Monday, January 3, 2011

Sorry I Forgot to Finish My Sketchbook

Yeurgh. Christmas - the black hole of black holes. Between shopping, wrapping, eating, drinking and socialising I didn't get a whole lot of sketching done. In fact, I filled a total of zero pages of my sketchbook during the festive season.

With the combination of the pages I tore out from the middle and the pages I haven't filled up at the end my little sketchbook is quite a bit briefer than it's supposed to be. And now the deadline is upon me. But to tell you the truth, I can't bring myself to feel all that bad about it.

I made 23 sketch/collages in 4 months, which is 23 more than I had done in my life before that. I started a blog (no shit, Sherlock, as my schoolfriend's brother loved to say). I drew a couple of pretty tricky things, ranging from a glue tape to the Guggenheim Museum. I discovered washi tape. Some of my pages turned out pretty darn good if I do say so myself. Some of them also turned out a little bit ugly but it didn't really matter. Because part way through the process I realised that what was happening outside the sketchbook was much more important than what was happening inside the sketchbook.

By taking the time to reflect on and make a record of the things I had forgotten, I was simultaneously engaged in the process of finding ways to remember. I remembered to make mix-tapes for friends. I remembered to write to my nanna. I even remembered to send a birthday card to my dear friend Sally. Mostly I remembered who I was, what I loved. I found the gaps in myself and patched them up.

Pretty soon my sketchbook will be winging its way across to the Arthouse Co-op in Brooklyn, and after that it will be journeying all around the US along with the 30,000 other sketchbooks. So my sketchbook will be gone. But all the things I learnt from it will still be with me.

Thanks so much to my friends, family members, fellow bloggers and complete strangers who have followed my journey of artistic ineptitude. If you enjoyed Text is Art please come and visit my new blog Mailbox of Delight.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sorry I Forgot to Return My Books

Don't you love public libraries? Don't you love how you can be a member of a couple in your local area? And how each one will let you get a card for yourself and each of your children? And how on each card you can borrow something in the vicinity of 14 items? Yes, yes, yes! Libraries rock.

Oh, but hang on. What about how some of them charge you 20 cents per book per day for overdue fines? Let's see: 84 books x 0.20 cents per day x 16 days = $268.80. No, no, no! Libraries suck.

Okay, so this is a little bit of an exaggeration. But despite the fact that the libraries send me a friendly email reminder to let me know that my books are almost due, and despite the fact that I can renew my books online or over the phone, I STILL can't seem to manage to renew/return my books on time. So when I finally take the books back and pay the $18 fine, I try to make myself feel better about my idiotic forgetfulness by saying Hi, I'd like to make a donation to this awesome public resource. But it doesn't really work.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sorry I Forgot When to Stop

2 months and 4 days ago we celebrated my husband's 40th birthday. It was one hell of a shindig, and I STILL have the injuries to prove it. Here's how it happened: after about 800 glasses of champagne I thought it would be a good idea to do a flamboyant dance routine, in high heels on the staircase of the bar where we held the party. It turned out that it was not such a good idea after all.In front of about 50 of our closest family and friends I rolled my ankle and fell down the stairs. I landed on my face.  Even though it had hurt quite a bit, I was drunk enough to think it was funny. When a concerned friend asked "Can I get you some ice for it?" I said, "No, but you could get me another champagne".

The next morning I could hardly put any weight on my foot. I had a bruised thigh, a bruised nose and my knee was bruised so badly that it was black. By that afternoon I sent my husband out to hire some crutches. The following morning, I went to the hospital, fearing it might be broken. I had to take the week off work, and 9 weeks later I am still limping. Now it does not seem quite so funny.

I would like to say "after one too many cool beverages I occasionally act foolishly". Alas, that would be a gross understatement. The truth is more like: after TEN too many cool beverages, I commonly act like a madwoman. Lately I have been waking up frequently with alcoholic remorse. The first order of the day: dispatch text messages apologising for inappropriate acts committed the night before:
  • Dear so and so, thank you for dinner, sorry I violated your dessert.
  • Dear so and so, what a great night, sorry I broke that glass and made no attempt to clean it up.
  • Dear so and so, it was great to catch up with you, I'm really sorry about those not-very-nice things I said about your ex-girlfriend.
A couple of weeks ago I had a brainwave: maybe I could stop drinking before I start doing things I'll need to apologise for later. Revolutionary! So this sketchbook entry is an apology to myself: Sorry I forgot when to stop. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sorry I Forgot How to Fly

Last January I was at a David Byrne gig with my friend Bernadette, a 'rug munching' affair at the Perth Zoo. No, no, not that kind of rug munching, I mean people munching while sitting on rugs. Now, I like picnics as much as the next gal - some washed-rind cheese, olives, and prosciutto, a glass of wine in one of those spikes - I'm all for it. But there's a time and a place for it. And then, there's a time to pack the gourmet delights back in the basket, fold up the rug, (if you can ever find that god-damned velcro bit that makes it into a neat little package), get up off the grass and DANCE. But would those rug-munchers pack away their picnics? Would they hell! Did that stop me dancing? No sirree. ("Oh, sorry, I seem to have trampled on your duck-liver parfait. Hey, I've got an idea, why don't you move it out of the way? What do you think this is? A senior's concert?") Anyway, this is a bit of a rant, and also a bit of an aside (the first rule of storytelling, don't start with an aside because you may never reach the middle, although I think someone forgot to tell Salman Rushdie that). 

So the point of this story is... on the way home, lamenting the shameless lameness of the crowd, I recounted for  Bernadette a tale of the halcyon days of yore when after a Violent Femmes concert, the first four rows of seats at the Perth Concert Hall had to be replaced because they had been completely TRASHED by the angsty teenage punters. Of which I was one. Yes, I was standing on the arms of the velvet chairs. I was jumping up and down. I was screaming obscenities (well, they were part of the lyrics). Okay, I have to admit at this point, even this story is an aside. 

The real story begins here:  Bernadette said to me, "Wow, I'd love to see you in full flight". You see, Bern is a newish friend. She has really only known me since I became a mother. And reflecting on Bern's response to my story, I started to feel pretty sad. I felt like I hadn't been in full flight for such a long time, in fact, since Harper had been born. I've heard people refer to marriage as a ball and chain but for me that was a more apt description of motherhood. I felt so restricted, so repressed, so tied down by becoming a mother. It was as though my wings had been clipped. Then, last July, when Harper was 21/2, we went to the US to visit friends in Seattle. My amazing husband stayed with Harper in  Seattle while I took a mini-trip to the Big Apple to see my old mate Swifty. There, in the city of cities, not Mummy, just Annabel again, I remembered how to fly. (I also learned how to ride horsey-style on a drag-queen's back during an impromptu cameo drag-show appearance but that's another story). See, here I am:

The challenge though, was learning how to fly with Harper. Almost a year and a half later, after finally finding the right combination of medication and therapy, I think I'm getting there. A few weeks ago Harper and I raced and wrestled and danced with wild abandon on a football oval, and it felt like flying.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Horror of Public Transport

A long long long time ago, right before I turned 18 for the first time, I enrolled at Curtin University to study Journalism and English. Much to my shock, success in journalism depended on an interest in current affairs. Can you believe they actually expected us to read the paper? EVERY DAY? I mean, I was going to be a rock journalist, writing for NME. I couldn't have cared less about the history of newspaper ownership in WA. There went my major. That left English, which turned out not to be English at all, but a critical theory course, masquerading as English. We analysed bus stops and advertisements for weight loss products in TV magazines. Call me old-fashioned but I thought we would be reading BOOKS.

The other problem with Curtin was that it was not very close to my house and I didn't have a car. I had to catch not one, but THREE buses to get there, and another three to get back home. Sometimes, if I was travelling outside of peak hour, and the connections were less frequent, it could take me two and a half hours to get there. I utilised my time on the bus reading neo-Marxist post-post colonialist interpretations of god knows what.  Fun? Not really.

Before Curtin University became Curtin University someone had the bright idea that it should be called Curtin University of New Technology. Excuse my French but I couldn't help thinking CUNT was a fairly appropriate acronym for the place I had signed up to spend the next 3 years of my life, during which the hours I was clocking on public transport would be at least twice as many as the hours I would spend in class. What to do? Dropping out seemed like a pretty good option.

But my horror of public transport never left me. As an adult I would catch the train but the bus was strictly off limits. It wasn't even a consideration, ever. Last year I began working less than 3 kilometres from home. Occasionally I walked but usually I drove. I gave a lecture on sustainability in which I suggested to my students that, wherever possible, they consider catching the bus instead of driving. Yes! Public transport is great for the environment! Everyone should use it. Except me. 

