Reflections on Lockdown Summary


The purpose of this, and my previous five posts, was to see if the type of art I have been producing during lockdown is markedly different from the work I was doing last year when I was suffering from poor mental health.

The first point to consider is the reason for my improved mental health in the first place. This was primarily, (but not exclusively), due to me giving up alcohol. I am 413 days abstinent at the time of writing. And I have never felt better. Both physically and mentally.

Don’t worry, I haven’t suddenly become an anti-alcohol evangelist. Alcohol, like lots of things, is great if you use it properly. I didn’t. I misused it. I used it to self-medicate. To anaesthetise my perceived problems. The worse things got, the more I drank. The more I drank, the worse things got. In hindsight, it’s not difficult to see the trajectory of this coping strategy.

Now that I have given up drinking alcohol my mental health has soared. The first thing I noticed was my motivation to do things. (Which was sadly missing for the previous eight years or so.)

As a result of improved motivation, the second thing I noticed was just how prolific I was being!

But just because someone is producing a great quantity of work doesn’t mean that any of it is of great quality.

This goes back to the original question about the correlation of the type of art I am producing now versus last year. Yes, it has changed quite significantly. Has it improved? Well that is debatable and extremely subjective.

There is a lot of energy, emotion and raw power in some of the work I produced last year. You can see it here on Adieu 2019. But I am far happier producing the work I am today.

One of the questions I have wrestled with is not ‘is the art better?’, but ‘why am I doing it in the first place?’ The simple answer is – because I love it!

Since volunteering at Arc, I have learnt that the emphasis is on the act of doing rather than the end result. For me, creating art is about losing one’s self (or finding it) in the experience of manifesting something that didn’t previously exist. Being present. It is meditative, it’s cathartic, it’s therapeutic. Sure, it’s great if what you are producing turns out to be a masterpiece, but that isn’t the point of it. Also, I’d like to emphasise the ‘for me’ part. As I’m sure professional artists have a very different point of view to this. I am not trying to make a statement, merely channeling what I perceive to be my unconscious.

So, to summarise the summary:

Has my art changed since last year? Absolutely.

Has my productivity improved since last year? Ditto.

Has my mental health improved since last year? Immeasurably.

But, as previously mentioned, that is down to several factors: giving up alcohol, CBT, medication, art therapy and an amazing support network of health professionals, friends and family. Unlike the name of this blog, there has been lots of cavalry to the rescue.

And the most important question on your lips, I’m sure – what’s the significance of the illustrated symbols?

Well, they’re prophetic messages from an ancient alien civilisation dictated to me through my dreams.

Only kidding, I was just doodling.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

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Reflections on Lockdown #5!


I’m going to finish off this series with a look at some abstract paintings I’ve produced during lockdown. Remember, the point of this series is to show if art has had a positive or negative effect on both my mental health and the type of art I’ve been producing this year.

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that last year was quite a tumultuous one for me (and my loved ones) on the mental health front. And this was most definitely reflected in the type of art I was producing at the time. You can see it here: Adieu 2019.

In previous ‘reflections on lockdown‘ we’ve looked at portraits, landscapes and photography. Today, I’m going to look at abstract art. Lucky you.

I used to struggle with abstract art. I didn’t ‘get’ it.

It was only when I began volunteering at Arc that I saw how expressive a medium it is. Not to be bound by the constraints of realism or representation. To be able to express form through colour, shape and texture. The marks you leave behind can convey emotions and energy that are often difficult in representative art.

One of the reasons I love making abstract art is because I don’t feel like it’s ‘me’ that’s doing it. When I am doing a sketch of a face or a landscape, I have to concentrate very hard to capture a likeness of what I am trying to represent. When I do abstract art, I let go… I stop being so uptight. I let the colours merge and intermingle to become the painting they wanted to be. Sometimes, when I look at how the colours interfuse and coalesce, they remind me of distant nebula.

I am neither conscious nor concentrating. It is as though that ‘thing‘ we are all connected to – Mother Earth, the Universe, the unconscious, the Cosmos, God(dess), call it what you will, is flowing through me onto the page or canvas.

I don’t know what you’ll make of that last paragraph. I’m not sure I know what to make of it!

Except that, I can thoroughly recommend giving abstract expressionism a go. It’s very liberating. It’s also extremely calming and meditative.

