Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bunya Dreaming Festival

One of our community art ventures here in Maleny is a group called art4place which promotes and facilitates placemaking art. Sometimes the art is permanent and tells the story of a place; sometimes it is more ephemeral or temporary and briefly speaks of art within a place.

In the past week we have been involved in two festivals - Festuri (a multicultural festival) and Bunya Dreaming a local Aboriginal festival.

We spent Saturday alongside Bunya Dreaming festival attendees and participants, guiding, encouraging and facilitating artworks which were made from materials found by Baroon Pocket Dam where the festival is held. Children and adults foraged in the bush, collected sticks, barks and bunya nuts  and created amazing works of arts that will stay in place until they drift away. Most of the time we just watched in awe and wonder as these masterpieces appeared.

Here are shots of some of my favourites.


Friday, January 28, 2011

A new website!

Today is an auspicious day. After much investigating, researching, exploring, and testing of ideas and options, our new websites have gone live.

My brother and his partner helped in the initial install of software templates, I went on to design and build them, and we got help from a friend's friend to manage the last little bits that had me frozen in fear. I am really pleased that we were able to design and build them for about 3% of the cost we were quoted to have them built for us.

We have been trying to think through and analyse how we wish to use the different platforms that are available for  sales and promotion of our art.  Our new business identity and cards are important for face to face encounters and for leaving with people as reminders of us and our work. Our blurb books are good to leave with galleries and the like to flick through our work in hard copy. Our blogs are brilliant ways to build connections and have conversations about our art; and our websites are the places where we showcase our work in one place.

At least for now that's how we are thinking about it!

You will find a link to my website at the top of the right hand column - just click on the image and away you go. You can see Barry's website here.

In the end, we decided that when you visit an artist's website you want to see their art, so that is the focus of our sites. We also wanted them to look professional and I think we achieved that as well. You can also link back to this blog from the website, so we have tried to keep our worlds connected.

The other reason today is auspicious is that 5 years ago (the day, Friday) we left our safe and secure jobs in the public sector and escaped to our mountain top. It was lovely to launch our art websites and see how much we have done, how far we have come since we left. Oh, and the other auspicious occasion - it's our wedding anniversary!

Feedback and suggestions for improvement are welcomed - I expect we'll be tinkering a bit in the weeks to come.

©Fiona Dempster, Silences

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

A poem is a painting that is not seen. A painting is a poem that is not heard.
Phoebe Hesken

I think this description captures perfection in a poem or a painting.

When I read poems that enable me to be there, to experience or feel as if I'm there or seeing what they describe, I am amazed at the poet's brilliance.

With some paintings or images I get the sense that there is more than a story here; there is lyrical movement and poetry at play and my heart sings.

One poet who captures the essence of things and has me seeing her words as if I was there is Annie Kerr of Inkhaven. Annie is a talented musician as well as writer, and for the month of January has been participating in 'a river of stones' international small stones writing month. Each day she writes a small 'stone' pebble, or as I prefer, gem.

Even tho I am on the other side of the world to Annie - when I read her words, I feel as if I am there, experiencing and seeing what she sees. Her poems are paintings to me.

Two very different ones:

Linocut - number 8

Wet footprints walk down the bus.
Another set overlays.
Linocut pineapples.

Daffodils - number 18

buds push to escape wrappers
optimism on the table
a vase of gathering gold

Do go visit and discover some magic...

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A book that takes its own path

I began this book with a very clear idea of where I was going. I sat for ages and worked out the best design to accommodate the cut outs that I wanted to include and made a few mock-ups. The cut outs were the focus.

I then worked a bit on the imagery, and decided that I just wanted a little something in the background to support the images in the cut-outs. I chose the maps I wanted to use and print and merrily went and made the backgrounds.

Then the whole thing changed and the pages told me they wanted to be something else; that they needed other colours and other approaches to support them. I was betwixt and bewitched!

Unfolding before my very eyes was a totally different book with a new story and new demands.

Here are the pages that told me to do something different with them; the beginning. I am now fiddling with what they need to support them and shall reveal their new story as it is unveiled to me.

