Monthly Archives: April 2021

The baby we had to have

Left to right: Emily, Lucy, Matthew, Alicia
Left to right: Emily, Lucy, Matthew, Alicia

(First posted on April 30th 2014)…I’ve told this story many times but in case you missed it, here it is again.   In early 1993 I was happily married with two daughters when out of the blue Matthew (husband) announced that he wanted another child.  This was quite a shock but after several weeks of thinking about it, I decided to rise to the challenge.  Have I already said that Matthew is one of thirteen children?  No wonder he wanted a third.

Lucy was born on 30th April 1994.  Today she is 20!  It has occurred to me during the past few hours that it is also 20 years since I put down my paint brushes and picked up coloured pencils – and it is all thanks to Lucy.

Working with my coloured pencils in the lounge while Lucy had a sleep, 1994.
Working with my coloured pencils in the lounge while Lucy had a sleep, 1994.

Any new mother who is also an artist knows that it is extremely hard to do one’s art with a new baby.  I was working in oils back then.  I thought I’d be able to paint when Lucy had her naps.  The reality was anything but.  Once I thought she was asleep I would go to my studio and start to mix colours.  But…oh no…a sound from the nursery.  And now that sound is turning into crying.  Ahhh!!  And so it went.  I thought I might go mad.

I had a light-bulb moment.  Try coloured pencils.  I had used them briefly at art school; why not try them again?  Matthew thought it was a good idea.  I took myself off to the local art shop and bought a 72 box set of Derwents and a 36 set of Stabilo Softcolor pencils…and some paper.  I didn’t know what it would be like working in pencils but it had to be more convenient than oils.   And no matter what it would be like, at least I’d be doing art.

"Lucy's Buzzy Bee" 1994, my first coloured pencil drawing.
“Lucy’s Buzzy Bee” 1994, my first coloured pencil drawing.
"Summer Window" 1994, my second colour pencil drawing.
“Summer Window” 1994, my second colour pencil drawing.

I also kept a pair of earplugs at my art desk so that I didn’t hear the small sounds that a baby makes when she is going off to sleep.  I was so nervous of those tiny sounds.  If I didn’t have the earplugs in I wouldn’t be able to relax enough to draw.  After an hour or so I’d take my earplugs out though I’d still hope she wouldn’t wake for another hour.   As long as I could keep doing my bit of art once each day I could nearly cope with what it took to be a mother-of-a-baby all over again.

Timeless 1997
Drawing from collage

For the first few years of using coloured pencils I didn’t draw from my own photos.  Instead I bought all sorts of magazines, cut up the photos and made collages from them.  Then I would draw using the collage as source material.  This is mainly because I didn’t have the opportunity to go out to take photos – and – consumed with baby I didn’t even have photo-taking ideas of my own.  Much easier to find images from magazines and compose from them.  I could do my composing in quiet moments or at night.

Artefacts Around 1998
Drawing from collage.

Lucy doesn’t mind at all that she is ‘the baby we had to have’.  She knows the story.  If it wasn’t for her I might never have stopped painting in oils.  I’m very glad I did though.  I much prefer pencils to oils.  And as to Lucy…she is the only daughter still living at home and … she’s OKAY!  As Wallace said to Gromit, Lucy is “a valuable addition to our modern lifestyle”.

Lucy riding in the New Forest, England, in 2010.
Lucy riding in the New Forest, England, in 2010.

2021 note:  Seven years after I first posted this, Lucy is 27 today – and now lives across the other side of Australia from us.  We miss her VERY MUCH!

Lucy and Julie at the opening of “Fascination” art exhibition in 2016.
Lucy admires my Caran d’Ache Supracolor Exceptional Box in 2018.

On another note – THANK YOU to everyone who came to “An Italian Dream” art exhibition (8-18 April 2021). I am still in recovery; that is, still reflecting on the wonder of it all. It was fabulous to talk art for 11 days with so many interested visitors. I loved it. Now I am getting used to being a quiet-artist-at-home once again.

“An Italian Dream” opening celebration on 8 April 2021. (Missing-in-action was Lucy who couldn’t come over from Sydney.)

