Target Achieved

Following on from my last blog posting, I got to the interview stage for the job at Aspex Gallery but unfortunately I didn’t get it. However, on returning from the interview I checked my emails and found that my ‘Twist‘ paintings had been chosen for the Outside In: South East exhibition in Hastings. All I had to do was get it there. I asked my mum and she said “Yes, as long as you come with me.”

So on Monday morning we set off for Hastings. With controlled heavy breathing and the odd little panicky moment we got off the island and onto the A27, heading east. Knowing how far we had to travel I was surprised how I coped so well. The scenery helped in the lovely sunny weather. Apart from a few short trips in the last few months I haven’t seen the countryside for 10 years, so the lovely red poppy fields north of Brighton were an amazing sight.

With traffic in our favour we got to Hastings Museum & Art Gallery in under 3 hours. With the painting delivered, a comfort break and some refreshment, what to do with the rest of the day? At the start of the year I had the target of getting to Dungeness and my favourite place, Derek Jarman’s garden. A look at the map and with it only being 25 miles away it seemed a pity not to get there.

Dungeness is such a beautiful place and I really like the desolate landscape on the shingle spit, with the mish-mash of different little shacks. Having said that, I’ve only been twice and both times have been with glorious blue skies in the summer. I don’t know what it will be like in the middle of a winter storm!

Now I’ve completed my target for the year with over 5 months still to go I’ll have to think of another one. Any ideas?

(Sorry there are no photos, I can’t seem to upload any. I’ll put them on my Facebook page.)

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My Next Adventure?

It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog. During this time I have been trying to work out where I go next with my life and my career. I’m slowly getting used to going out in the car, with weekly drives around Portsmouth with a studio friend. It is only a matter of time before I can travel further afield, and together with my growing confidence, that has opened up the possibility of new adventures.

Then, a week ago looking through Facebook, I saw a post from Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, for a Curatorial Fellowship position, funded by Permeate, for somebody disabled or with a long term health condition. As soon as I saw it and read the job description, I thought “I can do this”. My only question that came to me the following day, waking up thinking about it, was “could my body do this?”.

Today I went down to Aspex for one of their open sessions to find out more about the Fellowship. I was the only one to turn up at that time and so for an hour I sat with Clive Caswell, Exhibitions and Gallery Manager at Aspex, who I will be working under should I be successful, who explained what the job entails and outlining the forthcoming exhibitions. I asked the questions I needed and went away thinking “this is the job for me”.

All I need to do is write the perfect application letter and cross my fingers!

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4 Go to Chichester

4 Go to Chichester may sound like something by Enid Blyton or the latest offering from The Comic Strip. However, it is my latest adventure in overcoming my agoraphobic fear of travelling.

As well as having a piece of my work in the Outside In: National exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, I also have a piece in the Tight Modern touring exhibition, whose last stop was also at Pallant House. So just 2 weeks after my first journey to Chichester I wanted to get there again to see this exhibition as well.

So on Saturday 10th November, with Natalie driving and Julie in the back seat, we set off for Chichester. Hold on you’re saying, you said ‘4 Go to Chichester’, who’s the forth one? The other ‘person’ was a Daffy duck glove puppet who has helped me with my panicky moments on previous drives with Natalie. I can’t say it was easy but we got to Chichester in one piece, although Daffy had a bit of concussion and Natalie learnt that I have a few naughty words in my vocabulary!

Da-daaa! I made it. Outside the Tight Modern exhibition.

After picking up our free tickets, perks of being in the exhibition, we had a quick cuppa in their restaurant and then started our tour of the galleries. We began with the Tight Modern exhibition, a small version of the Tate Modern, holding 50 small works by marginalised artists. I hope people have liked mine enough to help me win one of the People’s Choice prizes! Next we looked at the other works in the Outside In: National, the other new exhibitions and their collections in the old part of this amazing gallery.

Next to my piece in the Tight Modern exhibition. I even dressed to match.

With tummies rumbling we searched for some food and on exiting the cafe we bumped into my uncle Peter and Lesley. They were really surprised, and delighted, to see me in Chichester. We couldn’t chat for long as we had to get back to the car before we got a ticket, but I did say that if they were around Portsmouth I would like to go for drives with them to give me more practise.

As before, the drive back was alot easier and I even took photos of the road and sky for Natalie to use in her paintings.

So that was only my 8th trip in a car and 2 of those were to Chichester. I’m slowly getting used to being in a car and the journeys are getting easier. One day soon I’ll get in a car and I’ll be so totally calm that ‘Mr Panic’ inside me will get fed up with nothing to do, clear off and head down to the Job Centre!

My work in Outside In: National behind the reception desk.

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Outside In: National exhibition

The majority of people don’t think twice about getting in a car, or on a train. For me it has been a battle I have been facing for the last 15 years. Or more likely, NOT facing.

Preferring to avoid the panic attacks I have just at the though of travelling, my world has been very small, trapped at the tip of an island. The only exceptions have been when I have got paintings into a couple of major exhibitions, both in Chichester, and then only with big effort and great support from my Uncle driving me there.
So when I found out, earlier this year, that I had been shortlisted for the Outside In: National exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, I knew that I had to get to Chichester again. However, this time I didn’t want it to be another of my occasional excursions, I wanted it to be the start of the new Me that is okay to travel anywhere, by any means.

