Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“Our society is not really based on public participation in decision making in any significant sense. Rather, it is a system of elite decision and periodic public ratification.” 

Noam Chomsky

I don't often want to veer off into politics on my blog. Sure I talk about politics a lot at home and with my family - too much for some family members - but I always think it can be a dangerous topic if you don't know how folk think or feel.

So, I'm not really veering into politics I promise - it's just that this described for me what democracy sometimes feels like. Many of us live in democratic countries with the right and privilege to vote for who leads and governs us. I value my vote and each time I see hard-fought fledgling democracies arise and I watch people queue for hours and days for their first chance to be counted and to have a say I want to weep.  And try not to take it for granted that I get to choose, I get to vote.

And then sometimes I feel as if those we have elected - at every level of government - just lose the plot, make decisions without reference to the good or needs of the people and only occasionally (every 3 years here) do we get to say - OK we trust you enough to go again, or No, seriously we don't want you anymore.

In one way, I think people can get more involved in public decision making these days in a way - the impact of social media campaigns can change the direction or decisions of governments; but I worry too that in these instances we end up being governed in a knee-jerk way just to shut the debate down. Often on the big picture-future issues we don't seem to get a proper say.

But anyway, enough of my political ponderings - the topic today was"Life" following my regular sequence of Art, Life, Books. Maybe next time Life will be more fun!

Some of the flags in the International Flag Display in Canberra our national capital. The 96 flags are dedicated to the UN and to those nations that maintain a diplomatic presence in Canberra.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mucking about whilst it rains

We are once again in the midst of a heavy band of weather - much rain is falling into sodden earth and land is slipping and towns flooding again. We are doing OK up here on the mountain, but are not venturing out much at all.

So I am cleaning the kitchen and baking and making jam and pesto and occasionally mucking about in the studio.

Here are a few shots of bibs and bobs that have been happening over there.

This is a piece of soft cotton muslin I think that I rolled around rusty bits and sat in a pot of green tea and when I pulled it out decided it was a scarf! I love the soft muted colours and hints of goes well with grey rainy and misty days.

After the egg shell episode at Olive's workshop, I collected more eggshells and removed the membrane inside and crunched them onto black paper, then played with them a bit more. No idea where this is headed or for what purpose; but then again, I think that is the definition of 'play'.

And here are some black and white balsa wood-marked pieces. I try not to waste much - and often cut my scraps down into small pages for notebooks and the like.  They often sit around in piles waiting for me to do something with them - and the other day I grabbed a bundle and dipped my balsa wood in ink and made marks across them.

Beautifully graphic I thought, and then I added some red words. Again they now sit there whilst I wonder what to do with them, but they make me smile and are a reminder that some days, just doing something is all that you need.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A project completed

As mentioned previously, a few weeks ago I attended a weekend workshop by Olive Bull with the Buderim Calligraphy Group.  Olive taught us so much and gave us so much to do we didn't get to finish our books in class, but I was keen to make sure that I did, not long after it finished, and here it is.

The workshop was "One alphabet - 26 techniques" and it was really about using a different technique, material or tool for each letter of the alphabet, creating a sampler book that we can refer back to.

I love sampler books - they are such great reminders and sources of inspiration. I used some of my rusty chain paper for the covers...

I really liked how my 'C' worked out - although I learnt a lot about applying watercolour pencil as I did it (thank you Helen!) and I updated my technique later in the alphabet. The 'C' has lots of life and movement and I can see myself using this approach again.

I quite liked how the 'E" worked out - accidentally I got a shadow letter.  Because I held my ruling pen in a less than perfect manner, the screw that tightens the blades was also in touch with the paper. I like mistakes like this one, wet into wet.

I also love the notion of multiple embossings (F). Simple, elegant and giving a sense of movement

This 'P" I love. This is real gold (23K), and Olive taught us the best size to use to adhere real gold which was very helpful. At times I have really struggled to get real gold to lay down properly.  This is also where we used French chalk powder - a light dusting in the area/shape where you want to write , followed by black gouache. It wrote like a dream, and then I made marks into the gold using an embossing tool. All of which has been stored in the memory bank for later recall and use.

The Q is OK, but I really liked the R - the cutting out of the paper to create the letter form. I have seen others do this but never tried it myself, and I love what it does. So once again I expect I will be doing this somewhere, somehow, sometime. Soon.

This is where I got the hang of watercolour pencils a bit better - the subtleties I achieved with the 'U' are just what I was aiming for. I have now bought myself a set of Derwent Graphitint pencils to play with further. And with the'V' we blind embossed through imitation gold - a great effect.

Oh, and a final peek for those who wondered what on earth we did with the egg shells...

