Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

“The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and dance and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” 

Neil Gaiman

It seems fitting to finish my Thursday Thoughts with art.  Although books would also have been apt! My life has been so enriched since we were able to change our life and our way of being to bring art into our daily lives and as a way of living.

Not necessarily a way of making a living, but a way of making a life.

I was meandering through my many quotes, wondering which one would be right, and I figured it was this one when I unintentionally smiled at the thought about walking down the street naked - I got it!

For somebody who makes the sort of work I do; it is always encouraging to hear that you can only be true to yourself. That you can't try to be anybody else, and in fact, if the niche you fit into is only this tiny wee speck on the spectrum of all the art in the world, then that's OK. Because you are you and your art is your art.

I empathised with the notion of just possibly feeling as if you are walking down the street naked...when I began blogging I felt as if I was totally exposing myself; even tho I never was.  And certainly when I stand in front of a bunch people at the opening of an exhibition in which I feature, I feel that whole thing all over again. I feel as if the works I have poured my heart into over months are now up for assessment, and that the real me is somehow on show as well.  All crazy talk in your head, but it feels real at the time!

It's all you can do in the end I think - keep making your work. Because it sustains you, it nurtures you and the world needs things of beauty and thoughtful things.


Thanks for the comments on my thoughts over the years. I know I shall miss them in a way, and may well begin again, but for now a little quiet. Go well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Words of hope

My heart aches for so many people around the world these days. So many tragedies, so much conflict, so much just doing it tough with illness, life and living.

So quite unexpectedly I just sat down in my studio over the weekend and wrote words of hope.  I tore up some paper, got out some balsa wood, grabbed some colourful and smile-inducing acrylic inks and made marks on paper.

Then I selected some positive words and wrote them out.

I ended up doing a few sets of words. These are the words sets, and I made three bundles of each set of words.

1. Trust, Dream, Believe
2. Wish, Wonder, Love
3. Begin, Shine, Delight
4. Dance, Create, Inspire





It just seems to me that we need more words, more thoughts, more deeds of hope and good intention now than we ever have before.

I wrapped each set in beautiful Habu thread, and slipped them into glassine envelopes.  They sit, poised to head out into the world, to let people know they are cared for and thought of. To let people know we wish them hope and wonder and the chance to dream and believe.

Please let me know if you know of somebody who you think could use a set. Just email me.

Go well.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grabbing some moments

There have been moments to be had in the studio in the past few days so I have been over there doing this and that and a few other things.

I managed to complete my wall piece for the Celebration of Books - I got a matt cut for the centre, I attached the pages to the matts and today I added cardboard backing to them and so they really truly are ready to hang when I need to.
Tick.



The planned layout - altho of course it will be on the wall not the floor!


Barry helped me make two comb pens that I saw Brody Neuenschwander use in Melbourne and I have been playing with them a bit - some interesting things discovered!




We also made a beer-bottle cap pen and I played with that as well to see what it would do.


I have also progressed my flags for peace and started chopping up pages for journals and written some words of hope, and I think I'll be able to share them all soon.  Lots of moments.

UPDATE: here are some images of the comb pens as requested. I used cheap plastic combs, sawn off, then attached to some 1.5cm conduit (the stuff electrical cabling goes through I think). We superglued them in place, and then I wrapped waxed linen thread through and around them to hold them firmly in place. Beyond that I don't have much advice about how to make one; very rudimentary; but possibly effective!




Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

"Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own". 

Mark Twain

One of my favourite notions about books ever.  This idea reflects exactly why I love making unbound books as artists' books. I love that folk can interact with them, tell or re-tell a story in their preferred manner. Change the ending if needs be.

I made a beautiful unbound book for a friend many years ago and wrote these words to accompany it:

"A few notes on your book, from the maker. 

I thought about the nature of the words and the work; and how they represented parts of, points in, your life; perhaps markers or moments of significance, small or large.  They formed a sort of story (never whole, never complete) and I wanted to be able to reflect that whilst moments make their mark, they do not have to dictate our life to us.

