Sunday, July 31, 2022

On my studio journey

Its been a while between blog posts which is entirely reflective of the busyness of my art practice since I opened my popup studio at Chermside in April.

For those following my progress on Instagram and Facebook, its been a wonderful time in my little studio - some new friends made and lots of learnings about how to manage my own studio space.

One of the major drawbacks of the Chermside studio was its small size.  At only 7metres by 3.5metres, it couldn't accommodate all of my printmaking equipment and more than 4 people.  It was cosy but at the same time, stifling and frustrating to have my printmaking resources spread between my home studio and the Chermside studio.

And then all my birthday cake wishes came true.... in the form of a long-time friend who has invested funds into a new studio space from which I will operate a community art studio.

The new studio is spacious but not overwhelming, around 200m2 in a semi-industrial unit in Banyo.  Lots of concrete and glass windows. From the outside, there's nothing inspiring about it, but my partner Craig and I have been busy over the last few weeks transforming it into an arts hub.

The renovation and fitout work will continue for another month, there's lots to do, but there'll be a big opening celebration and everyone is invited!

From the outside - lots of 
concrete but inside - heaps of potential

Before the renovations started,
a blank canvas

Demolition and repainting of
the main studio space 

Upstairs, lovely windows.
This space will have plants and
 lots of tables to work at.



Monday, May 9, 2022

Introducing 'Art from the Urban Wilderness'

Its been longer than usual between my blogs, but with good reason....I've been busy setting up my new studio 'Art from the Urban Wilderness'.  

My local Brisbane City Council has a Pop-Up Shop Grant Program, which matches empty shopfronts with creatives and home business wanting to try a shop experience.  I put my name down on the list last year, and I very gratefully received an offer of a small space (5m x 7m) in February.

It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I took the plunge and signed a short-term occupancy lease, with Brisbane City Council paying the rent for 2 months.  Council also gave me some funds for fitout expenses, which covered paint, flooring, benches, tables, insurance, etc.

I've been in the space now for 5 weeks, which of course has sped by.  I've been busy running mini-workshops of 3-4 people, the small size of the space limits numbers of participants but it creates a more personalised experience.

My new studio functions as a print studio and pop-up art gallery, a gathering space for like-minded art friends, and a place where I can spend some time to make work or contemplate my way forward.  To stay and pay rent or not......

The studio is located at 44 Latham Street, Chermside.  My studio website is www.artfromtheurbanwilderness.com.au


The space prior to fit out - concrete and besser blocks,
but plenty of potential!

Sliding doors at the front bring in the light
and breezes

Opening night, with my artwork on display.
It was really exciting to see my prints up on the wall -
it revealed my obsession with birds 
and monoprint!

The studio - on the right my bench seat, cushions
and curtains creates a cozy seated space.
My etching press 'Thumper' is in the foreground.

Open for business!


Friday, February 4, 2022

Reverse Gear for now

I have a confession to make!  In my last blog post, I talked about making without outcomes.  That's one of my goals for 2022.

Lets back up to late 2021, when I had the opposite experience (which probably motivated the 'create without outcomes' mantra).  I am participating in a printmaking swap, where each artist is required to manipulate/alter another artists' print.

Each artist prints two identical prints.  One of those prints remains in its original state, the other is sent to another artist who then 'owns' that print and uses it as a starting point to print over or alter using printmaking processes.

This has probably been the most challenging outcome-focussed work I've ever done.  I didn't realise how much hesitation and fear is associated with touching someone else's work.  I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a cliff - I MUST do something to resolve an artwork on top of another's work with a looming deadline.

This is the print I was allocated -

Lino print using gray ink by Renee

I worked my way through all the options... work around the image?  work on top of the image?  Ignore the whole thing and just print dark over the top?

My signature printmaking technique is monotype, with lots of mark making, textures and colours.  This just wouldn't do, it would be so busy and everything would clash.  I thought about working around the bird image but its pale gray colour wouldn't provide a good focal point.

