Creativity Is For Everyone

Version 2

There is nothing nicer than getting a creative gift, especially when it is something you have always wanted. But what if you were only encouraged to pursue a certain creative pursuit because of your gender? I recently saw a Christmas gift catalogue from a well-known supermarket chain that did exactly that. It advertised a ukulele under the heading “gifts for him”. Was this saying that only males have the will or the time to play the ukulele, while females are engrossed in using some kitchen appliance or other “suitable” item chosen from the same catalogue?

Version 2

Being a ukulele player, it got me really steamed, as there are just as many female players as male ones. In this day and age playing a musical instrument and doing other creative activities should be gender neutral. Ukuleles are relatively cheap compared with many musical instruments and make great Christmas presents for every age group. They bring happiness and no one should be denied the pleasure of playing a uke just because of their gender.

Why won’t the type of stupid thinking seen in that catalogue just die a natural death? It’s an annoying hangover from the bad old days when women were allowed a creative hobby whereas men could have a career in the arts. In western society, up until the last century girls were discouraged from many creative fields, unless these were small-scale, fairly passive and genteel, like sketching with watercolours and needlepoint work.  Large-scale oil painting and sculpture was considered beyond the capability of the fairer sex, unless you had very enlightened parents or grew up in the family of an artist. Those women who bravely defied convention made it possible for later generations of girls to follow their dreams and we should make sure this type of discrimination remains in the past where it belongs.

Version 3

As children Ellie and I were always allowed to follow whatever creative path we chose and were able to try out many art forms. For Christmas we were often given various types of paints and other materials, as well as craft kits, so that we could experiment and find our creative passion. Any gifts of money were used to save up for something that we really wanted, like my first guitar. No one ever told me that this was a boy’s toy (I have also seen guitars advertised under “gifts for boys”). It works the other way as well because I know men who love needlepoint and have no qualms about doing what was once considered women’s work.

DSCN3884

Creativity knows no boundaries and if someone expresses an interest in any type of artistic area it is good to encourage them by giving a relevant gift. It does not matter whether they take this up as their life’s work or go on to do something else. It just helps that someone thought it was possible for the recipient to undertake a particular creative activity.

Everyone should be allowed to try out any creative endeavor without being subjected to gender stereotyping. The advertising world may be stuck in the past but the rest of us have moved on.

Kat

On the subject of ukulele players, here’s a video of the very talented Taimane Gardner playing a Surf Medley with guitarist Jazzy Jazz and Cajon drummer Jonathan Heraux.

 

Photogenic Places: The Grampians, Victoria

Version 2

Every country has its photogenic places. Often the traveler is drawn to see overseas sites before visiting those of their home country, which is a shame. In Victoria there are many scenic areas and while I have not visited all of them, what I can say is that those that I have seen are often quite beautiful and sometimes spectacular. If you love taking photographs for inspiration or pleasure there is nothing better than finding such places in your home state or country.

In the spectacular scenery category is The Grampians, a mountain range in Western Victoria. One very hot summer Ellie and I did a weeklong tapestry workshop at Halls Gap, a town beneath the towering Pinnacles that we could look up at from the place where we were staying. As we had never been to this region before, one day we took off to explore the ranges above. Everywhere we looked there was something of our ancient land to photograph. It was quite a hot day (37 degrees Celsius) so we did not walk as far as we would have liked. But we managed to journey through the “Grand Canyon” and along the “Wonderland” walk. Near the car park were incredible rock features and pools. There was hardly anyone around so we had much of the landscape to ourselves.

Ellie took the following series of photos with her trusty, classic Nikon SLR and Fuji film.

The Grand Canyon

Version 2

Version 2Version 2Version 2

Wonderland

Version 2

Rock features near the Car Park

Version 2

Version 2

The Big Head

Version 2Version 2Version 2

Due to the heat we did not get to the scenic lookouts at the top of the pinnacles. Here is a drone video that shows the majestic and breathtaking view from the air. You can see the long narrow canyon and the huge rock walls of the mountain ridges and the gap between the mountains where the town nestles. It’s a special place.

So if you know that there are amazing places in your country or state don’t hesitate. As the natural world or cities are constantly changing, at the first opportunity get out and see the sights while you can and take lots of photographs.

Kat

Dreams Change: For Some of Us a Lot

 

Version 2

From the Universal Self Instructor, 1883. In the past you were encouraged to pursue many interests.

