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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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I'm an inconsistent artist, hugely distracted by life. I create in a variety of media including words, pictures, food and laundry. I do it because I can't seem to not. Sometimes it's fun.

A bigger bummer

30 January 2012

Blog

Drawing of a desk top with laptop computer, mouse, printer, scanner andnotebooks and mug

Once upon a time block-buster art shows were sweaty occasions where we crawled around the galleries in rugby scrums, catching brief glimpses of the exhibits if we were lucky. Most unpleasant. Happily, the modern art of crowd control as practiced by the Royal Academy last week, meant that Hockney’s A Bigger Picture was, for the most part, a cool and comfortable experience. Entrance was staggered and numbers limited. There was space to move, with ease. I could stare and study the pictures...

Comments: 1

Reasons to look forward to watching crips swear and lark about on stage next week.

7 February 2012

Blog

Chailey boys with sticks and crutches for guitars, circa 1960

The critics loved Reasons To Be Cheerful first time around. The Guardian said: 'The stage gives off a million volts.' Time Out opined: 'Rough, ready and bl**dy brilliant.' Even The Daily Mail managed a compliment: 'It's got a heart of gold.' Aah, ain't that nice? So, the Chailey kid came good. Well, nothing unusual in that. I won't mention any names (they might not thank me) but there are quite few of us Chailey kids in and about the (disability) movement....

Comments: 5

I'll probably apply for the Shape Open. Here goes what!

22 February 2012

Blog

Slightly out of focus photograph of an artist's wooden manequin and pot of paint brushes.

No more prevarication! I'm definitely going for it. Maybe. Shape is currently inviting applications for the Shape Open Exhibition to be held at the Portobello Gallery, Notting Hill, London, 23rd April to 5th May 2012. The Shape Open Prize of £500 will be given to the artist with the best works in show as selected by the selection committee. The People’s Choice Award of £250 will go to the artist whose work has been most voted for by visitors to the exhibition. The theme is...

Comments: 0

Looking forwards, looking back.

26 February 2012

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Ian Stanton sings and plays guitar, with a BSL interpretor.

I have an excellent week ahead, gorging on art, including theatre, music and painting. It surely doesn't get better than this. I just hope I find time for meals. On Tuesday 28th February I’m going to see1 Beach Road at South Street Arts Centre, Reading. South Street holds a few memories for me; this one’s the best: In 1996, as a keen and fearless community development worker, I organised a strangely controversial disability arts cabaret here. The line-up was impressive for our...

Comments: 2

Dean Rodney Singers: Reaching for the stars. They’re out there.

6 March 2012

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Dean Rodney

On February 29 I spent a happy afternoon in Deptford, South London, at The Albany, the home of several creative and performing companies, including Apples and Snakes, Headway and Entelechy Arts. I was visiting Heart n Soul, a creative company that nurtures, supports and works with learning disabled artists. Together they make music, theatre, dance, visual art, digital art, films and clubs. My mission was to get to the heart and soul of the enigma that is Dean Rodney Singers, who have been...

Comments: 0

Symbolism, memory and truth - picturing the past.

13 March 2012

Blog

Two circus clowns visit Pierrot in hospital

For decades I have wanted to write stories and paint pictures about my childhood. I've made many attempts, but with little sucess. Many old photographs have survived, particularly of my parents visiting me in hospital and Chailey Heritage. In the early ones, I'm very ill. Nearly all of them show big smiles and hugs. Memories tell  it differently. Copying photographs can be pointless and dreary. But recently, while doing just that, something unusual happened. As I was drawing, I kept asking...

Comments: 7

Every picture tells a story, but whose, and about what?

26 March 2012

Blog

Picture showing a wardrobe and fish against a yellow and blue background.

About this picture … The background is a sunny beach. The yellow represents the sand; the blue is the sea and sky. The wardrobe represents my mother. She had a concern for physical appearance that bordered on obsession. She spent a lot of time on her hair, clothes and make-up, trying to look glamorous; but only when she went out. The fish represents me. As a child I was criticised a lot by adults, particularly my mother, especially about the way I looked, but also about what I said, how...

Comments: 4

Hot summers, sticky sweets, and not so golden days.

25 March 2012

Blog

Sweet Sunday

This picture is the latest in what I believe will be a long series, the working title of which is ‘Sundays’. Whereas the first one was hand drawn and painted, Sweet Sunday was created digitally, with a camera and scanner to get the images into the computer. I used a combination of  Serif and Adobe software to edit the images and create the picture. As previously described, Sunday visiting in the institution was special, extraordinary and transient. Visitors invariably brought...

Comments: 4

Blogging: An opening-up activity.

11 April 2012

Blog

A picture of a clown-like figure, ladybird and teddy-bear.

Two friends wrote to me recently, after seeing my blog. Both are writers, sometimes stuck and not yet published. One wrote: "I've just kept the doors closed on so many things which I now find almost impossible to express … as if I always need to air my feelings and thoughts first to an objective person, to get their approval and permission to feel the way I do. …so difficult to get back into my writing … things I need to write about but feel far too inhibited."...

Comments: 2

Lost and found: An old school doodle.

29 April 2012

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Doodle from my school days.

I’ve lived in so many places; I’m amazed anything important has survived. Drawings, oil paintings, sketch books - lost, stolen, destroyed (by me) or just gone… A few oil paintings were recently discovered in the form of two and a quarter inch square negatives. I hope to have these digitally rescued soon. The earliest surviving example of my artistic output is this scribble, from my skooldaze. I was about 12 years old. The picture (scanned and edited in Photoshop) shows the...

Comments: 2

Participation. Part I: The best show in town.

9 May 2012

Blog

Pencil sketch showing people sitting in various positions.

