Let Freedom ring!

This was the 2nd assignment of the Susan Shie drawing group I joined in January 2021.

Looking at my journal, I see we had snow the day this theme was created. Thought that would be the last of it!

I am glad I wrote down some thoughts about this drawing as 5 weeks is a long time ago, or so it seems now. The theme comes from the song ‘ America, my country, Tis of thee’ I wrote, ‘I refuse to get wrapped up in the patriotism of that slogan.’ I am not happy about any flag wrapping patriotism as I just see a lot of damage in this country and in my own homeland. So I had to think of ways to describe Freedom without the Liberty Bell or the USA flag, which others in the group picked on and made it a broader issue.

In light of the previous administration, which had just expired and was open to the path of hate speech, I began an internet search on the notion of Freedom. Actually, no one is ‘free’, but there are moral boundaries that help to make us feel as if we are ‘free’. Morality seems to be one of the things that seem to be disappearing as more and more of us think of just ourselves and not the community at large; by that, I mean worldwide. I am just as guilty as most people of this as I sit in my safe house and my safe life, but I am aware it’s a precarious state. I could fall ill with Covid and suddenly, that safety net is exposed to the corporate nature of health care in this county. How would I feel if that happened? I would definitely be angry but I would also feel defeated, I suspect. I could go on about the unsafe castle we have created for ourselves (my husband and I) but that just feeds in the paranoia that produces the groups that Trump encourages. I was quite sickened and disturbed by the hate symbols and signs I saw as I researched this subject.

The next day, I added the bells because I listened to the Waldy and Bendy Podcast. They finished with Shane McGowan’s ‘ Fairy Tale of New York”, which ends with the joyous last lines “And the bells are ringing out for Christmas Day”  I would not count myself as religious but I just love that song. As I walked with my dog, I suddenly felt happy and free and couldn’t stop myself from grinning like mad and adding an extra skip to my step. Further on, I wrote: It was quite distressing working on the hate sign/symbols. It was even more so looking up the stuff on the internet. On seeing the NF symbol, I remembered I had drawn some graffiti in my large sketchbook when I was a student, so I included that in the drawing. There are strange parallels to the ’70s.

On the 3rd day, Trump was impeached for the 2nd time. I added squiggly lines to indicate the sound waves/ vibrations to show how we are bombarded each day by the internet, TV and radio. I also added positive words like hug, health, love, hello and words I associate with negativity, Fox News, Trump, Farage, Parler, hate etc.

This is the description of my drawing on the group page:

Yet, again, a difficult assignment, so different from the way I usually work. I am British and American (been here almost 21 years), so I was sort of stuck in the middle. I found it very difficult to relate to this slogan, as it is so American. So first, I looked up the dictionary meaning of the word Freedom and then ring. From that, my drawing grew. Originally I had a yin yang symbol where the handbells are but out on my walk, yesterday I was listening to the Waldy and Bendy podcast. They finished with the Pogues, Fairytale of New York, one of my all-time favourite Christmas songs. It concludes with the following lines, ‘And the bells ring out for Christmas Day.’ it’s such a joyous song and reminded me that bells are rung mostly at times of celebration. I loved the bells ringing out at a wedding.

I think the hate symbols are apparent. I pick up the notion that a circlet of gold plus precious stones was placed on a king or queen to provide protection. So I wanted to protect all the people of the world, the world itself and the right to be who you are regardless of your sexuality. Without that protection, my nephew would be hiding in the shadows. It’s always been there but not out in the open. Both my grand Dad and my Dad loved what were called topsy turvy contests or parties. They loved dressing up in women’s clothing. Today, I added wavy lines to the drawing, sound waves, vibrations, which are all around us. Finally, I drew protest banners for the 4 figures not in the circle to show you have the freedom to protest, just not hate speech. The people in the trash can only want to take away that right. 

The one element I left out in my description was the cuffed hands. Slavery in America is considered something that is in history and only affects African Americans. In truth, slavery is still very much alive worldwide and not just in the poorer countries. It could be argued that having to work on minimum wage and doing 3 or more jobs to provide food for your family without access to affordable health care is a form of slavery.

It was interesting to see the other 14 contributions to this theme. A lot of them focused on the Liberty Bell, Lady Liberty and the capitol riots. There was a lot of anger towards the then President. Others referred to the concept of America being a melting pot striving towards equality for all. One person mentioned the way Covid has taken away our freedom to act as we normally do. That person drew several maze-like stairways, which each led to a freedom of choice. The national parks were another subject and were very apt as the song that this theme is taken from was written by a woman who was travelling across America. As she travelled by train, she marvelled at the beauty of this country.

PIO (Pass in on) drawing

I did the following drawing as part of the PIO group which was 10 volunteers who drew on the inspiration of the previous drawing. A bit like pass the message game from childhood. Unfortunately I can’t show the drawing I received but this was my response.

Ravens the messenger and the fool.

In the drawing I received, there was a large black bird sitting on a fence, a stylised sun rising with a decorative tree and some lines from favourite hymns the artist’s like. It was very peaceful.

Prior to getting this I had see an article about the missing Queen of the Ravens at the Tower of London. The black bird in the received drawing became a raven in mine.

I did a lot of research before I started the drawing, mainly on the myth side of the raven. In the Native American tradition there are many traditions associated with the Raven. He is considered part of the creation story but he is also consider as a trickster. A lot of the stories are similar to stories from other parts of the world, such as once he was white before he stole the sun. In a lot of tribes, he is consider the bringer of thunder, lightening and the wind.

