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August 2020

LIFE DRAWING WITH NO EYES

By | Art, Lifestyle

One of my favourite things about being part of Art Mania, is that it’s given me the chance to try different things. The opportunity to explore ideas and mediums I haven’t had access to before.

One of the things I’d never considered before, was the idea of life drawing.

It always got categorized in my head as one of those purely visual styles of art. It wasn’t something I’d even contemplated as something I could do. I do remember, years ago, living in Melbourne, my flat mate worked as a life model. One day, I went along with her to one of her sessions, but didn’t stay in the room. I sat in the garden and worked on my poetry.

A picture of a hand using charcoal to draw the outline and shading of a side-on body.

It was only after her session was over and we were heading off to the tram, that I learnt about some of the artists who she regularly posed for. One of these artists always left her without eyes. I found this intriguing and an interesting spin on a purely visual art form. The idea that the artist sees the world, but the model isn’t allowed the same ability. Or was it about the blinding of the naked female because of her nakedness?

Still, it never occurred to me to attempt this form. It continued to remain in that folder of impossibilities due to a lack of vision.

Recently, however, there came a shift in my attitude. I was talking to a fellow artist who had wanted her partner to pose naked for her and the partner refused. This friend and I got talking and agreed that we were happy to pose for one another.

This is an incredible gift that my friend was offering. For life drawing is possible for me, it just means I have to touch the model. Something that then brings up its own challenges. Such an intimate act, made even more so by the need for physical contact. It is a beautiful gift just having the offer made to me. And then the playing field changed again.

I was approached not long after, by a guy who had worked as a life model before and was interested in picking up more work in the area. I explained the situation, the need to touch. He told me that he had no problem with that.

Sam sitting at a canvas painting. There is pink paint on the canvas.

I realised however, that maybe I did. Being female, and a small one at that, I couldn’t help feeling that even though I would be clothed, I was the vulnerable one.

It is always interesting when I meet people and witness how they take my lack of vision.

Some simply take it in their stride. To them I’m just a person who happens to be blind. For others, I bring out that fear within them, the fear of how they would or wouldn’t cope, in my shoes. Another group have trouble getting part the question of how I see them and the world without sight. This often involves them thinking and/or ask me if I need to feel their face to know what they look like.

This is one of the concepts that drives my art. The desire to show people that I do see the world, just not with my eyes and that the images in my head are often very different to theirs’.

I find the act of touching someone’s face, incredibly intimate and not something I feel comfortable with at first meeting, in some cases if ever. The exploration of another’s face is something I’ve only done with lovers, family and those I feel particularly comfortable. This comfort is a two way street. The person in question needs to be comfortable enough in their own skin for me to feel comfortable touching them.

Sam holding Jimmy the lizard.

All of these thoughts and others have been racing around my brain. There was also an implied sexual element on the part of the guy offering to model for me. Obviously some body functions occur in particular situations and I could see where he was coming from. The problem for me was the idea that this would mean a further intimacy was expected on his part.

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to sort it all out in my head. My final decision, that I only reached last night, was that I couldn’t do it. I’m still perfectly comfortable stripping off for my friend and having her sit for me. I think the difference is that I know that there are no hidden agendas with my friend. That I won’t be walking on unsteady ground. At risk of plunging over a cliff at any time.

So, I’ve surprised myself. Without consciously doing it, I’ve discovered that something I thought was impossible for me, isn’t.

As my mother has always told me, “just because I’m blind, doesn’t mean I can’t do anything I want. It just means I might need to find a different way of going about it.”

Perhaps this will help you look at life differently. Look at something you’ve always seen one way and found there is another way to go about it. Enjoy what you discover.

-Sam Ogilvie

A GUIDE TO GUIDE DOGS

By | Lifestyle

When I first joined the Art Mania family, I had a guide dog, Roscoe. Unfortunately, last November, I discovered that Roscoe had cancer.  

I’m happy to be able to write that a new guide dog called Amy has been matched with me.

She and I will be training from 24 August and part of that will include coming into the studio.  

I wanted to take this opportunity to outline the rules around guide dogs and why they exist.

And a little about the training process, with the intention of reducing any confusion people may have around guide dogs. 

Once a guide dog passes their training and get the tick of approval to go out to work, they then get matched with a person on the waiting list. When matching me with my new dog Amy, the staff at Guide Dogs looked at my lifestyle, my personality, my height and weight and traits I prefer in my dogs. Once the match is made, the dog and person or handler, embark on a 4 week training program together.

This training is about the team getting to know each other, and to bond.

If it’s a first dog, you will receive training on how to take care of the dog, bathing, grooming, health checks etc.

For me as an experienced handler, it is about my dog and I getting to know each other and her learning my lifestyle and the places I go to regularly. This includes public transport, shopping, work and all other places I go to. This initial training of dog and handler is still part of the overall training of the dog. 

This is why my guide dog won’t be fully trained and get her guide dog medallion until the end of this training. So you may see my dog with me, but she may not be wearing a harness. It is important that people know, even though she won’t be wearing a harness, that she is in training and can’t be interacted with.  

Guide dogs are like children, they need clear boundaries. This is why the following rules are so important.

These rules also apply to a new dog training with their handler, even when they are out of harness. If you do see us around the studio and have any questions, I’m happy to answer them, just come up and say hi.  

GUIDE DOG ETIQUETTE  

Do not pat a guide dog in harness.

