CALM

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The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Join the campaign to take a stand against male suicide and get the tools you need for action.

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Art Against Living Miserably: Get involved

Last year my lovely friend M took his own life.  I saw him a few weeks beforehand. He was looking well, revitalized from a recent trip to New York and getting ready to launch his new album. We discussed photographic ideas for the cover.

J

M was not only a top notch humanitarian and all round super guy but also was a massive put money where your mouth is supporter of my art work.  He and a friend would pop round the studio, where our sessions would be more like the dirty grips of counselling than love fests, but always authentic and meaningful. Michael did loads of proper work for charity as well as working and being a regular gigging musician and poet.

He often suggested that he and I collaborate on starting group sessions^drop ins for high functioning people with depression. It wasn’t something I had the time, energy or inclination to do. But now, one year one and  being in such a different place (no more high stress shit job, retraining to be a psychotherapist etc) it’s a different story, but hindsight’s a bitch isn’t it.  He was an active supporter of the charity CALM. M didn’t talk about his struggles with many folk.

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Maybe the stigma, maybe just wanting to keep whatever strings were holding it together as strong as possible, I don’t know. We’d been friends for several years, before he witnessed me during an explicitly bad crash and burn period and from there the honesty and compassion grew in our friendship. We suddenly both had a friendship bonded by all the shit we kept to ourselves.

But that was then.

He worked really fucking hard at maintaining positive mental health. When he died, I was in absolute devastating shock. But also, thought, if he who did all this therapy and mindfulness succumbed to it, what fucking chance do i have?

In 12 hours, the contract I was depending on financially was revoked, M took his life and the hat trick of some questionable nearly marriage destroying behavior raised its head.

Cue 3 months of self medicating wine drinking. Which led me to my decision to take a year off everything and get my shit together. Because I was living a miserable existence.

Michael Painting

I painted this. I tore it up, taped it, plastered it back together and then painted it some more. I’m going to submit it to CALM for their art thing. It doesn’t quite meet their brief, but you don’t get if you don’t ask.

When I’m ready I am still going to recreate the neon ghosts photos for the album. It’s taken a year and I still think of him. His memorial is coming up in a few weeks.

Just need to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

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Drone War Babies

Stubbs_DroneWarBabies

Three children; one in awe, one quizzical and one staring with penetrating gaze are surrounded by a swarm of camera drones. The painting depicts a climate of mounting fear and misinformation, of chem-trails, privacy violation and false truths normalised for the next generation.

A return to colour.
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A flash of melted red wax baby faces came dripping fully formed to me in a dream. A combination of 1950’s post war chocolate advertising and the apocalypse.
Finally with my sober streak under my brush and the fear of creation in a clean slate challenged, I set to prove that I could create without the altered state.

Kiss My Art and the return of MOJO

Kiss My Art UK, created and invigilated by the lovely Marina and Carlotta is a full-on immersive art event. They curate 10 artists to compete in a live painting competition.
Rationally speaking, painting while being watched with banging music in a dark room all while being on a strict time limit shouldn’t really work, the sheer ideological hipsterness of it could make it implode on itself. However, as it is run with such passion, support and genuine care it really has created something unique on London’s art scene.

Kiss My Art and London Drawing  10 artists battle it out in two rounds of life drawing and YOU DECIDE THE WINNER. There will be performance poetry, open mic, deejays and special guests and surprises. The night is housed in the supper stylish surroundings of the Tanner&Co warehouse with exemplary cocktails and snacks available. The emphasis is on fun, inclusive and arty night out. Support emerging London artists and give something back to the community, maybe go home with a piece of art work.

After four years with a proper studio and half a dozen shows under my belt, I’d run out of mojo.  No matter how much I flooded myself with the fermented grape, galleries, and shoving sage crystals up my nose, I just wasn’t feeling it. Except skulls, holy crap, I could paint skulls, and more skulls and skulls. But nothing beyond that.

 

Maybe it was a working in a job I found ethically rewarding, but that was sucking the life force out of me, maybe it was the abrupt death of a good friend who was one of my top art support team, maybe my mental health was no longer hell bent on a diabolical streak of self-destruction…who knows.
I was miserable and uninspired. A few mental health red flags were appearing on the horizon, I was beginning to internally justify my death so that my son could have the superhero narrative. Everything was fine.
So, I decided with about 1000 different reasons to stop drinking for awhile. Something in my life needed a dramatic shake up, and nothing else was working. No amount of going to the gym, talking therapy, clean eating, being social, external and internal validation points were cutting the mustard. The ticker tape of self-loathing had cut its deep fangs in me again. So now I had been forced to confront all things that scare me and all things I used to numb with booze. I wanted more from life, so it was time to really do something about it.
I read Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books about living a creative life, albeit from different extremes. I followed those with The Unexpected Joy of being Sober, I could easily relate with the author. The very definition of functional ‘alcoholic’, sure I was functional and I won’t classify myself as an alcoholic, but there have been times where  I have definitely cut it to the quick.

