Sunday, December 30, 2007

Using hair

For a few years now I've been fascinated by artworks that are made of or incorporate real hair. I remember the first time I saw a contemporary artwork made of hair. It was in 2005 in Melbourne and it was Helen Pynor's Shadowbreath (see above) I was quite bewitched by the work and found it hard to leave the gallery. The incredible human presence captivated me.
Ever since I have wanted to include hair in my own work. For the past year I've been collecting the clippings that fall to the floor every time I have my own haircut. Unfortunately, I wear my hair short, so there isn't a lot to collect and the pieces are only short. I wasn't really sure what I was going to use the hair for, I just knew that I would use it eventually.

A few weeks ago my mother had her long white hair which she wears in a French roll cut off. She is in her 80s now and for some time has been finding that brushing and washing her hair made her back ache. She always receives compliments for her hair and I think it was a tough decision for her to make, but in the end practicality won the day. When she told me she had finally done it, my first question was "what did you do with the hair?" Fortunately, her hairdresser (who visits her at home) had bundled it all up in newspaper before popping it into the bin. My mother was only too happy to rescue it and put it aside for me. She finds a lot of my work pretty mystifying, but she seems thrilled at the idea that she, in the form of her hair, will be making a powerful contribution to my work, and will "live on", as she says.

Access to some lovely long hair has set my mind spinning with ideas and I am trying to capture them in my diary lest they disappear into the black cavern that occupies the space formerly known as my memory. It seems to me that these works will form a more cohesive group with the ones I have already completed for my masters, than the book I mentioned here. So...despite the start I have made on it, that book is to be relegated to "future projects" for now.

It seems like an unfortunate disruption to the flow of my work, but I haven't had the luxury of a "flow" for a while...progress seems to be coming in fits and starts. I would have had to take a break from it for a while anyway, because I have to put together at least one more edition of "Like Weather" to send off to Mackay for the Libris Awards. I also have to prepare for an exhibition in Melbourne in February. I'll be showing an installation I exhibited here in Brisbane in 06 at the National Ceramics Conference. It's called "Wraith" and some of you may have seen the photos of the original over in my photostream on Flickr. There is also a little mention of it in the profile here. There will obviously be more as the date approaches.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Epiphany

It is approaching two years since I started blogging, initially in fits and starts, but I think I can say I am a dedicated blogger now. I wanted to share with you something that I have realised through the blogging community - and that is, I am part of a group of people called artists.

In the past, I have had a tendency to think that only someone with a recognisable name could call themselves an artist. I think this idea developed in two ways. When I was growing up, it seemed that everyone my mother spoke about was "tops in their field". Occasionally she would refer to "the also rans", but obviously with derision. It seemed to me that if you weren't "tops in your field" then you just didn't rate a mention. You didn't exist.

So subconsciously, I felt that to be adequate, I had to be the best. I had to be known. But through the blog-o-sphere, I have realized that there is a huge pool of very talented people out there, whose lives revolve around art. They make art, they think about art, they show their work, they sell it, some even make their enitre living from art. They appear on Flickr, on Etsy, they have a blog and/or a website, some have work in local stores or galleries, some even send their work internationally. All these people are part of the community of artists. And some of these people connect with my work, and feel sufficiently moved to write and tell me so. And this is how I know that I am one of them.

For this I say a heartfelt thank-you to anyone who has left a comment for me, and especially to my regular visitors. I send you my love and warmest wishes across the land and sea. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yay! An Award!

Many, many thanks go to cusp over at L'Ombre de mon Ombre for this much appreciated award. I can't say how much this means to me... It seems to me that the generosity and goodwill generated by the internet is one of the most positive things happening around the globe at this point in history. And I'm really honoured and excited to be a part of it. Warmest wishes and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has visited my blog this year.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Some new toys, but otherwise not much progress

Yes, that's right, that's my new wacom intuos3 - a graphics tablet. And it is a BIG ONE! (A4 size - the active part in the centre). In case you don't know what these are for, it's like a cross between a mouse and an draw with the pen on the right and your little marks will appear magically on your screen. I've been wanting one for about 18 months, but fully expected it to be a 6 x 8 in, until I had a wonderful windfall a couple of weeks ago. (I own a very few shares in Coles Myer which I inherited from my great-aunt. Coles was taken over a few weeks ago and hey presto, as well as shares in the new company, $$$s appeared in my bank account....don't worry, I've told Centrelink.)
Anyway, this little beauty arrived yesterday and I am still working it out. I've got the software uploaded etc, but the pen operates very differently from a mouse and I'm not finding the adjustment is automatic. I suspect the proprioception in my arms (that's the position sense) has been affected by CFS, but hopefully with time I will get the hang of it. I'm not prepared to give you a demo just yet, but when I produce something I'm happy with you'll be the first to know.
The other piece of equipment/tool/toy I've bought myself (well Christmas is coming up!) is a Print Gocco. I don't know if you are familiar with this, but it is basically a unit that allows you to make your own (smallish) screens for screen printing. They're made in Japan and there are inks for paper, fabric and clay (he!he!). I've been wanting one of these for about 5 years, ever since a friend lent me hers to play with. They aren't cheap, so I've always hesitated, especially when I heard they may cease production. Then I heard there is an Australian supplier and at least out here, there's no problem with continuing supply, so I bit the bullet. So far I've only opened the box and looked at all the bits, but hopefully I'll get a chance to give it a whirl soon. If you'd like to see a little of what you can do with a gocco, check out Shu-Ju Wang's artists books.
Otherwise the week has been slow. It kicked off with a migraine, interrupting my plans for a get-together with feffakookan, and it really stayed in the slow lane. Also, I've had some news about my masters that has left me rather up in the air. Since I first enrolled, the course has been upgraded and an extra subject added. This means I now have to enrol in both semesters in 2008, but I don't know what I actually have to do work-wise....or how I'll do it from Brisbane. I'm waiting for the course coordinator to get back to me...

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Above: Works by Anita McIntyre, Vicki Reynolds, Marisse Maas, Kirra Jamison, Robert Boynes, Anne-Laure Djaballah, Mary Sutherland, Nancy Selvin, Susan Joy Share.

I have started thinking about a book or perhaps series of books based on cycles in nature. The sort of things I am thinking of including are the lunar phases, day and night, seasons, insect lifecycles and the stages of a woman's life (woman, mother, crone). The structure I plan to use is the flutter book. If you are unfamiliar with this, it is basically a concertina book, with the covers pulled right back, so the book sits in a circle. Below is the model I made at a workshop I attended last year - of course it can have as many pages as you want.

I want the work to express ideas about nature and time, the way it is cyclical and how we, as humans, are a part of that. I've been looking through images of work that I've collected for ways to express that aesthetically, and the collage at the top of the post shows some works I've pulled out to help me visualize where I want to go. To me, these works speak of time passing and past.

In a way, this is a progression from a triptych of photos (below) I did during the first year of my masters. As a work, they were at a very experimental stage and not at all resolved, but they were the first work I did in Melbourne that excited me with their potential. They referred to ideas of the primordial soup, and I was playing with light as an expressive tool.

I seem to be in a peculiar head space at the moment...quite stressy, quite sleepy but having trouble getting to sleep and sleeping fitfully when I finally do drop off. At the same time I'm having quite a lot of creative ideas, and works I've had in the back of my mind all year long are starting to come together (in my head at least).

Today is the first day of summer here and while the temperatures have been very mild (27-28 deg C) the humidity is often between 50-80%. This really saps me of energy far more than the dry heat I experienced when living in Melbourne. The last two days I finally relented and turned on the air conditioning. It seems unjustified when the temps are so low, but then I realised that I had perspiration on my upper lip and forehead just sitting at the desk. CFS has damaged the hypothalamus, the area in the brain which controls temperature regulation among other things, so my ability to tolerate humidity is far below the norm. I do feel better and more able to work with the A/C on. I might really indulge myself and try sleeping with it on too.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Poll Results In

From the Rubbere Figures site:
(without permission but with no mal-intent)

It's about a month since my little blog survey closed, and it is terribly slack of me not to have made some comment before now. First of all, I want to thank every one who voted and/or emailed or left comments for me. If you missed the survey, you can see the original post here.

Rather like the recent Australian federal election, the results were overwhelming. Another "Ruddslide", as they are now known out here.

And the readers resoundingly voted to keep the blog as it is... 84% in favour, 15% against...(hmm, not sure what happened to that missing 1%??) That is, not to separate out the cfs-related posts from the art ones. I really thought it would be much closer.

Of course, unlike Australian elections, it wasn't compulsory to vote. In fact, there were a little over a dozen respondents. I was a bit surprised by that as according to my stats, I get that many hits daily, so really, very few visitors voted. I'm not sure what this means, but maybe people strongly feel that what you do with your blog is your own business, and not for them to comment on??

Everyone who wrote to me was so wonderfully warm and caring, and I have never felt more accepted for who I am than your replies made me feel. I have really come to feel part of an online community and when I am too unwell to see my friends locally, or to participate in all that socialising entails, the true value of my virtual friends is at its most sustaining.

There were lots of pearls of wisdom in your comments and I recommend you take a look here to see more. However there were three things that cusp said that made me think, and I hope she won't mind me repeating them, because they can apply to anyone.

1. You are as you are now.

2. You cannot live your life waiting for... (in my case, my health to improve).

3. You have to have dreams.

The other point, which was raised by both PWCFS and those lucky devils who are healthy, was that it does the world at large a lot of good to hear about life with a chronic illness (and if this information was separated off into another blog, they might not bother to follow it up). So anyway, thanks again to everyone who "played" - I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Self - A Work in Progress

I've finally worked through all the images for my first ceramic artists book. This is my favourite, I think. Tonight I put together an email to my supervisor in Melbourne, explaining where I'm up to with this work and sent it off with the images: eight stages of the clay self portrait disintegrating. Hopefully he'll agree that they are ready and they won't need too much fine-tuning...then I'll send them off to be made into decals.
In the meantime I think I might make a start on the next book....this will involve some loosening up and playing and will hopefully be FUN!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Porcelain tests

The past 10 days have been a bit slow. My energy levels have waned and I haven't felt like communicating much. Combined with not having much to communicate because I was doing so little, this is not a recipe for vital blogging!

There isn't much to actually show for the work I have done, as it was mostly directed towards a grant application and submitting work for another art prize. Luckily I do have my porcelain tests back from feffakookan (thank-you!) and can share them with you.

Above you can see a photo of the three types of porcelain I tested. The tiles are 1-2mm thick, just hand rolled with a rolling pin. You can see that at this thickness they are all translucent to a degree, but disappointingly the paper porcelain is not very translucent, and it is actually the thinnest tile. For some reason, this surprised me. I had thought that having paper in the mix (which burns away during firing) would mean there was actually less clay, so it should be more translucent. Of course there is the option of adding paper myself to one of the other clays (you can add up to about 30%) but that is not as easy as just buying it by the block. Still, if it is the difference between working with clay or not, it would be worth it.

The other qualities I am considering in these tests are colour, ease of working and surface finish. You can see that the paperclay is a much creamier colour and if you enlarge the image you may be able to see it has a different texture from the pure clay. Its hard to describe, but it is rougher to touch, and almost seems as if its not vitrified. If you've never done ceramics, you may not know what I mean by this, but its the difference between something that's been low-fired (bisque, raku, earthenware) and something high-fired (stoneware).

All the tiles were fired together, and the others are vitrified, but I wonder whether the paperclay would benefit from going to a higher temperature...this might achieve more translucency. I quite like the creamy colour as an option when you don't want a full white, and I am getting used to the surface, I'd just like more translucency. It's definitely much easier to work with than the pure porcelains which are known for being temperamental.

The Southern Ice and the Imperial Porcelain are very similar in colour, although the IP is maybe a shade creamier. SI has a strange tendency to develop these little "lumps". They are funny things and I've never been able to find out what causes them. If anyone knows, please email me. They remind me of those tiny pimples new babies sometimes have. I've tried to highlight them with the box in the picture above. In the past I've just accepted them as a feature of the clay.

So.... a decision....which to use for the ceramic book?
Well, I've decided to use sepia photos, and I'm leaning towards the Imperial Porcelain, but I've decided to do more testing using the actual decals, because there may well be a colour difference with them compared to the prints.

Monday, November 05, 2007

"Self" - update

As well as working on a grant application over the past week, I've been working on the ceramic concertina book for this installation. Above you can see the first stage of the process as I documented it. This is the clay portrait made by transferring an inkjet image to wet clay on day 1.

I've been testing different ways of converting a colour image to black and white in Photoshop. I recently bought a book by Scott Kelby, and I've been slowly working through it. It's written in a very direct way, specifically for photographers, to help them learn how to achieve the look they are after. It's called "The Photoshop CS2 book for digital photographers" and it gives four different ways to create a black and white image. None of them is particularly hard but I only knew one of them and they all create slightly different effects.

I'm still undecided whether to use black and white or sepia images in the book, but I hopefully it will be clearer when I get my porcelain tests back from feffakookan. (She is popping them in one of her firings this week). It's crazy but I so enjoyed making those little test slabs and I can't wait to get my hands back into the clay! In fact, I'm so desperate I've decided that if it's too hot in the garage (my ceramic studio) I'm just going to bring the clay inside into the air-conditioning....I never did like this carpet anyway!
Below: the last in the series
A couple of sepia versions here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Theo Jansen "Strandbeest"

I would not usually post a link to something that is an ad. but I wanted to share this kinetic sculpture by Theo Jansen and I think this is the best footage on youtube. It also helps to hear what Jansen says about the work, I think. I love the way there are three of them at the end, scurrying on the beach, crab-like.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Self "mock up"

If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know this work using self portraits has been "under development" for months. I decided to post a mock-up of the installation I am planning around the work. I hope you'll excuse the poor quality of the hand-drawn components - you can tell I don't have a graphics tablet and had to sketch with the mouse....they do say it's like drawing with a cake of soap, and I have to agree!

The full piece will incorporate the following components:

  1. a raw clay portrait with an inkjet transfer;
  2. the fallen clay shards "pieced" together;
  3. a fired clay concertina book with photos showing the progression of the raw clay; and
  4. the final portrait embedded in wax and framed.

I only have the clay concertina book left to finish. I am working on the photos now and will post some of them soon. I plan to send them off to be made into ceramic decals when they are ready. These will be fired onto the work as the final stage.

I'm also testing three different porcelain clays to see which I like the best for this work. One is a paper porcelain, which is porcelain clay with paper added. This makes the clay easier to handle and to repair if cracking occurs. I've never used it before and am not sure how it will look when fired. Paperclay has the potential to be re-worked and joined once the clay has dried and I realized that this opens up the working time, which would be a great advantage to me. Normally with clay, you have to keep it pretty moist until the work is finished, and if it dries out before you are done, the work is lost. Paperclay could make it much easier for me to do more clay work, and this prospect has me quite excited.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Just a quick post to let you know that Like Weather has been shortlisted in the 2008 Libris Awards - the Australian Artists Book Prize. This award is part of the largest regular artists book event in Australia. Shortlisted books are exhibited in conjunction with Focus on Artists Books, an international conference with masterclasses held in Mackay, Queensland every two years. Woo!hoo!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Making sure work is archival

I thought I'd do a post about the steps I took to ensure that Like Weather is archival and as such, that I am producing the most durable work that I can. This is a new consideration for me, because I have worked with clay in the past, which if fired, especially high fired, is definitely durable (unless dropped!) and if unfired, well then it's really meant to be an ephemeral work.

The first step is paper selection. There are quite a lot of acid free papers specially developed for inkjet printing on the market now. My main source here in Australia is Image Science which is in Melbourne. They have lots of information about choosing papers on their website, as well as selling sample packs.

The tricky part for me in this project was that I needed double-sided paper for some parts of the book - the spine and the flags. There are a few available but it does seriously reduce your options. When I made the draft version I received feedback saying people really liked the texture of the watercolour paper I had used. I couldn't find a double-sided textured inkjet paper online, so I decided to go with the watercolour paper I used for the rough version. It was Canson 100, which is actually double sided. It is 300gsm 100% cotton rag paper, cold press one side and rough the other. I was amazed to find that I could buy 10 sheets from Dick Blick and have it posted to Australia for AU$60, when it costs AU$50 for 5 sheets from my local art store! I would dearly love to support Australian businesses more, but with that sort of price difference it just is not possible.

To achieve the best colour saturation I could, I coated the paper with InkAid. This does not actually affect archival qualities, but does reduce the penetration of the ink into the paper, ensuring a more vibrant look. I should mention that InkAid, while not terribly toxic, does recommend taking some precautions. I prefer not to spray things like this, so I use a foam brush and I wear gloves. I also work outside.

I've talked before about having some difficulty getting an even coat. This just takes a little practice and it is best to apply a couple of thin coats, letting each dry in between. If you keep working the surface after it has started to dry, you can get into a real mess - which of course I did! I also discovered that more coats does result in more saturated colours - which is good if this is what you want, but does mean you need to keep the number of coats on each page in one project constant, if keeping the colour saturation is important.

Inkjet printing has really come of age in the past decade, both with respect to colour reproduction and archival quality. If you have a printer that uses the right inks and you use the right paper, you are generally going to get a product that is far more enduring than a traditional photograph. When I discovered that fact, it really made printing with an inkjet seem like a viable option for my practice. My dear old Dad, who was a traditional photographer would be amazed!

Wilhelm Imaging Research is the organisation that "conducts research on the stability and preservation of traditional and digital color photographs and motion pictures. The company publishes brand name-specific permanence data for desktop and large-format inkjet printers and other digital printing devices."^ This is the website to visit if you want to learn about this area, and to check out a particular printer. As regular readers know, I was able to pick up a barely-used second-hand Epson 2100 a few months ago. This uses the archival Ultrachrome inks and can print up to A3 size. As long as I stick to genuine Epson inks and appropriate paper, my images will be as archival as is possible.

There are only a couple of other products I used in this project. When the pages were all printed, I sprayed them with couple of coats of Premier Art Print Shield. This is a lacquer based coating that provides additional UV protection and scuff resistance. Seeing the images were being used in a book which would be handled and not placed behind glass, I thought this was a worthwhile addition. This product might be useful for artists who include found paper in their work, just to provide a little protection from UV light.
Once I'd bought my can, I read the MSDS sheet and realized I needed to wear a mask while applying it. I do own a mask from glaze-mixing days, but of course the filters were the wrong sort. I'm actually amazed how inexpensive these filters are, given the level of protection they provide. If a product recommends you use one, I think it's a great investment.

The last item needed no such special safety equipment. It was X-press conservators acid-free double-sided tape to attach the flags. For the instructions on how to plan and assemble a flag book, I used this article from Bonefolder. I was surprised to be instructed to use tape, as I thought some "special" adhesive would be recommended, but if it's good enough for Karen Hamner, it's good enough for me. And voila! that's it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Very Good Week

This past week has been amazingly active and satisfying for me. Of course I am paying for it today with a headache and sore shoulders and eyes, and probably should not be on the computer, but I just wanted to get a little post done....

but to save your eyes, I will resist the temptation to do the whole post in tiny, tiny print.
So to summarize in brief, last week I managed to:
  • visit and take my mother out

  • take myself to a medical appointment

  • go out to celebrate my husband's birthday (and I got away with drinking a glass of champers)

  • visit my friend Mel (feffakooken)

  • go to an "Uncovered" at the State Library to view their latest acquisitions of artists books and...
wait for it.....

No wonder there was no time for writing blog posts!

The "Uncovered" event was really fun. We all put on the obligatory white gloves and spent an hour and a half ooh-ing and aah-ing over some gorgeous work. One of my favourites was "A Gardener at Midnight" by Peter Lyssiotis. It is inspired by old travel journals about trips to the Holy Land which are held in the State Library of Victoria. His book re-tells the story given the context of the current political situation in the region and he has altered found imagery. The illustrations look like photos that have been scratched with one of those green scourers and this gives them a wonderful soft texture and slightly obscures the subject matter. I found the whole book is online here, but the reproduction over the web really does the images no justice at all. Still you might get a bit of an idea.

One of the other books I really loved was by Lyn Ashby and it's called Sisyphus Goes Home. Anyone who knows the myth of Sisyphus knows that he, in fact, does not get to go home, but is destined to spend all eternity rolling a rock up a hill simply for it to roll back down, so he can begin to roll it back up again. Hm, sounds a bit like a medical condition I know....

The images in this book are so simple but so isn't very expensive, so I am thinking of buying it. In the mean time, here is one page from it.

As I mentioned I finally finished Like Weather. Well, one copy of it. I decided I'll make 3 copies in all. My plan is to make one more by the end of the year, and leave the last one until such time as it is needed. I've posted the photos of the final book on Flickr, but here is one, showing the outside fully open.

Now I can move on to making the book to go with my Self Portrait piece. It's going to be made from porcelain with the photos fired on using decals. Decals should ensure the imagery really look part of the work, rather than just being "stuck on"...and fortunately I have the Decal Queen (feffakooken) to turn to for advice...I've already been lucky enough to have my own personal tutorial on the subject. She made it look really easy, but somehow I'll bet I manage to find all the tricky bits....

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Give me your opinions....

WARNING! Long winded and possibly depressing post follows… if you can't bring yourself to read it, please go straight to the poll on the right, just below my profile and let me know what you think! Thank-you!

Well I am home from my holiday and it was really lovely to have the chance to relax and not to feel that there were literally dozens of “things” that needed to be done. I made it to "Books 07" and will be posting some thoughts about that a little later.

One of the scary things about holidays is that I always seem to spend some of the time doing a “life review”. I suspect this habit was developed in my early 20s when holidays were often spent with a dear friend. Her partner commented that we spent the whole time “dilemma-izing”, but really we enjoyed indulging in some cooperative navel-gazing, discussing plans for our careers, for travel, buying houses, whatever came up really. In those days I guess things were going in the right direction and it was pleasant to rake over it all and daydream of our successful futures, and how we might attain them!

Life is a little different now some 20 years later, and this type of “navel-gazing” can be a risky business. I have been thinking that I really need to diarize more fully my experience of living with CFS. The reason for this is that although I have been ill for over 16 years, I really feel that I still have not come to terms with the fact that I am a person living with a chronic illness, for which there is no known cure. Well, I accept that as a fact, but what are the consequences of that?

Of course, I have accepted it on some levels. I gave up work. That was forced on me very early in the piece. I applied for and was granted a Disability Pension. That was difficult psychologically and certainly seemed to be a step towards acceptance, outwardly at any rate. I have become much better at judging my limits and not over-committing myself as I hate letting people down. I have found a supportive doctor and other health professionals and I am “a good patient”, in that I follow their advice for the most part, and am diligent about taking my medications.

All these things are small details really and that’s why I can do them without necessarily coming to the natural conclusion that my prospects are severely limited. I suspect it was always the case, because I’ve always been a perfectionist, that I have become a “small detail” person. It’s not that I don’t set long-term goals, I do. (Perhaps even too long - when I first left uni I had a 10 year plan for my career as an occupational therapist!) However, I have to ask, are the goals realistic? I suspect they are not and even worse, that I am setting myself up to fail and making my day to day life much harder and more stressful than it needs to be.

Of course, there is a benefit in setting these sorts of goals even if they are unattainable – it gives me worries which equate more with the sort of concerns my friends have and keeps me from having to face the real issues of accepting and adapting to my CFS.

As I look at the sentence I have just written, I have to admit that this is a recurring pattern in my family. Even those of us who do more than bury our heads in the sand when faced with a reality we don’t like, often seem to get busy solving a tangential or associated problem, rather than attacking the core issue.

For a long time, while realizing that it was unlikely that I would recover completely, I always “hoped” I might get quite a lot better. Well enough to work part-time (and I don’t mean a couple of hours a week) and have a successful career, pretty much on terms of my own choosing.

In some ways this is understandable. After all, I have always wanted to be successful in a career. I saw it as the mark of my worth. I never dreamed of having children, a family. Being brought up almost as an only child (my brother and sister were married and left home before I was 7 years old) I didn’t experience a family as such – there was always just the triad of my mother, my father and me. And I think I was a bit like the pet who doesn’t realize he isn’t a person, I didn’t really think of myself as a child. So children never came into my calculations of my future.

A career however, was something which was always highly regarded, and as a child growing up in the 70s, the era of feminism, and doing quite well at school, a career was, well, a given. Issues with perfectionism and low self-esteem only made success in a career all the more necessary.

As well as my need for a career, I have to say that for a long time, the hope of a recovery was peddled to me. In fact, I don’t think any health professional has ever said those words: “you might never recover” to me. A lot of professionals talk about their previous successes with patients with CFS and the wackier they are, the more they shift the blame to you when you don’t recover, but that is another issue entirely….

So…I have spent a number of years studying for what I hoped would be my new life. However, over the past four or five years, the consequences of having a serious medical condition for over a decade have had an increasing toll and I have started developing other conditions actually caused by the damage the chronic infection is doing – first hypothyroidism and then diabetes insipidus (DI).

Despite the correction of my thyroxine levels to “the normal range”, my energy levels have never recovered to the place I was in prior the onset of hypothyroidism, 5 years ago. As for the DI, that has taken quite a while to understand and get under control (nearly a year) and I suspect that it will only add to factors which can be so easily knocked out of their uneasy equilibrium.

This has been a very long post, and if you have made it this far and not fallen asleep I’ll be greatly surprised! But if you will bear with me a little longer, I’d like to ask your opinion/s on whether I should include this sort of post in this blog? I believe I could benefit from the input of others dealing with similar issues, so I’d like to put them in a blog, rather than in a private journal. The question is as regular visitors, would you rather this sort of post was coralled in a separate blog, so that you don’t come upon it when you were just checking back to see how my artists book is going, or whatever…

Anyway there is a poll over on the right, just under my profile, so if you would be kind enough to give me your thoughts on this before you go…I’ll shut up!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gone fishin'

Well not really, but I have taken a week off and headed north to Cotton Tree on the Sunshine Coast for a week. You may be surprised to hear this, given that I am supposed to be head down and tail up working towards the end of my masters…well, thanks has to go to my wonderfully supportive and understanding supervisor, who has managed to talk the university into letting me have one more semester.

The past six weeks have been extremely stressful for me as I struggled my way through the worst winter flu season we’ve had here in Australia for years. Then I started a series of migraines, probably induced by stress. Gradually I fell about 3-4 weeks behind. With less than 12 weeks to go, I could see there was no way I could catch up.

The plan now is to take this week off - my first actual holiday (i.e. not a rest required due to illness) in a year. Then I will be back to work. I don’t intend to fritter this time away, but hopefully I can feel rather more relaxed – even with time off over Christmas, I now have a good 8 months to finish what I planned to complete by the end of November.

Before I left on hols I managed to finish taking photos of the distintegration of my clay portrait. When I get back I plan to work these up in Photoshop and use them in a clay concertina book. I also finally received my paper supplies that I had to order from Melbourne, so I will be able to finish Like Weather at last!

But speaking of weather, the sun is out, it’s 28 deg C and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, so I’m off for a walk on the beach….

Sunday, September 09, 2007

5th artists’ books+ multiples fair

Yesterday I headed off to this event, which is held at irregular intervals (whenever the organisers have the energy, I suspect!) When I first heard about the fair in April, I was sure I would have at least one book ready to contribute. And probably if I had made it a priority I would have, so I guess that maybe it pays to put your entry in and have a goal to work towards. Like Weather is so close to finished, I am sure it could have been ready. Artists books are still a very new area to me though, and I hesitated, just wanting to know a bit more about the fair and the whole deal.
Organised by Grahame Galleries and Editions who have established the Centre for the Artists Book here in Brisbane, the fair was not huge, but wide ranging. The multiples included some big names, and I mean BIG: Louise Bourgeois, Dieter Roth, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer and a felt postcard by Joseph Beuys.
Jenny Holzer: wooden postcards

Plus the works by the major Ausralian names in artists books: Peter Lyssiotis, Bruno Leti, Ron McBurnie, Milan Milojevic, Judy Watson, Angela Cavalieri, GW Bot, Anne-Marie Hunter and Tim Moseley - the latter two both "manning" their stands.
Nevertheless, I have to say that some of my favourites were books submitted by individual artists who, certainly to me, were less well-known. As is often the case, some of the most interesting work seemed to be done by the students from QCA (Qld College of Art). I often find that students are unafraid to experiment and are not so constrained by convention - often they have to "make do" with cheaper materials, so this probably forces them to be particularly creative.

Following are some images I have taken from the Graham Galleries website (without permission, but with only good intentions) and for lots more, I recommend you visit there. Hopefully next time this event is held, I'll have some works to enter.

As a great lover of folded books, this one by Helen Malone (above), entitled The Battle Within, took my eye.
As did this beautiful one below, by Clyde McGill titled the list (the coda). The textures of the paper and the ink, together with the layering effect from the semi-translucency of the pages really appealed to me.

This was one of very few altered books, using the old World Book Encyclopedia. Anyone of my era will surely remember them. By Anne-Marie Hunter.

This was really one of my favourites - a series of 10 ink and gouache images unbound in a box. By Peter Crocker.

Afraid to Fail?

A couple of months ago, a lovely and well-meaning friend commented to me that I could get a job as a curator of a gallery when I finished my masters. At the time I responded by flippantly agreeing that I could, if they were happy for me to do the job from my bed. The suggestion was so obviously well-intended, that I did not even consider trying to explain how far from my true capacity a full-time job was.

Last week, over on velo-gubbed legs I read this extract from NMJ's soon to be published novel which stars as its main character, a young woman with CFS/ME.
Extract from 'The State of Me' (Ch 34) (Main character, Helen Fleet, talking): "I’m always measuring out my energy behind the scenes, but people don’t see it. They see you at a party and think you’re fine, they don’t see you resting all day to be able to go, and being wrecked all next day because you went."

And I realized that is the problem - they don't see how our life is, day by day. Hopefully, books like NMJ's will help with this problem. I think it is our responsibility to let PWOCFS (people without CFS) in to our lives so they can see what it is really like, because it comes back to people's expectations about a person who is ill, or a person who is disabled.

At present, the understanding seems to be black and white, an all or nothing condition. So if I can apply to do a masters, and be admitted to do it, then I must, basically, be normal. Even if I am currently in my fourth year of a three semester (full-time) course. I'm not sure what this means they believe - do they think I am faking? Or do they think I am recovered? I'm not sure. It's been a long time since anyone really suggested to my face that I wasn't ill, although I still occasionally sense someone eyeing me suspiciously, as if, perhaps, I am exaggerating wildly about the level of difficulty I have to live with.

There is another thing I think people who don't live with a chronic condition find it difficult to grasp. It is the fact that just attempting something when you have a chronic illness, is actually succeeding. If I sat at home and did not try to do things, then sure, I wouldn't fail at them. However, I think I might be failing at living my life, because setting goals and working for them, is as much a part of who I am, as being female is.

My husband commented to me the other day, that the chances of me actually completing this masters have never been better than 50:50. It made me stop and think, and I realized he is right, and I remembered that in the beginning, I was very clear about that in my own head (of course I didn't tell anyone at uni that!)

The thing is, I love to learn, and you don't need to complete a masters to still learn a lot from participating in the programme. If I don't manage to graduate, I will still have vastly increased my understanding of art, and my own practice. It's about the journey, as "they" are always saying. But I think "they" might also believe that I have failed if I don't finish. And maybe I will have, but that's okay, because you can't fail if you don't try...and I'm definitely going to keep trying.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Self Portraits - finally in progress

I have been wanting to get to my blog for days now, but things just seem to be getting in the way. This is just a brief update to post some photos of my Self Portrait piece as it is in-progress.
I started on this work months ago and this is my first attempt at putting all the pieces together in a studio space and assessing how they are working.
Day 1
These pictures show the first stages of the work, which is one which involves allowing a particular process to occur in the gallery (if it gets that far). Above is the first day: a self portrait made from wet clay and an inkjet print.
Day 2
This image shows day 2, with the clay cracking and the print fading.
The work will be followed day by day to document the process it undergoes. Originally I intended to simply contrast the active process of the clay portrait with the stable, preservation of the waxed portrait (see here). Now I can see that documenting the entire process and perhaps binding it into a book would be a better option.
I have also done some digital photos of the clay process as you saw here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Finally! A customized banner!

As you can see I have finally managed to upload my new banner and sort out the problems with the blog title i.e. make it go away. I originally put the banner together in March but when I tried to upload it, the title text sat on top of it. I don't know HTML or whatever language Blogger uses now, and despite searching for help online I couldn't find the exact code I needed.

Today I had a look in Blogger help and found two really good blogs which help out people like me - the ones who want to blog, care enought to want their blog to be individualised, but know nothing about coding. Freevlog is really about video-blogging, but includes this great video-tutorial which takes you through the banner thing step-by-step. The Dummies Guide to Google Blogger (Beta) is exactly what it says and also covers customizing your banner/header as well as loads of other things. You could really spend an awful lot of time adding "special features" to your blog, but I'm happy for now just to finally have my banner afloat - so it's back to the printer and my book....

Can you believe...

...I'm still working on this book? (Like Weather)

(inside front cover)

It is so close to finished. In fact, it is finished, apart from the actual printing and construction. The custom colour profiling has worked well, although I have changed my choice of paper. The feedback I received from people was that they really liked the texture of the mock-up, seen here (if you enlarge). The Hahnemuhle photo rag I had chosen is a beautiful paper, but it has a soft, smooth finish. The mock-up was made with Canson 100, a double sided water-colour paper. Coating this with Inkaid, an inkjet pre-coat I mentioned in earlier posts, allows me to achieve richer colours, while keeping the texture.

The difficulty I am having now is getting the pre-coat on evenly. This is only really a problem when you print large expanses of a single colour, and is especially evident on the pages with text which are backed with navy. I really hope I can perfect my technique or I'm going to have to change papers....

As you can tell by the lack of blog posts, progress with my masters work is very slow. I just have not been well enough to really get a flow going, and according to my calculations I am about 2 weeks behind. I have not managed to get any more of my proposal written, although the self portrait in wax (seen here) is back from framing, and looks really good.

This week I "plan" (you know what my plans are like...) to get into my ceramics studio (aka the garage) and set up this installation. It should be fun to finally put all the components together as I have them visualised and see what else needs to be done. Stay tuned....

(inside back cover)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Self Portraits - wip update: Trust the process

It seems I've been working on these self portraits for ages, and as I look back at past blog entries here and here, I can see it has been underway for 6 months. For quite some time I was struggling with the best way to present the different parts and bring it all together. I knew what I had thought of wasn't really resolved, but I had to actually see that, before I could move on.

It's hard to make a piece you know isn't really going to work, but sometimes it is important to get on with it and trust that inspiration will hit and allow you to take it where it needs to go. I find this even harder given that my energy is limited and I don't really want to waste it. Not to mention having a lack of faith in myself as an artist (I am really an occupational therapist who is pretending to be an artist and one day soon, people are going to realize this and tell me to get out and stop wasting their time).

Nevertheless, this work is one that has really shown me that the only way to make some art is to get on with making it, and work it out as you go. And I have to confess that everytime I actually stop thinking about this piece and actually work on it, significant leaps forward have happened. Will I learn from this? Probably not completely, but hopefully I'll remember this lesson a little sooner the next time I am stuck.

Above:the clay version of the self portrait after 2 days on the wall.

Above: photoshopped version

Above: further degradation

The wax version as seen here is currently being framed. When I get it back, I can move on to what is hopefully the last stage.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Custom wedding invitations

Above: centrepiece: paperbark

Cream coloured paper used for edging will also be used inside to print text on.

Twigs from dieing bushes in the front yard.

Here in Australia, while the top half of the planet is sweltering, we are in the middle of flu season. This year the influenza has actually been bad enough that the health authorities are suggesting people wear masks in public (not that I've actually seen anyone doing that - I reckon it would be considered "un-Australian" by many).

My husband and I have both had nasty colds, but not the actual flu, thank heavens! Still with CFS anything extra can put you in bed, and this past week we've been laid low. The house is in a right state, and I haven't done any work on my masters in over a week, so what did I spend yesterday doing? Designing wedding invitations for my dear friend Jodie. She provided the papers and "the brief" - something to give it a natural feel, and so I set to work.

Above some snaps, I apologize for the quality, but by the time I'd finished the light was poor. They are all made with the same papers - the colour is probably closest in the middle one. I added the hairy brown paper from my collection. In the end, Jodie liked them all so much she is thinking of using all three! Now - on to some real work!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Custom profiles

Today I am continung the colour management saga...

Getting a custom profile done for your printer using a particular paper allows you to get consistent colour results in your work. Unfortunately each profile only relates to one sort of paper and not necessarily even all the papers in the range. The profile I had done is for Hahnemuehle Photo Rag but will apply to some other papers in the Hahnemuehle range which have the same coating.

The major benefit of having a profile is that as long as your monitor is calibrated, it allows you to do so-called "soft proofs". This is a function in Photoshop (View>Proof Setup>Custom) which allows you to select the profile for your printer with the paper and to see on screen, with a high degree of accuracy, how your image will look when printed out. If you have a few different profiles for different papers, you can test which one you prefer. Even if you only have the one paper (like me at this stage) you can see what the print will look like without wasting expensive paper, and even edit it in the soft proof state. You do of course have to have a properly calibrated monitor for this to work (see here).

I should mention at this stage that almost all I've learnt about this has been through a Melbourne company, Image Science. Their website is well-written and thorough but understandable. The owner Jeremy is really knowledgable and helpful, and the support service he provides (to help dummies like me get their profile working properly!) is terrific! I'd also like to say that from what I've seen their prices are excellent! order to have a profile done, you download this image below:

It is provided with no colour profile and the next task is to print it on your desired paper.
Below is a photo of my print out. Remember, the colours you are viewing won't be exactly the same as me, because of differences between our monitors. Also, the camera I used has a colour profile of its own, and that will have impacted on the image!! Still, you should be able to see there is a significant difference between the colours as downloaded and as printed.

I posted this print-out off to Jeremy in Melbourne on a Friday morning and somehow he managed to email me my custom profile on Monday afternoon! Normally I wouldn't have expected mail from Brisbane to Melbourne to even arrive till Tuesday, so the turn around was brilliant.

Installing the profile is not hard, but I did have a bit more difficulty using it. You just have to be very particular about getting the settings right, but as I mentioned Jeremy very patiently helped me through this, and now I can say I am extremely happy with the results!

This is the soft proof using my new profile, and I am finding this relates extremely well to the printed image. So... at last....on to the fun part - my artist books...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Monitor calibration

As I mentioned last post, I decided to bite the bullet and dive head first into the whole "monitor calibration/custom profile" deal in an effort to save time (and, I guess, money - in terms of paper and ink - eventually) and get on with my masters work.

I thought I'd share a little of what this has involved - minus the usual swearing that always accompanies installing any new device on a computer... The picture above shows the "Spyder" (only 3 legs tho') actually in the middle of the process. Before we got to this stage I had to turn off a lot of things - e.g. my firewall, Adobe gamma, my screensaver and some other things I couldn't find and had to ask my husband to locate for me.

Next, I followed the "wizard" to install the Spyder2Express software. That was reasonably simple, except there are a lot of very strict instructions about ambient light. This has to be constant for the duration of the test, not directly shining on your screen (i.e. no over lighting in the room, no desk lamp) and the usual lighting conditions you work under! The room I work in is on the western side of the building, but the house next door is reasonably close. This means that in the afternoons (when I do most of my work) the light changes quite radically over about and hour and a half until the sun is completely blocked by the neighbours house! Oh well! I pulled the blind (not my usual lighting conditions) and did the best I could. Finally, I could put the spyder in position on the screen, adjusted the counterweight (the round thing at the top) so it wouldn't fall off half way through and with one (or two) more clicks, it did its stuff!

In the picture above the spyder is "reading green samples". It worked its way through red and blue ones too (RGB) and then to my surprise also did grey and black. (see below) I guess my surprise shows how little I understand the process!

At the end, I could see a difference in the test image, but it didn't seem huge, which surprised me a bit considering the trouble I was having with printing my images. That meant that I was going to have to depend on the custom profile to make a big difference. Tune in for the next post to see whether I am to be disappointed or thrilled with the results....

