Last night was hellish. It was preceded by a few difficult weeks and a few more are yet ahead. Keeping the lid on one’s life at the moment is more challenging than usual, even for an optimist like myself.
We were only a week out of renovations, most of which I handled on my own. This is not easy during a Pandemic when labour is in short supply and most of the skilled workers have been soaked up by the booming housing market. After six months it is done…except that one sticking door that I’ve worked on twice but still needs further attention.
Just as my anxiety was recovering, a dental issue hit. And then worsened. And now needs surgery, and I don’t mean the normal kind, I mean the anaesthesia kind that a Maxillofacial specialist performs but you have to fly interstate to have done. But first pain, then a root canal, and all the while trying to dodge the winter flu and continuing rise in cases of the latest BA4 and BA5 strains of Covid.
But returning to the hell that was Territory Day. ‘Cracker Night’ is an excuse to be wild and inconsiderate with noise, the way New Year’s Eve is an excuse to get drunk and behave badly. Over the 22 years since we have lived here the neighbourhood has deteriorated as builders have bought and transformed houses without understanding the peaceful character of the neighbourhood. The quiet, considered life we knew has been bought, but feels stolen. It is now filled with loud motorbikes, fast drivers, construction noises and late, sometimes all night parties, not to mention one very aggressive dog that lives next to us. It has been disappointing. Anyone who knows us would understand none of those things are part of our lifestyle.
Firecrackers are illegal in most of the rest of Australia except by special permit, and with good reason. But we live in the Frontier, and for 12 hours on Territory Day, July 1, fireworks are available to anyone who fronts up with the money. And worse, there are almost no restrictions for where they are allowed to be set off. From 6-11pm last night the neighbourhood hooligans did their worst. The neighbourhood pets were given anti-anxiety meds to help get through, the rest of us suffered. It was more than my nerves could endure. During the sleepless hours I was doubtful I could continue to live in a place where so little regard is given to the elderly and peaceable inhabitants.
After tossing and turning and shedding a few tears I finally propped myself up on pillows and reached for my phone as distraction. I mostly use Instagram for creative inspiration and so I opened it and there, the first thing I saw were words by the poet, Mary Oliver.
She left this earth three years ago. She would have loved that her words have lived on and have the power to help. At 4.30am, with little sleep and sad heart, I realised as soon as I read this what I must do. I must let no one steal my love for this place, these skies, trees and rocky outcrops. I must let no one steal my early morning walks with the sound of wind in the trees and the Budgies chattering overhead, or the Butcherbirds carolling across the valley.
And a little while later I bundled myself up and out into the cold winter morning and reclaimed my love.
Once upon a time, there was a bricklayer who was an artist. His bricklaying was beautiful, but he wanted to paint pictures too. I met this bricklayer when I tried to get someone to give me quotes for a plan I’d drawn up for laying pavers and bricks around our house. He was the only person polite enough (or brave enough) to return my call and to come and look at the work I needed done.
When we bought our rammed earth house over 20 years ago, the house itself was never quite finished and the grounds around it were in a sad state, having never been landscaped. There were at least four different levels that needed to be joined so that one day, in our dotage, if one of us is in a wheel chair, we can be pushed around the outside without having to negotiate stairs.
Scott, the ‘brickie’, it turned out, was also a painter. Of pictures. I was a member of the Art Society and so we struck up many good conversations during his weeks creating our outdoor space. I made him and his offsider coffees and occasionally a bacon and egg sandwich, and he deftly turned the area into the outdoor space I’d imagined. Sometimes we talked about art, sometimes about plants and other common interests. Over the coming years I became quite a fan of his work and asked him to paint something for me, whatever he wanted as long as it was a landscape, which was his speciality.
Asking an artist to ‘paint me something’, I now know, is a ‘never, never job’. The artist never knows what you would like and so they never contact you. He seemed to sell everything as soon as it was finished and so years later I still had none of his work—except the beautiful patio, of course.
