Oil Painting: Once I had lain alone

Rose helped me get to the studio for a few hours last week, and I finished this oil painting. It’s a new version of an ink painting I created for my TEDx talk. It’s about a time in my life following a breakup where couples everywhere hurt to look at.

The title is from a poem The Butterfly Token by one of my favourite poets, Maurice Stradgard. I bought his book The Nailing of the Right Hand when I was about 13 from a huge book sale at the local library; the cover intrigued me, it had poppies. I fell in love with the poet and his beautiful poems about love, loneliness, self doubt. The book has been out of print for years, the only other book he published I’ve never seen available anywhere, even second hand. The author himself is almost certainly dead now, his domain name and WordPress site were bought years ago but never used. My book is hand signed and has been treasured. I was never able to find a way to send him a letter to say thankyou. I would never have heard of him or his work without that chance encounter. So much that is precious simply slips us by if we don’t look for it and treasure it when we find it. The whole world is a rain of beautiful, brilliant, illuminating treasures, fleetingly brief.

Surgery was a success

Here we are in recovery afterwards. Poppy is pretty unhappy and we’ve slept most of today on the couch, but it went very smoothly. The four top front teeth were extensively damaged with very intact nerves so we were in for a long painful decay had we not been able to get them removed. Once they could look around more thoroughly they also discovered two back molars were decayed, but able to be filled, so they did that at the same time.

Nursing an infant with teeth removed is slightly disturbing. I looked a bit Germanic battle warrior earlier with blood smeared breasts.

The hardest part of the whole thing was actually the fasting this morning, she was distraught at not being allowed to nurse. I left to go to the toilet at one point and while I was gone they came and took her in half an hour early, because she was so upset they didn’t want to wait. I got back to an empty waiting room while Rose was in theatre comforting her as she went to sleep, which was tough!

She’s eaten custard for lunch and mashed potato for dinner. It’ll be a rough few days and then hopefully a much happier little frog.

We’ve even had one smile this afternoon, gappy but incredibly sweet. What a relief.

Surgery and Watercolours

Poppy is scheduled for surgery on Thursday to remove her 4 front teeth. We’ve been so lucky to have folks rally around us with all kinds of care. We’ve been able to pay the deposits to book the surgery and our fridge is stocked with grapes and soup and pudding.

I am so grateful, so depleted. Wrestling medicine into Poppy on the couch last night, both of us in tears. I am beyond over making my kids do things they find stressful and horrible. I think to myself ‘this is so horribly traumatic!’. Then I think ‘I’m the parent. Make it less traumatic’. So I stop crying, I tell her it’s not so bad, she can do it, it’s only medicine and will be over soon. I hold her when she cries, let her push me away and find refuge elsewhere, wait to cuddle her later. We play and tickle and hide and roar. Humour takes away the sting.

Rose and I went to the studio today, not for work but because I’ve been drowning in caring and need to look after myself too. I sort and tidy and arrange and play and swatch colours. Rose took Poppy to a nearby park with Nana, then came back when she fell asleep in the pram. Rose fell asleep on a couch and I walked Poppy around the studio to keep her settled between labelling drawers and grouping supplies by category into boxes. It was incredibly soothing.

I’ve been testing different brands of watercolour lately and attending information nights for them which are wonderful. I want a good set for my travel kit, and one for doing zine making workshops. I also use Marie’s Chinese Paints, which look similar to western watercolours but handle differently for blending with black ink. You can see them in the two rows on the right on that lovely palette. (My favourite palette! It was recommended by the lovely calligraphic artist Gemma Black during her gilding and watercolour workshop at the Calligraphy Society of SA. It’s Martin Mijello Airtight Watercolour 33 Well Palette)

Swatched below, the Chinese Paints are bottom left on the page. The sakura mat watercolours are the left page long swatches. They’re very old student grade paint but quite lovely.

The right hand page swatches are two travel kits I brought recently for my zine making workshops. The top set I don’t love, too opaque, dusty, difficult to wet, and generally just feel like poster paint. The bottom set I really, really love. They are Micador Brilliant watercolours for Artists, 24 set. For my zine kit they are perfect. Each tray of 6 can be passed around a table and shared, the colours wet quickly and are vibrant. The iridescent blends well with the other colours.

I recently sent off another zine, this one created with the local queer youth drop in group. I’m always so impressed by what gets created in these. It’s also a delightful experience.

Below on the right is my absolute favourite brand of professional grade watercolour, Sennelier. I was recently given a sample by the lovely folks at Port Art Supplies and I’m hooked! This colour is PY153, Sennelier Yellow Light, on its own on the right, mixed with Winsor and Newton Cobalt Turquoise Light, which is also a stunning colour.

The Sennelier is a French brand and made using honey. I love the way it handles, it’s sumptuous.

So, we’ve all come home again in the dark. There’s dinner and dishes and hanging washing, talking through homework, managing medications, cuddles and chats about a big sleep and the dentist taking away the teeth that hurt. We’re nervous, grateful, second guessing ourselves, and laying as much ground work as possible to handle a rough few days.

Thank you so much for your support, donations, well wishes, prayers, and kindness. It’s made a huge difference to us, we wouldn’t be in this place without you.

What I want for Mother’s Day

Today has had its moments but overall I want a refund.

I want infant thermometers to use standard batteries that are stocked by the chemist or the bloody hardware store. I want our road not to be the bloody detour for all the roadworks in the area. I want concentrated baby medications that don’t mean forcing 4 litres of the damn stuff down a screaming infant, and a delivery method that doesn’t involve most of it being spit up or vomited out all over us both. I want severe pain in a child to be treated as a medical emergency. I want all my t-shirts currently covered in spit, snot, milk, medication, and vomit to be magically clean and back in my drawer because wearing them for less than 2 hours shouldn’t count given how hard it was to get clean clothes happening this week. I want suppositories to be less freaky stressful and more effective at staying put and doing their damn job. I want a clearer sense of when to go back to hospital and when it’s just a waste of precious spoons. I want a way to painlessly kill the nerves in Poppy’s front teeth, bring down her fever, and stop having to put her through things she’s hating and distressed by, because I feel like having to hold down my screaming child one more damn time this week is too damn much. I want the sense of guilt and haunting uncertainty that maybe I haven’t done everything possible or made the right calls to go away. Should we have yelled at people last time we were in hospital? If only we’d called the dental service again while it was still a business day, maybe they would have changed their minds? Am I 100% sure there’s no faster way to do this? I want the stabbing pain from my sinus infection to go away. I want the bloody remote to be in reach. I want my girls to feel better. I want to sit out in the sunshine and eat something delightful and feel clean and smell nice and have a cheerful little person on my lap.

