Saturday, December 28, 2013

On retreat in the mountains ... a mini residency

From Boxing Day to New Years I'm staying at Koonjewarre in the Springbrook National Park.

Image found here

I've not been here but this image is of a well loved place nearby.

Koonjewarre is one of the locations currently undergoing an ecological restoration project with the Springbrook Rescue Project an arm of the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society's work.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon and it was a warm summer's day. Waking up the following morning, yesterday, at 5.15am I took this photo from my verandah and thought how wonderful to be in this peaceful setting.

The mist lingered day and night creating a mysterious yet gentle mood ... quite inspiring in fact. Lulled into a state of great relaxation an afternoon nap compulsory... however I worked till 10.30 that evening and have posted some journal pages here.

temporary studio has good windows looking across the lawn and forested hills

The temporary studio set up for the stay... also where I am doing several workshop for some here for the camp that kindly included me in their program.

I worked in several journals and used mainly Sepia ink and twigs from an acacia tree with wonderful pods I also drew.

Working with twigs makes for quick drawings and scratchy organic forms.

Its a great opportunity for working loosely and simply.

One of the fellow campers Maria noticed this moth late last night and thought the markings were exquisite and someone might like to draw it today.

Waking up today I found the day was reasonably bright and clear although cloudy which I quite like. My sister reported yesterday they'd had an abysmally hot day back on the coast near Brisbane where she lives so all of us here are relishing the cool of the mountains and thanking our lucky stars for being here at this time of year. Rain is frequent here. In January last year over 600 mls of rain fell in that one month.

I'm going to go seed collecting now before today's class so I will sign off.

Happy holidays everyone!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


A very speedy post just to say that the NEW Studio will be open over the next month on Thursdays.

If you pop over to my VISUAL ECLECTICA blog post you can see all the Studio LAUNCH photos from the weekend just gone and learn a little about the purpose of the SEED.ART.LAB!

CAll if you are in Brisbane and would like to visit...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New direction for workshops and classes!


Workshops and classes, mentoring and retreats are all on the cards this Summer and into 2014.

Details will be added here and you can email me about this or go on the list to be advised.

Looking forward to creating with others in the new studio ... sharing the space and resources with some wonderful people in the months ahead.

A new hand-painted work completed late last night...


ps Much happening to be ready for this weekend's launch. All welcome!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

7 days till the Studio: Seed.Art.Lab Launch

Recently I was part of a Artist-in-residence program that brought  5 artists together to work with the Jump-start Program at Kelvin Grove Secondary College in Brisbane.

I wrote about it at the Homage to the Seed blog and he ought I'd post here something I wrote for the exhibition which started with the quoted above from Tom Waits from an interview with him in 2006.

This project really prompted me to think very deeply about the children inheriting this planet now and the silence of too many adults around the state of the planet. It must leave them asking a lot of questions quietly to themselves late at night if not elsewhere in their lives.

This is then what I wrote.

ITS GETTING HOT AROUND HERE : The Seeds and Bio-diversity story.

