Opening Night for the "52-Week Illustration Challenge" exhibition at Arts Brookfield Gallery, Perth, Australia, was on Monday night, so the embargo is finally lifted. My shortlisted entry for "Week 11: Architecture" (for which I did an architectural caricature watercolour of the infamous Number 96 building) is on the wall! Number 96, of course, was the popular/naughty TV soap opera in Australia in the 70s, and a major part of this blog's origins.
"When children's author Tania McCartney challenged herself to produce an image per week for 52 weeks, to reconnect with her long-lost love of illustration (and hopefully illustrate her own books), she never imagined her tiny seed of an idea would become a mighty oak. Now in its second year, and with over 3000 members from around the globe, the weekly Facebook group has spawned connections and reconnections with decades of lost creativity. Friendships have been formed, collaborations forged, contracts signed, books produced, careers redirected, lives changed. And yes, Tania has realised her dream of illustrating her own books. Dare to dream. "The exhibition features one carefully selected piece from each of the 52 themes in 2014." [From the entry poster.]
A great introduction to the 52-Week Illustration Challenge Exhibition is this video clip by The West Australian newspaper:
Towards the conclusion of the 2014 Challenge, we were asked to submit our thoughts, perhaps to be compiled as testimonials:
MOTIVATION AND DISCIPLINE
What I immediately latched onto with the Challenge was an opportunity to, once again, accept a series of external hard and fast dates (this time 52 of them!). The deadlines to complete something were invaluable. This seems to be how I get the best out of myself. In my daily life, I will happily postpone and ignore self-imposed deadlines, and rarely get things done as getting through the days just swamps me and keeps me distracted. I do seem to be able to meet externally applied deadlines, though, and I happily achieved the individual 365 Photos Challenge a few years ago (which lasted a whole year), and I was then bemused/disappointed when a group of enthusiastic teacher colleagues starting dropping like flies during a month-long 30 Photos Challenge a few years later.
So Tania's initial list of 52 weekly art deadlines, the already-assigned topics, was just the Challenge I'd been waiting for. I remembered back to an adult evening college art collective I joined in 1980, and had continued with until moving house in late 1984. The weekly two-hour art-making sessions made me quite productive. In that focused time, amid the happy banter of people relaxing and being creative, I could often achieve a finished piece - so very satisfying! Upon reexamining it the next morning, there would sometimes be a few finishing touches (a schedule that has become a great yardstick for the 2014 Challenge, too, actually). But the enforced discipline to complete something was invaluable.
Week 25: Dots - Fairy Fatality Bread
THEMES AND MEDIA
Knowing the 52 topics ahead of time, and being exposed to the daily uploads from all the other group members, helps to get ideas percolating in my head. Without the Challenge, these ideas might often flash through my head, but I don't usually act upon them. Or I simply never put aside the time and another once-great idea fades away. With the Challenge sitting in a corner of my brain, a mere stroll through a $2 bargain store, a new art supply store, the local Bunnings, the dog park, a cloud formation, or a classroom at school (I'm a primary school teacher-librarian), ideas for possible ways to marry certain themes and art media can merge - and emerge - resulting in singularly clever and innovative artworks. Without a doubt, some of my favourite pieces I've shared in the Challenge have been physically created in just minutes - sometimes seconds! - but the thought processes may have evolved in my head over many days, or weeks, and sometimes months.
So the cello bags of feathers I bought months ago (just before "Feather" week) were also on hand for "Black + White" and "Bird" weeks. The papier mâché koala mask I bought on a whim went with me to the USA so I could be prepared to paint it up at my penpal's house in Michigan for "Sydney" week. I knew that the cupcake patty pan cases in my pantry were destined to make it into "Under the Sea" week the moment I saw some child craft creations in a Kindergarten classroom months earlier.
Week 11: Architecture - Number 96 Lindsay Street, Paddington
SHARING IDEAS AND TECHNIQUES
I have been deliberately eclectic when approaching the theme each week and have been inspired by the many ideas and techniques displayed (and sometimes explained) on the Facebook page and the blog that Tania set up. It has been rewarding to share my own little tricks I've picked up over the years, and then to see what people do with them! Squinting to see the negative shapes, the "rules" for painting authentic skies, clouds and horizons, paper weaving, "drawing on the right side of the brain", long-forgotten kids' art from people's own childhoods, such as crayon resist... So much fun to share!
Because of this Challenge, I tried watercolour for the first time (beyond those frustrating Boxing Day memories of childhood, trying to use a giant Christmas gift tin of watercolour paint cakes and totally messing up a colouring book, and then going back to one's reliable, predictable pencils and Textas). Due to my success with that first watercolour scene, I've now done many more. with a long row of recently framed watercolours in my lounge room.
I think I've found new respect for collage. Several artworks created by me for this Challenge have surprised me by evolving into 3D collages just before the deadline. A few times it has been to repair an accidental splodge. A few times the artwork begged for some signage, or a naturally-cast shadow. And sometimes the 2D artwork simply refused to remain two-dimensional.
I've tried to be quite spontaneous. Several of my artworks have been created without pencil guidelines! Sometimes I amaze myself with such bravery (and dumb luck) and, again, those are the pieces that often seem to receive the most praise, which encourages me to be brave (or lucky) more often.
Week 35: Paris - Abbesses, le Métro
THE QUEST TO FIND ONE'S STYLE
I know it's been mentioned on the Challenge page often. So many of us have an obvious "style", but so many of us seem to be searching for one. I know I've now found a few ways to make my own works quirkily unique to me, but have I yet found my style? I think the quest may be ongoing.
I know it's important to embrace serendipity, and of that there has been no shortage in this Challenge. In "Boxes" week, I had to create a display in a box for my school library. I travelled in a plane approaching "Plane" week, and then there was that terrible air disaster that (at first) threatened to shadow our efforts with doom and gloom, but we were triumphant and respectful. I had to create both "Sydney" and "Snow" in Michigan, USA, where I usually see so much snow - but it was the middle of their summer. I loved how "Bird" week happened to fall in National Bird Week, catching Tania by surprise. Serendipity is alive and well and we embrace it!
Speaking of serendipity and wild coincidences:
Above: This is Bettina Dodson, my frame buddy. Her work for "Week 12: Numbers" and mine are right next to one another. Bettina was named after actress Bettina Welch, who (as Maggie Cameron) once blew up the Number 96 deli in my painting with a bomb!
To top off an amazing week, my image Fairy Fatality Bread, created for a different week of the 2014 Challenge, was requested for publication in a new romance fanzine, Trousseau, launched last weekend at the annual Australian Romance Readers' Convention!
THE VIRTUAL TOUR
And here's the whole thing! The virtual tour of the 52-week Illustration Challenge Exhibition Opening Night, as blogged by Tania McCartney and Nicky Johnston!
Tania and Nicky have also compiled a report on the exhibition, with more photos and the text of Tania's Opening Night speech: HERE!
Captain's Log: Supplemental: The exhibition has now been extended to Friday 27th March!