Practice makes progress

People say practice makes perfect, but wonderful Australian artist Niamh Baly always says practice makes progress. And she’s right!

I joined the gym about 6 weeks. My hope was to improve my balance and strength – having two total knee replacements and various medical dramas over the years has impacted on both.

When I started I could manage 10 minutes on the CrossFit at Level 1 and use 3kg weights for leg and arm exercises. Today I did 17 minutes on the CrossFit at Level 2, 10 minutes on the Exercycle, 4 sets of 10 on the Leg Press and 3 sets of 10 leg exercises with 6 kg weights. I couldn’t find the 5kg ones and the 6kg were just too heavy for my arm exercises.

By most people’s standards that’s not a lot, but it is good progress for me. I’ve got some goals in mind – one of them being just better general capacity. I’m so grateful for the difference my surgeries have made to my life.


I’ve been thinking about consistency; consistency in going to the gym and in other personal habits. I’m working in a kraft journal and trying out some ideas. What I’m starting to notice is – despite some new colours / materials and the intention to work differently – there are marks and colour combinations which always come out.

Black, white, blue, green, turquoise, with a touch of hot pink, orange or fluorescent yellow. The colours of the sea, which I have always loved. But also the colours of the Hokitika Gorge, which I love.

Cruciform shapes, ovals that are higher on one side with one end cut off, loose squares or oblongs that connect to a line across or up the page. I know where some of it comes from – the cruciform shapes and squares or oblongs relate to memories of the Patea Cool Stores and Freezing Works. The ovals I have no idea about, but when I get scissors and paper in my hand for collage, there they are!

A shifting vision

I’m working on a new series; the last couple of posts have talked about trying out some different ideas and ways of expressing my ideas. This isn’t a new direction, instead it’s a slight shift in how I put on paper – in paint – the things I don’t have words for. Sometimes that’s emotions, other times it’s my memories of the landscape.

I’ve been working in a kraft journal and on a variety of mixed media papers. My favourite pad of PaintOn mixed media paper has white, cream, black, and a blue grey. I’m using quite a bit of fluro pink from the Golden heavy body range and it’s hard to scan the colour accurately. These works include collage, paint, ink and pencil, so are much more “mixed” than my usual mixed media. I’m ordering more precut mat show kits from the US this week and it’ll be interesting to see how they look with a clean white border.

Loving the details

Today Penny and I spent the day doing demos of gelli printing & collage at Greymouth Art in the Park. I’m enjoying small details, contrast, and mixing textures. I enjoy putting paint on them using blank paper to pull some of the paint back off, exposing the layers underneath. The specks of pink were accidental, and I love them.

The collage piece at the bottom was made by Penny.
The white at the bottom is oil pastel, the white drips are Posca pens that are designed to drip.

Landscape explorations

I’ve been watching various artists on YouTube – some, like Louise Fletcher and Judy Woods, are old favorites. Others are new finds; I’m enjoying the work of Jackie Schomburg – her process is similar enough to mine to be accessible but different enough to provide a challenge.

I normally use heavy white mixed media paper for landscapes so decided to start with different substrates. I’m working in the large Dina Wakley MEdia kraft journal, and on loose sheets of PaintOn mixed media paper which comes in a pad with 5 or 6 different colours. In some cases, I’ve taped the edges so the works will have a clean border.

I’m using a mix of paint and collage & trying to incorporate some of Jackie’s ideas. When you take inspiration from other people’s work the hand of the artist always shows through, so the final works will still be obviously mine.

The works are very much my colour and style at the moment. I can only see the barest hint of Jackie’s influence so far. When I start exploring a new idea my work tends to be tight, and loosens up over time. I’m sure in the coming days her work will influence my process more. In one you can see a deliberate attempt to use different colours.

Time is on my side

To quote the Rolling Stones, time is on my side…

I realised today that I’ve more time for myself than I’ve had in 25+ years. Between 1997 and 2000 we took on publishing the newspaper, Aunt J started needing a lot more of my time (we were close, and I had EPOA) and we moved in with Mum to be her caregivers. I was working full time and studying as well.

Today I didn’t get out of bed until mid morning, and have spent the day playing with paint and paper. Time for my art isn’t unusual because I always make it a priority, but I’m usually conscious of other things I need to do, especially for the paper.

