Friday, 22 November 2013

Did I mention that I love pottery?

The joy of working with clay has been keeping my hands and thoughts busy lately. I wait impatiently until each pottery class comes around, my head buzzing with ideas that I want to try. What if I try this shape, or will it work if I use this amount of clay? How will it look after it's fired? Will this glaze allow the drawing to show through?

I've been making jugs mostly. I love the idea of focusing on one type of object and trying the different variations that are possible within this constraint. I'm attracted to utilitarian objects, ones which have a use but can also be unashamedly decorative too. Also, I saw an exhibition once where an artist used an empty jug as a metaphor for art. She described how art can only exist where there is a void, and artists are driven to fill that void through creating art. The creation of art fills a void, whether it's an internal void, an absence of something in our environment or society. I wish I could remember the artist's name because this concept has stayed with me for a few years now. So now as I'm making jugs I think of voids and art and the intense pleasure that art making brings.

My lovely pottery teacher asked me a while ago if I had got into 'the zone' as I was working on the wheel, throwing another jug. At the time I was still battling with the wheel, with centrifugal force and trying desperately to make a piece that looked half decent. I told her that I was most definitely not in the zone yet. Then one day as I moved my body forward gently cupping and shaping the spinning clay, it happened easily. It felt as though the clay had started to yield as I had yielded, letting go of what I thought should be happening and worked with what the wheel offered. As the rhythmic spinning seduced my ears I lost awareness of my surroundings and I saw only what was in front of me. I'm now OK with a bit of wonkiness here and there, but more importantly, I can now say with confidence that I had found 'the pottery zone'.

Friday, 1 November 2013

New prints in shop

Yeah, I like trees. What about you? Do you love to sit under the generous, cool shade of an elm tree on a hot day? With your bare feet placed gently in the grass and your back pressed firmly against the rough bark, it's easy to feel all is right with the world.

There are four new prints about trees in my Etsy shop. Well, some of the trees have been chopped into logs, but they're still parts of trees nevertheless.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

When cherry blossoms don't wait for festivals

Those cherry blossoms just didn't get the memo. They bloomed too early. So by the time the Hanami Festival Day arrived at the National Rhododendron Gardens, only a smattering of blossoms were left on the trees.

The day was exquisite regardless and as we walked along the path, following the trail of lanterns, it felt as though we were swept along by the happy chatting crowd.

It was a good way to celebrate Spring, filling our nostrils with fresh mountain air, knowing that warmer weather will reach us soon.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Being gentle

Yes, we build up an armor. A shield against all that is painful and careless and cruel in the world. We think the armor protects us and makes us strong. But after a while, that armor can weigh us down and before we know it, we walk around with heavy bodies, ready for conflict and waiting to act.

True strength lies in the ability to take a deep breath and cast aside all of that armor and to be gentle with yourself, and the people around you. Ultimately, there are no clever tactics you need to get through life other than to be kind. We forget that sometimes.

People will hurt you, things will not go your way and there will be days when you feel so lost that even your closest friend cannot comfort you. But if you can lie in bed at night and in the darkness you can say to yourself that you have been gentle with yourself and with people’s hearts today, then that is a great achievement.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Mean teacher

I bumped into Mrs D the other day. It was at the shops. She pretended that she couldn’t remember my name. Which is a bit ridiculous because she was my teacher in prep and grade 2. She remembered my surname, sibling’s names and my parent’s names. She was my mum’s friend for a while. And I’m one of those people who kinda look the same as when I was a kid. She knew who I was but for some reason, she looked awkward and paused for a long time looking up into the air. ‘It’s Jenni’, I said and looked her straight in the eye. Then I realized that she hadn’t changed in all these years.

Mrs D was a mean teacher. She was mean to me and others and she always seemed to hate her job. As a 5 year old preppy, when a group of girls kicked and punched me at school, I ran crying to Mrs D, expecting some kind of comfort when I told her what had happened. Her reply was, ‘Nobody likes a dibber dobber.’ Mean. In class when my friend Sarah had some new textas and offered to share them with me, Mrs D walked past and said to my friend, ‘You know, Sarah, you don’t have to share with people you don’t like.’ Mean. I felt victimized by her, she made me feel confused because she treated me as though I was a bad kid even though I was admittedly a bit of a goody two shoes. She’d always refer to me as the ‘ringleader’ in my close group of three friends and I thought that word meant I was horrible. And so it made me want to be a naughty kid.

But it wasn’t just me she was unnecessarily cruel to. One day when we were sitting in a circle on the floor for story time, one of the girls kept telling Mrs D with increased urgency that she needed to go to the toilet. She kept on repeating to the girl, ‘No, you should have gone to the toilet at recess.’ Even as a 5 year old with a trust in the wisdom of authority figures, I knew this was extreme. Finally, it was too much for the girl and she stood up and in the middle of our story time circle, she wet herself much to her distress and humilation. But I’ll never forget Mrs D’s reaction. She was angry. Angry with the poor girl. Mean teacher.

So as I briefly chatted with Mrs D at the shopping centre, I realized that I wasn’t angry with her, I didn’t even feel hurt anymore. I felt sad and sorry for her. Looking at her with my adult eyes, I saw a strange and awkward woman who may have even been a bit afraid of me. Maybe she thought I was going to tell her off. But I wished her well and said goodbye wondering what had made her the way she was. Thankfully, over the years I had many fantastic teachers to balance out the meanness of Mrs D and I never had such a mean teacher again, oh except for my high school maths teacher Mr P. Now if I ever bump into that guy I’ve got some choice words for him…

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Please excuse my blog while it freaks out

So, I'm having a bit of trouble with the formatting on my blog at the moment. It looks OK on the mobile but the web version is freaking out. I don't know if you've noticed, but some of the images seem to be overlapping my very important and extremely interesting text. Apparently I have a degree in graphic design, but this has proven to be of no practical use whatsoever when it comes to blogger. Has anyone else experienced this with their blog? Maybe my computer has picked up a virus after I was keeping up to date with Kylie Minogue's or Sandra Bullock's latest adventures? (I've heard that their sites have the most viruses.) If anyone has any helpful suggestions I would be greatly appreciative. In the meantime, whilst I try to sort out this technical hitch, here is some waiting music, 'La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la...'

P.S. I also apologise for the cheap Radiohead pun.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

More from Lorne...

Just pretend that it's the 1980's. And that I'm your Aunt Velma. And that I've come to visit you. And I've brought all of my slides from my recent holiday in Lorne. You sit down politely to watch the slide show, because you know that after the slide show there will be cake. And you really want that cake.

So you sit, and watch, wondering what your friends are doing right now. You see an image of twigs with moss on them and you think, 'Oh my goodness, how can Aunt Velma possibly think this is interesting?' Then another image of a beach, a sign, a tree, a piece of hardened tree sap. You fidget and scratch an itch a bit too enthusiastically just to break the monotony. You feel like you are going to explode from boredom.

Then fast forward a few decades and now you're the one with the interest in pictures of twigs with moss. And you can have your very own slide show whenever you want because you have a blog. And you find it strange that you are compelled to share your stuff in such a forum, but you do it anyway. Because life is about sharing what makes you happy. And you might just make someone happy for a moment too.

Monday, 16 September 2013

New prints in shop

Reality and imagination sit side by side. Everywhere I look I see castles in the clouds, storms in tea cups, mountains made of piles of dirt and forests growing in little boats.

(This image is inspired by the 2006 movie 'The Science of Sleep' written and directed by Michel Gondry.)

There are now four new limited edition prints in my Etsy shop. Feel free to take a peek!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A sojourn in Lorne

Is there anything nicer than a short sojourn, a quick break away from the everyday?


Even though the skies were grey and it rained now and then, the wind was balmy and the air was fresh with ocean mist against our skin.

We walked along the sand, digging holes and making sandcastles which were then washed away by a cheeky wave or two. Carefully treading through rock pools, the fading light of the day sheered off the water at angles straight into our eyes.

Where the sand met the land, the grass was impossibly green and as we stood in the heart of the inlet, we felt embraced by the headland.

A few days by the beach to blow the cobwebs of winter away.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Everything will be OK

Sometimes my heart and body need to slow down a bit and so I go into nature. You can't rush nature. Trees and shrubs and birds and bugs go about their business quietly. Berries are going to sprout when they're good and ready. Spring will come in its own good time. In nature I'm reminded that everything has its place and purpose and that everything will be OK.

