Friday, December 29, 2006

Inspiration Part 2 - End of Year Review

Well here are the artworks that formed the collage in the previous post. The artists are: 1. Timothy McDowell; 2&3 Marisse Maas; 4. Darlene O'Connor; 5. Nancy Selvin; 6. Martin Puryear; 7. Steve Briscoe; 8. James Casebere; 9. David Prifti; 10. Aparna Agrawal; 11&12. Sally Smart (BTW, I have no idea why this collage has January 2003 on it - Picasa just did it automatically!)

It's interesting to view them all in one place like this and see what stands out to me. As I mentioned in the last post, I've set myself a challenge for the month of January. Other than photos and digitally alterred images, I really haven't done that much work on paper. I've spent the past year learning some techniques - some home printmaking, some transfers, collage, a little mixed media and a little encaustic, but I don't really feel that I have a "style" or direction. I am hoping that by working intensively (well, for me) for a month something will begin to emerge that I can continue to develop. It always amazes me when I look at the work of other artists and their style is so recognisable. I feel I am still in an experimental stage, trying this and that, and really don't have much of an established aesthetic or way of working on paper.

I selected the works above because they all really speak to me aesthetically and I want to try to identify colours, marks, etc to work with over the next month. So I'm going to try to identify what it is about each artists work that I respond to....

When I came across Timothy McDowell's work on the net I had an incredible reaction to it. I just find it soooo beautiful. I love the antique paper he works on, the fine pencil and watercolour work and the vintage nature-based imagery he uses. I also love that style of composition - sort of a cross between a collage and a mosaic in an integrated piece.

Marisse Maas is one of my favourite Australian painters. I love her use of line - not quite outlining the object and sgraffito. As a potter, this is a technique I know well. Her compositional style is similar to McDowell's.

Darlene O'Connor and Nancy Selvin are American ceramists and they don't have a huge web-presence, but I stumbled on their work while researching print and ceramics. Although I am looking at doing mixed media work now, I can envisage transfering some of the ideas into clay when my energy improves. The fine printed line work on O'Connor's work appeals strongly to me and I love the rough slip finish on Selvin's terracotta bottles.

Martin Puryear does wonderful etchings that demonstrate the beauty of line, texture and pure forms - a good lesson for both ceramics and 2-D work. I've only found this one series of Steve Briscoe's work, focussing on text and bunnies! I love text and I'm a sucker for cute animals! Will I be including any cute animals in my future artworks? Who knows, but never say never!

James Casebere is a photographer who has a series on water-filled interiors. This is not something I think I'll be pursuing soon, but it does relate to a recurring dream from my childhood, so I included this image as a reminder for the future. David Prifti uses light-sensitive emulsion to "transfer" his photographic images onto all sorts of objects. This relates closely to some work I've been doing for my Masters, so Prifti was included here as another "note to self".

Aparna Agrawal is another artist whose work really excites me. As a ceramic artist, I find it much easier to think in 3-D than in 2-D. Agrawal has made sculptural works using paper with wax and thread, and I am hoping these media might work for me too.

Sally Smart is another terrific Australian artist. I love her style of working with cut-outs on the wall. This is something I have been thinking about for over 2 years. I envisage a giant collage - where the wall operates as the support surface. I also like the strong black silhouette style of Smart's imagery. It relates to shadows which I have often included as part of my own work with objects. If I do create 2-D work, I'll like to integrate it into this type of larger work.

Finally, the colour scheme seems pretty obvious - I've worked a lot with greys, blacks and whites in the past, and I also love sepia and brown. I see there's a touch of red in there too - sounds perfect!

I hope you have enjoyed this little trip around these favourite artists of mine. It's certainly been useful for me as a precursor to spending a month exploring a new direction. Stay tuned to see what comes of it all - if anything....

and I want to take this opportunity to wish everybody who has visited my blog a safe and happy time in 2007. I am especially grateful to those who have visited more than once and those who have left comments for me. Blogging has become a genuine source of friendship and a wonderful way of reaching out from our little boxes in the suburbs. You have all touched my life in a way far beyond my expectations. Thank-you!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Inspiration Part 1

Inspiration Collage 2
Originally uploaded by potsrme1962.
I've posted this collage here and in Flickr. It's composed of work by artists whose work has aesthetic elements that I LOVE! I'm printing off images of their work to have around me in the studio over January. My plan is to make a work on paper per day and focus on developing and honing my 2-D mixed media skills.

I challenge you to see if you can identify any of the artists featured. Tomorrow I'll post another collage in Flickr revealing all, and before New Year I plan another post here where I'll discuss some of the artists and their work.

Let me know if you pick any of the artists!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Topic #33 - Stripes

Stripes (digital diptych), 2006

This weeks's Artwords challenge gave me the chance to work with some black and white images I took a few years ago. When we first moved to Melbourne I noticed a big difference in the light and started photographing it where ever it fell. These shapes, which remind me of a musical staff, are shadows from light passing through nothing more exciting than a venetian blind.

If you'd like to see the original image, I posted it here at Flickr.

To make this diptych, I introduced my favourite colour scheme, playing mostly with the adjustment layers in Photoshop again. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to achieve the blood red colour, but I did! Hooray!

