Painting and Endometriosis

Some artists are like Bansky. A spectre flitting in and out of the public eye, full of mystery, but empty of identity apart from what their art projects.

And then there’s the other end of the artistic spectrum, the Picassos, the Dalis, those that make it a point to share their personal lives as much as their art. In both cases, these guys create a story around themselves which is rich, complex, often disturbing, sometimes scary, full of emotion.

I never expected to make many stories out of my art that were too much about me, in the most direct sense of the word. I’ve always talked about my art for what it is; my awe and passion for all things nature, my shrewdly optimistic, David Attenborough-narrated view of the world.

But a chronic illness can somewhat change your perspective. Of yourself, which ultimately changes your perspective of your art.

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I have endometriosis. For those lucky enough to have not heard of this, endometriosis is when the lining of the uterus starts to grow in places where it shouldn’t – essentially, all over your reproductive organs, pelvic organs, nerves, whatever happens to be in the way. Each month these growths bleed, build up, bleed, build up…it’s terribly painful, trying, frustrating and unfortunately pretty incurable.

Having a chronic illness changes your perspective about yourself. I feel as though I’ve learned more about the person behind the easel, as well as the way the rest of the world looks at you. It’s about learning to live in a slightly different way than you lived before. I guess what I’m trying to say is that painting and endometriosis, for me at least, have a lot in common.

It’s deeply personal

Everyone’s symptoms are different. Pain is felt differently and in very different ways. One person’s ‘mild’ is another’s ‘severe’. Art is the same; one person can be moved to tears by a portrait, whilst the other seeks reprieve in a sultry abstraction. My pain feels so deeply personal to me, that it’s extremely difficult to explain to an outsider. My painting is the same. This is just the way it is.

It has good and bad days

Ever thrown in the towel after a few brushstrokes, having sat yourself down with the perfect composition, the perfect lighting, perfect colours, only to find that it just isn’t working? It’s the same with endo. Some days you’ got it, some days, it’s got you.

It defines us, as much as we try to define it

Painting is a huge part of my life and who I am. Would I be a painter if I didn’t grow up surrounded by pets, nature documentaries, visiting zoos, animal parks and eating books and encyclopedias? Would I still own cuddly toys of my favourite animals? Would I still watch Tales of the Riverbank, if I wasn’t a painter? Probably not. It’s all a neatly-wrapped, sometimes overflowing parcel. Trying not to let a chronic illness define you is the same; why aren’t you having that drink, why are you choosing not to go shopping, why are your high heels gathering dust, why are you taking the car everywhere…

It makes beautiful artwork

I have to thank my endometriosis, as it gave my the courage to keep on painting and trying new directions, even when I was at my lowest, when the pain was so bad that bed was my only weekend retreat. But I knew that I loved painting, and I couldn’t let it go to waste. I still had ideas I wanted to throw on canvas, techniques to try. So I adapted my studio, more than my mind. Painting standing up becomes a stool, or placing a canvas at floor height so I can sit in front of it. Marathon painting sessions happen on a weekend, when I can rest and complain of my aches afterwards. It’s all changed, but it’s still the same person painting.

To see more of my paintings, click here

The more we talk about art, and endometriosis, the more understanding we will have of both. But right now, I’m going to leave you with some very useful resources for endometriosis. Have it? Well then you’ll have read all of these and more. Think you have it? Please read on. Know someone who has it? Take it in, listen to them. And give them a gentle hug.

Endohope – a fantastically real, down-to-earth and honest account of Endometriosis, with plenty of resources and research to boot.

Bloomin’ Uterus – a touching and open blog full of incredible stories, fantastic research and very real details.

Endometriosis UK – some of the more accurate and up to date information on this condition.

Endo Support Group, Malta – an inspiring and amazing group of women, some beautiful empathetic and kind-hearted women.

The Endo Wall – a beautiful art and Endometriosis project in Cardiff. One woman’s mission to raise awareness, encourage sharing and to give a big f*** you to the doctors that told her it was “all in your head”.

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Thanks for reading! x

 

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Frida Kahlo – Columns, Colours and Chronic Pain

The painting left a lasting impression on the depths of my mind, one that I’d perhaps quite forgotten, the same way a haunting piano solo never fails to move me as I remember and sway to its decadent rhythms. The Broken Column by Frida Kahlo is more than just a painting about pain, and more than just a woman in pain painting about pain. It is about what painting does to us all.

Frida Kahlo is the kind of painter that a lot of female artists, myself included, aspire to be. That hard-headed, self-reliant, independent, driven woman that approaches her art as she does every aspect of her life; from her politics to her philosophy, fashion and eventually, a painting on canvas. And yes, she can have a man if she wants, but she doesn’t need one (or maybe she does).

The Broken Column, 1944

The Broken Column is a painting of insight, but also of outward influence. This painting is a deeply intimate portrayal of her struggle; a bus accident in her childhood left her for a time, bedridden, and forever unable to bear children. Frida’s life was sadly cut short at the age of 47, after she endured years of chronic pain, operations, miscarriage, amputation and ultimately, alcohol and medication dependence, not to mention her tumultuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera. Whilst The Broken Column is undoubtedly a personal piece; we can feel the artist’s shattered insides and feel like we should put our hands to the canvas to put support the crumbling column, it is also a painting of external forces. The artist is in control of the paint colour she chooses, the depth and texture of the canvas, even the way she holds the brush, but ultimately, the painting is out of her control. We are all driven by external forces that dictate what we do, what we say, and much as we try to avoid these external chess moves, we are all dictated by them.

We all have our own Broken Column, a piece of us that may be a little more fragile than we let on, a deep rooted fear that prevents us from taking a leap off the edge, whether figuratively or literally. Many of us have an unseen column, a disability we haven’t shared, a poem we haven’t shared or a story we never dared tell.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” Frida Kahlo

 

Reflections

2016 is almost upon us, and it’s been an eventful year, to say the least. I thought I’d share with you some of the artistic highlights and other happenings of the year.

Firstly, I got a step closer to owning my own home. Now all that remains is to create some brand new paintings to brighten up the walls. Commissioning yourself to paint permanent artworks for your own walls…trickier than one might expect.

I embarked on some new painting projects, though admittedly my production rate was somewhat slower than previous years. However, I did complete my biggest project to date:

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The Artists Lodge, A Painted Maltese Door, 2015

I also had a collective exhibition which was featured on local news, and created a series of Arctic and Antarctic inspired works:

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Season of Change, 2015

But it seems that at various points during the year, I lost my way artistically and since then have been taking a step back and re-evaluating where I want to go. This process, surprisingly, has lead me to re-work some existing paintings instead of plunging ahead with new works. I like this back-tracking; I think it helps put things into perspective.

This was the first painting of the year, Axolotl:

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Axolotl, 2015

It’s cute and slightly odd at the same time, but provokes questions from people who have never heard of or seen such a creature, which I like.

Perhaps my artistic stumbling block came as I was struggling with the pain and stress of endometriosis, with which I was diagnosed back in March. I’m learning to take this in my stride as much as possible, but it’s been an interesting adaptation. Thankfully I managed to sign what I can presume to be the last painting of the year, which is a re-work of a 2014 piece that I’ll talk about it my next blog.

I personally hope that next year will be brighter not for me but for all those who are currently suffering in the midst of civil war, terrorism and poverty. Topics which I think I’ll be tackling on canvas next year.

Thanks for following.

To find out more about commissioning a painting or to enquire about specific paintings for sale send me a message through my Facebook Page or take a look through at my website: cjwaterfieldart.com