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15 @ 40 // day ten

15 @ 40 // day ten

It’s funny the places growth and evolution show up, often in the most random of inspiration strikes. When I first added “acrylics” to my Fifteen At Forty list, I had the kernel of an idea, but not much in the way of execution. In March of 2019, a new instagram challenge popped up on my feed – #squareathon, a sixteen prompt art making challenge. It pushed and inspired me to play with acrylics in a way I hadn’t done a lot of, and I ended up creating nine semi-decent mini square pieces. From my very first brainstorming session I knew almost immediately I want to use two of my favourite pieces from that collection as my launching point.

Piece one was inspired by travels past, and the drought that was tightening it’s strangle hold on our district, like many others in 2019. Piece two was inspired by a bushfire that roared through tens of thousands of acres in February 2019, leading to days of prep on the farm, and watching ash and burned leaves fall from the sky. Both pieces I loved, and almost a way of processing the worsening situation, which despite our hopes to the contrary, wasn’t in a hurry to improve.

Over winter, we watched and worried and contemplated what to do with our back forest. One wrong wind and that bushfire could have been a lot more of a worry. Winter gave way to spring and the grass gave way to dirt and blue sky gave way to dust as the rains refused to fall. We fine-tuned our fire plan, just in case. It probably would come to nothing – the state forest we back onto hasn’t burnt in the forty years I’ve been alive – but we felt better being a bit prepared as Black Summer started to bite up and down the east coast.

Until it wasn’t nothing, and it wasn’t over-prepared as we loaded cars with belongings that had been stored in our sheds and took what we thought could be a last look at the farm and retreat down the single, dead-end road towards the safety of town. This time, we weren’t so lucky, but still so very much luckier than others. We lost a lot of forest, but nothing material.

Slowly slowly slowly, thanks to rains that came too late for many, the landscape has been coming back over the last couple of years. The massive old trees that didn’t make it still scar the ridges, but around them, green shoots from less-distressed gums are shooting up. Going for a walk, we are pushing through undergrowth and low branches and in the very same step, listening to charcoal crumble beneath our feet. The forest is looking more like itself with each passing week; or at least a new version of itself. Newer, different, but still our forest, even if the paths are now in a different spot and some of our old landmarks are just a memory.

I was on a walk through that self-same forest when inspiration struck. What if, I thought, instead of taking the obvious path from those little squares, what if I created a triptych, a progression from the February 2019 fires, to the December 2019, to the recovery we see now – the original I had planned to be a simple watercolour (included below), but slowly morphed as I walked, collecting bits & pieces as they inspired me. As we watched the hard year that was 2019 roll into 2020, I typed words that turned out to age terribly. “Come at me, 2020, we’re going to RISE like a phoenix”. And while RISE might have looked very different to what I had planned, Mother Nature at her resilient best has indeed risen from the ashes.

This project is a celebration of that. From the before, commemorated in acrylic painting to celebrate a bullet dodge, a photograph to mark the stress and heartache that overwhelmed even my drive to create as a form of therapy, and a new, third piece. A green leaf rejoicing in renewal. Burnt bark marking what has come. Watercolour in ashy black, for the torrents of dirty, fire-stained waters rushing down off the granite when the drought breaking rains did come. And fabric & stitching, incorporating not only creative mediums I use and enjoy, but also a homage to my past selves, of projects tried and inspiration long left dormant. The blue silk is from my stash, learning to silk ribbon as a teen. The stitching is the echo of a project I saw come together during my sewing lessons around the same era – appliqué and thread painting combined to create glorious landscape art.

All three, photographed in the same spot the post-fire photo was shot. Green up along the fence, not blackened stumps and the last flames still smouldering. Blue skies not dust and smoke. We may as well have been a million miles, not just three years, from the spot where I stood, struggling to find anything familiar in the now decimated landscape.

Today’s post is part of my “FIFTEEN AT FORTY” project, a fifteen day, fifteen project, celebration of creative exploration, to mark my fortieth year and my blog fifteenth. The journey so far has been amazing. The creation of the pieces I plan to share with you over the next fifteen days has been a revelation. I am brimming with inspiration and motivation for what is still to come.

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