This drawing comes from a tiny thumbnail sketch in one of my visual diaries. The thumbnail was done so long ago that I can't remember if it was an original idea or if it's something I saw somewhere, liked and jotted down. But since this was what I felt like drawing today - I like the asymetrical rays - I did so anyway, mine or not :)
I was thinking this morning about life and how I got to where I am. Deep, huh? Where I am is a pretty good place. How many of my choices led me here? How many events that weren't my choice led me here? Plus last night I was reading a blog, Crazy Aunt Purl (http://www.crazyauntpurl.com/) and her entry about not dieting anymore struck a very loud chord.
When I left high school at the tender age of 18 (and believe me, I was tender! Very much under-done) I started a Graphic Design course. I was very self-conscious of my weight, and incredibly shy - I suspect there are people from that era of my life who never heard me say more than two words in their entire acquaintance with me. I had ambivalent feelings about graphic design; I wanted to study fine art but had been persuaded/influenced into the more practical course, ie. the one with an actual job outcome other than "artist". Yes, my choice and the best one I could make at the time, but in hindsight (or perhaps, being stronger and knowing myself so much better now) it was likely the wrong one. I'd been in the Graphic Design school for barely a month when one of the lecturers took me aside and told me, bluntly, that I would NEVER get a job in the field because no one would hire a fat girl. I was horrified. Mortified.
Now, I'd been talented enough to get good marks for Art in high school, and talented enough to pass the interview, folio presentation and practical drawing test (here, sit in a huge room full of other anxious applicants on a stinking hot day, here's a pencil and an eraser, now draw this - my "this" was a roller skate, could've been a shoe or a potted plant - you have one hour, go!) to get into the Graphic Design course, but of course none of that mattered. I had committed the sin of being fat, and therefore nothing I did was good enough.
I dropped the course that week. To this day I remember how awful that felt, though I can't recall the name of the lecturer who prompted my retreat (probably just as well! I'm still angry enough, and now confident enough, to track him down and give him the dressing down he deserved).
There were similar incidents down the years, until I finally refused to listen to all the negative talk about being fat. My weight is not relevant to who and what I am. I've stopped worrying about what people think about me. Actually, I've realized that most of the time they're not thinking about me at all, and even if they are, I don't CARE what they think! The only way I stopped gaining weight was to stop dieting (this is where CrazyAuntPurl came in), and I will never go on a diet again. I aim to eat healthily and exercise (yeah, still working on that one), but I will never again get back on the crazy merry-go-round that is weight loss dieting. It's futile.
Which brings me back to all the events that brought me to this point: late forties and back in school, studying art. If that lecturer hadn't sent me running, where might I be now? I doubt that I'd have the ideas and the enthusiasm and the passion for art that I have right now. I know that at eighteen I could never have thrown myself into it with the disregard for outcome and do it for the pure enjoyment that I do now. I just didn't have the life experience or the confidence, or even all the years of drawing experience I now bring to it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: Here is a good place to be and I like who I am :)
Australia Day holiday today (even though the actual day was Saturday, the 26th), though as I'm already on holiday it hasn't made any difference to me! But the street has been very quiet, which is nice; for a suburban street, this one seems to get more than it's fair share of traffic hooning down the slope, despite the multiple speed bumps. I don't mind the traffic so much, but the cars with the super-loud doof-doof music broadcasting in the small hours get a bit wearing.
Spent an hour or so this afternoon doing some more cleaning up in the studio/spare room. Much better, though there is still a nasty corner of boxes lurking (lurking for so long I've forgotten what's in them). Probably mostly stuff heading for ebay at some point when I get my act together and photograph it. I still have to tackle the ginormous pile of drawings from last year's classes. I'm torn about tossing any of it. Well, some of the one and two minute life drawings can be recycled into something else (quite happily!), but I'll either need to find a way of storing the rest or throw some out. Most of the drawings are A1 size, so HUGE. I thought about under the bed, but I suspect a cat or two would have heap big fun with that - Bel adores paper, when she was a kitten every piece of paper or cardboard in the house had perforated corners from sharp little teeth.
