Tuesday 18 December 2012

deck the halls with paint, tra lalalalala laaaah...

Its the last week of school and Rodney is beginning a long break from teaching until February next year. This is also a quiet time at work for me too. I have been doing some art. I got about half way with "Valda" then plunged into starting another larger work which is still in the early stages.

With Rodney off work I've been making lists of tasks that need to be done round the house/garden and spending lots of my time figuring out ways to keep him "occupied". My long suffering beloved patiently goes along with most of this pestering and only occasionally makes excuses for why things can't be achieved on my impossible time scale (mainly because I forget our money tree died....)

The "project of the week" has been to clear out and decorate a verandah that runs down the side of our house and this has progressed well. I wish I'd taken some before shots so you could appreciate the difference. This lovely verandah had become a convenient dumping ground for boxes of miscellaneous stuff and pieces of furniture we couldn't fit in the house. It took a day to clear it out before the floor could be decorated.

I painted the raw timber floor with cheap pine green fence paint then added some simple hand cut stencil patterns. The picture shows about 2/3rds of the room completed. Today we cleared out the remnants of the junk and now I can access the last part to complete the room . Below is a picture of the remaining raw floor boards to paint.

We have some longer term plans to insulate and line the ceiling with "mini orb" corrugated iron and a fabulous little pot belly stove to install....(about items #87 and #124 on Rodneys list.... he will be looking forward to going back to work for a rest)

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Tuesday 27 November 2012


A couple of days ago Rodney and I started a new collaborative work. He did this face about 3 months ago. It was the last one he completed before our exhibition at Muswellbrook in August but I was so burned out by that time it didn't get developed into a canvas. So she has been pinned to a wall for months and looking accusingly at me ever since, begging to get contextualised into some exotic creature. I decided to call her "Valda" about 10 minutes ago and if nobody out there wants to suggest something more interesting....she will probably remain so!

"Valda", day 1
Valda, a few hours later

Above is a long shot a few hours later of the canvas on the easel showing how the image is starting to develop. I've done some stencilling, applique and machine embroidery embellishment around the shoulders by this stage. This long shot shows some of the "chaos" I work in, in my studio.

It will likely be a few weeks until this picture gets finished. I chipped a tooth last night and have an emergency appointment at the dentist on Friday. We are then in Newcastle for this Saturday, the 1st of December, at the "Art Bazaar", Civic Park. It would be wonderful to meet some of my readers! Come join Rodney and I  for coffee and see the art up close and personal....

Pearl Red Moon and Rodney Swansborough will be displaying a new series of artworks at the 2012 Summer Art Bazaar in the Civic Park in Newcastle.
Thousands of people attend this yearly bazaar, where artists from around the region display their creativity. This is a market not to be missed.

Friday 23 November 2012

the art goes on

Byzantium Lady, 2012 collaborative work by Pearl and Rodney Swansborough
I finished the Byzantium Lady yesterday and Rodney put it on a stretcher this morning. Now finished it measures 72x49cm. I am really pleased how she turned out, very exotic!

The Murrurundi Arts Council has invited me to do an art workshop next year, probably around March/April so I will teach something based on this mixed media portraiture method. It will be a 2 day weekend workshop being tutored in the techniques I've developed to embellish a portrait of your choice. Students will learn how to layer and combine paint, stencilling, machine embroidery and applique to create an image on canvas. Let me know if you are interested and I'll file your contact details and send the full information about costs and enrolment early next year.

Rodney has created another wild and intriguing face for me to embellish which is gazing expectantly at me from the wall of my studio... but today I thought I'd make some journal covers. We are taking our art to another Art Bazaar event, at Civic Park in Newcastle on the first Saturday of December. I wanted to make some less expensive items than our canvases.

I made this lovely slipcover for an A4 size visual art diary

The image on the cover is a digitally manipulated image I made about 2 years ago (I submitted it to USA publication "Pasticcio Quartz" and they published in their mag 2010)

The image was printed on canvas, embellished with some decorative stitching over it with the machine and then mounted it on some canvas I'd stencilled. However, all that took 5 hours and Rodney pointed out to me that for what somebody might be likely to pay for it, I'd be better off  working on embellishing the large canvases. Men are so practical... but I see his point, so I'll ditch the other journals I was planning to work on and tomorrow get down that lady who looks so pointedly at me.....