Community participation in the arts is flavour of the month. So while there’s funding, I'm making the most of it, grabbing every opportunity that comes my way. Workshops run by experienced practitioners are a fun way to learn new skills and develop confidence. Last week I took part in a badly advertised and poorly attended workshop in a cold and echoey local sports hall. It was brilliant! A professional facilitator (ex?), I'm the world's best participant. If I'm there it's because I want...

Comments: 1

Writing: pulling no punches.

6 May 2012

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The word 'write' seen through a backdrop of clouds

In his blog Rich Downes asked what is writing? Really. I said, for me right now writing is like punching a hole in the fog that surrounds me. And then I thought, it's like having a pillow fight without the pillow case. My head is in another place, on another wave. I'm studying web design (a slow process) and currently  learning to use Adobe Flash (see example), which is amazing, but it means the wordy part of my brain keeps dozing off. I'm sure it's a blip. For now, however, this is the...

Comments: 1

Two legs good enough. One leg irrelevant.

15 May 2012

Blog

Listed in DAO’s job opportunities is an advert by Peut-être Theatre. They’re looking for a disabled male dancer/actor for their next Xmas show for children, a dance-theatre version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier. The ad says: ‘In the story the tin soldier only has one leg and so, to honour the story, we are hoping to work with a dancer who also only has one leg.’ I am wondering who will respond. I daresay some will jump (hop?) at the...

Comments: 4

Where am I? The clue is in the picture.

25 June 2012

Blog

Bull drawing. Charcoal and chinese ink. 10 x 10 cms

Not for the first time, I’ve been showing a lack of commitment, blowing hot and cold. This time it’s art and disability politics where I am conspicuous by lack of appearance. Reading other peoples news, reviews and points of view, I think, I wasn’t there (again). Why does this keep happening (if it does)? Am I any different (worse or better) from anyone else? Basically, I’m wondering if there is something wrong; with me.  Or maybe it is that my life is too damn...

Comments: 0

Making a picture on a cloudy day.

27 June 2012

Blog

Title: Aagh 03. Digital collage.

It's Tuesday and it's cloudy. You know when you're tidying up your sock drawer, chucking out ones you haven't worn for years, as well as the ones with holes in, putting the winter ones in a box. Then you come across a fish net stocking and sling it in the bin. Then you take it out and put it over your head. Which gives you an idea ... So you take it off and start applying thick black make-up over your face. Because you're quite angry about all the advertising aimed at women...

Comments: 2

200 words of text and a picture. They go together.

8 August 2012

Blog

Drawing of a jumble of everyday objects on a coffee table.

This is what days are like when the air is too hot for sleep and too dry to be tired. Tidying up is for other people, happy types with ordered lives, traditional values and smart goals; winners in the race against hopelessness. Life is unfinished. My hair gets brushed once a day if it’s lucky. Finding the brush is the least of my worries. The bedside cabinet drawer is falling apart. I have a tool box. What happened? Those sunshine dreams turned into nightmares (in the pouring rain) which...

Comments: 4

Blogging about swimming for the time being.

20 August 2012

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Deborah Caulfield wearing swimming goggles

The build-up to the Paralympics has begun, with nightly programmes on Channel 4. It’s extremely exciting. So I’m quietly reflecting on the business of disabled people doing sport, and feeling rather in awe but mostly baffled and untouched. So much rushing about. At school (Chailey Heritage) no one did sport. It was ‘games’, occasionally football and rounders, but always a lot of cricket. School (boys) against Masters and so on. People being bowled over with their legs...

Comments: 7

Getting back to normal

23 September 2012

Blog

Now that euphoria of the Paralympics, and the more subdued excitement of Unlimited, have gone away, I'm looking back and trying to see it all for what it was. What was it? Did Channel 4 achieve the predicted paroxysmic shift in society's attitude to disability? Or was it ephemera on a grand scale,   a blip in which disability became temporarily interesting? Who knows? Winning is a transitory state. Disability is (usually) permanent. Medals, I’m guessing, can’t be...

Comments: 4

I am an artist. Not in so many words.

3 November 2012

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Digital photo collage and self portrait

A job became available so I jumped at it. You know how it is. Life is long while money is short. If you’ve got health, you’ve got wealth, said my Jewish aunties, followed by a chorus of approval from the entire rest of the family. Of course, they meant good health, not just any old health. In those days, health was what you had if you weren’t ill. Nowadays governments say we must have health and well being, healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships and a healthy bank balance....

Comments: 3

Twelve questions about child abuse

9 February 2013

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Sick child

  Who saw?   Who heard?   Who told?   Who listened?   Who cared?   Who lied?   Who denied?   Who cried?   Who smiled?   Who lived?   Who died?   Who...

Comments: 5

Disability. Arts. Symposium. What's not to like?

11 April 2013

Blog

A jumble of words crowded together

Symposium is Greek for partying and plotting with one’s chums and cohorts. Lying was the norm, as in cushions, couches and comfort. Food, wine and entertainment were laid on too. From the Personal to the Universal Symposium on Disability Arts, Diversity and Activism (Salisbury Arts Centre, 10 April 2013) wasn’t anything like this. What else wasn’t it like? It wasn’t like, political. It wasn’t like, rights-based. It wasn’t like, about barriers, exclusion and...

Comments: 3

No inspiration? Try growing your own.

25 August 2013

Blog

Monochrome mandala image. Pencil

I intended to draw a mandala on the computer but I couldn't be bothered to learn how. And I must have been yearning to make marks. Out came the pencil, pad and compasses. An hour and a half later, this. As mandalas go, it is pretty basic, I know. I’m certainly not making any claims for its art worthiness, or any religious or peace-making powers. It’s an organised doodle, that’s all. Yet there was something rather organic and transformative in the making of it. Spiritual,...

Comments: 0