the start of a new book

Voices From The Crows Nest

Introduction

We all seem so tired, dont we?

Worn out, frustrated, frightened of the abyss either side of the production line we’re all chained to. Television screens circle and spew images spurring us on, laughing, applauding. We march forward, our blinkered sight unwavering, set firmly on that apple dangled in front of our noses. We convince ourselves that its safer to chase the prize than jump off and anyway its so close. We slaver, knowing we’ll get a taste any minute if we just hang in there, all those voices keep telling us so. Soon we’ll reap that sweet reward, after all the treadmill seems to be going faster and faster. Our tongues at full stretch, aching, flick at the tempting fruit. Into focus come other tongues after the same prize, the one we have worked so hard to nearly snatch. Tongues become barred teeth and growls – you know the story.

There has to be more, doesn’t there?

Of course there is, we just got a little lost, seduced by clowns laughing as they ushered us into the fair-ground with promises of endless entertainment and all our hearts could desire. We got on the carousel and couldn’t get off. We fought for a better position, a faster ride a more comfortable horse until we forgot what it was like before. We exchanged the colour of spring blooms for garish neon and the winds whisper for squeals and groans.

There has to be hope though, doesn’t there?

Of course there is. Look above, high in the crows nest that nestles in the realm between earth and the heavens, the abode of our artistic champions. Painters and poets, seers and messengers who dare travel into the other, the abyss that surrounds the everyday. For it is through their works that we may see a different path.

It’s a tough gig though, isn’t it? Being an artist or a poet.

I mean trying to show humanity how to see the world in a new light, asking them to take time to feel again. What do you say? How do you show them? Would they even listen or see? What if you were wrong? Its a risky business all this dabbling in the mysterious isn’t it, always open to ridicule or worse. Its a calling not for the feint of heart is it.  In essence its all about communicating a message searched for and dragged kicking and screaming from the other for all to see and ponder. Good luck with that one.

There are to few who are brave enough, or indeed foolish enough though to take up the challenge whilst others have no choice but are born to it. It is these visionaries, these prophets huddled in that precarious crows nest who hold the answers.  If we care to listen instead of occasionally glancing up with confused

frowns and mumbled distain the world just might be a better place.

Scratching Ones Head

So it is that I sit at this very moment writing, cocooned in ochre and oxide red, charcoal grey and shadow black. The sound of heavy industry groaning and humming all around me as a never ending stream of steel is produced. I too am stuck on the carousel but want desperately to jump off and take my place in that crows nest instead of clambering up there when time permits. My apple morphs into a butterfly and my tongue a brush. The calling of colour is strong. I daydream, what if I just stepped off, just stopped and scratched my head as I watched the ride continue on without me. What then?

Would I look around and see signposts to other destinations, be free to choose anywhere, go and do anything, the thought is deliciously liberating. I pause, dim lights and feint squeals in all directions, carousels whirl everywhere. Same ride with a different game or do I just think to much?

I sit and ponder some more ( the power of a good ponder can never be underestimated ). What’s it all about then? Oh, not that old one I retort, God hasn’t it been done to death, you know very well that nobody really knows, so why bother asking such stupid questions?

Hmmmm.

Because I’m an artist?

My mind wanders as the carousel continues to moan and whine. I contemplate another journey into the mysterious aether of the unknown, the realm of the other, deeper this time. A quest to fathom what it all means. Its worth a shot. After all isn’t that what artist’s do?

I start……………… Blank.

A confused frown and grimace envelope my face just like those uninitiated below as they stare up to the crows nest with a grunt. Its a bit scary up here sometimes.

Where do I start?

Maybe I dont have to find the answers, the absolute, perhaps I should just try to pin down and make sense of my own beliefs, after all they are just as valid as anyone else’s. Search the other for answers to my dilemma and with luck give others an insight to theirs. Sounds feasible.

The game is afoot, as Sherlock would say. Tally-ho

Have you ever really asked yourself, with conviction, what you truly believe in and got a decisive answer. Or is it just me. Its tougher than you think, scratching and pawing through the caverns of your mind. Asking passing thoughts if they believe they’re right only to be taunted with another question in reply. Meandering down endless corridors only to find dead ends or sign posts directing you to even more obscure questions. What do you really believe………. Oh really?

