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‘Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, Above us only sky . . . ‘ John Lennon.

John Lennon was right.  It is easy to imagine—once someone has already put the idea into your head . . .

I started a new course at Sketchbook Skool three weeks ago—‘Imagining‘.  A couple of days into it and I was already struggling.  What I long feared to be the case was actually proving to be true—I have no imagination.  Put something in front of me and I can draw it.  Give me a topic to research and I can write about it.  Put a picture in my head and I can see it.  But ask me to come up with something all of my own . . . that’s a whole other story . . .

I have always admired people with vivid imaginations.  People who can visualise something in their mind and reproduce it in the real world.  William Blake said, “What is now proved was once only imagined” and he was right.  All the books, music, movies, art, buildings, science, technology and medical advances we have today—all dreamt up first in someone’s imagination.  At only 16 years old Albert Einstein imagined himself riding alongside beam of light to “see” what the effects would be.  It’s just as well no-one was relying on me to come up with that notion . . .

Imagine a life without imagination though.  That’s not so easy, even for me.  What would it be like I wonder, to live without any trace of visual imagination?  To be unable to see daydreams. To be unable to conjure up the faces of your friends or family, or visualize scenes and characters in books you are reading?  I recently discovered that there are certain people for whom this is the norm.  These people have what is known as Aphantasia. They cannot—are physically unable—to summon up mental images—at all  It’s as if their mind’s eye is completely blind.  Mmmmm.  Perhaps I need to rethink my own self-diagnosis.

As you may have guessed I have never been an airy-fairy, day-dreaming, head-in-the-clouds kind of girl but perhaps that is because I have never really given myself the time or space (or permission) to be so.  Maybe I have spent too much time dealing with what is and not enough time thinking about the what could be.  I rarely just ‘play’ with my pencils and paints just for the fun of it (it seems a little bit wasteful when there was no end product in sight) and I don’t recall the last time I ever tried to write anything creative like a poem or a short story (possibly not since I was in school—way back in the dark ages.)  Perhaps imagination is like a muscle and if it doesn’t get exercised (like a number of my other bits I could name right now, but won’t) it gets flabby and discouraged and refuses to cooperate.  Sigh.

Okay then.  I have talked about it and thought about it and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be any kind of quick fix (and even I can’t convince myself I suffer from aphantasia—believe me, I’ve tried!) so I guess it is something I am just going to have to work at.  So I am going to go back into my SBS classroom now and hunker down and do some of the homework I have been studiously avoiding for the last couple of weeks.  (Draw a feeling?  How the hell do I draw a feeling? . . . )  

I have to start believing that somewhere deep (deep, deep) inside me there must be some little kernel of imagination that I can tap into and begin to draw out little by little.

Wish me luck . . .

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is too serious to be taken seriously.’ Ad Reinhardt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I really think I am going to rename these posts ‘Struggles with my Sketchbook‘  . . .

writers-block-cartoonOver the last couple of weeks I have had a very hard time getting anything down on the page.  It isn’t as if I haven’t tried—I have—but I just haven’t been making any headway.  I have spent more time sitting staring at my blank sketchbook pages than I care to admit and then getting cross with myself when I failed to produce anything.  I kept telling myself ‘I want to draw something’ —but obviously not enough to actually draw anything.  Sigh.

doldrumsThis isn’t the first time I have hit the doldrums when it comes to sketching and I daresay it won’t be the last.  (Sketching and I have a bit of a history.  See ‘As my artist’s statement explains. . . )  To this day I still can come up with all sorts of lame excuses why I can’t (shouldn’t, won’t) get any drawing done.  Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself now (and it’s about bloody time) to know I can also find answers to all these excuses too . . . 

There’s nothing to draw (the house is full of things to draw) . . . It’s raining (not inside the house it isn’t) . . . That new ink I ordered hasn’t come yet (so use a biro) . . . There are other things I should be doing instead (there will always other things to be doing instead) . . . 

inner-criticLike I said—lame.  Happily, it’s no longer all that easy to just walk away from it like I have done in the past.  And the truth, is I really don’t want to walk away.  I have loved getting back into sketching and drawing and meeting fellow enthusiasts online (although not so sure I should include myself as an ‘enthusiast’ at this moment in time).  Now I realise that this slump is more about my ‘inner critic’ giving me a hard time than it is about my sketching skills. I thought I was getting better at not worrying so much about the end result, but it turns out I’m really not.  I’m still worrying more about the outcome than I am about the process.
That’s something I really have to work on.

But I am determined my inner critic is not going to get the better of me this time.  Last week I decided if I was going to constantly berate myself about the quality of my sketches I was going to have to go back to basics and learn some fundamentals, so I signed on to an online ‘Foundations’ course with Liz Steel.  Liz is a Sydney-based sketchbook artist (and an architect in a previous life) who was also one of my previous teachers at Sketchbook Skool.  Coming from an architectural background rather than an artistic one, Liz has a very analytical approach to sketching which immediately attracted me.  (And, bonus, this particular course is self-directed, which means I can progress through it in my own time, with no pressure to upload weekly homework assignments.  Yay!)

spatterI had a look at the first lesson this weekend.  It was all about getting to know your materials, deciding what you you were comfortable with, what you liked using, and what you didn’t like using.  I spent a happy couple of days (with the stereo turned up loud)  ‘playing’ with my watercolour paints and pencils, mixing colours and textures and generally making an all around mess. (I have decided I am still much more comfortable with my watercolour pencils than with watercolour paints and that I really, really like sketching with my fountain pen. Who knew?)  And, guess what?  I had fun.

There was no ‘assignment’ as such.  But there was a ‘prompt’.  Do a sketch of alI the materials I would like to include in my ‘field kit’.  Mmmmmm.  I think Liz’s idea of a field kit and mine might be slight different.

Below is a sketch of the only bag at home that I found that was large enough to carry everything I decided I might need for a sketching foray out into the big wide world.  I’m thinking this might be something else I might have to work on . . .

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Please kindly go away, I’m introverting.’ Beth Buelow.

grasshopperThe tutor in my online art class this week was ‘artist / writer / naturalist’ Cathy Johnson.  Before I had even read anything about her, or seen any of her work, my first thought was ‘Oh Oh.  Naturalist.  Does this mean I have to take my sketchbook out-of-doors again this week . . . because I am still not really comfortable with that.  At all . . . ‘

bighatSo I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first part of Cathy’s video class was all about how she, a self-confessed-dyed-in-the-wool introvert, handles going out and about in the big wide world to do her sketching and painting.  (She wears big hats and sunglasses, uses earbuds so people will think she is listening to music or a podcast, and positions herself in corners or with her back to a wall so that ‘no-one can sneak up behind me’ . . . )

At first I shook my head at her suggestions as it all seemed a bit silly but then, quite unexpectedly, I caught myself seriously considering whether that old hat I bought at the markets years ago would be big enough for me to hide under . . . and, you know . . . I’ve got some big sunglasses . . . if I wore that hat and those sunnies . . . and kept away from the main walking paths . . . then maybe I could go out and about with the sketchbook and no-one would bother me or even know who I was and . . .

OMGOh.My.God!  Hi.  My name is Sally, and I think I am an INTROVERT!

Gasp.  No, I must be mistaken.  I have never, ever thought of myself as an introvert.  I like my personal space, that’s all.  And, sure I’m not really a party person, or into the pubs and clubs scene . . . and I don’t like to be in the cinema when it gets too crowded  . . . or sketching where anyone can see me.  And some weekends I wouldn’t bother to go out at all if the dogs didn’t need walking.  Okay.  I can see where this is going.  Perhaps this does merit further investigation.

The dictionary defines an introvert as ‘a shy, reticent person’.  Pfffttt.   Well, I am not in any way shape or form ‘a shy, reticent person’ so there has to be more to it than that. Time to do some extensive research on the subject (i.e. ‘google’ it).

introverts-unite-mens-premium-t-shirtThe terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ were originally used by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s to explain the different attitudes people use to direct their energy.  Extroverts were generally determined as being outgoing, having a wide range of friends and being comfortable working and playing in large groups. Introverts were seen more often as reflective, preferring to know a few people well, comfortable being alone and liking to do activities they can do on their own.

Well, I guess when you put it like that . . .

But I am not just going to take Jung’s word for it.  There are loads of on-line personality tests out there. Let’s shake it up a bit and see what they think.

The Quiet Revolution indicated I was definitely an introvert. Okay.  Let’s try that again.  Lifehack. Different questions, same result.  Introvert.   Mmmmm.  One last time. The Psychologies test stated I was a ‘public extrovert but a private introvert’.  (I do believe that is what is what is called ‘hedging your bets’.) 

So there you go.  Introvert.  (Not even an ambivert, which, considering I had never even heard that term before today, is no great loss anyway.)

Fire-Escape-Plan-Fire-Chiefs-of-OntarioBut seriously—although I have never associated myself with the word ‘introvert’, I can’t say I am all that surprised at the personality test outcomes.  I have always needed to spend a lot of time on my own.  My social energy definitely has an expiry date and I often spend an inordinate amount of time deciding whether I want to go out somewhere or not.  And then, more than likely, I won’t go.  (And if I do go, I usually have an ‘escape plan’ already in place . . .)

And it seems I am in good company.  Depending on where you get your information (i.e. which google search you believe) about 25% of the world’s population are introverts . . . or maybe it’s closer to 50% . . . or (my favourite)  ‘a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.’ (Gallagher, 1990; Hoehn & Birely. 1988.)

So now that I know, and (grudgingly) accept, that I am (probably) an introvert (at least that sounds better than ‘socially retarded’) what difference does it make?  None at all really.  I’m pretty happy being who I am and doing things the way I do them and I have no plans to make any drastic changes.

grouchoExcept maybe I will take some of Cathy Johnson’s advice.   A rummage around the house for a quick ‘disguise’ and I might just go and find myself a quiet corner out in the world (preferably with a brick wall behind me) and try a little outdoor sketching.

It could be the start of an all new (quiet) adventure . . .

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.’ Paul Klee.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

sunshineWe’ve just had the most stunning winter weekend.  The sun shone, the skies were a cloudless blue and the temperature went up to about 23 degrees (73F) both days.  I had all the doors and windows open hoping to lure some of the warmer air into the house.  (It’s freezing in the house—long sleeves and woolly socks inside, short sleeves and no socks outside.  Crazy.) The girls and I went for a long walks in the sunshine both morning and evening and it really felt like Spring was on the way.

(It isn’t of course—not quite yet.  The weather bureau tells us that we are expecting rain later today and the temperature is also set to drop 10 degrees, so this was just a short burst of winter warmth trying to lull us into a false sense of security. )

CafeThe weather was so nice I decided to take myself out of doors to do some sketching. This is not something I am entirely (or even at all) comfortable with.  I think I have said before that although I don’t mind walking in it (the outdoors I mean)—in fact I quite like it—my ideal outdoor experience is preferably an alfresco coffee shop, under an umbrella, in the shade, with a ‘Plan B’ to go inside if it gets too hot . . . or too cold . . . or there are too many flies . . .

watching-youI am also not at all comfortable with people watching me draw—even if they are not really watching me at all (which in truth they rarely are—it just feels like they are).  When I see fabulous drawings from artists who have sketched inside coffee shops or concert halls or at public events I always think how great it would be to do the same, but I just haven’t been able to work myself up to it.  (Yet.)  I need to get over myself.

So I decided I would start small, and packed up my sketchbook and a couple of pens and pencils and went in search of something to sketch.  I found myself a quiet corner of the local park where no one could see me (which was a feat in itself as there were people everywhere) and did a couple of quick sketches of some of the plant life I found lying around. I know I could just as easily have taken these bits and pieces home with me to draw, but I didn’t (one small step for man, or at least Sally . . . ) so it was definitely a ‘step’ in the right direction and I eventually came home quite puffed up and pleased with myself at my little outing.

And then I walked in the front door to be confronted my three cranky little dogs who did not care one whit that I had just had a bit of a sketching breakthrough but were very keen to let me know that going to the park without them was really not something they were willing to tolerate on a regular basis.  Sigh.

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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I’m interested in everything but passionate about nothing.’ Jeanne Calment.

worldThis week my Blog Stats told me that people had logged into my site, not only from within Australia, but also from England, the USA, Canada, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, Spain, France, Germany, Ecuador and the Ukraine. While I realise that it is entirely possible that the majority of these people were actually looking for something, or someone, else and just happened to land on my blog by accident (although the log-in from Spain could well have been my sister as she was on holiday there last week) it still kind of blows my mind that any of these people in these far-flung countries could find me at all.

When I started writing this last year I barely knew what a blog was. (Seriously. I am computer literate in many aspects, but totally naive in others.)   I had no expectations of what I was going to be doing with it.  I really just thought of it as a fun idea that I could ‘play’ with for a while.  It would, hopefully, provide some small amusement for my family and friends, and when I ran out of things to say (which, by the way, could be any day now) I could ‘shut up shop’ and no one would really care one way or the other.  No harm, no foul.  I don’t think I ever really considered that I might be getting visits from people I didn’t know and had never met, or that any of these people would be the slightest bit interested in anything I had to say.  So, as lovely and surprising as it is to have these new friends, it’s also a little bit unnerving too . . . and it made me stop and think . . .

feeling pressureDoes this mean that I am going to have to become more ‘serious’ about this blogging-thing now?  (But where’s the fun in that?)  Am I going to have to ‘lift my game’?  (Where would I even start?)

Should I be writing more than once a week?  (Oh please God—No.)  Should I be concentrating on just one theme, instead of just blithely blathering on about anything that pops into my head that week?

Should I be spending more time reading those ‘How To’ sites?  You know the ones—How to write good blog (for dummies) . . .  How to write a better blog . . .  How to write a blog people will want to read . . .  etc etc.

No Pressure.

No Pressure.

Well—No.  I’m going to have to stop right there. That’s where I am going to have to draw the line.  I am sure that most of the ‘How To’ blogs are only trying to help, but I swear, if I read just one more that says ‘unless you have an undying passion for everything you do you might as well give up now and stop wasting everybody’s time‘ — I might just have to poke somebody in the eye.  (I am not quite sure how I would actually poke someone in the eye online but I’d give it a go.)

 Pas·sion: strong and barely controllable emotion.

It seems to me that we are constantly being told that we need to be ‘passionate’ about everything we do—our work, our writing, our singing, our art, our whatever . . . and if you are passionate about any (or all) of those things—that’s great.  I think that’s fabulous.  You rock.  But I just don’t seem to be built that way . . .

writers-block-cartoonI am enjoying writing this blog (most of the time) and when it feels like something I am writing is coming together (and making a modicum of sense) it is all very satisfying.  But do I have ‘strong and barely controllable’ feelings that send me hurtling towards my keyboard to get it all written down and out into the ether? No.  (I would love that to be the case but in truth I seem to spend most of my time wondering what the hell I am going to write about next.)  So, passionate?  Not really.

teaI am having a ball with my art classes and my renewed interest in sketching, and loving trying out new techniques and art materials—but do I wake up every day and feel a desperate all-encompassing need to get to my sketchbook and start sketching my dogs even before I’ve had my first cup of tea.  Nope.  (Cuddling the dogs, yes.  Sketching them—not so much.)

Cover_DBDoes this then mean that if I only enjoy these things but am not passionate about them I shouldn’t bother to do them at all?  That I shouldn’t share my thoughts, or opinions or insights on them?  Am I completely wasting my time? Or your time?  I don’t think so.  At least I hope not.  I am pretty sure that the blogosphere is laden with people who are passionate about their lives, their families, their pets (okay—I guess you could add me into that category), their sports, their knitting . . . . and I am equally sure there are as many out there who are interested in so many things they don’t know where to look first.  And it’s all good.  Who is to say that one is better, or more interesting, than the other?  Vive la différence!

winking dogSo, to all the lovely people who have been visiting my blog, old friends and new, ‘Welcome’.  It’s lovely to see you and to see you keep coming back, but be warnedwhat you see is what you get. Things aren’t likely to change here very much, at least in the near future (short of some life-changing epiphany).   I hope my writing will improve with time, but as my thoughts and interests seem to become even more random with each passing year, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for any kind of constant theme (although there will, of course, be more dog stories . . . )

I may not be passionate, but I plan to stay interested.  I hope you do too.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.’ Alfred Hitchcock.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . . 

Plaza 1The Plaza Theatre (Laurieton) was originally built in 1959—the same year I was born—so it really can’t be a coincidence that it happens to be one of my very favourite places to spend my time.

It’s not one of those huge monstrous cinemas that hold thousands of people, with screens so huge you have to sit in the very back row just to see the whole picture (and bad luck if you get stuck in the front row as you will come away with a severely stiff neck from having to ‘scroll’ your head back and forth and up and down the screen to try and see everything).

Plaza 2Our little cinema is much cooler than that.  It has only one main screen in the ‘Auditorium’ and one smaller screen in the ‘Deluxe Cine Lounge’, but the whole place is seriously fabulous—all red velvet curtains and gold brocade tassells, art deco statues and lights and old fashioned framed movie posters on the walls.  It’s  a step back to a more luxurious and decadent time.  (It’s not old fashioned enough that you can’t still get all your modern day yummies at the Candy Bar—but just enough so that bad behaviour will not be tolerated.  Woebetide anyone caught putting their feet up on the seat in front—David will be after you with a big stick . . .)

Plaza Theatre, Laurieton

Cake it might be for Hitchcock,
but for me the cinema is more of an ‘extra large flat white coffee and a box of maltesers . . . ‘

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘One of the worst mistakes you can make as a gardener is to think you’re in charge.’ Janet Gillespie.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . . 

grim reaperThinking I was in charge of my own garden was a mistake I made very early on—but I was immediately (and thoroughly) put in my place when all the lovely new plants I planted died a horrible shrieking death almost as soon as I put them in the ground.  (Well, judging by their remains it surely looked like their death had been painful.)

proud plantI had done everything right.  I had checked whether they were the right sort of plant for the area, and whether for sun or shade.  I was planting them at the right time of year.  I watered them as I instructed.  To this day I have no idea what I did wrong.  I tried again. This time with different plants, in different aspects.  Same result.  Sigh.  (Weeds—now those I can grow—in abundance.)  It was mystifying—especially as I have always been able to grow really healthy indoor plants.  (These I have to watch like a hawk as they have become so prolific as to threaten to engulf the house.)

succulent1And then one day I discovered a group of plants which seemed almost unkillable (by me, or anything else).  Succulents.  Hairy, furry, smooth, bumpy, green, brown, yellow, multi-coloured succulents.  Fabulous.  And, over a period of time, and a little trial and error, my succulents and I have now come to a tentative alliance.

lookAs long as I don’t break the rulesit’s all good.  I plant them each in a lovely new pot, place them in out in the garden in cheerful little groups of like-minded friends—and promise to never, ever go near them or touch them again—and they thrive. Garden sorted.

So, as promised in my last post, I have decided to add here a quick drawing from my sketchbook of some of the succulents in my garden.  (And, just to be clear, the pots are actually standing on a garden of bark chips (not just a patch of concrete)—but I have no idea how to draw bark chips so I just pretended it wasn’t there.  I also ignored the rest of the garden—the back fence, the Hills Hoist, the three madcap dogs chasing each other in and around the pots—and anything else that was too hard.  I think that’s called ‘artistic licence’ . . . )

succulents

‘My rule of green thumb for mulch is to double my initial estimate of bags needed, and add three.
Then I’ll only be two bags short.’

Author Unknown

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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