Here is some Colitis wisdom you didn't ask for, but after seven years of it shaping who I am as a person and an artist I thought I should put it out there.
These past few weeks have been a little tough while trialing a new drug for my Ulcerative Colitis. Mostly it's the brain fog that gets to me, and wanting to nap after each bowel motion or each meal or almost always. The first four hours of my mornings are spent running back and forth to the toilet, examining my stools (or whatever they are), cleaning the toilet bowl, and refilling the hot water bottle. The murmur of cars and people chatting outside often overwhelmed me with a fear of missing out but I am simply just too exhausted to go out and my body needs rest.
Yes, Colitis is quite literally a pain in the butt, but somehow a blessing too. It's a little hard for me to think of the words I need to say- especially today when I have blood escaping from two orifices and the brain fog is at an all-time high. Somehow I feel compelled to write this blog now because I know I won't later.
This rather unattractive disease has really helped me find pleasure and happiness in the smallest things, like a blanket or sitting in the sun. I have learned to enjoy the bland low fiber foods I am allowed to eat- because I can still eat, I can still sit to eat, I can still taste, and I have my hands to eat with, and a nose to smell with, and adding salt really does wonders! It's really not all that bad! I am exhausted but that doesn't mean I can't experience bliss just with a hot water bottle, or a cup of tea. I have been quite blessed to live a life void of responsibility. I travel, study and draw and I am very thankful for that, but I can say for sure that the happiness I feel while making a cup of tea after 30 minutes on a toilet seat is exactly the same happiness I experience when I land in a new foreign city.
Colitis has taught me self-discipline I did not think I would ever achieve, being the free spirit I am. Of course, I slip up, who can say no to Klepe in Sarajevo, or Zaatar and labne in Amman, or a Pain au Chocolat in Paris, but generally speaking, I live a pretty routine day/life. Exercise, drawing, study, bland meals, and toilet. Socializing is becoming increasingly rare and I am ok with that. I can only see people on my terms. I avoid situations where I'm tempted to stay out late, to drink or eat foods that trigger me, or anything that might jeopardize the following day. I have learned to make the most out of my situation, and routine through self-discipline has kept me grounded. I used to associate self-discipline with pain but in fact, it has been the easiest route to a dopamine boost.
That's it for now. Drink water, go for nature walks and keep smiling. Love you all.
Before packing up and venturing overseas again, I decided to have a small show at Verona, an iconic café on Karangahape Road in Auckland, displaying a collection of drawings I had completed during my time in New Zealand. This was a unique opportunity for me to reflect on the times I shared with many memorable personalities within the realm of life-drawing. Depending on how life-drawing is approached, it can be an opportunity for self expression, to connect, listen and trust someone in a safe environment. During the sessions, me and the model would often exchange or share thoughts about our fears, goals and struggles. I feel blessed that I have the freedom and ability to provide and create a space for this to unfold.
One of the reasons life-drawing has become a regular practice, is due to the process. The models are not paid professionals, far from it! We come across each other spontaneously at cafés, airports or weddings and share a common curiosity about the other and a desire to connect through art. This shifts the experience from a means to an end to, to becoming an inherent part of the artwork itself. It did not occur to me that these drawings would be enough or sufficient for a show, till I valued the process more than the final drawing. Once my perspective about the drawings shifted, I felt they were worthy of framing and proceeded to search for a space that would mimic the mood and environment cultivated in a studio setting, to display them.
Since the models gave their time for free, I decided it was only right to donate the money collected from sales, to a charity. I approached several framing shops and put forth my vision. I explained that I wished for all the money to be donated and therefore had a ZERO budget for framing. Most of the businesses were extremely supportive, each offering help in any way they could, from glass-cutting, to supplying Matboards. I barely had any costs to cover myself, aside from the meagre costs of paper and graphite used to draw. The charity I selected was Kiwi Trust for Palestinian Children Relief, a organization which supplies families in Gaza with basic human necessities. The Israel/Palestine issue is one I feel strongly about, and feel a personal responsibility to raise when I can.
It brought me great joy to see the photos, of the families in Gaza receiving their food parcel earlier this week, from the donation collected.
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
'Quit your job! take my van...Yeaaaaah! take my van and go on a road trip!' those were the wise words of my friend Evy. I mean it was a very freeing thought, I really could do all those things.
I didn't quit my job...crazy talk. BUT I did go on a much needed road trip. I left at dawn Wednesday morning, with my $18 easel (or metal contraption of some sort), food, paint, all the thermals I owned and headed up north to Dargaville.
I never really considered Plein-air painting before, Plain-disaster is a better suited name. I barely understand what's going on in a still calculated studio setting let alone changing light, temperature, wind, insects, sand, dirt etc. Regardless, recently I had been thinking about it a lot; I had all my materials ready and had gone over the procedure in my head incessantly: how to set up my $18 easel without looking like a fool, how I would work on minute studies so that no one can see what I was painting, I rehearsed how I would pack-up my gear in the shortest possible time, prepared tea in a thermos for when I needed to procrastinate, the list goes on. I thought about everything that would give me an excuse not to try it out; it pays to know yourself well. It's like when you go to use a voucher and you missed the clause that states the voucher is invalid if you ate an apple that morning. Be prepared.
Two hours had passed since I began driving and its well past sunrise, I had a decent block of time to complete a small study. I knew if I continued driving it would verify that I won't be Plein-air painting for the duration of the trip or ever. I approached some striking green rolling hills and pulled over without thinking too much (this is key). It bothered me that the wind turbulence and clouds were changing the way the light was hitting the landscape. Nevertheless, I had already pulled over on the side of the road. I imagined what it would look like to a road camera; a car pulling over then driving off, then pulling over again, only to drive off again. I set up my easel out of sheer paranoia; of the imaginary road camera following a suspicious car with a Middle-Eastern driver. The pain of not setting up surpassed the pain of setting it up. Once the metal pieces were assembled, it occurred to me I had taken this too far, I had to at least pretend to be doing something. This, in fact is the process of how I usually show up to painting, like a child scouring to stay afloat in shallow water, picking up a paint brush is an enigma to me. I dipped my brush in a bit of Gamsol and burnt Sienna, My first Plein-air painting. it was rubbish, but I did it.
Entry to Glinks Gully Beach
Arrived to destination; Glinks gully, a west coast beach that stretches out to as far as the eye can see, and not a soul. Just me, the water, sand and the odd washed up Bluebottle jellyfish, for miles. Walking along the sandbank I turned around to see where I had parked my car but it was out of sight; the rare quad biker would appear sporadically, then swiftly disappear into the mist again. It reminded me of that scene in the Pirates of the Carribeans: At worlds end film. Every person walking along that coastline must have felt like they were the last ones to walk the planet.
Glinks Gully Beach, Dargaville
The next morning I began the drive to Whangarei Heads. Stopping off along the way to do some Plein-air studies. It wasn't the horrendous task it was the day before. The thing about these studies is that they are so small. The main objective is to capture the correct value, hue and chroma; something I learnt during my time at Studio Escalier last year). I found Plein-air studies to be a great exercise to help me learn to see better, also being in nature was a welcomed change.
Plein-air painting at Whangarei Heads
I finished off my road trip with a stop at Eutopia Cafe. This place is so gorgeous, if you get a chance to check it out, do so!
Eutopia cafe Kaiwaka