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Byzantium Lady

I'm still struggling to get back into a regular habit of blogging. The five months I had off work while my broken ankle was mending was an extraordinary "break" for me....silly pun intended. Apart from the obvious frustrations of the physical pain and mobility limitations I put the time to very practical use and got a lot of art done!

Then with Spring arriving a few months ago I've been preoccupied with gardening and getting as much new garden established as possible before Summer kicks in.

Rodney and I finally got back to making some new art a week ago. He did this wonderful face and I've been working on embellishing it. Heres a picture of the end of the first day working on it and another from yesterday. It is almost done, I just want to continue the dangling motifs down the left side of the face.

Rodney really loves those red lips.....I wonder what that means? ...something about Baboons bottoms comes to mind....?

Byzantium Lady, nearly finished, just a few more of those dangling motifs down the left side of the face, I think
I was thrilled and amazed that within minutes of Rodney putting this work on his facebook page we had an enquiry to buy. The person will come and look at it this weekend when its finished.

Saturday 27 October 2012

More of Melbourne

A building cupola viewed from a train platform at Flinders St Station

There is a lot of street art in Melbourne, which is legal and fostered by the authorities as a tourist attraction. It adds wonderful atmosphere to the laneways. Rodney and I also spent half a day shopping in Brunswick and felt at home in the "bohemian" environment. We had lunch in an alfresco street bar with a delightful jug of sangria.

Plastic people in a shop in Brunswick

Graffiti in the laneways

It is Rodneys and I first wedding anniversary coming up on 11th November. We meet in March 2008 and this was our first ever holiday away together.

Ned in Brunswick, observing the shoppers

Wednesday 17 October 2012

rumours of my demise have been exaggerated

Hi dear readers!

I'm back!

Rodney and I took a holiday for 8 days in Melbourne and we had a wonderful time. I've never spent any time there so it was all a revelation to me. I can understand why Melbourne forcefully maintains to have the "cultural" edge over Sydney. Discovering and exploring the "laneways" was a highpoint that involved many hours of intriguing exploration. Strangely enough, they rather reminded me of the backstreets of New Delhi, just not as winding and considerably cleaner (the lack of open running sewers is always an aesthetic and olfactory plus).

Another wondrous afternoon of exploration was our visit to the magnificent Botanic Gardens. The restoration of Guilfoyles Volcano has been a splendidly commendable addition to the garden. Rodney and I are both enthusiastic gardeners so we found this really exciting.


 Heres a few pictures, more to follow another day plus a little background history about this fabulous project.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Hand stencilled book covers

The next part of my guidelines for stencilling will come out soon. I've been working all week on writing up the instructions and taking pictures to include. Along the way I designed and made these book covers to show other ways that the stencilled fabrics can be used.

Book covers made from hand stencilled fabrics
the "Dream" book opened out
the "Frida" book opened out

When folded closed the lower book measures 18x25xm and the green covered book behind it is 23x31cm. The larger cover slips onto a standard spiral bound A4 size visual art diary. For the smaller book I made some holes in the spine and used a bunch of fibres to tie in some blank cartridge paper pages. Inside the covers of both books I stamped fabric and sewed them on to form pockets that hold loose papers and pens.

book opened out showing pockets to hold papers and pencils

I'm going to offer the pattern and instructions for making the book covers as a download for $12.

Alternately you may purchase the design as a kit which contains - written instructions (same as available for download) PLUS 2 pieces of my hand printed stencilled fabric, fabric for lining, a handmade closure button and stamped fabric pieces for the outside motifs and inside pockets.

I will offer the kit in 4 colour themes : 1)  black, white, ochre (like the "Frida" book shown above)
                                                         2)  Brights with green and red (like the "Dream" book shown above)
                                                         3)  Brights with pink and purple
                                                         4)  Darks with orange and turquoise

Including postage within Australia this kit will be $39. For any country outside Australia add $6.

To purchase either the pattern or kit you'll need to contact me via email at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au to arrange payment by Paypal and give me your postage details. I'm also happy to discuss alternate colour options for the kit if you have some special project in mind.

Monday 18 June 2012

Part one of stencilling project

In the next 2 weeks I'll be outlining some technical information on how to do my method of stencilling. So as not to barrage you with a huge amount of information in one go the instructions will arrive divided into 4 parts. To be posted twice a week (if I'm organised!).

This is the first instalment with some general background information.

What is stencilling?

It is the technique of pushing paint through a pattern cut out of a thin material. The positive areas of the material become a "mask" preventing the paint from contacting the surface and the negative areas that are cut out - referred to as "cells" - allow the paint to contact and bond to the underneath surface.

an acetate stencil lying on a painted canvas
Modern day stencils are generally made from white or clear acetate plastic. Stencils may also be hand cut from sheets of acetate plastic with an artists scalpel or small sharp scissors. Stencils must be made from waterproof material as they need to be resistant to acrylic paint and washable in water.

Materials and equipment needed

Surface to print on:
You can potentially stencil on a wide range on materials and surfaces such as fabric, all types of paper, walls and timber. In this class I'll be using artists cotton canvas which is widely available from suppliers of art materials.

*  I'll be using the "Matisse" brand acrylic paint I have on hand in my studio. Its not necessary to buy special types of paint. Good quality acrylic paint of any brand is fine. You might have problems getting good opacity with "student" colour as that type of paint has low levels of pigment.
*  I almost always mix colours straight from the tube with a portion of white paint before printing as this hugely improves the opacity of the paint.
*  For this class you'll need a minimum of 4 paint colours and as many as 10 for printing plus a tube of white acrylic paint.

Brushes, sponges and paints I use for stencilling

You can buy special stencil brushes but I don't use them and don't think they are necessary. I actually prefer brushes that are rounded rather than flat cut across the bristles, as true traditional stencil brushes are. It is fine to use sponges too. Sponges work well when the stencil cells are large but are too difficult when they are small and fine. In these lessons I recommend to use stiff bristled round brushes.

Other equipment needed:

*  Stencils
*  bucket of water
*  soft cloth for wiping stencils, such as an old face cloth or tea towel
*  tin foil, to use as a disposable palette
*  large paintbrush to prepare the background, like a 3" house painting brush
*  palette knives or popsicle sticks for mixing paint
*  optional, if you want to experiment with making your own simple hand cut stencil - overhead projection marking pen and 1 or more A4 size sheet of acetate plastic, small sharp scissors

Lastly, for this project we'll be making a decorative frame for a focal image. So you need to have selected the image you want to feature in the centre.

For the lessons I'll be picturing an example measuring about 45 x55cm. The focal image in the centre of the canvas is about 20 x 25cm. Its your choice to make anything the same scale or bigger or smaller, size is irrelevant.

Part 2 in about 3 days time. If you have any questions please ask away!

Sunday 17 June 2012

Do some art with me

I had a trip to Sydney yesterday to the annual Craft Fair at Darling Harbour. Because I live in a tiny bush town with only a minimal amount of shops my 1 or 2 pilgrimages a year to craft shows are a significant way  to top up on resources, see what the new fads and trends are and to get inspired from seeing stuff I like.

My main purchases were felting fibre, machine embroidery threads and heaps of stencils. Its so pleasing to see stencilling making a bit of a revival lately. Its such a versatile and useful technique for artisans doing mixed media textile art.

In my most recent blogs I showed pictures of the collaborative artworks Rodney and I have been creating. He does the focal portraits and I do the stencilled decorative borders.While writing this this afternoon I noticed how similar this Frida Kahlo poster is to the pictures Rodney and I have been making. This poster has been on my office wall for a couple of years and I believe it is a coloured ink drawing originally done by Frida in her diary.

The image to the right of the Frida Kahlo illustration is the picture Rodney gave me for my birthday. It was the first one I decorated with a stencilled border and we liked it so much we were inspired to make some more. I haven't yet put my birthday picture on a stretcher, this canvas measures about 48x60cm.

Here is a picture of the new stencils bought at the craft fair. I couldn't wait to play with them today and raced down to the studio after getting out of bed at 11am, after Rodney had served me with chai tea and french toast with yoghurt and blueberries and after having read most of the weekend papers. After all I was cruelly ripped from bed at 4am on Saturday morning to get down to Sydney in the cold and rain....

stencils bought at art show, plus 2 cork stamps at top right
Because I'm really enthusiastic about stencilling at the moment I want to use my next blogs over a week or 2 to write and illustrate 3-4 step by step tutorials on how to use stencils.

Below is a new lovely portrait Rodney has done that I'll use to show in detail how to create layer by layer a decorative border with paint and stencils.

Lessons will begin tomorrow.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Art Bazaar report

Hi to MS (www.middle-state.com) thanks for your delightful comment on my last blog post. Of course I went over to check out your blog and we have a bit of mutual admiration going on here!....you write beautifully - with an elegiac sweet langour and an intense sensitivity to the lowing rhythms of nature murmuring below the clamour, the restless and constant movement and the inane chatter of our species. I absolutely adore the quote from Anais Nin. If I could make pictures as elegantly as you compose words then I shall feel truly accomplished!