Over the last few years I have had hypnotherapy to help me overcome my agoraphobia, which has helped me to be more confident. So I went back to my hypnotist, Mac, to help get me travelling. After the first hypnosis session Mac said we would go for a short car ride. I got in his car and my anxiety grew, as did my heavy breathing. We made it down to, and along the sea front then back home. I did it, but not as easily as I hoped, and I beat myself up mentally for not doing better.

A week later I had another session. Expecting to be hypnotised first, Mac said that we would go straight out in the car, at which point I started to panic and broke down in tears. Mac calmed me down, talking me through the panics and talking positively to me. We got in the car and I managed to do the same route again with less anxious times.
Between then and ‘The Journey’ Natalie, a kind studio friend, helped me by offering to take me for short drives in her car. The first time I said to just go around the block, however, once we got going I had my panics under control and we managed to go around quite a few blocks. Natalie and I did 2 more trips, going further each time, and she even got me hitting my left shoulder with a Daffy Duck puppet – long story!

‘Emerging Thoughts 1’ behind the reception desk

Then D-day came. I had asked Mac if he would drive me in his Range Rover (LPG fuelled for the environmentalist!). I calmed myself down as much as I could before going, but as soon as we set off the panics started again and the tears flooded out. I managed to get the panics under control and after a slight detour, to avoid the motorway, I settled down more. When we got onto the bypass dual-carriageway it was as if my negative subconscious wanted to take me over again. It felt like someone had forced their hand into my tummy, grabbed my intestines and twisted. The pain was excruciating, but Mac talked me through it and slowly I relaxed and calmed my breathing. After a minute or so, my legs tensed up in pain and then slowly faded. Mac asked me what I was thinking before and during these times. I replied that there was nothing there, they just happened. Next, my left hand clenched into a fist that was so tight that it really hurt. For minutes it was like this. Mac said to talk to my fingers which I did, just like the Little Piggies nursery rhyme. Slowly I managed to open them one by one, I just hoped I didn’t go wee wee all the way home! Before I knew it we were in Chichester and in a car park. I had made it.

Mac viewing some of the work in Outside In: National

We got to Pallant House Gallery and there was my artwork hanging behind the reception desk. I had heard the night before that mine, and 6 other artists, hadn’t made it into the final exhibition. We then had the award ceremony and artists preview, looking around the exhibition of some truly amazing artwork by outsider and marginalised artists. The journey home, apart from some picking at finger nails was fine.

Of course I am disappointed that my work is not on show with all the others, but I did make the final 80 from over 2,300 artworks from around 1,500 artists, a huge achievement in itself. If I was curating the exhibition I would probably have done the same as my work was ‘too strong’ to fit in with the others in the space available.

However, that was not the most important thing to me. My prize was to give me a reason to make myself get in a car and start on the road to travel more. It wont be easy, my subconscious needs a good talking to to stop it taking me over. That’s for the next session.

The next main journey will be to get back to Pallant House Gallery, November 9th-11th, when I have another piece of work in the Tight Modern touring exhibition. How many people can say they have pieces of work in 2 different exhibitions on at the same time in a prestigious gallery of Modern British art?

Thank you to all the people who have helped me get this far with gentle words of encouragement and those who were more forceful, but polite and supportive with it!

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Dinner = 4+ Days of depression

How can one evening make me feel so bad? After a dinner with a studio friend on Friday, I’ve had 4 days of feeling really down and lonely. (Don’t worry Natalie, it has nothing to do with you personally!)

During a short respite from home, I didn’t want to spend all the time doing nothing, so I invited a friend to dinner, the first time I’ve entertained someone. A lovely evening of food and chat followed and it showed me how my life could be if circumstances were different. Then slowly, the next day the feeling of euphoria turned into feeling really down at the realisation that this was only a short break and that I would soon be back to ‘normality’ at home.

This feeling has not help me in the studio today as I tried to work on new paintings. I’m trying a small trial to see if a new style will work before starting on a big canvas. I did the drawing but just didn’t have the inclination to do any more. So I came back to my lovely sanctuary by the sea to try to get my head working positively again.

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Weekend in Brighton?


Tight Modern, Brighton sea front

It’s not fair when your creations have a better social life than you. While my work is having a great time on Brighton seafront this weekend in the Tight Modern exhibition, I’ll be flat out on the sofa while my body struggles to keep going. Total lack of energy, legs aching and a fuzzy head. No, not the effects of a good night out, but what I have had to deal with for nearly 25 years.
M.E. is a debilitating condition that has totally dictated my life since my 17th birthday. I may have ideas and plans for what I want to do, but when my body says stop, that is what I have to do. I can occasionally push myself to do more, but that just means taking longer to recover. There is no medicine to make it better, just complete rest with no limit on how long it takes. One year I spent 10 weeks without being able to get out of my road.
How do I cope? The answer is that sometimes I don’t, including now. It is so frustrating having things you want and need to do and just not being able to do anything. Having had so long to deal with it doesn’t make it any easier. Who said men don’t cry?

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New website & blog

Here is my new website

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