Have a look at the works of Kandinsky, Miro, Mondrian, Rothko, Pollock and Krasner to see the vastly differing styles of abstract art. There might be something there to inspire you.

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If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

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Reflections on Lockdown #4


When will it end!? I hear you crow.

I did warn you that I’ve had a very busy lockdown on the art front.

Today’s offering is landscapes, which segues nicely from Reflections on Lockdown #3.

I like drawing landscapes. There’s something very relaxing about it. Painting them, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.

Sketching is more about observation and trying to depict a representation of the landscape. Whereas, painting is more about trying to capture the energy of nature. (With varying degrees of success.)

Here’s a selection for you to ponder.

Yorkshire Dales
Yorkshire Dales
A village in Italy. (From a photo.)
Jenkin Chapel, Saltersford, Cheshire.
Top Withins, Haworth/Stanbury, West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

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Reflections on Lockdown #3


Hello again.

Welcome to the third instalment of Reflections on Lockdown. Today, I’ll be focussing on nature and photography.

One of the things my children and I have been doing a lot more of during lockdown is getting out into the beautiful countryside that is on our doorstep. In the early days of lockdown, we’d just drive around and not get out of the car. More recently, we’ll go for a wander making sure to wear masks and social distance. Not that we see any bugger else where we go.

Where I live in the North West of England is on the edge of the Peak District, East Cheshire and the Yorkshire Dales. We’re truly blessed to have such stunning scenery so close by.

So, this post is as much about the benefits of being in and around nature as it is about art. The art aspect is the photographs I take along the journey. (And yes, I saturate the bejaysus out of them when I get home.) In my defence, manipulating the images only brings out what is already there in nature. It just needs teasing out.

Apparently, spending two hours per week is scientifically, (yes, scientifically), proven to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels and boost the immune system. (Amongst other things.) A bit of old vitamin D from the sun can’t hurt either.

We’re lucky in that we have a car. But you don’t have to go miles to get your daily dose of nature. There are plenty of parks and urban green spaces to get your fix. Take a few snaps on your phone, or even take a sketch pad with you.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken over the last few months. I’ll try to put where they are if I can remember.

St Stephen’s church in Macclesfield Forest, East Cheshire.
I think this is Rishworth Moor, Ripponden, West Yorkshire.
Tegg’s Nose, Macclesfield, East Cheshire.
Macclesfield Forest reservoir, East Cheshire.
Baslow, Derbyshire, Peak District.
Saltersford, East Cheshire.
Snake Pass, Peak District.
St Thomas’ church, Higher Hillgate, Stockport.
Wildboarclough, East Cheshire.
River Wye, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
Goyt Valley, East Cheshire.
Goyt Valley, East Cheshire.
Goyt Valley, East Cheshire.
Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.
Somewhere near Halifax, West Yorkshire.
Hebden Bridge (sort of), West Yorkshire.
Near Haworth-ish, West Yorkshire.
To be fair, this could be anywhere.
No idea. On the way to Buxton, Derbyshire.
Errm…
A wall. And a field.
Extreme close up of a wall somewhere in Northern England. Possibly.
A puddle.
Somewhere in the Peak District.
Winnats Pass, Speedwell Cavern, Peak District.

So, we’re starting to build a picture as to the state of my mental health during lockdown and the role that art has played in my recovery. I hope you enjoy this instalment of ‘Reflections of Lockdown’.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

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Reflections on Lockdown #2


At the end of last year, I wrote a post featuring some of the work I had produced during 2019.

I was trying to map my mental health and how that might correlate with the type of art I was producing. (You can see it here – Adieu 2019.)

I was hoping to follow that on this year to see if the art I am producing now is any different due to my much improved mental health.

To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to tell just from this post alone as it only represents a fraction of a whole series of artworks I have produced since the beginning of the year, primarily during lockdown. (See also previous post, ‘Reflections on Lockdown’ here.)

I am planning three further ‘Reflections on Lockdown’ posts, which will then give a clearer picture as to the correlation between art and my mental health.

I guess the reason for all this preamble is that if we just looked at this post in isolation, you would be forgiven for thinking that my mental health has not improved at all! As a lot of this work has its roots in a style I developed over the past couple of years when I wasn’t very well mentally.