Just over a week till classes start again. I've enjoyed the break but I'm looking forward to getting back into learning mode. I've missed the interaction with fellow students and the teachers. That's one of the best things about going back to art study: having people who speak the same "language". And the constant stimulation of having others' feedback on what I'm doing, plus getting ideas from what other people are creating. I find I'm constantly thinking "Oooh, that's cool, let's try that" - things I would never have thought of doing but that work really well, and that I then extend further. I have a little visual diary with me at all times to scribble down ideas that strike me (if I don't write 'em down, my mental filing cabinet tends to lose them).
For some reason, every day my fingers type "drawying" :)
Today I've been reading "Not Just A Suburban Boy", a biography (of sorts) of the artist Howard Arkley. Arkley was a local artist, local not just in the Melbourne sense but also in that he spent the last few years of his life living in Oakleigh, which is where I live. He also taught for a while in the late '80s at Moorabbin, where I attend classes. I knew of him before I began studying last year, but in a peripheral way. Early in the year we went to a major exhibition of his at the National Gallery of Victoria as a class, and seeing his paintings and furniture en masse - I don't know how to describe it except to say that I was blown away. The colours, the patterns, the flat surfaces, the airbrushed black lines: made me go "ooooohhh!". There was a (very expensive) book associated with the exhibition that I plan to look for in the library - if they don't have it, they should, simply for the local association and I'll request they buy it - and an earlier one, "Spray", I think, on his art, too. Reading the biography has reminded me to go look for the other two books - meant to last year but got caught up in homework, classwork and eking a living off ebay :)
Here's a couple of links to the Arkley exhibition I went to: http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/arkley/ http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/arkley/education/index.html
Took a trip to the public library to change my books (read the eight I borrowed two weeks ago!) and remembered to take the camera this time. I've been wanting a photo of the window below. I want to work it into a drawing using the eucalyptus oil transfer technique I learned last semester (when I do, I'll blog it). The window is on one of the church buildings in the same strip as the library. Oh, and I have a new pile of reading material, which makes me unreasonably happy (a Buffy the Vampire Slayer I haven't read! O, sad and pathetic me...)
Then I wandered over the road to Pioneer Park, which used to be the cemetery. The gravestone decorations (if that's the right word - embellishments, maybe?) and railings have graphic possibilities for drawing and printmaking.
Not sure what happened to damage this headstone so severely, perhaps vandals. The cracks interest me. I took quite a few photos to work on later, and I found a big glossy black feather (crow, I think) to add to my collection. Not sure what I'm going to do with them, but every time I see a feather I pick up.
Yesterday I laid out all sixteen (well, seventeen, given the doubling the other day, but sixteen days' worth. I'm not sure I put that apostrophe in the right spot - it looks wrong whichever way I do it) drawings together. Hmmm, looks impressive. I'll have to figure out a way of displaying them all together somehow, when I finally grind to a halt. So far, though, I haven't been tempted to miss a day; I'm enjoying the exercise. It would be kinda cool to keep going for a year but I'm not making any promises, even to myself!
In my cleaning up tizz the other day, I moved two of my school sculptures (from just inside the front door, where they have reposed since the November day I hauled them home, a toe stubbing accident waiting to happen): a heavy plaster piece using negative/positive space (hard! my brain didn't want to think in three dimensions, particularly when those three dimensions were described in clay hidden inside plaster) and a hebel cement orca carved after the style of the (americas) Pacific Northwest culture (I say 'after the style' because, believe me, none of the native artists would recognise this!).
Handling them again reminded me of my joyful surprise at discovering how much I love sculpture. I always thought I wanted to paint, and my spectacular lack of success in producing paintings with which I was pleased was due to my ineptitude with the medium. I suspect now that the problem was more that I was trying to force my ideas in the wrong direction. I'd never really attempted sculpture until late last year when a concept for a soft sculpture took my imagination by storm and I worked on it feverishly for hours till it was done:
Ibis form (fabric, yarn, ribbon over paper and wire core)
Then when I took sculpture as one of my course electives last year, I found I had a major passion for it. I LOVED every moment of it, from card maquettes to clay (ooh, so tactile!) to wood to plaster to hebel. Loved it way more than painting, at which I kind of suck (unless I can use 3D stuff in the painting, in which case it rather crosses the line to multi-media). Working on a sculpture sends me into some sort of altered state, the semi-trance that some artists talk about. Perhaps it's that left brain versus right brain thing, but whatever it is, it's better than almost anything else I know. Almost better than sex!