What I have got for Mother’s Day has been the loveliest card I’ve ever been given, by Poppy. A picture book full of mother cats being amazing, a lovely new shower curtain with absolutely no mold on it, a pretty Spiral-lock to tie up my hair, a cool hat, and a light jacket that looks like the night sky. I’ve got family dropping by with beautiful cooked dinner, friends checking in over text, donations to help us with the surgery, hugs when I yelled at Rose for not answering her phone, a lovely phone call with my own mum, and a living, generally happy and healthy baby cuddled into my chest. I’ve laughed, cried, hugged, snuggled, fought, yelled, pinned down, been soothingly patted (by Poppy), cried on, and loved. It’s far from bad. It could be much worse. It could be a lot better. It doesn’t all even out. It’s just awfulwonderfulhardamazing. It just is.

Poppy is sick

We are currently arranging dental surgery for her. She’s in intense pain with 4 front teeth decayed, but the nerves still alive. Apparently that’s very rare in a child, usually the nerves die quickly and there’s little pain. So there’s no provisions in our public health system for her situation, she’s been on a waitlist to have those teeth removed for 6 months, and she has another year and a half to go! She’s needing constant pain relief and waking several times a night hysterical. Last night was by far the worst, she woke screaming and attacked me when I tried to comfort her, then crawled into the floor and started bashing her face into the lino. She’s never get done anything like that. Rose and I had to hold her down until the ambulance came. It was hideous.

The hospital said her situation is so rare they were initially worried that it was something other than teeth. Rose and I nearly threw up with anxiety when they assessed Poppy for a brain tumor this morning! But the conclusion has been that it is her teeth plus a head cold and mild tonsillitis. She’s almost her usual self when the pain killers are working for a couple of hours, then it all goes downhill while we wait to be able to give the next dose. The emergency dental department refused to even see her and said that pain was not an emergency. They will only operate if she develops abcesses. So we’ve been sent home with instructions to keep pain relief happening and do whatever we can to get her the surgery as soon as possible.

We are home again now, very sleep deprived and strung out, especially as we’ve all got head colds and sinus infections too. Our people are helping us out with meals, housework, and the money needed to book the surgery privately (we have to pay upfront to book it, which is causing troubles because the formal bank loans we are chasing take weeks to arrange and can’t be used to pay back a kind person, only to directly pay the medical bills). We’ll call first thing Monday when the clinic opens again.

I’ve been carefully saving the money we were donated for traveling overseas for my first international talk. I was trying to honour the reasons people donated it to us, and to spend it on a ‘learning to fish’ thing that would have knock on positive effects on my business and our financial situation. I’m pretty sure no one would judge me or feel misled for using it to help Poppy (if you donated and you’re not cool with that, get in touch) so I’ll use it for this. There will be other opportunities for me to earn money and build my business, I’m confident of that (some of the time). I feel frustrated and guilty that I haven’t yet sorted out my business/work to the point where I can solve this problem without help. But I am so stretched right now thinking about that would consume resources I don’t have. I’m blessed to be part of a tribe who look out for each other, and helplines are helping me keep my head together. Star is having a really tough week of crises too, so both our girls are needing all the love and support we can muster.

We are sleeping in shifts, watching funny things on Netflix, giving loads of hugs, venting frustration and fear in private, cleaning where we can, and just thinking a few hours ahead at any given time. If I never experience a week like this again, I’ll feel blessed. I hope the next one is better! I hope we have a surgery date soon.

Muse Magazine Interview: A day in the life of a multiple

About a year ago I was interviewed for the launch of Muse Magazine about my experiences with multiplicity. I was holding off on sharing until they put the article online, but there’s been a hiccup with the mag (hopefully temporary) and it still hasn’t happened. So I wanted to share part of it, I was asked to write a snapshot ‘day in my life’:

Beautiful artwork – not mine though

A few days ago, I was struggling with severe stress at work. My partner, Rose, is worried about us. She’s looking after our baby, Poppy, on standby for supportive phone calls all day. I have a very stressful meeting that doesn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I feel numb and dissociated. There’s very few private places for me to call her. I sit in the empty foyer and phone. My system switches through several people who handle situations where we feel powerless, unsafe, unheard. We are all numb.

Rose is gentle on the phone, human and safe. She directs us outside. We go and stand out by the gardens and the numbness eases. Switching rapidly between parts with different emotional responses and needs, we pace in a circle by the garden, debriefing on the phone. Rose holds the space for us. We calm, like a flock of pigeons that flew up into the air in distress and now feel safer and return to the ground. We can advocate for ourselves again, contain the feelings, feel less frozen.

That night, Rose has a trip planned. I’m home from work and the autumn sunlight is calling to us. I need to be outdoors, I feel dissociated and airless inside. We text our elder girl, Star and arrange to collect her after school from a bus stop in town. We pack nappies and snacks and jumpers for everyone. Rose drives us all into the hills to feel the wind on our faces. We have the windows down. I sit by Poppy in the back to keep her settled. Our primary parent parts watch her tenderly. After a while she starts to wail and can’t be settled. Star needs the toilet.

We reflect inside how we are parents now, not lovers to wander where we will. Now there are noses to wipe and people with short attention and many needs. Rose stops at a park in the hills. I’m enchanted by the trees and switch to a 12 year old who adores trees. Star comes back from the public toilets stressed because the walls are covered in millipedes and she’s afraid they will fall on her. We switch the ones who are frustrated, who want her to be different than how she is away to the back of our system. Gentle parent part comes forward and walks to the toilet with her, feeling for that place between compassion and encouragement. Inside us the child yearns and watches the trees hungrily. The toilet trip is a success. A frustrated part comes out and silently takes a millipede off the wall, not to stress but simply to show that courage is a good thing in life, that the danger is not as bad as it may feel.

For a moment no one needs us. The child switches out, takes off our shoes, runs to the trees. Presses his face against the bark and feels webs in his eyebrows. Feels dead leaves underfoot. Feels human.

Rose calls out for our phone. Poppy is being adorable and she wants to take a photo. We switch to parent again and walk over. Then back to child, enchanted by the sunlight through the leaves. He points it out to Star, but she is feeling cold and goes to sit in the car. Still learning how to be free in these places. Rose comes back with a bag of snacks, shares chocolate and strawberries. The light changes colour. We switch. The carousel inside turns. We soak up life.