I was going to write a post about how your dreams can change but then I discovered something that made me realise that this might not be true for everyone. Some of us are wired to pursue a variety of interests, as opposed to those who focus on one or two things throughout their lives. Neither of these ways of thinking is wrong, just different.

I have been talking about having many interests on this blog for a while, but I did not realize this was a sign of people with a particular type of brain. I only recently found out that I am a Scanner thanks to another blogger, Yarn and Pencil, who included a reblog on her site, which describes Scanners, the name given by Barbara Sher in her book Refuse To Choose (2007), for those who have many interests. Sher points out how the ideal of the Renaissance thinker has been superseded by the modern obsession with specialization in a single field where diversification is discouraged. It was a relief to know that to have multi-interests and the desire to try new activities is a specific type of mindset and not the result of being flighty or indecisive.

Version 2

Not this kind of Scanner

It also does not mean that you lack determination. I have always finished what I started, even when taking some time off to do something else and have tried to gain skills and knowledge, even when I decided I didn’t want to make a particular activity my life’s work. That is why I chose to work in an artistic area because it allows you to use a lot of the knowledge gained over the years.

Version 2On John Williams website I read that as a Scanner you need to concentrate on one idea and develop this in order to make a living and be successful. But this does not mean that you should give everything else up or stop from being curious about the world. I wish I had known about it years ago. It would have stopped a lot of agonizing. I think that it must be hereditary because both my grandfathers and father had many interests. So does Ellie. It seems to have hit our side of the family more than any other branch.

apple-1216853_960_720

It explains why time management and goal setting are more difficult for some of us. Our brains are constantly jumping from one interest to the next. So if you are a Scanner you must also be a juggler. This is the hard part and I know this from bitter experience and many extensions of course projects at University. If you have a looming deadline it is not the time to suddenly go off and pursue something else. With many interests it is still possible to concentrate on one thing at a time when necessary and avoid distractions, especially the Internet. Just because there is a smorgasbord of information available 24 hours a day does not mean you should look at it all the time. Get the thing that is most pressing out of the way no matter what and then you can move onto something else. It’s a case of keeping all your balls in the air in a balanced way so that one does not cause everything else to crash to the ground.

DSCN4955

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the end of a project so it’s left uncompleted. This type of problem affected the most famous Scanner of them all, Leonardo da Vinci. I don’t think he ever considered the Mona Lisa finished. In fact a lot of his work is unfinished but this did not make him less of an artist, anatomist, engineer, designer etc. I have some unfinished canvases in the studio that have been sitting around for a while. They are not part of any specific project so I did not need to finish them in a hurry. I will get back to them eventually, but it goes to show that without some type of pressure it is easy to let creative endeavors slide. DSCN4665

That is why some of us find it difficult to write long essays or works of fiction because the end seems a long way off and there’s plenty of opportunity to get sidetracked. Short stories and poems suit me better. At the moment I have been writing songs again after a bit of a break. This type of writing satisfies both my musical side and love of words and is short enough for me to write quickly. I return to work on a song if it is not quite right after letting it sit for a while. It is actually good to be able to move between activities, as you can come back and see things from a fresh perspective. Version 2

While you can have many diverting interests it is probably unrealistic to think that you will be good at everything and it’s best work on your strengths. Although I like learning about at a lot of different things, I do try to develop my artistic and musical talents more than anything else. My interests in nature, mythology and folklore, other cultures, history, movies, fiction etc. help to stimulate the imagination and provide inspiration.
Version 2

These are mainly my own thoughts on dealing with multiple interests. We are all different and one person’s experience will never be the same as another’s. If you want to pursue several dreams, it is not impossible. Just believe you can and do the work, no matter how long it takes.

Kat

Here’s ELO with a great song Hold on Tight (To Your Dream) and a very weird video.

A Hand-Made Halloween

Version 2

Over the past ten years in Melbourne the festival of Halloween has become more widely celebrated and seems to be getting more commercial with large public events in many shopping centres. The St Kilda Town Hall even has a hugely popular Haunted House experience. We are increasingly getting Halloween themed catalogues in our letterbox advertising elaborate and expensive decorations and costumes, as well as the usual treats. Before all this commercialization most local Halloween celebrations were limited to home parties where decorations and costumes were usually homemade and trick or treating was rare.

