Creativity helps

I’ll skip the details but Tony wasn’t great today. He was home for a bit while I was working from home, so I could attend a bunch of local meetings, but I ended up taking him back because he said he felt “absolutely dreadful”. The rest home staff said they’d call me if he got worse.

I felt we’d had far worse days at home but until now he’s been remarkably well in their care so think they got a surprise. As I said to one staff member, he was assessed as needing rest home care for good reason! He’s feeling and looking better now but hasn’t really eaten anything today.

It was an unsettling day, so after dinner I grabbed the new art journal I’ve started and made a bunch of backgrounds. The thing about creating backgrounds is there’s no real thought involved. I grab 3 sprays to lay down some colour, add more colour through a stencil or two, splashes or drips of water to activate the sprays and maybe some dark splatter. It’s about getting my hands busy and distracting my mind. I find it soothing – I believe art is good for the soul (but not so good for the colour of my hands!)

Back to the dark side

Tim Holtz unveiled the latest colour is his Distress line today, Prize Ribbon. Love it! Watching the reveal video, with all the makes, reminded me how much I enjoy using Tim’s products. I’ve been very focussed on the Dylusions and Dina Wakley range for a while now.

Tony was home for the day from the rest home and had brought his Paint by Numbers with him, so I grabbed a fresh journal and a pile of Distress Oxides sprays and Distress paint. I made a stack of backgrounds, then went back and added splatter with Distress Ink, Distress paint and DWM white gloss spray.

Once that had all dried I hauled out Tim’s paper dolls, the new wallpaper range, quote stickers and other bits from his range, plus some paper dolls I’d made recently inspired by Niamh Baly on YouTube. The paper dolls used Tim’s etching heads as a starting point.

Tim Holtz often mentions the dark side … referring to grunge and using browns in your art, rather than bright and cheerful. Although I didn’t go fully to the dark side, I used Walnut Stain, Black Soot, and Ground Espresso on every layout.

It was fun to do something different, and break out some old favourite supplies – I’ll be sure not to neglect the, for so long from now on.

Low tack tape is magic!

I often use low tack tape around the edges of Fabriano Mixed Media paper then tape it into quarters. I work across the four quadrants as though it’s one sheet, starting with pencil marks, collage, and paint.

If I work towards a finished image too quickly the work feels stiff and boring. That happened today so I grabbed some Dina Wakley acrylic gloss spray and put puddles onto the sheets of paper, moving it around with a brush or just tipping the sheet.

I lost my grip on the bottle and poured quite a lot of Tangerine onto one sheet. Eek! I tipped it around a bit, then used a paper towel to mop some up. I thought it was probably a goner, and would end up being cut into pieces for collage.

But there’s something magic about clean white edges; works that seem blah can suddenly look amazing. I pulled the tape of the 5 large sheets tonight and – go figure – the one with the Tangerine spill is stunning.

In the photos, the one with the mauve tape still in place is a truer colour, the second is done on my scanner which doesn’t capture colour well.

A stack of journals

I decided to have a quick count of how many journals I’m using at the moment. It was more than I expected! I’ve got 10 journals on the go, but each one serves a specific purpose.

I’ve got a weekly diary journal. A small journal we’re recording Tony’s journey in. A 6×6 heavy Kraft journal I’m using to explore colour combinations; there’s something lovely happens to colours when you leave some Kraft showing.

A huge Dina Wakley journal that has 3 different types of paper – I bought that size by accident. A small Dylusions one I’m doing this year’s Creative Jump Start in; CJS2021 was in January and February but with Tony’s health I’m doing it slowly this year.

I’ve always got a basic Dylusions and Dina Wakley journal on the go because they are where I play just for the fun of it, but also where I “download my head”.

If you can’t say it

What cannot be said will be wept. Attributed to Sappho.

If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint. Edward Hopper.

Every work of art stems from a wound in the soul of the artist. Ted Hughes.

These quotes speak to me to my soul. I paint because it’s good for me and because I can say in my art journals the things I have no words for – or the words I can’t speak. Words are tricky things for me. I can talk a good talk (to quote Shane Koyczan) but there are topics I can’t verbalise on, and words I just can’t say. A lot of addicts are the same; it’s our old foe, shame!

I read poetry, and sometimes use it in my art. Of course what we take from poetry is subjective too. What I read and feel, and what someone else takes from it might be quite different.

It’s the same with art, and journal pages. The meaning might be clear to me – or not – but it’s up to the viewer to find their own meaning in it. Even when the meaning is unclear, making art and sharing it is always an act of putting your soul on display. And, for some of us anyway, our pain…

At the Legato Exhibition in Italy, 2010, with the NZ Ambassador.

Lean in

A few years ago I read “Lean in” by Sheryl Sandberg , Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. I don’t agree with everything in the book, but the concept of leaning in has its uses. Last night I wrote about my struggle to set a new routine.

Today I’ve realised I can ‘lean in’ to the lack of routine, the early nights and so on. It’s not something I need to fix for now.

I visited Tony after work but he wasn’t feeling well. At 6.30 he said I needed to go home and cook my dinner, his way of saying he’s had enough. I reheated last night’s leftovers and cleaned up, then headed for my art desk.

I’ve had a good play with paper and paint, but have still found myself in bed at 8.30. And it’s ok. I need to just lean in and do this. I also need to just sit with the “you should be busy” discomfort it causes me, because that desire for constant busyness is common in addicts. Here’s what I’ve been creating.

I’m not quite ready

Since Tony went into the home I’ve been going to bed early quite often. Before, I’d go to bed about 10-10.30 but often I’m tucked up with the iPad, magazine, writing paper and a pen by 8.30. I’m not sleeping well though, waking in the night, probably out of habit from years of caregiving.

I’ve said to a couple of people today that I need to just stay up, no matter how I feel or how cold it is, and get back to my usual routine. Hopefully doing more and being properly tired will help me sleep better.

But you know what? I’m not ready for this to be normal. There’s a new normal ahead of me, but that’s not here yet either. I’m going to cut myself some slack and slide off to bed if I want to. The day will come when my old routine feels ok again, but today isn’t that day.

Opinions

I’ve been reading some pieces on Twitter about politics, TERFs, the harm the Catholic Church has done over many decades / centuries, and the ocean being on fire in Mexico.

I love Twitter; it’s a great professional network that I value. It’s also the place where I get most of my personal support. I’m much less honest on FB, for a number of reasons.

But sweet baby cheezus there are some asshats out there. I worked with a woman once who I felt, if you fell face first in a puddle, would put her foot on your neck to make sure you drowned. Turns out, she’s not a one-off.

It amazes me how little compassion and empathy is out there. It’s incredibly sad. A lot of the time I speak up against the shit opinions, especially around disability and the transgender community. Sometimes I let it go because I don’t have the energy. I think if we can speak up, we should, otherwise the haters win.

Baby steps

I said earlier this week I was making changes because life felt shitty. I’m now coming home from work, closing up the house and putting the heater on in my office, getting changed, leaving a light on – then going to see Tony. That way I don’t come home to a totally cold, dark house.

Today I used some FlyBuys points to get a small slow cooker. I can prep containers of meat, veg and sauce at the weekend. On a weekday morning throw one in the slow cooker as I leave for work and when I get home from visiting Tony there’ll be hot food ready for me. It’ll still make two or three night’s food, but that suits me fine.

Tonight I took some photos up to put on Tony’s wall, at his request. They made him tearful, but that’s ok. Marlow, the home’s cat, came in through his ranch slider and let Tony pick her up. She’s a Ragdoll but not very cuddly!