Monday, 15 April 2013


It has been suggested to me that I utter an affirmation each morning on waking, in an attempt to quell the self critical voice that leads me to stifle ideas before ever giving birth to them, causes me to wage destruction upon the works that do slip past my censorious gaze to be born, and stays my drawing hand. I am led to consider the words I should choose.  I cannot yet proclaim " I am an artist", or " I am a writer". Would " I can write", meet the case, or " I can draw", the emphasis being very much placed on the positive can, or should I attempt a more profound declaration, one which prefigures the above, and affirms that which depressive thinking renders almost impossible, " I am worthy" or  perhaps, "I do deserve to live?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

the scent of daffodils

In the dim brown quiet of November, I plant close on three hundred daffodil bulbs in the long flowerbeds of my mother's front garden, sinking the point of the trowel deep into the stubborn, flinty soil, placing each paper jacketed bulb carefully into a funnel of damp earth at trowel's depth, trying for the engineer's neatness with which my father  had always planted them, yet straying eccentrically from the mathematical regularity which he attained.

I remember my father, crouched over the  chill ground as I crouch now, handling the plump, dry, rustling bulbs tenderly, working with a rhythm acquired over a life time of planting bulbs, bright annuals, fragrant wallflowers, elegant foxgloves, reassuringly steady. It is only when he stands, pausing from his labours, that one recognises the weariness of old age, the reluctance of his limbs to perform the task he has set for them, and only then that a shaft of disquiet penetrates one's mind, hitherto lulled into security by the easy cadence of his actions.

I find that I am suddenly blinded by the tears called forth by my remembrance, scalding tears  that fall upon my hands, and cause me to cease in my endeavour, overwhelmed by an intensity of grief, muddied, chilled, exhausted.

Months later, the daffodils stand tall and brilliant in the long flowerbeds, legions of golden trumpeters proclaiming the arrival of the yellow season in all it's cool glory.When I come again to visit, my mother fills a vase with them, and places it in my room, where at night their cold, honeyed scent  perfumes the air, recalls to mind the image of my father, meticulous, stoop shouldered  over the dank, leaf littered soil of Autumn, entrusting the delicate globes of the bulbs to the darkness below ground, confident that with theearth's turning their nascent brilliance would come as a benediction and a vital affirmation of the cycle by which we all are bound.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

self punishment

I have wielded the cudgel of self punishment to such effect that my spirit cowers as a stricken animal, waiting in terror for the next blow.

How to recover from such an assault? How to be gentle with oneself?

It is difficult to undertake the endeavour of beginning to make drawings again, when, owing to lack of practise, the first results will, almost certainly, fall far short of my hopes and desires. Because of this, I am liable to punish myself in such a manner, that approaching the task will be made yet more difficult. I must find a way of allowing myself to make mistakes, and , most importantly, to recover from them; not to perceive myself as an unmitigated failure just because one, two, or several drawings fail. It is unrealistic to suppose that the first drawing attempted after three years of abstinence, will be successful, and it is, I realise, inappropriate to punish myself as cruelly as is my wont on the occasion of failure. I need instead to understand and accept that failure is a necessary and inevitable factor in one's learning. I have to learn how to draw all over again. After all, when I first began to make drawings of clouds, some nine years ago, I had to learn how to tease the graphite powder into the shape I envisioned before smoothing it carefully into the surface of the paper, allowing for the play of chance, and adapting my methods accordingly. In the course of my work, many drawings were discarded, or later destroyed; I seem to have to produce much dross for one good piece. But I did not punish myself for my mistakes; self punishment is a feature of my behaviour that I have acquired since falling prey to depression and anxiety, and which I recognise as a pattern recurring with each episode of illness.

Beginning to draw again, with the weight of unsuccessful drawings hanging heavy on my mind, and the likelihood of failure in the future, is almost impossible. It appears to me to be a part of my being, of my personality, to be scouringly self critical, under which regime of condemmnation, experimentation, discovery and pleasure, all inseparable components of the practice of making art, will remain unobtainable until I find a way to be at peace with myself.