Art Films: tell a story

One of the main outcomes of the Live WELL – COME Share project is a collection of short films that tell stories, using art. This story-telling can be done in a really short time, like a fleeting impression that provokes a shared emotion, or triggers a similar memory.

In the project, we’ll be collecting stories of how our community deals with difficulties. Difficulties of health, of culture and language, or economic challenges – all these difficulties are being encountered everyday, by those in our community. Our lifestyles often don’t give us the time needed to really describe our difficulties to others, to share the hardships and the triumphs. The isolation of the recent lockdowns has exacerbated this, leading to many people who are pretty lonely, right now.

A selection of short films to illustrate our aims

This first short film uses humans as the main content – their faces, the texture and colour of their skin, and environs where they are focused on each other or themselves. It uses a child’s narrative, with English subtitles, to describe moments of importance. In the Live WELL – COME Share short films, we may use a recorded narrative, similar to this example, to give our films their story.

“Time”, produced by Film Supply

This next film is created using simply-drawn illustrations, with small elements in the pictures animated for special effect. While we won’t have the animation skill portrayed in this example, you can see that almost-childlike drawings, in block colours can tell a really profound story. The birdsong, and nature sound effects complete the story.

“The Art of Change: Climate Change”, by Sois de Traca

This is another short film using simply-drawn and coloured illustrations, with added animated bits. It also uses a child’s voice for narration, and in just over a minute, it tells a great little story.

“Supergirl” by Henrique Barone

There are many really lovely short-films used as opening credits for movies and episodes. This one shows how the tools of making and crafting can be used to create a stop-motion, timelapse film to tell the story of creativity. It is an example of what a big budget can produce. We may well use similar techniques to this example, but we will add in participants’ stories of health, wellbeing, doom, or trouble! Our aim is definitely to create art, and share the love of that creating within each group. More importantly, though, we’ll also be seeking to find out how the art-making helps each participant with their health and wellbeing, and tell that story as well.

This next short film is a montage of places. There are still photographs, full of texture and form, and video clips showing human movement without faces. Along with the spoken-word poetry narration, the film describes the story of a place. It’s also about the people who create community there. The imagery is located within the poem – both images and word-sounds telling the story.

“Representing Butetown: Ali’s Poem”, by Gavin Porter

One of the things that I’m really looking forward to in this project is the crossover between art mediums. For example, how can a musician work with a painter? These kinds of collaborations have incredible power to tell a story.

One film I found is a visual interpretation of a poem by Shel Silverstein. It’s really short (less than two minutes) but tells a great story using poetry and theatre.

‘Masks’ (Shel Silverstein) by Laurel Sager

This next film is a big-budget one, and much longer (around seven minutes). As such, it’s beyond what we can create in our little project. However, it’s great inspiration. When animator Patrick Smith heard one of composer Karl von Kries’ compositions, this is what he created to match the music. Watch out… it’s

S C A R Y 😱

but it has a great ending 😊

I’m always keen to see really clever short films. If you happen to come across one, please send it to me!

de Gelehut!

I’m so excited to tell you about this new-retro classroom, rescued from an old portables graveyard over in Central Victora. At the moment, it is a sleeping shell, that we plucked from out of the dust and weedy scrub, and placed in our muddy paddock. It’s waiting for its next life! Over time, I’ll bring updates about how I transform this hut for art-making and life-affirmation sessions.

Retired portable classrooms, near Kyneton 📷 by LiveBird

A room for making in

I’ve been cooking this idea for some time, like a pot of soup on the backburner. It started as a ‘what if?’. What if we had a classroom for Arts & Health Gippsland, to share skills, and share our love of making, and our love of a whole spectrum of aesthetic pursuits? With the VicHealth arts project I’m managing, it would be great to have a kind of ‘headquarters’ for the work. Could it be done?

