It has been so long since I have had the pleasure of drawing, but at the end of 2021, a person that I respect and admire suffered the loss of a beloved pet....and I was thrilled that they reached out for a portrait. Sassi is a gorgeous, spirited and loved dog. She was a joy to draw....I spent most of the time thanking Sassi for letting me explore her beautiful features and soul. She was strong and just needed to be free......and free she is.......meet Sassi.......and to the family, my deepest condolences......
Fabriano Artistico 300 GSM Hot pressed paper, Mixed Media, graphite Derwent Graphic Professional, Caran D'ache coloured pencils, Guache. 30 hours.Photo Supplied by client.
Sassi- In loving memory of a sassy, and well loved and wanted dog
‘Mercy’ 67 x 50cm, (28 x 24 inches), Caran D’Ache Luminance, Faber Castell Polychromos, Prismacolour pencils, odourless mineral spirits, Stonehenge Black paper, inspired by Vasconi Photography with permission, Personal imagination and inspiration. 131 hours.
When we think of mercy as people, we think of the true definition of the word…. “Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm”. Wars provide us many stories of acts of mercy, often facilitated by those in dominance freeing or sparing those that have been lead into submission through force or circumstance.
When we think of mercy in the biblical sense, we think of God sparing humans from unthinkable acts of judgment or harm, and from the literature on the subject, it would seem that the church focused on the word ‘mercy’ to alleviate the unbearable fear of hell, and then slowly phased out mercy as an act, as the perception built of God having the power to punish and take life.....a concept that any religious person just can’t associate with a loving God. We want God to accept us just the way we are!
When I think of mercy I think of the Angels of Mercy.....three Angels that protect and enforce justice, with Archangel Michael chosen as closest to God. Muscular, youthful and handsome, St.Michael and his army have defeated Satan and his angels in the great war in Heaven, evil did not prevail, but, nor was a place found for the devil and his slithery, hoofed cohort, so, St.Michael hurled them down to earth, following them with a key, a key to an abyss, and a chain to tie them down. Archangel Michael then sealed them up for 1000 years. What a guy hey? He’s certainly my hero!
Whilst completing this drawing I thought about mercy and how we may be missing something (and I had many, many hours of contemplation! lol). In a world that has become increasingly aggressive and overstimulating, many of us misuse the power or position that we’ve been given (even as parents!)...There is a sense of entitlement and expectation that comes with society currently. I wonder if mercy, if practiced on ourselves first, would create a better world. What if we weren’t as critical or hard on ourselves? What if we had the heart to forgive ourselves more? What if we could not take on board the judgments of others so easily, and embrace our own unique personalities and thrive after trauma inflicted, instead of give in and give up? What if these acts are acts of our own punishment and judgment....and what if all we need to do is do is have the right attitude and make the right choice, no matter what others do to us. What if mercy dwells in the stirrings of the heart of all of us when under unprecedented stress, and what if mercy is something that we need to deliver, and practice, all be it through trial and error? Just like war creates conditions for mercy, is our self proclaimed ‘hard’ life not a war every single day? If we could show compassion, it would come from understanding ourselves first, and then identifying, with the sincerest of empathy the burdens of others. What if one of the greatest acts of mercy we could ever do is just walk away .....
Hall Green, in his article ‘Showing Mercy Is Your Choice’ says... “Mercy is a personal statement you make to others about yourself. Being merciful has little to do with the recipients and everything to do with the one granting mercy. Showing mercy means refraining from giving someone what they might have coming; it means being kind beyond what fairness may demand.”
Isn’t this all food for thought on a rainy Wednesday in the middle of winter? May my version of Archangel Michael give you protection....and may you find mercy wherever you are. Thank you also to all of the people who have shown me mercy in my life. I’m forever grateful.
The Departure, 51 x 41cm, Belgian Linen Board, Oils, 110 hours, Photo supplied by Margo Bennington Photography with permission.
