I was not a child prodigy Ha Ha

As promised I am posting some images from my earliest days which happens to be from when I was at secondary school in London.

I first started to become interested in art when I was at St Michael’s Church of England school. I joined the school in 1970 when we moved back to London from Ashford Kent. As I hadn’t passed the 11 plus exam, I had the choice of the brand new school, Pimlico Comprehensive or a much smaller school. Comprehensives weren’t getting any good publicity at the time so Mum chose the C of E school. Big mistake as it was one of the schools which were later referred to as a ‘sink school’, massively underachieving.

I had come from a really good secondary school in Kent (also brand new) where science and art were treated equally. Unfortunately, the lower ratings of school became which was the way St Michael’s was going, the less money was expended on it, so science went by the way. By the time I left in 1973, we had one science teacher for the whole school and his special subject was physics. To do physics, you need a good basic math background. Unfortunately, we ended up with a teacher who didn’t want to teach maths but torment kids, especially boys. So while he would humiliate them, we would chat, play and copy the answers from the back of the workbook. To be honest I would have preferred a career in science and even visited the lab at a hospital as I was interested in becoming a Medical Laboratory Assistant. It was not to be. I got a grade 5 in Physics and a 3 in Maths (if I remember correctly). There was no fail in CSEs (certificate in secondary education). Pointless piece of paper!

Instead I fell into art. Even then, as the school only offered CSE, the consolation prize in school exams, the standard wasn’t that high. Due to some timetable conflict, I ended up doing a class with lower year. So I was in a corner, quietly getting on with my work while the class was creating havoc with the art teacher who was an ex military person and had no idea how to control riotous teenagers. I remember him one time, getting so angry he threw something out of the school window. His basic standard was to yell at them as if they were soldiers.

At least, he just let me just get on with my work. My big project was about abortion and the sanctity of life. I created a Plasticine model of the lower part of a woman with the area where the baby was situated, craved out and then I created a fetus.

I was very confused at the time as I had just learnt my mother had another child before me and had him adopted. She made it clear she blamed me for that event. I would later learn the truth of the situation and it was somewhat different from the story I had been given. She had also revealed when she was pregnant with my sister, who is 13 months younger than me, she tried to abort her several times That was going to lead to years of anguish on my part and my sister. Now in reflection, I can see how much my mother suffered. 3 pregnancies in 3 yrs, she was must have been going out of her mind. My Dad was in the navy and his family was not very supportive at the time, although they later became very close. This was well before the pill and her own Mother was going through her own issues with a husband who was suffering from PTSD although it wasn’t known as that then and terminal TB, so was of no help to her. If Mum had been born a decade later, I am not sure she would have gone on to have 2 more kids as she was much more career minded than I ever was. I suspect for most of her 20’s she was suffering from some form of post natal depression. Of course, yet again, that wasn’t known about for many years after that.

Abortion, although legal by 1973, was still a controversial option especially with the publication of photos of the fetus in the womb in the late 60’s. I am not sure what the art teacher thought of my ‘sculpture’ but he never stopped me. I am not sure what I was trying to convey now as I am not against abortion, far from it but maybe at that time I was. I definitely a confused 15 yr old. For my efforts I got a grade 2. So not a prodigy!😂🤣

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t have any pictures of my grand project but I do have these from that year.

Sewing was my nightmare subject at school plus music. Both for different reasons. Music lessons were just a period where everyone ignored the teacher, walked in and out at will and basically we did anything but music. The teacher in sewing however was no walkover and most of us were scared of her. Not sure why I never learnt to sew given it one of my passions now but I still cannot understand patterns or those diagrams we get in the instruction booklets. Just had to take my sewing machine to the repairs because I misread a diagram in the instruction booklet.😯 Much better with videos. I was also scared of the sewing machine. Most machines scare me, especially power tools, even now. Fortunately, I have got over my fear of the sewing machine.

However, I did learn to embroider in her class. I had seen a magazine with the design and that was my project in my last year of sewing which was 1972 as I didn’t do the CSE in that. As the rest of the class got on with making various useful items like a blouse or a skirt, I concentrated on my embroidery. I must have been proud of it as I still have have it in the bottom of my stash.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Never thought 47 yrs later, one of my passions would be embroidery.

