Grayson Perry Sailing out of the Dodgy Art Pool

GP Opera House 2015Sometimes our very human desire for meaning can get in the way of having a good experience of the world” Grayson Perry.

Detail You are Here pot

Detail You are Here pot

Not much scares an Essex transvestite potter except the “dodgy art pool”.

I spent the day visiting a great exhibition Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. I had a marvellous lunch atop the MCA, overlooking the Opera House where Perry would give a talk later in the day on How To Be an Artist Just Like Me. I think as an artist you tend to look for talks, trawl art magazines and even attend art workshops in the hope that you understand the artist better and even anticipate that a little bit of magic will rub off.


The greatest piece of advice came from Perry, who had fearlessly donned flamboyant orange tights, pink perilous platforms and a shimmery blue nappy-like costume, that he was frightened of ending up in a craft store.  We all are familiar with the type of store, coloured glass platters, decorator cushions, crafty wood items and pottery. His advice to sail out of that world, be brave and head for open waters to explore the world beyond. Take risks, make mistakes. After seeing the work in this mammoth exhibition I don’t think there was ever a danger of Perry being moored on the fatal shore of the dodgy art pool.


The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Prep sketches for the Tomb

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Shrine to Alan Measles 2007

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry

Sketches for The Upper Class at Bay tapestry






Little Painted Thick Knees

Thick Knees Brampton Island Qld Australia

Long narrow canvases have always appealed to me but are quite difficult to make a painting work. I’m re-arranging my paintings in the house. I came across this one that I had completed after a holiday to Brampton Island quite a while back. It was a happy time with friends and the colours on this rainy weekend reminded me of the warmth of tropical waters.

The thick knee was a perfect sketch for this shape canvas.

The thick knees are a type of curlew. This strange bird cries like a baby in the night and stops dead in it’s track if your come across it and shuts it’s big droopy eyes. A sketchers delight – a bit like the lemur.



Also associated with death by the Aboriginal people.

There are other types of curlew and I came across another in the Desert Park in Alice Springs. I was sitting on an old log sketching one and it gradually came closer and closer. I had hiking boots and I don’t know whether it thought my laces looked like worms but started to pick at them.

Being a drawer has it’s perks you become extremely quiet and spend time studying the subject which makes for some great encounters (of the non-human kind). On the other hand – you could lose your shoelaces






Little Birds & Empty Sheds

After pulling apart paintings, arranging couriers for the big stuff, the shed is empty.

In a basket left over from my last studio were remnants of bird stuff. Some old drawings, bits of books, a few feathers, what I term – collage stuff.

I had found this tiny leather-bound sketchbook in Salvos. I have decided to make another bird book.

I have been a tad introspective lately about working big again. I just can’t do it yet I’m waiting for that opportunity that keeps seeming to elude me. Meanwhile I’m back to small birds in tiny books.

Mapping Room

I love maps, my last 2 blogs were about my love of the new MCA so I decided to add the two together. I admire the planning in exhibitions, working out where to hang what but even better are maps to explain.  I think my all time favourite was the room map of the William Kentridge exhibition that was held at the MCA in 2004. It was an inspirational exhibition and the large room map was just as impressive. Coincidently Annandale Galleries has a current exhibition on his work that I should make an effort to see.

I tend to keep ephemera, room pamphlets, newspaper clippings and always a postcard. I think of myself somewhere between obsessive, hoardish and knowledgeable. I also think most artists tend to do the same, collect, exhibitionalia.

So when I started putting this blog piece together (God help me! Am I now blogging about blogging?) I went on the search for the mother of all room pamphlets for that exhibition in 2004.  Prior to blogging, I was a sketchbook scribbler so I thought this shouldn’t be too difficult as the sketchbooks are in some semblance of order. A3,A4, A5, A6, Hardbound, leather, unusual, trains, travels and moleskin – then years. Unfortunately the ladder was obscuring the bottom of the bookshelf where the A5 2004’s lived.

My next avenue was the Kentridge books, I have a small collection and I sometimes keep noteworthy pieces of paper in there. Damn! Anne-Marie has borrowed those. Aah! Yet another avenue – the postcards. Yes, now there are the large and small, indigenous Australian, Australian, International, freebies and gifts -all in little white boxes. I took a punt and went the large international (plus it was on the bottom shelf). So I have this….. a postcard from 2004 with my thoughts at that time and my current postcard from last weekend-a view of the harbour by Eugene Von Geurard and yet another postcard commemorating the opening-a special scratchie edition by TMOD (funnily enough these have been my birthday cards of choice between my daughter and myself and I have a collection of these).