Not by magic (I wish)

The idea grew and changed. I wondered if it could be done with a shipping container. I applied for a grant for this, but was unsuccessful, so I let the idea subside for a while. Finding money to enhance a community is easy if you’re the right person and you know where to look. But how to truly prove that a thing enhances a community and is not driven instead by a desire for personal gain? That’s the hard bit, the almost-impossible bit. This classroom would be seen as a big personal asset, no matter what it offers in terms of community building. And so the money to fund it must come from personal savings (perhaps one day it might supplement my non-existent superannuation!).

it’s arrived, in all its wonky splendour…

yes, it is a wonky as it looks… the bottom-right corner is 4 degrees out, but it’s sitting on a [level] pad of bare Gippsland dirt.
trying out the new #artsforhealth location flags for the #livewellcomeshare project;
all those windows face North for soaking up winter sun 🌞

de-geleWHAT?

I’ve called it “de Gelehut” (pronounced der Haylahoot with a gutteral ‘H’ sound; ‘-hoot‘ like ‘foot‘). That’s ‘the yellow hut’, in Dutch. No, I’m not Dutch, but I’ve married into Dutch ancestry, I sign my paintings ‘Vandyk’, and my daughter is gleefully learning the language as if it is her own. VanGogh had his Yellow House (which was actually in France). This old classroom ghost shall be my own yellow hut. (If you’re a colour-player, you’re wondering ‘what kind of yellow?’ – I’m still deciding).

BYO hot water bottle in Winter?

For those who spent any amount of time in these portable classrooms (1970s, 80s, 90s and some are still in use because there’s no need to spend money on our offspring’s educational environment is there? 🙄 ) you’ll know that these are icy boxes in winter, and hot, airless boxes in summer (because if you open the windows the flies come in). I’ll be looking into sustainable ways of making it cozy in winter, and cool in summer.

I’m planning a Winter Solstice bonfire smudging ceremony to welcome in any creative sprites that might be hanging about… 🔥

Artists a-gathering

Gippslandia #18 has a page about the project and some of the great puppets by Jeannie and Amy

The Live WELL-COME Share project is in a very exciting phase – I’m in the process of responding to the expressions of interest submitted by local artists. The diversity is such a thrill! Poets, Psychedelia, Prosthetics, Puppets… and more. The project is evolving, and what results from this process is hard to predict. You might have seen our page in the current Gippslandia edition (get your digital copy here). If you have a great idea as a facilitating artist, or you have a community group that could love an artistic story-telling project, make contact!

The artist works alone…

Do you work alone?

The project has huge potential to inspire local artists. I find one of the difficulties about working in my own art practice is the sense of isolation. On the one hand, the isolation and solitary stillness is essential to creating art that is from my own voice. But on the other hand, the camaraderie of meeting with other artists creates a lively brain. The ‘play’ when trying a different medium is a creative challenge that can crystallise my method in my preferred medium.

Try a new thing on us!

Once each Creative Node is begun, local artists and creatives can participate in the group. They can create their own stories, guided by the leadership of the facilitating Artist, using materials they didn’t have to fund themselves. This ‘skillshare’ between artists has great potential to invigorate the whole Creative Node. The project can only fund 10 facilitating artists as leaders. BUT – there is an opportunity to try different artistic processes at very low, or no cost.

Trav Hendrick’s Sugar Glider original character

Puppets!

Jeannie Haughton, (with Amy Robson) has been working on the creation of the puppets from the story ‘Uno’s Garden’. This is thanks to a limited copyright licence given by Graeme Base, the author and illustrator. Hannah Comrie-Weston will contribute sound (hear her work with Sarah Brown and Sarah Vasiliades here), and Lauren Murphy has been working to digitise the puppet’s movements, and Trav Hendrick has contributed some of his original characters to round out the story. The current members of the node will create a short animated film to screen locally. The shared intention is to promote a balance between the real need for housing, with the crucial importance of maintaining natural ecosystems. Uno’s Garden: Drouin’s Trees will also provide some sessions in creating sets from reclaimed materials for the puppets to inhabit – where in Drouin would YOU looking for a snortlepig?

