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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

LIFE IN LOCKDOWN: SAM’S STORY

By | Art, Lifestyle

Hi, my name is Sam. I am an artist with a visual impairment.

I have been in lockdown for what feels like forever. Unable to complete many daily activities myself, because they require setting foot out in the world. A world that I don’t recognise, other than a place of science fiction and dystopian literature.

Sam before lockdown, taking part in one of Art Mania Studio’s resin workshops.

My art is keeping me positive and sane. Thanks to Fee and Art Mania Studio, I have already received care packs full of art supplies. One of the things in my first care pack was a mannequin, the torso of a woman. For the last few Tuesdays I’ve been connecting with Ashlee, one of our fantastic new teachers, via facetime. In these sessions I’ve been working on my mannequin.

This is a torso similar to Sam’s. This one has been painted by our teacher Ashlee.

The aim of the process is to use a multitude of textures such as fabric, paper, feathers, shells, to convey what this shattered, surreal world is making me feel.

At first, what drew my focus was the simple act of getting to work with my hands. Letting my hands tell me what to place where. After all, my hands are my eyes. And trusting my hands, especially in my art, makes me very present in the moment. It doesn’t allow my brain time to question the process.

For someone prone to anxiety and panic attacks, along with a tendency toward depression, my art grounds me. Grounds me, like nothing else can in this new world of unfamiliarity.

It’s also great for me to unpack my feelings, fears, expectations through the artistic process. It makes it possible to confront and deal with any negativity before it has a chance to manifest into a bigger, more unmanageable problem.

So this has become my world. Each morning I get up, have my very necessary and important morning coffee. Once this is done and emails are checked. I turn to my art. Often listening to an audio book while I work.

I don’t know what I would do without this process to keep me on a positive path. Nor do I know what I’d do without Fee and Dana and my weekly catchup with Ashlee. I strongly encourage you to give it a try.

ART AND MUSIC WITH SAM

By | Art, Lifestyle

Let me introduce you to Sam, part of our team and also a member of Art Mania Studio’s Business Development Program.
Before we went into lockdown, we were supporting Sam at our studio in her art and personal development studies.  

Sam participated in an art session in February that combined the creative powers of paint and music.
Sam worked with art teacher Ashlee, who chose the music for the session and provides support for Sam’s visual impairment.

“It’s about being in the zone,” Ashlee explained. “Painting the movement of the music and what emotions might come up in connection to the music.”

“Painting to the music reminds me of meditation,” Sam says.
“When I’m painting, I’m not thinking about things. I’m connected to the music and I just paint what feels right.”


“Yes, it’s not about technique, or thinking about what colours to use,” Ashlee added. “It’s very freeing.”


As I watch Sam paint, I can see how she likens the process to meditation. There is mindfulness in the way she paints.
Dipping her brush in colours without hesitation, the instrumental music connects to her paintbrush to create lines and shapes.
There is an instinctive feel to this process, an emotional experience that flows from sound and the stillness of being. 


Painting is only one of the mediums Sam creates with at Art Mania Studio. She also works in clay, resin and mosaic mediums.

One of the challenges Sam faces now is how to continue her art now that she is in lockdown at home.
She is currently participating in online art sessions via Zoom, and we have invited Sam to share her thoughts with you through blog updates.

Stay tuned for some personal posts from Sam!

HOW TO USE ART TO CALM YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM

By | Art, Lifestyle

Firstly, I’d like to invite you to take a deep breath.
Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4 and slowly exhale to the count of 4, do this 4 times.

Wonderful, now enjoy some nurturing information to help you during this strange time.

The left hand side of our brains are extremely active during times of stress as we cognitively try to find solutions to the problem we face.
When there is no solution, our mind can loop and the body continually produces cortisol and hormones that ignite our fight, flight or freeze response.
Not a good way to live!

So, how do we move out of that and into a more relaxed space by doing things that stimulate the right hand side of the brain – let’s get creative!

Your left hand brain controls:

  • Analytic thought
  • Logic
  • Language
  • Reasoning
  • Science and math
  • Written
  • Numbers and skills
  • Right-hand control

Your right hand brain controls:

  • Art awareness
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Intuition
  • Insight
  • Holistic thought
  • Music awareness
  • 3D forms
  • Left-hand control

Art Awareness & Creativity

Draw, doodle, paint, make sculptures out of recycled things, plant something in the garden, make a nature mandala – be creative with what’s around you.

Imagination & Intuition

Tell stories and make them as elaborate as possible. Improve your intuition using practises like meditation, journaling or automatic writing. Ask a question and see what comes. Trust your feeling sense and follow it to do something that your being needs in order to relax the nervous system.

Play music, dance, sing, make shadow puppets or play dress ups.

We have a unique opportunity to shift our focus to our internal world and the private space of our home. What’s something you never had time for? What hobby could you start or study you can partake in that will nourish you and feed your heart and mind?

Talk to friends and family, stay connected and be creative.

Art Mania Studio wishes everyone a safe and healthy time at home.

We will be offering DIY art project kits and video tutorials very soon. These can be posted out and done at home to keep you having a creative outlet that feeds your soul.

WHEN ART MEETS ECOSYSTEM

By | Art, Lifestyle

WHEN ART MEETS ECOSYSTEM

The beginning of the new year at Art Mania brings along with it some exciting news for our kids and teens. We have established a new class which will take place at the Hunter Wetlands Centre. This 8 week kids program combines the amazing natural world of fauna and flora with the incredible wellbeing and expression that art provides!

This partnership between Art Mania Studio and the Hunter Wetlands is a unique opportunity that has been brought into fruition by local artist and teens teacher, Ashlee Jedrzejak.

