Does it sound weird when I confess to being surprised with how much I love being an Aunty? I hadn’t put any thought into it; I mean who would, right? You become an Aunty with no effort on your part. All I knew was that I wanted to be the best Aunty I could be. However the more time I spend in the company of my nephews the more I realise how great it is to be an Aunty.
We have heaps of fun doing all the usual kids activities like trampoline jumping, playing with blocks or toys, chasing each other, visiting the library, making art or baking. I find these latter two things bring me more joy than I ever could have imagined. Art & baking with my nephews mean a lot to me because they are important things in my life. To have Jensen ask ‘Aunty Kimmy can we make cupcakes?’ makes me smile inside & out. There really is no other feeling like it.
There are times when life isn’t all fun & games. Sometimes serious lessons are had about how to behave in the world but even that stuff I enjoy, although its often not until later that I realise it. Surely it’s better for the important lessons to be learnt in the loving home environment that somewhere else?
I’m finding I enjoy the experience of helping to guide a couple of small people to find their way in the world. I want to show them all the wonderful things the world offers & how best to navigate that world using the important guiding principles of empathy kindness & respect. Maybe one day sometime in the future I’ll report back here on how well that has done :) I know they will be good humans in this world & I know I’ll continue to enjoy sharing the world with them.
A little over a year ago I decided to start walking my dogs Zena & Cadel every day. I had been walking them about three times a week even though I knew they would benefit from daily walks. So propelled by the fact that I’d stepped away from the workforce I decided to begin daily walks. It’s safe to say Zena & Cadel adjusted to this new routine a lot quicker than I! Whilst I had always enjoyed walking my dogs I don’t experience the same exercise highs I get from riding my bike. There is always a moment when I’m riding my bike that I realise my mind is empty of all thoughts. There is no anxiety, no stress, not even happiness. Just simply a mind hearing my feet push pedals & the sound of bike tyres on the road. That emptiness does not come with dog walking. And daily dog walking meant I had little spare time or energy to ride my bike.
Despite this I pushed on with our new routine. I’d fall out of bed, barely awake as I dressed then I’d walk outside, dogs shadowing my every step to make sure I didn’t forget them. As if I would! They were the only reason I was bleary eyed & walking. Gradually I came to appreciate our walks. Expending energy first thing in the morning left Zena & Cadel happy & settled for the rest of the day. I’ve come to the realisation that the saying shouldn’t be ‘happy wife happy life’ but instead ‘happy dogs happy life!’ Sure it doesn’t have the same ring to it but it’s certainly true.
Twelve months on & I’ve returned to the workforce. With this has come a lot of adjustments for me as well as Zena & Cadel. I found myself unable to walk them daily; my body had fallen out of the rhythm of being at work. After a few weeks of this I’ve realised that I can’t continue not walking them daily. It’s become a much loved routine that has benefits for the three of us. I might not get the empty mind that comes from bike riding but I have benefitted from a mind that wanders. Suddenly a problem is solved without my conscious mind thinking about it. Or a photographic or writing idea will come to me.
I’ve missed not having these moments. So I’m happy to report we’re back at it. I’m again falling out of bed, finding some clothes to wear & getting the dogs. Then the three of us are off, walking, strengthening our bond & enjoying each others company.
If you could ask them in that moment both Zena & Cadel would say everything is right in their world. I’d agree with them. Things are certainly better when we’re walking together.
Early this past Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed at a time of day I rarely see & did my best to wake up. When my sister-in-law Ashton asked me to be her photographer for an inaugural charity event that saw runners on land race her family paddle steamer the PS Melbourne I was quick to agree. I like to help her whenever I can & I thought this would be a relatively easy way to help out. If I’d have known that I’d be setting an alarm for 6:30am I might well have reconsidered! Anyway as I ate my breakfast I hoped that the early start would be worth it.
Pulling my car in to find a park I felt a jolt of excitement when I saw lots of participants milling about the starting area. I was sure this would surely mean the event would be a success. Making my way onto the boat I kept an eye on the runners trying to determine how many of them were serious about arriving at the end point before we on the boat docked. To my untrained eye most of them looked keen to give it their best shot.
From the water I knew there wouldn’t be many points where I’d be able to see the runners once the event was underway. It occurred to me that the best place to photograph the runners & somehow tie that back to the boat itself would be when they crossed over the Murray Bridge. Making my way to the front of the boat (excuse my ignorance of the correct boat terms. I don’t claim to know anything about boats & don’t see the need to go looking for the right terms because this website is not about the boating life!) I looked for something that I could potentially frame the runners with. I took a photo with the backs of people who were relaxing on the boat but knew immediately that it wasn’t the right way to go about framing. As we got closer to the bridge I realised sections of wood on the boat would frame a photo in an interesting way. I crouched down & took a couple of photos. The one above worked out exactly how I hoped. The lines from the boat intersect nicely with the lines from the bridge. The woman running may only just be visible but I think that she provides enough impact. There are more photos from the morning that I’m happy with but none in the same way as I am with this one. To me it feels like a representation of what I’ve been trying to do with my photography this year. That is to capture the everyday beauty that surrounds me, if I look close enough for it. This particular photo - or any of the others that I make on this personal quest of mine - might not represent ‘typical’ beauty but I don’t give a damn about that. I’m trying to photograph beauty as I see it. Hopefully others will recognise that beauty too but it’s ok with me if they don’t.
The event was a success. There were some pretty serious & fast runners, who arrived at the finish line before the boat arrived. We arrived somewhere in the middle of the pack although it feels kinda weird viewing it that way considering we travelled on water! Prizes were given out, breakfast rolls & coffee were consumed & kids ran around enjoying the sun. The trip back to the wharf was a lively affair with many participants celebrating with an alcoholic beverage or two & several more dancing to the tunes pumped out by a live radio broadcast taking place onboard. I suspect the dollar value raised during the event was high enough that it will go ahead again next year. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to observe & photograph the goings on second time round.
