For as long as I can remember, I’ve used drawing to help me explore my surroundings and make sense of the world. When I struggled to learn things in primary school I was encouraged to draw instead of write, and when I don’t understand something it’s to drawing I still always turn. There was a period when my arm tics made drawing physically difficult, but when I got an iPad in 2019 it became a joyful possibility again.
I studied drawing at art college in my early twenties. It was a new course that took a very broad approach to the subject. Essentially, any visual way of thinking about the world and our relationships with it would be considered drawing.
A lot of my projects were largescale and involved lots of counting and repetition. For my final degree show project I created a net of my art school. A ‘net’ as in a set of flat shapes that can be folded into a three-dimensional object. When I was making this piece I also did lots of drawings of my room and the flat I was living in at the time, showing how all the objects connected to each other. Fat Sister still has one of these drawings up on her wall.
I mention all this because decades later I’m still making drawings that explore the links and connections between me and the things in my home and the world. But there’s been one big difference for the last four years: my chronic pain has been incorporated within these.
The first was back in 2018 and I called it From Spine to Sky. I’ve done lots of other drawings of my pain, whether as islands in a swirling sea or as everyday objects piled on top of each other. While creating these new drawings though I realised how different they are from most of my other pain drawings because they don’t focus on the internal sensations of my pain, but instead explore how it fits within my world.
Drawing is one of the ways I make peace with my pain. It doesn’t stop it feeling overwhelming or distressing, but it lets me connect with my pain creatively, and so far that’s helped me find a way through.