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These creative musings have moved to Wordpress
Please come along to continue the journey
It's scary to be lost. Well, most of the time. It's different when you get lost by choice in a vibrant big world city and stumble in the process on the most exhilarating treasures. Like a secluded little courtyard in the overwhelming megacity of New Delhi, a private little community with a huge old ficus in the centre, a dusty cow, a few chickens and a handful of naked children staring at you wild-eyed. Their small world...
What do you think about sculptures that last only a short time?
This burnt manuscript paper (sheet music) has some gorgeously sculptural forms but will fall to ashes as soon as it is touched. Still, it has all the qualities of a sculpture in that a material has been made into a dimensional form which occupies space. it is strong enough to tough and move and put on a plinth in a gallery.
I've been thinking a lot recently about the perceived value of things in general and art in particular, and how wasteful
Flying diagonally across Australia on my way to India revealed some harshly beautiful landscapes, many of them quite abstract in their other-worldliness. I wasn't in the best position to take photos, the plane's window acting like a slightly blurry filter, but I wanted to share my intrigue anyway. Some of the land forms I as able to identify, but many jut remain enigmas of the never-never. The biggest treasure- seeing the Aussie icon Ayers Rock from the sky! I cross-checked with maps later to find that those places that seemed so abstract and wondrous from altitude 10,000m do in fact exist, with names and eco-systems and history to their credit. This country remains fascinating from any possible angle. Enjoy!
There`s a young magpie that frequently comes for a bath and a shower in our garden. If you`ve ever watched a bird bath on a summery day, you`ll know with how much abandon they enjoy it! Often when I water the plants, he`d come right down into the spray and put up the most pleasurable water show, with me as the only, fascinated spectator. It always reminds me how much joy there can be in small moments and seemingly mundane things.
We get so caught up in the practicalities of life, and it is easy to trade joy for stress and worry, while all around us are treasure chests of opportunity to love and enjoy life, in the midst of responsibility and reality. We make our own happiness. We are responsible for our state of heart and mind, which determines our state of life in a major way. We can choose to nurture the uncomplicated wonder and the enthusiasm we had as kids.
Yesterday afternoon on our run we got caught in an unexpected and heavy summer downpour. We were soaked but laughing like children and stomping with both feet in puddles to create huge splashes over our already drenched running shoes. What fun! I think we`re onto something...and I want more of that this year.
May each one of us delight in the people in our lives, every one broken as we are, but with their realities interwoven with ours on this amazing journey. May we find small adventure in the unexpected and the overlooked, in work and fitness and healthy living, in art and nature, colour and light. May we live this year with open hearts, and delight in life.
Happy new year!
You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills shall burst into song before you, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands- Is 55:12
We are now totally stress-free...or are we?
Baking holiday cookies
Who cares if it's not quite holiday yet? Who cares if there is never enough time to slow down? We all need hope! We all need sugar (I don't care what they say)! And we all need to stop, relax, and have something sweet to go with a glass of milk before bed.
When I was a little girl no holiday would ever happen without a phase of feverish cooking-baking to fill the tins. We used to go into the tropical forests of the North Coast, far away from any shops and supermarkets, and had to stock up on essential resources like fishing equipment, bug repellent and cookies, more or less in that order of importance. No shop-bought cookie could of course be quite meet the standards. Home-baked oats crunchies would be chewier and shortbread more decadent, and no shop could ever match that homely aroma...there's just no comparison to freshly-baked treats!
When my kids were young we continued the holiday baking tradition, even if we stayed home. What, indeed would one DO if friends came over unexpectedly and there were no cookies in the house to serve with coffee? And what would one feed the troop of kids that played together every long summer afternoon and scavenged for treats from house to house? Cookies of course. And krispie treats and other simple, home-made treasures of homeliness and comfort.
