Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A bit more sunshine

I am essentially quite lazy with regard to blogging. Whereas some blogs are chock-full of fascinating links, interesting facts or intriguing articles I prefer end up bumbling around expressing vague opinions about *life*, and that's about it. Occasionally I come across something or someone I just have to share with you, and today is one of those days!

It's too boring to go through the whole meandering path of how I got to him, but I have found Hiroyuki Hamada's work/blog/website and love it all... His father took him and his family to the USA because of work when he was in his late teens, and he stayed. I have faint memories of perhaps having seen some of his work elsewhere, but I certainly didn't retain much information about him, let alone his name. He has a website, a blog and there is an interview with him in Booooooom which I enjoyed. As much as anything I have enjoyed reading about his process of working: he talks about trials and errors and finding and getting lost. I don't know whether you will feel as much of an affinity with his work as I do, but it generated a great feeling of excitement because brewing inside me is a whole mess of desires relating to 3-dimensional work with paper and I could relate to his interests in both surface and form. Who knows where it will all lead, if I can but clear out a load of rubbish from inside my head, knock a few things off my to do list (essential things like quarterly tax returns, for example - not voluntary and not optional either!), and GET DOWN TO WORK.


Crappy days

You know how sometimes you just have really crappy days? Well today is one of those days. Sometimes I have responsibility for managing someone else - well, I have the responsibility for managing them all the time but I don't always have to get actively involved. Today was unfortunately a "get involved" day, and it wasn't much fun. I don't enjoy giving negative feedback because it makes me feel like a big meanie even when I think that what I'm saying is correct and that I'm doing the right thing.

If you're lucky, the person you're talking to really listens to what you say and takes it as an opportunity to reassess things and move forwards in a positive way, or at least that's how all the "How To..." books on the subject tell you it happens! The reality is usually that the person you're talking to becomes (understandably) defensive, uses their body language to express silently the fact that they think you're a *&^ker, and denies everything, couching it in terms that are meant to convey how petty and mean-minded you really are. And to top it off today I was on the receiving end of some pointy criticism myself about the possibility that everything that's going wrong is going wrong because I'm a control freak. *sigh*

There could be some truth in there: I do like to have a plan in all situations! Of course I reassure myself by thinking of it in terms of being wise, but I guess you could just see it as wanting to be in control. Always.

Ah well. I shall press on. To balance things out I got lots of nice things in the post today: The Art Gallery of New South Wales's magazine Look, with information about their exhibition of terracotta warriors that is starting soon (I can feel a birthday treat in Sydney coming on once term starts in February), a letter from our mortgage company apprising us of an increase in their mortgage interest rates which put the monthly premium up from "jeez, do you want me to starve for the next month?" to "Honey, I think we have to sell the kids" and &Duck's artfully folded response to the latest BookArtObject text by Claire Beynon called Paper Wrestling. Duck, if you're reading this, it's fab!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wet in Wagga

We're down in Wagga Wagga to see my parents-in-law, and of course the Riverina has had rain for the first time in years so Lake Albert is full! I've been coming to Australia for 12 years and this is the first time I've seen it full of water. The bench seat is where I usually sit and draw, but I'm not going to try it this time... We're only here for a day or two: we're starting the drive back tomorrow, and will be home on Monday afternoon. For a European it is all a bit mad! We're driving the equivalent distance to that between London and Venice via the Alps - for a long weekend.

Oh, and did I mention my father-in-law's roses?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trials and tribulations

By now you've probably noticed that I've revamped my blog. I changed the look at some point last year, when I got to a celebratory number of posts but I was looking at it over the weekend and realised that Blogger had made it MUCH easier to change the format using its default templates, which are now customisable (is that a word?), so I had a bit of a fiddle around, et voila!

Then I realised that I wasn't able to post anything... and my brave new world came crashing down around my ears.

