Art of Letter Writing

A participant in the Art of Letter Writing course that I have been running was visiting the Corowa Museum and took photos of these letters that are on display.

An Approach to Memoir

One way to prepare for writing a memoir or, for that matter, an autobiography, is to gather photos which depict distinct periods of life. I collaborated with Natalie d’Arbeloff many years ago when I interviewed artists and published those interviews in the Artists Loft, which was a vibrant corner of the Soul Food Cafe.

Blanche d’Arbeloff, born April 17, 1904, died August 19, 2001.

Blanche began painting at the age of 94, when people might be excused for staring trancelike at flickering images on their TV sets. In the last three years of her life she produced an extraordinary body of work bursting with vitality, spontaneity and originality.

Her first exhibition was held in May 2000 at the Mary Ward Adult Education Centre in London where she enrolled for painting classes after her husband died in 1996, aged 101. She and Alexander had been together for nearly 80 years.

Born in Paris, Blanche began working as a milliner in haute couture, but was swept off her feet and into a new life by Alexander (Sacha), an aristocratic Russian emigré. At first he was involved in film production in Paris, then in magazine publishing, and eventually in writing novels. Sacha’s restless search for new horizons took him, his young wife Blanche and their two small daughters to Paraguay, where he conceived and organized a major road construction project, giving this tiny landlocked country an outlet through Brazil. The family then moved to the United States where they became naturalized citizens and had another child, a son.

In spite of her globe-trotting existence, Blanche never lost either her French accent or her French joie de vivre, evident in the exuberantly coloured paintings that reflect the rich variety of her experiences seen through fresh, unsophisticated eyes.

Blanche and Sacha settled in London about 25 years ago and she began to explore some of the creative possibilities available in adult education, trying her hand at pottery, sculpture, bookbinding, weaving and printmaking – the latter taught by her daughter Natalie at the City Lit Institute – but it was her discovery of painting that determined her true vocation.

Blanche’s art tutors at the Mary Ward Centre recognized her unique talent and encouraged her while admitting she was “unteachable” – she would do things only her way and ignored all instruction that did not fit her own inner vision. Not one to accept the limitations of old age, she insisted on walking up and down the five flights of stairs to the art studio at Mary Ward every week until her legs finally refused to obey her will.

Blanche became house-bound for the last four months of her life, but her spirit remained alert, interested in everything, serving as an example to all who came in contact with her. She died peacefully at home, surrounded by her family and her life-affirming artworks.

I am proud and eternally grateful for the privilege of having her as my mother.

by Natalie d’Arbeloff.

Backing Your Own Backyard

People ask us all the time how we travel so much. Want to know our secret? Most of our travels and outdoor adventures aren’t far. In fact, many of them are in our own backyard or within a 2-3 hour radius from our home. Sure, we love to travel to far off places and try to do that as often as we can, but we also know that we can see some pretty awesome places nearby too.

We may not be readily able to to travel outside Victoria but we can explore our own backyard. The Goldfields Guide is a rich mine of information for anyone wanting to get out and about. Why not rug up, lace up your boots, pack a bag with your journal supplies, a thermos and something to eat and head out to explore our fascinating backyard.

More Resources

8 Tips for Finding Adventure in Our Backyard

Why Every Aussie Should Explore Their Own Backyard

 

Travel Inside Artwork

Before lockdown I used to take my writing groups to the Castlemaine Art Gallery and encouraged them to sit with art work and imagine themselves entering the scene that the artist had created or talk to the character whose portrait had been painted. At a time when so many places are closed or restricting entrance there are an abundance of virtual galleries that we can visit. 

Transpose yourself inside Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriël ‘s “In the month of July” painting! Visit Netherlands windmills farms in 1889.

Lean on These Resources

What is originality? It is a fallacy to think you have to come up with totally original ideas. Take the time to contemplate and consider which creative giants have influenced you. Who have you leaned on? 

These resources are ideal for journal keepers, looking for extra ideas.

How often, for example, do we ask ourselves what makes us happy and what we really want from life. In ‘A Life of One’s Own’ Marion Milner set herself to grapple with this. It is written in the spirit of a detective story searching out clues. As readers we get caught up in the chase and find ourself looking for our own clues.

‘The New Diary’ by Tristine Rainer provides a very modern concept of journal keeping and is as much for someone who has kept a journal as it is for someone who is just beginning. It does not tell us the right way to keep a journal but, rather, offers numerous possibilities.

Exercise: Recalling a Special Childhood Place – from ‘House – Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home’

Starting a Journal

Students often think of journals, sketchbooks or visual diaries as a chore, but they can be an exciting space where they can synthesize and express experiences of both the external world and their own internal worlds of imaginings, feelings, dreams and ideas.

In this time of lockdowns, journals can be an even more useful tool.

This week’s resources will help you inspire students to let go of pre-conceptions, be experimental and find the joy in starting an artist journal.

Source: Latrobe Art Institute  Education Matters Edition #7
Link to Education Matters sent by Carol, one of our journal group.
You will find more 2020 resources here 

Tell Their Story

Paper dolls are figures cut out of paper or thin card, with separate clothes, also made of paper, that are usually held onto the dolls by paper folding tabs. They may be a figure of a person, animal or inanimate object. Paper dolls have been inexpensive children’s toys for almost two hundred years. Today, many artists are turning paper dolls into an art form.

Paper dolls have been used for advertising, appeared in magazines and newspapers, and covered a variety of subjects and time periods. Over the years, they have been used to reinforce cultural beliefs regarding the appearance of ideal women.

Today, they have become highly sought-after collectibles, especially as vintage paper dolls become rarer due to the limited lifespan of paper objects. Paper dolls are still being created today.
Source: Wikipedia

Perhaps as a part of a mixed media project you could make dresses for paper doll figures using things like water colours and silk flowers. Then you can create a world for your characters to live in and fill a journal telling their story.

As Good a Time as Any to Make a Start

Today is a good day to do what we have been talking about doing – to begin creating our new journal.

The Muddle-headed Wombat – Ruth Park

After a frost it is a bright and sunny day today! What to do? Alas! It is another Covid day and we are all supposed to be staying at home. At least in the Muddle Headed Wombat’s world the rain that saw them pull out their paints and pencils was eventually going to stop.

This Covid business is lingering on and on, with no end in sight.

It is the perfect time to get out the paints and pencils and make a start on that journal we all promised to start.

I draw a card from the Australian Animal Wisdom Cards and the Fairy Penguin reminds me that whatever is going on, we are here to work at living, not, as so many would have me believe, here to be serious and living just to work.

If you are reading this, do that thing you have been talking about doing right now! Let yourself play! Start the journal by creating a notebook to put your first ideas in! Go on! Just do it!