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Spring 2018

15 March 2018

In which SJ is feeling under the weather.

It’s been a really cold winter and I’m not tip-top.  I’ve had this year’s flu.  The usual aches and pains came and went followed by the arrival of a lurid green chest infection.  It robbed me of my usual enthusiasm for building a snowman or bracing walks on an ice-crunchy beach.

Nothing much is being achieved either creatively or practically.  My house looks likes the council tip and although the snow has melted, I still cannot see my car for seagull splatterings.  No matter how we think we can show a virus who is boss, it’s startling how easily the flu takes you down.  I spent the best part of February smeared in Vicks Vaporub and whimpering as I shovelled in comfort food. 

I felt ok for approximately 2 minutes and was about to return to my studio but in an almost seamless segue; I now have pleurisy.  This is a first for me and not a very pleasant one either.  The level of pain in the lungs has been literally breath taking and I’m told it can last for weeks.  It is very frustrating and the novelty of Lucozade and egg-in-a-cup has long since evaporated.

However, being forced to lie down on the sofa during the day does offer an opportunity for peaceful contemplation (as well as noticing how badly the living room ceiling needs painting). Then came the snow storms.  A flapping bonkers pigeon became trapped in the chimney.  Avalanches of soot into the living room did nothing for the lungs, the mood or the bird itself. It was eventually freed by a chimney sweep with a child’s fishing net and an industrial hoover. The pigeon was last seen being transported away to be fed and rested in the vets aviary.  Maybe I should have gone with him.

Sickness, like most other human experience, is useful to me. It feeds into the work of an artist.  What I do at the easel comes from a need to understand life better.  I'll always be trying to catch an idea and examine it.  Working in the arts is a privilege and never more so than when you are excused a degree of introspection. It is my way of existing in the world. I'm not a good talker or writer. These are just two of the reasons why I prefer visual communication - I get time to think.  Even when I have no clue if what I've painted will make sense, or have meaning for anyone else, there is a flood of relief from downloading from the mind and onto canvas.  At the end of the physical process, I clean my brushes, sweep the studio and, for a moment, I have uncontaminated peace in my soul. 

Despite a wobbly first quarter, I’ve got an almost finished collection of new paintings. The setbacks mean I need to catch up, finish off the works, get the odd numbers even and by late June, I’ll have them on my studio walls.  By then, even if Whitley Bay cannot quite deliver us a honeyed tan, at least we won't get frostbite.