Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hear, hear!

A successful visit to Banbury this morning. My nearest hearing aid clinic is at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. I have loads of choice about when I can go - as long as it is between 10am and 12.15pm on a Tuesday! Anyway, I went, and it was very promising. The nice audiologist took a putty imprint of my right ear cavity in preparation for my second hearing aid. She also replaced the tubing in my current aid, and showed me how to do it. Apparently I can get batteries and replacement tubing at any time from the main reception. Hurrah! I now just have to wait for an appointment to come through for the fitting of the second aid, which might be a few months. I just hope we stay here long enough to get that sorted.

I settled down to do more of the creative writing course. I'm now on chapter two, and am practising clusters and freewriting daily. Nothing useful so far, but I recognise what is happening i.e. I have to write rubbish for a few days to warm up, then occasionally something reasonable will pop out. I've now found the Haiku exercise, and have posted a couple on Writing me Down.

I've also done another illustrated journal page (this is becoming addictive.) I am starting to recognise that when I've got into a 'stuck' frame of mind, drawing can really help to 'release' it somehow. So when I got bored of writing, I went and did some drawing.

Art tomorrow. This week is much more fun than last :)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Flowing nicely today

I've been playing happily for most of the day today. I started with morning pages - 3 whole pages. This is progress. After a shower, I did some of my personal artwork. I 'completed' a painting which was an exercise from the Vicky Barber book, using gestures as its basis. I unwrapped my new plastacine modelling clay, and had a play with it. A flying figure formed under my fingers, like a ghost or an angel. Later, I'll create a papier mache model of it. Then I did another illustrated journal entry.

For the rest of the day, I've been working through weeks one and two of the A215 Creative Writing coursebook. I'm planning to post some extracts on Writing me Down. I've been for a stroll round the village, and taken my usual route up Mill Hill to get heart and lungs working. It's good to get out, surrounded by the smell of coal fires and the sound of rooks yak-yaking on the warm rooftops.

I'm enjoying writing again. It is calming. It puts me back in touch with myself.


I have now created several working spaces for myself. All of them involve spreading clutter around until I feel comfortable sitting in them. Hence I call them my 'nests'.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I made it

I'm worn out and gritty-eyed, but happy. The workshop that I ran over the last two days (and was rather apprehensive about) turned out to be extremely rewarding. There were fewer people than there should have been, which actually made it a managable group size, and they were all prepared to interact and get stuck in. As a result, I think they all got a lot out of it. It was a real pleasure to run it with them.

So what was I so worried about? I wish I could avoid getting stressed about these things.

Now I can turn my attention to the Creative Writing course. My tutor group is open, and I've popped in to say hello. I've still not posted on the main course site, as I'm afraid of spending any spare hours I've got trying to keep up with it instead of doing some writing. Which, incidentally, ground to a halt during the last week. No writing has been done apart from emails to careers queries.

We've just been to Banbury today and I've bought my favourite type of sketchbook (Daler Rowney A4 spiral bound hardback) so I can do some illustrated journalling. The good thing about having worked all last week is I've got next week off work as time-in-lieu. So I'm going to catch up with all my creative activities. Can't wait.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Scary week ahead

I'm not particularly looking forward to next week. I'm working my usual Monday and Tuesday (busy diary both days.) I'm at college on Wednesday (hurrah!) Then I'm at work again on Thursday and Friday to run a two-day workshop. It is a rather intensive one - two full days, juggling one-to-one appointments for everyone at the same time as running sessions. I am not at all sure how it will work out.

All I can say is that I am seriously looking forward to the weekend. It is a long time since I've had a full week, and working an extra day last week was tiring enough. I'm hopeful that February will be easier. And I want to get on with my writing course.

I've been freewriting again, and it is starting to come easier. I'm just doing tiny timed writings, ten minutes each. I will build up from this.

Today was a glorious day. We went for a walk with some local friends, and saw lambs. It is such a beautiful sound, the cry of a lamb. And yesterday, we heard great-tits (or coal tits?) making that 'cuckoo' sort of song that they seem to do only in spring. Beautiful.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fragments of the City

I have a project to do. In my art course we will be working all term on ‘fragments of the city’. The idea is to create an evocation of a city, which is experienced in a fragmented sort of way. We were briefed to do some homework over the Christmas break, and return prepared with a number of photographs of a city, and lots of ephemera – tickets, timetables etc.

As I didn’t go anywhere near a city, and didn’t want to make a special trip, I cheated and took photos of Darlington ‘City’. There is rather too much crumbling red brick and not enough glass-and-steel skyscrapers, but who cares? I also kept a lot of junk, mainly from our trip to Banbury, like ‘sale’ tickets and carrier bags. And I found some bits in my purse, like a ticket from going to the loo in Whitby :)

We did some contextual research of other artists, including Sarah Morris, Wyndham Lewis and Kurt Schwitters. You can see how they can evoke the idea of a city without being explicit.

We started last week by making a collage with our bits of junk. Those who arrived without a bag of rubbish were despatched to Bournville Green to find some litter. They arrived back empty-handed. It appears the Green is kept rather too tidy and clean. They resorted to the emergency box of newspaper and magazine scraps. Meanwhile, I was playing with the carrier bags. I started cutting out the logo, then decided that was not ‘fragmented’ enough. So I pulled at the plastic, tugging it out of shape and obscuring the logo. I stuck this lot down, making some interesting textures if nothing else. I started to arrange the other bits and pieces around it, trying to make the colours into a nice arrangement so it didn’t just look chaotic. I had grabbed some train timetables on my way through the station, so they went on, along with the rail route maps in their different colours. I then twisted more carrier bag into long strands and arranged this into a routemap type shape. My final collage was about an inch thick! It’s still at college, so I can’t photograph it.