Its worse than the carousel, at least you have direction there.

I ponder some more, dig deeper……..

Hmmmmmm, pin down beliefs.

Belief in what ? That was a stupidly open question to start with wasn’t it. Maybe I should just paint some pictures of flowers instead. Oh but the connotations of that, the hidden meanings or expressed feelings.

Who’d want to be an artist

But I digress. Back to the problem at hand. I pause to look out of a small window, my carousel whirls a few floors up from the ground. Blue skies, cyan, a single hue, no clouds. I soak up the calm serenity of it, still, sweet. I lower my eyes to heavy beams, iron and rust. Vehicles, prehistoric in size go about their business. Dust and plumes of smoke dance in the breeze. Where was I just a second ago. I think of flowers again.

Where did it all go so wrong? How were we so easily fooled by those clowns? ( it occurs to me now why some people have a dread fear of them ) Surely we must have got it right at some stage along the path, after all look at all the messiahs, prophets, sages, philosophers, indeed artists and poets who have tried to guide us through the ages. Maybe we just weren’t listening or maybe we just misinterpreted everything.

Maybe they were just clowns in a different guise.

I ponder, a long painters ponder

Then She arrives. I say she as I always feel the essence of the feminine, or is it just thinly veiled memory from books read. The Muse. She taps me on the shoulder, tentative at first, seeing if I’m aware. Another tap, I know that feeling, that spark. Something’s coming, germinating from the tantalising vapour of the other. She opens the door for me to take a peek.

“Annunciation! You know, like the angel telling Mary she was going to give birth to the messiah”, the Muse offers.

I peer through the door as it creaks open a little wider. What is She getting at ? I squint my gaze, She shakes her head.

” Prophets have all the answers don’t they ?”  She sighs.

“Well I suppose so”, I mumble to myself.

Ok dear reader, epiphanies are not always instant light bulb moments. Sometimes the ever patient Muse has to poke you a little harder. But eventually…………. The penny drops

Why don’t you bring into being your own prophet. Paint him and see where it leads. Maybe you can make sense of your jumbled, rag-tag beliefs in the process.

Drum roll and trumpets please.

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in the beginning

tightrope

She died. They werent close by any means but there was something there, unspoken. Truth be told, not often even thought about much but there none the less. He had made a point of seeing her toward the end, to thank her and give her a painting, one that had recently won him a prize. It was all due the her ofcourse.

Mrs. Oates, Jean, head mistress of Scott St. Primary school. Beehive hair-do and mascara circa 1968. Him, all mousey mane and baggy grey shorts. Morning assembley with Union Jack and Southern Cross dancing in the warm breeze. Another school day under the South Aussie sun.

Mornings, when the easles all stood to attention and the paint pots smiled were the best. He loved the large sheets of butchers paper and brushes nearly as long as his arm. Today a painting of kids playing soccer in the yard, joyous faces and circle and stick hands. Enter Mrs beehive. Wonderful, wonderful.

She entered the boys work into a world health organization (UNICEF) youth art prize and the five year old wins a prize. More smiles and encouragement from her.

Thats all it takes.

High school and the sale of a couple of paintings before he leaves the educational cuccoon to find his way in the world. A simple pat on the back, nice work son.

Thats all it takes.

He got a job and earnt his bread but didnt stop creating. A painting shown here and there, every now and again a small sale, nothing much but enough to keep the passion ticking.

It doesnt take much, in fact by now painting is a need, like air and he couldnt stop if he tried.

With age the beehive turns to cropped grey and he with dappled beard and kids. They share the odd hello hows the art going and a smile in casual passing over the years. He sees her looking enthusiastically at his work hung with wine and cheese nibbles.

It finally dawns on him how instramental she was to his journey.

She died. They werent close but he wont forget her gift.

It doesnt take much.

