Pulling out the rug

I keep forgetting the details.

We were talking the other night about how Karen’s gall bladder emergency was a major trigger last year for Brigitte’s breakdown. But then we remembered the boy who was stalking her, and talking about killing himself, just beforehand.

I’d been so focused on the aftermath that I’d forgotten that when Michael’s parents rang me to say he’d gone missing I had to keep the conversation short, as I was waiting in the car to pick up Melanie. To take her to a hospital appointment about eating disorders, and realising I could only choose one crisis in that moment.

There’s an old drawing about a patch of misfortune, Karen and I laughing that it was the point in a movie plot where you’d say it was too farfetched, that couldn’t all happen to one family.

Each death, each close call with it, used to give me a burst of feeling… live life to the fullest, you never know how long you’ve got, bla bla bla. But it’s never sustainable, both the shadow and the motivation fade.

Now I’m trying to flog myself to a similar feeling… be glad it’s not worse, not being at school is better than self harm. But that’s even harder to sustain.

Mostly I’m just trying to have no expectations, but failing at that too. Mostly I expect it won’t get any better, missing the things that are gone. People, dreams for the future, simple pleasures.

Sometimes I expect it will get worse.

“double dissolution”

Last Wednesday I couldn’t face the picture I’d been working on. Another one that’s a bit grim, but somehow didn’t seem dark enough. The Wednesday before that I’d sent a progress photo to cousin Michael like I always do when I’m working on something.

I’d thought I was sending texts and photos for him, keeping a flow of human contact to help him through. Drawings, graffiti, motorbikes and most of all beers. Turns out I needed it just as much, contact with a fellow traveller looking at the debris washed up on the shore.

This drawing isn’t about Michael, or even grief, but a gentle distracting concept. Feeling like I was burning my emotional energy on too many fronts.

A tidy little drawing, done in a single sitting, nothing groundbreaking about the technique or imagery. With no one to send a picture to.


“balance #19”

I was thinking about the 3D poster from way back at the end of my studies. About how oversimplified, how black and white I thought the balance was. And how perfect a metaphor the eye scorching anaglyph was for the mixed up greyness of life, and the pain of my blurry eyes!

The drawing itself came together in a mega single day session, drawing till the eye fatigue made the last few lines a squint with my head almost on the paper. Pushing the colours in Photoshop late at night till I was seeing double even with the glasses on.

The sweetest spot was thinking about whether to use the artist figurine as one of the juggled objects, but swapping it for the main figure. It turned my vague anxiety about getting the crossed legs right into a pleasure of geometry. The four arms were meant to alternate with the colours of the anaglyph, show some movement, but ironically it looked too unbalanced.

“absorbing Markov chain #2”

This was one from December last year, a patch emotionally dark but creatively fertile. I was glad to see the end of 2022, but not expecting much brighter from 2023. Luckily I’ve been proved wrong so far, following up my usual new year mood rebound with some family wins. Like the drive to live life to the fullest after a brush with mortality, I’m feeling the buzz of difficult being easy compared with fucking awful.

Researching a previous picture vaguely based on snakes and ladders, I came across the idea of the absorbing Markov chain, a mathematical theory of probability where each state leads inexorably to the next. In that game there are different paths, some longer and some shorter, ways to loop back past and delay, but it must come to an end.

Along the way I was also working out how to chart my beer consumption, the cans here graphing that curve too. All that said, it was an enjoyable one to draw with a big chunk of geometry through the middle, and an excuse to buy a couple of new markers. Maybe the cup is half full. Cheers.


Celebrating getting my stitches out, having a day to myself to draw after the school holidays, and having a beer after four weeks dry on antibiotics. This was a midnight quickie in my notebook from a few days ago, needed a bit more work on the title… probably should have been “uncyst” after getting it cut out two weeks ago.

The drawing I worked on today was one started in December, one a bit bleaker about torching the year just been, itself displacing an older drawing about getting older. Ironically I’m still in my usual new year bounce, feeling positive and looking ahead. More drawings, more beers and not having a festering wound on my back. That’s enough to start with.

silver pox

This is a stop gap while recovering from covid, delaying the bigger picture I was working on, the shitty icing on the shitty cake of the year!

I’ve been jotting in these notebooks for years, and noticed that the number of ideas for drawings dropped off, some of them were almost entirely book reviews. I guess I got busy with life in happier times. Funnily enough this last has been solid with drawings, proof of the old adage that misery makes better art than happiness.

Some level of silver lining.

“kettle bitterness”

To take the boiling frog metaphor right to its end, at that moment a month or so back it was more like sitting scorching on the bottom of a boiled dry saucepan.

I really jinxed it the day of that last post, writing and telling people things were getting better. Tempting fate by buying some beers in preparation for a boys night to blow off some steam. The only reason we didn’t end up back in emergency that night was because the ambulance took too long to come…

About this drawing, I had wanted to do something different, work in black and white with flat colours like a print. I’d done a beautiful free biro thumbnail but my redrawn big pencil version was stiff and lacklustre. Plan B was to blow the thumbnail up to A4 and use it as a base to work over. Need to do more quick pen drawings, but I’m not at all convinced by the fake colour. Oh well.

“minimum viable product (drone #4)”

This was probably the lowest point of my mental state, coming at the end of the worst few weeks I’ve ever had. It’s much easier to deal with your own pain than that of others. I was out walking, feeling that there was nothing to be hoped for but swimming hard to even keep the surface in view, thinking that the only way to get through was to not feel anything.

Happily things turned out better than expected, the bleak tide receded to leave us catching our breath. Part of it for me was having some time to draw this week, getting it out on paper. It came together pretty easily, apart from a near disastrous attempt at a wash for the background which left it warped and dripping.

Maybe that’s some sort of metaphor, mopping up and pushing through.