Routines

I am a person of routine, particularly in the morning. I’m not sure that’s a good thing but the ubiquitous ‘they’ may say ‘it is what it is’. (I actually find that expression annoying but perhaps it has its uses.)

My painting practice also has its routines, among natural ebb and flow. I think all workplaces are the same. Due to absences from home, however (all of them delightful, might I add) the routine has fallen away somewhat.

Like many things, getting started is the hardest and I am finding that procrastination is having a much more rampant and joyful time than painting. Amazing what I’ve achieved this week instead of work!

I’m well prepared for my 2022 commitments so it’s not a great tragedy, but painting is, after all, what I love to do and a lack of productivity is annoying. It’s totally under my control, after all, so one might describe it as self-inflicted.

On Sunday I head away for three weeks. That will also be marvellous but will have a further impact on the art routine. My task now is to do what I can while away and then embrace the differences. It’s all about the thinking.

Until later,

Kirsten

Nothing new under the sun

I listened to an interview with South Australian emerging artist Anneliese Forster yesterday. Anneliese is an abstract painter. She spoke in the interview about her process, that is; trying to capture the immediate feeling of a given moment in time; painting organically inspired by emotion or atmosphere; responding to immediate stimuli like music, poetry and the like.

It could have been me speaking about my core approach to my own abstraction. As I took some notes, it became increasingly clear that what I am doing, about which I’ve been inordinately excited, isn’t anything particularly new or ground-breaking. That’s OK. There’s no need for me to panic. If I’d really thought about it before, I would have known that was true. I just hadn’t really thought about it.

In some small way, I think we all like to imagine we’re a little bit different – that what we do or what’s in our head is occasionally new or interesting. That is absolutely true. Don’t ever think that I’m saying we’re all the same. I have been reminded, though, that somewhere, someone may be similarly different, might also be coming to a realisation that aligns with ours. That’s OK, again. There’s no need for us to panic, again. It’s a big world and there’s room for us all.

So, with regard to the art, how do I ensure that my practice is still special given that someone else, in my backyard no less, is approaching things the same way? I think I need to ensure that I paint as truly myself, distill what makes me me and explore from that starting point. Anneliese’s terrific work will be hers and mine will be mine and they will be different enough for both to have value in the larger art world.

So, I return to the canvas with renewed enthusiasm. I can’t expect to be the only person who thinks like me but I can be the only person who paints like me and, even if others do paint like me, they won’t be actually painting what is me. It’s challenging to be pushed like that but it’s comforting that all is still worthwhile.

Until later,

Kirsten

Self care, Metro Café, Mount Gambier

It’s just after opening and, if there are any other early coffee drinkers here, I can’t see them from my perch on this metal stool at the window bar. From here I watch people pass—those with dogs, some striding in active wear, others with takeaway coffee from nearby cafés. I guess we all have our favourite. The scurrying elderly man with track pants, headphones and a forward-leaning gait is right on time.

Trinity made my latte this morning. It’s lovely. Hannah is my choice of barista, though. She has three young children and lives fifty kilometres away—the challenge of a necessary working life spent in regional hospitality. She’ll be here later in the week. I can hear Mark’s hearty laugh. He also commutes from a considerable distance. I am inordinately grateful for their dedication. Mark has been in hospitality for thirty five years and wouldn’t be much older than that. He has a gift. We all feel important.

The Tuesday gathering of a post-exercise group has begun. It’s good to get your order in before they arrive—there are many of them. To their credit, they’ve been doing laps of the oval on a morning when the frost, if not actually settled, made the air prickly. The sun has come out now, though, lighting up the old buildings on the south side of the road. They are solid and distinguished and, like so much early architecture, elegantly designed.

The music is obvious today but pleasant—someone’s playlist ticks along. The man next to me has been delivered Eggs Benedict and I can smell the buttery sauce and bacon. It makes me hungry, and envious.

But my cup is empty. That’s an indication that I should move on. It’s an action I approach reluctantly—a precious ritual is always hard to leave behind. The day calls, though, and you can’t swan around in a café all day ….

or can you?

Until tomorrow,

Kirsten

Something amazing

I saw this the other day:

‘To pull off something amazing you need two things: a game plan and not quite enough time’.

It wasn’t attributed to any one, let alone a widely-acknowledged wise person, but I reckon it’s a ripper of a quote. Hats off to whoever put it together.

