Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Happy happy joy joy

Oh how bright and sparkly!

I've got all the doors and windows open and there's a delightful breeze blowing through the house. There are book covers drying all over the place and I've washed up, put washing in the machine and generally been an all round good egg. Bathroom cleaning is next, after which I shall feel so damned virtuous that there'll be no stopping me.

Further to my experiments with making books from dictionary covers (see below), I'm doing another one at the moment and I've had a great idea for one for hub. He wants one but refuses to have one because they need to be sold. However, I have in my possession a newspaper from New York circa 2005 that we bought as a keepsake on our honeymoon. I shall pilfer a page from it and use it for a special book just for him. I think he'll love it. I did toy with the idea of a geeky one, but he's got heaps of that sort of thing, so this one will be really special.

There will be a trip outdoors today too. I told you I'm on a roll. We've got a Mother Hubbard situation going on here, so a shopping list must be written (in my Fiona T zombie book of course) and I shall bus it down to Asda in time to meet my beloved on his way home from work.

The postie ought to be bringing me a few delightful things today or tomorrow. I've done a couple more swaps with Folksy ladies for some awesome stuff. One is some cards (from Auntyjoan) and the other is a set of stickers (from hjdcrafts). I sent my little logo design to have printed on them and I very much look forward to applying them inside my book covers for that incredibly professional look. Hark at me being so very posh. Ideas above my station and all that. This is such a nice thing to do when you can't afford to treat yourself. I've sent little paintings in exchange.

To finish with, here's the latest dictionary book. It's got a mix of lined and plain paper inside and is about A6 size. I distressed and inked the cover papers and coated them with a couple of good layers of PVA for durability. I love the satin finish of PVA on paper, there's something so tactile about it. A real throwback to my uni days when I was never seen without an industrial sized tub of it on my desk. I washed a great dollop if it out of my hair yesterday. Just like the old days, " happy sigh".

Monday, 27 June 2011

Faffing About

Erm, how to say this?

I was mucking about with my settings earlier and thought, hey, I'll put my name in my blog title. So I did and I think I might have mucked it up. I fear I may now be invisible to the world. Not that the world would be any worse off of course, but you know what I mean.

If anyone who follows me can read this, would you do me a massive favour and leave a comment to let me know please?

I'll go and wait in the naughty corner.

Eyes, Flies and Freezers

Patting myself on the back here. I've been unusually domestic goddessy and done some stuff round the place. We got up this morning to a warm fridge, which is a result of a very poor design. Every time a bit of ice builds up in the back of the freezer it blocks the cold air vent that cools the fridge part. We got a chap out the first time it happened because we thought the damn thing had died. He showed us how to take it apart and get to the ice that can't be seen in the main freezer (it's totally frost free in that bit, so you'd have no idea what the problem is). So, I was in there at 7.30am with screwdriver, bits all over the floor and two hairdryers blasting at it. All done and reassembled by just after 8am.

Since I was on a roll I decided to do all the dishes and mop the floors. We have a ridiculously large kitchen and dining room area and a small living room. Daft if you ask me. The floors take an age to mop. This isn't helped by the fact that the flooring is that industrial rubber stuff that marks like billy-o. You have to soak it, scrub it, rinse it and repeat. I'm sweating like a cart horse now (delicious visual there for you). Why I felt the need to do it on the hottest morning of the year is anybody's guess.

The weekend was a pretty groovy one here. Hub and I popped to town on Saturday and I had an eye test. We did some work in the afternoon and chilled out in the evening. Yesterday we had a big walk around the car boot sale. We went to the huge one that takes place in a field and takes about an hour to walk round. The weather was glorious and the smell of freshly cut grass most uplifting. I got a nice book of watercolour paper for 50p.

We ventured to B&Q, internally avoiding the cliché we've become of Sunday morning middle aged potterers. I don't think we'd even be classed as middle aged really, but we certainly walk the walk. The optician had strongly recommended that I illuminate my work area as much as humanly possible, so we were in search of desk lamps. I got three and a gigantic plug extension so I'll actually be sure to use them. If I have to unplug a lamp to use my printer, for example, that there lamp is unlikely to ever be plugged in again. I hate crawling under my desk doing all that gubbins.

The new lighting arrangement had a good test drive in the afternoon. I couldn't help but chuckle to myself. I must look like the Wizard of Oz or a space ship captain here at my desk with what can only be described as a bank of floodlights surrounding me. How long before the police come knocking on the door in search of the marijuana farm that must surely be on the go here? My living room can probably be seen from orbit now. Still, it does help a bit. I'm getting double vision when doing really close up stuff, but it's up to me to stop pressing my nose against the page I guess. I was advised against having reading glasses just yet, as apparently it makes your eye muscles lazy and you'll not be able to read or whatever without them within a few weeks. Since I already wear glasses for short sightedness I think I'd be extremely irritated at having to swap from one pair to the other all the time, so I'm happy to go along with his recommendation. One day when I can afford some swish varifocals I'll go for it, but that'll probably be when I'm about 105.

