My grandmother was an adventurous spirit, always trying new things. She was sometimes shocked by the changes in the world, having been born in 1905. ‘It’s not the same anymore’ she would sometimes say. She was really really funny, stylish, cool, so kind and so strong. She had sorrow, but it didn’t change who she was. I visited her often, and have always felt close to her. We had lots in common, and I was always interested in the stories of her life, not least because they were just so long ago.
In the days when she became more and more frail, she became house bound, and required more and more care and I spent many days with her. Some days she would sleep and stay in bed for much of the day, and other days she would be up and about. I often brought my sketch book with me, to do some drawings, and one day I started sketching my nan. The drawings I was doing at the time are called mediation drawings or some people call them blind drawings, and they are a very relaxing thing to do. They involve looking intensely at what you are drawing and not concern yourself with what your actual drawing looks like. Indeed it is only secondary to the process. The artist sits with their pen or pencil and some paper, not looking at the paper at all but focussing on the subject. The drawing implement is not removed from the paper at all during the drawing process. After a while it becomes a lot easier and really fast, and you get better at it. The process of observing in this way completely changes the way you see, and for me it was a catalyst to a great improvement in my drawing skill. But the focus is on the experience of observing, and sometimes reworking some images you may like.
At these times I was sitting with her I guess I was seeing her in a new way for the first time, and I recorded so many parts of her house, in a way that a photo may not have done justice. It has the incidental things, the way her dressing table was set up, where the photo was. It has the collection of cups next to her bed one day when she was in it. It shows where she had all her things laid out in the lounge room. It shows her deep in thought, and where she always sat at the table. Now the drawings are not only a material product of my time and visits with her, but they are embedded with memories of seeing, observing, thinking and talking to her. There was no pressure to make them look like her or anything else, they are valuable as an experience. My experience of what turned out to be the end part of her life. My uncle said he cried when he saw the drawings, and it meant a lot to me that he connected with them that way. One drawing in particular really captured her, which is my favourite. I was so calm, so centred doing the drawings that I can go back to that place in my mind and it’s a little like being with her again. Such a gift.
My favourite drawing of my Nan