2015

Its been months since I last posted but I’m hoping to change that this year. For some reason I found it really difficult to maintain two blogs and found that most of what I wanted to say had to do with art. Wanting to keep my art discussions on my other blog meant that I wasn’t sure what to write about on here any more! So, I’ve made a bit of a plan. I have a few things I want to write about on a weekly basis so we will see how that goes.

To start with I thought I’d type up some of my 2015 goals. I realise its almost February but the kids only went back to school yesterday so I’ve not had proper head space until now. Here’s a few of my goals, I’ve not included some of the more personal/private goals so there are about two or three not listed:

1. Properly reduce stress. I don’t handle stress well at all. My brain seems to be set at a high level of fight or flight after a bout of very bad stress a few years ago. I end up with the whole range of physical stress and anxiety symptoms which make it worse. I want to get on top of this properly. Plan of attack: exercise, Bible study, work on how much I take on.

2. Lengthen my fuse. I tend to have a short fuse, I take things personally, get grumpy at the kids and end up saying things I shouldn’t. Plan of attack: Prayer, Bible study, being purposeful in my responses, simple things like deep breathing and counting to 10.

3. Finish major projects. The main one left on the list is our caravan. I need to do the interior decorating mainly including painting, curtains and replacing mattresses. Plan of attack: set aside a day just for each task.

4. Improved meal planning. I used to do this more and still have my monthly plan. I’ve just gotten lazy and overwhelmed. Plan of attack: sit down on morning in the next week and make a proper plan and list. Stick to it.

5. Visual Bible Study. I have slacked off with my Bible study lately, well for a while. I have still been reading my Bible or attending a study but sitting and going through verses and pondering them is something I want to do. I always enjoy my time thinking about practical application but mostly I like to create a visual representation of what I’m looking at in the form of a brain storm style chart. Plan of attack: set a specific day or time to do this.

6. Art goals. Recently I had all my 2013-2014 oil painting work printed up in a catalogue. I’m not a very assertive person so these are still sitting here and I’m not sure what to do with them. I want to make sure these get put to use. I also aim to enter 6-8 art prizes this year. I have applied for two so far and am hoping to enter another one by Feb 17th. This year I would just love to sell some paintings, I want to financially contribute to the family. I am also planning on attending a term at Julian Ashton’s Art school. I also want to spend at least one day a week outside the house, either pleinair painting, going to exhibitions, galleries or sketching somewhere. I would also like to get more involved in my art society, Oatley 101. Plan of attack: Keep a diary, set days for each and set deadlines.

7. Regular Hostessing. I want to invite more people over for a meal or afternoon tea. I do enjoy this but introverted me has backed away from this a lot more lately. Plan of attack: make a list and start inviting people.

8. Other. The list of other things I’d like to implement include: encouraging specific family members regularly being BOLDer, start a children’s art class, set some laptop boundaries, draw every day, set and keep to house rules for the girls.

The list is longer than I thought and it feels a bit like an overhaul. I probably should have more in there about exercise but I don’t want to focus on that yet. Any exercise I do will be for stress management only.

How’s that for 2015 goals? Quite a lot I suppose but I’ve had a while to think about it. Do you have any big goals? Leave a comment below if you like, I’m interested to hear what you’re planning.
Amanda

Thinking it Through

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about what I really want to paint. I have at least settled on oils as my main medium but the what is the hard part. I love to paint portraits but these are very limiting. Not everyone would want to buy a portrait and I’m not confident enough to offer commissions as yet. Landscape I find easy but nothing more than aesthetic. I don’t feel very challenged by a landscape although I am still yet to have another go at plein air painting (outdoors).
Its not so much the category that I’m trying to get to, its the statement. I would love to be able to paint in such a way that my work challenges the viewer. I want to give people something to consider but working out HOW to do that is difficult. The best way forward is naturally of course, not forced but at this point, nothing natural is emerging.
For a very long time I have focused on the outcome of the work and not the process. I think this may be something I need to address. I would love to be able to paint in a recognisable style, something that people would see and say ‘oh, that’s Amanda Hunt’s work’. I’m not there yet.
Last week I listened to an excellent podcast by Sheridan Voysey which addressed the subject of culture and our place within ours as a Christian. This led to a few back and forth emails with Sheridan in which he pointed me towards another excellent resource, ‘Art Needs No Justification’ by Hans Rookmaaker. He says:

