Category Archives: Children

Look at me!


LOOK AT ME!

By David Milligan-Croft.

.

I was cradling you on my left hip;

Absentmindedly swaying from side to side,

As I talked to a fellow parent

In the school playground.

.

Slowly, you reached across

And clamped your hand over my mouth.

Your tiny fingers felt warm and sticky. Then,

Gently, you pulled my head to face you.

.

I looked down into your sparkling eyes,

Your perfectly beautiful face. And,

That was it.

That was all you needed.

.

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Contour Doodling.


Following on from my post about Extreme Doodling a few weeks ago, Contour Doodling is a similar mindfulness exercise you can do pretty much anywhere.

I call it ‘contour’ doodling because it reminds me of the contour maps I learnt about in geography class at school.

Simply start in the middle of your page with a small, irregular shape. Then draw around that shape following its contours. And keep building it up, getting further and further out. The irregularities will be emphasised the further out you get. Just go with it. Let it become the shape it wants to be.

There is no right or wrong.

You can do it for 10 minutes, or 10 hours. (Okay, maybe an hour.)

Remember, it’s all about the process, not the result.

Happy [contour] doodling!

#artismedicine

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Extreme Doodling


Extreme Doodling is not doodling whilst snowboarding down the lava doused slopes of an erupting volcano. It’s a tad more sedate than that. It’s doodling with purpose.

Like my previous post about abstract doodling, this exercise is mindful and relaxing.

Simply take your pen or pencil and take it for a stroll around the page.

Don’t think about it. Just spiral around, looping up and down, over and under, without lifting your pen off the page.

Next, (this is the ‘purpose’ part), fill in the shapes that you have created. As you can see above, I have used similarly spaced lines at varying angles, but you could fill each shape with a different design or pattern, as below.

Something like this would lend itself to being filled in with colour – felt tips, pencil crayon, watercolour…

You could even add more geometric elements to it.

There’s no right or wrong.

Nor is there any pressure on it having to be any ‘good’. By ‘good’ we usually mean in the eyes of others. Or, worse still – by yourself!

This is for you.

For you to spend some time relaxing whilst doing art.

It is the process not the result.

I could go on – I’ve got millions of the little blighters. But you get the idea.

I usually do them when I’m out and about and having to wait for something or someone (hence them always being black and white). So it’s a great way to pass time and not get frustrated about having to hang about.

Anyhoo, thank you so very much for taking the time to read/look at my blog. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Best wishes,

David.

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Yorkshire Sculpture Park is brilliant, ’cause it’s in Yorkshire.

I could end this post here, after that zealous statement, but I’ll endeavour to extol a few more virtues of a jaunt to this idyllic artistic paradise.

YSP is near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, (which is where I’m from, if you hadn’t guessed).

It has gazillions of acres of parkland, gardens, lakes, woods and buildings to roam around.

You’ll see works from the likes of Damien Hirst, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Andy Goldsworthy, Sophie Ryder, Robert Indiana, Antony Gormley, Vanessa de Silva, Ai Wei Wei and tons more.

It has a lovely cafe and gift shop, but you can take a picnic if the weather’s nice.

You have to book online so have a look at their website (links above). I only paid six quid! As under 18s are free. (I went with my daughter.) Parking is included in the entrance fee.

Not only is it a veritable feast for your peepers, being in all that nature is good for your mental health too.

Anyhoo, here are a few examples of the delights I got to see. I missed quite a few too. I could’ve easily spent another couple of hours there so allow yourself plenty of time.

Plus, on top of all that, did I mention it’s in Yorkshire! What more could you want?

Lola was feeling left out. She’s a work of art in my book.
Getting ready to play Pooh sticks with the young ‘un. (I lost.)

I actually wrote a blog post about YSP in 2014 which is here if you want to compare and contrast.

για τη δέκατη μούσα μου

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The Legend of the Patron Saint of Knitting.


για τη δέκατη μούσα μου

The Legend of the Patron Saint of Knitting and the Sheep Girl.