Update 3rd AUG
After some discussion with Jeremy at Image Science, who sold me my Spyder, I realised I did not actually have the new monitor profile as created by the Spyder wonder I couldn't see much difference (is there any hope for me???) I am 'fessing up to this because I suspect I really am not the only one who has trouble with these things. After I went to Start>control panel>colour>profiles and installed the Spyder2Express, I actually did see more of a difference on the monitor...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Emotional flip-flop!

It is amazing how things appear to swing around from seeming so positive and hopeful to feeling like they are completely beyond me. Not that much as changed, probably mostly my hormones (!) but I feel as if I need to take some drastic steps if I am to have a hope of completing the masters in time.

Last week I seemed to be recovering from my trip to Melbourne quite well. On Thursday I was able to do a "CFS-day" of work (=3-4 hours) and the same again on Friday. I was feeling quite pleased with my recovery and even though the work I did wasn't all that creative and inspiring, it was necessary.

I have decided to bite the bullet and buy a "Spyder" in order to calibrate my monitor properly. I am also getting a custom profile done for use on my printer with Hahnemuehle Photo Rag. This is the paper I have chosen for the book "Like Weather". All this should ensure that the colours I see are the colours that print, and while costing a bit [remember I'm a paid writer now ;() ] will save loads of time, paper and ink, not to mention grief.

So I spent Thursday and Friday working through the instructions, printing off the "target profile" which I posted off to Melbourne to await my custom profile. I also spent time tweaking images and text for "Like Weather", as suggested by my supervisor. It's all very slow, and I'm not done yet, but at least I felt I was on the move again.

Then yesterday morning I woke with a giant headache which did not let up until evening. The day was spent in bed, sleeping fitfully, not daring to move about in case I vomited, and trying not to worry about "lost time". Fortunately when I woke this morning the headache was gone and for a while I was so relieved I felt quite positive.

Some hours later, I am wondering how I can possibly manage to finish my masters work while keeping up with the various family obligations I have. I thought about going to Melbourne for a month to work solidly without interruption, but I don't know how I could afford the accommodation costs, and I'd need a space to work. Then I thought, maybe I could just say I'd gone to Melbourne. I could keep a low profile and really focus on working. But my husband and I aren't good liars, we're just not comfortable with it - there is no way we could keep it up for a month.

Hhm, family. It's not that you don't want to help, you just don't want your life taken over.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Help! I've been tagged!

One of my special cyber-chums, cusp, over at l'ombre de mon ombre has tagged me and now I have to come up with 8 random facts about myself. I must confess that I've already been tagged once before back in May by the talented Jade over at spectroscope. I only found this out recently when I was visiting her blog - I think it was during the period when I was pretty sick and not online that much. I apologise profusely for "breaking the chain" in that case, so I'll have to do better this time.

Umm, this is really hard... anything that might be interesting is terribly embarrassing....but I'll give it a try.....

First the rules:

1. Let others know who tagged you. (done that)
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

8 random facts about Amanda
1. I was born with a caul or a veil, which is a shimmery coating of the head and face. It is a membrane, part of the amniotic sac and occurs reasonably rarely, about 1 in every 1000 births. In some belief systems it is held as a sign of good luck or an omen that the child was destined for greatness(!!!) Possession of a newborn's caul (yuk!) is said to prevent death by drowning, so sailors often purchased them for large sums in medieval times.

2. I was supposed to be named "Miranda" after a poem my father loved by Belloc. Only he mis-remembered the name, hence Amanda. To me, the two names have quite a different feel, and I've always wondered how it might have affected my personality if I'd been called Miranda.

Here's the poem:

Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the shredding
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn't got a penny,
And who weren't paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in-
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,Miranda?
Do you remember an Inn?
Never more;Miranda,
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No soundin the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

3. I refused to go to kindy or preschool, telling my mother I was "too busy".

4. I am 18 years younger than my sister and 15 years younger than my brother. In fact, my sister's daughter (my niece) is more like a sister to me, as she is only 9 years younger than me.

5. I attended the same school from year 1 to year 12. It is the same school my mother, aunt and sister attended and my niece also went there for a couple of years. If I had a daughter, there is no way I would send her there!

6. I secretly dream of living in England in a town whose name includes the phrase "on-sea".

7. My first concert was the Bay City Rollers, at Brisbane Festival Hall in 1975. I'm not telling who my favourite "Roller" was though....

8. In 1986 I left my first "professional" job (i.e. as an occupational therapist) after only 5 months to go back-packing around Europe with a bloke I'd only met 4 months earlier. Five weeks later we were engaged to be married. (This was all very uncharacteristic behaviour for me - I was considered very mature and responsible for my age.) We continued our travels for nearly nine months and then returned to Australia to organise the wedding. Twenty years later we are still together.

So who do I tag?

Well, I do this with the proviso that anyone who has already been tagged and doesn't want to participate again doesn't have to, and anyone who just hates this kind of chain thing (which usually includes me) also doesn't have to...being tagged should be seen as a compliment, rather than creating a duty to participate.
  1. Aine over at Artist Printmaker online
  2. Annie at Woodblock Dreams
  3. a Kiwi neighbour, azirca, at speak without my voice
  4. From Down the Rabbit Hole
  5. Mandy at Feltbug, even tho' I know she's been tagged before
  6. Marion at my art grows around me
  7. my dear friend Mel, another Brisbane girl over at feffakooken
  8. peggy at adventures in relief

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's mostly Neil Finn's fault...

that I haven't posted to this blog in so very long! Well, that's my story anyway! (How often do you get to blame a major Australian/NZ icon for keeping you from doing something???)

Okay, that may be stretching the truth a little, but in a round about way, it is true....

I have been a fan of Neil Finn and the bands he has been in (Split Enz, the Muldanes, Crowded House, the Finn Brothers) since the release of "I See Red" when I was in year 12. When I heard that Crowded House were reforming, I was both thrilled and could it be Crowded House without Paul Hester (d. 2005)? Still, I really hoped it would be good.

So on June 21st when I heard about a "special" gig for only 500 punters at Melbourne's Corner Hotel, I knew I had to try to get tickets. And to my amazement, 10 minutes later, I had two (the maximum purchase) in my "virtual" hands! The only problem was I live in Brisbane, nearly 1500 kms away, and I was planning trips to Melbourne in August, September and November but not in July...

Fortunately, my lovely supervisor Kevin agreed to see me on Wednesday July 11th instead of in August. The gig was Monday night, so that gave me Tuesday to rest up in between - wonderful!

It did mean that I had to really put my head down and try to get as much done as possible on two works in order to have something substantial to show and get feedback on. As well as finishing the catalogue essay that I had committed to writing. blogging...sorry! But I do promise to share my progress very soon....

Naturally I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I did get enough, and the supervision was very useful. It has done quite a lot to calm my nerves actually, and I am now quite hopeful that I might be able to finish on time.