Magazines used to be the main source of ideas for making party decorations and costumes. We have that really old party magazine from the 1890s, mentioned in a previous post, which has a wonderful section on Halloween, as well as the more recent Australian Women’s Weekly Home Library publication, Perfect Parties. No one was expected to spend a fortune and it was so much more fun and creative to make things.

Version 2

As children Ellie and I had a Halloween Party. As there was little available in the way of decorations, except for plastic spiders and orange and black balloons, we invited some friends for a sleepover before the party and had a great time making decorations for the family room and garden. Out of black card we cut black cats, owls, bats, broomsticks and the like and hung these from sticks of bamboo to create mobiles.

In one corner of the garden we built a witch’s house against the side fence with a sheet of corrugated iron for the roof and bamboo poles (cut from the garden) tied together with twine to form the walls and a window. We painted a sign that said “Witches Hollow”. In front of this structure dad made a tripod from wooden poles and hung a cast iron camp oven for a cauldron over some unlit wood. These days you can have a fire in a metal fire pit. Probably one with a wire safety grill is best to protect from dangerous sparks.

A decorated table is a wonderful centrepiece for a Halloween party. You don’t need to buy special tableware. Our grandmother gave us a vintage tablecloth with embroidered black cats, but you could make a tablecloth from orange fabric or just use orange crepe paper decorated with cutout black cats, bats, owls etc. She also made us a beautiful cake decorated with black cats. It is easy to make cupcakes and decorate these with black cat sweets, jelly babies and snakes, together with orange or chocolate sprinkles on plain white icing. There are so many creative ideas around for making Halloween food these days, especially online. Fresh fruits and vegetables, like pumpkins, turnips and tomatoes make great table decorations and are a reminder of the autumnal origins of Halloween, even if it is spring here. And you can use them to make a soup or put them on the barbeque after the party.

Version 2

Black Cat Cupcakes

Only recently in Australia has it been possible to get large orange pumpkins to carve at Halloween. Supermarkets now have these to buy for the occasion. We had to make do with the green kind. Our grandfather carved a jack-o-lantern out of a pumpkin and fitted it with an electric light bulb to put on the front veranda. He also had a very old papier-mache mask of a skull and put a bulb in this as well. They looked wonderfully spooky to welcome the guests. Now front porch decorations seem to be becoming more elaborate and more common here, but you don’t need to buy frightening manikins that cost a heap. A homemade scarecrow could look just as creepy especially if you give it a scary clown face.

Version 2

Most people who came to our party had homemade costumes. I created one from a long white satin bridesmaid dress that I had worn the previous year. Over this I wore a filmy pale blue robe of my mothers and made a cone-shaped hat from white cardboard, stuck on some gold stars, attached a filmy white scarf from the peak and stapled some hat elastic to keep it on. With a wand made from a piece of silver painted dowel I was a Sorceress. Mum made Ellie a skeleton costume by sticking white electrical tape to a black polo neck top and tights.

Guest’s costumes ranged from the usual witches or ghosts, to someone dressed as a pea pod with green balloons for the peas. There were some very creative costumes, such as a hand painted skull and crossbones outfit and a witch doctor, who had lots of small handmade mojo bags attached to a belt. I remember we all had a great time dancing to pop music and playing Murder in the Dark, which still seems to be a popular party game. Of course there were prizes for the best costumes and little bags of treats for everyone to take home.

With a bit of creativity you can avoid a lot of the cost and over commercialization of Halloween and still have a great party. And if it is for just for adults, substitute more appropriate food, drink and entertainment. Be as crazy as you like. Why should kids have all the fun?

Kat

Probably one of the best songs ever written about a ghost is Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. The famous “red dress” video of this song has had many millions of hits on You Tube so here is the “white dress” version.

Keeping Your Childhood Wonder

When you are a child it is so easy to find the world a wondrous place. So many things seem magical, especially the natural world. Everything is new and an adventure. I think that it is important not too lose this sense of wonder in life. If you become too cynical and apathetic it can have a negative impact on your creativity.

Our creative vision is most often stimulated by the wonder of things. When I was quite young I would do paintings and drawings with little difficulty. Often these contained images of plants and flowers, animals, mythical creatures, family holiday destinations, or characters from stories, films or history. There was a never-ending supply of subject matter. Here is a pastel drawing I did as a child of some Sea Lions, followed by a recent drone video of the colony at Seal Rocks near Phillip Island and The Nobbies. To me they are still amazing creatures to watch.

