Saturday, June 25, 2022

Vale Merran Esson

In memory of Merran Esson who died prematurely last week

When I applied at the National Art School in Sydney in 2010 I was asked to bring work to an interview at the painting department. 
I took my work and showed it to two  interviewing staff who looked very bored and who, after listening to what I had to say, said there weren't any places anyway and they had no idea why I'd been invited. I was dumbfounded but then asked if I could apply for the ceramics department instead. Oh if you want, they said and I went back outside to sit once again in the queue on the benches. Eventually I was asked in to talk to the ceramics staff, one of whom was Merran Esson.  

What a difference. These staff were bright faced, enthusiastic and supportive. They knew of the work of the Dunedin ceramic artist Jim Cooper with whom I had studied at the Otago Art school and invited me to join their student intake. 

I'd really only applied as a way to reintegrate into Sydney life after several years away, but I had a ball in the ceramics department, worked like a beaver and took home all sorts of ceramic objects despite primarily seeing myself as a painter. 

The people in the painting department didn't seem to be very happy, so I was pleased I'd been diverted to the ceramics group. Merran was instrumental in making the department a happy place to be. Thank you Merran. Vale. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Water

This summer has been cloudy, or rainy or stormy and after so much wet the water has nowhere to go. This morning's photo is similar to any I could have taken over the past four months. 
I feel so sorry for the many who have had their homes destroyed by the floods and who are having to wait such a long time for help from our tardy governments, state and federal. I live on a hill but even here we have had an overflowing stormwater drain that is causing problems. The drain is broken and blocked, probably ever since the NBN was installed. My neighbours tell me the pit was open for months and now the storms are here that is the very place causing problems. 
I've been washing the stones my predecessor put along the wall. They had become slimy and smelly in standing water. I left an empty bucket outside last night with stones in the botzom - it became a sort of rain gauge.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Sydney.

Its a lovely day at last after all the rain but the city is awash with Covid and people are staying at home if they can, unwilling to take our new Premier's advice to go out on the town. 

He thought getting rid of masks and letting it rip would help the economy but instead small businesses are closing down for lack of trade. Frightened people don't go shopping. Where have the Premier and his advisors been these past two years that they have remained so blinkered? 

Just like you, we'll be watching the Sydney fireworks on TV. As you watch, let them remind you that putting your fate in the hands of people who don't understand science is not a good idea. Climate change needs urgent action this year, choose your leaders wisely.


 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Merry Christmas

 

The little gum tree I planted when I arrived here two years ago has burst into flower just in time for Christmas. 

May you have a year of joy, peace and health. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Tenacity

My morning walk takes me down a set of  stairs to the bottom of the hill, then around the corner and up the hill again along parallel streets.
 
On the stairs this little testament to tenacity is doing its best to brighten our days. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Spring garden colour

Spring has sprung and the garden is a riot of flowers, at least as much as a garden can be that is on slowly-improving soil. Thankfully the builder here put a layer of earth over the clay ground many years ago when the place was built, but it has previously only hosted grass and needs a bit more compost to be really friable. 


 

Friday, October 29, 2021

New beginnings but all masked up.

Today I went out for the first time (apart for my two vaccine shots) since May, to the post office and chemist. I have been so isolated that I somehow thought that life was back to normal outside my four walls. Lockdown ended a couple of weeks ago and our new in-a-hurry NSW Premier announced that masks were no longer needed outside or even in the office.

I thought perhaps I'd be the only one masked up but everyone else I saw was wearing a mask too, with the exception of one woman. It looks as if people, at least in my area, have decided for themselves that the Premier is being a bit gung-ho. 

Meanwhile, the sweet peas are flowering with abandon. 



Monday, October 11, 2021

Two Cockatoos and a Little Bird

 Lots of dawn activity in the trees with two sulphur crested cockatoos chasing a little bird.

Sulphur crested cockatoo with little bird disappearing
to the right

Second cockatoo (enlarged below) turns cartwheels as the dawn sunlight creeps over the rooftop. 


Monday, August 02, 2021

National Tree Day

We are in lock-down again in Sydney and the online sketch group I joined in 2020 has started to organise  online exercises again. On Saturday we all drew trees as it was National Tree Day.