(Image taken at Healesville Sanctuary earlier in the year.)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

These things happened today

These things happened today. Driving in the car this afternoon, we passed a car parked on the side of the road and saw that it was on fire. Yes, in a gentle little suburban scene, whilst people ate lunch in the shopping centre behind the flaming car and as women clutching shopping bags waited at the nearby bus stop, the car burned and burned.

Later, in the park whilst my son ran around excitedly, a happy looking elderly man entered the park wearing a small black radio across his chest, sharing Chinese Er Hu music with us all. He gently nodded to people as he walked past and I nodded in return, feeling slightly intoxicated by the music and curious about his serene demeanor. He continued to calmly walk past me and up a small hill leading to the slides. At the top of one of the slides, he paused, placed his hands on the safety bar, and for a brief moment it felt as if the entire park stopped and waited to see what would happen next. I silently willed him to go down the slide, 'Do it, go on, go down the slide.' His shoulders lowered for just a moment and then - he smoothly turned and walked away as gently as he had entered the scene, with his music tinkling between the trees, the play equipment and the bemused parents.

At home, my son hugged me for no particular reason with his little hands around my neck and his soft cheek against my ear and I felt totally at peace with the world.

These things happened today, and it was a strange and wonderful day.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Everything takes much longer than you think it will

A little sketch made a while ago during warmer weather at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. It took longer than I thought it would when I sat down to do it. I was in such a jovial mood, sun was shining, the grass was warm to sit on and then I realised how much foliage I had committed to sketching. I'll be honest, my hand started cramping up and then I was bored. But I was stubborn and drew what I saw. Sometimes I'm lazy and stubborn at the same time when it come to drawing, especially when lying in the sweet smelling grass is such an attractive option.

Also congratulations to Vaughan. You have a print coming your way! Thanks to those of you who  left a comment to celebrate the opening of my etsy shop.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

My Etsy shop

Yep, I finally set up my little art shop on Etsy. For starters, I have giclee prints of my original drawings available, with more to be added as time goes by. I would love to hear any feedback you may have, so if you leave a comment on my blog, you have a chance to win your very own print! Simply mention which print from my Etsy shop you like and why you like it and you could win it! I'll announce the winner on 27 July 2013. Yippee!

Monday, 8 July 2013

What if we lived in a rock pool?

What if we lived in a rock pool?
What if we swam around all day?
You and me,
And the sky and the sea,
Eating cake made of seaweed.
We could invite our friends for a cup of salty tea,
And even though our skin might get a bit soggy,
If we lived in a rock pool,
I’d be happy,
Because you’re in the rock pool with me.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Hello Ladies

Here are some lovely ladies which I completed as part of a fundraising project for our local Neighbourhood Centre. These drawings of staff will be printed onto tea towels along with handprints of children who attend the centre. Drawing the women started me thinking about how we see ourselves is often different to how others see us. When I handed the drawings over to the centre, the staff remarked that they all looked so young. ‘There’s no wrinkles’, they chuckled. I told them that’s what they’d look like if they were cartoons. Cartoon ladies.

Do you remember the first time someone called you a ‘lady’? It’s a weird term, polite on one hand and slightly patronising on the other. We go from girls to ladies in one swift moment and it can happen anywhere, anytime and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it. Because it is how others see you. You might still feel like a rebellious spirited girl who likes to climb trees in your spare time, but that’s not how you look to your neighbour when you’re in your 30’s and perched high up in your pittosporum tree. You’re a weird lady in a tree.

Now that I am well and truly a ‘lady’, it still freaks me out to hear a kid talk about me as ‘the lady in front of us in the queue’ or to be collectively welcomed by someone with a ‘hello ladies’. Maybe it’s time to embrace being a lady. Doesn’t mean I’m always going to be ladylike.

Friday, 14 June 2013

After Gatsby

I left the cinema. Out of the debauched hyper-reality of Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby film and into the debauched hyper-reality of the shopping centre.

The film moved me. It took me back to my teenage years when I studied The Great Gatsby at high school. It tossed me about as I watched it – into the excesses of Gatsby’s extravagant parties, letting the sound wash over me, enjoying the contrast between the early 20th century scenery and this century’s hip hop heavy bass beats.

