Big Black Drop Sheet 

13 Apr

 

Over the past month and a half depression has come over me like a big black drop sheet. Big black drop sheet is the way I described my depressions when I was first diagnosed with bipolar in 2004. This particular depression has surprised me, almost come out of nowhere but not: having to stop my meaningful plans, change tack, lie in bed for days, have insomnia, tolerate crying unexpectedly and uncontrollably. Depression has hit me again, and I thought I was an old hand at picking up the signs.

This time sadness, shame and self-hatred have been the most overwhelming emotions surrounding me. For someone so clearly capable to keep banging up against a crashing amount of self loathing has been hard to take. I cry like a little girl, so I’m told, and that is probably true. For the things that I am presently mourning for today are the very same things child-Nicky was attempting to deal with years ago. I know that this is not unusual, maybe something we are all faced with at some point.

I have bipolar II which means I have hypomanias and not manias (hypomanias are energy-based and not psychotic). You also have more depressions than ups.  With bipolar II if you track back there is usually a history of the depressions getting increasingly more severe with fewer and fewer hypomanias in between. Bipolar II is also not regular. There are no regular cycles. It can spring up on you at anytime. You can’t predict it, so it is therefore quite hard to manage.

Since my diagnosis, and the therapy that followed, I’ve gone about my life trying to emphasise the well parts of it, which can make you, and others, almost forget that you have an ongoing illness that sits behind your well periods. I’ve come to realise that this attitude isn’t necessarily healthy for me although it might seem like it should be. My capability and energy can unhelpfully mask what illness I have. Over the last 20 + years I have been regularly depressed after anything I have achieved: jobs, creative projects-you name it. Stress triggers my bipolar. It’s hard for me to consistently hold anything down for a length of time.  This is a bitter pill to swallow and face. This is further complicated by the fact my self-worth isn’t derived from what I do. It’s derived from how well I look after myself, and generally I do that pretty poorly as I tend to ‘become’ things when I do anything. All my self-care subtly vanishes as I flounder, sabotage and watch my self worth ebb away.

 

Brain

 

Out of what has happened to me lately I can see that the strategy of treating myself like I don’t have an illness, that I am a ‘well person’, doesn’t necessarily work for me despite its inherent positivity. To keep myself well and catch things early I have to have the fact I have bipolar right in front of me so I can catch things. This is important because symptoms can appear from out of nowhere, escalate and dig-in and before you know it I’m a ‘goner’. I forget that. Like in the summer last year, when all of The Nine Realms threads were coming together and I was very stressed and working 60 hour weeks. I started to change: started hitting myself and becoming very aggressive whilst still feeling full of energy and highly functioning. I became a different person for a while, which I came to understand in hindsight was me in a mixed state (where you are both depressed and energised at the same time). For about three weeks I was not myself, felt dreadful, but was fully able to work and was driven by my intention to follow through on every aspect of The Nine Realms. This state incremently and subtly crept up on me, and from that state the seeds of depression were sown.

I didn’t catch the change in my behaviour because we weren’t being vigilant enough. Maybe if we (and by we, I mean my mother and I) had been actively on the lookout for changes I might not be lying in bed right now. I’m not saying that I need to be treated with kid gloves or stopped from doing anything that might trigger me. No, I’m not saying that, but maybe a new strategy needs to be put in place. A few signs in my house need to be put up that remind me that it’s a good responsibility to manage my illness. That I have an illness, that despite being on medication, comes up and slaps me merrily on the rear. It’s not nice, it’s not pretty but it is the cold stone truth.

This depression is the first time I haven’t been comatose, which you would think would be a turn up for the books, but it doesn’t feel like that. The extensive period of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy  I had for 7 years has taught me that there is distance between myself and my thoughts. I know I am not my thoughts, and I also know how to challenge my thoughts. However, despite having this knowledge, because of my miswiring, it doesn’t stop me from feeling the negative emotions attached to them which then spirals me downwards. So I still get powerfully locked into the negative loops in my schemas (established, entrenched patterns of thinking). In this last week I have just started to use again the CBT techniques I was taught. I think the fact, that this time, I haven’t become my thoughts is what has saved me from becoming comatose. It’s lessened my feelings of helplessness. I have mind tools to deploy. My therapist (who was a specialist in persistent severe depression) taught me well.