I’ve been berating myself for days because this blog post is late. When I decided to blog regularly I made a promise to myself that I would write weekly. Weekly posts felt manageable & for the most part I’ve managed to keep to the schedule. This past week has seen me return to working outside of my home. I’d forgotten how difficult it can be to work full time hours & have some kind of existence outside of work life. I’ve only used my camera once this past week, my breakfast art has taken a hit as has my daily dog walking. So far my anxiety has mostly remained under control with only a few small moments where I thought it might become out of control.
I’m taking that as a win, regardless of how small that win is. Aside from medication & regular GP & psychologist visits I’ve learnt what works for me to keep my mental health stable. Of course i cant control everything so sometimes I have an unexpected anxiety attack.
A week ago I had a mentally tough day. I hoped that attending a couple of pole fit classes would pull me out of the anxiety attack that I’d spent the day fighting off. Turns out I was wrong. I felt uncomfortable & out of my comfort zone & despite trying to shut off the voice that was telling me have terrible I was. Eventually it won & not for the first time I left a class mid way, unable to control the anxiety that was taking over.
I hate when this happens. I feel like a freak & have an overwhelming sense of self hatred. I wish that i could disappear off this planet, erase my entire being & cease to exist. As I write that now I realise that it might sound extreme particularly if you’ve never experienced anxiety yourself. But that’s how I feel after an anxiety attack. Thankfully with therapy, time & medication those feelings go away a lot quicker than they used to. But I write of them because I believe the more we as a society talk about mental illness the more likely it is that the stigma around it is reduced. Perhaps one day it might even disappear. If you’ve read this post & it resonates with you, know that you aren’t alone. There are people you can reach out to for help. Look around you, find who those people are & engage with them. It’s ok to ask for help.
To end this post on a lighter note my pole fitness classes this week went a lot better than last. I was exhausted from work but happy to be among friends. I was again pushed out of my comfort zone but this time took to it with relish. I laughed at my fails & felt joy at my successes. The above photo shows me in one of the moves we learnt, where I actually managed to succeed. I know not all days can be like this when anxiety is part of my reality but I’m thankful there’s more good days than bad.
Photographing small moments of beauty has - over the past few months - become incredibly important to me. When I am anxious I find myself unable to see the world properly. Effort is needed, either medical or physical - often both - to pull my mind out of anxiety. For some time afterwards I feel as though I’m teetering between two realities: the anxious & the non-anxious me. It’s a weird feeling but I have become accustomed to it. During the time of afterwards it helps me if I can distract my mind to help ensure it doesn’t become anxious again.
The easiest distraction can be found by cuddling my dogs. I swear that they are therapeutic! They sit with me, lick away any tears that may be lingering & do their damnedest to keep me calm.
My habit of taking my camera along to my pole fitness classes has provided me with countless opportunities to capture small moments of beauty. These photos are my favourite to take although I’m finding it difficult to articulate why. This is my fourth attempt at this post; I can’t find the right words to express how I feel when I take the photos of these women moving in beautiful & athletic ways, nor afterwards when I look back at them. The closest word I have to describe taking the photos is joy because as I look at the movements through my camera thats often what I see, but that’s not really right. Delight probably best describes my feelings when I look back at my photos but it isn’t really that either. Why is it so damn hard to describe these feelings? I suppose for you, the reader, my feelings don’t make much difference to my photographic results. Except I think actually they do. If I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was taking photos then I don’t think I would push myself out of my creative comfort zone. I wouldn’t be looking to improve my technique or try different things; I’d simply be happy phoning it in. Or not even bothering to try in the first place. Yet because I love what I am doing I keep striving to improve, to notice even smaller moments of beauty & try to capture them.
The photos that accompany this post were taken as we were getting ready for Aerial Showcase 2019. Yes, I took part & yes I had my camera. I couldn’t resist bringing it because I knew there would be moments to cherish later on. I found myself having to put my camera away, lest I be late getting myself ready but I’m glad I had it with me. The photos (I’ll be sharing more in a portfolio here) make me smile. What I’d like to do with them next is to have them printed. I think it will be nice to be able see the photos hanging on a wall, reminding me that yes indeed there is beauty everywhere if you look for it.
Of all the cliches that exist about Australia the one about kangaroos hopping down our streets infuriates me the most. The idea that the entire country is populated by so many kangaroos that they share city life with us is to me absurd. During our honeymoon in America we were asked numerous times about roos hopping down our streets. We were even asked if we could ride them!
I’m not sure where the cliche comes from. A quick internet search suggests that it may be born out of people’s confusion over the size of kangaroos: some people think they are small like squirrels so at that size it stands to reason they would coexist with humans, just like squirrels do. Another idea about the cliche offered up is that wild bears are commonly found scrounging for food in some parts of the US, so why wouldn’t roos be commonly seen in Australia? Getting to the heart of where the cliche comes from would probably take more time than its worth finding out about.
During summer when the weather is oppressively hot I walk my dogs as early as I can in order to beat the heat. I’m not an early bird so I tend to be walking on autopilot barely aware of the beauty unfolding around me. The sun continues to rise, parrots are chirping as they begin going about their day & the sounds of traffic in the distance aren’t yet overwhelming. Occasionally we will be greeted with the sight of a single kangaroo or more typically a pair of roos. They have been drinking water used to irrigate fig trees or table grapes. The watering holes they usually drink from are dry. Mostly they see us before we see them & are bounding away when they are noticed. Once or twice however I’ve been lucky enough to see them first. My strongest memory is of a small pair of roos, standing close to a grove of fig trees. Water is spraying from sprinklers across the tops of the trees; next to the roos is small pool of water. I anthropomorphise them & decide they look content. Happy to have enjoyed a drink. They notice me & for a brief moment we are looking at each other, them no doubt determining if my dogs & I are a threat, me aching because I don’t have my camera with me so have missed an opportunity to take a beautiful photo. They are on the opposite side of the road to us however we are walking towards them. In unison they make a slight turn & bound across the road in front of us, continuing into the vineyard that we’re walking past. My dogs would really like to take off after them vocalising to me that we should take chase. Of course we don’t, instead continuing our walk home.