In August 1973, I started at Greycoats Hospital, the local grammar school in the hope I would get my O levels and maybe A levels. It was obvious from day one, my previous education had been woefully inadequate. As as consequent, no math or science classes as I was so far behind in even the basics. English was a struggle as grammar was not taught at St Michaels , my spelling was appalling (still is) and I suspect I was the first person in the school to fail my oral exam! However the English teacher, Miss Lloyd had great faith in me and encouraged my ramblings, a couple of which I still have in one of my many boxes.

I was put in the secretarial class, so at least I learnt to type properly however as I had no idea how phonetics worked, Pittman’s shorthand was a non starter for me. I was also put in the sewing class. I was useless at it! Art was my one bright spot. 😊😍

The art department had an arrangement with Camberwell school of art where promising students could attend classes on Saturday morning. That was the beginning of my life in art. In the next blog I will post work from the Saturday morning classes and my some of my work from my Foundation year at Camberwell.

In the meantime, some of the work from Greycoats.

I was a huge David Bowie fan at the time and this was the based on a poster I had. My sister was a T Rex fan. I thought they were rubbish at the time. Now I like both.

I was a big soccer fan at the time and this was a drawing of a player in the newspaper. Can’t remember his name now but think it was Allan Clarke
part of my O level exam. We were given objects for a still life. This was done with those horrible school paints they had then.

Depression, anxiety and art

Many people seem to think that anxiety, depression and art go together as an artist and that aids the creative process. For me, that is not the case. My mind comes to a grinding halt! As a life long sufferer of depression and anxiety, I can now feel when a period like that is coming along and usually I can mange to side swerve the worse of it by doing very routine things by just plodding along. Not this time!  It has taken almost 8 months to get pass this stage and it is still a struggle but one that is getting better. Unfortunately, I am not yet back to painting.  For the last 2 weeks my body has also decided to rebel against me as I battle a vicious allergic reaction which has left me with nasty welts all over my body and clothing being my enemy. As we are also going through a heatwave at the moment,  so any movement causes sweating which in turns makes the itching even worse. So plenty of cool soothing baths, showers and just keeping still has been the order of the day. Today temperature is meant to top 105F/40c. the joys of living in central Texas!

However, I have finally been making process with the online embroidery course I decided to take in December. It took me 6 months to get the first stage complete!  I have almost finished the 2nd part in less than a month so signs of progress only stopped this week by incessant itching.

Below are some of  the work I have done on this.  Part one  exploring stem stitch , chain stitch and fern stitch beginning with mark making exercises.

Part 2 has been been exploring line though using cut, torn and folding paper.

Finally line in paint through mono printing which amazingly I have never tried before. Not sure I have achieved this so well but I enjoyed the playfulness of this method of working and can see using this again.

Unfortunately I think this is where I acquired up my current allergic reaction as I pick up some plant matter and I suspect I touched some poison ivy in the process, stupid me!

Next step is explore the composite stitches of whipped stem stitch, Pekinese stitch and raised chain band. I have completed the samples so they should come along quite quickly but we have a short stay in Mexico City to enjoy before then. Really looking forward to the Frida Kahlo Museum and obviously I will be looking at any needlework/textile work I get my greedy eyes on.

Painting is also on my agenda but not a priority as it will come along when it is needed but it has not been abandoned. It will always be part of my life in some form or another.

I have done one drawing in the past month or so. I got a sheet of A1 cartridge paper and painted it with acrylic  gesso with no real idea of what I was going to do with it, other than I didn’t want it to be the tight smaller drawings I was doing last year as I wanted to get rid of the inhibitions to drawing that I have developed. For the one drawing it worked out quite well and I planned to do more ( I already have several prepared with gesso) but then the embroidery came along. As I have about 500 or more sheets (send to me by mistake by the supplier and they let me keep them several years ago, nice  🙂 ) , it is definitely something to explore in the coming months.

19228546_120516101879202_3216223334043746304_n(1)