A delicious dinner of chicken and salad went down well and then we took ourselves to the cinema. We'd really fancied seeing The Bridesmaids after catching a few trailers and hub hamming up on the movie reviews (one of his major obsessions). Cor, what a let down. It had been billed as the female version of The Hangover, which we loved. It was nothing of the sort. Yes, there were some funny bits, but on the whole it was naught but a dire and badly paced chic flick. Now I may be a chick, but I am not a fan of that genre at all. The main character was unpleasant and stupid and the storyline a slow painful, boring durge. By the time we wer 20 minutes in I was acutely embarrassed to be sitting there. Poor hub was chewing his own knuckles off in horror. If we hadn't been hemmed in by other viewers between us and the end of the row we'd have walked out. However, we're still terribly British and don't like to cause a fuss, so we remained and suffered. Deeply gutting, especially when we would have probably enjoyed pretty much any other movie that was showing at the same time.

This floor still isn't dry. Testament to the humidity and all round sticky unpleasantness that's going on today. I really don't get how anyone can enjoy this weather. I guess my eastern European ancestry is to blame for my hatred of anything above a tepid climate. My sis has the right idea being up there in Scotland; they're not experiencing anything as volcanic as we at the moment and she'll no doubt be thankful for it. One day we'll move there too. Oh yes.

Three paintings to finish this afternoon. I'm also going to do a whole load more book covers and see if I can get them to dry without flies sticking to them. The little blighters are running amock here because I've got all the windows open. I'm definitely off to the shops later for a can of Flit or whatever they have these days for the murdering of insects. I chased one round with a rolled up newspaper yesterday for a good half hour before pummelling it on the skirting board. It's like they know they're going to die but they want one last belly laugh at me thundering about and cursing. At least the expire with a smile on their face, which is all we can aspire to really.

And now, a nice cup of tea. I deserve it.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Today's Fruits

Just a quick post with some photos of the books I made today.

The first is made from my drawings, hand done then coated in plastic for durability. I'm ever so pleased with it and I'll definitely be exploring this further with other drawings.

The second one is made from Penguin Classics giftwrap, like the one I did last weekend only much bigger.

Both are A5 size with 180 pages, so pretty chunky.


A little middle fo the day blog for a change.

It is with much joy that I can announce a hugely improved mindset. This week has been one of my craziest ever. I blame it on writing that blog the other week about mental illness and creativity. It's been lying in wait for me ever since, I swear.

Yesterday I felt beastly. My brain was running round in ever decreasing circles and I really didn't know what to do with myself. Fortunately by mid afternoon I'd managed to lock concentration on some work and it eased me a bit. A few hours of losing myself in things helped to bring back some normalcy. I don't know whether this is hormonal, though I expect it plays a part. I've got some nasty pre menopausal symptoms going on at times and I've been to my GP about it. All they can do at this stage is offer me anti depressants, but that's really not an avenue I'm prepared to go down. I've done it before, don't get me wrong; I had a good few years of taking various pills and they helped a lot, but they also take the edge off all the good stuff, including imagination and creativity. I don't want to live a half doped life like a bubble on a string. I'd say "oh it's worth putting up with the occasional crisis", but right now it's all a bit too raw and I couldn't say that with any conviction. I've just got to get through this and move on.

I've thrown myself into some new bookbinding. My attitude is blasé and experimental, so goodness knows what will happen. At least one of them is looking very good, and I hope to get it all sewn up today. It's a bit of a giant one, relatively speaking, but it's going to be splendid. I will definitely want to keep it for myself, so I'll have that particular internal argument at a later date. I have loads of hard covers hanging round the dining room in various states of PVA wetness and there are more in the book press being squashed nicely.

Right, I think it's time to get on. My cup of tea is finished and I've tidied my desk and the rest of the room a bit, so I can make more mess without guilt or thirstiness.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Some Days I Even Annoy Myself

Not the first clue what I'm going to be doing today. It's been a flakey week and I'm incubating a bursting inspiration for some acrylic painting. The very thought of the mess I'll make is scaring the living crap out of me though. I'm kind of torn between that and some bookbinding. I could use the slow, methodical and theraputic process of assembly and sewing to lull me a bit if I'm honest. Or just maybe, I need a total break.

Had a good chat with my sister last night and she's suggested a trip to see her. I'd undoubtedly enjoy a visit to Scotland and a bit of R & R with her. Maybe I can get a cheap ticket sometime soon.

I also spoke to the owner of the print shop in town who's advertising for a designer. He was rather a personable chap, given to discussion of technical skills and his willingness to train wherever needed. He reckons that with my Photoshop experience I'd pick up all the other bits and pieces fairly easily. They're at the chatting and requesting CV stage right now and he asked me to send mine in, which is a great start. At least he's hands on with recruitment and not a faceless harvester of applications that will never be proven to have been read. We've all been there, eh?

If nothing comes of this, at least I think I've found a place that can do digital copies of my work when needed. I look forward to discovering the ins and outs of that in due course.

I think I'm feeling a little brighter today. At least I'm not sitting here in tears, which is encouraging. Things do have to change, but I'm not of the calibre to be able to view the overall picture a lot of the time. People like me need worldy wise mentors to take all that stuff on. Once again I wish John were around with his advice and sage nodding. All I can do is the crazy artist shit and remain locked away in my own little world. It's no wonder we never get anywhere while we're actually alive - it takes people a good while to forget our loony ways and come to appreciate what we do without the offense caused by our rantings.

And to bring us back down to earth, I really need to go to the shops this morning. There's no bread or milk and precious little else in the house foodwise. I'm waiting until the school rush dies down because I loathe the queues and gaggles of women nattering outside. I've been up for hours already and got washing done, so the day's at least a mildly productive one on a practical level. It's just a pity it's so grim out there. The rain was so loud in the night that it woke me up. I'd have got up to have a look at it but I was too tired.