In August this year, the Art Society held its annual Advocate Art Award. Local artists of all levels and disciplines enter their work for sale. It is well supported by both artists and viewing audiences. The week before we headed to Adelaide to see the surgeon for Don’s cataracts and to visit our daughter, I needed to have a painting for her framed (see lemons still life). Scott now has a framing business called Desert Edge, which gives his back and knees a rest from the paving and bricklaying. I went to see him about the framing and while there he showed me the preliminary painting he’d done for this year’s entry to the AAA. It was lovely. While there he told me how busy he’d been with the framing work and really he would have liked another week to finish his entry. This is a frequent artist’s lament.
The following week he rang to say he’d finished framing our daughter’s painting and I could pick it up. On my way there I had to drive by the gallery hosting the Art Award and knew I wouldn’t have another chance to see it before we headed to Adelaide. So I stopped. The very first painting into the exhibition was a beauty, a large one of a tree in our central Australia landscape. Wait…as I reflected on the smaller study he had shown me, I realised this had to be Scott’s. After confirming this with the exhibition catalogue, I couldn’t believe my luck, it had not yet sold! Taking no chances, I turned straight around and went to the desk and told them I wanted to buy it. After the business was sorted the sales person asked if I wanted to place the ‘red dot’ on the painting number, indicating it was sold. I readily accepted–it made the purchase even more memorable. I went back to the gallery, admired my purchase and placed the red dot on number 9, Black Cockatoo Highway. And then I viewed the rest of the show.
When I got to Scott’s shop I casually mentioned, ‘Oh, I stopped to see the Art Award and your painting has sold.’ He looked stunned and thought for a moment and then looked at me and said ‘Did you buy it?” I very quietly said ‘mmmaybe….’ And then he excitedly asked again ‘Did you buy it?’
‘Yes, I bought it.’
He seemed pleased. Phew. I wasn’t sure there for a moment, thinking there might be some horrible satanic secret I was unaware of…if you buy a painting of a tree you will lose a limb or some such nonsense.
I said to him, I had a couple of requests, however…could he collect it because we would be in Adelaide when the show closed, and then could he take however much time he needed and finish it? It looked perfectly finished to me, but this was for him. I would also need him to hang it for me because of its size, to which, he happily agreed, as I hoped he would.
Later that night I awoke in a panic. Where would I hang Black Cockatoo Highway?? Our house doesn’t have many spare walls, being mostly rammed earth and windows. I had one space in a spare room that was sort of large enough but wouldn’t show it to best advantage. All that day I ran around with the tape measure in between packing my bags for Adelaide. Finally a stroke of genius came to me, I would move the hat rack in our entry way and hang it there so it could be viewed the way it deserved.
Once we returned from Adelaide our very handy next door neighbour agreed to move the hat rack for me. I resurrected my interior painting skills and patched, sanded and painted the wall, ready for Scott’s creation. A few days later he brought the finished painting and hung it for me.
Life is such an interesting journey, and the story of how Black Cockatoo Highway came to me warms my heart.
When Don retired we both needed to do some rearranging of investment/retirement funds. Mine had been paid for by me with my freelance work over the years so Don felt it was fair that I get to choose what to do with it. It didn’t look like we would need it to live on so I chose to invest it in our home, and myself. I had a dream, goal, wish, whatever you want to call it, that one day I could do whatever art I wanted to do, not for pay, but because it fulfilled me. So I chose to invest the money by enlarging our carport shed so that most of it would be my studio…one day. As you may remember it became the ‘shedio’, part shed, part studio.
For years I dabbled with this or that and it seemed I would just never fully ‘own’ the space. Since discovering pastels earlier this year and moving my practise space there, it is seeming more and more like I belong. I love that the floor is raw concrete, which I don’t have to be precious with. And the wall over the storage area has a pin board material installed so I can display inspirational pieces. One day, I really looked at the area, and realised it was kind of a mess, and decided to contemplate how I might reorganise it.
