Sunday, 21 January 2018

21 Days in My Art World : Week 1

I'm currently taking part in a challenge hosted by the lovely Tara Leaver called 21 Days in My Art World. The prompts are designed to encourage artists and creative people everywhere to share their art and process. Most of the participants are posting their responses on Instagram, a few on Tara's Facebook group. I thought I'd post mine here for any that aren't on Instagram. I skipped a few days because they didn't resonate with me or other reasons (I was too embarrassed!), but I made sure to note those too, for completeness. The photos are accompanied by the original comments I posted on my Instagram.

Here is Week 1:

1. Favourite Painting
This was actually my first ever painting on canvas, which I did 2-1/2 years ago, and gave it to my mum for her birthday. I love the details, scribbly background, vaguely botanical shapes and range of colours. I don't feel like I've been able to quite achieve it ever since. Unfortunately I've never seen it hung up anywhere in my mum's house, which has been discouraging, but I try to keep going.

2. Lesson Learned
I still have so much to learn, but the greatest lesson I've learned so far is to never let anyone tell you "you can't ". My Year 8 art teacher told me that, and it was a wounding experience that took me over 20 years to recover from. I let "no, you can't draw", "no, you can't be an artist", "no, you're not good/talented/special enough" stop me for too long. I had to learn to ignore all that before I could even consider that I could do art and be an artist. I truly believe that anyone can be an artist. Don't let anyone ever tell you "no"!

3. Latest WIP
I actually have 6 paintings in progress right now, but just showing you 3. There were a few hiccups in today's session: my favourite paint colour was dried out, so I tried to recreate it with a mix of other colours. I tried to do a stencil and it was all blobby so I painted over it. I didn't like the collage pieces I'd laid down last time, so I painted over those too. With each painting I do, I learn more about layering.

4. Art Book -- I didn't do this one as I don't really refer to books for inspiration.

5. Favourite Tool
This probably sounds strange, but my favourite tool is packing foam pellets. I cut them up to make small stamping tools to make patterns. I also really like bubble wrap.

6. Current Challenge
I tend to have very limited subject matter because of my lack of skill in drawing. I'd like to branch out more, but I don't have the confidence right now. I need to challenge myself to improve my drawing skills and explore new ideas.

7. Colour Palette
My favourite colours at the moment are pinks, purples and blues. Yellow and orange sneak in there a bit, too. I NEVER use black or white. If I want to depict the night sky then I'll usually use a dark purple or blue, but I offset it with an eye-aching shade of orange or pink. love bright colour!

Click here to see Week 2!
[Week 3 is coming soon!]

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Movie Review: Bright

As always, I try to avoid spoilers for new movies,
but you may not want to read this post until you've seen it!

Bright is a 2017 movie made for Netflix, starring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace. The movie is set in a world very much like our own, except it is inhabited by elves, orcs, fairies and various other fantasy creatures. The different races have settled into stereotypical lives, with elves living in gated communities and holding most positions of power, and orcs living in ghettos and doing menial jobs. Humans are somewhere in the middle, trying to navigate this complicated society.

Daryl Ward (Will Smith) is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. He is paired with Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the country's first orcish policeman. Ward is distrustful of Jakoby, having already been shot once while on duty with him, and knowing of the orcish race's reputation for being loyal to their own clans above anything else.

One night they respond to a disturbance at an apartment block which turns out to be a stronghold for a renegade group called Shield of Light. Most of the inhabitants have been killed in an unusual and brutal way. The only survivor is an elf named Tikka (Noomi Rapace), who has a magic wand stolen from another elf. In this world, magic exists, but can only be manipulated with magic wands, which are very rare artefacts. Only one individual in a million can wield a magic wand: these people are called Brights. Anyone else who tries to touch it will die. There are many desperate enough to try though, and very soon Ward and Jakoby find themselves confronted with gangsters, both human and orc, a gang of elves called the Inferni who need the wand to resurrect the Dark Lord (no, not that Dark Lord, a different one!), and even fellow police officers who plot to take the wand from them. Knowing how dangerous the wand would be in the wrong hands, Ward, Jakoby and Tikka embark on a flight for their lives.