Hub's having a rough week at work. We had a few cross words last night, not like us at all. Only a brief thing of course, mainly because of the noise levels going on while I was trying to explain my grief to my sis on the phone. I'm a bit deaf and I hate wearing my hearing aids, so I know I'm a pain at times. I have problems with background noise when I'm trying to listen, which can make me a bit aggravated and snappy. Constant tinnitus can really wear a person down, and though I do manage to zone it out a lot of the time, it can frustrate me to distraction. Fortunately my hub is great with being able to sleep in noise and on those evenings when I'm distressed with it he'll happily let me have a CD on in bed to blank it out enough for me to get to sleep.

Right, it's 9.30 now. I reckon I can brave the shops.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Altered post

More lilies. It's very satisfying to have something and draw it over and over again. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's just me?

Edited, because some stuff is best kept in my head. Thanks to all who replied, your ecouragement and well wishes are hugely appreciated.

Regrouping and goodness knows what else in progress now.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Grumpy Monday

Those people who give the weather forecast ought to all be sacked. yes, I know it's one of my pet peeves and I'll have a rant about it on a fairly regular basis, but come on. They get paid massive amounts to be on telly, wearing hideous outfits (why why why do they always look dreadful?) and spouting nonesense, lies and gibberish. Lately they've begun describing the weather in terms of being "quiet". What the hell? How does "quiet" refer in any way to the climate?

Is there actually any science whatsoever behind what we're told the weather is going to be each day? This morning for example, they cried tales of woe about heavy rain and possible thunder from lunchtime onward. The whole of the northwest had cloud and doom predicted. I've just been to the post office and took a jacket, but jumping jehosephat, it was BOILING and not a drop of water to be seen anywhere. Scores of children were buying ice pops and, unfortunately for me, many women were sitting on doorsteps wearing next to nothing in order to frazzle themselves and top up their orangeness (shudder).

And breathe.

What did I come here for? Oh yes. I did this little drawing today of one of the lilies Jay's dad cut for me.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

OMG, so happy!

I've simply got to share my squee and delight today at my amazing, awesome and all round super excellent book press! My father in law presented it to me this morning when we visited for Fathers' Day.

I had no idea it was finished and equally no clue of what it was going to be like. My only stipulation was that it would press (squash stuff) and I didn't mind at all how it looked. Imagine my astonishment when I saw this elegant piece of work. It's just divine and will do the job perfectly.

It has four wingnuts so I can tighten it up with my feeble hands and even has little non slip feet on the bottom! He's done so well with it. I wouldn't have been able to come up with such a simple and perfect design in a million years. Book press design has made it to the 21st century and I'm over the moon to be the only owner of such a thing.

As if all that wasn't enough excitement, he also went and cut a bunch of lilies from the garden for me to bring home and paint. I feel so spoiled today.

The kids are all coming over shortly to torment, erm I mean celebrate with hubby. I'm just about to make a roast dinner of giant proportions for everybody. There'll be my super special gravy and yorkshire puddings too, so they'll all be groaning and unable to move by the time I'm done feeding them. It doesn't matter who you are, your mum's roast dinner is always the best meal in the world :-)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

New Book Today!

Despite my idle tendencies this morning I did go ahead and make a book. Photos here because it will be off to its new home shortly. Good old Penguin Classics wrapping paper combined with all the usual bookbinding gubbins.

Pottering about

It's a bit of a chance this. My internet's been cutting off all morning, so who knows if I'll get to post a blog? This my dear people, is living on the edge.

My adorable geek toddled off this morning with his friend to their all day gamingfest sales thingy. I've had a few texts as to how stinky the people are (why don't a lot of geeks wash?) and how he hasn't bought anythng yet but has sold some of his stuff. We might even be quids in by the end of this, if nothing takes his fancy. Perhpas we'll even be able to afford some squid for tea (my latest obsession and definitely not doing anything good for my nutritional intake).

So, what have I been doing? Well, I've had a shower and done my hair nice. Lately I just wash it and leave it, and it has to be said that I don't have the sort of locks that do well under those circumstances. You've seen Russell Brand? Well it's a bit like that, only I don't wear it with his panache and irony. I just look like an inmate somewhere dark and unpleasant where they sedate you daily. Mmmmm sedation.

With it being Fathers' Day tomorrow I've been slaving over a very nice card for Jay's dad. It's so tricky making cards for men, but he's got lots of hobbies so I can find ideas that relate. It was a choice this time between a Terry pratchett character or a guitar. This is how it turned out. I made an envelope this time too, which I'm ashamed to admit I don't always other with.

Speaking of Terry Pratchett, I watched the documentary that was on this week about euthenasia at the Dignitas Clinic. A dreadfully difficult thing to view, but as excellent and thought provoking as it is harrowing. Sir Terry is a brave man indeed to experience and catalogue these events, especially considering that it's one of his possible choices. Also a fascinating insight into him as a person, and I must say he comes out of it well. I recommend it to anyone who has the courage to watch.

I'm itching to make a book. I have some wrapping paper here that will make the best cover. It was from Lynn and she'd love a little present of it, so I may venture in that direction shortly. I'm just not sure i have the stamina today to complete it and I hate leaving a project before it's done. We shall see.

