Monday, 31 October 2016

Creative Sprint IV

These are the creations from my final week of Creative Sprint. It is over. Hurrah!

Day 23: Interpret your favourite song lyrics.

I have many favourite songs, so there were many, many options for this prompt. Yet my thoughts went straight to Nick Drake, because of the poetic, sometimes visionary nature of his lyrics. ‘Three Hours’ was my first choice, but I wanted something that wasn’t going to be too difficult to draw. I considered ‘Fruit Tree’ and ‘Pink Moon’, but it was the simplicity of ‘Road’ that caught me in the end. (I would have darkened the colours if I’d had time, but other than that I am quite pleased with this piece.)

You can say the sun is shining if you really want to
I can see the moon and it seems so clear
You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
I can take the road that’ll see me through
I can take the road that’ll see me through

Road, watercolours pencils and felt tip pen on watercolour paper

Day 24: Make something that incorporates or is inspired by a smell.
As it is spring, all I could think of was flowers (though I did consider attempting to photograph the smoke of burning incense dancing in the air). After flipping through A Victorian Posy: Penhaligon’s Scented Treasury of Verse and Prose, a pretty little book I picked up in an antique shop several years ago—which is actually scented with perfume!—but not being particularly inspired, I turned to one of my all-time favourite books: Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (1978). The book itself has a most delicious fragrance of almost forty-year-old paper, and that smell takes me back to when I was a teenager, when I explored its pages often. Towards the back of the book is a section on ‘Faery Flora’, where I came across this page about Wild Thyme. The thyme in our garden is in flower at the moment, and as it is so very pretty, I thought it was a sign. Hence, with thyme- and nostalgia-scented fingers, I took this photo.

Wild Thyme

Day 25: Break something and make something new with the parts.

I could not break something deliberately, unless it was a stick or a leaf—something organic—so this is the best I could come up with.

My Green Heart is Broken

Day 26: Create something you can wear on your body. Bonus: get a picture of yourself wearing it in public.

I really struggled with this prompt. If I’d had more time, or different materials, I’m sure I could have done much better. But I wasn’t feeling well, and I couldn’t think straight, and I didn’t want to do anything difficult (or go out in public). So I put a rather spectacular flower on a necklace, and wore my cardigan of weeds. That is all.

Orchid Rockrose Necklace

Day 27: Make something inspired by another Creative Sprinter.

Another Sprinter, Unicia R. Buster, had posted a photo of herself with peacock-inspired face paint on (for Day 26), and I could not resist transforming her into the goddess Juno, whose sacred bird was the peacock.

Many thanks to Unicia for being my inspiration, and kindly allowing me to post her image here. You can see some of her fabulous line drawings on her website: Afros 365.

Photo by Unicia R. Buster
Juno, watercolour pencils, coloured pencil, white and gold gouache on card

Day 28: Make a monster for #Monstober!

I was busy volunteering at the Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum, as I do every now and then, so I didn’t have time to ‘make’ a monster. Luckily, I met this adorable little monster, one of the resident water dragons, who kindly agreed to pose for this photo.

Water Dragon

Day 29: Ask someone you respect to look through your past month's work and select their favourite one. Revise or refine the work they selected for today's task.

My mum liked the fragrant mandala I made for Day 20, so I repeated the process, making the design tighter, and adding a couple of new ingredients to the mix. It’s definitely an improvement on the first one.

Fragrant Mandala II

Day 30: Create a trophy or other award for yourself!

I prefer the idea of a souvenir (which means ‘remember’ in French) to that of a trophy or award, so I created this image, collaging most of my work from the past month to remind me, not just of what I have achieved, but also to keep being creative.

Remember!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Creative Sprint III

These are the creations from my third week of Creative Sprint.

Day 16: Invent a new word and illustrate or demonstrate its meaning.

I invented a new word by combining three Old English words: 

slēpgemyndwrītan

Essentially ‘sleep–mind–writing’; from Old English slēp – sleep, gemynd – mind (in the sense of memory, thought), and wrītan – writing (in the sense of scoring/forming letters by carving/writing).

