Push It : The Joy and Pain of Doing The Work

Knowing when to press on, knowing when to stop.

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.

How Many Different Ways?

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.

Crucible, Forest Bathing, and River Incantations

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.

A Springtime farming spell flanked by two keys

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.

Beginning to end

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.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

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