Just like starting over

Angels: Christmas Card Design (15 cms x 15 cms ink and collage 2022)

Times flies. I’ve written nothing on this blog since last March – nearly a year ago. If anyone is still listening, let me explain.

For most of 2022 I suffered from a chronic, non-life-threatening illness, one that has not only sapped my strength but also drained my creativity. I simply had no inspiration. My attempts at drawing and painting were scuppered by the tank being firmly on zero: something I’d never experienced before. I’ve been able to create even in the depths of grief, of loss, of stress – but not during this debilitating ill health.

I was going to post something a few weeks ago about if you want to get back into your creative stride, try an online challenge. Whether your thing is drawing, painting, music, or writing, there are projects on the internet to kick start your creativity. I did one – a delightful drawing challenge about folktales (my contributions are on Instagram) – which really kindled the flame: the research into folktales inspired by a simple key word, thinking through the scenario and the composition, doing the actual drawing – but once the challenge was over the inspiration seeped away once more.

The only thing that combats lack of inspiration caused by ill health is, in my experience, getting better.

However, returning to the art you love gives you a helpful nudge. I looked again at The Art of Richard Thomson – my hero on high, plucked from us so early – and luxuriated in his linework and his humour. I read books by the recently deceased German illustrator, Wolf Erlbruch, and marvelled at his invention in each new project. We visited the Tate Modern Cézanne exhibition with friends not seen since the start of Covid and once again I was thrilled at his way with the humble apple. “Even for Cézanne the apple would only matter if it called up a breast in the painter’s mind…art’s subject is always the human clay,” writes New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik in his wonderful book, At the StrangersGate.

Slowly, the flame started to sputter into life again. I drew a card for a friend’s significant birthday. A building in a nearby town. Then the Christmas card design above and the angels’ heads below. Pulling in influences and transforming them, feeling creativity flow again as my health improved.

In retrospect, I wish I’d performed some sort of daily drawing exercise, even during the most challenging months of my illness. Taking one object and drawing it every day – no pressure, no expectations, no need for inspiration, just flexing those drawing muscles. It would have kept the spirit buoyant, like the scent of a familiar room, a cocktail on a warm summer’s evening, a conversation with an old friend.

So that’s the story of my non-blogging ten months. Hopefully now that I’m drawing again I can also think of something to say about them. Fingers crossed!

Angel Heads (20 cms x 20 cms ink 2022)

36 thoughts on “Just like starting over

  1. My best wishes for your continuing on the feel-well path. Selfishly, I’ve missed your art and commentary postings. May 2023 be a creative and good year.
    Best, Amy

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Oh I’ve been there. Best wishes and a speedy recovery. I draw every day in a 2 x 2 square. When the muse is out I just start with an X. If that’s all I can do, at least I drew a good X!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. So glad that you are back and feeling better. I did miss your posts. I have gone four months without posting once and it was so difficult to get momentum to get started again. I think your idea for drawing the same thing every day is a good idea for revving up your momentum. When I go days without writing something, anything, I know something is amiss with me. But you are back, and you seem inspired by all those artists. I am happy for you, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, LuAnne, that’s so kind. I remember a CNN ad from the 1980s which showed someone trying to bounce a basketball from a standing start (something to do with advertising budgets) – that’s how it felt late last year. Good to be back though.


  4. What a difficult experience. It’s good to see you back and working again, or should I say, playing. A good museum show can be such a gift! And the nudges you had helped. Your angels are wonderfully eccentric – I love the expressions and those little bare feet.
    I’m not familiar with the Adam Gopnick book and I think I’d like it, having lived in NYC for many years.
    I’ll check it out, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I, for one, am still listening. And still enjoying your posts whenever they come. I’m sorry it’s been a tough year for you. For what it’s worth, I have saved three posts from you in my inbox and I reread them from time to time: “The Limits of Your Longing”, “A Farewell”, and “Entre chien et loup.” So, I share these words of your inspiration: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final…Nearby is the country they call life…Give me your hand.” – Rilke. Just keep going…you’ll find the drawing and the words when you are feeling better. — Jean

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely to hear from you Michael, and your angels are gorgeous! I have had a similar total lack of inspiration myself this last few months, and got a little bit inspired by watching Sandi Hester do portraits with wax crayons and oil pastels – what I loved about it was it needed a lot of scribbling…I really enjoyed that and was pleased with the result. I also did a workshop locally (here in Ipswich, Queensland Australia) the other day – cyanography – you paint the paper with this green cyanide goo, place leaves and flowers etc on it, put glass on top, and put it in the sun for about 15 minutes, the green color goes dark blue, you take it inside and rinse it in water, and there you have a print. I really enjoyed it. I had planned to finish a junk journal to give to my granddaughter for Christmas, but I still have a few pages to do…her birthday is in May so that’s the next deadline! Be well and God bless you, Marylin Smith

    Sent from Mailhttps://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986 for Windows


  7. Finding inspiration about what to create can be the hardest part – even harder than picking up the materials to start – and when you’re not feeling up to par that can seem beyond reach. I love that you have drawn the angel heads repeatedly, all a little different. Let’s hope this is your start point and things start to catch your eye. I wish you well and look forward to seeing what you do next.
    I’m sure most of us, myself included, understand the difficulties of peaks and troughs in their creative practice, whatever media they use.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad to see you again. I’ve traveled the road you’re on, health-wise, and it’s hard to see beyond simply enduring. Then one day things shift and something happens inside you. It feels appealing to do an activity you thought you might never be able to take up again. Thrilling, that feeling. I’m looking forward to seeing you again, I have missed you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We only have so many seconds. And no second chance, If you can hold your tool (pencil) draw a line a day. Live mindfully…this is it…the only second/minute you have…do what brings you joy

    Liked by 1 person

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