Pictures from Italy

Nearly everybody in the world who reads my blog was unable to visit the art exhibition which opened on April 8th 2021 featuring 24 of my drawings and 22 clay sculptures by Robyn Varpins. The world is vast. I live in the most isolated city within it – Perth, Western Australia.

So here is the collection of drawings which took 28 months to put together. I am showing them in the order in which they were drawn along with a brief description of each.

Early One Morning 07:50 on a November Saturday in Cannaregio. It is my first morning discovering Venice. 35 x 28 cm. January 2019. SOLD

A Room with a View I am contemplating a nocturnal view from a window of our Cannaregio apartment. 31.5 x 25 cm. January 2019. SOLD

The Remains of the Day Looking across the Venetian lagoon to Punta della Dogana and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute as the sun descends in the west. 36.5 x 31 cm. February 2019. SOLD

Silent Night All is quiet except for lapping water, a soft breeze, and footfalls in Dorsoduro late at night. 32.5 x 29 cm. May 2019. SOLD

Deep in Castello One may feel submerged within the narrow vertical spaces of Venice, as I do, deep in Castello. 31 x 26 cm. August 2019. SOLD

Winter Rain Unrelenting winter rain falls over Venice as the tide stealthily rises. 24 x 20 cm. October 2019.

A View from Lido A hazy view from Lido, looking back across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore. 39.5 x 32 cm. November 2019.

Eventide San Giorgio Maggiore floats in the distance during The Feast of All Souls, November 2nd. 34.5 x 42.5 cm. December 2019. SOLD

Look Out At a lookout on Palatine Hill a yellow legged gull poses under a thundery sky. 28.5 x 30 cm. December 2019. SOLD

Most Serene A vaporetto emerges out of the dissipating sea fog early on a spring morning. 33.5 x 48.5 cm. January 2020. SOLD

Ascension The dome of Santa Maria della Salute glows above the Grand Canal on a heaven-sent evening. 36.5 x 36.5 cm. February 2020. SOLD

Quiet Time On Lido, an obliging yellow legged gull poses before a panoramic view. 33.5 x 53.3 cm. April 2020. SOLD

The Hospital Cat Within the courtyard of Ospedale Civile in Venice lives a small community of cared-for cats. 30.5 x 27 cm. June 2020.

Composition with Cat An alert cat sits within framework at Ospedale Civile, Venice, bringing to my mind a Piet Mondrian composition. 32 x 29 cm. June 2020.

All the World’s a Stage “All the world’s a stage…” wrote William Shakespeare. On Palatine Hill the stage belongs to a yellow legged gull. 32.5 x 48.5 cm. August 2020. SOLD

Another Time Chamonix is an alpine resort in the French Alps near both Switzerland and Italy. On a balmy evening, tourists saunter. 25 x 31 cm. September 2020. SOLD

Good Vibrations It is early evening on lively via Fiori Oscuri in the Brera district of Milan. Lights, colours, action – “I’m picking up good vibrations”. 35 x 29 cm. October 2020. SOLD

Cornered A threat with style! This piece of street art commands attention on a corner wall in Milan. 28 x 31 cm. October 2020. SOLD

Summer Rain A summer thunderstorm causes colours to run in Verona. 24 x 21 cm. November 2020. SOLD

An Autumn Feast The Cathedral of Florence hovers above the autumnal trees of Giardino di Boboli. 25.5 x 28 cm. November 2020. SOLD

An Italian Dream It is a fine autumn morning in spectacular Vernazza. I am dazzled by this fishing village on the Ligurian coast. 41 x 29 cm. December 2020. SOLD

Morning has Broken The palazzi and the Accademia vaporetto stop reflect the rising sun from their east-facing surfaces. 40.5 x 29 cm. January 2021. SOLD

Wet Verona A summer evening thunderstorm erupts over Verona’s pedestrians. 21.5 x 25 cm. February 2021.

Europe Endless A small station somewhere in Europe (Chamonix) invites the question, “Where next?” 23.5 x 20 cm. February 2021.

…and the answer to the question “where next?” is Fremantle (home). But that is another story and possibly another exhibition in 2023….

Robyn and Julie

To view the sculptures of Robyn Varpins, see her website here

And here is a link to the article in The West Australian Newspaper by Journalist Will Yeoman on “An Italian Dream”.

This was opening night on 8 April 2021.