On a cold, rainy morning a few days later, I converted what was a disheveled space wanting some purpose and definition, to a space I could love spending hours in. If you picture me as a long suffering artist with few creature comforts, I’m not that person. I cranked up the classical music, and the heater, and began the transformation. I wondered how it happened that the space had slowly transformed from hopeful to haggard. I think it lacked love. It was created with love and my vision at the time, 11 years ago. But slowly, one pencil, one tube of paint, one discarded canvas at a time it was invaded and the vision was buried, just like my own creative practise had been.
Suddenly, all of that was in the Past and it became easy to sort through the books, materials and distractions, deciding which could stay and which had to be removed. I think one of those sped up videos of the process would have been funny to watch. I went in and out, to the bin to the office and back again. I rummaged the kitchen for just the right dish for drawing pins for the display board and returned things no longer required to their various homes. I just removed everything that wasn’t pastel painting…nearly. I have retained my acrylics for painting because I hope to live a long time yet, and plenty of pastel artists paint with a brush too.
When I was thinking through the plan, a day or so before, I envisioned all the practical rearrangements. As the time drew nearer for me to execute the changes, it suddenly popped into my head to remove all the other artists’ work I had pinned on the cork board for inspiration. Why? I could now replace it with my own work! I was inspiring myself. It is now as if I’ve opened a little gallery with an exhibition of not just works, but a little dream I’ve carried for a long time.
It was quietly thrilling.
In my office I have a little phrase cut out from a magazine that I have had for so many years I don’t even remember how I originally planned to use it . It simply says: ‘your dreams miss you’.
Many times over the years Don and I have philosophised about golf being a metaphor for life. It is often uncannily so. Lately, I have been thinking of my journey with painting in much the same way.
Some weeks ago I painted a small experimental piece, based on a YouTube lesson I’d watched. As I was finishing it I tossed the pastel in my hand over into the little pile I’d been using and murmured to myself ‘No, no, no, I’m just not getting it’. I turned out the light and that was it for the day. The next morning I came in and looked at it with fresh eyes, expecting to loathe what I’d done, and instead realised I loved it. I had learned a very good lesson. My discouragement had been that my piece didn’t look like the artist’s in the lesson. Silly me, that’s not what I want at all! I want it to look like my style, not hers—and it does! It is not great, the composition is was not wonderful at all, but the ‘look’ of it is a step closer to what I have been dreaming of, and there it was right in front of me. I didn’t recognise it because I was so preoccupied looking for the other artist’s style.
There are many things to learn when one is creating. It is equal parts thrill and frustration. Frank Gehry, the well known architect, described it well:
For me, every day is a new thing. I approach each project with a new insecurity, almost like the first project I ever did. And I get the sweats. I go in and start working, I’m not sure where I’m going. If I knew where I was going I wouldn’t do it.–Frank Gehry
For me it’s boring to repeat the same journey over and over. I too ‘get the sweats’ every time I start a new painting–as if my life depends on its success, which it certainly does not. Such is the standard to which I hold myself, the self flagellating behaviour I have learned, and am trying to unlearn. But once engrossed in the process everything else falls away when I get those colours in my fingers and see where both my conscious mind and intuition wants them to go. Being swept along in that flow is the payoff.
We need to explore our inner depths, solve new problems and gain new insights. Part of that for me has been the very basic task of sourcing supplies. The challenge of living in a remote area with few resources for art supplies has meant that some weeks I spend almost as much time sourcing materials as I do painting. A lack of good paper has been my biggest problem. I can order it and it will be here in two weeks, if I know what to order. Which I don’t. Until very recently, when I had completed enough painting on different surfaces to finally have a preference, I was stumbling around with this one. I watch videos and learn techniques for applying marks to a variety of surfaces. And then I practice. At this point in my learning trajectory it is hard to know if the problem is with my technique, or the surfaces…probably both! I’ve even learned how to apply a rough surface to smooth boards and papers making homemade pastel paper. Now, if the ordered supplies do not show up as scheduled, I won’t go completely without. It’s all part of the process and no doubt will change time and again over the coming years.
