Through The Eyes Of A Traveller

The photos shown is of gardens located in Suzhou China

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.

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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.

I’m Actually Using My Sketchbooks!

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 😉

Accepting Imperfection

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.

Sharing Writing

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.

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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.

Exploring Double Exposures

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.

Writing For Children

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!

Art For Breakfast

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 😉

Uncomfortable With An iPhone

Boats moored at St. Kilda marina

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.

The repeated lines from the masts of boats are pleasing to my eye

Behind The Scenes

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.