Thursday, November 12, 2009

By the Blue Canal

Now that the hot weather has come back to Elwood, I have been painting outside again. Yesterday I was back working by the side of the Elwood Canal. Around 3 pm. schoolchildren from the local Primary School began to pass me on their way home. A couple of perhaps 10-year-old boys were the first to comment. As they passed by my easel, the darker of the two turned and exclaimed: "Wow! AWE-some...!" 
Then a young woman, walking hand-in-hand with her son approached. The little boy looked no more than 3 or 4 years old, a little blond sprite. He sauntered along confidently next to his mother and as he passed by, sang out: "Looking g-OO-d!" with exactly that rising inflection on the last syllable his adult self would have used. 
I felt chuffed. I always listen to and respect the spontaneous opinions of children and afterwards I wrote in my sketchbook: 'In my painting I usually have no preconception of what I want to achieve. I prefer to find my destination through the process of working. It then comes as a revelation, something I am unable to describe but only recognise it when it appears...'


Monday, October 19, 2009

Thursday Night Nudes

'Merran'                                                                  charcoal on paper
This is one of the drawings I am putting in to an exhibition of life-drawings here  in St. Kilda. It is of a beautiful Eurasian woman called Merran, who is herself a talented artist. (I think the best models are often artists themselves). The exhibition will be called 'Thursday Night Nudes', after the life-drawing workshop that runs every Thursday night at the Linden Gallery Arts Center in St. Kilda. This drawing workshop has been going for about sixteen years now, ever since I first came to Melbourne. It has grown and changed over the years and now, I feel,  the level of artistry deserves to be seen publicly.
All six of the exhibitors are regular members of the group, some of them having been there from the beginning. The gallery asked me to write something about why still I practice this old-fashioned discipline now in the 21st century. Here is part of what I wrote: "For me life-drawing is primarily a way to reach out through the eyes and intensely experience the reality, the Separate Reality, of another human being. In this way I rediscover, again and again, the sheer wonder and mystery of being alive, here and now, no matter how grim our collective human situation appears to have become."

'Louisa'                                                        Ink & Wash on Paper

The exhibition will opening on Wedneday the 4th of November at the Jackman Gallery in St. Kilda. ( for details.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Le Berceau d'Amour

On a visit to the N.G.V. (National Gallery of Victoria) I made this copy from an anonymous image of dancing. It was in an exhibition about life at the time of Jane Austen. It reminded me of this quote :-
'Many people relish their moments of aggression. This comes as no surprise in a culture where people rarely dance or sing aloud; where we have the chance to roar only if we are sports fans; where we almost never run or jump or leap or glide for the sheer joy of it, or throw ourselves onto sand or into a freezing lake, or ride impossibly high waves when we are no longer a young surfie; where we no longer sit together telling wild or tender stories; where we look at other people's paintings but don't hold paint in our own hands; where we buy food that has no earth left on it; where we wash the sweet smelling vermix off babies moments after they are born; where we may do a small part of a whole job, but rarely witness anything completed; where our sacred sense of ritual may be reduced to a plastic tree at Christmas time; where community may be only what we see on a small screen; where the whole world may be available to many of us but we complain that we have nothing to do or nowhere to go...'
- Stephanie Dowrick, 'The Universal Heart'

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Café Terrace, Mordialloc

We arrived in Mordialloc, the small fishing port 25 k. south of the City. Thinking I would start a large watercolour, I stretched up some Arches paper on a board. On this cold and beautiful day I was attracted to the view opposite me: people were sitting out on the café terrace above a row of moored fishing boats. Thinking that it would be a good 'warmup' exercise, I started drawing the complex scene in an A4 sketchpad. A few hours later my colleague returned and was ready to leave. I meanwhile had lost track of time and had become completely absorbed by the drawing. On the way, I had stopped to write the following:-  " The experience of seeing clearly while drawing, what I call 'drawing meditation', is of letting go; it is a surrendering to the moment-by-moment NOW of visual connection. It is letting the pen humbly trace the shapes and forms and relationships of what is being seen. It is a feeling of lightness and ease, of getting out of your own way. It is drawing with no ulterior motive or intention, other than that of being present." 
Afterwards, on the drive back, I was surprised to notice a warm, full feeling in my heart and chest. I felt happy; I felt happy to be alive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Drawing the Eggplant

I SEE birth and death, youth and decay, in the leaves of this humble looking plant, whose extraordinary purple-black fruit is so delicious to eat. Some leaves are bright green, smooth and immaculately shaped; some are clearly older, withered at the edges and torn by their time out in the world, torn by the winds and rain of existence.
So it is with us: youth and age. And are we not, by obsessively fixating on the beauties of youth, attempting to deny the inexorable laws of Nature?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thought for today

"He who works with his hands is a labourer. 
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist"
- St. Francis of Assisi

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Redeemed by drawing, again.

My current circumstances: grieving the sudden death of my sister Peta, five years younger than me, I have also recently torn a cartilage in my right knee; am ill with a persistent cold and my partner Nicki is absent in the Western Desert. Am currently struggling to make a portrait of Peta, not wanting it to be a photographic cliché but wanting, nevertheless, to make it feel like her. 

Yesterday all of this overwhelmed me. I began to feel intensely pessimistic about the validity of producing paintings and drawings in a world on the brink, quite probably, of environmental catastrophe.

This morning I had an early appointment in Carlton. Afterwards I took coffee at the University Café in Lygon Street. I began to draw the scene in front of me: people sitting in the café terrace, socialising and drinking coffee. Quite soon I am beginning to engage, getting glimpses of their separate Realities. I begin to feel healed by this sense of contact with Life. And, once again, I realize: the proper subject, for me, of Art in out time is: everyday reality. The challenge is to be able to draw or paint even a fragment, freshly experienced, of the awesome and incomprehensible Mystery we call "everyday life".