Mostly though, I'm really looking forward to my beloved's return. I miss him during the week and I'm not used to being apart from him at weekend. Hopefully he'll be home soon.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A bit of a news update

Would you just look at the time? Who in their right mind blogs after 10pm? Surely this is the domain of rock stars and the like? And to begin with four questions in one paragraph must be a record of some sort (not to mention a grammatical minefield of wrongness)?


I haven't been insanely busy or anything. I could have written something earlier but I was way too busy kicking back on the couch with a bar of chocolate and a multipack of crisps. The dieting isn't going so well.

Zumba was mentioned briefly at the beginning of the week. I've not gone into detail because I've been slowly mulling it over ever since. For anyone who missed it, my friend Lynn and I attended a local class as a starter for our get fit aprés 40 thing. It seemed a great idea, all that fun and frollicking, booty shaking and dancing. Only we hadn't thought it through, had we? Lynn has arthritis and has been plagued with painful hips ever since. I've been OK, amazingly, but I really didn't enjoy the nauseating women who ran the class, or my own personal lack of co-ordination that meant I simply couldn't follow what was going on and thrashed around like an electrocuted squid. It wasn't pretty. Then theres the fact that I'm a recluse and hate groups of people. Oh and I can't dance, nor do I enjoy latin music. I'm an intelligent woman. How come my brain decided to part company while the attending zumba class decision was being made? Blimey.

So Lynn and I made a date a few days after the class in order to discuss our feelings on the matter. A sort of debriefing if you like. We'd been undecided on the night itself, mainly due to spending the hour afterwards trying to catch our breath and stop sweating. I was also freaked out at falling over my own feet and almost plummetting to the ground amidst an array of splintered bones. It's only a matter of time before a zumba related death occurs, you mark my words.

Lynn can't do it again due to the pain she's in. I won't do it again because it was horrid. We've mutually decided that the whole thing is all rather undignified and therefore not to be spoken of again. So the search is now on for some sort of exercise that is both enjoyable and doesn't make me look like a freakshow special. I'd prefer something that doesn't involve moving too much - and before anyone starts calling me on that and laughing - there's stuff like rowing machines and exercise bikes that are much more demure than falling over your own feet at a dance class. Only I can't afford a gym membership. Thinking caps on!

I shall try and work tomorrow, despite it being Saturday. My darling husband is going geeking (that's all we need to know, explanations would be long-winded and pointless) so I have several hours to fill. It may also assuage my guilt for doing bugger all today apart from a few more crochet flowers, which are hardly a gigantic undertaking.

And so off to bed. I'm thinking of the days when I used to stay up 'til 2am and still function the next day at work or uni or college or whatever. I'd often be hung over too. Nowadays I don't drink and I'm almost always in bed well before 10pm. When does this happen to a person? I blame my last job where I became quite obsessive about not being tired during the day, as I would lose concentration and be unable to do a tap. It really didn't help that I was sat on my ever growing posterior being bored silly for 8 hours a day. You show me any human being who can thrive in that sort of environment and I'll show you an air-headed moron with nothing between the ears but a bit of fluff and a half chewed jelly baby. Creature of habit me, even with my sleeping pattern.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Panic Over

Happy to report that I'm feeling much better today. I knew as soon as I woke up this morning that I was on the mend and I've gradually felt better as the day's gone on. Phew.

Last night I was doing all sorts to try and cheer myself up. Mostly my work related things. I was photographing something I'd painted, but wasn't happy with. For some reason I got the urge to take a pic of all my ACEOs together. It's weird seeing them all in one place, as I paint them and store them away immediately, so they hardly ever see the light of day. This is what they look like (the ones I have left that is).

So this morning I did some more work on the painting that I was unhappy with. After that I was on a roll and I've finished four pictures, photographed them and got them listed. A supreme success after this past few days of woe and doom! One of them has really captured me and I would love to keep it, but it needs to be offered for sale. I can't afford my own paintings. Now that's irony for you! It's the second one, in shades of brown.

Here are my new efforts

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Don't read it, this might be contageous

It's been pointed out by my hub that I'm grumpy. Now he's not often right, but I'll give him that one. I've been feckless for days now. Nothing's working, paintings are rubbish and my creativity is on a go slow. It's lucky that crochet is needed because I think I might be running round town with no shoes on, shouting at pigeons otherwise. I don't want to talk to people or participate in anything, and yesterday I was stupid, emotional and downright vacant. I'm annoying myself greatly.

I've been at this long enough to know that these things happen and they just need to be rode out. It doesn't help my floundering loss of direction and plummetting confidence though. It feels like things are not working. I'm having no success despite all my hard work and there's nobody to blame but myself.

I'm in desperate need of some guidance.

Hoping my fabric will come today and fill me with joy. Aside from that, I think I'll just do some housework and attempt to feel accomplished in at least some small way round here.

F@ckity f@ck f@ck.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Art, cleaning and looming exercise

Well I did sort of have a bit of a rest over the weekend. I reckon I did about 4 hours painting on Saturday and then I chilled out with the old crochet and some mediocre TV viweing. It's rather lovely and self indulgent to spend time on the couch with my beloved, nattering and poking fun at the telly while we both do a bit of making. He was painting his competition entry for September, which is coming along very nicely, despite his frequent outbursts of oh-my-god-this-is-crap-and-I'll-never-get-it-finished. I guess we all know that one pretty well when we're putting ourselves under pressure.