Version 2

My childhood drawing of Seal Rocks

Such things still make me excited like a kid and would not want to lose this feeling. One summer night not so long ago I went outside around midnight. It was still moist after a summer storm and suddenly a large Grey-headed flying-fox, Australia’s largest fruit bat (wingspan up to 1 metre or about 3 ft), swooped right over my head. I could have touched it. I had never been that close to one before and I was exhilarated. After this encounter I would look out for them and was lucky enough to see a classic scene of  bats silhouetted against the sky during a lightning storm. These creatures are wonderful and we are privileged to have them in and around our city. It is good to notice your local wildlife and remember that humans are not the centre of everything. My experience motivated this poem.

Flying Fox

Flying Fox, the beat of swooping wings

Above my head

A wild bat wonder

Flying Fox, across the lightning sky

I watch at dusk

No gothic horror

© Copyright theartistschild.com 2017

Here is a video of the colony of Grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park in Kew, Melbourne, followed by another of the bats flying across the Melbourne skyline at dusk.

Reconnecting with your childhood imagination is an effective way to get ideas as an adult. Some people have entire careers reliving their early fantasies. Things that grabbed you as a child can still be inspirational. Collecting seashells at the beach was one of my favorite childhood pass times. Their shapes and colours were so beautiful and it was like finding treasure. The only time I ever bought a shell was a Cowrie shell as a souvenir from a trip to Sydney. These shells are uncommon in Victoria. I still have it and its strong colour has lasted because I keep it in a dark box. It is a lovely subject to draw with the spotted markings.

The excitement of being given or finding something unusual can still bring on a sense of childlike delight. My grandfather gave me a rock containing some fossilized shells when I was a child because he knew that I was interested in such things. I still love fossils and have collected a few mainly as holiday souvenirs. I still get a buzz when I see interesting fossils in museums or books. Prehistoric Ammonites with their spiral shell shape remind me of the shells of some freshwater snails. I carved one out of a small piece of talc stone with this type of shell so it is also permanently frozen in stone like a fossil.

The ingenuity of inventions might be what tickled your early imagination. My father had inherited an old Remington portable typewriter (1929 model) that fascinated me as a child. I would try to type things with two fingers but this was a slow exercise. When I got the chance I learnt to touch type and it has made the writing process so much easier, as well as using computers. Keep that childhood thirst for knowledge. Learning any form of technology gives you so many more creative options and it helps if you are keen to embrace new methods.

DSCN4451

Sometimes you find that when you get really excited about something there are always people who think you are strange. They can’t understand your enthusiasm. But if you lose your joyousness just because of what people think it would be very sad. Being indifferent means that it is difficult to get involved in the creative process.

I hope I will always be able to maintain the childlike passion of a David Attenborough when he describes fabulous wildlife and never become bored and jaded. There is so much in this world that is wondrous.

Kat

Here’s The Pointer Sisters who know how to get excited!

Wisteria and Witches

It’s October again and in Melbourne we are now in the middle of spring. As I mentioned last October when I started this blog, we have the strange combination of the Spring Racing Carnival and Halloween celebrations. There is nothing more typical of Melbourne than scenes of costumed witches, wizards or zombies mingling with the more traditionally dressed amongst the stunning roses at Flemington racecourse on Melbourne Cup day.

Over the last two weeks I have been busy doing some badly needed gardening. At this time of year the air is sweet with the smell of blossom. Our garden is full of the fragrance of wisteria blooms, which cascade from the branches like waterfalls of white flowers. They are fragile and could be easily destroyed by a spring storm so I have taken photos to remember their beauty.

With all of nature’s exuberance it seems strange to embrace the autumnal mood that surrounds the festival of Halloween. One of the disadvantages of living in the Southern Hemisphere is the topsy-turvy nature of traditional festivals. But at least daylight saving gives us longer hours of light in which to party during these celebrations.

Fun costumes make both race days and Halloween parties more enjoyable. I am a big fan of DIY costumes for both the creativity and uniqueness. As I have mentioned before, you don’t need to sew or spend a lot of money to wear a great costume. A good eye for a bargain and for reworking existing items is invaluable. In the past I have created my own Halloween costumes from clothing found at op shops (thrift or charity stores), weekend markets and by using fabric offcuts, cardboard and paper scraps to make accessories.