New growth
 

The small gum tree I planted on the verge at the front of the house in February 2020, just before Covid came to town and changed our lives, has some bright pink new growth leaves.  It took me a while to find my watercolour box, unthinkable in normal times, but when I did I painted the new growth leaves.

I realise now that this is the first time I have painted this year. I had been too busy writing up the interviews with German women.

No wonder I feel the painting itch.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Too windy for cacti

It's been so windy here in Sydney that the tops blew off a neighbourhood cactus. 



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Out of darkness

https://youtu.be/yAG0kPovQe8 
 
Covid lockdown bears all sorts of fruits. Music by a talented young mate of mine Girl Platoon.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Women, War and the Third Reich

When I arrived in Germany in 1973 I had no idea I would spend the next couple of years collecting oral histories but that is what happened. I suffered from culture shock in Germany and my response was to collect oral histories of the women I was living amongst. I asked them about their wartime and postwar experiences. 

It was hard work emotionally for both them and for me as they had often been traumatised by their experiences and had buried them as a way of coping.  My questions brought it all back.  Many women said they had not even told their families about what had happened to them and we wept together as they recounted their stories. 

It turned out to be the best medicine I could have wished for and over the course of those two years I learned to love my adopted home. Several of the women offered to help me publish the stories and I did find a publisher but unfortunately it folded before the book was out and by that time I had enrolled in a science course didn't have time to pursue it further.

The box of interviews (and the research I did in the Wiesbaden public library to help me understand the period the women were talking about) were put in a big box and have traveled with me ever since. I felt, and still feel, indebted to these women and wanted to make sure their voices were heard. I also wanted to publish them to help show how a country can descend into fascism, but we have seen other examples since then and the process probably no longer needs explaining.

So here they are, the voices from times past. Fascinating reading, even now, or perhaps particularly now as the women of this generation are mostly no longer living.  I didn't know whether to publish as eBook as well as paperback. Does anyone read such books on a screen? (Dear reader, if you would read it online, please let me know!) 



 

Available from Amazon and other outlets. Here are the Amazon links:

USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/098731226X

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/098731226X

AU:  https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/098731226X

 DE: https://www.amazon.de/dp/098731226X

 

Friday, June 04, 2021

Time is relative

Can it be June already? It is! 

The 4th June is almost over as I write, the 4th day of winter, although the past two weeks in Sydney have been pretty wintery. 

Covid isolation seems to have changed how we register time. It has made time collapse for me. Or is it just because I have been busy finishing my latest project? (More soon.)

It is the reverse effect to the lengthening of time that sometimes happens when you go on an action packed short holiday and return feeling as if you've been away much longer. I had a four day holiday in Cairns that felt like two weeks about 15 years ago. The effect was so extreme I've not forgotten it. I wonder if, in 15 years, we'll look back and remember this time-collapsed period as vividly.  

Monday, April 26, 2021

Wagner Roses: Parsifal and Tristan/Isolde

On my way to Bayreuth (pre-Covid) to hear Wagner's operas Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal I stayed with friends in Hamburg. Sitting on their veranda surrounded by climbing roses and honeysuckle, I read the librettos for the operas, painted the roses and dreamt of the feast to come. Both images below are available to download and print on canvas or paper at artsmitten.com

 

Parsifal: Ich schreite kaum ...

Tristan und Isolde: Nie erwachen


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Changing White roses

I hang my work around the house in an ever changing art show. Some paintings I never tire of, others are favourites for a while then take a back seat.   One painting that never seemed to fit anywhere was  'white roses', painted about a year ago. Something about it didn't work.

 


Finally a few days ago after a long painting hiatus while I learned Wordpress and rewrote my website, I picked this white rose painting up and put it back on the easel. It currently looks like this. We'll see where it ends. 


 

24/6. And now like this


 


Monday, April 12, 2021

Chutney

Is it April already? The self sown tomato plant in my garden (last post) produced lots of tiny tomatoes, many of which were green when I pulled the plant out a week ago. Perfect for tomato chutney.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Tomatoes

My skills at growing vegetables seems to be rather less than growing catnip and yellow lantana. I bught a tomato plant in spring and another late in spring, but neither flourished.
The garden does what it wants though and a large robust plant has grown up beside the compost bin. I carefully bagged some of the flowers on this plant as tomatoes here tend to get insect eggs laid into them early which cause the tomatoes to rot just before you want to pick them. Later I discovered that this verdant getting-enormous plant has tiny tomatoes, the type that are not bitten by bugs, so I took off the bags. Now I am wondering how to encourage more fruit and less foliage.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Exercise is oh so boring

We are told repeatedly that exercise is good for us but the problem with exercise is that it is so boring. Keeping up an exercise routine is, or has been for me, almost impossible. I would much rather do other things.

