The Last Goodbye

I climb into the shower
And begin to wash her, you
From my hair.

It was
Just three short hours ago
When I, you held me tight
In our final Embrace.

A short, snatched time
Before your, my life continues
Outside, away
Here, not there
With you.

Hot water runs in rivers
Down my face, chest
Washing smoke and ash and earth
To my feet
And they still remember
Standing on your paths
Through the night
As the rain washed in rivers
Down your face, breast.

And when the sun rose
That, this morning
In your blue eyed sky
I knew my, our ending had come.
All that was left
Was to say goodbye.

And I waited, delayed.
Etching every detail into memory
From the way your hair, trees
Moved in the wind,
The line of your warm winter coat,
Desperate to be shed,
Crying out ‘Spring! Spring!’
Down to your feet
Planted so firmly
In that, our land.

I washed the last of her, you
From my hair
The smoke from your fires
Joining the salt from my tears
A torrent of grief that can never
Wash her, you from my memory.

20160313 - Embercombe

On Drawing Part 5

“In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, then the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.”
– J. Krishnamurti
You Are The World

Lesson 1 – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

And that’s it, pure and simple, the first and most important section of the book is learning how to start drawing with the right side of the brain rather than the left side. The premise is quite simple in that the left side of the brain is the logical side. It’s interested in numbers, words, order and logic. And shortcuts. It gets bored easily if it’s not calculating and evaluating and it’s the left brain’s fault that we, according to Betty Edwards,  all stop drawing at around 12 years old. The right-side of the brain, however, is the seat of our creativity. It doesn’t have words or language and doesn’t understand time. If the conditions are right then the left-side hands over control to the right-side and we can create.

Now, there has been a lot of research lately that suggests the whole idea of a clear cut division between the logical, orderly left brain and the arty, wordless, timeless right side of the brain just doesn’t exist. Brain functions can now be shown to take place in places across the whole brain, not specifically left- or right- brain areas. The current label for what we are talking about as ‘right-brain’ activity is possibly ‘flow’. Flow is said to occur when one gets so involved in whatever task one is doing that time and general awareness diminish as we are totally absorbed in whatever we are doing, like arriving home and not remembering the last part of the journey [more info]. That said, I think left-brain and right-brain are still good descriptions for whatever is occurring when the changeover occurs but if you prefer you can think of it as entering a flow state of mind.

Well that’s the theory, so how do we enter flow or switch to right-side brain work? Let’s dig a little deeper into what happened to our drawing ability when we reached 12 years old and see what clues that reveals. Looking at my pre-instruction drawings (shown in Part 4 of this series) it’s perhaps not fair to say I can’t draw, more perhaps that my drawing ability is that of a 12 year old. That is to say my drawing ability didn’t evolve past that of a 12 year old. Why is that? My writing, my maths and reading all continued evolving and growing as I studied them further to higher standards. Why did drawing stop?

Let’s explore what happened first. According to Betty Edwards, the left-brain began to identify and create ‘symbols’ for things I wanted to draw. In the pre-instruction self-portrait I saw a face and the left-brain said “ah, you need two eyes, don’t bother studying what they look like, I already know. Here’s two eyes on your pad.” And of course those two eyes were drawn as of when I last ‘saw’ and created my eye symbol, probably when I was around 12 years old and I have drawn eyes the same way ever since, and then having seen the eyes I usually draw I have decided I can’t actually draw. Self-limiting belief.

Eyes.jpg

So let’s turn off the left-brain and its symbols and access the right-brain and its ability to see and recreate what is actually there. How do we do that? Exercise 1, copying pictures upside down. By copying pictures upside we immediately turn off the left-brain recognition ability and if it doesn’t recognise what it’s drawing then it can’t throw in a symbol and say “job done”. Rather it reluctantly hands over control to the right-brain to get on with what it considers a boring job of drawing what it sees. I say ‘boring job’ because there’s a time in between giving control to the right-brain and the right-brain entering that flow-state that the left-brain will pester you and keep shouting ‘Boring!’ in your inner ear trying to persuade you to let it take over control again. As long as you are aware this will happen you can ignore it and persevere until that flow-state is reached and you’ll find time disappears as you are wrapped up in the drawing process.

Remember my pre-instruction drawing of a person? Well here it is alongside the results of this first exercise.

20160210 - Person

Pre-instruction drawing of a person – what age ability would you say this is 9 years old? Perhaps 10? Drawn on 10th February 2016.

