The Empress of All I Survey – Part 1
Have you ever thought of commissioning your portrait from an artist?
I have. It started as an idea for my 60th birthday. I thought I would like to make a collage myself, of myself, surrounded by each of my friends. There was one stipulation: I wanted everyone to give me their image as they would like to be remembered, showing something of their personalities.
My friends were horrified!
I didn’t realise for some years why no one came up with the goods. It was while doing a photography course that I discovered how difficult it is to find people who are happy with the sight of themselves.
Eventually, on that course, I decided to use myself as a model and it was a truly liberating experience. I made the absolute most of studio time and eventually took hundreds of photos of myself, many nude and very few flattering.
It’s interesting that so many of us, both men and women, have an idealised sense of how we should look, and very few are content or even objective about how we look right now.
When have you come across an image of yourself that you thought was hideous at the time it was taken but now… well, it looks better than any recent images? And what about other people’s perception of your picture?
My dad loved some publicity photographs I had done by a professional photographer in my early twenties for a theatre company I was working with. I still have them and they still freak me out.
I was lovely, as all twentysomethings are, with glowing skin and large, dark eyes, but only I know that the look on my face in all of those images is fear and dread. I could never tell my lovely dad that the photographer spent the whole session trying to get me to take my clothes off, and although I didn’t, I was too afraid to leave until he got fed up with pestering me and closed the session.
There were a lot of experiences like that in my life… being afraid to speak up, being afraid to stand up for myself, until I was so angry or upset that I just came across as desperate or mad. Poor mental health, anxiety and depression swallowed huge chunks of my wellbeing, alienated me from others and taught me huge, painful lessons about the world and my place in it.
Over many years I developed other more physical health issues, some from injuries acquired in my acting days and some auto-immune. They affected my muscles and joints and made me exhausted until, by my late fifties, I was struggling to walk and manage the job I loved.
I developed strategies and philosophies that helped me keep going, and when I finally had to leave my job, I had already decided that wherever I am, whatever I look like, whatever I can do or not do was how it is!
When I had weeks when I couldn’t walk, I told myself it would come back or it wouldn’t, and I would learn to live with it. When I saw in my reflection a bloated, old person with hollow eyes and no discernible chin, I told myself: you will get some vaguely human shape back again or you won’t. It is how it is!
I adopted the attitude that I had earned the title of Empress. I might not be much but, sitting up in bed, exhausted and in pain, I could look around my room and tell myself I was Empress of All I Surveyed.
So, at 66, no longer glowing with health and beauty, and grieving for my dear friend who had just died of cancer days before her 61st birthday, I looked at my bank account and thought: I want to be painted by someone who will see me exactly as I am right now and help me celebrate it, because – who knows? – something has to get us sooner or later, and none of us is immune to death.
I was pointed in the direction of the lovely Nina Camplin mural artist. And, well… if you are interested, I will tell you the rest of the story soon…
Nina Camplin is a mural artist living in South Wales She specialises in trompe l’oeil, which is a painting or design intended to create a visual illusion.
She loves to challenge perceptions of space, creating scenes of faked realities, such as windows, doors and broken walls that open up the flat surface of the wall to create an optical illusion of an additional dimension beyond. To see more of NIna’s work or to commission a painting, go to her website : https://ninacamplin.co.uk/
I first came up with this idea for this after seeing a post on Facebook by a postal worker:
I started looking at the parallel’s between keyworkers and the original DC Comic characters of the Suicide Squad.
Anti heroes who put their lives at risk to save the world!
Until the onset of the Corona Virus and several months of Lockdown, our keyworkers were very much under valued. But these were the jobs that held our communities together when everything else was shut down. They risked their lives every time they went to work, when the majority of the population were under instruction to stay at home, without these keyworkers our civilisation would have fallen apart.
I wanted to make a piece of work to show how much they have been appreciated throughout this whole episode, so I replaced the original Suicide Squad characters with real people who were keyworkers throughout this time.