However, three years ago I bought a pair of decent walking sandals when I was in Europe which made walking so much more comfortable. I walked everywhere and returned feeling so much healthier that I decided to try to keep walking. I discovered the only way I could make walking a regular thing was to start walking before I was fully awake. By the time I woke up I was already a block away from home and it was easier to keep going.

I walked 20-25 minutes to the beach and back, long enough to make a difference but not long enough to get too boring. I did often miss days, I confess. But I kept walking when I moved to Carlton and then when I arrived in Arncliffe. I live on a hill in Arncliffe and any walk means going down the hill and up again. Very different from the Umina flatlands.

My walk nowadays takes me about 20 minutes and I have become so used to it I walk every day without thinking. I walk to the lookout over the airport to take a morning photo. I send it to a still slumbering friend who likes getting a weather report.

Winter morning airport lights.

Then I walk down the steps to the bottom of the hill and up again past the house with the yellow flowering bush (last post)

I discovered the other day just how beneficial these walks are. In 2019 I was told that my blood pressure was bordering on the problematic and if it continued to increase I should be on medication. Last week when I had a check up I rather reluctantly reminded the doctor to check my blood pressure.

He looked at his notes and commented, “Oh, its more than a year since you were checked. You have been avoiding me I think because you don't want to take pills!”

He was half way through a lecture about pills being necessary when he paused to take my blood pressure.

Pump pump pump. Then pause. Then pishhhh as the air escapes.

“Oh,” he said checking the measuring gizmo. “Your blood pressure has dropped 10 points!”

He didn't continue the lecture. 

 

Botany Bay in summer


Ship leaving Botany Bay

Friday, January 01, 2021

Garden rescue in covid times

I have lived here over a year now. When I arrived the garden was lawn and the patch of ground between fence and path was weeds. 

Early very morning I walked down the hill and back up. At the bottom of the hill I discovered a pretty garden with a yellow-flowered bush growing right over the path. When I saw the house occupant there one morning I asked if I could take a slip. She turned out to be an avid gardener and said: 

"Why yes, take a big piece, or several, so it grows. It will grow in difficult ground so councils plant it. It is a type of Lantana, but not the one that takes over."

So I took slips and stuck them in pots over summer to see if they would take. 


They all survived and I planted them in the inhospitable soil between fence and path. They are thriving there and now I have yellow flowers right along the fence. 

On the other side of the fence the lawn is slowly being replaced by flowering plants, two blueberry bushes and  last week, a rhubarb plant. Gardens are a marvelous tonic in Covid times.

(The bush in the photo is a Hibiscus, the only plant in the garden when I arrived.)

Monday, December 28, 2020

2021 awaits

It is 28 December, a Monday but the streets hereabouts are quiet as it is a public holiday. At 8am it is already warm, over 25C but it is overcast, threatening to rain and very humid. You can feel the predicted afternoon storms in the air.

Normally the sun would be shining and the beaches full but I haven't heard a single complaint. Last season's dreadful bushfires are still uppermost in our minds and we know we are lucky not to be mired in waves of virus. 

The political environment feels much like the weather, with storms building, still suppressed but increasingly volatile.

They say being resource rich is a recipe for unhappiness in this world as resource owners are so easily able to pay off those who want power while they pillage unrestrained. We have watched environmental destruction by unrestrained multinationals in developing countries and we watch it in Australia. 

How do we get our recalcitrant government to take climate action? They look away as our youth becomes depressed and suicidal. They look away as we loose our Great Barrier Reef. They have practised looking away for a long time as the Aboriginal community would attest. 

But pressure is building. Governments around the world are looking at our government with increasing distaste, and finally they are beginning to act on this distaste. This may be the only way we can be saved from ourselves. 

I found a large sheet of paper that didn't quite fit in the cupboard, so I took out my pencil to make a new years greeting picture.  This was who popped up on the page.

 
Happy 2021 everyone!