This was a rather lovely way to spend a Wednesday afternoon in late October; great weather, swimming, beach tennis and a sketching opportunity provided by splendid company.
I am reliably informed by Señor Angel, Vejer’s proud and knowledgeable collector of antique radios, that this art deco style beauty was produced by RCA in the USA in 1933 and was modelled on the Empire State building.
Its name is Victor and it’s brown in real life.
I was laughing to myself while I was painting as Angel was twisting the tuning knob of an old set and creating that glorious whiny crackle that one hears so rarely these days…joy!
10th October 2016 is World Mental Health Day
To mark the occasion we are giving away ‘The Black Dawg – an illustrated poem about Depression and Hope’ in its eBook format!
The offer will run until the end of October 2016 – all you need to do is click here to get in contact and we’ll email you the eBook.
Please feel free to share this offer widely and if you like the book it would be wonderful if you could please give us a positive review on Goodreads, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.es and / or anywhere else you fancy.
World Mental Health Day
- was first celebrated on 10th October 1992 at the initiative of the global mental health organisation The World Federation for Mental Health
- every year since then the 10th October has been marked as World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organisation (WHO)
- this year’s theme is psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress. There’s a wonderful TED talk here by Guy Winch on that very subject
- is a day to raise awareness of mental illness and the huge impact it has on many people’s lives worldwide
Some shocking statistics from the Mental Health Foundation – please don’t look away
- 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
- 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
- 1 in 6 adults had a common mental health problem in the past week.
- 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
- In the UK mental health problems are responsible for the largest burden of disease – 28% of the burden, compared to 16% each for cancer and heart disease.
- WHO states that ‘if we don’t act urgently, by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally.’
- In England, women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problem and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
- Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales at present.
1. Talk about your feelings
3. Eat well
4. Drink sensibly
5. Keep in touch with loved ones
6. Ask for help
7. Take a break
8. Do something you’re good at
9. Accept who you are
10. Care for others
I love that whole list…
Making the illustrations for The Black Dawg book also helped me enormously – I am much more adept at recognising and dismantling the process which starts as a single negative thought before it suddenly swells into an overwhelming landslide of undermining and vitriolic self-loathing mind-babble with accompanying anxiety and exhaustion as my psyche does battle with itself.
Eckhart Tolle’s theory about the ‘pain body’ really rings true for me; seeing the negativity as a separate entity gives me more strength to keep it in check and overcome its insidious effects in the moment it arises.
‘Coming out’ as depressive has also been liberating and strangely uplifting in that it’s enabling me to form stronger and more open connections with my friends and family and even with people I don’t know. As Brené Brown says in her funny and brilliant TED talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ – “connection gives meaning and purpose to our lives; it’s why we’re here.”
And we are all in this together…
Louis, who wrote The Black Dawg poem, and I strongly believe that The Black Dawg book can help people suffering from depression feel less isolated. We also hope that it will help friends and family to better understand how it feels to be depressed. And that’s why we want to share it – we think it’s a valuable resource in the armoury against mental illness.
This evening the Chicken & Frog bookshop in Brentwood, Essex are holding an auction in aid of The Young People’s Counselling Service and we’re delighted that The Black Dawg book and some signed prints of the ‘Spiralling Branches’ illustration from the book will be included.
Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of The Young Women’s Trust explains why it’s so important to build resilience in children and to prevent mental issues becoming mental illnesses in this Huffpost article ‘Young People’s Mental Health – We Must Do More‘
Take excellent care of yourself!
Continuing the retro radio theme for my sketch session this morning I returned to the radio shop / museum and chose a Philips model which was manufactured in Great Britain, Holland and France between 1930 and 1934.
Needless to say I took liberties with the colours…the actual radio was made out of Bakelite, the world’s first completely synthetic plastic, which was invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland and is actually brown with reddish hues. I felt purple was a more interesting option so I used my artistic license.
Could this be a Recipe for Disaster?
- Take two depressives
- Make sure one is an extrovert, wing-it type and the other an introvert with perfectionist tendencies
- Steep them in the idea of turning their worst mental health experiences into a picture book
- Stir in a plan to raise funds for self-publishing by crowdfunding on Kickstarter
- Slather with a total lack of experience
- Season with a generous pinch of unfounded assumptions
- Leave them to stew
On 12th April 2016 at 7.15pm we let The Black Dawg loose on Kickstarter
Cheered on by lovely supportive friends in the gorgeous Vejer restaurant Corredera 55 we pressed the ‘Launch Now’ button for a month of crowdfunding.