On reflection, perhaps it shouldn't have come as such a surprise, this utter infatuation with sculpture. I've always loved textiles, yarn, thread, paper, hoarded stuff: boxes, bits of foam, timber scraps, anything that caught my bower bird's eye (the garage is full of it, some day soon I must sort it out. Probably it's a fire hazard...). Always enjoyed working with my hands, sewing, making hats and bags, attempting to make shoes (not one of my finer moments - the swearing was outrageous), creating cards and giftboxes, beading, making anything. Painting, well I WANTED to paint, tried hard to paint, but messing about with two dimensions was never half as satisfying as creating something in the round.
Went on a clearing up tizz on the weekend, and finally tackled The Box of Tricks, the tool box that I cart to school to carry all my art supplies (well, most of 'em, sometimes I need a supplemental bag for extra paints or printing stuff!). It's been sitting, mostly, since I finished classes in November, except for the numerous times I've rummaged about in its guts for paint/pencils/tape/charcoal/etc to work on my own non-school art. It was a big mess:
Box of Tricks before
Box of Tricks interior before
So I dragged everything out of it: charcoal, scalpels, pastels (several boxes), pencils, erasers, pens, graphite, pencil case, apron, palette (white lid off an icecream container - works just as well as a proper boughten palette!), gluesticks, compressed charcoal, palette knife, at least a dozen tubes of acrylic paint, conte crayons, ruler, water jar, paper tape, masking tape, brush roll, paint rag, no-name hairspray (the cheapest I can find - works just as well as spray fixative, at about a quarter of the price but it is rather stinkier), paper stumps and a bit of sandpaper to clean them, scissors, bottle of black ink, sticky tape, film canister for water, butterfly clips, dust mask, unorthodox painting tools (alfoil, cotton buds, metal scourer, feathers, chopsticks, sponges, cotton balls). Yep, I need all that, sometimes more :) There was the interesting week we did life drawings with canola oil, soy sauce, curry powder and worcester sauce...
Wiped all the surfaces down, shook the empty box outside - a veritable rain of charcoal shards, pencil/pastel dust, bits of paper dust. Ew! Fetched another pencil case and a couple of little boxes to rehouse some pastels and began to jigsaw it all back in.
Box of Tricks after
Box of Tricks interior after
I managed to put everything back in, much neater than before, and made a list of stuff I need to restock. Mostly charcoal and various shades of paint, plus fixative. And I separated the pencils into another case from the ink/marker pens and erasers, so it should stay a lot cleaner. I hope.
I wish The Box of Tricks were like the Tardis, larger inside than outside, because there's still a large container of white and another of black paint that won't fit. Don't want to get a larger box, it's heavy enough as is. Ah well, back to the extra bag, I guess :)
Drew the above, then an idea about drawing the breeze popped into my head as I was working on the curvy lines and I had to work it out then and there (it's not quite what I envisaged, but the concept is there and it provides a more than mental note to rework in some other way later), so drawing day fifteen b:
Drawing day fifteen b
Then I made myself stop. A client contacted me via my ebay auctions and commissioned five skirts, so I'm a sewing production line :)
Took a trip into the centre of the city today. We visited the RMIT Art Gallery, which is presenting an exhibition called "Echoes of Home: memory and mobility in recent Austral-Asian Art". An interesting group of pieces, incorporating knitted "canvases", textiles, found objects, ceramics and anodized metal. I particularly liked the found object sculpture in the form of a retablo, with images worked on crab shells and the "altar" arranged like a piano. I have a retablo idea percolating in the back of my mind.
Lots of people in the city. I don't do so well with crowds these days (not sure that I ever did well in them, but I've certainly become more anxious over the years), but it was okay. The variety of fashions fascinates me - from the ultra conservative to couture to urban/street style. Wonderful.
Wandered down Swanston Street from the train station opposite the State Library (I still call it Museum, even though the museum moved a long time ago) for lunch at Crossways, the Hare Krishna run restaurant. Rice, subti (like curry), poppadoms, halvah & custard, plus a drink for the princely sum of $5 - more than I can eat (but The Bloke finishes for me). I love the halvah & custard, always save room for their dessert :)
Back up the hill to Museum/Melbourne Central and a movie, I Am Legend. I enjoyed it up to almost the end, wasn't thrilled with the last fifteen minutes. I do have a weakness for Will Smith, though, so enjoyed the eye candy. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig, just before the peak hour crush began. A good day.
