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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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.

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.

Filter

April 21, 2010

Having returned a few days ago from my trip to Melbourne and Gippsland feeling satisfied with the many short visits I made to family and friends, I lay down with a migraine. It crept up on me after the long hours of driving and the long hours of email catchup the next day.

A few years ago I discovered that if a migraine isn’t too severe, the only thing I can do to use some of the many unproductive hours is draw. I set myself up in a dark room, paper and materials at my fingertips. With eyes closed I begin making marks with movements that cause me the least pain. Sometimes the drawing becomes a frustrated explosion of coloured crayon, but mostly they are quiet odes to pain, but not to suffering.

migraine4Dad was a migraine sufferer. We often had to creep around the house, just as my children have so graciously done for me.

migraine5It’s a complex business. Stress, diet, hormones, sleep, coffee, air pressure, genetics, posture. Many years ago when alternative medicine was rare here, Dad found a doctor who taught him self-hypnosis, to help manage his stress levels. I remember his gratitude for a little help. It was a kind of filter, a thin shield between heart and life.