In the film, I witnessed the intimacy, the subtle looks of longing, of unspoken understanding between Daisy and Gatsby, and it drew me in. I felt the hopelessness of their relationship. And I felt the overwhelming sense of doom.

Baz himself makes a quick cameo in a modest moustache. The actors each give a solid and convincing performance. I wasn’t watching Leo, Carey and Tobey but rather I was indeed spellbound by Gatsby, Daisy and Nick. I was appalled by the manipulative skill with which those who belonged to the establishment, ‘old money’ defeats the self made man. Just as in a poker game, Gatsby is forced to show his hand. As I watched, my thoughts echoed, ‘Do not show your hand Gatsby, do not give them the satisfaction.’ As much as Gatsby has learned the ways of the rich, trained himself to seamlessly interact in their world, he eventually reveals that he is nothing more than a farm boy, lacking in the social graces which gives old money its power. Gatsby reveals his true feelings and from there, all is lost.

Entering the fluorescent lighting of the shopping centre after the film, my head was full of the messages I had understood from The Great Gatsby. I walked past a couple standing in the walkway with their two kids. ‘So what are we doing?’ the man asked of his partner. ‘I don’t know, having a look around?’ she replied as a question. They looked lost to me and as I opened my eyes to all of the people around me, I felt the futility of what we were all doing there. We were together, but alone, in a shopping centre, looking at things to buy, to entertain us, to fulfill us, give us a moment’s distraction, peace, comfort, joy, elation. The sense that we can have whatever we want, that we can buy our happiness, that by accumulating things, we are in control of our destinies. That we can provide an emotional fulfillment for ourselves and thus be self sufficient. Self made.

But what I really felt was Gatsby’s futility, his failure. And not that he had failed to accumulate enough wealth or status but rather that he had failed to understand that no amount of stuff can fulfill us. If we are nothing to ourselves, then we have nothing. And if we need to accumulate things such as wealth, status, credentials and property in order to please and impress people, then that should be the warning sign that those people will never be able to make you happy. Daisy still stands as the modern archetype for all that is unattainable, the unreachable goal that passes through our fingers like mist.

Like Gatsby’s craving for Daisy, what we crave is to love and be loved in return.  We crave a sense of connection as we want to exist in the minds of those that we love. We want our efforts to be witnessed, acknowledge and appreciated. We want our love to be reciprocated in the way we give it. But this is where Gatsby went wrong. He built his entire life around his love for Daisy, amassing a fortune to ensure that he would be worthy of her. In return, he expected her to love him as he wanted her to. But this too is a futile expectation. You don’t need to do anything but be yourself in order to be loved. No amount of superficial artifice will cause someone to love you. They will love you because you are, well, you. Love is given, it cannot be bought or sold, and though it wasn’t Gatsby’s intention, he put a price on Daisy’s love. He thought that if he worked hard enough that he would win love. But it wasn’t real.

Gatsby wasted his love on people who did not care. As Nick says to Gatsby, ‘They’re a rotten crowd, you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’

Sometimes we have to let go of the past and risk the pain of loss in order to find out what real love is. This is why I am moved by Gatsby’s fate. He didn’t let go, he wanted to recreate the past, but the past no longer existed, except in his own mind.

So as I walked through the shopping centre on my way back to my car, I turned my eyes from the merchandise shining at me under bright lights. Back in my car, I sat for a moment to shake off the tragedy that I witnessed in the film, knowing that I would be home soon welcomed by people whom I love and who love me for who I am in return.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tiny little apples

It rained all day today. It's cold. It's miserable and so, I am thinking of things that warm my heart. Like tiny little apples. Small enough to fit two in your hand. Crunchy and sweet to eat whilst sitting near a crackling fire. A quiet moment of cozy comfort.

This image with my hands in front of the fire reminds me of a scene from The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky. The image of a girl warming her hands by the fire has echoed in my thoughts from time to time ever since I saw the film years ago. To me, it looked like her hands were on fire, even though they clearly weren't. A strange and intimately domestic moment captured in film to give it weight.

The Mirror is such a powerful, poetic and weighty film with such a dreamlike quality that watching it feels like you enter someone else's inner reality. Thoughts, memories, reflections and poignant moments pass by on the screen and if you don't look for narrative, if you don't question it, you are carried along by the film's rhythm. It is a film that has the most effective use of silence, spread out over long sequences that I have ever seen.

