Back back in time before I could write and before I could read I was trying to convey stories and thoughts through pictures – from blobs of paint to shapes cut out of different coloured paper to papier mache puppets to fully realised characters (forming comic strips I would force on all of my family including aunts and uncles and grand parents). At the same time I was filling my pockets full of stones, leaves and earthworms, the odd shell would make its way in along with animal bones and bits of broken tools (and on one occasion a Roman Coin).
I grew up in the Thames basin with nothing much other than different coloured clays but I did have a river to run around in with some very obvious curves cutting down through layers of rounded stones which me and the other children would hack out of the bank – adding a new type of human erosion. I would hide in thickets of cow pasley and watch the foxes watch the ducks and squirrels. Trees yielded secrets such as which were spiky and which had good branches for building tree houses in. Nature also showed me the burnt out cars from joy riders and panning for golf balls in the river bends, home being on the edge of a town swallowed by Greater London and the ‘Green Belt’.
One of my earliest recollections was the local marshes being claimed and drained for building only vaguely hampered by the discovery of an Iron Age village (the site is now under a super market) and majorly halted due to a little bird on the verge of extinction.
My summers were spent on a Farm in Wales were my father’s relatives would take me to archeological sites and out scouring the hill sides for various types of fossils. The frothing fast-flowing streams and springs sometimes gushing from vertical rock was different from our lazy sluggish stream at home and the land revealed it’s secrets to me – a hanging valley here and reservoir with a church spire sticking out of it in hot weather there.
I struggled at school except at art and maths but it didn’t matter – I had the world around me and there was so much too learn as I sneaked down in the middle of the night to watch the educational programmes like Open University. Soon I was making my own paper and perfume and selling sweets to the other kids for twice their worth to be able to buy supplies – to build things, or to draw and maybe buy myself some sweets.
Around 12 something clicked in my brain and the elusive reading and writing started to take off – much to my relief; how was I going to write my scifi novel without being able to spell even basic words and how was I going to work out time travel for the plot if I couldn’t read the science books?
I ended up being offered a place at art college to do a Foundation course instead of A levels. I refused – mad? Yes, probably, but I reasoned that creative writing and the visual arts could be done as a hobby and science couldn’t. So from being told I wouldn’t be able to sit GCSE’s I was suddenly doing four A levels and mourning the fact I could not do more. Biology, Chemistry, Geology and Classical Civilisation with short courses in things like creative writing and singing.
People kept telling me I needed to decide where my career was going, and chose what to focus on but I’d had enough trouble cutting things down as much as I had – I find everything fun and interesting (bar team sports involving curved wooden sticks or balls and nets where you’re not allowed to kick). I was already the Artistic Scientist or the Scientific Artist – telling me to choose was asking me to deny a part of myself – I did the best I could.
And lo! I ended up at Imperial College in the Royal School of Mines (RSM) studying Geology but I had applied for degrees ranging from Art History, Anthropology, archeology, paleo biology or a combination of those subjects. I got rejected for the art one and told to re-apply for a more scientific degree :/
But Geology was a good choice – put it this way, it was called “colouring in” by most of the university which focuses on science, tech and medicine and (to be fair) we were required to have coloured fine liners and colouring pencils and we drew things. Those things ranged from lumps of rock to thin slivers of rock under the microscope with various filters on, making our own maps and cut away diagrams of various bridges or river beds. This wasn’t just sketching or colouring though there was a precision – things such as viewing direction would have to be noted – lines had to be exactly placed and neatly on maps.
In lectures as I made notes, though, I would do more free form stuff in the margins and in the occasionally really boring lecture (these were rare and generally had to do with the person conveying the information rather than the topics themselves) I would write letters to my friend and draw pictures about the subject I was currently in. Paleo-lab would often see me finished before my friends so I would draw very complex pictures of, say, a seascape full of various extinct lifeforms – some were made up seas but often they would be of the era we had just been looking at.
I got caught but the lecturer just looked at it and said it was good and maybe I should think of going into science illustration type work; he said the text books needed this type of thing. I just blushed with embarrassment and made sure I wasn’t caught again. But I attempted to carry on with my ‘science career’. I’d started making little sculptures out of polymer clay by this point too.
But then health issues began to become pressing and my final year was more than a struggle, with seeing physiotherapists and having medical tests done on a weekly basis. I suffered the loss of my hands for weeks and months – limbs just became rubber. Everything I could do seemed to be evaporating around me – the science I had worked so hard on – what use was a crippled geologist who wasn’t even allowed to go mapping but was stuck in a lab where it didn’t matter if her back went ping?
How could I be anything?
Physiotherapy helped and I tried doing a part time Masters of Research degree but health got in the way again and again. In between attempts at resurrect my science career I was doing night time classes in art and writing – it started as something to stop me being depressed, or at least the writing did. The art was an extension of some of the pain management I had been doing. I found activities I wanted to be doing to try and get use back in my hands.
I still have bad days and even weeks – but I know how to manage it now and so haven’t had a bad “whack you out for six months” flare up for about four years though six week ones are still prevalent – normally once or twice a year but I have found a way to get around this because when my hands are bad I make sculptures and when they are good I draw and write. I can record ideas when hands are bad as well.
And this means that I was looking for challenges, specifically in art and writing when I found Escape Into Life and started keeping an art journal, and creating visual poetry. Then one day a link to The Flying Trilobite appeared and from Glendon Mellow I found Art Evolved. I was already working on illustrations for other people by this point and getting the odd thing published but somehow I couldn’t rid myself of the guilt of having gone and spent all that time on a Geology degree and doing nothing with it. But here was a group of people drawing dinosaurs and I found a cross over along with world building advice for writers and game developers.
At last I can balance the two sides of myself in a way that may never have happened if I had not been ill. This site is somewhere to place all the art, poems and world building that I have been doing in the last five years. For more information about me – check out the About Me page.