If you read my 2017 Bucket list you may have noticed that in the Be more creative section I included a painting of a naked woman wearing a gas mask… This one to be more exact.
This lady is my mum. When mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was nearing the end of my Level 3 Art and Design qualification where we were able to base our Final Major project around any subject we felt fit. I thought this would be a really great opportunity to learn more about mums illness, let us get to know each other better and document what she was going though. And I’m so glad I did.
After lots of research into other artists who had done a similar thing (Jo Spence being my main influence at the time) I discovered a link between mustard gas, used in WW1 and chemotherapy as we know it today.
So What is Mustard Gas?
Mustard gas is a chemical agent that causes severe burning to the eyes and skin and badly affect your breathing. you don’t even need to come into physical contact with it for it to do its damage. So its not something you want to cross paths with.
How does it link to Chemotherapy?
Anyone who knows someone that has gone through chemo or has gone through it themselves will be well aware that it is a nasty thing to be put through. For anyone lucky enough to not have been involved with the treatment, you get a load of chemo injected into you for a couple of hours one day, then you have the next 2-3 weeks to recover (and believe me you need that amount of recovery time.)
Years after the war scientist’s discovered that although the gas had been burning the skin and eyes of its victims it had also been killing off blood cells in their body. So they thought if it could do that with normal blood cells, why can’t it kill off cancerous ones as well? after years and years of trials and studies, mustard gas is now more or less more commonly known as Chemotherapy treatment.
Once I had made this link, the painting was instantly born and I knew that, that was what I needed to work towards.
The painting itself is around 3ft high and 2ft wide, painted in acrylic paint in just over a month. Throughout the process I kept a journal of my progression, including samples of mixed paint, as it would take me more than one day to do certain parts I needed to know exactly what was going in my mixes to ensure there was no dramatic change in colouring. I also included entries of things I particularly enjoyed painting and things I found more stressful.
Overall I’m so glad I based this project around mum and her battle with cancer, especially now that she’s no longer here. The opening night of the show was the first time she saw the painting and needless to say it was emotional.
However, Since that time everyone has had me down as a portrait painter, and although I enjoyed every moment of doing it, I haven’t been able to produce anything of the same standard since. This was 2 years ago now. to the day almost. I think the reason it worked so well for me was because of the emotion in it and the drive to do my mum proud.
Maybe ill come back to painting one day, but for now I’m focusing on other things.