The VicHealth Project

This project sat on the back-burner for most of 2020, bubbling away throughout the year to evolve with the challenges of COVID. One great change was the Melting Pot – I created a pivot to virtual sessions via zoom to encourage art making as a way to build mental resilience during social lockdown. Some of you were able to be part of this really fun and encouraging experience – thanks for joining in!

Expressions of Interest

I’m really excited to be opening out the project for Expressions of Interest. We’re looking for artists who would like to be involved. We’re looking for community groups who have a story to tell. VicHealth has contributed funding to facilitate ten small art projects to begin an art-making process. I will be working closely with Karen Whitaker-Taylor, from Baw Baw Shire, to coordinate and mentor the groups as they evolve. What they create over that time will be captured in little artistic films. These will be shared online and via projections on and in venues around West Gippsland.

COVID-lockdown hesitation

The first of the ten projects is already underway as a pilot, to test the concept. This will inform how the rest of the ten will be embedded in the region. One thing I’m finding is that there is some hesitation for events, and regular group sessions. This can only be expected, after almost a year of cancelled shows, and cancelled social groups. Another thing – which is just a hunch – is that we have become used to staying at home. In some ways, the slower pace of lockdown was welcome. Do we want to return to that frenetic pace of life?

Lockdown in Melbourne!

Social isolation due to circumstance

However, there are people in our community whose life didn’t change a great deal with the lockdown events. Their isolation was due to circumstances: health issues, mobility issues, socioeconomic challenges, or different cultural or linguistic backgrounds. The main goal of the VicHealth funded program is to enable these sometimes hidden ones. The goal is to encourage and assist those who are socially isolated to become part of a creative social group. Perhaps you know of someone who could benefit from being part of a creative process? Could you share your love of making with others? If so, please fill out this contact form so I can chat about your ideas with you.

Happy making,

Bec Vandyk

Final Melting Pot of 2020

Looking towards the New Year #maskon

my mask for the session was an all-seeing horned tweety – straight from the zoom art room

Here’s me with my result from the final Melting Pot session for the year, Episode no.7. Unlike the masks we’ve all been wearing over the past months, this one doesn’t have any antimicrobial properties at all. Perhaps even less than the spooky looking Plague doctors’ masks from the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries. These had beak-like structures that were filled with straw, herbs, essential oils of cloves, myrrh and other precious plants, to stave off ‘miasma‘. If I was to wear this down to my next cafe or supermarket trip, it might draw some disapproving looks. The mask (the medical version) has become a part of our social and personal policing – the dash back to the house to get a forgotten mask; the curious or even incredulous looks at people not wearing them in public places.

Copper engraving of Doctor Schnabel [i.e Dr. Beak], a plague doctor in seventeenth-century Rome, with a satirical macaronic poem (‘Vos Creditis, als eine Fabel, / quod scribitur vom Doctor Schnabel’) in octosyllabic rhyming couplets.

The Zoom Art Room has provided a good place to connect for socialising and creativity. While we’re weren’t able to meet in real life, we could feel the warmth of togetherness in the act of making. Our conversations are varied. Sometimes we’ve talked about isolation and loneliness. We’ve investigated the brain origins of creativity. We’ve considered how this withdrawal from society has consequences for our confidence.

Art making (or art practice) has the capacity to be a practical companion to our psyche. This active companion comes alongside the lives we live, allowing access to different forms of expression.

2021 beckons, are we brave enough to wade into it? I have nine large blank canvases waiting for the brushes – more painting is definitely on my resolutions list! Similarly, there are nine more, as-yet-unknown projects to evolve within the Live WELL-COME Share project that I’ve created, funded by VicHealth, and supported and managed by Baw Baw Shire Council. One day at a time…

Happy New Year!

