Lost week

I’ve shortened my usual Christmas holiday sojourn to come home and do some painting. It may turn out to be unnecessary in the long run but, as part of the stress management for the four exhibitions this year, I think it’s a good idea.

It’s not new to talk about this strange seven days – that time between Christmas and New Year – as a lost week. Someone described it to me recently as a time when not much is expected of us. It’s certainly easy to swim in the days, lose track of the dates and the names, and waft around in a most delightful manner. Usually, I spend it drifting – reading, napping, watching cricket. It will be strange to actually try to achieve something.

I remember encountering some business guru who felt the lost week was a great chance to get a head start into the new year. She felt it should not be wasted but, rather, be used to reflect, evaluate, plan and prepare to turn the first page of the new calendar with the right attitude well established. That sounds like a northern hemisphere thing – I, in Australia, seem to be far too summery and soporific to be so directed and so demanding of self. And yet, here I am, eschewing the sun on the deck and entering the studio.

The cricket is still on, though, and there will still be free periods while paint is drying. I’ll enjoy my lost week despite choosing to work. It seems to deserve as much. It is a precious and unique time.

Enjoy your own lost week and best wishes for 2023,

Kirsten

Handel’s Messiah

My family’s love affair with George Frideric Handel’s monumental Messiah began around forty years ago when our school choir presented excerpts at various concerts. Since then, all of us have sung in many performances, either as choristers or soloists. To say we know the music well is an understatement.

On Sunday, I saw the Melbourne Symphony Chorus with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and soloists perform their annual Messiah to a full and enthusiastic house at Hamer Hall. It was a fabulous performance – but a little different.

A major choral work is, of course, made up of the vocal elements that we love, but it is also a demonstration of marvellous orchestration (that being the way the composer directs the different instruments to play). Most commonly, we hear the orchestration by Handel himself, or that of others faithful to the original. Sunday’s performance, however, was not only led by, but also orchestrated by, Sir Andrew Davis, a contemporary English conductor who has worked with the Melbourne Symphony over a number of years.

The singing by chorus and soloists was absolutely beautiful. It was also utterly familiar – just as we like it. It was a comforting cloak that warmed and protected us. The accompaniment, however, was new and fresh. It made use of different colours and combinations of instruments, turned the dominance of strings on its head and contained non-traditional elements (mostly successful). The orchestration was inventive, modern, totally fabulous, and required a new ‘listening’ that we often allow to fall by the wayside in our repeated experiences.

It made me wonder: what else happens underneath that we forget to listen for, or look for? We are accustomed to the RUOK movement that draws attention to the darker side of what might be under a veneer – and so it should. It is an important and vital awareness. What else, though, can be under a surface – what wonders, what delights, what innovation? What fun awaits if we decide to delve a little deeper?

Until next time, and a safe and happy Christmas to you,

Kirsten

Sydney, December

I’m in Sydney for a day or so. It’s the morning and I’ve just been out for a coffee, walking up Great North Road which runs from Five Dock into Abbotsford. The day is still, a little overcast and a pleasing 22 degrees at the moment.

It was school drop-off time when I stepped out and parents, grandparents and tiny siblings were releasing their charges into the care of the Abbotsford Public School from the clutter of cars, prams and bikes. The lady with the stop sign asked whether I’d like to cross the road and, when I declined, wished me a happy day. I walked past older-style houses, no doubt having stood since this suburb was far more ‘outer west’ than it is now; new townhouse builds with blocky architecture and tiny front lawns; and both well-tended gardens and those struggling with the recent spring growing period.

The cafe was busy, despite customary working hours being underway. I ordered my latte and sat at the narrow band of tables along the corridor. While I drank, a toddler secured a gingerbread man, two tradies obtained morning tea with a couple of flat whites, the baristas worked like navvies, and ham and cheese croissants (toasted) were filing through the sandwich press.

I stopped at the local IGA – quite crowded, to my surprise – and the Italian fruit and veg shop where I picked up a punnet of scarlet strawberries. The checkout girl had an authentic European accent.

