I Do Art Discussion No. 12 – “A Bird of Paradise”

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‘I Do Art Discussion’ series features and discusses in-depth, particular abstract paintings produced by myself.  Previous ‘I Do Art Discussions’ can be found here.  My goal/desire is to give the viewer of my art work the back story; meaning an artist’s reflection on what was the inspiration behind the art work itself; and hopefully help guide the viewer to a place of deeper understanding and appreciation of the art work featured.

This particular abstract painting no. 38  I titled “A Bird of Paradise” – acrylic on canvas, as shown above was completed in September 2009.  It is 100cms in length and 115cms wide by 3cms deep.  The painting was inspired by the ‘Bird of Paradise’ Strelitzia Reginae that my husband had planted out into pots and then placed on our back paving garden area, as featured in the image of our garden below.

When we first moved to this home, there was no garden, just bare soil and it is to my husband’s credit that over 10 years he has created this garden wonderland.  Much of it was created from cuttings and plants given to use by my husband’s father. Sadly his father died suddenly in 2008. The pots of bird of paradise were from his father’s garden originally and are now growing happily in our garden.

During my husband’s recovery from Chemotherapy in 2009/2010, he spent small amounts of time in the garden planting; which helped him feel better about life.  This featured painting titled ‘A Bird of Paradise’ represents the beauty of my husband’s gentle inner soul.  He has been and is – a wonderful soul mate over the course of our 30 years plus of marriage.  Our garden is a place of peace and hope.  A quiet place to potter and tender to mother earth.  My husband has been my “Bird of Paradise” in my life and the source of my inspiration for this painting…

Footnote:  The Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia) are native to South Africa and are much-loved in Australian Gardens and in our home garden Melbourne, Australia. They are a tough plant that can withstand our Australian droughts. The variety grown in our garden is called Strelitzia Reginae and features striking orange and blue flowers with tropical looking leaves.

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens states “the bird-of-paradise flower, or crane flower as it is sometimes known, was first introduced into Britain in 1773 by Sir Joseph Banks, then the unofficial director of the Royal Gardens at Kew (as they were known at the time).  He named the exotic-looking plant Strelitzia in honour of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who lived at Kew for many years” (Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. 2014).

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Art Therapy Group Session 4 of 7 – “Using Music To Inspire The Artist Within!”

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The scene was set for our Art Therapy Group Session 4 with a back drop of beautiful music.  We were first asked to sit quietly and just listen to the music, then close our eyes and visualise the music in images and colours to help inspire us to create an individual piece of art. We were then instructed to open our eyes and gather up our art materials and commence…

So with a small sheet of butcher paper, acrylic paints and a charcoal stick, off I went!  My art piece was inspired by the rhythm and joyfulness of the music and how it made me feel.  I decided to use a small roller to apply the paint to the surface as I had never used a roller before and really enjoy the freedom it gave me to push around the paint; in motion with the music.  The colours I chose were favourites of mine; brilliant orange, bright sky blue, metallic gold, silver and then black for some definition. Then I took to using the charcoal stick to edge some of the rolled lines; it was another art item that I had never used before.  It was easy to emerse myself into the music and the art – gave me a great sense of being in another world, a world without any other thoughts, emotions other than what was at hand – the music and the art.  This process, I found very calming and enjoyable; most of the other group members seemed to have enjoyed the experience as well.

After finishing off our individual art works, we layed then on the floor in front of us.  Each one of us in turn, talked about our painting results; what it meant to us and how did the music impact us during this process. It was interesting to note that all members of the group had mostly happy stories to recall and it was clear that this particular ‘Art Therapy Session – using music to inspire the artist within’ was a joyful experience and perhaps unlike some of the others where deeply personal and sometimes sad emotions had surfaced during a session.

We were then asked to participate in a group effort to produce one single piece of art work. The art therapist layed out a single stretch of butcher paper along a number of tables so that we could all have the opportunity to walk around the entire circumference of it.  Without words and with the beautiful music playing in the background, we went about creating a group painting.  Quietly and studiously, each of use went about creating our part of the painting.  At the end of the time frame given to complete our group effort, we were asked to share what we experienced throughout the process.  For me, I found it more fun than what I thought it would be!  Whilst at first, I was a little apprehensive to paint over another’s efforts, I found it liberating once I had decided to let go and just do!  I didn’t think that I would enjoy this process because, it would mean it would require of me to share with others an art expression; but it was strangely liberating and fun.

