I've been wanting to write a little blog for a while, maybe about the great time I had drawing at Bradford Festival or Threadfest, Bradford Literature Festival or 154 rehearsals but it just didn't emerge and then this blog just popped out. It must have been simmering somewhere behind the scenes without me noticing.. Drawing may help me see and understand but often makes me question too.
Last night I couldn't sleep- the winds were in from Africa, or my usual early morning insomniac musings were aroused.
4.30am I moved downstairs to the front room where it's darker ( am usually in the attic with the massive un-curtained velux windows opening onto the sky. In my strange awakeness the Gas board came to mind. The Gas board have been digging on our street for at least the last month, not just digging I guess but drilling, sawing and JCB clunking but that's the bit I hear. They start early and I often think about how difficult it must be for the man across the road that works nights somewhere, supposedly returning home to sleep and having to re-invent the noise of a lullaby ( for some reason at this moment 'Under Milk wood ' pays a visit to my brain.) What about those on Ramadan, where 20 hours of daylight make any amount of sleep precious too? It suddenly occurred to me that my "seeing" of men in holes with huge coils of yellow pipes, hard hats and high viz has only been based on noise, or the inconvenience of car parking or asking for off cuts for children to play with at St Edmunds Nursery where I work one day a week. I have enjoyed some banter. I had delighted in introducing the Gas men to Kyle, the resident transvestite mannequin who greets you in our hallway as you open the front door.
The significance of all this is that I haven't seen what usually activates my interest and gets me reaching for my sketchbook or phone in order to 'trap" those moments by drawing.
The subject matter of my paintings is often people at work, either down holes , whether on "A road called Straight" in Damascus or a roundabout in Shipley or up a lamppost in Undercliffe, painting traffic lights in the city centre or mending a roof in Hull. Even so, it's not only that I use drawing in order to have notes I can possibly use for a painting later on , or just for existential reasons of trying to make some sense of the world but it does help me see. After all, if I hadn't drawn that man hole cover I'd never have noticed all those different man hole covers I have now seen!
I love , or thought I did, men down holes - what happened ? Why had I not seen the images, why hadn't they caught my attention? I , like many , constantly draw with my eyes, as I wander around, walking, driving, cycling- it may be a contributory factor to why I enjoy walking - on the constant lookout for " visual stories" or pleasing snippets to capture and take home- an avid collector ( some may say obsessive). Now at 4.30 am it pops into my head that I haven't seen anything on my street and now the act of noticing becomes self- conscious- if I draw now is that detrimental to the making of art with integrity? Some may say just bloody get on and do it but at times I find I write questions.
I'll get to it tomorrow
Oh no, wait- it's Sunday, that means no drilling, no big noise. No wake up calls
I'll get to it on Monday.
Its no longer dark but I may have opened my eyes a bit more. A long time ago I spent 3 months staying in the South American rain forest , where my brother was living at the time. He said that when " foreigners " first arrived the locals said that they arrived with their eyes completely shut. After maybe a few months in the forest one eye may start to open but they still may only see a sea of green, a mass of trees , cacophonies of sound. If the foreigners were lucky and they worked hard ( or maybe relaxed!) then after a considerable amount of time one eye may completely open and they may start to see the most poisonous creature around - a centimetre big frog - one touch means death . Or start to see the hummingbirds nest hanging in front of you. It can take years of looking to see.
on the other hand preconceptions can also stop you seeing
" If you know before you look, you can't see for knowing" Terry Frost
I'll either look at the gas men in holes on Monday, I'll definitely see them differently but I may just carry on with the drawings of the shrouded bodies that seemed to have absorbed me recently.......