This is the moment (you would think) I would be cracking open the champagne (if I drank), pulling the party poppers and celebrating the fact I have been given these tools, but I have found this half-processing state to be far worse than the familiar comatose depression state. In the comatose state you’re out of it at least, you’re not feeling anything other than awful; or you’re so out of it it doesn’t matter. In what I’m feeling now- this half-state- you feel so consciously cornered by your head and your schemas. You feel everything, and you are constantly batting off negative thought processes and delving into, and staying with, emotions. It’s tiring, all-consuming and scary (even if the process has the hidden positive of reminding you you can still feel). This strangely makes the thought of the comatose state more attractive. Tackling my negative thinking constantly is wearisome. Writing things down, charting why I feel what I’m feeling. It’s tiring, even though I do know in my heart of hearts it’s probably a healthy responsibility but……nevertheless. It just doesn’t feel like it. If I take on the new ‘I have bipolar’ strategy, I have a lifetime of charting and managing ahead of me, and sometimes (in all honesty) it feels like it would be better for it all to stop. These types of thoughts are the worst and still come back again and again.

It usually takes me a year to recover fully from a depression. Getting through this bit where my constant rumination and negative processing get in the way of me moving forward. However, I absolutely intend to put my ‘I have bipolar’ signs in the house so I don’t forget (even if it looks a bit bonkers). With a new strategy maybe I can catch my negative core beliefs and thoughts more quickly, treat myself more kindly and live a little bit more of an honest life that actually knowingly supports my vulnerability (which is something we all share). This might help prevent the big black drop sheet from dropping down so quickly in the future. It will come back but maybe the next time it might be a little bit more translucent.

 

Nicky

Tell your story walking

7 Dec

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For the last two weeks now I have been intending to post out a piece on The Festival of Ideas and ArtiPeeps’ future. It hasn’t materialised for a number of reasons,  primarily because I seem to have lost myself somewhere in all the swirl of ‘doing’ and plans for the future. There has been no space for any extraneous writing other than those required by funders. Upon exploration now it has become strikingly clear to me that during this year I seem to have foregone self-care for service, which ultimately (I know) can lead to no good. You don’t need to totally ring yourself dry, background your needs and story for the sake of your passion/vision/project. It’s easy to do but it isn’t health or well-being or sensible. If you do the act is probably rooted in something darker and often in personal history.

I know that my bi-polar doesn’t help the situation. Balance is hard to find when you’re permanently chemically imbalanced, and I’m so driven and generally enthusiastic that I forget that there is an underlying process going on that is triggered by stress and drives me from up to down: if there is an up there WILL be, guaranteed, a down (that is the way of bi-polar, I forget that).

I also have two very active and powerful schemas going on which skew my thinking: what I call my ‘I am responsible’ schema and my ‘Care for others’ schema. These are interwoven patterns of thinking, cognitive miswirings that I have to permanently handle. They are always triggered by ‘doing’ and/or creating and they complicate everything I do. They were powerfully triggered by The Nine Realms, and as this year has gone on I’ve had to manage them more and more. They are strong and nasty and can make me think I’m not good, make me hit myself, or take things away like self-care, meditation, gentleness, food or steadiness and replace it with cruelty, anxiety, sabotage and a level of self-detestation that is hard to understand when you think I would be feeling great about myself.