This ‘Art Therapy Group Session’ 4 was different from the other three for me because it was not as confronting.  Not confronting in the sense that I was not having to challenge some deeply embedded thoughts and emotions.  It felt like a little Siesta midway though our Art Therapy Group Sessions, which was greatly appreciated by me and very much enjoyed by most of the group members.  In summary I would say that the inclusion of delightful music with the process of making art, offers a reprieve and aids improving one’s sense of well-being – this is what I found on this day…

NB:  Please click on the below links to view Nos. 1, 2 & 3 Art Therapy Group Sessions:

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Art Therapy Group Session 3 of 7 – “Taking a long hard look at one’s inner self can be childs play!”

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We are now into our third week of ‘Art Therapy Group Sessions’ and I have been finding them interesting, challenging and enlightening.  This particular session was smaller in numbers than the other two.  Having small numbers in the group made the experience of sharing a little more intense, as there is more time than usual to discuss our art therapy works.  Hence more focus on our individual thoughts, feelings and emotions which can be intimidating and confronting.

Art Therapy Session No. 3 - 'Mindfullness' 2-8 by Karen Robinson Materials - Soft Pastels & Watercolour Paints on butcher paper August 14, 2014 Images copyright .JPG

Art Therapy Session No. 3 – ‘mindfulness’ 2-8 by Karen Robinson Materials – Soft Pastels & Watercolour Paints on butcher paper August 14, 2014 Images copyright .JPG

There were a number of activities undertaken during this session and I have decided to discuss just the one.  We were asked to select a shell from a group of sea shells laid out before us; a sea shell that appealed to us, that we could connect with in some way.  After spending some time viewing the shells, I found myself drawn to a shell that was largish when compared with the other shells.  It was very solid with aging lines on the right side; barnacle type marks on its underside and brown-yellow in colour.  We were then asked to hold the shell and concentrate on its shape, size, smell, colour and feel; to be truly mindful of its presence.  I found my thoughts drifting to thoughts about when I was a child and the times I played with my brother and sister on the beaches where we lived.  Playing in the sand, sun and the sea; collecting shells, driftwood and little treasures to play with after leaving the beach and on our return home.

Once we had completed our ‘mindfulness’ about the shell, we were asked to paint a scene where the sea shell could be placed within.  I selected a small sheet of butcher paper, a set of soft crayons and a set of watercolour paints and proceeded to paint my beach scene using these materials and keeping in mind my personal shell story.


On completion we were asked to verbally share our story.   The art therapist had given me a sheet of paper where I wrote some words to explain mine and they are as following:

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time on the beach with my brother and sister.  Some beaches were placid and tame, some were wild and furious. My sea shell represents how it has been able to survive these earthy conditions and be able to land on the shore and nestle within a safe haven of rocks.  Although being small, it has still made its presence felt and found its way to here today…

This art therapy session took me back to my childhood, reminding me of the pleasurable times at the beach with my brother and sister.  I remembered how engaging with nature had been one of my joys during my childhood years.  Childhood was not an easy time for the three of us children but…we survive…just like my shell.

NB:  Please click on the below links to view the first and second Art Therapy Group Sessions:

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Art Exhibition – Royal Exhibition Building – “Melbourne Art Fair” 2014

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The Melbourne Art Fair is one of Australia’s leading contemporary art events for the year. It gives galleries and their artists an outstanding opportunity to present “a rich and diverse cross-section of the regions’ visual art scene and directly contributes to the livelihood of living artists” (Melbourne Art Fair. 2014). It is held within the magnificent historical World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building; and positioned next to the Carlton Gardens, Nicholson Street, Carlton. The building itself consists of “meticulously-restored opulent interior, expansive galleries and soaring dome” (Royal Exhibition Building, 2014). It is breathtakingly beautiful and in my opinion, really out shines any art work exhibited within its grandeur space.

This Slide Show below consists of photos taken of the Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens and the Josef Hochgurtel Exhibition Fountain surroundings.

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On this beautiful late winter, sunny day in August 2014 – my husband and I ventured into the city to experience this major event. Our art therapy journey for today began as we walked along the path through the Carlton Gardens towards the impressive Josef Hochgurtel Exhibition Fountain of 1880 which is located along side of the Royal Exhibition Building. We took some moments to appreciate its beauty. The fountain is the largest and most elaborate in Australia; it incorporates frolicking putti, fish-tailed Atlantes, goannas, platypus and ferns (VHD Heritage, 2014). It is the artist’s only known work in Australia (VHD Heritage, 2014).

On entering into the Royal Exhibition Building itself, it is hard not to be sweep away with its grandeur.  Below is a series of photos taken to help viewers appreciate the expanse of Melbourne’s Art Fair from varying angles throughout the building.

During our roam through the Melbourne Art Fair we had the opportunity to view approximately 70 leading Australian and International galleries.  These galleries represent approximately 300 artists eg:  Painters, sculptures, photographers, along with video and installation contributors.  Please click here for a list of exhibitors present on the day.