Switching is different for all multiples, not everyone switches this quickly or this often or has this number of parts. Some have many more or far fewer or they are all the same age or they switch only every few months or once a year! Please don’t take my system as the ‘norm’.

But that snapshot is quite normal for us, a group existence with many, many switches every day, often quite brief, and frequently triggered by what is needed from us by those around us, or what calls to us in our environment. A carousel that keeps turning.

The Joys of Nature Play

Last week, Rose took Poppy and I out to spend the day in a local forest. It was wonderful. We weren’t alone, it was a big family event and the forest was brightly speckled with kids playing and reading books and flying kites. Nature Play organised it, Rose and I are huge fans of their work. They create opportunities and build skills for outdoor play – like a launching pad to go on to create your own. There’s always loads of low cost inspiring ideas we can easily replicate in our own park or backyard.

I actually approached them when they first started and asked about their organisational structure, because it’s one of the most elegant and effective I’ve seen. Their work is amazing and there’s a powerful team behind the scenes.

So I had a great time. I brought my travel art kit with me, and was having fun sketching the people and painting the forest with watercolours. While I was playing with it, a small group of kids came over fascinated. I was practising some brush lettering and they asked me to paint their names, and ‘Harry Potter’. Then they practised painting their own names with the brushes. (not shown as it’s their names, obviously)

Most kids never get access to a half way decent brush until high school or later – it’s a real annoyance of mine! Hogs hair stiff bristle brushes are really only useful for glue or oil paint. The rest of the time you need a cheap synthetic brush, well cleaned after each use, and small enough to actually do what the kids are trying to do with it! So they get frustrated and discouraged and think they are no good at painting. Learning to use a brush is like learning to use a pencil – it takes some practice! If we gave all grade one students a bent stick instead of a pencil how well do you think they’d learn? Hogs hair brushes are basically that.

I was working with water filled brushes (similar in design to an Asian brush pen, but filled with water instead of ink) which are cheap and super convenient when travelling as they carry the water inside their handle. It reduces a lot of mess and fuss and kids start to learn the basics of brush work – always pull a brush, never ‘push’ it, how firmly you press is how thick the line goes, how to wipe out one colour before going onto another, and when to stop because the paper is getting overloaded. It’s fantastic.

They had a wonderful time and ended up working on a collaborative drawing for me. This one contains flowers, a bee, several tanks, and a fair amount of blood, I’m told.

Kids can’t resist art supplies. Me neither. It was a great day.

Hope for self hate

I’ve been reading again, avidly, using apps on my phone and ebooks. (Poppy destroys physical books) It’s wonderful. For fiction I’m reading works by Tanith Lee, Patricia A. McKillip, Jonathon L. Howard, Sonya Hartnett, Matthew Hughes… For lovers of multiplicity in fiction I highly recommend his Henghis Hapthorn series!

Nonfiction I’ve been reading about scanners in books by Barbara Sher, rainforest minds (a guide to to the well-being of gifted adults and youth) by Paula Prober, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Giftedness, scanners/polymaths/multipotentiates, and creatives are all areas I’m exploring. How do other people function? What kinds of work are they suited to? What are their vulnerabilities and how do they navigate them? I enjoyed reading this article of career advice about combining different skills by the cartoonist behind Dilbert. This quote in particular resonated with me:

The weakness of an art is its dogma. And when I’m competing against an individual from a different discipline, I try to find the dogma of that discipline. When I’m competing with someone within a discipline, I try to find their personal dogma. — Josh Waitzkin, Chess Grandmaster & World Tai Chi Champion

How fitting, and fascinating. I recall when I was wrestling with my sexualities in counseling, being revolted by some of the ideas espoused by the facilitators of the local support group for same sex attracted women. I was disgusted by the use of the word ‘het’ as an insult, by bi-erasure, and what felt to me like being indoctrinated into a culture – what music I was supposed to like, clothes to wear, how to style my hair. A closed and exclusionary world. It took me a short to move from deeply intimated and anxious/submissive to stripping away the dogma and embracing the beautiful history, courage, and love that is the best of queer culture. And wearing my hair however I damn well like.

So I’m moving past dogma in other areas and reading about people who are hypersensitive, intensely emotional, rapid learners, who constantly seek challenges and struggle with anything once there’s little left to learn. It’s been quite profound. Scanners as label warms my heart, partly because it’s not linked to anything as complicated and grotesque and risky as IQ, with all the challenges and misunderstandings we have about intelligence and human worth.

It’s a box I’ve left closed for a long time. Opening it has been fascinating. The most interesting outcome so far has been the first shift in my voice “I hate myself” that I’ve experienced in many years, a sense that beneath the rage and self loathing lies a different truth altogether: “I don’t understand myself.”

So I’m working to create a new space. Currently I’m most overwhelmed in the area of work/business/career. I am polarised between being barely able to think about it, and drowning in total overwhelm. I’m using my Morning pages (3 hand written pages about anything, a reflective tool suggested by Cameron) to wrestle a new space: gentle curiosity. Why am I blocked? Where is the pain and fear coming from? If this (life, work) was set up perfectly suitable for me, what would it look like?

It’s always an amazing experience, reading about yourself in others’ stories. It’s happened for me many times: reading about PTSD at 18. About attachment disorders, about victims of abuse. In some ways about multiplicity but mostly I didn’t fit the dogma and common stories there. About queer identity. It’s been some time since I found myself reflected in another face. Reading about scanners and rainforest minds has been the most hopeful thing I’ve found in a long time. There are many other people out there like me in these ways. Brilliant people who take 15 years to get an undergraduate degree, or never do. People who thrive on challenge and are constantly being told to slow down. People who can tie themselves up in moral knots so tight they can’t breathe. Obsessives who can’t “focus” and want to explore everything.

And just as I’ve done with being queer, or being multiple, they find friends who are not threatened so they can shine and struggle. They find careers that are good enough and leave them time to explore, or that embed challenge and variety and meaning in them. They stop trying to be what they are not, and learn what they are, and work with that. Which exactly what I’m trying to do. These books give me hope.

Cookies and campfire

Surfacing from the terrible week, my mind has been clearing. Today it offered only a handful of “I hate myself”s almost like afterthoughts. I’ve been noticing that there seem be to be a particular vulnerability around an bring to do with work or my business. I feel fragile but settled and even joyful.