We want artists to be serious and create deep things that have almost eternal value, things that people of culture can talk about centuries later. But if artists want to be successful, they have to bow down to present tastes, be commercial and play the clown rather than the sage. Of course this is not a new problem. It has been like this since the eighteenth century when the old concept of the artist as craftsman began to be exchanged for a concept that saw him as both a gifted genius and a social and economic outcast. Artists who are Christians also struggle with these tensions. But the problems of Christian artists are often greater because it is difficult for any Christian to live in a post-Christian world. Artists are expected to work from their convictions, but these may be seen by their atheistic contemporaries as ultraconservative if not totally passe’. On top of this they often lack the support of their own community their church and family.’

I can totally relate. Not only is art seen as a hobby and not a gift by many but any statements we may want to make would be misunderstood. I’m still mulling this all over.

So, the question is, what should I paint? Should I paint pretty pictures? No one is really buying art that much and my studio is filling up with paintings so what’s the point. If I’m going to paint something it might as well be something with weight. Thoughts to ponder and pray over.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo

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For the last year we have had zoo membership with Taronga Zoo here in Sydney. We have loved being able to go to the zoo any time and have made the most of it. Before our membership runs out we wanted to make the trip out to Dubbo (which is about 5 hrs west of Sydney) to the Western Plains Zoo. Finally these last school holidays we got organised and headed off. We drove via Orange on the first day and arrived at Dubbo in the early evening. The next day we headed off to the zoo. The zoo is 300ha in size and we had the option of hiring bikes or driving. We chose driving as I wasn’t well and we also had a carload of picnic supplies.

Its an amazing place, the way they have set up the pens (more like paddocks) is so that it appears that there is no fence at all. It was very strange to be driving along and see a large herd of giraffes in the paddock. Here’s some of my favourite shots from the day:

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Cuddles the 42 year old ex-circus African elephant.

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A roaming Rhino

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Look! A baby Meercat and its parents.

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The girls checking out some reptiles. The python is the same sort my parents have found the skin of in their backyard in Cairns (and the same type that ate the guinea pigs next door to them!).

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My favourite thing of the day – two hippos grazing in a field (who knew they did that!)

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Closeup, they were like giant pigs snuffling in the dirt.

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Baby zebra!

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Check out all the space the giraffes have! That’s Miss K watching them.

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Couple of younger giraffes, they were very sweet.

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Przewalski’s Horse. A wild Mongolian horse. They had a lot of these there and they were very beautiful.

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Just for fun, this is where I keep my giraffe. :)

The zoo trip was worth it for sure. There were plenty of toilet stops and food stops inside the park and a decent playground at the end. If we had more time we would have done it over two days as we didn’t see everything. I’d highly recommend going!

Royal Stalking

Last Wednesday I decided to take the girls into the city with the hopes that we might be able to see the royal couple as they arrived at the Opera House. I thought we would be there for an hour and would be way back in the crowd but in the end we were there for three and a half hours and were right at the front. Happily for me the girls were worn out from walking the Royal Easter Show the day before so were happy to sit and play with the things they had. They were very good really considering how long we sat. If I had known it was going to be that long I probably wouldn’t have stayed. It was a bit warm in the sun and somehow I ended up looking like I was on safari:

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We got to see how security was set up and it was impressive with police everywhere in every type of uniform there is. Mounted police, sniffer dogs, police with tight white pants on motorbikes (CHIPS style), secret service looking dudes with ear pieces etc etc… That entertained us for a while along with talking to the people sitting next to us waiting.

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After all that time however it turned out that the information given to us by the security blokes was not so good, we did get to see them as the cars sped past us towards the back of the Opera House but unfortunately this is the BEST shot I got, Kate’s hand!! Its both funny and disappointing at the same time.

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We did get to see the roar of the crowd as everyone rushed up the other end (a spectacle in itself) and then I could just see Kate in her bright yellow dress as she and William went up the stairs. All attempts to get a photo of that were thwarted however by the lady next to me who was a very keen Monarchist and had her arm stuck out in front of me the whole time. This is what I got!

