Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Freaky Halloween Fun!




Well yes, this a blatant plug for my new book, Ghoulish Get Ups published by Scholastic. Create your own freaky costumes on the smell of a (clean) recyling rag. I'm pretty proud of it and I think you will find it extremely useful in the lead up to the freakiest night of October!

I LOVE making things and actually, surprise surprise, so do kids! There is so much to be learned in the process of cutting, pasting, glueing, sewing and painting. But don't worry- this book is not about dragging out the sewing machine- not at all! Safety pins and double sided tape hold these costumes together. And the book is jam packed full of excellent tips and tricks to create makeup and prosthetics to match your outfits! 

This is what people have to say about the book (all good!)

'Fifi Colston is the Jamie Oliver of the costume world. Give her a cupboard of recycling and art supplies, or even a bag of them, and she is certain to come up with something incredible-looking, at pretty well zero cost. This book, which is the second of its kin after the bestselling, award-winning Wearable Wonders, has truly got something for everybody....' (see more here)

and

'...That's the beauty of this book - there's nothing expensive you need to buy. Fifi gives you tips on how to make 16 different outfits including elves, fairies, punk rockers, vampires, zombies, murderous butchers, aliens and creatures. If those costumes don't appeal Fifi shows you how to turn recycled objects such as egg cartons, paper bags, sheets, t-shirts, pants and tights into numerous outfits. She also gives tips on how to transform your face, hands, feet, ears, hair, and how to make wings, foundation, warts, boils, facial hair, guts and broken bones, wounds, stumps and bumps, and horns.  She even gives recipes for ghoulish food such as zombie fingers, and eyeballs... (read the rest here)

Available in all good bookstores and online at Fishpond and Wheelers





Sunday, October 19, 2014

100 Days Project, and what I learned in the process...

In the style of Andy Warhol


October and life goes on...I managed to complete my 100 days Project and for those of you who don't know what that is, it's where you register to commit to completing a creative endeavor on a theme once a day for 100 Days. Here is more about it 

Here is a summation of what I did as it appears on my artist card at re.Space gallery in Victoria Street. The exhibition of 100 Days artists is on until Sunday 26th October.

You can see my project here- click on each picture for a description :)

 Project Title: Take it on the Chin

Project Description: Create 100 half face images in the style of different artists and illustrators. The aim is to explore the work and technique of the masters and see what I learn. I will alternate male and female faces in each artist's medium.

What is it about the project that appealed to you? Eyes usually are the most expressive part of a face but I liked the idea of a half mask, but the half that usually gets forgotten

What changes (if any) has the project helped bring about for you? That not reaching a deadline isn't the end of the world and I maybe I am more human because of that.

Best thing/s about 100 Days: Posting them and enjoying other's reactions to them

Worst thing/s about 100 Days: Realising I am so far behind I might never catch up!

Can you share a moment of insight (about the creative process, or something personal about your experience of the project)? during the last stages of the project, my father became ill and then died. I spent much time with him and my mother out of town, and took my 100 Days with me to do in the evenings. I found I couldn't work easily in a state of grief and my drawing and painting which is usually my solace went on hold as I tried to process his decline. This is new for me. It appears that the death of someone so loved was more important than me being 'clever'. I couldn't get to my happy place.

What was a favourite day or moment? In a moment of disillusionment I asked on Facebook why I should even bother with my art and this is one response from a father: 'One of the purposes or perhaps results of your being able to draw is that a ten year old girl in Sydney is given an excellent example of how to be a woman in the modern world. She delights in your additions to your 100 chins exercise getting pleasure from the styles she recognises and learning from the ones she doesn't. She also learns when they don't come through every day. They might not be making money but they are making the world a better place.'  This alone made me carry on and catch up.

How many times did you consider giving up? Many times after my dad died, I wrestled with this and decided be kind to myself and do a simple digital homage to him and my mother

If you could pass on one piece of advice to someone considering doing this project it would be: Don't worry about the outcome- it is what it is.


Days completed out of 100:  100




Monday, October 06, 2014

World of Wearable Eulogy


September has been a month I tell you...
One month ago today, I rushed to our father's hospital room and a week ago he died.

In amongst all of that was The World of WearableArt. Normally each year I blog, facebook and tweet about WOW because I have something in show and I am generally asked to speak or give an interview about it all. This year was different. A few months ago I got asked to do a corporate gig for the opening night at a private function but turned it down for a variety of reasons. I'm no psychic, but I'm so glad I had said no, because two months later, that was the night the nurse from the hospice called and said 'If you want to gather family now, this is a good time.' At that stage he had maybe a couple of days to live, and 400 hundred miles between us. There is no way I could have talked chattily and inspirationally about my work that night. The following night, the awards night, whilst my sister held his hand in the hospice, I watched the show with, my phone tucked down my bra, barely seeing the wonders before me, waiting for 'the call'. 

In the days that followed, I had time to reflect upon my father's decline, life and art. At his funeral, family paid tribute to this man we all loved so much and as always happens at such an event, people said 'I never knew that about him,' as past history of a life well lived comes together in the memories of those who knew a person at different stages of their lives.

In the hospital and the hospice that followed, he was shrunken and incoherent; a frail shell of the man he had once been. To an onlooker- just another wrinkled dying 83 year old man. But to us, he had been so much more. He had done stuff, he stood for something, he had a story and a presence and years of work and goddammit, investment in life. He affected people and the effect on us was remarkable. 

Later, someone asked me about my WOW entries and I barely had the energy to think about them. They wanted to know how long it took, what they were made out of, was I excited about the show and all the usual curiosity. I tiredly showed them pictures and explained the process and then, the backstory... and they were amazed. These were not just fancy costumes; they had a reason to be.
And it occurred to me that my wearable art pieces were kind of like my father. On the outside, just something to observe - with little understanding of what was inside; what made up the whole, what the history was. Because story is everything. Without it, there is just wallpaper, or the husk of a person with no empathy or meaning. 

And my art means a lot to me. I'd like you to understand it too. So here it is, explained. And if you like either of them, you can vote for People Choice http://www.includeme.co.nz/fairfax-media/wow-people's-choice

Firstly 'Mighty Acorns' - not so much to say about this except that little people are nurtured from breast milk and so become strong. I chose to make my babies into elfin folk. The acorns were made out of plastic bowls with felt detail and Fimo nipples. The babies were dolls I repurposed with new ears, colour and clothing.

Mighty Acorns- Photo courtesy WOW


Mighty Acorns- inside

 And then, then there is this:

London Missionary Church

Whilst in Samoa last year we went and saw the lava fields on Savaii, and I was awed by the forms and the history: 

The Virgin's Grave
In 1905, Mt Matavanu's lava poured through the London Missionary Church of Saleaula, Samoa
 The 1905 lava fields of Savaii are a moonscape of textural delights. Through tunnel like tubes, which now house moss and tiny cave swallows, lava continued down and right through the London Missionary Church, in Saleaula capturing the arches and walls forever in volcanic rock. The lava poured down to the sea; along the molten journey was the Virgin's Grave; a girl buried some years before. A bubble formed over the tomb and created a natural cave. Spared from the mountain's outpour, the grave became a holy shrine, and the only place that seems to grow flowers in the whole barren field.
Made from 30 meters of plastic backed painters drop cloth felt from Bunnings, my most  ironic moment was painting the fabric with a spray gun.
I made the archway from MDF board, and carved Styrofoam. It attached to a custom made trolley with castors. The basis of the corset was made at a specialist corset making class the previous year and I made the palm fronds from painted fabric- it took me ages to get the plaiting right. I handmade the shirt from sheer fabric and satin and all the other components were made from the painters drop felt with other details- like the cave swallows. LEDs lit up the front 'lava tube' and a light in the virgins cave at the back. 

It took me months and left me with terrible OOS. My finger is clawed every morning and I have to heat it to make it work again. And work it will, because doing this stuff gives me joy.
'Talofa Lava' was one of the best pieces I have ever achieved and I'm pretty proud of that. Next year will be my 20th year of entering with the 23rd piece.  I have an idea for it, and it has plenty to do with those final days of my father's life. When I have finished it, don't say 'good luck, hope you win' because that's not why I did it. Say instead 'What is the story?' Look beyond the materials and the glamour of showtime. Beyond the facade. Look for my father. He will be there.


Talofa Lava front
Talofa Lava back


Talofa Lava side views
Talofa Lava details




Monday, September 15, 2014

Clarity



I've been quiet on my blog since my wonderful win with Wearable Wonders (note the alliteration?)
But on my personal facebook page (sorry, you'll have to go to my public one if you aren't family or close friend) I've been pouring forth.

It's been a tough past week and one where I have realised with a great 'ding!' on goes the light-bulb, that everyone is dealing with something and things are never what they seem.

I am at that age- you know, the one where you become the next generation as your parents leave their tired bodies behind. Up until now I always said to people when I heard their parent had died, things like 'Oh well, 80/83/88/90 (whatever age) was a good innings.' And I kind of wondered what the sadness was all about. You get born, you live and you die and if you die old, then lucky old you.
What I have been completely unprepared for is the inevitable passing on of my father. I say inevitable because he is in hospital with Parkinson's symptoms exacerbated by a series of falls, and like taxes, death is one thing we are sure of, and his will come in  matter of days. I thought I was o.k with my parents passing on- they've lived good and long lives, had adventures, surmounted challenges, a family to be proud of and really a great life. What's is to be miserable about? It's a cause for celebration surely?