I created this word because it came to my attention recently that some of my best creative thinking is done in the middle of the night, when I am woken by an idea, and can’t help but begin to ‘write’ in my head. In a state of half-sleep I begin to compose a story, coming up with situations, lines of dialogue, characters and events, generally emerging out of brainstorming I had been working on during the day; and though I would usually prefer to be asleep, I know that this kind of sleep–mind–writing is really fruitful. Often the next day I will write down my ideas, and suddenly I will have a finished story. 

I am aware that it is a very awkward word (and I don’t even know how to pronounce it!), but it gave me the opportunity to produce an interesting artwork, and that is the part that matters.

Slēpgemyndwrītan, acrylic paint, watercolours and pen on card 

Day 17: Green is the colour of so many different things. Use it as your inspiration today.

I cheated a little and shared my painting The Pear Tree, which I completed a couple of months ago, because it so clearly fulfils the aim of this prompt, and it is a work I am very proud of. You can purchase cards, prints and so forth of this image from my RedBubble shop.

The Pear Tree, watercolours and gold and copper gouache on watercolour paper (June–August 2016)
Day 18: Take a walk outdoors and create something using exclusively the materials you find along the way.

I didn’t go for a walk, but just used a few things I found in the garden to make this fellow. In May Gibbs’ stories, such as Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, an Australian children’s classic, the banksia men are quite scary and mean, but I think my little man looks quite dapper on his perch in the banksia tree.

Banksia Man

Day 19: Invent a game for two or more people to play. Bonus: Get someone to play it with you!

It seemed that the only way for me to respond to this prompt was to do so intuitively, based more on what I wanted to draw than on the ‘playability’ of the game. So I invented a metaphysical game: Snakes & Labyrinths. It starts much like Snakes & Ladders, only there are no ladders, just snakes. When you land on a snake you are swallowed and slide down into the snake’s belly, entering an underground labyrinth. The aim is to find your way to the centre of the labyrinth, and attain ‘enlightenment’ (or ‘endarkenment’, as the case may be). Only then will you be able to return up one of the initially absent ladders. I doubt that anyone would want to play it with me, unless they were prepared to spend an awful long time lost in the underworld. 

Snakes & Labyrinths, felt tip pen on paper

Day 20: Create using only materials you can find in a kitchen.

I sat in the kitchen with a cup of maté tea and thought about this one for a while. I knew I had to make something. This was the best I could come up with.

Fragrant Mandala

Day 21: Take something boring and make it really fancy.

Why use a boring old pencil when you can use a PenQuill!

PenQuill

Day 22: Do something backwards, upside down or inside out.

An upside down tree, where the moon above is below and the sun below is above.

Moon Above, Sun Below, water-soluble oils on oil colour paper

Monday, 17 October 2016

Creative Sprint II

These are the creations from my second week of Creative Sprint.

Day 8: Come up with a new use for something you would normally discard.

As a knitter I always end up with lots of yarn off-cuts and bits and pieces, which are normally quite useless, accumulating in multi-colored tangles. So I decided this was a good opportunity to put them to use, creating this small doll.

Doll, yarn off-cuts and knitted pieces, glue, felt tip pen on card (for the lips)

Day 9: Share a secret or make something inspired by a secret.

Today’s prompt initially left me stumped. Did I want to reveal a secret? Did I even have any secrets? So I decided to approach it in a more intuitive way, based on something I had written once—There are secrets down there—and revisiting an oil pastel technique that I used as a child: Completely cover the paper with bright colour (preferably a whole rainbow), then go over the top of it all with black pastel. Then use a pointed object (e.g. the end of a paintbrush, a toothpick, a pencil—I used an old etching tool for a very fine line) to draw into, and thus scrape away, the black, revealing the colours underneath. In this way I have created a double meaning for this work. Firstly, there are secrets down there, beneath our feet (buried treasure, archaeology, the wisdom of the Underworld); and secondly, the technique I used meant that I was revealing the secret colours underneath the layer of black. I think this may be the piece I am most pleased with so far, perhaps because I have reverted to a favourite subject: trees.