By David Milligan-Croft.

.

A long, long time ago, there was a young girl, about 14-ish, who was a shepherdess. She was a diligent girl who worked hard for her family and was thankful for the meagre things she had. If she had one tiny flaw, it was that she was slightly envious of other girls’ names. Ones who had names that meant things like ‘starlight’ or ‘princess of flowers’. Because pretty much everyone called her ‘sheep girl’. Apart from that, she was happy enough looking after her woolly friends. 

After the sheep girl had tended her flock and safely rounded them up for the night she would spend the evening with her mother knitting in front of the hearth. She loved to knit with the fleece from her flock. She made clothes for all the family and for most of the villagers too.

Then, one day, a rider came galloping through the valley hailing that he had important news. Sheep girl hurried home as fast as she could, (with the sheep scampering behind her). All the people of the village were gathered around the fountain in the square, where the rider was breathlessly proclaiming the news that a vast army was approaching from the west. That it grew in size and wealth after each town and citadel that it sacked and plundered. No one knew why it was coming, or why it was gobbling up everything in its path, and either killing or enslaving everyone, but coming it was. And it was unstoppable.

The only good news the rider brought, was that the invading army was still many miles away and there were lots of towns, villages and citadels in the way of the behemoth before it reached their paltry village.

The sheep girl wanted to help her village, but she felt powerless, so she carried on the business of tending her sheep while wracking her brain for ideas until, one day, one of her flock went missing. She searched all over the valley but could not find the stray anywhere. Next, she tried the slopes of the valley, to no avail. She climbed higher up the mountain until the ground became so rocky and spartan that she needed her staff to gain purchase on the skittery rocks. Eventually, she came across the mouth of a cave with an eerie yellow glow emanating from within. Tentatively, she walked inside, and there was her missing sheep, Mathilda. But her fleece shone with the brilliance of gold. As she approached the nonchalant sheep, she realised that its fleece was, in fact, actual gold! So fine and delicate was the thread it felt like silk.

The sheep girl knew of a legend from her childhood that a great warrior would come down from the mountain one day to save the village from calamity. Was this a sign, she thought. That the hero was indeed about to appear before her? And was this sheep a portent to his impending arrival? Then, she was struck with the idea of how she could help the village and the great would-be saviour. She would knit him a suit of golden chainmail armour so strong that it would be impenetrable to arrow, axe or sword! She sheared, spun and knitted all day and all night until the gleaming suit of chainmail was complete.

Then she waited.

And waited.

But the hero did not come.

And the billowing plumes of smoke from sacked cities on the horizon grew closer day by day.

She stared down at her village from the mouth of the cave as she absentmindedly ran her fingers through the shorn fleece of Mathilda. Then she felt the sheep’s head pull away. The sheep girl looked down at Mathilda who gently nudged her hand with her head. Then she turned and trundled back into the cave, stopping occasionally, to check whether the sheep girl was following her. Mathilda stopped before the golden mail neatly folded on the rock. When the sheep girl arrived next to her, Mathilda pushed the mail toward her with her nose. Sheep girl laughed, ‘I can’t wear it, Mathilda. It’s for the great warrior who’s coming to save us!’ But Mathilda trotted behind the sheep girl and butted her toward the suit. 

‘Well, I guess there’s no harm in trying it on, little miss bossy britches,’ she said to Mathilda. The sheep girl lifted the hauberk over her head and found that it was surprisingly light for a shirt made of precious metal. Next, she pulled the coif over her head, neck and shoulders so that only her resplendent face was visible. She held out her arms and turned around. ‘What do you think, Tilda?’ she asked. ‘It fits pretty well, even if I do say so myself.’ 

Mathilda bowed her head and stroked the ground with her hoof. 

‘Alas, I have no sword to smite my enemies,’ she joked. Then she noticed her staff leaning against the cave wall and another idea fell upon her. She took up her knitting needles and sharpened the points of them with her shears until they were sharp enough to pierce the mountain itself. Then she attached them to the head of the staff with golden thread. 