Artist Statement from Sophie Munns

In the 21st Century no longer can we take for granted continuation of life for thousands of plant species... including some of the 30,000 known edible species and countless other highly useful species we rely on. In fact we don't even know what remarkable seeds might be lost to us given that scientists are still discovering species, particularly in fragile Rainforest eco-systems. Certain plants have long been commodified for use as fuels, glues, plastics, fibres, textiles, papers, rubber, building materials, medications (traditional to bio-molecular), beverages... and the list goes on.
Chocolate and coffee lovers around the planet are waking up to the rude fact that their favourite of tropical crops does not like it getting hotter. This has demanded swift response from plant science, farmers and a growing sector of coffee and chocolate companies to shift focus from quick-growth profit margins to the crucial step of increasing sustainability in the way coffee and cacao crops are grown, delivered to market, and understood by the public... all in the effort to ensure these potentially endangered species are maintained for the long term. This story is repeated over and over with many other species we like to put on our tables.
Seed viability, the capacity of seeds to produce new life, is indeed a concern not always understood. Artist Residencies undertaken by Sophie Munns in Seed Bank Labs and Botanic Gardens since 2010 have led to ongoing exchanges with plant scientists, with access to an expanding field of scientific knowledge revealing precisely how changes in climate go on to impact the capacity of plants to survive in particular locations that for hundreds, even thousands of years, saw plants prosper in those very same regions.
All around the globe the up-scaling of research on complex impacts on plants and eco-systems is bringing out a plethora of profoundly significant material that rarely reaches a general public audience. Dispersing information to the broader public has become an increasingly important task for the Science community and all who recognise the difference quality education makes. This is without doubt a potent and invaluable role the Arts can play in aiding the communication of critical material to a wider audience.
Bringing ‘Seeds and Biodiversity’ to the Jump Start project the artist spent 4 sessions with a group of students examining key issues around Seeds and Biodiversity informed by current global research across Plant Science, Agriculture and related social, political and cultural issues. Students were given an overview of the role seeds have played across time, going back to the earliest known civilisations. We explored the cultural heritages of each individual in our group ... noting, wherever possible, links to family and ancestors from all over the globe and the unique relationship to plants and food growing they may have had or perhaps still have. We thought about how this shaped the cuisines and traditions we may have inherited or perhaps have some inkling of.
Also discussed was the extraordinary number of ways that humans work with seeds and plant material, use them for hobbies and leisure, or pursuits with artistic or cultural purpose. Crucially, we considered why seeds need our protection right now in order to ensure our own well-being into the future.
For inspiration the artist brought examples of her artwork, seed collections and items made from seed and plant material. Additionally we explored with work of two key artists ... Brisbane painter Robert McPherson’s series of bold graphic painted signage in large wall installations provided an ideal visual strategy and NY artist Keith Haring who rose to prominence in the 80’s for his strong grafitti style and extraordinary 'symbol + text' images.
The graphic work exhibited here may at first glance appear simple, even unsophisticated. Look further at the ideas and thoughts being expressed and a potent truth may be revealed. These year 7 students are emerging into a very different world than the one familiar to those currently in the driving seats of our communities, organisations and institutions. Thoughtful students can often see a different world to the one their elders see. They possess enthusiasm for wide-ranging questions given the opportunity, and its evident they may not think it’s smart leaving nature and the environment out of planning strategies and decision-making. A desire to discover more on the complex, often contradictory aspects of how our world is evolving is heightened wherever interest in ideas, research and sharing of thoughts is encouraged.
Given the young are inheriting a world slow to learn or act on changes already proven necessary its crucial they be able to explore and evaluate ideas and information. The case of Tobacco companies maintaining the fight to exist in the market-place despite conclusive medical science research and Govt public health campaigns demonstrate s clearly that where economics is concerned its up to each of us to question what the ads and headlines are telling us! Education has never been more vital if we want young people to be informed in taking on the challenge of climate change and the increasing call for sustainable practices that are effective, pragmatic and life-preserving.
The capacity to think creatively, to bring both passion and critical thinking to the finding of new solutions is championed in this program which recognises our future is here... that the thinkers and creators of the future are here in this room tonight!
Bravo to all the students taking part in JumpstART!
Sophie Munns wishes to thank the excellent JumpstART team for this unique and highly stimulating opportunity to engage with these young thinkers and creators before us. Their insights and efforts to navigate the changing conditions of this planet demand our encouragement, sustained interest and respect as we all learn what it means to tread more carefully around this home we all share. 

I've returned over the years many times to working with children of all ages for one reason or another. Teaching posts and substitute teaching for one, then there have been classes given due to requests from parents for quality lessons not so easy to come by these days.

Recently I had two very alert students come for a 4.5 hr intensive in the holidays .... drawing and thinking about plant science. This is the direction I intend to keep on with... small groups sessions with people of all ages, focused on seeds and biodiversity and ways to think and interpret this material visually.

More on that soon. For  now I am delighted to share a small image of my new glass cabinet for seed collections taking pride of place in the new studio.

Its a beauty! Even the colour I love.

And a reminder that if in this part of the world you are welcome to come along to the launch next weekend... contact me if you need to find out more.

Busy times... back soon. Go well everyone!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Seed.Art.Lab to open in November!

Tonight I've been working in invitations and plans for the November Launch of the new Studio which will be known as Seed. Art. Lab.

I've taken the address off this invite and my mobile number ...the home number is there so if you have any desire to come along or find out about this event please contact me by phone, through this blog or another online site.

I'll add more information in the coming weeks.

For a longer post update visit the Visual Eclectica blog where I added recent news the other day. The new business card arrived by mail today with 4 new postcard designs and a banner. 

Wishing all a good week!
bye for now,

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

20 works on cotton paper

Today I was delighted to have energy to return again to the studio after a rugged 5 days fighting a most unpleasant virus. Eyes and nose running, bad cough... exhausted... basically I had to knock off work and lay low... so today, feeling up to it, I sat in the studio working on a quiet, not-so-demanding small series of paintings on 300 gm cotton watercolour paper 100 x 210 mm ...  as below.

I started about ten am and worked through till 9pm with only a few breaks to prepare meals etc.

