Colour me happy

I’ve been coloring my hair for some time – more years than I can really remember though it’s only been in the last six years that my hair has gone quite grey and I’ve had it bleached white and added toners for interest sake: platinum and other soft shades – variation on a hue.  More recently I’ve been having more funky, striking colours: pinks, lavenders, purples, mauves and one time a peacock blue.  The only colour I hadn’t tried was green. Green just seemed too strange, too uni student grunge and definitely not sophisticated. Tolerant though my workplace was about the varying shades of bright, I very much doubted they could cope with green.  Nor, for that matter could I. One woman I worked with kept saying that she thought green would look great on me but I seriously doubted her judgement. But then one day after having my hair coloured a light blueish tone my hairdresser suggested a pale mint colour would be good.  I was instantly sold on the idea. I could see the exact colour: a pale spearmint.

So next hair cut/colour date my short platinum hair was toned to a pale spearmint. Except it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. It was too green – too yellow-green and not enough of the paler blue green I had envisaged.  No matter. All these colours quickly fade and by the time my next cut/colour date came around my hair just had an ever so slight pale green tinge.  Strangely though that whilst people clearly didn’t like the colour they nonetheless commented that it reminded them of either the old fashioned green milkshakes or a gelato.

I’m so used to having striking hair colour that I forget its unusual. Sometimes I catch people looking at me and wonder what they’re staring at? And then I remember I have blue/pink/purple/turquoise or green hair. I’m always really pleased when people – complete strangers – comment or tell me how much they like my hair. Even women who seem so straight or conservative often tell me how much they like my hair (and how brave I am). But the thing I love most is the reaction from kids for whom my hair is just very, very strange. And when little girls say “you’ve got pink hair” I respond by telling them that I’m a fairy. So much fun. I love the way that small children don’t hide behind manners and protocols; they just come  right out and say (loudly): “mummy, that lady’s got green hair”.  Comments like  that deserve a wink and a smile.  And how wonderful to be able to blow away stereotypes.

The next  time  I got my hair coloured I knew exactly the colour I wanted: in the background of a photo was the exact pale turquoise colour I thought would be great.  It was a soft variation of mint. And thanks to the talented colourist at the salon, that’s exactly the colour I got.  It was gorgeous and most people loved it mainly because it reminded them of gelato and they wanted to lick it. What fun. And how wonderful that someone’s hair colour can make people smile and exclaim in wonderment and strike up a conversation? If what it takes to engage with strangers is crazy hair colour then I’m all for that. Colour me happy.


Processes – a work in progress

i’ve begun a printmaking course. I was inspired by a series of Alan Mitelman prints on my last trip to Melbourne -he’s one of my art heros – and so I thought I would find a printmaking studio in Sydney and start on a series of etchings. I had an idea in mind that I had sketched out and knew how I wanted it to look but was unsure of the process. What eventuated was a double plate image with chine colle (a process whereby you place very fine paper directly into the plate so that it adheres to the paper you’re printing on). One plate was to be a dark drypoint – essentially a heavily cross-hatched plate which would absorb a lot of ink and produce (hopefully) a deep rich velvety colour; the other plate would be an etching of fluid lines. I etched this plate three times so that there were three levels of bite with some of the lines very fine and others much deeper etched and therefore darker.

Printmaking is a slow process. Its a discipline that doesn’t allow shortcuts. First you make marks on your plate – wether drypoint or etched into ground and then dipped into an acid bath – then you print. In order to print you have to do the following: create a registration sheet so you know where to put your plate and paper; soak the paper in water; prepare the ink, ink the plate, rub the plate back (so that the excess ink is removed and you only have ink in the etched surface), then place the registration sheet on the press bed, place the plate in the designated spot, dry the wet paper and place it over the plate and then finally, roll the plate through the press. Only at this stage can you see the results of your effort. And now begins the real work: figuring out where it needs more/less. Oh, and the printed image is the mirror image of the plate which makes for some difficulty in working out where you need to further scratch in or burnish back (particularly when the image isn’t an ‘image’ but abstract lines).

