Posted in Artist in Residence, Drawing, October 2013- Janet Hope

Artist called anyone in residence- Janet Hope – Little Miss Earnest

With a forward by Sophie…

This is the fifth and final post from Janet Hope as ‘artist called anyone in residence.’  If you haven’t been introduced yet, do meet her, She is awesome! click here Her first four posts were If Art were a person, what would your relationship be like?,  Tell me a story,  Embracing embuggerance and Dog poo moon fish.

Here is Janet with Little Miss Earnest

Well, it’s the final Wednesday in October and I have to confess that behind the scenes there has been a teensy panic going on.

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If you’ve been reading this series since the start, you’ll know that my old mate Art and me don’t do deadlines. She and I both make our living elsewhere. On the infrequent occasions we manage to get together, we revel in being dilettantes. We dabble, we potter, we tinker, we trifle, we dally, we muck around, we mess about. When we get exhausted from all that activity, we like to do a little pootling or, more rarely, tootling.

This is good. When I was four years old I had a music teacher whose ultimate censure was to hint that I might not be “serious”. Horror! Our dad used to leave notes sticky-taped to the TV, forbidding us to watch until we had done something “worthwhile”. In every area of my life other than art, the earnest inner child who desperately needs to do things properly is constantly piping in my ear.

When I hang out with Art, that poor little tyke finally gets to go and have a good lie down. Usually she’s quite willing: being earnest all the time is pretty draining. But today’s deadline has caused a bit of struggle, as follows:

Inner Child, a.k.a. Little Miss Earnest: Hey J, whatcha doin’?

Me: A picture. Time for you to take a break.

LME: Can I help?

Me: Nope. Run along now.

LME: I don’t think you’re going to get this done on time.

Me: Doesn’t matter. Off you go and have a chillax.

LME: You probably need my help or it’s going to be lame.

Me: Probably, but that’s not important.

LME: It’s kind of slack to do a lame job for the blog.

Me: Yep. It’s pretty slack. So be it.

LME: I think we should cancel everything else so you can do a better job.

Me: Are you still here? Off you go.

LME: Given there’s not enough time to do a good job, I think we should quit work, leave the family, catch a plane to darkest Peru and hope nobody ever tracks us down.

Me: Sure, sure, of course. You go lie down and plan the trip.

So I’m talking to myself along these lines (but not moving my lips – I’m not crazy or anything) when I have what seems like a brilliant idea.

It so happened that my lovely young friend Lili was visiting, on an after school playdate with her brother and my son. The boys wanted to play a particular card game, and Lili was feeling bored and left out.

Lili loves to do art, and she is a very helpful soul. I figured if I gave her the Bygum Girl story and some drawing gear, she could create her own interpretation of the scene I’ve been trying to illustrate these past few weeks. She’d generate the image that we needed for this blog post, and I’d have something to write about, comparing the two interpretations.

In retrospect, I totally know whose idea this was. At the time it seemed ultra-reasonable, but really it was like this:

LME: It’s panic stations! We’re screwed! This is a disaster!

Me: My stars, you’re right! What are we going to do?!

LME: Why don’t you find somebody else to do the picture?

Me: But that’s a cop-out.

LME: I’ll stop bugging you if you do….

Me: Arrrgh, all right, all right! You win. I’ll ask Lili.

So I was duped. But as it turned out, Lili was into it. Over the course of about an hour, she came up with this delightful picture:

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I particularly adore the fish, with their tubular form and gormless expressions. As my son described the moonfish, they look like real fish. When you touch them – no matter how delicately – their fragile outer layer slips apart like the skin of an overripe peach, releasing the soft, rich redolence of freshly laid stool with a gentle ‘pop’.

I can easily imagine one of Lili’s fish coming apart in my hands in this manner, the eye still looking accusingly up at me from the end of its stalk. Bleargh. I don’t blame Bygum Girl and Bygum Boy for keeping their distance over there on one of the spherical ice-chip stars.

Seeing Lili’s work inspired me to have another play with my earlier picture after all. I decided to abandon the colour inversion technique (for now) and colour the existing drawing with watercolours. I used felt-tip markers for the wings. I cut it all out with scissors (I really need to learn how to use Photoshop) and scanned it against a black background to represent the darkness of space.

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I still don’t think it’s anywhere near done, but the deadline has arrived. So how to score the tussle between Little Miss Earnest and me?

Well, I didn’t run off to Peru. I enjoyed hearing Lili hum a happy tune while she created her own art. And I managed to snatch some last-minute fun for myself from the drooling jaws of perfectionism. So I guess I’m going to declare it a draw.