I wanted to do these as an exercise in composition, atmosphere and variations on a simple theme.

Getting depth and energy into these small paintings was a great challenge

I liked creating variations of mood, texture and approach. As an exercise it was really successful to reflect on how a simple motif becomes such a wonderful point of departure!  

Well its late so I will keep moving.

More soon... November 23 I will open my studio to the public... so lots to organise. Bye for now!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

a weekend and some remarkable children...

Saturday morning was a flurry of activity making sure the studio was really organised for the first workshop in this new space!

I took time to find a niche for everything to belong somewhere useful ... divying up art materials into precise keeping places according to kind of product and frequency of use.

The night before I'd worked on canvas... one of a number of recycled canvases a friend recently dropped off for me to use as they'd been left behind by his Uni class and he was keen they not be thrown out. Taking on discarded stretcher frames can be too much at times... but  all the hyper-organisation of late meant there was room and I decided to use them for these initial sessions getting back into painting after an unusually long break. Its liberating to be working over a previously used canvas... one is not precious about the results which is very freeing.

This 40 cm x 120 cm work below is a case in point. Working in colours slightly outside the usual palette was great for a start... and getting into the flow in a very organic way allowed it to emerge as i went along... watching, or moreover, listening to a brilliant doco on the life of extraordinary pianist, musician Glen Gould.

As for the result... its too soon to determine whether it will stay as is. Playing with the idea of seeds across millennia, pouring out into the endless emerging now... this is an idea ... the intimation of endlessness... that I return to time and again.

Back to Saturday and preparing the studio...

Opportunity presented itself for me to offer an Intensive class on Seeds and Plants to a young student... a very keen 12 year old boy ...  it seemed important to find someone to invite to join with him to do a special holiday class. A friend's 9 yr old daughter was the first thought and class started at 10am Saturday going through till 2.30pm which allowed us to cover some fascinating material trying numerous visual approaches.

Afternoon... both in full swing.

Excuse me for putting this series of images this way up... it gives an overview of the Jackson's work which we laid out to dry on the floor. He relished being in this space it seemed... my shelves laden with seeds and pods ...specimens gathered ll over the place.

And then there were the books which he was keen to pour through. His memory of the species he's seen before is really evident  as he talks about forays into the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane , Cairns and elsewhere. What struck me was that he had been frequenting these places from his earliest years and... as the only child of two devoted parents had quietly been given the chance to constantly further his interests in a way that struck me as quietly dilligent and without unnecessary fuss. 

It seemed they'd perhaps learnt the art of nurturing this inquisitive, somewhat rare mind in their son 
Jackson in a really solid, grounded way ... balancing these passions of his for the world of nature with Piano lessons and connections with others his age.

Subsequently he's a very motivated 12 yr old who would easily already be most at home in a Science lab ... despite his young age. This is his work above and below... revealing great attention to detail and a love of plants in their various configurations. 

9 yr old Sophie has spent time in my studio over recent years here and there...  and seemed a natural to include on this occasion as she has a curious mind and love of leaning that I felt would make her quite at home with an older student with a unique passion for nature. 

It was an excellent pairing ... nothing was forced or expected of them in terms of connecting but it seemed that the level of conversation that ensued did satisfy their intellectually ripe natures. Sophie wasn't coming from a place of having being immersed in a deep passion for nature from the year dot like Jackson clearly has been ... but what they shared was a marked curiosity for thinking and engaging on topics of interest.

Sophie investigated the patterning in this seed pod below... producing a drawing I was taken with for the way it demonstrated close observation of both the structure and patterning in this object. 

The highlight of the day for me was the dialogue between all three of us. The outstanding level of engagement really stemmed from the busy mind of Jackson as he shared with us his surprisingly vast wealth of knowledge and experience of the world of Plants, Funghi, Etamology and even Marine Biology.

Since yesterday I've considered the way the two students interacted and fed of each other's curiosity and commentary... pausing to respond to my questions, comments and challenges. Both were so receptive, open to being nudged along if it made sense to them why. It confirmed for me that learning happens best when focus can be 100% an distractions aren't coming from the noise of unengaged others  in one's space.

A lot of talk at one point in the day's conversation was on the annoying stuff that school brings... it reminded me that bright children can deal with a lot of bullying ... and if not direct bullying ... then certainly undermining by those who begrudge this uniqueness in their peers. Both children are interested in others and like having close friendships. Yet both were having to be quite cavvy about how to deal with the messages they get from those around.