I’ve had a couple of worrying breaks in the process while we had more urgent things to attend to in our life. Always I reminded myself I only needed to return to the task for one minute. One break was planned–the pastel dust was a problem. I was trying to paint in the office with carpet on the floor–light carpet at that! So I made the decision to move out to the little space that is our ‘shedio’. Two thirds of the space is my studio and one third is Don’s tool shed–so christened ‘shedio’. It is not a glamorous space, but it is very practical and not unpleasant, having been renovated about ten years ago. It is surprising how far that journey is, however–those ten steps between the front door and the shedio door. And because of break-ins in the town I have to always lock the front door behind me when I’m in the shedio, and likewise the shedio door if I come into the house for a break. That transition happened a few weeks ago now and along with the new car, I’m starting to feel comfort with both situations. Always in the back of my mind, though, is the thought that if I feel pressured or lost, I only have to be there for one minute…no matter the result.
We don’t know what we don’t know. With every painting I am finding new problems to solve. Somehow the information I need to keep moving ahead comes into my life and I move forward one baby step at a time.
Sweaty hands, learning, solving problems, making preparations, small victories, crappy results, baby steps…how is art anything but a metaphor on Life?
I have been psyching myself up and out–for months, years even, trying to re-establish an art practice. I have gone the way of the parent who decided to stay at home and raise a child(ren) and then never went back to work outside the home. Having done freelance work from home for years I thought I would just naturally drift back into that once the child had left home. But the husband was used to someone to run the home while he traveled for work, and the child didn’t leave home until she was 23…and then there was breast cancer. The practice was well and truly buried. Deeply.
I drifted from dribs and drabs of painting, to jewellery making, to various crafts but I never developed a discipline. That was probably because I didn’t have to. But something in me really wanted to. It felt like I wasn’t finished yet. I’d gleaned all these amazing shapes and colours and textures from living life where I wanted to be and it felt like they were meant to live through me in another form.
In recent years I’d have a burst of creative energy or ideas once or twice a year but somehow I couldn’t convert it to a sustained practice that was taking me on the journey of discovery I wanted to have. What to do?
Not even the stay-at-home days of the pandemic had given me the push forward I needed. I searched and read and listened and scrolled to get inspired. While all of that was interesting, I had not yet figured out how to convert it to a practice.
One podcast inspired me to take an online course presented by an artist who came to her practice in her middle life. I enjoyed the course but when it was over once again I found myself with a few new skills and no practice, no direction.
The next time I was inspired by an online course, I was not even that successful. I followed the instructor’s lead, but realised it just wasn’t my thing. The next course I never even started. I loved the idea and his lessons were good but it just didn’t float my boat. Once again, it felt like I would be working in his style, rather than developing my own.
The holidays came and I was back to doing what I’ve become pretty good at, being a homemaker, wife and mother. I love all those things and don’t want to abandon them, but I want more. So when the holidays were over and I had caught up on rest, I was back to trying to get myself inspired. I thought what was lacking was inspiration so I followed more people on Instagram, watched YouTube, read inspiring stories and occasionally visited my drawing table with sporadic and unfulfilling results.
And then on January 14th came a TED talk. Even they had been falling a little flat for me in recent months. Everyone was trying to communicate their idea of something great. I didn’t want someone else’s ‘great’, I wanted my own. The TED recommendation came via email, and didn’t interest me. But I scrolled down the same page. An unassuming small talk by a woman I’d never heard of, piqued my curiosity. ‘The one minute secret to forming a new habit’…and it was only ten minutes long. I was in.
