Thursday, August 21, 2014

Making Friends with Muriel - The Joy and Wonder of Art Journals

Making Friends With Muriel; Art Journal Page
©2014 Tracey Hewitt
Let me introduce you to Muriel. I think she is in fact a little older than she looks; and she is the face belonging to the voice inside my head. Some people would call her the "Inner Critic", there are probably a hundred titles we could give her. Please tell me you have one too? You know, the voice that tells you how much you suck; that you're too fat, too skinny, too loud, too.... you can fill in the space. That ever present nagging that you're not enough of the good stuff and too much of the not good stuff. A little while ago, she was getting real loud. It was time to deal with her. It started with some writing, and at some point, I burst out laughing, because I realised that she reminded me of my high school Home Economics teacher. This woman had a most unfortunate voice, and was possibly the most negative human being I had encountered in my fourteen or so years. She would hawk up some spit onto her fingers to wipe chalk from the blackboard, and, most unfortunately, would swipe her finger through one cake batter after another in the Home Ec kitchen, suck it off, and move on to the next bowl, until she had tasted them all - never washing that finger off. And yes, she probably had spat on it to clean the blackboard first. Toss in sarcastic and a tiny bit mean, and (not that I consider this a character flaw, but it affected my opinion of her back then) sorrowfully dowdy and dull.

But, back to Muriel. It was time, as I said, to put her in her place. A quick sketch with a water brush filled with Sumi Ink (which might just be the best fun you can have with any drawing instrument on earth), and suddenly, she was getting a makeover. Sparkly turquoise glasses, bright pink lips and a big, fat piece of my mind! Who knew that could be so much fun?

Again, I was reminded of the power of art. To start with a topic, subject or feeling that has negative aspects; express it with colour and movement, and through the process transform it completely. The great thing about it is this - it happens every time.

Muriel will forever live in my head, and sometimes, she has some useful stuff to offer - like "For heaven's sake, get OFF Facebook and DO something!" But, when she's being a cow; thinking about this journal page makes me smile, and quietly ignore her and get on with shooting for stars and aiming for awesome. (Neither of which I accomplish, but I figure it's good to set your sights high!)




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Art Journaling - It Feels A Bit Like Therapy

 
Does this pile of luscious goodness look like fun to you?
 
 
How about all this snowy, fresh paper and clean brushes?

 
Wheel that trolley out onto my back verandah and into a gorgeous autumn afternoon, and the stage is set for some serious Art Journaling fun.
 
 
A while back, I sent out feelers to see if maybe one or two people might be keen to spend a bit of time here exploring a few art techniques and materials in the safety of their very own Art Journal. While I love where I live, it is a small community, and I thought I might be lucky if I could find any takers. To my surprise and delight - there were nine! All keen to excavate the creativity they hoped was buried in them someplace. 

 
Over the course of three hours, they were introduced to Dyelusions Sprays, Distress Stains, stamps, stencils and all kinds of markers and pens, which they used to create some really fun backgrounds and play with lettering styles. Of course, many of them (OK - most of them) looked a little horrified when I suggested it was time they write - in their own handwriting - in their journals. When I asked how many of them hated their own writing - hands went up all around the table. What I told them in essence, was this:
 
 Every mark we make, every word we write, comes from us. Is us. Our essence cant help but show up in everything we do. Hating our handwriting (substitute voice, thighs, drawing, tummy, crows feet, toes, teeth.... you get the idea) is to hate a unique and authentic part of ourselves.
 
I know we all do it (I am guilty of it often!) But, I'm coming to believe that we have more to give when we give ourselves a break. When we are OK with ourselves and our efforts.
 
 
I reckon they all found the tip of their creative icebergs. Which makes me really excited for next week, when we'll have a play with acrylic paints, try drawing faces and dedicate a page to our Inner Critics. I've named mine "Muriel" (apologies to any wonderful and beautiful Muriel's out there...) and she can be a real shrew. Should be fun to share our stories and see the portraits these great girls create of their own versions of Muriel.
 

Friday, April 18, 2014

New Inspiration - for Pencil Sketching, and all kinds of things!

Payton #1 © 2014 Tracey Hewitt
Pencil 12cm x 12cm
We've had some big news around here.... A granddaughter! This post has been written, rewritten, scrapped and started over a number of times now. Then, I remembered that I wrote a letter to this baby girl the night she was born. Not quite your run of the mill, regular post, but then again, a family's first grand baby is not quite your run of the mill, regular experience is it?

Dear Payton,
 
Today we met you for the first time. New to this world- just hours old - I was captivated at once. Maybe one day, many years from now, I'll remember this letter and give it to you - a memory of one of the most favourite days of my life.
 