When I stopped cognitive behavioural therapy, even though I had come to understand my thinking errors profoundly, I knew these miswirings couldn’t be fixed. I was gently told that I just had to become an expert at managing them, and that each time I did it would get a little bit better. Inch work which accumulates. That each time I tried something new, like ArtiPeeps, or the BBC, or the theatre company, or the library, that I would have to face these schemas and ways of thinking again and again. I don’t think I was presumptuous enough to think that I would come through The Nine Realms psychologically unscathed, but I was and am, shocked at how quickly, despite the success of it and the clear benefit, my balance went, how quickly I chose to replace myself with ArtiPeeps and the greater good.

My self-esteem has never been connected to what I do, what I create. You might expect otherwise. My self-esteem has always been nurtured when I have truly felt I have taken care of myself, not sabotaged, not endured or stuck the shards in (again). An intrinsic feeling (consolidation) and not something externally manifested. This is why achieving things externally never lasts for me because by the time whatever I have decided to do has finished I’ve usually died somewhere along the line and am scrambling around in my mind for some resemblance of myself. Why have I done this again?!

It took much longer to tie up The Nine Realms than I expected. There was the success of The Festival of Ideas (which came as a delightful add-on afterwards) the wonderful coming together again, and then the sending out of the backer rewards (delivering) and the last payments of invoices, which only was completed today. Unexpected things cropped up too: I had to rejig The Nine Realms budget for The Arts Council only the week before last when all I wanted was for things to stop. After a year of regular 60 hr a week work patterns and driving myself towards this collective goal and celebration of collaboration, I just wanted it all to stop. How can it be that the event happened 11-15 September and I’m still putting the project to rest at the end of November? Every ounce of me had been given- willingly, and I had to draw on a sense of energy and a positive psychology that wasn’t there anymore. My best self.

I had to use every reserve to complete what needed to be done, whilst my feelings of badness started to become huge (that’s the miswiring and the stress). What should have elicited feelings of joy and pride left me more in contact with my ongoing psychological vulnerability (my grin can hide a lot).

Physically I have had difficulties this year: I now have to walk with a stick a lot of the time, and I am losing mobility in three of my fingers in my left hand. I have cerebral palsy and I think in middle age, things are catching up on me. I soon won’t be able to grip much with my left hand and without my leg brace I walk like a geriatric lobster. I’m having to learn a new way of being, come to terms with the restrictions of my new physicality. When I caught glimpses of myself in The Nine Realms event photos, I was quite shocked at my own vulnerability- how stiff and ungainly I’d become. This physical shift has been going on at the same time as ArtiPeeps’ growth. It’s ironic.

For the past couple of weeks I have banished myself to my bed- to restore my body and mind and to try and reinstate some balance in my life. Every single self-care and physical practice that had been so carefully created over the previous three years vanished during this year. I took it all away myself ,and replaced self-care and myself with ArtiPeeps. It was a willing, wonderful giving which I couldn’t control, but equally it can’t continue because it’s unsustainable, doesn’t allow me to create and nurture my own story, and to give my true best to ArtiPeeps. How can well-being be a fundamental to ArtiPeeps if I don’t practice it myself? It doesn’t set a good example and serves ‘old Nicky’-beliefs that, in reality, are long gone. This is what humanitarian Zainab Salbi said about the nature of giving fully:

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I don’t want to be that rung out towel. I want to continue to grow ArtiPeeps into something wonderful, and to celebrate the creativity and talents of everyone who is involved. I want to serve from a position of strength and (as much as possible) equanimity. Now, I just have to get the balance right and to keep on walking the best way I know how- with integrity, care and a quieter mind.

Addendum:

Here’s a profoundly valuable and insightful video by performance artist Marina Abramović which has further consolidated my belief  in the notion of challenge that I have recently embedded into ArtiPeeps’ new artistic statement

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As ever, thank you for your interest, and I shall endeavour to get a post out about the 3rd ArtiPeeps season of work shortly.

Nicky

P.S.  Deb Talan’s song “Tell Your Story Walking” was is inspired by “Motherless Brooklyn”, a novel by Jonathan Lethem

The Nine Realms Update #10: November

17 Nov

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Vikings Ahoy! 