And as a result I was so happy to read the back. It wasn’t the room catalogue but it was enough to jog the memory maps. In the meantime I clutched at an old sketchbook, wrong year but conveniently placed between the ladder rungs and a quick flick showed the early rumblings of my current lake series. Mmm -that’s going to be useful for later.

I would love to design a room brochure for my internal workings.

3 Cormorants, 2 Cranes and No Dragons

Round 2 for the Dragon Boat Races on the weekend. I’d packed the sketch gear, the dog and set out sometime after 9:30. They were due to start at 9:00 but it was a Saturday morning. Hell. I was doing pretty good to get  out with my stuff at that time.  The lake was really choppy and as I drove past I saw one emerging from the grey but there were people wandering down the road and cars everywhere.  The plan was to drive further to Boonerah Pt and look back at the boats on the water, capture the colours. Sit in peace without the sideshow.

I guess I was too late or it was called off again. Instead I walked the dog for a while and took a track I hadn’t before, away from the weekend  walkers.  It clung to the edge of the lake among the she-oaks. I was back in love with lake again. The cormorants were drying their wings in the sun. I felt I was intruding, catching them in their early morning skinny dip.  Two white cranes were gently wading through the shallows. It felt very relevant to my state of mind. Shaking off the dark wet that had clung, looking through to lighter times, searching the lake.

I took Bella Dorrie Evans back home as she is a nightmare when I’m sketching, she just hasn’t got plein-air manners or any for that matter.   I wanted to go back, it was bright, early and my gear was packed -a sketchbook at least. I stopped by a little lakeside cafe picked up a toasted sandwich and set myself up on the point.

It was great, a few kids fishing off the jetty and no sticky beakers. I felt in a world of my own. It would have been great to break out the colours for the dragon boats, maybe get some demons out. I’m always apprehensive, I had a bad experience in the past. I thought that I might have been throwing the paint, taking a slog at the activity and maybe get a work with some angst in it.  I guess I had too much of the white crane in me today.

The Red Case and Killalea

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.

No! He’s Not the Black Wiggle.

Robert Juniper was a great early influence. I think he taught me a lot about colour and relevance of spatial areas within a work.

In the early days I’d sketch my influences, make studies of their particular works and then turn those into my own compositions. The snap of Robert Juniper I chose first, then I pulled out a sketchbook at random. These sketches date 2002. It’s hard to believe it’s that long ago, I still feel I have such a way to go. It seems like yesterday -I use to play Artist Roulette – scan the library bookshelf until something twigged. Lesley the librarian had a love of art and an old MG so even though a small library it had a wonderful stock of art books, especially Australian art. I have her to thank for ordering in treasures from other libraries for me.

I remember a painting I did from this thumbnail – it was a tiny cropped area from one of Junipers works, I always had scribbly notes around it  -where to adjust, what colours. I think I’ve been neglecting this lately.

The shot of Robert Juniper is from one of my favourite books “Painters in the Australian Landscape” by Robert Walker. It was a book that I took out regularly -one in Lesley’s Library. I was lucky enough to pick one up in the Lifeline Book Fair -it was signed! It was destined to be mine! 

Ndappa , Red Dust in the Blood

I don’t know why artists are drawn to the centre. Watching a doco on Anish Kapoor he said “It’s all about space”. The space out there feels infinite. The West McDonnells implode on that starkness. This week on the coast it’s cold and memories of the red dust have appeared on Facebook with Megan and the impending journey of Jane to Rainbow Valley, Michaels trip and the colours of Lake Eyre in Carla’s paintings. This is a sneak peak of my book made from rubbings, dust and ink from Palm Valley NT.

Daintree Crabs

Cape Tribulation in the Daintree Rainforest has crabs. These little creatures make stars on the sand and also wormy looking poop. Great to draw and this drawing is from my “Trip to Cairns Indigenous Art Fair” sketchbook. Each time I visit this beach there are more and more people. Hopefully we won’t walk on the stars.