Red shoes…otherwise known as it is time to move on.

What sort of a title is that?  I am sorry – really I am but stuff is spinning round in my head and when that happens I do what I always do – I write it down.  And this is my last blog post on this page so maybe I’ve got more to write about…or perhaps more accurately – more to think about exactly what to write.

I am back at home from the Australian Print Triennial and that was an amazing freaking experience.  So many artists, so much talking, excitement and enthusiasm.  So, so, so many new ideas and possibilities.  If you are a relatively new printmaker like me, and particularly if you come from a regional area, start saving your pennies for the Australian Print Triennial in 2018 – it will change your world.

On top of all that energy that we created as a group the whole Triennial experience was interesting to me on a personal development level.  And by that I mean personal rather than professional.  I am a chatty person, I can chat to the cows come home.  I can usually find something in common with the person I am talking to and fill in the conversation gaps as needed.  Go me!  But…I panic in group situations and the flip side of being chatty?  Talking incessantly out of nervousness and perhaps tending to EXAGERATE just a teeny bit.

So if my Stepping Up grant had been less sensible and less thought through (thanks so much for being sensible the lovely Country Arts WA team!) and I had attended the Australian Print Triennial at the start of the my year of professional development I would have come away with a completely different outcome.  I would have rabbited on about how fabulous it was but it would have been observation based rather than experienced based.  While I was there I would have babbled to anyone who would have talked to me and I would have been more terrified about how I was being perceived rather than just absorbing and enjoying the experience.

Example?  Well it became pretty apparent pretty quickly that a lot of these guys know each other, know each other’s history and know art history with pretty much everyone having some sort of art qualification.  As I pretty much knew nobody most of the conversations started with…who are you, where are you from, where did you study?  I seriously didn’t realise how much the study part of things would matter – I really thought that there would be a few more people like me without an art qualification.

A year ago that would have thrown me into such a spin – I would have felt so inferior that I would have either stopped introducing myself to people and five years ago I would have been tempted to call in sick and miss the whole conference.  But after 12 months of sucking it up, making myself get out there and forcing myself to push through barriers that really were only in my mind, I am seeing things much more clearly.  There are options for me – I have choices.  I can’t study art where I am but if we move one day I might study art…or I might not.  But I am not going to let that stop me doing what I want – I won’t let that fear of what people think take over again and push me in directions that I don’t want to go.  This may have been the year of professional development but the biggest thing I had to overcome was lack of confidence.  I thought it was my lack of confidence in my artwork and that I would learn skills to make better art.  But it turns out it was a lack of confidence in me – I have spent the last 12 months making a better me.

So the red shoes?  Gosh – I am obsessed with red shoes and boy were there some good ones at the Print Triennial!  But back to me and my obsession – I like red shoes – bright red shoes (none of this maroon or burgundy business for me thank you very much).  And I like comfortable shoes.  I found the perfect pair of red ballet flats at Target a few years ago and wore them to death.  I even found the exact same pair in Adelaide awhile later (woohoo!) and wore them to death too.  Then I tried to find more red shoes.  I scoured the Target online site – no luck.  I looked in Kmart every time I went there (Kmart is our only source of shoes in Hedland).  I looked online.  Every trip I looked and I couldn’t find the same style of shoes in the right colour.  So I bought the cheap Kmart shoes and tried to wear them in – they hurt my feet and made squeaky noises when I walked.  I bought peep toe ones from Target but they were the wrong material and gave me blisters.

So I hit Mildura and THERE ARE SHOE SHOPS.  Whole shops…where they only sell shoes.  Well – bags as well as shoes but mostly shoes.  And there are red shoes – oh yes there are – but they are sandals because ballet flats are a winter shoe and red ballet shoes are not to be had.  Now the thing is I don’t like sandals that much – they remind me of high school.  They make my ankles look weird.  They aren’t as comfortable as ballet flats are to me.  After all – pretty much my whole wardrobe now is designed around matching my red ballet flats.  They are what I am used to and I don’t want to change.

In between trying on shoes at shoe shops I go to the Triennial and I watch feet.  When I am walking around the street I watch feet.  I notice that people my size and shape seem to wear sandals and they look good.  Unlike my hot sweaty feet in my worn out old Kmart ballet flats these people have cool looking feet – their feet look relaxed and they look good.  While I am sitting by myself on a break it occurred to me that if I could buy clothes that suited my red ballet flats then maybe I could start buying clothes that suited sandals.  Maybe, just maybe, it was time to change?  I had lived and loved my red ballet shoes and I wanted to have that same experience again and again but the world had moved on.  Giving away my dream of the perfect red ballet shoes was hard but…I did it…I moved on.

So for me life is less like a box of chocolates and more like a never ending quest for what I think is right for me…for what I am sure I want.  But what I have learnt over the last twelve months is to stop presuming what I want…what I know…what I have always done – is what fits and is what has to happen.  My grant has given me confidence to be me but also to change me.  It wasn’t what I was expecting but I am so very glad it did. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

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The Regional Arts Fund is an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional and remote Australia, administered in Western Australia by Country Arts WA. Stepping Up is auspiced by HARTZ (Hedland Arts Council) Inc.

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PS – if you want to check out my new blog it will be attached to my new website hope to see you there.

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