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Yesterday, I called 999 as I was concerned for neighbours who were shouting and deep down I suspected domestic abuse. I was right (unfortunately) and as I was on the phone with the police, I witnessed a physical fight between a man and a woman.


Following the incident, I wanted to share the signs that I noticed. I know that, often, many people behave passively, not because of selfishness or because they are wicked, but rather because they don't have the knowledge or practice to know what to do. So I made a few stories on Instagram about them.


My hope was that people would feel empowered to call the police to support others in similar situations by sharing what I know. I had a lot of sincere and encouraging feedback therefore I have put the stories as permanent highlights on my Instagram (click here to see the story highlight).


As usual, when I witness such violence, I find myself personally triggered. I struggled immensely to fall asleep, assailed by flashbacks and past memories of abuse and the need to be pro-active and to educate others on these unseen realities. So in my head, I start to think 'How can I show people how it feels?' and art ideas started to swirl in my mind.


The strongest image that kept creeping back is a forceful wrist grab. In my experience, both as a survivor and a witness, they (in my life 'they' were always men, however, I don't want to target men specifically as abuse can be done by all genders) always grab the wrists or arms first. It is often the first physical contact during interactions.


Hence, I wanted to do a piece of work featuring that. So I looked for references images. I didn't found many. I even had to take a picture of my own hand grabbing my own wrist which was rather disappointing to look at. I sketched a bit to understand the visual of wrists grab.




I feel unsatisfied as the images aren't nearly strong enough for what I envision. Ideally, I would use life models or friends and take my own photographs to help me out. I do not have that at hand at the moment. I had a rough idea of the direction though. And I can tell, I am going to need to scour the internet for much longer than that, to find all the references I need.


I am not defeated. This is part of the creative process.


Sometimes, as I work through those early stages, I learn how much more work I need to do towards the end goal. Before I can draw, or paint, or experiment, I need to have a basis. In this case, I need to put my energy into setting up the foundation first and foremost. I need to spend time looking for more reference images and by practising drawing hands and arms. Both take time.


I wanted to explore other routes or look through older works where the art may relate to the topic. When I was in the foundation year of my art psychotherapy training, we were asked to keep an art journal. I looked through it and found two images.


The first one is this bolshevik poster inspired image. Here the wrist grab is the feeling I am trying to convey. But I want the grabbed hand to be tensed and relaxed at the same time to convey fear and submission. And I want it to have long thin elegant fingers to represent vulnerability. For the grabbing hand, the position isn't quite what I would need but it does have this bulky powerful aspect to it that I want.





The second image also called out to me. I was arrested by the 'no escape' and that eye forced to see which to me definitely evokes pain. Somehow it isn't quite the right tone for that original idea. I do think this would be an interesting inspiration for another drawing on the topic of domestic violence, to convey another feeling or aspect of the trauma.




My next step was to go back to the drawing board. I do a lot of sketching ideas there and then and it is one of my favourite things. I like starting with drawing a rectangle to represent my piece of paper. Then I try things out and I leave notes on the side as to the medium I should use, colour or even what it means to me.




It is an easy way to explore ideas and concepts. By doing this, I learned that this could become a whole bigger project where I explore my own past traumas of abuse. As usual, when working with such difficult topics, creation is a very slow process. Often it needs to brew inside of my mind (sometimes for years) before I can move on to the next stage of making it.


Writing this post, I realise I struggle to feel the feelings I am actually trying to convey. Therefore, it is clear that I am not ready to express it just yet since I barely know the feeling myself. My relationship with my own feelings needs to strengthen and I need to familiarise myself with them before I show them to the world.


These ideas need to brew for longer.


To be continued...


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My desire to draw, paint, create, take photographs and so on doesn't really stop. The desire is here, every day. However, desire alone is not sufficient to make art, and often depression, guilt, anxiety, chronic pains, or fatigue comes in my way.





Last week, amidst deep depression, joints pain, fatigue and migraines, I decided to push aside the guilt that tells me I should be doing x, y and z and I allowed myself to draw. The 'trusted' way...

In 2016, along with my discovery of Instagram, I understood my own way to make art as a practice. I scroll through references images and I let myself be arrested by an image that pulls my attention at that moment. Soon, I collect a few images that call for me. I pick a few elements I want to work with, and, slowly I sketch out a sort of drawn collage which becomes the basis of that piece. This technique is what I used to fill out my two previous sketchbooks (click here to see sketchbook#1, here for sketchbook#2).

When I pulled my current sketchbook, I saw that I had already sketched out three concepts. So it was easy for me to just run with the first one and use what was already sketched. I simply looked for the reference images again and I tweaked a few things on the composition. Soon I was drawing my initial sketch.






Lately, depression is running wild with comparisons between myself and all the other artists I see on Instagram ('look how much they produce, posting every day!') and on what I ought to be doing as an artist ('do! do! do! practice! practice! practice!'). I got caught in the Instagram game: the necessity for external validation on what I make and the idea that I can only be an artist if I sell and work as an artist full time.


As I was sketching, I realised I had missed making art. I miss drawing without thinking about anyone else but me. So I played around with the sketching. I pondered as to what my composition needed. How big the moon crescent should be? Does this moon crescent really translate what I am trying to express? Not sure... I feel like something is missing in this piece.


Soon, the voices of depression started to quiet down a little. Instead, I heard my brain cells making a realisation: I lost myself lately. I lost my creative voice.



Well... Time to reconnect with my core self!


I make art because I want to use this medium to express things differently. Words can only go so far and people can choose not to listen. It is much harder to not see or un-see something. So showing my inner world through art makes sense to me. Making art is my way of translating what I feel and gifting it to others. I am showing what others can't see, or never thought of looking at.