This week, we played with the photos. We took copies of them so we could cut up the copies. The idea was to arrange them into a long strip, where one fragment follows on from the other to create a sort of film-strip, or story board. The aim is for the eye to try and read along the strip, rather than take it in as one picture. Our tutor compared this with the Parthenon Frieze (the Elgin Marbles), and discussed how pictures used to tell a story rather than be one framed ‘window’ onto a scene. Our brief was to create this sort of effect, but with fragmented images. “Take one fragment, and find another that leads on from it in some way,” he said. “It might be texture, tone, shape – something that leads the eye from one to the other.”

This was, and is, not easy. It is a fascinating exercise though, and I enjoy getting absorbed in looking at the images, making connections, and pasting them down.

So this is what we are doing in art. It seems very far removed from Betty Edwards or Danny Gregory ;)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Biting off more than I can chew?

I've just 'discovered' in my Open University Creative Writing course study pack a booklet with the assignments in. I received the course pack on the 6th January, and I've only just found this. There are so many booklets that I managed to miss it.

Having found it, I am now panicking. How on EARTH am I going to find time to study, write, develop and edit pieces, and then write a piece on how I went about it all?

This comes at the end of a day when I've been doing an extra day for work. I volunteered to design and deliver a career management session for an external organisation. At the time this was agreed, it was going to be a handful of extra days. It is already growing into a much bigger commitment. I shall never volunteer for extra work again. I debated with myself whether to take it on or not, and I really should have thought harder about it. Anyway, the damage is done now, so I'll just have to grin and bear it. It is reasonably interesting work, which is why I found it hard to turn down.

But I really DO want to concentrate on writing, and on developing my art. I want to do more drawing, and start an illustrated journal. I've got an art project to do (more on this later.) And I want to work out how I can run my own business - but that always gets the back seat.

If I could do anything I wanted, I would give up work, do an arts degree, then use art and writing in health and community contexts. But I just can't do it all! Anyway, doing a degree costs money (lots of money from this September). Hence the need to work.

I do like my job (mostly). But - I feel like it's holding me back from the real me somehow. It's the old me, hanging on. I'm struggling to hold the two identities together. It's funny, this business of managing identity.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Illustrated journalling

Inspired by Beth, and by Danny Gregory, I've had a go at an illustrated journal page. It is actually quite relaxing.

Believe it or not, that bird table is actually very well made. I've just managed to draw it as if it's been hammered together by a 7-year old.

Edit: I've hopefully increased the picture size if you click on it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Creative Outputs

I’ve been knitting again. Here is the hat I’ve just finished, using Colinette point five yarn. The colours are gorgeous; deep and vibrant blue, purple, fuchsia and green. I can’t wait to wear it – bring on the snow and frost!

Below are the little clay sculptures I made last week. I was doing an activity in the book Explore Yourself Through Art. In it, she invites you to play with a piece of clay and see what your hands make of it. I had no preconceived idea of what I would make, and these little figures popped out. What is quite strange is how the little one fits neatly into the larger one, which was not planned at all. I won’t go into likely psychological explanations here, but they are kind of cute in themselves I think. Wouldn’t fetch a fortune in an art gallery or anything, but good fun anyway.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Kool Kidz

This is where I've been this afternoon. Kool Kidz soft play area for Rick's Goddaughter's 3rd Birthday. Phew.

Was very relieved to get home, as we have a crack right across the bottom of the windscreen. I was praying for the last 30 miles or so.

Feeling rather frazzled and a bit drunk as I've drowned my sorrows in a whole 2 gin and tonics.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pondering ...

I'm just sitting down to write this after a day spent with some good friends of mine. We meet regularly to exchange news and share how we are getting on with our lives and ambitions. We are all from coaching backgrounds, and personal development is something we value.

Today, through talking with them, I had two realisations:

i) The thing that motivates me is doing something for someone else. Doing something for myself does not get me out of bed in the morning. This, I think, is one of the reasons I don't do as much artistic activity as I would like.

ii) I'm very good a visioning where I want to be, and setting goals for myself (and achieving them), but I'm not very good at enjoying the destination when I get there. Instead, I create more goals, more visions. So I've realised (again) that I need to learn how to enjoy each moment, living in the 'here-and-now'. Any creative activity is good at enabling me to do this.

Hmmm. So how do i) and ii) relate to each other then?

Perhaps I need to find people that I can do creative activity for. Somehow. Sigh.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I actually spent some time doing art today, and enjoyed myself enormously. Memo to self: do more!

I painted my little clay 'figures'. I may or may not post a picture, depending on how brave I feel.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I just can't believe it's 2006. It always takes me ages to get used to being in a different year.

We cycled up to Beacon Hill on Burton Dassett country park for midnight last night. It was a bit scary, given my bike light isn't really up to the job of showing me where the road is. Luckily no-one else was on the roads. We arrived to find that the car park was full, and someone had erected a marquee. People were gathered up the top, fireworks primed. Quite a party.

It was fun watching how people's watches are anything but synchronised. There must have been ten different versions of 'New Year' just on the hill top, with all the countdowns, shrieks and hugs happening minutes apart. Then all the bursts of light as fireworks went off for miles around us, all starting at different times. Great fun, and quite spectacular.

Happy New Year, and I hope 2006 brings you joy and peace, whereever you are.