Oh, and there was a big mess to clean up. Which means that at the end of the day, I think we can all agree:

Art is the winner.

Janet Hope (an artist called anyone) artwork is original by Janet Hope and Lili

Posted in Artist in Residence, Drawing, October 2013- Janet Hope

Artist called anyone in residence- Janet Hope – Dog poo moon fish

With a forward by Sophie…

This is the fourth post by Janet Hope as ‘artist called anyone in residence.’  If you haven’t been introduced yet, do meet her, I think she is awesome! click here Her first three posts were If Art were a person, what would your relationship be like?,  Tell me a story  and Embracing embuggerance.

And now for (drum roll)  Janet Hope, with Dog poo moon fish

Bygum girl composition test

I’m a long-time fan of children’s book illustration. This enthusiasm predates my own kids’ arrival, but I guess reading to other people’s children must have watered the seeds planted during a book-filled childhood.

The first time I consciously thought, “Jeepers, this is the greatest art form since some French cavemen decided to doodle on the walls!” was at the house of a friend. Nicky grew up in Western Australia and has a framed print by W.A. artist and illustrator Shaun Tan in her living room. The work is from the book Tales from Outer Suburbia, titled “Our Tuesday Afternoon Reading Group”.

I’ve come back to this picture again and again over the years, and it still has new things to say to me. Strictly speaking, Tan’s art is not for children; his audience is a little hard to define. But he is a master illustrator, and the beauty and depth of his work opened my eyes to the amazing wealth of artistic treasure that is right under all of our noses at the local library and on kids’ bookshelves.

If I was a great art collector and had infinite display space, I would surround myself with scenes by Shaun Tan, Roland Harvey, Alison Lester, William Joyce, Helen Cooper, Allan Ahlberg and many others. If and when I get my act together to put some art on my actual real-life walls (which may require some form of therapy… preferably art therapy…), I dream of having at least a few prints by these favourites.

A great way to discover your own favourites — apart from reading actual books — is to check out books of sample works by different illustrators or track down the winners of various national and international awards.

Anyhoo, this is all just to let you know how stoked I am to have finally tried an illustration of my own. OK, so the book it’s from doesn’t actually exist, and the picture itself isn’t actually finished, but this week is the first time I’ve put together an overall composition for the Bygum Girl illustration I’ve been working on this month.

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Once again it’s been a hasty, crowded effort, but I think the result is OK.

I even got as far as running a test for inverting the image to create a black background. This was a pretty weird process; as explained in my last post, I was working on the positive image without any way of checking the negative as I went along. Some colours worked well, others not so much.

Untitled

Bygum-Girl-Colour-test-inverted

The final work is due next week, when my time as Artist in Residence comes to a close. I’m tossing up whether to persist with this colour inversion technique or revert to something a bit less experimental and easier to control. I’ve asked my friend Art , and she doesn’t seem to have an opinion. Do you?

(Check out Shaun Tan’s awesome stuff at his website, http://www.shauntan.net.)

Janet Hope (an artist called anyone) artwork is original by Janet Hope

Posted in Artist in Residence, October 2013- Janet Hope

Artist called anyone in residence- Janet Hope -Embracing embuggerance

With a forward by Sophie…

This is the third post by Janet Hope as ‘artist called anyone in residence.’  If you haven’t been introduced yet, do meet her, I think she is awesome! click here Her first two posts were If Art were a person, what would your relationship be like? and Tell me a story. This post continues on with some of the ideas from Tell me a story.

And now for (drum roll)  Janet Hope- Embracing Embuggerance

 Jackrum stared at him blankly for a moment, and then said: ‘Well, now … it looks like what we have here is an embuggerance which, my lads of the Cheesemongers, is defined as an obstruction in the way of progress.

 — Terry PratchettMonstrous Regiment

 I’ve been experiencing a few embuggerances this week in relation to my Artist in Residence project.

Back in the late 1990s, I discovered a fantastic little application bundled with Microsoft Office, called Photo Editor. Photo Editor was sort of like Photoshop for people like yours truly, to whom the word ‘layers’ makes sense only in the context of either (1) clothing or (2) cake.

For several years I had an absolute ball playing around with Photo Editor’s simple, intuitive suite of image manipulation tools. It had limited functionality, but in a good way: it created some boundaries around my art without being excessively constraining.

In short, Photo Editor was all I needed (electronically speaking) to be a happy Artist Called Anyone until the end of my days. Then some bleeping bleeper at Microsoft decided to take it away.

I’m not the only one who mourned its loss. This unpretentious little program had plenty of devoted fans among the professionals as well as legions of amateur weekend artists like me, who just couldn’t be bothered learning to do stuff “properly”.

