The photographer

English is not his first or even his second language. Born in Poland in 1946, he considers himself a miracle baby. His father had spent time in a Warsaw ghetto. After transportation to one of the Nazi concentration camps, 100 people staged a brave escape. He was one of only 2 survivors of the attempt. Not long after, his father met a Russian aviatrix. Nicknamed “Night Witches” this group of daring pilots flew multiple bombing missions every evening without parachutes. Living in various parts of Europe for most of his seventy years, he only recently arrived in Australia.

Listening to him speak as he holds his cooling latte in his wrinkled hand, I watch the foam on his coffee break up. His eyes seem to get stuck in the grain of the wooden table top.

It’s one of those cafes with reclaimed tables with matching faux-industrial chairs under Edison bulb lights hanging in bundles from too long black cables. The cafe used to be a slightly grubby, converted milk bar with mismatched chairs and tables that a designer would call eclectic. Cakes were ugly but tasty piled high with just the right amount of too much frosting. Coffee was spot on -always. Never bitter or weak and always the right drinkable temperature. The new owners are young and enthusiastic and unfortunately the juices now come in mason jars with handles. He is the most authentic thing in the place.

We connected through Facebook after I commented on one of the images of his work that he posted to a local artists’ group. The photo he had taken of himself first thing in the morning.

“I am working on a new collection” EXPOSURE OF HUMAN FACE” the idea is to capture the face as the dominant part of the art surrounded with elements to complement the shot or focus on the face only. To capture the beauty, elegance or venerability of expression and movement.
The first experiment was this self portrait this morning – expressing venerability
Yes I am brave but if you love me you will except this.
I am looking for BRAVE Facebook friends to be willing to be tested and submit to my lens and creative spirit to capture you.”

I responded” I don’t necessarily believe I am brave to make myself vulnerable in front of your lens but offer my services anyway. As an artist, I’m usually the one painting or drawing a model, not being a model myself. “

He’s very free with his compliments and I blush when he talks about my eyes and my smile. His directness is refreshing but also disarming.

“I will have to touch you as I move you into position. My camera will be right up in your face. You must be okay with this.” he explains as his large hands reach out towards my chin and turn it towards my right. I don’t stop him or even draw back. I can tell this is part of the test.

“We will need to meet and discuss this book again. I want you to think about clothing and locations. My neighbour has a wrecker’s yard and we can use that. On the outside life is a breeze and on inside is destruction. That is the concept”.

“Okay” I agree with him as no doubt do most people. He has a charm that puts people around him at ease.

“This project will take maybe a year” he states matter-of-factly. “I’m also shooting a book about farmers in Gippsland.”
I didn’t ask any of this but he expounds anyway.

As we walk away from the cafe I start to comprehend that I will be more of a collaborator than a mannequin. At my front door, we smile and hug, his tall frame overwhelming mine. He turns and walks towards his car. I retreat inside.

“Everything good, my love?” Steve calls down from the lounge.

“Yeah, I reckon so”

What is my art practice about?

What is my art practice about? This is a question which I’m occasionally forced to address, usually when filling out those dreaded exhibition proposals.

I’ll start from the points I easily know and perhaps by pegging those down a shape may emerge.

I’m obsessed with the human female form. Yes I am one so that helps but also I strongly feel that there is too much public representation of a very narrow set of female figures. I’m adding my voice to the story. I can’t single-handedly readjust this direction but through using my family and friends, though generally myself primarily, as model for a lot of my work, but I am widening the canon.

All artworks my original
I am a sex positive person. I do not believe sex is a dirty, secretive thing. It is a pleasure that we humans can and should enjoy. I am conscious of being a strong role model for my two daughters. A large part of sex for women is how they feel about their bodies. Extrapolate this idea further -if they don’t see their bodies represented as an idea of beauty, they may easily not innately know that they are beautiful and furthermore acceptable.

I am sure that I also paint myself as a larger body for my own well being. Putting my form on the canvas separates the end product from me as a person so I never truly feel that it is exactly me. It’s not me. It’s a view of me but it’s not me. I don’t know if it’s narcissistic. I feel quite divorced when I’m applying the pigment. Lines and curves, tone and colour are all I see. Posting images on social media doesn’t even feel like exposure.