I gave up photographing lights and shadows a while ago because I wasn't really sure what to do with the images. Now that I'm learning more about working with my photos more effectively thanks to the Photoshop Support Group on Flickr, I think I might go back to exploring this avenue. To me, it refers back to the origins of photography and Olive Cotton's quote that "photography is drawing with light".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Topic #31 - Sparkles

"Sparkles" is an interesting challenge at this time of year. Of course it conjours up thoughts of Christmas but for so many people it seems that Christmas is either a difficult or sad time or at least a double edged sword, filled with so many hopes and yet so much tension.
Families are the basic unit of our society and as such they seem to me to be the thing that brings us our most meaningful experiences. Families can provide so much love and joy, and they can also hurt us and disappoint so deeply.
I find it hard myself to negotiate the expectations that Christmas will be a wonderful, joyous occasion. Here in Australia it is often stinking hot and eating a lot of rich food and alcohol is really not wise, yet we all still do it if we can - often going so far as to feast on the traditional northern hemisphere fare of roast turkey, baked ham followed by plum pudd. (for those of us with a British heritage, anyway).
This Christmas I will be remembering my father of course. The grief is not quite as raw this time around as last year when he had only been dead seven weeks, but it still packs a punch.
I am hopeful that this Christmas, while small and low-key will be more relaxed and enjoyable than recent ones. My brother and sister and their families are going away, so on Christmas Day I will be having my mother and my mother-in-law for lunch. We have air-conditioning and we will be having non-traditional food: smoked salmon, and berries for dessert. It will be a quiet affair, but I do think the mother's will enjoy it - they love to see each other.
On Boxing Day we will gather at my mother-in-law's for the full Christmas celebration with my brother-in-law's family which includes our four year old nephews - there will be nothing quiet about that day!
My entry in Artwords this week really captures my mood as I contemplate Christmas and the year past. I value the time taken to reflect - it helps to focus on the sunshine and allow the less attractive aspects of life to drift away to the horizon.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Topic #30 - Windows

Burke Road Window

Amazingly I had an exhibition in 2002 with this title, Windows, and I had hoped to use an image from the documentation of that as my entry in this weeks' Artwords challenge. Unfortunately all my images are on slides and I haven't been able to get them scanned in time. Still, with buildings a major partof my iconography, I have plenty of images of windows in my resources.

I decided to create something new using one of the photos I took when living in Melbourne. I am continuing my explorations with Photoshop - working a lot with the adjustment layers and a couple of simple filters. This allows me to explore more photographic post-processing type effects. I am still trying to work out what I can do, but I think I am starting to get a bit of a feel for what I like. I like these colours, somehow they are muted yet bright - how can that be? I don't like the fact that the image is obviously derived from the negative - it makes it look too obviously "photoshopped".

I was thinking some of these images would be interesting as transfers, maybe using Jonathon Talbot's technique, described here.
As I am still very much in a developmental stage with Photoshop, I have decided to post a couple of my other versions here in the hope of getting some constructive criticism.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Topic #29 - Birds

I have been struggling to contribute to Artwords for the past few weeks. I haven't been able to achieve anything creative because my energy levels have been so low. A few days ago I managed to start experimenting in Photoshop and created a couple of images I was fairly happy with for starters (see my photos on Flickr) and then today I started working on my entry for this week's topic "Birds".
I knew I had appropriate photos because when I was living in Melbourne I had this wonderful experience with the geese at Studley Park. My husband and I were just sitting reading at one of the picnic tables and about 20 geese came and mobbed us! I know geese can be aggressive so I was a bit alarmed, but they were just lovely. They came right up close, checking us out and honking, letting me take loads of close-up shots. Then our mobile (cell) phone rang and the person on the other end was quite concerned - the geese were so loud she could hardly hear me speak and she thought we must be getting attacked!
They really were such beautiful healthy creatures, so brave, just looking us in the eye, but with curiosity, not animosity. Wonderful!
I've had the feeling that Photoshop could be a good way for me to express myself creatively when I'm pretty tired because sitting at the computer is something I still tend to do unless I have a headache. It's just that I haven't been able to create anything I was really satisfied with up until now. I discovered a great group on Flickr, the Photoshop Support Group. They put up short tutorials on how to achieve certain effects and you can start discussion threads on how to create a particular look that you are after. Already I've learned a lot from them and it is showing!

Monday, November 20, 2006

How to grieve....

Does anyone else think there is something wrong with a society that hides away from one of the most basic truths of life.... that we will all die.

Seventeen months ago I experienced something completely natural - my father became ill and three months later he died. I had a wonderful, loving father. Oh, he wasn't perfect - no one is, but I loved him with all my heart and I knew he loved me. He fought against his natural instincts which made him long to protect me all my life, and did his best to set me free to be the person I am. Sometimes this was extremely challenging for him I know, but because he loved me, he worked at this, and usually succeeded.

Even though my father was 82 and I had realized many years before that he was nearing the end of his life, I was still totally unprepared for his death. I'm not sure what you can do to prepare for a loss like this but I can't help feeling there must be something.

In particular one thing that disturbed me was that I had no idea my father had enterred his final 24 hours when this happened. I visited him in palliative care and helped him to drink and to go to the bathroom. He communicated with me through notes because he had lost control of his speaking muscles but not his thought processes. And because I had no idea how close he was to death, AND NOBODY TOOK ME ASIDE AND TOLD ME, I went home. I planned to come back the next day. But because I have cfs and I had no idea how long this might go on, it seemed important to ration my energy so that I could keep visiting each day for as long as it took - I envisioned about two weeks.