Rodney and I had an enjoyable weekend putting our art out for sale at Maitland Art Bazaar. It is nearly a 3 drive from where we live so we went down Saturday night and stayed with Bobbi Oliver who is a well known local doll artist - http://www.lamboart.blogspot.co.au . Thanks to Bobbi and Jane for being fun hostesses. Then on Sunday we had to set up shop at 7am in the morning....ugh!

Fortunately, it didn't rain, as the weather report had predicted. That is always a great relief when you have 30-40 items of your precious art under essentially a large canvas umbrella.We heard it was raining heavily in Newcastle only about 15 km away so it was simply luck that it didn't quite blow over us. I demonstrated free motion embroidery to an interested crowd of ladies who were amazed what a needle and thread unleashed from the conventional sewing foot can do. I've already had a message from someone who got out her sewing machine and had a play already!

Pearl demonstrating free motion machine embroidery at Maitland Art Bazaar

I sold "Out of the Violet and Blue". The work which I won first place with in the Wallabadah Art Show a couple of months ago.

Out of the Violet and Blue

Pictured below is another of the collaborative artworks Rodney and I have made lately. Rodney does the exquisite expressionist renderings of the womens faces and I stencil the decorative background borders. The faces are oil pastel on archival paper and they are mounted on cotton canvas printed with acrylic paint. I had an enquiry what we are selling them for - they are $150. Would be sent rolled in a tube, free postage within Australia, add $10 for anywhere overseas. They measure approximately 50x65cm.

"Amber Eyes" collaborative art by Rodney Swansborough and Pearl Red Moon

Monday 11 June 2012

This is me

Tomorrow I'll post about our day at Maitland Art Bazaar. Today I want to respond to Eden Rileys challenge that she put out on her blog this Saturday morning. We were packing up to go down to Maitland yesterday morning so I didn't have time to respond.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

Recently I wrote how I've started investigating the world of "mummy bloggers". In the last few weeks I've started a list of blogs featuring down the right sidebar that I regularly read. Eden is not only my favourite blogger but was voted Australias best blogger of 2012. To get a greater understanding of why I'm writing about myself in this way today you might want to use the link to Edens blog.

Edens challenge is to answer the question "Who the hell are you?" As of writing this some 60+ other readers have responded and you can access their links on her blog by using the Fresh Horses Brigade linky published above. 

At the Art Bazaar yesterday I bought this little watercolour image (20x13cm) by Anna Buxton Soldal. When purchasing it I asked Anna if she was doing art at High School. She replied she had just finished her Bachelor of Fine Art at University of Newcastle! You know you are old when everybody under 30 still looks like they are high school students.

You know you are still young when you smile indulgently when the wrinklies complain "I don't feel old"...and indeed I don't and its disconcerting to see the grey haired and creased imposter who daily presents herself as "me" in the mirror.

In truth I am pretty comfortable with my aging process and who I am. One thing I have learned for sure is that my physical appearance is something I have very little control over. Existentially we have to manifest in some sort of physical, meat vehicle. We are the end result of biology and physiology, a flesh container for something truly remarkable and almost impossible to define - not simply a human animal, but a "person". 

The real "person" is little to do with the flesh container but is a life long project fulminating from within our environment and how we perceive and act within it. It is a construct based on nature and nurture and activity within the world. I once thought "who" we are was more a product of nurture but having worked in aged care and with people with intellectual disabilities I now believe it is more about nature - our physical, genetic, physiological and neurological inheritance. I have seen how pharmaceutical drugs can change behaviours and how as the elderly loose their memories from Dementia that the person loses their identity.

Annas little image really appealed to me because it resonates with ideas I have about my own identity within my psyche.The image is rendered in a manner completely cartoonish, surreal, funky, maybe even clown like. The figure is female and childlike (I tell myself she is 6) and has a rather distant, droll, dreamy look. An enigmatic slightly upturned but closed smile to the mouth means this little girl likes to observe silently. She is an introvert, feeling more comfortable looking within than being engaged in the outside world.The markings on the face suggest tattoos or wrinkles, which are marks of status, initiation, age and longevity.The coned hat suggests "dunce" or perhaps "witch" but to me implies a way of thinking that is unconventional, a bit crazy perhaps. A dunce or a witch is an outsider in society. Love the frizzy wedge of red hair, that is exactly the hair I wish I was born with! It reminds of the red dyed dreadlocks I grew for 10 years, between the ages of 35-45.The little figure seems to be posing a curtsey, I read that as presenting myself to the viewer as "here I am ". The outfit of pleated tutu, stripey socks and pointy fairy slippers with bells on is an ensemble of whimsy and silliness.That appeals because I love wearing clothes that I feel subvert the stereotype of my age and social class too....

