I love to paint, and to see things around me, but in fact my eyesight is quite bad. I haven’t worn glasses for years, because when I used to work with horses on the yard at a riding school, they would have got lost and dirty, not to mention damaged or broken or scratched. And I was far too busy and disorganised to wear contact lenses. I was aware that my eyesight wasn’t great; I always thought I was shortsighted and had had various eye-tests and briefly had prescription glasses before I stopped wearing them. But I managed well enough to get on with life without any…after all it’s not such a big problem if objects in the distance are less clear; my eyesight was the least of my worries.
So today I was a little disgruntled when I walked in the door after making breakfast at the emergency cold weather shelter and my mum reminded me that I should go and get my eyes tested and new glasses before I go to Brazil on February 7th. Only disgruntled because it was freezing and I had just been ready to sit down with a coffee…but it was a very good thing my wise mother mentioned it. I went straight out and walked there (thinking in my mind that either they wouldn’t have any appointments or wouldn’t have glasses available). But they did; when I explained that I am going to Brazil on February 7th they did the eye test there and then.
“I don’t think you’re short-sighted,” said the optician, a lovely lady whose brother comes from my mum’s home-town in Nenagh, Ireland, “it’s something different called astigmatism.”
My colour vision is fine. But some things are out of focus or the proportions a skewed and they blur at a certain distance. I certainly notice how much clearer things become when I look through the right corrective lens! Suddenly so many things come into sharp focus. But I hadn’t needed to see things clearly in order to paint them. I think paintings aren’t intended to be in photographic detail. Anyway like Mark Twain said: “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” …it might be possible to depend on imagination instead, when your eyes are out of focus.
There aren’t many requirements for life: oxygen, water, food and shelter can keep a human alive. But even when those were the only things people had; when early human beings lived in caves and the latest possessions and innovations were a more efficient hunting spear or axe, they still scratched what they saw in the world around them into drawings on cave walls. So life was no longer only about finding the means to survive; but expressing those things through simple drawings, as well as sounds and music. It meant that even without language, people could still be aware of what others experienced; and relate to it. So there could be bonding and solidarity without words.
Now, with modern language and the ease of communication via the internet, and with words to describe and express things even as complex as feelings, art is hardly a necessity; It is a luxury. Work by the most well established and famous artists sells for vast sums of money to enthusiastic collectors. I went to the “Affordable Arts Fair” in London not long ago, where even work by less well-known artists sells for huge amounts, though no doubt the artists themselves also pay for gallery space, or representation. People can still make a living through their own skill and vision when they’ve made a name for themselves and while there are people to buy their work. But it’s also a select few whose ability can catch peoples’ eye and stand out enough for them to make a living. Certainly I don’t expect to make a living from art; but I paint because it wouldn’t be living if it wasn’t for art 🙂
Hope 4 Health and Development (H4HD) based in Iganga from the Busoga region in Eastern Uganda, is a non -profit, nongovernmental community based organization established in 2008 by a group of concerned community volunteers committed to empowering and improving on the quality of life of the rural and urban poor through education and skills, health promotions, environment protection, sustainable livelihoods and community development.
Their vision is for an empowered healthy society free poverty situations, disease and one able to respond to their basic needs and hence live a dignified life. Their mission is to work with and for the most vulnerable groups to help them realize full their potentials and promote actions for improved quality of life and sustainable development.
Here are some of the arts and crafts created by one of their groups, which I am sharing here because I believe that art reduces disenfranchisement. They are accessible to all people regardless of gender, age, situation or background and help to bring communities together.
A new year 2012 all ready to begin 😀 …and I’m so glad that after volunteering at the winter shelters which open from December through to January, all the guests who accessed the Pilion Trust Shelter Me Project left with safe places to go to, and nobody went back to the streets. There are 2 shelters in Islington which are part of the Pilion Trust Shelter Me Project (one at the Union Chapel which is an adult shelter and one at Caledonian Road Methodist Church, our youth shelter and crash pad). On January 1st at the adult shelter we cooked breakfast and did a final packing up and cleaning before closing up, while the youth shelter crash pad will stay open until funding runs out 🙂 .
Some of the guests at the youth shelter took part in creating this song too…all hoping and working towards good things in 2012 🙂
There’s a lot more information about the work done by the Pilion Trust (where half of any profits after covering material costs are donated) on the link for the Pilion Trust and World Homeless Action Day 🙂
A painting for the WildAid London Office where I volunteered over the New Year. They do some incredible work for conservation and to reduce the demand for animals products in the illegal wildlife trade through public awareness and communication…their website with more information is on the link below, as well as a link to their Facebook Page 🙂
When it comes to conservation, I think of the wise words of David Attenborough: “I personally can have enough of people leaning out from television screens saying: ‘You lazy, irresponsible ignorant chap sitting there in your comfortable suburban home! Why don’t you care for this, or subscribe to that or go out and do the other?’ I actually think the best way of taking the message to the people is by showing them the pleasure; not necessarily by saying every time ‘you’ve got to do something about it,’ but by saying: ‘Look, isn’t this lovely?’ and the other bit follows.”
As the crucial 2011 climate change summit happens in Durban, and journalists in Africa show huge dedication to cover the event, as well as Greenpeace and Avaas trying to push forward the efforts to convince all the powers from all over the world that it is crucial to make a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and other damaging practises damaging what remains of the natural world, there is also a great truth: we only protect what we love. Modern culture and lifestyle, with many people living apart from nature and (especially in cities) having so little contact with it, has meant that we are losing that bond. And due to our dependence on oil, a lot of representatives from powerful countries are also in the pockets of the big oil companies which is stalling any efforts to come to an agreement.
So it’s more important than ever to go out and research climate change, or work out in exotic and wonderful places to protect endangered species (which every zoology student – including myself – dreams of). And equally vital for Greenpeace and as many other organisations as possible to campaign and highlight the damage we are doing to the planet. But almost as important is to show and document the beauty of nature. Art, crafts, music, photography and filming inspired by the natural world are all means to this end. A way to try and maintain a bond with nature and a respect and love for it. A way of saying: “Look, isn’t this lovely!”
“We all know art is not the truth; art is a lie which makes us realise the truth.” – Picasso
”Many a painting has taken me on a wild goose chase far from where I thought the destination would be.” – Rod Charlesworth
”Painting is something that takes place among the colours, and…one has to leave them alone completely, so that they can settle the matter among themselves.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
“In nature, light creates the colour. In the painting, colour creates the light.” ~ Hans Hofmann
”While walking in a toy store
The day before today,
I overheard a Crayon Box
With many things to say.
I don’t like red! said Yellow.
And Green said, Nor do I!
And no one here likes Orange,
But no one knows quite why.
We are a box of crayons
that really doesn’t get along,
Said Blue to all the others.
Something here is wrong!
Well, i bought that box of crayons
And took it home with me
And laid out all the crayons
So the crayons could all see
They watched me as I colored
With Red and Blue and Green
And Black and White and Orange
And every color in between
They watched as Green became the grass
And Blue became the sky.
The Yellow sun was shining bright
On White clouds drifting by.
Colors changing as they touched,
Becoming something new.
They watched me as I colored.
They watched till I was through.
And when I’d finally finished,
I began to walk away.
And as I did the Crayon box
Had something more to say…
I do like Red! said the Yellow
And Green said, So do I!
And Blue you are terrific!
So high up in the sky.
We are a Box of Crayons
Each of us unique,
But when we get together
The picture is complete.” – Author unknown