Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“To be noticed without striving to be noticed, this is what elegance is about” 

Luciano Barbera

I love this. I think I am always striving for exactly this dichotomy in my work and I like that it could be called elegance.

I do want folk to notice my art, but not to make them feel as if they have been forced to, or had their attention so arrested that they couldn't walk by without getting shouted at by it.

The word striving also speaks to me in this quote. It offers me a sense of trying too hard, although I am all for striving to achieve things in general; working hard and persisting. Yet in this context it seems to be slightly more attention-seeking than driven.

I think I shall continue to strive for elegance!

Fiona Dempster - Drifty Dotty alphabet
Photography by Anastasia Karyofillidis

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Misty mountain morning

There has been some moisture around for a while now - I think we woke up in a whiteout 10 days in a row.

The other morning the light of the gentlest sunrise and the clouds moving in the valley and drifting up and over were just so serene and gorgeous.

To the southeast.

Then turning to the west and watching the mist rise through the forest below and over the ridge.

Up and over it goes.

Soft days like this one are so special. They are quiet and slow and gentle. Your heart rate slows, your breathing slows and the world just glides by at a much better pace.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A new website is launched!

Art-life is many things, and is never ever, as I have come to learn, simply about thinking about and making art.

There is a lot of other work that has to be done if you actually ever want to share your work with people - either nearby or far away. This would seem to include, but not be limited to, pricing work, photographing work, writing up artist statements, creating exhibition schedules, writing applications for exhibitions, writing articles for journals, creating logos and with compliments slips, stationery, blogs, websites, newsletters and a range of other items.

I have been rather quiet on the making side of late - still finding my way forward again after my mum died - but I have been busy designing the look and feel of a new website and providing loads of words and images into the new site, which has been created and built by Katie at Phoenix Design.

So, without much further ado, I'd like to introduce you to my new website - my formal and more professional presence on the interweb.

I am thrilled with how it has worked out - of course we have little things still to tweak and the odd correction to make, but generally speaking it is in fine shape to share with the world.

Ta da!

The images on the landing page. If you hover over the image you discover a category of my work - artists' books, calligraphic art, letterpress, women, peace and war, off the page, commissions, pas de deus and recent highlights.

And this is the top of the page - the header and the menu as well as most of the images above!

My artists' books portfolio page.

And clicking on Beyond Books and Burning you get to this sub-portfolio page.

Similarly, my women's page.

Click on Time for Change

Then if you click on an image, you get an enlargement, showing the detail beautifully.

 A portion of my Exhibitions page (found under Places)

A portio of my Workshops page (found under Events)

And another new feature - a page where you can see my last ten blog posts and what they are about.

Probably I have done enough show and tell here and the best thing to do is head over to and have a wander for yourself!

It has been a time-consuming and at times tiring few weeks as we focused, and decided, and wrote, and re-sized and named photographs and worked hard to find the best layout and colours and look.

It feels like a milestone has been achieved. It was time to renew and refresh and I love the square imagery throughout, and that the site is optimised for mobile phones and for tablets. Katie was brilliant to work with and I couldn't recommend her highly enough for artists' websites. The new site builds on the previous one, but just takes it the next level.

Barry has created a whole new website as well ( which is also worth a look - so many beautiful shiny things!

I am really happy - the site feels new and fresh and me. Bubbles all round I think!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it". 

Hannah Arendt

The subtlety in this is divine.  I think more and more I am coming enjoy the things that are gently revealed, rather than those that are thrust upon me.

I like the layering and the hints and the sometimes ambiguity of books and storytelling. I love reading a really good book that has so much in it that it is well and truly up to me to discover the story and the meanings.  Just asking myself the question - what was that about? can make me think more deeply and link things that I hadn't previously connected. And then I love talking about the same book with somebody else and discovering many more things that had lain undiscovered by me.

Perhaps I just don't like things that are too obvious.

And then, I thought to myself I feel exactly the same way about art.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weathering away...

In January last year, I popped some old folded books out into the garden to watch what happened to them.  A year or so later I have captured their transformation and some of the friends they have made in that time.

Looking fresh and crisp.

We have had soaking rain on a daily basis  for about 3 weeks now and the books are showing signs of living in the sub-tropics.





Curling and protecting.

I love the look in this skink's eye!

Two of them at play.

I wonder how long it will take for them to completely disintegrate?

Three very different looking books from where we began.

 They sit outside the sliding door of my studio and I walk by them on a daily basis. It was nice to stop and focus on them for a little while and think back to what they were once - a pristine book to be read; then a sculptural book for inside; now a garden sculpture gradually disappearing.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Black, White, Gold

Here I am late Sunday afternoon tired and a bit weary after two full days of workshops with Deirdre Hassed who flew up form Melbourne to teach at the Buderim Craft Cottage.