The first drawing of the first exercise:

20160212 - Picasso.jpg

So here’s a copy of a Picasso drawn just 2 days later. I’m not saying it’s great but in 2 days I think my drawing ability has progressed by several years.

And the final example also drawn on the same day:

20160212 - Japanese.jpg

Again, not a masterpiece but at least a more accurate representation of what I saw rather than the symbols my left-brain usually provides. Perhaps I can draw after all, what a discovery 30 years after receiving the message that I am not artistic and living with that belief.

And if all this is so simple, then why are we not all taught how to overcome the left-brain’s symbol creating tyranny and actually see and draw what is there. Why is it left to the lucky few that seem to be able to do this naturally, without instruction, who are called the gifted artists while the rest of us drop Art and become non-creatives, non-artists? Is it because the world of business doesn’t need too many artists? Let’s churn out worker bees out of the school system, suited for the office or factory. Heaven forbid we create a generation of people who can see the world about them for what it is rather than for the symbols they have been taught.

 

 

My Husband

A quick-fire piece of writing for the Visual Verse monthly prompt:

Visual Verse.jpg

The sky is mottled with a dusky brume of smoke hanging guiltily over the church, clinging to the shingles trying to disguise itself and the deed it has done. The pitchfork. The blood. The screaming. He used the pitchfork to prod and to push and to skewer them onto the flames. Doing great works for the glory of God. He has no doubt what he did was right. His face taught, his mouth set, his lips tight. ‘This is what we have to do to protect our children,’ he shouted as he rallied the other faithful around the pyre that morning. She, however, has doubt now. Doubt in this man who could do these things, that could drive others to do those things. This man, her husband. The vacancy behind her eyes doesn’t leave, each new week, each new pyre, each new death haunts her. Although nothing would ever compare to the hurt of those three sharp pitchfork tangs as in one final push he hefted her onto the pyre that late summer morning.

My Husband

 

On Drawing Part 4

“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended , directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone”

– Aldus Huxley
The Doors of Perception

The next day I was in Penzance and eagerly continued reading ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ which I had started the night before in a pub in Truro.  Betty Edwards was promising me great things with regards drawing, principally that “Drawing is not really very difficult. Seeing is the problem…” and that she wasn’t going to teach me how to draw, but rather, how to see. I was ready for my first assignment which was to document my current level of drawing ability:

“A picture of someone – the head only”

 

20160210 - Self Portrait.jpg

As I was sat in a B&B, in front of a mirror, a quick self-portrait seemed to be the best option.

“Draw a picture of a person without looking at anyone”

20160210 - Person

No comment!

“Draw a picture of your own hand”

20160211 - Hand.jpg

“Draw a picture of a chair”

20160211 - Chair

This is one of those wicker chairs with a thin cushion on top found only in B&Bs.

So, reference pieces done, I settled down to learn the secrets of seeing….

 

On Drawing Part 3

And then it’s the 9th February 2016 and I’m at a loose end in Truro one late afternoon, in that strange2016-02-21 20.23.48 time in between arriving some where new and settling in to the groove and geography of the place. I’m wandering, as I usually do when I arrive in a strange town, up alley, down street. Stare in windows, map the town in my head, pick out likely places to eat and drink. Down one of those streets I found an Oxfam bookshop. I duck into the shop, half to warm up from the chill outside and half to browse the books and CDs and records that I know will be inside. I knew I’d hit gold when I found Dire Straits ‘On Every Street’, their last album, on CD, for just a couple of quid. Moving round the shop I also picked up a paperback of James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’. I’d heard it was a classic and looked forward to a good read. Although I did discover a couple of weeks later that it wasn’t an entirely accurate depiction of modern day Dublin life. Oh no, the streets may be the same, the cabs may now be self-powered rather than horse drawn and the tram may have returned to the city but sure as sure can be, nobody wears hats anymore!

I spent some time browsing the old 19th century and early 20th century books they had on display before finding myself at the Art section, and that pull, that tweak, that twinge was still there. I still wanted to draw. My eyes fell upon a pair of hardback books on the shelf – ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. Intrigued I pulled one of the copies off the shelf and started leafing through, absolutely fascinating reading – she agreed with Oliver James. or I should say Oliver James agreed with her as this book was over 25 years old and was a revision of her 1979 original version. Anyone can draw. That was the claim laid down in this book and there were ‘before’ and ‘after’ examples to ‘prove’ it.

iu

How could I not be persuaded by these examples? Those ‘before’ images were light years in advance of mine, and the ‘after’ images, some just a few days or weeks after the former had been drawn, seemed to me to be almost miraculous advancements. So I added this £2.49 book to my pile of charity shop bargains and headed to the pub.