It reminded me of certain experiences I've encountered over the last 5 years where a growing passion to explore and think deeply about Seeds and Plants in my Art Practice has aroused some remarkably stiff competition seemingly out of the blue... moments of confrontation with less than pleasant attitudes tha can be bewildering in their intensity and pointlessness.

Pragmatically of course its best to identify poor behaviour or attitudes that undermine for what they are, identify and name them and move on... making sure to grow fruitful connections in their place that allow one to be free of such distraction. To hear a 12 year old and 9 year old discussing how to navigate this was fascinating. Being smart, talented, different and so on can arouse asll kinds of reactions in others and learning how best to not further provoke undue unpleasantness or alternatively how not to completely suppress one's uniqueness for the sake of connection and social acceptance is a big thing for children... and it would seem for adults if I think on it.

Saturdays class was such a frank and interesting reminder of this.

Spending Sunday with my grand-nephew Will, soon to be turning five, was also a revelation in some ways. 

Here he is pondering his jelly and blueberries last night!

This afternoon he and I built this half-constructed house...

I'd saved a lot of off-cuts of timber, red perspex and some other bits and pieces ... so we glued bits together and we'll keep it here so we can add to it whenever he visits. A lot of chat came from working together on this project.

I find I'm very drawn at the moment to work with children one to one ... or as I did on Saturday... with two. I spent a good part of the period from 2001 to late 2007 working with children as a substitute teacher in secondary schools. For one so given to working with the individual needs of children of course its a very exhausting experience to be attempting that in a system that is loaded in terms of large classes moving between subjects all day. I did it for 7 years and was not overly concerned when a major illness necessitated my leaving that work environment.

It would make pure economic sense to scale up class sizes but my interest is not in what size fits all learning no matter how tempting it might be to generate the all-important funds that keep things moving that way. What I find is at stake is a much deeper interest in learning what is at the heart of children's lives and thinking now.

Perhaps working on the book over the last months has pushed me to ask deeper questions on virtually everything, al over again ... I keep chewing over and evaluating what is most critical in terms of the purpose and direction I am aiming to articulate. 

Some months back I felt an urgency about getting this book together... however... at a certain point I stopped and completely reckoned with myself over the need to be more sure and absolutely clear in my heart and mind before I attempt to throw my words and ideas at the world.

And in that light this weekend has been invaluable!

Here's to a good week for all!


Friday, September 20, 2013

settling into studio life...

Its been a busy week which I wrote in part about here at Visual Eclectica blog and here at Homage to the Seed blog. Ive been sensing my brain firing up again as I go between meetings with various people,  online engagements and studio hours.

Its a good feeling even if its makes for feeling a bit scattered. I remind myself this is how getting going again feels... lots of chat, darting about and trying to sort which ideas deserve be brought to fruition and is of integrity and value!

Painting on paper is by far the best warm up!

thinking seeds ... millions of seeds!

A new micro project with a local seed collector and land-care steward Denise Rivers yesterday was food for thought. Took photos of Lomandra seeds she's saved as well as accompanying her to the creek where she has spent ten years working to rebuild species diversity restoring habitat for birds and animals.

More soon... back to the painting for now!

Liked this photo below put up on Instagram by Jo Cook whom I sent postcards to in Tasmania to say how much I liked her contribution to the FAIR FOOD WEEK Photo competition I recently helped judge. Jo is a freelance chef and Food Curator in Tasie who tweets her news here.


Friday, September 6, 2013

a studio day for painting... at last!

At the end of tonight I'd lay out some quick work on paper to photograph that came from today. 
It was simple work that was more about getting the feel of paint and brush again after months out of action.

I so enjoyed working the paint with a clean, dry brush so as to get a textured line. It was basic stuff today... and it took a bit of getting started! I knew it was important to begin without concern for what exactly I needed to be doing and any outcomes... it reminded me of practicing scales on the piano every day for years whilst learning piano... only more fun... simple exercises to get into the flow of working again!

Finding forms and getting the textured look happening 

Stripes... was interesting the instinctive choice of colour in this work!

Yesterday I did the third session with a group of 12, 13 yr old on Seeds and Biodiversity at Kelvin Grove Secondary School... part of a program involving visiting artists working with groups of students towards an exhibition. We started by discussing what the role of seeds is... and that lead to working on simple ideas and black on white paper. 

We played with the originals by reversing the black/white for maximum effect.

Now that I've broken the ice I'm sure that there will be ore activity to post here from time to time!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

getting there!

Its so good to report that I am getting closer to starting studio work again with the process of unpacking and sorting out what goes where coming together.

