I am remembering my sixteen year old self recovering at home from a tonsillectomy. I am considered ‘old’ for this type of surgery but my chronic tonsillitis is not responding to other treatments. This post operative pain is the most I have ever experienced. I now have a throat made of sandpaper that nothing can soothe. Recovery is so slow. I have a picture frame which I found in a charity shop, it has unsightly painted paper all over it but a beautiful shape to the profile and honey coloured timber underneath. I am restoring it slowly and painstakingly back into something fashionable. The frame under the painted paper slowly reveals itself and becomes more beautiful as my sore throat becomes incrementally less severe. I remember this as a process of weeks, though this memory is unreliable. When at last the frame comes to life with the final application of wood oil, so do I. I remember sitting in the sun and feeling the life come back into both me and the wooden frame in my hands.
Art has been part of my wellbeing for the whole of my life, except during my A-levels when I was advised to do accountancy instead of art in order to be ready for a proper job. My classmates made large format iridescent oil paintings while I journaled my debits and credits.
I steered my life back to art when I studied for my architectural qualification. This was the best degree I could ever have chosen. Architecture is a wonderfully well rounded subject as it brings threads of art, history, philosophy, science and technology together and this is where I found my first tribe and friendships that are still with me today. I remember this time as feeling free to be me at last. It was a kind of bliss leaving the stultifying school system and letting my imagination roam.
But things closed down again during thirteen years practising as an architect. The more I got to know about the day job of a professional architect the more my daily practice shifted to be more about the law and risk aversion and less about creativity and colour. I wasn’t technically minded so my architectural life was a struggle. This wasn’t the barefoot humanist architecture that had given me wings at university or that had inspired me at my first job in an architectural practice in Namibia.
Thirteen years later I discovered my next art. The art of teaching the next generation of interior designers. This was another truly magical discovery and I approached it with my artistic bent. Drawing, making and colour activated through the hands of hundreds of my students was enormously satisfying. I loved capturing that ephemeral thing called ‘atmosphere’ and inspiring young hearts at the same time. To date nearly two thousand students have in some way been under my watchful eye.
Enter Ruth McIntosh’s article, “On Work Related Stress – Teachers Can Knit Fog and Plait Sawdust (Until they Can’t), It’s well worth a read. https://slow-cycle.com/2018/12/04/on-work-related-stress-teachers-can-knit-fog-and-plait-sawdust-until-they-cant/ Retrospectively, I recognise the crossroads that McIntosh so eloquently describes in her conceptually rich blogging. And so my art has taken another turn.
I am now fifty one and have left the safety of salaried higher education to pursue my recent thoughts about art making and wellbeing as integrated parallel processes. Art practice, in all its beautiful forms has an inherent ability to help people of all ages explore emotions and beliefs, reduce stress, and resolve problems and conflicts. Art making in groups, in a club, a class or any kind of collective gives individuals a chance to work on friendship skills; providing a sense of common purpose and area to shine. I wrote this today because I am inspired by the big ideas of happiness and quality of life and how they are tied to the way we live. For me art is an all encompassing approach to life, it isn’t one particular thing or practice and it isn’t an outcome. It is a process and a way of being. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” and that is why I need art in my life.
I teach painting and drawing for wellbeing to people of all ages. My workshops consist of structured bite-sized building blocks so that they are accessible to complete beginners or hobbyists seeking to improve both their practice and their quality of life. Most recently I have started taking one hour art workshops into the workplace to provide relaxing lunchtime sessions as creative nourishment and respite from the digital world.
You can find me here:
You can find me here: Facebook illustratinginteriors@glendasillustrations
LinkedIn Glenda Strong
Instagram glenda.strong33 http://illustratinginteriors.blog/