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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Serra-ndippity

Richard Serra Vico,2002

Richard Serra Drawings

Blackness is a property, not a quality”  Richard Serra.

Recently Richard Serra has been on my art hit list.  Looking at public art, it has hard to see past him, his work is solid, demanding and ‘complexingly’ simple. I have a loan of a  beautiful book to read from my pal Jane Richard Serra Drawings.

Serra & Pollock, it's all about action

Serra & Pollock, it’s all about action

I suppose coming from a blacksmith’s daughter, steel was a material sheet-rolled into my psyche.  I watched my dad melt lead and instead of flinging against a wall like Serra, he poured it into molds for sinkers.  He curved steel in the shed to form horse shoes, like Serra curving lines within a room. Most of the time I was forbidden to go into the work shed, but I would don the Ned Kelly welding helmet, smelly and sweaty. I would wave my stig wand and pretend to make steel glow.

Serra, Vico 2002.

Serra, Vico 2002.

 

Unfortunately Dad never got around to see my (very inept) welding skills and I think he would have loved Serra as much as me, he could have explained the properties and the logistics. I recently looked at making a sculpture on the scale of a Serra and was excited to see a drawing materialise, if only in Photoshop as a huge monolith, emerging from my lake.

 

 

 

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel  2014.

Paintlater, Graphite, oil pastel 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Paintlater, 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, ‘Down’ 2014

Paintlater, Maquette fro 'Down' 2014

Paintlater, Maquette for ‘Down’ 2014

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.

That Messy Abstractionist Drawer

Joan Mitchell

Joan Mitchell

The bombardment of information through internet sources has meant that I hear about more and more artists that I like.  “Great!”  You might say.  I’m not so sure.  My current reading material is an essay by Elaine De Kooning on the artist Earl Kerkham and I had earlier read an article on American abstractionist Joan Mitchell.  I really didn’t know about these artists and rather than just a name printed in black and white, I wanted to see their works, give them time and recognition.

 

 

I was really enamoured with Joan Mitchells work and was surprised that I had not discovered her work earlier. I don’t know if it was a case of seeing and forgetting or never looking.  How many others have escaped me?

Earl Kerkham Head 1962

Earl Kerkham Head 1962

The trouble is there are so many artists out there past and present and the more time spent looking means less time spent doing.  I admire artists who are single-minded and focus on one or maybe two artists and can develop their own work as a result. I thought I could do that and if I really had to choose, I could only narrow it to three – De Kooning, Giacometti and Antony Gormley.

But what happens to all the others I discard to focus on the big 3?  Do I chuck them all into the second drawer that is my head and rummage through it when I’m working on a painting or series? That scares me, I know what that drawer is like and there is always a fabulous instrument that lurks at the bottom, sharp and edgy and when you go in to retrieve it you could possibly be hurt or come out with something you really can’t use.

My Lake series is bubbling and I am looking at artists that I think might be relevant to what I need  – Puccini, Arthur Boyd, Rembrandt and Elisabeth Cummings are in the pot. And if I could give them a stir with the tool at the bottom of the drawer it would be Rauschenberg.

Post Christmas Colour

The Xmas PaintingEach Christmas gets curiouser and curiouser. This year was shared with my painter friend, Jane.  Rather than a traditional Christmas, we ate BBQ sausage sandwiches and painted and drank.  Trying to get back into some semblance of order post-Christmas and cleaning up the studio a tad, I decided to show my daughter my Christmas painting (as I had dubbed it).

Declaring to her “This is my Xmas painting.” I realised I had painted it primarily red and green. Maybe the result of too many Xmas mojitos, the heat and lamb and rosemary sausages but I can’t remember the original subject. Jane’s subject was the lake where we had walked the day before and I’m guessing mine had also originated from the same area. I do remember referring to a sketchbook. But the colours certainly aren’t relevant.

WindangI had also lost a day in the midst of a week and fortunately collected my daughter from the airport on the right day (just!). So now I’m getting back into order, righting the chaos and so this painting is now half done, red and green, unwrapped but needs to be finished. I just don’t know what I’m finishing.

 

 

The Lake?

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.

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.

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.