Then one day our car was at the fix-it shop. My husband suggested I catch a bus to work. In the dim recesses of my mind I had noticed a bus stop, only a few minutes walk from our house, and a little investigation revealed that buses went from there, right past my workplace, every five minutes or so. I took a breath. How bad could it be? I caught the bus. I LIKED it. I listened to my iPod as I walked to the bus stop, and while I sat on the bus (for approximately 3 minutes) and while I walked from the bus stop to the staff room. I could hear 4 songs in each direction! And I was a better global citizen. Huzzah! All hail public transport. I'm so sorry I forgot how to catch the bus.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I first met Jemma through a Text and Gender unit in second year uni. I don't think either of us read any of the assigned texts, but who needed Simone de Beauvoir and Germaine Greer when we were full of our own profound and illuminating ideas on being part of 'the second sex'? We joined the university women's group and enthusiastically signed up to travel to Sydney for the Network of Women Student's National Conference. Psyched up for a week of thrilling female solidarity we were at best ignored and at worst ridiculed for being virtually the only heterosexuals in a sea of dungaree and beanie-clad lesbians. Shame on us for fraternising with MEN! So, after working through our socialist guilt about misusing the plane ticket paid for by the student guild (ah, the good old days!) we did what any self-respecting conference rejects would do - we ditched the conference and went sightseeing. We went shopping in Surry Hills, caught a ferry to Manly and ate fish and chips, watched Koyaanisquatsi at the Valhalla in Glebe, beat on saucepans and cheesegraters late at night in the quadrangle at Sydney uni and told each other pretty much everything that had ever happened to us in our lives so far. It was a little bit like falling in love, but without the kissing.

Jemma was exuberant and excitable, adventurous and irreverent. She had about 8 million admirers, which would have been annoying if she wasn't such an endearing and loyal friend. When she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she would get better. If anyone could beat cancer, Jemma could. And she did, the first time. When the cancer came back, I was living in London. She wrote me dozens of letters while I was away, letters of pain and frustration, hope and despair. I arrived home 2 months before she died. Her beautiful family generously allowed her close friends to visit the hospital as she was dying and I had the privilege of being able to tell her what her friendship had meant to me and to say goodbye to her.

I still miss her and think of her almost every day and I'm sure I always will. This sketchbook entry, woven from strips of the letters she sent me, is not 'sorry I forgot you' but 'I'll never forget you'.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A buzzsaw for a hand!

Lately, Harper has been demanding drawings of Transformers. After fobbing him off repeatedly by saying, Mummy can't draw, sweetheart, why don't you ask Daddy? I eventually crumbled under his pester-power and decided to just give it a go. The first one I copied from the DVD case. It took me about half an hour and bore a vague resemblance to a Transformer. The second one I copied from the first, with some refinements. It looked quite a lot like a Transformer. The third one I drew without copying, with some pretty awesome accoutrements I made up myself including a buzzsaw for a hand. Rockin'! After that I was cooking with gas. I have now drawn 12 Transformers, and counting, including some pretty evil baddies. Yeow!

I realised that drawing, like many other things in life, is something that can be improved with practise. So, I've been practising a little more. I can still only draw things which are in front of me, and my craft supplies have been under my nose a lot since I started the Sketchbook Project, so here they are, my trusty cutter and snail glue.

Earlier this year I gave a short presentation to my students about sustainability. As part of my preparation I did some reserach into and gathered some images of landfill sites. They are pretty darn ugly. I became mildly obssessed with reducing my contribution to landfill. I made a pledge to never buy another disposable pen. Dramatic, yes? I now use pencils, and a fountain pen with a refillable bladder which I received as a gift for my 18th birthday. It's got my name engraved on it. Fancy, eh? I do my drawings with my fountain pen, so I also drew my handsome pot of ink. I threw a few splotches around, just for the hell of it. Why wouldn't you? It reminded me of a time when I used to carry my ink bottle around with me to write my diary. Once, the ink started leaking while I was on the train. I had no tissues but I managed to find a tampon lurking at the bottom of my bag, so I uncompacted it and astounded all the morning commuters with its super-absorbent powers.

What can you keep out of landfill? Do you want to take the NEVER BUY ANOTHER DISPOSABLE X,Y,Z pledge? I think you do.