Yesterday Poppy and I painted in the backyard. She chose a pearl purple paint at Officeworks the other day and spent an hour exploring how it changed her paint water and running it through her fingers. She painted my hand with her finger with such careful seriousness, the moment felt profound. I’m so glad to be a parent, to have these precious girls in my life.

Today we had my birthday party, a backyard campfire with cookies. I decided on cookies because it was much easier to bake a range to fit various dietary needs, and I made large batches and sent gift bags home with the guests. It was such a joy.

Our baker has not been out in awhile, in fact few of us have been out except for the one being totally overwhelmed, and switching was wonderfully liberating. There’s a common misconception that multiple can simply switch out whoever they want, or get rid of anyone being inconvenient. Few systems work that way, and constantly suppressing inconvenient parts tends to have its own downsides. Having someone distressed stuck out is horrible, but it does happen. It has been a relief to get a break from it here and there and see the world through different eyes.

Our baker wanted to make everything, spent a happy morning writing a huge list of everything she c felt like baking and narrowing it to 5 recipes, compiling the ingredients list and cross referencing with what we already had in the house. We made dairy and gluten free peanut butter chocolate cookies, gluten free gingersnaps, regular anzac biscuits, and sugar free banana date balls. We baked spuds on a fire and folks brought toppings with them to share. There were marshmallows and cold drinks. The kids played on the play ground or in the loungeroom with a train set and toy kitchen. It was happy mayhem for the most part.

Birthday over for another year. Thank goodness for that. Hoping this week is better.

On Loneliness

It’s my birthday again. I’m 35 today.

I’m not very good with birthdays, I’ve been stressed and tangled all week.

I was a very lonely child, friendless for much of my childhood. Periods of respite usually ended in disaster or betrayal. Loneliness was a great threat to my life for many years.

Birthdays seem to distill that time for me, plunge me back into it. I find myself paranoid and uncertain. Am I loved or merely tolerated? Do people care about me or simply feel obligated?

I freeze and panic. In my efforts to hide the overwhelming fear, pain, and self loathing of being unwanted, I’ve been told I greet friends with anxious preoccupation, react to well chosen gifts and thoughtful gestures with dissociation that presents as indifference. Every year I try incredibly hard to signal appreciation through my fog and I almost always fail.

I can’t stop hurting and I drown in shame.

I’m crushed between opposing needs and desires. Simple dilemmas leave me paralyzed. I want a party (but how ridiculous, at my age) but I can’t bear the risk that no one will come (there were many like this). Almost all my friends struggle with anxiety in large groups, so I want to keep it very small, but I’m overwhelmed by the image of someone not being invited and feeling left out and hurt, as I was, so many times. Half the people I love are not friends with the other half – a common problem made more intense by multiplicity and the wide range of people we connect with.

Each year I try to make sense of it, find a path through. I think I’ve done it but the year after is just as bad. All week I’ve been drowning in a voice that says “I hate myself”. Everything inside me is raw with shame and I can’t stop it. I do not want to be this vulnerable or have these memories. I second guess every decision. I just want to love and be loved, but I can’t trust anything. I can’t resolve the pain, can’t make it go away, can’t embrace and express it.

Nothing that happens now will ever take away the pain I knew then. I had parties that were well attended by children who tortured or could not care less about me. I had parties no one came to, or a couple of kids who didn’t know me bribed to come out to the movies. Birthdays were an annual accounting of my life: had I yet cracked the code of friendship and persuaded anyone I was worth caring about? Was I still the only freak on the planet?

The memory of that loneliness is so strong and so powerful for a week every year as well as the odd bad day here and there I am subsumed by it. I cannot feel touch or bear eye contact or believe in love. I walk about in a gaudy mask of my self, performing social acceptance and friendship, consumed by fear and self loathing and shame. My friends and family reach out with kind gestures I do not trust, and we do not speak of the stones in my mouth because above all I learned one thing, one cruel thing that fuels my current dilemma.

It is suicide to speak of loneliness.

We do not name shame.

You must pretend to be without fear, to feel no pain. To betray your wound is to be forever rejected and cast out. It is like the stench of rotten offal. Unless you learn to hide this very, very deep, no one will come near you.

Humans are cruel. Nature is cruel. The mother duck does not wait for the sickly infant, she leaves it to die. There are wounds that trigger compassion in others, and those that trigger recoil. Loneliness is like the mark of Cain, it tells a person you have been rejected by your kind and found unworthy of embrace. It is the red of a poison mushroom, the stench of a dead fish unsafe to eat.

‘Fake it until you make it’ the advice that leaves you hidden even from yourself. Learn to hide the flinch and the yearning. Don’t embarrass yourself. Some years it was only the doctors who touched me. Some years when a stranger sat beside me on the bus, the unfamiliar intimacy would turn my whole body pink on that side, my skin hot.

I lived inside out, the reverse of everyone I ever met. Deepest feelings on show, longing for closeness. I had to learn to turn myself right way round, to show skin to the world not soft viscera. To be patient with the pain and rebuild the layers of my world slowly, slowly.

My world was poisoned. I was a queer, bookish, freak in a tiny, regimented, religious hell where suicide was an unforgivable sin and nearly everyone I knew was unbearably lonely. They performed community, performed family. They were dying inside. I was dying. I wanted to die, rather than grow into a world this full of secret pain. I was surrounded by people every day of my life, and so lonely I wanted to die. None of us knew or one how to learn how to create safety, how to cross the voids, how to make each other feel seen, how to stop the bleeding and the quiet despair.

I grew up in a world where to grieve was to spit in the face of God. So we were always grateful and only our shadows grieved.

I grew up in a world where sex was sin, and love was duty, and to lack friends was proof of some fundamental flaw in you that you must work to overcome.

I am not lonely like that anymore but the memory of that loneliness is so powerful sometimes it feels like the only unquestionable truth of my life. The foundation of my existence.

I am not the only one who grew up in those places, not the only one to be stung by their own strangeness and the need for conformity and normality as the platform for acceptance.

Now, as adults those of us who survived are trying to knit community and diversity together in our own ways, with tools found washed up on the beach and precious few guides. Is this what it looks like to be loved? Is this the shape of your love? Is it that you touch me or I dream of touch? Am I safe now from rejection or if I show this scar will I be scorned? If I bleed when you hold me, will all the faces turn from me? Are you here because you love me or feel pity? What does your silence mean? What am I not saying in my own?