I say all this and yet to some degree I occasionally get self-conscious when someone in a public gallery asks if I was the model for a particular piece.
No doubt to a degree part of my way of working involves arrogance. I have to show some bravado that I know what I’m doing. My lack of formal art school training rears its ugly head every now and then but I’m not really interested in spending multiple thousands of dollars for something which may or may not benefit me. A friend started studying art formally a few years ago and she learnt a slew of practice how to information which I think could be very useful. The next section of her education was more cerebral and that’s where it lost me. A lot of conceptual art passes me right by.

When I start a piece I don’t always know where it is going. I have an idea that may or may not pan out. It’s generally more interesting when things don’t go to plan. In fact, I like it when things go ‘wrong’ either from a technical point of view, compositionally or due to other factors. It forces me to come at it from a different angle. 

I know that I’m talking around the thing that is my art practice. I find it very difficult to easily answer the question. In fact, I’m not sure I even really know the question. Perhaps that is part of where I get lost. My art practice is mostly exploration – what it is like being a woman in this time, with my unique set of experiences yet drawing on some universal themes that others, not only those who identify as female, can relate to.

#myindigoobsession


Last year I started having some sessions with a counsellor. It was during my blue period. I was experiencing a very strong attraction to dark, indigo blues. My paintings were being pulled in that direction. I seemed to be drawn to dark blue fabrics and items #myindigoobsession Indigo, cyan, navy, cobalt, azure, cerulean. Even the names of the blue pigments attracted me; their mellifluous sounds haunted my mind.

all artworks my originals


I found myself nesting, actually curling up on the couch pulling the soft blankets in on top of me. The television may have been turned on but I wasn’t. Books couldn’t hold my gaze; their words raindrops beading on my skin. I avoided phone calls and even refused to read text messages or emails. Bailing on prior commitments, I found the clutter of people draining. I attended my job in automatic mode, flicking the switch that would shut off 8 hours later when I crawled back into my nest. The bills still needed to be paid even if I didn’t feel up to it.


I don’t precisely recall who or what finally made me phone the counselling service but I did and a session was set for 5 weeks time. Five weeks could have seemed an aeon away but knowing it was booked in was a comforting thought. Day by day, the five weeks passed.

There’s an odd thing about counselling sessions. Two strangers sit opposite each other in a neutrally aesthetic room on chairs that at first seem comfortable, and one opens the flood gates on the issues at hand. I can see the counsellor sifting through the oncoming waters trying to pick up the pieces of a jigsaw without knowing what the final image looks like.

My counsellor (we’ll call her Kate cause that’s her name) seemed to know when to raise the levy so we could more intimately discuss a point. Knowing the right question to stop me in my tracks, she was adept at asking questions I didn’t know how to answer. One thing I’ve discovered about myself over the years of journaling is that I have a gestation period of roughly 24 hours. I need time to digest an idea and roll it over in my sub-conscious before I can formulate my response. Even when I was dating I found that I didn’t really know how I felt about someone until the next day. Counselling appeared to be similar. The next day, I could articulate what had taken place but straight afterwards, my head was in the clouds.

I managed to get some great clarity on a few issues during our sessions. I may have made the initial appointment after some depressed episodes but we never directly dealt with depression. By discussing a variety of issues, I suspect we dismantled the depression brick by brick bringing the sunshine back in.

Whilst many of my friends may not have ever known that I suffered from depression, which in and of itself can be a trigger word, I have discovered that by talking and writing about it fears of stigma have blown away. It is precisely people like me who are bubbly, talkative and energetic on the outside who others don’t suspect would suffer from anxiety and depressive episodes. We can. We do. I guess that’s the point. I don’t know how I got lost but I talked to a professional, I took it easy on myself and I climbed out of my nest ready to face the world. I still like my indigo blues and find it grounds my visual art but I’m no longer stuck in my indigo obsession.

What if I’d never had children?


What if I’d never had children?

I am by no means saying that I wish I’d never had kids OR that I,in some way, don’t like or love my children. I am just playing with the idea of a future where I hadn’t had children.

