The Ups and Downs of Drawing

IMG_4071A shag and a pig went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat lined, with red-lead”

Sometimes I feel very connected to where I live and other times I want to get the hell out.  A while back I saw a submission for sculpture installation at the lake.  The lake was my childhood home, the boatshed my happy days. Somehow I feel as an artist I have a deep connection and I sort of owe it to me and the lake to produce something worthwhile.  I have done plenty of research and have my own motifs that appear in paintings and drawings.  I didn’t do the submission – no time, no confidence, no excuse really. This week while driving to work I passed the sculpture that has been erected where I thought I should do something.  I was prepared for the worst. I’m really happy with it. I didn’t do it but someone put their hand up and it feels very right.

Ghost Trees

Ghost Trees

Drawing on stories from the community there is a strength of connection behind the work. I had my own plans and a work that really was about me more than the area, so I am glad there is a work that will tell lots of other stories.

Anyway the drawing is improving. Once again the cormorants surfaced, the boatshed and my struggle to get it out. I may not have built a huge black shaped wing on the foreshore but I feel at peace with a story in art there for others.

 

Meanwhile I am still drawing more stories from my childhood on the lake.

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Torpedo the pig

Torpedo the pig

 

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Juggling Jellyblubbers

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One painting leads to another, and another, and another. Velasquez started it, John Olsen changed it, and I melded it into a slippery oozy painterly mess.  Somehow the egg and the jellyfish became a transluscent clue into my painting re-birth.  Jellyfish have emerged in my drawings of the past, they are at the end of the jetty, gliding just below the surface – transparent water, transparent flesh, ungrabbable.

An old sketch- they were there in the past.

An old sketch- they were there in the past.

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My Turtle Ran Away to the Carnival

Pelicans Boonerah long 1

Sometimes the unexpected can lead your mind on a merry dance through some strange stuff.  Yesterday while walking my dog on the jetty at the lake at Boonerah Point, I was reminiscing. The smell of the lake and the jellyfish and weed combine to recreate my childhood. I suddenly saw something swimming toward me, moving slowly through the water, larger than a jellyfish, larger than fish. It was a sea turtle.  I fumbled for my phone for a photo but unable to unravel the dog-lead and swipe for the app, all I could do was stare. It came closer and closer almost breaking the surface, the dog scrambled to the edge, the turtle took a swift left turn and swam away at high-speed.

Boonerah Point

Boonerah Point

It’s unusual for sea turtles to venture so far from the entrance but a good sign that the lake is healthy and it definitely looked uninjured and in good condition.  I have had  some limited turtle experience so I figure I knew one when I saw one. I’ve snorkelled with them a few times in Queensland waters and on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve helped my friend Carla feed worms to her hungry turtle hatchlings for WIRES (wildlife rescue).

Turtle WindangThe one turtle experience however that has stayed with me was a turtle whose name I can’t remember. Dad had found him at the boat shed and he had a hole drilled in the base of his shell. Dad put him in the garden behind the shrubs next to the tap where it was dark and damp and we left lettuce.  The next morning he was gone along with most of the lettuce.  It was near Xmas time and the usual carnival had set up over the road in the park. I always thought that my turtle had run away to the carnival. I hope he had a happy life and his fairy floss was mostly green.

My Headcounter is Running Down

Weeds from the Lake

Weeds from the Lake

Sometimes a day is never what you plan.  I wasn’t feeling particularly creative today but after a vigorous bout of gardening and junk throwing-outing I went into the “studio”.  I jotted down a couple of ideas for the lake series that had drifted to the front of the brain. Drew a few thumbnail sketches to see whether a bull in a boat was feasible.

photo-22There was no more room in that sketchbook, another one had bitten the dust so I grabbed the next empty. It was a small black moleskin that I had started a collage on the cover. I was using body bits out of an anatomy text-book. I love doing this, simple cut and pasting. I lost focus pretty quick and went from collaging body bits to checking emails.

There was a great podcast on the future of museums so I went outside once more and sat in the sun and listened, watching the counter going down and down. From there I found a link to another creative blogger who had a Vimeo treat for me so off I went watching a selection of  Vimeos, looking at more counters counting down minutes and seconds.

Miniature Melbourne from Nathan Kaso on Vimeo.

I felt I had a counter on my weekend. I tried to remember how it had started but I couldn’t grasp that slide bar to take me back.

Fishing in the Art Pool

I guess my childhood at the boat shed is the reason for my love of fish. When I heard about the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney I knew it was up my alley.  Exhibits at this museum are always excellent and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. The nature of the Museum would mean certain limitations on what is exhibited so it is even better when they come up with such a simple idea done in a fabulous way.


Entering through a scaly doorway led to an open sea of fish. Fish in design, fish in indigenous art and fish in painting, photography and illustration. I can’t even pinpoint my favourite work – paintings by Margaret Olley, Arthur Boyd, Ken Whisson and John Olsen were tempting enough but then you see marvellous colourful illustrations in one of the world’s rarest books dated 1754. It was just the absolute variety within this exhibition that had me enthralled. I felt I could stay, sketch, research. It felt like a beginning towards my end in works about the boat shed.

One small unassuming work was an illustration of Condon’s Creek in the Illawarra area and the use of the dog tree by the aboriginal people to stupefy fish. It involved preparing the bark of a tree, stripping it and putting it into the fire to get hot. It was then plunged into the creek where the fumes would stupefy the fish and they would rise to the surface. I knew this was a great link – not only was it a local connection to place, it was a fishing method that leant itself to story telling.  A story that leant itself to painting.