The talk was given by a novice video editor presenting from home, as per the covid-norm, and so it was a little annoying, but I kept telling myself, ten minutes is not that long unless you are having root canal work done, so hang in there. She stated her case for taking one minute out of every day to establish a new habit. Her new habit had been running. Her only stipulation? You have to be okay if you suck at it! C’mon, that is doable, right? I can suck with the best of them! That very day I began. I would take one minute and sit at my drawing table and doodle. To be honest, from day one, I took more than a minute. And I did suck most of the time. But I loved that sitting down, and embracing the suck-ness freed me up to keep coming back. It wasn’t about the quality of the work, it was about showing up.
Every day I sat down, and curiosity would take over. In seconds I was wondering what this colour or this mark would look like with that one and where it would all lead. And I reminded myself it didn’t matter if it sucked, I was just establishing the habit. Even the days when I didn’t feel like doing it, I sat down and did a little something.
After a few days my mood lightened. I felt happier within myself. Maybe it was just coincidence, I thought. After a week or so I noticed that I was having more creative moments throughout the day. I would look at something and immediately wonder what kind of drawing or painting that would make. I was taking more photos again, and not to post on Instagram, but as reference for potential drawings or paintings.
On day 10 I had taken a striking photo of the light at sunrise, of the houses and trees that we see from our place. That day I made the first pastel work that I have ever liked out of several attempts in years gone by. The next day I went back to sucking again.
But the day after that, I still showed up for another minute…and another minute…and then more than a minute and then more than an hour! I couldn’t believe this simple change could make such a big difference so easily. Soon I found myself watching YouTube videos to learn how to use the soft pastels that are my new enthusiasm. Watching the videos was not included in my one minute session, that was in addition to the one minute, which by then, were almost never only one minute but stretched into half hours and more.
I began to employ a little trick I used to use when painting more regularly. Years ago I’d noticed if I began a painting and had it, say, two thirds completed, enough to see where I was going with it, I would walk away from it for a day or two and then come back. It beckoned to me to come back and finish it, so it got me back into the studio again. This time, I found that I would not fret about how much time I had spent on an image, but I could leave it to return to later. As I walked in and out of the room, passed the table, I would glance at it and mull it over all the remainder of the day. Then, fresh with enthusiasm I would return and finish it next day. For many artists this doesn’t work. They find the mood is broken and they can’t get back into the flow of that work again. But in my case, it works. For me it’s important to self evaluate, not judge the work good or bad, but evaluate effective procedures and practices, study the colours and composition so I can modify things or use the time to advantage.
For me, this little one minute change relegated my relentlessly judgemental self to a position that was much less inhibiting. It reduced the task to the smallest increment and allowed that to be crappy. I just had to show up. I’m good at showing up, just not very kind to myself about the results—or I wasn’t, until now! I will be writing more about my journey which is now beginning the sixth week.
I have not missed a single day, but if I do, I will know how to begin again.
This time last year we were watching large swathes of Australia burn. I rescued a little kangaroo joey, that sadly died a few weeks later, too. As we watched the very disturbing video of our country on fire and the animals and humans in deep distress, so began a year of not wanting to turn on the news, but being afraid not to. I felt powerless. Of course things only got worse in that regard, as the year went on. I tried to focus on the things I could do something about…self, home, communications, donations and everyday life.
One very gratifying thing I did was donate to The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. They have done something that few recipients of my donations have done over the years. They send updates via their ‘go fund me’ page and by email. The most recent update brought tears to my eyes and I thought you would find it interesting to read. One of the main targets, funded by the donations, are drinking stations used not just by koalas, but other wildlife as well. It’s fills the most basic of needs, water, in a very dry land. And it involves humans to keep them maintained, which seems like a great way to raise our consciousness about what we can do. So here is their lovely update.
We are still reaping some rewards from the rains at Christmas, though we’ve had days filled with hot, dry wind and so things are drying out and looking tired again. There is no real rain in sight, but we watch the horizon with hope.
