Recycle re-use

On experiencing creativity


I am feeling particularly energised after an afternoon workshop at QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art) with Brisbane artist John Honeywill. John had us wielding large sticks dipped in black paint across paper laid the on the floor, followed by collaging, pencil scribbling and rubber drawing. All done in the name of creativity.

Collage number 2, now nothing more than an image on my hand-me-down iPhone, is the collage design I liked best of the three I did. We had just 15 minutes. The exercise aimed to combine the intuitive with the thinking part of the brain. Instinctively, I approached this as a colour and tonal piece. Intuition and experience drew me to the particular colours.

My first collage had been a happy accident that resulted primarily from plonking the bits of paper on the backing page. As a consequence, for Collage Number 2, I decided to work within the ‘confines’ of the materials, that is to use their own particular qualities rather than manipulate or change them.

What spoke to me were the beautiful ragged edges of two of the bits of paper, something I had not particularly focused on when choosing them. They became the heroes in my design and, being heroes, needed top billing, with a good supporting structure. This is where the black strips came in handy.

The whole design came together in minutes, with no repositioning or conscious thinking. Even the conscious thoughts, requiring many words to describe here, came in seconds. Not surprisingly this exercise felt like a powerful burst of energy! For me, collage making, or any artistic endeavour, too frequently becomes laboured rather than fluid. A drawn out bid for the right composition, colour, texture or shape can degenerate into exhausting, fruitless fiddle rather than a creative act.

At the outset of the workshop John had briefly explained the connection between unconscious process and the the thinking brain in creativity. Good teachers provide experiences, not just words and that is exactly what John orchestrated. We had the experience of combining intuitive thinking with analytical thinking. Doing art using these different aspects of our brain makes magic happens. Oh to find that place each time I set to work!!

Thank you John. Click to visit John Honeywill

Sunset ahoy Airlie Beach

There’s nothing quite like the ocean colour in Tropical North Queensland. It must be a combination of the bright sunlight and the shallow waters that lie within the Great Barrier Reef. Even as the sun sinks, the water still has the vestiges of that intense turquoise.

Many years ago when I lived in Melbourne, I decided to paint a seascape inspired by a trip to Brampton Island. None of the blues in my paint box came anywhere near the colour of the tropical water, and I failed dismally in trying to blend the right colour. It was then that I discovered Cobalt Turquoise, a blue green that is impossibly bright for the oceans and light of the southern Australia where I lived, but perfect for the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

I recalled this as the colours faded, and I sipped champagne on the Provendence V, looking over the ocean towards Airlie Beach. In true Slow OZ Travel style we chose the beautiful schooner, with its magnifiicant sails and fluid lines, over the noisy party boat for our Airlie Beach Sunset Cruise. This classic gaff-rigged schooner is a replica of the Grand Banks fishing boats that plied the waters around Newfoundland.

As we stood bare-footed on the deck watching the light change, the engine cut and the sails went up. Up until then I’d been taking photos. It was only later looking through my shots that I noticed something interesting about the rigging. Pareidolia, the tendency of the human brain to see patterns in random things, at play. Our brains seem programmed to see human faces and figures, even where they don’t exist.

It’s amazing what a difference exposure makes in photography. Playing around with different exposures gave the ship’s rigging an uncanny likeness to a person watching the sunset, more accidental than intentional. The top photo is 1/400th sec at f/10 and the bottom one is 1/250th sec at f/5. I’ve converted the top photo to black and white to further emphasise the silhouette effect.

Out of the Fire Artwork

Australia 2019, acrylic on canvas, 60x45cm

Tarzan Swing Eungella National Park

Fungi for art

Fungi on a log by the side of the Finch-Hatton Gorge track

One day these beautiful shapes, subtle colours and textures will find their way into a painting.

Sun strikes in the Rainforest: Paluma Range National Park

By the side of the Andree Griffin Rainforest Walk at Paluma township, the sunlight caught this elegantly twisted buttress of a massive, strangler fig carcass bought to life by its velvet green coat of moss.

The tropical rainforest of the Paluma Range feels lusher, and more encompassing than the subtropical littoral rainforest remnants close to my home on the Sunshine Coast. An hour and a half drive inland from the arid seaboard city of Townsville, this verdant forest must be haven for locals.

From the photo it is difficult to gauge the size of the buttresses. Look closely at the next photo for the tiny red way marker on a sapling behind the fig. To the right, barely discernible are Colin’s black hat and his shoulders.

Oz Slow Travel

Slowing right down. A carcass along the Gulf Developmental Road which is also called the Savannah Way, a far more evocative name no doubt conceived for the benefit of tourists on the way to Mt Surprise and the Undara Lava Tubes.

In Queensland, Australia we are fortunate to be in a COVID-19 free bubble. Within the state we can travel freely, taking COVIDSafe measures such as recording our visits to public places, and being more thorough in our infection prevention measures. So, Queenslanders are, like me, taking to the open roads. 

Queensland is a vast state, Australia’s second largest state, two and a half times the size of Texas with a population of 5.11 million people, 3.6 of whom live in Brisbane or the south eastern corner. Sometimes it’s a long way between ‘places of interest’ when you leave the coast. These places are not the bucket list, big ticket items like the Grand Canyon or the Tower of London or the ‘big five’ on African Safari. 

There is natural beauty, but not of the grand kind; there is ‘white man’s’ history which is by definition short; and there is extraordinary wildlife, but not of the variety that turns the tourists into surrogate game hunters aiming their cameras for the best shot of the beast. 

