I grew up in Sydney surrounded by the Australian bush – the Royal National Park and those amazing displays of the sandstone Australian flora that Sydney seems to be steeped in. Even the buildings in Sydney reflect the legacy of all this sandstone.
I loved the bush – disappearing either by myself or with others and exploring the caves, bush tracks and creeks. Surrounded by blandly named streets – First Avenue, Second Avenue right up to Tenth Avenue, National Avenue…but I grew up in Primrose Place.
Primrose Place was a cul–de–sac nestled in amongst all these streets going somewhere – an enclosed street and neighbourhood community with a hill for billy cart racing, bike riding, skateboarding and roller skating with the other kids from this street, some of whom are still my friends.
Our house started out as a small 2 bedroom one bathroom fibro place right down the bottom, round the corner of the hill at the bottom end of the cul–de–sac.
I loved this street, the neighbourhood, the other kids in the street to play with, but central to it all was the closeness of the bush – exploring the sandstone caves, running away from snakes, abseiling with ropes we found in the shed (with no safety gear), the bushfires, and of course the wildflowers and wildlife. To this day I love the blush of pink and red new leaf growth of the eucalypts, the towering Gymea lily flower stalks and the absolute thrill of finding wild waratahs, banksias and flannel flowers.
I absolutely loved growing up there and in a time where we could go off as kids and just explore. Most of all I loved climbing trees. The bush is part of who we are and it is no accident to think that it has always remained with my brother who is involved in Bush Regeneration and Land Management and myself as an artist.
I enjoy living where I do now but I miss the ‘wildness’ and familiarity of the Sydney Bush.
Days where we would go down to The Royal National Park sometimes and visit the Audley Boatshed (it’s still there and you can still hire boats).
For a few years after I got married we lived in Helensburgh and had our own little bushland with a yard with no fences and miles of bush beyond.
I spent 4 years at art college training to be an art teacher but I was really there for the art studio times, I found classroom teaching at high schools difficult.
When I finally started developing my own arts practice and linocuts in about 1998, I worked not only with lino and design but I also went out and did drawing classes, calligraphy and watercolour classes. I learned through workshops, classes and my own arts practice how to work with watercolours, papers, calligraphy, drawing, design, photography and lino. I explored how I could blend all of these interests and worked at developing my own style. It always came back to my main passions – drawing, photography and linocuts.
This is an earlier work from 1998 – the black and white waratah images (including the one above) I had taken years before my first inspiration for this linocut.
I deliberately chose to not research or even look at other linocut artists at this time and what they were doing – I knew a little of the historical linocut artists like Margaret Preston and Noel Counihan but again I put all of their images aside. The only thought I had was that I was not going to develop work based around the still life of wildflowers in vases.
I took lots of photos, did drawings, explored and played with ideas and media.
It was not until I felt comfortable with my own style and where I was at with developed my own voice to express myself through my artwork years later, that I then allowed myself to have a closer look at what others were doing.
Probably it was around the time when I began to have more access to the internet and more information became available online. Living in the country, raising children and looking after elderly relatives my access to the wider arts community and even traveling to larger cities like Brisbane and Sydney has been limited.
Not everyone works this way but it is just how I have chosen to work and developed my own voice as an artist.
It has not been easy being a linocut artist working with more traditional subject matter as I have done. Galleries have found it difficult to fit my work into their collections. Within a traditional gallery paintings can be seen as ‘fine arts’ and linocuts as ‘crafts’, and within a contemporary gallery my more realistic representations and traditional working methods are not seen as ‘cutting edge’ enough. But I have tried to be true to my own vision of the work I am creating. I like beautiful interesting images and I love the Australian bush – wildflowers, birds and wildlife, so this is the work I try to create. I could have chosen to become more contemporary – have a different voice to fit in with the galleries view but it just wouldn’t be me. So I have continued down this path.
My website and business name is Soulsong – may sound a bit ‘out there’ but it isn’t really – the Australian wildflowers and wildlife I see as part of my soul, I can get lost and never lose my capacity to spend time in and around the bush and Australian wildflowers and wildlife. I never get tired of exploring this subject matter – it is embedded in my soul. My arts practice is my song, it is the way I express myself through my artwork – so quite simply my artwork is my soul’s song – Soulsong.
It has been a difficult path at times over the past 10 years and the busy pro-active arts practice I was developing from 1998 to 2002 had to be wound back until recently when I am again trying to re-establish myself as an artist. I have had children to raise who have needed me to be there and I have been a family carer for them and for my elderly relatives who have had no one else willing to step up and help them. I do not regret a day of any of that time, it was what was needed to be done, and I have many joyful experiences and learned a lot along the way about myself and human nature.
So I would encourage artists whether beginners or further down the track to work hard at making your own mark with your artwork, love your subject matter and medium and work hard at having your own voice or style of work.
At the end of 2013 I have relaunched my arts practice back onto a wider stage again with a ‘Wildflowers’ exhibition at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina. It is a beautiful old building & space in which to hang work. Even though I had to take a considerable amount of ‘down time’ in caring for my family I was always still working. I continued to draw, take photos, sketch ideas & develop work much of which just needed the impetus of an exhibition deadline to come to fruition and complete. So the lesson you can learn from this is – even when you cannot be producing artwork to its completion still keep seeing possibilities & still continue to take inspiration where you can & sketch ideas or do whatever it takes to keep your arts practice alive even if it is just quietly in the background.
I still have a number of artworks to complete that I started over this time & am exploring different ways of extending my vision – still with the wildflowers I love but in new directions. I am looking forward to exploring this into the future.