To be honest, the whole trip to Melbourne probably came along at just the right time, psychologically speaking. I don't get to go to many gigs any more - the cost, the late night, the hours of standing - usually it seems like too big a price to pay unless it is someone really special. For me, Neil Finn/Crowded House are that special and I was able to capture some of the "high" I only ever experience at a great gig! There is something about music that touches me in a completely visceral way. I feel it bodily, and am carried to an emotional place that I do not experience any other way. It is nourishing to the soul while also consuming physical energy. The long-term benefit lasts...I'm not sure how long, definitely weeks, maybe months, but there is a short-term price to pay. It is definitely worth it for me, but it does have to be planned...I couldn't just do it every week-end.

I was thinking about the effect music has on me, and I realized that I can get the same benefit from certain songs played up loud on a good sound system (which we have). But I have actually stopped doing it, because of the physical energy it takes. It is something that does raise my spirits and keep me on-track emotionally, but I have to be prepared to spare some physical energy. It's a balancing act, and I don't think I've quite got it right.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Like Weather" - a mock-up

Above: the book fully extended, showing (l to r) back cover, spine and front cover.

Below: the first opening, showing inside cover and the start of the flags.

Above: Showing the imagery inside.

Finally I have some photos to show you of the mock-up of my flag book, Like Weather. I am still not sure that I am happy with the way the main image (the one above) is working. I don't think there is really enough variation across the flags, but perhaps I am wrong. The top flag does seem to work quite well, but the lower two not so well. I have printed an alternative image and am planning to assemble it in the next few days to compare. Perhaps you could let me know what you think when you see the two options.

I had huge hassles getting the colours to print the way I wanted, and that was just with my old printer, not the new Epson 2100. By the time the Epson arrived, I had invested so much time getting the colours right on the Canon, I could not bear to start all over again, even though the final version of the book will be printed on the Epson.

I think that some of my colour problems are to do with the fact that I work on a laptop. (When I had to upgrade my computer last year, I splurged on a laptop, which I absolutely love because I can take it anywhere, and it is so compact and doesn't take up valuable space in the studio). Unfortunately, I have now discovered that the screens in laptops are not regarded highly for their colour accuracy. Maybe I will even have to buy another screen, I don't know. Fortunately I do have the money at the moment, but of course there are a hundred other things I need. Oh well! we will see.

This post is a little slower than I had hoped because the last week was a busy one, with three "health-related" appointments. Sometimes it feels like a full-time job being sick! The coming week looks a bit quieter appointment-wise, but I will have to do a lot of writing rather than making. This is however, good news, because I have been offered my first-ever paid writing job.

It seems that people who know about ceramics and are comfortable writing are quite rare, and consequently over the years, I have been called on to write a few articles about the work of artists in my area for the Australian Journal of Ceramics. This is always unpaid work, but I have been happy to do it because I always learn a lot from the process and enjoy the writing. (And it's also a good thing to put on your CV.)

This time though, I have been asked by a nearby regional gallery (Redlands Art Gallery) to write the catalogue essay for an exhibition of ceramics by Julie Shepherd, a local ceramic virtuoso. Julie makes the most exquisite egg-shell thin pierced porcelain works and yesterday I visited her and saw some of the literally hundreds of pieces she is making for this major solo showcase of her work. Just catching up with Julie who is a friend I studied with, and seeing her amazing work up close was a treat, but getting some $$$s too - well, I do feel lucky!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Like Weather" - more images and text

This is the back cover of "Like Weather", my flag book. It is the image I was originally thinking of using for the flags, but I have chosen one which I think works better. Throughout the book there are photos of clouds together with digital alterations. I hope this implies something of a tension between the real and the virtual, the reality of a situation and our emotional response to it.
I have also used completely different text from the first version I posted here. I decided to take a more conceptual approach, with which I feel more comfortable. I am not at all experienced at writing narrative and I know it is not something you can just "whip up".
Below is the new text:
Between 11pm May 14th and 11pm May 15th, 2007, for every hour that I was awake, I recorded my predominant emotion.
11pm optimistic
12am peaceful
9am confused
10am anxious
11am tense but sleepy
12pm rushed
1pm tired
2pm relaxed
3pm down
4pm peaceful
5pm excited
6pm doubtful
7pm rushed
8pm thoughtful
9pm emotional
10pm thoughtful
11pm satisfied

Monday, June 11, 2007

Flag book - Like Weather

Cover image for the flag book I am working on

I have been making progress VERY SLOWLY on the flag book I started some months ago. The first rough of the inside can be seen here and some work on images along the way in this earlier post. I am getting close to finishing the final draft, which I REALLY want to post off to my supervisor by the end of this week (only 3 weeks late for my (luckily) self-imposed deadline....)

Anyway this (above) is the cover I have come up with - developed from this photo:
It was taken while flying home from Melbourne for Christmas the first year that we moved down there (2003). Back then the camera I had was only 2 megapixels! And it cost an exorbitant A$500, which was all I could manage to scape together. Who would think that in such a short time mobile (cell) phones would have more powerful cameras!

This is the image for the back of the concertina spine to which the flags are attached. It is also developed from the same photo. There is also an image for the back cover, but I am still refining it, so I won't post it yet.
I am really hopeful that I will finish printing all the pages today and then I can work on putting the book together.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm back....with a new toy!

My "new" Epson Stylus Photo 2100

Here you can see my new printer - an exciting studio acquisition which arrived this week. It uses the fabulous Ultrachrome inks (not the K3 though) which are considered the best for fine art applications and prints up to A3. New it costs about A$1300-1400, but I was able to pick this almost new one up on Ebay for less than half that! Boy! am I happy! I am currently working on installing the ICC profiles and getting things sorted so that what I see on my monitor is what is printed - a ridiculously complicated process! After all, it is what we all want, so why can't they make it a bit more automatic???

I must apologize profusely for the lengthy gap in posts without some sort of explanation. As those kind cyber-pals who emailed me guessed, I have been pretty sick and fell into quite a funk as I contemplated the seemingly endless cycles of disappointment that relentlessly pursue me, like the wolf in my childhood dreams. On another day, I might well contemplate the cycles of successful achievement that punctuate my all depends on...well goodness knows, but I suspect various hormones have a lot to answer for.

During my break I have finally placed the ashes of my beloved father. He died nearly 2 years ago, but we only recently received his ashes as he donated his body to the University of Queensland for research and learning purposes. This was his final act of generosity in a life punctuated by many such acts. I have to confess that it also demanded similar generosity from those of us who loved him, as it interrupted the rituals that are such an important part of grieving. At last we have a place to visit in his memory, and this is more comfort to me than I would ever have believed.

A little progress on my masters work has been made, not as much as I would have hoped, but I will post some images and information about this soon. I just wanted to reach out and make contact again - only eleven weeks till my next trip to Melbourne, so I really have to be hope than I can be productive in this time, or face reality...