Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

30 October 2018

Artistic Interlude

My latest watercolour painting - September 2018

I painted this picture at the end of September - so before my wappy paint-researching-and-buying spree, and after the post in which I announced that perhaps I hated painting, because I certainly don't seem to get a great deal of joy out of it.

It took me five consecutive days to complete, painting for a couple of hours each morning.  I set no goals, other than to simply paint.  I let it take me as long as it wanted to take, and I took my time and slowed the whole process down.  I also kept it simple, using only three colours - burnt umber, raw sienna, and French ultramarine blue.  

Nor did I have the stress of trying to match my colour scheme to that of the original photograph, because the photo was in black and white. And, for once, I didn't confuse matters for myself, and drive myself into delirious indecisive distraction, by referring to all of the accumulated printouts I have of innumerable paint colours and possible mixing combinations.

I have to report that, remarkably, all these conditions together appear to have worked to produce a miracle, and I actually enjoyed this painting experience.  It seems that giving myself the freedom to voice the disquieting thought that I might not like painting after all, allowed me to make a shift from my entrenched position - hopefully not just temporarily.

I also spent less time criticising what I was doing, or the end product. In fact, I actually really like this painting.  It represents a deliberate change in the way I'm trying to paint now - more flow, less rigid control; layering and mixing paint on the paper rather than in the palette; choosing colours I like, rather than trying to replicate those of the subject; trying to paint what I see and feel, rather than the pull of photorealism, and trying to paint what I think I should be seeing.

All of which is quite remarkable for me - the woman for whom change comes at the speed of a tortoise wearing concrete boots.  It's only taken me about seven years of painting to start to break free of the rigid rules I've been confined to trying to follow.  Hopefully it won't take that long for the next change!  

I guess if I stop trying to follow what other people say and do (with my dodgy autistic interpretation skills), which is what has impeded my progress, and trust in my own ability and God's guidance, then I might evolve a bit quicker.  I surely can't get any slower - other than to come to a complete standstill.   

27 October 2018

Iceberg Ahoy!

What I spent five hours doing with my paints instead of painting.  Plus a sample selection of my new paints.

It started with a discount voucher: which happened to be contained within a catalogue.  Two things I have a difficult time resisting.  Add in the fact that it was the biannual art supplies catalogue from Ken Bromley’s, promising a five pound discount IF I spent fifty-five pounds, and that it happened to coincide with my recent desire to extend the range of paints which I own, and I was basically sunk - Titanic, meet iceberg: Lisa, meet paint.

To elucidate further, this means that I have just spent at least two weeks, that’s TWO WHOLE WEEKS (even I cannot quite believe it), trying to decide which new watercolour paints to buy.  

How, in the name of Van Gogh, does a person take so long to make such a decision?  I mean, we’re talking paint here, not whether or not I should have a kidney transplant.  It defies belief; it defies logic; it defies the nature of time, space, and the laws of physics.  But defy all those things I have done, because that’s what I do.  Just don’t ask me how - I’m as baffled as you.

It wasn’t my intention to take so long - but then, as I am slowly learning, nothing I intend ever actually translates into action.  In fact, you can guarantee that the moment anything even vaguely resembling a desire or intention escapes my subconscious and manifests itself either as thought or word, it will sink without trace.  Like the Titanic (I think I see a theme here).

My actual ‘intention’ was to briefly (I obviously have no grasp on the meaning of the word brief) peruse a few art sites with which I’m familiar, in the misguided belief that they would aid me in simplifying and clarifying what to choose.  Already I begin to see the flaw in my argument.  Why would I need someone else to tell me how to choose paint?  It’s not like I’m a complete novice anymore: I know the kind of colours that I like; I know the kind of paintings that I prefer doing.  

But no, all of that knowledge goes out the window because, you see, it’s not about the paint colour - it’s about the pigment.  (Yes, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  No, I couldn’t see the rest of it, hidden beneath the sea of paint waiting to sink me).  And for that I needed an ‘expert’, which required more research: which translates as more time spent on the internet.  Hence two weeks of “research” - more commonly known around here as another obsession.

So, I may not have been doing a lot of painting (nothing new there then), but I now know an awful lot about paint and pigment.  Of course, I can barely recall most of the details, given that I’ve saturated my brain so much that most of it seems to have dribbled out of my ears.  

But I did eventually buy some paints, and then proceeded to avoid actually using them for their intended purpose.  Instead I spent two days ‘testing them out’, and boring myself into a near-catatonic stupor in the process - because, once again, I’d read a load of advice from a bunch of non-autistic artists, all saying the same things about how useful these exercises are to the improvement of one’s art: which translates in my mind as “it’s what ‘proper’ artists do”.  

