WCA Drawing the emotion of developing diabetes complications. . .

Tania has suggest I sit down and try to make some drawings about how I feel about developing complications from diabetes. Long-term complications include how diabetes affects your eyes (retinopathy), heart (cardiovascular disease), kidneys (nephropathy), and nerves and feet (neuropathy). Difficult one this, as try not to think about complications but focus all my energy into keeping a good blood sugar and thus minimise the risk of developing complications. I have spoken to people with quite serious complications and  I find it quite terrifying. I tried this drawing approach on several occasions but invariably found something else to draw, such as the sad, amnesic false tooth fish from unit 2 and the slightly surreal alienation of Evolutionary pastoral – clearly an eye problem here.


Evolutionary pastoral 20 Aug 14Evolutionary pastoral

How do we arrive at these drawings? Weirldly, and as Spock from Star Trek would say illogically, part of my primitive brain honestly thinks that thinking about complications somehow make them more likely. The primitive brain wants to stop thinking about complications and the real world and heads into some sort of safer hiding place but still aware of the menace outside.

I had an appointment for my annual diabetic retinopathy test and attempted to use it to force myself to think about drawing the emotion of developing diabetes complications. As part of the procedure drops are administered to the eyes to dilate the pupils, which takes 10-20 minutes and make reading or drawing impossible.



I tried to gage my emotional state as I sat in the waiting room and found it to be apprehension & a little under overwhelming anxiety. Deep, deep down I really don’t like hospitals, never have done – they are not place I associate with good things. But how do you draw anxiety? On asking this question I laughed nervously. I wondered how many tortured artists over the years have tried to answer that one?

My mind returned to mechanism. To cause and effect. I thought about making in splatter drawing which look similar to the sugar induced damage to the retina. As this process occurs gradually over time I though the ink splatter retinopathy drawing might lend itself to animation with visual field becoming a mass of apparently random damage.

With wildly dilated pupils your eyes are extremely sensitive to light. So what do the health care professionals do? The shine extremely bright lights into your eyes. The first time I had this procedure done and I was stunned and blinded by the light (admittedly only temporally). I thought of a scene in a book I had just read,  the excellent science fiction novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis. In the book an extraterrestrial is blinded by a similar processes (using X-rays, admittedly)  even though he begged them not to do it. So to capture how I felt at that moment you could read to book or if you are more visual people person you could watch the equally excellent film of the same name by Nicolas Roeg and starring David Bowie. I couldn’t improve on their depiction. . .

The man who fell Aug 2014

The health care professionals will no longer not discuss what is happening at the back of your eyes during the test. About a week later a manilla envelope arrives on the door mat with a distinctive return postcode. It usually sits unopened while I consider it’s contents & try to summon up the courage to open it or to forget about it. My blood sugar control is pretty good & I haven’t had an problems – yet. . .

Retinopathy animation

The DECS letter will be attached to a large pice of white cartridge paper. Earlier frames show the whole letter & give time for the viewer to read it. Frame by frame the enclosed parts of letters in DECs letter will be filled in, in black ink, in the manner of a bored school child. This will be follow by ink splats, of increasing size and energy. View and ink splats widen.

Decs Letter

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