It’s going to be interesting to see what life feels like as I get used to having time for my own priorities and what changes I make.

Life is made up of…

Since I posted in January life has mainly consisted of work and art. I’ve been Acting Group Manager Community Services for the last few months; it’s been interesting, and I’ve learned a lot. It’s also been time consuming – the way I use my time changed a lot. It helped me finally make a decision that’s been on the horizon for some time.

Tony and I took over publishing the Patea & Waverley Press in 1998. We had both worked in the printing industry in Auckland and it suited us. Over time it became more digital, so Tony’s training in Hand Typography wasn’t useful any longer. His health deteriorated and, for the last 4 years or so, the paper has rested solidly on my shoulders. Something I had always loved began to feel like a burden. The paper has a new publisher, and I am enjoying not organising my life around deadlines.

I’ve done a lot of art journaling lately. Some of it is downloading my head onto paper, pouring out the thoughts, and some of it is just about moving my hands – playing with paint, paper and colour. Today I finished a small Dylusions journal which meant decorating the cover before it goes on the bookcase. It’s a mix of paint, ink, magazine collage, Dylusions dycuts and quotes.

It’s an arty sign

About 4 years ago I did a few sessions of counselling to get my head around some stuff. We also worked on me sleeping better, without huge success. We identified three things I wanted to achieve in the counselling; she said 3 is about the max you can do at any one time. One of the words we settled on was content; not content as in “no growth needed” but content to let the process work and accept life as it happens. There were a lot of very good reasons why that was needed.

And, full circle, the same thing applies now. There’s a lot of change happening in my life, and I can’t control much of it. It’s important I feel content with life regardless.

I’m inspired by Claire Stead‘s art and have just got her new release from Funky Fossil through Natalie May Scrapbooking in Australia. I got some clear text stamps and her collage paper. I was working in my 6×6 Dina Wakley kraft journal, one of my favs, this morning and flicked through the collage paper book and there it was — “I am content”. The universe wants me to know it will be ok!

Storing all my paper

I’ve just started the 2023 #100daysofcollage with Froyle Art. Last year I ended up doing 163 collages. This year? Who knows, but I’m excited to get started.

I have a lot of paper, and storing it so it’s manageable & findable is a mission. I have a large drawer of full,page sized gelli prints. I have manila folders of images cut out of old books and magazines, sorted into religious icons, people, architecture and other.

My paper scraps are sorted by colour into plastic envelopes and file boxes. As soon as I cut or tear into a full size gelli print, the remains go into the paper files. The colour sorting is ‘best guess’ based on the main colour of the print. It’s a loose system, but it works well enough for me.

Manila folders of cut out images, maps, book pages etc
Plastic folders with paper sorted by colour
Plastic folders of cut out images

As 2022 ends …

Once again, it’s been a couple of months since I blogged. It’s hard to know what to say much of the time, and there’s a lot I don’t share. Here are some highlights from the year:

  • Penny Kirk and I created a lot of art together and had a well supported exhibition at Left Bank Art Gallery in Greymouth. We’re working on our next exhibition already.
  • My nephew Rowan turned 50, which makes me feel old!
  • I got a bright pink bicycle and love it. Turns out I have terrible balance, but never mind.
  • I had a few visits to Alan on the West Coast. It’s a chance to relax, pat farm animals and make art.
  • I visited my sister Ailsa and family in Auckland, after a few false starts thanks to Covid. It was great to finally see their new home.
  • Speaking of Covid, we finally succumbed. I’m grateful for being vaxxed, which means I didn’t get particularly sick. I’m also grateful Sandra’s ridiculously overactive immune system looked after her.
  • I spent a few days in Hamner Springs & loved it. I want to go back when it’s not school holidays, because that was a bit of a mistake.
  • I love having two new knees. Life is just so much better when you can move without pain.

On a much less positive note, Tony’s not doing well and will be moving to Trinity Resthome in Hawera in mid-January. Trinity has hospital, palliative and dementia care, so can provide anything he needs. It means I can visit him in my lunch breaks, so he may be less sleepy.

Finally, here’s a few photos that sum up the year that’s been: