Updated: Jul 6, 2020
The Covid life continues and I write this hoping you are all safe.
The uncertainty of a secure stream of work weighs heavily on many of us and here in Australia, like many others, I have been receiving the JobKeeper payment because schools couldn’t let non-essential people into the learning environment to paint murals. It is interesting that pre-Covid, I was already seeking to slow down. At almost 56 years of age, being up on high ladders and carrying their weight and over-stretching was taking a toll on my body. With my two boys, Seth and Ruben, close to leaving the nest, I’d been looking to wean off the mural work and settle back into small-scale works of art again. Working from home, for so many, has reminded us that keeping things simple has exquisite benefits.
If you read this blog regularly, you’d know that I returned to oil painting in January and relished the richness of the medium. The psychic aspect of connecting deeply with Kathy during the painting of Resurrection reminded me just how mutually rewarding a process it is to listen to a story and respond with an explosion of creativity. The link with Kathy brought to life the series Giving Voice then everything stopped as the virus halted life as we know it, or so it seemed.
Like Kathy, it’s always been the action of a single person that leads me into new chapters.
My neighbour and friend Charlotte knocked on my door one day. In her arms was her postbox. She had asked me to paint it some weeks before and the time had come. Like many of the postboxes in our community, including mine, the boxes are standard dull lookalikes. It felt like I was being handed a puzzle to solve because I really had no idea where to begin.
It was a cusp of sleep moment, where so many of my painting ideas spring, that I imagined two options. One a scene of bees (which became Charlotte’s choice) and the other a box covered in letters (which became mine).
I loved every minute painting from home and discovering something new. My ceramicist friend Lucy has always taken pride in the fact that she produces domestic ware. Practical, everyday, useful objects d’art that are enjoyed and that take simple pleasures to the next level. There was something in the letterbox painting that echoed that sentiment for me. Charlotte and her husband Mitch loved the box, took photos of it in situ and I feel in my heart, because I know the people they are, that they were aware that they were planting a seed that would grow.
And grow it did because Mitch’s parents, two of my closest friends, wanted one of yellow tailed black cockatoos and this was where I felt the potential. The birds filled the space with raucous joy as they became intoxicated with nectar from a banksia and I became more bold. Then other neighbours knocked on my door for their letterboxes to be painted too. As the boxes appeared on social media, a friend suggested I share them on Marketplace and that was it then … orders came in and boxes piled up on my deck. A little production line sprung up and I painted, listening to Radio National with my beloved dogs Duncan and Dougal within cooee, fast asleep. My perfect life.
Katie, a long-term follower of my art, posted the first magpie box on the Magpie Friends Australia site. That began a flurry on the country’s favourite warbler! Off they flew to Melbourne, Tasmania and the ACT, with more awaiting my attention. Then a message from WA, home of the Carnaby Cockatoo Dreaming sent one winging over the state borders
… and Ruth, the wife of John, a scientist with a passion for dragonflies, ordered one for his birthday. I could go on … the possibilities are seemingly endless.
What’s been so special, in these times when being at home has been our safe place, is how much joy Charlotte’s idea has stimulated. Perhaps it’s something to do with connection, online deliveries, letters sent from afar, nostalgia for the postie or the anticipation of his arrival. For some, postboxes have been gifted simply as works of art. No post, other than personal love notes for Annie or to adorn the entrance of Glenda's country guesthouse, The School House in Binalong, NSW.
It’s hard to know what will happen next. At the moment my income is being fortified by the letterbox craze and I am so grateful for that.
As I am to Charlotte and Mitch who helped bring me home to where I belong.