Ever thought about how many times you depart or arrive in life? Have you ever thought about whether these events are exclusive to you or part of a process? The departure is the antecedent of the consequent- the arrival. You may see this as your trajectory, but from an observer’s perspective, you will see a very different chain of events, of which you are simply playing a role. For as you leave, with your suitcase of decisions, choices, and reasons, another person arrives, with a similar suitcase. They stand in the same place that you once stood. These events fall around us each and every day. Sometimes we facilitate them. Sometimes they are forced upon us. You depart from your home, and sell it, someone else buys and moves in. You leave a job, voluntarily or via redundancy, someone else arrives in your place. A beloved pet dies, and before you know it, you choose another soul to love, and hence arrives another being in place of what was. There is constant adjustment and readjustment of the entire world, requiring endurance and fortitude of all participants. Life is a continuous series of change, and at the most basic level, the antecedent is the step towards the pursuit of a desired goal. We often see ourselves in isolation, but as the observer, everything that we do ripples through the world around us. Our departure opens doors for others to occupy a space that we no longer want to be. Our arrival similarly alters everything, for better or worse. Whenever we depart from something, somewhere or someone, think about it- we assume that there is always an arrival for us. This makes sense and it’s something that in many ways gives us comfort to make any changes. This is a reliable part of our lives that we often take for granted. Departures and arrivals fluctuate with time, and time essentially creates their possibility. But what if there is one departure for which there is no known arrival? What if one antecedent has no consequent? What if all that we rely upon changes? What if there was suddenly no more time? Live your seemingly arbitrary life to the fullest. For one departure the arrival is unknown and there can be no going back. The pragmatic pattern will end. Or so we think.
53 x 39cm, Caran D'ache Luminance pencils, black Stonehenge, 163 hours, Prometeus Photography with permission
Have you ever put your trust or confidence in someone or something and there just wasn’t any proof that you should? Ever been persuaded to feel differently? Did you witness something which you considered to be proof of a different outcome, which challenges what you previously thought? Have you ever assumed blindly? Do you reject anything other than what you think because it is a perceived opposite? You may just be a believer.
Throughout time, beliefs have changed the course of history. For example; God? No proof. Yet some believe, because they just know, they feel that God exists. People? There may be evidence that a person is so lovely in one situation, yet what you don’t know is the whole truth about them- they are the exact opposite in another, but you believe, without knowing everything, that they are kind and generous, and play into their story and become their puppet. Beliefs can put us in danger, and can also remove us from harm, and they do this best when they can be challenged, reframed and unassured. Persuasion is the key to belief, and that in itself is confronting to any believer. Truth, for example, can be very persuasive. However, if it has been true, there is no guarantee that is always will be true. We assume it will be. We still believe.
Even what I am writing is a belief. Is it true?
Experience is the only true method of change. Not Authority- Only Experts. Not generalisation, but reflection. Not blind acceptance but confidence and curiosity.
This drawing is about a believer. He has fought for his beliefs. He has walked for weeks without food and water for his beliefs. He died for his beliefs. Perhaps he knew something we didn’t. Perhaps we believe that he did. Perhaps not. It all comes back to the source of the belief.
What do you believe? And Why……?
Little Lucinda is one of two daughters that Karen Scott and Chris D'Rozario have, and after stumbling across a beautiful photo on their Facebook page, I just couldn't resist but paint it! Gratefully, they obliged, and the result has been enjoyed by all. Such a pleasure painting again, number one, but having your subject there to view, talk with and watch every day made it so much easier......a beautiful little 3 year old, full of beans, and also so excited about being painted. Inspiration is everywhere, but sometimes, it's right in front of you!
Big Dreams Little Girl- 51 x 41cm, oils, canvas, 93 hours, reference photo gratefully supplied by Karen and Chris Scott.
How difficult it is to be a little girl. For a three year old, so much is not understood about a woman’s world, and yet, the dream of becoming one grows day by day. The world saturates the minds of little girls’ everyday with images of beauty and fashion. Daring places where women glide and glow, giggle and indulge; a paradox of tiaras and wishing wands, jewels and stiletto’s, lipstick and glitter, perfume and barbie dolls. Every little girl plays with her mother’s clothes and pretends to be a little lady. Lucinda is no exception, but the frustration of only being three shows on her baby face- how much she longs to be like her mother. In time she will become the woman of whom she dreams, but for now, she has to be the little one. This image was such a wonderful expression of the longing of a little girl in a woman’s world!