In the last five years, too many old friends and acquaintances have overdosed or thrown their lives away, implicitly or explicitly, slowly or abruptly and it’s not a path I wanted anything to do with anymore. Although my life gleams very differently externally, internally it felt like the pathway to destruction and I’m too damn old to live hard and die young.

I had>have to find new ways to use my time, new ways to get creative, new ways to fill the void and new ways to wrap my head around what it means to live a fulfilling life. Go me!

I could face not drinking with friends, (…ahem) but for as long as I have lived, getting a little bit fucked up and making art has been my top ten, (top one, top two favourite) ways to pass my time. But the whole drunk ‘suffering artist’ in studio cliché had run its course. I mean, I had to apologize to a big show’s curator’s girlfriend last year for the ungraceful way I drunkenly handled a discussion about the definition of feminist art. Burn useful bridges, burn….
I was about 173 days sober on the night of the competition. (March 2019) I was pretty surprised that I got in, delighted even, it was totally out of my comfort zone and as the time came closer, I really started to question what the hell I was doing. For starters, figurative painting is not by bag, nor is realism, (but it wasn’t Picasso’s bag either as a good friend pointed out) nor is being around people and here I have signed up for all three being held in a big fancy cocktail bar.
Marina and Carlotta of Kiss My Art were supportive and inclusive. They digitally promoted me and my work, (punk rock grrl) above and beyond. A good majority of the competitors were not just women but women with children, which was good. I will not get into the too old to be an emerging artist and too young to be dead handling of women and the arts.
http://londondrawing.com/events/kiss-my-art-competitive-painting-event/

So, there I was, out out, in a full-on bar, about to make an ass of myself and put my skills on display in public.

But you know what. Fuck it. I was there, I showed up and I did it. The best bit, was having a big group of friends there supporting me and my demons. When my name was called out, for the first time in a long time I heard a chorus of cheers, and that felt great.
Did I win> no. Did I come close> no. Was it fun> no, it was terrifying. However, focusing like that was great, the vibe was a craic. It was an absolute amazing rush. I didn’t hear the music, or notice the people.


The models were incredible, dark and twisted faceless beautiful creatures. It was an absolutely great experience. I’d gotten my mojo back.

I am loving being sober, having spent a couple of decades not, it’s a whole new world.

But enough of that for now. x It was a superb experience.

Goat Skull Fallopian Tube evolution

Or the process of evolving an idea…

About three years ago, Bubs was affected by a string of non-stop chest infections. Which is a pain. As you have to be clear of chest infections for a minimum of 6 weeks in order to proceed with any surgery. He’d get well, I’d send him back to school and within a week he’d pick up some nasty kid germ virus and it would quickly evolve into another chest infection.

After a few rounds of this, I decided to just pull him out of school. (With GP’s guidance & school’s acknowledgement) to just let him immune system fully recoup. So began our formal home schooling journey.

Maths, science and English were the easy bits. But I was developing cabin fever. Not being able to work, or go to the studio was making me a dull boy. So he and I started doing art, every day for an hour. This is how pleased he was about it….

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We started with self portraits, which, I can’t say either of us really excelled at.

So we moved onto the abstract, something we both have a little more enjoyment with. He made some odd human sculpture thing and I would draw his 3d creation.

 

Then we went freestyle, just to sit and draw the first things that popped into our heads. So that’s how the first goat skull fallopian tube came into being. Just popped into my head.

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With time, bubs got better and I stashed those sketchbooks somewhere. A couple years later I was full on in my skull phase. Like a Hamlet-McQueen virus, it was my only obsession, no matter how I tried, I ended up with skulls on and in everything.

So then, really trying to move away from skulls, I started sketching out animal skulls with a variety of botanical that I thought thematically resonated with the type of animal.

One of the oldest living skulls is of the rat, (I may be wrong) and i lined it up with one of the oldest known fossilized plant bodies.

ratskull

I’ve now I whole series of animal skulls with flowers and other botanics, that I am going to cobble together into something for something at some point. But I still didn’t feel done with the goat skull fallopian tube. I wanted to take it further.

During November to March this year, bubs was pretty porely and missed a good 80% of school. My grand plans for going back to working in a real proper adult job got the shelf again and studio time was limited. When I was there, my creative mojo was on the blink, but there was something I could do. I could paint things black. Dark, shiny and deep black. Like the scenes from Under the Skin, where Scarletter Johansen takes punters off the street in a thinly veiled guise of a sexual predator to go and devour them in the black underworld. Silent, forever, black..

Scarlett-Johansson-in-Under-the-Skin

There was something beautiful and therapeutic about all the black. I was able to be creative in a way that my exhaustion levels could handle. Being in and out of hospital fry’s part of your parental brains.

So I created the final test tryptic of the goat skull Fallopian tubes. I was going to knock out three and then whichever one worked the best, is going to be the one I do in real proper neon on a larger scale.