Outside, the wheels of war grew ever louder as the mighty trebuchets of the invaders drew closer. Great columns of dust rose behind the cavalry as their hooves thundered across the plain. Drummers beat a rhythm for the massed ranks of infantry to march to. Buglers trumpeted the impending triumph of their mighty army. Heraldic banners fluttered in the wind. Sheep girl’s heart began to race as she paced the cave. Slate grey storm clouds gathered overhead and the tumultuous air was charged with electricity.

The sheep girl stepped out of the cave with her bident held aloft and beheld the vast invading hoard below, stretched out as far as the eye could see. What could she, a mere shepherdess, do against such a foe? Just then, the clouds began to part and a great beam of sunlight burst through and illuminated the sheep girl in her golden chainmail. The light refracted off the individual chinks and split into a myriad of shards of light, blinding the soldiers below and burning out their retinas. Those that were not blinded either fell prostrate before the angelic warrior from the heavens or turned and fled the battlefield in fear of the gods’ divine retribution. Then, a terrifying bolt of lightning cracked from the sky connecting to the sheep girl’s bident and the landscape turned a scintillating white. And, just like that, she disappeared.

Nothing was ever found of the shepherdess, except for her charred golden chainmail and scorched bident. In the years that followed, people from all over the land went on pilgrimages to the mountain to pay their respects to their saviour. Theologians and philosophers came from far and wide to beatify her in some form or another and bickered over how best to honour her name. Even though she was the golden warrior of light and had conquered the greatest army the world had ever seen, it was her dedication to her flock and her love of knitting that she would be remembered most, as La Cher, the Patron Saint of Knitting. 

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A Moment Like This


A Moment Like This.

By David Milligan-Croft.

.

I picked an old poetry book off the shelf.

It was ‘The Art of Life’, by Paul Durcan.

Something about its spine caught my eye.

I hadn’t read it in years.

.

I flicked through a few pages and a photograph fell out.

It was of my daughter and I when she was a baby.

I’m wearing a front-facing baby harness

And she is strapped to my chest,

.

Wearing a white, winter bunny onesie.

I’m holding up her bunny ears 

and beaming a smile to the camera.

We’re in Dunham Massey, I think.

.

* * *

.

I go to my daughter’s bedroom – she’s 16 now –

And show her the photograph.

She laughs and we reminisce. Well, I do.

She was too young to remember, obviously.

.

As I’m leaving, I say, ‘Do you want it,

Or shall I bin it?’

Without looking up from her phone,

She says, ‘That doesn’t work, Dad.

.

‘I know you would never do that.’ 

Then, she looks at me and smiles.

I don’t know why I put the photo in the book

In the first place. Perhaps to use as a book mark.

.

Or maybe, for a moment like this.

.

.

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Mann Up


Sally Mann is an American photographer who courted controversy with her ‘family life‘ series, due to nude depictions of her children growing up at their home in Virginia. And whether the photographs overtly sexualised children.

I haven’t included those shots here, but if you want to, you can see them by visiting Sally Mann’s website. In my opinion they are beautiful and sensitive. And many of us will recognise moments like them from our own children growing up. The controversy isn’t really about child nudity but more about consent to put them in the public domain.

Regardless of this, Mann’s work is challenging, provocative and defiant. And her compositions raise more questions than answers. Below is a selection of powerful shots I wanted to share with the class.

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Blackout poetry – as mindfulness.


What Blackout Poetry actually is, versus what I think it is, could be two completely different things. I could Google a definition of it, but I can’t be arsed.

My interpretation of Blackout Poetry is where you take an original piece of text, then ‘black out’ the majority of the text to create a new piece of text. Kind of like what Mi6 does to official government documents.

I reckon folks got a bit bored of doing this after a while, so they started adding colour and doodling around the highlighted text to add a bit of spice to it.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the original source material for my Blackout Poetry is a Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling. Now, before J.K. fans become apoplectic with rage for desecrating one of her sacred tomes, in my defence, the edition I had was damaged beyond use. (I.E. Some of the pages were waterlogged and were illegible.) Plus we had another copy.