Instead I was wakened at 6am by a phone call to tell me that he had died. Now I don't know how easy or how difficult it is to tell how close a person is to death. I only know that I couldn't tell. And when I think about it, it seems ridiculous that we are so unfamiliar with one of the most basic occurrences of life that we don't know. And the reason we don't know is because we have medicalised the process and hidden our elderly and dieing people away to avoid the pain and the grief. Imagine if we didn't know how to tell when a baby was about to be born. It's laughable, isn't it? And yet not all babies are born at the same rate - some come quickly, others take days, but at least we know that it is happening. And alright, I know the birth of a baby is a happy occasion, but it's no more or less a part of life than dieing.

For the past month or so my energy levels have been so low that I've spent most days lieing on my bed. Last week I went to see my doctor and we realized the connection - I started to deteriorate on the anniversary of my father's death. I hadn't even realized that I wasn't dealing with the grief. Earlier in the year I tried to help myself through the process by having some sessions of art therapy. The artwork I have included with this post is one of those I made at that time. I plan to return to making artworks about my father and my feelings of loss around his death and I will post some of those here. I have found in the past that making art about deeply emotional issues has allowed me to work my way through them, and this has released a lot of energy that seems to get caught up containing the feelings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dealing with Dukkah

Steadfast Buddha by Annie Bissett

It's been a while since I posted anything here. I did compose an entry last week-end but did not end up posting it because I felt that what I wanted to write was too negative.

After my big psychological breakthrough concerning BEING and not having to DO, I have slipped backwards. It's not that I feel that I was wrong about existence being enough - it's just there's still a lot of time to fill, and when you don't have the energy to do anything, it becomes pretty boring quite quickly. And it's also hard not to get engrossed in your own thoughts - which seem inevitably to circle around and become negative if you don't really put in an effort to stop this happening. It seems there are only so many times I can tell myself how lucky I am to have my wonderful husband (absolutely true!), that the weather is gorgeous at the moment and so on. I know it is true - I know how much worse it could be - and believe me, I pray it doesn't get any worse - but there is still this overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction.

This is a key concept in buddhist philosophy - it's the first Noble Truth, in fact - dukkah. This is often translated as "suffering" but my teacher has explained to me that it really is broader than that, and that we don't have a true equivalent in English. The thing about Buddhism is that it does offer us a strategy for dealing with this - and it's not about avoidance or distraction, or even believing that it will all be better in another life. It's not even about understanding why this is happening, and it's certainly not about attributing blame.

It's about conditioning. Which is to say, it's about the filters we apply to our experiences, judging them according to criteria we are barely, if at all, aware of.

To explain: The post I started on the week-end was about the two-day trip I made last week to Noosa to see a wonderful exhibition of artists books. How could this have been a negative post, you ask? Well, just wait and see!

Noosa is two hours north of my home town of Brisbane. This is the 10th year that Noosa Regional Gallery has hosted an artists books event and in that time it has grown to be the largest event of its type in Australia. It included an international exhibition, workshops, a day long seminar and an exhibition by two of Australia's leading book artists, Wim de Vos & Adele Outteridge. When I found out about the event about 2 months ago I had hoped to attend a workshop or the seminar, but my energy just would not stretch that far.

Just to attend the exhibition involved a two night stay, in the hope that it won't impact too badly on me. Without my husband's support I would never have made it and I really appreciate the effort he was prepared to go to so that I could see these wonderful art works. The exhibition was so inspiring - it was definitely worth the trip. It filled the entire gallery and about half the space was dedicated to work by the two Brisbane artists and the other half was more traditional artists books, including a lot of printed books with a wonderful range of bindings. Adele Outteridge and Wim de Vos are more sculptural in their approach and in recent years have done a lot of work in perspex. Here are a couple of the pieces I saw but unfortunately you can't really see the detail.

This bottom one is truly amazing - as a ceramic artist, I was enthralled. It consists of a series of perspex pages, displayed as the spokes of a wheel. The pages are connected by three threads which pass from page to page creating the illusion of the vessel forms you see - so beautiful! It looks like something that has been digitally generated.

So, obviously I was not disappointed by the exhibition, although I was disappointed that I couldn't attend more of the program. The problem was the rest of the experience. Apart from a short walk of about 20-30 minutes by the Noosa River, attending the exhibition was all I was able to do. I had to rest the remainder of the two days we were there. The accommodation was exceedingly average - an oversized motel room positioned near a bridge on the main road, so it was pretty noisy. It wasn't cheap, but it was all we could afford - Noosa has become so expensive. I was not able to go out for dinner or lunch or even a coffee because I was so exhausted from the trip.

Ironically, just before I started to become ill with cfs, we had a weeks holiday at Noosa - back in November 1990. That time we stayed in Hastings Street, the main street, right on the beach front - a very different holiday. I remember at the time that we were talking about how we would probably buy ourselves a unit up there for holidaying, when we payed off our house which we thought we would be able to do in five or six years time. Lucky that we cannot see the future....

So because I had expected a very different future from the one I am living, I managed to cast a pall over what was actually a wonderful experience. I knew I was doing it. I watched the thoughts and I knew they were colouring my mood a nasty shade of grey. I tried to stop them and to replace them with more positive, appreciative ones but it has taken me days to get to a point where I feel I can claim even a little success with this.

Buddhism doesn't instruct us to change our thoughts, that is cognitive therapy. All the Buddha tells us to do is live with full awareness - of our thoughts and the dharma. I can recognise that this is a classic example of dukkah and all I have to do is to be aware of it. With time it will change, as all things do. I can see that now I have given the feelings their due attention they are floating away, like wisps of smoke....

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Have you ever noticed.....

how things always get really bad, just before they start to get better?

Just over a week ago, I was asking myself what is the point? The point of what?

Well, the point of lots of things really
- of an existence where you don't contribute to society in a positive way?
- of studying for something when you can hardly spend any time doing it because of poor health?
And why have I got this life? Not why me, specifically, but more why would anyone be given this life? WHAT'S THE POINT???

I was spending a lot of time mulling over these thoughts and had come to a place where it was feeling quite unbearable. Don't worry, I wasn't considering suicide, I'm not that self-centred. I couldn't do it to the people I love - I know it would distress them too much...

And then I realized, just my existence IS ENOUGH for the people who love me and who I love. I don't have to do anything, just the fact that I exist gives joy.

It might sound silly, but that realization has been incredibly freeing to me. It doesn't mean I don't still want to do things, to set goals and have achievements, and that on any particular day I might be frustrated about having low energy, but since I realized that just existing or "being" is enough, I can be so much more relaxed about it all. This is a big step for a perfectionist.

This has lasted for just over a week now and doesn't seem to be disappearing. It seems I have finally learnt for myself that to just be, is enough.

This ties in with something my husband taught me about 10 years ago. He made me aware of the Oscar Wilde version of an old adage. Wilde maintained:

If something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly.

Title: The Artwork Nobody Got

I puzzled over this for a few years, wondering why, in my perfectionist's mind, you wouldn't do it well. Then one day when I was trying out a new art technique, it dawned on me. I hadn't created anything too brilliant, but I was having SO MUCH FUN! This was something it was definitely worth doing, even though I did not do it at all well. And I realized, there really are some things in life that are so wonderful, so nourishing to the soul, that it doesn't matter how you do them, just as long as you do them.

So go out and do something badly that you love today..... it's important!

Friday, October 13, 2006

More Trouble

Okay, this is better. The other night I couldn't get any filters to work in Photoshop so I just gave up and submitted my pic of Claude as it was. Stupid me didn't realize I was working on an adjustment layer!!! I find whenever I can't get something to work in PS, I'm on the wrong layer... Anyway, this looks more evil.

Topic #23 - Brown (Follow Your Dreams)

My entry is a photo I took when I was living in an old terrace house in Melbourne. In mid-2003 I moved from my home of 40 years (Brisbane) for the adventure I had dreamed of since I left school - living in another city. The city of my aspirations has changed over the years, but I've always wanted to embed myself in a place with a different culture in a way that can't happen by simply taking a holiday. It may not sound like too big a change but believe me there is a big difference: Brisbane is a tropic city of roughly 1 million, and the culture is built around the sunshine - which is a nice way of saying there's lots of sport and not much art or music! Melbourne on the other hand is three times the size, famous for experiencing "four seasons in one day", home of the MCG but ALSO home to a thriving artistic community.

When my husband and I first moved to Melbourne we rented this gorgeous terrace.

It was built in the late 1800s to house railway employees working onconstructing the railway line at the end ofthe street. My entry is a photo taken in the afternoon in the room at the front (shown above). The glass in the windows was original, and not quite clear. You could see out and not really notice anything unusual, but when light shone through it, it created this wonderful reflection.

Anyway, my reason for giving this photo the title "Follow Your Dreams" is that I am so glad I finally managed to live in another city. Despite the fact that neither my husband nor I are able to work due to our cfs, we still decided it was worth spending most of our savings to pursue this dream. We felt that we had been sick for nearly 13 years (at that time) and we had put our life on hold in so many areas for so long - it was time to take back some control.

We are now back in Brisbane and since we returned I have lost my father and my energy has diminished even further, but the memories of the great times we had in Melbourne really help. But more important than that is the knowledge that I can still dream.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


This is my Illustration Friday entry for this week. In all fairness to Claude, whose reputation I have maligned for the sake of this entry, I ask you to check out my avitar on Flickr. There you will see the other side of his nature....yes, he does have a split personality but so do all cats - loving companion vs ruthless killer. I think this paradox is why we can relate to them - it's quite human, really.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Instant ancestors?

The gang
Originally uploaded by potsrme1962.
This is a photo I am going to use in an installation for my masters. I plan to use the people as the basis for a slide which will be projected onto the wall. I'll add unfired clay work to emphasize the process of time.
This photo is one that was given to me by my father. He found it among his mother's things. She is in the photo, holding him as a young infant. She is 7th from the left, in the white dress and wearing a broad rimmed hat. That guy on the far right looks like the life of the party!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Priorities, priorities...

When Death Comes Calling, 2006*

In loving memory
Russell Watson-Will

In my last post I said I was going to be thinking about my priorities in an effort to improve my quality of life and hope that I may find ways of living better with cfs. Since then my priorities have sort of been set for me.

I am currently on leave of absence from RMIT University in Melbourne where I have been studying for my MFA. I returned to Brisbane nearly 15 months ago to take a rest for the sake of my health, planning to re-enrol by distance for semester 2 (July) 2006 and finish off the Masters. A couple of weeks after we returned my father was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and 2 months later he died. It was all so fast and such a surprise. Those few months were a roller-coaster ride and after my father's funeral, I physically fell in a heap. I have made very little progress since then and this is why I find myself re-examining the way I manage my life in a day-to-day way.

