My journey to become an artist

When I’m talking about art with people, I often realise they have an assumption that I am naturally gifted at art. While I have naturally had an intense drive to be creative since I was a little girl, I certainly wasn’t born with any innate talent. My skills with visual art have come simply from years of practise.

If you want to see the progression from my very first art journals to discovering my own style and becoming a professional artist, I’ve blogged about it here.

If you know any aspiring artists, especially those who feel a bit daunted or lack confidence in their skills, this could inspire them and also provide some ideas for how to move forward in their journey. Feel free to share this with anyone who you think might be interested.

If you define me

I’m Deaf. But being Deaf is not the most remarkable thing about me. People who know me will tell you that far more interesting is my creative drive, the fact that for holiday reading I’ll read a business text book and write my own precis, or that I built my own house when I was 22 and it has a huge food garden, including animals that I raise and kill myself for meat. In fact, there are lots of things more interesting about me than my Deafness.

But it can be really hard for people who meet me to get a handle on this. The Deaf thing leaps out at them. I’ve been knocked back from courses, where I would probably be the hardest working and  most devoted student, because the idea of catering for a Deaf student is just too overwhelming for the teacher, and all they can see is my Deafness (along with, I suspect, a bit of the old assumption that to be Deaf is to be stupid, and therefore it’s probably not even worth teaching me anyway).

My friend Anna recently studied her grad dip to become a teacher, and while all the other students in her course were granted their teaching licenses, she was required to present herself to the board. “Since you’re Deaf,” they said, “We think we should give you a restricted licence – so that you can only teach in schools with Deaf students.”

Knowing Anna as I do, this OUTRAGED me. To think that she was seen as only having value to Deaf students, but not to hearing students. Aside from being a terrific model for diversity, Anna is funny, smart, compassionate and highly entertaining. If I was a hearing student, I would learn bucketloads from having her for a teacher. And one of the main things I’d learn is that Anna’s Deafness is not her main talent. No – it’s her incredible wit and ability to hit the nail on the head, which would make learning fun and easy. But I’d also learn that Deaf people can be more than their label.

So, I’m asking you, next time you meet a person who is Deaf, or a person who uses a wheelchair, or has some other physical condition that seems remarkable, remind yourself that it’s probably not the most remarkable thing about them. And you won’t even know what IS remarkable, until you get to know them.

Please feel free to share this post or hang a print of this painting on your wall to raise awareness about this tricky issue. Giclee prints of this artwork are available in my shop.

I have a forgettory

If, like me, you have memory issues, you might relate to this painting. I once asked my son to make sure he remembered something and he abdicated all responsibility by declaring, ‘I don’t have a memory, I have a forgettory!’ And therein was the inspiration for this painting. Thanks, Jesse!

If you’d like this painting, it’s in my online shop in my online shop here.

I will carry you

This is a papier mache figure I made after studying with Julie Arkell in France. Do you know Julie Arkell’s work? I am in love with it. Long before I went to France, I tried making a papier mache figure, inspired by her work, and it was a disaster. Now that I have learnt her secrets, it all seems so easy. I have had a lot of fun playing around with papier mache figures since.

This one represents an idea my mother talked with me about when I was young. ‘It is the job of society to carry those who cannot carry themselves.’ By this she meant that if someone is sick or has a disability or can’t perform some essential function, then it’s appropriate for those around to step in and carry out those tasks for them or provide whatever assistance is needed.

I made this figure with her own built-in tray, ready to do some carrying. She can sit on your mantel piece or coffee table or chest of drawers, and on the back, place anything that has meaning for you. A special rock, a ceramic figurine, a small doll you loved as a child.

Her wheels really do turn! That’s another secret I learnt from Julie Arkell.

If you’d like her, she’s in my shop.

Bird Girl

Bird Girl is surrounded by all the birds she loves, in a rich, vibrant and stormy landscape. She’s in her element.

For me birds are about flight, about courage to take a leap and try something new and different and scary. I think of Bird Girl as being full of that courage.

If you’d like this painting, it’s in my online shop here.

You Are What Matters

This painting is a part of my series, Just Enough. It’s about eliminating the clutter in our lives to free us up to live the lives we want. This means choosing only belongings, commitments, people and habits that move us closer to our goals.

With so much eliminated, the open time and space forces us to examine what makes life rich and meaningful. The thing that matters most, for many of us, is to share love and connection with our important people, and to foster a deeper connection with both positive and negative parts of our selves. This painting is about that connection.

This painting is currently on exhibition at Dench: 109 Scotchmer St Ftizroy, Melbourne, Australia, until 11 October. It’s also available in my shop here.

What I can give you

There can be significant pressure to give our people gifts that cost money. How to reconcile this with our values? There are lots of ideas out there for non-consumerist gift-giving. Cook a meal or a batch of biscuits, give a hand-drawn card, pick some wild flowers, or and old favourite book you already own. I still believe the best gift anyone can give is their time and love. The simple cup of tea, offered routinely to guests, is really a message: ‘Please stay a while. I will give you my attention and chat to you while we sip slowly.’ This painting is a reminder to choose gifts that offer love and time to our precious people.

If you’d like this painting, it’s in my online shop here.