Grandmother’s Coat

Grandmother-s coat heller kleinI have always been fascinated by Clarissa Pinkola Estes idea of making a full length scapecoat to detail in painting, writing, with all manner of things pinned and stitched inside. But I really love what Alice Wellinger has done here. This beautiful piece truly resonates and fuels the desire to do something using a grey coat that I have had hanging, unworn for many years.

In order to come to know them better it could also be good to explore what the inside of a character’s coat looks like

A Flashback

ShineI have been foraging around through archived material at Soul Food and stumbled upon a magazine I created in 2004. This Anthology was compiled to showcase student writing at LaTrobe Secondary College and some of the Primary Schools that surrounded it.

LaTrobe Secondary College closed a number of years ago but this copy remains, a reminder of something that was produced in its final years. It also records work undertaken with the feeder primary schools in the area.

Looking back I am in awe of what we achieved, but perhaps more in awe of the fact that long lost links can still be traced, as can the crazy interview I did as a part of  the highly successful Pop Art Fiction project.

An Affinity With Outsider Art


Insider Art by Bruce Gray

A precise definition of Outsider Art has yet to find universal acceptance.  In essence it is art produced in response to some inner creative urge by those isolated from, or on the fringes of,  society, ignorant of the art world and its passing fads, unversed in conventional techniques, oblivious as to how others respond to their creativity, and wholly divorced from any concern with financial gain.

To art critics and collectors, the appeal of Outsider Art lies in its essential purity.  They would argue that this art is a reflection of innate, untainted creativity that provides a window into the innermost recesses of the human soul.   Outsider Art wells up like a volcano from deep within the artist, wholly uninfluenced by how others might view the work and with no regard to possible monetary reward.  Thus Outsider Art is manifestly free of many of the criticisms leveled at the contemporary art world.Because Outsider Art  lacks a universally acceptable definition,  it is sometimes used to include other, more peripheral, art forms.   Thus some would burden Outsider Art by expanding it to encompass all manner of ‘rustic’, ‘ethnic’, ‘primitive’, ‘folk’ and other untrained, childish expressions of creativity that may be broadly  identified as ‘naif art’.   Outsider Art more rigorously envisioned, while sometimes naif, possesses a depth far beyond the merely unsophisticated.

Joyce & Judith Scott

Le Enchanteur, drawn in 2005 is, by definition, a piece of Outsider Art. She is the work of the untrained and does not pretend to be a sophisticated drawing.

To write is my first language. To draw and make tactile forms of art is my second language.

During the period of my husband’s decline I spent evenings by his side drawing. Le Enchanteur was know to the Soul Food Cafe community as the energetic spirit who led kindred spirits into the misty world of Lemuria. This very early portrait of her, along with hundreds of subsequent drawings were each completed within a three hour time span. These drawings are, undoubtedly, a form of naive self portraiture.

Finding my place as an Outsider Artist is like finding the holy grail.

Law of Accretion

noun: accretion
growth or increase by the gradual accumulation of additional layers or matter.
“the accretion of sediments in coastal mangroves”
synonyms: accumulation, collecting, gathering, amassing, cumulation, accrual, growth, formation, enlargement, increase, gain, augmentation, rise, mushrooming, snowballing;

AccretionIt began with a simple line of cloth rope.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the rope took on a life of its own and began whispering to me.

It began to grow.

First there was the introduction of varying shades and color.

Then, as the fingers worked, talking, as they have a habit of doing, directly to the brain, memories rose.

Voices called for me to bear witness to what lay, deep within.

Words on paper that need no explanation! The words sewn on the ball. Words that will disappear into the growing mass.

The process of accretion has been activated!

I am reminded of making Descansos!

there is a time in our lives, usually in midlife, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most the important psychic decision of her future life – about whether to be bitter or not”

Without a hint of bitterness I am acknowledging the role of accretion in my life. Some of those layers of matter that fill the crevices within may be represented here..

And so the ball forms a mass, hiding within it the things that lie hidden within me, yet yearn to be acknowledged.

A Simple Line of Rag Rope

Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
Bruce Mau An Incomplete Manifesto of Growth.

The moment of liberation was when I understood that I didn’t need to have an end result in mind. It began as making a line, making rope out of cloth strips.

The moment of liberation was when I could watch and listen and hear about the other techniques and quietly decline, choose to go on making more of the rope.

And so the rope began to grow.

It was liberating to choose a limited palatte and choose to work with black, white, cream and silver.

Who would guess that this would be enough?

No end in mind! Just the making of a line of rope that began to coil and form pathways.

Pathways that lead to the amazing world of Judith Scott.

Anastasia was jubilant! The prospect of twisting and twining and adding secrets and memories to the ball of cast offs excited us both. We could barely speak.

Over coming weeks you will be able to see what emerges as we allocate some time to simply sitting, making rope, weaving secrets and memories as we go.

Oblique Strategies


An Oblique Strategy. It is true! Errors can be a very real positive.

Today, in the Textiles course I am doing at Castlemaine Continuing Ed, it was clear that it was ‘hump’ day. Even after lunch it was all too evident that most of us were tired after taking in so much creative stimuli. Even Anastasia was quiet as I struggled to do some basic weaving.

Anastasia and I went limp. Once again we were facing the specter that rises and prods and pokes and says, in a very harsh voice, that it is NOT enough to take one bird at a time and sit making dots or lines for the sake of making dots and lines. Worse! It sneers and makes pointed comments about never being able to achieve the standard of art we have been shown or anything to match what others in the class are doing. Enough to silence the toughest!

Neither Anastasia or I are very good at handling this dark, oppressive critic, who hovers like the grim reaper. However, Anastasia’s silence did not mean she had given way to this force. Rather she is one to bide her time and wait for the moment to confront that critic.

Sensing the general lull Ilka encouraged us to make some cards and asked us to write simple suggestions on them. A card might simply say ‘make some dots’ or ‘make dots using the color turquoise’ or ‘use wire’ etc. The idea is to use them as wild cards and use them to get yourself going to do a task. Then she introduced us to Oblique Strategies which offer suggestions or directions to apply when you hit a creative block.

As a writer I have used this sort of divination technique. I like my Raven Cards and I have found that it has helped to draw one and think like a raven.

A card I will sit near me will say ‘honor your limitations’, ‘take one bird at a time’.

Try drawing an Oblicard to help push through the block.

Use the automated cards online or make some of your own.

And please! Add suggestions for more cards in the comment box.