And so you begin again – soak paper, work on plate, ink up, print. And hope that the results are getting you closer to what you had in mind. I was pleased in my second session to have achieved a print that was going in the right direction and thought that week 3 would see me with 3 prints: one with a Prussian blue background and black surface lines, another one the same but with more marks on the background and the final one with chine colle (I was going to use a fine textured bamboo paper to add both colour and texture).

Sadly my printing didn’t go to plan. I couldn’t get my background dark enough (one of the problems of drypoint is that the more times you run it through the press the flatter the marks become and so the ink doesn’t absorb as well) and my first sheet of paper was too wet (adding to the difficulty of absorption) and to top that off, my registration was out.

Printing with two plates imposes another level of difficulty for the novice: you have to be very careful to place the second plate in exactly the same position as the first so that it looks as though it was just one plate. This is something I struggle with – not one of my prints have been spot on in terms of registration. I suspect that this will come with pracitse.

Printmaking can be very frustrating – it takes so long to see how the printed image looks – but its just part of the process. And its something that I really enjoy. Methodical. No shortcuts, just go through the process carefully and meticulously. So very different from the immediacy of painting.

Despite not having achieved my goal (3 prints) I came away from this session feeling OK. I had two bad prints but I knew where I was heading and I knew what I had to do next.

At the start of this course I suspected that it would take me to the end of the year before I had the print I wanted. Along the way I’d try various things – different colours, different papers, different techniques. It is a work in progress. A long steady, meditative process. Its like yoga: some days you can do a pose, other days not. There is no end point. Its just the doing. As they say: sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the tree.

What happens next when there’s nothing to do?

What happens next? That’s the question that’s been absorbing me of late.  Having been made redundant (and not planned for it) I find myself at a loss.  What do I do? I decided to give myself some time: time out; a holiday; a break. Or at least time to not think about what to do – job applications etc.  I thought this might be a time for just being.  Not to get caught up in the process of trying to find a job, to get my life back to where it once was or, alternatively, somewhere else.

And so I embraced this gift of time.  I resolved to enjoy it for all the possibilities it might bring and the pleasures of sleeping in and not having to be anywhere and not battling traffic and worrying about being late: the fact that having left 10 minutes late, the traffic would be gruelling and the journey would take that much longer with its snarls of cars stuck in the wrong lane vying with each other to cut back in, and then at the end of the journey, the search for a carpark.

Breathe.  Do yoga.  And go to they gym.  And organise for my sculpture to be bronze cast.   And make a start on my book/PhD.  And visit friends in Melbourne and elsewhere.  After all, nothing to do.  And yet…. my days  still revolve around appointments and tasks.  Even the mosts tedious and mundane of all – the household tasks (you’re home: can you organise for someone to come in and attend to the plumbing/fixing the door screens/the oven/the minutiae; could you drop off the dry-cleaning/purchase the following/etc etc et).  A million mindless tasks that end up taking my day in a direction I had not foreseen.  All of a sudden I’ve done the washing, taken care of the errands, done the shopping, prepared dinner.  Yes, I’ve gone to the gym or yoga – but probably not both – and then…. and then? Nothing.  The day’s gone. Its still early evening (or worse late afternoon) and I’m feeling spent.  This is the most depressing part of it.   I’ve not actually achieved anything – neither fantasy (this is me time) nor for anything really constructive.

How is it possible to get some structure back into your life when you no longer have any? It is my strong desire to take these days and treat them as ‘me’ days for the entirety of the day – not just an hour here or there. I’ll shop and cook etc as I have done in the past whilst working full time,juggling as we all do.  Just because I’m home doesn’t meant that I’ve become the chief cook and bottle washer.  Or have I? What does a lack of income really entail and who is this new me?