Shouts & Whispers – drawing to please myself

I haven’t been here for a while and I’m not sure if this will become a long narrative. I’m a bit high on nail varnish fumes for reasons which will become clear if you read until the end. (I often know the punchline not how I’m going to get there).

One evening during the first Lockdown, whilst I was moving mentally from day to evening state, (I was still mostly living from bed with acute Covid symptoms at that point), I decided to draw. I have been frustrated for a lot of my life by my inability to draw. Spontaneously that evening (and before I knew about Grayson’s art club), I started the Can’t Draw Art Club (membership rules obvious, membership numbers 1). I drew for pleasure and with patience for myself. The result was unexpectedly pleasing and I did it again. And again. Not all experiments were as pleasing.

I did set myself – as I do with everything – the task of cataloguing, sharing, doing this regularly etc. I knew I wouldn’t and I didn’t. I knew I wouldn’t write a novel, a PhD do my taxes or grow my hair long in Lockdown either. My ADHD brain hatches a 1000 plans weekly, so Lockdown was always going to be a bit tricky for me. In some ways grieving and having Covid probably helped anchor me.

Yesterday, I was moved to draw some more, whilst listening to some stuff I needed to pay attention to. I’ve been drawing and rough crude crocheting, weaving with old sheets, collaging photos from a relative without progeny (like me), and messing about with watercolour paints since that random drawing event last Spring. On and off. Whenever I wanted to. The weaving – mostly the ripping of the sheets – was too taxing on my arms to be honest, so it’ll be a while before I go back to that, but at least the linen cupboard is easier to deal with now.

Today I wanted to look back at what I’ve drawn – today has also to be a day where I don’t do anything – and I find it so hard not to do things unless I’m asleep (and my career as a sleepwalker shows not even then). So I catalogued this second set of pictures …. I forgot to mention that all the materials I’ve been using are found or scavenged. And these books I”m drawing in, are / were my mother’s. I found them after she died but didn’t get round to using them until after my Father had died and we somehow (who knows how … as both my sister and I have Long Covid) cleared my father’s house last year.

Yes I do feel a connection to my mother using her materials – thanks also to someone I met at another funeral of a family friend (before Lockdown when you could still gather to remember people) who told me she missed my mother at their art classes because she was so encouraging. I can just imagine my mother disparaging or down playing her own works (cf Ria in butterflies on food – and meet my Mum) But you were *quite* good actually, Mum, I wish you’d shown me. And equally the excellent and kind coach that she could be – I can hear her finding positives in her friends’ endeavours and maybe mine too – not that she’d understand or agree with all the impetus behind them.

So I’m into the second book of my mother’s – what I find surprising here is that she spent the money on herself to buy the materials she wanted. (Or maybe not – she’d buy a good racquet or clubs to play the sport she was so good at. Maybe she realised she needed the right tools to enjoy her new hobby.) And I don’t think I ever would have done this for myself – would never have given myself as a non-drawer the permission to be so extravagant – so it’s a huge present she’s given me… – materials to try and fail with, and then fail again better, and then decide what to invest in for myself.

Lockdown/Covid compelled me and gave me the time to find new ways to express myself and ask all the questions I want to ask of myself and world creatively. Photographing the second book today, I realised as a friend said that I had to move on from the Can’t Draw Club and as I constantly urge women to take up the space in the world, I’m allowing myself to move into a space called – Drawing to Please Myself. And I’m only sharing this because if it encourage another silent member of another version of the Can’t Draw Art Club to get going… that’ll be very much in the spirit of my mother too…

And one of the reasons I’m so bad at all these incredible arts and crafts is that the so-called feminist (but actually basically internalised misogyny was the over-riding value we picked up) education I received, encouraged me to think of these things as inferior because they were a women’s domain, not worthy of serious thought or attention as art or as a leisure activity, if I wanted to succeed in a man’s world. And at the same time I received the message that because I wasn’t any good at stitching, knitting or drawing I wasn’t very good at being a girl (but that’s ok because being a girl is a bit rubbish anyway… )and so the whirligig of misogny runs. 

So now I am consciously choosing to do these things with all the care and attention I can muster for them – as I would in theatre – but not worrying about being “Good” at it. I don’t have the years left or the day to day energy, to backfill what I’m missing, but I can put the ideas, the story making, the language and the intersectional listening and intellectual curiosity that I have into them. So that’s what this is… giving myself permission to create and not hide it in a cupboard because the Sisters would make me unpick it or the gatekeepers will tell me it isn’t art, it’s craft. 

All the pictures are pastel on heavy black paper except the cover page which is £1shop nail varnish on black card.

One thought on “Shouts & Whispers – drawing to please myself

  1. What a great thing to have explored about yourself. I had the same attitudes to acquiring the classic ‘women’s accomplishments’. Have made some progress with the arts side over the years but I don’t think I’ll ever get to crochet and knitting.

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