Painting workshop


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Last weekend I indulged in a painting workshop aimed at exploring space and colour. I’ve been wanting to un-tether myself from drawing things you can recognise because I love colour and abstract work but haven’t been able to make the leap.

Well, I made the leap...I can now paint stuff which is totally unrecognisable. And some a four-year-old could do. At last...

The trick? Hunt for paints before a workshop and discover the forgotten heaps and heaps donated to you by kids who have left home.

Also search for paint brushes and discover a good fistfull including some voluptuously wide ones you didn’t know were there, also donated by the aforementioned kids.

Find cheap canvases likewise as per above ditto.

Lay everything out on the workshop table and when your teacher suggests you do a self-portrait, i.e. a representation of you and what you like etc, grab the widest brush and whack colourful paints on like mad.



At your teacher’s suggestion, ladle runny gesso (white base paint) onto another canvas then “make marks” in it with black paint. Swirl it around like fingerpaints.

Make lots of paintings but not for the end result, make them for the experience of being un-tethered.

Lay your work out at the end of the weekend and watch as people try to find something poitive to say about it. You sympathise. Prolific. Colourful. That one is a successful painting (the black and white finger-painting painting).



They can’t know that just using a voluptuously wide paintbrush instead of one with about sixteen hairs, THAT has been the success.

Now to make enough space in the house to lay everything out here and go nuts with colour!

My only disappointment with the workshop...the teacher suggested drawing over old paintings and leaving a bit of them showing through here and there so it looks like layers of meaning. I was cut. You mean, people only make it LOOK like there are layers of meaning? I assumed the layers we find in artworks are real for the artist...even if each of us finds our own interpretation. Is this just a trick used by artists in this young culture without its own depths, or just used by artists who paint to make decorative works rather than to say something, or maybe just taught by this teacher??

Food for thought.


Going bush

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“Going bush” in Australia means going away from cities. Just so you know. There won’t necessarily be a lot of bush when you go bush. In fact, there may not be any bushes at all. There are, however, bushes in “the” bush but you don’t “go to” “the” bush. However, you may be found going “into” the bush. What you’re doing in there I’m not even going to guess.

Early November is Jacaranda season...a tree with feathery leaves after a shower of lavender-blue flowers. They are beautiful...ragged domes of purple amongst the ragged domes of green treetops as you look across the landscapes and cityscapes. Very occasionally you’ll catch them sidling up spectacularly beside the brilliant red/orange flame tree. It is also final exam time. Seeing Jacarandas makes many a person feel a strange and inexplicable guilt that they haven’t done nearly enough...



Last week at this time I was driving home from visiting friends on their property out of Manilla, a town in the Tamworth region of New South Wales. To get to Manilla from here, you first drive through eucalyptus bush on either side of the freeway, then wend your way through lower Hunter Valley winegrowing country, then Scone horsebreeding country, then Tamworth country music festival country.

Tamworth has a really Big Golden Guitar. Australia has quite a few Big Things. Goulburn sports a Big Merino ram in whose abdomen one can find tourist information...a modern twist on reading entrails. If you drive far enough you can find a Big Potato, a Big Lobster, a Big Bottle (wine), a Big Banana, and even a Big Earthworm. Kind of adds up to a Big Picnic. And then just to show we may be upside down but we’re not backward, we have a Big DNA.

Although much of Australia is still in drought, there has been rain in that particular region and I have never ever seen it so green. It was beautiful, if strange. I felt a bit guilty for loving it that way.

Country towns have notoriously wide streets here, originally to allow room for bullock teams to turn around. Parking must have been a nightmare...imagine trying to get under the parking station boomgate fast enough with 20 bullocks. No wonder they used whips.

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.....................................................................And home again.

Dog Beach

Sunday, overcast, parrots piping, Sydney, Australia



You wouldn’t think that a bright red head would be camouflage for a bird in the bush (or two birds in a bush; obviously it didn’t help the one in the hand) but King Parrots blend wonderfully. They just look like that occasional red leaf. Apparently the red in the odd red leaf comes from a special form of chlorophyll that plants make when stressed, and it has some purpose, or so the parents of a girl studying it in New Zealand told me about 8 years ago, so I could have it all wrong. But it does make you wonder what pressures a stressed leaf finds itself under.



Of course, there’s stress around at the moment with the current financial crisis. I’ve been thinking about that.
The way I see it, money has value because we decide it has value. Oh no, somebody will always say, it represents gold locked away somewhere. Sure, but gold has value because we decide it has value. I mean, what good is it doing sitting locked away somewhere? Our most valuable stuff is hidden away in vaults so you can’t even use it as a paperweight.
Shares have value because we want them, or we don’t want them, or may or may not want them at some time in the future. Again, the value is totally man-made, and is based on us wanting stuff or thinking we may want stuff. We name this game “market forces” and “supply and demand” so that we’re convinced it’s a law of nature, but isn’t this sounding a bit nutty?
Speaking of which, now the government (OK, I can’t remember which one but stay with me for a minute) is worried that people will be putting the financial support it is handing out in this time of crisis into savings and paying off mortgages and record debt instead of spending it in retail outlets so they don’t have it any more...

Anyway...if stuff has value because we think it has and has lost value because we think it has, why don’t we just all get together and think that it’s worth whatever it takes so the crisis is over? Done. Fixed.

I guess one good thing, though, is that if values get low enough, gold can finally start earning its keep as paperweights.

I took my dog to the dog beach. It’s a great place; dogs never fight because they all know the rules of doggy etiquette.
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Along the way there, it’s that time of year when the quite busy road to the ocean is fringed with dazzling yellow daisies. I believe that they’re capeweed, and come originally from South Africa and are dangerous to cattle. See how a little education can ruin perfectly good daisies? Besides which, if I were a cow, I think it would be smart to be more worried about the cars.