I grew up in Sydney surrounded by the Australian bush – the Royal National Park and those amazing displays of the sandstone Australian flora that Sydney seems to be steeped in. Even the buildings in Sydney reflect the legacy of all this sandstone.
I loved the bush – disappearing either by myself or with others and exploring the caves, bush track and creeks. Surrounded by blandly named streets – First Avenue, Second Avenue right up to Tenth Avenue, National Avenue…but I grew up in Primrose Place.
Primrose Place was a cul–de–sac nestled in amongst all these streets going somewhere – an enclosed street and neighbourhood community with a hill for billy cart racing, bike riding, skateboarding and roller skating with the other kids from this street, some of whom are still my friends.
Our house started out as a small 2 bedroom one bathroom fibro place right down the bottom, round the corner of the hill at the bottom end of the cul–de–sac.
I loved this street, the neighbourhood, the other kids in the street to play with, but central to it all was the closeness of the bush – the bushfires, exploring the sandstone caves, running away from snakes, abseiling with ropes we found in the shed (with no safety gear) and of course the wildflowers and wildlife. To this day I love the blush of pink and red new leaf growth of the eucalypts, the towering Gymea lily flower stalks and the absolute thrill of finding wild waratahs and flannel flowers.
I absolutely loved growing up there and in a time where we could go off as kids and just explore. Most of all I loved climbing trees. The bush is part of who we are and it is no accident to think that it has always remained with my brother who is involved in Bush Regeneration and Land Management and myself as an artist.
I love living where I do now but I miss the ‘wildness’ and familiarity of the Sydney Bush.
Days where we would go down to Audley in the Royal National Park sometimes and visit the Audley Boatshed (it’s still there and you can still hire boats).
When I started back into developing my arts practice and linocuts in about 1998, I worked not only with lino and design but I also went out and did drawing classes, calligraphy and watercolour classes. I learned through workshops, classes and my own arts practice how to work with watercolours, papers, calligraphy, drawing, design, photography and lino. I explored how I could blend all of these interests and worked at developing my own style.
This is an earlier work from 1998 – the black and white waratah images (including the one above) I had taken years before my first inspiration for this linocut.
I deliberately did not look at other linocut artists at this time – I knew a little of the historical linocut artists like Margaret Preston and Noel Counihan but again I put all of their images aside. I took lots of photos, did drawings, explored and played with ideas and media.
It was not until I felt comfortable with having developed my own voice to express myself through my artwork years later, that I then allowed myself to have a closer look at what others were doing.
Probably it was around the time when the I began to have more access to the internet and more information became available. Living in the country, raising children and looking after elderly relatives my access to the wider arts community and even traveling to larger cities like Brisbane and Sydney has been limited.
Not everyone works this way but it is just how I have worked and developed my own voice as an artist.
It has not been easy being a linocut artist working with more traditional subject matter as I have done. Galleries have found it difficult to fit my work into their collections. Within a traditional gallery paintings can be seen as ‘fine arts’ and linocuts as ‘crafts’, and within a contemporary gallery my more realistic representations and traditional working methods are not seen as ‘cutting edge’ enough. But I have tried to be true to my own vision of the work I am creating. I like beautiful interesting images and I love the Australian bush – wildflowers, birds and wildlife, so this is the work I try to create. I could have chosen to become more contemporary – have a different voice to fit in with the galleries view but it just wouldn’t be me. So I have continued down this path.
My website and business name is Soulsong – may sound a bit ‘out there’ but it isn’t really – the Australian wildflowers and wildlife I see as part of my soul, I can get lost and never lose my capacity to spend time in and around the bush and Australian wildflowers and wildlife. I never get tired of exploring this subject matter – it is embedded in my soul. My arts practice is my song, it is the way I express myself through my artwork – so quite simply my artwork is my soul’s song – Soulsong.
It has been a difficult path at times over the past 10 years and the busy pro-active arts practice I was developing from 1998 to 2002 had to be wound back until recently when I am again trying to re-establish myself as an artist. I have had children to raise who have needed me to be there and I have been a family carer for them and for my elderly relatives who have had no one else willing to step up and help them. I do not regret a day of any of that time, it was what was needed to be done, and I have many joyful experiences and learnt a lot along the way about myself and human nature.
At this point it is difficult to see where I fit – ‘officially’ I started producing my linocuts in 1998 so I am now considered a more ‘mid-career’ artist having moved beyond the around 5 years ’emerging artist’ phase? But hang on a sec…I have been in a holding pattern circling unable to find a solid landing-place, unable to devote the time and energy needed to specifically move forward in a solid established career. For me I still see myself as an artist on hold, still trying to get on solid ground where I can make a some sort of steady income.
So I am trying again this year, despite the difficulties – and they are many – to re-establish a busy pro-active approach to my arts practice.
The establishing and creation of a new website and blogs, getting back to finish carving many designs, having new cards and posters commercially printed, and developing new artworks is my plan for 2012
It is only me – so it isn’t going to be easy being a one woman band/artist/wife/mother/carer/website developer/business person…but I am going to give it a try…so let’s see where go this year on this journey called life.
Thank you for sharing your stories of childhood and your path as an artist. You are a very good writer, as well as an artist. The photographs are unique, and give us a glimpse into your world. As always, the artwork is amazing.
Thanks Mrs Daffodil