The Melting Pot – Episode One, Green

Green pot, now having emptied its contents around a few homes.

The first ‘Melting Pot‘ was fun. A little scary, too – the internet vanished for a few minutes dropping me out of the virtual room. Then my laptop’s resident engines decided to be contrary. I think I maybe talked too fast. BUT so fun, nevertheless.

les Fauves colours

The theme was ‘green’, beginning with the iconic work of Henri Matisse and les Fauves (1905-1908). Translated as ‘wild dogs’ (French) they dared to introduce wild colours into the serious work of the painted arts. While the Fauvist movement only lasted for a short while, many artists have since been liberated from strict colour palettes. Yes, you can see a reflected buttercup on her chin, so paint that patch a bright buttery yellow.

Emotional colour?

Then we had a look at how to portray a face using these wild colours, based on how humans ‘read’ the emotions of facial expression. It’s a curious science, but these patches represent where a viewer’s eye gaze rested most often when looking at photographs of emotional people. We look around the mouth, under the eyes, the shape of the brows, the upward or downward tilt of the lips.

Graphs to the right of each face show how often the viewer’s eye gaze rested on the sections of the face represented by the colour code.

Then, with textas or pastels in hand, we feverishly coloured our way around some faces, as quick as we could. Working fast is the best way to stimulate the creative parts of the brain (click here to investigate the science behind this). If you’re working slooooowly and carefully, your analytic, rational brain is working. Speed up, no matter the consequence. There is no eraser here.

Then we cut out our faces and it was so fun to see people in the ‘Zoom Room’ holding them up! I wish I had taken a screen shot, but I was also conscious that I hadn’t asked anyone’s permission first. However, it would be really fun to see some further little films made of all the faces – they just looked fantastic.

this guy showing a bit of side-eye – a quick Stop Motion of one of the characters

Global gallery and art tour

While everyone was still creating, we had a closer look at a couple of things happening out in the wider, global art-world. Firstly, the current UK hunt for the Portrait Artist of the Year. Then a current art exhibition in Seattle, of two artists: Hiroshi Sato, whose realism is slightly abstracted using geometric forms, and Lisa Snow Lady, who uses lots of greens in landscape works with extremes of light and dark.

We also looked at the work of Carlos Monteiro; big, bright canvases that would dominate a room, with fauvist colours as wild as any by les Fauves. This virtual ‘tour’ online gives you a real ability to almost ‘walk around’ the gallery space, using a gamer’s toggle on the top left of the YouTube screen. It’s ingenious!

Who’s inside on a bright Spring day?

I was very conscious that the day outside was so bright and beautiful, it seemed almost a crime to be inside. We finished early. A couple of participants stayed to learn the little film smartphone App, Stop Motion Studio (click here for Android, and here for Apple).

In Victoria, we have just had the announcements made about a very gradual return to social contact. Now in ones and twos, and then in small groups of ten, then eventually fifty people can meet outdoors. I think we will need to gradually get used to more of this ‘virtual’ group meeting as the new normal. I think there will need to be ‘fun’ meetings as well as the necessary ones. Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that; but I do believe that the first Melting Pot was fun enough to have another one, in two weeks – Sunday 20th September.

Media, method, and theme still to be dreamed up 💭

You might think that I’m going to advise you not to be afraid to fail. I’m not. Be afraid. Speaking from considerable experience, failing stinks. Just don’t be undone by it. Failure is no more a permanent condition than is success.

Unknown

live WELL – COME share

Baw Baw Stories: The VicHealth Grant

VicHealth have awarded the Baw Baw Shire with an Everyday Creativity grant that will increase access to arts activities, among a wide cross section of the community. Arts & Health Gippsland will be managing the project, along with Karen Whitaker-Taylor, the Shire’s Cultural Development Officer.

