Tag Archives: wellbeing

Body of Work


I was going to title this post: Portraits of the Damned.

Then I started to include landscapes and still-lives to it. So, the title wouldn’t really make sense. But it will in a minute! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Some of you may, or may not, know that I volunteer for an Arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), in Reddish, Stockport.

I’ve done a lot of this work there, and some at home. But all the techniques I’ve picked up are from either attending or volunteering on their programmes.

Whether it be block-printing, collage, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, inks, fabric, embroidery, clay or pastel. Not to mention the numerous techniques, yes brushes, but also charcoal tied to the end of a three feet long piece of bamboo! Bits of old Paymobil and Lego, edges of long out-of-date credit cards.

At Arc, it’s never about the technique and what end result you achieve, it’s about enjoying the process of doing it. Losing yourself, immersing yourself in art for a few hours – now that is medicine!

I appreciate that my work is more the stuff of nightmares rather than living room walls. But I like it!

Collage

8d2364020cddedeeda47a065fd90ac6a

0d7e2c657ccd8b575269f6cef379b4da

a12cf89a1b06e2f939a96c5a8d11351d

screenshot-2017-10-23-david-milligan-croft-milligancroft-e280a2-instagram-photos-and-videos-4

Pencil sketches

IMG_4726

IMG_4740

IMG_4709

IMG_4751

Watercolour

3645b0c7904bfa500f41f883f6a54062

Processed with Snapseed.

bc58468bdfadf1916203c670bba6fa19

ae4eca241a3e6e15b5ff4835788b5bf8

024f13d6a3d1897edde063eb909d9a5e

3c4b8fadf4d16fd154504899250af7ab

Self-portraits

Processed with Snapseed.

9fb40da7882c983ec7abc9581da80019

68ee34ef3f1d8ae4c74ffa0d7e817695

741943d0a7709c754772ca5390058734.jpg

Charcoal

2a2157baea19dee85f2d3f3fb0fd9f81

280e494e1fba1e263087ba3c2a2a025d

e29a7b45a9fdba1c8b55dfb8367adf8b

2ee1afb0ef0a83d528a97be4f3edeff7

Pen and ink sketches

1f2e5a09940c1dc3c117269499bc4a07

176795be638f9bc21ad43c0bc635ceea

408c3fdff697867d0f5c3e4c5d0b8b07

d7045714f8274322ba3c68bbcdb71720

Portraits of the Damned!

Mostly acrylic and chalk pastel on canvas or paper.

893b476be83d43ccdb36286843761fc9

3e9e77dd003871d69b3356fe2561dbfa

a452c463251cab353a653edf7c5d40ba

3a6a3bbba4c596a6aabe8b7e9634f134

82f993ad1bed5b6ae1a2a792939dd4f0

d7adfef5e775e0c9f98845c6494d992e

38206431a6d34f040c2add610bbff3b8

82de543776bde91e512dd92214b75aba

0f0342121384651b0e812b5c54c2cb3a

11021b146624e19166de6bc86ab01712cf4c350d6acd9de9ee610b3f2584b525

aa82c752a6b8bff63032ae124b7a581d

And finally, the installation I made for the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. R.I.P. Herbert Jackson of Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport. Railway man, musician, fiance – and soldier.

0ceb66ce550af7d4db93d06744f15648

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Art, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Education, health, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, Medicine, mental health, Nature, Uncategorized

Ten Orbits of the Sun – update.


Well, I didn’t progress further than the shortlist for the Mind Short Story Competition. Still, I’m very proud to have made it this far.

Anyhoo, a few folks said they would like to read my short story, so here it is. The theme for the competition was ‘Journeys’, either literal or metaphorical.

P.S. I’ll always be grateful to Mike O’Toole for his stunning front cover photography.

P.P.S. Here’s a quote from a Mind judge/organiser:

“Believe me, I was definitely rooting for 10 Orbits of the Sun to go through to the judges. Both myself and one of the shortlisters cried reading your story. It was so beautifully written and emotive.”

Ten Orbits of the Sun.

By David Milligan-Croft.

Something changes inside of you when you have a child. Obviously, things change inside of a woman, quite literally. But I’m talking about changing from a man’s point of view – philosophically.

Up until my late thirties, I never wanted kids. Why would I? They’d be a burden. I had a fabulous career, a few great friends, a fantastic salary and a nice little crash pad overlooking a languid river.