Spent an hour or so this afternoon collaging some magazine pictures and book pages onto drawing paper to work over in ink and pencil, once the glue dries (probably tomorrow). It's fun doing a little cut and paste, like being back in kindergarten :)
I also made a couple of skirts to list on ebay. I'm on a fabric diet, ie. no buying more fabric until I use most of my stash. I have bought little new since going back to school last February - two or three quarter metres of stuff I couldn't resist (skulls! in pink and red and multi! Or cats, black on pink! Mine! Mine!) - yet the towering pile of yardage in the "studio" is still threatening to topple over at regular intervals. I do have lots of scraps now, though - I plan to make tiered skirts, or sew some of the scraps into patchy yardage and work with that in either skirts or shirts. Fun!
Gratuitous cat photos:
Bel in the box: "Now you see me, now you don't..."
Bel in the hammock (a hotly contested position, one that can change ownership at the hint of a hiss or the slash of a wicked paw. Often the paw is black)
Hmm, bit doubtful about this drawing, but the theory is draw whatever, no pressure for any particular outcome, right? Are you listening, inner critic? (I suspect my inner critic has her hands over her ears and is singing "la, la, la, I can't hear you!")
This is my new super short haircut. The Bloke has been successfully cutting my hair for about eighteen months now; I've been cutting his for three or four years. The first time it was really, really short, too, much more so than I was expecting. Later haircuts have been less dramatic, but yesterday we reverted to the 'O-MY-GODDESS that's short!' style of 'do. Well, I did say "short", can't complain if I got what I asked for, and doesn't it show off my cowlick to perfection? It is lovely and cool in this warm weather. And IJH (It's Just Hair) and it will grow :) A couple of weeks and it will be a bit less shocking to look in the mirror first thing in the morning!
A quick and simple sketch today. This is a design I've had in my head for a while, thinking I might make a wire outline like this, replicate it several times, and hang them as a mobile. Or possibly a stabile, if I can figure out an appropriate stand/mount. I'm not sure if I want the features attached to the head at about the temple, or free hanging from the crown. I'm planning to use marbles for the pupils, perhaps wire wrapped in order to be suspension friendly. Guess I'll have to get the wire out and play in order to work out what I want, what I really really want :)
Still working on the linocut, but overdid it on Friday ("I'll just do this little bit, ooh, but look I've nearly finished with that area, I'll just keep going for a little while") and paid the price of screaming nerves.
I probably shouldn't have tackled the weeding in that state, but ripped back some of the jungly back yard in the beds around the clothesline. I did make a happy discovery under the weeds: the white tree dahlia planted by the fence is not dead or consumed by a myriad of snails, but is instead sporting two healthy looking shoots. It probably won't do much this year - it seems to take a full round of seasons for the tree dahlia to establish a good root system - but I'm hopeful it might flower next year. The purple/mauve ones I planted a few years back are thriving, taller than the fence (probably over 8ft tall) , thick stems (they're like bamboo, jointed) and lush green leaves. See some here: http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup/?id=1672744&refnum=339883 The garden is majorly overgrown and I plan to put in some serious gardening time before I go back to classes in three weeks. I meant to plant vegies, but it's getting a little late in the season for many.
This morning, The Bloke and I went to Dandenong Trash & Treasure Market. I hadn't intended to actually SPEND more than a couple of $$s, but an art folio with shoulder strap caught my eye - I've been looking for one smaller than the huge A1 size I have, for transporting prints and printmaking stuff - and at $10 as opposed to $40-50 for brand new A2 size, it was too good to leave :) It's a nice hard sided one, with a strong zip, pockets inside and binder clips to add plastic sleeves. Perfect!
Another hot one here in Melbourne - 41 degrees Celsius and a predicted overnight low of a tropical 30 degrees. My subconscious will be working overtime tonight at those temperatures. Mental note to self: put the dreamcatcher back on the bedpost (had to remove it the last warm night as it was clacking in the breeze from the fan and I had repeated dreams of killer emus tapping on the window).