I have stuck with it, and developed it, not because I am unhappy, but because I like it! I find it very expressive.

Like I say, we can have a look at the bigger picture once I’ve posted everything I’ve been working on this year.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this instalment of ‘Reflections of Lockdown’.

Follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

Odysseus SOLD
Hector
Darius I
Corona – tion
After The Son of Man SOLD
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Tethys SOLD

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

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Reflections on Lockdown #1


Howdy doody folks,

How’ve you all been doing under lockdown?

I’ve been doing lots of art.

Mainly sketching, painting with acrylics and photography.

Today, I thought I’d focus on portrait sketching. Most of it is in pencil, some chalk pastel and a little bit of charcoal.

You might even spot the odd bit of Amazon packaging for canvas when I ran out of paper.

Reference wise, some of them are life drawings, a lot from photographs and a few from other people’s paintings.

Apart from it being good practice, it’s also very good for your mental health. And, let’s face it, we all need to look after our noodles. Especially when Barack Obama stares at you like that all day.

I’ll post a few of my acrylic portraits at some stage. They’re a bit more experimental. With the emphasis on ‘mental’.

Follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

Remember folks: Art is Medicine!

Toodle-pip.

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Making art out of art


I love marbling with the kids.

If you’ve ever done it before you’ll know that you can get some really cosmic patterns. You’ll also know that you’ve probably got more leftover samples of the stuff than you can shake a big shaky thing at.

So … what to do with all those cosmic castoffs … I know, let’s make a collage.

Start by cutting out shapes from your marbling masterpiece that you want to use in your composition and glue them onto a piece of paper.

Next, sketch in the rest of the composition. Add a bit of a felt tip outline.

I filled in the background with chalk pastel, but you could easily use felt tip, watercolour paint, pencil crayon or coloured paper.

And there you have it – you’ve made art out of art.

There is one other thing…

And, it’s probably the best bit. But I didn’t realise that until it was too late. Instead of cutting the shapes out of your marbling sample willy-nilly like I did, cut them out in the same position that you’re going to stick them on your paper. That way, when you position them next to each other you get a sort of positive/negative effect.

Hindsight? Serendipity? Whatever.

If you haven’t done marbling before you can use off-cuts of old patterned wallpaper, pictures from magazines or gift wrap paper. Or even paint an abstract background and use that.

It’s one more thing to do until the schools reopen in September!

If you want loads more of art activities to do you can sign up to Arc’s free ‘Keeping us together‘ programme. They email you a different art activity every week. (Arc is a brilliant Arts charity based in Stockport.)

And remember, folks – Art is Medicine*!

*Do not swallow art like medicine. It might kill you.

**I am not a trained physician.

***’Art is medicine’ is only my opinion and not a scientific fact.

****Or, is it?

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The Violence of Silence


This is a new poem I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. It’s not about Black Lives Matter, but it was inspired by it. Or rather, the silence of the white majority to the unfair and unjust treatment of black people and people of colour. The implicit violence that silence can bring.

That is the only connection – silence. And how crushing it can be.

Please be advised that the following poem contains harrowing themes.

The Violence of Silence.

By David Milligan-Croft.

The smirk,

The eyeroll,

The sigh.

The undoing,

The redoing,

The restacking the dishwasher,

The recapping the toothpaste.

The elbow grease on the bath,

The busying of the dishcloth.

The fingertrail in the dust,

The torment,

The subterfuge,

The game.

The song unplayed on the turntable,

The needle stuck in the groove.

The portrait on the wall,

Staring into an unseeable space.

The spent match.

The sheet music on the stand.

The dried paintbrush.

The gagged canvas.

The unwritten manuscript,

Of characters without a story,

Or Motive.

The spoon in the can.

The creeping mould.

The hungry bottle,

The greedy glass.

The torn betting stub.

The baby shoes in their box.

The unworn party dress.

The deflated balloon.

The candle wax on the cake.

The forlorn swing.

The jury’s gaze.

The unwound watch,

Ticking in your head.

The heaving chest,

The eyes cast down,

Searching the floor for an escape route.

The unanswered call.

The empty wardrobe.

The rosary beads on the dresser.

The bulging suitcase.

The silent doorbell.

The ‘closed’ sign on the shop.

Fallen petals on a florist’s floor.

The midnight car lot.