I'm doing a bit of sorting out in our geek room at the moment. There are things turning up that would beggar belief. I had no idea that there were still things hanging round that I painted/made up to 15 years ago, but they're there alright. I'm also unearthing all kinds of materials and "useful things" that past me put away for future me to use. Good old planning and forethought there I say. Hopefully it will all soon be sorted, labelled and put in the cupboard ready to be found at the glance of an eye. Unfortunately there's only one person who can do that, and she's not really all that keen on putting things in order, especially when there are so many other things to be put away. Could be a while yet.

A giant sketchbook is my best find so far. My hazy memory of it was a few pages of studies along the theme of fish and such, but in reality it's about 60 pieces in varying stages of explosive graphite stick, charcoal, paint and pastel. It includes loads of peculiar drawings of a whole squid I bought from Morrisons, along with some mackerel, mussels, dried poppy heads and the trusty old dried seahorse. This is my favourite image from it. I might display it in the house somewhere.

I was considerng this painting earlier. I really like it; it's from a time when I was doing a lot of intricate painting studies and probably embodies the whole style and skill level I'd achieved back then. This one makes me realise why artists sell their work for such a hefty price. I'm not sure how much money it would take to make me part with this, but it'd be quite a lot. I suppose it's about my personal feelings and relationship with both the work and my memories of the time I did it. Sentimental claptrap really. Others might find it dull and uninspiring, it's all a matter of taste. That seahorse was the business though, I loved him.

I'm not sure how much work will get done today. My priorities must revolve around the house and jobs I need to do in order to make it bearable being in here for the rest of the week. I've also got my first zumba class tonight, and while it's not 'til 7pm, I already feel like I can't get involved in anything else beforehand. Crazy talk, I know, but that's just how I roll. No doubt there'll be an enlightening blog coming up tomorrow about the shaking of my booty and/or the trials/injuries/embarrassments caused by going. Watch this space.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Popping in to say hello

Just a brief visit from me today. I've been installed on the couch making crochet flowers for my craft class, so not much computer time at all. I need to make about 100 in all and I'm up to about 40 now, so not so bad.

I found a few old pieces of work in a lurking folder the other day, so here are a couple of them, along with a painting I did yesterday in between going out shopping and pottering round doing housey stuff.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Friday Freedom!

I am definitely having a bit of a rest today. There, I've said it. I've been threatening a day off for a while now, but this past few evenings I've been utterly whacked, with eyes blurry and head fuzzy. It's time for a break, to get out of the house and do something different. Shamefully, I must admit that apart from a quick drive to the shop last night for a packet of crisps, I have not been outside since Sunday. Obsessive much?

So, what will I be doing? Edge of your seat time or what?

I've sold a book on Folksy, so that's jetting off in the post. This is the first one to sell on there, so I'm pretty damn chuffed. I'm also posting a swap, which is part of our sellers' thing we've got going on the forum. We have a look through each others' shops and choose items to exchange. I love this idea because it means we get a little treat, as well as being a very sociable little exercise. I'm getting a beautiful card and sending one of my little poppy ACEOs.

I think I'll be popping to town. We need washing up liquid (thrilling) and I'm going to scout about for some reading glasses, as discussed before. I may get to meet up with Tascha (youngest daughter) for a bit and I'll definitely be popping in to see Gill at the craft shop. Oh and I've just remembered that I need to buy some jog pants. I must be the only person in Widnes not to own such an item. I'm going to Zumba on Monday (yes yes, I know) so I require suitable attire. It may kill me, so if the blogs stop you'll know what's happened. On the other hand, I may come out of there addicted to shaking my booty and suddenly a size 8. The former is the more likely outcome.

I did a painting yesterday that I absolutely hate. By way of showing the world my shame, here it is. Feast your eyes because it's going in the bin. Meh. What a waste of time. Still, it's the thing that has mostly convinced me that I need a break.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Creativity and Mental Illness

There's a thread on Folksy at the moment that has really pulled me up short and made me think, so I'll write a bit here about it. It poses the question of the correlation between creativity and mental health issues. I, like may others have my own story and I relise I haven't addressed this since the whole life changing thing that happened at Christmas. It does involve my creative journey and why I am where I am, doing what I do right now, so I reckon it's OK to include it here. It's not in the light hearted theme that I generally like to keep on my blog, but I expect enough people will be able relate to it.

In my experience it's pretty much guaranteed that in any creative forum there will be more than the fair share of people who suffer with some form of depressive disorder or mental health problems. There have been all sorts of studies performed in recent years, of which I have no direct reference right now, so I'll leave that bit for anyone to look into themselves. Suffice to say, it's being recognised.

Obviously, I can only speak here from my personal perspective. I am a long term sufferer, undiagnosed on the whole, though I have had various bouts of treatment with drugs. I suppose I am one of those who fell through a hole in the system, though this doesn't concern me overly and I'm certainly not going to turn this into a whinge about the NHS. What I will say is that during a particularly severe bout of illness some 9 or 10 years ago I received drug therapy and nothing else. I had been added to a list for counselling, therapy and whatnot, but it never happened. I imagine my application went off somewhere into the ether of the overstretched local resources, never to be seen again. As is the way with patients such as myself, you're seldom in a place during a flare up to stand your ground and have the powers that be look into why it is you didn't receive your proper treatment; you're too busy trying to get through each totured day to concern yourself with such technicalities.

