Every now and then over the past eighteen years my daughter has dropped me a hint. These hints come in the form of sets of pencils, nicely-bound sketchbooks, or little sets of watercolours. She has been gently suggesting that I might take up art again. I know this has gone on for eighteen years because that’s how long it is since I broke my left wrist. Painful and inconvenient, as you can imagine, especially for a left-hander like me. More pain and inconvenience followed when I developed a rare complication. It took nearly a year to recover, and I was quite lucky to regain the use of my hand at all. I thought my drawing days were pretty much over and took up photography as a more manageable form of artistic expression for someone with an unreliable hand.
But my daughter never gave up and nagged me (in the nicest possible way) to take up art again. I did try a bit of sketching sometimes, but the flexibility of the wrist and strength and steadiness of my grip were never really good enough. Oh, and ten years ago I broke the wrist again for good measure.
Despite all this, here I am drawing again. So what has changed? I have various theories about this, including exercises I have done to improve my joints and the fact that nearly all my writing in recent years has been done longhand before transferring to computer file. Whatever the reason, my hand, which over the years has often felt as though it didn’t belong to me, has improved a good deal and begun to produce artwork again.
Now I have to admit that, for someone who regularly and happily puts her writing and photographs ‘out there’ in blog and book, I am surprisingly wary about sharing this art on a public platform. Perhaps this is because it feels more personal coming from the hand that has caused me so much bother for so long.
Anyway, here goes: may I present the harts-tongue fern, a plant of woodland banks and old walls, making its début. This drawing belongs with a little story called the Harts-tongue Inn, part of a larger work called The Herbarium. I have included the original photograph I worked from and the line drawing abstracted from it so you can see the process. It certainly seems to capture some of the magical effect looking at plants has on me. Not perfect, but not a bad start.
At present there are more than twenty of these little stories, each inspired by a different plant – so I have my work cut out if I want to illustrate them all. There is much to learn and explore, and I imagine this will keep me busy all winter. Wish me luck.
Oh, and thank you, dear daughter, for keeping up the hints. I’m putting the pencils and sketchbooks you gave me to good use at last. And yes, my battered, ancient drawing board is back in use too.