“Drawing is a very important way of thinking without words”…………… Antony Gormley
It’s turning colder and there is nothing like autumn sun streaming through the window to warm the bones and that means my life model stays still for longer. At times she lays on her back, stretched out and her belly turns a soft pink.
Every now and then during a drawing session she will fall into a deep sleep and I can see her twitch in her dreams. It’s when this happens that I know I can grab my little orange book especially for these moments. I use my favourite Lyra colour-giant brown pencil. There are other times I draw her and use pens or whatever is handy but I like this little ritual.
I also like that the end of the pencil is a little chewed from leaving it behind.
I had not made plans to go with the Picknick Painters this week but things changed last-minute and they were going to Killalea. I thought that I may not be able to do this again for a while because of other commitments, so I threw my stuff in a bag, a book on Philip Guston for Kaye, some book binding notes and my sketchbook. It looked pretty black towards the south so I wasn’t expecting to stay long. Killalea had its own plans for me.
It’s beauty never fails to amaze, pushed to the edge by McMansion after McMansion just a small mottled concrete barricade to stop the grey roofs from spilling in on the green hills. To the east, Bass Point, a quarry and the constant rumble of trucks on dirt that disappear behind the hill. To the west vivid yellow-green hills and escarpment hem us in even further. For me it’s the view northwards that tugs at my attention and draws me away from the natural beauty.
The stack sits embedded in a finger of coast, surrounded crucifixion like be a scattering of smaller inconsequential chimneys. Mum always said -”I know I’m home when I see that stack.” Each time I look at it, it conjures childhood memories in some form. Scanning out to sea eastward from the stack, the five islands off Port Kembla float amongst the shipping containers like large bags of jetsam. The last page in my sketchbook contained notes on jellyfish within the lake. Images and sketches sometimes merge and I found myself humming “Five Jellyfish sitting on a rock…” meanwhile I sketched my thoughts. A tanker towing the island and in turn the island towing the jellyfish. It made me think of the dreaming stories associated with the local Wodi Wodi people of the starfish and the whale.
I couldn’t decide whether they were heading ashore or out to sea but it made me think of the red suitcase, a symbol of my need to run, to escape.
Each time I work it feeds more and more into the lake series which is becoming stronger in my mind through my experience in this landscape. I feel I have opened the suitcase a little more, perhaps feeling more ready to settle.
Despite the rain I was determined to clear paintings out of the storage shed. The crud at the bottom of the roller door was an indication of what lay inside. Moving so often combined with a tad of forgetfulness (or youthful loss of brain cells) has it’s advantages, you forget what you paint. My idea was to take as many paintings as possible in the wagon, take them off the stretchers and be ruthless as possible and roll the rest. I grabbed a pile of small ones first, about a dozen. Our painting teacher said it was a ratio of about 1 in 10 to get a decent painting. Damn! I’d forgotten about that one. In amongst that dozen there was a jewel, a small 10 x 10 canvas, I tried to place where I was at when I painted it.
I packed the rest, as many as I could without delving too far back in the storage unit where there was obviously signs of scurrying. Driving home about half an hour away gave me time to mull it over. Colours are always a way of me connecting to a place. Then it came to me, it was Bungendore – the Bungendore Bears, I loved these works. I especially loved the photos. I remember being mittened-up sketching in the car with Anne-Marie outside the Bungendore Motel – we were pondering the possibility of it being a hot bed of sexual encounters for nearby Canberran politicians during the day. The price was right, the location far enough away. Painted in bright yellow $60 a night on the blue bin wheeled out on the kerb.
So after all that agonising about what to keep and how to cull, I ended up with more to work with, an idea unfinished, another excuse to travel and paint.
I’ve been pre-occupied with exhibitions lately. I thought I would post something from a sketchbook. I began keeping sketchbooks as soon as I realised I couldn’t live without them. I pulled a random out of the bookshelf, it was labeled in the usual scrappy fashion -2 pieces of masking tape. Feb ’05 to Apr 05 A4 No: 33. I kept track by size and type and date.
This was exciting – it happened to be when a series of work had fallen into place and the basis for works that I continue to make. I realised the significance of signs prior to this but these small sketches were around the time that I thought about incorporating the figurative signs into the landscape around the location where the sign had been sometimes inappropriately placed. It gradually taught me how to place and work on composition.
I did produce a large painting from memory from these sketches. I don’t have a photo of the finished work but here it is in the early stages -charcoal on canvas – 48″ x 60″ -it was sold and I never got a finished photo- a bit of a shame as I felt it was a breakthrough for me.