Cicadas are having a bumper year, if the number of nymph shells I’m seeing, and the deafening din are indicators. They are incredibly hard to see until they are lying dead on the ground. I gaze up at the trees and can never find them, though the tree is screaming with their presence. I did watch one flying a few days ago–a strange noisy blur as it went singing along overhead. I’m sure I’ve come across some mythological tale of the sound of cicadas being used to drive one of the gods insane. What chance does a mere mortal have? At least the carnivorous birds will be feasting well. Here is another little treat for your viewing pleasure, the work of artist Lucienne Rickard in Tasmania. She has spent the passed sixteen months drawing exquisite images of extinct Tasmanian animals and then erasing them for her Extinction Studies. Get the reference? In some cases she spent over a hundred hours doing a detailed drawing of an animal, and then erasing it while viewers watched on. Recently on her Instagram feed @luciennerickard she drew the loveliest life size image of a cicada nymph, not included in the extinction studies, just for ‘fun’. Her work is really superb and I highly recommend having a look.
Speaking of carnivorous birds…a family of Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis) has settled around our place for the time being. They are mostly insect and small animal feeders, and they have the most beautiful song, similar to that of a Magpie. The two youngsters are nearly the size of the parents, which are about the size of crows, but their behaviours are that of teenagers–still wanting parents to feed them, and still wandering about, curious to test all kinds of things in the environment. One day a young one found its reflection in our windows and it pecked at the image, trying to get a response. The parent came along and tried to distract it, but the youngster was determined, so the parent must have thought, ‘Well there’s one that’s occupied for a while, I’ll go check on the other one!’ and flew away. Eventually the teenager departed, but it was back the next morning, peering into the glass deeply, turning its head side to side trying to figure out that alternate Universe on the other side.
I feel a kinship with that young Butcherbird sometimes…wondering if there is some great intelligence watching me peer into the everything-ness, trying to figure out what to do with life on my side of the glass.
What is it that invites us to love? Is it an invisible filament wrapping around and around, cocooning us with its energy? Perhaps it is a holographic flicker of familiarity, or simply a previously unknown glimpse of ourselves.
Once in a while we see something that shoots straight into our hearts and stays there. So it was for me with a piece of art that I recently viewed at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
For those who might be traveling to South Australia, the Art Gallery SA is well worth a look. It is a gem of a gallery. Recently they closed the main areas for a traveling exhibition of Impressionist work. During the exhibition, they used the time to reimagine their own future display of treasured works. The five main areas have now been rehung with their own collection, to great advantage. As with most things in Adelaide, the gallery is evolving and becoming its better self.
After we had viewed the main galleries we entered one of the smaller galleries and it was there I was smitten. I can’t remember if I gasped or not, but if I didn’t I should have! I know I stopped for a couple of seconds to try to take in what I was seeing. The object of my initial shock, and immediate attraction, drew me in. Was it real? Was it fake? What was it there to tell?
Thirty five years ago in the Adelaide Zoo, a baby giraffe died. It was kept in the freezer of the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston, Tasmania, until an artist, jeweller, and taxidermist named Julia deVille discovered it seven years ago.
Julia deVille commissioned another artist, Kate Rhode, to create the ‘vitrine’ (glass display case) that holds her sensitively posed and adorned creature. All of the jewellery was created using precious metals and jewels especially for this purpose. Perhaps more than most of the art I have seen in my life, this impacted me for its sensitive execution, and thoughtful inspiration. Julia deVille’s question to the world is:
‘why do we divide animals into arbitrary categories such as food, pets, pests, entertainment, endangered and protected species?’
To my thinking, this gorgeous creature would have perished to dust, or lay forever in a cold dark freezer with no one knowing it had ever existed. Instead, it has a new life. It was always one of nature’s works of art, but now it is also a human work of art.
Always in my heart, whenever I want to visit.
