I would like to share a story that has become one of the most precious experiences that I have had since my journey with Inner Tapestry began. This issue's cover art is not only recognition of an exceptional artist, but of a special person who I have grown to admire over the past few months for the warm and generous person that I have been fortunate enough to come to know.
It all started late one evening, as most issues do, while looking at artwork for the cover of the journal. I came across a web gallery of artwork created by both a father, Tom Mitchell and his son, Andrew. My story is about Andrew.
As I browsed through this wonderful gallery of artwork, I came across the piece featured on the cover "Home Sweet Home." I was filled with many feelings, which welled, into my throat and soon I found myself in tears. Is this what I felt our connection with elders has become? My feelings of a mother's journey in a nursing facility and a father's journey into being alone for the first time in a very long while came right to the surface. All the elders that we have in our country, in the world, how many are being cared for the way we want to be cared for? How many stories from the full and rich lives of our elders are never heard?
I had found my cover art. Over the next few weeks I emailed Andrew quite often with no reply. My usual response is to find another cover piece, most times thinking that the artist is not interested. I was not aware that the email address on the website was not working. But for whatever reason, this piece would not leave me. I started an online search, being an artist Andrew must be known, his work to me was definitely noteworthy.
I came upon a website that listed people in the London area by name and there were roughly 40 or so Andrew Mitchells. I started reading each biography in hopes that something would click. Finally, on approximately the 27th bio, one Andrew Mitchell went to the same college and was by day a graphic designer. Alas, I had found someone whose information was similar to what I had read on the Mitchell Gallery's website. But from this new-found website I could not get in touch with him. After reading that he worked for a company in London I took a chance and emailed them asking if they would pass my email along to their Andrew Mitchell and ask if he were "the" Andrew Mitchell I was looking for and in about a week I received an email from Andrew asking how he might help me.
Andrew was so open, as all our cover artists have been, to having his work on the cover and was also kind enough to ask if he might be able to distribute copies of the journal to local places as he and his father were opening a new gallery in Warwick, England. Just taking a guess that not only myself but all of our Inner Tapestry community would love to share who we are with everyone in England, I was quick to agree.
Andrew also told me the gentlemen who was the subject of his drawings was a real person and that there was a story that went along with his artwork and asked if I would be interested in having him write this story, as well as writing about his work and the charity that receives some of the proceeds from the sale of artwork found on The Mitchell Gallery's website, and of course the answer was yes.
The following is from Andrew, my thanks and appreciation for the person that you are.
About The Artist
Andrew Mitchell is a young and upcoming artist living in London. Originally from the West Midlands of England he studied Art through school and pursued his interest by completing both a Foundation course in Art and Design and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design at Kingston University.
Andrew is best known for working mainly with charcoal on a relatively large scale. Although it could be said this is his preferred medium he is also a skilled painter and experiments regularly with other techniques such as pastels and watercolor. He believes that as an artist he should be as versatile as possible and follows the teachings from his design education that the medium, scale, format, style and color should all be dictated by the current subject. In this way Andrew tries to be as open-minded as possible when it comes to creating his own works, which is maybe why he has such high regard for the multi-talented masters of the Renaissance period such as Michelangelo and Leonardo. His greatest fear is to be typecast as an artist of just one style so he always endeavors to push himself to the limits of his own ability and talents.
Andrew currently works as a designer for a major London based design agency but is constantly drawing and painting in his spare time and is in the process of founding an art gallery with his father Tom Mitchell.
The Mitchell Gallery began as a website (www.mitchellgallery.com) but has recently moved into a new premises in Warwick, England. Andrew and his father have worked hard to acquire the property and are now looking forward to establishing the gallery and increasing their reputation further. They focus on mainly selling their own original artworks as well as pieces from carefully selected local artists.
It is the wish of the Mitchell Gallery that the money gained from the selling of certain pieces goes towards charitable funds, the main recipient being SADS UK (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome). The Mitchell Gallery has established a strong bond with this charity and continues to show its support for what they believe is a very worthwhile cause.
In the UK it is estimated that somebody young and healthy dies mysteriously every day. In fact, an average of eight die each week of instantaneous heart failure, classified as Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome.
SADS UK – The Ashley Jolly SAD Trust, is a charity that helps to prevent premature loss of life and to improve the lives of those adversely affected by cardiac arrhythmia. Anne Jolly, the Chairperson of SADS UK, established the Trust after her fit and active 16-year-old son Ashley died unexpectedly in his sleep. SADS UK supports research into the causes of cardiac arrhythmias. This research is essential in order to improve methods of detection and provide even more effective treatments in the future.
Tom Mitchell first became aware of the charity having read an article about it in the Times newspaper called “The Silent Killer.” He was immediately struck by Anne’s story and her efforts in establishing the charity. With a strong belief in angels and spiritual happenings he was particularly intrigued by Anne’s belief that her son Ashley would send his love to her by dropping small white feathers. This is a common belief shared by many people suffering bereavement and it soon became a basis for Tom’s artwork. He quickly decided that the proceeds gained from a collection of his work should go towards helping SADS UK and the Mitchell Gallery continues to help support the charity and their cause for which it has so much sympathy and admiration.
To read more about SADS UK and the work that they do please visit www.sadsuk.org.
By combining his natural artistic flair and skills as a communications designer Andrew Mitchell is able to create emotional and engaging works encapsulating deeper meanings and subject matter. The piece that has been used for the front cover of this issue entitled “Home Sweet Home” is one of Andrew’s most recent drawings and is of a subject of particular resonance to him. As he began to embark on a new series of works he felt he needed to focus on a subject that meant something to him as well as the people around him in his local area. The subject he chose has a name, Bill.
