Monkey, dressed in finery

Desert Rose
Another one that went into Gypsies, Vagabonds & Wild Mad Women (currently showing at TactileArts in Fannie Bay, NT, until the 7th of May,) although I photographed this in-progress, and then didn’t bother to take another when it was done. Her fingers are in the final work, and a bird perches on the window ledge.

Not a painting, at all, but something I did to fulfill my quota of pieces for the group show.

With so much repetitive pattern going on, this is actually a sly deception…it’s a zen tangle pretending to be a painting. The difference? In a painting, every mark is—ideally—placed with purpose…even in (or I should say, especially in) abstract paintings. Nothing is put in carelessly; a good painter doesn’t just fling his brush wildly at the canvas while he’s watching The Bold and the Beautiful over his shoulder. No mark is superficial, or accidental. In the world’s serious art schools, a mark is defined as having a beginning, and an end. Even the smallest mark moves in a definite direction, carries a weight. A mark finishes as strongly as it began, and plays a part in balancing the whole. A successful mark is one that, if removed, would ‘unbalance’ the painting…rather like a judicious comma in a complex sentence. Painters make their marks intentionally, consciously.

Pattern making, on the other hand, is a form of hypnosis. It is avoidance of The Present. It lulls awareness to sleep. It is the hand running on autopilot, making repetitive marks, while the mind floats away. It is—ironically for those who look to aimless pattern-making as meditation and to stay grounded in the present—quite the opposite of mindfulness. It is more like nail-biting, chewing gum, or swinging your foot to a fro incessantly when seated: a nervous habit that the body fidgets with, unconsciously, as the mind sneaks off to wrangle in thoughts of the past, the future, or engages in monkey chatter with itself.

The deception is upon myself. My monkey is very sophisticated. I should know better…I have read many books on mindfulness; but then, so has my monkey. Something like this picture can seem so much more ‘purposeful’ than nail-biting, or watching television, or scrolling through Pinterest for four hours. At the end of my doodling, Monkey has produced something colourful and attractive…to the unpracticed eye, it looks as though I have been very creative with my time. But making this was no more creative than hours spent on a colouring-in book, staying within the lines. I know Monkey was behind it, all along, because I produced this like an automaton, and at no point did I feel like I was putting any of myself into it. I used the heavy allover pattern-making to fill the void, to avoid real engagement, the hard work of being honest with myself. I let my monkey distract me from the challenge of really looking, from working with mindfulness and with all of myself present.

Don’t think I am feeling “down” or beating myself up, please! And no, I am not fishing for compliments. Trust me, I know what it is that I have made. I am writing this down partly as an apology for including it in an exhibition…it was not honest enough a work to be shown to others. But in the end I didn’t have enough pieces, and didn’t want to let the other artists down by not producing my share of work.

More than all this, I am amused, and glad that I caught my clever little monkey at her tricks. I am someone who enjoys discussing all the ways in which I deceive myself, and catch myself, deceiving myself. It makes me laugh. I will be more firm and honest with Monkey, next time. Every crappy thing I make is a chance to learn and grow. They say that every starting painter has a thousand shitty pictures inside…to arrive at the good stuff, she first has to paint out all that rubbish. I have a LOT more paintings to do…

I called this canvas “Desert Rose,” though its real name should be “Monkey, Dressed in Finery”.

DIY : : Bunny & Cow Romper Babies

Bunny & Cow Romper Babies DIY

Jacksons Drawing Supplies in Darwin has a new staff blog!

Our first offering, anticipating Easter, is a little DIY for these cute Bunny & Cow Romper Babies…there are photos and a PDF for the pattern pieces. You may remember that I made one of these for my goddaughter some time ago. This time I took photos and re-drew the pattern pieces. Naturally, it uses materials sourced from Jacksons Drawing Supplies. We work there, after all, and what’s good for the shop is good for us. 🙂

The shop has been at #7 Parap Place for over 20 years, and still we get locals coming in to tell us that they never knew we were there. No wonder the business is struggling! So, in an attempt to drag the one and only proper art and technical drawing shop in Darwin into the 21st Century, we’ve decided to start a blog.

There’s not a lot on there yet; it’s hard to find the time and coordinate with each other—we can’t do this stuff on the job (that’s why it’s called “the unofficial staff blog”) we do our blogging at home, photographing the steps and projects on the weekends, using our own cameras, laptops, and internet connections.

But that’s okay, we really want to do this…we’re all creatives and, as the main art shop in town, we know so many of the local artists. We’d like this blog to serve as an outlet for our own creations and projects, to feature profiles of Darwin’s artists and art organizations, to keep track of local art events, and to even maybe answer of the many, many Frequently Asked Questions that we get about paints, mediums, materials, techniques, and so forth.

I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out, maybe download and give the Easter project a go, and even subscribe to the post feed so that you’ll know when the next few goodies come up!

The secret flowering of the Italian language

Heeey, how’ve you been? Busy? Have you made anything over the past couple of months?  I haven’t done as much as I would’ve liked, but I made a few things. I have so much catching up to do here! Just thinking about the job at hand paralyzes me. So I’ll start small and just show you what I made TODAY.

It was a pretty good day, in spite of the stifling, humid weather…I stripped down to my undies, poured big tumblers of ice cubes and water, and spent the day playing with something I got the idea for months ago:

You know that “Prints and Patterns” hoard that you started when you were 16 and that now takes up two filing cabinets and 8 boxes? All the designs you loved and saved—out of magazines or photocopied books, traced, photographed, clipped from wallpaper samples, taken off the net and printed on bond—yeah, THAT hoard, the Tossed Pattern Salad from Hades. Haven’t you always wanted to gather those designs together in a way that was both useful as a reference later on, and beautiful to look at? I have always wanted to transfer all those designs into one big book of patterns that I love.
make your own pattern collection slash coloring book

No, I’m not going to aim for that control-freak’s archive, I’d never get through it all! But I did spend my afternoon copying one little fragment of a pattern…then a second little fragment—

just doodling, no pressure or real purpose, freehand and using a black marker straight away…no pencil lines, no measuring or erasing…not trying very hard to be accurate or faithful to the original, letting my moods and thoughts find their way into the process

—onto the slightly yellowed pages of a large old Cambridge Italian Dictionary (found on a rubbish pile in the city!), and then coloring the pages, using the exercise as a way to explore new color palettes…kind of like hand-drawing your own coloring book,before you do any coloring.

the secret flowering of the Italian language

You know what? I love it. I love the look of the pages, the fragmented patterns and the wonky lines, the oversized, outlandish flowers blooming across the words. Quite by accident the first page I decorated this way started with the word abbell·ire tr. to embellish; to beautify; to adorn; to gild…