The letter 'T' was written with a paddle-pop stick, using a combination of crushed egg shells (really tiny), PVA glue and a few drops of ink. It created an amazing texture...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“When you buy from an independent artist, you are buying more than just a painting. You are buying hundreds of hours of experimentation and thousands of failures. You are buying days, weeks, months, years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You aren’t just buying a thing, you are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a private moment in someone’s life. Most importantly, you are buying that artist more time to do something they are truly passionate about; something that makes all the above worth the fear and the doubt; something that puts the life into the living.” 

Rebekah Joy Plett

I have come across this quote a few times lately - it is travelling around the inter web and I read it on the inside cover of an artist's notebook the other day as well.  It speaks a certain truth I think and I like how it tries to explain that what people are buying - it isn't just something the artist whipped up, or something that the buyer could necessarily do or make themselves.  What they are buying is made up of all those hours of learning, training and experimenting; testing, trialling and failing.

Each of those steps has led to that piece; not just the latest bit of thinking. Oftentimes with a commission people are surprised (sometimes shocked and horrified) to see how many trials and tests I make before committing to their final piece.  Sometimes they even see the number of hours that go into the "pre" part, not just doing the final. Sometimes, though, they think I just sit down and write.

The other part of the quote I like is the final bit - where she talks about how by buying art the purchaser is also buying the artist more time to make and create.

We were at the opening of the new Pop-Up Gallery in town last night and I saw red dots and it felt good to know that money was flowing to artists so they could keep doing what they do.

I'm never so sure about the emotive part of it - and never sure that there should be an expectation that we should get paid for doing what we love, (like demanding a market because we made something therefore somebody should buy it) but I do like the notion of opening up the issue of what the exchange of money for art is really about!

©2012 F Dempster - Arman I Still Use Brushes, 1969 MoMA, NYC
Once agan, Jennifer and Julie have kicked off their colour challenge on the third Thursday of each month. Feel free to join in and share photos of the monthly colour - this month it is red.
We saw this piece in New York last year. Vibrant and delicious and very very arty.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My starry starry night

I enjoyed making this book although at times it was hard.  There were time pressures - never enough. Days without power when we were just trying to keep going not really doing or making things. And then just the usual creative challenges! I am also happy with how it finished up.

I thought about binding the small pages as a book; I thought about popping them in to an accordion book with a fold so you could pull them in and out and move them around;  I thought about placing them on white paper; and I thought about a really tall standing book.

In the end I attached them to black paper, and made a fairly short concertina book.  I love those multiple explorations! So here it is...

I often like to make a wrap for my books. This one uses the cut-outs from the cover over a soft grey paper.

The book can be viewed in different ways. I like this opening where the cover and pages are overlapped, and imagery hinted at.

Then it can be opened page by page, a spread at a time. The images dance up and down across the pages ever so slightly.

The thread tying the book together is a line of calligraphy, which simply reads "starry starry night" over and over again. The writing is compressed and elongated along the lines of some of the work I did with Massimo Pollelo recently. I wanted to put some of that into practice; and also wanted to link this book to that point in time. I will always remember the workshop and this book happening around the same time now.

In between each concertina page where the artwork is presented, I did an extra couple of folds. This was initially to provide strength for the book when standing, but it also offered me the opportunity to introduce two more design elements.  I brought in the cut-out triangles that I used on a few pages of Susan's book and they create a lovely sense of starriness, and here below echo the marks she made on one page as well.

The extra folds also let me do something I had hoped to be able to do - make a star book!

I love how the book has an architectural feel to it as it stands as well.

And a reminder of where it all began...

It is one of the pleasures of this collaboration for me, that each book I make with Susan is better than a book I would have made by myself. As part of the partnership I strive to make a really good book, and with the gentle nudges and pushes she gives me, I respond in new ways and I think I make better work as a result.  I keep pinching myself at how lucky we are to be nearby and so in tune, so willing to trust and share and stretch each other.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another book-meet

Yesterday I popped over to Susan's so that our completed books could do their get-together; and so that we could both see them finished and follow up on where the other had taken their book.

It is always a lovely moment when we see them together - and I am often so happy to see how well they complement each other! Sure, having the same theme this time meant we would inevitably have some similarities, but as ever, our work and pages and interpretations were different, yet simpatico.

Our collaborative books seem like siblings in a way to me - they share some common heredity, yet have their own unique and individual personalities.

Here's my imagery of the get to together...

First of all, cover to cover.  We talked about how different blacks can be (mine bluish black, Susan's brownish black - cool and warm I guess). We both have stars on the front.

My books nestles inside Susan's.

The triangular cut-ous appear as a motif in both our books - I liked the idea of a linking element this time.

With light shining, shadows appear.

Over the weekend I will show my book in more detail...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

"To read is to fly: 
it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view 
over wide terrains of history, 
human variety, ideas, shared experience and the
 fruits of many inquiries".

 A. C. Grayling

I like the notion of reading as flying - no matter how earth bound I may be by virtue of gravity and other such things, I feel as if I can get that view from above and over when I read. Somehow reading lifts me up and lets me see beyond my own horizons and limitations. It lets me get up high and observe the world in a way I cannot do from my own head and my own experience to date.

