Monday, March 23, 2015

Any day now

Back to regular broadcasting now but not before I say that I truly appreciate every single response to my last post here. I was so overwhelmed with support and love from people far and wide, and it meant a lot to me. I will not be posting on the issue again, as I believe I've covered everything that needs to be said. If it comes up in my life again in the future, I'll just refer people on to that post.

I've had a massive week, and a massive week before (Oh, I've been slack with posting here) so this post has a lot of photos and a lot to catch up on...


I'm almost there with the content for my book. Almost. Well, I'm certainly closer than I've ever been before... I think I'll have all the work done by the 31st, which is so soon, and hopefully I'll be able to chill out over Easter. Like, I'll still have work to do in putting it together with the book designer, but all the drawings and writing will be done. Consequently I've been spending a lot of time in my studio,  working away, but also making sure to take time out. Funnily enough, I've worked out that the less time I give myself to work, the more work I get done. If I use every single day I have spare in the studio I take the time for granted and seem to work at a slower pace I guess. Hmpf. The baffling ways in which my productivity thrives. Needless to say the large majority of the photos above were taken in my studio (was I really doing that much work?) I had S over for dinner and set up a little table for two, it was very fun and made me consider a career in some sort of quaint 1960s Italian Restaurant set dressing. I cooked a rather strange stir fry which once again put my culinary skills to shame, it wasn't bad but you know, I just can never seem to cook up something amazing that people tell tales to their friends about!

At another point last week I also had dinner with my VCA friends which I enjoyed vastly. We hadn't all gotten together in a long time, and it was typically boisterous with everyone talking over the top of each other at volumes louder than necessary. They're great people, and it's always great when we all get together because you remember that there's a certain sacred bond between those who've been through art school together... My friend G turned up late with a box of half eaten pizza and it was brilliant.

Three Thousand which is like a Melbourne culture guide (culture guide? Is that what you call it?) asked me to review The Wizard of Oz synced with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, in 3D, at a private IMAX cinema screening (there were four of us in the cinema), and it was about as much fun as it sounded. If you've ever wondered about that conspiracy theory (like I had) you can read what I made of it here:

S cooked me an incredible, restaurant quality dinner on Saturday night before we went to Dr. Morse for a friend's birthday drinks. I supplied the wine. I had to go into the store and talk to the person and buy it and everything, phew. Anyway Dr. Morse was so packed out, I had never been there before and certainly did not expect the kind of crowd they pulled - especially for being so far from the CBD and even from Smith Street. We had a bit of dance and I stayed on the Pinot which made for what I like to call 'wine eyes' which happens when you drink too much wine and your eyes are all droopy and slow-blinking. Wine eyes can occasionally turn into 'wine body' which is much less appealing so luckily we got a taxi home before that occurred.

On Sunday night I went to the Romance Was Born 'Bush Magic' runway show as a part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. It completely blew me away. I had never seen a live runway show of theirs, so being privy to this spectacle (in the FRONT ROW no less guys!) really solidified the respect I have for Anna and Luke as designers. It was at the National Gallery of Victoria in the great hall there. The lighting was purple hued and a scent of eucalyptus was apparent as you walked in. Sounds of lyrebirds and kookaburras echoed off of the beautiful stained glass roof, and the runway was lined generously with paper cut outs of gum leaves and gum nuts. The models walked out of a ramshackle looking timber bush shack, flanked by ballet dancers in gum nut baby costumes and even more remarkable costumes of a koala, a cockatoo, a kookaburra and even a 'Big Bad Banksia Man'. The music was perfectly vague - xylophone versions of classic 'Aus Rock' songs - my favourite was 'I Am Woman' at the very beginning. I wrote on Instagram that Luke and Anna get it right every time, and that I am continuously blown away by the intricacy in their themes, that are always executed impeccably. At 12am last night I was still buzzing from it, at 10.48pm tonight I'm STILL buzzing from it! It was just beautiful, and an experience I will have with me for a long time. I really have never felt that way about a runway show before, I've seen a few, but they're always been so stark and lacking in heart and parading dry concepts (okay so I haven't seen too many high end runway shows but..) This was just amazing. I didn't want it to end.