So when times are rough and there's little time for recovery in between the demands of pre-holiday life, we'll just trick ourselves into getting a little bit of that holiday atmosphere...relaxing a bit, remembering that it's all not so serious after all...and whip up a few trays of domestic bliss.
Road trip therapy
I always think that the greatest privilege in life is to have options. And there`s a lot of options if one needs a bit of down-time. I like cooking interesting things, I can enjoy the occasional shopping spree, especially if it is for art materials or books or exotic spices. I love reading and writing and going for hikes and taking good photos. But I keep thinking that there's probably nothing that energises me more than a good old road trip. My favourite music playing loudly, wind in my hair...the ultimate freedom!
I have always dreamed of travel, exploring and discovery. A road trip is a mini version of all of these, satisfying the need for adventure without spending a small fortune and without any serious disruption in normal routine. It is a blast of fresh air after (or occasinally even during) a busy week, and I believe that seeing new things keeps our minds and attitudes fresh and open. It builds new neural pathways, the clever people say. It helps us be adaptable and empathic, because we notice that there are other worlds outside of our own little realms, places and things we don`t know.
Back in Cape Town we once took the day off on my birthday, while I was stydying foran intense yoga instructor course and taking a bit of strain, and just went for a drive, discovering new roads and places we have somehow failed to notice before. It was like a mini holiday, making new tracks amongst the vineyards and towering mountains of the Western Cape. It gives me a profound sense of satisfaction to drive a new road, and leave imaginary footprints in previously unknown locations, so as an example of what I regard as exceptionally energising, this was one of the best treats ever.
Road trips can also take the shape of more significant journeys of course, and it feels good to know that I have made footprints in many different countries, in palaces and cathedrals, in villages and slums, in deserts and rain forests, and into some of the biggest mountain ranges of the world. I treasure that on those journeys many people have touched my life, and made it so much more than a bit of travel.
But on an everyday life basis, there`s something recklessly exhilarating about changing the routine and driving a new route to the same place- the school, the shops...getting on the first reandom bus and waiting a bit nervously to see where it takes you...taking your packed lunch out to make an impromptu picnic next to a pond...getting the wheels on a bit of dirt road...these are the small choices that magically make an ordinary day one to remember, and a stessful day into an adventure.
I look up to the mountains
I look up to the mountains.
Where will I get help?
My help comes from God, who made heaven and earth, and who made me. He understands how strangely and wonderfully I am wired and loves me for just who I am, even when I do not get it right. He is the energy source, the lightning bolt of understanding, the Spirit who gives life and the ability to rise above all the hurts in this world.
I have seen his miracles! He protects me and those around me because He loves me. He can heal my marriage. He can save my child from depression and destruction. He gives me hope, that even in the darkest of days there is Someone bigger than all of this, able to make even bad things work out for the best. He gives me hope that after this life with all its agony and ecstasy, the best is still to come.
It is this transcendent connection that is my greatest weapon against worry and stress, and if I do not tap into that power supply every day, I do not cope. I lose my sense of identity and purpose, and the comforting presence of the Spirit, but with Him I am a warrior, an overcomer, the liver of a full life.
I look up to the mountains.
I know where my help comes from.
Taking a run
For me, nothing beats the freedom of the open air. I love the crags and cliffs of the mountains of the Western Cape, and to be high up there far from human noise. I love the open horizon of the ocean and the taste of the salty air. Here in Canberra we have been blessed to live very close to Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve, where I've done more runs and walks and cycles than I could ever count. It is an easy escape from city life, cars and the big rush. I've encountered countless echidnas, shinglebacks and bearded dragons, bush wallabies, nesting kookaburras and interesting mushrooms, and more often than not, no people.
It had been raining for what seemed like months, the days were short and freezing. But today the sun is shining. Today I put on my running shoes and made my way toward the reserve, loving the warmth on my winter shoulders, the promising stillness in the air, and the rhythm of my shoes hitting the trail. Today the tension just melted away, leaving me refreshed and determined.
