I've just spent five days in the Batley equivalent of a North American Indian Sweat Lodge. Along with the sweat came the hallucinations,visions from the deepest recesses of a stubborn subconscious rising like mercury in a thermometer. A glaze of distance was created, a sheen of separation existed where both the anguish of discomfort and the dreamworld of imagination, summoned up new and unlikely images. Submerged in this state, wild thoughts occured, feverish glimpses into a secret underworld where the labyrinth of the mind was briefly unlocked. For some this thermal overload triggers the need to jump into lakes or fountains, whilst others tiptoe into reservoirs never to return, I found my inner illustrator. I didn't realise I was a closet children's book illustrator with a penchant for drawing prim ladies in foreign lands but there you have it, the heat does that to you.
As I looked at Sue (maybe for the last time as she soon departs for the sultry temptations of Shanghai), all I could see was the image of a governess newly arrived in the East. She appeared flustered, glazed with a luminous sheen of perspiration no doubt the result of her long, dusty journey, rickshaw bound to who knows which mysterious corner of her adopted city. She became Miss Glister, a genteel woman of slender means with a poem up her sleeve. I imagined the adventures of Miss Glister (no first name required thank you), as she tackled the nuances of Mandarin whilst exploring the villages of the Yangtze River Delta. Later she would chance upon Zhou Zhuang, the Venice of China (more Norfolk Broads than Venice to be honest), where sitting ramrod straight with an air of slight bewilderment she would tour its numerous canals whilst being observed by hundreds of curious Chinese more interested in photographing her than the wonders around them. As I drew a portrait of Sue, all these thoughts and imaginary scenarios seeped to the surface, the real Sue gently evaporated and her alter ego, Miss Glister started to appear. Above is the finished illustration, below the tentative steps towards it.
On a personal note I will miss Sue, I've painted and drawn her lots of times and I've always found her inspiring, she seemed like a creative collaborator, someone who was wishing you on, a quiet accomplice on your creative journey. Fellow travellers like Sue, are the best kind, she has been been one of our favourite models and I know we will all miss her. I hope on her trips back to the UK she finds time to visit and we get to hear of her actual life in Shanghai. Good Luck Sue and Bon Voyage from all your friends at Redbrick Mill.
Paintings and drawings by Fiona, Hadyn, Roger H, Sandra, Sue D-Y, Sue, Tom and Tony.