I am a figurative artist because I'm intrigued and endlessly fascinated by the visual signifiers we adopt to display to the world who we are.

Friday 8 June 2012

Art Bazaar this Sunday

We went away to Dungog last Saturday to stay overnight and enjoyed being at an art show opening. The artists are Marilyn Rudak and Phillippa Augl (otherwise known as my Auntie Pip) The show is open at the Dungog Art Society Studio, 102 Dowling St until the end of June. There are scenes of local landscapes, horses and pets.

We are away again this weekend attending the annual Maitland Art Gallery Bazaar, held in the grounds of the Gallery, Sunday 10th June 10am-3pm. If the weather is good it will be a fabulous day out with 70 Hunter Valley artists displaying their creative wares for sale. Rodney will be demonstrating portrait painting and I'm displaying the techniques of free motion machine embroidery. There is a terrific cafe at the Gallery so lunch and good coffee will add to the enjoyment of the day. I will be giving away a free card of a picture of my art to everyone who calls into our stall and says they have read this blog! (please! an orderly queue, don't storm us!)

Rodney made an exquisite picture for me as a birthday present last month and then felt inspired to go on creating some more similar works. We have been discussing doing some collaborative works for years and now that our exhibition at Muswellbrook Regional Gallery is only 2 months away we have returned to this idea. Our exhibition is titled "Murrurundi Mixed Media Marriage" so we felt to present some collaborative works would also be in keeping with our theme.

Rodneys oil pastel picture and stencilled border

Rodney made a couple of wonderful impressionist studies of womens faces in oil pastel and I stencilled some canvas using my hand cut stencils. The picture above shows me in the process of preparing the decorative frame on my studio table. I fixed the studies into the centre of decorative frames I had printed and stretched them over rectangles of core board. I completed these 2 yesterday

Collaborative work by Rodney and I

Pensive Lady, collaborative work by Rodney and I, he does the faces, I stencil the decorative borders

I really love the pensive expression of the lady in the picture above. We will be taking these works and perhaps a third one to the Art Bazaar this Sunday. We hope to see you there and get some feedback about what you think when seeing the art in real life!

Keep warm!

Thursday 31 May 2012

me and Velasquez

In the last few days I returned to working on a concept that has kept tantalising and eluding me for many months. It will be called "Aussie Infanta" and loosely relates to 2 other works I did last year called Aussie Icon 1 and 2.

Aussie icon 2

Aussie Icon 1

I've been trying to create an image that references the art of the very famous Spanish Baroque painter Rodrigo Velasquez (1599-1660). During his career he painted many pictures of children from noble families which I find enigmatic and intriguing. Particularly the girls, dressed in extraordinary costumes covered with embellishments and jewellery, these little girls were being prepared for the important roles they would perform in cementing family alliances. By mid teens these young women would be promised into marriages that maximised their families political aspirations and wealth.

 In an era hundreds of years before photography only the most wealthy and powerful elites in society could afford to have their pictures painted. Pictures of real girls/women (as differentiated from the religious and mythic representations) contained lots of significant information, beyond just a record of their physical self. They showed their status in society by illustrating how fashionably and luxuriously they were attired - the furs, velvets, silks, embroideries, laces, jewels, hairstyling - all indicated the wealth and social position of the person, and vis-a-vis the females family (in the mid 16th century several european economies were almost bankrupted by the amount of money the wealthy classes spent on buying luxury handmade lace. Some expert lacemakers were executed or imprisoned, and laws were passed to prevent them emigrating or sharing their expertise)

Pictures of unmarried girls were all about attracting suitable suitors from beyond their immediate vicinity. It was very common for kings and queens and members of the nobility to enter into marriages and not to have literally seen their spouse until the day of the ceremony except from a painting (often only a miniature, as it was challenging to transport a large canvas) So these representations were very important and there was potentially a lot depending on them showing the subject in the most attractive and appealing way.