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In the end we did get to see them and that was exciting to think that we were there as they arrived. I know, not a big deal in itself but still a bit of an interesting event for the girls to remember. Even though we didn’t get the hello from the royals we hoped and weren’t that close to them we were there and we did get to sit next to the beautiful Sydney harbour and Opera House for the day. Not something I thought I’d ever do.

Awesome Op Shop Find

This year I haven’t been frequenting my usual op shops as often but last week I did manage to drop in to the local Vinnies once and I couldn’t believe what I found.

Going through the linen rack to see if there were any vintage pieces I came across some old calendar tea towels. After spotting 1989 and passing on it I couldn’t believe it when I found this, 1974, the year I was born! Yes that means that this is the year of the big 4-0 for me.

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For a few seconds the thought crossed my mind ‘all I have to do now is find one for 1975, hubby’s birth year’ and then I turned 1974 over to find 1975 pinned behind it! Woooooo what a find! So there you go, we have a matching set.

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Now I just have to decide what to do with these. I don’t want to use them in the kitchen, might even frame them for display just to be different. They’d make great kitchen pictures.

Easter Egg Decorating

Every year we do what a lot of people do at Easter, decorate eggs. We have had chickens or ducks for a number of years now so we have been using our own eggs for a while. This means that we can use more without stressing, we are guaranteed more the next day!
Here’s what we did this year, step by step:

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Egg blowing. Making a hole in each end of the egg and then stirring up the yolk and white inside with a cake skewer to make it easier to blow the egg through the hole. Once it got going the girls found this not too hard to do. Notice how bright yellow the yolks are!

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Once we had done 10 eggs we set them aside to dry for a few hours, mainly to make sure that the water inside them (we sucked water into them to clean them out) was leached out.

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Our supplies. We almost always use food dye and often use crayons as a resist but this year we also went with coloured sharpies and nailpolish (Miss K’s suggestion). They all worked a treat. I was given a hint online (thanks Brian) to add vinegar to the water to make the colour stick better to the shell and it worked! In fact once it dried the vinegar must have separated a bit and left nice spots on some of the eggs (as you will see down further).

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Nailpolish

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Sharpies

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Food Dye

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The end result! I love the colours, makes a change from the usual pastels we get. I would have happily made a heap more if we had time.

The colours we chose for the food dye (red, blue, green and yellow) all represented parts of the Easter story. Green for the palm leaves when he rode in on a donkey, Red for Jesus’ blood, Blue for the sky as he rose again and yellow (gold) because he is King.

I’m Not Crazy……..Well Maybe a Little

Recently I painted a self-portrait. I’ve done a few over the last year or so and a few quite a while ago but this time I wanted to get it just right. I’m planning on entering it into an art prize so was a bit more particular with the outcome.
In order to get the face right I took a lot of selfies. These are not the ‘share on the internet’ type of selfies, these are the reference photo types. Having said that, I’m going to share them here. Why? Just because. Why Not! So, here they are, just for fun:

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These are simply to practice different expressions. I know, they make me look a little bit mad but then again, who said I’m not!

Hobby No Longer Applies

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This year has been different than any other year (in my life) so far. If you know me then you will know that this is the first year when my kids are at school full time. After 8 years of being a stay at home Mum with a small one in tow I all of a sudden (or if I’m honest, finally) find myself with a stretch of six hours in a row filled with whatever I need or want to do. I included ‘need’ because I obviously can’t just do what I want the whole time, I still have my normal responsibilities.

This shift in our family life has heralded in another major shift in my life, time in the studio. I had always planned on increasing that time and last year I had three days a week where I could spend some time in there but this year there are five consecutive days where I can include painting and art related activities.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been painting now for around 20 years, I have a degree in art and a TAFE certificate in art and design. I made and sold items on Etsy for about five years and I have taught art privately (and in an overseas school environment) on and off. The one thing I have never done is consider art my career. It has always been there and I have even loosly referred to myself as an artist but its not been the main focus.