To begin the work of this project while we are restricted in our community access face to face, Arts & Health Gippsland will host an online series called ‘The Melting Pot‘. In this series, we will:

🎨 try a creativity-sparking activity in a guided session;

🎨 take a look at an inspirational arts story from an historic or cultural perspective;

🎨 and we’ll finish up with a ‘show and tell’ – we can still make social connections even though we are in ‘lockdown’…

If you would like to be part of the free online series (to begin on the last Sunday in August), please add your name to our mailing list!

Project Concept

Once restrictions are lifted, the Live WELL COME Share project will begin the next phase of its work, based on the identification of small Creative Nodes – small groups of people in their geographic location – who will be led by an artist facilitator in an art-making project or series of sessions. The Creative Node participants will choose the type of medium and the project, assisted by their artist facilitator, and informed by a local person who has a long connection with the area. In this way, the participants (some who may be new to the area) can learn more about the land that they are a part of in their daily lives. 

Arts & Health Gippsland director, Bec Vandyk, will guide each Artist facilitator and the participants of the node in creating short pieces of video footage of the art that is made (whatever the medium, whether visual or performing arts, or permanent or ephemeral arts), and/or the process of making the art. Bec will produce short films from each Creative node, and screen them online and in cafes, and regional library branches.

The Creative Nodes and their Work

  1. Nodes will be chosen organically according to an expressed need by a community member or health worker (in conjunction with the Latrobe Community Health Service), specifically seeking out those who feel isolated;
  2. Nodes will not run all at once, but be rolled out slowly – the first three nodes will run as ‘pilot’ projects, getting a feel for how best to make the concept work in the context, then other nodes, one or two at a time, will follow, over an approximately 12 month period;
  3. Nodes will be a ‘no-cost’ or ‘low-cost’ activity for local community members (based on the chosen medium) with funding assistance to enable those with mobility needs;
  4. Artist facilitators will be chosen through an Expression of Interest process, and hiring decisions based on each applicant’s prior experience in facilitating community-based activities, as well as their current art practice;
  5. Artist facilitators will be paid for their time according to an agreed contract;
  6. Artist facilitators will be trained in arts-for-health concepts, use of social media (if required), and will be provided mentoring support throughout the project;
  7. Art facilitators will be encouraged to seek out a local knowledge-holder to inform their work within the Creative Node, and this process may be assisted by the project manager and/or local health and community workers;
  8. The art-making process in each Creative Node will be facilitated by the project to fund, recycle, or source materials, tools, and/or other necessary resources for art-making;
  9. The art will be used to create a visual record in the form of short pieces of video footage, which will be compiled and curated by the Project Manager with the advice and assistance of the Artist facilitator in each Creative Node.

Throughout the course of the project, the small films will be screened in public places across the Baw Baw shire and further afield in conjunction with the West Gippsland Regional Library Corporation. The Library will also have a limited ability to act as a depository for some elements of the art-making processes, and to some extent and for a limited time, some of the artworks themselves. This will serve the purpose of local place-making, but may also spark further interest in the project, to further identify community members who may desire or could benefit from social connection.

We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas, or if you know of someone or a group of people who would really benefit from some everyday creativity in their lives!

Please use the mailing list above to make contact 😊

#maternaljournal in Warragul

I’ve been planning this for a year, after learning about the work of Laura Godfrey-Isaacs at King’s College, London. Her wonderful idea, #maternaljournal, has received the Basil Lee Bursary for Innovation in Communication from the Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK. Maternal Journal honours the period of time leading up to childbirth that – for a pregnant woman – is rich with complex thoughts and emotions.

Art journalling allows a different kind of expression of the mental work done during pregnancy, through the language of colour, pattern, texture, line, and mark-making. No matter if there is no previous creative practice or artistry – the language of art making is for anyone, and it has a wonderful capacity to promote health and wellbeing in the maker.

Regional Arts Victoria has awarded me a Community Grant to carry out a series of Maternal Journal sessions in Warragul, and following disheartening interactions with the local hospital and obstetric consulting suites, general medical practices, and local Maternal & Child Health Services (health providers can’t formally recommend any alternative ‘treatment’ for their clients), I decided to carry on regardless, and offer the sessions privately.

