I recently unearthed a drawing that I did years ago. It was in one of the many portfolios that I move from house to house, continent to continent, to the endless frustration of my husband.
It is an ink drawing of our dining table in our flat in Doha, Qatar, with a vase of berries in the foreground and our bookshelves in the background. At the time I was working as an architect but had the luxury of drawing one day a week. I hadn’t yet moved on to drawing houses and was focusing on subject matter closer to home. I think it must have been around Christmas, judging by the berries. Maybe early 2009. I was drawing for the joy of it, rather than any financial motivation, and it was marvellous. Much as my current drawings are the exact and necessary antidote to caring for small children, drawing in Qatar was the opposite of my day job arranging for ceiling sprinkler heads to be gold-plated in Dubai.
In addition to shipping all of my portfolios, two bikes which we never used and our wedding photographs stuffed in to carrier bag, we also took literally every book we owned. We then filled many of our leisure hours with new purchases from Virgin Megastore (very few bookshop options and a visit to Virgin included a perambulation around the indoor pseudo-Venetian canal with motorised gondolas) and so the books mounted up. We bought a lot of bookshelves and had a lot of room, so as anyone entered our flat they were surrounded by the written word. It wasn’t all that common in Doha flats – most people aren’t as committed/fortunate as us to take most of their belongings between countries – and so people would often come through the door and stand still in surprise. Maintenance/cleaners/delivery men would stop and say ‘So many books!’.
Our dining table was right next to the books which meant you could feel terribly cultured by referring to a particular book and then pluck it out of the adjacent shelves. What you can’t tell from the drawing was that the table (not ours) was glass which is the least relaxing type of dining surface – so jangly and brittle, and weird views of people’s thighs beneath, and constantly smeary. Or that the air conditioning unit directly above meant we had to often choose between arctic winds or overly warm, humid conditions. Also I’ve drawn the shelves suspiciously straight – in reality they were cheap, badly made, and bowed almost immediately beneath the weight of the books.
I’m now using this drawing as the basis for some screenprints which, given my current level of expertise, are likely to be substantially less successful images. I would really like to go back to drawing still-lives though. That’s one for the to-do list.