It rained! All day. And we had been hoping so hard and needing it for so long, which made it even more wonderful. Much like we hoped so hard for you. I feel as though I have loved you forever already - certainly since I saw you swimming around in your Mums belly at her first scan. And even before that, when you were just a possibility and we hoped so hard you would decide to stay and grow. And today, on the day of  my first baby - your Dads - birthday, you joined us in this mad, happy, crazy, wild, fun, fantastic circus called life, and our hearts are so happy.
 
It's difficult to describe how I feel tonight - excited, happy, content, nervous, pleased, thrilled- a whole lot of emotion all rolled up together, and full, my heart feels full. Thankful, grateful, full. I'm sitting quietly, listening to the rain on the roof - one of my favourite sounds, and thinking of you, of your tiny, perfect face, little bit of soft hair and wee fingers and toes. You had so many visitors today, and you slept and ate and were not the slightest bit amazed by the excitement your entrance into the world had caused.
 
We had a cuddle, you and I, and the world felt perfectly right. 
I know that as you grow and the years pass there'll be times you are sad and unsure, times you doubt yourself - you're human and we all do that. But I hope that through all those times, I can help you remember you are a miracle. You are perfect exactly as you are in any moment and magical in your ability to bring joy just by being in a room (that will never change for me, nor, I expect, anyone else in that room with you today).
 
So, on this ordinary, rainy day, while the newspapers ran headlines about a Malaysian Aeroplane that disappeared without a trace, and our Govenors General, Quentin Bryce (the retiring one) and Peter Cosgrove (the new one) have been announced a Dame and a Sir, and the republicans are getting all worked up about it, and most of the world was going about its business as if it were any other day; we know better. Today was a special day. The day Payton came to live on planet Earth as part of our family. And we are so very happy you are here.
 
Welcome to the world precious girl. I can't wait to get to know you, and the wonderful person you will become. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rocks, Owls and "Pinspiration"

 
Do you ever find yourself in a creative blue funk, hankering for a bit of fun?
Have you discovered Pinterest? (It's only fair to warn you that Pinterest has the potential to inspire you to such an extend that you may be rendered mute and motionless, continuing to flick through ever more amazing images, and not actually doing a thing! Ask me how I know....)
 
This little family of Rock Owls was the result of my latest blue-funk-busting, fun-craving wanderings. The idea came from a 'pin' shared with me by my daughter-in-law Caitlyn, of a funky little owl family, much like this one, created by Carolyn Johansson for her Etsy store. They seem so much cooler than the 'pet rocks' of my youth!

 
A pile of stones, a couple of Sharpie marker pens in different nib thicknesses, a metallic gold felt tip pen, a white journalling pen and an hour or so of doodling; and voilĂ ! Blue funk officially busted, fun had AND a cute bunch of Owls to decorate a shelf on the back verandah.
 
Sometimes we're so busy being serious and focused on 'important' stuff that we forget the really important stuff - goofing off, taking the pressure down and just having some fun. I am really grateful to Caityln for sharing; to Carolyn for inspiring; and to my small friend Tilly, who arrived part way through and created a couple of rocks of her own, reminding me how wonderful it was to be five years old, in the moment and  free of self doubt.
 
If only I found the pictures of enticing food and organised tidy cupboards and weight loss workouts equally inspiring! What's your favourite thing to search for on Pinterest?
 
 

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Paintings

Farmers Fortune
43cm x 53 cm Acrylic on watercolour paper ©2013 Tracey Hewitt
Let me tell you a story about these paintings. Our local ambulance officer is a beautiful lady who grew up in Tonga. (her name is Sela, and she has the most dazzling smile I think I have ever seen). She was visiting our local exhibition last year, and admired Farmers Fortune very much, but wished it had a thatch hut and a palm tree instead of a house and a windmill. For me, this painting speaks of hot dry days, and the relative harshness of this life on the land, as well as the breathtaking beauty of sunsets and open spaces. A farmers fortune seems to be paradoxical - harsh, tough and frustrating, while at the same time full of beauty, awe and connection to the earth. Sela, saw something else. She saw the skies, seas and sunsets of her birthplace. A kind of magic danced in eyes as she stood and looked at it. Seeing her respond and relate to it so strongly is the kind of connection we artists hope for - a deeply satisfying experience.

A delightful conversation later, she commissioned me to create her vision on a large canvas (the piece I painted for her is roughly twice the size of the original).

Now, I tried earnestly to convince Mission Control that I needed to visit Tonga so as to bring a level of great authenticity to this piece. Thank goodness for Google Image searches! While restful hours on a Tongan beach remain beyond my reach for the time being, it has, in the course of creating this piece, made it's way onto my Bucket List - the more you learn about a place, it's appeal grows infinitely greater.