Today I had a day at home and it was great. I went to Savers, got a Diana Ross record (might show you next time) and am well and truly ready for bed right now. Thank you, as always, for reading and responding on here and elsewhere (Instagram, Tumblr etc). It means the world to me. : )

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Art, selling out, and the audacity of wanting it all

I feel compelled to address some whispers that have been bought to my attention. These whispers are concerned with the percieved quality and integrity of my fine art practice in relation to my more commercial illustration or publicity endeavours. It's a dichotomy I am no stranger to and I of course am aware that to some people, each commercial commission, collaborative project or illustration I do for a fee is a black mark against my name as an artist.

I want to explain why I fundamentally disagree with these thought processes.

Upon starting my degree in Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, I'd begun the traditional and accepted path of an emerging artist. The demure online presence I upheld with my regularly updated blog at the time was accepted by my peers as it was seldom read. Consequent to being offered a paid position of illustrator at Rookie Magazine in 2011, as well as continuing to study and pursue the conventional notion of "being an artist", I began to traverse what I saw as relatively uncharted territory, especially for me as a fresh-faced young woman with the ingrained propensity to not be taken seriously.

This "uncharted territory" that I cite is the rugged terrain of upholding a freelance, commercial illustration practice at the same time as pursuing a position of integrity as a fine artist. Lately, in combination with my rapidly growing presence online and my tendency to present myself to the public as a person and personality of equal importance to my artwork - I begun to rub some people who harbour traditional notions of art and artistry up the wrong way.

I am and have always been very much aware of the boundaries I am perhaps pushing and the people I am perhaps pissing off whilst attempting to navigate the distinctive position in the art world I have forged for myself. I have always stated that I see the commercial facet of my practice as separate to the fine art facet, and I maintain that. However, it has come to my attention that just because I state that this is so, doesn't mean that my peers and audience accept it is so. Also, it has creeped into my ever-buzzing mind that perhaps the reason I continue to so staunchly state them as separate is because I'm subconsciously concerned that if I don't preface my practice with this, some in the art world will immediately disregard it.

At the moment, I get approached relatively frequently by companies to make work for them or to collaborate with them in some way. These offers occur, I believe, from a combination of the friendly, accessible aesthetic of my work, my relatively large following on Instagram, my easily marketable appearance and agreeable personality, and, the fact that I work hard on every project I do and produce "good" work. I carefully screen every offer that comes through, and I only say yes to things I feel comfortable doing. Feeling comfortable means that I don't see it as compromising my vision or personal brand in any way, and I am to be paid properly for my time and work. If I believed my vision or personal brand was to be compromised by a commercial collaboration or commission, I wouldn't say yes to it. Seems simple enough to me. Unfortunately, according to some - simply the act of saying "yes" is apparently enough to compromise my vision, my personal brand, and my position as a respected emerging artist in the art world.

This is why I say "yes"...

From as early as I can remember, one of the main reasons I've made art is so that people can see it. I'm a visual extrovert. The commercial facet of my practice in conjunction with *the internet* has been enormously helpful in achieving this goal of permeation on a large scale. I want to make art with the power to visually reach as far as music and writing does, I want to make not 'pop art' but 'popular art', art that is friendly and accessible and doesn't only exist in a white cube. I don't mean to imply that there's anything wrong with one's art existing in a white cube - there is absolutely not. I just mean to highlight the lure that large scale commercial reproduction holds for me as a "visual extrovert" because I can share my vision with the world and not just the white cube dwellers of the world. I don't want art to just be for the elite or privileged.

Every member of my family and extended family run their own businesses. I have been raised in an environment where money does not come as a weekly wage but as a sporadic and often long awaited reward. I have watched my Father work seven-day weeks building up his design practice from scratch, and his determination and work ethic has rubbed off on me in a big way. I run my art practice like a small business, and I see nothing wrong with that. I want to live a comfortable life, I want to save a deposit to buy my own home, and I don't see this want as shameful or contradictory to my position as an artist. Why should I say "no" to commercial opportunities I am comfortable with, that can get me closer to my personal goal of home ownership, in order to preserve an archaic notion of artistic integrity? Why should I embody the stereotype of 'struggling artist' if I don't have to?