In Greek legends, he was the messenger of Apollo. Apollo’s raven was pure white and he was sent to guard Apollo’s lover, Coronius. Although she was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she fell in love with another man who she slept with. The raven came back to tell Apollo this news who in turned became so enraged the bird hadn’t pecked out the lover’s eyes, that the raven was scorched black by Apollo’s solar flames. After that ravens were always black and were considered messengers of bad news.

Sketch I made from a google photo on the US fish and wildlife website.

In Norse stories they were the companions of the God, Odin. Each day they would go out and travel the world, observing all the comings and goings of the world. In the Evening they would return and tell Odin all the things they had observed which Odin used to keep one step ahead of his enemies. They were called Huginn, (Thought) and Muninn, (Memory.)

No-one is really sure where the myth of the London Ravens comes from but it is considered largely a Victorian story although Charles II was also apparently told that if the ravens in the Tower of London were killed, the kingdom would fall. Another very early myth dates back to the Welsh King Brân who had the head of his rival, Matholwch, who mistreated his sister, buried on the White hill where the Tower of London stands, facing France, to protect the county from being invaded. All good tourist money.

Merlina, was the current Queen of the Ravens and although in the past, the ravens wings have been clipped so they didn’t fly away , they are not now. Unfortunately, she flew away and was never seen again. Her keeper thinks she died as she was quite elderly for a raven at 14 yrs old. Ravens are very intelligent birds and Merlina’s favourite party trick was to lie on her back with her feet up and pretend to be dead. Eventually, someone would notice and a tourist or 2 would start to shout, a raven is dead! A raven is dead! And soon a crowd would gather around whereupon Merlina would suddenly become very much alive!

Ravens are like several breeds of birds that mate for life. Before that they will crowd together and form gangs that are called ‘unkindness’ and behave like normal teenagers, creating a nuisance of themselves.

The large area behind the 2 birds came about because I had included a globe and ravens are often thought of as portents of bad news. Climate change mainly in form of devastating fires fills our nightly news. Sometimes, like this week, it come in the form of severe arctic cold like it did in Texas this week. Yet, people still disbelieve it isn’t happening and it something we can’t control.

Observations from my journal regarding this drawing:

I overworked in places and didn’t do enough in others.

Watercolour really isn’t my thing (I might have revised that opinion since.)

It is very different from the drawing I received which was very calm and serene. Mine is a frantic rush.

Selfie with big hopes

This was the first drawing assignment given by Susan Shie for her Facebook drawing challenge group.

This is what I wrote about the drawing on the Facebook group, amended slightly:

I was nervous about this, like other newbies. It pretty much out of my comfort zone but that is why I joined the group. So I decided to put a confident face on it! The drawing just drew itself in the end. In September, I hope to fly to London and attend my niece’s wedding. 3 weeks later, my youngest daughter is getting married While I was in bed one day, I was looking at the accumulation of ornaments on the top of our bookcases. I thought its a shame, that unless I tell my family, their stories would be lost. Some of them, the story is already lost as I have forgotten. So I decided I will get back to still life painting but not like I have in the past with nice objects I have found but with objects that I can relate to and hopefully convey to a broader audience. Since lockdown, my husband and I have forgone our weekly visit to restaurants and going to the cinema. We haven’t even had a takeaway! At the beginning of lockdown, there was just myself and my husband plus my son in the house. In April my eldest daughter moved in with her daughter. They briefly went up to NM to see my grand-daughter’s Dad but since August, we have had a full house. My poor grand-daughter has basically been stuck in doors for most of the last 10.5 months as I have auto immune issues plus I am in just in age risk category . So I am looking forward to having the vaccine so life can get back to normal.

On Instagram I wrote, again amended for some spelling mistakes🤣:

Completed the Ist drawing of my drawing class. This is different from the way I normally work but I enjoying it. For a start the sketch pad is enormous! 11×14 and we are draw(ing) across the 2 page spread. I am use to doing tiny little reference sketches, if I sketch at all! Next up ‘let Freedom ring’ Have some ideas but still formulating them into some coherent

I had decided to join this drawing challenge (class) as I had seen a video on Youtube where Lisa Walton interview Susan Shie. I had seen Susan’s quilts and drawings in the past and thought it was amazing. So when she mentioned she runs these month long sessions on Facebook, I didn’t hesitate to join.

It has been a great experience and a big learning curve for me. Unlike my comment above, I am not sure that I will be doing the still life themes, at least not as paintings. I might make them as fabric collages. I am missing working on my sewing machine but that is also one of the reasons why I thought I would take part in this group as I am terrible at doing research and using a sketch book. As a student at Camberwell, I had a sketch book in my bag all the time and would draw as I was on the bus, waiting for a bus, in the bar etc. By the time I moved to Bath,(Corsham) I was trying my hand at more imaginative drawing , like you do as a child. I was never very successful at it. I don’t see pictures in my head as, I think, narrative artists do. I know it just a matter of freeing up the brain and retraining it. I think I am better with at doing narrative themes when I am working in textiles for some reason.

An example of one of my earlier textile pieces.

Why? an improvised small wall quilt in 2018.

At the time, I basically responded to a question that keep popping up in my head at the time, “Why” I think it was in response to T***** and his supporters at the time. Part of the reason I don’t remember how I came about with this idea is because I didn’t use a sketchbook or write down what I was thinking. It was quite spontaneous and I used scraps of paper to work it out. They are now lost.