From left to right:
Supermarket employee at Sainsbury’s, Pontypridd
Senior care assistant The Laurels Care Home, Aberdare. Rhondda Cynon Taff
Recycling and Refuse Operative for Pembrokeshire County Council.
Butcher at Andrew Rees Butchers, Narberth
Paul Aston Jones
Keyworker in the Welsh Ambulance Service, Frontline EMS in Pembrokeshire
Primary school teacher for Newport County Council
Extra duties performed during lockdown:
*Delivering food parcels, free school meals, learning packs (including pens, pencils, paper etc for our underprivileged families).
*Working in the hub for key worker children.
*very regular contact with pupils and parents through seesaw (online learning tool), phone calls, video chats.
Postal Worker for Royal Mail,Aberdare. Rhondda Cynon Taff
Delivering more parcels than the run up to Christmas as people couldn’t go shopping they ordered everything online.
PCSO Dyfed Powys Police Pembroke Dock Pembrokeshire
Educating and enforcing new Covid-19 laws and rules brought in by Welsh Assembly
Barry John MBE
Military Charity peer mentor and Founder of the VC Gallery Organisation, Pembrokeshire and West Wales
Extra duties performed during lockdown:
Actively making sure our Veterans, their families and the community have support during lockdown. With food, mental health support, medical liaisions and hospital admissions. Making sure our members are still active creatively and mentally during the pandemic.
One of my paintings got nominated to be featured as front cover for Armed Forces Day edition of Pathfinder Magazine, and although mine didn’t win, I still got a small write up inside, on page 34.
Throughout the Lockdown period of the Corona Virus Pandemic I produced a number of Live Watch Party Art Workshops on Facebook.
I am now in the process of editing them and uploading them to YouTube to make them more accessible to anyone who is interested in watching them.
Please bear in mind that these videos were recorded live on my phone and were made with the intention that people could work with the limited materials they may have lying around at home during the Lockdown.
I will add links as I get them uploaded to YouTube, earliest is at the bottom, most recent at the top of the list:
Old Dogs with New Tricks.
Click article link below
As so many people are now on lockdown during the Coronavirus panic, I decided to share some art sessions with everyone if they are bored and looking for something to fill their time.
For me this is just what I would call ‘Downtime’, a period between commissioned work, when I fill my time at home by doing what amuses me…..painting!
So I have created a Facebook group where I can share Live Watch Parties which anyone can see, by clicking this link and joining https://www.facebook.com/groups/651932192261904
These sessions will be kept at quite a basic level to suit all ages and abilities, there will be no specialist materials, just use what you have to hand! If you have always wanted to have a go at drawing/painting but were too embarrassed to go to a class, now you can do it in the comfort of your own home!
Equally, if you have kids at home who are bored, this may be a great way to entertain them!
My first session will be held on Monday 23rd March at 11:00 GMT, but will be available to watch any time after if this time is not convenient for you. We will be painting/drawing sunflowers.
THERE WILL BE NO CHARGES OR HIDDEN FEES FOR THESE SESSIONS!!
(I was painting at home on my own anyway and just felt it would be good to share!)
There are many traditional celebrations of mothers and motherhood that exist throughout the world, dating back thousands of years and in some countries, Mother’s Day is still associated with these older traditions.
The modern Mother’s Day began in the United States by Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century, when she held a memorial for her mother and then later campaigned to make Mother’s Day a national holiday in the United States, this first became a recognised holiday in 1905.
Mother’s day is now celebrated all over the world, although each country has different dates, here in the United Kingdom we celebrate Mothering Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent, this year that will be 22nd March.
The giving of flowers to the mother figure seems to have begun with the Christian faith, dedicated to the figure of the Virgin, bringing her the first of the fresh spring flowers.
This year why not give your mother a painting of flowers, which will last a lifetime!
If you do not see your mother’s favourite flower here, I am happy to accept commissions, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org