I do not need to make art every day to satisfy the social media gluttonous Gods, because I don't really care about whether someone likes my art or not. What matters to me is whether someone feels my art, sees it with their whole being. I am interested in people connecting with a part of themselves through the images I produce. My dream would be that people can use my art to show what they feel to others when all other means have failed them.


Pencil or pen, when drawing this fawn head, and naked torso and hare corpse, I was just feeling like myself again. I was reconnecting with my art. I forgot about the 'have to' and 'ought to' and I was immersed in drawing. The voices of the depression quietened for a while. I even felt less of the migraine pain.



I completed the inking and to this day, I still feel like something is missing in this piece. I can't put my finger on what that is. I also wonder how hung up on that I should be. After all, this is my way of practising my own art so it doesn't have to be perfect. The advantage of your own art is that you have all the rights on it. So if I want to have another go at it in the future, I can.


I did wonder if I wanted to add gold or not. More importantly where and how. I decided to leave it bear, raw, without anything to 'lift it up'. It can be just as it is.


Although the marks on the paper are permanent, my feelings about this piece do not have to be. My feelings may oscillate between satisfaction and frustration all they want. That was the whole point of this piece: to connect with myself, with what I feel. Art is simply the mirror of our inner worlds.




I may have figured out what this feeling of 'something is missing' is all about. It is simply what I feel lately constantly. I just feel like something is missing in my life. I don't know what and so I don't know how to obtain it. Perhaps, as with this piece, I will find a way to be at peace with that feeling and to let it be.


Perhaps, what I was missing, was my connection with making art ;)


The END.


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There are many different ways of making art. In fact, they are as many as they are artists out there. Let me share with you what is behind the artwork I produce.






When words aren't enough make some art


A feeling kept creeping in. No words for it. Over and over I would repeat a fictitious conversation whereby I would explain my inner world. Too many words for it.


I focus on the feeling, on how to describe it. This image gnawed at my brain incessantly. I just feel like I'm screaming and no one can hear me, no one sees how ragged, shredded, torn my body is. It is so obvious I am missing pieces so why do they act as if I was whole. If they cannot see, let me show them...



Let your art show you what is hiding within you


After Mute #1 and Mute #2 were completed, they revealed their secrets - my secrets - slowly and over a long period of time.


It didn't take long for me to realise that it was about sexual abuse. The missing pelvis and legs associated with the genitals and sexuality. The naked exposed body with no hiding in sight. The missing mouth or broken jaw indicative of an imposed silence. The clear agony of remnants of bodies who's mind is still trapped inside.

Yet I didn't realise the hidden events I were still processing. I thought they were about the late teens experiences of my life. Those, I knew well. As I was able to process older situations of sexual abuse, I would then realise that this was about the secret.


I use to pride myself in having no secrets, in being an open book. Until one day I realised I had a secret. One so deep it became a secret from myself as well. Now I know what it is about and I am slowly breaking the silence with words. It started with breaking the silence with an image or two.





Art as a tool to re-integrate emotions


Shortly after painting those pieces, as I was feeling this strong overwhelming emotion take hold of me again, I finally realised what it was: Shame.


How I made that realisation, I am not sure. It is a mix of the knowledge I have acquired on the subject matter and expressing it through my art. At the time I remember reading James Gilligan book 'Violence: A Reflection on the National Epidemic' which described shame extensively and gave me insights into many aspects of that emotion.


I painted some of my shame away from me and onto a canvas. Shame was thus physically removed from me, ready to be stared at and observed with curiosity and awe. All those hateful thoughts towards my being, those urges to punish myself and run away, were simply expressions of shame. A feeling like any other, one that shall pass too when its time is over. A feeling that is separate from who I am.



Images as a mediator to receive empathy


People's reactions to those pieces always stir mix emotions in me. I often find myself surprised when I internally reject the reaction I was hoping for all along. I quickly figure that they probably don't actually understand the piece properly, that they still can't see.

I am still holding on to the secret. Not the one that was imposed to me, the other one. The secret of my own experience, of my own complex inner world that is unique to me.

By sharing my art, I make myself vulnerable. Like rebels showing their secret bunkers are making themselves vulnerable to a newcomer.

I put myself at risk of exposure, of further abuse and humiliation.

I put myself at risk of empathy, of caring acts and kindness.


Every time Mute #1 and Mute #2 are seen, my inner world is seen too. By receiving others reaction to my art, I receive it for my inner world, giving me a safe space to experience this dichotomy of humiliation and empathy. Slowly I am learning to tolerate those seemingly paradoxical emotions within me. I am learning what it is to be seen in my flawed humanity.





Mixed media for mixed emotions


Both pieces are made using acrylic paints, watercolour pencils and pen on board canvases.

Each medium has their own characteristic which translates different aspects of the muted women shown in those images.


Acrylic is a medium that is Highly Processed. Thick. Robust. Vibrant. Imposing. Malleable while still wet. Permanent once dry.


Watercolour pencils are an attempt to Reconcile two mediums. Fragile lead in a Hard wooden case. Unpredictable with water. Soft. Translucent.


Pen is a Dark medium. Black. Intense. Unmissable. Unforgiving. It creates Boundaries and Outlines.


Canvas boards are Hard and Imposing. Their thinness makes them more Practical. They take just the space that they Need. Hold. Support.


In Art one can heal


In painting and drawing these I allowed myself to be in charge of my own healing journey. With or without awareness is irrelevant. I have something to say. The muted women on those canvas boards have a lot to say too.


So thank you for listening.




 


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