Now for someone who used to be a cryptographic programmer and computer systems engineer for IBM you'd think I'd be happy around technology. You'd be wrong. In many situations when I might be expected to panic I'm cool as a cucumber, and my internal temperature is habitually set to 'blue fingernails and an extra scarf please' regardless of the weather. Once upon a time my doctor actually told me to START smoking and drinking in an effort to raise my blood pressure... He should have told me to sit in front of a laptop and start typing instead! I am reduced to incomprehension when things don't work and "it worked yesterday, why won't it work today?" leaves dearest husband feeling rather distressed. BUT I JUST CAN'T STAND IT WHEN THE DARNED COMPUTER DOESN'T DO WHAT IT'S SUPPOSED TO. Okay?

Never mind. Turns out that when dearest husband loaded Internet Explorer 9 on my darling little machine (which made life a whole load easier in other areas...) it ceased to be compatible with Blogger despite appearances. Luckily Microsoft helpfully included a little "compatibility mode" icon... you just have to know where (and when!) to find it. My own personal view is that IT is God's way of showing s/he has a sense of humour.

100100001011110010100111010011100101010100010100101111 anybody? Yes.............. I'm sure there's an artists' book in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Alas poor Tiny!

...is not with us any more, I'm sad to say. I am of course referring to the mouseling. It was inevitable, and it's been interesting seeing how darling daughter reacted. Much to her credit she insisted that the poor little critter be entombed in the fridge until the weekend, when we buried him under the Poinciana tree we planted outside my studio. Thankfully she didn't insist on a full burial service and was tear-free, so Tiny is making his own unique contribution to our garden and we've had a very positive conversation about recycling!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Small, smaller, smallest

I don't think of myself as being all that sentimental, but I am soppy (in my head at least there is a distinction!). Mice have wrecked havoc on our block for the last 12 months and I have no compunction about setting traps and putting down poison, and I have rejoiced at every critter thus despatched. However, I went down to my studio today and found this little squeak sitting in the middle of the path, clearly lost and lonely. I left it there while I worked but it was still there when I came out again so I scooped it up and took it to show dearest husband, who has had a chuckle at my expense!

I think there is probably something wrong: it is tiny so perhaps it is a baby and has lost its siblings or maybe it has eaten some of my poison... Either way I don't think it will last long, but it will have a comfortable wait for destiny in a takeaway box on our kitchen bench, so that darling daughter can come home and be amazed. It could curl up quite comfortably on that 50c coin with plenty of room to spare. While I curse the little blighters for their nibbling, I also marvel at the exquisite functionality of something so small.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A day in the garden

We have had SO MUCH rain. It seems indecent to complain when living in one of the dryest continents on earth - when I've seen the effects of 10 years of drought at my brother-in-law's sheep station - when people who read this blog have been suffering for years without decent rainfall! But I have to say that the rain is getting a bit wearing... Our water tanks are beautifully full but the road is beginning to wash away again, and our plants are struggling from soggy soil, overly wet roots and a lack of nutrients (which are flowing out of the soil and gently down the hill).

Rain notwithstanding we have been trying to do the odd spot of gardening on the rare dry days. I'm saying this in the knowledge that this week the forecast is finally for sunshine and higher temperatures so doubtless we'll get out of doors more often, but the last few weeks have been dire!

I've been meaning to tell you about all the wonderful bulbs I planted in our rock wall back in June and never got round to it. Now the poor things have flowered and I must say it was a little disappointing. The daffodils were lovely but the freesias are poor, stunted things (probably lack of sunshine!) and the ranunculus didn't come up at all. The Michelia, however, and the port wine magnolias that I planted at the same time, looks as if it's fine and I hope that next Spring we may have some flowers.

This weekend we managed a morning out in the garden. Dearest husband wielded the biggest crowbar I've ever seen and dug me some more good, deep holes for trees. I planted two Jacarandas and two Firewheel trees (Stenocarpus Sinuatus), and we prepared ground for a Poinceana (Delonix Regia). There's something very satisfying about planting trees!

Now all I need to do is to build an anti-wallaby cage to protect my precious Damsons...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thunder and Lightning

monotype, about 45 x 45cm

We've had a bit of this recently!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Thank you for your lovely, helpful and supportive comments! Sorry for being a whinging Pom... mind you, I didn't feel very cheerful this morning either when I arrived in the pantry to find that one of our long-suffering fish (remnants and survivors from a former aquatic paradise) had decided to leap out of its tank and commit suicide on the pantry floor. What are the animals trying to tell me? First the ungrateful chicken; now the despairing fish!

