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.
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”.
Thanks for reading! x