The work is titled ‘Mother is My Monarch’ and these words accompany it:
Mother is My Monarch,
She is the folds of the universe in which I lie and all becomes still
Truth and Royalty
Reverence and the Revered
I hail thee
(*Lepidoptera refers to an order of insects including butterflies)
Early one morning I came upon a pair of thongs. They lay in the middle of the footpath, as if someone had just walked out of them, and gone on their way, barefooted. It is not the first time I have discovered homeless thongs. The humour-loving, curious artist in me took a photo. I edited the photo so it would be viewed more as an art work than a photo. I tagged it on Instagram #thongsasart and wondered if anyone would be as amused as I.
They kind of were.
Right and Left Thong, as found.
The next day as I walked by the same place, the pair of thongs had been moved. Not by me. I almost never move anything that I photograph outside. It is kind of my little challenge to myself to photograph things as I find them so that I have to work with the existing light and environment. The thongs now looked as if they were escaping into the tall grass at the side of the footpath. I photographed them again.
Day Two, the great escape…
Day three. Separation of the pair gnawed me with anxiety for their future. It was not good for a pair to be separated. Now there was nearly 30 feet (pardon the pun) between the two. They had lost sight of one another.
Day three, the separation. Left Thong as found.
Day three. The separation. Right thong as found.
Day four. Before setting out for my morning walk, I found myself nervously anticipating what might have happened to the separated thongs. The closer I got, the more wary I became. Grass. Had. Been. Cut. Town Council workers using their big mowing machines would never see the thongs. The pair meant nothing to them. They would take no notice if the blades transformed them into mulch.
I was almost afraid to look. There, in the newly mown grass, was Right Thong, face down. But where was Left Thong? Hesitatingly I stepped slowly into the grassy area, running my eyes along the ground. Something blue was at the base of a small tree. Ah. It was what makes a thong, a thong…the flexible, rubber wishbone that embraces the foot. It lay disembodied from its sole. A metre or so away lay a star emblazened remnant, once part of Left Thong. To its right lay another piece. I felt like a forensic scientist collecting data, though I already knew the truth of Left Thong’s demise.
Day five. Right Thong in mourning.
Day four. Remains of Left Thong.
Day four. Remains of Left Thong.
Day four. Remains of Left Thong.
Day five. You know that feeling of being curious, but not really wanting to know if the outcome is bad? I walked and tried not to look too far ahead, thinking perhaps I should just leave the story to its own conclusion. The podcast I was listening to distracted me, and before I realised, I looked down and there I was next to Right Thong. Right Thong was facing up again. I could see small signs of its ordeal, but it was gently smiling at me–as if to say, ‘it’s okay’. I stopped to photograph the survivor. As I was taking care to focus, a young woman walked by, sending a nervous glance our way.
I said aloud, ‘I know this looks crazy’–as if somehow my saying it, made it less so. We both knew it didn’t.
Day five. Right thong smiling at me.
Inside I thought of the words I’d just heard in my ear. They were by Frank McCourt who wrote the wonderful memoir ‘Angela’s Ashes‘.
[By writing] ‘I learned about the significance of my own insignificant life’
Yes, it was an insignificant thong, the image of which was made by an insignificant artist. But if we are to believe that nothing ever leaves the ethers, those images are forever. Making art makes us human. Being aware of that makes us grateful.
We have been in Darwin the past week. I’m still processing the events. Whenever we visit, I am taken back to memories of the first years of my life in Australia. Because we stay in the city, and our first flat was in the city, these are my old stomping grounds! But not. So much has changed it is hard to grasp. For example, Darwin is much more beautiful now than it was then. But I was newly in love and so it still appeared beautiful to me. But mostly it was, and still is, so unique and diverse.
dried wildflowers by the sea
The Esplanade Bicentennial Park area did not exist in its current form and now is a joy for my early morning walks, with many glimpses of the sea just beyond the trees. This time I did something I have never done before, walked down to Lameroo Beach where the very rocky native stones meet the sea. It connected me in a new way; this mountain person who could love living by the sea.