In our contemporary world we still instinctively understand the importance of a picture showing us at our most attractive angle and well groomed and dressed. Rodney and I meet through RSVP, an internet dating site. So the first views we saw of each other were photos we selected to put up for public viewing. I think any women who have ever done this would understand the agony of choosing the "right" image!

Our photographs and representations from modernity are just as loaded with sociological information destined to intrigue our descendents in no less a way than I find the pictures of Velasquez fascinating...

I wanted to make a picture full of colour and pattern which somewhat overwhelms the female figure.

I stencilled these pieces of canvas then collaged them along with some embroidered fragments onto a large canvas

Stencilled canvas pieces

Aussie Infanta, unfinished

Friday 25 May 2012

The magic of paint

I had a spazz out and changed "Beyond" from the graffiti look back to the original concept! The magic of paint....

head and shoulders detail of "Beyond"
It got too much out of my comfort zone and I really want to sell some work!

Beyond, the whole canvas 40 x 75cm

A new work was started yesterday but not enough interesting has happened yet to show any progress pictures. It will be created in this method I've been working in lately - a female figure embellished with textured cloth. Though I'm starting to hanker to get back to my more familiar techniques with lots of colour and highly embellished textiles and have started imagining along those lines....

A post with few (phew!!!) words today. I'm still drained from the brain spit I had last week!

Friday 18 May 2012

Going beyond Beyond and quite possibly the longest post you'll ever get from me...

Yesterday I threw some paint at the work in progress, as I had suggested I was tempted to in the previous blog. I like where it’s at now, which is very different from my original limited palette, beige concept. Now I just have to get brave enough to put more paint on the flesh, particularly the face. Otherwise this is really 2 works inside the frame that aren’t integrated. There are some parallels with this work and the last one I did – “Wrapt; head full of bright ideas” That ended up changing radically from the original concept too. It ended up being a rather grey and monochromatic face surrounded by lots of bright abstract stuff. I decided not to alter the face much, being  just too worried about stuffing up what was a fairly competently rendered facial likeness. That I wanted to enter it into the Murrurundi Art Prize was a bit of a constraint too, with risking any adventurous alterations, because there was the date deadline.

Beyond, I'm happy with the background but will I be brave enough to alter the figure?

This a very long blog so some readers might get bored and drop out. Quite understandable as there is a fair bit of navel gazing about to unfold. Close examination of my belly lint probably has very limited interest to others! 

So be it. 

I have sort of split it into 2 parts so you can get a breather or refreshment approximately half way through if needed.

                                                                      PART ONE

A decade ago all my 2 dimensional work was abstract and I also made dolls. The dolls were sculptural and obviously figurative works, though I acknowledged that the dolls weren’t intended to be characters. I used them as a way to display my textile art collaged over the figurines. I was trying to be clever in making my essentially abstract surfaces into a figurative object that was more easily “understood”  (ie, in the SAP {Serious Art People} lingo “accessible”) by ordinary people who did not have highly evolved ideas about what art is. The point was that hopefully they would find the figures charming and would give me cash money to be able to own them!

Perhaps it could be a metaphor for me and my world that my last 2 artworks are grey, monochromatic figures surrounded by swirling, bright elements. In the last 3 years, due to the wonderful circumstances that my husband has bought into my life, I have had more time to work on my art than ever before.  Since January when I broke my ankle I have had 4 months off work. Except for a few weeks when I had to be horizontal I’ve been able to spend the bulk of this time just doing my art. I have never been so fully immersed in it and have never had a continuous period of time in my life when I woke up every day and had few other obligations other than the choice to do my art.

In just a few months the way I do art has moved forward rapidly, in a way that might have unfolded over a year or 2 when I only had a few hours a week. So now I find myself considering these last 2 works and acknowledge they are metaphoric. The monochromatic, competently rendered figures represent me, surrounded by clamorous viscous colour. Will I be brave and adventurous enough to be able to integrate myself with all the brilliance I feel surround by?...to dive in, make my edges permeable enough to absorb the gorgeousness of all that is available for us to experience in the visual world….?

I feel really threatened by venturing outside the safe realms of “competency”. As Roger Skinner put it in the quote I used in my last blog, to go beyond the ability to “accurately replicate” and “hand back to the tutor (viewer) what they want”

Doing art is about exploring what freedom is. At its most highly realised level it is a spiritual practice. All desire to do and create art expresses a yearning to explore subjective experience and what might be beyond it. The best art is often achieved when the boundaries are examined and transgressed. This requires risks to be taken and the humility of dealing with failure is a regular challenge to be overcome.