As I think of The Mirror, I feel a bit warmer. My heart and belly are full and I'm not minding the rain so much now, sitting by the fire with my tiny little apples.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Cloud break

Sometimes my brain needs a break and so I go and look at clouds. Here are some for you to look at too. If your brain is thirsty for more cloud images, have a look at the Cloud Appreciation Society. Yes, I know, I can’t believe there is actually a society that appreciates clouds. Amazing stuff.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Virginia Woolf was right

There is something to be said for having a room of one’s own. Virginia Woolf famously wrote that a woman must have a space of her own in order to write. But this could also apply to any creative endeavor. I could check my copy of her essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ for the exact quote but I can’t find it anywhere in my house amongst parenting books, interior design magazines or recipe books. If I had a room all to myself then maybe I’d be able to find it.

Imagine, if I had a room all to myself – oooh, the luxurious potential I could unleash in there. I could hang a hammock, to lie in while I sip my ice cold pina coladas and read a sumptuous novel or two. I’d play music that I don’t play around my toddler – loud hip hop with copious amounts of swear words, and I’d dance, throwing myself around the room like a teenager. If anyone came in I’d shout, ‘Get out of my room!’ with my face all screwed up. The walls would be covered with inspiring stuff that I’d pick up at art galleries, ripped out of newspapers, old movie tickets found in last year’s winter coat pockets, lists of dreams that I’d want to achieve and more lists of places I want to visit all over the world.

Then there would be my desk. My desk. Not a desk littered with bills to pay, half eaten bananas, clothes to repair, odds and ends like used batteries, broken toys and stacks of paper for filing. My desk would have all of my art materials, laid out like an invitation to create. It would be clean, neat, ordered and sacred. Mine. Mine. Mine.

The pull between motherhood and creativity is not a new discussion, but it is an eternally interesting conversation. How do we make time and space for ourselves to pursue our creative work when we have children without feeling guilty (‘I really should be spending time with my child’), or feeling impatient (‘I wish you’d just go to sleep so I can work on my painting’). Push, pull, push, pull.

So the idea of having a room of one’s own may be unrealistic for many of us at one time or another but let’s not let what the room represents to us be unrealistic also. It represents the permission to have time to create, unabashedly, with joy and with high hopes.

Creativity is important work, and even if your creative space is only the dining room table and a cupboard from which you pull out your art materials (like me), or your laptop or a small sketchpad, know that being creative is essential to who you are and that you must not ignore it. After all, we have a big example to set for our kids by letting them know how important it is to follow your dreams.

(P.S. I was inspired to write this post by Mique Moruichi’s post on her creative space. So, thank you Mique for the inspiration. I am eternally interested in the spaces in which all creative women make their artwork. I was also very interested to see Jenni Desmond's work space as well as the work spaces of Anna Emelia, Anna Walker, Jen Collins and Carson Ellis. If you have images of a creative space that you work in, I’d be very happy to hear from you!)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Car park sushi

There it was. Quietly sitting on the ground in the car park next to the trolley bay. Perfectly packaged takeaway sushi. It didn’t look as though it had been dropped. It looked neatly placed. All of the tempting pieces were lined up in well spaced rows.

What was it doing there? Had some starving and harried person placed it there as they were searching for their keys whilst talking on the phone and buckling kids into their seats, eventually driving off without it? Was it a hidden camera trick to see if anyone would pick it up and eat it? Or could it have been a modern art piece, placed by an enthusiastic art student to make comment on the poetic relationship between fish, shopping trolleys and car parks?

I stared as I walked past, I couldn’t take my eyes off it as though I had just witnessed the evidence of a mini suburban tragedy. Why were you in the car park that day, sushi, why?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

‘I’m doing my best’ badge

This is what I know. Since becoming a mother, some days are just crappy. Yes, yes, cute stuff happens too, but oh my goodness, if I had a badge like this in those early days, it may have eased some of my sleep deprived crankiness.

But you know, some days are crappy when you don’t have kids, or when you’re a kid, or single, or working in a beige cubical, or living in a small dank flat with rising damp…Some days just being a person is hard.