With hindsight, I would definitely say I could have used some help as a child. I didn't have the happiest time back then, partly due to my own makeup and also regarding other influences, which though important, are not what I want to discuss right now. I have very vivid memories of things that now, as a parent myself, would have rung alarm bells and sent me off looking for answers. This was the 1970s though, and awareness wasn't anything like it is now. I shan't be a bore with minute details, but I certainly displayed obsessive and strange behaviours, albeit in a comparitively minor way when you consider the likes of severe autism and such.

Even as a very young child I was creative. I would lose myself in drawing, playing with clay and all those arty passtimes that children love. I remember doing this obsessively, it was my main source of pleasure, aside from reading. The family would comment that I was so quiet for hours when given a pencil and some paper. Of course back then a child (especially one like me) was at its best when quiet, so this was indeed a good thing.

I also recall bouts of irrational fury and frustration. The weirdest one still remains unexplained in my head; the abject terror at the thought of my bedcovers becoming untucked. How bizarre! I would have my mother tuck them in so tightly under the mattress that I could barely move in the bed, but that was OK because it meant the covers would stay. Where on earth does something as silly as that come from? Today this sort of thing would cause alarm.

It's no surprise that as I grew older I was to develop what we now call depresive illness. Not that I'm a slave to it these days or anything. It's tricky writing about this stuff without sounding like a long suffering martyr, which is far from what I really am.

One can buckle under the mountain that is the notion of mental illness, or simply choose to get on with it. I know I'm not "normal", crikey, enough people have told me that over the years. I'm also not stupid, I can objectively observe myself in relation to the rest of the world and come to that conclusion in oh, about 30 seconds. On the other hand, the whole human race is made up of a sliding scale of normals, with no single person being the poster child for averageness.

I'm in my 40s now so I've had a lot of years to meditate upon my own particular personality. I prefer to see it as that, as my own makeup, rather than a title or condition that hampers me.

There have been very dark times and wonderful times, so I guess if I were to average it all out it's not been so bad really. I suppose the point I want to make here is about how I've discovered my "cure", or as close as damn it. It's not 100% - I still have blips, but this past 6 months have possibly been the most balanced and happy of my life.

Last year I was misreable. A simple sentence, but please do consider and dwell on the "miserable" part. I mean that word in its entirety. Miserable in that my days in work were painful minute by minute. My evenings were spent in a state of numbness and dread of the next morning. My weekends were a slow torturous run up to Monday morning coming round again. I found it difficult to hold a conversation. I felt like I was hiding under a rock and didn't want to let myself out because the life out there was so, well, just horrible. The flipside of this was when I was actually in work I would be glib and cheerful, with a smile almost glued on and teeth gritted. I would walk around humming tunes constantly and being the joker, which felt like waterwings holding me just ever so slightly above the surface so I could get the occasional breath.

To impact all of the above, I should mention that during this time I simply could not do anything creative at all. I hadn't anything left for me once I'd got home each day. My usual means of escape into happiness was shut away from me as a result of my own unhappiness. What rotten luck to be the sort that freaks out in such a self destructive way!

All that sounds like drama, I know. I'm not a drama queen though, I'm a coper. Nobody aside from my husband had even the slightest idea how I was feeling. He knows me almost as well as I know myself, so he fully understood. He acknowledged what I was going through, and it was hurting him desperately. As he would say to me regularly, he just wanted his wife back. It must have been a very lonely time for him. I do feel so sorry for everything he went through. I should mention right here that he also suffers, though naturally in his own way and not exactly as I do. We help each other a lot. We both know (sometimes vaguely, sometimes definitely) how to deal with each other's episodes.

So, after a long time of what I describe here, we got to breaking point. There were just too many tears (every time I was alone - I won't cry in front of people, but it's obvious when you have been, isn't it?), too much anguish and too little life going on. My husband, ever the practical and (obsessive) planner, spent some time on the quiet with his workings out. On one particularly bad evening he busrt forth with his opinion that I must leave work and do what I need to do to be happy. We'd be more or less penniless, but what price do you put on getting your life back and escaping a prison? He'd been considering this for a long time, fighting his own demons regarding the changes and sacrifices that would have to be made. One of his "things" is financial stability, so we were really pushing it here with the old seesaw of emotional balance.

Giving me the option to leave that awful situation was most likely the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me. As a mother and person of many long standing responsibilities, there was no way on this earth I would ever have left that job and cut our income almost in half. No way. It was the only solution to my problems, but as far as I was concerned, unthinkable.

After much discussion I handed in my resignation. This was in August of last year, but it was ill received (I was actually, ironically, very good at the job) and with one thing and another I didn't leave until December 24th.

I didn't know if making myself into a full time artist type thing would be the answer (I still feel a fraud calling myself an artist. I don't know what the official requirements are, but I'm not sure I'd qualify). It was a massive gamble on more than a monetary level.

So far, fingers crossed, wood touching and no cats under my ladder, thank you - it's working.

On the whole I'm doing excellently. I have the occasional or sometimes drawn out but low laying anxiety. I have the rare day when I can't drag my brain into the world. Mostly though I'm happy, fulfilled and probably most importantly, proud of myself. I have drive, determination and enthusiasm. I work damned hard. I'm producing a lot of stuff and some of it's OK. I've even sold some of it.

On a more personal level I feel that life has changed immeasurably for the better. It's been a transitional period of course, but if I could put past me next to present me there'd be no comparison.