The despondent moon.

The fallen tree in the forest.

The charred embers.

The ripple without a stone.

The starling without a murmuration.

The stalking wolf.

The disused canal.

The stagnant water.

The ghost of a railway line.

The forbidden tunnel.

Fragments of a life unlived;

Or lived.

Who knows?

Or cares.

The drop of the body,

From the bridge.

Falling

Into the darkness.

Silence.

The stoic rocks.

Then violence.

The relevance of the cello piece? I adore the cello and I thought the subject matter of the poem suited the haunting and melancholy sound. If you are familiar with the lyrics of Chandelier by Sia, you’ll see why I chose it as an accompaniment.

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Parr Excellence.


Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Martin Parr would probably groan in pun-staking agony at that headline.

Oh well, you’re here now.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s greatest photographers. Actually, make that ‘the World’s’.

He manages to capture the zeitgeist of working-class life in all its gaudy technicolour, wherever he goes. Whether that be Barnsley or Brazil.

He’s known for his satirical and ironic documentary-style images that look at our insatiable rapaciousness for consumerism. That, and people eating chips.

Martin Parr

I’m not here to write his biography, just show you some of his brilliant work. If you’d like to know a bit more about him, his life, his work, his foundation and his legacy, click here. But if you just want to see more photos of people eating chips, scroll down.

Ireland.
USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015.
ITALY. Capri. Marina Piccola. 2014.
Sexy Beast, anyone?
Uruguay.
Barry Island. 1996.
WALES. Glamorgan. Tower Colliery. 1993.
Wales. Tenby. 2018.

If you want to have a look at some of his most recent projects, have a look here. You won’t be disappointed.

GB. England. Kent. Margate. 1986.
GB. England. Bristol. Pride. 2019.

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Liberty – Paul Eluard


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Paul & Nusch Eluard

When I first read ‘Liberty’ by French poet Paul Eluard I thought it was a love poem to his wife Nusch. Silly me.

After doing a bit of research (Googling) I learned that it was, in fact, about the Nazi occupation of his beloved France during the Second World War.

In my defence, I still think it reads like a love poem. Just love of one’s country, I guess.

It reminded me of ‘The Causes’ by Jorge Luis Borges. Another epic poem about love.

 

Liberty

By Paul Eluard

Translation by Guy Tiphane

 

On my school notebooks

On my school desk and the trees

On the sand on the snow

I write your name

 

On all the pages read

On all the blank pages

Stone blood paper or ash

I write your name

 

On the golden images

On the warriors’ arms

On the kings’ crown

I write your name

 

On the jungle and the desert

On the nests on the brooms[1]

On the echo of my childhood

I write your name

 

On the wonders of the nights

On the white bread of the days

On the seasons engaged[2]

I write your name

 

On all my rags[3] of azure

On the pond mildewed sun

On the lake live moon

I write your name

 

On the fields on the horizon

On the wings of the birds

And on the mill of the shadows

I write your name

 

On every puff of dawn

On the sea on the boats

On the mad mountain

I write your name

 

On the foam of the clouds

On the sweat of the storm

On the thick and dull rain

I write your name

 

On the scintillating figure

On the bells[4] of the colors

On the physical truth

I write your name

 

On the paths awake

On the roads unfurled

On the squares overflowing

I write your name

 

On the lamp that comes alight[5]

On the lamp that dies out[6]

On my houses combined

I write your name

 

On the fruit cut in halves

Of the mirror and of my room

On my empty shell bed[7]

I write your name

 

On my gourmand and tender dog

On his pricked up ears

On his clumsy paw

I write your name

 

On the springboard of my door

On the familiar objects

On the flood of the blessed fire

I write your name

 

On any[8] granted flesh

On my friends’ brow

On every hand held out

I write your name

 

On the window of the surprises

On the attentive lips

Well above the silence

I write your name

 

On my destroyed shelters

On my crumbled beacons

On the walls of my boredom

I write your name

 

On the absence without desire

On the bare solitude

On the steps of death

I write your name

 

On the health returned

On the risk disappeared

On hope without remembrance

I write your name

 

And by the power of a word

I start my life again

I was born to know you

To name you

 

Liberty.

 

Thanks to @chimesatmidnight on Instagram for first introducing me to the poem.

 

F.LEGER_

 

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