Play

August 3, 2016

Long ago, when my sons went to school, they each in turn came home in Year 1 or 2 saying it wasn’t fair that they didn’t paint much anymore, or play games in class, like in Prep (the first transitional year of school).

Learning gradually became less about play and more about absorbing the knowledge of others.

Speaking with a friend today about joining a drawing class she said no I can’t draw. Oh but I did a watercolour workshop once, every day for a week, but failed miserably. I asked how so? In reply, one of those stories came out where the teacher’s rigid method and criticism left no room to move, and no desire or confidence to paint again.

  
  

Lately I’ve started to paint again, with watercolour also. Just playing really. To reacquaint myself with what watercolour is, what it does, what I can learn, what I can encourage it to do.

Play
 

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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.

 

  
   

Gestalt

June 19, 2014

How little visual information do we need to recognise a person? From a surprisingly great distance all we need is the shape, the shapes a body makes as it moves in its own particular fashion.

Copy of image_5Skin, the outline of us, is stretched and molded by what lies beneath, a great metaphor. We protect ourselves with further coverings and yet the elemental shapes of a person can reveal so much.

Laying watercolor onto paper is like feeling the skin, as a liquid membrane. Steadfast in it’s role as protector, skin is what separates us physically from almost everything else. It contains the unique shape and form of each of us.

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Spending time at Mayday

February 11, 2014

Spending time in a place, drawing painting looking listening touching, you’d think it would make you feel as though you’re getting to know it.

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But knowing takes a long time.

In the meantime I’ll borrow the shapes and colours and lines of this place, an old asylum with a garden of trees that have seen everything unfold for one hundred and fifty years.

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Today my youngest son Tom is 25 years old.

Although he lives away, I think of him out there in the world, living his brave and colourful life.

This week my exhibition, Elemental, opens at Wangaratta Art Gallery. My sons will be there, and it’s a marvel how happy that makes me feel. A strange business, being a happy parent. Taming this too enthusiastic joy down to a less embarrassing version of delight when they’re around.

Happy birthday my dear Tom.

Copy of Tom2009

Meeting Aida and Ildiko

February 10, 2013

At the end of next month I am fortunate to be exhibiting some drawings and small paintings at Wangaratta Art Gallery.

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I have always loved the space, a converted chapel with movable walls and warm wooden ceiling.

Last night a show opened there that is surely a great treat for anyone who loves paint. My friend Jo Davenport’s work is hanging alongside Aida Tomescu, Ildiko Kovacs, Sally Gabori and Todd Hunter. A sumptuous room of colour and movement. Action/Abstraction it’s called, curated by Diane Mangan.

I was completely enthralled by Aida Tomescu as she spoke with clarity and conviction about the content, as distinct from the subject, in painting. No matter what the suject, and it may be indiscernible, as in abstraction, the content is what matters. She spoke about the unified nature of painting, about it’s own life, and we the nuturers of that life. It requires that paradoxical state (as does all creative work) of intelligent engagement and intuitive detachment.

Although these ideas are familiar to me, I was moved, and told her so as we spoke afterwards, and she said I need to read Flaubert.

This idea of the work being something other than me has always felt like a great relief. It depends on me only to draw it out, and then to let it be, for others to engage with.
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Paint like a child

February 22, 2012

Recently I was invited, along with 4 other artists, to be part of an exhibition of works inspired by our children’s art, which would also be exhibited in the show. A fabulous project called A Child Could Have Done It.

The best part was remembering how children just draw or paint or make without worrying about the result ahead of time, and emulating that. So much fun.

Here is a painting by my son Tom just before he turned 5. It made me remember how he’d climb up onto the carport roof to watch the sun go down.

Gently comes the night

With veils of day soaked in dreams

As behind blinded windows we retreat,

But for children and the like.

 

She will wrap surprised creatures

In hues that unfold and hover

Like maids-in-waiting, then lightly

Drape the world in peaceful dark

Studio space

August 6, 2011

The year I moved into this house I spent hours and hours out in the shed making paintings.

Pouring house paint of every description (as long as it was from the mistint shelf or remnants hidden away in sheds) I felt like an alchemist, letting the particular nature of one paint or varnish do it’s thing with another. Water-based, oil, enamel, shellac, bitumen, gritty paving paint, whatever I could find.

The neutrality or lairiness of these would-be discards took me into new colour territory, a challenge I heartily accepted. But usually the bite or the light of my pallette of artist acrylics were called upon to redeem an otherwise dying canvas. It was all so much fun, and often a great mess.
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A work space influences the work produced. Upstairs now in my comfortable carpetted heated and cooled studio the work has become more careful, and smaller. The value of this chance to make gentle works on paper and quiet portraits, colour studies and window views has been immeasurable.

But a larger airy space is calling me.
Song 2

Yesterday soon after Margaret Olley left this world a baby girl named Beatrix was born to friends of mine. I heard Margaret talk about the wheel of life, about giving and receiving and giving, and now I’m thinking about the wheel of life and death and life.

Her house was one big still life, the inspiration for her many paintings. Every now and then I paint a still life. It makes me still. Once I heard Donald Friend say that the best thing about a still life is that you can eat the subject when you’ve finished!
still life with caserole
This morning I watched a doco about James Castle, an American artist who drew every day of his life from 6 years of age. He drew with soot, spit and a stick onto found papers and card. An amazing collection of hundreds of drawings and objects made by a man who couldn’t hear and so was not distracted by the miriad noises that fill the world. His will is what made him great. His choice to make art, without the clutter of doubt. (He also had a family who supported him, but don’t let that stop the rest of us!)

Perhaps Margaret had that clarity too. Just make the work. A ribbon around 60 years worth of artworks and a new babe in the world.

aiden july 10

The reason for my good fortune yesterday was the opening of an exhibition of paintings by 4 artists/friends who went to central Australia a while back for a workshop with Elisabeth Cummings. (At the time I didn’t want to hear their stories because I was so jealous.) This morning was the artist talk, and what fun it was. Generous and funny. The images seemed to glow off the walls. Not everything can be expressed in words.
dusk
It felt good to hear other painters talk of the ‘wonderful anguish’ that painting causes; discovering what the work is about along the way or right at the end of the making; emmersing oneself in the world and then returning to the studio to begin who knows what? We fumble and fidget and hope for a moment of flow, and when it happens we wonder where it came from.
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Gathering drawings and paintings from a place is a way of understanding and later remembering some small truth about that place. Time and attention. I found a few drawings from my travels –  in the Grampians after the fires, and up north on the crater rim around Mount Warning.
Pinnacles Mt Warning

A question of distance

November 8, 2010

I’ve been crumpling used envelopes. Crumpling and straightening out, crumpling and straightening out again. Some with a crackling window and some without, and my name and address in a neat or florid hand. I think of Mum and of my dear friend Olive long ago passed away, and of the many letters by many people, sent to me.

And through this filter of words on paper, the thought that stays is DISTANCE – the space between the writer and the recipient. I’ve always lived far away from people and places I love. And then there’s migration – a whole other level of distance, and again I think of my parents.

When I left Gippsland many years ago, I missed green.

Gippsland1980

So here’s my question to you – What do you miss when you’re far away? I would really like to know. It will grace one of my envelopes, and join over voices. A song of longings.