We're quite skint. We eat soup, beans and lots of home cooked, frozen and packagaed up for the month ahead sorts of things. We don't go out much (fortunately we're not very sociable), just a trip to the cinema now and again. We've cancelled the window cleaner, hub cycles 10 miles each way to work and we'll probably lose our ancient Fiesta at the next MOT. I do feel guilty because the changes in lifestyle are due to my flakiness and my beloved husband's genuine care of me. I also feel bad that he's still stuck in that awful job and can't be home doing his creative stuff like me. I have a dream now though, that one day I'll be successful and we'll both be able to do what it is that makes us happy and complete as people. I've never had a dream before. This is surely the yardstick by which I can measure my happiness in terms of the balance between depression and creativity.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Cool Blues

Another day of painting. This is the one I've completed, but I did some more on the maHOOsive one I mentioned before and it's about half finished now. I've just had to pick my eyeballs up off my desk and pop them back in, a sure sign that I've worked too hard for too long.

Joking aside, I am having all manner of troubles with the old peepers. I so desperately require an eye test and I strongly suspect, some reading glasses. I've never needed to look after my eyes more than I do right now, but I also have never had this little money, and I can't afford any optician based outlay. Why are they so damned expensive? I'm going to buy some of those cheap glasses they have in bargain shops and try to get to grips with them by myself. In an ideal world it'd be a spanking pair of varifocals, but I'd have to sell a kidney to get me a set of those. Not necessarily my kidney, but either way it'd be a messy business.

There's been talk of me having a day off tomorrow, but I'm not sure can countenance such a thing when it comes to it. I do feel a bit washed out if I'm honest. Unfortunately it's extremely difficult to stop working when there's half finished stuff looking at me. Hell, it's impossible even to sit watching the TV for an hour in the evening without doubling up and knitting, or doing some crochet at the same time. I guess I'll see what way out I'm feeling when I get up.

We had squid for dinner. It was glorious.

Fairground Flowers

Despite having a really busy day yesterday I managed to paint these two ACEOs. I thought I'd go for some new colour combinations and I called them fairground flowers becase, well, that's what they made me think of. I have a tendency to get absorbed in one colourway if I let myself, so I like to branch out occasionally and shock my system. A colour reboot if you like. Having said that, it's given me a hankering to move to more muted tones now, but that's a painting evolution the Jools way. Who know's what'll happen next?

There was much chaos here for the birthday boy throughout the day. We made cakes and dinner and had what equates to a house bulging at the seams. I'm so used to working here in the quiet by myself that it's a shock to the system to have all the children here (plus one boyfriend). Somewhere along the line I slipped from family to solitary mode and it's tricky reversing that. I felt battered by bedtime! A few photos of the festivities:

Peace reigns again this morning, so I'm on my way to painting city right now. I am ignoring the housework for the morning and getting on with my projects. Youngest daughter isn't in college today, so I may be able to bribe her into doing the washing up (when she drags herself out of bed). If I play my cards right I might even get the floor mopped. Oh the plotting and scheming I do in my life. I should have been a politician.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Paintings and a celebration

I started the mothership of all paintings yesterday and I'm doing my best to pace myself with it. Currently it's sitting here shouting at me but I'm making it wait. I don't like doing things in stages, but I must with this one as it would surely kill me if I were to keep going non stop until it's finished. I reckon there's about 3 or 4 days of serious input needed in total. Must. Have. Discipline.

Given that huge and complicated paintings are going to be pricey due to their nature, I don't expect this will sell on Folksy. It's destined for my portfolio and the travels thereof. So, in order to attempt to continue earning, I've been doing more miniature ACEO work. I listed these this morning.

I plan to do some more larger paintings this week if I can grab the time from somewhere. I may do some postcard size too, as they'll be more affordable.

Today is my little soldier's birthday (he hates me calling him that). Everyone's calling round at tea time to wish him his congratulations, so I'm hoping he gets here by then. I expect he will, since there'll be cake. I find it very weird on their birthdays to imagine being pregnant all those years ago. Dominic's 23 now but it seems like yesterday that he was a newborn. He's all grownup and I'm getting elderly! Well perhaps not elderly, but I'm certainly not the teenager who lives in my head any more.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Bright New Week Ready For The Taking

I thought I'd start the week off by posting this photo (click it for the bigger version). It's one of those flukey pictures that should never have been any good, but I just love it. It was taken back in the winter when we went for an early morning walk by the river. The weather was cold, misty and wet but the sun was just beginning to rise in the sky. I found this little patch of toadstools and fancied taking a photo, but I really didn't want to kneel in the wet grass, so I just put the camera on the ground and clicked, without even looking through the viewfinder. Imagine my delight when I got home and found it had worked!

It's been a lovely weekend here. We've done all kinds of different things and spent much time together geeking, working, walking and all topped off by a trip to see X Men 1st Class last night. I was stunned to find it was a really good film, certainly wasn't expecting that. I reckon this is the only time in the history of cinema that the fourth film in a series is the best one, though I'm sure someone somewhere will be able to correct me on that.

In other news, my search for an excellent drawing compass is finally over. Or at least I hope so. I keep buying them and either losing them or they are simply rubbish. Somewhere in this house is a stockpile of lost compasses along with odd socks and sellotape, all of which evade me when I need them. So yes, there was a chap at the car boot sale yesterday with a few arty bits and pieces, amongst which were these compasses with attached propelling pencils and spare leads (I hate calling them that, but if I were to say "spare graphites" people would look at me funny). I wasn't too hopeful in terms of the quality for the princely sum of 50p, but I've had a go of it and so far it appears to be the drawing compass that will change my life. How's that for luck? Brilliant! I'll be the envy of you all.