Overview

I am pleased to say that I submitted The Nine Realms Arts Council evaluation form the week before last and all seems to have gone well. This will mean that on the 18th of November they will release the final grant payment to us which will allow us to pay our final invoice. So it’s all good! The whole evaluatory process is a very interesting and informative one. It’s fiddly but it makes you look at what you’ve done in an objective way whilst subjectively exploring your achievements and lessons learned. This year we’ve dramatically increased our audience reach, and created 193 new artistic products which wouldn’t have existed if The Nine Realms had not taken place and our overall audience benefit was approximately 92,000 (online and offline).

The remaining backer rewards for our Indiegogo campaign supporters are going out this week and then everything will be more-or-less tied up with The Nine Realms for this year. It will be on to planning the national tour for 2018/19 next year and a new season of work, plus becoming a charity. I shall post out on that shortly….

 

1. The Festival of Ideas

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The taster we put on at The Cambridge Festival of Ideas on the 24th of October went down very well. 34 people attended, and we set up the realm boards and art work around the room so everyone could get a sense of what the event at King’s Lynn was like. Apologies that there aren’t any more pictures with people in them we all ended up being so engaged with what we were doing there were no spare hands for any camera work.  Vikings Ieuan Edwards, Shirley Golden, Simon Beavis, Jim Mackintosh, Gill Offley, Heather Burns, Karin Heyer and our Norse Expert Caitlin Ellis came along. Caitlin giving overviews of the realms where necessary.

We did mini realm tours around particular realms, the poets and artists talking about their work as we went along and we finished off with a Q & A with the help of the Viking Helmet of questions (each creative could pick out a random question and answer it) which worked out very well.

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Viking hat

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We also set up two computers with our Yggdrassil Minecraft game on them; and, like in King’s Lynn, the children attending became very absorbed. One young man even began to use the planks he found within the realms to build his own Viking boat within the game! Amazing!

2.  The Nine Realms in an Image Story (Photobucket):

In order to give the Arts Council a real sense of the breadth of The Nine Realms I created an image story of the whole event- encompassing as many elements as I could. I think the quality of what we produced and benefit artistically and educationally is apparent.

Click on the link and it will take you to the photo story.

http://s1028.photobucket.com/user/artipeeps/embed/The%20Nine%20Realms%20in%20Photos/story

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3. Artistic Statement and Future Intention

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Significantly, out of The Nine Realms has come a solid clarfication of ArtiPeeps’ intentions in relation to its large-scale projects and its purpose as an organisation.  This now gives us a very clear focus and consolidates how we approach the work we do in the future. Here’s what I outlined in the mini-self evaluation for the Arts Council:

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‘A. ARTISTIC ASPIRATIONS AND INTENT:

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1. ARTISTIC STATEMENT:

This is the statement that appeared on one of our scroll-down banners outlining what ArtiPeeps does:

Driving all our work is a belief in creative potential and in the power of the combined arts to transform perceptions and facilitate enjoyment in the arts. Through our projects we hope to go into schools and communities to:

Engage the imagination and senses.
Promote interaction, participation, collaboration and creativity.
Move people from attendance to ‘active participation’.
Challenge and shake up perceptions of art and culture which create barriers to engagement
Give creatives the opportunity to make a difference in schools and communities through large-scale educational projects.

We also believe that creativity, in all its various guises, plays a significant part in maintaining our well-being. This specific interest is made manifest by our mental health themed initiatives.

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All attendees at The Nine Realms respond well to our new combination of art forms and validated our use of it in our projects. This positive response has confirmed our belief that the particular framework we have created is worth pursuing and developing. We want to use the combined arts imaginatively to change and challenge, breakdown boundaries, to subtly educate, and to nurture creativity. This intent was positively accepted in King’s Lynn and Norwich, and this realisation means we can go forward into future projects with a very clear intent, which we can now express and share through our new artistic statement.