I felt this movie had potential, but it fell short. The world it's set in is fascinating -- one in which the creatures of fantasy live alongside humans. The story, however, is not much different to the average buddy cop shoot-em-up, with social commentary. Not only that, but social commentary that becomes more and more awkward and inappropriate as the movie goes on. The place of orcs in society was explained satisfactorily, but it would have been nice to see more of the other races, and of how society is different for them being there. Apparently there are 9 races, but we only see 5 at most (if you count fairies, which seem to have intelligence on par with cockroaches. I did spot a dragon though, which was pretty cool.)

The story became confusing, as the Shield of Light group were not properly explained, and gave way to the Inferni and various other groups as it went along. Yet other concepts like the magic wand were over-explained repetitively. And in a world where a magic wand can do anything, erasing any consequences, you tend to stop caring. Even the fight scenes with awesome-looking evil elves, when we finally get to them, aren't all that satisfying.

On the other hand, I particularly liked the opening sequence, which showed street art and graffitti depicting the basics of the different races and their attitudes towards each other without having to go into exposition. The most intriguing part of Bright for me was the character of Nick Jakoby, whose character unfolds to be so much more than the stupid, incompetent oaf that everyone takes him for.

Apparently there will be a sequel.

Would I watch it again? Not really, except to jog my memory before the sequel. (Yes, I do want to see the sequel, but only to see if it improves on the original.)

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

National Gallery of Victoria Triennial

Last week I went to the National Gallery of Victoria's first ever Triennial. The Gallery plans to hold the exhibition every three years, in Summer. The first Triennial features 100 artists from around the world, but especially focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. Various types of arts are represented, from traditional painting and sculpture, through to conceptual art, architecture, and furniture design. The exhibits filled up the ground floor, and were scattered amongst the usual displays throughout the upper levels.

One of my favourites was by Yayoi Kusama. An entire apartment re-created in the gallery, with every item you could think of. All surfaces were covered in red flowers. Each visitor was given a fabric flower of their own to stick whereever they liked. The effect on everyone who entered was magical.

Not far from Kusama's apartment was an installation by We Make Carpets. This colourful wall was made entirely of ordinary kitchen sponges!

Other displays invited visitor participation. Pool noodles cut into different lengths could be fitted onto pegs to create a pattern. This room was a lot of fun!

There was a room full of these stunning mask-like creations. They looked like glass, but they were actually 3D-printed. By Neri Oxman.

This pop-art styled room was filled with coloured strings strung from floor to ceiling. Moving through it gave an illusion that the strings were moving.

Of the paintings, I found the series by Kushana Bush intriguing. She mixes the flattened style of traditional Indian and Japanese art with Western subject matter and composition.

This gorgeous carpet uses colour and texture to paint a landscape. Visitors were allowed to lie on it, as long as they didn't get their shoes on it ... which the poor guard had to repeat at least twice a minute!

Normally, works with a political or issue-based message don't have that much effect on me, but I was strangely moved by this piece by Shilpa Gupta, which addresses the ongoing effects of colonialism in India. The huge, room-filling, amorphous sculpture is made of microphones. From it emits the sounds of a streetscape and a voice speaking of an imaginary world with no borders. I found the contrast between the microphones, which are meant to take in sound, and the sound being emitted by the piece to be strangely otherworldly.

I liked this carpet by Faig Ahmed, which makes a statement on our perceptions of tradition.

Most of all, I like art which is a joyous celebration of life, which I think these weavings by the artists of the Akay Koo’oila Women’s Art Centre exemplify.

Last but not least, one of the most popular works was this skull room by Ron Mueck. 100 giant-sized skulls are stacked up all over an entire room of the gallery.

The Triennial is open every day until 15th April 2018. Admission is free.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

My 2018 Planner

For a few years, I had a two-planner system, where I had a small pre-printed planner, plus a notebook for my to-do list and habit tracker. I wrote in detail how this system worked here. Last year, I got sick of carrying around two planners, so I ditched the dated planner and just had the notebook. As I completed each week, I would rip out the page for the previous week and discard it.

