I haven’t posted here for a few days for a couple reasons. One being that I’ve been quite busy but the other is that I’ve been on a bit of a mental rollercoaster! After a lovely day out with Lennart on Thursday, I came into the studio on Friday morning feeling tired but determined to create that elusive masterpiece that I had convinced myself I had to make 🙂 Unfortunately I also had a rather large backlog of emails to answer, exhibitions details to sort out and general admin for my printmaking back home that I couldn’t put off any longer without risk of losing some valuable opportunities (seven exhibitions coming up in autumn!). That put me in a bad frame of mind. I decided the best thing to do would be to spend the morning getting on top of all of that. This I did, but in the process I became aware of how I’ll be returning into the thick of things. Then I thought I really must get on with some of the slowly germinating seeds of inspiration that I’ve been having here. The thing about being an artist is that you can’t do that. You can’t just pluck a great print from thin air. As the day disappeared, and I was asked a couple times by artists in the studio if I was actually going to do something other than stare at a piece of cardboard, I realised that when I’m trying to draw blood from a stone, I find it even harder when there are people watching so I gave up and went for a run!
The good thing about running is that it can be very meditative and that, combined with the peace of the forest, put me in a more positive mood. I determined that tomorrow would be another day and went to bed!
On Saturday there was a life drawing class in the gallery and I was looking forward to it but had woken with a migraine in the night so I was a bit groggy from medication. However, it was a really good thing to do. It was very difficult. The poses were short, mostly two or three minutes, with a seven, eight and a ten minute pose thrown in. I’m such a slow worker! I was just beginning to loosen up and really gain an understanding of how to tackle the quick sketches and the two hour session was over! Mind you, it really stood me in good stead for later in the day. I also met some great people including an artist who is 98 and arrived by taxi using a scheme which I believe is called ‘Fair Share’ and provides free transport for elderly people presumably because they have done their fair share for society and are due some returns. It strikes me as an excellent idea. She and her friend were not only very talented artists but really interested in discussing my prints and the other work on show in the gallery and they have recommended some exhibitions for me to visit.
After the class, Lennart arrived to take me to the opening of his friend Gunnar Bergh’s exhibition at Flamenska.
My head was still pounding and I felt a little antisocial but Gunnar’s paintings are best described as gentle and full of expression so it was a lovely environment. Once we returned to Ålgården, I was determined to get up into the forest and try and rediscover the feel of being there. I’d been staring so long at all of my photographs that I felt divorced from the atmosphere that you can only feel when you are actually in a place. The six mile hike was very wet but it was so peaceful there and I even managed to do one sketch in a rare break from the rain. I also stopped to listen to the birds and was totally amazed to see the tree that I was stood next to come to life. There were countless small birds flitting about in it. Blue tits, great tits and the best of all, a goldcrest! It came right up to me and put its head on one side looking. I tried not to breath in case I scared it away.
It was a bit of a slow plod back home and despite the lovely time in the woods, I found myself feeling despondent and having a crisis of confidence in what I am doing here. I felt that everything I did was not very good and that I was almost half way through my residency and what had I achieved? Yes…I know! I can laugh about it today. The problem is that migraines can actually effect your whole well-being including your emotions and depression is often a side effect of an attack. I’ve battled with them for years and am happy to say that they are less frequent and less severe than they were due to my healthier and happier lifestyle but when I get them…I sometimes lose all sense of reality.
So, Sunday I woke in the night feeling really sick and ill and had to reach for more tablets. Fortunately the morning brought a reprieve and by lunchtime I was feeling perkier. I had lunch with Christina and Lennart and the always cheery Kristina popped in and out. I spent a few hours holed up in my room sketching a ideas and then I headed out for a long run (slow and steady and with my camera) and explored some new territory.
I made it to Fjällsjön lake first.
It was very wet underfoot and many of the paths were small streams. The forest is full of fungi and there were little wooden houses dotted about in some areas. Very Hansel and Gretel! I got to another swimming lake, Kyperedssjön, which looks lovely except the water is soooo black. It’s a bit spooky! Besides which, I was already cold and wet and there was nobody about so I chickened out of jumping in.
The run was just what I needed to put everything back into perspective and to shake off the last remnants of my migraine. I got back feeling refreshed and positive again. I’m actually sat in the studio surrounded by the detritus of plate making 🙂 I talked to Lennart about creativity today and we discussed how you can’t force things, you have to let them unfold and reveal themselves to you naturally and you don’t know when or where that will be, you just have to have faith that it will happen! He told me that I must be gentle with myself. I wish I could remember precisely how he said it but it made a lot of sense. I’ve remembered why I’m here and what it is all about. I have a sketchbook full of drawings, monoprints and even a fully formed collagraph. There is a wealth of inspiration there and the seeds of a lot of imagery. I’m going to relax and enjoy myself again. After all, I’ve got over two weeks left!
There’s a real sense of you working through something and coming out of the other side here Hester. I have never suffered from migraine but I know it is a debilitating thing and because no two people seem to share the same symptoms it is hard for a sufferer to find a definitive ‘cure’ but lots of fresh clean air and some good advice seems to have been the ticket for you. Goldcrests are such endearing little things. If one is going to show himself via a collagraph or a drawing I look forward to seeing him. Glad you are feeling better and energised for the last two weeks. Sounds like you’re going to make the most of it!
Really enjoyed reading your blog Hester – just hope you don’t feel too pressured to make new work whilst you are there………….it sounds as if you are really making the most of the experience and that’s the main thing.
Thanks Christine, I’m getting so much out of being here. I think there is bound to be a bit of pressure to produce but it is from myself and not from anyone else. It is so rare to get such an opportunity and to be surrounded by great studio facilities that I want to make the most of it all. I’m also really inspired by the forests here and am keen to make some prints of them but I’ll just have to see how things go. I’m working on some test plates and am hoping to try some new techniques. Everything that I do here will get developed further at home too. It’s also just been great to go and draw outdoors, I so rarely make the time at home.
Hi Hester! I know that these crises of faith are painful but, if it is any consolation, I happened on this installation of your blog at a time when (again) I was feeling like throwing away my canvases and woodcuts and stopping flogging a frankly peeky-looking horse. Your experiences (so honestly shared – thank you) made me feel far less isolated and helped me to regain a sense of perspective. It’s the long haul that counts and you can’t force creativity – it has its own rythm and ebb and flow. And yes, you do need to be kind to yourself. Pressure and self-condemnation are hardly likely to free the mind and creative juices! I am loving the vicarious experiences of your residency and I really look forward to seeing the fantastic work that will come out of it. Thank you!
Hi Vic, thanks for that! I didn’t write my blog for a couple days during this period and then I thought that it would wrong not to talk about the difficult times as well as the good. They are often more important in the longterm than the days when everything feels great. I’m so glad that I shared the experience, especially now that you have said that you were experiencing some of the same feelings. We do just have to trust the process but that can feel difficult sometimes. Don’t you dare go throwing away any of your beautiful woodcuts either!!
Looks like you’re enjoying it out there! Thanks for keeping us all posted, what a brilliant visual diary.