***Update*** This has just been awarded HIGHLY COMMENDED at the prestigious Box Hill Rotary Art Show 2016!!
44 x 60cm (17.3 x 24”)
Caran D’ache Luminance, Prismacolor Black, Canson Colorline 300gsm black paper, 103 hours, own reference.
For many of us avoiding risk and playing it safe is considered common sense. It also probably fair to say that for some of us, we spend time worry about the smallest of things, hesitant to take risks and therefore stepping back from anything that may create stress or put us under undue pressure.
For a selfless group of humans though, high risk, high stress and pressure situations bring out the best in them and coupled with a desire to be useful, a compelling sense of purpose, or passion to serve the community, their gifts and aptitudes are put to excellent use.
Nothing could be more true for our Firefighters in Australia, and indeed, around the world.
This is Russell Fox. A leading Firefighter in the MFB (Metropolitan Fire Brigade Melbourne). For 30 years he has served the community of Eastern Melbourne, revived people, put out their fires, consoled shocked and grieving families and dodged a bullet on many occasions. Yes, he, like all professional Firefighters, gets paid to risk his life, but the very idea of it to most of us is almost too much to bear. He is a hero.
When I asked Russell why, when everyone is running out of a building, why would he want to run in? His response “it’s not about what one wants, running into a burning building is counter intuitive to one’s first thoughts of survival, however this is how we make a difference, it’s our purpose and we press forward because we know we must, that doesn’t take away the danger but it makes it worthwhile.
In Australia, we love our Firefighters for reasons known to many who live here- we are a land of sundrenched landscapes, scorching heat and blistering weather, and that unique environment makes our country come together every summer when bush fire season hits. So many of my friends have been affected by bush fire. They have lost family, houses, pets, treasured memories and their sense of safety. And we have bushed areas everywhere- inner and outer cities and beyond. No one is immune to mother nature and her fury.
Russell is based in Croydon, but he, and his colleagues battle it all, from bush, house, car and building fires, and now in addition, on call with the ambulance, dealing with life and death and heartbreaking circumstances that we can only imagine. What they do, and the scope of their reach is unbelievable.
One thing we can depend on and always feel sure about, they’re always there for us when we need them.
And so, meet Russell. The perfect role model of a Firefighter. An Aussie hero. A champion man. A selfless, community serving professional. This drawing, his pensiveness, his stance, his determination and stoicism, is a mirror image of him in real life, and many just like him in the Fire Brigade.
The Peace Keeper,
Caran D'Ache Luminance, Polychomos and Black Prismacolor pencils, Canson Colorline Paper, 57cm x 46cm, YSBrand Photography with permission, 138 hours.
HERO (noun) A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
This cowboy is a hero. He's not a Sheriff. He isn't a policeman. He's a civilian. A respected man who has a social conscience. He is alert, and aware of people and their motivations and intentions. He watches with great interest as life around him unfolds. He can see when there is an injustice, and then, and only then, he acts to protect, to right the wrong, to serve justice to those whose moral compass has failed them, those who didn't have one to begin with. He's one of us, but he possesses the courage and insight to stand up for peace. He steps in when we are losing the fight against evil.
His face is approachable, attractive, friendly, and yet, there's a sense of great authority and purpose in his stance and his stare. And no matter what actions he may take and pain he inflicts in the course of his social duty, we always sympathise with him, and never the perpetrator. He's on our side. He's a good guy.
The good guys ALWAYS win.
This is a long blog, for those who would prefer to read via PDF, please feel free to download the file above.
ART-IT’S CLINGING TO LIFE.
Art is clinging to life- life as we know it now, for it’s all we know and all we ever will know.
Stay with me here........let’s have a chat.