For those of you who thought you might see Thursdays thoughts with daffodils, I apologise (my fingers flew to the wrong button as I prepared Thursday's post and for a short time my thumbnail on other's blogs was daffodils - come back on Thursday to see them!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

journeys, places, marks & traces

Barry and I are exhibiting at Studio4 Gallery in the town of Seaside, Marcoola in March.  We have been working away quietly and consistently towards this goal and so far are not panicking. Part of my New Year's resolution has been to go to the studio every day. To do something. To make art. To be there for even 15 minutes, and it seems to be working.

This may seem strange for folk who already make it their business to make art in the studio every day; but its been a shift for me. Until now, I had really only scheduled Friday and the weekends to make sure I made some art; the other days were given over to the real world. We have other work-work that we do, as well as a lot of community bibs and bobs and a block of land that needs attention if we want it to continue to support and sustain us. I am enjoying how now each day day I get to make art!

A significant marker occurred for me on Friday when I took several pieces to the framers. Framing is always such a seminal point in the journey towards exhibiting. As a planner, I need to have things to the framers in time for them to be back with me in time for me not to be anxious in the lead up to the set-up and opening. So I sent 10 pieces off on Friday and have a further 6 to deliver on Monday.

Here are some of the pieces I sent off on Friday. More incense-stick burned pages with encausticed tea bags and a touch of writing.

©Fiona Dempster - Journeys

©Fiona Dempster - Marks

©Fiona Dempster - Homecoming (detail)

©Fiona Dempster - Returning (detail)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

Entering a novel is like going on a climb in the mountains: you have to learn the rhythm of respiration, acquire the pace; otherwise you stop right away.
Umberto Eco

One of the great things about being in a book group is that you end up reading books you might otherwise have left on the shelf.  Sometimes its all too easy to just get in the groove with an author or a style of writing or a genre even, and just buy your ticket and go along for the ride. You know how it moves, how it is paced and how you can expect to read it.

With many of the books I meet through book group, it takes me a while to work out how they will work. How is it paced? Is the writing style staccato-like; short stubby sentences that feel jerky or uncomfortable? Or are they long rambles that you read twice over just to make sense of it all? Is there so much description you nod off? Or are things pared down to the essence such that you read them quickly and then get stopped in your tracks as you acknowledge the perfection of it? Or does the richness of the language just add depth and understanding as the sentences get longer and you follow along enthusiastically?

This quote by Umberto Eco captures that sense of reading a novel being a bit like a dance where you have to learn the steps, respond to your partner, be guided here, take the lead listen to the rhythm. A dance as you climb in the mountains perhaps?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Printmaking Workshop

Last weekend I attended a fabulous etching and printmaking workshop with Victoria Atkins of the Wallace House "Press Gang". The workshop was organised by the Caloundra Regional Gallery and held at the Maleny Arts & Craft Group building.

I wanted to attend this one because it was about etching without acid. Whilst I am enamoured of the etching process and the creation of prints; I am somewhat wary about having acid around the house and working with its fumes and burning and exploding potential etc, so have tended not to do much of it - in fact none really for 2 years. We learnt how to etch aluminium plates with a copper sulphate and salt solution.

We also learnt how to create depth of tone in our plates (something that has eluded me previously) and to apply chine colle and colour to our prints.

We worked with a small plate on the first day - testing techniques and different materials to block out the etching - bitumen, car wax, oil pastels, etching ink, contact, lithograph pencils, enamel aerosol paint and so on. We created a plate that was like a sampler of the techniques.  Using some of these techniques I created another small plate and added to it on day 2 with chine colle with used teabag; and colouring the plate with 'the dolly method'.

Overnight I looked at images and came across this piece 'Landline with vessels' by Lorna Crane.

When I looked at it, I realised that it was a perfect example of tone for me and would offer me a good chance to sit and think thru how the different dark and light tones, combined with marks could be created. I thought and thought. And then I wrote a step by step process to myself - trying to ensure that I covered off all the angles.

I was thrilled that I achieved what I set out to do with regard to getting the tones and textures right.  Any new process is tricky to get your head around, and for me the fact that things are reversed when printing, that what you cover up (make dark) will remain the lightest, and what you want dark must remain uncovered and so on, really made me slow down and think, not just do.

I then enjoyed applying colour for different effects; and not completely wiping the ink off the top surface to create lines and movement in a black and white piece. I would still like to do a piece and colour it using the dolly method to see if I can capture the colours as well as the tones of the original.

These pieces are just for me - to look at and reflect on my learnings - but you get to see them too.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A wee book

I have managed to pull together a sweet little book using some of the encausticed-rusted-pages over text that I have been playing with.