We want to create projects which immediately facilitate interaction and participation, shaking up perceptions of what art is, who it is for, and how people ‘should’ think about it or behave in relation to it. Engaging emotions and minds- in an active and stimulating manner through ‘Experiences’, challenging notions of what an ‘Exhibition’ is.

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B. MOVING AWAY FROM GALLERY SPACES:

This idea of ‘challenging’ and ‘shaking up’ has fuelled our intention to move our projects away from obvious gallery spaces and either into places that are within the community, or unusually placed: unusual spaces where art is not usually found.

We want to take our projects into communities rather than communities coming to us and viewing them. This notion was also inspired by the response of teachers to our work who all wanted us to ‘go into’ schools with tasters of our projects. This ‘going into’ approach will not exclude us using institutions such as libraries and other artistic spaces, like The Forum. Of course, we will not totally exclude the idea of gallery spaces either but our emphasis will be on ‘going into communities’. Our aim will be that the artwork and writing and music and sculpture etc will be presented in an innovative way- not necessarily hung in the expected manner, but in a manner that will promote exploration and first-hand contact with the artistic and writerly products of our projects. This may also extend to performance. The same showcasing possibilities for participants will be there, as will the possibility to buy work. We will still provide high quality showcasing opportunities for participants but the emphasis will be on the fact that the creatives involved in our projects will be ‘making a difference’, contributing to something wider beyond their creativity, which affects young peoples’ education or peoples’ imaginations. This can augment creatives other artistic pursuits as well as giving them a sense of connection, new opportunities and collaboration through the large-scales.

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C. ‘GOING INTO’ SCHOOLS AND PLACES. CLASSWORKS:

Inspired by the ‘going into’ suggestion of the schools it is ArtiPeeps’ plan to form a small team of participants who will go into schools after the larger event and work creatively with pupils. In the near future The Management Committee and director will be exploring the finer details of how this would work and who would like to get involved. Transformations and The Nine Realms creatives will be asked  and this will be (in consultation with schools).
We have also created a brand: ‘Classworks’ , which will have under it our curricular projects, as well as our Schools’ books, Minecraft and Educational Packs. With our full educational, combined arts template in place, what will be in our Educational Packs for each project can now be addressed and explored. With the view in mind that these are ready for a national tour in 2018/2019. Branding our educational work as ‘Classworks’ will also help with our professionalisation.

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Having this very clear directive will allow us to create imaginative, challenging projects in the future and that feels very inspiring and a testament to the talents and creativity of all the people involved in The Nine Realms.

 

Watch out for another post shortly on what will be happening with ArtiPeeps in 2016. As ever, thank you so much for your interest.

Nicky

The Seasons of Love: autumn by Shirley Golden (FreeSpace #4)

11 Nov

 

Universe

 

The Seasons of Love: autumn

 

Foundations

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I turn the page, you stay put. It’s okay. We can do that, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be together; I tell myself this as a mantra when I sense that shift in either of us.

I like to drink until my head fizzes. Not every night, at the weekends. I like to discuss human nature, the world, the universe, its stars, galaxies, time-travel, or the possibility of other selves. You call it, talking about the “ins and outs of a rat’s arse”.

You like to earn money, and relish the challenge of persuading people to part with notes or coins. You start campaign groups after watching political debates. You separate out glass bottles from empty tins for the bin men, and remember more about the reality of everything. I admire your efficiency: you won’t waste a Joule on matter you can’t influence.

At night, we curl up and wait for the cat to come home. I balance a novel in one hand and rub your shoulders with the other. You watch documentaries until you can no longer keep your eyes open. You’re ready for bed before me. We’ve given up on compromise. Compromise means you get crabby and I’m wide awake at 3am.

I wait in the yard for the cat. I scan the night sky by the back door and try to count the stars. The cat makes his demands: supper and sofa. I rub my arms in the cold-spiked air, and am ready to return to the house.