The following Slide Show below consists of photos taken of some of the Exhibitors throughout the Royal Exhibition Building.  Being located in such a venue gives both Gallery owners and artists alike an amazing opportunity to showcase their wares in most spacious surroundings.  It also allows the viewer/buyers of art works much room to move freely throughout the venue in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  It feels like one giant art gallery!

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And then there was the art work itself, truly amazing – imaginative, playful, serious, ingenious, thought-provoking, beautiful and sometimes puzzling. There were a number of works of art that grab my attention more than others.  One of them was called Le Vol (Part 111) Inkjet print on vinyl wallpaper, 260 x 410cm by photo artist Valerie Sparks. Her monumental wall work took me into a magical world. Below is a series of photos taken on the day and should you wish to know more about any of the images/works of art – please refer to Melbourne’s Art Fair Online Catalogue.

Here below in a photo my husband took of myself on this day, you will find me mesmerised by Del Kathryn Barton’s amazingly intricate, 5 panelled work of art titled ‘The Heart Land’ 2013/2014 – synthetic polymer paint on polyester canvas.  The more I gazed upon her work the more surprises I found – very interesting and engaging!  Del Kathryn Barton’s art work was a stand out for me during our visit to this year’s Melbourne Art Fair.

Melbourne Art Fair August 2014 at Royal Exhibition Building - Photo taken by Husband of Karen Robinson visiting fair IMG_0477.JPG

Melbourne Art Fair August 2014 at Royal Exhibition Building – Photo taken by Husband of Karen Robinson visiting fair IMG_0477.JPG  Amazing 5 panel work of Del Kathryn Barton.

It was an amazing opportunity to view what others do!  It would have been good though – if there had been more information about each of the works of art along side of its display.  The back story, the story that helps the viewer of the art work to understand better what inspired the artist to create such art work…but that’s another story!

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Art Therapy Group Session 2 of 7 – “I found myself emotional when I least expected it…”

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My Art Therapy Group Session 2 – was unlike the first session for me.  During my first session I found it fun.  I came along to this session 2 with a mind-set that I was going to have an enjoyable experience.  During the process of this session, I found myself emotional when I least expected it.  The art therapy process had revealed hidden emotions, thoughts and feelings that I had not expressed in sometime. Whilst each participant’s activity was the same, the visual and verbal outcomes were unique to the individual.  The session I found most revealing; revealing in relation to myself and in relation to others within the group.  Please note that these art therapy sessions are not about creating works of art but about creating a means to express oneself with imagery and hopefully words in a safe and supportive environment.

NB:  Please click here to read the introduction to this series of posts and also more about the first session:  Art Therapy Group Session 1 of 7 – ‘It’s actually fun!”

First up in this session two – we were required to spend 5 mins with crayons and a small sheet of butcher paper and create a ‘stream of consciousness’!  It was a way of warming up our create brains; getting us in an art therapy mind space!  Once again it was interesting to take note, how each of us had interpreted this instruction given by the Art Therapist.  My sketch above was just about having some fun and enjoying the process of just ‘doing’ with colour and black lining, which I don’t usually do in my normal abstract painting efforts with acrylic on canvas.  Our efforts expressed a range of different emotions such as:  anger, sadness, pain, worry, despair, joy, delight and happiness.


We were then asked to do another sketch (mine above) within 5 mins about ‘how we feel right now’!.  Same materials were used. My sketch was based on the saying about the ‘cup being either half full or half empty’.  My life now, is more than ‘half full’ and the bright yellow is representative of this; with the blue and green colours representing cooler feelings and emotions, along with orange, red being rage and/or being upset and lastly the black which represents the loss of my son, which will never go away.

I also explained that my sketch, once turned upside-down represented some days where it is not all sunny, they can be dark and looming; but these kind of days were few and far between now as it had been nearly five years on from the loss of my son Ben in 2009.

The above sketch was the last in this set we did and once again in was crayons on butcher paper.  We were then asked to ‘create a feeling that you need’ and I sketched a blue, soft, fluffy cloud floating across my sunny day.  Everyone’s set of sketches were so different and each brought forward an emotion, feeling, thought that was shared willingly in this safe and supported art therapy group.  Conversations were honest and frank and within the comfort zone of each participant.

