Bitter Sweet Portrait

Bitter Sweet Portrait

When I started my first year at university I had my drawing arm in a cast. I had had a summer of endless ucas forms and university interviews and I had been accepted into my first choice Art Universities! I chose The Arts University Bournemouth (formerly called The Arts Institute) and I could not wait to start my life there. Despite all the preparing for university life which mainly included buying various cooking utensils and practising my drawing skills I also went to lots of parties.

Infact partying hard was my top priority! I was 18 and about to start the biggest adventure I thought I would ever have. I had friends who I was leaving behind and dreams I was chasing and several house parties to attend!

I went to a party, drunk more than I should have and while messing around with friends I broke my wrist. My right wrist. My drawing arm.

I had 2 painful operations to manipulate the wrist back into position, they didn't work. I then had an operation that pinned the bones in place with K wires I was in a lot of pain and felt helpless but I was quite satisfied that once the wires and cast were removed I could carry on as I was before. l was all set to have the the k wires removed at the hospital near my new university.


Starting my degree with my arm pinned and in a cast wasn't ideal but I was sure that once everything was removed it wouldn't take long for the movement to fully return.

My first day of university!

I remember how much I loved the north facing studios, they were built with enormous north facing windows intended to capture the most natural light! I was so excited make the most of the amazing light, only trouble was I could just see very clearly how disappointing my work was. During the drawing workshops I had to use my left hand and I started to produce embarrassingly poor work.

I found it easier to put a paintbrush down the front of my cast and paint with my right hand, I could only produce shakey stiff movements, I was like a heavy handed toddler, unable to express the thoughts in my head.

I was embarrassed with everything I created but I was literally counting down the days until I could have my arm back and I was adamant that when that happened I could catch up on everything I missed.

I was wrong.

When my plaster cast was removed and the k wires were taken out of the bones I was so shocked with how my wrist looked. My wrist looked deformed and I could hardly move it, instead of finally being able to show off my drawing skills I could hardly even dress myself.

Over the next few weeks I was in constant agony and avoided using my right hand for anything. It was agony to I rotated and every time I did it would dislocate.

I have hypermobile bones they are still extremely bendy for an adult, because of this it is very difficult for them to stick back together, especially around a joint that needs to rotate. I was diagnosed with right wrist instability with dislocation upon rotation.


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This X-ray was taken once one of the metal plates were removed due to rotation problems.


I had to lean away from drawing and I decided to focus more on collage work because that was something I could do without putting a strain on my wrist.



The word ‘Collage' is derived from the French word ‘coller' which actually means “to glue”

I love the idea that you can create something aesthetically pleasing by assembling different mediums of visual art. In other words using several different pieces to create a new whole!

I wanted to be glued back together myself. I was broken, I was upset..... I was not defeated.

I started making collages using hole punchings from magazines, I loved building up a picture using tiny pieces of colour and being able to step back and see it transformed into a collage.

One of my favourite collage pieces was my self portrait. I drew myself upside down and falling backwards and I would sit for hours on end building the picture up bit by bit using hole punchings from recycled magazines.

I used a 6ft by 4ft plank of wood to assemble the pieces on. I decided was only allowed to use hole punchings from recycled magazines so I spent a lot of the time collecting other people's thrown away glossy OK, Closer and Cosmopolitan magazines. I didn't care about the gossip or makeup tips that the pages were filled with, I wanted the colours, I would just sit for hours on end hole punching the pages and lining up the colours.

It took forever to glue all the pieces to create the portrait of myself. Yet I purposely left the portrait unfinished, it was left unfinished because it reflected how I saw myself, I was frustrated, disappointed and upset and above all I was broken. The only thing I knew was certain was I wasn't giving up!

Written by : Anna