I consider briefly what my artist peers would do in my position. If they were offered a decent sum of money to make work for a commercial institution or company that they felt okay with, would they do it? I believe that saying "no" is largely viewed as more admirable than saying "yes". Denying the dirty money and living less than comfortably is always preferable in the eyes of the "true artist" to taking it graciously and using it to contribute back into your life and work. Ultimately, I say "yes" because I don't believe I should quash my voice and my decisions in order to gain respect. Respect should come from the fact that I work hard, balance a number of different commitments, and navigate some pretty tricky dichotomies that not a lot of other people are attempting to navigate. Respect should also come from the perceived quality of my work - and this should have nothing to do with seeing my commercial projects as slime that immediately 'devalues' my paintings that would otherwise be considered as having conceptual or critical weight. Also, I don't know if you've made this connection yet, but the fee from my commercial projects allow me to pour funds into my fine art practice. Inject currency and the more art I make = the more art I can make.

There is also a disproval emanating from some for the way I choose to market myself and my art practice, that is together - and frequently. My face, hair, and lipstick habits are seen by as many eyes as a painting of mine. I choose to have myself and innermost thoughts "out there", as much as I choose to have my artwork "out there". I've been blogging and sharing photographs of myself online for 8 years now, and it's not something I'm going to discontinue because of the potential to spoil the illusory notion of the "artist". As an artist I want to stand also as human on an equal plain to my work, and I don't see that as something that should devalue or compromise my practice. Because I am a young woman with moderately attractive features my openness online is seen as foolish and juvenile. Because I insist that the viewers of my work be aware of me as a person, as a woman - the mystery of my practice is deemed non-existent, and that prompts some to class it as insignificant or meaningless. I used to think that laying everything bare was an act of bravery because it was hard to make so much of yourself vulnerable. Now I believe the act of bravery is not in the act of laying yourself bare, but in standing by that act and refusing to see or acknowledge it as something embarrassing, demeaning, damaging, or as something that can impede people from taking you and your work seriously.

Another bone of contention I have become aware of in regards to my art practice is that I utilise a number of different mediums. I flit between writing, drawing, fashion, collage, confessional blog entries, painting, selfies, music, illustration... anything that I feel compelled to pick up and that I believe will be the best possible way to convey a particular idea. I have learned that this makes some uncomfortable because of the propensity to be seen as not taking something seriously and not treating a medium with the appropriate respect. I had assumed these notions were rather antiquated because of the fluidity of the internet and the increased availability of platforms for these mediums to exist, but I don't think that's the case quite yet. I still want to have and use it all, despite those who see not skill or contemporary ideologies in this practice but disjuncture and an inability to make a commitment and follow through with a single medium.

More recently, with an increased awareness as to how my practice is viewed from an objective and outsider perspective, I've felt things get harder. I thought that I'd been negotiating the terrain I've chosen with relatively good sense and had managed through some miracle to maintain integrity as a fine artist alongside my commercial endeavours. To some it doesn't appear that this is the case, and initially that made me sad, and then it made me mad, and then I turned that mad into energy to write this piece. I know my decisions will not please every single person in the world, especially not every single person in the art world, but when you're explicitly made aware of this, it hurts. I am - for lack of a less daggy word - "unique" and I am defying traditional ways in which one tackles the role of artist. I can see how some may believe I'm not treating it with the appropriate reverence or respect. However, I think these notions are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I don't believe it's okay that I be persecuted for promoting my work through a neatly presented personal brand. I don't believe that I should be persecuted for utilising a number of my skills in different mediums to make work, and I certainly don't believe that I should be persecuted for taking on a handful of considered commercial projects for money that I need to live my life the way I want to.

I felt compelled to write this in order to stipulate that I am very much aware of the decisions I am making and that I am now hyper-aware as to how these decisions have the potential to affect the perception of my fine art practice. I am publishing my first book in September with Hardie Grant Publishers, and by writing this piece I am hoping that my book will not be seen as a diversion or yet another distraction from my fine art practice - but something that enhances and contributes to it.

I write this all from my new studio at Gertrude Contemporary - a notoriously non-commercial space in which I feel very much as though I belong. There have been a number of victories in my thus far short art career, but being offered a studio space at Gertrude has been one of my proudest. It seemed that taking up residency here was an act of defiance against those who believed my commercial forays meant I didn't deserve it. I intend to continue on the path I am now on, and I will not apologise for any further commercial projects I undertake whether they be large or small scale, regular or few and far between. I love what I do and am proud of how hard I have worked and all I have achieved in a short space of time. I will continue to produce good quality work in a multitude of mediums for a multitude of purposes and will continue to post about it online. To anyone who still sees this as problematic - I see you as having problematic ways of seeing. And that's the way it's going to be.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Grown Woman