Sleep, oh sweetest thing
I've known for a long time that I don`t do well without enough sleep. I get irritable and cranky, frankly I tend toward depression. Thankfully I know this now and have learned to manage it. Of course in high-stress phases it is much harder, and also if you tend to be a serious night owl who are much better at working late into the night than getting up in the morning.
It`s interesting how the most satisfying, worth- while and memorable times are those that require massive amounts of our time, energy and late nights. Like being in the army, like having a baby, and like studying.
So what a relief when an `independent study` day this week allowed me to work from home! I could sleep two hours later, the exact two hours I would usually spend on the bus, and work in my PJ's until 12. And the unusually late winter weather made it especially cozy and satisfying! I also got more work done than I would have at school, making it an productive and reassuring day. The best stress-buster is of course not only sleep but mainly to do the work!
I know it`s mostly not possible to sleep in, as a matter of fact I have done more all-nighters this year than ever before (or maybe army might win with a hair width here). But new research is showing more benefits to sleep than we may ever have known, and I am shifting from regarding it as a waste of time to a treasured opportunity for recovery and reboot.
One day, when my kids are grown and I`m a student no longer, I`ll follow my natural inclination to paint until 3am and sleep until 10, but for now, a good, standard sleep routine is a sanity-saving grace.
A lunch-time walk
It's interesting how much energy is released when one decides to 'seize the day' more deliberately for a while. It is as if opportunities pop up from all around, and you see the world through a clearer, more appreciative lens. It's interesting too how content we become with the assumption that there will be a tomorrow. And how dull our lives can become all by our own choice. I do not wish to get a death sentence to start living fully, I do not want to wait until the circumstances are perfect, I want to enjoy my life right through the choices that I make, and also through the unplanned events that life hands out. We are so blessed to have options, to be able to travel and choose our jobs and raise our kids outside of the desperation that the biggest part of the world call home. Maybe we need to see real poverty before we realise how fortunate we are. Often we actually have to loose something to really appreciate it. Or we can just start looking at the world with new eyes, and seek out the adventures and opportunities hiding in profusion in the mundane everyday routine.
Anyone will tell you of course that exercise and fresh air is important for stress relief, so it was natural to think about taking a walk. How and when and with who also plays important roles in this activity, but without planning too much (which can often result in terminating an idea altogether!), I decided a lunchtime walk along the scenic shores of Lake Burley Griffin is a must-do. Our school is close by and we should have done this much more often. I love taking new roads, routes and paths. It is like a mini holiday for me, an adventure of discovery and insight. Since doing another walk there a while ago, I decided to go a different way and walk a new, unknown route to get there, guided by my friend and walking partner for today, Jie-lian. How this changed my perceptions! I saw corners and places that I've been walking and driving past for years, but never realised that it was there. We skirted the recently closed Floriade grounds, with loads of flowers still as evidence of this major event, and with the warm summery smell of pine needles trapped among the trees.
There was a cold and almost gale-force wind blowing when we reached the lake, turning it into more of a sea, but we stayed mostly along the wind-off side and made a good brisk walk with the Carillon chiming out the quarters. Fresh air breathed deep into the lungs, blood rushing through our minds and limbs, sun on our faces and beautiful open scenery, with blue mountains as a backdrop...what a winning combination for stress-busting!
Do you need to take a walk?
When I got back from my recent study trip to Indonesia, my beloved other half got me a welcome back present of a leather flight helmet and goggles... a great bit of steampunk fun! I love it so much that I've been wearing it almost non-stop at home, it was really cozy and fluffy and particularly suitable for the freezing extension of winter we've been having. But wearing it out takes a bit more courage.
I have always loved dressing up, it feels like you can live all your imaginary lives or relive a happy childhood just by putting on a few pieces of strange clothing. I love such easy fixes. Or at least, it works for me! I don't need shoe shopping or a new mascara, just a browse through a costume shop would do it.