This includes a guide dog in harness lying at the feet of their handler. They may look completely relaxed and even be sleeping, but will in fact be alert to any changes or signals from their handler. That dog needs to be able to jump up and go into work mode immediately, so patting will distract them. If you pat a guide dog in harness regularly, the dog will start seeking that attention, when they are supposed to be working and could injure their handler and themselves. 

Never feed a guide dog. 

Even if you go to the home of the handler and the dog is off harness and leash, you should never feed the dog. Labradors are ravenous eaters and they do not have the ability to know when they’ve had enough. So they will look at you with pleading eyes, especially if you are eating. The tendency to sit and tell the dog you are sorry that you can’t feed them, isn’t helpful. I and all other handlers beg you please, please don’t look at the dog when you are eating. It will only encourage them.

Once a dog has developed the bad habit of food distraction, it is the one habit that can’t be corrected and can result in the dog putting themselves and the handler in danger. 

Never speak to a guide dog.

This is another way that will distract the dog and put themselves and handler at risk. If you need to direct a guide dog handler, you do not direct your instructions to the dog, rather speak to the handler and they will give the dog any necessary commands.  

Never touch a dog’s harness.

If you need to guide a handler and their dog, you still offer the person your arm, and under no circumstances do you grab the harness. This will confuse and upset both dog and handler. This also includes grabbing the dog’s lead. 

I am very aware how hard it can be to follow these rules when confronted with a cute and cuddly dog. I know that my boy Roscoe was well aware of his beauty and would play on this, making eyes at people.

These rules are there for a reason and I for one will be eternally grateful if you all could follow them. 

-Sam Ogilvie

 

THE COVID BLUES

By | Art, Lifestyle

Lately, it feels like we were just getting a toehold and were starting to dig ourselves out of this deep dark hole known as COVID19, only to have the earth shift and crumble beneath us. Nobody can say for sure where we go from here and it seems that the one thing we can be sure of, is that this pandemic is far from over.

In stressful times, not everyone has a place or an activity or even a safe mental balance to help them through the darkness. And when under stress, how do we keep ourselves together and moving forward?

For me, I think the last few weeks have been harder than the isolation of lockdown. Even though I’ve had somewhere to go, things to do to occupy my hands and mind, I’ve been wandering around in a fog. Creating, but not feeling especially present in my work.

I’d come to the conclusion that it was and is my art that would get me through. That by creating I was expressing and letting go of all the unnecessary stuff. It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve realised I’ve been moving around like a zombie. There is nothing wrong with the material I’ve been producing and don’t get me wrong, it has helped. But I’ve still been walking dangerously close to the cliff edge.

It was only when I sat down to try and write this piece that I realised, I’d forgotten about my writing.

I realised that my painting or sculpting feed one part of me, but it’s through words that I can truly unscramble and reshuffle. That I can untangle the myriad of thoughts, feelings and ideas and make sense of them. And it’s only once all this is done, that I can give myself fully to my art.

If you can relate to any of this, I strongly suggest that you try sitting down and writing out how you feel. Don’t worry about it being grammatically correct. Don’t worry if at first it doesn’t make sense. Just write, down allow your hand to stop moving. Just set a certain amount of time, say ten minutes, and simply write. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself. You might even come up with some new creative project you hadn’t thought of before. Or even work out a solution to an artistic block.

Don’t forget your friends. It’s so important that we be there for one another. I really hope that this post has helped in some way to get you back on track after being lost for too long. I know it’s brought me home to myself, more than anything else I’ve done in a while.

Stay safe. Stay happy and keep creating in what ever form you choose.

– Sam Ogilvie

Sneak Peak into Resin Sculpture

By | Art, Lifestyle

A FEW WORDS ABOUT RESIN SCULPTURE

 

Last Sunday saw the start of a new kind of workshop at Art Mania. Last Sunday and for the coming two Sundays, we are running a resin sculpture workshop. Given my love of resin and sculpture, I thought it was the workshop for me and thus far I’ve been correct. On the first day we designed on the design, or picture. The other key word in the title of the workshop was foreshore. I’ve not put this in my title, because we weren’t limited to Newcastle’s foreshore.

My scene is rockpools and beach surrounded on three sides by water. I think of it as either a headland or part of an island.

 

LET ME WALK YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS

 

To create this first section, we were all given a small bucket of putty. This was used to make rocks, reefs and other objects wanted by each individual in their scene. I of course ran out of putty before I’d finished creating all my rockpools. Lucky for me, a fellow creator and friend didn’t need all of her putty and was happy to give it to me.

Once the rocks and reefs were established, it was time to add the sand. This was where it got messy. Although for me I’d already made a mess by choosing to dig my putty out with my hands and digging in my fingers to give texture to my rocks.

For the whole group, the sand was the messiest part. We needed to mix the sand with glue. The idea was to make it wet enough to be able to manipulate, but not so wet that it couldn’t be sculpted.

The whole process was finished in around an hour, giving everyone an early mark from the first day. We were unable to move on from this step, as the sand and putty needed at least twenty four hours to dry.

A BEAUTIFUL THING CALLED UNIQUENESS

Walking around the room after everyone had gone, looking at each piece, there wasn’t a single piece the same as someone else’s. We had all put down totally unique foundations for our pieces. This is one of the things I love about creating. Even with the same instructions and same materials, you can still be completely unique because it’s also about what you personally bring to the creating table.

We were all sent home with the instructions to gather together any little bits and pieces we want to add next Sunday. Things like shells, fish etc. I’ve been hunting out little sea creatures I can add and gathering twigs for driftwood.

We all meet again this coming Sunday and I can’t wait to see what everyone does next.

 

– Sam Ogilvie