Tongan Treasures
105cm x 75cm Acrylic on canvas  ©2014 Tracey Hewitt 
 Sela took delivery of Tongan Treasures, with it's thatched palm hut and pair of palm trees - to represent her and her husband - last week; a gift to herself for one of those birthdays with a zero on the end.

To say it was a pleasure to create for her is an understatement - creating a piece with a specific person in mind is possibly one of my favourite things to do, and Sela's enthusiasm for it when it was delivered was infectious and delightful.

In the meantime, Farmers Fortune is still quietly and patiently waiting for the person to whom its story whispers to come along and give it a home. I'd love to know what story it tells you?
                                                                        


Monday, February 3, 2014

Making Time for Art


 
This sign just went on the studio door. I've never had a sign like this.
 
Let's back up a little, and explain some things. I recently signed up for ArtBiz Bootcamp. This programme for artists is offered by Alyson B Stanfield, of ArtBiz Coach fame. In the past, I've learned lots from her book and a couple of other classes I've taken with her. This 'assignment' was week one, fundamental stuff. It's taken me almost four weeks to actually do it!  You wouldn't believe some of the stuff I told myself about how and why this wouldn't - couldn't - work for me. I won't make you want to poke yourself in the eye with a pencil by telling you all about those excuses in detail - just know, they were lame... really lame. What was exciting though, was how great it felt to finally choose to commit to some not negotiable time frames to call studio time. I think I may have even heard an hallelujah chorus off in the heavens somewhere - though I can't be sure about that. (It may have just been Garfield objecting to a lack of appropriate cat food in his bowl).
 
What I wanted to share with you though, is that this action - choosing some times, printing them on a bit of card, and hanging it up - created a big shift in the way I think and feel about my work as an artist. Like I'm taking myself seriously.
 
Sometimes small actions can have big consequences....
 
What little thing have you done that has led to big things? I'd love to hear. Tell us all about it in the comments.
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Bear Grills of the Jack Russell World - A Story of Survival


 
 
See this cute, peaceful, quiet, little Jack Russell Puppy? He's a bit of a legend around here.
 
We've had so many litters of puppies here over the years, that I couldn't begin to guess at just how many babies we have raised. As they grow, we find them new homes with their forever humans, and much joy is spread in the world. In all the years, and through all those puppies, we've never had any 'go missing'. But, the last litter:
 
 
all cute little pumpkins, were another story. They took it in turns to disappear, and no amount of walking and calling, and looking in sheds, and under buildings and in holes in the paddock could uncover them. Ten thousand acres of backyard makes it kind of tricky to know where to look. 
 
Each, in turn, went missing. Legend here, was the first. A full scale search found no trace. We suspected a wedge tail eagle might have swooped down and helped himself to a free meal (a thoroughly disturbing prospect). Two days and many fruitless hours of searching later, his sister disappeared. Back to full scale search mode. And guess what? I found him, hanging out beside a cattle grid, not far from the house. After two nights in the big bad world all on his own, he was very happy to see me, and very hungry. His sister remained elusive, making her reappearance the next morning, unscathed and keeping tight lipped about where she'd been. This just kept on happening! One would disappear, only to show up hours later; a day or two later another would do a vanishing act. We had no idea where they were sneaking off to, and began to suspect the existence of some puppy destination akin to Batman's  Bat Cave.
 
 The time came to send two of them off to their new homes (which involved a 3 drive to catch a plane at 8 am - you can figure out what time we had to get out of bed for that!) All present and accounted for at 10am the day before departure. At 10.30am - two missing. 2pm a big thunder storm rolls through, dropping a good shower of rain. Full scale search launched. 4pm a second storm rolls in. Full scale search resumes. Then, it gets dark. No sign of missing two. Give up and go to bed, wondering how to tell a little family in Adelaide that they wont be getting a puppy tomorrow, because he's gone missing in action. 4am, Pa gets himself up for another search (he has a touch of tracker in him, but the lack of useful daylight, and our growing conviction that the Puppy Bat Cave was a real thing, was something of a barrier to any useful progress.) We left home, then turned around and raced back after a call to tell us one pup had appeared. Wrong pup. Took him anyway. Adelaide family happy to be getting a puppy, even if it's not the one they chose. Feeling broken hearted about the missing one - but he did survive 2 nights on his own a couple of weeks earlier....maybe he'll show up? As one day slid into another and then another, after 4 days there was a heavy storm, and we resigned ourselves to thinking he probably was no longer for this world, and gave up looking.
 
Then, 8 nights - yes, I said eight nights after he vanished, he reappeared! Trotting along beside his Mama like he'd never been away - except of course he was very skinny looking, and my word, he was famished!
 
We will never know where he was hanging out, how he survived (it was pretty hot) or how and why he made his way back. He has now gone to live with his new family - leaving us with lots of questions and not a single answer.