This one tells the story of life lightening - getting lighter as we move forward, emerge from tough times, and find our way back.

I combined the colour of the pages with the thickness of the pen and density of the ink to create a bit of a transition. In no way, is the book about being free of worry or drifting delightfully without a care in the world; it's simply about reaching a better place.

I interspersed the pages with other lovely rusted and textured pages and then created a non-repeatable Fiona binding using some lovely soft leather I found in the cupboard. It ended up being a combination of approaches, all of which needed to be modified in order to achieve the outcome.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday Thoughts...

But there is something about Time. The sun rises and sets. The stars swing slowly across the sky and fade. Clouds fill with rain and snow, empty themselves, and fill again. The moon is born, and dies, and is reborn. Around millions of clocks swing hour hands, and minute hands, and second hands. Around goes the continual circle of the notes of the scale. Around goes the circle of night and day, the circle of weeks forever revolving, and of months, and of years

The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle

Keenly observant readers may have noticed that for the past while, my Thursday Thoughts posts have alternated between thinking about Art and thinking about Books.  Over the Christmas-New Year break I pondered adding another dimension to the Thoughts, along the lines of thinking about 'Life'.  Clearly enough scope in that one to keep me going for a while!

This gentle quote speaks to me of the timeless and ancient natural rhythms and cycles that we experience, and in a way leaves the subtle message that 'this too shall pass'.  Reading it, my breathing slowed, my brain slowed, my heartbeat slowed, my body relaxed. I read it slowly and thoughtfully. I sensed or imagined the stars swingly slowly across the sky and fading; the moon taking its time being born and dying. I glimpsed millions of second hands and minute hands and hour hands following their calling. I thought about those clouds that fill and empty and fill again.

Despite our sorrows, fears or waverings, tomorrow the sun will rise, a new day will await us and we will make our way through it. And then the sun will set again, and rise again. And another day will welcome us.

Maleny sunset sky © Fiona Dempster

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Encaustic incense stick play

Every now and again I get this little moment of inspiration that suggests I try some things; and this moment brought together several of the things on my current favourites list.

I started out using incense sticks to burn away letters in book pages and the notes in music scores. I really liked the look. Every since we had a play day with Noela I have been burning incense sticks and using them to create holes in just about anything. Yesterday a piece just kept on burning so I threw it outside in the rain and it stopped, I did some more and had to 'apply rain' again and so on; but I got some wonderful effects...more another time.

Whilst I liked the look of the burnt pages, I wanted to add some depth, and wrote a few words on the page, then covered it with some beautiful thin paper that I had rusted and then encaustic-ed over.

So a list of my current favourites includes: rust, encaustic, words and incense stick holes!

Not quite sure where they're headed...

 Home is where the story begins - © Fiona Dempster

Heading home - © Fiona Dempster

Floodwise - it continues to rain, and the devastation deepens. Just when you think it can't get any worse it does. Toowoomba experienced an 'inland tsunami' yesterday afternoon - so far 9 people are dead and 66 are still missing. Gympie is underwater and Maryborough is expected to go under tomorrow; Ipswich is evacuating, Caboolture is evacuating and Brisbane is likely to go under on Thursday. They anticipate a further 9000 homes to be flooded in the next few days. The floodwaters at Rockhampton just won't recede and some small towns are being evacuated for a second time (the fifth flood in a month for some).

We are safe. Our town is sandbagged now (library included - so far so good) and we are experiencing frequent blackouts - we did another essentials shop today and did so in the dark - the staff had torches and guided us around. It is wearing and tiring and deeply saddening at times, but we know how lucky we are.

Best wishes to others experiencing the water and the bushfires near Perth. A tough country.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Flood update

A quick post to talk briefly about how the floods in Queensland affected us today.  Whilst we have been thankful that we live on a mountain top we have been deluged with rain today. By 6pm we had received 250mm (10 inches) of rain since 9am - more than an inch an hour. It's still going (10pm) and we are all very soggy.

The radio has mentioned all day that towns to the south of us, and to the west have been isolated and cut off - our nearest 'neighbours' down the hill, so we are conscious that waters are rising everywhere nearby. This is of course in addition to the massive and catastrophic floods that are affecting so much of the state elsewhere.