Now he, in turn, takes on workshops with a new generation from time to time and thinks of her

Thank you jean

selected as a finalist

Great news, Ive just been selected as a finalist to be hung in the 2013 city of whyalla art prize

 

http://www.countryarts.org.au/show/whyalla-art-prize/

 

the raft

his father

portrait of my father

It was a whirlwind, a flurry. He came in with purpose and passion, it had been too long, days away from the still new varnish and fresh paint smell of the polished studio. Lights, music, action. Even the dogs scurried in and out with tail wagging vigour. it was unseasonably warm outside but a cold amber ale made everything cooler.

I hadnt expected this though, a new canvas, pristine soul seekng white, not the large work he had started when last he made his presence felt. I was intregued. It started quickly, him dancing and darting in front of a figure, seated. I moved closer, he didnt notice ofcourse, eyes glazed in that twilight state. The face began to form quickly, chiseled from the virgin white. I began to recognise…….. yes, his father, I think. I had seen him last, busy, smoke hanging from bottom lip, sawdust on his brow, helping lay the studio floor, thick Welsh accent still even after long years in the Austalian bush.

He sat and took a breath, it was progressing quickly, the Muse was certainly guiding his hand this time. Ive seen it on occassion, its as if he is just the messanger obediently scribbling visions from the other.

the next coulpe of days went on like this, furious conducting with the brush followed by a beer and contemplation, dogs panting, sniffing, in and out, grown daughters popping theIr heads in only to complain about the music, both its volume and how crappy his taste was. Then as quickly as it started it finished. So there the newest creation stands, proudly on his easle.

the lights dim and the music fades. Squeak, click and hes gone again, off I suppose to do battle in the trenches of the industrial chaos and clamour.

He’ll be back

Good morning

self
Clunck, squeak, slurp, yawn. He popped in this morning still smelling all blue collar. Socked feet, blue pants drooping, fluro yellow and blue work shirt, they used to be orange, wth those silly silver reflective bands around his arms and belly now bloated both with age and his wifes fine cooking. He had his tea, the fancy stuff he liked, smells like rose and vanilla this time. White mug with the welsh flag printed on the side. He had lived in Australia for forty five years but still thought of his heritage. Another yawn brought a glaze to his darkly shadowed eyes. he ambled over to the easle and sqinted at the progress of the sepia smudges and calligraphic lines of the under painting. I knew he was still happy with the work so far, a smirk and satisfied mumble to himself. I just watched the mountain from the top of the bookshelf as he sluggishly scratched his arse and pottered around for a bit doing nothing in particular. Another slurp or two. God that tea does smell nice, all roses and turkish delight. He played with the leaves of the newly potted bonsai fig before scooping it under his arm and taking it outside for some fresh air and sunshine.

The door squeaked and cluncked behind him. Off for a vampire sleep now I suppose. Ive had a long night to, think its time to slink away to my cosy nest as well.

Good morning to you

Thats him you know

portrait 2 progress

Oh hi, you startled me peeping through the studio window. Hes still not here you know, out all night again at work, makes steel you know, always complaining he cant make enough from his art, moan, moan, grizzle  complain. What can a poor mouse do. So I just listen and nod, sighing.

Thats him there you know, not the prettiest pup in the pet shop I know but he has his moments  and dont be fooled by that grizzly bear exterior hes soft as butter really.

Anyway, hes excited about the new work, well I think he is, a raised eyebrow and mumble to that effect. He does know I hang around, been caught in side glances and acknowledged with a smile and raised glass a few times. Im sure those rhetorical questions are aimed at me Sometimes. Does he think I have the answers?  Maybe he is as simple as he looks.

Im sure he will amble in again soon and pick up a brush. Ill let you know how it goes

 

Its all so new

DSCN0127

well finally he’s fixed up the place. All new and clean and shiny. Great for him but I liked all the clutter and mayhem, wonderful nooks and crannies from which to hide and watch, explore and ponder, but now look. Still, give it time and I’m sure the magic and poetry will be back, The place just needs a bit of seasoning.

He’s not here as you can see. Probably out trudging through the industrial landscape earning a dollar or two to pay the bills. He’ll be back soon enough though with that music on and a glass of wine or three. He’ll sit for a while at first, just to get his bearings again and then ease out of the chair, smudge some colour on the palette and begin again to “chase the butterfly”

I’ll let you know how it goes

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