I read recently about a study showing that smoggy days and poor quality city air adversely affect people with existing mental health conditions, triggering depression. It completely makes sense that our bodies and minds are connected, but I think it’s always amazing to see the evidence. Though we probably don’t need science to tell us sunshine and fresh air are human needs – they feel like a big drink for the soul.
Finally looking forward to Spring after a dark icy Winter, I’m lapping up the sun slanting through blinds, rainbows dancing against the wall and the light-dark flicker of bird wings flashing across the sky.
Earlier this week my two year old reminded me of the pleasure of jumping in and out of shadows, and of seeing yourself stretched enormous across the ground. Such magic, to play with sunshine.
We’ve outgrown the workroom and the children have outgrown the livingroom so the problem is how to make a new workroom so the old workroom can be a livingroom. A lovely problem to have (children and work both growing as they should), but it has got me thinking about the best places and spaces to work in: mental and emotional spaces being just as important as physical ones.
I spent a day last weekend in a smallish room at Out of the Blue in Leith, on a children’s picture book course run by Picture Hooks. Vivian French’s insights into picture book design and structure were so valuable, but I also enjoyed an afternoon of concentrated dummy book sketching in an atmosphere which completely took me back to art college studios. The quietness of lots of people problem-solving, the gossipy chatting, the slight anxiety about what everyone else in your soon-to-be-audience of contemporaries is creating that can somehow focus your energy into making something more you than usual.
Mostly when I’m alone in the old workroom (actually just the workroom as the new one doesn’t exist yet) I listen to podcasts (This American Life and Shortcuts are favourites) as a way of unfocusing and paying a bit less attention to what I’m doing. It’s an attempt to trick myself into freshness and a flow of line. It doesn’t always work.
Maybe I need conscious focus and the new workroom needs to be big enough to share.
I find it so hard to describe my work, at least when I don’t have anything in front of me to do a show and tell. The ideas and images that appeal to me just do; the ‘where does your inspiration come from?’ question is deceptively simple. Talking about a visual language needs pictures.
I suppose the images I look for, the ones in my head and the ones I make on paper are colourful, energetic, full of pattern, and I consciously hunt down movement, happiness, humour and things which are slightly strange or off balance. Someone I was talking to recently called my work ‘joyful’. I’ll take that.
One of my sisters has hung some of my work on the ‘happy wall’ in her home (a great idea I just might pinch!). I’d love to think of my visual language communicating happiness. Seeking a sense of joyfulness and bringing others joy is a proper purpose, right?
March winds are blowing, but slowly and surely green shoots are appearing and the world outside is starting to become technicolour again. There’s a fidgety freshness in the air. Our cat definitely has spring fever; dashing out into the wind to pounce on tiny insects before crashing forehead-first in through the catflap. Even the chickens have a spring in their step and and a perky look in their eyes.
I’ve been sketching frogs – these are inky black ones, but eventually they’ll be fresh green and yellow and emerald like the ones in my head.
Well I know it’s only half way through the first month of the new year, but I think it’s about time to see a seal happily and improbably balancing fish.
I’m not a sporty type – to the point that my toddler has a far sharper kick and better ball control skills than I’ve ever had. But there’s something about a summer of Olympics that gets me hooked. Human endeavour and personal achievement of course; but those gravity-defying dives! The superhumanly talented Chinese acrobats balancing on one hand – on someone else’s head – on another comrade’s little finger. The sparkly, hairsprayed gymnasts and their toe-pointing struts. And this year, all in Rio, where (as far as the highlights showed us) it’s all about the carnival. I’ve always liked a circus, but now my acrobatic imagery tanks are re-stocked. Here are the results…
I should be hanging up my own laundry, but this image of white flapping sheets and wonky washing poles has needed to get on to paper for a while.
I have an early memory of sitting low on the grass, watching washing being pegged up to dry and seeing the shifting, geometric forms dance and change above me. Later, we would run through and between the cold fresh sheets on the line, playing chase and catch with the sun and wind. Now I think there are few more satisfying (domestic) sights than a row of white sheets billowing out across the garden. I should probably go and make that happen.
Finally, the first really lovely, actually warm, day for what feels like months. Everything is glowing and basking in the sunlight, and the sky is that crisp, clear blue that washes the winter gloom from your bones.
Our chickens are taking dust baths and sunbathing. I guess it’s hard to smile when you have a beak, but they certainly look contented.
Raining again. But spring shoots are showing, and the garden is beginning to look very green and well-watered. Every cloud (and puddle) has a silver lining…
Here’s another dog taking his owner for a walk. Looks like a complicated business, dog walking.