There Are Secrets Down There, oil pastel on card

Day 10: Start something and have someone else finish it for you. Bonus: work with another sprinter to accomplish this.

I was wondering how I would tackle this prompt when I was contacted by Michelle Genders of Atman Art Studio (previously Emma Kay Inks), who is the reason I am taking part in Creative Sprint in the first place. We decided to send each other an image, and to create something in response to that. The image she sent was of her (usually very tidy) workspace, scattered with her tools of the trade, and other bits and pieces, expressing how ‘messy’ things can get when you are busy, or working on lots of different ideas at once. And it got me thinking, though my own workspace is fairly tidy, usually with just my laptop on it, there are still plenty of other things (art materials, books, CDs, knick-knacks) either on my desk, or in easy reach; and there are definitely times when my desk becomes the centre of many different strands of inspiration and creative work. So I decided to do my own version of a ‘messy desk’, making a kind of collage of pieces—some of my own tools of the trade (pens, pencils, pastels, brushes, paint, notebooks), as well as some of the things that inspire me (books, art, music and the natural world). I think you can probably tell a lot about a person by looking at what they have on and around their desk. 

Many thanks to Michelle for this prompt. Click here to check out her blog, and here for links to more of her work.

Photo by Michelle Genders
Creative Workspace

Day 11: Make something intentionally messy.

I had fun with this prompt, allowing myself to work with imperfections and mistakes as they came. I stained my paper with tea, then drew my portrait using a water-soluble type of pencil, with my left (i.e. non-favoured) hand, without making any corrections—a technique I have used before that gets a messy and wobbly, though interesting, effect. I then worked into the pencil with water and watercolours, and added the writing (all left-handed) when that was dry. I think this is proof that a messy, haphazard technique can sometimes yield results.

I Am A Mess, She Said, Aqua Sketch pencil, watercolours, tea stains and felt tip pen on card

Day 12: Make something inside of a box.

I wanted to give myself a break and do something relatively easy with this one. I have a small jewellery box that has a mirror at the bottom, so I decided to put ‘myself’ in the box, by photographing the previous day’s messy self-portrait reflected in it. 

Self-Portrait in a Box

Day 13: Recreate a famous work of art in your own way.

I thought of painting something for this prompt, but knew that was going to take far too long, so I ended up keeping it simple. I’ve been reading Hayden Herrera’s biography of Frida Kahlo, so Frida is on my mind. I decided to use one of her self-portraits and transform it into a Warholesque piece.

Frida Kahlo à la Andy Warhol


Day 14: Combine two things that you don't normally find together.

You don’t often find Renaissance masterpieces hanging on a Hills Hoist.

Washing Line Botticelli

Day 15: Make something inspired by an important teacher in your life.
I had an English teacher who would sometimes wear a Mr. Grumpy t-shirt to school—when he wasn’t wearing his Shakespeare one, of course. 

Mr. Grumpy, pen and coloured pencil on paper

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Creative Sprint I

All this month I am taking part in Creative Sprint, an online art project whereby participants are emailed a prompt each day for 30 days, with the intention of inspiring a creative work, to then be shared on social media. 

Though I have been sharing my work in the Creative Sprint group on Facebook, I thought I would document what I have created each week here also, no matter how messy or silly or just plain bad it turns out to be. At first I was enthusiastic about doing so … then I became very reluctant … then enthusiastic again …

I want this blog to be a place where I share my best self, my best writing and art, and much of what I create for this project will not be my best work—nor am I feeling my best, currently, which makes this even more of a challenge. Therefore, I almost decided not to share anything at all. It takes some courage to reveal ‘imperfect’ things publicly, the rudimentary creations that I would otherwise keep to myself. But good art often starts simply, humbly; and I hope that this project will inspire me to greater things.

So, without further ado, I step bravely into the unknown …

Day 1: Make something that fits in the palm of your hand using only the materials in your immediate environment.

It was such a warm, sunny spring day after a few very wintry ones, that I decided to make this rosy-cheeked fellow. I wanted to photograph him in the sun, but there was too much glare, and you couldn’t see the colours properly. So I photographed him in the shade instead, making sure there was sunshine on the ground in the background. This led me to use the shadow cast by the house to divide the image diagonally, half sun and half shade. Light and dark, day and night. I love this!