This blog is about words (ha!! pretty self evident!) It is a tool I’m finding useful in helping me focus on what I’m trying to achieve in my art. There is an essential contradiction here for me because my primary chosen means of communication is the visual, not the textual. I am often ambivalent about this textual means of communication. Sometimes it can be exhilarating as there are some words I find very textured, coloured and emotional. There is something very satisfying about finding the word that exactly, precisely sums up what you want to express. But that is also why language can be frustrating, as so often the word is not known or cannot be found...

Visual art feels like such a more competent, nuanced and authentic way of expressing an idea
Language and text is an overlay of culture and civilisation which is very necessary but ultimately messes with the brain. Bugger semiotics and semantics. The subtleties of communication through the necessary vehicles of language and text. In modernity the vehicles are in constant revision and flux. Historians devote entire lifetimes to understanding, deciphering or interpreting in various ways what their subjects “really” intended or meant.  We would find the written text of our ancestors a hundred years ago hard to understand; the language would be cumbersome, dated and awkward. Their accents would seem absurd. The further back you go the more unintelligible the languages and text of the past. In reality if we spoke to someone of our culture from 200 years ago we would find it extremely difficult to understand them. Bill Gates wrote the language which has thrown our modernity into freefall only a few decades ago. It will define our global civilisation throughout the next millennia. Remarkably that language uses only TWO SYMBOLS – 0 and 1. Everything in our whole world has never changed at such a rapid rate and every day it is exponentially building on that.

So I sit here today using the using the aforementioned ubiquitous invention of Bill Gates – the “word processor” and are now into the 6th month of blogging. I’m quite amazed I’ve been able to keep it up! Because it seems likely I’ll continue into the foreseeable future I decided to do some researching into how other bloggers do it. Like my art, if I’m going to invest so much time in it I want to do it well and get the most out of it. My writing of the last few months has made me realise how stilted, stylised and old fashioned my writing style is. This is partly because of what I learned at school in the 60s-70s which was defined as proper written English (haha, have to use the capital letter there!) and because the last time I wrote such vast tracts was at University 12 years ago and then it was necessary  to adopt the academic style and requirements.

What I have learned from reading numerous blogs in the last few weeks is rather similar to the learning curve in my artistic practice. Real world obligations usually mean I don’t have enough time to apply myself every day to writing and artmaking and the consequence is the way I do both these things is not very competently and frozen in time with outdated beliefs, learnings and conventions.  A number of wonderful young women writers have opened my eyes to the contemporary art of blogwriting in all its awesomeness.  These women are inspiring and electrifying writers who have bought me starkly to the realisation of my old fashioned, self adopted limits…and I thank them wholeheartedly!

They are listed down the sidebar of this blog if you want to investigate them yourself. I particularly recommend, in order of my favourites – edenland, magnetoboldtoo and bexstar - I’m just a girl & I’ve had it up to here. However, to quote the Popeye world view with a sense of humility - I am what I am. I can examine these other writing styles to extrapolate what I like and to help me loosen up and find my own heartfelt voice. A lot of what I admire about these writers is their absolute authenticity, their refusal to compromise, capitulate or pull their heads in to make other people feel more comfortable.  I have a lot of confidence I can do my own writing better with more time and practise….probably with a lot less swear words though. That is one convention I find hard to transgress!

                                                            PART TWO

Enough of that….at this point I want to return to the one paragraph sentence I made a while back to wholly explain what I meant.  To reiterate -

“Visual art feels like such a more competent, nuanced and authentic way of expressing an idea”

I spent a lot of time up above explaining why language and text seem such a secondary means of communication. There is something inarticulate, inchoate, from the time before language changed our brains that I want to capture and express in my visual art.

Visual art does communicate by giving the viewer a “feeling”. It is not like words which encapsulate information as a symbol (through intentionally grouped letters of the alphabet which represent a word).
As newborns and infants we had no language. We still had thought processes and through our visual acuity gradually make a sense of the world of objects ( I’m struggling a bit here because I’m no neurologist, paediatrician or psychologist….) to survive we have to quickly work out that the objects of greatest importance are the moving, tactile and soundmaking ones that bring comfort like food and warmth.

The human face is the first thing we come to recognise. We quickly find out that the faces respond to what we are doing in the world – cries of hunger or distress will summon a face that makes certain sounds, smiles and laughter create predictable responses and sounds from the face. So our first experience of selfhood and otherness comes from differentiating objects. Our first experiences of power in the world are that the objects do predictable things when we express in particular ways. When a baby expresses contentment by smiling the people around it smile and coo back. Infants learn to interpret visual clues on the faces of people around them before acquiring language. The visual is the first way we learn to understand the world.

