time creating in one form or another, I don’t think it hurts to be reminded every now and then; especially for those of us who don’t make a living from our art. Life – the day job, family, caring responsibilities, socialising – can so easily squeeze out creativity and make one feel guilty for spending time on it.

Incidentally, it was a year ago today I started my blog. A lot has happened creatively over the last year. The original intention was to use the blog to document my progress in wood engraving but somehow, that was hijacked by me setting up my own etching studio, a significant and rather marvellous change in direction. This gave me the opportunity to start using and experiment with pine resin as an aquatint, courtesy of Jim Spence, printmaker extraordinaire and master of the monoprint. This has moved my work forward significantly and has helped me achieve some of the tonal and textural qualities I was getting from card cuts. Still a long way for me to go to really get to grips with it but I’m already getting some interesting results.

The year was also quite a busy one for exhibiting; two US print exchanges, Printmakers Cut 3 in Chichester, Hampshire Open Studios and best of all, I had work selected for the international printmaking conference, IMPACT 6 in Bristol. A hectic year creatively, considering everything else that was going on. I think this year will be quieter; one in which I hope to concentrate on improving my aquatinting skills and progress some more narrative work. Always plenty to think about!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Aphasiac's Dictionary

Aphasia is a strange condition which, without first-hand experience, I would have struggled to understand I think. Briefly, it’s the impairment of the language centre in the brain by stroke or other injury. It can manifest in many different ways; some people lose all speech, some can speak but not read or write (or vice versa), some may be able to sing but not speak, others who have been fluently bilingual, may be able to speak one language but not the other. These are just a few examples.


The form with which I am in daily contact is paraphasia where the speaker (my mother) substitutes the correct word with another, such as ‘tight’ for dressing gown. Sometimes she makes up words, for example ‘petcher’ when meaning crispy. This can lead to some very odd combinations of words and bizarre sentences which range from making no sense at all to strangely apt. Instead of saying ‘the doctors are thinking’, she said, ‘the sailors are oberating’. You can imagine how tangled and protracted conversations can be; frustrating for both parties. I have been trying to capture as many of the more interesting words and phrases but sometimes they come so thick and fast I can’t catch them all. Twitter and facebook are ideal for this; wherever we are, I can just fire off a text and it’s there on the net for me to pick up later.


As artists, we draw inspiration from so many different sources, not least from that which is around us. Maybe then, it’s only natural to try to find a creative outlet for some of this stuff, especially as most of my work involves words in one way or another. I don’t know what form the Aphasiac’s Dictionary will take visually yet but I think the words will be incorporated into the images somehow. There will also be some pieces of narrative; again no firm ideas as yet. Meanwhile, the compiling goes on.