The book is not stitched, deliberately, to allow you to move the pages around, change the telling or the way you remember things.  Once a book is stitched, the sequence is set and the story gets told only in one direction.


I have also included some blank pages.  For me these could represent a number of things – the fact that there are more stories to be told and that life has not yet been fully lived; that there might be moments too difficult to face in writing; or that part of our life is about moments of nothingness when there is either a lovely empty time or stretches of time where nothing truly significant occurs. You are of course free to view them and use them as you wish".

©2012 Fiona Dempster - Jacaranda blossoms fall
This image matches the blog post only tangentially; the sense of life along a pathway, strewn with moments. Reflecting Jennifer and Julie's ongoing search for the rainbow...


I have been pondering on things of late and think I might have come to the end of my Thursday Thoughts. At least for a while. Next Thursday marks the fourth year of my Thursday ponderings which started here and I think it might be time to take a break.  I'll post on art next week, then go quiet. Not sure if anything will replace them; or when I will return to them, but I have enjoyed them as I've gone along...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Celebrating Books

I am taking part in the Maleny Celebration of Books again this year - a weekend where we celebrate all things bookish - books, writers, readers, ideas, films based on books and links between books and blogs and more.

I will actually be away for the weekend giving a paper at the Association of BookCrafts New Zealand's Inside Outside Conference and therefore not being all that active, but I will still take part by having some book-y artwork on display at the Library for  a few weeks.

I have spent a bit of time playing with words on old book pages...







The lettering looks bookish and gives a nod to Gutenberg and the first printed books.

As a group of smallish pieces I hope they make folk go up to them and have a read...and give the feeling that we celebrate books for all sorts of reasons!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Continuing on

Or pushing through. Or sticking at it. Or sitting down and doing it. Or some such.

I often find after I have been to a workshop that I unpack, put things back where they belong; tie all the paper up in a bundle and pop it in a drawer for future reference.

I know now that if I do that, I won't dive back into that drawer and spend time playing or pushing through with some practice, so this time I left some pages out. Set up a workstation and made sure I had all the things I needed, to keep on going. To keep working on the two pieces I had been fiddling with in Melbourne and to see if I could finish them. To see if I could keep applying the learnings, and consolidate them a bit.

I am so glad that I did!

This piece appeared irredeemable in Melbourne - I had created too much ugly white space; I had made the design centred, not off to the side...there were so many things wrong with it.  But like an abandoned puppy I kept being nice to it, found something to love about it and persisted.


Some details of the design and the writing.




I also finished this piece. With a few mis-steps along the way. I wrote out the line of red onto tracing paper; placed it where I wanted it and then started the proper writing at the right spot. But, my hand loosened up and my spacing between my letters widened and the line ended up longer than I wanted, and that meant it looked in the middle again and not off to the side! I was not happy with myself; but one thing I learned from Laurent is that it is always possible to do SOMETHING.


So after much pondering, I added two letters to the beginning of the line, and the two little diamonds and I think that brought it back into dynamic balance a bit.

More details.



I really felt that I was in the rhythm with these pieces, picking them up looking at a space that needed something. Doing  it. Leaving it alone for a bit. Moving onto the other piece, returning with fresh eyes and fresh thoughts.

In doing so, I kept hearing Laurent's' voice and his reminders and what I think are his mantras.  I kept applying them even!  In my own way...

What surprised me was that I have produced work well outside my normal range; yet with some sense of integrity and wholeness.

I have used walnut ink, sumo ink, red gouache and my ink and walnut ink rinse water for these pieces.  Would love to try some different colours next.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

'In the monastic tradition the desert is a sacred place of simultaneous being and nothingness'. 

 Nicole Kraus, Man walks into a room

This is a novel I read a while ago - the writing was beautiful and the subject difficult, and this understanding of the desert and empty spaces simply captured me.

I think I was reading it not long after we had flown over the Central Australian desert again, visited the rich red land around Alice Springs.  I have discovered or learned that I am captivated by nothingness, by emptiness...

I read these words, I say them softly out loud. I repeat them.

Somehow they capture the time and the place and the space where the desert is all about being - about pausing, being mindful of your existence, and considering your place in this vast landscape. Yet they understand perfectly that at the same time it is all about the nothingness, the emptiness, the void, in a way.

Perhaps it is the vastness and the emptiness of the landscape which enables you to focus on being. That somehow that stage or back drop allows you to focus on you and your part in it.

One of the things I feel in the desert is a real sense of wholeness, a sense that the emptiness, in fact, fills me up.


Red Desert - Central Australia.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A bit more from the workshop

My five days in a workshop with Laurent Pflughaupt were busy, full and fun.  He makes beautiful writing look so effortless, and my clumsy imitations were interesting to behold; but I learnt a lot about pen manipulation, movement and composition.

Here's how Laurent wrote a few As with a marker pen - effortlessly and stylishly.



My partner in crime Murray, who sat next to me, and I decided that our letters looked much better when we made them on a swirly background!  We figured they look interesting and you were distracted from the poor lettering by the gorgeousness of the overall look!



Laurent showed us show to make beer-bottle-cap pens which made some interesting marks as well.

I used mine to make the background marks in this wee postcard-sized composition.


We worked into wet ink a lot. This was an indigo colourant made from crystals, painted on and then using water to write with, we got some wonderful effects.


Hmmm my messy desk.


And probably my favourite piece by Laurent. Sigh.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Learning and learning...


I have spent the past five days at a workshop, with French calligrapher Laurent Pflughaupt. I really like Laurent's expressive work and his sense of design and composition.

It wasn't all that easy for me to do all the things he asked of us, but I still feel as if I have come away with a few gems and a bit more confidence to push some ideas along.

This is the entrance to our workshop room - beautiful lettering and an image of Laurent's work.


Some play with techniques and letter forms.






As ever, amongst a group of highly qualified , skilled and talented calligraphers I know myself not to be true calligrapher. I'm not precise or perfect enough, but I do use letters and words to express things.

I was happily surprised with where I got to with this piece. It started off in one direction and a bit washed out.


It ended upside down and far richer and stronger.



A detail of another piece I almost finished.


The theme was urban transformation and involved bold and vigorous marks and strokes and colours. Almost the opposite of my natural way of being, so there were lots of obstacles to overcome! 

The challenge is now to apply some of these learnings; adapt them, and make them my own. Should be a fascinating journey...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thursday Thoughts...

"What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has moral force. 

Ruskin was right, though for the wrong reasons, when he talked about art as a moral force. Art is not about good behaviour, when did you last see a miracle behave well? Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. 

We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory — which is quite different [from] history. Art asks that we remember who we are, and usually that asking has to come as provocation — which is why art breaks the rules and the taboos, and at the same time is a moral force." 

Jeanette Winterson

I find myself intrigued by the manner in which I keep returning to Ms Winterson's thoughts on art!  I think she writes of art with the soul of an artist and the words of a writer. In my humble view, she gets it.

She does such a beautiful job of expressing why art matters to us, and why we need to promote and protect it from all those who think that if you can't count it, it doesn't count.

But what these words also do for me, is they make me think about art in a way that I haven't been able to fully progress or explore or clarify for myself. Her argument around how art gets to act as a moral force is sublime. Sometimes I read her words and go - that's it! I totally agree; Id never known to think about it that way; but that's how I feel about it.

Isn't that a wonderful gift to give somebody - the opportunity to discover a truth they knew, but didn't know they knew?

I really, really like her progression from thinking differently, through seeing and hearing differently to acting differently - as she says, the transformative power of art.


I also return to Rosalie Gascoigne time and time again. Her art changed the way I saw the world and how I believed in myself.