As long as there are birds outside I tend to count my blessings. Am looking forward to the starlings returning later in the year. Its a sport I indulge in watching them hop along the telegraph wires just beyond my bedroom window. Swapping positions one up, one down, like they’re making room for each other, A civilised conference and not much hanging about.
Their song is a sweet substitute for the lack of sun in the morning.
It is a year to the day that I returned home to Dublin. I’d been away for three years and ten months, the last seven of which were spent in Malaga, Spain.
I decided I needed to spend some time in a warm southern climate and Malaga fit my needs. I knew so little of `Spain and had not a word of Spanish. In my mind I foresaw a relaxing secondment spent with days of swimming, reading, writing and watching the waves break from my seaside terrace accommodation.
What I didn’t foresee was the incredible difficulty I’d have in trying to find a place to live. The language barrier was immensely difficult and my attempts to grasp enough to facilitate daily living failed me persistently. Try as I wished I couldn’t summon the courage to the words out enough to order bread or cheese at the food market.
It wasn’t happening. Underneath i knew why. I had not gone to Spain to integrate instead I’d chosen a place deliberately foreign to me as I wanted or felt a need to be for the most part by myself. I’d chosen to hurl myself into the great unknown. I needed the isolation and the time to figure out a great many things. I evidently also needed the hardships.
It was incredibly difficult. I wan’t prepared for what it involved having days to myself with no familiar distractions felt at times punishing the challenges of getting myself established took its toll on my health. Once settled the strain caught up on me the took a couple of months to recover fully from.
But while I was taking it easy the sun that I sought had arrived and I was able to live the life I had envisioned in the London winter of 2013.
Fresh avocados, tomatoes and the sweetest oranges I’d ever tasted I ate happily looking onto my garden of palms serenaded by black birds sparrows and parakeets. The sea had warmed to swimming temps for an Irish person and the beaches were still largely empty on weekdays. I got plenty of reading done and filled several of my thought notebooks. In the evenings I wound down by watching the sun die slowly and followed the flight of swallows across the cloudless This was my ritual end to each day and it filled me with a great peace.
I made a few wonderful friends. Memories of laughter filled nights clinking glasses of tinto de verano feeling a great sense of discovery My fortunes were many. I was looked after. I got to experience the real Malaga, participated in its beautiful traditions and sang songs under the stars in the patio of a crumbling old palace. On occasions I even made myself understood in spanish or so the girls kindly led me to believe.
It all worked out beautifully in a magical unfolding of the unanticipated and the hoped for.
Painted words. Today only the brushes and paint speak. I sleep.
This is a page from my journal from last year, 2014. I have kept a journal since I was fourteen years old. In my closet I have nearly all of them in a suitcase. I filled my first one but for many years after that the entries were sporadic resulting in an accumulation of empty copy books empty but for a few pages of fevered chest clearing.
At a much later date I developed the habit of completing a full journal. The entries would not be made daily but the sense of having completed the pages with my words and thoughts was gratifying. A form of hard evidence that I had existed for the preceding year or whatever span it covered.
Julia Cameron’s (author of The Artist’s Way) morning pages idea was incorporated into my habit around 2006 and later I began to work on the entires as pieces of writing developing a critical eye for my means of expressing my thoughts.
The content I tried to let flow freely while I paid attention to the voice or style in which I expressed myself.
Many of the journals include drawings, sketches and even diagrams.
This pencil study is from the cover of book that I came across in the magical bookstore I frequented in Malaga. On many occasions it yielded up strange synchronistic texts.
This study was done at a life class in London where we were instructed in seeing the affect of light across a rounded form. It was very instructional. The central lesson was to see how it appeared as light, shade and reflected light. Three different degrees of intensity of light are visible when a light source hits a curved surface.
The tutor demonstrated firstly with a curved piece of card. Using a single light directed at angle to the side of the curve he showed the break down into the described portions.
It was difficult to grasp using only a two dimensional curved surface but it was much more apparent when we got to see the effect on the female model.
Having watched him do a demonstration drawing we were then let proceed and this is how mine turned out. I do think I achieved a sculptural quality in my attempt.
It was a new learning experience for me. The basic explanation of a scientific principle was helpful in opening up for me a new way of studying form. To see things as curving towards or away from light and how to recreate that in two dimensional drawing.
I had carefully taped up my edges but blurring occurred which meant the contrast between sharp border and soft curves suffered. Working in charcoal was also a challenge. I found it difficult to keep the white areas clean.
This is another drawing I did from the cover of a book. It is from a modern Penguin edition of Franz Kafka’s The Castle which I never finished. The cover image was intriguing to me. It was of a photograph a deer made out of paper bags.
A strange and bizarre image, slightly disturbing too. I just researched the cover and see the deer was worn as a mask by a male figure. It is crudely attached to him with rope and a block of some sort. Very effective image and so very apt for this bewildering Kafka text.
I recall feeling nervous and apprehensive while reading it. The confusion and frustration endured increasingly by the central character known only as K on his lowly quest for access were maddening in a very disagreeable way so I discontinued it.
Perhaps it was too close to home for me. The vivid description of the protagonist’s incrementally increasing state of anxiety, frustration, expectation followed by deflation was more than I could endure. The setting so bleakly banal, a murky maze inhabited by petty bureaucrats and officials, a host of doubting sneering gatekeepers. Torture without respite. Possibly easier for others to indulge in but I say only possibly but those are some states I am all too familiar with and need little stimuli to generate them which is why I put it aside.
Kafka died before completing it.
The cover image reflects the nightmarish world the reader is drawn into.
I didn’t include the masked figure but focussed on the sculptural qualities of the paper deer. It was very challenging to draw and I am amazed at how lifelike they look.
This is an imaginative composition I created in London during one of my bursts of productivity. It is an oil pastel work which is a preferred medium of mine to work in.
I like it. It speaks to me. I am surprised by it. I didn’t know that this was inside me. It has a fairy tale quality to it.
I am a big fan of outsider art. In many ways I identify with the term and I admire very much some of the artists that fall under the heading. One of the the things that I love more than anything is children’s’ art and outsider art shares a lot of with the art of children.
I have had some training but the art that comes straight from my imagination is raw and untutored. It comes from a young place. It feels like play when I am really involved in the motion of marking material to paper. I like to get quite physical with it. I enjoy mashing and scraping the pastel and watching the effects it creates. It reminds me of those drawings in school where black crayon was put on over multi coloured surface and scraped away to reveal the colours beneath. A sort of magic etching.