Oh God, when will I learn that I come from a different ‘planet’, and what works for them doesn’t work for me in quite the same way!  Ah well, it’s done now.  Next I just need a few new brushes...  Oh lawks, I think I see another iceberg looming. *scrambles for lifeboat* 

14 September 2018



“It slowly surveyed the whole field, and then decided to plan out a nice, relaxed day for itself.  A little trot later on, it thought, maybe around threeish.  After that a bit of a lie down over on the east side of the field where the grass was thicker.  It looked like a suitable spot to think about supper in…
An excellent plan.
And the best thing about it was that having made it the horse could now completely and utterly ignore it.  It went instead for a leisurely stand under the only tree in the field.”

I came across this particular quote this morning as I was reading this book (well I wouldn’t have found it had I been reading some other book, so that’s a bit of a redundant statement, but anyway…), and felt it described so perfectly and succinctly the particular way my brain works when it comes to the issue of planning that I just had to share it.

I try to make plans.  Sometimes I make them complicated, with a long series of instructions to follow.  Sometimes (though, admittedly, not often) I make them simple, using a short suggestion.  Whichever way I try, the inevitable result is the same - I, for some unfathomable reason, end up completely ignoring them and doing the opposite.  The minute I form any word or thought which vaguely resembles some kind of plan, guideline, or even a nebulous desire as to what I’m going to do, or want to do, then I can basically kiss goodbye to seeing it come to fruition any time within my conscious present.

Which basically seems to mean that in order to get anything done I have to be in a state of unconscious awareness (or conscious unawareness?) of what it is I’m trying to achieve, because my brain appears to be wired to purposely contradict my instructions.  It “thinks” it knows better than me.  And perhaps it does?  Perhaps, like the horse, I should simply go with it - enjoy myself making a plan, and accepting that at the end of what is essentially a pleasant bout of idle daydreaming I’ll simply discard it and do something else.  The horse seems perfectly content with this idea, so perhaps I  would be too if I simply embraced it, rather than agonising over why this happens, and trying to force it not to do so.

Lesson for today - nature has many lessons to teach us especially about going with the flow, and even horses have wisdom to impart.

(And before anyone feels compelled to point out that horses don’t think like people, and that the horse in this book is not real but a figment of the imagination of Douglas Adams, I know.  Thanks.  I’m literal, but not quite that literal.  Well, not all the time, anyway…)

05 September 2018

A Pain In The Art

Here's my latest painting, which I managed to knock out after a whole lot of the usual lack of self-belief, anxiety-induced executive functioning deficient dithering and inertia (a new thing about which I was recently made aware), which is produced whenever I'm faced with the prospect of needing (even wanting) to put paint to paper.

I may not be improving when it comes to how I feel about my painting, but I have got better at believing in my ability to draw - so, in order to postpone the "dreaded deed", I simply drew a number of things until I felt suitably girded in the loins to take the plunge and get out the painting gear.  And here's the result.

Of course I wasn't happy with it, and gave a running criticism of it while I was doing it - it will be a miracle if the day ever comes when I am, and I don't.  Nor did I particularly enjoy doing it, because I was so fucking uptight and anxious about whether I was getting it "right", and doing it "properly" (those words are the bane of my existence: I shall have them engraved on my gravestone - 'She died right, and properly: indeed, she was a right proper charlie').  

I know "great" artists are often depicted as tortured, hyper self-critical souls, being driven by the unrelenting need to improve and perfect their art, which is often seen as a sign of their greatness, but I didn't want to be one of those kinds of artists who suffered for their art.  I mean, for fuck's sake, I don't know how they ever managed to get anything done if they suffered anything like the bloody insecurities and almost catatonia-inducing fear of making mistakes which I do. 

Perhaps that's the point, though.  Perhaps they don't feel the same.  Perhaps they aren't driven by the same things.  Perhaps at their core they believe that they are great, and they're driven to prove it; and what they fear is being proven to be average.  Me, I have no sense of my own ability, so I constantly seek to measure it against other people - which means I end up trying to copy them, trying to follow directions which I don't fully comprehend (but think I do), and trying to adjust myself to suit another person's modus operandi.  So whenever I pick up a paintbrush it's like there are two people with me at the easel - there's me, and there's whoever is the latest 'guru' artist to whom I've taken a shine, both fighting to stamp their mark on the paper.

I often find myself  wondering whether I'm lying to myself when I say that I love painting.  I mean, you wouldn't think this was the case given the torturous (and tortuous) process I have to go through to motivate myself to do it.  It's like pulling teeth without an anaesthetic.  Perhaps I should just use a bit of reverse psychology, and come out and say, "I FUCKING WELL HATE PAINTING!!!", see if that changes anything.  

