Thursday, 22 November 2012

are there doughnuts in heaven?

Hey-ho grumpy stars and pink galahs!
This is a little piece I finished last week, and I'm so glad to share her with you at last. I am really pleased with the way this character turned out; perhaps most of all because I finally feel like she is, on paper, everything I wanted her to be in my head. It sounds silly, but, me being my own harshest critic, it's always important to me to be true to my ideas, and try to solve problems I have getting there with my media. Coloured pencils are so often overlooked, but I really feel with mine that I have the control that I never felt with acrylics, and, given patience to just plug away, most of the time I get the results I'm looking for. It's exciting to look back even 6 months and think: 'Wow! I really have learned a lot!', and to think forward, even just another year, and think of what I might achieve then.

I think one of my greatest pleasures as an artist is to watch people's reactions as they walk around my market shop; to see them smile from their insides-out is so wonderful, and to hear them laugh is even better. I know when people laugh that they 'get' it, and I feel lucky and priveliged.
In contrast to this, I've also heard my work described as 'naive' (which I find supremely insulting), and/ or whimsical (which isn't too much better). I tend not to invest too much emotionally in conversations with people when they say these things because they've already dismissed my work on a stylistic level (I once had an infuriating conversation with a woman who insisted my work was 'naive, like Holly Hobby' and assured me she'd done a Masters in Visual Arts. I worked very hard resisting the temptation to suggest she ask for her money back). Very simply: I am serious about my pursuit of creating characters with one foot in my imagination, but convincing enough to flit between that and the real world. It doesn't mean I don't make serious art, it just means I want to have fun, to express a sense of humour, and in a way that isn't photo-realistic. The people who smile and laugh know all of that, and it's a relief, quite honestly. For me, it's validation, it's being understood, without having to justify myself or go into boring discourse on what art is, or should be, or silly labels that I feel boxed in by.
My little doughnut angel was my way of being a bit of a dork really. A few months back, when I'd kicked my smoking habit and was offsetting my misery slogging it out at the gym; fresh, hot cinnamon doughnuts were the perfect substitute, I felt. I did also joke at one point that heaven wouldn't be properly 'holey' if it weren't liberally stocked with doughnuts, and, in fact, it was my personal opinion that they should fall from the sky like rain, on the hour, every hour, and naturally they'd be calorie-free. As I got to know my little angel though, I got to thinking about all the obvious, existential things too. Mostly, I thought about my Grandma.
My grandparents have always been a big part of my life; growing up, school holidays were almost always spent on their farm. My Grandma's heart was big enough to hold everyone in it who'd ever met her; most people who ever made her acquaintance loved her and quickly became part of the family. Christmas-time saw Grandma in her element: cards poured in from all over the world and presents were sent in turn for all of the grand-kids, both biological and adopted. I was the youngest of the grand-kids until the great grand-children came along, and spoiled pretty well rotten. My Grandma had the most amazing gift of making everyone who ever met her feel like the most special person on earth. I looked nothing like my parents, but everyone said I was the spitting image of Grandma. She was always a beauty, even in her vintage years, and I loved poring over old photos of her, with her lovely dark hair and tiny waist. To me, she was the most beautiful woman on earth: inside and out. She was also, incidentally, an amazing cook and artist. 
Three years ago, I got a call from my parents to tell me that my beautiful Gran had had a sudden heart-attack. She'd slipped away in the hospital a little while later. Dave and I had only been living in London for a few months and, having only just found jobs, we couldn't afford to make the trip home. I always knew the day would come. Grandma always had one foot out the door after all; for the woman who taught me about fairies, I often wondered as a child if she wasn't a fairy herself. Being so far away, all I could think was: just one more time. One more cuddle. A chance to say goodbye. There were so many questions I still wanted to ask her: about life, about being a grown-up, about my family. . . For a lady that had always been so sharp and proud and funny, it seemed far too soon to say goodbye.
So what do you ask your loved ones when they're already gone? What do you ask when no end of questions would ever be enough, no last cuddles would ever scratch the surface of the person you've lost?
I realised that there were a million things I would never know the answer to when I lost Grandma. But, in little ways, I keep her alive in my heart. I still remember what it felt like to give her a cuddle. I can still hear her whistling along with the radio; the smell of her purfume; the way she'd peer over her glasses to do a lunchtime crossword, and scratch at her temple in concentration. The way she'd laugh, and it would fill up a whole room.
Sometimes I write letters to Grandma. They're not always written down on paper, but sometimes, just thinking of what she might say helps me make better choices, helps me do what is right, and helps me listen better to what's in my heart.

Dear Grandma,
I hope you are enjoying nice weather up there, and that you spend time with people you love.
We miss you down here.
Do you have a nice big pantry up there? Do you think you could make a roast next Sunday and send me a little container of leftovers? How many stamps do you think you might need for that?
And Grandma, I was wondering- do they have doughuts in heaven?
Please remember me to Poppa and my kitten Monty. I love you always x o x o x
Mel x

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mel, the arts is a strange world to be part of. I know the long art conversation you speak of and some can be invigorating but mostly seem to hover with art wank. I have passed you several times at the market and have yet to pluck up the courage to introduce myself because I find your work so incredibly beautiful the things i make pale in reflection. (terrible self critic as well) I consider the things I sell on etsy & at the markets as product rather than the art I like to make, where yours is your art. One wonderful thing is I too love the way people smile at my kooky creatures. I'll try not to scuttle past next time :-)


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