Then last week I received my enrolment forms from RMIT. I have to re-enrol next year (I had taken an extra semester off because I knew I could not manage the workload yet) or lose my place. This does not mean that I couldn't re-apply in the future, but that I would have to compete with new applicants for a place. I really do want to complete the Masters for a variety of reasons, but I'm really not sure how my health will hold up. And the thought of making myself sicker is a scary one.

In some ways, the letter from RMIT has been a blessing. It has given me a goal that is external to myself, a goal in the real world, with genuine deadlines and expectations. The trouble is it si so difficult for me to meet these, and the fear of becoming even more ill is a powerful stressor.

Herein lies my dilemma . I tend to be a "broad picture" style of person. By that, I mean that I find it quite hard to focus on something quite circumscribed. I really need diversity in my life or I feel incredibly trapped and yet with my current energy levels, this really isn't possible. It is an extremely challenging balancing act, but for now at least, it seems my priorities are set.

* This is one of a number of collages I did as art therapy to help me through the grief process. You can see another here in my blog and some more in my Flickr photos here and here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Quiet! Let Sleeping Blogs Lie....

This photo is one of a number I have taken while spending lengthy amounts of time lieing on my bed (see below). I love watching the light change during the course of the day, and the patterns it makes interacting with window panes, glass tables, or in this case, venetian blinds. I have a set on Flickr entitled "Light and Shadow" and some of my other photos of light are posted there.

The purpose of this blog was originally to try to document what it is like to live with cfs (I refuse to capitalize it and all that may indicate!!!) and to hope that this may allow me and other readers to identify any strategies or patterns that may be helpful or unhelpful.

However, whenever I get close to starting on this aspect of my life, I find myself withdrawing from the blog process. It's not that I have a problem putting the personal "out there", it's just that I don't want to seem like I am complaining and I'm not sure if I can do this without seeming to be complaining. So... I'd like to state now that I am not seeking sympathy or even admiration, what I am hoping for is insight. Insight for myself into how I might manage my life with this illness in a constructive way that enables me to feel that I am contributing and participating without it being incredibly taxing and stressful. And what I would really love from you, "dear Reader", is for you to tell me if you see any patterns occurring or have any suggestions that you think may be helpful.

Now when I say suggestions, I don't mean "miracle cures". I have had cfs for 16 years next month and believe me, I have tried many a miracle cure, to no avail. I have spent $1000s on remedies and treatments and consultations with this expert and that specialist, and I know that there is no such thing as a miracle cure. I have been seeing a wonderful Physician for some years and he helps me manage my symptoms, but I wasn't actually getting better, so I had my doubts. Then he had to stop practising for family reasons for a few years and I went significantly downhill to the point where I am now. So in retrospect, I can see that while he couldn't cure me, he was definitely maintaining my health. Now I have to try to crawl back, and after nearly a year back on his books, progress is still incredibly slow.

This, however, is a diversion. What I was trying to say is that I am not looking for a magic pill, but I am looking to improve the way I manage my health and my life. As an occupational therapist, I know that there is a lot to be gained in quality of life from working with energy saving strategies and cognitively examining my priorities. I am at a point now where my energy levels are almost the lowest they have been and they are staying fairly constant. Therefore it is incredibly important for me to be sure that the goals I set my self are not only achievable, but meaningful and enjoyable to me.

When there has been so little energy to go around for so long , there is little point in taking the attitude of short term pain for long term gain. For example, what of money and career? I am living on a disability pension and barely scaping by. I really need to be able to create some extra income for myself. However, I have NEVER been the sort of person who can just do a job for the money - work has always had to be inherently meaningful and with so little energy to expend, this is even more crucial. So, I think that examining my priorities is the place to start. And I will. Right after I've had a little lie down....

Friday, September 29, 2006

Topic #21 - Miniature: Artists books

Left: Little Red Book of the Body
Dim. (closed) 5cm x4.7cm; (open) 5x28cm
For Artwords this week I am submitting a miniature concertina book. It is really a maquette for an artists book I am working on and will be part of my MFA work investigating impermanence. The finished book will have quite a different feel from this miniature. For the final piece I will use more fragile paper and the covers will be translucent porcelain. I am thinking of dipping the paper in wax to give it a preserved "feel". I am also planning to use solvent transfers for the imagery to create a more mysterious and aged effect.

So...this little miniature is really nothing much like the final version will be, except for the imagery. It has been a great opportunity to play around with the layout and lots of fun!

Left: Inside imagery
I am totally hooked on artists books at present. I see it as my new direction. For some reason, the way ceramics are used as a canvas to explore all sorts of subjects has never really made sense to me. But a book? Well there is inherent logic in that, isn't there?

A little over a month ago I went to my first workshop on making books. We learnt how to make 6 different types of books including simple stitched bindings, portfolio books and wonderful folded books, like a triangle and a square book. I love papers and all sorts of books but some of the more sculptural types really lend themselves to clay. I can really see how the area could expand for me. Now I am trying to find ways to incorporate books into my MFA - a totally different direction from the ephemeral installation work I was pursueing! I haven't dared tell my supervisor yet - he'll think I've gone mad! I'm having enough trouble getting through the Masters with my health problems as it is, without changing directions at this stage.

Anyway it has been terrific to make my first real book and I will definitely be making more...And I'll be putting more shots of this one up on Flickr later today.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


This is the first week I've taken part in Illustration Friday. It's a massively popular online gallery with weekly challenges. Apparently 200+ people participate - so I figgered I better be in it...

