I have always had a love of art. The late nineteenth and twentieth century movements of all styles. When I sought work as an actor in London at the turn of the century, it was part time gallery attending that fuelled my love further. Being allowed to roam the galleries of Tate Modern, Britain and the RA, I’d gaze in awe at the works. I felt part of that world at that time, more than the acting industry I had trained in.
I felt also like I had no right to try.
Drinking has always been an issue, There’s a pic of me holding my first beer, a small scared boy of twelve. At first, during the already painful and confusing years of adolescence that we all have, drink gave me super strength to ignore the emotions I felt from a difficult upbringing. But let’s not delve too deep there, it’s a tale told by any idiot, a universal yet deeply personal experience: the ambiguity understood, the inexpressible horror of a pain locked inside a young man explained in chapter three.
I went down the artistic route, pretending to be someone else, training as an actor. A lot of actors are running away from themselves. A lot of actors are driven to achieve only to crush that scared kid they are terrified of dealing with. ADHD, Suicide, drug abuse, imposter syndrome; the general malaise of the acting class.
I’ve seen these guys as I’ve grown through my industry. Only a handful keep at it, others teach, rely on the war stories of some one great gig, or become stand up comics. True story. Or die. They give up. I’ve lost several friends from drama school. Do we burn twice as bright and half as long?
Lying and deceit can major factors in this green belt of UK theatre types. I’ve seen it. There are millions of us, all trying to be famous. I never wanted to though, noble as I am, I wanted money to get away, in my head or physically. I didn’t care really about anything save immediate gratification.
I’ve been a lot of places, and lived in a lot of places. Norfolk is my home now. I run a theatre company.
But I don’t consider that the true revelation of my artistic life, I’ve always done it you see.
I have created my own work with my partner, and we welcomed a daughter. The fabric has changed, I see it in dreams now, new dreams, not the repetition and heart racing horror of so many years. Nine months sober kids. If you haven’t been in so much pain that you thought you were going to die after the next breath, it’s not a problem.
So put it down and pick up a paintbrush.
It was hard at first, as I was dealing with a lot of issues. Fast forward to three years ago and relapse. I don’t know why; I had been sober for eight years but stresses and strains of running a theatre company and frankly, my own inability to see the truth as my life under the yoke of addiction took its toll. I relapsed, a slow burn. It resulted in a couple of psychotic episodes. I lost people from my life. My future looked bleak. But I started drawing. Such a simple act, and it wasn’t a magic cure, but utilising it became a muscle that got stronger. It became and has become a vital new aspect of my life and I simply can’t believe it. With the birth of my daughter too, I found that after rehab with something as simple as a hobby, I could calm the demons in my mind and not pick up. We keep what we have only with vigilance.
It’s not about being good. It’s not about selling work. It’s about surviving and then thriving in life. So I wander in memory around those galleries now, and it’s not so much the works I think I remember; it’s the men and women who created them. Why they did it. I have every right to join them.
And it’s about truth, which is why I share. I share my drawing to tell my truth. After decades lost in the declining and vapid theatre industry, where the cult of self dominates, truth is an unpopular commodity. It doesn’t sell. No Black Friday deals here kids. And the cafe is empty save me, drawing a hand. I gave my life away so I could have this new one, which was mine all along.
And now I’m open to it all, I’ve closed the door back there. My daughter kicks in her chair and is fascinated by the cat. In turn I watch them both and before I know it, new pathways in my brain bolster my resolve against whatever it is in me that is the addict. I may draw. I might draw something.
Simon’s Draws Dec 2022