My earliest memory is of the colour red. I have no way of knowing whether this is a genuine memory or one I have manufactured and embellished, but it really doesn’t matter. I believe I might been less than 2 years old at the time and lying in a crib when a lady came to visit who wore a bright red coat. The sight of this colour thrilled me so much I remember it still with a frisson 52 years later. In 1989 when I changed my name by deed poll I honoured this memory of my first experience of ecstatic feelings by taking on “Red” as my middle name.  Though my favourite colour is actually orange.

If you made it this far to read all of this I'm really touched. Thank you for your patience and I hope you got some interesting things to think about.

Comments are very welcome! 

Wednesday 16 May 2012

the cracks

Today a trip to Muswellbrook and a delightful physiotherapist called Leonie examined my ankle. She pronounced all seemed to be well on the physical level. The fractured bone has knit, the scar from the operation is beautifully healed, the flexibility was very good and the muscles and tendons were a little weak but nothing that exercise won't strengthen.

I was surprised to hear that as I feel a lot of sensitivity and discomfort. There is numbness, pins and needles sensations and electrical shootings. It feels too weak for me to stand on it alone. Going up and down stairs has to be done very carefully. As she gently massaged my foot Leonie explained how a lot of stuff goes on in the brain. So much of what we interpret as pain is generated there, rather than literally in the tissues. My body might have substantially recovered but I have to complete the fixing with gaining confidence in my head.

After the physio session I dropped into the art gallery, as you do (Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre). Fantastic exhibition on at the moment - "Driven to Abstraction"  Showing the works of Carole Corrie and Garry Foye, on until 10 June. I was fascinated that these artists had participated in running a workshop for local artists and the results from that were also on display (eating my heart out) wow! how amazing to see the efforts of the students contrasted with the teachers.

I had a short chat with Brad Franks, the gallery director, just before I left, relating how blown away I felt by the brilliance of the art. I did suggest to Brad that my art is "anal retentive, I need to loosen up and get my head of my arse and I want to go home and chop up all my work, pastiche it back together and throw paint all over it" I think he may have been somewhat taken aback - haha, perhaps concerned that the work I've accumulated towards the August exhibition might end up vandalised!!! - however I meant that in absolute enthusiam. Not as a destruction of my art - but as a positive reconstruction!

I loved this quote from Muswellbrook photographer Roger Skinner, one of the curators of the exhibition and Arts Centre Education Officer, this is a portion of a statement he has on the gallery wall;

Somehow, there had to be a way to get the artists into the area and to teach some
of our local artists to free themselves up and explore the notions of beginning to abstract their
work. A means of encouraging them to move away from the literal, the mere replica
of what exists in front of the canvas, which is like learning by rote.
This process is not an easy one, because of previous learnings in schools where we
are encouraged to accurately replicate, which, is a most perfect nonsense. Teaching
is a subversive activity, and the difficulty we experience in getting free of the idea
of handing back to the tutor what they want instead of what we can do can sometimes fails most of us for most of our lives

Meantime (back on the farm) this where "Beyond" has gotten to yesterday....

So....now that I'm all fired up with wanting to DECONSTRUCT....where to from here!!!

Saturday 12 May 2012

passing of seasons

A few weeks ago I thought Winter was upon us. We even lit the woodstove a couple of times. Then this lovely balmy respite has given us a week of glorious autumn weather. I so love this time of year between the end of Autumn and true Winter setting in, heralded officially by the first frost. I heard at the garden club that they have had at least one frost already at Blandford - only 6km down the road so its probably just a matter of days before the icy tentacles of Winter tighten its grip around us. So I do my daily walk around the garden  anticipating the day will soon arrive when the last flowers and foliage of 2011 will crumple and return to the ground.

Outside my studio I have a little pond and took this picture of a pink calla lily opening up which grows beside a bust of Kuan Yin, the Buddhist represention of compassion.

Yesterday I started on this new work. It will be called "Beyond" I worked a lot more on it today and it has changed a lot since these photos! This work will be a bit similar to "Still Life"

Today I did some free motion stitching around the face to simulate strands of flowing hair. The figure will feature dimensional bas relief effects of folded cloth....

A close up of the face for "Beyond", oil over acrylic paint