This week the topic is phobia. Agoraphobia has had a significant effect on my whole family. Although only one member has agoraphobia, everyone is impacted. It has taken us a long time to accept how genuine it is but if you have any doubts, you just have to look at how it destroys a person's life. If you could just "get a grip" and overcome it, you would - nobody would live like that if they had a choice.

While you're here take a look at how other people have interpreted phobia on IF, there are some fantastic artists involved. I'm on the look out for lots of spiders...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Topic #20 - Confession

This is my entry for Confession at Artwords. It is only a sketch really but I didn't want to miss the deadline again this week. I plan to keep working on it, just to enhance some of the background. If I end up changing it significantly, I'll post the improvements!

Sometimes I think confessing can be quite selfish. It can operate to make the confessor feel better, to cleanse the soul, but only leaves the confessee feeling totally betrayed. Some sins are better left unknown, unsaid. And if that means you have to learn to live with your guilt, then that is just how it is. In a sense, by confessing, you may just end up wronging the person twice. It's not always better to know the truth.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Enlightenment - Mindfulness

Breathing Buddha originally posted by Hanga Girl on Flickr
Original three-color woodblock print
see more at

I've been wanting include some posts about my buddhist practice and how this helps me deal with cfs and other issues in general. However, I didn't want to dive straight in to where I am right now without providing a little background. I've been reading about taoism and buddhism for over 10 years now and meditating regularly for over 4 years. I had attended a two day non-residential retreat on Insight Meditation some years ago and in 2004-5, I went to a Tibetan Centre irregularly.

At the beginning of this year I realized that if I am really serious about making any progress then I needed to make a commitment and find myself a teacher. After looking around at who was in Brisbane, it seemed clear that everything was leading me to Victor von der Heyde. Victor lives between Brisbane and Sydney, and when he is in Brisbane I see him weekly. These sessions have been enormously useful to me and are a very grounding influence in my practice. As well as seeing Victor, I "sit" regularly, usually daily, and read daily.

Over the year, I have found that each day I also have periods of "awareness" quite spontaneously. This is exactly what I have been working towards, and I hope to extend this gradually.

In my writings here, I will sometimes talk about my current concerns in my practice, and also write a little about the books I have been reading. This year I have been working through the recommended reading at the site which has included a range of books on vipassana or insight meditation by the following authors: Stephen Batchelor, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Christopher Titmuss and Toni Packer. The range of approaches even within this small group is considerable and demonstrates what an organic creature buddhism is.

Today I want to begin writing about the Factors of Enlightenment. My reference for this is Joseph Goldstein's classic, The Experience of Insight. I used to be quite confused about enlightenment - now I am perhaps, a little less confused...

I have read in Zen literature that we are not to strive for enlightenment, because in striving we are not practising correctly. In (I think it was) The Tibetan Book of Death and Dying, I read that we must strive for enlightenment - because if we do not, then we are doomed to endless reincarnations. So... what to do? Well, I don't know, but Joseph Goldstein has explained the factors of enlightenment, and it seems to me, that if I can understand them, and adopt them, and not worry about enlightenment as such....then maybe enlightenment will "take care of itself" as they say....

There are seven factors of enlightenment, which are seven mental factors and when these are cultivated, they relieve all kinds of suffering. The first is mindfulness, which is "the quality of noticing, of being aware of what's happening in the moment" (p.141).

There are four areas in which we are asked to be aware, known as the foundations or applications of mindfulness. The first is the body - the breath, the posture, sensations, movements.

The second is known as feeling, but I think of it as our response or judgement - whether we judge what we have become aware of as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This relates to attachment - we want what is pleasant (we are attached to it), we don't want what is unpleasant and we don't care about what is neutral. The goal for us in noticing these feelings is to simply watch them arise and pass away, without clinging to the pleasant and condemning the unpleasant.

The third application of mindfulness is consciousness and it refers to being aware of our mental or emotional states, to be aware of when we are angry, fearful etc while we are in the middle of it, and then, (this is the hard part) not to judge ourselves for that. To simply be aware and to observe the passing parade of emotions.

The fourth application is mindfulness of the Dharma - to be aware of the three characteristics of existence (impermanence, suffering, no-self) and of the four noble truths - but that is for another day.....

Sunday, September 17, 2006


This is my first drawing for a new project I'm working on for my MFA. I'm going to make an artists book about the fragility and complexity of the human body. I'm thinking of making a porcelain cover with paper pages. I have just started working on the drawings for the book and am testing out solvent transfers of my drawings to add to the sense of fragility. The drawings are developed from anatomical diagrams which I really love. The model for this one came from an old medical text entitled: Cunningham's Manual of Practical Anatomy, which was first published in 1896.

I decided to start with the "voice box", as it is colloquially known, because this week's theme on Artwords was voice and I haven't had time to create a separate work.

After 10 years of studying Speech and Drama at school, the voice and how it is created is quite familiar to me. Do you know that the vocal cords (labelled here Plica vocalis) are often called the vocal folds? That makes them seem incredibly vulnerable to me, almost as if they were a mistake, or something that might not have developed. Imagine if humans had no voice.

And it seems even more incredible that something which is simply a fold of tissue can create the range of sounds, both in speech and in song, that they do. I never stop being amazed by the human body.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Hands on! A curator's dilemma

Beautiful porcelain by the very talented Mel Robson.