Worked on my linocut and made my drawing-a-day this morning before it got too, too hot, though the temps climbed pretty rapidly. I used a silver highlight on the drawing to bring out the central "flower" as it was rather disappearing into the other blooms.
It got too warm after that to concentrate, so I made a trip to a local clearance grocery store that's closing this week and stocked up: four packed plastic bags for $26, not bad value! I do love a bargain. Most items were two for one, including a cereal I really like but at $5-6 a box don't often eat - four boxes for $4 was a coup. The past year on a student allowance has taught me to stretch a buck a looooooong way :)
Bel cat spent an hour this afternoon trying to inveigle me into letting her snooze under the polar fleece blanket that lives on the back of the armchair over summer and on my lap during winter. Since it was stinking hot, I refused to cooperate, but she tried very hard: walking over my shoulders and bust repeatedly, nudging my hands, mewing piteously, headbutting the blankie and mewing even more pathetically. To no avail. She had to be content with toasting her little black self in the sun coming through the window till she just about baked her brain and had to stagger back into the shade, puffing like a steam train. Pye spent the day stretched full length on successive patches of carpet, gettin up at intervals to totter a few steps to a slightly cooler patch and grumbling at me. They like warm, but today was way beyond optimum cat weather.
Spent most of today attending a funeral (a friend's father died), so not very productive. I did find time for a drawing this morning, though.
I'm finding this blog is renewing my interest in writing, too, as well as kicking starting the visual creative thing. Yes, I write, too, mostly short stories and poetry (though not so much poetry the last few years) and I have the first draft of a fantasy novel completed. I started editing and rewriting it, then had a couple of short stories rejected by a publisher and lost my mojo.
I think it's found its way home.
I dragged out the first draft of the novel and reread part of it. It needs a lot of work, but you know what, it ain't a total stinker. Perhaps I'll sit down and reread it in its entirety and start working on it again.
I had less trouble stopping at one drawing today :) Perhaps they're like Timtams, one is never enough but more than one isn't good for you.
Yesterday I worked on my linocut, but it's going to be a longer term project. It's about A3 size, so largish, and I have to pace myself or my carpal/cubital tunnel syndromes complain, loudly. Patience, grasshopper. I always want to get on and finish, NOW (did I mention the obsessive/compulsive tendencies?). Just one more section, ooh look at how it's going, just one more section...I get so entranced that hours can pass and suddenly it's 1a.m. I'm like that with everything: knitting, quilting, any form of art, even reading. Just one more chapter...
Speaking of chapters, I went to the library yesterday (and forgot the digital camera, which I'm trying to remember whenever I leave the house - there's a lovely round window in the church next to the library that I want a picture of, to work into a drawing) and borrowed a lovely selection of summer reading. Two of Kerry Greenwood's earlier Phryne mysteries, which, surprisingly, I hadn't read. Thought I'd seen all but the two most recent. Oooh, those books are like chocolate, I just can't put 'em down. I finished one this morning, over breakfast (okay, and extended breakfast with a second cup of coffee. Remember what I said about not being able to put Kerry Greenwoods down?). Loverly :) When (if) I ever have a few spare $$s, I'm going to buy the latest in her Corrinna the baker series, which I think I like even more than the Phryne ones. Oh, and I meant to save the other Phryne for last, but guess which one I started this afternoon?
Hmm, haven't quite figured out this blog yet. Tried to post the skirt I made and listed on Ebay today, but can't make the image appear where I want it. See next post
My attempt to kick start my art process seems to be working but the muse has brought along a less welcome friend: my obsessive-compulsive tendencies have joined her entourage.
I woke this morning keen to get drawing, scoffed down breakfast and scalded my tongue on my coffee in my anxiety to begin. The drawing went well, hands busy=brain quiet and happy, but - BUT - then I didn't want to stop. My fingers wanted to go on to page three, day three's work instead of moving on to something else. Hello, Brain? The idea was to draw ONE thing and use the creative stimulation to work on something else, not turn out elebenty-seven novel page pieces in a day!
Finished with the drawing above, my hand crept toward the poor mutilated book to tear out another page. The other hand was clenched about the pen, itching to make a mark on the paper. I reluctantly put the pen back into the case with its fellows, packed up the pencils and eraser and novel, and put them all into another room. I had to shut the door (much to the cats' disgust - the "studio" is a fun playground) to drown out their siren call.
