I am an “accidental artist”.
I never planned this life. Instead, I did the opposite and accumulated degrees in Science. But I never felt like I was any good at what I was trained in. I never felt like I was thriving.
And then Life threw some Big Challenges my way, and everything I thought I knew about myself was basically hurled out the window. It was as if all the pieces that gave my life meaning and structure no longer fit together.
Wandering about in the dark, I chanced upon the option of going to Art School … and I took it. I was in my late thirties, and with all that training in the sciences behind me, I didn’t actually plan on ‘becoming an artist’. But within the first week of my studies, I realised why I was such an unhappy scientist! Finally, this is what it felt like to love what you do. This is what it felt like not to cry myself to sleep at night. This is what it felt like to wake up with a feeling of happy anticipation instead of dread.
I stayed in Art School for five years, holding my first solo exhibition while still a student. The family home morphed into a messy creative hub. While I created all my art on the kitchen table and lounge-room floor, everyone (including the dog), had to learn not to tread on my art.
That was twenty years, almost two thousand students, and eleven exhibitions ago.
My life has changed a great deal from that first day in Art School. For a start, I no longer have to use a walking stick or wheelchair (I was very sick with chronic fatigue syndrome back then).
I lost my beloved husband, Gregory to cancer, and then my beautiful mum, Shantha. If we’re adding up losses, my sweet dog, Ruby died a few months ago.
But there have also been many gains. For a start, my health is vastly improved, and there is no walking stick or wheelchair in sight. And I have done things that I never imagined I would – from the tiny silly things like mowing the lawn myself … to the really Big Things like buying a house myself: a little wooden cottage perched on the side of a hill, surrounded by forest.
Two years ago, I built my very own studio on my property: a light-filled, high-ceilinged space overlooking said forest. I can walk out my bedroom door and turn left, and a few steps later, I’m in my very own studio … and it’s not my lounge-room!
There are times I walk into this studio and I just thank it for existing. It’s been a space of peace and possibility both for me and my students. A place where shoulders relax and breathing is deeper. A place where we can step outside and listen to the trees whisper and birds sing.
In less than a month, I will be holding my twelfth solo exhibition, and my very first one in this studio.
If you’ve ever created anything, you’ll agree that making art is a messy, all-consuming tussle between the pleasure of creating something beautiful and the despair of doing the exact opposite! What emerges from the canvas can be fulfilling and wonderful … and it can also make one recoil in horror. But in the best moments, I find all judgements silenced and I am completely lost in the process.
Every time I am preparing for an exhibition, the same thing happens. I have to remind myself to do all the other things that make up a life – eat, shower, cook, wash clothes, check emails. I have to remind myself that those lovely endorphins coursing through my veins while I’m in creative flow, are masking the pain and injury I will have to deal with if I don’t rest my arms and back!
I’m excited. I’m tired. I’m so many things, including filled with curiosity and nervous anticipation of how it will all come together. And I still have to pay attention to the everyday practicalities of staging a large exhibition! Signs to make, catalogues to create, volunteers to recruit. I make lists. I make lists of lists. And most importantly, I remind myself that I have to stop and invite people to come, or it’ll just be me and a bunch of art, sitting in a pretty forest location with no one to share it with!
So, in the last week of October, I hope you’ll come and do just that 🙂
This exhibition, which I’ve called A Walk in the Woods, is part of a marvellous initiative: the Mundaring Hills Open Studios. If you click that link, you’ll discover a fabulous ‘art trail’ through the scenic Perth Hills, which means that when you come to mine, you can also choose to visit dozens of others nearby! Painters, potters, textile and glass artists, sculptors and ceramists will share a smorgasbord of handmade, heartfelt offerings as we all open our studios to the public. The hills are beautiful this time of the year, and very soon, they will be alive with art!
My paintings, hung high above the forest, are waiting to meet you. From October 23 to 31st, you are warmly invited to have a chat and a cuppa, and enjoy A Walk In the Woods with me!
CLICK THE IMAGE FOR ALL THE DETAILS (and a sneak peek at what’s on offer!)
PS As an extra special treat to entice you to this gorgeous area of Perth, here are some beautiful, recently taken images by Mary Parker Photography (my daughter!) of the spring blossoms around the Perth Hills …