Today will be mostly about painting. I'm still torn in two every day with the painting or bookbinding decicion, but it has to be the former, as so many have sold from my shop that it's looking sparse now. There's nothing like having to keep a shop stocked up to bring focus to one's creative direction. It's still tricky, as I have a heap of leather here waiting for me to turn it into book covers, but on the other hand I may be better waiting for my book press to arrive and give me better results.

I am so excited about the book press. I've already mentioned that my father in law has offered to make one for me, but this is so lovely of him. He is disabled due to a leg injury and struggles to walk, so it's a big undertaking for him to commit to making things these days. He's a brilliant woodworker and has made all sorts of amazing things over the years, but I wouldn't have dreamed of asking him to do this. He offered when I was bemoaning my lust for one I'd seen on Ebay and he called me last week to ask exactly what kind of construction would be best for me. He says he's going to make it look beautiful, despite my attitude being that I don't care what the appearance is like as long as it squashes things. As I explained to him, it's bound to be a step up from a pile of books with rocks balanced atop on the coffee table, which is how I currently do it. The other thing is, I don't think I can recall anyone ever making anything for me. I'm the one who makes things for people; gifts, books, paintings and all manner of weird and unique items. I've always done it, but never been the recipient. I truly appreciate the hard work that goes into this kind of thing (as well as the worry the whole time you're doing it, in case they hate it!) and I'm bowled over by his kindness. I just hope, no really hope that I don't burst into tears when the day comes to pick it up.

OK, 9am is fast approaching and I need to get my desk cleaned up ready to start work.
Have I ever mentioned that I wish I were tidier? I think perhaps I have.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Hottest Day

Blimey, phew and all that. It's been mighty warm today. Now I'm not one who does so well in the raging heat, so it's a bit of a trial. I did go out in it for an hour or so this morning, but I soon came scuttling back to dark and cool house. I swear I can feel my skin sizzling after 2 minutes under the sun.

Not much in the way of work has been accomplished today. I'm tired and lazy and it's Saturday. In my defense I was rudely awoken at 5.15am by the neighbours having a very loud and angry conversation in the back yard. That was me then as far as sleep went, though I did try. I am therefore a little less useful than usual right now, not that anyone would notice really. Also, we've had a ginormous dinner of chilli chicken stir fry and we're struggling to bend in the middle now. I predict a slothful evening ahead.

OK blog, you're interrupting my couch time, so I hope you don't mind if I make my excuses and disappear.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Paintings and Sales. Yay!

Books yesterday, painting today.

I started early and had a go at the ACEO challenge that we've got going on Folksy this week. I have always done studies from life and then stylised/abstracted afterwards, but I decided to just go straight for the latter option today. We have a photo of a landscape in the Lake District to use as inpsiration, so I worked from that. I wasn't exactly overjoyed with the result and almost threw it away, but it grew on me during the day and I'm fond of it now, so I posted it on the challenge thread.

I feel inspired to do some more landscapes in the same style now. It isn't something I've even considered before, so bravo for the ACEO challenge and its encouragement!

I did a few others too. Of the five I listed in my shop this afternoon, four have already sold. I'm chuffed to bits about it, but just a tad aggravated because the front page was looking really stylish and now it's all changed! Not that I'm complaining. Bring on the sales, I love love love them! I'm SO over the moon :-)

I didn't get as much done as I'd wanted due to a bit of a health blip. I don't know what's going on, but I had a tremendous headache this morning that turned into nausea and much unpleasantness. I carried on working with a few little rests for as long as I could, but eventually it got so bad that I had to lie down. I feel a bit better now, but the pain is still lingering behind my eyes. I don't suffer from migraine or anything like that, so I wonder if this could be eye strain? Would that make me feel sick? Who knows, eh?

Anyway, here are the others I did today.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Back at it

Hospital went well and the wounded soldier is now back at work feeling much brighter. I got back home just before lunch and have been slogging away ever since, trying to catch up on missed time.

The books I prepped yesterday are now finished, two gorgeous little pumpkin themed ones with lined pages. I don't care if nobody else in the world likes these, they've been an absolute joy to work on. I squee over pumpkins. Always.

They're in my shop here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Just by way of a quick update

Not much internet presence from me today I'm afraid. The house of illness has taken over for a little while.

Little work done, but I have managed to do some prep on a few books and further my work on the knitted/felted bag. Regarding the latter, I followed the instructions that came with the wool, but the felting wasn't adequate. It said to wash at 40 degrees and it would be felted, but it most certainly was not. Such lies. So I decided to go for it and put it in boiling water. That helped a bit. I've read loads of tutorials on felting knitted pieces, some saying to tumble dry, many saying not to. Who do you listen to? I carried on a bit doing boiling then cold water, but it was slow going getting any changes. Eventually I lost patience and bunged it in the drier. Bingo! We suddenly got that promised 40% shrinkage and hey presto, a thoroughly felted bag!

So now it's ready for the next stages of a lining and clasp and some embellishment. I'm sure many readers are on the edge of their seats with excitement by now, so here's a picture of the current stage.

We have hospital in the morning. I'll be offering moral support when the icky bandages come off and generally hanging round trying to be helpful. Fingers crossed that it's marginally more pleasant for my poor geek boy than it was yesterday.