‘Not quite enough time’ rings true for me—not on a day-to-day basis as that’s quite comfortable, but I get edgy when I think about the longer term. When you don’t start painting until you’re forty-seven you certainly cut down on the duration of a career. I don’t panic about it, but it’s in the back of my mind.

‘A game plan’, though, was even more attention-grabbing as, unfortunately, I’m not sure I have one. Again, day-to-day seems to take care of itself but as for some overarching direction ….. well, that’s definitely lacking. And I certainly agree it’s a necessary element of significant forward movement.

Sure, I have a bit of a list of things that would be good to achieve but I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to get there. No strategy. No active pathway. No game plan.

I don’t have an answer yet. I’m not even sure how to formulate such a thing but it, too, is now on my mind. That’s got to be a good start.

Until next time,

Kirsten.

Point of view

Initially, I wasn’t a fan of drones in the hands of the everyday person. The new invention seemed to open up a world of privacy problems which concerned me. I don’t want someone flying over and filming when I’m reading outside. I’m sure the celebrity set have a strong dislike of them.

As the technology has developed and been picked up by a range of organisations, the uses for drones has grown exponentially. The vast majority of these uses are, of course, fabulous and sometimes life-saving—from bomb disposal to food drops.

Drones, I now realise, also allow us the luxury of seeing things from a new perspective. We can view landscapes from above, drones can follow cyclists through magnificent settings, we can get up close and personal with volcanoes, we can fly with the birds. And new perspectives, new points of view, can only be enriching and expanding.

And that, I hope, is also what art can achieve—the suggesting of a new perspective or point of view on a situation, place, issue, opinion, emotion, beauty, technique. Of course, viewers will see and react differently but, hopefully, there will be some new thinking or novel ways of looking at the world driven by interacting with art. It doesn’t matter if each reaction is different. All that matters is that there is a step forward, or even a sideways shimmy.

As I go home to paint, I will need to be aware of the way in which my perspective is new and how I want to convey that. It’s a challenge but it’s a challenge worth tackling.

Until later,

Kirsten

Delivering babies

I am hoping to deliver a painting today – if the weather holds out as it’s a large one and needs to go on a trailer. I am not actually delivering the painting to the owner but to an interim location. The owner’s new house is not ready so a friend is taking possession in the meantime.

The situation led me to think about the different ways I have delivered my ‘babies’. There are times when they simply disappear – from a gallery or exhibition, usually. There is no chance for a sentimental goodbye or a gentle pat of love. There is only the hope that they are going to a good home. Some paintings have been picked up from my house when I’ve not been there. Some paintings have been collected by carriers and some handed over at the post office. These disappear into the ether and I usually never see them again. I have left paintings at the front door of new owners’ homes when they’ve been out. These particular ‘babies’ have been known to recieve a surreptitions kiss for good luck.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that delivering paintings really compares with dropping a daughter at the airport with 40kg of luggage for a move to Sydney. There is, however, a sense of sending one’s offspring out into the world and not knowing how long they will survive on someone’s wall. And what happens to them after that? Maybe I should include a return clause for when the joy has diminished!

It is actually quite rare for me to deliver a painting directly into the hands of a new owner. It is lovely when this happens. There is a gentle sense of sadness, some pride and an enormous amount of humbleness when someone takes possession of your creation. The fact that a person loves your work enough to hang it in their house is quite overwhelming and, of course, a huge affirmation.

Today’s delivery will involve a third party and the owner, still living a distance away, won’t be there. I will, though, have a chance to give it one last look and hold on to it for a moment longer than necessary. That will be good. You can’t keep them all, as they say, and the point of my art is to give joy to others, as well as to myself. Their purpose in life is to go out there. A bit like the real version of babies, perhaps.

Until later,
Kirsten

French Open Tennis quarter final

I got up (ridiculously) early this morning to watch Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

It was, of course, just a tennis match between two already (ridiculously) wealthy and already successful-beyond-belief athletes. The more I watched, though, the more I noticed parallels with life.

It was always going to be a long haul. Two of the greatest battling it out was never going to slip by. Indeed, after two hours only one and a half sets had been completed. The players were prepared – ready physically and mentally for the monumental task ahead. Each held respect for their opponent and recognised that only their best tennis would bring success. They brought their utmost to every point, although not one of them was given away easily.

The game had subtle shiftings of momentum – some periods were smoother than others, some required digging deep. Sometimes each dictated the play, sometimes each was made to sprint. Emotions moved between agonising frustration and fist-pumping joy.