But this past week, holding my father's once strong and certain hand, now tiny and frail and clinging to  mine like a child not wanting to go to school for the first time, I get what grief is.
Grief is watching someone you love leave their body slowly as it shuts down. First the legs that refuse to co-operate, then the throat that cannot swallow and the bodily functions that carry on despite the mind shouting 'No! I do not want to relinquish control here!' The sleep that comes mid sentence and the sentences that come jumbled and confused until, the head shakes with frustration and the sigh of giving up.

'Your poor old Dad' he managed to say as I moved his arm to a more comfortable position. And with sudden clarity, no hint of a Parkinson's slur,'I love you my darling' to my mother, his wife of 62 years. Then the eyes half mast and a cough and a droop of the head. The jet fighter pilot whose flying boots I stomped around in as a 3 year old, the patient father of teenagers, picking them up from discos and then teaching them to drive so he and they were not embarrassed by a Dad lurking outside waiting. The man who teased us and made us giggle at the dinner table night after night so that mealtimes were always a joy of food and love.

Laughter is the best medicine.

He can't laugh anymore. That Parkinson's 'mask' has slipped into place and taken his face from us. How dare it! The man we thought would fish until he was 90 and die mid cast. The man we thought who would outlive our mother to eat fish and chips and bacon and eggs for the rest of his days, inviting anyone in to share the feast. How could this condition take away his outgoing personality and zest for life? I walk in a haze, numb with shock that this time is really coming to pass and he will leave us all behind. Earthbound.

This, this is grief.

Post Script:  RIP William Baxter Colston  7/10/1930- 28/09/2014
Much adored husband, father & brother
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Winner- 2014 LIANZA Elsie Locke!




Well gosh, after 30 years in the children's book game (I illustrated my first book in 1984) I have actually WON an award! A real actual 1st place with flowers and a cheque and applause and everything!
It was the LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal for Non Fiction for Wearable Wonders. I feel like it's o.k to crow a bit- I've waited a long time for this and the reward is all the sweeter; I couldn't be more thrilled! There is not much more to say except thank you, from the bottom of my heart. That book is kind of a download of my brain which is buzzing with joy right now.


Acknowledgment  is truly a marvelous inspirational thing :)

It was a great night- many thanks to LIANZA and their sponsors- Hell Pizza and The Children's Bookshop who sponsor the Elsie Locke Award. You have made my year!

Here is me and Melinda Syzmanik who won the Librarians Choice Award with her deeply poignant novel 
A Winter's Day in 1939. If you haven't read it yet, you must!



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

100 Days of art

I am really enjoying the 100 Days Project.

'Choose one creative exercise, and then repeat it every day for 100 days.
Record each daily effort and see what evolves in the work and in the self over time.'


I chose to do portraits from the nose down using techniques from different artists and illustrators to see what I learned in the process. My project is called 'Take it on the Chin' which is something you have to do as an artist. The knocks backs must not knock you down. 

I liked doing Andy Warhol's style so much I made up a little instruction sheet. I used the Brother Scan n' Cut to make the stencils....fun! I might have to try Bansky next :)



Friday, July 11, 2014

BraveArt- Brave Women!





'Spokeswoman'

This is a shout out for the BraveArt project; something I've been supporting as an artist in the best way I know how- by doing art!

'BraveArt is an art project that brings together the positive powers of both sport and art, conceived to highlight the bravery and positive attitude of the CanSurvive Dragon Boat Team. A creative collaboration to inspire and encourage others with the message that you CAN live a healthy, active life after cancer.
For these women it is no coincidence that cancer begins with the word ‘can’. They have a ‘can do’ attitude to life, and to their sport.They have proven it on the water as members of the CanSurvive Dragon Boat Team. As breast cancer survivors, these 26 women dedicate themselves to their sport to stay healthy, and gain strength from working as a team. These paddlers put their bodies on the line competing to be the best in New Zealand. This power of their positivity won them the New Zealand Breast Cancer Survivors championship title at the New Zealand Dragon Boat Association 2014 National Championships. Read more here...


So, these women along with celebrities like theWellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, paralympic cycling gold medalist Paula Tesoriero, actor Miranda Harcourt, musician Lilith LaCroix (Composer Gareth Farr), dancer Jan Bolwell, and former Miss Universe Lorraine Downes have had casts made of their torsos and invited artists to paint them. They will exhibited in several venues in the next 6 weeks and be up for auction on 21st August at The Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington.

I've had the great privilege of working on the BraveArt torso of Paula Tesoriero. My piece is called 'Spokeswoman.'


With Paula being an Paralympic Gold Medal cyclist, I wanted to convey something of what that feeling of riding would be like. Light as air, free from constraints, floating off into the breeze, like dandelion seeds. Nature and mechanics working as one. I created the 3 dimensional effects with sculpted air drying clay and wire. The torso and wheel hub are airbrushed and the seed heads hand painted with a very fine brush, and details finished with a light rubbing of gold and silver pastes.

