1. I used the iPad app Paper by 53– an app that allows people who can’t draw to draw- to create this. I am indebted to the “Mastering Paper by 53” series on a website called Made Mistakes for some exceptionally useful drawing tips. It also helped to go through artwork that other people have made with Paper to see if I could pick up any techniques. My normal strategy when attempting something new is to do all my research first and then dive in- this, on the other hand, was very much a learning-by-doing process, and was a refreshing change (and also more fun, though progress was slow).
2. I worked on this for 15-20 hours over 5 days that I was on chemotherapy. I dread taking daytime naps on these days, however much my body urges me to, because I often fall into a heavy slumber accompanied by vivid, horrible dreams, which are probably linked to the medication. Also, it’s a crime to waste summer daylight in London by sleeping through it. Anyway, while reading (consuming) is about moving forward in your mind, and in time, and pushes me towards sleep, drawing (creating) is about achieving a stillness-pencilling in the same strokes of ink and colour again and again-that makes time stand still and staves off the moment that my tiredness overwhelms me.
3. A word about influences: I’ve spoken before of the deep affection I have for Calvin and Hobbes that originated in my childhood, and I suppose that’s where I got the idea of a string of panels with minimum dialogue that describes a journey through a day.
My use of colour was inspired by the Mrs. Mole drawings Ronald Searle made for his wife while she was undergoing cancer treatment herself. They are peaceful scenes of domestic life, suffused with warmth, brightness and hope.
According to the psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, people’s views of their own happiness are dictated by two separate “selves“:
The experiencing self lives in the moment; it is the one that answers the question “does it hurt?” or “what were you thinking about just now?” The remembering self is the one that answers questions about the overall evaluation of episodes or periods of one’s life… Experienced happiness refers to your feelings, to how happy you are as you live your life. In contrast, the satisfaction of the remembering self refers to your feelings when you think about your life.
I used to hold a unitary view, in which I proposed that only experienced happiness matters, and that life satisfaction is a fallible estimate of true happiness. I eventually concluded that this view is not tenable, for one simple reason: people seem to be much more concerned with the satisfaction of their goals than with the achievement of experienced happiness…
There is a road to convergence, but few will want to take it: we could suggest to people that they should adopt experienced happiness as their main goal, and be satisfied with their lives to the extent that this goal is achieved. This idea implies the abandonment of other goals and values…
My own experience is that living with incurable cancer has indeed forced these two selves to converge. I no longer have any “goals”, except to seek joy in everyday experiences. This is what Searle got exactly right in these drawings- it’s a bunch of summer flowers, a warming cup of tea on a clear evening, a velvety night sky-those are the important things now.
4. About bees: I’m not sure what prompted me to use a bee as a metaphor for death. If I want to be deep about it, I could say it’s because bees are vital to the perpetuation of life; and that I was thinking of Sylvia Plath’s astonishing cycle of Bee Poems that she wrote in her final months; and that they can look threatening but also beautiful and fuzzily welcoming. I like the idea of lustily flying away into the night on a gigantic bee. More prosaically, bees are fun, and easy, to draw.