Then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I got all broody. And I just wanted a baby. Specifically, a baby girl. I don’t know why I wanted a girl. Perhaps I found the thought of a rambunctious boy quite off-putting. Or maybe it was because I didn’t want a boy to turn out like his father.

It stands to reason that I had to find a suitable mother first, which took a little longer than I had anticipated. I met Suki on an online dating website and, as we were both pushing forty, we decided it would be prudent to start a family sooner rather than later. We had a lot in common, we both loved the arts and books, she even shared my passion for antiques. She worked at the local hospital as an ER nurse, while I worked in a large design agency working on global brand campaigns. When we got married I decided to quit the industry and open up an antique shop in a trendy part of town. Something I’d dreamed of doing since my twenties.

Anyhow, I got my wish. And I was the proud father of little Tallulah. When I said that something changes inside of you, I meant that something changes chemically as well as philosophically. Nothing else, nor anyone else, matters quite so much in the world. Every cell in your body is geared toward protecting this little being. It starts from the moment of conception. I used to sing lullabies to Suki’s tummy and recite poetry to her. I’d talk to her and tell her how much I loved her and how much I was looking forward to seeing her. It’s a love that’s hard to describe. You would do anything for your charge. Yes, even kill for them. Die for them. It’s quite primeval on one level. Yet deeply spiritual on another. I can understand why some parents conceal their children from the law if they have committed a crime.

Sure, not all parents feel this way. And I’m not trying to say that I’m unique in feeling like this. Plenty of parents are doting and plenty are neglectful.

It was three years before I had a full night’s sleep or a hot meal. I’d be bouncing Tallulah on my left knee to keep her entertained whilst trying to eat a bowl of lukewarm pasta with my right hand. Or driving her around the suburbs to get her off to sleep. Every day brought a new parenting challenge or experience. Like the time I pursed my lips and asked her to give me a ‘smacker’, so she slapped me across the face! Or the time she pulled at my cheek and asked: “Daddy, why is your skin like a raw chicken drumstick?” Charming.

Because I’d had a child later in life, other parents in the park would ask if I was her grandad. It didn’t help that I’d gone grey early in life. She found it funny at first, but as time went on I think it began to annoy her. That I wasn’t like the other dads who were all much younger than me. It used to worry me that I might not be around for her later in life – when she was at university, or if she got married, if she had children. I wondered if I had been selfish having a child so late on.

I watched my little girl flourish and blossom over the years. She was a happy kid. Loved to read. Loved to write her own stories. She’d make little 8-page books and fill them with fairy tales and drawings. She loved to ride her bike and occasionally we’d go to McEvoy’s farm and she’d ride Ruby, the chestnut brown mare. She didn’t care much for video games or TV either and would much prefer to concoct experiments out of things she’d find in the garden and around the house.

I remember one time, when we were going for a drive in the desert in my old jalopy, she’d said: “Daddy, how far is it around the sun?”

“What? The Earth’s orbit?” I’d said.

“Yes.”

“About 585 million miles, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Depends on the time of year, I think.” I turned the volume down on the car stereo so I could hear my inquisitive daughter better.

“Why does it depend on the time of year?” she said, turning the volume back up again so she could hear the trashy pop song that was playing.

“Not a hundred percent sure. Something to do with the ellipse of the Earth’s orbit,” I tried to draw an ellipse in the dust on the dashboard. “And the tilt of the Earth’s axis.” Astronomy isn’t my strong point and I got the distinct impression that Tallulah guessed I was busking a little.

Tallulah looked out of the open passenger window from behind her sunglasses at the scorched desert dotted with parched brush and spindly shrubs.

I stole a glance at the side of her pensive face, her golden hair was tantalising her cheeks. “Why d’you ask?”

“By my next birthday, I will have travelled 5.8 billion miles around the sun. Pretty amazing, huh?”

I pursed my lips. “When you look at it like that, kiddo, it is pretty amazing.”

“And that’s not including all the miles we’ve done down here on Earth,” she said wistfully.

I didn’t know how many miles we’d clocked up on Earth, and, in the great scheme of things, it probably wouldn’t affect Tallulah’s ‘orbital total’ very much. But it was still a significant amount for mere Earth dwellers.

I don’t know why this memory of my daughter springs to the forefront of my mind. Perhaps it is because it’s to do with heavenly bodies. The very fact that she came up with this concept amazed me. She could often be very abstract in her thinking. While other kids were busy playing with Barbie dolls, Tallulah was calculating how far she’d travelled in the universe. I always imagined her growing up to be a great children’s writer one day. Or maybe even a scientist.