Firstly, let me ask you a couple of questions. How many galleries do you go to that have walls covered with images of the dead? I don’t mean images of people or animals while they were alive...I mean dead. Kicked the bucket, Fat lady has sung, bit the dust, bought the farm, assumed room temperature, cashed in their chips and well and truly gone home in a box? None? Why not, I mean, what’s so bad about looking at dead thing? Aren’t they beautiful? Good subjects.....they don’t move. Jokes aside, there isn’t much that’s pleasant about death or dying. And so I felt inspired to explain what artists do and why we a so attached to the living, and share with you an experience that will change my life as an artist forever.
We’ve had some tough times of late. Above are some photo’s of little friends that we have- or had. Yuki, my white cat (alive and 12 years old), Tarot, my 23 year old cat who just passed, and, Hubert. He died 5 years ago at the age of 16 and he was my soul dog.
Strangely, like all tough times, although something has been lost, something precious has been found. Let me explain. And it all comes back to art.
My little one, Hudson is feeling it the most. The changes. The loss. It’s hard to give 5 year olds answers to big questions that elude us as adults. He’s ‘clinging’ to me at school drop offs. I’m getting in a mess (and trouble lol) because I find ditching him when he’s a blubbering mess - and running , difficult, and probably making it harder for him.....everything is making him anxious. He’s lost his stability and sense of permanence of things, and now asks “do you promise you’ll pick me up mummy?” How do you explain death, I mean really explain it? I don’t think you do. You have to let life grow back into their heart again.
There’s a story coming up ......can you tell that it’s going to be interesting? But hey, this is my experience now, and you can lock me up if you choose to, but again, stay with me. It’s worth it.
On the 14th of July we lost our loyal and beautiful old friend, Tarot. He was 23. In the last few weeks of his life he started to want to sleep right under my feet whilst I drew every day and on my head in bed. Yep, right smack on my noggin- keeping it warm. A few days before he passed, he stumbled over my head and I smelt something. It was a smell I knew well. It was the smell of death. It’s sweet. Not like raspberries and sugar lollies. A sickly sweet, musty and sweaty, not like old socks, more like sulphuric acid, it’s unmistakable and once you smell it, you cannot unsmell it.
I stopped everything and looked at Tarot. We were there. At the end. And I knew it was coming fast. Although he was still walking, eating and enjoying his existence, I knew, just from his smell that a process had started in his body that I couldn’t stop. Nature was going to win.
I watched Tarot the coming day, he became more sleepy and sought me out everywhere I went. I would stand up from the desk and make a coffee and there he was, right at my feet looking up at me. He was telling me everything I needed to know and I opened up my heart to hear it- as scared and devasted as I was to learn about what was coming, I had to be there for him.
Hudson said the next day “mummy, there’s a dying smell”.
Yep, a 5 year old. I had said nothing. He knew nothing. But this is what he said. Suddenly, selfishly, I didn’t feel alone in the losing battle with life........there was another witness now. And so the slide down began.
Tarot stopped eating two days before he died. Hudson and I took it in turns to try to feed him, but Tarot had decided, no more. Hudson read him books and sang to him, stroked him as he slept and alerted me when he woke and we passed the baton and I took over. Hudson had to go to school, but the day before Tarot died he knelt down to him and said “please don’t die when I’m at school Tarot, I’ll come home soon and help you”. That day was a messy one for both of us...we both cried at school and both were struggling to grasp how the following hours would play themselves out.
I lay beside Tarot all day, researching pencils, watching youtube videos and talking to him about the past 23 years....Tarot looked up every now and then and gave a tiny meow. He knew I was there. We were intimately and spiritually connected now and we were embarking on a journey that only one of us was going to come back from.
Still with me here?
As soon as Hudson walked back into the door, Tarot seemed to let go and take on the business of really dying. His breathing changed, it slowed down. Long breaths, long breaks inbetween. I put Hudson to bed, and accidentally fell asleep with him. I woke at around 10pm, and hurriedly went out to see if Tarot was still with us. He was.
The next 3 hours are now unexplainable to me. As an artist, as a person intimate with colour, philosophy and spirituality, what I am about to tell you will be farfetched to some. But here goes.
Got your coffee? Let’s do this.