One of the streams of discussion I'd like to include in this blog concerns the place of craft in the art world and in contemporary culture. Occasionally I may write essays myself which examine issues of interest to me, about which I feel I have something to contribute. More often, I will be alerting readers to recent offerings of eminent craft writers.

This week I received a survey from Craft Victoria asking readers of Craft Almanac to consider a curator's dilemma. I thought I would post the scenario here on my blog to try to extend the reach of the survey and to see what response international artists have to this type of dilemma. I'm interested to see if the response and situation overseas parallels ours here in Australia.

The Scenario

You are the curator of a contemporary art museum with a passionate interest in contemporary craft. In the past, sadly, you have been unable to convince the director to present an exhibition in this medium. He thinks craft is nostalgic and inappropriate for a 'contemporary' institution. And there's a practical issue with the need to build special display furniture. Then one day, a proposal lands on your desk with a recommendation from the director.
'Hands on!' is an exhibition of leading designers from across the world who have developed objects with a 'handmade feel'. Reflecting strong interest in the tactile nature of objects, these designers have developed innovative manufacturing technologies that give objects the appearance of being made by hand. They enable random imperfections to emerge in the way forms are cast and surfaces are rendered. The objects include not only vessels such as vases but also objects not previously associated with the handmade such as computer casing.
The director writes: 'Seems a good international show, reflecting cutting edge technologies and subtly critiques the whole sentimentality of the handmade. And the exhibition comes with its own furniture in lovely white Corian.'
So how do you respond? Maybe it's a good opportunity to bring the issue of the handmade into the gallery. But does it imply that the actual use of hands in making is outmoded -- no longer a matter of enduring human expression but just a current fashion trend? What would you do?

This was my response:

In a situation that is so "anti-craft" this may be the only opportunity to raise the subject. I would want to be assured that I could write an essay to be included in the catalogue of the exhibition. In this way, I could propose a theoretical framework which set up a dialogue between this exhibition and genuine handmade objects - with a view to setting up an expectation with the public that REAL handcrafted objects would be seen in this gallery in the future. The essay would need to be very well researched and intellectually rigorous.

What would you do? I'd love you to post your response here in the comments section.

Responses to this survey can be tracked at Clog.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Five Go Mad At The Arias

This is my husband Ian Thompson's latest CD - an ironic look at the Australian music scene. Listen carefully to the lyrics - Enid Blyton would be shocked!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Printmaking Update

In a comment, Judith Hoffman asked about the printmaking course I mentioned in an earlier post. Well, it went really well. It covered the basics of quite a few techniques: monotypes, linoprints, drypoint and collagraph with a specific emphasis on ways to use these techniques in a home studio. All the techniques except for drypoint could be managed quite successfully without a press. For drypoint, you really needed some sort of press, but Krysti, who ran the course had a great cheap option - a pasta machine! I bought a second hand one on Ebay for less than AU$40 and it works beautifully. So... I guess you'd like to see some of what I learned?? Well, okay - but please remember that these are all first attempts and that I'm on a very steep learning curve!

All these prints were done using acrylic paints extended with Golden glazing liquid.

This is known as a subtractive monotype, because you lay down the ink/paint on the plate to start, and then wipe it back, creating your image. I found this easier and more effective that the additive method used here and here.
Left: Nude, 2006.

Right: Blue Shroud, 2006.


This is an intaglio collagraph. I loved making collagraphs. You start by making a collage focussing on texture as the means of conveying your image. This plate was so simple to make, but I love the wonderful shading you can achieve. To print this I used my pasta press, but of course you can also make relief collagraphs which don't require any press at all.
Left: Geometrica, 2006.


This is the only print I have done so far where I combined two techniques. The colour scheme leaves a little to be desired, but otherwise I was reasonably happy with the result. The butterfly is drypoint and the leaves are intaglio collagraph.

Taking an online course worked really well as far as my CFS was concerned. Each week there was new stuff to try out but no pressure what so ever. After about 3 weeks I did fall a little behind and didn't get to post my final weeks work before the site access closed, but that was okay.

At the time I was feeling really disorganised and having some structure imposed on my week really helped. Learning new techniques meant I didn't feel pressured to create "art", as long as I got the technique to work, I could feel I was successful.

In terms of printmaking, I was right - I do really love it and it was terrific to find ways to achieve reasonable results here at home. My only problem is that its still a little bit "big" for me with my current level of energy. By this I mean that doing a "print run" of say 10 prints in a day is too tiring. But I guess that's just a mind set really, there is no reason you can't just do one or two prints in a session - it depends on the technique you are using as to how much energy is required in preparing the plate for each print.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Taking Up Blogging Again

Thanks to Ascenderrisesabove for my first comments! It is amazing how little encouragement can be enough to reinforce human behaviour!

I have been giving blogging quite a lot of thought since I last posted about 5 months ago. I've been trying to discern a direction for the blog. I felt I needed to be saying something that was important enough for people to want to hear and think about. That's quite a responsibility really. And I realize that is falling into an old pattern of mine.

When I was 20 years younger (oops! giving something bad away there!) I was in the habit of trying to second-guess what other people wanted all the time, and then adopting that as my preference too. I guess the theory was that conflict would be avoided and I would be liked. I'm not sure how well it worked, but one thing I do know is that over time my sense of self was hugely eroded and I built up a lot of frustration and anger. I thought this was a bad habit I had managed to curb, and I think that mostly I have, but in putting myself out there in this blog, I was falling into the same old, same old. So...