They ground it out, point by point. They were unfailingly patient. They made errors – some unforced that taught them a better way for next time. They each made remarkable shots. There was that inevitable progress towards an endpoint but never was the outcome a given. I watched in edge-of-seat rapture.

It was a great game but it was, indeed, just a game. Most people didn’t see it. Most people didn’t care. Nadal won – not that it really matters. But it was an exhibition, not just of the highest quality tennis but of a little slice of life.

Until later,

Kirsten

Blankness

Blankness can be daunting and, for some artists, a terrifying thing. Many people make random marks on a canvas or drawing page before actually beginning in order to break up the endless white. The fear of ‘stuffing it up’ is sometimes most acute when one has a pristine, and possibly costly, surface. I certainly have those feelings at times, especially if the work is targeted towards a specific endpoint and is, therefore, ‘important’.

I also get very enthusiastic, though, about the potential – the almost endless possibilities that exist. There is so much that can result. I buy most of my canvas on a twenty-five metre roll. That is my favourite art purchase, despite the fact it’s so heavy I can only drag it! That is a lot of blank canvas and a whole world of excitement.

For writers, a blank page has a similar dichotomy. A white sheet, or empty screen, can have a paralysing effect and yet, on the other side of the creative coin, it dictates nothing. It provides no constraints to ideas. Anything is possible and valuable.

The beginning is hard, as with almost everything we do, but the potential is great. When we burst, or even tiptoe, through the inertia and fear, we can make great things.

Until later,

Kirsten

Routine

I’m mixing it up this morning. I have come to the café BEFORE the supermarket. I am writing my blog on a Tuesday instead of Wednesday. I have brought my bits and pieces with me in a bag rather that simply carrying them. And it’s only 8.15am.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘She’s WILD!’

It’s actually a bit of a sad indictment that such small things could be called ‘mixing it up’. I am obviously so wedded to routine that tiny alterations become obvious.

It is also amusing to ponder, from this relatively early position in the day, what ELSE I could do to shake the normal run of things. I mean, the regular world is my oyster. I can get creative. I could completely shift my day, turn it inside out, give myself a whole new perspective, perhaps even throw in a few things that aren’t on my to-do list! Now THAT would be stepping out!

Goodness knows what’s in store. Now I’m excited. The day has more colour, more potential. Anything could happen.

All I have to do now is think of something.

Until then!!

Kirsten

Spaces

Thanks to YouTube, I’ve been watching a performance of St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. It is an enormous work, both in length and monumental-ness. It is not often performed because of its demands on choir, soloists, orchestra and, I suspect, audience but, once it becomes familiar, it is a marvellous piece.

Bach’s music, especially his choral, is complex and dense. It is an ‘opaque’ music, a bit like a heavy, embroidered wall hanging that is warm and comforting but definitely present. Many lines of counterpoint, basso continuo and rich, shifting harmonies that precede jazz by about two hundred years, create a web of utter music which, for the uninitiated (and perhaps those who have listened more), can seem a little impenetrable.

I have been watching a particular performance by the Netherlands Bach Society. It is arresting in its quality. The more I watch, the more I think about why it is so good. I have come to a conclusion. The real strength, the real genius, lies, not so much in the music (although that is outstanding) , but in in the silences – the spaces between phrases, the no-music between sections, a complete lack of panic in stillness. None of this silence is overdone or emotional. It is pure, does not interrupt the flow of the music but, and I think this is the essence, it gives a way in to the fullness of the sound.

I wonder whether moments of silence can provide pathways into other things. Of course, I think about art. Unpainted sections, windows if you like, can invite a viewer into a dense piece. Maybe in our lives, hectic times can be mitigated by periods of silence. Perhaps still moments, no matter how small, can make things more accessible and less daunting.

That’s why I have visual paragraph breaks, I suppose. They are moments of visual and mental silence within a written piece.

Until later,

Kirsten

That’ll do

At times I’m guilty of the ‘that’ll do’. You know. The ‘close enough’, the ‘she’ll be right’, the ‘we’ll call that done’. I pick my targets, obviously, but sometimes there’s more laissez-faire than there should be!

Recently, and inspired by several different people, I’ve been trying to change. Whenever I’m tempted to not quite finish a job, I speak sternly to myself and say ‘for heaven’s sake, do it properly.’ Amazing how effective that is. I’m obviously scary.

Usually, the extra time ‘doing it properly’ takes is insignificant. It’s more of a mental attitude than a duration-limited thing. Probably, few people would notice the difference, but I know.