I had once thought my memory of flying fish was imagined but I know that fish are as extraordinary as an invented world and this display so wonderfully curated by Penny Cuthbert and Stephen Scheding has provided the excitement I needed to re-visit the subject again.

The exhibition involved tales of fishing, whaling and scientific collection. All of this within a museum that sits right on Sydney Harbour, where during the week a whale was hurt inside the harbour by a ferry.

 

 

There is no other ideal place for this exhibition. It is sad that it has been cut short and is only on for another couple of weeks.

 

Unfortunately it is giving way to a repeated pirate exhibition but if it draws a larger audience and little aquatic gems like this exhibition are held from time to time I won’t jump off the plank in a hurry.

The Banksia from Boonerah Point


Yesterday I set up my paint box in the effort to paint something constructive toward the Lake Series. What I ended up with was a small banksia painting. 

There was a mass of cormorants on the edge of the lake – black shapes against the ochre of the bank and blue.  Perfect. I sketched for a while, took down some notes on the form of the birds- especially those airing their wings. They flew off in a round-about way when disturbed by a couple of lakeshore dogs. It was quiet and no-one else about, just one guy practising his reel casting technique in the park.  I guess he was a self-conscious of his habit as I am in mine.

I sat at the picnic table in the sun and the view was through the barbecue shelter toward the industrial north. Great shapes. I painted till I felt I was fiddling without giving anything more to what I was doing.

I loaded the car and was about to hop in when I was distracted by the banksia tree I was in front of, I decided to grab a bit to take back home and paint or sketch.

A great afternoon of bits and pieces, banksia, cormorants, lake and pink gouache.

The Ping-Pong Table

I’m still rolling up paintings, tearing paper and burning stuff.  As I go I am photographing the stuff I have had to say goodbye to once and for all.

This one was hard. Not a great work by any means but one of those that I remember every mark, every mix. It was based on my old studio.  I had a large ping-pong table in the centre of the space – it was great to store bits and pieces, cut paper, mount works, paint flat.

The table was a conglomeration of collectables. Pieces of paper, bones, paint but it was where I was happy for a long time. I had hung on to this work for that reason. It was a series of 6 large boards -each 1 m x .700 so difficult to dispose of too.

One board had 3 ping-pong bats glued to it and on top of the bats, cassette tape boxes and inside the boxes, pieces of paint palette and on the paint palette, fish bones.

It was produced at a time where I was in transition, I wanted to paint but loved the exploration of materials and this work was about that.  Perhaps I was sensing the time to leave that ping-pong table behind.

I often dried fish bones after eating fish and my clothesline would have smelly fish carcasses hanging precariously from time to time. I liked to do this when I had caught the fish myself. I sometimes lost my “washing” to kookaburras.

There is something very primal about fish bones. Their role in this work also related back to my youth at the boatshed. The actual fish bones glued within the work had long since gone – to delicate sustain countless moves.

I don’t know if I could have discarded the work at all if they had still been adhered to the work.  Either way it has now gone and it definitely looks better in hindsight.

Re-surfacing to Postcode 2528

The cormorant has become my own personal symbol within works. It’s wings hang dripping wet, askew and it’s face pointing upwards warming from the sun.

Wollongong City Gallery has it’s Postcodes from the Edge Exhibition and I have three works hung. Postcodes seemed an appropriate time and title to submit gouache works of the lake series.

I realised the works hanging there suspended were a little like the cormorants wings, in need of space.  Today I shared my paintings with my new work friends and felt even more so like the cormorant, this time wanting to dive into the depths of the lake, escape the light and hide in the murky depths where I was away from scrutiny.

I appreciate the times I re-surface and take in the warmth of the sun. Today was one of those days.

Legs like a thoroughbred racehorse

Yesterday was a remarkable day.  It began with listening to an interview on the radio about lifesaving.  My ears tweaked..Dad was a beach inspector and the historian was looking for information. After a flurry of emails and phone calls I related my Dad’s story.

I always saw him as special but to hear of his reputation as a “Waterman” was delightful.  A term dubbed by the South Africans of Derban Beach for men that could take on any surf. A term of respect by lifesavers around the world.

I painted this work quite some years ago. It was an important painting to me, the beginning of my Windang series, my look back that is still yet to be completed. Dad was a huge man 6ft 3, legs like a thoroughbred racehouse. As a small child I was always running behind, viewing the world between two long neverending pink legs or propped from above, perched on shoulders riding the surf.

Trolling through Dad’s photos, clippings and ephemera his world encompassed the beach, stockman at Carpentaria Downs, shearer, Kokoda, steelworker, businessman and boatsman.   I’m sure Dad would think that this is an ordinary life, I think more like an extraordinary man.

The Beautiful Pea-Green Boat

Painting at the Lake with the Picknick Painters this week resulted in a little more confidence about the direction I’m rowing. I know that I want to combine stories with my painting to bring my own Lake-ness to the Lake. I always imagined myself to be rowing with the owl and the pussy cat in my beautiful pea-green boat. I painted the boats with Dad as a young girl, it was always yellow- a stenciled name on the back, or the canoes. This week I painted my imaginary boat a beautiful pea-green.