 

 

On Drawing Part 2

Fast forward to December 2015 and I’m reading a book by Oliver James – ‘They F**k You Up / How To Survive Family Life’. James’s contention through this book is that many attributes and issues we have and suffer from in adult life are little to do with genetics (i.e. ‘nature’) but can be shown to be caused by the interaction (i.e. ‘nurture’) of our parents and carers in the critical first few months and years of our lives. He draws on a number of studies of twins to ‘prove’ that if many of the issues and attributes were genetic then both twins in an genetically identical pair of twins should show the same outcomes – which the studies disprove.

His contention is then that if government funding were diverted from the prison and justice system to build a family support system then many of the problems we face today could be alleviated by supporting families in this critical stage of development and thus prevent anti-social behaviours developing. Unfortunately current ‘right-wing’ thinking prescribes to the theory of Eugenics which is essentially poor people are poor because that’s the way they are – it’s in their genes, ditto for criminals and intelligence and art and music. You either have it or you don’t. There’s no room for real meritocracy in modern day Britain.

So the spark that fired for me was that art and music and intelligence are not genetic, or at least they may be a small part genetic, but are mostly learnt behaviours. Artists and musicians are not great because they are genetically gifted, they are great because they were and are obsessed with the thing they are great at and have therefore put in many thousands of hours practicing and developing and training in that thing at which they are great.

Van Goch Carpenter

 

Take a look at this picture – the proportions of the head are wrong, the fingers too – now what if told you this is a Van Goch? He only started drawing and painting in the last ten years of his life and there are many examples such as this practice piece where he sometimes gets it wrong. So, if Van Goch can learn how to draw, why couldn’t I?

 

 

 

 

If only things were so simple – I found the drawing book again, grabbed some pencils and sat down to draw. First I tried to draw the nearest thing to hand – the cover illustration of ‘The Story of the Heart’ by Roger J Woolger.

January Drawing 1

Even if you’re not familiar with the book you can probably guess that the heart design pictured here bears no resemblance to the illustration I was attempting to copy. Ok, so let’s try again, let’s go wild with some colours.

January Drawing 2

A sailing ship – fail, a tree – fail, a bird – fail, a stylised tribal turtle – hmm, ok not bad. Defeated I resorted to colouring in random shapes to calm my mind and try and forget about the whole drawing thing again.

 

On Drawing Part 1

September 2015 – I’ve always been envious of those that could draw and paint and ‘do’ art and music. Feel the art and feel the music where I can ‘only’ appreciate it but never participate in it. I thought that was my lot, to stand apart and watch. I have always wanted and wished I could draw, never more so as my daughter becomes more and more proficient with still life and characters she imagines as she is heading towards high grades in her Art GCSE this year. The art supplies shop in town is one of her favourite places to browse and dream of different colour pens and different pencils and on one of the visits I sought her recommendation for a small sketch book and the right grade of pencil (HB) and a pencil sharpener although I know I have several of those tucked away in drawers and boxes around the house. And from that shop we headed to our favourite corner of the nearby pub and sat and drew. and then, as I drew and became more frustrated with my images lacking any relationship to reality I once again wished I had the ‘drawing gene’, the gift of the artist, the ability to render what I see to paper in a faithful reproduction.

The beer glass, as I later found out, wasn’t drawn by the eye but was a left brain symbol for a beer glass, an ellipse or two and some straight lines.

20150919 - 1 Beer Glass

And then I drew the dog that was lying in front of me – I just copied what I saw line by line, or edge by edge to use the artistic term, and for whatever reason it just worked.

20151001 - 2 Dog

Emboldened by the sudden glimpse of what could be possible, I upped the ante and went for some dramatic figures.

20150919 - 3 Bridge

The figures, ah, the human form totally eluded me.

20150919 - 4 Angel

The beer glass I could almost get away with, symbolic shapes almost in perspective. But the human form, from imagination, was just beyond me. I had drawn a 10 year old’s representation of the human form or was a younger representation than that? This was the age something or someone had persuaded my left brain that I couldn’t draw, couldn’t accurately represent 3D space in a drawing. In art. And so I had stopped, and this was a legacy of that time. A representation of what I wanted to draw but from the time I stopped drawing. Confirmation enough that I couldn’t draw. And so I stopped. Again.