If you don't remember the impossibly gruelling task of creating work during the pandemic, then you probably never tried in the first place. When there seemed to be something so much bigger weighing on everyone's mind, the task of forcing creativity seemed unbearable, a punishment in itself for not spiralling under the crushing weight of a COVID-19 diagnosis (and those happened in abundance too). Two artists that are all too familiar with this struggle are Julie Verhoeven and Alan Faulds, whose works - created in response to each other during this period- are layered and collaged together in their debut publication I Want Your Meat & Cheese, Blood & Pie; a book exploring their creative process during 2020.
While both had the desire to be more creative during this period, mutual friend Laura Aldridge from KMAdotcom (a collective of artists with and without learning differences) proposed both Verhoeven and Faulds start meeting weekly online to see if they could inspire each other during the lockdown.
And inspire they did. Meeting online weekly for the following 18 months, the pair struck up quite the collaborative partnership all through Zoom chatting about life, shows they're watching, dinner options, and more importantly, drawing. Every week, the pair would prepare sources and inspirations on which they would draw and a playlist to which they would dance. Rather than taking a monotonous path, their sessions were anything but: a heavenly one-hour distraction from the mundanity of life that would see both artists dress up, apply make-up, and then come together with their props. With no clear-cut process of making work, the duo worked intuitively, amusingly 'flying by the seat of our pants', as the book's press release notes Verhoeven saying.
Mimicking the contents of the meetings, I want your meat & cheese, blood & pie - available to buy at Baron Books purposefully has no structure. Drawings, collages and photos of their guises are cut up and combined on the pages next to jumbled words and sketches, existing to recollect the creative outcome of their meetings; the point of the book is to chart a budding friendship that hopes to inspire many others, documented by photographer Annie Collinge. Intrigued by the unique creative process that lacked structure while maintaining consistency, we spoke to Verhoeven and Faulds about their thoughts on the humorously-named project.
Christina Donoghue: Where does the title I Want Your Meat & Cheese, Blood & Pie come from?
Julie Verhoeven: Alan proposed the title and there was nowhere else to go after this. It was just too perfect! I never asked Alan why . He delivered it with such ease and conviction, the job the done.
CD: How does Alan's work inspire you?
JV: My friend Laura Aldridge, also a member of artists collective KMAdotcom, suggested I look at Alan's work as she thought we might potentially connect over shared interests and a love of drawing. I clearly remember the first time I viewed Alan's drawings and felt a rush of excitement and wonder. Alan's work has had a dramatic effect on my artistic endeavours as he helped steer me off a slippery, turgid, drawing decline. Thanks to Alan and his infectious energy and view on the world, my drawings have been resuscitated and are now pumped for action!
CD: I read that the work is a product of your meetings with Alan. Can you talk a bit about them? What were they like, and what did you discuss?
JV: The 'meat and potatoes' of the book is predominately Alan's sketch books, which I then responded to with collage and drawing. We then added into the mix a dressing up shoot with Annie Collinge and our weekly online drawing antics with KMAdotcom artists James Mclardy & Francesca Nobilucci.
Obviously, this work is a product of its time, made apparent by the remote nature and many Zoom calls - something we all experienced during the lockdown. How do you think the material stands outside of the context of the pandemic? What do you think it says?
JV: These weekly Zooms are a heady rush of sharing pop culture references, pop songs and/or drawing from life . We keep idle chat to a minimum, although we do briefly share what we ate for lunch, what we plan for supper, any television viewing of note that week and then fast track to drawing together. We then favour gesticulation and dance as a mode of communication as we draw. It's such a tonic and the best fun.
CD: It would be wrong to profess that learning disabilities are wholly accepted in society. Art is elitist and has long excluded wide groups of people for as far as history has let it. Why do you think that is? Do you feel the tide changing?
Collaborating with Alan has taught me to care less about how my work might be perceived. It’s very freeing. For starters, I hope our book has that vibe and sense of urgency. It was the result of a genuine connection made during a wobbly moment in life. The spontaneity and improvisational element to the work was perhaps accelerated by the pandemic and maybe that sense of urgency ripples throughout. The commercial art world is slowly becoming less judgemental and fearful, but we are probably one and a half generations away from this model changing significantly. Rather selfishly, it’s not something I want to ponder on, it’s too depressing. I think it’s dangerous and inhibiting to seek validation in art, and Alan's courage has instilled this in me. Although, it's easy for me to voice this from a position of privilege.
CD: How do you think art bridges the gap between neurodiverse and neurotypical people?
JV: Art connects people and is the oldest form of communication. I love it for that. It speaks to you directly - should you care to engage with it .Alan and I connected simply through pictures and music and our understanding and respect for each other, consequently grew. This was one of the reasons we chose to produce a picture book; a universal language that invites all the engage.
CD: What do you want to convey with the publication?
JV: No rules, no filter. We love living!
Christina Donoghue: Firstly, can you briefly describe your practice as an artist and your inspirations?
Alan Faulds: Movies with hot men, rock and roll, Netflix, incredible, fantasy, dance, jazzy music. I like books, romance magazines, glamour, fashion and horror. Drawing stuff makes me feel awesome. I have loved drawing since I was a boy. I draw with black pens in my bedroom. I work in the studio with black ink. I make t-shirts, masks, puppets, clothes. I like dressing up and dancing.
CD: What three words would you use to describe Julie?
AF: She’s amazing, she’s a model, she’s famous, she’s a diva, she’s my friend & she’s got a boyfriend.
CD: How did this experience enhance your creative practice?
AF: Good and Happy. Big bang Friday. Zoom is amazing. Aye – its big bang bacon and cheese.
CD: Why do you think collaboration is important? How do you think it fuels creativity?
AF: Everybody is an amazing artist.
CD: What about Julie's work and practice did you find inspiring?
AF: Romantic and cheeky. My mum saw Julie on Googlebox after her Joy of Sex drawings.