So I decided to go with collage, incorporating some basic monotypes and a lithograph bird for a focal point.  Collage also makes good use of existing prints in my stash, but for this one I needed a bird print on toned paper so I used an existing litho polyester plate to make some curlew prints.

Printing on Kozo, love that fleck

It takes a few prints to
get one or two that are good enough

I opted to use my favourite paper patterns for the monotypes, the transparency of the paper would allow the background lino print to come through without overpowering the curlew image.  I stuck to a neutral colour pallete to make the different elements come together.

After a few heart-stopping moments where the glueing went wrong, with subsequent frenzied peeling off of wet layers, I achieved a result I was happy with. I also had to seal it (the glue left it a bit sticky) and back it with stiffer paper so it didn't warp.  Of course, the image is very far removed from the original lino but that is the idea of the swap.

The prints (both original and altered) will be exhibited in Brisbane at the Logan Regional Gallery and in Victoria at Firestation Gallery later this year.

'Sub-Tropical' - the final print.
Monotype and Lithograph Collage

Detail, you can see the horizontal lino stripes in the background.
They contrast against the vertical lines of the paper patterns.



Sunday, January 30, 2022

Playing around without expectations

My 2022 resolution is to play more in my studio without expectations (but still enjoy cake at least once a week!).  I want to work without outcomes, meaning that what I do in my arts practice is for myself rather than for a specific outcome driven by external requirements.  Like making work for an upcoming exhibition.  Why not just make work for the enjoyment of it?

A few weeks ago I participated in a workshop by a local artist as part of a gallery run public program.  A simple idea - just play with paint and drawing materials.  Just the usual materials - pastels, ink, watercolour, pens, paper, brushes.  Nothing special, no fancy self-made stick tools and homemade walnut ink but just an emphasis on PLAY.  Scary at first - what, no rules????  But then, yippee!  I couldn't quite unleash my inner 'Pollock' due to the carpet flooring and limited table space, but I got lost in the mark making anyway.

I went home with several large sheets of watercolour paper decorated.  I responded by de-constructing some of the sheets to make books.  They are only half-done, I consider what I have already done to be backgrounds and sometime when I feel the need just to play, perhaps on our upcoming caravan travels, I can take out a pen and get lost in the mark making again.  Just because it feels good.

Why not?


Banksia inspired,
working from memory, feeling
my way around the seductive cone shapes

scribbling, pushing, blobbing, blowing,
flowing

Back in my studio,
I folded and cut the large sheets up
to form a 'snake' concertina books


I glued some sections together to
form more of a codex book form


I then added covers made from box board
and mulberry paper - I love the feel
of a sturdy cover and the mulberry
paper is so lovely to pat.....
now they are ready to work into
when I'm ready.


Friday, December 10, 2021

Death Cleaning vs Finding the Joy

Hands up those of you with a paper stash!  Or perhaps its a fabric stash, or a book stash, or a leaf stash, or any kind of arty stash?  If you're like me, you can't bear to part with any of it, because you never know when you might need it, or you have a project in mind (or its been so long you can't remember what the project was?).

Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by the size and disorganisation of my stash.  Sometimes I know I have something but just can't find it, or can't get to that part of the cupboard due to the other stuff in the way.   I hate to admit how much stuff I have, but I know I'm not the only one, especially if you work across a variety of mediums and techniques.

So its time to tidy up, declutter, and refocus my art stash.

Have you read the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondō?  Its a great book with lots of fantastic ideas, with the underlying theme of going through your stash asking yourself if each item 'sparks joy'.  The problem is that a lot of my art stuff sparks joy!

Have you read "The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter" by Margareta Magnusson?   Don't leave your stash for someone else to deal with.  Deal with it now!  I like that idea.  I'm going to have to deal with it someday, so I might as well do it now whilst I am physically able to do it.