I rested beside Tarot and he lifted his head one last time. A tiny meow. He said to me “you went without food to feed me, thank you”, and lowered his head again. I put my head to his, and held his paw, and seemed to slip in and out of a place that became more and more real, not dreamlike, not a fantasy........real.
What I saw defies what I know about colour, light or sound. There were colours and light everywhere, shimmering colours that flowed and brilliant light that didn’t blind, instead it warmed and settled every cell in my body, it became my body. They weren’t opaque colours or even colours that I could recognise or touch, they were layers of light and as the light particles danced, so too did the colours, and every single colour made music. Beautiful music. It was the most crisp, clear and harmonious sound I have ever heard, drenched in flowing colours. I really have no words, I’m struggling to put familiarity around it, but I just can’t. It was a place, in-between here and there.
“There” she says......you mean Heaven? Well, yes, I do. What else could this place be?
So there we were, Tarot, slipping away, me, slipping in and out of the ‘now’, and Yuki, my white cat, who stood guard like a warrior, upright and focused, on the kitchen bench. It was dark, there were no lights. The three of us were enduring the end- together.
And then there were four.
In this ‘state that I was in’ I heard a familiar sound amongst the music....it was Hubert, my gorgeous basset hound that passed 5 years ago. I was a high pitched excited bark, unmistakably him and I went deeper and deeper into that place of indescribable beauty. The sound wasn’t directed at me though, it was directed at Tarot. Suddenly everything started to have a pull to it, a vaccumous feel, and I was going.....there. Hubert suddenly saw me and started to bark at me, but I knew that something wasn’t right, and I started to fall back, as Tarot went forward. I felt something say “go to bed now, this isn’t for you” I woke, peacefully and totally relaxed and calm. I looked at Yuki, who seemed to ‘nod’ at me, kissed Tarot one last time, felt his warm rib cage rise and fall one last time under the blankets I had covered him in, and went to bed....still with colours, light and music in my minds eye, it was 1am. I was ‘told’ to go away, that Yuki, and Hubert ‘had this covered’ and that everything was ‘going to plan’. This was a party of strobing lights and music that I wasn’t invited to.
I woke at 5am and ran out to Tarot, and he was cold. He was gone.
Stiff. Lifeless. He had passed. I cried and cried. Hudson woke at 7am and said “mummy I can’t smell dying anymore- Tarot has gone but its ok, we still have Yuki, and she’s taken Tarot home”.
What can you do? What can you say? I mean, this kid knew it all. He sensed it all and witnessed it all, from his point of view, and it was uncomplicated and real........the whole thing was real.
Tarot didn’t go straight away. He wreaked havoc with the electrics of the house, took the washing machine and a few light globes and a hard drive with him, lol, and racked up a repair bill that I wasn’t happy about. Finally I asked him to please “go to the light!”. His energy was so strong, but funnily, Hudson and I laughed and laughed every single time something broke, looked at each other and moaned “TAROT!!!!” lol. A week later, things stopped busting, popping and exploding......Tarot fully crossed.
And so I come back to art. And part of me getting on with my art is getting all of this out, right down to the final thing that I really want to share with you, which I will do at the very end.
I have no idea how to translate what I saw into my art. I’m not sure if I’m meant to, but I’ll look for the messages and let it flow as it should.
What we need is all here. It’s now. Artists spend all of their time searching for subject matter, pleasing compositions and amazing new interpretations of things that are actually perfect just as they are.
Human faces, animals, the world around us are so beautiful. There’s beauty in just about everything if you look hard enough. Throughout time, people have documented humanity and the places we’ve dwelled. We’ve painted, stylised, drawn, sculpted and photographed the moment as we saw it, and we have hundreds of thousands of books dedicated to bringing all of this historical beauty to the here and now.
This is real Art. This is our job guys. I can’t imagine having a ‘death drawing class’, where we all go to a morgue and happily draw corpses, emptied of soul and energy, wandering around each other’s drawings, critiquing and chatting away the time. It’s called ‘Life drawing’ because that’s exactly how we learn.......from drawing from LIFE (and the occasional dead animal if you’re a wildlife artist lol).
