I didn’t realise just how much my work really is a part of me until the day a piece I was working on got damaged.
With each piece I work on I strive to refine my style and improve my technique and I see significant changes in my work when I look back over them. Each time my mind conjures a new drawing it is always filled with touches of personal significance – I not only hope to offer a beautiful still-life, I hope every viewer can find their own meaning and story within.
As soon as I saw T42 in my mind I was even more keen than usual to give it a life on paper. Like my other pieces, it was filled with items of great personal meaning – though not usually obvious to others. The COCK, the Magnolia, the blue and white china, the eggs.
T42 – 2010
I find myself getting bored with a drawing if I spend too many weeks on it – with about 200 hours from start to finish it can mean long days of being lost in my work in a blissful state of hypnotic and meditative flow. The down-side of this is, after intently studying the work for so long I get to a point where I can no longer see it. I no longer know if it’s even good because all I see is a mess and jumble of lines. When the doubts begin they don’t trickle in, they appear suddenly.
I was about three days away from finishing T42 and spending more and more time looking at it from different angles and using the trick of viewing it in a mirror – the mirrored image allows you to see your artwork from a whole different perspective and the areas that need work tend to jump out. I had a framed artwork displayed on a heavy wooden easel set up by the window so I leant the paper against this and stepped back to critique it. Just as I was too far away a gust of wind blew through the open window, picked up the paper and slammed it into the tall bank of drawers nearby. All I could see was a 6cm long tear down the top of the paper – dead centre. After the shock subsided and I calmed down, the devastation I felt surprised me – I’d reacted like someone I loved dearly had been mortally wounded.
I really loved this piece and I needed to finish it – so while I worked away I covered the tear with a piece of paper so it wasn’t glaring back at me. Once completed I focused on finding the best art restorer available. The injured artwork went off to The Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC) at The University of Melbourne. They explained the tear would still be visible but they could restore the paper as well as was possible. They treated T42 like a priceless artwork and hopefully I’ll never need their services again – if I do, I’ll go right back.
A large part of who I am is the animal lover part.
As a child, I don’t think anyone has ever pestered their parents for anything as much as I pestered mine for a pet. It didn’t even matter what animal it was! I tried for the usual dogs and cats – and because my grandparents had a farm where I spent much of my childhood, I was forever trying to foster a little lamb. I tried for mice, and I even tried for crabs once when I school friend brought some back from her holiday at the beach – each of these animals have stories of their own that help explain the lengths I would go to. After years of pleading I found out I had parents that couldn’t be broken – though it never stopped my attempts. I won’t even go into how much I wanted the holy grail of pets – the horse!
the beetles – 2008
Insects became my compromise. I began by sneaking bugs into my room and treating them as surrogate pets – creating little landscapes for them and using them as models for my drawings. With an exhaustive supply outside my house I eventually became more open about keeping them. The Praying Mantis was the jewel in my entomology crown.
And so the foundation was born to eventually become one of my signature touches. At least one insect – or sometimes mollusc – is found in all my drawings – with the exception of earlier work. At times the title suggests there are many and therefore becomes a popular challenge for the observer to find them all.
Fact: There are only ever an odd number of insects in each drawing.