Looking at this painting sketch I am reminded of Joan Mitchell. In many of her works you will find a central trunk like form and growing out from this limbs of paint that are comparable to the boughs of a tree.
Consider for example Bracket (by Joan Mitchell, 1989). Prudence Peiffer describes this set of relationships and their effect aptly as ‘like a top, these vertical lines centre the work’s spin’* and Joan Mitchell herself talks of a plumb line. ‘I want them to hold one image ‘ she said, ‘despite all the activity. It’s a kind of plumb line dancers have’**
Image 1: Untitled by Joy C Martindale (April 2021), 36x26cm
Image 2: Brackett (1989) Oil on canvas by Joan Mitchell, Image sourced from joanmitchellfoundation.org
Images 3,4,5 and 6 pages from Joan Mitchell, Selected Paintings, The Presence of an Absence, Essay by Nathan Kernan, Cheim and Read, New York 2002
My children have just discovered The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and I felt happy when I laughed myself into hysterics at a funny scene. Does that count?
I felt happy yesterday when I was on a train reading a magazine. I was reading that visitors to the artist Lala Rukh’s house were greeted by ‘two unmistakable seasonal smells: in winter, log-fire smoke and in summer, jasmine and lime wafting in from the garden.’* One sentence was enough to transport me there. The feeling of happiness that came with it was strong but momentary, does that count? In this strange and unsettling time, which has impacted on every aspect of our lives, I think it has to.
I think it is possible to equate positive emotional experiences – those little, everyday mood boosting moments that bring us joy – to happiness. Before the pandemic, perhaps happiness was something that shined with promise on the horizon; a state of being that could be obtained if we worked hard enough for it, but now when the future has become an unknown quantity and our focus has been pulled up short, it is our day-to-day experiences that we feel most acutely attuned to. With this has come a greater awareness of our moods and the fleetingness of them. Think of all the moods you can be in all in one day – an anxious mood, a sad mood, an angry mood, a calm mood, a dreamy mood and so on. Something positive that can come out of this imposed day-to-day existence could be the realisation that if we can let go of the pursuit of happiness as a panacea, we may become more open to acknowledging those nuggets of happiness we are already experiencing in our everyday lives.
So, even when we might feel sad, lonely, anxious or unhappy as we have probably all felt at some point during the pandemic, it is possible to experience happiness as part of these emotional experiences too.
More reading: Dr Daisy Fancourt and Research Fellow Alex Bradbury (UCL Epidemiology & Health) have tracked the everyday experiences of 70,000 people asking them each week how they are feeling.
Growing up I was conditioned to think that the only role models worth looking up to were male. It wasn’t until my early thirties, when I had a baby and was trying to figure out how it might be possible to be both a mother and build a career as an artist, that I really began to seriously question this way of thinking. All my treasured novels were written by men and my favourite art books were about men. I was shocked to see how deeply I had absorbed this message. I began to consciously seek out female role models who had strived to follow their ambitions no matter what obstacles came their way.
One brilliant artist whose story has guided me as an artist since I became a mother is Rose Wylie. At Folkestone and Dover College of Art, Rose Wylie was told women couldn’t become great artists: “[Being an artist] was considered a stupid idea, women were just there for a bit of culture, like a finishing school, something to do until they got married. All the teachers were men, there were no women.”*
Rose Wylie married a fellow artist, Roy Oxlade, when she was 21 and the first of their three children came a year later: “We decided it was not a good idea for two parents to paint, because painting is very isolating and you do tend to focus on yourself and children then become an irritation. I don’t think it works, and I think the bringing up of children is hugely important. So, I brought up the children and I think that was a good idea.”* She started painting again after about 20 years and today has earned international recognition for her work and is a hugely celebrated British artist.
I like the way Rose Wylie takes ownership of her decision to wait until her children had grown up to return to painting. I believe that women should be able to choose for themselves how they want to approach balancing career aspirations with earning a living and bringing up children.
Whatever we decide to do it isn’t easy and I am still trying to work many things out. Finding positive role models to take inspiration from can help us navigate through challenges and hard times, such as the Covid-19 pandemic when the lockdowns have added insecurity and upheaval to our lives and it has been difficult or impossible to live, work, think and act in the ways that we are used to.