It doesn’t MATTER what anyone else thinks of your art. It’s what YOU think that matters most and only YOU know how to be better at it, and it’s called hard work. It only takes ONE person to like it and you have an award, and only ONE person to buy it and suddenly, you’ve sold.
I guess what I’m trying to share with you here, is that there is nothing more unique to you and more fitting to your existence than to express yourself in the now. Everything you need to inspire you is right here. Nowhere else. Look around. Look at the people who surround you. Look at your world and embrace it with reverence........it’s your reality. Whether you like it or not, life is taking YOU on a journey. Strap yourself in and embrace it because it’s all you have. Train your brain to pay attention. Train your eye to discover the colours. Because believe me, there are colours out there that DO exist and they are pure and inconceivable. Find your artistic soul, discover, be curious, play and be in awe of YOU, because YOU are incredible.
Art really is ‘clinging to life’, because YOU are art. You are life. Without life THERE IS NO ART!
You can search all of your life for something that’s missing, but you’re not going to find it until it’s your time. Full stop. Everything that you need to succeed, to endure, to develop and to be remembered is within you already. Including your precious talent as an artist.......just close your eyes and let the images come to you, then, find them and make that vision a reality. Let the colours sing to you, feel their vibration and don’t question the inspiration, let it flow through you and out of your pencil.
Finally, aside from the art, this is what I really want to share. When your time comes, and it will, you won’t be going alone. Someone you love, even if it’s a dog, will be waiting for you and will guide home. I’ve been asked if I’m afraid of death now, and my answer today is ‘NO’. What I saw and experienced was calming, safe and beautiful. Inconceivable beauty. I would have gone had I not been told to go back. Even if you are afraid, just remember this one thing, you will not cross alone.
But before you do any of that, go and make some beautiful art- and don’t dilly dally. You’re running out of time!! Art IS life. It just can’t be anything else. Only you can give it oxygen to breathe.
Thanks for reading.
For those what would like to know about people who had has a similar experience to me, and believe me, I’ve found many now that I’ve reached out, this is one story that accurately matches mine, section 4:
And here is a woman who has four cones and can see millions of colours......I guess she will have some idea of what I saw too in the place in-between. Interesting read.
'The Mothers Club'. That's what they call it. Membership is steep, and expensive. What you have to sacrifice to be a part of this club is almost unbelievable. How could any club legitimately require 'that' of it's members? What is the 'that?'.
You see, the thing about this membership is, is that you don't know that you're in the club until you are part of it all........and the committee meetings are intense- stressful but healing.....as women ,by chance, we open up and share our loss, and rally together to help.......this is the mothers club, a silent, exclusive club, women only.
THAT, the thing that women go through to be a part of the mothers club is unbearable.........the loss of a child.
I often say to people when I teach, "Don't draw when you're sick- if you can avoid it!". The last 9 weeks have seen nothing but snot, rashes, coughs and slime in our house and drawing has been difficult. When I draw when I'm sick my work becomes messy, the lines heavy and the subject matter a little darker what I would normally be inspired to do. I never do my best work, and no one would argue that this is ! lol. And so it is the case with this work. And yet, Art is supposed to be a way to express yourself- and allow others see and feel a place that they may not be able to go to without the visal inspiration.......
This is a tombstone. It doesn't exist. It's a vision of immortality and a symbol of perpetual love- my perpetual love for someone I loved unconditionally, and lost.
This year I was quite moved by mothers day- I lost my mum 23 years ago. The day creeps up on you, and some years are far better than others, I always know that a few weeks later is the anniversary of her death. This year was a 'shocker'. lol.
And so, this tombstone is how we feel as women- we're always bonded to our children, be they still here or not, we're always protective, and the grief and loss of a child, or in my specific case with this work, the loss of a mother, only highlights the fact that we take our love for them to our graves.........an eternal embrace of enduring love. They're never ever forgotten........kxx
(Dedicated to every mother who has ever lost a baby, and every person who has ever lost their mother.)
"My heart is innately driven to draw.... everything I see is a drawing, every face, animal and life is art......and this is my art. Enjoy. Kindly Karina xx"