If you google crowdfunding you’ll be supplied with many, many pages of sites offering advice on
- how to choose between crowdfunding platforms (our choice boiled down to Kickstarter vs Indiegogo)
- how to tell your story
- how to make an awesome video
- how many projects are launched each day
- how many of those go on to be funded
- why the successful ones worked
- why the failures failed
- how long it takes to form a crowd and engage them before the project is launched
- the best site on which to promote your project prelaunch
- the best day of the week to launch
- the optimum length for a campaign
- how to set your target
- how to set reward tiers
- what rewards to offer
- how much Kickstarter will charge you
- …etc, etc…
In response to all that information a crowdfunding to do list was started in January 2016, it is nearly a metre tall and that is epic even by a lifelong list-lover’s standards…photographic evidence below.
By the time we hit that launch button the introvert perfectionist was ragged with self imposed over work in her efforts to get the project really, really, really ready. A degree of underlying and unreasonable resentment was also present because the poem had been written in a two night whirl of channelling genius and the illustrations and all the associated social media and internet promotional images had taken months of intense graft.
Add to that a potent mix of excitement and dread about going public with artwork about such an intimate topic and the reawakening of a longstanding medical problem which really needed bed rest and a strict detoxing teetotal vegan diet (that glass of bubbly was a prop for photos only). Hmm…a private crowdfunding launch was hardly an option…
The extrovert was outwardly confident, promotion was his bag – he was off to promote a music project and visit family for a week and promised to step up and take the Kickstarter helm once he returned.
That family visit turned out to be pretty taxing and then the realisation of impending skintness hit home. He came back frazzled and broke the news that he’d accepted a boat delivery job that would take him away from his fatherly and domestic partner duties for a month and his crowdfunding promise evaporated like the post flush sweat from a perimenopausal woman’s furrowed brow.
A positive note at this point, three ‘angel’ backers offered to get the project over the funding line come hell or high water. There were still, however, three weeks remaining of intense promotion needed to reach the ‘top up’ point.
Below is a classic Kickstarter funding curve
There’s a surge at the start when many, many of your wonderfully generous supporters, who you’ve primed for weeks with your project’s exact launch date and time, will sign up and pledge you cash…it’s hugely exhilarating and induces much gratitude and confidence.
Then comes the plateau.
It feels like a dead calm…you find yourself paddling wildly in a vast sea of doubt and potential disappointment and humiliation, spending hours each day messaging everyone in every contact list from LinkedIn, to Twitter, via Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail saying ‘Hi there, how are you? Look at my project. I’ve been depressed, please give me money. Now.’
You’re also urging the people who’ve already backed you to share the shit out of your project so that their friends might chip in.
You’re also wondering why the people who said they’d back you haven’t yet and how many times you can remind them before they tell you to shut the F€$£ up and stick your dawg thing where the sun don’t shine.
It is best, at this point, not to be tempted by the large number of crowdfunding promotion companies who will send you friendly emails urging you to sign up for success for a ‘reasonable’ fee.
The health situation did not improve, the bed was turned into an office and the flat was left about once a week to shop for supplies and go to boxing training because the urge to hit something really hard needed to be channelled in a socially acceptable way.
Occasional email updates arrived from sea (the actual sea, not a metaphorical sea) with news about how relaxing it was to be sailing and were greeted with a silent ‘shut-the-flippedy-F€$£-up, you flaky a-hole!’
The hugely generous end surge happened, some of it was coordinated over three time zones and some of it was spontaneous. The target was reached in a blur of relief, gratitude and jubilation. The introvert celebrated by taking fizzy water (now dubbed vegan champagne) and a break from social media. Health improved.
The extrovert sailor returned and asked ‘Was it stressful?’
‘Of course it was F€$£ing stressful you numpty!!’ sprung forth the answer, despite the introvert’s best intentions to be gracious.
Rows ensued. Boundaries were redrawn. Rows abated.
A few things I’ve learnt from this experience
Never underestimate the work involved in any project. Plan for the long haul and take frequent breaks. Partying does not constitute a break.
You shouldn’t take your health for granted.
As soon as you feel fine again you will want to take your health for granted.
Don’t assume that because someone has a great idea which they present in a confident manner that they have any notion at all of how to make it manifest.
Crowdfunding is not easy money; I wouldn’t do another Kickstarter campaign if you paid me. (Insert ironic laughter).
People’s support for and interest in The Black Dawg project has been truly amazing; so many lives are touched by depression, either first or second hand but it’s not the sort of subject that comes up in casual conversation. And talking about it really does help – if there were any doubts remaining about the wisdom of sharing such intimate and dark experiences they have now evaporated. Completely.
The Black Dawg book really is a beautiful thing!
This post was originally published on 23rd September 2016
There’s a gorgeously eccentric shop in town which sells assorted hardware and houses an impressive and beautiful collection of old radios.
The owner plays classical music which spills out onto the street, inviting passers by to enter (worked on me).
I spent a very happy hour in there yesterday sketching this French example and intend to go back again, and again and again…