It’s been a very long summer of medical appointments and fighting to keep my balance, but at last the tests the different GPs ordered have come to an end, the meds have been tweaked to a point where, while I don’t get any pain relief from the Duloxetene, it is at least holding back enough anxiety and depression that I can unclench my fingers from the safety rails, as it were. The new therapist works very differently to Sharon, but in a useful way, and I feel I have some space to take risks again.

Mast 2009


I have been working with Nick, the therapist, on what I call the ‘collateral damage’ of Andy’s death, that I lost him, but also painting, my allotment and garden and then my health. Breaking my collarbone and some ribs when I tried to save him had some very expensive consequences, painting had been the mainstay of my life for 10 years, had pulled me out of the depths of PTSD and agoraphobia, had made me brave. Losing that calling was very hard, I felt I wasn’t painting at the previous level, and my collarbone dislocating every time I painted was awful, as the physical pain took me straight back to the first days of being bereaved. Todd, the chiropractor also warned me that the more the collarbone came out, the more it would, and that really I should stop. As he has bought two of my 4′ x 3′ paintings, I knew he wasn’t saying this lightly.  It’s very difficult describing the feeling of being robbed of a skill, particularly when it wasn’t just a skill, it was my hope for the future before I met Andy, and very intertwangled with my connection to Andy [we met because I went into the Heathcote Arts Gallery on the last day of his exhibition to measure up for my exhibition, talked for a couple of hours and then I gave him my number.] I used to joke that I flossed my teeth because I was a painter, that’s how central it had been, and I had to struggle to have enough energy for painting when Andy was alive and for coping with the stress levels of living in Hucknall, coping with my step son’s drug addiction issues, coping with Andy’s bi-polar, while I also had my own PTSD to manage. My paintings went from quite serene near monochromes, exploring beauty and the hand made line or grid, to spirals [Humility and the Beautiful Daughters, 2003, No Such Thing as Empty Space 2003 – in Rog Pattinson’s collection] and eventually to multicolours after Andy died [Death of a Poet 2009, Flagships for the Landlocked 2009 – collection Jill Parkinson – and Flying Colours 2009, one of the very last I painted before my final exhibition of paintings in 2009.]

Flying Colours:


I was very surprised no one bought Flying Colours, it’s very enjoyable and accessible compared to Cherish the Beloved [a 4′ x 3′ red oblong with one payne’s grey line vertically bisecting it by a third, with a very fine translucent grid overlay in cadmium orange, think ‘Fire Walk With Me’!] but there you go…

Anyway, while I immersed myself in the Advanced City and Guilds Machine Embroidery course, which gave me a great structure while I coped with bereavement, losing the allotment and painting, and then developing fibromyalgia, I didn’t miss painting too much, but as I built up my fibre and textile skills to a point where now I feel I am working at the same conceptual level as I was in the process paintings, I still just really miss messing around with paint… About 18 months ago I started trying to paint by other means, art quilting ideas, collage stitching [which I had managed quite easily on the course, but seemed much harder now] brusho on collage and prepared surfaces, and then finally acrylic paints in spray bottles on lace and net curtain. I discovered while making art journals that painting patterned net curtains is good fun!



Somehow I couldn’t get much further… one reason is, that having made quite intense, internally sourced abstracts, I find it very hard to incorporate found images in collage – anything too ‘finished’ or too obviously someone else’s work feels like stealing, plagiarism, and wrong [ you need to imagine Nigel Planer reading Death’s voice from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld! WROOOOOONNNGGG! ] and that really puts the kibosh on free flowing creativity.

However, I have been edging my way back into collage again, I made a quote collage piece for Onni, about historians earlier this year, Letraset galore over found papers with more collaged on.

I have read some very helpful books lately, Vron gave me Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training* for birthday and xmas, and I lucked into The Art of Mistakes ** by Melanie Rothschild, who makes art from paint poured on flat surfaces and then peeled off when dry… she shows lots of other techniques, but not that one, but I’m going to have a go when I’ve found the shower curtain I got Cherise to buy for me! Anyway, my creative juices have been thawing from the frozen tundra of  meds-changeover depression, and together with therapy prompts and explorations and an internal clock ticking towards the tenth anniversary of Andy’s death, some sort of momentum has been building… yesterday I was in town for a chiropractic appointment and decided to nip into WHSmith’s and buy some more tube acrylics and some really BIG bulldog clips to help with squeezing 😀 Today I woke early and made soup, put some music on and set up a painting corner on my sewing table. Handily I finished the quilting on Uditi’s quilt last weekend, so there was already some cleared space, and the prepared boards I used today are only A4ish. I decided to start the quest for a new method with palette knives, as I had occasionally used those before, when I wanted a very wide mark.


I laid down some cream emulsion with a brush on the first two samples, and scraped excess off those onto the third with the palette knife. Then I used squeezy tubes, spray bottles and drip bottles to apply colour, and the palette knife and a fine crochet hook to make the marks and lift excess paint, oh and some dried out baby wipes to clean tools and fingers and blot areas. I use quite a lot of the babywipes with aloe in as they help enormously when my eyes get that horrible sticky gummed up allergic reaction I had for a couple of months in the spring. And can feel again now, I do hope it’s not an allergy to acrylic paint fumes, that would be the tin lid!

Anyway, I played around a fair bit, building texture with neat paint and filling areas with the diluted acrylics, and then making lots of meandering loops:








I think you can see from the detail shots that there are some pleasing effects emerging, a marbling as the two strengths of paint meet – apparently there is a rule that you shouldn’t mix acrylics, probably because of this reaction. Like all rules, it depends on what effect you wanted! More will be added, when the paint has dried, apparently up to a week for very thick acrylic is sufficient, after waiting up to 6 weeks for oil, that seems  very handy. I miss the smell of linseed oil, it used to remind me of walking past a chip shop, whereas the smell of acrylics mixing is far more plasticky… I had the door open while I was painting, and I will open it again when I finish this and take my coffee into the garden, as I know you need good ventilation for acrylics, and the last thing I want is a toxic reaction!

I feel very VERY happy to have found the energy to start experimenting. This method may not work out – I felt my internal rotator cuffs grumbling at one point, so if I ache badly afterwards, or my eyes go gummy, this won’t be the way. But I feel like there will be other things to try now, it won’t be too upsetting if any one method fails. Fingers crossed, eh?!