Tallulah didn’t make it into double figures before she was taken from me. It was that God-damned bike I’d bought for her ninth birthday. She was cycling home from school when a truck cut her up at some traffic lights. The driver said he didn’t see her coming up on the inside.

I’d always been uncomfortable with her riding to and from school. Not because she was a careless rider but because of careless drivers. However, her friends all did it, so she wanted to do it too. I guess I should have been a stronger father and forbidden it. Up until then I’d always dropped her off and picked her from school in the car. But peer pressure had reluctantly forced me to concede.

I was at the shop when it happened. I don’t know, but around the time of the accident, I recall being overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Like, somehow I’d had this telepathic connection with her, or something. Sounds ludicrous, I know. Though, I didn’t put it down to anything bad having befallen my little girl at the time. I just thought it was due to my mood swings.

I got a phone call from my distraught wife about an hour later. She had been working in the ER department when Tallulah was brought in. It was hard to make out what Suki was actually trying to tell me through her hysterical sobs. When the penny finally dropped, I felt the world disappear from beneath my feet and I was suddenly floating in a black void. I was dizzy. I felt my insides twitch and heave and I vomited over a glass cabinet containing antique duelling pistols. I think the customers must have thought I was hungover as they stared at me disdainfully and left the shop.

I closed the store and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The truck had already crushed the precious life out of her. Had the driver been there when I found out I imagine I would have killed him. Not that I would do that now, having had time to reflect on the incident. I know it was an accident. He didn’t mean to kill her. But he should’ve taken more care. Particularly at that time of day, being near a school and all.

I have never known grief like it.

I don’t believe in heaven and hell.

But this was hell.

The depths of Christian hell could not provide me with such torment. I went over all of the things that I might possibly have done for Tallulah not to have been at that particular spot at that particular moment in time. Not buying her the bike was top of the list. Me picking her up was a second. Taking gymnastics class on a Tuesday instead of violin on a Wednesday was another. Or letting her go to her friend Maisie’s house after school so she would have taken a different route. There were an infinite amount of possibilities. Of variables that would have put her at a different point in the universe at that moment in time. And I didn’t take any of them. It was my fault, not the truck driver’s.

As you can imagine, my wife was inconsolable too. But I had to put on a more stoic face for everyone else: the police, doctors, funeral directors, family, friends. I know people mean well by wanting to offer their condolences, but the last thing we wanted to do at that time was talk to anybody. Shout – yes. Scream – definitely. Why? Why Tallulah? What had she ever done to anybody? To me, it was further proof that there is no god. How could an all-powerful, loving deity let a beautifully perfect little girl be killed in such a horrific way? What the hell was the point of existence?

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in some form of afterlife. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps we’re reincarnated. Or, maybe we rise to a higher dimension. I once had the notion that the afterlife was an emotion rather than a place. Sort of like ecstasy or bliss. That one’s spirit melded back into the universe in a kind of eternal rapture. Most likely, there will be nothing. I don’t know. But it’s a chance I’m not prepared to take.

Of course, I haven’t discussed this with Suki. What would she say? She’d say I was being irrational. And I guess I am. No rational person decides to take their own life. She’d say I needed to see a doctor. That I was depressed. Not thinking straight. Get some pills or bereavement counselling. On the other hand, I could also see why my thinking is completely rational. It wasn’t fair on Suki, I know that. To lose a child and a husband. But what choice do I have?

You know what I miss the most about Tallulah? It’s a sound. Specifically, a word. It’s a word I’ll never hear ever again: “Daddy.” There isn’t a more perfect sound in the entire universe. Perhaps her mother would disagree.

Like I said at the beginning – having a child changes you. You’d do anything to protect them. And I have failed in that respect. Why should my parental duties end in this life? Lots of religious people believe in heaven and hell. But they don’t think twice about giving up on their dead loved ones. If their faith was so resolute why wouldn’t they follow them to paradise?

Perhaps Tallulah and I will both spend eternity in black nothingness. In which case, it won’t matter a jot to either of us. But if there is something else, I’m certainly not going to let my beloved daughter wander the afterlife all by herself.

What kind of father would I be?

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Books, Children, Children's stories, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Inspiration, Literature, love, mental health, Philosophy, religion, Science, Short stories, Uncategorized, Writing

We all have to die of something.


8a670f9eecdd0bd5e2eaf6e93f03ab0a

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)

0eadb8c8f84363958ca499ec6fb545a5

1a7c7fb415d626a9677e74dbe75bedd0

1a506535d85111c48d7458f6be91e9b3

43ac2b99b0a691f95c07daa211e770c6

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Art, community, Disability, Education, mental health, Uncategorized

Arc in the Park.