So I have undertaken to do a mini-destash and reorganisation every week, when I feel like it or when something in my art room really annoys me.  I've also been keeping the cardboard boxes from our parcel deliveries as a motivator - get a box and fill it up, then off to the charity shop or sell online.  Something comes in, something goes out.

And here is something I'm proud of, a reorganisation of my papers into colours.  A simple sort through so I can find what I'm looking for.  And I've used a lot of old prints for cards, rather than buy them from someone else.  I'm feeling lighter already!


Papers and old prints sorted into colours
and treatments (eg rusted, eco-dyed).
Labels made with a handheld
label machine.  Very satisfying!

Red, oranges and yellows

Transparents and neutrals



Sunday, October 31, 2021

Artist Residency at Canaipa

I was recently invited to participate in a group artist residency for the Canaipa Mudlines Art + Environment program, facilitated by artist Sharon Jewell.  14 artists from the Moreton Bay islands and South-East Queensland came together for a week to respond to a special wetlands area on Russell Island (Canaipa) called Turtle Swamp.  Russell Island is located a ferry ride away from bayside Brisbane, sheltered within Moreton Bay by North Stradbroke Island.  Like a lot of the islands in the area, it has a lot of human residents as well as a healthy population of Bush Stone-curlews.

There were two major components to the residency - a 24 hour studio exhibition of small works and a public walk-through of ephemeral responses created onsite at the Turtle Swamp wetlands and forest.  Its a coastal wetland, with plenty of casuarinas, grass trees and forest gums.  There were also quite a few ticks and sandflies, which luckily I managed to mostly avoid.

On her blog, Sharon has written some beautiful words about the residency with photographs of most of the forest artworks as well - click  HERE to view her blog post.

Below are photos and narratives of my residency experiences:


Before the artwork...

After...."Funeral Bouquet",
acknowledging the violence that tore
the tree in two.
Found plant material wedged between
bark and trunk.

"Funeral Bouquet"


Installation of my work "Letting go"
Text on kozo paper,
installed on Casuarina branches.
I wrote this poem a couple of months ago
as a self-reflection on the busy-ness of my life.
Bringing it into the forest seemed to be
the right response to complete the work
in a physical sense.


letting go

of waiting 

of future me - broken, bent
body
mind
of defects with no warranty.

letting go
of dependency
of independency -
I am not my mother.
Or am I?

letting go exhale
of impenetrable processes 
thoughts
excuses
of a body growing in all directions.

letting go
of opening 
openness
of caveats.

letting go
of empty-bellied mind shafts
dank
dark
of knowing
touching not knowing.

letting go
of myself, then.
letting go
of you, tomorrow. exhale

inhale finding 

finding the lightness
counting the spools of golden thread 
of living in a collage
without the sharpness of straight lines.


Here I am reading the poem next to my installation
at the public walk-through of the forest.
It was my first poetry performance.

This work is titled "SOS from the forest".
Gouache on wood and Casuarina seedpods.

Banksia Artist Book.
Handmade paper, banksia leaves and thread.
Sometimes the leaves are more beautiful than any
replication via print or drawing.

Here I am playing with rubbing paper on trees,
and doing a bit of tree-hugging at the same time!
The residency allowed me the time and space to play within
art practice within a forest setting. So good!



Thursday, September 23, 2021

Advice from a Dung Beetle - a new Artist Book

I'm continuing on my pledge to reduce my stash of paper and reject prints (as seen in my previous posts).

My latest artist book was inspired by a 2019 BioBlitz that I was selected to participate at as a creative researcher. This is where I met Entomologists who were studying dung beetles.  Previously I only thought dung beetles existed in Africa (I saw it on TV once) but I soon learnt that Australia has its own native dung beetles, and they are so fascinating!

Dr Kathy Ebert (an Entomologist) working in the lab
analysing beetles collected in the field studies


Out in the rainforest with the Entomologists.
It was a bit wet, lots of leeches, but
I'm still smiling!