Native stone on Lameroo Beach
Three days were spent with old friends, two days with the same friend who I came to know here in Alice, but who moved to the North 10 or so years ago. Jo is recovering from a brain injury through an accidental fall at work. She is doing very well but is working very steadily at it. She never once bemoaned her bad luck or her ongoing issues of headaches and memory struggles. It was my joy to be able to help her set up a blog page which I commend to you. She is still learning the ropes but I know you will be kind to her. Her first post was so moving, she will most certainly be a fabulous contributor to the blog community. Jo plans to write about her many interests as well as her journey recovering from the brain injury. Because I think you will enjoy her writing and her story, here is a link: https://intralude.wordpress.com/
my artist friend’s living room in filtered light (Waterlogue edit from original photo)
painting by Ben Quilty
My other dear friend is one I made 30 years ago. We share an interest and practice in art, among other things. This time we attended the ‘After Afghanistan’ Exhibition by renowned, and official war artist, Ben Quilty. Having seen a documentary about his creation of the works, I was still unprepared for how moving they would be in person. You’d think I would know better! They were really about energy–the energy of one’s being that is changed when going off to war. I felt the emotion of several of the pieces as if they were physical blows to my solar plexus. Even thinking back on them now my tummy tightens with emotion. That is art.
painting by Ben Quilty
painting by Ben Quilty
Arriving home yesterday to the flashing button of the answering machine was an inauspicious welcome, as it turned out. My credit card has been compromised. Fortunately the bank was quick to recognise it and so there is only a $7 debit that got through. But now, everything that I normally do with my card, which is EVERYTHING, must be changed over when the new card arrives, probably in about a week. It could have been so much worse, and for that I am grateful.
But it has unhinged me a little. The post I had been working on will wait for another day.
This much I know for sure, and needed no processing…I have loved my life and cherish my friends, who are testaments to that life, as I am to theirs. In the words of German theologian, philosopher, Meister Eckhart “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you’, that will be enough”.
Here’s a little known factoid; many years ago I took a course in airbrushing vehicle designs. As in cars and trucks. Yes. I never intended to actually apply the skills to vehicles, it was just the only course available in Darwin when I first moved there 32 years ago. I wanted to develop my airbrush* skills and so I took the course. In those days, airbrushes were still being used in design and advertising, now it is all done digitally in computers. I had used it in my University studies but needed to advance my skills and no one locally was doing it, so I was having a ‘go’. That experience and my design background are why I have long appreciated high calibre detailing on vehicles.
Usually one is not in close proximity when seeing the primo examples. Driving down the highway is not the best way to get good photos–distracting for everyone involved. So when I looked up, I could hardly believe there was a very special tractor (Big Rig) parked on the side of the road near the walking path in front of me. Approaching from behind, what I first noticed was the Australian Military insignia. This being the 100th year of Australia’s entry into the First World War, there have been numerous special observances and I’ve seen it often.
Three dog train traveling through Alice Springs
The closer I got to the Rig the more fantastic I could see the detailing was. I hasten to add, I don’t believe the design was applied with airbrush, I’m certain it was decal, but it was still spectacular. There were a lot of cars whizzing past, wondering what I was so busy photographing, and then they would see the Rig and slow down to get a better look. It was a dead set traffic stopper. I can only imagine what it would look like with three dogs (trailers) behind!
Back of cab with Military Insignia
The name ‘Bill Braitiling’ was painted in the design, so I Googled it–as you do these days. Bill was born in Alice Springs and joined the 2nd Light Horse Regiment at the age of 28 in 1915. Fortunately he lived beyond the war and died in Alice Springs at Mt Doreen Station in 1959. The Rig is obviously in his memory and the memory of others in that war.
Detailing is an art form added to street art, murals and tattoos which reflect our culture and give us pause for thought. Enjoy the gallery. (as usual, if you click on the photos you can see them enlarged, and scrolling over them in the gallery you will see the captions)
Right front quarter panel
Right front door
Right side panel
Left front door
parked on the road
*(an airbrush was a small pen-like device with a paint pot attached and compressed air was fed through with the ink/paint to create shading and layers of paints and shapes)