One of the things I loved to do with Photo Editor was to flip the colours in scanned images to make a picture like this:

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into a picture like this

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Imagining Bygum Girl and Bygum Boy on the moon, I thought the black background, popping colours and weird details of this technique might be a good fit. I thought I’d found a fortuitously preserved version of Photo Editor that I could use for the purpose, but… nope. Embuggerance.

A frantic search turned up no further download possibilities, so I guess by now everyone else has sucked it up and learned how to use Photoshop or the GIMP. Well, it’s time I faced the reality that I am going to have to do the same.

In the meantime, I relied on our good host Sophie to process this week’s images with her superior technology.  I’ll see how they turned out when you do. No second chance, no regrets. As Sophie says when launching into the unknown: “Wheeeee!”

Thinking about embuggerances in the context of art makes me realise that for me, up to this point, artistic embuggerances have without fail resulted in a better process and better outcomes. My art is about spontaneous problem solving; that’s what makes it fun and (where it succeeds) interesting.

Doing art on a deadline changes that. Embuggerances appear as such, instead of simply being curlicues in the route I trace on the blank paper of a long leisurely afternoon’s art.

On the one hand, this is stinky poo. On the other hand, the blog deadlines have been great because I’ve learned that I do, in fact, have the capacity to approach creativity in a way that is not fundamentally incompatible with the rest of my life.

It’s like this: Monday comes around and I go, “Hmm, I guess I’d better decide what to do for the blog post”. Then Wednesday arrives and I’ve done zip. It’s a busy day, and I curse the Residency under my breath while spending an hour or so pulling something together in between picking up kids, setting up client meetings and making dinner.

Then Thursday comes and I’m so pleased that I’ve actually done SOMETHING where for years I would have done NOTHING – all on the assumption that art cannot make space for itself among the half-eaten hamburgers, overdue permission slips and used school lunch boxes on my kitchen table.

Well, it turns out it can. If you call this art. And you know what? I think I do.

PS I promised a picture of the moonfish this week and here it is

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Janet Hope (an artist called anyone)

(All artwork is original by Janet Hope, with a wee bit of technical assistance from Sophie)

Posted in October 2013- Janet Hope, Uncategorized

Janet Hope, Artist in Residence- Tell me a Story

One evening when my son was two, he demanded a made-up bedtime story.

I searched my weary mind for the least spark of narrative inspiration… and came up with big fat bupkis.

“I can’t tell you a story,” I said. He did the big melodramatic whole-body flop of disappointment. “But I can ask you a story.”

 He perked up and agreed enthusiastically. And so for the next few months we fell into a pattern at bedtime. I would sit on the edge of his new Big Boy Bed and ask him a series of questions, and he would create a story in response.

 My son soon settled on a favourite character. She was a magic girl who could adjust her size at will and had retractable wings, like a cat’s claws.

“What was her name?” I asked.

 “Bygum bygum bygum bygum!” He growled in fierce crescendo, starting to lose it with overtiredness.

 This is the origin story of Bygum Girl, world famous at our place since 2006.

 In later stories, Bygum Girl was joined by her friend Bygum Boy. (They are not related, but just happen to have the same first name; “Girl” and “Boy” are their surnames. It’s important to get these things clear. ) Together they would have bizarre, fanciful adventures, always punctuated in my son’s telling with discordantly mundane details that never failed to crack me up.

 It’s one of these stories I’ve chosen to illustrate for this month’s Artist in Residence blog (or glob, as I just accidentally typed… love it).

 In the story, Bygum Girl and Bygum Boy climb to the moon to plant a flag. Stars, my son revealed as he looked out his window at the bright, frosty winter night, are made of tiny chips of ice; they make great stepping-stones whenever you want to hop-skip-fly to the moon.

 When they arrive, the Bygums discover that the moon is not solid enough to receive a flag. Instead, it is a single, giant, spherical droplet of clear, cold water. The water is filled with moonfish that swim in great schools.  The fish sparkle as they change direction, giving off the overall effect (from a great distance) of steady moonlight. Occasionally they flip and splash; the droplets that get separated from the main body of water instantly crystallise and become stars.*

 *Because the average temperature of space is about 3 Kelvin.

 “It sounds lovely,” I said.

 “But it wasn’t,” my son assured me, “because the moonfish were really made of dog poo. And when Bygum Boy tried to catch one in the water, he got all dog poo smeared on his hands.”

I’ll finish the picture over the next couple of weeks, but these are my starting sketches of Bygum Girl and Bygum Boy on the moon.