A good stint in the studio this afternoon, plus reading the funny and helpful things you sent me, cheered me up a lot, fish not withstanding. And as it was really sunny I was able to take some photos of the sketchbooks I've been binding and (trumpet fanfare, stage left) PUT THEM UP IN MY ETSY SHOP! Yes, it has finally opened with more than one item in it, and I think I have a reasonable understanding now of how the whole Etsy system works. I'm not suggesting for a minute that you should buy them (you can all make your own, after all!), but hopefully hoards of other people will flock to my shop and clear out my stock just as fast as I can make it. Well, I can hope... and in fact I was thrilled to see that there had been 8 views for the one lone book I'd put up there a few days ago - even if 3 of those views were me!

There is of course a blog associated with the shop, called Rhubarb and Ella to go with the shop. Ella is my darling daughter, reincarnated as a little bird with a bright beady eye and I am Rhubarb. I'll leave you to judge whether the 'Rhubarb' in question is a native British fruit with a tart flavour, or something (someone?) kept in the dark and fed on *&^%!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I am absolutely struggling at the moment.

Part of the trouble is 'new studio syndrome', which I commented on earlier when Willis was nagging me about it. I thought I'd got away with it but it has turned around and bitten me on the backside! When you start doing things like cleaning the toilet because you're afraid of doing some work you KNOW you've been badly bitten... Well my studio is spotless and I'm driving myself nuts wibbling around and being ineffectual.

Various other things (i.e. not directly related to cleaning or art) are also stressing me out: money, builders, the strange damp patch that's appeared in the pantry ceiling, money, failure to be awarded a residency, general sense of uselessness, sudden departure of my new chicken, enormous quantities of weeds and lack of hours in the day to deal with them, yada, yada... I bore even myself when I get like this.

The solution? Well a sudden influx of cash would be nice, but in the meantime I'm reading a wonderful book by Matthieu Ricard called Happiness: A Guide to developing Life's most important Skill, which is attempting to persuade me that the sudden influx of cash idea is a) misleading because it won't actually make me happy and b) that happiness is an inner condition, not a series of external factors and that I can learn to be happy without the cash. Hmm. I'll have to persevere with the exercises, then. I've clearly got a long way to go.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STUDIO? My other strategy is to START WORK, viz. the photo, which is of a series of painted splotches, droplets and washes in a series of sketchbooks. One of my (many) anxieties concerns the pristine nature of blank sketchbook pages so I'm taking a leaf out of Sue Brown's armoury of techniques and challenging the hegemony of the blank page! OK, Sue does it in style with emulsion paint, ink and bleach... my first tentative experiments in this area are tamely made with dilute acrylic paints but somehow it felt good and rather bold to splash around on the page without any clear idea of what I was doing.

That was yesterday evening, when I managed to pull out the paint, deface three sketchbooks and clean off two copper plates. Today I've been slightly more productive: I've gessoed some hardboard ready for painting (god - I haven't painted in years... * moment of fear*) and pull a single monotype. Actually that did feel good: I suffer from the anxiety that anything I might have racked up in the way of skill or experience will have evaporated in the long gaps in between working; it hadn't. I knew what I was doing and it wasn't bad. I'll look at it properly tomorrow and might try the image again.

The thing is, I know that all I really need to do is to get stuck into it - I just get paralysed/sidetracked/diverted away from it - hence the brilliance of the website pointed out to me by LouLou!

Part of the problem is that I'm having a bit of a panic about a big show coming up next year. On the one hand I'm plodding through the practicalities (dates, times, deadlines), and I've even come up with a name for it ("Speaking in Tongues", given my current preoccupation with text and the development of language), and on the other hand I'm having heart-failure about the thought of putting together a coherent body of work that anyone will actually want to see.

All there is to be done is - as ever - to move forwards, building things up as I go.


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