I carry my novel and glasses upstairs, in case I wake before the alarm. I’m thinking of the duvet and its comfort. I imagine the feel of you shifting towards me, your half-conscious mutter that you love me, your breath hot on my neck, your arms tightening around my waist.

And like leaves in autumn everything falls away, leaving our skeletons in readiness for the next spell when light and warmth trigger buds to unfurl.

 

The Seasons of Love: autumn is the 4th of 4 short pieces by Shirley focusing on the theme of seasonal love.

You can find winter here, spring here and summer here.

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Some of Shirley Golden’s stories have found homes in the pages or websites of various magazines and anthologies; a few have won prizes. She lives in Hampshire where she is door-person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers, and can sometimes be found on Twitter when she should be writing. She likes to bake jumbo chocolate and pecan cookies. www.shirleygolden.net @shirl1001

Shirley’s debut novel, ‘Skyjacked’ is to be published by Urbane Publishing  in 2016.

Big thanks goes to Shirley for sharing her Seasons of Love series with us!

 

 

 

The Nine Realms Art Workshop Special

16 Oct

 

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We ran two workshops in The Gallery at Hanse House on the 4th day of The Nine Realms: a Norse-themed poetry workshop in the morning, and an art workshop experimenting with the printing technique of monotypes in the afternoon.  Both workshops were facilitated by creatives involved in The Nine Realms project: poet, Rebecca Audra Smith and artist, Robert Fitzmaurice.

What you’ll find below is the second of of the 2 post specials on the workshops. This week we’re focusing on the art workshop with a written exploration of the whole workshop process by Robert Fitzmaurice. 

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Background

As one of the participating artists in The Nine Realms project I was pleased to be invited to deliver a monotype workshop. It was planned to take place on the last day of the Hanse House event and be offered free to any members of the public who wished to attend. Norse mythology is full of bold words and images, so following on from a poetry workshop in the morning which had been held by Rebecca Audra, an afternoon of uninhibited image-making made perfect sense.

Most printmaking techniques rely upon a reusable matrix (e.g. an engraved, or etched plate), which can be repeatedly inked to produce a series of identical, or nearly identical, images. In contrast a monotype image derives from an unfixed ephemeral matrix (e.g. a sheet of glass or aluminium) on which the image to be printed is created and manipulated. Sometimes the monotype artist will get a second impression, termed a ghost print, which they then develop further with a variety of media. Degas is one such artist who adopted this approach.

Similarly in my own practice I have often turned to monotypes to unlock new motifs and generate new ideas that can be turned into paintings. Unlike other forms of printmaking the results come relatively quickly and quite often unexpectedly. I think this is the key thing about monotype, that one is liberated from those very rigorous processes normally associated with printmaking to focus purely upon image generation. In essence it is an act of unlocking.

Planning

I took the view that the surrounding Nine Realms imagery and texts could act as a spur, however it was to be each individual’s wellspring of imagination that I would aim to appeal. Since the focus would be on releasing imagery I decided to avoid coloured inks and limited the materials to a good quality water-based ink, rollers, acetate sheets to act as the matrices, and a variety of mark-making tools, including a variety of brushes, pens and sticks.

The workshop


On the day the workshop twelve people turned up. As it had originally been planned for eight people seating was somewhat tight, but fairly quickly one person decided they preferred to go and do something else, and so it was time to make a start.

By way of introduction I gave a quick overview of the monotype process and how it differs from other more rigorously procedural printmaking techniques. I really wanted to emphasise the liberating nature of monotype to ensure people felt free to enjoy themselves. To this end I cited Leonardo Da Vinci:

“Look at walls splashed with a number of stains, or stones of various mixed colours. If you have to invent some scene, you can see there resemblances to a number of landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, great plains, valleys and hills, in various ways. Also you can see various battles, and lively postures of strange figures, expressions on faces, costumes and an infinite number of things, which you can reduce to good integrated form. “

I felt this was very much in line with the Norse tendency to imbue the ‘meaningless’ of the natural world with symbols, especially with regard to seeing landscape as the figure writ large.

