Quick Stories #7 Artist as a Child

Moggill Farmhouse Brisbane Queensland © Elle 2019

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.

Artist as a Child

His pose seems unrehearsed.   Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent.  His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling.  A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.

This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better.  Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.

Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor.  Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”.  If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.

One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.

“It’s for an art installation.  It has to be unwaxed brown paper!”  He paced the concrete floor.  “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”

The courier didn’t want to understand the significance.  He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.

“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.

Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor.  “Sabotaged!”

“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.”  I tried not to sound too down-trodden.

Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”

I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.

“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly.  “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”

I dabble, you see, landscapes.  His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.

He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.

We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.

I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much.  The honorary title of art advisor suits me.  Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”

When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting.  Goodness knows where these works end up.

Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.

Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Art Deco Delights on Display

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The first photograph shows a Cloche hat (circa 1925) made of rayon, silk organza, sequins and mercerised cotton.  The designer is unknown.  I saw it displayed in the Ipswich Art Gallery exhibition ‘The World Turns Modern’.  It is from the Julian Robinson Collection on loan from National Gallery of Australia.

ART DECO is the predominant decorative art style of the 1920s and 1930s, characterised by precise and boldly delineated geometric shapes and strong colours and used most notably in household objects and in architecture.

Below is my small sample of Art Deco on display.


Ipswich Art Gallery Art Deco Lady with Dogs

The first painting to draw my eye was Christian Waller in her garden with her dogs.
Artist :  Napier Waller (Penshurst, Australia 1893 – Melbourne, Australia 1972)
Title :  ‘Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills 1932’
Materials and technique :  Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on hardboard.
Dimensions :  121.5 h x 205.5 w cm, overall frame 1315 h x 2165 w x 60 d mm (big!)
Purchased :  NGA 1984.

“The frieze-like formality of the painting and its cool, crisp colours underscore the demise of the Waller marriage.”  Such a sad note, and I wonder who got the Airedale terriers?


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Inlaid wood was all the rage and this match box (in book form) took my fancy.  As the information card states, it comprises rose mahogany, yellow wood, rose sheoak, sandpaper and red cedar.  Rare commodities nowadays.


 
 
 
 

This stunning bronze cast (in relief) features a woman wrangling two horses; I liked the strength, energy and symbolism of this piece.  Jean Broome-Norton’s renaissance woman is not life-size but the plinth gives it height and power.


 
 
 
 

The modern front doors of award-winning Ipswich Art Gallery, and inside the original building has been restored and extended.  The shipping and travel poster hints at women enjoying greater freedom, the right to vote and travelling unchaperoned.  The image of the independent woman became popular in graphic design for posters and portraiture.


 
 
Ipswich Art Gallery IMAGE Hilda Rix Nicholas Une Australienne 1926
 
 
This painting appears on gallery advertising posters and epitomises the era.
IMAGE: Hilda Rix Nicholas ‘Une Australienne’ 1926.

Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 2014.
© Bronwyn Wright.


 
Ipswich Art Gallery Art Deco Red Teapot and Teacups
 

Unfortunately my photographs of etchings, square teapots and Lalique glassware did not work due to the lighting.  Pictured above is a red Art Deco tea-set of stunning design, quite petite, which may not have been easy to sip from if you were feeling nervous at a polite society soirée.


 

Left photo :  In a side gallery, I viewed ‘Cover Story: Queensland Arts Council Cover Art and Poster Collection 1981 to 2008’ displaying commissioned work by leading Australian artists and illustrators.  From rough sketches to finished art, it was fascinating to see such big names especially in children’s literature, for example Graeme Base, and my favourite Alison Lester and her 1991 on-tour directory cover.

Right Photo :  Upstairs in the heritage gallery, I just had to take a photo of this wonderful 1895 miner’s brooch which I presume was designed for a man but it is small and delicate.  Made of 15ct gold, it may have been used as a tie pin, and the case is about the size of a snuff box.


 
 
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Time for a cuppa at the Post Office Café.  I was impressed how the colour and table setting matched the Art Deco theme without really trying.  The proprietor of the café told us that she was sick of washing the tablecloths and they were being replaced with inlaid lacquered tabletops.  Shame, but the sweet treats were delicious.

 

 
 
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The view outside had interesting angles and contrasts; the Post Office Café courtyard, the umbrella, the modern buildings and above, as if floating, the original Ipswich Post Office clock tower, circa 1890.


 
 

If you are interested in the Art Deco exhibition, get in quick, it closes this weekend!

 
 
07 Sep 2019 – 27 Oct 2019

“Comprised entirely of works selected from the National Gallery of Australia collection, this exhibition provides superb examples of the diverse expressions of Art Deco.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward