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The Artist

The Artist


The Artist is a meditation on falling in love with the earth, and realising I will never know enough about it, whilst simultaneously living with the idea of losing it all.


How it Started


This work has taken two summers and almost three years of growth to birth.

In 2022 we moved house. Our garden is mostly paved with some earth at the back and a two rows at the front. On the one hand it's great because it's a blank canvas, meaning we can envision and collaborate together to create whatever we desire. We then realised all of that is very expensive. I dreamt of digging it all up to make the cottage garden of my dreams. But it'll probably take us as long to do the garden as it takes to pay off the mortgage. A container garden and the soil we do have, is more than most people have so ilwe are super lucky.


The first year I planted the wildflower, and let the weeds grow. I wanted to see what would happen. To allow and observe nature to do it's thing. This is similar to how I make art too, a suck it and see approach. We were surprised by one snowdrop, two or three bluebells in spring, and then amongst the wildflowers, marigolds and cosmos surprised us, from the previous owners beginnings. Ewan gifted me a bird table for Christmas and now we see dunnocks, spuggies, magpies, doves, crows, starlings, blackbirds, green finch and blue tits daily. We were again surprised with three huge sunflowers that self seeded from the bird table. So joyful! We planted some pots of lobelia and pansy for quick colour around our paved palace and with the constant watering of these pots, l discovered we had nurtured a tiny ecosystem on the monoblock of liverwort, which looks like a wondeful little alien landscape. It has rubbery scallop edged structures that are a foundation for little bowls and what look like tiny umbrellas. I was utterly fascinated and in awe and obsessed, I had to draw it. I also found a native plant called madwoman's milk or sun spurge, which is everywhere in the garden now and it exudes a milky sap, hence the name. I put some of that right by my face in the drawing...


At one point during the summer of 2022 I had covid and was in quarantine. I felt so lucky to have the garden and I remember the two beds of earth we have absolutely teaming with plants and poppies and buzzing insects. It was overflowing and abundant, wild and alive with existence. Poppies at all stages of growth, buds opening and ending, bud husks and petals on the ground. Everything in flux. All the plants blowing in the wind against the blue sky, half chewed leaves by the creatures that were living in there. The exuberance of it all made me think of the quote, 'The earth laughs in flowers.' by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Beautiful.


I learned to connect with nature in the woods by going there every day and noticing, really spending time looking deeply and learning about the layers of tiny to enormous ecologies there. But having a garden has allowed me to access that connection any time. Even when I'm not well at least I can go out there and have some sun on my bones. It's made me notice and appreciate nature everywhere I go too. You can ofter find me standing at the bus stop staring at mosses. It's a divine right as a living being to feel this awe, to love the world around us, to feel interconnected with it. To be nature in nature.


This drawing conjures ideas about humanity's relationships with nature, it's an ode to nature's power, and the expansiveness of creation.


There's a tension between humans and our relationship with nature here, the patriarchy and it's toxic machsimo wants to dominate it and capitalism, the symptom of patriarchal ideals, wants to extract extract extract without any reciprocity. The more I look at how we treat nature, that gives us so much, the more quite honestly embarrassed and perplexed I feel.


And yet, all the while, nature just gently but relentlessly grows back. Even in this slabbed over garden, the 'weeds', my dearest liverwort and my delightful madwoman's milk, finds a way. I love that. In the end it was a so called 'weed' that found it's way between the slabs and at the edges of what I'd planted, that inspired me so. I didn't have to do much, I just planted some magic beans and let go of the rest. That's my kind of garden. That's magic. That's nature.


Process


I made this drawing from photographs of myself rolling around in the flowers. Initially I was inspired by that famous wacky face picture of Salvador Dali. It is how it feels to be an artist sometimes, you can feel so deep in your practice and all that meaning that the art that comes out can feel not enough in comparison to EVERYTHING I WANT TO SAY! I could have made a composite photoshop to place all the foliage, and I did make a couple at the start, but they were more to place the main points of composition so I could allow the rest of the drawing to organically grow, filling in each point of focus with observational drawings of the plants from the garden, drawing from photos I'd taken of individual flowers (about 2000!) and then once I'd drawn a flower once I could draw a version of it from memory. It has been the best fun, just squeezing and layering all these magic little structures together.


Over the last few years I've maintained my regular practice as a life whilst being a life drawing tutor. I always draw along with the students, so I can learn more to share with them. My own observational drawing skills have blossomed as a result. And I think I am a different Artist from the one who began this work. I like that, this drawing echoes the real time growth I've experienced personally. I couldn't have executed this a few years back. Not in the way I wanted it to grow.


It's not quite finished yet, I still have a few plants to include and some deeper drawing to layer in but it's nearly there. Still growing.




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