The Mortality Series – ‘Accepting Mortality’

The third drawing of the series, is the acceptance of mortality, and the humbling experience of this which leads to living a life that is humble, kind and grateful for what we have rather than unsatisfied because of what we do not have. It is a realisation that you do not need much to be happy in life and that having life itself is a reason to be happy and to live that life in a way that makes you happy, makes sense to you, and is your own truth, without expectation of influences that we may have been exposed to. It is the acceptance that we do not know how much time we have, and so to let go of what and who makes us unhappy and let go of the burden on anger and hate, so that it does not eat into our time, after all it does us no service, it only eats away at us. Easier said than done, but in the end the rewards for doing so are much greater. And to face the things we fear makes us stronger and braver.

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The Mortality Series, is a series of drawings that was initially inspired by a story my parents once told me about a man they knew that lived in our town, who kept the skull of a French revolutionary by his bed, to remind himself of what he was when he woke each morning. A human being, no better nor more important than anybody else.
The story fascinated me as a child, I couldn’t believe that someone would actually keep a real skull next to their bed, it was really creepy to me. But as I remembered the story as I got older I realised that it was in fact his way of keeping himself humble and grounded, reminding himself that he was a mere mortal.

The Mortality series was only meant to be one drawing, entitled ‘Contemplating mortality’. I had imagined the drawing and sketched it out with that story in the back of my mind, in around 2017. I was having a tricky time with my mental health, I was 2 years in to trying to make a go of things as a self employed artist, and I was finding it difficult to keep myself afloat financially, and knowing what to do. I had quite literally taken a leap of faith, but I was getting by. The time I had to let my mind wander whilst I was working on my art, had also allowed for old demons, and deeply buried forgotten memories to start to come to the forefront of my mind, and I had begun unwittingly and unintentionally to start to deal with old traumas that I had experienced a few years before at the hands of a toxic person, I fortunately had managed to remove from my life.
I spent a lot of that time in my studio feeling mental pain, I often sat crying in front of my easel, wondering if things would be easier if I were not alive. I have never felt like I wanted to end my life, far from it, but more I just wondered that if on the other side (death) you could feel that mental torment and if you didn’t have to experience hurt inflicted on you by another human being? Around that time in 2017 a good friend took his own life, which added to that mental pain as I came to terms with his loss in my own way, wondering if he knew something I did not as I tried to get my head around it. Death was something I spent a lot of time thinking about as I drew the outline of Contemplating Mortality, hence the title, trying to come to terms with the fact that it was the one certain thing that was going to happen one day, and trying to imagine what it would be like passing through and then what it might be like on the other side. Fuelling this was some of the music I was listening to at the time, my taste is for the melancholy. Amongst many bands I was listening to, Anathema, one of my favourite bands who write some of the most beautiful music and lyrics, the interlude song after ‘Angels Walk Among us’ on the album ‘We’re here because we’re here’, called ‘Presence’ has a man speaking about trying to come to terms with your own mortality, and he had read an excerpt from a book by Ekhart Tolle, which stated ‘ Death is not the opposite of life, it is the opposite of birth, Life is eternal’
It was so profound and emotional to hear in this head space I was in at the time, and in some ways it gave me comfort. It was not until 2019 that I would go on to finally complete this drawing. I was once again in a difficult head space, life had changed and I was trying to adjust and once again the old demons resurfaced in my mind, demanding my attention to deal with them, although I thought at the time it was to torment me. Again I would listen to that same Anathema album a lot during this drawing. It inspired me to then go on to draw ‘Embracing Mortality’, and finally, ‘Accepting Mortality’ which (at the time, I thought) were about a mindful journey about coming to terms with mortality and then accepting it and finding peace and contentment. All three drawings are a self portrait with a skull (inspired by the story of them man who kept a skull by his bed at the beginning) The photo reference used of myself in these drawings start with an up to date (for the time) photo on Contemplating Mortality (2017) and finish with a younger one on Accepting Mortality. There was no particular reason for this, and I thought no more about it. That was that, series complete..

My demons and ghosts from what seems now like another life in another world all those years ago, had not given up tormenting me. I came to realise that what was happening was the traumas and bad memories I had suppressed, buried deep and marched away from as I tried to get on with my life, were now demanding that I face them head on and deal with them at last, which in itself was and has been very traumatic. It’s still a working progress to be honest. In October of 2020, I had one day been mounting my mortality drawings having finally got around to getting mounts for them. Something had triggered me that day and I found myself once again in the depths of despair as I relived horrible memories. It was then in that moment, that something very profound and significant about the Mortality drawings dawned on me. I wrote down my realisation that day:

The subconscious is a funny thing. It knows the things about you that you are yet to know about yourself. Something very profound has happened to me today. A trigger that brought an old trauma back to the forefront of my mind has knocked me off course today. I have been mounting my Mortality drawing series so that they can be displayed properly when the time comes that I wish to do so. I have posted before about what they are about and why I drew them. And this is still true. Looking at them again having been triggered today, it became obvious to me what they really are and I have only just realised. My conscious saw them as one thing, my subconscious sees them as quite another. It is the death of my old self, contemplating it, embracing it, and then accepting it. The trilogy starts as a self portrait as the age I was at the time it was drawn, when things were really starting to dawn on me, then progresses to younger images of me, as I start to contemplate and confront the trauma I endured as the mind block is lifted, to try to embrace it, face it and come to terms with it and eventually accept it as I move forward and put it behind me having finally dealt with it. I’m trying to get back to my younger self and comfort her. I so badly want to go back and warn her but I can’t. That girl is gone. Wanting to be that person again so I can go back and change things but knowing full well that girl is no longer there and accepting the mortality of my former self so that I can go forward as a better me, the best person I can be. As I say the subconscious is a funny thing. It has vented and tried to help me heal through my art without me even realising until now. And now I think I know what I must do. At the moment I realised this, a shiver went down my spine. I thought I had drawn them literally about death and coming to terms with and accepting our own mortality. What I actually drew was the death of my younger self/soul, and trying to reach her again to heal her from the traumatic thing that damaged her, and then have to accept that person is gone so that the person I am now can grow positively and go forward being the best person I can be in the here and now.

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