Last year sometime, a lovely arty friend of mine spread the news that DJ Pettitt was coming to Australia! I have long been inspired by DJ and in fact its on my bucket list to one day do an art retreat in America or Europe and immerse myself in painterly fun. Well of course that dream is way off while I have my little ones so dependant on me at home. But having her fly all the way out here was too good an opportunity to miss. So I booked myself in to have a quick little getaway to Melbourne for no other reason than to get messy, meet DJ & work creatively for 3 whole days in a row!
I booked myself into 2 full day workshops with DJ & another metal clay workshop which is something I have been wanting to do for a while. The metal clay one was cancelled just a short time before the art retreat so I was more than happy to book into a 3rd day with DJ.
My first class was a book making & painting class. I decided to do lots of preparation before I even left for Melbourne as I knew if I got to the book binding stage in class, I wouldn't then be able to add free motion decoration to my pages once it was all bound.
So I pre-cut all my book pages, decorated with napkins & paper and then set about decorating with free motion stitching which I taught myself just the week before I left to go away. Below are all my signatures for my book.
Before I knew it, it was time to pack & get ready for long anticipated trip. I started getting very emotional before I left because I was leaving my babies for 3 nights. I have only been away from them a few nights before and never more than one night at a time [except when in hospital having babies of course!]. I took this picture of me huddled with all my babies just as I was about to leave for the airport. Its not the greatest pic but I truly treasure it. Me & all my best ever creations.
"Dont go to Mellben [Melbourne]" and tears streaming from her little eyes, by Georgia.
Mother Guilt peaking right about then, I tell you!
Here I am, eyes glassy and a bit red but cleaned up in my airport 'selfie'. I did it. I left.
I was actually a bit early for my plane so I promptly then went off and bought the kids presents from the Adelaide airport even before I went on holiday!
At last I arrived. Here I am left with the beautiful & talented DJ Pettitt herself and right with my gorgeous & generous roomie, Louise Nelson [Aussie Scrapping Superstar].
So classes began, every day was wonderful. There was fabulous company. I learned so much about painting from DJ that I think will help me immensely on my own creative journey too. And for that alone, it was absolutely worthwhile making the trip.
I'm not one to really do arty/crafty classes. I'm pretty much self taught in everything I've done so far. The few classes I've taken over the many years I've been art/crafting have mainly been for social reasons or just to keep busy. I'm not really a very good student. I'm not good at taking instruction. Uni was somewhat different, being visual arts, alot of it was exploration & pushing oneself further in art practice. A few technical bits then on you go - do it yourself! And I do like doing my own thing.
I do prefer to just work things out on my work - how things can be used, what I can use it for.... It seems to suit me better & seems to gel in my brain more than having someone else just telling me to do something, just because. I don't know why. Its how I'm wired. Anyway, DJ taught in a language that I understood 100%. And it was so great to hear that she's messy too & she likes to experiment & play too & that she also didn't make a great student either! She certainly passed on great gifts to the class. She was generous with information, she just explained her process & technique & we watched her, absorbed & learned. Oh it was so great!
DJ took this photo below, of me in my apron with my work from the first day. I managed to stitch up most of the inside of the front cover but need to finish the outside stitching & binding in all the signatures. One class I did take at uni that was instruction heavy, was bookmaking, which I'll forever be grateful for as I love making books and every so often I have reason to pull out all my old notes & re-teach myself different binding methods etc. They will come in handy when I am ready to bind this little beauty of a book. And I say 'beauty', as I very much enjoyed the process & it holds very dear memories of the art retreat with DJ.
I used a print of one of my painted girlies for the front cover of my book. You have no idea how long it took me to get this front cover done. I was so lost & going around in circles [see this is what happens to me in classes!] and then DJ suggested I just stop and let it be! Well I put it aside. Once dry, added just a few more details and then that was it. Done. And I am very happy with the end result.
The circle frame around my girly was actually stitched with free motion back home and just painted over and layered over. But it leaves the cover with some nice stitched texture. Ooooh lots of lovely techniques in the process we used.
This is the stitched fabric inside cover. You can see the paper signatures stacked up to the right side and the fabric cover to the left lifts up & lifts over onto the signatures giving it a very large deliciously fat stitched & beaded spine.
Over the next couple of days we worked on various collages & again I chose to use my painted girlies. We had to bring in images to use. I've had this idea in my head for a long time to do a series of windows & doors with my girlies peeking through. You can imagine all the stories you could make up for each collaged piece. Anyway, it was nice to start to play with some of these ideas and bring them to life right there in DJ's class.
Here's one of my favourite & mostly resolved pieces from the art retreat. It was a picture of a window that I printed out and collaged onto canvas with one of my girlies. Under DJ's guidance, I then added painterly effects to blend the collage & make the window photo less of a window but more of a painting. If you know what I mean? There were some little flowers on the window picture but I've replaced the photo look with painted flowers and extended some of those vines downwards. I also collaged in & painted the tree to the right of the window.
Even though I am insane over bookmaking & really was the main reason for wanting to attend the art retreat [DJ makes legendary books], I learned so much about painting AND PATIENCE and LESS IS MORE in this workshop. Invaluable.
I took lots of pictures of fabulous windows & doors & here's just another example below. This work is largely unfinished. I've just loosely blended the background & collaged in the girl but I have to add lots of painting to this one.
I started off collaging & painting babushka dolls & have done hundreds so far but I think I'm moving into windows/doors & girlies big time now! Watch this space. Its taking over my head. Think its gonna be my thing.
There is so much more in my brain & heart about this fabulous art retreat but I will leave it there for now. Such an amazing experience & I am just so grateful Jeff and the kids let me go and have a little holiday.
Thank you DJ, I honestly had such a great time learning from you. I hope you do come back soon!l xo
Thank Louise for being such a generous roomie & for putting up with my snoring [eeek!!], look forward to catching up soon xo