Little Sunfelt tip pen and coloured pencil on card

Day 2: Use your name as inspiration for what you create.

I had plenty of ideas for this prompt, as one morning last year, when I was drifting in a hypnopompic state, it occurred to me that my name is an anagram of ‘the seer’ and ‘she tree’. At the time, this seemed magical, and made me very, very happy. My name, from possible Greek roots, is also said to mean ‘she who reaps’. So, for this prompt I wanted to create an image, perhaps of a girl picking fruit from a tree, or of a woman who was half woman, half tree. Unfortunately, exhaustion was with me, and the thought of drawing something so complex made my head reel (though I find drawing difficult at the best of times). I decided I had to keep things very small, and very simple, and this is what I came up with. A compromise, and not quite as I envisioned it, but good enough under the circumstances.

She Tree, felt tip pen on paper

Day 3: Use a nursery rhyme or other children’s song as your source material, today.

I did not like this prompt much. Everything I thought of seemed too complex, too difficult, and I did not have the energy for complexity. Luckily, I remembered Incy Wincy Spider, and that made things easy. I aimed for cuteness above all else.

Incy Wincy Spider, felt tip pen on paper

Day 4: Create something inspired by the weather outside today.

It has been terribly windy here, though this day was comparatively breezy, so I made a film of the dancing trees. Make sure you look for the little bird in the lemon tree at the end.


Dancing Trees


Day 5: Camouflage something.

I took advantage of my visit to Everglades Historic House & Gardens, and tried to blend in with the trees, wearing my cardigan of weeds.

Self-Camouflage

Day 6: Deliver a message to someone in an unusual way.

I cheated a little with this one, using a photo that I took the day before at Everglades, but I interpreted the prompt in this way: A message is a communication, and communication need not be verbal. It could be a gesture, an expression, touch … And ‘someone’ need not be a human being. So, by touching this Pasque Flower, by taking a photo, I was acknowledging it, showing my appreciation, wordlessly, through touch and the capturing of an image to remember it by. Simply saying, Thank you for being. (Whether or not this is an ‘unusual’ way of delivering a message is debatable, but it was my particular response to this prompt).

Pasque Flower

Day 7: Make something that represents the town, city, state or country you call home.

I made things easy for myself again, putting together a collage of photos showing various aspects of the landscape I live in, as well as our most ubiquitous residents: birds. From top to bottom, a pair of kookaburras, a magpie, a galah, and an eastern spinebill.

Blue Mountains Collage

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Tree of Life in the Garden of Mythology

Today I rustled up some energy and went out to see a small exhibition of art by Jan Melville and David Wardman at Everglades Historic House & Gardens. 


Of course, the art by both artists was beautiful, but I had no idea how enchanting the gardens were. I spent a couple of hours wandering the winding paths and taking many photos. 



Though spring has progressed, there were still plenty of blossoms and flowers.


There were many impressive trees.


Some covered with lichen (proving that the air here is very clean).


Some with new lime green leaves.



So many brightly coloured, joyous things.



The amusing Bacchus Fountain, designed by Danish sculptor Otto Steen.




The stage area, with rows of hedges either side, the ‘wings’ that the actors/dancers emerged from.



Stunning views through the trees.



Wood ducks happily grazing on the lawns.


Amazing dry-stone walls by Danish-born landscape designer Paul Sorensen.


Twisted, sculptural trees.



More dry-stone walls at the lookout.



A beautiful Grotto Pool, with fern leaves reflecting in the water, looking like etched glass.




I saw a water skink sunning itself on one of the many garden sculptures that have been ingeniously created from the stumps of trees that have been cut down.


There were sculptures of birds, wombats and koalas.







These sunny little beings.


This strange, furred flower—a Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) according to a nearby sign.


And gorgeous native plants, like this delicate mauve beauty.


I am so glad that I made the effort to come out and see the exhibition, and Everglades, for it has reminded me that this is the landscape I live in. I am so lucky.


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