this time last year was a particularly dark period in the history of Mel that not too many people know about. when my sprogs moved in with their dad, I lost 30% of my income and had a very hard time catching up to the point where I could make reasonably regular child support payments. it took a couple of months and, though their dad got quite a lot of breaks from me when he was the payor, he was not as glad to return the favour. he took me to court and, extra sadly, exagerated the amount I owed. I didn’t fight it and so my wages were garnished by 50% for most of last summer. so, while things were looking on the up and up in so many facets of my life at that time, I was basically in financial jail and that’s a really depressing place to be. it takes a real toll on your psyche when you’re working 3 jobs just to make ends meet and too tired, angry and broke to do you. all of that AFTER going through a court system which is harsh on fathers, for certain, but incredibly, indelibly judgmental of mothers who “allow” (that was a word used by a duty counsel lawyer I spoke with, as if my sprogs didn’t have minds of their own and was not at all the worst judgment I heard in the process, but I’m not going further into that – too painful) their children to leave their home.
art has always been my go-to in such situations. when in doubt, art it out. but I had the joy in that squeezed out by a mother who was full of praise in public, but hyper-critical behind closed doors. she was also rather good at volunteering my services FOR FREE – “oh! you need a poster done? I have a daughter who is an over-worked, exhausted single mother who can do that for you FOR FREE!” “oh! you want custom drapes for your cottage? I have daughter who is an over-worked, exhausted single mother who can do that for you FOR FREE!” all while telling me how much better a job she would do, but not taking any of these “opportunities” on herself and exploiting my inability to say “no”.
I’m sure you get the picture of how the joy can be sucked out of your favourite activities with experiences like that. reason 183 that I no longer have a relationship with my mother.
anyways, I’ve been working on it, but I cannot lie: it has been scary. my head has been so full of negative self-talk that I began to believe, which makes it really difficult to sit down and believe you can do a thing. but I’ve been doing it and then my amazing mister tossed in a game changer in the form of a SUPER DELUXE spirograph set. who knew that a mathematical toy that required a lot of concentration and precision and MATH created for making pretty, flowery, if very precise designs could help me get back into the flow and be so inspirational? I guess I did as I’d been wanting one for years, but the experience of doing it was pretty magical.
fast forward a few months and I’m making psychedelic spiral doodles of snakes and butterflies and fishies and learning all about watercolours, a medium that has always intimidated the fuck out of me, and signing on to do a group art show all about bikes.
the inspiration was overwhelming. this is a thing I struggle with constantly, but BIKES! there’s SO much there! so much that I dragged my heels on getting started on all but collecting supplies until I finally hashed out a do-able, if simplistic concept: doodles inspired by songs inspired by bicycles.
in between deciding on my concept and beginning work on my pieces, my fairy godmother passed away and I dragged my heels even more and even contemplated dropping out of the show. I had a catch-up evening of sushi and wine and solid and much needed one-on-one time with one of my lovely loves and was describing what I was doing as “paint-by-numbers of my own, very simple drawings…that include spirographs, but I’m ok with paint-by-numbers and simplicity. I’m learning and I just need to do this show because I’ve too long shoved aside my need for creativity in the name of what others think I should be doing.” …or something like that. it was a very liberating thing to say because I believed every word of it. the following night I got back to work again.
and I did it. I wanted to submit 6 pieces and only did 5, but I did it. the daughter did too. we were scrambling with getting our submissions in some kind of mountable format at the 11th hour, but we did it and it felt really scary and really good.
what I submitted is all a bit silly and simplistic and include nebulous purple beings in alien landscapes with spirograph bits, but they all taught me something and all have a place in my heart:
title: guess we’ll never see poor Madeleine again
inspiration: apology song by The Decemberists
title: y avait Francis et Sébastien…et puis Paulette
inspiration: À Bicyclette by Yves Montand
title: I might be trapped in a world going backwards
inspiration: Hadron Collision by Propaghandi
title: I’m as Happy as the Dolphin
inspiration: Acoustic Motorbike by Luka Bloom
title: Angel Cake for You and Me
inspiration: Bike Ride to the Moon by Dukes of Stratosphear (aka XTC)
it was fun. it was very, very vulnerable-making. of course it’s I’m still entirely a work in progress because one little art show isn’t going to undo a lifetime of prioritizing the needs and wants of others over what brings me joy, but it’s a start and it really solidified my commitment to doing the work.
I’ve signed on for a 30 day online drawing course that I hope will help me get back into the creative habit more than I hope it will teach me any new skills, though that would be nice too.