The classes will focus on the calming and relaxing aura of the wetlands, and how to use art as a mindfulness activity. Classes will focus on students slowing down and really enjoying the creative process.

Art is a harmony parallel with nature. – Paul Cezanne

Our teachers will encourage students to use the Wetlands vibrant ecosystem as a source of inspiration. They will then assist in turning this inspiration into a resolved piece of art. Students will experiment with a range of mediums and materials, giving them the opportunity to express themselves in many different forms.

As a haven for wildlife (and people), the wetlands are a vibrant ecosystem bursting with life. This thriving wildlife sanctuary allows the community to get close to nature and we at Art Mania Studio cannot wait to get our senses delighted by all the beauty the exploration of this special place will offer. 

 

KIDS ART SCHOOL AT HUNTER WETLANDS

8-WEEK BLOCK / SATURDAY starts 15 FEBRUARY / 9 – 10:30AM

The cost for the entire eight weeks is $265. Creative Kids vouchers are also redeemable through Art Mania Studio, and can be used to subsidise costs.

Top 5 points why one should do a pottery course with Art Mania Studio!

By | Art, Lifestyle

Top 5 points why one should do a pottery course with Art Mania Studio!

 

Something that comes from the earth, tactile, resulting in engaging in the creative brain which can be described as relaxing and therapeutic at the same time! When we work with clay, through hand-building or spinning clay on a wheel, our mind and body are in a state of synergy while being focused on the tactile process: the touch and the feel of soft clay between our fingers. 

The perfect mindfulness process to creating a door for your outside worries to fall away.

 

1. An outlet for ‘Self’ 

We all need an out from time to time! Too often than not, everyday life gets in the way of allowing us regular weekly time out to truly do something for ones’ self! There is a plethora of documented statistics, evidence based which demonstrate the importance for both physical and mental wellbeing, by engaging the creative brain. Pottery offers you an outlet for self!

2. The Brain’s Pleasure Centre

The brain produces many natural chemicals, dopamine is just one.  Dopamine affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain. When our sensors kick in with the tactile processes or  hand-building with clay or working on a pottery wheel… BINGO! The brains receptors kick in and you start to feel good, hence the term ‘Pleasure Centre’!

3. Improve focus

When the pleasure centre kicks in while working with clay or on a Pottery wheel, you will notice improvements in areas including: flow and spontaneity, reduction in grief related thoughts; assists with self-identification and self-expression while also bolstering confidence and self-esteem. Being able to fully focus with the combination of hand and brain engagement assist the mind in coping with everyday life.

4. Reduces stress

 Our hands can be the answer to the reduction in stress, depression and anxiety! The importance of touch opens the flood gates to the pleasure centre.  Think about it…! Our hands can be the perfect outlet for creativity and focus; therefore outside distractions and influences are reduced to allow you time for ‘self’.

5. Helps reduce pain and discomfort

The movement of working with clay and creating on the pottery wheel is gentle yet strengthening to the hands, wrists, and arms. This can be beneficial to those prone to arthritis in the hands, as it promotes joint movement and dexterity. It’s common knowledge ‘stress’ can lead to feeling sensations of pain and discomfort. Creative hobbies – pottery is known for reducing stress and boosting self-esteem! It’s the natural chemical released in the brain which alleviates pain receptors while working with clay!

So tap into your pleasure centre, and get your clay on at Art Mania Studio’s fantastic welcoming studio space!

UPCOMING POTTERY CLASSES

Why enrol your child at Art Mania?

By | Art, Lifestyle

Creative Kids Voucher

Do you remember the look of pride and joy in your child’s eyes when you put their first piece of artwork onto the fridge? Remember the sounds of excitement and enthusiasm as texta’s or pencils scattered across the kitchen table as they decided to start their next creative project?

Recapture that excitement and pride by taking advantage of the $100 Creative Kids vouchers! Kids are taken on the most amazing journey over a term here at Art Mania Studio, they visibly blossom as their skills improve and their perspective on what’s possible widens.

Creativity is a foundational key to life. Kids shine and the ripple effect can be seen across every area of their life.

Art Mania Studio offers their After School Development Program for kids (age 5-12) and teens (age 13-18), to make sure that every child who wants to get creative, can! Wednesdays and Thursdays 4-5:30pm for 10 weeks of term is when it’s on! Weekdays no good for your family? The Krafty Kids Sat morning class also runs for the 10 weeks of term and gives an equal opportunity for growth and creative expression. These classes are a fantastic way for your child to delve into the creative world, and explore a variety of methods and techniques each week.

As parents and caregivers, there are a million different activities you can register your child for. So why should you choose to enrol your child at Art Mania?

  • Creativity is for every child (and adult!). It isn’t about having a special inclination towards being artistic; it’s not about how talented you are; it’s not even about whether or not you like your own work. Skills and techniques can be learned (just like riding a bike!), under the guidance of our wonderful tutors. Being creative has its own benefits – benefits that are just as important as those your child might get from team sports or similar.
  • Did you know that encouraging creativity in children encourages concentration, critical thinking and problem solving? Our classes engage participants in receiving and giving feedback – an essential social skill. Also, being creative helps your child learn to express themselves in different ways – this is a particular benefit for teens and preteens!

One thing that is so important is helping your child find their niche in life. The way of the world is changing and learning to use different parts of the brain will help your child in managing the demands of living in contemporary society and finding creative solutions to what life throws at them.

Our after school and weekend programs at Art Mania are a safe, fun space for your child or teen to really experience the world of art. They’ll explore different techniques and artists each week, with practical experience at the heart of each session.

Every child deserves the gift of creativity and expression.

APPLY FOR A CREATIVE KIDS VOUCHER

AVAILABLE KIDS & TEEN CLASSES