Jacaranda flowers, both freshly fallen and already turned to mush by yesterday’s late storm, littered the footpath – such a memory from my Perth childhood. Frangipanis were in bloom and the verges still green, summer being a new phenomenon. Perhaps, in this environment more tropical than southern South Australia, there is enough regular rain to maintain that until winter comes again?

I arrived ‘home’ and now sit at the table with the balcony door open and fresh air floating into the apartment. There are no insects to bother me. The view is predominantly of trees and a glimpse of Chicken and Egg Bay. The traffic noise is perceptible but distant. It is peaceful. I am happy.

Until next time,

Kirsten

Technology

Technology is science and, as I was reminded yesterday, at its most basic level it is still built on the arrangements and interactions of ones and zeros. That is not something I understand – the coding, the creation of the smooth and intuitive daily relationship we have with our devices. But I do understand the human element of these incredible modern day developments.

Because of the technology that envelopes us, we are connected in ways we would never otherwise be. I was inspired to think about this by a posted comment and quick text conversation with an old friend. We have known each other for fifty years but, for much of that time, were not in contact. Now, thanks to blogs, phones, emails and the like, we are in touch again. It’s a small miracle when you think about it.

I know there are times when elements of technology are used in terrible ways. We hear of bullying, of hacking, of fraud and theft and scamming. I choose to believe, though, that there is much more good will in the world, and across a much larger area, than there might have been before. I certainly think there is a lot more laughter—humerous texts, entertaining memes and hysterical videos being shared around the globe.

Perhaps, I’m naïve. I certainly can’t claim to spend much time surfing and scrolling but I do garner joy from the casual messages of loved ones, from images of art I’d never see otherwise, and the spread of (carefully assessed but) often useful information.

Yes, technology is a science but any cold and disinterested elements have been softened by human needs and desires. We do look for connection and technology provides us with so many options of how to pursue that.

So thanks for reading. I am thankful that we can cross paths this way.

Until next time we talk,

Kirsten

Choices

Podcast day today while I was on the road. I was listening to artist and educator Nicholas Wilton on his Art2Life show. Often he has guests and they have some interesting discussions. Today, though, it was just Nicholas with some thoughts.

Nicholas was musing about the fact that in art, particularly when we are new to the endeavour, it can be paralysing if you don’t know where you’re headed with a particular work or, I suppose, any aspect of an art career. Procrastination, stagnation, avoidance can result. It is, Wilton believes, all about making choices. He feels that it doesn’t really matter what choice you make, as long as you just make one and keep going.

Both the right choice or the wrong choice will give you feedback about your direction. In a painting you may need to do some remedial work if the choice produces something you don’t like. If you do like the result, that feedback will encourage further exploration. I suppose, in decisions about an overall artistic journey, the feedback will indicate to you whether the choice has assisted in your progress or hindered. In the latter case, you may decide to remedy the situation or take a different path next time there’s an opportunity to decide. Alternatively, if all seems to be working, we forge on.

Indecision, a lack of making a choice, can stop us in our tracks. So grab a colour, a brush, and do something. The result and your assessment of that will guide your next step.

Until later,

Kirsten

The evening

I don’t recall ever writing my blog at a time other than in the first hours of the day. As a definite ‘morning person’ I do tend to get most things done before I start to flag mid-arvo. I guess we all have a best time. I have even heard some people function optimally at night! Fancy that!

Yet, here I am having a bite of dinner in the Lord Melbourne Hotel in North Adelaide and venturing into the new realm of evening creativity!

I sometimes wonder whether a claim to be a morning, afternoon or otherwise person is just a way to let oneself off being ‘on the go’ for the whole day. I think that’s actually rather sensible.

I’m a big believer in down time. In this crazy day and age, being ‘on the go’ seems too highly prized and time where not much measurable is achieved is considered a lesser way to while away moments in life.

If us morning people can start slowing down around four, and those miraculous afternoon/evening people can warm up gradually, so much the better. As long as everyone gets a bit of stillness or slowness in their day, I’m happy.

And that, of course, is the MAIN THING. Hahaha!

Until next time,

Kirsten

Habits

Once a habit gets lost, it’s often easier not to start again than to rev up something that is a challenge, even though we know it’s a valuable pursuit.