Since we moved to Sydney two years ago I have gradually built up a momentum which means that I am hurtling towards becoming professional artist. For me, the switch will be once I start winning prizes and selling works.

However, I am letting it be known that this is not a hobby. The word hobby no longer applies to what I do because it IS what I do. It IS my profession. Its where my training is, my passion is, my interest is and my skill is. I have a drive in me which pushes me to improve, to gain knowledge, to visit exhibitions and to connect with other professional artists. I spend many hours a day in the studio gaining, as one person put it ‘brush mileage’. In the past year I have spent more hours painting than I have in my life and so far this year those hours are looking to double or triple. I no longer feel driven to paint every night now that I have days to do so. Weekends are off limits for the most part. Its morphing into a part-time job (with a full-time passion).

My aim this year is to at least double the amount of art prizes I enter, maybe even triple it. I have already entered two and have a third one ready to send off. I have a website now with a blog section in which I keep a weekly record of my artistic adventures. Our family has become members of the Art Gallery of NSW and when membership expires I will probably keep on as a member. I am consuming information, networking, reading and connecting on a daily basis within the art realm. I am loving every minute and feel strongly that this is the path that God has set me on.
So, no, I don’t have a hobby, well actually I do, its crocheting in front of the TV on weekends.

A Snapshot

The last few weeks have been full of many ups and downs. Lots of exciting, interesting and stressful events and news. Below you can see a collection of snapshots of my life from the last couple of weeks. Explanation at the bottom of the post.
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Top Down
1. The happy everlastings that sit on my windowsill.
2. A beautiful sunset near Camden. Shot taken while on camp last weekend, right before a lightening storm.
3. The Giant Swing at Teen Ranch.
4. Just me chatting with ALAN DAVIES!!
5. My signed DVD.
6. Turn your head to the left.
7. Sydney awesomeness building!!
8. George trying to eat my hanging cord while prepping a painting for a prize.

I’m thinking I might add regular snapshot posts on here as I’m finding it hard to know what to write these days. Being a visual, this is a great way for me to share with you.

A List, Inspired by Pip

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Pip over at Meet Me At Mikes made a list. She then invited us to make a list for ourselves and I figured this was a good idea. So, here’s mine:

Making : Art, painting every day. Also a crocheted rug which is taking ages.
Cooking : Just made jam drop bikkies for afternoon tea.
Drinking : Tea, always tea. White,no sugar. Lipton.
Reading: Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey. My Bible (Colossians 3).
Wanting: A skype call with my Mum, which is impossible because she is in PNG!
Looking: At the time, we have guests coming.
Playing: Not a lot of music, does Candy Crush count?
Deciding: Whether to enter the Camden Art Prize.
Wishing: I could go out for coffee with Mum and Dad.
Enjoying: Sydney. Fantastic place to live.
Waiting: For our afternoon tea guests.
Liking: the way my current painting turned out (above).
Wondering: if I will catch Miss L’s cold or not!
Loving: my family and friends.
Pondering: Colossians 3
Considering: That new art prize.
Watching: a LOT of A country Practice as I paint.
Hoping: that Miss L will get well very soon.
Marvelling: at God. Always. The way he cares for me even when I don’t realise it.
Needing: My Mum.
Smelling: Nothing exciting, Sydney traffic!
Wearing: my fav jeans.
Following: a lot of Aussie celebs and interesting people on twitter.
Noticing: that our lives are very busy right now.
Knowing: That I am loved.
Thinking: about my Mother in Law for tomorrow.
Feeling: tired.
Admiring: Some of the amazing artists here in Sydney I’ve discovered.
Sorting: through my Grandad’s war letters.
Buying: art supplies.
Getting: a headache when I forget to open my studio window.
Bookmarking: sites about art, faith and parenting.
Disliking: the media.
Opening: my letterbox in hope.
Giggling: at my crazy kids.
Feeling: a bit sick, shouldn’t have eaten those smarties.
Snacking: on smarties.
Coveting: those who have the ability to say no to smarties.
Wishing: I had said no to the smarties myself.
Helping: myself to smarties.
Hearing: Miss L swing on her chair as she is tired of DVDs on the lounge while sick (but not from smarties).

Thanks Pip! Great inspiration there to take stock.