Prep Work

Tonight’s been the night of busy work before I get cracking tomorrow.

Basically, this:


My beautiful Art Spectrum soft pastel box, the source of most of my art and a significant amount of my joy.  All effed up.

I’m clearly not one of those artists who has everything just so.  I have my selection of colours in a corner of the box and heaven help anyone who is walking past should I lose track of them.  I don’t see the point in getting one colour from one tray and then putting it back, and then getting another from another tray and then putting that back too.  I change between them too fast for that.

Plus, I just like a bit of chaos



Don’t worry.  They’re fine now.  I lost the brochure that tells you what everything is in what order.  Basically, keep the colour families together, it will be fine.


Yes, it looks nice in a hipster’s bookcase kind of way, but it’s just not the same somehow.


Down time

It’s officially Slug Day over here at Bluenette Brennan HQ.  I think this might be the first time I’ve sat still this year.  My house is a tip, my fish are green, my Ipswich Art Awards entries aren’t even started yet and I need to hand them over in less than three weeks (the framing is started though – I can muck around as much as I want, that is quite okay, but I am not going to muck around my framer.  Once I know what I’m doing and the size and colour scheme I get up there and get it started.  Be respectful of others even if your creative modus operandi is to flap around until the last moment, kids.  They’re not sitting around on their arses just waiting for you to turn up.)

But even though I can’t settle on what I want to watch, even though there’s a movie on but the movie theatre is all the way over there, even though I’m looking at everything I own and thinking maybe I should throw it all out and that will solve my problems, my brain is still ticking over what I’d like to create.

My next couple of things, the Art Awards entries, are not going to be that clever.  I don’t have time.  Three weeks, like I said.  They’re going to be pretty much from a photo (suitably altered, obviously).  My brain is playing around now with the composition of the pair of them – how do I get this landscape to more completely encapsulate the notion of Grace, which is what I’ve called it (Naming a thing that doesn’t even exist yet.  I set myself up.)  How do I get that man to look alive while still a mess off crosshatching lines, of light coming out of darkness?

My next couple of things aren’t going to be that clever.  I’ll have to wear a smile when other people see them but I’m really excited about what is going to come next.  My garden landscapes made out of unlikely plastics lit by the afternoon sun popped back into my head yesterday.  I’d forgotten about that one.  It’ll be a show-stopper if I can pull it off.  My renaissance art series is ticking away, one of them that I’ve been musing on lately will be a combination of at least three different photos that have been taken of me, something I’ve never tried before.  How tightly era-specific am I going to keep it?  How far up am I going to punch the next time I get a body of work together?

I might repair that seam on that towel while I think some more.

Day 2 and I’m already phoning it in.

The opening was last night.  It was grand.  Proper words will be written when I am more together.  Insomnia kicked my butt and I ended up doing seven hours of manual labour on four hours sleep.

My girls were in an excellent possie.  My mum and my sister were a bit disappointed that they were over the food table, making it very hard to lurk and eavesdrop and spring out at people to talk me up (which is what my mother did last time.  It is hilarious and mortifying all at once.  Thanks, Mum.)  This time she’s even got my business cards.  Look out, world.


Photo by fellow artist Kylie Stephens

Removes the dust sheets, evicts the possum from the chimney


It has been a while, hasn’t it.  (I say that a fair bit, don’t I.)  I tend not to think of self-promotion for my art until I’m grabbed by the back of the head and thrust into it nose-first.  Then I have to sit over there and think about what I’ve done.  (Which is, usually, flap around about deadlines and producing good work and then forget about the rest of it.)

Well.  What I have done, when not being consumed by the rest of my muggle life in the past year is:

Receive second place in the drawing category for the Ipswich Art Awards for my piece “Sunken Forest, Arnhem Land” as judged by Ben Quilty (!!!!)

11127607_10205017841620664_6483120041407361413_n (1)

I was honoured to be selected by the Ipswich Art Gallery to display my work in their People, Place exhibition back in January.  In that I covered ground that I have before, in drawing burlesque girls, an idea that I thought I was done with, but you do what you’ve got to do when you’ve got a short deadline.  It was still rewarding, in that I produced one of my favourite pieces (more about her another day).  I also discovered that I have progressed enough that I can bring things to life one early Sunday morning when the piece I was working on started looking back at me


She gave me such a fright I had to take myself out for breakfast.  Far too much Dorian Grey for so early in the day.

This has since opened up a whole new train of thought for my next solo, which so far involves a lot of research into Renaissance art and will hopefully develop into my being able to portray coherent ideas about how women have been erased from history, art history in particular.  We’ll see how that one goes.  So far it has just meant that my trip to the Lifeline Bookfair was very heavy and full of incident and I’m reading a few pages of Vasari before sleeping.

Anyway, next we get to the good bit, the reason why I presume you have found me.  In February, Glen Smith, our local tireless, passionate arts advocate finally (after probably a year of trying on his part) got word that he can bring a group of artists from Ipswich to display their work at the Regional Arts House in Teneriffe, Brisbane.  Here are the details if you’re curious –

I was fortunate enough to be one of those invited.  I’ve created two new pieces specifically for this show, and experimented with entirely different (to me) techniques and mediums, which I’ll be posting about shortly.  A Handfull of Artists From Ipswich runs until the 23rd of April and if you are around I do suggest having a look.  There are a lot of talented people taking part and I’m sure you’ll find it worth your while.

In honour of this exhibition, I’ll be posting here daily while it runs.  You lucky ducks.



Tips for Sculpting with Stone

While I’m thinking about it.

1.  Pay attention to any seams when whacking away with the mallet.  Put your chisel in the wrong place and that whole thing is going to fall apart and bitter salty tears will be shed.  Use a rasp instead if things are starting to look a bit suss.  Or, you know, don’t buy that hunk of rock.  Back in the past.  When you could have done something about that.  It’s inevitable that the seam will break open at some point.  Fine if you’re practicing, a total bitch if you’re pouring your soul into your life’s work.

2.  Don’t refine the bit you’re holding until the last moment.  Holding a sculpture of a person by it’s head?  That sucker’s neck is going to snap off faster than Barbie’s on Christmas morning.  Do everything else first.  You’re still going to be holding it by it’s head while you’re giving it some sweet as elbows.

3.  Try and save the easily snap-off-able bits like fingers and toes until late in the game.  You WILL snap them off.

4.  Try and keep the refinement evenly paced throughout the whole sculpture, or you’ll do your head in trying to make it all work and then discover later on you’ve accidentally cut it’s foot off.

5.  Keep small details like hands and feet larger than you actually want them to be once the sculpture is done.  You’re going to use easily five different grades of sandpaper on that thing to try and get a decent shine and you don’t want to go around sanding those pinkies away.

6.  Try to smooth as many scratch marks as possible before you start paper sanding with the finer blades (is that even what they’re called?) on your rasp.  It will save you time and the rasp will give you straighter edges rather than getting through with the paper sanding only to discover that your sculpture now has a little bow in it from where you used to have a scratch.

7.  Wet and dry sand paper.  The sandpaper of the gods.  This is not the kind of white powder you want going up your nose.

8.  Make sure before moving onto a finer grain of sandpaper that your sculpture is PERFECTLY smooth from the rougher one.  You’ll end up wasting your time and breaking your heart trying to buff out scratches that could have easily been sorted two rougher grains of sandpaper ago.

9.  Edges?  Emery boards.  The books say use a dowel and blah blah blah, but the books were clearly written by dudes.  Seriously.  Emery boards.


Here’s where I’m up to today.  The Foot Dilemma has finally been solved.  Then I realised I need to do the hands next and ran away.  As would the best of us, I’m sure.  (Note the lack of toes at this point)


Stone carving

Apologies.  Extended radio silence.  Lost in the woods.  Or whatever.  Actually, prolonged physical exhaustion and daily stifling of … everything eventually led to massive life upheavals and here I am at the end of it, the owner of one shiny new small business.  Am delighted while it is simultaneously scaring the crap out of me.

But that is not what I want to talk to you about today!

Today we are going to discuss stone carving, because that is something I have been known to do.  In the past.  When I made things with my hands that involved more than melted cheese.

I used to carve stuff.


I used to stuff things up


I used to make things go preeety freaking abstract….


And sometimes then it sold



I took up stone carving originally when my home life stressed me right the heck out and there was nothing I could do about it.  Whacking away at a lump of rock for a few hours every day helped.  I learnt to be more patient, if nothing else.  And I made it through Christmas and past New Year entirely sober, which is incredible.  (I then texted one of my oldest friends on January the 3rd at 8:56AM demanding to be taken to the pub THAT DAY because I just couldn’t wait any longer.)


I use soapstone, which is cheap and soft and excellent for my purposes because I was never taught to work with tools.  These days I don’t chop off anything I didn’t mean to and then call it art.  These days the pace of my life has slowed down again and I’m in the process of trying not to suffer from some kind of deceleration whiplash.  So I’ve gotten this fine lady back down off the shelf, and I’m not too worried about what happens to her, just so long as she gets finished.




To this:


and this (excuse the furry photobomb):



I’ve actually gotten farther than that today, refining and adding hard creases.  I did a lot of reading of Rodin a while ago, about how he always wanted to portray movement.  I figure – why not try?  So I’m not very good and I haven’t had much practice and I don’t really know how to use tools.  So what?  The one thing I’ve learnt about sculpting with stone from everything I’ve read about the place is that it’s such a self-taught medium.  You sit there and scrape (and scrape and scrape and scrape and scrape…) away and eventually you’ll end up with something.  It might be something good or you might end up with a lap full of dust.

Metaphor for life, and probably for small business too.

I went manic

Hi there.  Long time no see….

My exhibition happened a couple of months ago.  Was a success.  There will be words about this later, but the prospect of sitting down and writing about it makes my head hurt still, so I’ll dip my toe in and put up some pictures and try not think about how badly I burnt myself out.

(I worked solidly between March and August on my show, discarding lots of ideas and half-finished pieces along the way while waiting for my ideas to shape themselves.  In Mid-June.  From then on I’d work my very physical day job, come home at 7, eat dinner, and work on art things til about 11pm at least four nights a week.

Then, predictably, once the show was hung, I dropped the bundle big time and ran screaming in the opposite direction as though the bundle was huntsman spiders, not the rampant self-promotion that I was supposed to be doing.)

So here you and I are, after nearly four months of radio silence.

Before I dropped the bundle I went manic in the way that all artists do – The night before my exhibition got hung, I started Just That One Last Thing, that Thing that would bring it all together and make your vision perfect:



To this in the morning before work:



To this about 3pm on the day of the opening:



To this, one hour later, when I still had to frame the sucker and clean the house and pick up a friend from the station and get ready for the opening to start at 6pm:



Of course, life being what it is, the first thing I did (about 4:30pm) in the house-cleaning post-framing scheme of things was to clean out the cat’s litter tray, as dirt is one thing and filth is another.  Picked up the dustpan to sweep up the litter that had been kicked out of the trays.  Cat.  Wee.  EVERYWHERE.  This cat that I was looking after had chosen to protest my poor housekeeping standards that week (as cats don’t know, nor do they care about things such as art openings) and peed in the dustpan, and I didn’t find out until it was too late.


So I ended up late to my own party.  They even phoned in case I’d keeled over in a ditch somewhere.




She ended up fabulous:



And she sold on the night. 


Sometimes a little bit of crazy can do you good.


(Cats, however…)