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Blog - Deborah Caulfield

Art in the machine stays in the machine, until I say.


Art Therapy 5 | Digital Image | Deborah Caulfield 2018

This image marks an artistic breakthrough for me, a watershed moment. Not definitive, as in, I’ve arrived. I haven’t arrived. But I have taken a step forward. What I mean to say is, it feels good.

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard it all before, right?

Wrong. When did I ever (ever) say that? Even if I did (which I didn’t) it’s different this time.

This image came out of a mini-meltdown, triggered by a couple of shit (but promising, as it turned out two weeks later) sketches I did while trying out a new paintbrush.

Here’s what happened.

I went outside, drifted down the street, transparent, my feet not quite touching the ground. The afternoon sun hurt my eyes. I thought I might float away. Maybe I wished for this.

Back indoors with some tasty supplies from the local shop, I set about losing myself in creativity. I needed not to think, or feel. Forget hand-made marks on bits of paper that scream failure. It had to be just me and the screen.

What happens in the machine stays in the machine, until I decide to let it out. Control.

I’m no techie, but there are times when the PC is my non-judgemental best friend, the caring mum I never had, the mirror-mirror on the wall who loves me most of all.

I wanted law and order, neat and tidy. Calm, calm, calm. No alarms and no surprises. Silence.

After the debacle with the paintbrush, imagine the effortless joy of sliding a photo (one of mine, of course) into Adobe CS5. And there’s something wonderfully comforting about a grid. More on this another time.

But first the photo (scruffy grass) needed seeing to. I wanted no-nonsense simplicity, binary bobs-your-uncle black-and-white. After many goes with the lovely live trace I got what I was after.

And there it was, reduced, cropped, fixed, framed, boxed. Nature tamed. I had my main image. Now came the hard part.  How long would it take to make a picture, a work of Art, out of this little motif? Maybe forever. Perhaps never.

There’s no bit of tech or kit than can help with this. No formula, no text book, no instruction manual, no help files, no online community to ask how, why, or should I be doing this…

No matter. This was where I needed to be, in that quiet space where nothing’s wrong and nothing’s right. It just is. Freedom.

A few days before I’d been looking into, reading about, the work of Yinka Shonibare, an articulate and interesting artist. He talked about grids, and working in series. He led me to Jacques Derrida and deconstruction. Now, I’m no intellectual, and don’t claim to understand this completely or much at all. But you know how some things seem to resonate, to click? And so it was. It made me feel better, less off-the-grid.

Dolly Sen says disability art should be madder. My work might not be considered as disability art, or mad art. But for me doing art is mad enough thanks very much. What I need is art therapy.

Putting things in boxes is where it’s at. Predictable, bounded, secure.

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Joe TurnbullDeborah CaulfieldRichard Downes Recent comment authors
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Joe Turnbull

“Without order, nothing exists…without chaos, nothing evolves”. This post is really interesting about the desire for order, the security it brings. It’s not something you hear about a lot when discussing the artistic process…the romanticised view is of the chaotic creative, erupting with an explosion of energy in a moment of pure inspiration. I suspect the reality is usually a lot closer to your experience here though Debz. There’s a lot to be said for the feeling of working within a structure and getting consistent rewards. It spurs you on. You feel good about achieving the next step. That keeps… Read more »

Richard Downes

Like it and enjoy catching up on your processes

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