Perhaps my introduction went on a bit too long for some, but I got everyone’s attention again once I started demonstrating the basic principles and techniques and it wasn’t long before the floor surrounding us started to fill up with images. Forest forms, blackbirds, songbirds, dancing lines, something that somehow referenced a helter skelter and a bipedal crustacean – these were just some of the fabulous monotypes that emerged during the afternoon.

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The learning process was interesting to observe. Sometimes ink was rolled too heavily which caused loss of detail when printing and other times the opportunity to take second ghost prints was overlooked, but quite quickly people learnt from each other and adapted.

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Looking back

By the end of the session everyone had got suitably messy but that didn’t matter as we were able to enjoy looking at what must have exceeded fifty images, many of which turned out to be strikingly original.

What would I do differently next time? I think I would put more of my verbal introduction into printed hand-outs, and include some images of monotypes by famous artists. I would also provide the practical content (tools, techniques, tips and no-nos) in a separate section.

Overall it was a rewarding session for me, and from the feedback received, for all of those who chose to attend.

 

Robert Fitzmaurice
www.robertfitzmaurice.co.uk

 

Extras:

Here’s a short snippet video from Rob’s workshop:

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Here are a couple of pictures: Rob beside his piece ‘Odin riding through Niflheim to save his son Baldr from nightmares’ and a close-up of the same piece. 

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Many thanks to all those who participated in Rob’s art workshop, and to Hanse House for the great gallery space which seemed to be the ideal informal environment for our workshops. I am looking forward to developing the use of workshops further in our future projects and the national tour we are planning for Transformations and The Nine Realms in the years ahead. 

NB. You can find the link to the poetry workshop post here.

 

Thank you, as always, for your interest.

‘Invocation’ and ‘Forward to the Americas’ by Carol Whittam (FreeSpace #3)

14 Oct

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I hope very much that readers liked my first 2 poetry slots. I have chosen a consistent theme to conclude my showcase: super-human bravery, endeavour in potentially life-threatening conditions, work from May 2014 which was inspired by a modern day ‘Viking’ ie an ex-pupil of mine (Matthew Mason) who, as part of an 8 man team, rowed the Atlantic from West Africa to Barbados. Each shift over 24 hours involved 2 men rowing for 2 hours (for a gruelling 30 days in 40+ heat) They rowed for personal challenge and charitable causes, missing the world record for such a team by a mere 7 hours. Messages and 4 poems were written as encouragement and sent by magic!

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‘Invocation’ was inspired by the name of the boat ‘Titan’ so I imagined how sailors of old would appeal to ancient gods, such as Oceanus, to assist their passage. The second poem: ‘Forward to the Americas!’ is self-explanatory and references ‘as did sailors of old’ hence the link with the Norsemen! 

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Invocation

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“Oceanus!
O son of the sky,
We call to you ….
Oceanus,
Blessed ruler of waters and seas.
With Earth as our mother
We heed you,
We men
Are a different breed.
But accepting our challenge
As Titans,
We set out
On primordial seas.

Oceanus!
Arise with a new dawn,
Re- light the bold fire
In our eyes
And blow with your breath
To inspire us …
And grant us a following wind!”

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Forward To The Americas

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As bare-skinned boys
With a fire in your eyes
You set out
With the heat of Africa
Across your shoulders :
“Forward to the Americas!”
To ‘Ichirouganaim’
(Called by the Ancient Ones)
-Red land with white teeth-
Your ‘Barbados’, tiny bearded gem
Set amongst coral reefs.

Far, far , and fathoms deep
Across an Ocean ridge,
Rowing with the heave
Of your heartbeats.
What do you see and hear
In the Silence?
Earth, Sky, Sea,
Stars, Moon, Sun.
And the sea,
Always, the Atlantic Sea.