Someone I know was made a special badge like this by her husband when she needed it most. This is my version for you.

With Mothers’ Day coming up soon, let a new mother know that she is doing a good job and that her best is enough.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Being earnest

You know what I’m talking about. We all do it. Sometimes we take ourselves a bit too seriously. We ponder, we dissect our thoughts, we consider an idea and its relevance to the existence of another, weightier idea or concept. We analyse, we cross reference, and debate. We step back, we measure, check and check again. Is it? Could it? Will it? We sit up bolt upright in the middle of the night, reach for our notepads and document. We engage in discussion over coffee, we wear black, we listen to music of tumultuous shades, we feel moved, inspired and nod in agreement, ‘Yes, yes, I know what you mean.’ And we mean it. Really, really mean it.

And then there are times when we jump over gates instead of opening them. When we lie on grass that’s slightly damp from yesterday’s rain and tease each other with silly jokes and laugh like school kids. Where the only thing to think about is whether to get fish and chips or sushi. To go for a walk or stay sitting under the tree. To kiss or to hold hands. Or both.

Education is important. Believing in your ideas is important. But whittling ideas down to the point that you are too paralysed to do anything because you’ve explored every possible angle is not good. That’s when being earnest can work against you and may feed doubt.

So take the pressure off yourself. Paint every finger nail a different colour. Put down that book of poems and read a trashy mag. Don’t worry, being earnest will be there when you want it but every once in a while it’s good to relax and give our earnest gland a rest.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Another cake...

Another cake. To celebrate, well, nothing in particular except that today was a good day. Black forest cake is my supreme celebration cake. It's the cake I would choose if I could only eat one type of cake for the rest of my life. What about you?

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Eat cake

This is a cake I would like to eat. Any day of the week. It's a drawing of the genoise sponge photo which graces the front cover of the Australian Women's Weekly 'Mix' cookbook. I was going to bake it, but thought I'd draw it instead. Now I'm hungry and no amount of licking the drawing is going to satisfy my cake urge. I've got some baking to do...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Red ink

One Halloween when I was a kid, my friend and I thought it would be a good idea to write a scary letter to our neighbours who lived across the road. Somewhere we’d heard that if you ever wrote a letter to someone in red ink, it meant that you wanted them to die. This is horrible, I know. We broke open a bic pen and smeared its red ink all over a lined piece of A4 paper with the holes punched down the side. The letter went something like this:

Dear Neighbours,

At the stroke of midnight, zombies will come and eat your brains. Whoooo! Whooooo! Whoooooooooo!

From, the zombies

I was about seven years old and I still sometimes wonder what those poor people thought when they opened their letterbox that day. I hope they weren’t scared. I hope they realized it was a couple of goofy kids who were yet to grow a conscience and understand the greater consequence of their actions. But if you’re out there, I’d like to reassure you that zombies are never going to eat your brains. Sorry for freaking you out.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Picnic etiquette

Where are we meeting them?
I don't know, somewhere near the pavilion, or was it the lake?
Is that them near the park bench?
No, that's a kid about to do a somersault.
Oh no, I forgot the picnic blanket...
That's OK, we can sit on the grass.
...and I forgot the cutlery.
It's a picnic, we can eat with our hands.
But I made spaghetti bolognaise and tiramisu.
For a picnic?
Yeah, why, what did you bring?
Um, sandwiches and a packet of chips.
Oh. So maybe I went over the top with the food, but the tuxedo's fine, isn't it?
Sure buddy, but maybe lose the top hat.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Masala tea moths

A little sketch of the pantry moths that grew in my packet of masala tea and then flew out one day as though it was a perfectly normal thing to do.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Hey paper tree

The suburbs are littered with them. Planted neatly on nature strips in front of squat brick veneer houses. Not much good for shade, really, because of their scrappy thin leaves sprouting from sparsely tangled branches. But they grow well without much fuss. If paperbark trees were a type of person, they’d be a retired bare knuckled boxer who paints pet portraits. They show their tough history in their rough exterior but when you peel back a bit of their bark you realize just how soft and gentle they are.

Unfortunately for this paper tree, someone put the safety tape around the wrong area and now it’s, well, you know, chopped. Poor thing.