Here I am drawing insects collected, using
a magnifying lamp to see the detail.

The artist book I have made is titled "Advice from a Dung Beetle".  The idea started with a poem that I wrote and a lithographic drawing of a dung beetle based on some sketches I did at the BioBlitz.

The design for the book started with an online video tutorial by Helen Hiebert.  Its a simple design for a tunnel effect in a concertina format.   The idea of the book is that you have to look through the layers of foliage to see the dung beetle, with the poem narrating the activities and life cycle of the beetle.

Here is the poem:




















This is the mockup design based on
Helen Hiebert's tutorial

The closed book - the cover is a piece of
thick handmade botanical paper, with a scrap print
on the front (featuring a gelatine print with lithograph beetle print).
The slip band is a piece of kraft card with a gelatine print
fragment and digital text.
The book is approx A6 size, so produces an
intimate viewing experience.

Looking through the book.  The imagery features leaves,
and has been created using gelatine prints, drawing and painting.
The cuts out give peep holes into the layers beyond,
like layers of leaves on the forest floor.

A view of the book in its entirety.  There is a dung beetle
print on the inside of the back cover that can't be
seen in this view.

Another view looking down the 'tunnel',
the view getting narrower as you look
through the book.
I love the layering of colours,
the greens and the blues.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Buzz of Bees - a new Artist Book

I'm continuing on my pledge to reduce my stash of reject prints (as seen in my previous posts).

My latest artist book was inspired by my love of pollinators and native bees.  A couple of years ago during experiments with polyester plate lithography, I created a bee drawing using crayon onto a litho plate.  I wasn't real happy with the image, so I printed off a few test prints and never used them.  Hence they ended up in my stash.

Recently I was re-introduced to a Winged Book structure.  I remembered that a few years ago I had made a model based on instructions from Alisa Golden's wonderful book 'Making Handmade Books'.  

So began the idea of my 'The Buzz of Bees' artist book.  As well as prints, the book features a short piece of my writing 'The buzz of bees is the melody of the garden'.  I wanted a positive message in my book, perhaps to offset all the negativity of recent world events.  I used traditional letraset, the action of rubbing on the text is a cathartic experience as well as justifying my growing stash of letraset templates....!

Below are some photographs of the completed book and a discussion of my thought processes.  Enjoy!


The model book I had made.  Very useful
to refer to when making my artist books.

'The Buzz of Bees' closed
with slip-band

The book open.
There are 2 panels of bee prints and the
hexagon patterns were made using
hexagon stencils and gelatine monoprinting.
Simple repetitive printing, and I used a paper mask so I didn't
print over the bee images.

I think that the 3D geometric structure of the concertina with the 'wings'
describes the movement of the bee in and out of the hive.
You can almost here the buzz in the air as the bees go about
their daily routines.

The concertina is made up of square papers, joined at
the 'wings'.  The difference between the model and my book is
that I didn't fold down the top  of each square. The bottom
is folded up, with the reverse side showing, that's where the text is.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sketching Banksias into life

Banksias are a favourite native plant amongst many Australian artists.  Their amazing shapes, colours and textures inspires a lot of obsessional art making!

As well as discovering Banksias in the bushlands where I walk and ride, I grow them in my garden.  I love how their sculptural forms rise majestically above the other plants.  They command the attention of the various honeyeaters as well as the human-sort of visitors to my garden.

Banksia flowering on one of my walks.

The lines of yellow 
remind me of the segments of an orange.

And when the colourful show is over,
the pods remain.

One of my interpretations.  This is a snapshot from a concertina
artist book on Parchment paper, the watercolours I used on the paper
shine brightly like the banksias in flower.


Another Banksia artist book, this time on Kraft paper
using muted colours in my favourite combination
of blue and brown.


Another artist book, this time I played
with more intense colours,
and brought out some textures with
waxy pencils.  This one is also
on kraft paper.