 I’ve imagined them as pre-WWI children of the British Empire, following the charming illustrations in my parents’ collection of Arthur Mee’s The Children’s Encylopedia (published circa 1910). But they live in Australia and I associate my native land with the sound of cicadas in summer, so I’ve given them cicada wings instead of the more obvious butterfly or dragonfly wings.

 Bygum Girl is startled by the fish; the picture catches her in the act of sweeping her feet up out of the water to avoid them. Meanwhile, Bygum Boy is bending over to reach out to one, about to make his unpleasant discovery.

 bygum girl

bygum boy

I wonder what the moonfish will look like? Tune in next week, when we will all find out!

(Tip: if trying this with your own toddler, ask lots of open-ended questions that contain nice concrete action verbs. Steer away from abstract concepts and “Why” questions until they are a little older.)

Posted in Artist in Residence, October 2013- Janet Hope

If art were a person, what would your relationship be like?

Introducing an Artist Called Anyone in Residence post by Janet Hope

As Sophie mentioned in her introduction on Monday, I coach people for a living – which means I get to ask lots of questions. Here’s one that’s often powerful:

If this issue were a person, what would your relationship be like?

For today’s blog, I thought it might be fun to ask myself this question about Art.

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To me, Art is a cheerful, disheveled, curious person with a great sense of humour. Unlike me, she is never stressed or self-conscious. She is great fun to be around because she is totally present. When you’re together, all of her energy and attention is in the moment with you.

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Art has hardly changed in all the years I’ve known her. I assume she gets on with her own stuff when we are not hanging out – I know she has heaps of other friends – but I’ve never really asked. Likewise, she never asks about my grown-up relationships or responsibilities: she’s very relaxing that way.

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Like other friends who are very focused in the moment, Art is hopeless about keeping in touch. I see her in the distance sometimes as I go about my business, and usually she waves hello, but I can’t think of a single time she’s actually called – I’m always the one who has to put us in the diary. It’s not uncommon for years to go by between catch-ups.

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There was a time in my early twenties when I used to be concerned about where our friendship was going. Art and I seemed to spend much less time together than during our school days, and even though we always slipped easily back into the groove, I worried that we would sooner or later lose touch.

Madeleine's-doodle

These days I don’t worry anymore. I guess I’m a lot less pompous and uptight and more content to take things as they come – like Art herself. Also, even though our sporadic reunions never turned into anything deeper or more regular, there have been enough of them over the years that I’m confident we’ll be able to connect again.

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For the time being, it’s quite a challenge to find time to hang out – especially now I’ve had kids. Art loves children and they love her right back, but she always leaves it to me to wind up the session, clean up the mess and get the toddler to spit out the uneaten half of the purple crayon. Basically, she gets to be the Fun Aunt and I get to be the Mum. And that’s soooo frustrating because when I’m with her, I just want to let go and be a kid again myself. I want it to be as simple as making some marks and seeing where they take us.  So I’m sorry to say that when my kids and Art are doing their thing, I hold myself a bit aloof.

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Which is why I’ve decided that this month, my old friend Art and me are going to try illustrating one of my own children’s stories. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that as a team, we are not very outcome-oriented. So I’m not sure how much I can promise, but you are welcome to come back next week and see what happens.

Janet will be blogging each Wednesday for the month of October.  All artwork is original by Janet Hope

Posted in Artist in Residence, October 2013- Janet Hope

Introducing Janet Hope, the first ‘Artist Called Anyone’ in Residence

Biopic PNG

This week I am excited and delighted to introduce the first ‘Artist Called Anyone’ in Residence, Janet Hope.

It takes a game person to launch into uncharted territory and she is the perfect person to do it.  I knew her as a life coach, lawyer, scientist,  mother, and all round extraordinary person for a year or so,  without even knowing she had an art  portfolio scattered around the files on her computer, her house displays little of her work.  She is a person who has produced art in waves over the years, far more concerned with the exploration of a technique than with producing finished products.  When she showed me her work I was excited and awed as if she were a surprise entry on ‘Australian Artists’ have Talent.’  She received a big ‘YES’ from me and, me being the whole panel, she is onto the next round…

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I will let Janet unveil more of her work as she goes along.  Her theme for the month of October is ‘sitting on stuff.’  Each Wednesday you can see her entries on the home page or later by clicking on ‘Artist in Residence’ on the top menu.

The theme ‘sitting on stuff’ resonates strongly with me at the moment.  I have stuff which I have kept because I like it and it is special to me, but which I have never displayed where i can enjoy it.  A perfect example are some paintings on fabric by friends, which I have been sitting on for 17 years!  I will pull them out of the box for tomorrow’s project blog.