I do wonder if I’d have just knuckled down and down the career thing. I doubt it. I remember very clearly being in secondary school and I was around 15 years old. This was probably when you started to have career sessions with the school counsellor. I seem to recall doing those delightfully useless aptitude tests. I can’t even remember what my results of those were. School friends were talking about what university they wanted to attend, which they were going to do and what their working lives would be like. I sat alongside and nodded where appropriate but never felt any future of mine involved a pencil skirt, a phone and a desk.
All artwork my original 

 Being trapped in a city skyscraper for many hours a day only to thrust into the throng of all of those other thousands of city workers before, after and during the lunch hour rush had exactly zero appeal. Even today, I can’t see there’s any job that I would do that could convince me to partake in that daily ritual. That said, I’ve never been a part of Friday after work drinks, water cooler discussions, smoko or other office bonding rituals. One of my brief retail stints was in the city and I did the long train commute. I did enjoy that though for the plethora of books I was able to devour during that time.

So it appears the big business career was ticked off the list early on. Would I have studied more? I don’t think I was suited to Uni life back then straight out of school. I did try two different courses at two different institutions so I did at least try. I felt alienated. Yes, I know many others did too. I felt that they weren’t my kind of people. By that, I mean that I felt I couldn’t relate to them. There seemed to be no common ground to meet upon. I think in essence, that it wasn’t the right kind of course for me at that time. Now, I would look at those subjects not as something to get through but as something that inspires and stimulates. Yeah, I’d be one of those annoyingly enthusiastic mature age students. I wasn’t engaged then but possibly now I could be.

I’m skirting around the issue of whether or not I would have started down my creative path any earlier. I’ve been skimming back over my journals recently (only skimming as I don’t necessarily believe that journals are for being read as much as they are for being written). They go back 12 years or so. I mention writing and where it fits in my life. Further through the pages, I also write about the short painting courses that I was undertaking and the mutual painting group I started. I had small children at this point and there was quite an effort and energy involved getting the children looked after whilst I did these courses. If it was easier, would I have done more of it? I think not. My then husband wasn’t very supportive at all of any of my creative endeavours. I believe he was threatened by pretty much anything that didn’t revolve around him and the home.

Creativity by its very nature involves playing around with ideas and concepts. It’s incredibly messy and often very demanding of my time. He couldn’t have coped with it and I wasn’t pissed off enough to make the massive changes needed to get here. In one of her books, Mirka Mora talks about the selfishness necessary to follow the artistic life. I think she’s right. Art for me involves shutting out all other stimuli, including partner and children, to really concentrate on the thread that I’m exploring.  I struggle even having the radio or music on if I’m sitting down to write. Life experiences have no doubt enriched what I bring to my creative practice so these are not bitter words.

All that said, I’ve met some incredible people via my involvement with my children and I can’t imagine not having my current friends in my life.  Where would I be living? Who would I be living with? Would I travel more? Would I physically look any different? So many questions that can never have coherent answers.

I have two beautiful daughters who I am grateful to have in my life. They are so much fun and have taught me so much about myself and life. Each step in life brings us to where we currently are and I love where I am.

nosebleeds


I used to get a fair few nosebleeds when I was a kid and into my teenage years.  I guess they stopped for many years because I can’t really recall it being an issue. Over the last two years they seem to be returning with greater frequency though.

I don’t know why it happens. I can’t predict when it will happen. I don’t have high blood pressure (in fact I tend to have lower than normal blood pressure which has its own implications). I don’t have a cocaine habit or Ebola or any of the other causes that WebMD suggests. Generally I bleed from the left nostril and it stops usually pretty quickly without much effort or fuss. Afterwards I’m left fatigued and a little too crowded in the head.

The internet search was deeply unsatisfying so I widened the search to symbolic meaning of nosebleeds. Now things get a bit more interesting. Apparently I am feeling unrecognised. So I sit and dwell upon this for a bit. No one wants to admit to feeling unrecognised. 

Andy Warhol said that we will all get our 15 minutes of fame. Maybe mine is still to come but let’s assume I’ve had it – what happens now? Does fame constitute recognition? I doubt it in all honesty. I could think of nothing worse than not being able to walk down the street picking or sitting in your car at the lights quietly picking your nose (not that I’d do that as it wouldn’t help the nosebleeding issue) without being recognised and harassed. In fact, I dislike working near where I live as I like my privacy too much. Bad enough that one has to be polite to customers at work.  Goddess forbid I should have to be civil to them on my time.