We have a creek, the beautiful Obi Obi, which runs through our town. We watched as the docile creek turned into a tumultuous whirlpool during the day - a day of many firsts. We had never seen it so high; seen water here or there; seen the paddock turn into a dam and so on.  At 8pm tonight we got a call - all hands on deck please as the Library, which resides on the banks of the creek, was in danger of being flooded and we needed to lift books and equipment to higher levels.

We took off and as is typical in a crisis/emergency I didn't take my camera, so the photos are from my phone which isn't brilliant, with the assistance of a tiny torch. But you can see how a team of volunteers appeared and sorted things in less than hour. Our Library is such a precious resource; we hope the rain eases overnight and it remains safe and dry.

Barry moving swiftly in the background...

My foot, from the boardwalk at the back of the Library - the water is about 10 cm (4 inches) away - usually it is about 3-4 metres (9-12 feet).

The top of a tree, submerged in the floodwaters...

Creativity - sometimes it takes time!

Yesterday I wrote about how creativity can flow; and today I find myself contemplating the flip side. Not the complete flip side when there is nothing happening; just a semi-flip side where creativity gives way to design and involves a lot of steps, planning and testing.

I have begun pondering my new alphabet for a letter a week 2011 and have started to play around with a few ideas. We have set parameters for one alphabet of being ' black and white and a touch of...' and I thought I would start with this one.

We are working with 7cm squares again and I saw in my mind's eye layering of black-inked letters on white, against a black background, with a dash of colour thrown in somewhere. So I began to test it. I'm afraid you get to see it warts and all this time.

I drew up some 7cm x 7cm squares, grabbed some nibs and started writing. Worked out early the big nib was toooo big - the 'a' and 'c' were fine, but anything with ascenders (like 'd' and 'b') wouldn't fit; nor would anything with descenders (like 'p' and q''). I did like the way the letters kind of danced together. Wrote notes to self on the page.

I tested out a few plain letters and size - all looking a bit ugly at this point with poorly formed letters to boot.

I got the nib size right here - one that would work for all letters within the 7cm frame, and began over-writing with different nib styles and sizes. Trying to work out which direction the letters should go in in order to create a balanced look. A few diamonds of colour appeared here as well - testing what the 'touch of...' would be for me.

Beginning to simplify and clarify what's going on; but was suddenly faced with the thought - should the over-written letters just be randomly placed, or should I follow some sort of pattern/order?  The top row is random; the bottom row is planned (except for the massive thick blob that appeared in the fine five-line nib's 'a'!!). More notes to self on the page.

I had chosen to write on a 10cm x 10cm piece of Fabriano Rosapina paper, so that letters would bleed off the page and be cut off etc - I like that look rather than all fitting neatly in a box. So I cut out a frame so that I could see what might be left when I chopped it back to 7cm a 7cm.

I then cut a couple out and stuck them onto a 10cmx10cm piece of black paper. (I folded them before I photographed them, hence the wobbly appearance)

Then I folded them properly and joined them in a lotus flower sort of fold.

So with that prototype under my belt, I think I'm on track to actually start making my letters. I am yet to decide on the random versus organised layout of the letters and which colour to add (red or gold). I'll ponder that a bit more! As a first step I have cut all my white pages and traced the 7cm x 7cm frame onto them whilst the black pages are still waiting for the chop.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Creativity - sometimes it flows

I don't know a better way to describe it than 'the flow'. I had a lovely day in the studio yesterday which reminded me of how important it is to be there every day, so that when these moments appear you can go with them.  I have committed to spend time in the studio every day - grabbing a moment here or there if needed, but also making sure I spend good chunks of time there as well.

I think Friday showed that some of the lead up work you do - looking about you, thinking about things, getting late night insights and so on can come together in the moment and allow you to create. It just happened, a few little connections were made in my mind - what about, why don't I try, and oh that's an idea...and off we went.

The results was these small squares of embossed paper - with journey-like marks appearing on them. I mounted them on foam core to give them some height.

They seem gentle and thoughtful pieces to me; so I tried them against several backgrounds, trying to imagine them matted and framed. Do you think the mood changes with the background? Do they deserve a dramatic statement or a gentle hard-to-see support? Do they need a contrast or to disappear?

I am reminded that even when the flow has been here, there are still lots of decisions to be made to bring a piece to being the best it can be. I guess sometimes that happens in the flow as well, but this time I've needed to stop and ponder.