This week I am wearing my flight helmet to school. I'm not waiting for an invite to do what I love, I'm not waiting for others to live their dreams. I'm not particularly interested in what people might think or say. I just like the instant feeling of brave I get when walking out the door in a strange hat. It might also be a gentle reminder that what you see is often not what you get, no matter how transparent you think you are. We are all much more than what we seem, we are too complex and multifaceted to be labelled and limited and judged. So wear your strange hats people!
For art, for energy, for life
The end of this amazing year of full-time art studies is nearing its end. Although I am enjoying it immensely, a steady tension has been rising as our assignment pressures builds up steam toward the final projects. I am feeling slightly stressed (as in having heart flutters and recurrent, unresolved dreams of projects and exhibitions, as artists do of course :) and have decided that this is no way to enjoy the last weeks here. I need a plan of action, a strategy, some marching orders to help break the fatigue and defuse the stress bomb that is threatening to cause serious damage, inhibit my intuition and ability to discern and make important decisions (like weather should enroll in further studies next year...am I crazy?).
I have found few things as effective for relieving life's seriousness as changing the routine a bit. So I have decided that this week I will do things that I've been putting off, things that scare me, and things I won't be able to do after I leave here. I'll be ticking off lists and revive the joy and the enthusiasm we were meant to live with.
What would your seize the week look like? Let me know!
Seize the day, seize the week!
For art, for energy, for life.
I have been to M16 Artspace in Griffith, ACT many times over the last years and have seen only one or two studios open, but I was always keen to see more and meet the people who worked and practiced their art there. So having artist (and gallery) visits on the to-do list for a study unit gave me a good reason to do so. I only arrived at their annual open day after two on the Saturday afternoon, and if I knew how open and welcoming the artists would be, I'd have gone earlier.
The purpose of this entry is 1. write a report about my visit as documentation for my study unit, and 2. to record some personal notes for future reference to the artists and work I saw, things that will help me remember them and the notable things we discussed. Two or three of the artists have done pre and post-grad studies at ANU, all were extremely positive in talking about their experience, one saying I will definitely have no regrets if I studied there (not that anyone can guarantee anything like that of course, but I understand what she meant). They were
You're not the only one to wish you could make art but too scared to try! Many people are just as scared, but if you think about it...what's the worst that can happen? It could be a little messy...it could even be...fun! Here is an exhilaratingly easy project that will help restore your faith in your artistic abilities.
Be openminded! If something unexpected happens, go with it, you may discover your own unique approach. Please let me know if you take the plunge and how your attempt goes.
If you're an artist (at least an idealistic one like me) every piece of furniture and equipment has to contribute to the general aesthetic of the studio space, or at least stored away from sight. I needed a bigger surface for my teaching and work space, and found this beautiful old turned leg table at our local Green Shed, where second hand everything is resold at next to nothing. I did indeed pay only $50 for it, but it was easy to see that underneath the rather sad varnish, was a quality table waiting to be rescued. And so I did!
It was during a busy part of the school term. I used it as it was for a while (covering it up as much as is possible, but the art kids didn't even seem to notice that the table didn't really fit the otherwise light and airy studio) and waited for summer holidays to tackle the project. Not very inviting, the thought of a big sanding job, being outside in wind and weather, getting sawdust in nostrils and hair...but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, so we carried it outside and I collected my tools.
The caption on each photo will run you through the process, but all in all it took about two full days to complete the preparation and paint finish. Now this old boy is again a piece to be proud of, and a reliable, attractive essential in my studio and teaching space
I have been thinking of making these arches for years, after being inspired by an artwork I saw back in South Africa. The work was built up to create depth, with lights cleverly hidden somewhere in the background that gave the work an atmospheric presence.
This is a short documentation of my own attempt with a slightly different approach. I used pics I took in the beautiful cloisters of the Palais des Papes in Avignon because of their awe-inspiring size and the way light streamed through the meticulously carved arches. The three layers of my work will create depth of perspective and right at the back, a strip of minute lights will hopefully bring a sense of celestial mystery. Enjoy!