Okay so if it’s not fame then what does recognition mean to me. Peer and industry recognition perhaps? Not so much of “yes, I’ve heard of Amanda Kennedy the artist” but “You’re an artist. Great . Would love to see/discuss your work”. Or “You’re an artist. Great .  I’ll put you in touch with so and so”. I know that artists are a dime a dozen and art covers such a wide scope. It often feels like I’m wandering alone in the shallows in the dark hoping to catch something with my small hand held net.

It’s taken me a few years to easily answer ‘artist’ when that question of what do I do comes round to me at social gatherings. I can now do it without laughing and actually happily engage with people about how it all works from my point of view. So I guess I’ve started on the first steps of this journey by recognising myself as an artist. It’s now up to me to put that out further into my world and beyond.

Just to be to cover my bases I have my affirmations –
“ Even though I have a need for recognition and feel unrecognized and unnoticed, and I am crying for love, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
I love and approve of myself. I recognize my own true worth. I am wonderful. I recognize my own intuitive ability.” 
(thanks Louise Hay)

And always carry a pack of tissues.

thinking back

I married at age 19. It was 1991 and it most certainly was not because it was what I was supposed to do. It was more likely because it was I wasn’t supposed to do. Marriage as an act of rebellion. Why not?

Rebellion is even too strong a word. As a piece of performance art – very possibly. Not because I was bored – I wasn’t. Not because I came from ‘a bad home’ – I didn’t.  In truth, right then I really loved the fella. I could see us doing everything together (possibly not great in retrospect but ain’t hindsight grand). He was my best friend. I felt very much myself with him. I liked myself with him. I liked who I was, how I felt and acted. It was comforting to be with him. I enjoyed his company one on one and also in groups. I didn’t anticipate any insurmountable problems.

 I grew up very much in middle suburbia. The house I grew up in was built for my parents in a court where all the houses were completed in a similar period of time, many with young families. There were lots of kids running around that my two brothers my sister and I could choose to play with. The court had a gentle and a steep incline that we could skateboard, ride our bikes as well as a large round flat area at the head of the court on which play all types of ball games. There was even a large vacant block which provided many abseiling, climbing and cherry eating adventures. It was the era before gluten free, nut free and ethically produced snacks.  When you look at it, those cherries we pulled off the trees were locally sourced, organic, nut free, gluten free snacks.  I never felt my parents were hovering over us watching our every move, though I’m not saying the large lounge room windows that looked smack bang out onto the middle of the court never saw my mum’s eye.

I attended the local primary school following in the footsteps of my three older siblings, sometimes literally as we walked the 700m to school. I had to use Google maps to check how far and how long the trip took because I couldn’t have guessed if we took 10 or 20 minutes to get to school. Google maps says 9 minutes, for the record. It was, in general, a perfect neighbourhood primary school. It backed on to the local park which had a large, shallow, muddy lake to one side. Certain teachers would use this convenient resource to ground our learning in the real world.

I remember once being chosen to be on the committee of kids to tour other local schools and test out their play equipment for our newly proposed adventure playground. It was such a prestigious position. Kids were chosen from each year level to survey the equipment, shortlist particular pieces and which were then put to the school council to finalise. At least, that’s how I remember it. Imagine the excitement of being let out of class, whilst your fellow students had to stay inside completing some scholarly exercises.  All the time, we were ferried around a few local schools to play on their equipment whilst their students were also in class. One rocketship/tunnel/fort – no waiting!

We played sport on weekends. We took regular holidays around country Victoria with all 6 of us piled in the car. As I was the youngest and the smallest, I usually was stuck on the front bench seat between mum and dad. I do recall straining my neck trying to be part of whatever was going on in the back. As we got older, my parents bought a beach house on the Mornington Peninsula opposite the area where we’d always camped each summer holidays. The afternoon of December 25, we’d pack up the car and drive the 90 minutes or so down to the beach house. Of course, summers then seemed almost endless. Not returning home until the start of February, days and dates lost their significance. It was only the weather that would shape the day’s activity schedule.

