Currently I am experiencing a sense of relief. On Monday 24th May, with several hours left to go before the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition submission deadline, I pressed send. Spellbound is finished, and the die is cast. Wind back seven days and things were very different. Seven long days ago I was deep into the production of Spellbound, making progress, and simultaneously running out of time. I felt I was almost having too many ideas, and I didn’t know where (if anywhere) to include them in my never ending unfolding work. How many different ways are there to experiment with the same illusion? As many as you need.
I made myself ill at one point. I had a lunchtime Chalk And Talk session booked in last Wednesday and right from the start of the day I wasn’t feeling right. I tried to pretend it was nothing and the harder I pretended, the less like nothing it became, until about an hour before the session was due to start, my head was pounding and my stomach churning. I cancelled at what felt like embarrassingly short notice, and headed to bed. I woke later to some very kind, understanding notes, and eased myself back into work the next day.
Thursday morning I took a long look at my work. Realising I was closer to completion (is anything ever really finished?) than I had been allowing myself to think, I turned away from Spellbound for a while. Instead I occupied my time with other tasks – farm work, arts admin, walking. This continued for a couple of days until I returned to the drawing pen, feeling refreshed.
As I played with my concertina sketch book on Saturday morning – I enjoyed seeing how various pieces of the puzzle can be hidden and revealed. I added two more devices to the book, thinking of them as little keys, or maybe pathways from one spell to another. Intentionally simple, and a joy to draw.
On Sunday I turned all the way back to the front of the book, and carefully slid a rectangular zen doodle behind the Spellbound title, before wandering to the far end, and signing on the inside back cover, where the memento mori [Latin: Remember that you have to die] resides. That signature ended the making.
I showed the work to Carole. She admired it while I cried a few tears. As you know, I submitted it the following day. It took me over three weeks to make this. I’ve drawn on aspects of my creative practice learned over lockdown and way before – to produce something completely different. I pushed it. I pushed myself, the work, the ideas, the story, everything. It’s been a challenging experiment and whatever happens next I’ve made something adventurous, something I am proud of.
Footnote: We now have to wait until Early July before finding out whether or not this work gets shortlisted. More to follow.