Exploring the use of a variety of mediums and substrates
(Optional: This blog could be viewed with the backup of a box with of some of the hard-copy drawings and my class journal)
I like doing lots of pencil drawing so this challenge was indeed for me to get away from the standard type of drawings and re the brief, explore different and non-art materials in mark-making.
I found it really difficult to take a drawing seriously if I did not approach it with lots of detail in mind, so this created a bit of tension. It was freeing though to just be able to play and see what happens, and a few unsuccessful attempts were discarded in the process. I did not do it in sequence but randomly at first and later filled in the ones I still needed.
I would not by all means say that this is my best work, but if we were supposed to explore and have fun with experimental mark-making, I did indeed.
The time constraint (especially combined with our other subjects' work load) made it really difficult for me, I like to spend more time planning and executing, but see the value in working within limitations. It forces a different way of thinking and that again brings ideas that would not have been otherwise.
Digital self-portrait on the bus, drawn with a simple default note-writing app on mobile phone. This the first time I ever used this app. One can make a selection of different drawing tools and choose the thickness of line and density of colour, which allowed unexpected transparency and layering of 'washes'. This is on-the-spot drawing with little allowance for correction, as the eraser tool erases colour too and colouring over already coloured areas results in darker shades, making colour matching impossible. The little control over the exact point where the line would start makes precision in continuing an erased line difficult. But in general, fun and freeing
We went camping and I took a random assortment of materials along to work on the challenge. Some other campers were fishing and I thought a fish could be good for making a stamp with some graphic patterning. I did the drawing layout with a black liner and cut the design with lino tools. I always forget that the print will be the reverse of the original, and were mildly surprised at the printed fish looking the other way. The coloured ink pads gave an interesting 'under-water' look but smoother paper in stead of slightly textured art journal paper would probably give a more even print
In this quiet place two lanes of eucalypt reach up in reverent pillars. High above, the arched canopy guides our syncopated footsteps toward moonlit clearings. It is our pilgrimage path of laughter and tears, this natural archway with stars pinned to it like diamonds, here where city and nature meet. This is where we face life with its glories and challenges, where we sweat out the hurt, the anger and the pain, and soar on the joys. This path that follows historic tracks and resonates with untold stories, is also criss-crossed by nocturnal life in all planes... there is the contant rustling and bouncing of little white flags as rabbits scurry away to their warrens, the phantom frames of grazing kangaroos startled by our appearance out of the dark, swaying slightly delayed into more rapid retreating motion...the croaky call of a possum to its mate up in the fragrant foliage, and the invisible growth of mysterious mycelia that will, with the right amount of rain, produce a treat of wild mushrooms in the morning.
How precious are these sacred evenings, how beautiful our journey through life with its triumphs and its torments, with dark and light, night and day, drought and rain, all producing growth and fruit, more understanding, more authenticity...and so we run, and we run again
I have been wanting to make more wings for use on cards and 3D mixed media creations, so out of the shelf came the lovely book Taking Flight that first taught me this technique, and after an hour or two of bending, cutting, glueing and painting, I had 8 brand new sets, wired and distressed and ready to use. I'll show a few pics of the easy and fun process, and some of the cards and gifts I decorated with them. I hope it will inspire you to make some of these versatile wings , and if you do please let me know about it!
Some of the things that 'just happened ' with the wings...
