Take something old and make it new.
September 2019, Adelaide, South Australia.
Going for walks around the block where I live, there are so many dried out Eucalyptus branches and grasses to be found along the pathways of the old 70’s yellow brick houses in my area. Australia has about 700 different types of Eucalyptus trees. The one in my yellow brick garden happens to be a vibrant Lemon Eucalyptus and attracts many loud birds and singing parrots that feast on the tree’s nectar.
Part of the creative process for me is to gather samples and document my new surroundings. After each walk I come home with pockets full of treasures from old leaves, seed pods or plants which have blown down from trees and landed onto pathways below. Some weeks my living room shelves become a nature table displaying all shapes and designs of local plant specimen in bottles and jars for my research. It kind of helps me to settle into life in Australia, by becoming more aware of what’s in my surroundings and by drawing each plant.
Taking something like an old Eucalyptus stem and tracing it with pencil onto paper opens up a whole new world of imagination and possibility for me, creating something new from something old and past it’s used by date is exciting. To the drawing I add in new vibrant background colours, bottles or containers and then have fun with decorating and mark making using pens and paint. There is such joy and wonder to be had in the moment of creating, where time stands still and anything is possible.
Expanding my art career and motherhood.
May 2019. Adelaide, South Australia.
When I graduated from Art College in Ireland 20 years ago, the first thing I did was book a ticket to travel and live overseas for 3 months in New Zealand. I always felt the call of travel, new horizons to explore and a creative life to experience. Shortly after my travels, I met my husband back in Ireland and we married and settled there for 13 years. With 3 kids very close in age I had to balance being a full time mum which I loved, with my longing to create art. Many evenings when the kids were in bed settled, I would walk to my shed in the back garden, absolutely exhausted, but determined to continue creating anyway.
Over time, I have been able to expand my art career but so much more slowly than I had ever imagined. How fustrating to me that the dinner had to be made and kids put to bed just when I was getting into the flow of a painting project! Taking on work to pay the bills and afford art materials was plain practicalities and had to be done. Timing they say is everything. It seems looking back over my last 20 years making art, I have been blessed to have everything, just not all at once from the beginning! Marriage, kids, a home, regular income, peace, health, it’s all taken 20 years of work and investment of my time and energy to get there. It’s been a long, slow, gradual process as I chipped away at painting, printing, building a website, documenting my work, exhibiting, connecting with businesses and marketing and also juggling motherhood, marriage, part time work and running a household at the same time.
I am inspired by any woman that has taken the time to invest fully into family and motherhood while juggling a career, part time or full time. One piece of advice that a former female employer gave me was to ” always keep something back for yourself “. As a mother, wife, employee/employer, artist we constantly give. Carving out alone time to breathe is as important as working and building a life. Having an art career alongside motherhood has expanded me and taught me to be aware of myself and especially what my limitations are. At the end of the day, all we can do is our best, right?!
November 2018. Adelaide, South Australia.
Dots have been appearing purposefully in my paintings a lot more recently. I’ve been into the South Australian Museum and Art Gallery on North Terrace in Adelaide many times since moving here, to learn and immerse myself in my local Australian history and culture. Aboriginal culture is incredibly decorative and creative with coloured, layered dot designs featuring heavily on canvas paintings since the 1970’s.
In Ireland, dot designs can be found in the ancient Celtic History too. Around 800 AD, Celtic monks created a manuscript called The book of Kells. It contains four Gospels of the New Testament illustrated decoratively with calligraphy and pen drawings. Red dots can be seen outlining borders, figures of people and animals on many pages. Interestingly, another dot design featured heavily is of three dots together. This design represents the Trinity, God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
The photographs above are of two of my oil paintings. The dot designs I’ve incorporated help me to incorporate my Irish past with my Australian future. These dots connect me to something greater especially if I feel isolated or if my past seems fragmented to me.
Kapunda, The Barossa and Archaeology.
March 2018. Adelaide, South Australia.
I set off on a road trip from Adelaide’s southern suburb of Reynella to Kapunda near the Barossa Valley. My plan was to drive to the Kapunda Art Gallery to deliver a collection of my Art & Archaeology paintings to the Gallery shop. One way, the drive took me 2 and a quarter hours door to door as I left in peak morning traffic after my school drop off in Blackwood at 8.30am. The first hour and half was traffic down main South but once I hit the Northern Expressway, it was wide open spaces and the odd road train to keep me company.
Kapunda is Australia’s oldest mining village, with Copper mining beginning there in 1843. The English began to move to the region seeking wealth, the Irish escape from the famine and the Germans’ religious freedom. They all contributed to the development of the mine and town although there were occasional riots between the different groups. Funny that, being half Irish and German myself I’m not at all surprised!
Today the town is bustling with life, it’s a creative haven with an artist gallery, open studios, coffee shops, history info centre and an antique shop. The town is in the middle of its town centre refurbishment with historical murals being hand painted on many buildings telling visual stories of the history and its people who once lived there. When I walk down the main street I can almost hear the horse and carts go by imagining an era of top hats and women wearing long, black dresses.
The Kapunda Art Gallery address is 67-69 Main St, Kapunda SA 5373
and is open weekdays 10-4pm, 10-3.30pm Saturday and Sundays.
Phone: 0475 297 924
For more info about art and archaeology from an Irish/Australian perspective, check out www.dontforgetyourshovel.com