The suggestion that this bird's eye view carries across history, human variety, ideas...just shows how much stuff there is to be read!  Reading is one of the few things that enables you to take this view - sometimes movies do, sometimes art does, perhaps music or song in way; but I think reading does it best and gives you more detail and more information about the rest of the world, and so many other ways of being and experiences.

I still love that I can get high up in the sky like this without leaving my chair, stool, bench or bed!

©2013 Fiona Dempster - Eubena Nampitjin Ngirlpil
The wisdom and vision in much Aboriginal art stuns me. This painting depicts an important waterhole or well (Well 33) along the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia, set among the sandhills through which ancient people travelled.  I continue to be amazed at how well Aboriginal artists represent the land in an aerial view when clearly, they had traditionally, never flown above their land. Somehow they knew that it appeared like like this from above.

This painting is one of my favourites and hangs near our dining room so I see it daily and smile.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Of spiky things...

Like many around us, we had a bit of damage to the plants about the block during the recent ex-tropical cyclone episode. One of our yuccas out the front got damaged and its outside covering just fell off.

Which provided some very beautiful images for those amongst us who like to photograph such things...

With no lights at all inside for a few nights, we also got to see how well the solar-powered lights work at the front door, and got some more dramatic shots of the yucca in a pot by the door.

So spiky things can be beautiful too I think.

Susan and I are nearly done - our books get to meet on Thursday so we will share with you very soon after!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Experimenting with the alphabet

I have been fortunate to have spent the past two days at Buderim with the Calligraphy group there, taking part in a workshop run by the talented, skilled and experienced calligrapher Olive Bull.  Olive is a wonderful teacher who shares hints, ideas, experience and tips and lets you get on and try things for yourself. In fact we had so many options to explore and experiment with that nobody actually finished their book - we all have home-work to do!

Th goal of the two days was to test out 26 different techniques which could be used on pieces somehow, sometime...

It was a lot of fun and we played with all sorts of bibs and bobs. We got to try out lots of materials that you wouldn't necessarily just go off and buy for yourself without knowing how to use them; or how good they were. For example I met Armenian bole for the first time, played with lots of different sizes for applying metal and gold leaf - and worked out which ones suit which leaf the best; we also handled powdered French Chalk, liquid graphite and - well, yes, egg shells.

Here are some shots of some of the materials we played with:

Crushed egg shell, PVA and ink I think
Variegated metallic leaf
Liquid graphite on black with some agate to burnish
Gesso stencils
Armenian bole for tracing
And here is a selection of the letters I managed to get done. You can see the variety of techniques even in these not so good photos.

When I have finished my last letters (U didn't happen, and I know that at least P, S, O, K and X are incomplete) and have made up the book I will post again on the finished product.

Sometimes it's just good to sit down and have a go, try this, try that, see what happens when...and I was really happy that the Buderim Group let me join in them this weekend for just such a time. I think I'm all workshopped out now for a bit tho - I've not attended a workshop in ten years; and now I've done two in a fortnight!  I hope to settle down for a bit and put into practice some of the things I've learned in the last little while...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday Thoughts...

“We remember the time around scars.” 

Michael Ondaatje

I guess this is quite true in a literal sense. There are very few scars on my body that I can't tell you where or when they happened; like when somebody hit me with a shoe - except it was one of my running spikes and they left a nice big hole and a pink scar to this day.  The scar on my lip where I had a lump removed; the scar on my foot where I jumped in the air to catch a ball and landed on a broken bottle - sharp side up.  I can literally recall nearly all of my scars and the moments that surround them. Now I stop and think about it there are lots of stories and some really weird ones!

Thinking about it non-literally, and thinking about those scars that we carry one way or another, that might be negative stories we tell ourselves about our looks our worth our value or whatever, I think we can remember the time around them as well.

Its funny isn't it how we have an inbuilt mechanism - the physical scar - by which to remember damage. But no real inbuilt-mechanism by which to remember joy, fun or beauty; or achievement, success or growth. Hmmmm.

Perhaps that's why it is so important to stop and reflect and remember the good things, the achievements, the successes. Perhaps that's why I try to record the very best moment of my day; or spend time at the beginning of each year reflecting on what we achieved the year before; or identifying my ten favourite pieces each year.

I just started a piece of paper, jotting down all the good things that happened in January and pinned it up on our study wall - in case I forget them. We can get a little boost each time we read it and go yeah - that was great! It seems to me that those things don't always come with a built-in reminder or looping tape.

And what might this photo have to do with the whole story? Well...last week in Sydney I was fiddling with my pens, this one popped out of my holder, jabbed me on the top of my foot and bounced off into the floor. And landed like this. I thought it was way cool, took lots of photos and forgot for ages that I was bleeding from its piercing. A tiny pin point of a scar now adds itself to my body with a story.