We question not just ourselves but each other – do I really want you? How much do I care about you? How long do I keep holding a space for you? Are you worth the time and energy I invest in you? All these calculations going on in secret, in a context where we can’t even admit we are lonely. And the loneliness of relationship – I don’t let you in to ease my loneliness, but if I do will you hurt me? I am bound into relationships everywhere and I can’t breathe or remember my name. Intimacy remains a gift out of reach or saved for the rare days – hospital, funeral, loss unlocking hearts for a short time.

The alchemy of friendship is strange. The balance of secrecy and openness, the rituals of sharing, the shift of each character closer to the other. The way we try to steal what we are afraid to ask for. The way we only speak of loneliness in the past tense, an old burden now resolved. Most of my heroes are lonely. I’ve spent my adult years building and then trying not to tear apart my community.

What forms a friendship? Proximity is cited most often, yet my childhood was a hell of bullies and emotional vapidity. Proximity to what, exactly? A hierarchy so brutal otherwise caring children sighed with relief that the position of social outcast was filled? That was my role, and it was essential and more complex than anyone let on. I felt not just my pain but all pain. Not just my horror at rejection but all fears of being found unworthy. I heard the bullies secrets, felt the loneliness of the adults, the secret soft pains of other children who did not fit. The structure that rejected us depended on us, needed us there to bleed for everyone, to feel the forbidden things.

Like ducklings abandoned, those of us rejected often die or self destruct. My early role of social outcast had in truth, very little to do with me as a person. The structure of that social dynamic demands an outcast. The child deemed least precious or most different is the likely candidate. It’s not personal. It’s driven more by survival instinct than malice a lot of the time. It was no more intended to leave life long wounds than when I come home from a bad day and am mean to Rose. Or the time I pushed away a friend who had poor boundaries after crashing with PTSD. Loneliness doesn’t mean we are safe or that we embrace affection.

Connection is strange because we also fear it. We both pursue and run from relationship. We don’t perform community, this is simply the best community we know how to create, with all our ambivalence tangled in. Come close, but not that close.

My Mother used to run classes for very young children. When teenagers would come to help there was one lesson she would teach them. If they could grasp it, they could stay. If not, she did not want their help.

The child who is most adorable is the one least needs your attention. The one you gravitate to, want to hug and sing to, who radiates vitality and affection is a well loved child.

The child who you feel uncomfortable around needs your time. The one with snot on their face, glue in their hair, getting in trouble for pushing the kid next to them. The one who doesn’t know how to signal for affection, who’s nervous system isn’t wired to dance in a feedback loop of connection but makes you feel jangled or frustrated. This is where love is needed, where it doesn’t want to look.

I received an email from a reader a little while ago, thanking me for this blog and telling me that they’d noticed since I was taking on more freelance work I was withdrawing from sharing certain kinds of posts. Drowning in that culture of success worship I was afraid to show my underbelly. How do I show a potential customer or client I’m competent if they’re reading about me weeping and sleepless at 3am before a morning meeting? Like loneliness, it’s poison. We don’t speak of it.

My reader understood, but they also said they’d miss the raw posts. I’ve been thinking about that for months.

In an online business group recently we were asked to sum up our business or work in a single sentence and finally something emerged. The heart of everything I do, the thread linking so many different things is about preventing loneliness. To know you are not the only person to think that, feel that, have been through that. To hurt, hope or need what you do. The common thread of humanity. That is what I do.

This morning I stood naked and sobbing in my back yard while my family slept. There’s a screaming pain in me I can’t speak to, it will not be expressed or comforted. Barraged by inspiration but drowned by doubt I can barely breathe or move my hand to paint. Self hate bleeds the life out of me. I have no answers. I want so much better than this. I will hold on and it will pass again. There’s so much life in between the shadows. Some pain you just wait out.

Embroidery museum

Today was a treat, Rose and I went out for a lunch date. I took her to the SA Embroidery Guild Museum, which was gorgeous. Their display is small but beautifully set out, with audio and video as well, teaching particular techniques on display. I was surprised to discover their impressive library, amazing catalogue of embroidery samples that some kind souls were hard at work archiving, and a lovely gift shop.

We topped it all off with soup and salad at the central markets, and explored my needlework project collection from the days I was very sick and turning my creative passions to tiny and delicate artwork in the form of beading and embroidery that could be done from bed or couch.

I’d been hoping the extra space of my studio would open the door to large installation artwork again, but today I felt very inspired by the small scale too, beautiful fabrics and threads used to make delicate heirloom pieces. It’s a lovely medium to speak with, and I’m thinking it could work very well in artist’s books or their covers.

Oil painting: black cat

Had a wonderful time in the studio yesterday, painting this cat. Not my design, it’s a painting exercise in a book. I’ve been wanting to explore alla prima (painting while everything is still wet, usually in a single sitting) and a more relaxed ‘painterly’ brush technique. I enjoyed this immensely!

I’m also consolidating my new colour mixing skills. The artwork was painted using colours I mixed from my restricted palette of 5 (burnt umber, ultramarine blue, cad red, cad yellow light, titanium white), and I had very little trouble creating them, which is exciting! I’ve finally found a colour theory method that speaks to me, which opens all kinds of doors. After a very long week, this was regenerating and nurturing.

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Sunday mornings done right

Looks like this:

Pancakes for breakfast

Face painting to amuse bubs while teen sleeps in

I’m reading again now I’ve figured out ebook aps on my phone. And I’m doing morning pages, and I’ve started a Daybook. Yesterday’s class was about more than art, it was about intuition and connection and community. It fed my soul.

I was afraid when I stopped going to art college that I would lose out on learning, which I love so much. But I’m finding that workshops and informal learning is deeply precious to me, patchworking an education tailored to me and my community. I won’t ever stop learning. And now I’ve grasped it again, I feel so much more alive. 🙂

Creating my own Art Materials

Today was wonderful. I was exhausted after an incredibly long week supporting Star following her knee surgery on Tuesday. Poppy has also been having trouble with a persistent cough that makes her vomit, so I’ve been pretty stretched and short on sleep. Today I got up, did a bit of cleaning, helped Star settle into her day after a tough start, gathered a list of supplies from my garden, and dashed off to a sustainable artist workshop by Alana Gregory. I had a ball!

