Time to stop and prune the roses

My original intention was to write a post with a very different tone. I was halfway through it when I was called away. That gave me time to reflect on what, and how, I had been thinking. The original was to be of the ‘poor me’ type, the ‘give me a break’ type. I had even written an opening disclaimer telling you to flee without reading more!

As you know my Fella, aka Terry, and my Mum, aka Mum, have been in hospital. Mum’s discharge date was put back a number of times. I was the sibling to pick her up, so my plans had to change as well. (Fingers crossed that she is on her way home as I write.) Then, the other night Terry woke me as he needed to go to Emergency ~ thankfully not heart issues, the reason for his earlier hospital stay, but a very badly infected toe.

I fully expected them to dress the wound, give him antibiotics and send him home…..but no. He has been admitted while they investigate the circulation in his feet and legs. It was that news that made me start the original post.

You see, I like to be in control of my time, I like to be organised. While I am content to make Terry and Mum my priorities I get frustrated. Both are within the Hospital System which has to work at its own pace, with the best interest of the patients in mind. So with each visit there will be different news, or maybe no definite news, leading to changes of plans. And my plans have to change too.

While I was walking home from yet another hospital visit (different ward, different view!) I suddenly thought “I have no control over this, let’s just roll with it.” There’s a quote along the lines of Life happens while you are busy making other plans. Life can just do its own thing and I will give up trying to wrest it into my shape for a little while.

However, there is a collorary thought ~ make the most of the pockets of time.

That brings me to the roses of the title of the post. I had a pocket of time when I came back from the hospital, and the roses were calling, as August is almost too late to prune them in Melbourne. I could have mooched around, pretending to tidy up, or I could have blobbed on the couch. Neither would have given me back a little bit of control. So I grabbed the secateurs and braved the garden.

Now I have to warn you that while I have done nothing in the garden for at least 6 weeks, the plants, especially the weeds have been very busy. The following photos show the garden warts weeds and all. You may have some fun identifying many of the different weed species!

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I am being positive, enjoying the contrast of the silver succulent with the green weeds!

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So, one rose bush before pruning.

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And after. That’s better.

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Hidden between the mallows and the winter grass and the nettles are some treasures, doing their own thing. Some are a little munched around the edges, but look how many flowers are on the blue berry bush! (That’s the last photo.) You can also tell that I have recently discovered the ‘selective focus’ function on my phone camera. It blurs the backgrounds, making the weeds look rather attractive, as though I grow them specially to be background plants!

Yesterday I grabbed another pocket of time and went up to Kyneton to see my exhibition for the first time. I was so proud to see my work hanging there! I will write a post and show you photos. However, if you can’t wait, make sure you are on my newsletter list, as I will be showing off there very soon. To add your name, click here. (No spammy stuff, I promise.)

Reflecting on July

I like to do a reflection at the end of each month, thinking about what I have achieved. Most months there are about 8 to 10 things that I look back on as worth celebrating. In July I had 3:

  • I helped see the Fella through a difficult time in hospital, so that now he is well and getting on with things.
  • I helped my Mum recuperate from her pneumonia. She is now in rehab, and while frail, is much better within herself.
  • I got ready for my first solo exhibition.

So, only three, but what mighty big achievements they were! No wonder there has been little time for anything else. And no wonder I am well over hospitals.

The other day I took my paintings up to the Old Auction House in Kyneton. There are 20 of works, all trees in some form. You know of my fascination, some may say obsession, with trees. This is some of them laid out, ready to be packed up for travel. (The orange labels are my cataloguing process, and are removable.)

Tree paintings

A selection of some of the individual trees.

and the Tangled Trees series ~ watercolour and then embellished with machine sewing.

Then there are some others.

I thought you might like to read my statement that will hang with the paintings.

Trees have always been a part of me. My grandfather worked in the forests of the Dandenong Ranges and Dad took us camping in the bush, off the beaten track. I remember learning the word ‘silhouette’ when Mum pointed out the shapes of the trees outlined against the sunset.

It was during an artist in residence at Mountain Seas Resort on Flinders Island that I first noticed the shapes of the melaleucas and their wonderfully twisted trunks. I was further inspired by a trip across the Nullarbor Plain, where the trees glistened and swayed. A recent artist in residence at Police Point in Portsea, organised by the Mornington Peninsula Shire, opened my eyes to the coastal moonah habitat. 

It is the shapes and rhythms of the canopies and the twisted branches and trunks that inspire me. I have explored them with many different media ~ watercolours, oil pastels, ink, sometimes embellishing the watercolours with machine sewing. I have created tapestries of trees and landscapes. 

In this exhibition there are individual trees and dense, tangled thickets of trees. No matter what the medium with each work I want to capture the feeling of air moving through the branches and then contrast the twisted trunks. There is a joyous freedom in exploring these ideas.

As well, each piece is a reminder of precious, fragile habitats that need us to treasure and protect.

The details of the exhibition:

8th August to 2nd September

The Old Auction House 

Mollison St

Kyneton, Victoria

 

So July has gone and August has many things to look forward too, especially being able to take Mum to Kyneton to see my work hanging. What are you looking forward to?

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A solo exhibition!

Well, in between getting the Fella home from hospital (he is doing very well; thank you for your positive thoughts) and my Mum going into hospital (she is also doing well, but still in hospital and being looked after so well by the nursing staff) I had an offer of a solo exhibition at the Old Auction House in Kyneton.

If you have been following my blog for a while you will know that a solo exhibition has been a goal for a long time. I researched galleries, googled “ways to approach galleries”, worked on a body of work, but was held back by the fear of rejection. What if the gallery said “No. Not good enough”?

Then, as often happens, my fear was bypassed when Rhain, at the Old Auction House, approached me. Her previous booking had fallen through, and had a gap for August. She had seen my work at the recent group show ‘Not your usual canvas’, and popped the question ~ Would I be interested? Would I? You bet!

So in between hospital visits I sorted through my art works, and surprised myself by finding about 17 pieces that I would be happy to show. All trees, so no surprise there!

About half of the pieces are oil pastel trees.

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I have often shown the smaller, A4 versions of these trees, and some are still available in my Etsy shop. You might remember me telling you about my fascination for trees after my trip over the Nullabor Plain. The ones for the exhibition are larger ~ A3 and one is even bigger. I haven’t shown these before as they are too large to send through the post  successfully. Lucky, because they are perfect for the exhibition.

Another group are the watercolour landscapes embellished with sewing. (I call them landscapes because I don’t know where they fit.) Some you have seen before, but they haven’t had wide exposure.

tree painting

Then a couple of single trees, watercolour canopies and stitched branches and trunks.

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The last group are a couple of works created only in watercolour.

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I think they will hang well together, with a consistency of shape, media and certainly theme.

I won’t have time to create anything large from my Police Point residency. Whatever comes from that might be in my next exhibition!!

However, I would like to find time to create some of the panoramas that I began down there. They should be a nice little addition to the collection. Along with the cards I have already made, they will give people a chance to buy something at a lower price.

So, work to do before the beginning of August, but quite do-able, and yes, I have made a list.

If you are going to be around Victoria in August I would love you to be able to see my work in person.

8th August to 2nd September

The Old Auction House

52 – 56 Mollison St

Kyneton

The best laid plans……

You may have noticed that I have been quiet of late. I hope you have been imagining me creating masterpieces from my time at my artist-in-residency. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case because life took a sharp right turn.

I came back from Portsea fired up with creative ideas and plans. I went up to the Old Auction House in Kyneton, to pick up my paintings from the exhibition. I had a fabulous talk to Rhain and Jo about creating cards, notebooks and accordion books to put into their fabulous shop. They were so enthusiastic, positive and helpful. So, I came back enthused and settled to work on Thursday.

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That’s when life tossed me a curly one. The Fella had to go into hospital that night. He is fine, and back home now. I won’t go into detail. However, if you have ever spent time in hospital with someone you love, you know that it is a tiring, draining experience. Any spare time is devoted to catching up on sleep, bringing other people up to speed or just mindlessly blobbing in front of TV.

He’s home, and that’s fantastic! While there are ends to tie, including a hair appointment which I changed three times,  I am hoping to get back to work this week. Lucky I made notes from my chat with Rhain and Jo, because I would remember so little if I had to dredge their advice from my memory.

Hopefully this week I will have made more progress. If you would like to know more about my art work, sign up for the fortnightly letter from my studio. Delivered straight into your inbox but no spammy stuff.

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[I have turned off comments for this post. I know you are sending me positive thoughts, and I appreciate them, just know that all is good now.]

 

Monash Light

One of the delights of being at Point Nepean, or Mon Mon as the Boon Wurrung people call it, is the abundance of walks.

If you receive my newsletter, which I have been sending out weekly while I am down here, you may remember me talking about walking Wilson’s Folly, a track between London Bridge and Police Point. (If you would like to get the letter from my studio just jump to here to sign up.)

The other day we went on another good walk, to the Monash Light. If you are ever down this way ~ and wouldn’t it be something if you could visit here? ~ you would like this walk. It’s not difficult, with a couple of steepish hills and lots of steps up the tower, which are good to get the heart rate up and the gluts working! Mostly you walk through lovely moonah habitat on a soft, sandy track.

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Looking down the track to Port Phillip Bay. Can you see the marker right on the shore line? That’s the one the sailors lined up with the Monash Light.

 

 

The big attraction is the view from the tower ~ 360 degrees.

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The Monash Light was a navigation beacon on the Monash Tower, which is on the highest point of the national park. It was erected in 1932 and extinguished for the last time in 2005. The Light played a key role in the safety of ships in Port Phillip Bay. The entrance to the Bay, the Heads, is only 3 kilometres wide and reefs reduce the navigable channel to just one kilometre. Just inside the Heads are extensive sand banks, called ‘The Great Sands’ (well named!).

Matthew Flinders explored the area and  wrote:

“The depth of the remaining part varies from six to twelve fathoms and this irregularity causes strong tides, especially when running against the wind, to make breakers, in which small vessels should be careful of engaging themselves”

So whatever aids ships could use was very welcomed. The Monash Light was a ‘leading light’, which is, I guess where the expression comes from. The light was lined up with another marker on the shore for ships to navigate the channel safely.

The Light is now used as a receiving station for wave buoys in Bass Strait. (Don’t ask what ‘wave buoys’ do….although any thoughts welcomed in the comments.)

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There are wave buoys out there somewhere!

Lastly, while I am lecturing you, let me tell you why it is named Monash Light. Most Australians would have heard of Sir John Monash, the esteemed Commander of the Australian Armed forces in WW1. His victories, which were the turning points of the war, were based on planning, integration of all available resources and a belief that he had a duty to the safety and well being of his men. Apparently Monash was the Commanding Officer at Point Nepean between 1897 and 1908.

However, if neither maritime nor military history is your thing, just enjoy the views.

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Those building beyond the trees are the Quarantine Station. Can you see the two ferries and a ship on the Bay?

Of course, I loved the textures and patterns of the windswept vegetation. I think I will be creating a tapestry or two from this landscape.

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That’s Point Lonsdale lighthouse way off in the distance.

 

 

My new love affair with Port Phillip Bay

I grew up in Brighton, a bayside suburb. I would like to say that the beach was a big part of my life, but I can’t. We lived about 3 miles away, almost as far away as you can get and still be in Brighton. I was never much of a swimmer, and am even less of one now.

It was a part of my childhood. We would head down to the beach after a hot day at school. My memory is that we would arrive about the same time as the cool change would blow in! Often we would swim in the Brighton Beach Baths, a stretch of sand and water enclosed by iron railings. Like a swimming pool, but with sea water and waves. There’s a smell that always takes me back to the changing rooms. I guess many people were happy to pay for the diving board at the deep end. For me, I was, and still am, happy to meander along the shore line, paddling, looking, picking up shells.

Brighton Beach is one of the long sandy beaches that circle Port Phillip Bay. The Bay is wide and flat, the waves gentle. It has always been one of the backdrops to my life, but never something I really thought much about.

Until I came down here to Portsea. Now I have fallen in love. As I have said many times, I am fascinated with the play of light across the stretch of water I can see from my studio. The water can be pure silver or a series of sparkles or deep blue as the wind whips up the white caps. The clouds throw shadows onto it. At sunset it turns pink and grey. Sometimes I can see clearly right across to Queenscliff, but when the rain comes in, I can’t see very far at all.

I am captivated by its moods.

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Beauty is a great beginning for a love affair, but intrigue is important too. I am intrigued by the Bay’s geological history.

Wikipedia says this about its formation

Port Phillip formed between the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BCE and around 6000 BCE,[2] when the sea-level rose to drown what was then the lower reaches of the Yarra River, vast river plains, wetlands and lakes. The Yarra and other tributaries flowed down what is now the middle of the bay, formed a lake in the southern reaches of the bay, dammed by The Heads, subsequently pouring out into Bass Strait.[3]

Indigenous people were living here then. They have been here for at least 20,000 years, and probably twice or even three times that long. Before it filled, the Boonwurrung would have hunted kangaroo and cultivated the yam daisy on the plains. It is quite mind-blowing to know that people witnessed the formation of Nairm, as the Boonwurrung people knew the bay.

In fact they have seen the water dry up too. About 2,800 years ago the Heads, the small opening at the southern end of the Bay, closed. The basin, which is fairly shallow, dried up. Good hunting ground again. However, about 1,000 years ago the ocean broke through and water cascaded in. It is thought that water levels would have risen quickly.

The Boonwurrung remember the event through their story, and have passed it down to the current generation. You can read Aunty Carolyn Brigg’s telling here. If you are interested in reading more about the Boonwurrung, jump over to their website.

Before I move on, let me acknowledge that I live on Aboriginal land, of the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. As I walk this land I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and hope that I walk with an open heart and an open mind.

Even now there are many sand bars and shallow channels at the entrance to the Bay. Ships require a pilot to guide them in and out of the Heads, and to set them onto the shipping channel that will give them safe passage to Melbourne. The channel runs close to Portsea, and seeing the big ships glide by enthrals me.

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I love to watch the ferries ply between Sorrento and Queenscliff. They leave on the hour, and usually come into my view after about 25 minutes. So who needs a clock when you have the ferries?

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This body of water, that seemed so mundane in my childhood, has a rich history. It has sculpted the rocks that I am fascinated with, and is home to the weedy sea dragon, one of my all time favourite creatures. To see one in the wild is up there on my list of Things That Would Make Me Very Happy.  This one is cruising under the Portsea pier. I always look when I walk the pier.

I am not sure that I want to see the mass migration of spider crabs, but it is the biggest migration in the marine world, and it happens in the Bay. As it occurs in early winter,  it might be happening right now, by the light of the full moon.

Often we need to see the ordinary from a different point. Once we see the extraordinary we are more likely to treasure it. What do you see from a different point of view?

[Don’t forget you can see my daily doings on Instagram or Facebook. It’s more than my daily latte, I promise!]

 

My first week at Police Point

Yes, the first week has flown by.

There were a couple of hiccups, such as me stuffing up the dates yet again but they only little hicks. Now I am settling into a creative routine, which I will talk to you about soon. First let me give you a tour of my domain.

My little cottage is in Police Point, a park managed by the Mornington Peninsula Shire, who run this amazing residency programme. It has four rooms off the central hall ~ two bedrooms, a lounge and the kitchen. An addition out the back is a sitting room, the utilities, and my studio. It’s very snug, which is necessary as it’s Winter, and comfortable.

However, the studio is the best! It is spacious, and has big windows that let in the Winter sunlight, and let me look out across the green expanse to Port Philip Bay. I could sit here all day, just looking at the changing light, watching the clouds scamper across the sky, seeing the sea sparkle and turn silver, and work out the time from the ferries that go between Sorrento and Queenscliff.

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But I don’t just sit and watch…I have been working!

Police Point Park abuts the Point Nepean National Park, so there are lots of walks. And lots of interesting shaped trees. I thought I would be captivated by them from the get-go, but it is the cliff faces that have caught my attention. I will come back to the vegetation, because I have the luxury of three more weeks down here. But this week I have been exploring the gnarly, striated rocks of the cliff below Police Point. Rocks like these:

 

I thought I had a little understanding of the geology of these rocks until I came to write it down for you. Trying to explain it made me realise that I understand very little! However, I do know how the knobbly ones are formed. The sand was cemented by calcium carbonate and other minerals in the ground water. The water seeps down through the soil, perhaps along the pathways of plant roots, and precipitated the calcium carbonate to form hard rock ~ calcrete rock. The calcrete remains as the rest of the rock is eroded. The bumps and spikes are the calcrete and the holes and crevasses are formed by erosion.

I loved this rock on the waterline. I wonder how long before it gets eroded right away.

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So I have explored the beaches and the cliff faces, wandering, photographing and sketching. It’s made me think about weathering and time, and layers ~ layers of sediment, of human history, of vegetation.

Back in the studio I have set myself the task of producing something every day. I have been working on small studies of the rocks. They are only A5 size.

Study #1 was simply a first draft, and it told me not to rush, not to assume I understood what I was doing.

With Study #2 I felt confident enough to add embellishment from the sewing machine. I had learnt some things, but still not enough to capture what I was seeing in my mind. But there are a couple of good things about being here. Firstly, there is tomorrow to do it again. At home tomorrow would be filled with other things. Here tomorrow is filled with working in the studio.

Secondly there is time to reflect about the works, to think about why it’s not working.

With this study I realised that I had missed the sense of edges, of layers of rock, rather than frills. I quite liked the sewing, but it was taking things off in a different direction.

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Study #3 was more thoughtful, and I was happier with the edges. I think you could imagine feeling your way under them.

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But the sense of ‘rockness’ was still missing. I realised that it was lacking context, and drama. Friend’s comments on Facebook and Instagram confirmed what I was thinking.  So I looked at different rocks and came up with Study #4. Certainly dramatic!

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I had thought of putting in the background to give more context, but I don’t think I will.

And today I was fired up with confidence to create Study #5.

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With this one I have gone back to my default position of going straight to the detail. There is too much, especially at the top. To my eye it looks like a fancy old fashioned hat on top! Tomorrow I will give it another go and axe the hat!

It has been a week of settling in, of finding new routines and rhythms. Most importantly it has been a week of carefree and joyful creating in a very beautiful environment.