I’m getting better. I’m ‘doing it properly’ more frequently. But I do need to keep reminding myself: ‘for heaven’s sake …..’

So, now the washing is dry. Will I fold it or chuck it on the bed? I fear this job might fall through the cracks! Oh dear.

Until later,

Kirsten

Progress

Things don’t always go well at work. This is true for everyone, I am sure. Some days in the studio are frustrating, difficult or simply a retrograde step. Moving forward is not a given. We all like to see progress. I find it easy to become disheartened when that progress is elusive.

I was reminded this week, though, that we shouldn’t measure progress of any meaningful kind on a daily basis. That is a far too narrow, and punishing, time frame. Progress should be measured over a few days at the minimum or, better still, weeks, or months or even years.

Of course, the type of progress we’re evaluating varies depending on the time frame. Over a few days one may be able to measure progress on a particular painting. Over weeks or months, progress might be made across a body of work. Progress over years might be seen in a career trajectory or a stylistic development.

So, a bad day in the studio does not a lack of progress make. It is merely part of the continual forward and backward shuffling that, over time, adds up to movement in a positive direction.

Or that’s what we hope!

Until next time,

Kirsten

Pushing the boundaries

I am applying for an award. This particular award is for a twelve month project that will push the boundaries of your art practice into new and uncharted territory. It is an award presented to an artist with a desire to break new ground in their creating life. Part of the award is set aside for a mentor who will contribute to the development – a partner in crime, if you like.

It sounded exciting. My initial plans were relatively ‘out there’, although many of the details were unformed. That’s what the year of the project is for, after all – to explore, research, innovate. Having secured a fabulous mentor, however, the vision has taken on a life of its own through her enthusiasm and guidance. It is still exciting, but also now terrifying. I’m not sure I can live up to the confidence she has in my ability to extend.

She is absolutely right. If you are going to explore, then REALLY explore, actually step outside your comfort zone. Don’t just morph what you do now but turn it into something new. I’ve been playing it safe.

I am reading a book called Think Again by Adam Grant. In summary, it talks about reframing and re-thinking one’s often errant or outdated views and assumptions. But it also talks about the fact that we can be resistant. We are often happy in our bubble. Grant provides a glimpse into a way we can make a transition easier, that being to keep in mind the essential things that will remain the same while change happens around.

Without going into details here, I can now see more clearly that I can stretch my practice, break new ground, without having to change my core artistic loves. That fact is an eye-opener and a relief. I can now hop on board the excitement train and apply for the award with a whole heart. So, onwards and outwards!

Until later,

Kirsten

Waves

Since I’ve been painting abstractly, I have been trying to find ways to explain what I do in my own mind so, ultimately, I can explain it to others.

When I put brush, or whichever tool, to canvas, I am trying to capture my essence at that moment. It’s like finding a way to capture a fleeting experience in visual form.

Listening to a podcast by artist and teacher, Nicholas Wilton, I heard him speaking to professional photographer and surfing tragic, Jonah Allen, who was able to put a new and lovely spin on the theme.

While speaking of waves, not just his favourite recreation but also his artistic subject matter, Jonah described them as the expression of energy with water as the medium.

This struck home with me. That’s what I am trying to do. I have energy, or the moment has energy, and the paint is the medium with which that energy is expressed. The paintings may not ‘look like anything’, or may be ‘messy’, but they are a wave – a transfer of energy from one place to another.

Let’s ride them!

Until later,

Kirsten

Saved on the road from Mount Gambier

I must confess it has crossed my mind that perhaps it was time to gracefully wrap up this blog, recognising that it has been a great thing for me but that maybe its time was over. It seemed I had much less to say, to muse about. I didn’t really want to shut it down as I love having it, but neither did I want to ramble on about nothing month after month.

On my last big car drive, however, listening to podcasts (so often an impetus), I became inspired again. Suddenly, I had thoughts – about art, about life – thoughts that now need to be explored. There were words and concepts running through a head which had been quite empty of late. Such a good feeling. There’s a little bit of life in the old grey cells yet.

And so this blog, my blog that I am fortunate enough to share with you, is saved (that sounds very dramatic; I don’t think, in reality, it was in terrible danger). There are ideas out there that trigger thoughts in us. Sometimes those ideas float around in abundance, sometimes they are more elusive but they still exist. We might just have to work, or listen or read or watch or write, a bit harder or more often to find them.

Until later (a definite and enthusiastic later),

Kirsten