Rather there are small friendly towns, often with evident civic pride and a willingness to share their history with passers by. Such places lend themselves to slowing down after a long drive, having a yarn and a beer with a fellow traveler or a local – whoever is at the bar or more likely on the veranda – at the local pub. 

Aussie bush is a bit scrubby and untidy for sure, monotonous even. But when you really start to look, it’s wondrous. Sleepy little towns are easy to pass through without a pause. Each one has a story if you take time to discover it. All that’s needed is willingness to slow down, notice and appreciate the little things, and to start to feel a connection to the amazing land that others knew so well before any Europeans realised it existed.

Bhutan: Travel Through Art

A monk washes robes in the the courtyard of a Buddhist temple in Bhutan

Art Travel

Today I took some paintings of Bhutan out of storage. I would have been travelling right now, but instead I am preparing for Noosa Open Studios. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, I wouldn’t be opening my studio space up for people to visit. If wasn’t for the border closures between Queensland and the southern states, I probably wouldn’t be opening up the studio either. Our Covid world seems more uncertain and less predictable, even for the lucky ones like Queenslanders who are in an state with virtually no transmission and where contact tracing is swift and effective.

Crossing the stream, Bhutan, Oil on Canvas, 18×24″, 45.5x61cm

Every day the relentless statistics that are a shorthand way of describing death, grief and distress flash up on my screen. We all need uplifting diversions at the moment, so it was wonderful to remember those amazing wanderings in the verdent mountains. How lucky I have been. Every experience seems all the more precious. We can all travel visually, through art and photograghy.

Chasing Algorithyms

What do we, as artists do, for the common good of our fellow artists, using social media? The wonderful team at Amanda Woods Design the design company doing an amazing job of promoting Noosa Open Studios got us all together to explain how it’s done. By promoting ourselves and other artists via the Noosa Open Studios social media pages and through our own pages, we are growing both our individual audience and the Noosa Open Studios ‘brand’, thereby making what is already a very popular event in Noosa even bigger. Sounded reasonable to me.

So, even though I struggle to regularly blog and post, or look at other people’s posts and like and comment, I’m making a special effort for the next month – for the common good and for myself. It’s hard. The photos and art sites on my instagram account grow exponentially. Being flooded with so much stuff makes me feel overwhelmed rather than inspired. I probably missed the one that I really would have enjoyed or wanted to look into a little further. Maybe I’ve failed to see something special from a dear friend because I’m always scrolling so furiously to catch up.

But there’s another difficulty for me. If I’m going to be effective, I need to make myself into a name that people want to be associated with. I have to be memorable, I need to let my audience know what I do, and make it sound absolutely fascinating. Given all this, it goes without saying that my artwork will be highly prized, coverted and very much in demand.

OK where do I start?

Suggestion # 1 from the experts. A good catchy bio that grabs attention and summarises what you do. Who am I and what do I do? Blank. Total panic. I know not who I am. That phrase sends me down a rabbit hole looking at quotes from a seventeeth century Punjabi Sufi poet called Bulleh Shah. I’ve got distracted. That’s the whole problem I have with social media. But at least I know that WordPress has the algorithym thing in hand; a WordPress site comes up close to the top when I google “I know not who I am.’

Suggestion #2 from the experts. Check out social media influencers and other artists, see what they do and say about themselves. If you like their style adopt it but make it your own.

I’m sorry, the term social influencers conjures up tight dresses and too much make-up, cleavage and Botox. I know there’s more to it than that but like so many others (apparently) I can’t get past that image. So I start looking at what some of my fellow artists have to say about themselves. Here’s the list of key words:

Award winning
Represented in National and International collections
Represented by Gallery xxx
Winner of xxx
Works acquired by (big name, corporation)
xxx solo exhibitions
Internationally renowned (better still)

None of them apply to me.

Well, how about my style? (I hate it when people ask.) Oh for a suffix that neatly and precisely describes what I do. None of the “isms” fit – not Impressionism, Realism, Hyper-Realism, Epressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, to name a few..

The closest I can get to an “ism” is experimentalism. I have an idea or a feeling and look for a visual way to express it or communicate something about it. Sometimes I’m not even aware of exactly what it is that I’m communicating because it won’t go into words, that’s why it’s a painting or a collage or some other visual form. But sometimes words find their way into the visual field. Not sure that experimentalism is it either.

Now that I’ve concluded that there’s absolutely no point in creating some sort of snappy impressive artist persona or description, I’m not stressing about the social media imperative to say who I am or what I do. I’ll just do what I do, as I always have. And as for Noosa Open Studios, I will welcome anyone who comes, with no expectations whatsoever. 

Up cycling

I love gathering bits and pieces to make small creative compositions. The act of gathering and arranging various objects is like a reverie that reminds me of people, places and moments.

A nature loving women who bought an artwork at my recent exhibition, gifted me this delicate little nest, found on the the ground in her beautiful tree-filled native garden.

The enterprising little nest maker had gathered polyester fibre, from who knows where, to fashion her nest. I decided to give it a new home in wood, as I imagined that the nest once belonged in a tree or twiggy shrub.

This little collection is a homage to up cycling and recycling. I made the small mosaic ball from an old plastic ball found on the beach, and the oblong wooden bowl was made by a Zimbabwean artisan from an old Rhodesian railway sleeper. Of course the nest in the centre is the the most innovative piece of up cycling.

Gathering and placing objects is a special way of remembering.