You bare-skinned boys,
Armoured now,
With fire in your heads,
Hauling oars,
Against the law & the lure
Of the sea;
Skimming shoals, sharks & turtles,
Time-travelling
Across 200 million years
Of a spreading ocean floor
In the wake of Conquistadores.
Like them, carrying personal faiths
As your talisman.
But your family bonds
Are Your Gold!
As did sea-farers of old ,
You go forward
With navigational magic —
And now satellites — message
Heaven-sent words.

You have marked your place
In this vast Universe.
“Now go on!
Forward, t’ward the Americas!”

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Carol is a retired 3/4 Irish teacher of English, from Accrington, Lancashire, aged 62. Her love of drawing and painting … was overtaken by writing in the hectic course of her career. For 34 years she had the fun filled privilege of creating and selecting pieces to stimulate and facilitate children’s writing. Particularly fond memories remain of collaborative workshops ending in much appreciated performances….so, although she is not actively involved in social media …she was inspired to collaborate off the scene, becoming a ‘pupil’ by responding to the info posted by ArtiPeeps ( last year on Transformations) and for this year’s much bigger extravaganza on the Vikings. She found that following the crescendo of progress by tuning in, tends to promote infectious enthusiasm and the question: What would I make of that? (Who knows …but it is likely that there are others out there who had the same reaction!) In this situation, she says, “I find myself still thinking like a teacher considering a narrative style, offering a way in for the uninitiated by choosing a suitable voice which will address the reader directly whilst paying homage to the factual and emotional aspects of the subject. 

You can find Carol’s previous two FreeSpaces here and here

 

The Seasons of Love: summer by Shirley Golden (FreeSpace 3)

7 Oct

 

Conceptual cells

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The Seasons of Love: summer

 

Reboot

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He builds her, piece by piece. He doesn’t need to compare the image, grainy, not designed to display on current tech. He knows her by heart: violet eyes, long lashes, button nose, black silk hair and pale skin.

No one cares how the thing looks. He works for perfection but they’d be happy with bolts and big stitches. She needs to be wise and strong, obedient without question; something that will serve and protect; something that will adore, not destroy its creator.

He keys in height, based on estimation, body shape, based on his data entries – a combination of how he imagined, and the machine predicted, she would look.

***

She’d run up the path, arms open to be captured by him. He’d scoop her into a bear hug and tell her he’d missed her. It won’t be forever, that’s what he told his wife. Contract work, high paid, away from Earth for months at a time. He’d stop when the code was complete – he promised – they were so close to a break-through. But that was getting old.

His wife didn’t trust bioelectronics. Where should one life finish before the other thing takes root? She wouldn’t allow them to test the implant when Isha got sick. The therapy was high risk with side-effects. But they both knew the alternative. His wife argued treatment was too much for her, too much for them. Let’s enjoy the time she has. He watched his daughter transform from flesh to threadbare.

After the service, his anger multiplied. He should have forced his wife to agree to the programme. He didn’t know who to be mad at, his wife or himself.

He stayed at work when they insisted he should go home.

***

His creation sits up and opens her eyes. ‘Hello,’ she says.

He can barely look, or look away. She’s a blur through his tears. Already he plans how to make more, hundreds, thousands; if one crashes, there’ll be another ready to spark into life. He pictures how they’ll spring, fully grown and armed, like Athena. And how, godlike, she’ll remain unchanged, like summer on playback forever.

 

The Seasons of Love: summer is the third of 4 short pieces by Shirley focusing on the theme of seasonal love.

You can find winter here and spring here

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Some of Shirley Golden’s stories have found homes in the pages or websites of various magazines and anthologies; a few have won prizes. She lives in Hampshire where she is door-person and arbitrator to two wannabe tigers, and can sometimes be found on Twitter when she should be writing. She likes to bake jumbo chocolate and pecan cookies. www.shirleygolden.net @shirl1001

Watch out for the last season…. coming soon!

 

 

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