The last task we were assigned, was the most revealing in my opinion, personally and group wise.  We were asked to sit alongside a light which allowed a silhouette of ourselves appear on a sheet of butcher paper which had been temporarily applied to the wall.  Another participant penciled along the outside of the silhouette head of the person seated.  Each participant was then asked to then complete the silhouette portrait in such a way it would show ‘what we are’ and ‘how we see ourselves’.  Once again there was a time frame of approximately 45 minutes. The start to my task was relatively easy for me; I have a head full of grey hair, so I took to applying streaks of silver paint.  Then I filled in the lips with red lipstick because during my whole life, I have most of the time, when I dressed up, worn red lipstick.  We were allowed to use words, symbols, diagrams, figures anything that came to mind.  For me this became very difficult and all of a sudden I found myself becoming very upset and distressed.  It was confronting and I was surprised that this task had stirred up such emotions.  But I progressed and added in my brown eyes, the mole on the side of my face and then painted my face in a light pink.  The light pink was representative of how vulnerable I was feeling at the time and then I added my favourite part – colour.  Each participant’s silhouette portrait was very individual, each creation telling deeply personal stories about themselves which they shared.  It wasn’t easy to do…

We were also given a list of questions to consider about our ‘silhouette portrait’.  Following is that list with my own particular response:

  • What was that process like for you?  My answer:  Difficult…
  • What was challenging/hard? Why?  My answer:  Using symbols – couldn’t do – too hard because it would mean I would have to visualised painful images.
  • What was easy/fun/enjoyable? Why? My answer:  Doing the colour with the paint was fun and I love colour, my home is full of colour – it makes me happy.
  • What opened up for you?  My answer:  Pain and grief.
  • What did you learn or what will you take with you from this session?  My answer:  Trend softly – art therapy can reveal pain and grief.

After our art therapy group session, we all decided to take lunch together at a local cafe which was really lovely.  It gave us all a chance to debrief and get to know each other better outside of our art therapy process.  Art therapy at its best I feel…

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson

Art Therapy Group Session 1 of 7- “It’s actually fun!”

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My art therapy journey has been a solo experience up until now, meaning without any outside influences or company. It has been a very personal endeavour and one that at first was just for me. Over recent years though, I began to share some of my work through group exhibitions which has been enlightening and revealing.  It was through these exhibitions that I learned about the power of art as a form of self-expression; a way to empower a person with a visual voice, when words are had to find.

Just recently, I was fortunately asked, if I would like to join an art therapy group.  The small group is especially for those who are carers for another in their lives.  The sessions are designed to offer individuals a way to express themselves through art in a safe, secure and supportive environment.  It also gives participants an opportunity to meet new people whom they learn to share thoughts, emotions and life experiences within an imaginative and creative environment.

NB:  For the purposes of this weblog series “Art Therapy Group”, I will not be mentioning any names or personal details of participants or even the name of the organisation that runs the sessions.  Individuals have the right to privacy, so it will only be about my own experience – and broad statements about each particular session.  I hope you will understand.  During my first session experience, I realized that I must have been ready for this type of art for therapy, as I found it actually fun. This was my personal experience but I am sure for some of the other participants, it was emotionally challenging and confronting.

In our group there are five participants, one art therapist and one co-facilitator.  At this very first session it was really about getting to know each other, gaining a sense of being comfortable in sharing basic facts amongst the group, in this new space.  One of the exercises involved using a set of crayons and a sheet of butcher paper.  Each participant had to articulate a story about the first session.  Our time frame was just 10 mins – so we had no time to waste, it was straight into creating!  It was very interesting how each individual’s drawing was so different; and how each participants accompanying story – fascinating and revealing.  I was just amazed how the act of making art could unleash such strong emotions, thoughts and feelings.

For myself, I did a crayon sketch on butcher paper about our group.  The black darken outlines represents the seven of us within the art therapy group.  The red shaping in the body of each represents our hearts.  The different coloured lining represents our human makeup.  What I said at the time, when explaining about my art work story was that “we are at the beginning of this 7 week journey in this art therapy group, we are all human, all the same, we know little about each other at this point, but we are united together as a group to venture forward to learn more, more about ourselves and about each other”.

Once we had all explained what our art work was about, we had to cut or tear it up and use the pieces in a group weave.  This was confronting for me and some others because it meant we had to virtually destroy what we had just created.  It was an interesting group process and once completed, we all stood back to have a look at our new group master piece.


This whole process for me, was about the act of individually creating; individually given up that creation; and then recreating as a group.  A little like what happens in a family, giving up individual efforts for the good of the family as a whole.  Another thought that I had, was that we can some times in our lives suffer great losses and in order to continue on, we need to look at being able to recreate ourselves over again, for ourselves and for others.  Art for therapy gives us a way to process thinking…I could see this in action within our art therapy group on this day…

Whilst you are here – please check out my home page!  My Art Therapy JourneyA window into the soul of an Abstract Artist through art therapy and storytellingby Karen Robinson