Everybody has solace for the soul, whether it be alcohol, chocolate, sex, art, writing, music or something other. For me I really have come to realise the benefits of art during turbulent times. A breakup is never easy and how you cope with it can be either destructive or productive. We make sacrifices and compromises, but also often make bad decisions. As the great Hemingway simply put it:
“If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it.” Death in the afternoon
During my previous breakup, I had escaped to another part of England I did not know. I had thrown myself into volunteer work with the physical and mentally disabled, with an organisation called Worcester Lifestyles, which is under the European Volunteering Service. I made very little money and was burdened with high student debt, but the wealth of the experience was without a quantifiable value. I learned to cook, and learned many business skills while helping set up an ombudsman for assessing services for the disabled. This was with one of my great mentors Simon Heng, who was getting pre-seed funding from the National Lottery to set up these services.
Working alongside Germans in the East Midlands eventually led me to cross to continental Europe and land in Thüringen, where I was able to start anew and wipe the slate clean. A geographical but also emotional escape of sorts by likewise engaging in altrusitic activites assisting youngsters in youth centres in Apolda and Bad Sulza.
Another relationship, and breakup, eventually came along. This time round I knew that it would be hard to escape, as I had set down my roots here in Leipsch, being in Germany for neigh on 15 years. The mode of escape, however, was a surprise and a blessing. You see, I have been an artist since drawing trees and birds of prey in my tender teens, to studying Art and Design, in which I learned diverse skills from 3D and 2D design to oil painting and glass window design. I then became more of a writer and a lapsed artist post-degree through the despondency of being labelled too political for doing a graduate exhibition on racial attacks around the time the Stephen Lawrence case hit the news.
As it happens, it was a studio mate and dear friend from my studies who kicked me up the back side and helped kick-start my art again. After returning from a visit seeing him back in Lancashire and having a nostalgic discussion on the camaraderie of the art-studio times, I engaged with him in a five-day art bet in November 2015. The bet was that we had to produce a stylistically different topical drawing each day that captured the Zeitgeist of the day. After the untimely passing of the Kiwi rugby player Jonah Lomu, we were even joined by a local Leipziger. I have not looked back since, alternating between TextArt (combined with my writing) and StewTun’s art, producing on average of three drawings a week.
This productivity has been quite cathartic during my breakup, and uses the energy more positively than drowning in sorrows, self-destruction or increased addiction. At the onset, like an addiction, I felt the need to draw every day, but perhaps that was because I felt my palette had dried up and I needed to hone my skills again. I was even self-aware enough to see a stylistic change from a very moody blueness to a passionate red and labelled these accordingly. It inspired me to realize that one of my idols, Picasso, had gone through similar periods in his portfolio.
I have taken my art out into the community with a rotating exhibition of animal art at homeLE, and have been commissioned for portraits of some of the Leipzig Glocal team. I am bouncing ideas around with some local artists and a gallery owner to see where my art organically develops, and adding my geeky and nerdy IT skills by launching an online shop soon. Although this is a slow process, I am happy to have re-stumbled on this outlet of expression for troubled love. Although there is some truth to what Hemingway says, there can clearly be upsides to it. What are yours, dear reader? How did you cope with a breakup? Was it productive? Did it also enhance your creativity?