Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mini March

 A new addition (bottom right - a variation of the Long Walk view) to my series of 10x10cm canvases

Book and knitting - beautiful colour combinations happening by chance

Lionel signing books at his reading (photo by Conor Gallagher)

March is here and almost gone again, and my focus is on reducing or managing stress, panic and anxiety and working my way through everything that needs to be done with zen-like calm. At least I am aspiring to the latter.

The only thing I have painted this month apart from the illustrations is a tiny 10x10 canvas, which was a commission. Now there is only one of the ten mini paintings left (the one on the left in the photo), so I am going to get more of those canvases and continue with these scenes, parallel to working on some big(ger) paintings. I have unwrapped the canvases and lined them up; it's a start...

I am also knitting tiny things and hoping the babies they are for won't have grown too big for them by the time they are finished.

We had a room full of children (and adults, and beautiful paintings on the wall - this was The Model, which has a great collection, including one of the most significant public collections of works by Jack B Yeats) for Lionel's reading for the Sligo Children's Book Festival. It was a lovely event and one of the few times a year the three of us who worked on the books (Lionel, Conor and I) get together. Lionel did a mixture of reading and storytelling, and the children got involved, answering his questions with impressive attention to detail.

There has also been a short trip to Germany for my cousin's wedding, a long weekend that flew by but simultaneously seemed to stretch out, due to its being so different from my normal routine. That's a micro example of how 2015 has felt so far - one week rolling into the next, all a blur, while at the same time so much has happened that I marvel how it all fit into these almost three months. From next week I'll be teaching on Saturdays again after a short break, so Sunday will be my only day off, and it shall be a day for day trips, to capture a bit of that feeling of time expanding and a proper (albeit mini) holiday.

Friday, March 6, 2015


 Light and rice

'You may not know that an artist is not as well equipped for everyday life as you probably are and I am.' Lucian Freud's mother defending him to a police officer (quoted in Breakfast with Lucian by Geordie Greig, FSG, New York 2013, p. 58)

This sentence describes how I feel most of the time. I don't mean that in an 'I'm-an-Artist-with-capital-A' kind of way. It may well be to do with being a HSP and an introvert, two characteristics that often go hand in hand with being artistic (yes, I am deliberately piling up all the labels here, though I should be careful with such labellling...). I can be socially awkward to an extreme; chores tend to overwhelm me if they involve the outside world, and plenty of time alone is as vital as oxygen for me. I still haven't mastered ending a conversation and moving along, and being faced with a huge selection of things to choose from makes me break out in a cold sweat. That's only scraping the surface, and in case anyone thinks I am drawing parallels to Freud, I am not - I may recognise myself in a few of his personality traits, but I certainly could do with a bit of his devil-may-care attitude.

Dealing with the small everyday things is bad enough. In hindsight I can look back at two weeks of worrying over something trivial that other people wouldn't lose sleep over (and have told me so repeatedly) and marvel at my overanxious mind, but then there are the big life things - and I know there will be more and more of them as I get older, more losses and illnesses, tragedies and crises -, and I can only hope that I will get better at dealing with life.

Then I worry about how all the overthinking and fear and panic manifesting as pain or tension in my stomach/heart/lungs/head has affected and will affect my health, and bang - there is more worrying to worry about. And on and on it goes.

And even though I have made a song and dance about how much more productive I am with my new wet palette, the truth is I haven't been painting or drawing for over a week. I haven't worked on the illustrations and I haven't done anything for my 2015 exhibitions. The kicks in the backside I have requested from John now just hurt. I get cranky when he sends me a not-so-gentle reminder (threatening to keep my favourite pair of socks he has borrowed if I haven't painted anything by midnight), replying "I haven't had time - life is just too much at the moment!". Cue a spiral of self-loathing, low energy, early nights because I am so tired, more self-loathing because I didn't stay up, low energy because I slept too much (that's a thing), followed by the thought that I am almost 32 and don't have much to show for the years since I finished college.

But then I look at people like Lisa Congdon, who only started out as an artist when she was my age, and that gives me hope. If I manage to put in the hard work and deal with all the other parts of my life a bit better so I'm not too exhausted to do said work, I'd be happy with a tiny fraction of the success she has.


Lionel will be reading from our book Jumbo Discovers Giraffeland  (a physical reminder that I have done a few things in the years since finishing college) at the Sligo Children's Book Festival this Sunday.