We made our own inks, charcoal, and fixative, and got to play with them all. It was a wealth of information on foraging, different ways to process plant based materials and their pros and cons, various mordants, binders, and preservatives. We only scratched the surface of a very complex and involved topic, but I feel that it was such a thorough introduction I’ve come home feeling confident to experiment further and grow my skills and knowledge. I’d read a little about some of these techniques before but never had the confidence to just start playing with the materials. Now that I’ve had a whole day of play with a delightful tutor the ice is well and truly broken and I’ll never look at geraniums quite the same way!

Crushing flower petals to release dye

We made inks today with geranium and hibiscus blooms, ironbark bark, pomegranate skins, mistletoe, and red cabbage leaves.

Ironwood ink stewing

We mixed the inks with a variety of products and recorded the results. This was our tutors repurposed book, isn’t it gorgeous? She’s attached samples of dyed cloth all through an old book no longer wanted, with notes in the margins. Just lovely.

We hand made our own brushes, using weird and wonderful materials we’d foraged, bound with thin strips of fresh flax. I made one with a bunch of sea daisies, sprigs of fennel, a feather, one of my dreadlocks, leaves from my peppercorn tree Gandalf, and some mad plant that’s self sown in the front garden.

The feather and the sea daises were especially wonderful. Here’s a large artwork where I was playing with it all:

A lovely end to the week. I’ve come home refreshed and looking forward to spending time with my girls. I’ve written this post whole supervising bath time, and I’m going to make pancakes for dessert tonight. Life is just so full and rich lately. I’m in love with it.

Self care

Brr. Self care today is going to an artist workshop. I wouldn’t mind if it was sleeping in instead, but sometimes you go with the self care you booked in a couple of months ago when it sounded like a fun idea! It’s been an intense week and I’m happy to be out of the house for a bit.

Focus on Family

I was sitting on the couch nursing a sick feverish Poppy yesterday, and thinking about the last couple of weeks. I’ve taken some time off work lately to pour some extra love into home and family and it’s been wonderful. There are huge changes afoot and as my business continues to develop I’m feeling less overwhelmed and obsessive. It’s easier to take time away, and I feel liberated to spread my energy across home and work, and my creativity and passion. A lot remains to come clearer but I’m happy with the direction things are taking.

I could do with more sleep, as usual, and I would love less sickness going on – my periods have returned so I’m back dealing with regular misery myself too, but between family counseling, books about creativity and business, regular date days, journaling, and the occasional much appreciated nap, things are going well.

So, our big news is that Star was booked for surgery on her knee, quite out of the blue and with only 2 weeks notice! This is wonderful news, she has been desperate for the surgery and struggling to afford her rehab costs as well as hospital cover for private surgery planned for the end of this year. We were told she was unlikely to come up on the public wait list for several years, so her surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning was a real surprise!

She has also just passed her tests and gained her provisional licence, something she’s been looking forward to for years. I am so pleased she’s going into the surgery with a big win, because it’s tough to prep for it (she needed a blood test and has a big phobia), and she’s had a really tough time with her mental health since the assault when her knee was injured. We are all going the surgery will be the turning point for better times for her.

e’ve been busy preparing, we’ve bought a lovely second hand couch which is a recliner, so there are more enough seats for everyone with achy joints to be comfortable.

I’ve also bought this wonderful standing bench to use for making or fixing things. It was only $30 second hand.

And we’ve all been doing lots of cleaning and organising. I’ve been tackling the sheds and Poppy’s toys and crafts.

So, fingers crossed everything goes well tomorrow. And if it doesn’t, we’ll deal with that too. Life is an adventure and that means sometimes it takes you way off script. You can’t hang everything on all the plans working out perfectly. But boy has it been nice to see our girl feeling happy and hopeful.

Poppy on Camp

Last weekend, Poppy, my sister and I went away camping. 3 days in a tent with a year and a half old bub was slightly daunting but worth the effort. It was a treat to be with her every moment for a whole weekend, moving at her pace and seeing the world through her eyes. Walking to the toilet takes 3 times as long because there’s a beetle must be investigated. First thing in the morning she says hello to the sky, trees, road, rocks, and a bird. There was a major challenge with not wanting to wear shoes and a camp ground with old broken glass not safe for bare feet. She went bare feet in the tent, car, and on a blanket, the rest of the time was shoes or being worn on my back or shoulders. A bag of extra old rags and towels came in handy during a rare pee on the bad during a nappy change, but none of this was even choose to the stress of our last camp together where she wound up in hospital on a nasal gastric tube after contracting a terrible virus!

I loved the moon rise, afternoons making art together, listening to my sister read books to Poppy, the gorgeous little wrens (juveniles!) and a rare robin. But by far my favourite moment was the last night, listening to the weather change. At night we were snuggled together in bed under Rose’s favourite blanket. The wind picked up and tired through the trees and Poppy was afraid and clung to me. It rained lightly and the wind blew leaves onto the tent with a tapping sound. I held her close for several hours and stroked her back and soothed her back to sleep. It was primal. I felt more connected and close than I have since her birth, where I was taken away from her for surgery. No one interrupted us, we just lay close and held onto each other, listening to the wind in the trees. The dark was a bit frightening so I set up a torch to offer dim light and she calmed and feel asleep in my arms. It was very precious. I’m so glad we went.

Glorious art

Inks and watercolours

Sewing and oil paints

I spent all day in my studio today, and it was wonderful. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a couple of art demonstrations recently and I have been greatly looking forward to a chance to play with new techniques and supplies.

I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way recently and I’m in love with Morning Pages. 3 handwritten pages every morning when I can, it’s a perfect type of focusing for me and I’m making great progress with all kinds of blocks and struggles.

My realisation today is that I tend to preference risk taking in my art – big projects, new skills, new supplies, large artwork. This would be fine except as soon as I encounter a roadblock or glitch, my inner critic goes to town and I get frozen up. Then my critic goes to town because I’m frozen and it all spirals into a painful mess. So today I insisted to myself that I would start low risk and explore and play – cheapest new paints first, small papers, simplest techniques or skills I already have, and go from there. And suddenly I’ve unlocked the most joyous and productive day I’ve ever had in a studio. Piece by tiny piece, I am learning what makes me tick and how to care for my artist and create a business that fits well. Today was a good day.

Watercolour forest

Sumi ink and Chinese watercolours, Magnolias

Orchids and dragonflies, watercolour

Poppies and butterflies, watercolour

Sumi ink and Chinese watercolours, peonies

Watercolor florals

My new studio

Today, I am happy, because I feel I am finally beginning to make friends with my new studio.