As we all know, books are only meant to be read. Unless it’s a colouring book. In which case, you can, well… colour it in. Or a sketchbook. You can’t really read that either. Or a photography book… Look, the point is, I don’t advocate destroying perfectly readable books for the sake of art. Unless, of course, it was written by Piers Morgan.

The text you leave highlighted – or legible, doesn’t have to make sense if you don’t want it to. The point of this exercise is to practise a bit of mindfulness.

Just pull out a few words that speak to you then doodle around them. You can use felt tips, pencil crayons, watercolours, pastels, collage, acrylics, whatever you like.

You can do abstract shapes, geometric patterns or something more illustrative and representative.

Bit of a cheat this one, as I haven’t really highlighted any text, just used it as a background.

Obviously, actually composing a compelling piece of blackout poetry out of existing text can be quite challenging, but that’s not really the purpose of this exercise. This is to lose yourself in the act of creating something new and different out of something that already exists. A creative springboard if you like.

The original text doesn’t have to be from a book either. You can use a newspaper or magazine. Or your granny’s will. Whatever’s handy.

I’ve done this mindulness exercise with patients at the hospital, adult art groups and children alike.

And remember, don’t worry about the end result, it’s the act of doing that’s important. Losing yourself in the process is the objective.

Now get out there and start ripping up your mam’s latest thriller.

(Top tip: start from the back.)

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Things I stole from Sylvia.


My daughter and I went to visit Sylvia Plath’s grave again in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire at the weekend. (I know, it’s just one thrill ride after another at our house.)

It was a stunningly sunny day and I took the liberty of stealing a couple of leaves from her grave as a memento.

Now, some people might consider that tantamount to desecration.

I must add, however, that if you look at the picture I took of her grave back in March versus the one I took last Saturday, you could argue that I was merely ‘pruning’.

31st March 2021
17th July 2021

Whatever side of the felonious fence you sit upon, here’s a photo of Exhibit A.

Anyhoo, after sticking the leaves in my sketchbook and pondering them for a while, I decided to write a poem about them.

So, here it is

Lady Lazarus

by David Milligan-Croft.

A leaf stolen

from Sylvia Plath’s grave.

I wonder if the atoms

from her decaying, mortal flesh

have permeated terra firma?

Her nutrient-rich essence

seeping into the soil

absorbed by the roots,

rising up through the stem,

branching out into the veins.

Verdant leaves vignette to aubergine,

unfurl to the scintilating light,

as though – with eyes closed –

she stretches out her slender arms

to the glorious, morning sun.

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My triannual quarterly review…


… or something like that.

I had meant to do a quarterly review of what I’ve been up to on the art front so far this year, but being a tad lackadaisical, it’s now become triannual instead.

That said, there’s absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that I’ll do another one in four months time. So, this could be a biannual triannual quarterly review. Or, an annual biannual … you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures … here are just a few paintings, collages and drawings I’ve done thus far in 2021.

I usually post my stuff more frequently on Instagram if you’d like to keep up to date and follow me on there @milligancroft

Hope you’ve enjoyed looking at some of my work.

The joy of making art is in the process of doing it rather than the end result. You just get lost in the moment of creating.

I wholeheartedly recommend it. Particularly for those struggling with mental health issues. But obviously, you’d don’t need to be mad as a box of frogs. You can just enjoy it for its own sake.

Remember, kids, Art is Medicine.

(And can be quite addictive.)

P.S. Why is it ‘mad as a box of frogs’ and not ‘mad as a box of cats’, or something?

I can’t imagine frogs being that unhappy in a box. They’d probably quite like the darkness.

A box of cats though, put enough of them in there and all hell would break loose. There’d be claws and fur everywhere.

Does it even have to be a box?

Couldn’t it be, ‘mad as a bag of wombats’?

Food for thought.

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