For now I have decided that I'm not going to choose a particular direction for this blog. It will be a documentation of my thoughts and life, hopefully in a coherent way, so that I might learn something about the process of living my life. There are a number of possible directions I would like to take in life and I think that documenting the process here may be helpful to me. And who knows, it may be helpful to someone else too.

I am keen to re-name the blog, but it's already had one name change (from Art Heals to Always Tired) so I'm holding back, and waiting to see what emerges. Some of what may be seen here over time includes:
my art and some documentation of my art process; how art operates as a healing force for me;
some discussion about art - what inspires me, the role of art in the individual's life and in society;
some teasing out (hopefully) of the old art and craft nexus;
documentation of life with CFS;
exploration of Insight Meditation and buddhism; and along with this no doubt, some of my responses to the complicated world we live in - as a human being, it's impossible not to worry about the state of the environment and our society, and much more. I don't know what Margaret Thatcher meant when she said "there is no society" - it's just a justification to assuage the guilt we feel when we don't respond with compassion to the plight of others. Anyway, I won't mount the soap box in this post!

To finish up this post, I'd like to promote a blog I've been participating in for a month or two called Artwords. It is an online art journal started up by the wonderful artist Susan Tuttle.

Each week, Susan posts challenges to stimulate the many talented artists who send in their responses to the theme. It is my participation in this blog that has helped me to feel that it may be worth re-inventing my own blog. And it is over at Artwords that I first encountered Ascenderrisesabove, mentioned at the beginning of this post, as my motivator-to-action. Her blogs can be found at:

The image I have posted today is an exercise in automatic drawing developed for this week's Artwords challenge, surrealism. Automatic drawing is one of the streams of surrealism that artists like Miro used as a drawing parallel to Freud's "stream of consciousness". It is a wonderfully freeing technique and has contributed to my feeling I can be just as free with this blog. I can really see this image working as a print and hope to test that vision out soon...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Grief 2

Grief 2
Originally uploaded by potsrme1962.
This was made as an expression of my grief about losing my dear wonderful father, who died on October 7, 2005. At times, I still can't believe he is gone forever and I will not see him again. He was a loving father and a great friend.

The work also expresses my attempt to embrace my grief. It is so easy to run from our feelings, afraid of their power, but they always catch up with us, somehow, sometime.

In my meditation practice I have been trying to stay with the ache I feel around my heart chakra for the duration of my sit. There is a lot of energy in this area. Sometimes it shifts and sometimes it doesn't, but at least I am giving it the attention it deserves. Grief deserves honouring.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Blog searching???

I was working on a longer post discussing some of my approach to art, health and spirituality when I suddenly thought - will anybody actually read this? I know some blogs get a lot of hits and a lot of comments from readers, and I know I haven't really posted anything worth responding to yet, but I am just wondering whether anyone knows I am out in cyberspace.

It doesn't really matter, the writing is good in and of itself, it's just that if this blog is mostly for myself then it will change the way I write about some of the stuff.

In less than a week, I have convinced myself of the value of blogging for me, at least at this time in my life. I am at a point when I am attempting to integrate the significant aspects of my life and having a space to think that through by regular writing is extremely valuable. Of course, I could do this in a journal, but I do feel that by putting it up in a blog perhaps someone else may read something that helps them in some way. Who knows? Someone might even decide they feel the same as me about certain important issues and make contact, and maybe we can work together or help each other in some way. As I mentioned in my first post, I do feel very isolated at times, and I am hopeful that I may make connections with people who share some of my values.

By the same token, maybe someone who really disagrees will contact me, and that would force me to ensure my thinking is rigorous and defendable. Or at least to acknowledge the bits that aren't.

So my question this afternoon is - how do people find blogs they are interested in following? I checked Google Blog search and found very little - I couldn't even find my own blog when I put in "art heals"! Is there something I should be doing to help people find me when they do a search? Does anyone have any tips?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I'm learning printmaking

I've signed up for my first online art course. It's a 6 week "Introduction to Printmaking for the Home Studio" and it's run byKristi Shueler of "Designedly, Kristi".

I have always loved the little printmaking I did (linoprints and monoprints) but would like to take it a bit further without the commitment to big and expensive equipment.

I love the look of a print - the transfered line has so much texture and fragility in comparison to a line which is simply drawn. I've included a linoprint I did 6 years ago at college as a basline and it will be interesting to see what new skills I learn and how my printmaking develops.

I am also interested to see how I find doing a course online. I think it will work well for me as the timing will be quite flexible, although sometimes I get a bit frustrated if I am being directed to make work that doesn't really interest me. I guess the challenge is for me to be creative with the activities and learn to adapt and use the techniques for my own purposes. I can be a bit afraid of letting go and revealing my own direction, in case it doesn't work (and often it doesn't the first time) but an online course is a pretty safe context - after all you don't have to post any images that don't please you.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

So I am trying out blogging. It seems like a strange concept to me and maybe I will opt out pretty quickly, but maybe I will find it is another way to become involved in community, albeit a virtual one.

Having chronic fatigue syndrome for over 15 years can be extremely isolating at times and I have found the two egroups I have joined to be very supportive and a real life line when I am particularly unwell.

I would like to use this blog as a type of journal to demonstrate how art can be a healing force both for individuals and society as a whole. I will be posting some of my own art, perhaps some other people's art, as well as my thoughts on how art has helped me specifically. I will also post some more academic information about art as therapy and perhaps develop some writings of my own on the sort of role I would like to see art play in our society.