Bill is an elderly man who lives by the side of a motorway not far from Balsall Common, the village that Andrew originated from. Bill lives on his own, far from any human contact and has done so for many years, certainly for as long as Andrew can remember. Bill does not seek the attention and help from other people in a busy urban environment for in fact he is quite the opposite. He does not beg or ask for anything and he lives in solitude a few kilometers from the nearest village.
Before Andrew Mitchell could consider using Bill and his story as a subject for his art he decided to pay Bill a visit. For all he knew the meeting could go very badly, after all Bill is a man who has consciously decided to live in a remote and inhospitable place and he might not want the extra company. At that point Andrew’s only perception of Bill was the same as everyone else’s. Nobody knew this man’s name, nobody had taken a really good look at his face, no one knew why he lived there and nobody could remember how long he had been around. All they knew was that often as not, when driving their cars along the road they might catch a glimpse of his figure, trudging along the embankment carrying his bags either on his way home or heading out somewhere come rain or shine.
The first thing that struck Andrew was how quaint Bill’s surroundings where. The sound of the rushing cars was dampened by the trees, there was a small stream that passed under the motorway and through the hedgerows the fields stretched on for miles. When Andrew first approached Bill he was understandably a little shocked to see that someone had made the journey out to meet him but nevertheless he was kind, smiling and approachable. It initially shocked Andrew how old Bill was. His face was tired, his hands swollen and he could see that his bulky frame was made up mostly of extra layers and a large grey coat. They had one small conversation, shook hands and Andrew gave him some food that he had brought along with him, but understanding that Bill might not have felt too comfortable he soon left.
In the following weeks Andrew began to make more visits to see Bill. There was certainly much more to this man than meets the eye but Bill is a man of very few words. It was quite clear that he didn’t want to delve into his past or to talk too deeply about why he lived there but he was quite happy to show Andrew around his home and it was with Bill’s full permission that Andrew began to draw him in his surroundings doing his day-to-day tasks.
“Home Sweet Home” shows Bill entering the small shed that he uses to store his food and extra clothes. There is even a mattress and pillow in there but he chooses to sleep outside in a makeshift tent, depending on the weather. The image itself interested Andrew for many reasons but particularly because of the reflection in the shed window. On the one hand we mainly see the back of Bill’s head, a sight familiar to most as they see him walking along the road but then we get a glimpse of his face and surroundings in the reflection of the glass, alluding to a much bigger picture.
Initially it frustrated Andrew that he wasn’t going to be able to find out everything about this man and communicate that through his drawings but after much consideration he realised that perhaps this was for the best. Bill lives where he lives for a reason and that has to be respected. All we can do is wonder and perhaps this sense of mystery is a good thing because if we don’t know then we won’t ever judge Bill or find it hard to feel any sympathy for him. Andrew certainly knows that there is much more to this man than meets the eye but perhaps for now if people know his name and see his face, then that will be enough. What might be told in the future, well that will be up to Bill.
The Journey Continues
I feel fortunate in being able to bring Andrew's collection of his work with Bill and their story to all of you. It started with just the search for cover art and grew into something larger, beyond my knowing of what was to come.
On January 2nd as I woke and started working on this issue of the journal, I received an email from Andrew offering me Happy New Year's wishes and letting me know that shortly before Christmas, Bill had been found by the police inside his hut by the side of the road. The weather had turned quite cold and he simply passed away.
The news of Bill's passing has been followed by a number of newspapers and Andrew has been quite busy speaking with them; answering emails coming through the website (which has been fixed) and as it turns out, being the one person who knew Bill more than most, he has been working with Social Services in the arrangement of his funeral.
They have been able to find out that Bill's full name is William Rympel, and that he was born in Poland and was 81 years old.
Amazingly, this has all happened as our journal comes out to the community and Andrew and his father Tom open their new gallery in Warwick. Andrew and Tom have decided to hold an exhibition at the gallery showing Andrew's work of Bill as soon as they possibly can with some of the proceeds going to a local homeless charity.
This night as I sit and write this, I reflect on being in my car returning home last night the temperature gauge reading -15 degrees. I hope all of us will remember those who may not have heat, food, shelter or clothing this coming year and choose a way to contribute to local shelters, food and fuel banks as well. To stop and listen to those stories that our elders have to offer of a time of great richness which has brought us all to this place in evolution and to the many generations to come.
It is now the 16th of January, many days later. As I am about to send the journal to print I received a message from Andrew. Bill's funeral service was yesterday afternoon, led by Rev. Keith Claringbull and Father Sebastian Arikrat, the Vicar and Roman Catholic priest from the two villages Bill lived in between. Unlike typical funeral services, no one knew the others. Joined by the same reason, 50 people from the communities came to share and express their regards for Bill, a wonderful tribute and offering to Bill and the world. Are we willing to find our own expressions of compassion for each other, no matter who we are, what we do or how we are perceived?
It is not for us to judge how our purpose in life may end up expressing its fullest potential but to stay open to the infinite number of ways in each moment. What I am aware of is the awe that I feel in being a part of this time in both Andrew's and Bill's life journeys, and for the opportunity to share this story with all of
our Inner Tapestry community both here in the US and England, connecting us all.
Thank you Andrew and Bill, my hope is that you have enjoyed this journey.
We hope that everyone will take the opportunity to visit the Mitchell Gallery's website at www.mitchellgallery.com to see more of Andrew and Tom Mitchell's work and to learn more of their work with Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, SAD's charity, www.sads.org or www.sadsuk.org.