The gym is an example. Finding a way to fit that back in to mornings (and yes, for me it simply HAS to be morning – before I can decide not to go!) is proving tricky so it’s yet to happen. Even reading, in theory such a large part of my life, has dropped by the wayside. I know it will just take a conscious effort for a while and the habit will come back but knowing and doing are different things.

And my blog – well, you can see by the dates (September 22 was the last) it’s been a long time between drinks for something that once happened more or less weekly! It’s too good for my thinking and reflection, though, to let it disappear so I’m starting again and asking you all to keep me accountable!

I’m not crazy enough to set any sort of strict and punitive demand for myself other than making writing a regular part of my creative life once again. It complements and contributes to my art practice and encourages me to read (bonus!) and listen more widely. All that is good stuff.

So, simply knowing that there are a few of you out there reading will spur me on to the positive reinstatement of one of my joys.

Thank you, in anticipation!

Until later (and again soon after that!),

Kirsten

The weekend that started early

A different place this morning: different people, different coffee, different seat, different music in the not-so background. My usual haunt is closed for the sudden public holiday, and fair enough. I know how hard they work. A day off will do them all good.

I loved the Queen. I guess that, technically, makes me a royalist but I resist the slapping on of labels. I do think Elizabeth, as a person and a leader, transcends those arguments, though.

I also love the footy and there’s a public holiday in Victoria for that, too. Not so sure about its importance on a national scale ….. but, why not? If it gives people some pleasure, and all. And tourism will benefit. Yesterday, I was in the beach town of Robe, South Australia, and it was already filling up.

I also love the rugby and the second leg of the Bledisloe Cup, being played in New Zealand, overlaps with the AFL Grand Final. Haha! Do they not understand?? My tension will be enormous.

There seems to be lots going on—a busy time. But there is, after all, a place to find a coffee, and write a little bit. Life is good.

Until later,

Kirsten

A long way off

I have spent the morning on line, in a virtual queue, trying to get hold of some concert tickets. I was unsuccessful, but that’s OK. What did come out of it was a lot of thought about the future.

You see, the tickets were for an event to be held in August next year. This early booking isn’t unusual, I guess, as tours are definitely planned a long way in advance, and people subscribing to any concert series are accustomed to throwing their hat in the ring a considerable time ahead.

While tapping my fingers on the table in time with the circling ‘rest-assured-we-haven’t-forgotten-you’ dial, I was thinking about August, 2023. What will I be doing? What will we all be doing? Where will we be doing it and why? Time, of course, seems to pass so quickly, but early spring next year does seem a long way off.

I choose to have a positive spin on what might be happening in a year. For some people and some situations, the future may not be a thing to look forward to and I send all best thoughts to them. I am fortunate enough to be able to look with hope, a whack of enthusiasm and a exciting dose of intrigue at what might be going on in 12 months time.

Of course, there’s this afternoon to negotiate first, and the boring jobs I’ve managed to postpone until now, but I’m sure I’ll keep thinking and wondering about the ‘me’ with another year added in a world with another year added and what that will all be like. Who knows?!

Until later,

Kirsten

Underpinnings

I was listening to Sarah Macliver, Australian soprano, singing Mozart arias.

As a former mezzo, I can get childishly miffed about the elevated status sopranos hold in the operatic repertoire but some performances transcend such petty foot-stamping. This recording (alas, just a recording) is extraordinary. What more perfect matching could there be than Sarah’s incredible voice and such exquisite music?

Of course, as a singer, it is not just the voice but the breath that amazes me. That rock-solid foundation allows the incredible consistency of tone throughout her range and, stunningly, the softest softs at the most remarkable altitudes of pitch. Through years of training and practice, Sarah can rely on that underpinning to allow her the freedom to express as she wishes.

We all have underpinnings, if not of such a publicly obvious kind—those unchanging and reliable foundations for our being, whether they be family, values, faith, work, sense of self, integrity or a multitude of others. And, in the same way that Sarah Macliver can depend on her breath when she sings, we can, and should, depend on our own underpinnings to keep us buoyant.

And maybe that takes work and practice? I think so.

Until next time,

Kirsten

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