The series of RAV-funded Maternal Journal will be an immersion in a wide variety of art-making materials and techniques, the materials for which will be largely sourced through recycled resources. The sessions will include some tuition in art techniques, but only to the extent that each participant feels free to explore their ideas further. Essentially, the series will be a refamiliarisation with art making techniques that participants may have used before – even as far back as childhood – to enable the visual communication of feelings, often in symbolic form.

Because of the symbolism allowed by art making, participants only need share their thought processes as they feel comfortable, which means that often the deepest thoughts are expressed but can remain private, until the art maker is ready to describe or interpret them. This allows other participants who view the artworks the freedom to interpret in their own way, often finding resonance with the concepts at a deeper level, beyond conscious cognition. Art making in groups, therefore, is an ages-old human connection.

For more information about the Maternal Journal for Health, get in touch!

Arts for Health Journaling

For the last month or so, I’ve been working with various art makers creating #artjournaling pages. This is a whole world of art making (one only has to scroll through the zillions of Instagram posts) where the end result is a little book full of mini artworks (and often a swathe of inspirational quotes).

Any regular art-making practice promotes health. Perhaps this seems glib – but the therapeutic benefit of art making is supported by lots of qualitative data. Vast research describes how participants in art making activities experience a very palpable sense of wellbeing, both at the time of the art making, and in ongoing ways as the art making becomes a regular practice.

The act of making, or crafting, augmenting, refining; or acting, voicing, or singing, or dancing – these physically-involving behaviours, when combined with creative brain processes and shared with other humans – become part of an endorphin-producing sequence, a ‘cascade’ of manufacture of neural connections that can ‘ward off’ the blues, creating new ways of handling emotions, reinforced by social connection and camaraderie.

Arts & Health Gippsland will be joining the new co-working space in Warragul, The Herd Coworking Space that is sponsored by our local library corp., a local branding design co., and a local legal firm. (So far, Arts & Health Gippsland doesn’t have sponsorship, please make contact if you can assist!).

We will be looking into the possibility of bringing ‘Arts on Prescription” to West Gippsland primary healthcare, where health practitioners recognise a need for social interaction and connection in their clientele, and recommend or ‘prescribe’ a social activity such as these art journaling classes.

How to knit an elephant

Knitting is health-promoting. This [usually woman’s] craft is wonderfully rhythmic (unless you’re doing a complicated pattern) which, along with the repetitive nature of the action, promotes the production of serotonin which may positively affect mood. It visually satisfies the human penchant for symmetry and pattern. It sends positive neural feedback according to touch and pressure receptors, which combines with the notional satisfaction of the creation of an object. It is a perfect combination: consciously affirmed skill, and ongoing challenge. It is immersive mindfulness.

Over the last two years, I’ve been working with a group of craft-workers to knit a giant placenta as a monument to women and their hidden work to create community. In this current social climate, economics tends to dominate dialogue. Craft, and the [usually] women that create it, tends not to feature in major discussions about community. Yet crafting objects for use by the community has a long history. As an example, the Irish fisherfolk wore occupational health and safety conscious work-wear as a direct result of women’s work.

It is hard to imagine the event that brought these Irish women together to line up with their needles, wool, and knitting bags. Some women are aware of the camera and smile at their audience; others are deep in their stitches and smile nonetheless. The photo describes only a fraction of their lives but hints at the other stories they share.

In terms of a community artwork, the #placentaproject has brought together a goal-oriented group. Some participants were previously unknown, some were old friends and colleagues. All the group members have stories to share. It is this togetherness that promotes social health, and rich, emotionally-invested connections.

Arts and Health Gippsland is now preparing sessions for groups, using craft and art-making for promoted health and enhanced connectedness.

Need to relax? Try knitting…