She was speaking again, her voice like the chirp of a bird who has flown into a black tunnel but does not yet know it.
Andre Dubus III, Dirty Love
Andre Dubus is a great writer. I strongly recommend his memoir Townie and his recent collection of novellas Dirty Love. I used my recent drawing ‘Her’ for this mock-up cover. I’m a lifelong book lover and If I could get to the position where my art is being used for book covers, I would be the proverbial pig in shit.
People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbours. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.
I considered many titles for this drawing, but in the end settled on just ‘Her’. I’ve recently re-read John Burnside’s third memoir I Put A Spell On You and in there he explains his notion of ‘Lost Girl Syndrome’. In relation to the motif of the drowned girl that has appeared in art throughout the centuries, he argues that her death represents “the abandonment of that intelligent, stubborn boy’s full potential, as he reluctantly stumbles forward into the bluff and bluster of workaday manhood.” John is not impressed by “the sheer tedium of grown manhood” and argues that in order to be something like a complete human being then anima and animus must be present and symbiotically in balance. This really struck a chord with me, as I have all my life been haunted by the presence of my own ‘lost girl’ – an amalgam of my first loves at junior school, older sisters of childhood friends, and my own sister Victoria, stillborn three years before I came along, but who became as real in my imagination as anyone I’ve ever known. I never really understood why, but the idea of her being a part of me that I’ve refused to let die just because I “grew up” is an attractive one, and all of these drawings and paintings I’ve done of girls and women down the years is perhaps me looking in the mirror for hidden part of myself that doesn’t really want to be found, because once something is found it can then so easily be lost.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – From Her To Eternity
The hawk was a fire that burned my hurts away. There could be no regret or mourning in her. No past or future. She lived in the present only, and that was my refuge. My flight from death was on her barred and beating wings. But I had forgotten that the puzzle that was death was caught up in the hawk, and I was caught up in it too.
Helen Macdonald, H Is For Hawk
Helen Macdonald – The Solace Of Birds
This is my 2013 drawing of Tess, mocked-up as a cover for the book. We had to read Thomas Hardy as part of my O-level English Literature O-level (for which I got a ‘U’, ironic for someone who loves books as much as I do), and that put me off for the rest of my life. Maybe I’m missing out on something important? Prose like this, for example:
It was then that the ecstasy and the dream began, in which emotion was the matter of the universe, and matter but an adventitious intrusion likely to hinder you from spinning where you wanted to spin.
All of our days are numbered; we cannot afford to be idle. To act on a bad idea is better than to not act at all because the worth of the idea never becomes apparent until you do it. Sometimes this idea can be the smallest thing in the world, a little flame that you hunch over and cup with your hand and pray will not be extinguished by all the storm that howls about it. If you can hold on to that flame great things can be constructed around it that are massive and powerful and world changing – all held up by the tiniest of ideas.