A new year

January 2, 2017

It’s day two of a new year. I hope your’s is a good one.

Recently I heard something said that affected me profoundly. Here it is:

Your life is a story you tell yourself about the day. Tell a different story and you have a different life.

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Soon after hearing it, and writing my story at the end of each day, I drove to this place I’d been wanting to draw for two years.

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Draw

August 11, 2016

Why draw?

To learn. To really see. To understand how things work. To observe productively. To intensify memory. To explore an idea. To show something otherwise missed. To become immersed in something other. To receive. To feel useful. To record. To play with stuff. To train the senses. To escape time. To leave something behind.

That sounds pretty good hey.

   
  

 

Gariwerd

July 21, 2016

A year ago now I travelled with my friend Vicki to a place called Gariwerd, (more recently known as The Grampians) an ancient and rocky range several hours drive from home. We drew and painted and walked and talked for a few days and came away emptied out and filled up.

 

  
   

Winter

June 10, 2015

This winter is already long and we’re less than 2 weeks in.

Looking for ways to enjoy it anyway, and to prevent a sliding decline into a dark hole, I’m making evening drawings – some indoors and some out.

Cave2_detail_smallCharcoal, (the wood fire burns warm) is the easiest thing. Smudge and erase and push back into the paper and leave a mark, on this cold night. Black velvet ink might show off the moonlight.

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4 days with Sammy

February 4, 2014

Having a small boy around for 4 days over New Year I learnt many things.

How to excavate a pile of dirt to find fossils.

How to build a cardboard sky-scraper with a draw-bridge and round windows and flying creatures that park in those windows.

The importance of ducking when chasing said boy around kid-sized play equipment.

How to persuade a person to eat French toast by sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar, and eat vegetables by adding a cheesy white sauce.

How to take photographs of interesting things at knee level.

Squids are jet-propelled.

According to his grandfather, Sam said his visit here was better than he thought it would be.

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And now for your viewing pleasure here are a couple of images by Sam. So good.

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From well before Elemental ended in Wangaratta on Monday (followed by the inevitable low on Tuesday) my mind has been charging up for the next push into the world around me.

These past many years, I’ve spent studio time developing work beyond initial sketches, pushing the imagery towards abstraction, untangling ideas from memory and curiosites, deepening the experience of making – for both myself and the potential viewer. And yet very often, the works that touch even the most developed art practitioners around me, are the drawings and paintings I make while physically immersed in the subject.

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Maybe it’s a nourishing loop – subject to painter to object to viewer to subject…

However, most of the best known and loved artworks were done in a studio. Studio practice requires the honing of skills; continuous learning about materials and conceptual development, and drawing on every virtue I was taught in my catholic upbringing! It isn’t for the faint-hearted. It enriches ability, broadens visual vocabulary, and shakes up any complacency.

And as a bonus it’s given me a new ease when I venture out into the world to look and feel and draw and paint. I love it now more than ever. It’s a banquet out there! And if you see me in my trusty red van (The Red Limo), give us a toot!

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Living in a Gallery #4

March 31, 2013

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Living in a gallery #3

March 27, 2013

Travelling backwards to the end of this residency.

A while back we had a little stall out the front of the gallery. Cigdem sold her beautiful spiral woven brooches. Vernon drew the passers by – only legs and arms and hair. Instead of drawing portraits as was the plan, I drew the street.

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We have a little collection of post-it note drawings by visitors into our temporary studio. The trees along the street, each surrounded by a brick circle, are memorable to others besides me.

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A few ideas have had a start, but mostly there isn’t enough time to develop them. At least not this week.

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Living in a gallery #2

March 26, 2013

The gallery hums quietly, light is soft, voices and footsteps loud. Visitors are welcome and sometimes draw or get drawn.

We have a kind of rhythm now, each of us working in our own way, stopping for a chat or a cup of tea. Three weeks feels short. So many ideas. Lots of great conversation and even music sometimes – what a treat.

Colleen@residency

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Living in a gallery

March 8, 2013

Most days until Easter I’ll be working at Albury Art Gallery with a few other artists. We’re in a beautiful room upstairs that began life as Council Chambers more than a hundred years ago.

As we go along I’ll keep you posted.

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A few weeks ago I saw and heard the wonderful Rory Mcleod in Yackandandah. A teller of stories collected from all round the world, from conversations with strangers, small moments and big events. With a tireless voice and a collection of instruments he caught us up til nearly midnight.

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Checking out his website I realised again how travel is a great educator. The only time I’ve managed to leave this country was to visit my family in the Netherlands a dozen years ago. It was the stories that affected me most, and I made work about them for the next 2 years. Many of the artworks are back over there on loungeroom walls.

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dad's hands cropped

February anniversaries

February 28, 2013

It’s the end of February. The month of four birthdays and two deathdays.

Today is fabulous Harry’s birthday, and tonight in the split second between today and tomorrow is Martin’s. A very small leap into his next year. This is the first drawing I made of him. I wasn’t looking at the drawing.

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And this one is Dad, who’s anniversary it was last week. He died a long time ago, but recently when I made this drawing I felt the need to mend him. I used to enjoy darning socks like this, on a wooden mushroom.

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The power of great shoes

February 22, 2013

Feet can be very difficult when it comes to shoes. Especially if they are naturally fairly narrow but have a pretty bulbous bunion just down from each big toe. Now, some of my best friends have bunions, and we could probably form a friendly society for frustrating feet, whose anthem would be the lament of the coveted shoe. My sports shoes are always from the men’s range – nice and wide, a bit bulky, and no colour choices (why that is I don’t know).

Searching for some sensible flats, I spotted a gorgeous shoe of the kind that I dream, on the specials table, noted the generous width, slipped it on, and it was obviously for me.