For the Neon, I’m going to use the one with the suggestion of groping vines and not the full five finger deal. The background of super dark shiney and incorperated the mirrors and gold leaf, as it doesn’t have the same polished quality but it’s touch of madness appeals to the overall design.

So there you have it. A sick day doodle to a portable neon sculpture. Bubs is better, so I am now working in full primacolour again. Working on a series involving 1950’s pop babies with war drones flying over head.

It’s good to get stuck sometimes, it made me fully go over and over something until i could get it to evolve past to somewhere first imagined.

will follow up with large scale neon once I get around to it…..

Dia de los Muertos

This series originally titled 3rd Mexican killed (in reference to third trumpeter killed) was inspired by the news of a violent weekend of gang related slayings, where Mexico’s top musicians were slaughtered for having their ballads associated with rival gang members.

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A trumpet player was found dead with his hands and feet bound and a nylon bag over his head in southern Mexico, the third murder of a musician in Mexico in less than aweek.  Jose Luis Aquino, 33, played for 14 years with Los Conde, which was founded in Tututepec, Oaxaca, and later moved to the resort town of Puerto Escondido.
Aquino was found in southern Mexico, unlike two earlier victims discovered last weekend — Sergio Gomez, a singer with K-Paz de la Sierra, and singer Zayda Pena — who were found in a northern province of the country.
ProtectorsShameWEBValentin Elizalde was killed in November 2006, after his song To My Enemies became a drug lord’s anthem.  However the recent murders have targeted artists who sing mainly about love and loss, leading to fears in Mexico that mainstream singers will be at risk if their music becomes associated with rival gangs.

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Jonathan Martinez, 22, and Gustavo Alejandro, 35, from the local band La Excelencia were    murdered in a bar Vida Divina in the capitol of the Mexican state of Jalisco by four suspected gang members.
When their set drew to a close La Excelencia were angrily goaded into playing two more songs before the propertier of the bar called time at 4am. The crowd proved tough when one of the four suspects threw a grenade onto the stage, injuring one and causing a panic stricken audience to stampede towards the exit. As customers and the musicians ran for the door, the four men opened fire.

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I took inspiration from the style of Mexican ‘miracle’ or ‘votive’ paintings to depict these  contemporary scenes.  Mexican ‘votives’ (aka miracle paintings) are normally small paintings, created on roof tiles or small plaques that show a moment of miracle or humility where a person asks for help from a saint and is delivered from disaster or death.

These works alongside others will be on display at Mexicasa in Stratford, (377 High St, London, E15 4QZ) until December 22nd 2018.  (www.mexicasa.co.uk). Mexicasa is a big beautiful space located in the other side of Stratford, just below my studio.  They do authentic, well priced and delicious food and I must say their Margaritas are life affirming.  There will be a closing party Thursday December 20th, where art work will be available for purchase as well as a fine selection of prints, both framed and unframed. Come and join me.

 

Dark forest mumurings…

 

Octomum

 

The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds another life—another hunter, angel, or a demon, a delicate infant to tottering old man, a fairy or demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them.

Just leaving this here for now, as it’s something i want to explore….

 

https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/the-dark-forest-theory-a-terrifying-explanation-of-why-we-havent-heard-from-aliens-yet

Wolf mother return

After a slight hiatus the mojo/muse came knocking at the door. Day 10 of taking a break from salt of the earth toxic company and I finally heard the call. The last 6 months in studio have been fruitless. Sure, some work has been created, but forced, no flow and mostly of angry dismembered naked female bodies against a pretty back drop. Been there done that, I lived through this lipstick smear shaven head period of the 90’s so..thanks brain. But that’s what stress does, doesn’t it? It slowly creeps in, becomes the norm and eats your joy.

I’m adoring the BLIND BOY pod cast, my new late night fantasy boyfriend with a shopping market bag in place of face. 

So in attempts to find new grounding and a wee slice of happiness. I’ve taken time off the stress hampster austerity wheel and decided to do something that felt right for me, instead of the right thing.

This is the first bit of anything that’s made me feel good & in the flow of creativity for a long while. So thought I’d share and raise a glass to more of fucking that.

Mucho love muchachos. X X 

Holloway-revisted

http://islingtontribune.com/article/artists-inside-story-of-prison-closure

Bod Jamen curated the Holloway show, which put a formidable group of people together.  The big cats were on display. A good 150 turned up on a Tuesday. The highlight for me was meeting the two front line folk that ran the Ringcross center. True to the bone of what caring and help in the community should be about. Delores, a lovely 3 decades in the trenches of social care ran the entries and had invited a group of young people from the local teen homeless center. I had the privileged of showing them around, talking art and hopefully allowing them to feel welcome.

Susan Merrick, a proper artist and front line fighter was there in full force.

Politics aside, a good night with a good heart.

I do need to learn to look less spooky and weird in front of the camera…

 

x x