And its been happening in fits and starts since we moved here July 28th due to other demands on time. It's quite one thing to unpack all the books and materials of the studio... but despite the shelving and space itself being generous ... the task is to make things fit yet still have the space remain as uncluttered as possible. The studio for me is such a dynamic space with many functions and new things coming in all the time... it leaves one hankering for a huge studio to spread out at will.

However... this is not a small space and I am incredibly fortunate to be settling into what is in many ways an ideal space even if it will keep me on my toes making it do what I need it to do!

These shelves can't carry too much weight at the top so the bottom row has the heavy books. I'm so conscious of what happens as the studio becomes busier and how the practical aspects of working here become all important... hence Ive really tried to think about the work stations and zones for things to belong to... as in the reading, musing zone below which has the painting area to the left and a large piece of linoleum laid over the tiles for a more practical wet-zone.

I'm so happy to have a place for this 1920's armchair that came from the large old house where I had my first real studio back in 1990. Its getting awfully worn ... but after thinking I would get it recovered finally it seems just right as is... and sitting here on the kilim I brought back form Turkey in 1988 its feels so at home. This home studio is in house built in 2004... so the presence of the old and well worn really adds some soul to the place. 

Friends coming to dinner last night spurred me to keep unpacking those pesky boxes... so today I plan to puddle around with some paints and paint myself back into the studio rhythm ... bit by bit!
Cheers all

Friday, August 30, 2013

Late August ... and the first month at the new place!

Its exactly one month since the last post here and its been eventful to say the least. A new home and studio slowly being set up!

Unpacking took precedence for a fair part of this month ... setting up the domestic side of life first then moving onto the studio! A few boxes had remained unpacked since the 2008 move from Newcastle... so I was very excited to discover some pieces that I've collected over years... rocks and odd eclectic things that store a lot of memory and make me feel at home just looking at them!

This string bag which I was given by someone living in Papua New Guinea many, many years ago containing small shells ... traded by local people for something they required. Its more or less a totem to me... like many things Ive saved not valuable in money terms but imbued with meanings that have come to me quietly and instinctively... making up a collection of things that have enriched my sense of what is important in life...often against the tide of regular notions of value and trade!

This whole process of packing up one home... waiting 5 weeks in limbo between homes and then slowly, slowly unpacking in the new space has brought with it hours of reverie and processing everything all over again. And again it would seem! It begs not just the physical movement but a very deep reconciliation with change and movement...dealing with all that is stirred up along the way.

Ive spent days feeling cloaked in a thick fog where it was as if I was lost or trying to remember something. Even finding my way around the house was a challenge and I found myself asking more than a few times if anyone had "seen the thing?

I struggled to remember more than I cared to realise! Dislocation it was ... even in the name of a good cause it was disconcerting!

An interesting undertaking has been collaborating in a brief artist residency project with 5 other artists on a school program at a special Art-Design Faculty in a Brisbane secondary school. This involved first up presenting on my homage to the seed project then going on to develop a simple but potent related visual exercise that could be developed into something suitable for exhibition at a special School event in October.

Signs and symbols around seeds and connected themes became the focus.

Individual works assembled together as a whole is something we are gong to expand on next week.

Its curious how these kinds of experiences push the consolidation of ideas and media to create something applicable to the context! ANd great to see how other artists are taking up the challenge!

loads of boxes in the new studio were slowly unpacked!

Walls were painted to tone down the mid yellow-green everywhere!

Lightening up the room was a must... and making use of 4 good windows for which I ordered off-white blinds to be delivered in a couple of weeks! Since this image was taken I seem to have made more mess again in more unpacking and trying to find room for everything! Still its a good process and their is a lot of motivation to have a fully functioning studio again!

Patience has been called on a lot... sticking at the time-consuming set up and tackling constant challenges in all this. I lost my wallet Sunday and after a huge weekend up the coast for a family weekend was feeling hazy about it. The police phoned to say they had it and today I rang the cafe on the highway who took it in to the Police to say thanks and ended up discussing the prospect of doing something about seeds for their new direction with roasting coffee beans.

Thats the funny thing about life at the moment... nothing is going in a straight line... but curiously some things are working out really well! Out of the blue, and quite mysteriously, some things seems to be lining up well... but just can't assume anything!

I'll be back as more takes shape... so see you then!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Me

My photo
Blogging for me is an extension of keeping a journal which I have done in various forms over the decades. The difference being this is not a closed book! I like that it offers an opportunity to explore that which concerns me as an artist and as an individual about living and participating in this vastly complex, unquestionably exciting yet unnerving time in human history. Through the blog I hope to increase the possibilties for cross-pollination which I believe can strengthen the sense of being part of something both personal and universal that is vital, expansive and refreshing.