I wonder how many kids had peeled off this tree’s bark, trying to make it as thin as possible so that it looked like paper you could write your name on? Just like I did when I was a kid.

Hey paper tree, see you later. Let’s hope your logs have been taken and used to make something practical like, um, paper.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Lost and found

One of the saddest sights in the world is watching someone put up posters of their lost pet. As I sat in my car waiting at the traffic lights yesterday, I watched as a man on a bicycle stopped at the intersection and stuck his lost dog poster up on a post. It looked like every other lost dog poster – printed out on A4 paper with the obligatory cute photo of poochie/turbo/fang. Only those cute photos are often so close up that you can’t quite tell what type of dog they are. Or the poor dog has red eye from the camera flash, so that your initial reaction is, ‘I hope I don’t run into that devil dog.’

I couldn’t help but feel the futility of the man’s little poster and as I glimpsed his face, he looked so forlorn and seemed to be on the verge of tears that my heart broke just a little bit.

Maybe he’ll find his dog. It happens. His lost poster may match up with someone’s found poster and he and his beloved dog will be reunited.

If only we could put up lost posters for other things we lose and have them returned to us - like friends, youth and the ability to backflip off a swing without breaking a limb.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The first pancake

Have you ever noticed that the first pancake of the batch tastes the best, even if it’s slightly misshapen, lumpy and odd? Some people don’t like the first pancake and throw it away. But I wish every pancake could be the first pancake. First pancakes are the best.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Catch a tree killer

I couldn’t believe it. They were tearing it down mercilessly. I had to look away as though I had seen a brutal car accident. The neighbour’s tree is now a pile of logs.

I’ve always felt a bit sick whenever I see a massive, old tree being chopped down. Inside my head I’m screaming, ‘But it took so long to grow. Don’t worry about the roots buckling up your footpath. Now you won’t have any shade. It was so beautiful. Won’t you miss it? Stop, you tree killer..!’

Another part of me knows that they had their reasons. Maybe the tree was diseased and dying, dropping heavy and dangerous limbs too close to the house at random moments? Maybe it was an environmental weed and its presence meant that native flora was struggling to find its place? Who knows?

Goodbye tree. Thanks for all of the oxygen, shade, beauty, wind protection and for being a lovely home for birds and insects. Now I have another good reason to plant more trees.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Reflective distance

This is the theory.

The more control you have over your art material, the more time you have to think about what you’re doing when you’re making a mark. The messier your material, then the less time you have to intellectualise, and therefore this is the way to access your emotions and if you like, unconscious imagery. And if you’re using a tool to make the image, like a pen or paintbrush, then the physical distance created between you and the image also contributes to your ability to second guess yourself and analyse what you’re doing. If on the other hand you are touching the art material directly with your hands as in the case with clay work or finger painting, you increase your chance of spontaneous expression.

That’s the theory, anyway

So here is a portrait, one side using the most controllable tool, a fineliner pen. Lots of time to think about what I’m doing there. Neat, clean, graphic. Creating form through suggestion and leaving white space to do the talking. The other side uses a soft pencil. Still an easily controllable tool, but one step removed from the fineliner due to its ability to move a bit quicker and create light and shade.

In recent years I find myself drawn to art materials that allow more reflective distance. Not out of a conscious decision, but rather because I love the look of stark contrast of black ink against crisp white paper with touches of soft watercolour. In the past I was very heavy handed with the oil paint, working quickly and alternating between brushstrokes and finger marks.

When I draw now, I try to create images that have ‘breath’ to them. That is, I don’t want to fill in all the blanks, I don’t feel the need to explain it all in the image. Not sure if the reflective distance theory is being applied with what I do now. But one thing I know is that a pen and small sketchbook is easier to carry around than a canvas and easel.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Create or die

I’ve seen it before. I mean, it did come out in 2007, but I have to express my love for the movie Eagle vs Shark. Directed by Taika Waititi and starring Jermaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and Loren Horsley, Eagle vs Shark captures something about relationships that we stop noticing as we become adults. I’m talking about when there was plenty of time to just hang out with each other, when we accepted idiosyncrasies readily and when we were unafraid to express our likes, dislikes and needs in plain and simple words.