Next on the agenda: finished sewing a skirt to put up on Ebay, cut out another to work on later today.
Now I'm going to get out the lino panel on which I've already sketched a design, the linocutting tools, the lovely timber rest The Bloke made me to cut on, and cut a block ready to print when my printmaking class starts again in February. I may take a hand print or two (I bought a cheap burnisher) to see how it's turning out, but it'll be much easier to run a series of prints on the press at school. I'm looking forward to school :)
I'm restless. Can't settle to anything. Well, I can settle quite happily in front of the television, or with a book in my hand, but I want to get on with some art! I suspect the problem is that I don't know where to start, or rather that there is so MUCH I could start that I'm overwhelmed by choice.
Should I start that painting that's been burbling away in the back of my mind for months? Or work on finishing some of the drawings I've started? Maybe I could begin one of the sculptures I jotted notes on last month...
So I've set myself a project. I'll make a drawing a day for the next week (initially I thought for the next month, but that was kinda daunting! If I'm still going after a week, I'll aim at another week and we'll see how it goes from there), and set some parameters: I'll use the pages from one of my stash of old Mills & Boons novels (I love the paper - yellowing and foxing, a lovely creamy texture. Doesn't matter that it's not archival, nothing lasts forever) so the drawings will be quite small (a huge expanse of blank paper intimidates me, these pages are already printed on, so the pressure is off), I can draw whatever I feel like, for as long as I want whether that turns out to be five minutes or an hour, I'll use mostly black ink (maybe I'll use touches of coloured markers), and there is no expected outcome other than to draw.
Maybe that'll kick start me into making something else.
Detail of a project from last semester's painting class - Self-Identity
It feels like the ninth circle of hell here, today: 37 degrees C after a horrible steamy night in which my dreams were populated by ginormous black ants with huge menacing pincers, and emus (I loathe emus) imitating the shark from Jaws. Shudder. There is supposed to be a cool change on the way, but not until around 6am, so I'm in for another night of enduring whatever my heat addled subconscious has been fermenting today. I blame the emu scenario on The Bloke, who is responsible for putting the image in my head into the first place. Perhaps I should work it into a drawing or a painting. My Nightmares, Series I.
I don't do New Year resolutions (can't keep 'em, no point in making 'em!), but today I was reflecting on the past year. On February 2nd, it will be a calendar year since I left paid employment for full time study, and what a year it's been! I've learned so much, both in terms of my creative skills (which would be an essay in itself), but also in the sense of learning more about myself, what I'm capable of, what I can deal with, how much I've grown in a year.
When I think back to the first weeks of the course, I remember how scared I was. Everything was new: new place, new routine, new teachers, new classmates, new things to learn. I left the job I'd been working for sixteen years, and it was hard to move out of that comfort zone. Hard to leave the routine. Hard to leave colleagues. Hard to leave the pay cheque! I wasn't at all sure I could do it, leave the safe and known for the scary and unknown.
But you know what? Here I am, a year later, thriving. Happier than I've been in a very long time. No more job stress, no more instant anxiety the moment I wake up and realise it's a week day, no more 1am freakouts. Now I wake up in the morning - and to be honest, I'm really NOT a morning person - and instead of my first thought being one of dread, now I look forward to the day. What will I make/draw/paint/sculpt/sew today?
I've been tempted to jump onto the blogging bandwagon for a while, and finally decided to just do it :)
What will I write about here? Just about anything, I suspect - be prepared for a funhouse mirror of my life. Cats (I have two), sewing, quilting, gardening, travel. Though not so much travel on my horizon in the forseeable future owing to my current existence as a penniless student. Oh, and art. Lots of ART!
The black cat with the staring eyes is Bel (short for Mehitabel). She might be a little lass at just under three kilos, but she's fiesty enough to take over the world.
I'm 48, female, just finished a two year course in Visual Arts, and am now back in the market for a job (boo!). I worked in the library field for the better part of three decades and two years ago took the plunge from a job that made me unhappy to go back to school. I've loved every moment of it and as soon as I have enough money to tide me over being a poverty stricken student I'm going back for more!