Tag Archives: depression

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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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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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 #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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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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Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

ME2

AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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ME4

SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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burst

There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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We all have to die of something.


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You wouldn’t criticise someone of being selfish if they died of cancer or heart disease.

So, why call someone selfish if they commit suicide?

The person doesn’t kill themself of cancer. Just like a person who commits suicide does not kill themself.

Depression kills them.

Do you think the person you know and love wants to leave those s/he knows and loves? To cause them pain and sorrow beyond measure.

Imagine that person in happier times. When they felt normal. Happy even. Do you think they would consider it then? Of course not. It’s pretty absurd to even think it.

How dark must it be in the mind of someone who wants to commit suicide for them to consider it a viable option to ease their suffering?

I am writing this to hopefully help destigmatise mental illness. And also to encourage people who are suffering to try and speak up and ask for help. Whether that be to a friend or family member, your GP or community mental health care unit. (Yes, they have them.) Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 45.

And also to ask people who don’t suffer from mental illness to try and be a bit more understanding. If you think someone you know is suffering from depression, or at risk of suicide, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. But, please don’t tell them to pull their socks up and get on with it. They’ll probably back off sharper than a hermit crab.

A person who commits suicide isn’t trying to hurt you. They are trying to stop their pain. To stop the disease in their brain.

If you need help try these links. And remember, if things get so bad and you can’t wait, go to A&E they will treat you just like any other patient and get you the care you need.

Mind

Samaritans

NHS

ARC (Local to Stockport only)

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Painting instead of writing


Earlier this year I began work on my third novel. I was making good progress until it all ground to a halt as Spring gave way to Summer. I think the expression is “writer’s block”. You may have heard of it.

Anyhow, I wasn’t too worried as the school holidays were looming and I would be spending much of it trying to keep my two daughters entertained. So the chances of getting much work done were slim to zero.

Now that they’ve gone back to school, the “block” is still here. And it’s very frustrating. I get quite depressed if I am not creating something. I worked in advertising for 30 years and every day I’d go into work and have to create something.

So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I turned my hand to something else – painting. Mainly watercolours, but acrylics too.

Here are a few examples I thought I’d share with you. I know I won’t be getting an exhibition at the National Gallery anytime soon, but I quite like the colours and freshness of some of them.

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Processed with Snapseed.

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Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Self portrait in acrylic.

 

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Joy Division – Things for which I am grateful #277


I know a lot of people find Joy Division a bit depressing, but I love their frenetic energy and controlled emotion. (Paradoxical? Absolutely. That’s why they were brilliant.) They had a unique style and voice which no one else had at the time. Plus, they were quite smart! (Punks were a bit too scruffy for my liking.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.05.27

Being at art college in the early 80s, it was de rigeuer to be in a band, and I was no exception. The only slight problem to my impending rock stardom was my musical inability. That didn’t stop me trying, mind.

A group of mates, and I, got together to do a benefit gig for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign. (The clichés just keep on coming, don’t they.) Anyways, we were doing covers above a pub in Leeds and, as I was petrified of being on stage, I didn’t move a muscle. Well, apart from the ones in my hands to play the bass.

When we got round to playing New Dawn Fades, I started to relax, a little. I loved the song and I could play it pretty well, so I began to go for a little wander around the stage. Unfortunately, I wandered a little too far stage right, and promptly fell off the stage.

I can still see the contorted faces of the audience twisted in fits of hysterics. So much for my dream of being a rock star.

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If you didn’t know, lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide in 1980 just as they were becoming famous. He suffered from depression and epilepsy and, if we’re to believe the excellent biopic, Control, they link his depression to his epilepsy meds.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but have a listen if you want to hear a truly original voice that is unfortunately lost to us.

I think I’ll save my anecdote about playing New Dawn Fades, with a band I stumbled upon practicing in an upstairs warehouse in the Italian naval port of Livorno, for another day.

Some facts about Joy Division:

They were originally called Warsaw after David Bowie’s Warszawa from the album Low

They changed their name because of another band called Warsaw Pakt

The name Joy Division originated from a prostitute ‘wing’ of a Nazi concentration camp

After Curtis’s death, the remaining members went on to form New Order

Ian Curtis is survived by his wife, Deborah Curtis, and their daughter, Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

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Tony Scott – In Memoriam.


tony scott, suicide

Tony Scott, director, 1944 – 2012.

What compels a person to take their own life?

Serious mental illness? A scandal? Depression?

People often talk about suicide victims as being selfish. Particularly if they leave children behind.

But you don’t hear people saying: That selfish bastard went and died of cancer.

The person doesn’t kill themselves – the illness kills them. And depression is an illness. Like it or not. Believe it or not.

Whether the sufferer has a chemical imbalance in the brain or has a genetic predisposition varies from patient to patient.

It’s very difficult for doctors to ascertain what causes mental illness, but what they do know is that it is very real.

Figures suggest that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness at some stage during their life.

There are numerous treatments available, from antidepressants to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). For most people, the illness is temporary and they make a full recovery. But for others, it’s a life-long sentence.

I can’t think of anyone who suffers from depression who wants to be in that condition. And I can’t imagine anyone, who’s of a normal state of mind, actually wants to die.

I imagine the reason that a person commits suicide does so because, to them, it is a very real and viable solution to their present problem.

What dark place must they inhabit if there is no other hope?

To a non-sufferer, it seems incomprehensible that suicide could ever be a viable option. Unfortunately, it is these kind of beliefs that perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness. And why some sufferers are reluctant to seek help.

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, successful and appear to have everything, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Like many people, I was very saddened to hear about the recent passing away of film director, Tony Scott, who committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Leaving behind a wife and two children.

Whether he was being treated for mental illness, I don’t know. It is rumoured that he had terminal brain cancer. But this has been denied by his family.

The saddest thing of all, is that whatever his mental state, he felt that ending his own life was the best option he had left.

Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette in True Romance, directed by Tony Scott.

I’ll remember him for making one of my favourite films – True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino, and starring Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette and whole host of other luminaries such as: Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn and James Gandolfini.

Here’s one of my favourite scenes played by Dennis Hopper, (Clarence’s dad), and Christopher Walken, a mafioso.

Hopper knows his time is up, and to prevent being tortured some more and possibly spilling the beans as to his son’s whereabouts, he decides to provoke his captor.

Rest in Peace, Mr Scott.

Here are some other famous people who also felt they had run out of options:

Vincent van Gogh, painter, 1890.

Alan Turing, computer scientist, 1954.

Ernest Hemingway, writer, 1961.

Sylvia Plath, writer, 1963.

Rothko, painter, 1970.

Diane Arbus, photographer, 1971.

Ian Curtis, singer, Joy Division, 1980.

Kurt Cobain, singer, Nirvana, 1994.

Gary Speed, footballer, 2011.

Tony Scott, director, 2012.

And here’s a link for anyone who needs help.

http://www.mind.org.uk/

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