Version 2

Illustration by George Cruikshank for The Witches Frolic by Thomas Ingoldsby

Items that can be reused with different accessories are worth collecting so that you will never be stuck for a costume idea. Witches or wizards costumes are a favorite for Halloween and easy to create with black clothes. Using the same long black dress and a charcoal grey cape found at a weekend market, I can transform into the medieval witch Morgan Le Fey or Samantha Stevens from Bewitched wearing her flying costume. All this requires is a change of headgear.

DSCN3733

For the Morgan Le Fey costume I made a type of hat known as a Hennin (seen in gothic paintings) from cardboard covered with black silk fabric and gold paper. It was decorated with gold braid, glass jewels and gold glitter glue from a craft store. I pinned an old black silk scarf as a veil from the top of the hat. To turn the outfit into Samantha, a blonde wig (try to find a better one than mine as it itches) and a witches hat from a party shop are all that is needed to change the look. Black boots complete both costumes.

A simple way to make a witch’s broomstick is with a length of thick dowel and a pile of flexible twigs or thin bamboo (whatever is easiest to find). Just divide the twigs into four equal bundles and tie each securely with some twine. Place the bundles around the dowel and wrap them all tightly together to form the broom. You can wrap ribbon, fabric or raffia over the twine to hide it. Then you’re ready to fly.

Version 2

Whether it is spring or autumn, these are great seasons for festivals and celebrations before the weather gets too hot or cold.  And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere or a tropical location, enjoy the contrast of the light with the “Darkness” of Halloween. You will have the best of both worlds.

Kat

Ukulele virtuoso, Taimane Gardner from Hawaii, taps into the Halloween mood with her haunting instrumental, Rings of Saturn, although she lives in the tropics.

It’s something to do with the Light

Version 2

African Coral Tree, Melbourne spring 2017

Every place has a certain quality of light and this has long inspired visual artists and writers. Just think of Monet and Turner. Their work was all about light. Descriptions of light levels can set the mood of a story or poem. Just the words “sunny” or “overcast” put a picture in your mind. Where ever you live or travel the light has a big influence on how you feel and view the world.

It’s beneficial to have an awareness of how the light effects your environment so keep a visual or written record. If you keep a journal it is helpful to record the weather each day and your emotional response.  The light in southern Australia is softer than in the northern regions. A Japanese friend once told me that she could not get over the sky in Australia. She said that it seemed closer which I found quite enlightening. I’m now always conscious of the sky here and wonder if this is true for others elsewhere.

In Melbourne we are lucky to experience definite seasons and the sky can vary from a deep azure blue to pale violet and everything in between. The light can change by the moment and this is especially obvious at the beach or a park. Here are a series of photos taken by Ellie, some on the same day, that show the different qualities of light in our area, from the intensity of summer days to the hazy light of autumn and the brooding cloudy sky of winter.

Summer Scenes

Autumn Beach Scenes

Winter Scenes

It is now spring and everything looks fresh and new. I love this time of year despite the hay-fever attacks. It’s easy to be creative in the spring and is a pleasure to take photos in Melbourne’s soft light. I went out and took some photos in our garden because the light was so beautiful and I loved the way it played on the flowers and plants. The last camellias are out in our front garden. I wish I had a better camera to do them justice as they have a beautiful soft texture and subtle variations in colour.

In the back garden the Aralia fruit has turned black. I took a photo with the sunlight streaming through a dense cluster, which created a halation effect and makes the photo sparkle. The action of bright light on a camera lens can really enhance an image and with a digital camera it’s much safer on the eyes than looking at the sun through an old film SLR.

DSCN5482

Taking close-ups in this spring light shows up the details. Wisteria flower buds, Japanese Yeddo Hawthorn buds against dark green leaves and a small ground creeper with tiny flowers all seem infused with the radiance of the sun. In summer with the harsher light that creates stronger contrasts it will become more difficult to photograph the small things with my basic camera. Then I will go for the big picture.

Where ever you may be in the world and whatever your art form, try to notice the quality of light. How it varies from once location to another and how it makes you feel at different times of the year. After all sunlight is creative energy.

Kat

(I’m going to take a couple of weeks off blogging to take care of other things that need doing. Thank you to everyone for the likes, following and for visiting my blog. It’s much appreciated. See you soon).

My favourite beach related instrumental is the classic Gunnamatta by Melbourne singer/songwriter, Paul Kelly. Gunnamatta Beach, a popular beach for surfers, is south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula and the following film shows several enjoying the sparkling waves on a sunny day back in the 80s set to Paul Kelly’s music