Saturday, February 26, 2011

Justice

There is no arguing about the meaning of this card. Justice is about balance, pure and simple. Balance is something taught in many spiritual practices and something I believed in long before I realised I was a Buddhist.

This card is a reflection of the spiritual self and the physical self. Scales and a sword are always used in its symbolism, to depict the noble fight to balance all aspects of our existence.

I chose a Gryphon for this card as it is a mythological creature which often represents both strength and wisdom. There is a lot of self discipline required to find balance in our lives. It is with the wisdom of our experience that we are able to adjust the scales so we maintain a sense of harmony in all things.
I learned a lot about strength and wisdom prior to starting this project. I learned the importance of never giving too much of yourself away but knowing how and when to ask for help. Maintaining balance in our lives is a never ending process through which we are constantly learning and able to grow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Wheel of Fortune

Finally we come to the Wheel of Fortune. I was extremely excited to paint this card. So much so that I actually could have finished it several weeks before The Chariot and Justice, but I chose not to. I wanted to savour it and I love saving the best for last. Whilst the last card I finished on February 19th was The Chariot, this was the last one which still had work on the main image left to do. I kept my wheel face blank, knowing it was something I'd be able to finish in just a few hours.
I moved between the three cards, adding layers of white to the text frames, touching up bits of shading here and there on The Chariot and Justice, and then adding huge swirls of blue to the wheel face on the Wheel of Fortune.

I had difficulty coming up with the animal for this card. I posted about it on my Facebook page and twitter account. Dozens of people sent in their ideas, one of which seemed to continue cropping up: The Orangutan or 'Old Man of the Woods'.

I'm not actually a huge fan of apes. They've never really delighted me like other animals have. But orangutans have always held a soft spot in my heart and the belief of them being ancient old wise men lent itself well to this incredibly powerful card.

This card is one of my favourite cards in the entire tarot deck because its meaning is largely why I identify as a Buddhist. It's easy to look at the world in terms of 'good' or 'bad', 'better' or 'worse'. This card tells us that the world just is. It's a roll of the dice or the spin of a wheel and our fortune or misfortune is determined by how we see the situation.
Life is what we make it and we can have all the good fortune in the world if we look at the very existence of our life as a fortunate circumstance. Even the darkest moments can be celebrated because we have the capacity and opportunity for enlightenment through each new experience we have.

I think it's quite fitting that these were my final three cards and of the final three, this one was the one I most enjoyed working on.

An unexpected surprise


I was going to reveal another tarot card in today's entry but an email I received gave me something else I'd like to write about. Besides, I'm enjoying the slow reveal of my final pieces.

I was in London no more than a month when I received the first email from Cineffable, the organisers behind the Paris International Lesbian & Feminist Film Festival. They had seen my animation, 'Affinity' screened at the Toronto Queer West Film Festival and wanted me to submit it for their own festival. I filled in the rather lengthy application, burned a copy of 'Affinity' to a DVD and popped it in the post.

I didn't expect to hear anything. I've sent 'Affinity' to several festivals and never heard anything back. For a first animation, given that it's had four public screenings, I figure it's done well.

So this email today came as a pleasant surprise. Evidently my film wasn't chosen for the November 2010 screening, but it has been chosen to show in April 2011!

Making my animation was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I loved every second of it and have even said that, if someone told me it was completely paid for, I'd sign up for animation school tomorrow. Now that my tarot paintings are complete I'm looking forward to the next project. I'm not the sort of person who intends to only have one identifiable career in their life. At the moment I do fundraiser support and graphic design at a charity, I'm editing one of my five completed novels with the intention of publication within the next two years, and with those paintings done I'm looking at how to complete the deck and where I can hold a gallery showing.

I still have that children's book on my To Do list, with no timeline to confine it to, just a thing to dabble in for the time being. And then there's animation. I long to animate again. I want to do a classic hand drawn piece. I'd love to try my hand at animated music videos for some of my favourite songs. Now that I have flash I think it would be fun to give computer animation a go too.

But, one thing at a time. The important thing is that I did complete 'Affinity' and it's still out there and still appreciated even three years on.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Chariot

I first prepped the canvas for this card in September. It was a card which intimidated me, largely because of the complexity of it's symbolism, but also because I was choosing to use intricate sea dragons as the animal subject. I first discovered the existence of these unreal creatures at the Melbourne Aquarium. They are delicate and mesmerising. This card is often described as grounded and spiritual. Rooted in reality and yet not. Such a strange and lovely creature fit the feel of it for me, and besides, it lent itself well to using a shell for the chariot.
But what of the meaning behind this card? The symbolism and history of it is rich and varied. This is one of the most complex ones I've encountered, in fact, as there seem to be many opinions as to what it means. It can be seen as a representation of nurturing, caring and growth - not for another but for ones self. In finding a Buddhist theme this lends itself well to one of my favourite Buddhist beliefs that no one is more deserving of your own love, care and respect than yourself.

But the card's many symbols leave it open to other interpretations as well. It is traditionally a war chariot, pulled by horses and therefore an implication of victory or achievement.

There is also a strong play of opposites. Often the two steeds used would be black and white and there is a contrast of the sun and the moon. In this way the card shows a separation and pull in two different directions.

I personally like to think that it is about all of these meanings. It's about our ability to win our own inner battles, recognise our strengths and nurture compassion for ourselves. It's our thoughts versus our feelings, our wants versus our needs and our dreams versus our realities. Ultimately it's telling us to look at where we pull ourselves apart with the hope of unifying rather than fighting.
Suitably, this was the first of the final three which I began and the last that I finished this past weekend. Personally I've faced a lot of battles in making these paintings. I've struggled with creating them for myself versus creating them for what I think the world will appreciate, finding time and space to be creative versus making time to rest and painting for the sake of art versus painting for the sake of technique.

Ultimately I have been able to keep myself motivated and passionate throughout the entire two years that I worked on these paintings and that is the greatest achievement.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

...Finished...


22 cards, 0 to 21.
22 canvases plotted, prepped and painted.
2 years, 2 cities, countless hours.
Thousands of songs played.
Well over a hundred cups of tea.
One brush used to write the text on each canvas. One brush from the very first: The High Priestess, to the last three: The Chariot, Justice and The Wheel of Fortune.

The brush is now becoming frayed, too large to use, but it made it through all 22 canvases and today I used it to complete what has been one of the greatest undertakings of my entire life. When that last stroke was applied the significance of what I'd accomplished overwhelmed me. I cannot say that I did this on my own. When one completes a novel there is a page of acknowledgments. Take each of these 22 paintings as a chapter. I would like to credit the completed work to so many different people. I will do my best...

In no particular order:

Thank you to...

Julian for taking National Geographic videos out of the library with great regularity when I was young. My resulting passion, love and knowledge for animals has been instrumental in choosing the subjects for my cards.

Nick for being an artist I could look up to.

Shannon for always telling me my artwork was something to be shared with the world and for being the inspiration behind the Strength card.

Clare for giving me space in which to work, making me tea, tolerating paint on the carpet, picking up supplies for me, finding a source for canvases in London and loving me unconditionally, even when I'm being an entirely unreasonable tortured artist.

Kendra for providing me with the inspiration for Temperance and to her and Mara for feeding my imagination throughout childhood.

Cielia for replying to every blog update on a complete piece and for a thousand paper cranes, which showed me even seemingly impossible tasks can be done if you give them time.

To wee three kitties for helping to de-stress me with healing cuddles involving a lot of purring.

To everyone who reads my blog, follows me on Twitter and 'likes' my page on Facebook for helping me choose which card to do next and narrow down which animal to use for each.

To the Elevensestime crowd for asking how I'm progressing.
To everyone who has purchased a print, sculpture, magnet or original canvas from me, thus helping me pay for imaging, brushes, pens, canvases, tape, pallets, pencils, erasers and my website.

To so very many musicians for doing what they do best and listening to their muse so they could provide a fantastic soundtrack to my painting.

Christine for not letting me make excuses and for helping me figure out that I'm a Buddhist.

To Janet for giving me my very first tarot deck, which inspired me to make one of my own.

~Thank You~

And yes, you will see the final three completed pieces in the next three blog entries I publish.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On the Bus

When taking the bus in London it is ideal to have a route with a double-decker. My heard sinks a little when a regular bus pulls up to a stop. There is nothing quite so fun as climbing those stairs and finding that front seat available. Perched up so high it sometimes feels as though the bus will tip when it swings around a corner.

It's the best view. From my perch in front of those huge windows I can take in the world. When I have spare time to get somewhere I'll often opt to take the bus, rather than going underground. I happily view London from above and am almost always a little sad to reach my destination.

At the moment the best way for my to get to my writing course is by bus. The route it brilliant. We loop past Victoria station, Green Park, Hyde Park corner and go straight up to Marble Arch. There are so many marvelous sights along the way. This week I was able to snap a shot of this brilliant art instalment. As the days are growing longer the light is better for me to take pictures on this route. I have a few other bits of art and some stunning architectural things I plan on capturing in the next two weeks.

London is an art gallery.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

To Do List

I have a lot of ideas and a lot of things I want to accomplish. As a result I tend to spread myself too thin, putting my fingers in so many pies that I find I can't reach and ultimately I end of taking my shoes and socks off so I can pop some toes in too. But then I can't walk so I don't get anywhere.

Good metaphor.

So I make To Do lists. I love my to do lists because they organise my thoughts and when a task is done I get great satisfaction from making a tick next to it and running the ink of my pen through it. There's something very satisfying about completing a task.

I've decided to focus on the above To Do list for February. This is just my creative work, mind. I have another list of domestic duties - laundry, purging my wardrobe, kitty litter - and I create a list daily for my day job.

I like that drawing up my creative To Do list has helped me work towards completing one of the items on it. And now that this blog update is done I must away to tackle the rest.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Designer

Several months back the charity I've been working for since April hired a new fundraising manager. I would be working directly under him and upon our first meeting the two of us clicked. We had a lot of similar ideas on where to take the fundraising support for the charity and I instantly respected his ability to manage. For me a good manager is someone who knows how to ensure a job is done correctly and how to draw on the strengths of their team. They are a manager before they're my friend but that doesn't mean there is a lack of respect.

From looking at my CV and reading the introductory email I sent him before he began, my manager was able to deduce that I am creative and that my art and writing is important and key in my life. As a result he looked at how I could be more creative in my day to day work whilst also benefiting the charity but not neglecting the requirements of the role.

I have done various bits of administrative work for the charity since I originally started as a temp meant to cover two and a half weeks of annual leave. I've process cheques, kept track of invoicing, monitored research grants, filed, organised and sorted all sorts of documents and done PA duties for the CEO. I've answered phones, made coffee and tea, helped with conducting of interviews, ordered catering and booked meetings. Primarily, however, my role has been fundraiser support. I send emails to fundraisers, provide them with sponsorship forms, shirts, merchandise, promotional materials and tips and I send them thank you letters when the donations come in. In amongst this I have also been asked to help out with the design and production of two newsletters, a fundraiser support pack and the website.

Day to day my time has been almost entirely consumed by emails, phone calls and data entry. I've had to develop policies, procedures and processes, implement systems and then take them all apart and start over when someone new started or we began using a new database or we realised the way we were doing it simply didn't work.

From 8 - 4 I felt like I was doing a job simply because I don't have the capacity to slack off when I'm getting paid. I was exchanging my time for money and putting up with it largely because, for the first time ever, I was getting paid what I'm worth. A pay cheque allows me to buy art supplies, pay for courses, visit museums, purchase books and travel.

From 4:30 - 9 and on most weekends I would paint, write, draw, blog, tweet and journal, desperate to get my creative energy out. Desperate to feel like an artist, not an office whipping girl.

Good things do come to those who wait. I weighed out all the pros and cons and on the basis that I pretty much make my own hours, I can eat all day at my desk and the pay is enough that I'm not really stressed about money, I figured I could put up with administrative work. Then my manager started and within weeks we had discussed the possibility of getting me design programs so I could work on the development of the newsletter and other promotional materials. I could be a paid graphic designer part-time, fundraiser support the other part and of course, a moonlighting artist and writer.

To look back on it I'm amazed at how patient I was able to be. CS5 was ordered. The first time it arrived they'd sent the PC version, not the Mac version. It was sent back and the next one arrived over the holidays. I returned to the office after a pleasant break to find that my poor manager's holiday was significantly less stress free. Between a burst pipe and Swine flu there had been a burglary and one of the items taken was the shiny new box containing CS5. I honestly think he was more distraught about it being swiped than I. Thankfully there was insurance coverage on the order and it was re-sent. It arrived a few weeks into the new year but was the wrong version, lacking the essential InDesign.

We ordered it online as a download and voila:

I was able to start work on the newsletter.

I still have a lot of fundraiser support to do each day but I probably spend about a third of my week doing layouts, cropping and editing photos and designing headers and images. I come home and I no longer feel an intense need to sit down and paint. I still enjoy painting, of course, but I feel as though I've spent much of the day just being me. Playing with shapes and colours, adjusting the look and layout of a document, throwing together a quick example of a promotional item.

When I think back to that course I took in the early winter it seems like it was ages ago, even though it's only been three months since it finished. Three months since I had the heady rush of *glee* at the thought of doing design work and getting paid for it.

I love what I'm learning and I love that I have a manager who appreciates the energy and passion I've got for it. A tip to anyone in management: If your employees are passionate about what they do, they'll do it very well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Being a Twit

I've been using Twitter for about two years now. Initially I was quite dubious about it.I figured that Twitter would just be a constant Facebook status stream and given that so many people use their status for voyeuristic purposes - for which I simply don't have time - I couldn't see the point. But it kept coming up as more and more people started tweeting and eventually I signed up with the mind to use it only for promoting my art. Since then I've come to understand that Twitter is a global conversation through which connections can be made, ideas shared and services rendered.

Recently I was tweeting with a fellow artist who let me know about how he likes to send art in the post to people. We got to tweeting about how he does it and yesterday I got this lovely round 'post card' through the letterbox.

I'm hugely excited to send him something of mine and I love that I can exchange art and ideas with fellow creatives all over the planet. I do think there is a noticeable decline in our ability to relate person to person as a result of the interweb and texting, but by doing these little things which involve personal detail and attention we can continue to have a real connection with all the people we share the planet with.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mary Portas - Mighty Women con't


I've been up since 5:30 so this probably isn't going to be one of my best blog entries.
Apologies for any garbledness. Like made up words N' stuff.
Firstly, here's a picture I just finished drawing. I'm so tired I didn't even use my camera to take this shot. I used photo booth, which is why it's a bit grainy. Otherwise, I'm quite chuffed with it. The subject is none other than Mary Portas, fashion guru and business savvy celeb who makes delightful shows about good business practices.

I admire her hugely. She's well spoken, assertive, intelligent, motivated and compassionate. She really believes in better business practices, loving what you do and inspiring shop keepers, business owners and the consumer to be more responsible.

And she's really, really lovely.

Several weeks ago I emailed my number to the production team for Mary's latest show. I didn't expect them to get in touch but figured: Why not?

They didn't call for the show I'd sent my number in for an I'd all but forgotten about it until yesterday. I was sitting at my day job, suddenly becoming massively overwhelmed as my workload seemed to be spontaneously growing in leaps and bounds, when my phone rang.

Unknown number.

Normally I don't pick it up and just hope they leave a message, but this time, maybe because I wanted distraction from my suddenly stressful work duties, I answered it. It was the show. They were filming the next day at 12:30 and could I make it? I said I'd call them back but the second I hung up it occurred to me that the odds of this happening again were pretty slim. I conferred with some co-workers and in minutes I'd made up my mind. I called them back and confirmed, figuring it would be easier to cancel if I couldn't get the time off then it would be to try and get a spot if I waited.

I cursed myself for being so responsible before unloading my minor crisis to my manager. We went through my twenty item To Do list, gleaning it down and prioritizing it as best we could. I wasn't even going to mention the show until I knew things were under control. I couldn't just skip out when so many things were so urgent, no matter how much I admire the woman and how absolutely cool it would be to have the chance to meet her.

I cracked on with my work load, nipping off chunks here and there, plotting out solutions and generally getting it under control. Eventually I figured I should take my lunch so I popped out to the staff kitchen to make a delicious gluten free sandwich. My manager happened by and I took this as my chance. I asked if I could run something by him, ask him about something that had come up.
"Do you know who Mary Portas is?"
He nodded.
I explained about the call and that it was for tomorrow (today) and would be right in the middle of the day. He nodded, listening carefully and proceeded to tell me that, as long as I worked my hours around it, made up the time and kept my workload under control I was free to do as I wished. I thanked him profusely and then headed back to work, sandwich in hand.

In the evening I got my confirmation email with the details on where to meet and what to wear. My partner and I were a bit giddy and we proceeded to watch two episodes of Secret Shopper on catch-up.

And so we come to why I've been up since 5:30. In an attempt to make up the hours before going to the show, I rose well before the sun and headed to the office for 6:30. I cracked on with my work, pretty much resolving every little explosion I'd encountered the day before, and at 11:30 I was free to make my way to Angel.

I don't know that I have the energy to re-cap what happened. I've written it all in my journal and am eagerly awaiting my partner's arrival home so I can gush and *glee* all about it. It was incredible though. It was fun and light and the sun shone all day! Mary was delightful, the twenty or so other people who joined us were friendly and fun and the crew were really great. But I don't really want to share it because I don't want to spoil it. So, for a brilliant show by an inspiring and definitely mighty woman, do tune in on Wednesday for the last episode of Secret Shopper.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Rules


It was my mum who taught me that opinions cannot be 'right' or 'wrong'. I don't know exactly when she first imparted this wisdom upon me, but it was a common subject and one which obviously made its mark. I know I have an outgoing personality and as a result have often been taken as 'forcing my opinion' on those around me, but I assure you, I accept that my opinions are mine and mine alone. They are formed based on my experience and understanding of the world and as easily as they are formed, I know they can change. I know that how I feel about a situation is my choice and I try to be as aware as I can of the language I use when expressing an opinion I have. As a result I am also very aware of when those around me make statements of opinion with the emphasis of fact.

We all do it and unless we question it, in my opinion, we are inclined to simply accept what someone else feels as how we should feel about things. I call this the Rules.

The world seems to be full of these so-called Rules - opinion masquerading as fact and often having negative effects. As an artist and creative, I find people really like telling me the Rules. I suspect this is due to a lack of imagination and a defeatist attitude, but I could be wrong. I only suspect this because it seems like the people who share these opinions to vehemently are doing so in order to discourage you from achieving great things, rather than getting on with their own lives and making themselves successful. Essentially, they find it easier to try and tear someone else down than to lift themselves up.

The other time the Rules come into play is when something works for an individual. The best example of this I have found is with religion. I know Buddhism work for me. It works so well that I talk about it a lot, but I get that just because it works for me, doesn't mean it will work for you. Just like I understand that just because I don't really like oil paints, but I love acrylic, doesn't mean I would be 'right' in telling someone that acrylics are superior to oil. They aren't. They're not better nor worse. They just are.

When painting portraits in acrylic at the class Sadie Lee put on we were not allowed to sketch on the canvas to start. She made us paint directly onto the blank surface. I didn't mind doing this but personally, I like a basic sketch to use as a template. Amusingly enough, when Sadie pulled out the portrait she had prepared for the class, you could see the pencil lines beneath her paint.

Then there was the time I was watching Rolf Harris painting a series inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream. One of his models asked if he ever drew on the canvas first and he said no, never, because it was a painting, not a drawing.

Point is, that's what works for him. That's what works for Sadie. And that's what works for me. We each have our own techniques and none of them are any better or worse. We just found what works for us.

Last night at my writing course the instructor made a statement regarding writing on a computer vs. writing by hand. He said that often, writing on a computer limits us, and writing by hand makes our work more free. A clear example of someone laying down their opinion as if it were a Rule. I simply didn't let it stand. I explained that my train of thought moves more quickly than I am able to write by hand and as a result my sentences become garbled, incomprehensible and sometimes I miss them out entirely as my hand can't keep up. My method of two finger typing, however, is conducive to my free flow of thought and my preference for writing.

I am very thankful to my mum for this lesson in life. By teaching me that what someone says based on how they feel is theirs and theirs alone, she taught me to question what I am told and to be self determining in my actions. My inherent Buddhism reminds me to challenge my own opinions and never hold them too close. And those lovely troublemakers remind me to be mindful of Rules which might not actually be worthy of a capitalised 'R'.