Becoming an artist.

A long time …

2016 was a time of doing some really good work at UAP (Urban Art Projects). I’ve been continuing to develop and refine my skills, evolving and finally realising that I can now call myself a sculptor. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an artist but maybe that’s the next part of this process. But first to backtrack a little…

My Apprenticeship Indentures from 40 years ago

It’s now forty years since I started my apprenticeship as a patternmaker, so I’ve been making things for a very long time and I’ve learnt a few things on the way. Sometimes I forget and even I’m surprised when I’m reminded.

Pattern making is a foundry trade, primarily in timber, which had it’s heyday during the age of steam, declining towards the end of the 20th century. It still exists but with the advent of CNC machining and lately rapid additive manufacturing, die casting metals and development of plastics to replace metal castings, there’s little need for patternmakers and all the associated foundry trades. However for someone of my era, I managed to get some wonderful training from the old die-hards of the trade, as it was fading away. These skills I have used all my life, in associated fields from building my own home and many furniture pieces, through to working on films and my own small manufacturing business.

But it’s not personally creative.

It’s the general approach to creativity through the discipline of patternmaking which has assisted me to approach all manner of tasks, including the audio and video production which I also like to play around with. It’s more an approach for many aspects of creativity rather than just in the production of metal castings.

The issue with patternmaking is that it’s highly technical. I’ve often referred to it as, ‘industrial sculpture’. We are given detail drawings which we have to follow. No creativity! No development away from what is asked! Just follow the drawing to the letter and don’t vary. There is no room for creativity, there is no room for art. But at the end of the process there is always some form created and often very beautiful.

From patternmaking I moved into associated trades and this is how my working life was through my early twenties. Basically making things in joinery and cabinetmaking shops. No real free form creativity.

Can I sculpt organic shapes?

Then in 1987 I worked building components for World Expo ’88 with a small creative team at John Underwood’s Art Busters.This was my first experience at organic sculpting and I was thrown in the deep end to sculpt an oversized beetle to be installed on the Expo ’88 site. I had no idea what I was doing but slowly, and I mean very slowly I started to see the world of shapes differently. This has been a very long process. Off and on for, something like 30 years. I’ve had elements of creativity along the way but I used my more, technical skills which involved the discipline of patternmaking rather than the free form required for many art components. In recent months things have changed significantly.

One of two cast aluminium jelly fish for a children’s playground.

Earlier last year I was asked to sculpt a 2m jelly fish. Nothing too difficult, a hemisphere with some detail in it. The issue with creating something like an organic hemisphere is, it’s too easy to make it perfect and miss the nuances of an organic form. It has to be made smooth, even, balanced and imperfect. Getting it just ‘wrong’ enough that it’s right is challenging and I managed that with considerable ease. Confidence Level One; – achieved! Continue reading

Walking on Air – A Parachuting Documentary with Ian in his Youth.

Back when we were all young.

It was 1981, I had just completed my Pattern Making apprenticeship at the Toowoomba Foundry and the previous Christmas holidays, while at the Australian Parachute Nations meet a beautiful young lady who I thought was worth chasing all the way to Sydney. Little did I know at the time that would introduce me to my daughter some 10 years later. Time to leave home, to cut my family and childhood ties, to go it alone and see what life may hold for me. So, with everything I had inside my trusty EH Holden Station Wagon and my bike on the roof, to Sydney I went…

On my way to Sydney

On my way to Sydney

During the week we worked in Sydney but on weekends we drove the three hours to the Hunter Valley and the Newcastle Parachute Club (NSPC), where we would spent most weekends making friends and falling through the air. A sport like parachuting is one of those activities where people bond in a special way and  I quickly found my place as one of the regular instructors. By then I had already been instructing for two years but this was back in the static line days of round parachutes and a good decade before tandems would change the sport into the massive commercial operation that exists today.

Jas was the man!

One of the main personalities amongst many on the drop zone was Jas Shennan. Charismatic club president and instructor who worked as a film editor, primarily on television documentaries and always one of the last standing beside the fire, with beer in hand on a cold Saturday night.

Around the time I entered the scene Jas had decided it was time for a doco about parachuting for TV, to show what it’s really like and some of the personalities. Over the course of a year or so he corralled the footage, often using ex-military 16 mm gun cameras for the free fall footage, augmented with ground shots to fill in the story. There were no mini GoPros back then!

I was only 21 years old.

As it turned out, on the day when Jas arranged a film crew to capture the ground based activities, I was instructing a group of students and a brief part of my youth was captured for me to fondly look back on, all these 33 years later.

This is how you exit a cessna.

This is how you exit a cessna.

Back then you could have classes of up to 20 people, all keen to do a first jump. I remember actually saying I wouldn’t instruct classes of more than 20 students as it was the maximum I felt I could train appropriately and there were times when groups were split up due to their size. Back then ground training and theory took a full day, with the first jumps happening the next day.

In Walking on Air we see snippets of what goes into the training and what’s expected of student skydivers in the early 1980’s, before the Accelerated Freefall Programme and piggyback student equipment. It’s fun to see students practicing landing rolls, something which is barely taught today with the ease of landing square parachutes. It’s now all changed but this is the way I learnt parachuting when I started in 1978 at Gatton in South East Queensland and the way I instructed for many years. Continue reading

Storify of my Berlin 2012 Trip

It’s been a long time coming.

I’ve finally finished the summary of all of the content to tell the story of my time in Berlin in 2012. I thought Storify was the best way to bring everything together in one place to tell the story of what my 10 weeks there was all about.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

43 Years since I was Awe Struck with Apollo 11 Lunar Landing

It’s a memory that never fades.

I was only a kid in 1969, 43 years ago when I sat in front of our shiny, piano finished 3 in 1 National stereogram to watch the first landing on the moon with Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins. I didn’t have to go to school that day and why would I with such an event in the happening.

I was transfixed for the half-dozen hours it took for Neil and Buzz to walk on the moon and return. What a day! One that is still my most important memory of my childhood.

Continue reading

Thank You Steve Jobs

PlayPlay

I may well not be here but for Steve and Apple

Yes, that may sound like a big statement that Apple and in particular the personality of Steve Jobs and the way that it was embedded into the very DNA of Apple could have that much of an affect on me but I think it’s correct.

Just some of the Apple products that brought me here

I first became aware of personal computers in about 1980, then missed an opportunity to us a Fairlight CMI in 1983 only to eventually buy an IBM clone 286 in 1992. All of them, as enticing as they were, couldn’t capture me. It was really simple! I’m not a geek and all the things that geeks love, (you know the beauty of code and getting under the hood of the computers), never appealed to me. I just wanted something that did the things that I wanted it to do. Unfortunately up until the advent of podcasting I hadn’t found that “thing”, that enamored me.

Once I found podcasting the next thing was to engage with it and learn. If it hadn’t been for Apple products guided by Steve and the knock on innovations of their computers that they brought to all of us I don’t think I would have been able to get over the initial steep learning curve and understand the technology enough to be able to become a podcaster.

Thanks Steve 🙂 (mp3) Continue reading

Brisbane Floods 2011

Preparing for the flood – 12 January 2011

It’s been a huge few days since we first started to realise that it looked like Brisbane would be hit by another of the cyclical floods that happen every 30 to 40 years.

Brisbane is at the end of the Brisbane River, a long, slow moving, meandering brown waterway that drains much of the country from the Great Dividing Range to the west and into the north. As noted by John Oxley as the first explorer in 1823 when he sailed upstream to where Brisbane now sits, the river has no watershed to keep the flow constant but relies on rainfall from it’s catchment. This inevitability leads to periods of low flow where the river becomes a tidal stream washing upstream on the high tide and downstream on the low tide, much like we’ve had for the last 20 years of drought. He noted from the rotting vegetation high on Spring Hill and Kangaroo Point that this natural choke between these high points must cause massive floods during high rainfall.

Flood Waters

Water Creeping Up My Street

John Oxley is basically correct and it seem that the cycle of this flood is based on the La Nina oceanic temperature phenomena where the water temperature warms causing greater precipitation, including cyclones which can impact on Brisbane as happened in the 1974 flood. This cycle has lead to minor and more occasional major floods in 1865, 1893, 1931, 1974 and now 2011.

I remember well, as a 14 year old in Toowoomba, watching the black and white television images of the massive destruction and flooding that was the Brisbane flood of 1974, wondering what it would be like to experience that event, and yes even wondering of how exciting it might be to be involved – Now I know.

On Monday the 10 January 2011 a slow moving trough had settled over the catchment of the Brisbane River dumping rain on the already soaked area that had seen an unusually high rainfall. The long ten year drought had well and truly broken and now the dams were fall and spilling, a vast change from when there was but 25% in them just a few years ago. How good was it to now not to be on water restrictions and able to use water freely but this was getting ridiculous now, with rain soaked ground causing each new drop to run off filling the flood mitigation percentages of the dams and swelling the streams.

Then the unthinkable happened, something that no one has ever heard or seen before. My home town of Toowoomba high on the range at 340m above sea level, sat in a place where the dense moist air rose, chilled and dumped it’s contents on the escarpment and on Toowoomba itself. It was as if God had emptied a bucket on the town, filling the creeks, flash flooding the shops, sweeping away everything in it’s path including cars, shipping containers and people. Sadly two people died when they were trapped in their vehicles by this surging wall of water. This is what they had to deal with in the Toowoomba Flood

Then it got worse…

The water that was dumped on Toowoomba flows west to the Darling Downs causing flooding in many smaller towns, some for the second time in a fortnight but what happened to the east was of biblical proportions of horror. Continue reading

Film Production, Incompotence or Cunning?