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I’m not a big retail therapy kind of girl but this saved me an eventual trip to a shrink for the madness bunions can cause.

Nine months on

February 8, 2013

Well it’s been a while but it’s time to begin this story again. The stumbling block was a silly mistake of mine – I accidentally deleted most of the images off this blog, and realising the enormity of the task of reposting them, I ignored the whole thing for as long as I could. Over the next little while all or most will be restored.

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In the meantime, here is a taste of things people to come. There are many babies arriving in my world, recently and soon. This mum is very keen to meet her babe sooner rather than later.

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Yesterday I had the great pleasure to sit on the ground for about an hour and draw an old shed at my friend’s house.

The subject is a classic, though often maligned as well as misrepresented. Like me, many artists shy away from the lure of the ruin, because there is a tendency to go all nostalgic and sentimental, at the cost of a strong image. But how to do justice to the people who built and have used it, and the persistence of the building itself?

Perhaps it’s about the first impulse – if it gets under your skin. And then to use the power of that in the drawing process. The big shape, and the colour, are what got me.

And this red shed has a good story. Built by a circus performer who had worked in the United States, he built it tall to hold the tents. As soon as I saw it against the gorgeous autumn sky, I felt the pull to record it, with gusto.

Carneval Strings

February 27, 2012

A great night of music at Arts Space Wodonga, care of Arts Wodonga and Shows To Go. Many thanks to the very groovy mostly Hungarian musicians who kept us awake and laughing and loving their virtuosity. Everything from Vivaldi to the one hit wonder My Sherona.

Drawing in the nearly dark has its challenges if you need to see what you’re drawing, but otherwise it’s fun, and you end up with something like this.

Babies versus the art life

February 8, 2012

There is the pull towards the making, drawing, creating something out of the stuff that gets absorbed via curiosity and by just being open. The need to process and give it out again.

And then there’s the wanting children. Fortunately for me, I have three.

Wanting the two things – to make a great family and to make great art – sets up a pull between them. They each want full attention. It seems almost impossible to do both things well, at once.

Recently I found a stack of drawings that I made in the early days of raising a family. Modest drawings made in small moments. (Lots of sleeping babies.) And it looks to me now that, although I spent less time on the art side of things, in those moments I was so alive, and so glad to keep hold of that thread.

Making these drawings I was remembering who I am, in amongst the crowded days that belonged to my family. And now they are such a delight – a record of my children being who they are, apart from me, way back then. I felt it was imperative to make those moments, not only for myself.

Causes for worry

January 18, 2012

Since my last post, a considerable number of opportunities have presented themselves to me as practice for not worrying. Even before the post went up, it disappeared, due to a failure in the system to save a draft. So what you read is my rewrite from memory of the first attempt at publishing. An immediate test of my resolve. And only the first.

That evening I watched with alarm a doco about the diminishing numbers of big fish in the oceans and the consequences thereof. If you wish to test your own ability to not worry, it’s called The End of the Line. At the end of the film it suggests ways to help – a kindness to a worrier. (Mm, from worrier to warrior. Sorry)

But beyond small irritaions and global disasters is another catagory of worry that you suddenly have access to when you have a child, or three.

Two nights ago my youngest son Tom called me around 11 pm from a lonely tram stop in the suburbs. An over-active imagination being a classic cause of worry, he suddenly felt the need to talk to someone, and he figured I’d still be up. We talked until the tram arrived with one other man on it. We said goodbye, and I went back to bed.

Now, I knew it was a half hour trip home, so I lay there not worrying til midnight, then called to make sure he’d arrived safely.

During that half hour of waiting, while my grownup son travelled home on a tram in a faraway city, I found myself remembering events from his childhood. In particular, the first time I sent he and his two older brothers on a walk to the shops on their own to buy icecreams. It was a deliberate moment, a decision on my part to let go a little, and trust that they would be safe out in the world of that small town.
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A favorite place to sit

December 19, 2011

Of late, I have a favorite spot to sit in my house, in my lounge room, on a small red couch under a simple lamp with a bendy neck, beside a low table where I might rest a cup or place a book. Many elderly people have a similar favorite spot, according to my friend who visits them at work. And now remembering that mum has such a thing too.
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So I wonder why I didn’t catch on to this idea earlier, because it’s a brilliant idea.

Sitting in this spot, I’m comfortable, well appointed to view the garden and the street beyond, or to simply read or write or play sudoku. It feels familiar now, so even my meditation practice comes easily here. Perhaps it has good Feng shui.

I’ve been watching Upstairs Downstairs and Wuthering Heights on the telly. Perhaps I’ve been bewitched by mild mannered women with needlework in their laps. Maybe I need a wild run on the moors instead? Or at least more regular walks with Jordi, because the danger of a favorite spot is the effort it takes to move from it. And now I must go to sleep – in my bed.

Train travel

November 4, 2011

A car is a room where one or two or several people are caught within each other’s space for a short or a long time. The most intimate conversations can be had, and the most deafening silences felt.

Public transport offers something different. The same intimate conversations can occur, but with an audience. The same silences can be felt, but from strangers, who hide in a book or feign sleep or are trapped in shyness or glare if attempted contact misfires.

I spent many hours on public transport over the last couple of days, and thoroughly enjoyed most of it. A chance to remember my place in collective human-kind.
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A warm shawl around me while I drew this fabulous roof, “Are you OK there? It’s a bit cold. Ah yes you still have 14 minutes.” said a friendly conductor (not the fat controller).

Copy of train travellers
This young man thanked me for drawing him. And so did the woman. But her friend glowered at me for my intrusion so I didn’t risk any further eye contact and was happy to not draw her. Most people, though a little self-conscious, are taken over by curiosity and want to see the drawing. I love these gentle meetings with strangers.