I remember when painting with watercolours started to make sense to me. It used to be a frustration and just short of a disaster, until one day it just clicked, when I realised I had to relax and stop controlling it, allow the paint do what it wants. Watercolour is a contradiction in itself- it both defies and favors the perfectionist. It still takes a lot of good planning before the actual painting starts, but then it is a little like colour-by-number, deciding which colours are the lightest and painting them first, then visually considering and identifying the nature of each particular tone and layering them on...like gossamer silks floating on each other. I used to thrive on highly detailed and realistic pencil drawings of Paris scenes and commissioned portraits, and for a long time I have enjoyed the totally opposite freedom and forgiving nature of acrylics and lighthearted mixed media work. But I have now been challenged into doing some 'serious' work again by a gallery specialising in framed works rather than canvas. The hardest part is always deciding what to paint, to pick a theme, a body of work that would be my focus for a while. Although the gallery is well-reputed, which is why I'm keen to get involved, it is slightly old-school and features a lot of botanical art. After conformingly staring at some of my flower photographs for hours and just not getting myself so far as to paint them, I remembered that I have always wanted to do something with the pics of old buildings I love to snap wherever we travel. So out came the charming old hotel in Gundaroo, a little stone church in Bungendore, and a whole list started lining up in my mind, so I started drawing and painting, and it just happily flowed from my hand. At last! I got my theme.
It's often difficult for me to decide if I need to accept a new challenge or opportunity, or if it is just diverting me from more important goals. In this case, after initial resistance, I found it a pleasure to change to a different medium and style again, refreshing to rediscover old skills and build upon them, to see how my ventures with other media have influenced and perhaps even improved my approach. So here is a photo sequence of the said hotel in progress and the end result, just to show that doing watercolours isn't rocket science. It is watery washes increasing in colour strength and decreasing in surface area. I have long been thinking about painting old buildings and churches of pictures taken back in South Africa, in Europe and here in Australia. The time has come. Bring it on! I just didn't think my body of work would be in watercolours, but that's the mystery of art.
A composition in a quiet corner of my art room...a photograph of my son, taken on a lazy mothers' day picnic down in the Tidbinbilla valley, with beautiful mountains surrounding us, him jumping over and over to get the shot just right (it was his idea, this creative pose)...there is a plaster of paris hand casting from a class I did with my art students a few years back, my 'toy' anvil for which I drove all the way to Thirroul, NSW, very functional for small craft jobs in the studio but a wee baby compared to my real working anvils, I fell in love with its diminutive size and elegant shape...there are some gesso brushes in an old favourite, but broken and partially repaired coffee mug, of which the whimsical girly design was instrumental in stimulating my recent Lulu series into development. You never know where inspiration will come from!
Coming to think of it- it's such a happy feeling to be able to say I've been teaching art for a few years already, it has been a dream come true and I still enjoy learning more and more as I teach. It's a great joy to hear others say that they've been inspired by my classes, it's a great joy seeing others coming into their full potential. Art is doing its job well!
We might move house soon, and then I'll have new corners like this to decorate, and as things are taken from boxes in random order, so new arrangements will make magic together. I'm listening to the gypsy music of Circa Paleo in the background as I'm working today and just realised that this particular moment won't last. I get sidetracked so easily, it is crucial that I discipline myself to stick to a chosen theme or body of work, to make the most of every hour.
I read something that really resonated with me this week:
'The hours that ordinary people waste, extraordinary people leverage'
I hope you'll be inspired to do something extraordinary with your time this week, it may be as simple as decorating a corner on a shelf with things that inspire you. Mobilise toward your dream! One step at a time.
'Instead of staying clear of your fears, face them. Sit with them for a while. Ask them questions. And ask yourself what you're afraid of, what's holding you back. Write it all down in a journal.
Then, make a list of affirmations, or direct responses to each of your fears.
The next step is to take action, one small step after another'
-excerpts from Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts, a book that has helped me along my own journey of creatively becoming more me. Let this help you take your first steps toward your dream. If it did, I'd love to hear about it!
Yellow wattle with your sun-filled powder-puffs
despised on strange shores where you mercilessly mutate
and suck dry precious soils
celebrated on coats of arms
bright and singular amongst the eucalypts
bringer of spring
first of all the plants to show:
warmer days are coming!
I'm so happy to announce my next art show and invite you to attend the opening event
Contact me for more details