My work (top left) in Brazil Vogue!
My painting (left) next to Zoe Croggon's beautiful collage at my gallery Daine Singer
Lunch at The Auction Rooms in North Melbourne with a friend
Dingy little corner of my studio that needs work!
Oh yes, a note in the front inside cover of a Spice Girls book from Savers
I found some great and creepy children's books at Savers on the weekend
I love these so much. Such brilliantly strange photographs of dolls posed on the beach...
Dinner outside at my Nanna's house for my sister and two little cousin's birthday. My cousin and I saved our seats early. My Nanna made the table cloth - she has the best decor.
Colours. Carven pink skirt, Dress Up polo top :)
Browsing my finds in the studio on Monday
Close up with a book illustration in the background
Working on some backgrounds for my book
My friend cooked my other friend and I the most delicious CHOCOLATE PUDDING at her new house :)
Sunshine on my clothes
New ruler, ha
After my last Skype with S before he came back!
Mmm I got a couch in my studio and covered it with my shag bedspread that I used in my Spring 1883 installation!
I love itttt
Records and a book from Jess Johnson's studio garage sale on Saturday!
When I accidentally went to Myer and ended up getting a facial and my makeup done
More background (the colours look inaccurate here cause this is just a phone pic)
As usualllll pictures are from oldest to newest! Another week is over and the next one has already begun which means it is pretty much almost over again... everything is moving so super fast at the moment. On Saturday I was working in my studio and got lots of stuff for my book done. I was listening to Beyonce's 'Grown Woman' on repeat and feeling pretty pleased with myself. I took a break at lunch time and went into the city to spend a Mecca Cosmetica voucher that my friends from high school had given me for my birthday (3 months ago. It takes me ages to spend vouchers...) Anyway I sort of decided that I was going to spend a bit of money on some stuff for myself and I thought it was well overdue that I graduate to some grown-up makeup rather than just drugstore stuff. It was the perfect decision to go there when I took my break from the studio. The customer service at Mecca is OUT of this world and usually I find retail experiences incredibly empty and unsatisfying but this was just such a relaxing and positive exchange. The women who was helping me offered to give me a facial and then do my makeup so we could try the products I was thinking of buying. She was completely genuine and not overt in selling particular products and seemed legitimately invested in making me happy and at ease and getting me what I wanted. I should say as well that I am in no way affiliated with Mecca and really honestly did just have this great experience!? Anyway, I bought a whole set of new Nars makeup and it's completely changed my life. No reapplying powder at 1 hour intervals or getting creases everywhere on my face. A whole new world!

I also bought some more nice stuff for myself - Aesop Marrakech Parfum because my last one ran out, and I was never happy with how the original incarnation of the fragrance lasted on me (not at all) apparently this was the same for a lot of people so they reissued it as Marrakech Intense which has much greater staying power. I also just replaced the moisturiser I use from there, too. Oh and new nail polish. My toes are currently pink. Also on Saturday Jess Johnson who is an artist who also has a studio at Gertrude Contemporary had a garage sale (in her studio) and it was really, really good. She had this entire box of records for sale that were in like brand new condition for only $5 each. I got The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Smiths (photo above). Jess also saved me a book called 'Vegetable Men' that she thought I'd like. I did. Whatta haul!

Speaking of hauls... Long lost S came back from filming in India on Sunday (I would send haul videos to S while he was away... because I'm completely normal). I was really looking forward to his return. He came and picked me up from home in the morning, jet lagged and all - and we went back to his place to unpack his bag and listen to the incredible 1970s disco records he bought in India. We went out for lunch, then out for dinner, then out for drinks with friends... we ended up getting home at 3am which was rather ridiculous for a Sunday night, but it was fun.

Going out for breakfast this morning turned into going out for lunch and by the time we extracted ourselves from bed we were very, very hungry. Our favourite place 'Grub Food Van' in Brunswick was closed, much to our dismay - so we went to Proud Marys in Collingwood. It's always super busy there which is kind of unpleasant but they provided pretty good service this time which has never previously been the case (In my opinion!)

I digress from my halfhearted *not really based on anything* ""reviews"" of Melbourne eateries to bring to your attention this interview with me on Pedestrian tv: which came out today :) That's the photoshoot I mentioned in my last post, anyway. The Officeworks team allowed me to completely stock up my studio with everything I'd ever need (okay for like 6 months anyway) and it has been monumentally helpful in my settling in and getting "set-up" in my new space!

This week I think is going to be same old busy bustle but that's good I guess.