Its time I posted these thoughts.
I started writing this in June – and for some reason wasn’t sure about sharing. But its time now…
In the last few weeks of last year I went to a short series of art classes, deliberately choosing the option that would challenge me the most, drawing and painting.
This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never felt capable. Part of the problem is that I’d never learnt how. I’ve had a shocking tendency to think that if I can’t just naturally know how to do something straight away, then I’ll dismiss it by saying its not for me. (I know that this must be some form of self protection – but let’s not go there now…). And even when I have discovered something I’m good at, I haven’t kept working at it. Persevering hasn’t been a strength. Writing is probably the only thing I’ve really stuck at.
So – these art classes, about seven sessions – following the guidance of the tutor, his techniques, his encouragement, and sometimes, his direct acts of correction and teaching – it was a revelation.
I discovered I could draw – from a photo at least. I’m still working up to drawing from life.
So – the first session began with the instruction to try to draw the person sitting opposite. This is what I thought was a reasonable effort:
What was I thinking?
Then later that session, following the guidance of the tutor, and working from a photograph, I managed this:
And then the following weekend I did this drawing at home: (from a photo of Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen).
I was learning to look – learning to see.
During the next few sessions we explored different media and techniques, mixing colours, and I discovered the joy of painting with oil.
My elderly cat Frida died towards the end of the sessions. A week or so later, I went to the next class, and tried to engage with a couple of the photos provided as prompts for painting, but it felt as if it was forced, almost as if there was a rhythm I could sense but not connect with. So I restarted using my own photo of my girl – and if there is a “flow” then I fell deeply into it.
I didn’t quite realise what I was doing until I heard a couple of “ooh”s and “aah”s from behind me. I stepped away and walked across the room – turning back – it was as if Frida was shining through the darkness. “Ghostly” was a word one or two others used.
I remember feeling quite spooked, quite stunned that I’d come close to her likeness, and that it had such an eerie quality. I was happy – but also in quite a strange state of mind – floating. To be honest, not really in a very focused state to start the 40 minute drive home. A near miss at a round-about shocked me into paying attention, and made me realise what a strange state I was in.
Can animals come through to us?
Can we channel their energy?
Was the thin veil still open, so I was in tune with her essence?
Did she come through to me, gifting me with an ability to see and create that I longed for but hadn’t known til now?
That’s how it felt. As if she had been present – and it wasn’t a “cat” presence. It was an energy, a pressure, a transference. As if there was more to her than I had realised when she was in cat form. And I haven’t stopped, I’ve kept working.
We got another cat. A sweet, nervy, anxious creature. I painted him that summer.
This year, I started a painting of my friend’s dog. I wasn’t happy with the background, so I started another.
Just a few weeks ago I gave them both to her. And it felt good to release them into the world.
So – this is why there hasn’t been so much writing on here lately. This new passion has taken hold. And it feels like something I will persevere with. I know I’ll have days when I’ll feel as if its all rubbish and I should give up. But I’ve seen enough to know that this is something I can do – and I love it.
My goal – to keep learning – and to find a way to combine words and images – perhaps to have text as part of a painting.
Its going to keep me busy for a long time…