I hope it raises lots at the auction; these women have worked hard to overcome huge medical hurdles and find new health through sport and community and to bring this project into being.
Please share their facebook page and website with friends, family and colleagues- the more people who hear about it, the more people have an opportunity to bid for the art and send these wonderful brave women to compete internationally. 

Paddling strong, into the the future!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Frozen? Make a snowflake!

School holidays? Middle of winter? All the kids want to do is go and see a movie and have you buy all the merchandising? Well here's a nice wee low cost fun craft to for them to make :)



Monday, June 30, 2014

Bat Woman

Bat Woman, but not as you'd expect her. She's elderly and wise, the kuia of bats.Yes that's a moko- a chin tattoo, and she came to me at the amazing creature workshop run by Wendy Froud . She carries a Nautilus shell- a symbol of my studio on the South Coast of Wellington. The pounamu around her neck is a Manaia meaning 'the messenger between gods and mortals'- it is a shameless copy of Luke Gardiner's work.  My polymer clay is but poor representation of his exquisite carvings! You can see his original here. Gorgeous isn't it?

The bat, or Pekapeka as it is known in Maori is viewed as a symbol of death. But in death there is freedom, and for me the workshop I did at the Illustration Master Class was the death of some old thinking around illustration for me.

Here is how I made her, my wise little Pekapeka. Thank you Wendy Froud, for the incredible week and the birth of new things :)




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mastering Art

from one of the lectures at the IMC

I'm back from my whirlwind 6 weeks and I can tell you, it has been expanding and fruitful and I would like to say exhausting because everyone is saying 'You must be EXHAUSTED', but I'm not. I'm exhilarated. I feel like a kid who has been given a box of Griffins Sampler biscuits and told to choose. Should I have the pink ones, the ones with sugar on, the chocolate, the coconut? So much to devour, I want it all!

I write this blog primarily for those of you who don't use facebook, because if you did, you'd have seen on my public page multiple pictures of the Southland Festival Tour which was wonderful on so many levels (hospitable people those Southlanders), my sketches, travels and works in progress at the Illustration Master Class in Amherst USA, me in my fabulous new dress from New York (yes, how great to say that!!! and no it wasn't from Walmart) at the NewZealand Post book Awards (no I didn't win my category but The Beginners Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Paul Adamson did and it is a fantastic book!) AND...absolutely NO pictures of my wearable art entries for this year. If they get into show the first pics you'll see are after opening night in September and if they don't get into show I'll share them after mid July which is when we find out if we made the cut. Fingers and toes crossed, for everyone who have poured their heart and soul and grocery money into their entries!

Also on facebook, a friend said 'It must be nice to live in your bubble' after I posted a picture of a carnival horse I sketched in Aotea Square whilst musing on life and work. She meant it well; she is a good friend but immediately I felt I had to justify my existence outside of a 9-5 job which I have never really aspired to, and any time I have applied for one, I have barely had a reply let alone an interview. I have no aptitude for a desk in office politics and workplaces with cubicles. I'd be terrible at it- I'd want to make sculptures out of paperclips instead of writing reports, and I'd have a glue gun secreted in my filing cabinet, just so I could take it out and sigh with regret that I was wasting all my creative time earning money. I'd be wasting their money too.

So this is the thing... if I had $10 for every time I have heard it said 'It must be so nice being an artist, I WISH I could give up my job and do what you do,' I'd be buying designer clothes and planning my next holiday in Tahiti. 

I'm telling you now don't want to give up your job. You'd never be with the uncertainty of never knowing when or where your next commission is coming from, whether your books/paintings/music will sell and for how much. You'd even have to stay with your life partner if you have one because they believe in you and make up the shortfall when you haven't earned anything in 6 months, and they think (bless) that one day your ship will come in and you'll both sail away together on it into the sunset with cocktails. In fact, some of the most married people I know are artists and writers, for richer or poorer... and our partners do get the short straw in that agreement. They are our rocks on which our boats get thankfully stuck.

To do anything else is unthinkable, and sometimes I wonder at myself- am I mad? completely delusional? But then, then you go to a place where there are others like you. A Masterclass, full of artists who are obsessed with making and creating. A place where everyone has to draw to be able to think. Who search their minds and their hearts and souls for visual answers, and then put them onto canvas, board, screens and creatures. And some make most excellent money from it, and some do not, but we are all equal in our passion. And none of us ever say 'It must be so nice to be a policy analyst, I WISH I could give up my art and do what you do.' We would rather live in penury than cut off our arms. I came away realising my worth; that I have a rich stream of gold, flowing with ideas to share in the world. Expertly. Like a master.


So here's my invitation- tap that stream; bookings are open for Fifi- I need to pay off that dress! 

photo courtesy of Mark Tantrum