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The importance of art

Welcome to my very first blog.

I've decided to share with you a speech I made back in April to a room full of past students, friends, Art Society members and the general public. It was my first public speaking engagement. Here it is:

I’d like to begin by adding a disclaimer or two.

1. I’ve spent the last 36 hours in Dunedin hospital with my son, so my speech has been patched together on random pieces of paper and on my phone.

2. As most artists will tell you public speaking isn’t their forte - I’m no exception to this rule - preferring instead the solitude of my studio where I let my brush and roller do the talking for me. So with this in mind please don’t judge my oratory skills too harshly.

This evening I’d like to share with you:

• How this all came about. (It could quite easily not have happened.)

• What is 'Colour In Your Life' (CIYL)?

• Stepping beyond your comfort zone

• Why art matters

• And new Opportunities

How this all came about…

This (my Colour In Your Life experience) began back in June 2017, it was a Sunday afternoon… just my eldest son, Liam, and I were at home and I was feeling a bit down and lost with my art. I’d been painting part time for 15 years and I’d had really good feedback – winning several awards; locally, back in Sydney and online, and I’d been selling work, but my house was still filling up with paintings. I wanted to get my paintings into a gallery, but didn’t know how to get noticed. I knew I needed to change my strategy.

So in my online wandering I got onto the Wanaka Arts Society website to find out the theme for their upcoming exhibition (at this point I equally blame and thank the Arts Society for what happened next). On the homepage there was a letter of invitation from 'Colour In Your Life' which was a call for emerging and established artists in NZ to get in touch to be on their television show. I thought “What the heck I’ll apply; it won’t come to anything”. Honestly, they must get hundreds of people applying. So I attached some images with a blurb about myself and hit send.

At this point I went downstairs to have lunch with my son, and said "I think I’ve done something silly."

“Oh Mum, what have you done?”, he replied.

I explained… “It’s okay It won’t come to anything.” …Famous last words.

A day later I received an email about how my art looked fantastic and they’d be filming in NZ in October. Another email arrived with information about the process and how it would all happen. There was a considerable fee involved to cover travel and production costs, but they encouraged me to find funding by several different methods. One of which was contacting past buyers of my work and letting them know of my plans and having a sale of my paintings.

With this in mind I rang Jo Nimmo President of the Wanaka Arts Society and explained the situation to her asking for the records of past buyers of my paintings through their exhibitions. Jo, ever the enthusiastic supporter, said that she thought the Arts Society could assist in some way and she also offered her large garage space for filming in, because my art studio is actually my bedroom (not really a fitting place to have a national television program broadcast!).

The Art Society committee put it to a vote and they were able to help fund this project.

I was signed up and ready to go.

What is 'Colour In Your Life'?

I’ll read their vision statement…"To build a library of the minds of artists; to preserve a digital record of creative spirit, culture and techniques for future generations."

The television show is now in its 14th season and has recorded around 200 artists. It has reached over 30 million viewers. The show gets thousands of responses from both the viewers and the artists explaining how the show has positively affected their lives.

Their Social Media Presence

The CIYL TV shows are seen on many social media platforms including Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter, Vimeo, Opera TV and Daily Motion. They have been purchased by libraries, universities, colleges, school, jails, and other educational institutions from around the world. The show is also available for purchase by television stations around the world. It is currently screening Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Ireland, Canada, USA and UK on over 300 stations.

…Let me just say I have never done anything remotely like this in my life. I was a painfully shy child and at one point in my early school years believed that I was invisible. So why did I put myself into a position where I was to be broadcast worldwide?

Stepping beyond your comfort zone

It’s very easy in life, and with painting, to stick with what you know. It’s proven, it’s comfortable and after a while, it’s stifling and boring. (Pause)

"True growth happens when your passion is greater than your fear." (Pause)

Passion compels you to do things you never dreamed possible…in directions that you’d never imagine for yourself – it’s uncomfortable – it’s exciting – it’s exhausting – and you’ll definitely know you're alive. This was me stepping in front of a camera last October. I knew I could paint in front of others because I had lead students through paintings by demonstrating in class. But answering questions and painting and looking at different cameras!

The filming took from 8am to 3pm. So there was a lot of footage on the cutting room floor to make my 30 minute video.

Why art matters

Some of you may know I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals since November last year with my son… you may wonder how this of all places can relate to art. If like me you’ve been forced to walk the many grey hallways of the hospital system they can begin to look all the same despite the signage and arrows on the floor leading you to yet another swinging doorway.

Thankfully … mercifully you’ll find that these maze-like hallways are dotted with artwork. You may or may not know the artist but each of these artworks subconsciously lodges in your memory – as a signpost to be recalled later (trust me I know this).

Paintings are an invitation for your brain to pause and escape. Even among our ever increasing busy lives our eyes instinctively seek these windows. They can magically evoke a memory, a place or a feeling.

I was on the phone the other day (once again in hospital), my mind on relaying information; I realised I was holding my breath – my body stiff with tension. I realised this because I happened to walk in front of a painting. It was a calm landscape with the most beautiful reflections on a stretch of water. Instantly I took a deep breath… I was transported to a calm peaceful place… my body relaxed.

Whoever the artist was I was deeply grateful for them in making this special work. They may not know it, but it changed my perspective on the day. It made me realise it’s worth persevering with your art because you just don't know who’s life you may touch.

Seeking new Opportunities

Just like me there are times when artists need a helping hand to reach a new level with their art. They may need tutoring, or travel, or assistance to get their work noticed. With this in mind the Wanaka Art Society are offering to support a local up and coming artist. This a fantastic opportunity for someone else to step out of their comfort zone and reach for their dream.

Well… I’ve spoken more than enough.

Thank you for coming out this evening and without further ado I’d like to share with you my Colour In Your Life episode.

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