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Deborah Caulfield

Artist and hardchair activist. Born 1949. Childhood spent in an institution, which accounts for it. I do pictures, mainly. I also write stuff, but not much. Quite a lot of my work is made horizontally, due to chronic pain and fatigue.

Posts by Deborah Caulfield

Artist Jo-anne Cox plays the cello against a backdrop of a blue All In The Mind poster

All in the Mind Festival explores lived experience of mental health

Deborah Caulfield thought she knew her own mind about mental health issues. Fluid Motion Theatre Company’s All in the Mind Festival in Basingstoke on  Saturday 24th June, caused her to think again. The aim of the All in the Mind Festival was to challenge preconceptions about mental health issues. I thought ...

picture about fear

What if you can’t run and there’s nowhere to hide from yourself?

Three questions to get you started: With which of these statements do you agree or disagree? It's best to keep quiet about your mental health problem because it makes people think bad things about you. You can’t be both physically disabled and have mental health issues – you have to choose one ...

Ian Stanton

Ian Stanton: the man, the music and the movement

Ian Stanton was an icon of the Disability Rights movement in the 1980s and 90s, and undoubtedly one of its foremost lyricists, until his untimely death in 1998. But his music and ideas have lasting significance for Disability Arts. Deborah Caulfield reflects on his life and work. In July 1996, as ...

Deborah Caulfield: A month of self portraits

Earlier this year, Deborah Caulfield set herself a challenge. She had an old sketch pad lying around. It had 39 pages. The task was to fill the sketchbook with a new self-portrait every day for 39 days. The rules: The sketch/note book must be one that I already own – no ...

screenshot showing 39 thumbnail images of drawings

What artists do all day: make, do and learn.

Earlier this year, having realised (again) that  I was (still) not doing enough drawing, I set myself this assignment: Task: Fill a note/sketch book with self-portrait drawings. Materials: Anything. Everything. Whatever. Timescale: Up to 39 days max (39 pages in the book). Rules: The sketch/note book must be one that I already own - ...

Jane McCormick's 'I Made a Pinch Pot a Day'.

Jane McCormick: Perfectionists Anonymous

Getting to know Irish artist Jane McCormick, through a marathon 11-month email/Skype conversation caused Deborah Caulfield to reflect on her struggle to define Disability Art, concluding that the artform is perhaps less of a question of 'what', than 'why' and, crucially, 'how'. Jane McCormick is a sculptor with a background in ...

Look: What artists do all day.

It's not easy being an outsider. Deep inside there's a longing to belong. My problem, I tell myself, is that I can't go along with the insiders' rules. It isn't so much that I disagree with their principles, more that they don't seem to have (m)any good ones. Never mind. I've reached ...

Self-portrait by Christopher Wood with paintbrush in hand and a small table with a set of oil paints

Christopher Wood: Sophisticated primitive

Christopher Wood (1901-1930) was an important and influential figure in the British art world during the 1920s.  Deborah Caulfield examines his art and his life as presented in a major exhibition at at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, on show until 2 October 2016. This comprehensive and superbly curated exhibition tracks Christopher ...

Trees and house drawing

Don’t worry… Breathe… Draw.

It's Unlimited time again. Another chance for disabled artists to get their stuff out there to wider audiences. Or, in many cases I suspect, the best if not the only opportunity to be able to afford to do their work at all. Not that I know anything about it. My art ...

Film still depicting a man in an illustrated boat against a murky illustrated background

Shadowlight Artists: Creative Bridges

Billed as 'Five talented individuals set out to challenge perceptions of learning disability', the Creative Bridges exhibition at The Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot, South Oxfordshire showcases Shadowlight Artists’ most recent work. Deborah Caulfield went to see the exhibition on Thursday 27th July. She came away feeling affirmed and encouraged. Shadowlight ...

How I participated in a national art event without leaving home.

I wasn't planning to do anything about Tanya Raabe-Webber and her Portraits Untold. I'd seen it reviewed on the DAO website and Facebook page and decided it wasn't for me. The actual event seemed expensive (though there were bursaries) and I ruled it out on the basis of having to travel to London and remain vertical ...

Digital artwork by Deborah Caulfield depicts a dog looking at a ghostly figure of a fur coat

A picture paints three hundred words

I often take comfort in EH Gombrich's assertion that 'There is no such thing as art, only artists.' So, here's me being an artist, not doing art. And here's me writing about my latest autobiographical picture, made on the tablet, images grabbed from the internet, fiddled with and fixed, placed in layers, then more fiddle-and-fixing. Nowadays, ...

Yvonne Mabs Francis surrealist painting The Electric Bed featuring a naked female figure lying on a bed hooked up to a clock with a ghostly skull overlaid on the foreground

AIMs and Mental Spaghetti: What goes on in The Mind at the Museum of Oxford

18 artists with lived experience of mental health conditions exhibited in Oxford recently. Deborah Caulfield visited and talked to two of the artists about their work. Making art can quieten the mind. Sometimes it articulates how we feel about the nonsense going on outside our heads, the mad stuff that makes ...

photo of a group of three musicians playing at Daisyfest

Daisyfest 2016 – grassroots disability arts, sharing the creativity of disabled artists

DaisyFest is an annual celebration of disabled artists in Surrey and beyond – held this year at GLive in Guildford on 9 June. DAO was invited to present a poetry workshop and one of the main evening events: a spoken word extravaganza. Deborah Caulfield turned up, joined in and reported ...

Figure lying down surrounded by things: books, pens, phone, mug, plant, specs. A cat lies beside her.

At home and horizontal

There's this idea that life gets better - improves - as we get older. I'm 66 and I still tend to believe this, but less so, because time doesn't mean that much to me. I'm gonna stay here till I soothe my soul ... Then again, I tell myself: If you live for ...

squiggly lines in soft reds, blues and greens on a white background. Text above reads: The NHS is being destroyed so I did this picture to cheer myself up.

Bad things are happening. I did a picture to cheer myself up

The idea for this picture came from a recent post on Facebook by Tom Cox. It was a sketch of a cat with the caption: 'One day things will get better. Until then here is a drawing of a cat.' This seemed to sum up how I feel about my art practice: The ...

Drawn in black ink with muted colours - brown, red and green. Five seated figures on stage, behind a table. In front: someone makes a speech. Above: banners say 'Nuclear free air, land and sea.' Signed Deborah Sowerby, my other name

Back in the day: now and then

I had shingles over christmas and new year. Although it was a relatively mild attack, added to the usual impairment shit, its effect on my energy levels and states of mind has not been altogether positive. I keep thinking any day I'll be better and back to where I was.  But then, where ...

Angry face showing teeth. Vibrant, clashing colour, translucent in places.

Keeping calm. Drawing a picture!

problem ... who said anything about a problem ... everything is fine

Still life with teapot & mugs. Biro and crayon on paper.

So it was. And here it is!

Once in a while, every so often, I get the urge to draw. No use fighting it. And so it was, that one day last October, l set the table. Years before, I had set my students a similar drawing exercise consisting of mugs and a check tablecloth. Nothing like a grid for ...

A section of a painting Anne Teahan's painting 'Guardian Combat'. It is a depiction of two frozen stills of an online debate on the Guardian website. Acrylic on canvas.

Fragments, fragility and the voices of the unheard – Anne Teahan

In the latest of our Viewfinder peer-to-peer interviews, Deborah Caulfield speaks to artist Anne Teahan about re-discovering her voice in a world so dominated by language. Alternating between drawing, sculpture and installation, Anne Teahan is known in the disability arts world for her fragile paper constructions. In 2007, she explored children’s ...

Black and white face with zig-zag rainbow across face.

Tribute to David Bowie, whose music I didn’t much like

David Bowie has died age 69. He had cancer. And by all accounts he stayed strong and cheerful to the end. For this he deserves credit and respect. I didn't rate his stuff much. His voice never appealed to me. I thought I liked Rebel Rebel till I checked the lyrics, now I'm not so sure. ...

Me age 12 holding my new bike, with new haircut and new clothes, smiling.

The consequences of praise: Bafflement, weirdness and wondrousness. / 6 January 2016

Today I received praise for my writing. It felt good. And weird. I wonder why ... My earliest memory of being praised was a teacher congratulating me for passing the eleven plus exam. I was baffled. I didn't even know I'd taken it. Then I remembered the strange test we'd all been ...

Me age 12 holding my new bike, with new haircut and new clothes, smiling.

The consequences of praise: Bafflement, weirdness and wondrousness. / 6 January 2016

Today I received praise for my writing. It felt good. And weird. I wonder why ... My earliest memory of being praised was a teacher congratulating me for passing the eleven plus exam. I was baffled. I didn't even know I'd taken it. Then I remembered the strange test we'd all been ...

A black and white photograph of Richard Dadd. He is seated and holding a paint brush. In front of him is an unfinished, circular painting on an artist's easel.

‘The Art of Bedlam’: Richard Dadd

Between 7 November and 6 February, Bethlem Museum of the Mind – the ‘original Bedlam’ – plays host to an exhibition of the Victorian artist, Richard Dadd, who produced a number of works whilst detained at the hospital. Deborah Caulfield surveys the scene, finding a few gaping holes in this ...

And now for something completely silly and totally other than what I should be doing. / 17 December 2015

I went to an exhibition yesterday. In typical form, I approached the task of writing the review back to front. Today, due to my ostensible need to verify and justify each and every word I write, I am not writing. I am researching; seeking, digging, poking, unearthing all manner of info, items and ...

words on a notepad background say 'I can't write tonight.'