Perhaps, though, it's not that I hate painting, but rather that I hate painting the way I think other people paint, or the way I think that other people would tell me I should paint.  After all, I am (annoyingly) also oppositionally defiant, so if I even feel as if I'm being expected to do something (yes, even if it's something I want to do) then I automatically will do the opposite.  Don't ask me why - it's one of the great, unfathomable, frustrating mysteries of my personality, which makes me want to tear my head off and stamp on it.  

So, you want me to paint - I don't want to; you think my paintings are great - I think they're not good enough, probably never will be, and all I can see are the mistakes I made; you think I'm a good artist - I think I'm average, and not as good as... (insert long list of artists' names here), and never will be.  It makes me wonder how I've managed to produce anything at all with a brain like mine.  I should just go and eat worms.

06 August 2018


"Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make any sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."   
Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

I may not be a Christian, and I may not believe in the Christian concept of God in which Lewis believed, but I do believe in the idea that we are a physical manifestation of the Creative Energy which underlies the whole universe and beyond; and that Lewis's description of the process of becoming a true expression of that Power is, for me, simple, accessible, comprehensible, and beautiful.  

God, it seems, has greater plans for me than I do for myself, and I'm okay with that because I don't have the imagination to think big - but I don't need to, because He'll do it for me.  Plus, as I've often discussed, I am hopeless with plans, so if it were left up to me to do the planning for my life I'd still be a broken-down shack.  I just have to get on board with following along, and doing the little things each day which keep me by Her/His side, invite Him into my 'home', and make Her feel welcome enough to want to stay.   

03 August 2018

Photo Fix It

This is just a brief post to say that I finally "fixed" the problem of not being able to get my photos of my artwork uploaded to my blog (as I reported in the post 'Still Alive!' in May), with a little help from my friend, who is the techno-loving polar opposite to my techno-allergenic self.  It turned out to be rather simple in the end - I just had to set up a Google Photos account and post my photos in there in order to be able to upload them on here, because Google won't accept them from iCloud, where they are now saved.  A bit of a faff, but there you go.

So here is some of the artwork I did during my three month painting period at the beginning of the year.  And just to note that I was trying to experiment during this period, attempting to loosen up and play a bit, and break free of the habit of rigidly trying to reproduce what I see in the photos I use as source material: hence the less-than-realistic colour schemes on some of them.  It was intentional and not an error on my part, brought about by a sudden bout of colour blindness!  Suffice it to say, I haven't done any more art since that period came to an end in May/June - as is my way.  As always, in this world of uncertainty, I can be depended upon to be reliably unreliable and consistently inconsistent.


21 July 2018

Weebling To Thirty

Do you remember those toys called Weebles, which first appeared in the 1970s, and had the tag-line “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”?  (I just googled them, and it turns out you can still get them.)  They were great fun, and I especially loved the tree house, in which they lived.  I really wanted to live in that tree house.

Anyway, this is not a post about Weebles, per se.  This is about the fact that today is my AA birthday, and I have somehow managed to cobble together thirty years of consistent sobriety (that’s 30 years, in case anyone out there has problems with discerning the letters in words - though my internal grammarian baulks at the informal and technically grammatically incorrect use of numbers within a piece of text).

But enough of that pedantry.  So where do Weebles come into this miracle of recovery, you may be asking?  Simply in the fact that I’ve decided that the Weebles’ means of locomotion is one I share when it comes to describing the way I’ve done my recovery (and can be extended to encompass the way I “do” life in general) - namely, I’ve wobbled a lot but I haven’t fallen down.  Sometimes I go from side to side whilst remaining stationary; frequently, it seems I’ve gone backwards; oftentimes I’ve gone round in circles; but ultimately I have managed to make slow, tentative, frequently tortuous, forward progress.  

This is how come I happen to be sitting here now, the bemused (but grateful) recipient of the gift of thirty years of sobriety, which I have to tell you I was never really sure I wanted in the first place, didn’t ever really make a conscious decision to go after, but rather (in the classic autistic way, I can now see with hindsight) simply copied my way into; and for the first ten years wished I could give back, and return to the ignorance of not knowing that alcohol was not the solution to anything in life but simply one more problem to add to the pile.

Briefly, my journey of sobriety began with my second, and last, visit in 1988 to the psychiatric ward of my local hospital, after I’d been arrested for criminal damage, and had then tried to kill myself with an overdose.  

After this I was given the choice of either going home (where I was extremely miserable), or going to the local rehab unit for alcoholics/addicts, which conveniently happened to be next door to the hospital.  

Even though my initial visit to psychiatric had been for a two week detox from alcohol, which I’d voluntarily kept extending until I’d outstayed my welcome at the seven week mark (I felt strangely safe and at home there, after the initial terror on being admitted), I don’t recall any of the staff ever using the word ‘alcoholic’ to describe my drinking.  I believe I was initially considered to be possibly suffering from manic-depression (bipolar disorder), because I suffered extreme mood swings (due to both the effects of coming off alcohol, and what I now know is a combination of autistic meltdown, and ADHD).  

