Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Emmas Incarceration

Some of you will know that a disabled friend of mine recently got stuck upstairs for 30 days due to a faulty stairlift. Although now released from her impromptu prison, at the time she needed all the support she could get - so a few stickman cartoons appeared about life upstairs. Unfortunately these have now multiplied. I have nearly completed my latest book "Emmas Incarceration - the story of Imprisonment-By-Stairlift-that's-busted".

Of course, our Emma is the inspiration, but I bet that anyone who has ever been stranded due to technical failure will have a good chuckle at this :D

Currently having a bit of a dilemma - this book is primarily written for Emma, and has approx 10 cartoons in it (but plenty of humour) but I am convinced that stairlift users up and down the country would love it, as would everyone with my sense of humour (Unfortunately some people are not blessed with my particular outlook. Poor people.) So do I publish it and make it available generally as a 'print on demand' book, or do I just print one for Emma....

Monday, 21 March 2011

Funnest Project EVER

I've been a little quiet on here lately- the main reason for that is that I have been working on a very very special project, and I am only now allowed to tell the world what it was :D

My brother Jake married my friend Rachel on Saturday. The wedding was great and they are perfectly matched. Both have a great sense of humour, see the absurdities in life, and love each other quite a lot. - unsurprisingly seeing as they are newly-weds.
Anyway, it is a family tradition to have a photo cavalcade/presentation showing the couple as they grow up. Unfortunately Rachel has my sense of humour and asked if I could do stickmen illustrations of their lives so far instead - but not to tell anyone beforehand.

It has been the funnest project EVER. I spent several days 'story collecting' - talking to them about childhood memories, teenage events, and the stories surrounding how Jake won Rachels heart etc. Over the next few weeks these were turned into nearly 50 stickmen pictures. Some with no comment, some with sarky one-liners. You could say it was a collection of private jokes.
It was shown at the reception and all who knew the stories laughed in recognition, and those who didn't soon got to know the couple a lot better! (Yes, Rachel did once take a mouse to school in a sock!)

And the final picture showed the couple so accurately - Rachel mucking about in her bright pink shoes (as worn in reality) and Jake pretending to be serious while trying to hide his laughter :D It happened to coincide with a 'Tarzan yell' from the accopmanying music. Highly mature. And soooooo Rachel.

I am now working on making it into a bespoke, specially bound, high quality book. A book that will always bring back happy memories and joy. It has been hard work - especially for hands that don't like holding a pen! - but worth it. I can't afford to give them a spectacularly expensive wedding present, but if I can get the book done like it is in my head it will be my single greatest achievement in the stickman world.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Disability and my career

The other day while chatting with a friend the following came up 'If your disability improves to the point that you are able to go back to your old career, would you take it up again?'
Good question.

I spent 4 years at Uni studying to be an Environmental Health Practitioner, then spent a few years working for a local authority. I enjoyed it and was good at it. It was rewarding, challenging and interesting. I carried on working as an EHP as my disability worsened, so even if I stay with some level of disability all my life, I could quite possibly reach a stage when returning to EH is an option.

However, I don't feel I am the same person I was then. Not that I am massively changed - I have the same humour, interests etc. I just feel like I've grown. And some of my perspectives have shifted. So much has happened in the past few years, including the death of my Father, Grandfather and 2 close family friends in a space of 6 months. If I have the option I want a career that leaves me free to spend time with family and friends while giving me enough money to live. The times I spent with Dad are some of my most precious memories, far more important than how much money he was able to spend on me.

Perhaps the most significant thing is that I started to draw my stickmen. Which I LOVE doing. If I can make a living using my cartoon skills, then I will, regardless of whether I am disabled or not. It is a career I can build here and now, rather than do things half heartedly thinking 'when I can get back to where I was 5 years ago'. I don't want to go back in time, I want to use my now.