Not writing. A picture in words. / 8 December 2015

I can't write tonight Background notepad image from rgbstock

Three identical soldiers, identical in a line, one further back. One has a butterfly on his boot. They are all in camouflage green, standing against a background of mainly red shrubbery and trees.

Not going out. A poem for peace. / 27 November 2015

I used to campaign against war and in favour of peace. It seemed important and I felt useful. I feel too tired and achy to protest now. Or is it that it doesn't seem to be worth the effort? I don't know. I really don't. So, I wrote this rough and ready poem to ...

A picture of Frederick Heymann's painting Chelsea Old Church. Watercolour on canvas.

Assessing access at the Royal Academy of Arts: InPractice

Several times a year the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) hosts InPractice, as part of its wider access programme. The sessions aim to provide a platform for disabled artists, and others whose work faces barriers, to share best practice through talks and debates. Artist and regular DAO contributor Deborah Caulfield ...

This blog has no title; it just is. / 30 October 2015

Woke up. Felt weird. Read Dolly Sen's blog. Did this picture.

A scribbly line drawing line in black ink with a bit of oil pastel.

Artist is as artist does. / 15 October 2015

I'm too old (or too/not enough something else) to get a job, so I'm trying to focus on the art side of things. It might come to nothing, or it might come to something. The main thing is I'm doing it. Wake up! City Arts is an interesting project that's recently started. It's ...

Pots, pans and utensils piled high on a draining board.

Distraction, dissatisfaction and not enough art action. / 11 October 2015

I haven't posted to my blog for months and months. This picture helps to explain why. Taken today. Not that I haven't had ANY art action. It's just that I haven't written about it here. Because it's mainly rubbish, to be honest. Or maybe I'm lazy. No, that's not it. Or maybe I lack ...

Blue sky. Whispy clouds. A building falling out of the bottom of the picture.

Apocalypse: If not now then when? / 7 August 2015

Sometimes it feels like it's all slipping away ...

watercolour of a dark figure in a wood under a full moon

All is calm, all is chaos, in Mark Wood’s world

Mark Wood, who died tragically in 2013 at the age of 44, was a prolific creative who worked in photography, painting, cartoon, poetry, short story and music composition. Deborah Caulfield reviews Spirit of Nature an exhibition of his work on show at Oxford Town Hall until 22 July. After a period ...

Worth Fighting For: The Rehearsal / 26 June 2015

I've taken part in two writing/performing workshops run by Link Up Arts at Salisbury Arts Centre, as mentioned in my last-but-one blog. As a result and by way of follow up, I was invited to take part in Salisbury Arts Centre's Homegrown Performance showcase event this coming Wednesday 1st July. We had ...

The picture is made up of lots of layers. Underneath there's a my face. There are cotton reels seen from above, in place of hair. A pelvis from a skeleton for the jaw and chin. All around are words from a mind map. Bottom left it says: See! You're better off dead.

I’m all wrong. Or is it just a bad poem? / 9 June 2015

When depression hits, I can't go out or speak to anyone. It's a moment by moment existence. I have no energy. I want to sleep (but don't). I make myself do basic chores. That's all there is. And food. This time (today) I decided to write and draw (fuck work) something, ...

The left half contains a mindmap with the word 'freedom' in the centre. On the right, close-up of crochet squares.

Our Tales Unveiled: Worth writing and fighting for / 7 June 2015

Over the last three months I did three Our Tales Unveiled workshops at Salisbury Arts Centre. These began with an excellent performance earlier involving Penny Pepper and Liz Porter. Penny's a writer; Liz is a story teller and singer. In Liz's workshop I reluctantly 'performed' a story about Clara who crochets a lot. This ...

portrait of a young man's face painted in a collage-style, divided into planes

DaDaFest International Congress: Disability Culture and Human Rights

The DaDaFest Congress explored arts as a tool for social change, providing examples of creativity and artistic excellence from countries and cultures across the world. Review by Deborah Caulfield All the speakers contributed positively to the event. The following made the strongest impression on me. Christopher Smit teaches media studies at Calvin College, ...

photo of Jennifer Taylor looking at the camera, wearing a white shirt

DaDaFest International 2014: Owen Lowery: ‘Otherwise Unchanged’ plus support from Liverpool Poets

Introduced by DaDaFest’s resident poet Roger Cliffe-Thompson, the poetry of Young DaDaFest poets rang out alongside Allan Sutherland reading a selection from Proud and the award-winning Owen Lowery with his multi-media presentation of Otherwise Unchanged. Review by Deborah Caulfield. The first half of this event included poems by local disabled people… ...