The days were full and I said as I left - my brain is exploding, but in a  good way.

It was about both testing and trying things - black on black, white on white and gold on pretty much anything.

Saturday was black day and we started by taping up our paper into small squares for trialling different techniques. Of course,  I thought they looked pretty gorgeous before I began...

Deirdre had a table full of black inks, gouaches, acrylics, mediums, impasto, gloss varnishes and more.

And she did marvellous demonstrations...

And then we went off and played and tried this and that and the other. It was exhausting trying to do everything you had in your head to try, but it was a great opportunity to experiment.  We kept good records as well, so that when we pulled the tape off, we could write the technique below the box.

This was on of my favourites - writing backwards on the back of the page with an embossing tool so that the words appear on the right side like they were embossed.  Then gliding over the top of the paper with an 8B graphite pencil to capture the letters and give them a sheen. A rubbing to the right - again with the 8b graphite pencil.

One of my work sheets by the end of the day - some interesting, some less successful things to see there. But a great record and reminder.

Sunday was white and gold day and we really pushed through.  Whit on white is more me than black on black so I had a fun time.

Again,  Deirdre had a table of full of all things white...

And I played with impasto - delicious texture

And with gesso - and pulled out a letter.

And wrote with white ink., with pearlescent dots .

And a bit of bling over some paper I soaked in acrylic ink and gloss varnish - which actually made it stick to the paper no worries, no glue. I rubbed some pearlescent ink on the top again to give it a bit of a lift, ever so delicately.

And in the afternoon, we turned to gold which is always good fun; but always a challenge for me - I seem to stuff it up a lot.  Still I consolidated some things and learn a lot of new things to try.

The before shot.  Oil pastels

The after shot. Some scraps of real gold with letters pulled out.

And a final sheet of gold laid, but waiting to be embossed!

 It was a wonderful few days of exploring and I have heaps of ideas. I now just need to settle and try some of them on pieces of real work.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” 

Nelson Mandela

I imagine Mandela felt this more than many of us ever really do.  But it holds true I think even if the place you go back to has changed.

For me I notice the ways in which I have changed or altered most when I return home to Canberra.

It is a city that some love and some hate, but I have always loved it - the air, the buildings and the ease of moving about because it is ingrained in me.  My last stint in Canberra was as a very busy executive.  There was no such thing as a weekend, mobiles had to be turned on by 5am (and this was 10 years ago, before social media became the norm) and your life was basically not your own.

I return now to visit friends and occasionally do some work-work; and I realise how vastly different Fiona of today is to Fiona who worked there a decade ago.  Canberra has changed of course, but some of what drives it hasn't and some of what it takes to be 'successful' there certainly hasn't and it is nice to know that in those ways in particular, I have changed.

My life is much more my own; I am not hooked up to a device and checking every minute; I am calmer, happier, and healthier; and poorer but richer.

And now when I'm in Canberra I spend lots of time looking at art all over the place!  A piece by G.W. Bot - Seed Glyphs.

And wishing all my friends who get to attend and show at Noted in Canberra a wonderful wonderful time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Continuing to poke holes...

I wrote recently about this work I had done for my dad.  I collected it from the framer and it is now happily hanging in his home.

Never easy to photograph once framed - when will I ever learn?!?

He has shared the words with many folk who have been touched and asked him for them so they could write them down.  He asked if I could do him some small cards with the words on and I thought of course, this is another chance to practise letterpress so headed off with great enthusiasm.

I learn so much each and every time I try to create something with letterpress and this was great for me to learn about spacing and packing a line. I learned that you start each line with an em quad (square) and that you put your largest spacers on the outside and the smaller spaces closer to the letters. So far so good.

I went and inked up the new Adana press I bought the other week and set to printing. My first proof showed me why you do proofs...

In the set up shown above, I hadn't noticed that instead of two s' I had used os and that one of the os I used elsewhere was actually upside down.

 So back to the chase, unlock it, position the right letters, lock it up again, find some words are looser than they were before, add more spacing, tighten and lock again; find some words are looser than they were before, add more spacing, tighten and lock again... you get the drift.

But when I finally lifted it up to print again I was taken by the beauty of the grid on the back. There's an abstract artwork in there somewhere I think.

And so I printed the words on black paper.

Poked some holes in them (well really cut and folded triangle holes)

And attached them to white card. And they looked great! Dad now has a dozen cards he can share with friends.

An extra nice touch was that dad came along to help us when we purchased the new Adana and the type that I used so he has a nice connection to the whole piece!