Left: 2017 notebook planner ; Right: 2018 Smiggle planner

In lieu of the planner, I made a print-out of all my important dates for the year, and wrote down appointments on it as they came up. At the start of each week, I referred to the print-out and wrote down any events for the week on the current week's notebook page. As you can see, it got very messy and not very aesthetically pleasing to look at:

Speaking of ugly planners, I was always hesitant to decorate the pages too much, knowing I'd throw them away in a week's time. I felt like I was 'wasting' any stickers or washi tapes that I put on them.

On a slightly more serious note: I also had no way of tracking how long a task had been on my to-do list. If there were any undone tasks at the end of the week, I would copy them into next week, or, if there were a lot, cut out that section of the page and stick it on. I had no idea how long some of the tasks had been on the list -- the system was missing a sense of accountability. Sometimes, if I was having a bad chronic illness week and hadn't done much, I would even re-use the same page for a second week. This made me feel better about not getting much done, but it also had the effect of not being able to plan in advance -- I didn't know which page to write future tasks or events on because they weren't dated and could vary. So, my planning was very flexible, but had some large drawbacks.

Then one day back in November, I was in Smiggle (a stationery and accessories shop for pre-teens ... and me!) and saw their new range of 2018 planners. I bought one on impulse, deciding then and there to go back to a proper planner for 2018. After months of waiting, I was finally able to start setting it up on New Year's Day! (I was going to start on New Year's Eve, but I had a sudden urge to clean and tidy the house, and I don't want to deny that urge when it happens!)

It took me a surprisingly long time to set up my planner -- writing in event dates and birthdays, decorating the first few weeks in advance, and glueing in printables to cover up the pages I wasn't going to use. I also added in a list of my goals for the year, and some inspirational sayings. Then of course I had to go through my whole sticker collection, dividing them up into a Planner set and a Hobonichi set. Then I had to prepare some washi tapes and decided to re-arrange my whole washi tape collection, too.

While the Smiggle planner is a lot of fun, if I had thought about it more, I would probably have chosen a different one. All of the coloured pictures you see on the pages are stickers or printables I've added -- all of the artwork in the planner is monochrome, which surprisingly isn't in keeping with Smiggle's colourful reputation. The paper is quite thin: felt-tip pens bleed through, and ballpoint pens leave an imprint. I'm not so worried about that though, as I can always cover them up on the other side with a sticker. The glitter cover, while awesome, means that I can't really whip it out during a job interview!

I'm already enjoying having a combined planner. Planning ahead is easier, and decorating with lots of stickers and washi tapes is fun. I hope that will be reflected in an organised and fun year in 2018.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Hello 2018

At the start of every year, I decide that I'm NOT going to make any New Year's resolutions, but I can't help feeling a niggling urge to overhaul my entire life. In the last few weeks, I've watched so many YouTube videos on how to set goals and keep them, that my head is swimming!

While I avoid making resolutions, I'm increasingly embracing making goals each year. I decided to go with the same system as last year, that is, structure my goals around my Life Square. It helps me to think about all the areas of my life and how I want to change or improve them:

I chose three goals for each section of the square, which is a lot! For some reason though, I like the numbers 3 and 9, and it just seemed right. I made sure to choose some that were one-offs or relatively small, to try and give myself a better chance of achieving them. Unlike last year, I'm going to show you all of them! in the spirit of my goal last year of sharing more on the blog, which is something I'd like to continue:

A new thing this year was that I used divination to help me decide on the goals for each section. I wrote a post about the rune casting I did for that on my other blog here. The very first thing I did after setting the goals was decide which ones I was going to start on straight away, and which ones were for later. Then I wrote a list of between 1-3 actions that are the first steps towards achieving each goal.

I'm not a very ambitious person and used to shudder whenever I even heard the word 'goals', but I guess I'm more organised than I give myself credit for. There are things I want to do in my life, so why not plan them out? Perhaps I might even add a goals check-in to my monthly update post this year.

Speaking of plans, in the next post I'll be showing you my 2018 planner!