I have a new studio, in Port Adelaide. She is pretty, and old, and grand, with wonderful light.

I did not want to leave my old studio. He was grungy, forgiving, underground. I felt safe there, outside the ‘real world’. I didn’t have to measure up or earn my place. It was sitting by the campfire on the outskirts of town, running from Bradbury’s war. Simply turning up was enough. I adored the art on the walls and the holes in the floor and the green things growing in the light sink. It was full of romance. My favourite place became the communal art table, close to my spot. If I was lonely or stuck, I could sidle over to it in a pretend nonchalant way and test to see if the other artists seemed welcoming. They always were. Then I could sit and chat and let my mind forget what my hands were doing and stop getting in the way and somehow stumble into the art that was trying to come but all blocked and tangled. I hardly knew most of their names, no one came to my opening, but it was a start of community, belonging, acceptance, home.

I lost that, unexpectedly, at this start of this year with an email explaining the artist’s collective was closing. A storm drenched me inside, and I tumbled end over end in panic, feeling homeless, disembodied, hysterical. I reopened every option and explored them – shed in my backyard, move house and claim a spare room, converted cubby house, caravan, shipping container, mini van, room at a friend’s, back to back residencies, give up on art, shrink to a travel kit and storage facility… Trying to find somewhere else that felt like home, somewhere else my heart would open and let out art and nothing fit.

Even among the artists, I am odd, emotional, strange. The few I spoke to looked at me with kind bewilderment, trying to understand but not understanding while I hunched over too much embarrassing feeling, tears betraying my unwanted vulnerability. The other artists were disrupted, they made arrangements. No one threw themselves from rooftops or into the sea. I flew about the place at midnight like an angry ghost, stung with rejection and gathering my things.

I chose the space in Pt Adelaide, near the water and far from the city. It is full of beautiful studios but few artists present, and no shared table. I am on the second floor, up sweeping staircases and facing a wall of western windows and a balcony that houses my old comfy thinking chair. It is without a doubt beautiful. There is no art scrawled on the walls or graffiti to read in the toilets. It feels like work and real world in a way that terrifies me. It feels like the office of a Professional, perhaps an illustrator, pursuing their craft, one who arrives on time and leaves on time and never paints naked or gripped by psychosis. Wildness and madness retreat further to the edges and dim memories of my life. My heart beats in fear.

The first day after moving I try to come here and I find myself busy with sudden errands and needs for coffee down the street and realise after several hours I’m afraid.

I persist, each week, even if only for an hour, trying to draw the memory of the artists confusion at my distress out of my mind where it is slowly poisoning me, trickling under my thoughts and turning into sticky self loathing. So what if I am overly emotional, intense, strange, freakish? So what if I am the only one who feels this way, reacts like this, needs what I need? I am still okay.

I come to the studio and fuss over arranging things better and feel a little anguish lift.

I come another day and work on artworks I’d already started and some of the block eases.

I come at night and paint alone in the dark and feel a little magic stir and a little rage wash out. I see myself in the black window glass and I think of the terror of homelessness and the strange loneliness that has been gripping me at nights where I find myself scrolling endlessly through Facebook looking for a sense of connection in the crowd, scrolling on without finding it.

I bring extra things with me each time, repair my sewing machine, stash chocolate and sanitary pads in a drawer. Photos of my family, a kettle for tea. Inch by inch it feels more my space. My soul sniffs at the rafters, approves of the empty tower room, the cupboard in the stairs, the cool cellar.

Sometimes I dream of arches of tree branches dripping black fabric for walls and my face paints and music and with the stage set and the props vibrating with otherness, I can feel how I would come here like a supplicant and surrender the outside world. But I am afraid to draw so much attention to myself, to invest so much, to invite inquiry. So the stage stays in my mind and I come here and try to make friends with it, be less intimidated by it, to not need the trappings of poverty to release me from the fear of failing.

Drains used to have a pull on me, any shelter someone homeless might envy would catch my eye and call my name and I would yearn, the way I would yearn for knives, once, or food after a long day. It took years for the yearning to untangle itself in my journals, that I had come to crave a kind of failure that would free me from the possibility of success forever. I felt that at times, living in my caravan. A kind of retirement of hope and pressure. Sometimes I could simply feel alive, and that was sufficient.

I see a psychologist who tells me I’m choosing to be stressed and with practice and the right tools can learn to be calm in any situation. I can’t find the right words to tell her how heartsick that makes me feel, that calm and unmoved by the world are not why I have come to see her. I don’t return.

It’s taken me a long time to tell this story. I was not willing to be public during – I who was public during miscarriage. I’m still smarting with the sting of it, after so many years at art college and not finding my home, my people, a sense of safety or belonging except those rare mornings allowed down in the sculpture studio, I thought I was making progress.

It is entirely possible to be an artist with a minimum of self investment, creativity, or risk. It is possible to paint with no more open heart than a plumber choosing where the pipes are to be laid. There’s nothing magic about paint or charcoal that gives life meaning or bestows gifts upon us. It’s in the personal and symbolic that the magic happens. Deep underground in the soul. You can have that and be a plumber, or paint without a touch of it.

I still feel lost. I don’t have a Call drawing me on, a sense of my heart. I don’t want to create for the sake of it, without heart. I’ve been in the daylight too long and forgotten the sound of my wings unfurling. So I’m turning my face to the side, closing one eye, tuning in. Looking for things that make me feel alive, that move me enough to preserve as memories, saved from the wash of the day to day, the grey rain of the mundane world.

Last weekend we had a campfire, drank gin and ate baked bananas with friends. The weekend before we visited galleries and libraries and I didn’t compare my work to theirs and feel bruised. We stood in the feathers at WOMAD together and I thought “we will never see a sight like this again in our lives” and it etched itself in memory, swirling blue and purple like warm snow or tiny flying birds. Rose and I dreamed of our wedding some day, still went on date days, started to really, really look at each other again, touch fingers softly. Poppy’s hair smells of woodsmoke, of fire from the plum tree we cut down the year before she was born. I am asked in a counseling session what I am willing to do for my girls who are struggling, where the boundaries are, how far I will go. In another I am asked what I will do if they die. I turn the questions over and over in my mind like a river stone or a strange fish, and I don’t know exactly except that I’m not willing to die with anyone, to walk into death alongside anyone. I value my life. I value my art, but more than that the thing the art cloaks that can be under paint or under dishes – creativity, imagination, being present, connecting.