And being an illustrator/author/cartoonist fits perfectly with my priorities - it will give me freedom to do spontaneous fun things with my younger siblings, to manage my time appropriately, but most importantly:

I love thinking up my cartoons. I love drawing them. I love sketching and re-sketching them until the expression is just what I want it to be. You can't beat the feeling of looking at a drawing that you've done, knowing that it 'works', that the emotion and energy you wanted to communicate is dancing on the page. Unless it is the feeling of watching someone else looking at the picture and responding to that emotion and energy :D I'd be an idiot not to take the opportunity to build this career!

So no. I have no present aim to return to Environmental Health. I will still use a lot of the skills I learnt as an EHP and it doesn't mean I never will do related work, it just means that my current career is that of an illustrator and I intend to make the most of it. And no, this is not a disability related decision, it is a decision based on my finding new skills and enjoying them :D

It is official:

I am Hannah Ensor. Author, illustrator and comic genius.

Friday, 4 March 2011

International Wheelchair Club

I designed the logo!!!

Building on my adapted logo below, I thought: "Why can't we have a symbol that encompases joy and life?" - the accepted wheelchair symbol has no character or life. No sense of the freedom and joy that a set of wheels can bring when you need them. The wheels aren't a disabling factor - they are my keys to the world. My disability is, strangely enough, disabling! - but my wheels are the best thing in the EVER!

I suppose in a way, the logo is also a self portrait. "Woohoooooo" - yelled while going down hill is practically a trademark gesture for me :D - childish? possibly. But then so is laughter and I don't appologise for that.

When people see my symbol I want them to smile rather than pity. I want it to spread happiness and acceptance of our differences.

And I animated the logo - because it is fun.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

New Wheelchair symbol!

Thanks to Emma for pointing out someone who had 're-done' the wheelchair sign, (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/02/21/cambridge_artist_sara_hendren_promotes_wheelchair_symbol_update/?camp=misc:on:share:article) I decided that more cheer was needed - and seeing as I have a thing about everyone thinking that as soon as you are proficent on wheels you should be in the paralympics I don't want to strengthen that assumption! - Besides, my shoulders tend to slip out of joint if I race! (I've seen people run for the bus. It doesn't mean they should race Usain Bolt!) Not convinced about the 'super active' version she drew, I've attached my version.

More joy and freedom and, well, real-person-ness to it than the standard one but no racing :D

Unfortunately as a symbol it can't be my standard stickman style - so here is a chunky version especially for all you wheelies who have great personalities and fun and fullfilled lives!


(Update Feb 2012: I've just blogged about an updated version of this symbol here)

International Wheelchair Day

A day to celebrate the freedom wheels have brought:

To cross a room without a thought
To carry a bag without a fall
To converse without having to hug the wall
To spend a day with friends
And keep up until the end.

Obviously I am also totally proud of the fact that I drew the IWD logo:

Getting my wheels 5 years ago may have been a big decision, but also the most liberating. I am so much less disabled when I'm in them. As I have EDS I dislocate all my joints a lot - and trust me, walking on knees that pop out randomly at almost every step is highly inconvenient. I also have PoTS meaning the blood flow to my brain slows down when I stand up (or digest, or talk, or sit) making me get stroke like symptoms and end up semi-concious if I stand for more than a few seconds - although I am improving thanks to a new treatment :D

So I CAN walk - didn't that mean I would be 'faking it' or 'exagerating it' if I used wheels? Aren't they only for 'proper' disabled people? - No. They are for those who would benefit from using them. People like me.

I was at the point where I could hardly do anything at all - and I certainly couldn't do anything in a relaxed and easy way other than lie down. EVERYTHING was a challenge, and at 23yrs old I thought falling over daily was 'normal'. Now I have my wheels I can go shopping, socialise, dance, sail, even do some basic chores on a good day. All things that without my wheels would be simply: Impossible.

I walk where I can and I wheel where I can't. My wheels quite literally gave me back my life. My independance. My sparkle.

So wheels, I thank you for all the time we've spent together, and bring on the future!