Walking my dogs this past Friday morning we come across a large dead kangaroo by the side of the road, taking up part of the walking track that we are on. We have no choice but to walk past it. My dogs glance at it but they aren’t interested. There is no blood in sight & there is no smell of death so I assume that it was killed recently, probably earlier that morning by a car or more likely a truck. Despite the location being on the outskirts of town it had found itself on a major highway when it met its end. I feel sad for it & hope that death came quickly. I don’t see a pouch so console myself a little knowing that there is no possibility of a joey losing it’s life too. When I drive past that spot the next day the roo is gone. I wonder whose job it is to take it away & where does the body go?
Recently I’ve rediscovered the joy of using a public library. This has happened for a number of reasons. My list of books to read is large & grows faster than I can read. And I don’t really need to own all these books. I feel a little guilty admitting this because I assume that authors earn more royalties from books purchased than they do from books borrowed from libraries. However if I purchased every book that I want to read I’d pretty soon run out of room to store them. Buying digital copies of them doesn’t always work for me either. I buy them occasionally but still struggle to enjoy the process of reading a digital book. They just don’t feel right to me.
Borrowing books instead of buying them also saves me money which is something I’ll never complain about. Most important however is sharing the library with my nephew Jensen. He is four years old & loves everything about being at the library.
Together we return books using the return chute located on the library’s entrance. A metal opening in the wall is unlocked by the presence of a book placed in front of a scanner. This is very exciting! A beeping sound is made when the chute is ready to accept another book & it shines a green or red light depending on what stage of accepting books it is in.
Once our books are returned we enter the library, and Jensen excitedly runs over to the children’s section. I don’t remember being allowed to run in the public library when I was a child. I remember the library as a place to move slowly, almost reverently & to ensure browsing was done as quietly as possible. The building that housed the library was old & dark & it did not feel welcoming to children. It was a stark contrast to the building that houses the public library today. This building is large, open & full of natural & artificial light. Chairs & tables are placed strategically to encourage visitors to linger.
Jensen isn’t discouraged by the librarians when they see him run. They don’t shush us to be quiet; they accept that this is the behaviour of kids having fun in a place they like to be. What a blessing this acceptance is.
The children’s section is full of bright colours & encouraging words about the wonders of reading. Sometimes we first pick books to sit & read, other times we play with the blocks before selecting books to borrow. I love watching Jensen as he decides what books to borrow. I honestly have no idea what his criteria is. About all I can say with any assurance is the the cover needs to catch his eye. He studies the covers quickly, in stark contrast to how I select a book; I take time to assess the cover then read the blurb on the back. For Jensen however if the cover image catches his eye with something fun or features an animal that he likes then it will be borrowed.
Once the books are chosen we go to the hold area so I can collect the books that I’ve reserved for myself. The excitement then kicks up a notch again as we go through the process of checking out the books. Jensen places my card on the computer bench so it can scan my library card. We then take it in turn scanning books & putting them in our library bag. Once done we collect the borrowing receipt that the computer spits out & then we make our way to the cafe. Because you can’t visit the library without enjoying a chocolate milkshake & something to eat!
One day I’d like to take Jensen & his brother Eli to the library, to read a book that I’ve written & had published. They have sparked my interest in writing for children & it would be a perfect day if we could read together a book that I have written.
A foundation built on
strengthened by the desire
to move through life together
Tested by unexpected forces
proof we are better together
United by belief
in each other
in our friendship
in our love
I have struggled to articulate in this blog post what 15 years of marriage to David means to me, so penned the above words in an effort to do so. They fall short of what I feel but I cannot keep writing & deleting or I’ll be at my computer forever! I did consider posting something totally unrelated to our wedding anniversary today but that would feel like I wasn’t being true to myself. We aren’t actually celebrating today; I’ve got dress rehearsal tonight for Friday’s aerial showcase so we’ve decided to pick another day in October to celebrate. Maybe by then I’ll have something decent to share in a blog post :)
How is it already October? Where has the year gone? I find it hard to believe that my husband & I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday. 15 years! WTF? Two days after that & I’ll be performing in the 3rd Pole Fit Mildura Showcase. Yet again, WTF? It only feels like moments ago that I was doped on painkillers due to injury so I could participate in the 2nd Showcase. And it does not feel like I’ve been married for 15 years. What the actual fuck?
So considering all that I thought it a good idea to write my first Taking Stock post. As a way to feel like I’ve got some hold on life, sure, but also to take a micro look at my life & appreciate what I have. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but Pip from MeetMeAtMikes writes the best Taking Stock posts. She encourages others to take stock & kindly provides her taking stock list on her blog. Thanks Pip, I love the idea of doing this every now & again.
Here’s my list; perhaps you’d like to make one yourself?
Making Art gifts for two friends. I can’t say more, in case they read this post!
Photographing My dogs, my friends at pole fitness, the setting sun. These are my go to things to photograph at the moment.
Cooking a cake to enjoy on our wedding anniversary. Well, ok I haven’t baked it yet, but I’m going to next week.
Reading True Stories by Helen Garner. If you don’t know it, it’s her collected works of non-fiction. I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the latest issue of Flow magazine. It’s always an enjoyable read.
Sipping Japanese Sencha tea from T2. It ties for my favourite tea, along with their Melbourne Breakfast.
Looking into buying a new washing machine. Ours is 10 years old. It’s not working very well anymore. I have no idea what I want, other than a machine that actually works. So I’ll be doing lots of online research before laying down any cash.
Listening to Garbage, Amanda Palmer, Florence & The Machine and Lorde. I can’t get enough of these women lately. They’re all my favourites & I love listening to them nice & loud.
Wishing that we were living in our new home. Not long now, hopefully.
Enjoying eating meals that I made in bulk & froze into servings for two. Makes life easy, although I don’t seem to always be organised enough to cook this way.
Waiting for daylight savings to start. Extra daylight in the evening is great, it always feels like I get a lot more done. I’m more productive of an afternoon & evening which is probably also why I like daylight savings so much.
Loving my A5 Cahier notebook from Pebble Stationery Co. It uses 52gsm Tamoe River paper which is so beautiful to write on. Pebble is an Australian company & I have the pleasure of interviewing the founder Lois Ho for an episode of the Art Supply Posse podcast. Which I am going to encourage you to listen & subscribe to ;)
Liking making the incredibly indulgent XXL Death by Chocolate Cookie by Sally’s Baking Addiction. I make these when I’m craving chocolate. Really craving it, but don’t actually want chocolate. Which seems like a misnomer I know. I make them as two larger cookies; the first time I baked this recipe I made it as one but couldn’t eat it in one sitting. It could probably be made into smaller cookies, but where’s the fun in that?
Buying a beautiful teapot from a store from a store on the Japanese website Rakuten. I accidentally broke my favourite teapot on the weekend. It’s no longer available, of course, so I spent way too long looking for a replacement. Warning: if you’re as in love with all things Japanese like I am, you’ll be tempted to buy all the things. You have been warned :)
Watching series 11 of Gruen, by the ABC. I love Wil Anderson. He’s one of my favourite comedians. This show never disappoints. I’m also loving the comedy panel show Insert Name Here, with comedian Sue Perkins. She’s great & so is this show.
Hoping that I get through our showcase performance uninjured. Last year I had a spectacular fall at the beginning of our piece during full dress rehearsal on performance day. It meant I had to pull out of one of the pieces I was to perform in. And I performed whilst on a lot of painkillers. I won’t post a photo here of my bruised & battered knees. They took the full brunt of my fall. It’s not a pretty image.
Needing more sleep. Its the story of my life at the moment
Wearing whilst unpacking (see below for more details) I found a bikini set that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t actually worn. I think it will be perfect for wearing to my pole fit class. I shall wear it to tomorrow nights class.
Following I interviewed Jane Mills for an episode of Art Supply Posse, during which she talked about streaming on Twitch when she makes her art. I knew little about Twitch, other than that its a platform for gamers. Turns out there’s more to it than that. That chat led me to join Twitch & I’ve watched her art streams a couple of times now. I’m really enjoying it. If that’s you thing give her a follow. You won’t regret it.
Noticing my stone fruit trees are all in various stages of blossom. So is the lemon tree. I love this time of year, the beauty of the blossoms & the promise of fruit to come.
Sorting through the boxes that we’ve had in storage for the last four years. Almost everything we own has been in storage in our shed as we build our house. As it’s nearing completion I’ve begun unpacking. A lot of it is going to goodwill or into the bin. It turns out there’s a lot of stuff that we own that we don’t actually need.
Getting excited to see U2 next month in Adelaide. I’ve seen them every time they’ve been in Australia since Popmart & I’m excited for the Joshua Tree tour. I know it’s going to be great.
Saving offcuts & scraps of vegetables, coffee grindings, used tea leaves etc & dumping them all into my new Bokashi bin. I had a voucher for Biome Eco Store & had to buy myself one. It feels good using all that waste to create good stuff for the garden.
Bookmarking various writing websites. Both as a means to look into courses to take to improve my writing skills but also publishers so I can submit my children’s stories to the slush pile. I hope to break through the pile to become a published children’s book author.
Coveting Fujifilm’s newly announced X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. I have the original X-Pro1, bought at a terrific price once it had been on the market for 18 months or so. I love it, but its time for an upgrade. I’m hoping when the price is announced in mid October, coinciding with it becoming available to buy, that I’ll be able to afford one.
Opening a zine called Scotland On Film. I purchased it from a guy who posted a thread on Reddit. It arrived today.
Giggling when listening to comedy podcasts. Or any comedy really. But comedy podcasts are my thing. Two new episodes of The Little DumDum Club & DYKWIA are waiting in my podcast app to listen to which I’ll do once this post is finished. Give them a listen too, once you’ve listened to Art Supply Posse ;)
Feeling a sense of renewal. It’s a bloody wonderful feeling, throwing away all the unneeded stuff we own. I highly recommend it.
Hearing the gentle breathing of Zena & Cadel as they sleep. I love my dogs :)
Obsessing about the aforementioned X-Pro3. Yes I’ve got it bad!
Well thats my list done. I’d love to hear if any of this resonates with you. And go write your own taking stock list. It’s a fun little exercise.
I have been looking over some of the different art that I’ve made since I began my daily breakfast art practice. They consist of a variety of different types of art; some are more complex than others, some shine because of their simplicity. The common thread that ties them together is that they’ve all been made as I enjoyed eating breakfast.
There are reoccurring styles: backgrounds created by applying fountain pen ink & water to paper to which I use black or gold markers to create Japanese inspired wave designs feature frequently. As do the seemingly random application of colour to a page creating not so much as art in the traditional sense but rather a pleasing group of colours.
I look forward to making this art daily. There are some nights that I fall asleep thinking about what I could create the next morning. Yet the mornings when I have no idea what I’ll create are the most exciting to me. Art that is made with no intention except to create something gives me a wonderful feeling.
I find myself about to return to ‘normal’ work, which is to say going to work in a business as opposed to only working from home. This work will be part time but I am accepting this reality with trepidation for I know what may come. Overwhelming anxiety leaving me without the ability to walk in this world with ease was what caused me to quit working full time. The reality is this might happen again. My coping mechanisms such as the breakfast art practice & daily dog walking will work to help keep me on an even keel, at least that’s the hope.
I’ll look into increasing visits to my psychologist & GP. I’ll try to remember to ask for help when I need it. Do all the things that are needed to protect myself so anxiety doesn’t take over every waking thought. Fingers crossed.
For approximately 18 months I have been interviewing people for the podcast Art Supply Posse. I’ve chatted with a variety of artists as well as retailers of art supplies. Everyone from Kevin Murphy - whose art has been commissioned by such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Game of Thrones & now runs his own art school, Gosia Orlinksa who is an artist & an art therapist to ceramicist Julia Skott who challenged me to label myself as an artist.
I love bringing these chats to our listeners. I try to guide our conversation in a gentle way so that it sounds like a chat between two friends as opposed to a question & answer type interview. I don’t know about you but I prefer to listen to a podcast where it sounds like I’m listening to a couple of friends have a conversation. It makes me feel like I’m in the room with them.
That might sound like it’s difficult to achieve but I’ve found that once people start talking about the thing they love, such as painting with watercolours or pouring alcohol based inks onto canvas, the conversation flows naturally. People slip into that world, their world of art & creativity & their conversation carries you into that world too.
Talking to so many artists who are often at different stages of their career to each other has made me realise a few things about myself & my long held views of my creative abilities. And I suspect these realisations have occurred to some of our listeners too.
By far the majority of artists have had family support to pursue their creative endeavours. Some have or had artistic parents & most have or had parents who encouraged the creativity when they weren’t creative themselves. Yet even artists with family supported have occasionally had doubts about their work. This goes against my expectations; surely only those who suffer from doubting their art are people like me who were actively discouraged from making art?
Turns out that’s not the case. Self doubt seems to affect a lot more artists than I expected. The more I hear this expressed by artists, the more I realise that its almost common among creative people. I’m always grateful when someone I follow on Instagram posts something about how they’re in a creative rut that they’re having trouble getting out of. Not because they are in that place but because they are sharing it. The more creative people can see that self doubt is common, the better. It will make it easier for us all if we know that self doubt is common & can be worked through, if thats what is wanted.
Everyone I have spoken to has encouraged our listeners to continue following their artistic pursuits or to take up something that they’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the courage to do so. The more I hear this the more encouraged I am to continue with my creative loves. I can now say I am a writer & a photographer. It turns out, despite my fears otherwise, admitting these things won’t kill me! It doesn’t even hurt me!
Give it a try yourself, if you’d like to call yourself an artist, a writer, a filmmaker or photographer or whatever it is you know deep down you are. It won’t hurt, I promise! Start saying it out loud to yourself, then try it on your pets. Pretty soon you’ll find it easy to slip into conversation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make a living from your creativity & it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want to pursue it financially. Claim the thing you are. You claiming it & proclaiming it will make it easier for someone else to claim their thing. That I can also promise.
Tomorrow is RUOK Day here in Australia. Today’s post wasn’t going to touch on mental illness but i feel like I’m surrounded by it at the moment so it feels like I should write something about it.
Someone close to me experienced anxiety for the first time in their life recently & I felt it was an eye opening experience for the both of us. Person X (an easy way to reference this person without giving them away) had up until recently gone through life without experiencing a mental illness. Sometimes I would think how lucky X was, to not have first hand experience of being mentally unwell. I would occasionally feel a little jealous of X, because of my familiarity with mental illness. I’ve had diagnosed depression three seperate times & am sure I had it in my late teens although it went undiagnosed. This coming November will see the third anniversary of my diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
So when X was given an anxiety diagnosis I knew I’d be able to offer support. I watched the mind of X (yes, writing that makes me think of an old school spy movie, but I’m committed to using it now so I’ll chuckle to myself & keep writing) loop over & over in the anxious way I know intimately. A thought would occur & despite reassurances from me or others it would loop over & over on a constant thread of what if.
“But what if this happens? Or what about that scenario. Won’t this other thing then take place?” Over & over & over the same things were repeated, making me wonder sometimes if I was being heard at all.
It felt a little like I was having an out of body experience. I watched X run through their anxiety & think to myself ‘this is what I do.’ My mind will latch onto a thought, an often ridiculous, impossible or sometimes catastrophic scenario & loop it over & over in my mind, seemingly unable to stop. I would sometimes feel tired from repeating my words to X & knew in those moments X had felt the same tiredness from conversations with me.
Or I’d be reassuring X to try to stop the anxiety & knew that X had been in this exact same position, offering reassurance & support to me while feeling the fruitlessness of their words washing over me & having little effect. This must be why X has expressed the desire to flick a switch & turn anxiety off.
There have been people other than X talk over their anxiety with me this year & other years & I’ve done my best to offer support, letting them know I’m here for them when they want to talk. Or sit with them when they need to get angry or just to offer a shoulder to cry on. If I can offer them just a tiny bit of support, to let them know that they are loved, then I hope that it helps them in some way.
So what is the point of this blog post? I’ve touched on living with anxiety in previous blog posts & I will again in the future. It’s a constant on my life & touches everything thing I do. Increasingly it’s impact is smaller on my life, due in large part to my daily anxiety medication & frequent GP & psychologist visits. I’m learning to use my experience with anxiety for good; the above photo forms part of my small but growing body of work trying to photograph the world as seen by me through the lens of an anxiety attack.
If you’re one of the lucky ones to have not had a mental illness you can still be supportive to those who have. You don’t have to have experienced something to be empathetic. But if you feel you would like to learn more, there are countless places online to learn. Beyond Blue is a great place to start, Sane Australia is another. Spend a few minutes getting to know the signs of someone who might be experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. Learn how to ask someone if they need help. Or to tell them that you’d be happy to sit with them so they can talk to you. Learning these things will benefit you & possibly allow you to see signs of someone’s undiagnosed mental illness. Do it with compassion & love. You’ll be a better person for it.
I was lucky enough to meet with a good friend in Melbourne last Thursday. We’d decided earlier on this year that we needed a break from our lives & flying to Melbourne for a few days away seemed like a good idea. It gave us a concrete point in the future that we could work towards, coming in handy when we were wondering if we could get through what life was throwing at us at various times this year.
As I am wont to do I packed my camera into my handbag, expecting there would be opportunities to take photos of something, somewhere. Thankfully, Melbourne delivered. The weather was beautiful & the vibe in the CBD seemed to echo the weather. I had Friday to myself whilst my friend attended a conference, so I spent the the day walking with my camera.
I thought taking my time to wander the city slowly, sitting down whenever I felt like it & paying attention to the light & people within it would hopefully provide me with some opportunities to take photos that I could be happy with. As I moved through the day I found myself yet again being drawn to people with their dogs. Many were walking together, some people were carrying their dogs in their arms & others were sitting with their dog by their side.
I find dogs more interesting than their owners, although I pay attention to the owners in case it is worth focussing on the them in lieu of their dog. I want to know what the dogs are thinking & feeling & try to capture that. I like to think this guy in the photo above was watching me, making sure that I wasn’t going to be a threat to his owner & then wondering what on earth I was doing. To him I probably looked weird standing nearby, relaxed but holding a strange thing in front of my face. He relaxed once he knew I wasn’t going to be a threat & moved his attention elsewhere.
Reflecting on this moment & looking at other opportunities I’ve had trying my hand at street photography I’ve realised that the genre of street photography of dogs appeals to me. It ties together two things that I love - taking photos & dogs. It seems like a natural fit so I’ve decided to improve my skillset within the streets of where I live. It’s not enough for me to wait until I’m in Melbourne or another city. I want to take these types of photos more often so the sensible thing to do is to do it locally. If I have any luck with this project I’ll post images here.
Sometime after my husband & I purchased a one acre block of land to build our new home on, I realised that the location affords beautiful views of the setting sun. These unexpected views have provided a source of photographic inspiration for me, especially on days when I have little time for anything other than taking a quick photo with my iPhone.
I thought I’d like to take advantage of these sunsets & set about working out how to predict when one would be particularly captivating. I found an iPhone app called GoldenHour & used it to forward plan sunset opportunities. I noted that if the cloud cover was not too heavy it would add an extra dimension, providing another place in the sky for colour to be reflected. If an evening storm was forecast the preceding clouds did something incredible to the sky, like in the above photo.
Slowly I learnt when to expect a sunset that required my attention & I began to group the photos into an album on my iPhone, allowing quick comparison of them but also allowing me to easily enjoy their beauty again. Flicking through this album I realised that I want to share these photos with others. I just wasn’t sure how to best share them.
After considering this for a while I decided that making a zine would be a great way to showcase these sunsets & share them with others. Each photo would be accompanied by the date it was taken & nothing more allowing the photos to convey their beauty.
I have never made a zine before. I’ve done some research, going down an infinite rabbit hole of possibilities only to stop myself mid way realising that this zine can be whatever I want it to be. I’m going to work on it during the coming weeks & will share my progress here, as well as the completed zine.
On the subject of zine’s I was excited to discover that a tea story I wrote was recently published in a new zine by Naomi Bulger on her website Naomi Loves
In the name of full disclosure I engaged Naomi as my mentor earlier this year. I feel it’s important that you know that although I doubt that is why my story was published. Perhaps talking about mentorship is something I should write about in another post.
It feels special to see my words printed in her zine & I wanted to share it with you. Without Naomi I wouldn’t be here blogging every week & updating this website. I hope you enjoy her Tea Stories zine. And make sure you check out the rest of her work. You’re bound to love it as much as I do.
When I took my first pole fitness class a little over two years ago I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping the class would be fun & might provide a way to get fit without feeling like a lot of effort was involved. By the end of that first class I knew I’d found a new habit. Unused muscles had begun to ache, invigorating me to the possibilities of what it could do if I used it in an unaccustomed manner. More importantly though I’d had fun. Attempting pole moves that were foreign to me felt weird at first but I laughed at the feeling of awkwardness & tried the moves anyway.
I knew I would never look as graceful or beautiful on the pole as the instructor but I was ok with that. I just wanted to keep going, to learn more moves & more importantly to me, test my body’s capabilities. So I returned the following week & pretty soon found myself a regular at the pole studio. I kept returning because I was enjoying myself & because I wanted to continue to see what my body could do. That remains a driving force today, challenging my body by constantly placing it into weird & wonderful positions.
I’ve never liked being photographed but now I have hundreds of photos of me on my phone, in probably as many positions, that serve as a reminder of how to do it again, but also as proof of my achievements.
Reflecting on these past two years attending the pole fitness studio, it’s obvious that my hopes to get fit & have fun came true. However the unexpected element from these two years are the friendships that I’ve formed.
I’ve always found it difficult to make friends. I’ve never liked putting myself out there, especially around people that I don’t know very well or do not know at all. Despite these anxieties I now call some of the women I’ve met at pole my friends. We’ve shared laughter & tears, secrets & triumphs, coffee, alcohol & food. We champion each other as we try out something new, applauding & shouting with glee at the successes. And encourage each other when it doesn’t quite work out.
I cherish these friendships & hope they prevail for many years to come.
As I write this I find it difficult to believe that 12 months ago I was China for the first time, alone, exhausted, ill-prepared for the oppressive humidity at Shanghai Airport, trying to make my way through customs with no knowledge of Chinese & no clear idea of where I needed to be going. I was attending a conference for work & due things going on in my life I wasn’t able to bring my husband along with me to enjoy the experience of a visiting a country I’d not been to before, nor was I able to extend my stay beyond the five days of the conference.
On the second last day of my stay I had a few hours of free time so I joined a couple of people I met at the conference on a walk to try to make our way to a pagoda located on the top of a mountain, that could be seen from our hotel. We weren’t able to get to it so instead walked the gardens located at the base of the mountain enjoying their tranquility & beauty.
I was amazed to see the air full of dragonflies. They flitted around, paying no attention to me standing there, gobsmacked to see so many of them at once. I guess the combination of the humidity & the abundance of water provides a perfect home for them. They can be just seen in the photo above as mere specks in the sky; I didn’t have a lens suitable to capture them close enough but I didn’t want to edit them out of the photo either.
Travelling somewhere new is an experience like no other. The excitement of new surrounds & the possibilities of what photographic opportunities might arise cannot be matched. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to travel to new places often. I do visit Melbourne a few times throughout any given year so I’ve been trying to focus my attention on capturing the things about the city that to me make Melbourne feel like Melbourne. That allow me to look at them when I’m home & think yes that photos speaks of Melbourne, at least to me anyway.
I wonder if I can create photos like this of my local area? Can I look at the places I’ve traversed so often & find something of interest in them? I think I’ll give it a try. It cannot hurt & it might just help me improve my photographic skills. Regardless of the outcome of this challenge I’ll write about it here. Hopefully I’ll have a photo or two I’ll be happy to share sometime in the near future.
Further to last weeks post, where I mused on my breakfast art habit it occurred to me that I am also completing sketchbooks. As in using every single page to create something on. I cannot remember the last time this happened. It may be entirely possible that this has never happened. Yep, in 42 years it’s quite possible that sketchbooks have entered my life only to find themselves languishing in a cupboard or worse, thrown away in a mad moment of getting rid of things if I haven’t used them. So far I’ve completed two sketchbooks, both of which are in the photo below & am half way through finishing the larger one at the back.
I use a Midori Travellers Notebook as my daily diary/to-do list/reminder of things. The inserts in these get used, every single page filled with writing, notes, drawings & art. However when it comes to sketchbooks, well they are an entirely different beast. I have always thought deep down in the back of my psyche somewhere that because I am not an ‘artist’ I don’t really deserve the lovely new sketchbook I bought myself. Or even the lesser quality but still acceptable sketchbook that I’ve owned for years.
Only ‘artists’ should be using those. Lately l have come to realise that this is utter bullshit. Sure I am not an artist in the traditional sense of a person standing in front of a canvas, painting someones portrait in oils, but I still like to make art. I may be the only one who likes my art, but that’s totally ok with me. I’m not making it for anyone but myself. If I hang some of it on my walls and you don’t like it, you’re welcome to tell me. I will respect you more for your honesty. But you don’t have to like it. I’m making it to have fun. To express myself through pens & inks & markers & paint. That’s all.
Although as often seems to be the case in life, that isn’t quite all. Because I’ve realised that the fun I’m having making these small pieces of art is carrying itself over into my photography & to a lesser extent my writing. I am doing both of these things more often & each time I’m trying to get better at them. But I’m caring less & less about if they will be ‘liked’. Thats not to say I don’t want people to like my photos. Thats not to say that I don’t dream of seeing my writing published. But I finally recognise that what I write & what I take photos of does not suit everyone. And thats ok. Hopefully it will resonate with someone. Maybe I will publish my children’s stories (which is a big dream I have), but I also know that my life won’t end if I don’t. I’ll keep doing these things & be happy. I’ll be happier if in some one my work resonates with someone or reaches are larger audience than simply myself. But I’ll still be happy regardless of the reach of my work.
Next time you hear me complain that what I make is terrible & liked by no one, please point me in the direction of this post. I suspect future me might from time to time forget these words & will need a gentle reminder ;)
When I first began making what I refer to as my Japanese inspired wave art I was cautious, worried about making mistakes. The first three or four I made began with me drawing the design first using a lead pencil. Once completed I then went over it with a black brush pen. Aside from being a time consuming way to make them, I also wasn’t happy because if I wasn’t careful when erasing the pencil marks I would erase some of the pen marks. So it was out of necessity that I began making them using the brush pen only.
At first this was terrifying. What if I made a mistake? What if I destroyed the beauty I was trying to make? I painstakingly created the marks, looking at the reference images copiously, slowly getting something down that I thought looked ok. What I realised however was it doesn’t matter how careful I was being, I was not going to be able to make my art look like the reference images. They were made by Japanese master craftsman who had probably spent their entire lives practising this art. I on the other hand only began making them & I have no intention of devoting my entire life to this one practice only. So I had to accept that my interpretation was never going to be perfect. Surprisingly for me I found this realisation freeing. I immediately accepted the facts and moved on to creating art for arts sake.
I wish I could let go of perfection in other areas of my life as easily as I have with the wave art. I am so incredibly hard on myself, particularly when I am doing something that is important to me. I have an unhealthy ability to loop over & over in my mind a barrage of words that sum up how useless I am if I am struggling to do something. It’s taken me years to recognise this. I used to have the thoughts & not really be aware of them. Now I hear them & actively try to stop them. My success rate is probably about 50%, but hey at least I can stop them sometimes. Some improvement is better than no improvement, right?
If you’re at all interested, the background of this art is made using fountain pen ink. Why? Because I love the serendipity of the outcome. And the range of colours are vast. And it’s a great excuse to buy my ink for my fountain pens! The first one shown is made with Monteverde California Teal ink, the second uses Nick Stewart Ink in Randall Blue Black. The gold waves are created using a Uni Paint Marker inExtra Fine. Lighter background colours look better with black aves, for that I use a Uni Posca Marker PC.1M. The reference images I use are from three PDF books that I downloaded from the Open Culture website.
I have been tentatively stepping back into the world of writing. I remain a little wary, the old noises in my head questioning who do I think I am by writing? More & more however when I hear that noise my response is ‘who I am to not write?’ I’ve always loved to write. I remember writing a convoluted murder mystery as a young child, across a variety of scrap pieces of paper. I’m sure it was terrible but the excitement I felt as I wrote is still vivid.
Like photography I fell away from writing, letting my anxieties around my ability take hold & stop me from producing anything. But now I’ve decided no more. I’m sure I’ll always feel a sense of unease at the quality of what I make but my desire to write & take photos is stronger than that unease. So here’s a little sample of writing. I’m not exactly sure what to classify it as, but I think that’s ok too. It’s better to be writing something whose category I cannot quantify than to not be writing at all.
Constant weariness makes the day difficult. The desire to stop overwhelming. On & on we push. We cannot stop. Or rest. Not until it is complete.
I wonder why did we begin? Why were we sure this was a good idea?
The costs physical & mental. We will never be who we were. We are shells of our former selves. Do will like our new selves? Does it matter?
Each day hour minute we move closer. It’s now tangible. It can be seen. Smelt. Touched. No longer imagination. Not yet reality. So we edge closer. Hopeful. Wanting. The end.
I have been enjoying exploring the possibilities that double exposure photography can bring. Initially I experimented with my iPhone to see what I could create. Happily making double exposures with my X-Pro1 is as easy an experience as it is with my iPhone. I like the otherworldliness the images create, the not quite rightness.
I entered the world of double exposures because I was looking for a way to express my world through the lens of living with anxiety. However as I have moved through this world learning about how to create the images I have come to realise that I simply enjoy making them. They will not be the only images I make, rather they will be another tool to express myself, to show the multifaceted elements of my life, with or without anxiety.
I recently experienced the joy of reading to my nephew a story I have written. The story itself was scribbled into a small notebook I made & contained no pictures. I was amazed at the thrill I felt reading to him. He listened intently & engaged with me as I read. When I was finished he said he liked it. His mum asked him questions about the story, which he answered correctly. Which means of course that he was listening.
My dream is to one day be able to read this story to him, in published book form. Actually my dream is to be able to read him multiple stories that I have written. And to learn that there are children having my stories read to them too. I am in the early stages of polishing this manuscript & submitting it to publishers. I know that being a published children’s book author is a long shot but I’m going to attempt it. I cannot know if I will be successful in becoming published, but I’ll never know if I don’t try.
Wish me luck!
For the past couple of months I have been making art every morning as I eat breakfast. I began simply because breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. When I’m travelling I always take the time to relax & eat a yummy breakfast whilst either sketching, people watching or both. I decided to implement this practice at home so I could always take the time to enjoy my first meal of the day. And to linger over a cup of coffee too :)
I’ve deliberately left the door wide open in terms of what art I will make. Often I’ll wake up with no idea what to create but whilst I’m walking the dogs (which is done pre-breakfast) an idea usually will form. If it doesn’t then I’m not above creating random colourful shapes on the page.
Initially I was making art that meant nothing to me; I realise now however that it has come to mean a lot. It’s helping ease my anxiety around being a creative person. I’m more accepting that that is the sort of person I am. We can’t all be mathematicians or neurosurgeons or other high functioning sorts. It’s ok that I’m creative.
Someone please remind me of this statement when I’m an anxious mess because I’m offering nothing to the world because all I can do is create ;)
This weekend past saw me in Melbourne holidaying with a newer friend. When packing I decided not to pack my camera. My thought process being that I wanted to focus on relaxing, instead of feeling like I “had” to use my camera. Of course as we pounded the pavement of Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday the urge to capture the scenes that caught my eye was strong. I took out my iPhone with the intent of using it as my camera.
Weirdly enough I found myself stuck. I couldn’t use it. I felt ridiculous, wanting to use my iPhone in lieu of the camera I didn’t have. So I put it away. I replayed this in my mind that evening as I was trying to fall asleep. Without a camera in hand I felt exposed. Yet I have read probably hundreds of articles over the years about photographers who exclusively use their camera phones. Surely if they can then I can too? Everywhere we went people were using their phones for one thing or another.
So on Sunday I vowed to try again. This time it felt a little easier, I guess because I’d talked myself into letting go of the unease. I took photos that I’m happy with. Which is really all I want from my photography. I want to makes images I’m happy with, that I can hang on my walls to admire. Preferably with my camera as it seems I’m more comfortable using it as a device to capture things than I am with my iPhone.
For a long time I have found myself captivated when I see brides walking from one location to another in order for their wedding photos to be made. It is the beauty of their dress that catches my attention but that isn’t what keeps it.
I am really taken by what is happening around her. There is usually one or two photographers who direct her, plus the obligatory groom (who I’m rarely interested in) and sometimes the entire bridal party.
In the above case there was also a woman who worked as an assistant to the bride. The voluminous skirts and train were being carried by her when I first saw them. She proceeded to place everything as directed by the photographer, as the bride moved to sit down. I found myself watching her work more than I watched the actual bride. I wondered if she receives the acknowledgment she deserves. Is she paid well? Is she thanked for helping make everything run smoothly and appear perfect?
Perhaps one day I’ll find out the answers to these questions. It wouldn’t be appropriate to enquire whilst an assistant is actually working, so hopefully I’ll come across the answers in another way.
I came across Pebbles when I was wandering around Melbourne looking for things to photograph. She could barely contain her excitement when I crouched down to photograph her. As a one & a half year old Staffy cross, it’s little wonder! Moments after taking this photo she escaped her owners grasp & did her best to clean my face, as apparently it was in need of a tidy :)
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