I’ve been helping out on a project for the past six weeks or so. It’s a collaboration between Arc and The Whitworth Art Gallery.

The project was called ‘A Love Letter to Whitworth Park’ and was facilitated by an extremely talented artist by the name of Wendy Hunter and project managed by Annette from Arc.

For four weeks, the aim was to engage older people with the nature of the park and the art of the gallery. (At least, that was my take on it.) Then, via the mediums of painting, printing, collage, photography, cups of tea, poetry and prose; participants expressed their ‘love’ for the park in a variety of techniques.

FullSizeRender(1)

The project culminated in an exhibition in the gardens of The Whitworth Art Gallery in Arc’s very own Geodome! (Which is a bugger to put up, believe me.) Thousands upon thousands came to view… okay, maybe not thousands. But there were loads. Certainly more than you could count on an abacus.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and lots of kids came along to colour in bird stencils and stick them on the tree Wendy and the participants made. They also did a nice job of polishing off all the cupcakes. (Maybe that was just my kids.)

FullSizeRender(2)

FullSizeRender(3)

FullSizeRender(4)

FullSizeRender(5)

FullSizeRender(6)

 

FullSizeRender(8)

Anyhoo, onwards and upwards – don’t forget it’s the Saturday Art Club at Arc this Saturday 29th July. 11am – 4pm. Free parking. Great for families/kids.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.53.40.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.54.10.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.57.18.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.57.31.png

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.54.59.png

Other shout-outs and credits go to: Daisy and Francine from The Whitworth Art Gallery; Ruth from The University of Manchester; Annette and Jacqui from Arc, and last, but not least, The A-Team: Becky, Kath, Mark and Tim. (Oh, and Becky’s Mam and Dad for the sarnies and help packing up.)

 

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Disability, Education, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, mental health, Nature, Photography, Sculpture, Uncategorized, Writing

A real Presence in art – Ewa Konior


There is a brilliant exhibition on at the Arc Gallery at the moment by a stupendously talented artist by the name of Ewa Konior. (Pronounced Evva, I think.)

Ewa hails from Poland, but now plies her trade from her studio in Wales.

There are two very distinctive styles of work on show – the big, bold portraits, full of life and energy. And the smaller, multi-layered images of everyday life built up on wallpaper. You really have to see them in the flesh to see the full effect of the textures and scale.

The title of her exhibition is ‘Presence’ and runs until the 16th June.

Anyway, enough of me rambling, you want to see her work.

Berrying-acrylic-wallpaper-30cm-30cm-1-296x300

Outdoor-acrylic-wallpaper-30cm-30cm-296x300

Presence-acrylic-wallpaper-30cm-30cm-300x300

Rest-acrylic-wallpaper-30cm-30cm-296x300

john-online

josephine-ii-online

josephine-online

IMG_0308

Here are a few shots I took at the exhibition. Apologies for the reflections.

FullSizeRender(1)

FullSizeRender(3)

FullSizeRender(2)

FullSizeRender(4)

FullSizeRender(5)

FullSizeRender

So, if you’re in and around Stockport, Reddish or Manchester, try to pop along, it really is a wonderful exhibition. It’s Free in there’s free parking round the back of the mill. And there’s also a brand-spanking new cafe in which to relax and admire the work.

Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Ewa Konior and some auld fella. Photo courtesy of Mark Coffey.

Oh, and by the way, Ewa’s work is for sale if you’re a collector. But please don’t feel obliged to buy me anything. Honestly. It really isn’t necessary.

Arc Centre and Gallery
Unit 33m, Vauxhall Industrial Estate
Greg Street
Reddish
Stockport  SK5 7BR

Artist’s statement:

In my work, I aim to describe the essence of life and quality of existence. Experience, observation and study of the human psyche support my work, I empathise with and give voice to my human subjects. In the paintings of time and place I construct surrealistic locations including abstract elements. Like a frame from a film, the painting is a moment in a movement though time.

I perceive the world as an ocean where, below its visible surface, layers of complexity can be found in its depths. Painting, for me, is intuitively diving into and through the ocean to discover new dimensions and planes. It is an alchemic activity where the creative decision making process and my presence as the artist is evident. My painting is an expression of my particular view, involving aspects of reality, nuanced memories and philosophical contemplations.

Save

Save

Save

5 Comments

Filed under Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Disability, Education, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Uncategorized