There were boats to be sailed, boats to go fishing from and boats to take on trips out around the bay. There were walks up to the lighthouse, if you only wanted a little walk or up to the pier if you wanted exercise or a chance at a private conversation. Plenty of scrub to hide and muck about in. Wet weather days meant jigsaws, books from the everchanging in and out bookshelf or maybe a trip out to the movies or bowling. There was a great little book store called The Hole in the Wall where they sold and bought second hand books for a couple of dollars. It was cool in the dark recesses of this tiny space. So many books piled high with hand written labels on the shelves letting you know if the section was Western Adventures, Biographies or Mills and Boon Romance novels (bleurgh). The shop even had its own particular smell.

To be continued

SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT

On making my art AND on making myself as an artist.

There are times when I doubt myself as an artist. Well many times if I’m to be frank. (‘Glad you’re being Frank’ I can almost hear my children chorusing).  It usually comes right about when I have to fill in an application form for an exhibition submission to a gallery. I’m starting to build up the CV of previous exhibition experiences. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people I consider part of my tribe who have welcomed my emerging art status.

The part I most often trip over is the ‘schooling’ bit. I’ve done some tertiary study it just wanted in relevant areas or even completed. I’d like to imagine that I’ve picked up the odd relevant thing in my 44 years of life though.

So this is where I feel somewhat in limbo. I’m 44 years old so I’m not newly-realised-into-the-world-kind-of-emerging but I’m certainly not seasoned-showing-my-art experienced either. I don’t even feel near the middle. I’ll concede to feeling 30% of the way. On a side note, I heard recently that most people experience doubt about projects etc at the 30% in and 30% to go marks. Maybe that helps explain it.

I’ve never formally studied any art. Local living and learning centre courses of which I’ve done a few years worth, apparently don’t count. I’ve a friend who started painting with me around the same time I did. She’s now in her second course studying Fine Art at a fine tertiary institution. I’ve had chats with her about this and I can’t say it draws me towards incurring a substantial higher education debt for a few lines on an application. I struggle with conceptual art and find myself alienated from of abstract, performance and even video art. Even the world installation can be off-putting.

I would like to increase my practical knowledge about techniques and different media and even relish the idea of associating with fellow creatives on a regular basis but this appears not to be the real situation in most tertiary education facilities.

Occasionally I browse a short course, adult education catalogue and see what is offered. Then usually I jump to the more immediate YouTube to satisfy my curiosity. I am aware that there are many things that I might learn from fellow students as well as my teacher in a class situation that I may never discover from YouTube alone but instant gratification usually wins out. I also like the small but useful tricks of rewinding, pausing and bookmarking sections where I want to study in more detail. The internet provides an incredible wealth of information about the technical side of certain mediums, though I also hit up the art supply store peeps too.

 It’s great to get out of a solo art studio and chat to someone else who is so enthusiastic about the minutiae of art mediums and the Melbourne art scene, as the lovely people at some of my favourite art supply stores. I found myself once having an in depth conversation about particular pigments days after walking past an impressive wall of wisteria – a scene that wouldn’t leave my mind. I needed to paint it you understand.


So I try not to over-think these things (an expression I heard from a friend a few years ago and I immediately knew what she meant). The way to make art and therefore makes myself as an artist is to just keep turning up at the easel.

SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT

my first masterclass

So I’ve signed up to do a writers masterclass.

Lately, people have been talking to me about writing. It might be a case of the more your brain has been alerted to something, the more you start to notice it around you. Whatever the case, I’ve decided to take the leap and give it a go.

I feel that I used to be able to write better than I currently do. Maybe I just need to flex my writing muscles and practice it. I’m hoping that it will aid my writing about my art practice. I want to be able to better nail down my thoughts about my art. I can talk freely about the why and the how of my art practice but sieze up when it comes to conveying these thoughts to others via the written word.

I love to read. I love stories. I love movies, theatre, radio interviews where the story is deftly played out.  I’d like to be able to participate on the other side of it.

So my birthday gift to myself is signing up to this writing class and hopefully more words will flow.

Painting en plein air

I’ve a great travel set of watercolours and am enjoying discovering the pleasures of painting in the open. I recognise it is quite the established tradition but I’m a newcomer to it.

A little tweaking when I got home but most of the work was captured on site.