I take days off, to smell Poppy’s hair and sweep the floors and study the history of pigments in paint. I come to my studio with plans and drop them all at the door and do something else instead. I sit in it and blog on my phone, listening to the traffic and learning the smell of the building, of the water nearby and the road and the rain in the clouds. I look for friends to visit and finding none free, stand in the garden tearing out weeds as the roses tear my arms and run tiny smears of blood down my skin.

I am alive. I don’t know what’s next, what I need, where I’m going. But I’m here, and my life is beautiful, and I’m drinking it in. I’m reading books and borrowing ideas from other artists, Growing Gills was wonderful, I’ve just started The Artist’s Way and found the descriptions of god as an artist, and art as a spiritual act, move something in me that has been frozen for a long time, hiding deep in my heart while death and loss ravage the world. Tears are a good sign. I find myself longing for a life lived more creatively. Which isn’t just about my studio but my home days, my family, my 3ams too.

The book talks of affirmations, which I loathe, gently enough that I realise the mantra I’ve been repeating that’s made the new learning possible (“I can make it with any career or skill I choose to pursue”) is an affirmation, one that’s been easing my overwhelming fear and inferiority and allowing me to learn quickly and with joy, to follow what delights me without my inner critic setting fires. I think about the book I want to publish and I remember the books my Mother once wanted to publish and I realise that her stillborn children impact me too, her broken dreams are part of my world. There’s still few people who’s opinions I care about more, where my heart is so unguarded and yet our dreams are each so tangled by grief and fear.

I know some things, some small guides. I know I cannot live for anyone else, cannot save them, or recover for them, or make them want to live. I know that the heart of caring for another is keeping one eye fixed on my own soul so it doesn’t starve, that starving carers become the cage of the wounded who are neither free to die, nor to heal and be free themselves. I know that loving hurting people takes sacrifice, but that sacrifice in itself does nothing, and sacrificing the wrong things simply kills the children, salts the earth. That remaining alive yourself is the gift you grant those who love you, refusing to grant them or the things eating them the power to destroy you, and yourself walking the hard road of life you are wishing for them. If we suffer endlessly for each other, we force hedonism on those who would find hope, or equal bondage and despair to all. Only in being alive can we inspire life.

I have lost my way, but I have hope. I have been lost many times before. I will make new homes, I will listen and learn and something will emerge. I will feed my soul.

Hand made books

The most fun I’ve had in long while has been visiting a local book maker and repairer. I adore seeing people’s studios, learning so much about the skills and inspiration behind their work is a treat.

I was particularly taken with the design of several beautiful old books such as this gorgeous concertina-fold book of prints:

The ‘pages’ are actually a long strip of paper folded, with a print on the same colour paper pasted to each fold. I fell in love with this stunning book of watercolours:

Which also opens and reads as a regular book:

Because each of the beautiful double spread paints are actually a single page, folded down the centre and glued along both edges to each fellow page. There’s no spine or centre gutter or binding at all, so it opens flat perfectly. I adore it.

An ancient Chinese ledger made from rice paper also stole my heart, but I was too busy admiring it to take pictures for you!

My current book making project has been progressing. I was asked to explore hand made vs digital layout of the content – same format just different tools to get the job done.

I’ve been really impressed with how user friendly and accessible Canva and Desygner are. InDesign isn’t bad either, but for intuitive design and speed the apps are amazing. I’ve used the desktop version of Canva quite a bit too, it syncs with the app on my phone and is really easy to use.

In the end it was decided to go with the hand made approach, which makes me extremely happy because it means more time spent with my brushes in my studio instead of with my computer in my office, and a more handmade feel rather than polished magazine feel to the whole project. I’m really looking forward to the content being signed off on so I can get into making the final. 🙂

Glitter Clitoris

An artist residency at a sexual health organisation can take your artwork to wonderful and unexpected places.

This is a 3D printed, anatomically correct clitoris, which I was provided with by a SHINE SA employee to embellish with rainbow paint and glitter. I adore it and am tempted to create a collection for exhibition. Or offer some for sale in my Etsy shop

It has been christened Dolores the glittoris.

Oil paint swatches

My freelancing group have reminded me that if I’m stuck with the downsides of freelancing, it’s best if I really exploit the upsides such as flexible working hours. So I slept in until midday today, worked from home for a few hours, then went into the studio for a bit. It was delightful. I cleaned and organised, and planned to do some gilding I’ve been needing to find time for. But I really wanted to play with my new restricted palette and I decided I’d done enough stressful things today and could reward myself. So I took this lovely print of a Waterhouse painting, and I mixed all these colour swatches as if I was going to paint it. This colour mixing process works brilliantly for me, I’m so pleased. I’ve decided to start talking back to my limiting anxiety and tell myself I can reach the heights of any skill or profession I apply myself to. It’s helping undo a lot of blocks in my head, I can learn better and think a little more clearly. Every moment of that is a blessing I treasure.

I’m also starting new classes this week, courtesy of Rose. Meditative wood carving lessons, which she thought might help my anxiety. Looking forward to it.

Holding ghosts

This is always a hard week for Rose, with anniversaries of miscarriages and other losses. In the past she’s grieved alone, with no grave to mourn by and no recognition of her loss. So today I took her to a cemetery.

I had permission from a friend – the mother of a lovely girl who died far too young, to sit under her memorial tree and remember Rose’s little ones and our Tamlorn. We sat in the shade her beautiful tree with Tam’s ashes, shared a birthday cake for the 7 children not with us, and cried.

It hurt. It was hard to do, many kinds of pain are shrouded in shame and a trick of the heart that says don’t look, don’t go, don’t feel it, it’s too big and dark and will destroy you.

It hurt but it was not unbearable darkness.

It eased the loneliness of loss but it was not epiphany or resolution.

It did not cure, but it had meaning.

We left roses beneath the tree. I made an ink painting to remember the day. Then we left to pick up Poppy from daycare, and held her tight, all the rest of the night.

Playing with colour

Kitchen table playing while Poppy can’t sleep. Didn’t intend to paint so much, so didn’t bother with getting the perspective right. Exploring how the limited palette works with watercolours – soon I’ll be back in the studio with inks and paint…

It’s helping a lot, colour mixing has always seemed mysterious and bewildering. Complex obscure formulas. I love it when you find something that clicks with how you think. So many hues from just 6 pans of paint. Now I understand the tiny travel kits of watercolour. Pigments are so interesting, and the way the paint itself is formulated. I’m looking forward to learning more about inks.