What is most remarkable is that, despite the fact that medication seemed to be freely and routinely prescribed to patients willy-nilly, I escaped the psychiatric system without ever being given anything other than the standard sleeping tablet, which I only took during my stay there.  It was years later, when discussing it with my best friend, that I realised just how blessed I had been, given that I had so many things for which I could easily have been medicated, especially given that, due to complete ignorance on the part of the staff, I was being misdiagnosed (autism not being widely recognised, especially in females, back in1988).  

And, distressingly and painfully uncomfortable as my life has frequently been since then (living without anything chemical to replace the alcohol and mute the chronic anxiety, and general sensitivity to everything around me), I am extremely grateful for being kept safe from what could have been a disastrous transference of my addiction to alcohol to an addiction to prescribed medication, as has happened to so many other people I know of.

To continue (before I weeble myself into a standstill), I chose to go to the rehab unit as the lesser of two evils.  And, as with my stay in the hospital, once I got over the shock of moving into an unfamiliar environment, I settled in and duly repeated the same pattern of becoming dependent - duly becoming the longest-serving resident, clocking in at a year and a half.  Yet again, I had to be almost forced to leave.

After I left and moved into my own home, at the age of twenty-three, things proceeded downhill from there.  Despite having been taught all things domestic by my dad starting at the age of seven (and then being expected to take care of him), I was hopeless at looking after myself.  And, whilst I’d come away from rehab with the knowledge that I couldn’t ever drink safely (‘one drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough’), there wasn’t a great deal else that was keeping me sober.  Essentially nothing had changed.  

Add to that an escalation in my undiagnosed anxiety, and a full resurgence of my also undiagnosed and raging eating disorder (compulsive overeater/under-eater/bulimic - in remission for a number of years now).  Plus I’d discovered that I could get mildly stoned on certain over-the-counter medications, which I used whenever I had to leave my flat.  A joyous existence, what ho!

It’s not surprising that, after nearly ten years of this, I descended into a state of hopelessness and depression, in which I wished daily that I could die, and finally progressed to the planning stage.

And at that point God stepped in and, in a remarkable act of Providence, reunited me with someone I’d met at the end of my time in rehab, for whom I’d briefly worked as a voluntary alcohol services counsellor (yes, me, counselling people - it doesn’t bear thinking about, I know), and who was now firmly steeped in the AA Twelve Step programme.  Through her, God saved my life.  

She became my AA sponsor; introduced me to the real recovery programme (it’s in the Big Book, not the meetings); helped me find a God of my own understanding (a Friend who loved me, rather than the critical and punishing father figure in which I’d come to believe); was the first person to recognise that I suffered from chronic anxiety, and the first person who identified me as being autistic; and she has been with me on this journey for the last twenty-one years.  Having just one person who truly knows me, and accepts me for who I am, has made all the difference - and for that I am extremely grateful.

What’s also remarkable is that, despite the struggles, I have never had the desire to drink alcohol again since sometime in the first year of my stay in rehab - the obsession to drink was removed (as it says in the Big Book) without me even realising it.  I have also never wished I were dead, and thought about killing myself, since reuniting in 1997 with the aforementioned person who is now my best friend and who, ironically, has also turned out to be a fellow autistic; and thoughts of wanting to die plagued me daily from the age of about seven, after my mum left us.

So, here endeth this brief overview of my time in recovery.  I can’t say it’s been easy (I’ve never been known to do anything easily), and there have been frequent set-backs, but I have to say it is ultimately worth it; and I will, no doubt, continue to wobble my way in Weebly fashion through the rest of my life.  

Therefore, I guess all that’s left to say is:-


05 June 2018


I think I'll write about it -
but maybe later.

30 May 2018

Still Alive!!!!

This is just a quick note to say I am still here, I just haven't been doing any writing (well obviously).  I haven't abandoned my blog, I've just been caught up in doing art instead - every day for nearly the last three months.  Don't know what came over me!

Of course, this means that my writing has suffered because, as my best friend just pointed out, I cannot maintain focus on, and do, two things at the same time, much as I hate to admit it.  So I'm now going to have to let go of the idea that I can somehow fit both writing and art into every day, and instead do one or the other, as the inspiration flows between them.

And, in order to maintain this blog, I shall be trying to post both writing and my art in blog posts, instead of sticking to what has (inevitably) become a concretised idea that blogging requires me to always have to write stuff.

(I've just tried adding some of my recent artwork to this post, and there seems to be a problem, which I'm having trouble figuring out.  So I'll leave it for now, and hope that it isn't a permanent state of affairs. *the Voice of Doom, commonly known as Eeyore*).

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis