Saturday, 21 March 2009

Where Do I Start? (PS Very Long Post!!)

(One of my Retreat purchases - a wonderful DJ Pettit print)

Goodness - eleven days away from blogging and all of them blog-worthy in one way or another!!

It started with a flight to Perth on the Wednesday. This was the first leg of my trip over to Melbourne for the Creative Soul Art Retreat. I stayed with my wonderful friend Jude and had a lot of fun catching up with her and her husband Peter. I hadn't seen them since their wedding in December and since then they have been in Paris and London so there was a lot to catch up on - including viewing some of the beautiful wedding photos (although there is one of me all by myself making my speech that seriously needs deleting - how can I manage to do something like "that" with my face!!). I don't have any photos yet so can't share but I can guarantee there is at least one that I will not be posting here!!

The next day I spent in the airport and flying the Perth to Melbourne leg. It was a relaxing stress-free day once I got my very heavy case checked in (art supplies weigh a lot and I wasn't able to deliver on my minimalist intentions). The Eagles (for anyone from out of Australia, they are one of two football teams in our state that compete in the national Australian Rules Football competition) were on the plane and only a row away. This is significant as I had a long period when I was an Eagles fan and based much of my weekend around football. What is also significant is that the decade since that period meant I only recognised the oldies (who are now the coaching department!) and everyone else looked the same ages as my sons!! Needless to say I didn't spend time gawking but read my book and watched the movie "Doubt" which I loved. As I was staying at my sister's place in Melbourne for the night and as she was away, I caught the Skybus for the first time - great bus service from the airport to the city but it would have been a whole lot easier with a small lighter bag or if I had been one of the first on the bus - big heavy cases are not easy to slot into full luggage racks!

After a quiet night (including a little dusk walk around Prahran - man, those cicadas are loud) I got myself to the huge Chadstone Shopping Centre the next morning where I was meeting my friend Karin Hutchinson. We had a lovely time wandering through the many shops - as a result of my pre-existing luggage weight I wasn't buying (except for some German chocolate and hot pink Smiggles stuff) but just looking was good fun. Karin introduced me to the delights and decadence of a Belgian hot chocolate for morning tea and we had yummy sushi for lunch.


From there we headed up to Amberley in Lower Plenty for the Art Retreat registration. (and what a fantastic venue it was). That was the start of three and a bit days of fun, laughter, art and catching up with many online friends, some of whom I hadn't previously met in person! It was a bit over-whelming for the introvert in me but it was a really special time and I can feel myself smiling while I write this. The tutors (DJ Pettit, Bernie Berlin and Stephanie Lee) were all lovely and friendly - they mixed in with everybody and there was a wonderful atmosphere all weekend. As is often the way with me, I got all caught up in the experience and took only a couple of photos - none of the tutors or the workshops I took but I'd rather be totally involved than behind a camera anyway! See here and here and here for some photos taken by others over the weekend.
(The lovely bush view from the balcony at the rear of Amberley)

On the Friday night the air of anticipation was palpable and we all made the most of the twilight markets - the tutors and some others were selling art and supplies. I treated myself to a lovely DJ print and a Jen Crossley mixed media necklace (neither of course were heavy so it wasn't hard to justify the purchases). I love them both and can't wait to find a spot to display the print. I was very circumspect when it came to additional supplies though.

Saturday was the first of two workshops I was doing with DJ. It was a journal making class and involved some great techniques for the very heavy water-colour paper covers as well as incorporating her fabric signature wraps, an idea that really appealed to me and one that I will be using in the future. The marriage of paper and fabric is perfect to my mind. The journal was big and involved many steps so it was a lot to get done in the one day but a few of us returned to the workroom after dinner to finish the assembly part. I was getting a bit tired towards the end of the marathon session and managed to stab myself rather convincingly with a thick three inch needle so I had to extract some blood spattered journal pages as a result! I ended up with a rather dramatic bruise on the finger as well but it was all for art!

(My DJ Art Journal - not quite finished but close...)

DJ was a terrific teacher and I really enjoyed the workshop. As I knew I wouldn't have everything I wanted around me, I was able to let go of the urge to make something I'd love and just concentrate on the techniques. In the end though, I was pretty happy with the result and I am looking forward to making another one with all the special bits and pieces that I have at home. As you can see from the photo, I have still some finishing off to do on the spine (painting my stitching and adding beads to the dangling threads). The only thing I didn't do that I wish I had, was to incorporate some text on the cover in the early stages of stenciling and masking. I'll probably just add rub-ons now but it would have been better to have some words under the paint washes.

The Sunday workshop was also with DJ and was a face painting class. Fortunately DJ gave us a sketch to transfer to our canvas or I would have spent half the class just drawing a face to paint! The technique involved painting on a chiffon covered canvas and it was another workshop that I am very glad to have done even if I wasn't happy by the end of the class with what I produced. It certainly wasn't the fault of the teaching but had a lot to do with me wanting to get the shading right and struggling with doing something so detailed with so many people around me. I learnt a lot about myself - I am just too used to doing art by myself and I really got quite uptight! Fortunately my beautiful serene friend and room-mate Susie was sitting next to me and with humour and sweetness she helped me through my "challenges"! I'll post photos tomorrow...


In the end I just wrapped it up and put it away so I wouldn't be tempted to fiddle any more with it until I got home. Now with several days in between I can see that it is all very fixable and that my mistakes came from over-working a not wet enough surface! The big lesson for me is that despite thinking I had a good attitude to workshops (ie you are delusional if you think you are going to produce something close to the tutor's art from a single workshop!!) I did manage to invest too much ego and perfectionism into what I was doing!

Sunday night I had a real thrill when my Retreat Challenge Book (as per my previous post) won second prize - all of the entries were fantastic so I was pretty lucky. The prize was a whole bag full of art supply goodness and seriously was perfect for me and my tastes. It was however weighty and created a little more pressure in the luggage department though!

(My prizes!)

On the Monday I did the Bernie Berlin "Secrets of the Burnt and Bound" workshop. I selected this one because it was a technique based workshop and was not something I expected to get a specific result from. Bernie was just the most delightful person and a really enthusiastic, generous and personable tutor. I let go of all my expectations and just played and I enjoyed expanding my knowledge of background techniques etc! As a result of the learnings from the day before I didn't invest any ego in the result and just went with the flow and as a result had a lovely day of play! I got to sit at a table that included Julie Hetherington so finally had a bit of a chance to get to know her after so long reading her beautiful inspiring blog! Until this retreat I had only had one very short meeting with Julie at a retreat two years ago. And then to finish off a wonderful day I won a door prize (more lovely art supplies!!).

(My finished piece and two unfinished backgrounds from Bernie's workshop)

My beautiful sister Marrijane picked me up on the Monday after the Retreat finished and I had the next few days with her. We had a lovely relaxing and very special time together - all the more special as we live so far apart these days and time together (and time alone together) is rare.
(Marrijane and me!)

Marrijane had planned a day of surprises for me for the Tuesday so at 9am we got in her car and started a journey that was full of unknowns for me (quite a weird feeling actually). As it turned out my sister and Mum had met this lovely Melbourne artist, Beverley Exell back in November when Mum went over to Melbourne for the Andre Rieu concert. Beverley was selling her work at the Arts Centre Sunday Markets and her passion, her creativity and her love for what was she was doing really sparked with Mum and Marrijane and they were positive that I needed to connect with her. I remember Mum being quite insistent on the phone when she got back to WA but I just wrote down Beverley's contact details "for later"! Anyway Marrijane had made contact with Beverley and had made arrangements for me to visit her at her lovely studio. And I am so very glad she did - I felt an instant connection and after just a couple of hours know that I have met a soul sister. Check out Beverley's beautiful portfolios and other items here.

(Beverley - on the right - and me in her studio)

(The beautiful watercolour journal by Beverley)

(One of Beverley's beautiful notepad covers - note the little pen holder on the side!)

And as if that wasn't enough, the surprises continued with a further drive down to Newtown for lunch with my "twin" cousin Wendy. We are only three months apart in age and used to love that we had such similar colouring etc (both of my sisters are dark haired and olive skinned) so we often pretended to be twins or sisters when we were little. I hadn't seen Wendy for at least four years so it was a very special chance for the three of us to have some time together (and a delicious risotto).

(Wendy and me)

The next day Marrijane and I just relaxed and made the most of the gorgeous sunny weather. In the early evening we walked through Prahran to meet my ex-workmate and friend Adam for dinner at Kush. After living such a "car" based existence in Kalgoorlie for the last 15 years, I really noticed how lovely it is to be able to walk to places and how interesting all the shops and street-life is. It was so good to see Adam again as these days, at best, we catch up once a year.


The next day was basically spent in airports or flying - I had a two-leg journey and what was supposed to be a three hour gap in between flights became a lot longer due to an extra two and a half hour delay on the last leg. Fortunately I was in the middle of reading a really good novel (Kate Grenville's "The Idea of Perfection") and was travelling with books of logic problems, crosswords and sudoku. Meredith Morgan was on the same Melbourne to Perth flight so we had a good chat before we boarded as we hadn't really ended up with much time together at the Retreat so that was really nice. Meredith was one of the first group of stamping artists I connected with via the internet and she provided me with a very memorable and powerful example of "paying it forward" when she sent me, as a virtual stranger, a whole lot of Radiant Pearls (a very special sort of paints that I adore) for which she had duplicates when I was so limited by my then measley collection of three colours! I have tried since then to embody that same approach with others that are starting out on their art/craft/creative journey. As I have only ever met Meredith in person once before, our catch-up at the airport gave me a chance to thank her again (several years had passed of course)!

So in the end one very tired but happy person finally got home Thursday night and ever since I have been floating - unpacking, sorting and tidying up and doing a bit of domestic type stuff but so far pretty unfocused even though I have a head full of new inspiration and ideas. I go back to work on Tuesday so I am planning on getting into some serious play this afternoon and tomorrow. Enough floating (except for thinking about the next Retreat)!

And that is the end of the marathon post. Phew...more photos tomorrow or the next day or...


Eva said...

So glad you were able to attend the Retreat - you are truly dedicated, considering the distance you had to travel. I'm sorry I didn't manage to meet you 'proper' - just a rush pass saying "hello" (I seemed to be on a continual mission - lol). Hopefully you can make it to the 2010 Retreat and I can meet you 'proper' then. I do admire your 'art' too!


Julie H said...

Oh Debbi, I loved reading this post and I too was so glad to have met you at the retreat - and been able to chat, despite my lack of sleep.
Your sister's surprise day sounds lovely.
So nice to hear a little about your work too.

Jen Crossley said...

Oh Debbi what a lovely sister you have she sounds so beautiful.I so enjoyed seeing you at the retreat I use the word seeing.Im booking you for 2010 first night tea.I miss you B1
Love B2

Rustic Tarts said...

Hi Debbi
I enjoyed reading your post too and probably learnt more about you through that, than at the retreat! Not enough time to sit and chat, when there was work to be done. But I always enjoyed seeing your beautiful smile from across the room.
It sounds like you enjoyed your extra days in Melbourne too - a very special time for you.

lindacreates said...

Hi Debbi, so glad you had a wonderful time at the retreat and your visit with your family. I loved seeing all of the pictures of dear DJ and the other gals. You were sure lucky to win two drawings! Good for you. Linda

kiwicarole said...

OMG! You had a fabulous time! And the classes, oh and your journal is to die for, and time with family and a catch up with friends! Lucky you, I am so jealous!! Carole x


Great post Deb
almost felt like I was there.You did some gorgeous canvas's.Congrats on winning two things are so deserving of them both

Doreen G said...

Debbi my jaw is aching from OMG-ing.
What a great time you had.
And you got to sit with Julie H I'm envious.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Debbie!
Such a wonderful time you ahd!! Just so thrilled for you and jealous- if the truth be told!!! I would dearly love to take classes with DJ petit!! Love the work taht you did with her! you are very hard on yourself!!

Homeleightigger said...

Hi Deb. - what a super post. I've been looking forward to reading about the Retreat ever since you left! So pleased you enjoyed it so much, and managed to enjoy your family, all at the same time!!

sharon young said...

What a fantastic retreat, and i soo... identified with your feeling during the Sunday workshop, it's happened to me many times.
Congrats on your prize, and all those wonderful goodies.
It sounds like you had a really good, all round learning experience.

Sue Smith said...

Loved reading this post and hearing about the fab things you got up to after the retreat. Your canvas looks stunning... it was wise to leave it and come back to it later!

Thanks for being the bestest 'roomie'...

miss you xo

Lorri said...

Wow, what a post :)
I wish I was there.. If the stupid cruise people hadn't cancelled us, Bec and I would have been there!! Grr. Anyway, Love your journal, love the DJ print too... lucky girl. Thanks for sharing all the news with your blog buddies.