Tag Archives: homelessness

Warts And All

11 Oct

HopeI’m working part-time for a charity, running arts sessions for people who have housing problems. Some of the people who come along are experienced artists and enjoy a few hours in a warm, safe place to get absorbed in their art. But some have very little experience of making art and I often hear, “Oh no. I can’t draw” and panic when I get out a bit of paper. It’s a pity that this is ingrained into so many adults – children are usually much more willing to have a go. I think that one of the reasons that people are so fearful of drawing is because they think it’s innate, god-given, a born talent rather than years and years of practice and striving.

I think that we artists have become disassociated from our craft. People see perfectly formed artworks in tasteful frames on pristine gallery walls and it’s easy to buy into the idea that these magnificent objects spring forth from a bottomless pool of artistic genius. WRONG! They’re the result of blood, sweat and tears …. and endless mistakes …. and frustration! That’s one of the reasons I do a lot of art in public, en plein air, in streets, shop windows, anywhere that people can see art being made … warts and all.

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When someone said to me today that they couldn’t draw, I said, “It’s not drawing, it’s writing”. That made it better. I asked the people I’m working with to think of one positive word, then write it down, then start playing with different ways of making the letters, colouring them, adding patterns. Then we redrew our words onto a roll of primed canvas and started painting a banner.

I work alongside them so they can see my mistakes and the bits that are rubbish and hopefully understand that making a drawing or painting is a process that starts small and builds and builds over time into a finished piece ….. and that they shouldn’t judge themselves so harshly. More next week…..

 

 

A lot of my artwork is available on my Artfinder gallery.  If you’d like to have a look, please click on the image below or the Artfinder link at the top right of this page.

Stir Crazy Celtic Knots

16 May

I was ‘babysitting’ the current show at Elysium Gallery earlier this afternoon, doing my volunteer stint for the day and a shy young man wandered in, wearing a Big Issue seller’s tabard. He asked if it was alright to come in, he was very nervous. I made him welcome and he really liked the exhibition. I chatted to him and he said that he loved art and when he finishes selling the mag each day, he goes back to his tiny room and spends hours drawing Celtic Knotwork. Celtic Knotwork!!!! Have you ever tried drawing Celtic Knotwork? I have – it’s really hard. And this guy is absorbed in it for hours each day. It’s so easy to judge people by their appearances and fail to see the human being behind the stereotype. He said he’d call in again. I hope he does.

When I left the gallery the sun was streaming down, rare for Swansea and I didn’t want to go back to my studio – I’m getting a bit stir crazy and the place smells of rabbit skin glue at the moment – horrible. So I went walkabout and sat on a wall by the Big Issue office in St. Helen’s Road. I sketched the people using the traffic crossing. It wasn’t easy because they don’t stay still for long and dart across the road really quickly, so it was a good exercise for me. They weren’t bunched together in a group – I drew them singly and tried to fit them together as best I can. Back to the smelly studio tomorrow – hope it rains.

I’ll Scribble Anywhere, Me.

28 Jan

Sketchbook drawing: queueing at the Empire State.

I know I bang on about artists getting out in public and be seen doing art, but that’s because I feel really strongly about it. The visual arts have been getting a bad press in recent years. They’re seen, often justifiably, as elitist and obscure and this is because a small number of artists who are very good at self-promotion hog the media limelight while too many of the rest of us work our alchemy behind closed doors. I think that artists should be out there in the world, showing people how we work and de-mystifying what we do. I was terribly embarrassed when I first started sketching in public, which was only 5 years ago. I felt like I was standing in the street in nothing but a skimpy bikini – I couldn’t have felt more exposed. But once I started concentrating on the sketching, I stopped noticing what was going on around me and relaxed into it. Most people are really chuffed to see me working and are respectfully interested.

Husb and I were visiting NYC are standing in an enormous queue at the Empire State Building, estimated an hour long. Time to sketch I thought. I did quite a few drawings in that queue – here’s one above. Afterwards, we strolled over to the Chelsea area. We’re of an age to remember The Chelsea Hotel as a cultural icon and we wanted to look in the art galleries in the district. We saw this homeless man sleeping on a park bench. It was late morning and it was FREEZING! I hadn’t ever been so cold and didn’t experience cold like that until I went to Berlin in Winter a couple of years later. It was very sad. His belongings were in black bin bags underneath the bench.  It was so cold my fingers hardly worked, but I wanted to record this moment to remind me how fortunate I am and how people can easily fall on hard times even in wealthy, developed countries.

Sketchbook drawing: man in Chelsea Park.

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