Do you remember being a kid and having a friend come over for a visit? Do you remember showing off your prized possessions as a way of sharing yourself, proudly describing the origins, meaning or purpose of treasured objects? Well, when Jarrod shows Lily his unusual handmade candles and states, ‘I guess I’ve gotta keep creating or I’ll just die’, Lily is genuinely impressed. And so am I. You said it, Jarrod. You said it.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Slow down and listen

I could only get am radio. In my first car, that is. Music was a big deal to me back then and so, am radio troubled me. To me, it was out-dated, old and irrelevant. Out of sheer desperation I tried station after station. I listened to announcers who paused for way-too-long-between-sentences. I laughed as listeners rang up for talkback, giving their opinions on young people today in stern and cautionary voices.

As I slowly opened my ears, a strange thing happened. The more I listened, the more I fell in love with this slow paced world of am radio with its prepaid funeral package ads and community announcements for senior citizens. But it was the music that changed me. It had an innocence. The melodies and harmonies were more complex than I initially thought and the lyrics told a story that were sweet, sad, poignant and meaningful. The strange juxtaposition of a cheery melody against tales of losing a loved one to another just made my heart soar.

So the other day, years after my conversion to am radio I heard an announcer say this quote by someone unknown. ‘If you don’t stand for something, you could fall for anything.’ See what I mean, you can learn a lot from slowing down and taking your time to listen.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A job for the Queensland bottle tree

It happened. It really happened. It rained and rained. The wind was terrible. People were trapped, clasping onto whatever they could to stay afloat, above the water and safe. Awful, awful, awful. My thoughts go out to the families who have lost loved ones. If only this Queensland bottle tree could soak up and store some of that water and make it easier for everyone affected by the Queensland floods. I hope that sunny days reach you very soon.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Being a seed

Here are some seeds gathered whilst I went on a little walk recently. They were just hanging from their tree, very cleverly catching the sunlight as I passed. If I was going to be a seed, this is the seed I'd like to be. I’d travel nicely, fluttering from the tree on the breeze like a helicopter. Exhilarated, I’d duck and weave through grasses, tall branches and over rooftops until I landed sleekly on some soft, warm soil to begin my life as a tiny but determined tree.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Floating islands

Wouldn’t it be nice, to travel around the world on a whim so that you always had a different view? Sometimes being in the one place for too long can be a bit dull really. Whilst it’s good to put down roots, imagine being able to take your roots with you wherever you go. That’s exactly what these floating islands do. To satisfy their adventurous urges, floating islands are formed out of oxygen rich mud which vegetation can happily grow in. Often the plant roots grow right through the island and dangle underneath in the water. Sure, they may only travel around the pond, but when you’re an island and the pond is your world, the other side must seem pretty exciting.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Words to include in a conversation tomorrow


Example: This drawing is of a starling. When I think of starlings, I think of sterling silver, then necklaces. Then I think about how I have always wanted a necklace with a snowflake pendant, then I think of eskimos. Then I wonder if eskimos ever get cranky living in such constant cold, because I would. Whenever I see pictures of them I always think 'wow, they look so happy'. What about you, are you as happy as an eskimo?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Turning over a new leaf

Do you think it's possible, really, for a person to change? I've known people in their 90's who have told me that they still feel like the same person they were when they were 17. As for myself, I still like drawing and writing just as much as I did when I was a child. Cheesy, sentimental music can still bring tears to my eyes just like the first time I watched the movie 'Beaches' and left the cinema sobbing. And I have never, ever been able to tolerate the taste of caraway seeds. Yuck.

But even if some things about us always stay the same, there are other things we have choices about so that we can make changes. Just like this ornamental Manchurian pear tree leaf who chose to buck convention and wear stripes of different colours instead of the usual green. It’s still the same leaf, just with a fresh new style.

For the time being, I'm starting small. I'm taking my cues from nature. I may always shy away from caraway seeds, but I can try on some new stripes.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Party like it's 1999

When Prince suggested that we all party like it's the end of the millennium, I don't think he meant, 'go to bed at 10pm.' But that's how I party now that I'm a sleep deprived parent. Sleep is where it's at, sleep is the word, yep, sleep is my thing. So when New Years' Day began, I was refreshed and had the energy to write my resolution list for 2013. Now where did I put my parrot, and my eye patch, and my buried treasure...