I think I’m now unemployable

I recently finished on another film. This one was actually a television series called Terra Nova . The first four episodes are approved to go ahead and if successful they’ll continue to produce an entire series. It’s a sci-fi about a dystopian future that is dangerous to live in so they transport (time travel) some people to the past. Basically it’s cars, guns and dinosaurs. Plenty of action but no real substance and I think it’ll probably be a success for many reasons. One of them is the production that I saw happening and what I’ve continued to realise from my previous post about the addiction of work.

As usual the standard of work that we were all doing was outstanding. I mean everyone, all the technicians on the ground and what they were managing to achieve says a great deal about the professionalism and expertise of the person on the shop floor who puts all the stuff together for the shoot crew to work with. It’s the reason that the work is of such a high standard that I find it interesting that dispute the difficulties, the job still gets done and the production gets what it wants.

Stage 7 Roadshow Studios

Different to as it appears

Now my caveat – I only know my one little section in the art department and I don’t have the big picture so this is just from one of the grunts in the trenches. The reason such great things are done is:

  • Excellent high base skills
  • Dedication and pride to producing quality
  • Love of working in a creative industry
  • Desire to be called onto the next project
  • Camaraderie and working as a team
  • Relatively high income and matching standard of living

At first glance these all seem motivating and good attributes but there is a dark side.

I’m still not sure which way to feel about this and it seems that it may be becoming the standard these days within the industry as the Australian dollar strengthens and production moves away from our shores to cheaper countries but either production companies are incompetent or shrewd, in the way they manage their workforce.

Instead of planning an appropriate timeline and budget, the standard seems to be to have no time, no money but expect outstanding work as would normally be expected with proper preparation, planning and funding.

What has happened of late is we have a third of the prep time and no money to set up workshops or buy materials but production wants all the whiz-bangery that they can think of – So… “Go and make it happen, Oh, and if you have any gear at home you want to bring in feel free as you’ll need it to do your job but we won’t reimburse you as it’s what you need, thanks very much.”

The workshops are makeshift without the proper infrastructure to work efficiently and safely and no preparation or stocking of the most basic materials to create things from. Often the sheds are poorly ventilated, lit and without the necessary equipment but it’s still expected that the work is performed by the deadlines. On this production I saw some of the worst working connotations that I’ve ever seen in all my time in the industry with people performing tasks that will shorten their lives due to dust and chemicals, maybe not today or even this year but it’s accumulative and these technicians were working 12 and 16 hour days for weeks at a time. Reports of people falling asleep driving home were mentioned to me. Production wouldn’t care if someone died (and in productions overseas they have), it would just be that’s a tragic accident but the show must go on, now back to work and keep cracking the whip. The whole project is driven by the accountants with no regard for the greater cost.

The real question is “Why do the workers in the film industry put up with it?”

It’s the same list as above but instead of looking at those points as positive attributes they are actually the shackles that bind people to the production company as wage slaves. Continue reading

Society Fast – The Experiment Continues

Its been a long time now, as a matter of fact it’s been 16  months since I decided on an experiment, just for one week.

Back in a previous post I mentioned that I wanted to try something, to see how it might go,  just for the hell of it.  To just opt out somewhat from the expectations of society.  I called it a society fast, to not buy into the things that society says that you have to do.

Well that week back in March of last year went okay and my world didn’t end. I still did what needed to be done when things needed to be done and I was able to do whatever I wanted to do as I felt inspired.  So I kept doing it, the society fast.  Doing what I wanted to do as I wanted to do it.

Hanging with Friends in Buenos Aires

And guess what?  I haven’t stopped.  I haven’t found the need or desire to buy back into what society says that I’m supposed to do.  What am I talking about I hear you say?

I’m taking about how our Western Society says that we have to do certain things, like relationships, work,  income, career, worry and stress about tomorrow and how it’s going to be when I’m old and I don’t have enough money in my retirement fund, how at my time of life I should be in this certain type of lifestyle, all of that sort of thing.

That’s why I started the society fast to have a break for just one week away from that and see what would happen and I haven’t stopped.  That was 16 months ago and it has been some of the best times of my life because I’m living in the moment and just doing what is right for now and it keeps working.

Now before you think I have it easy, that’s not my point.  In the last 16 months I have worked for income in an employed situation for only 6 weeks and earned $12,000.  I’ve additionally done a little audio and video recording and editing work and earned another couple of thousand dollars but that is all.  I have been leaning on my credit card and I’m slowly going backwards at about $1000/mth but I’m fine with that.  I live a very lean life and I have everything I need and desire little more.

For a long time I was looking for something to put my attention to, some strong focus and direction that society says that you have to have to be a member of this society.  That was causing me grief and one of the reason for starting this society fast, to have some chill time away from that stress. Continue reading