Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Competition.

As co-creators of this BIG ship. We take turns in navigation. Trusting the other will spy rock and steer us well. And sometimes we see the same rock differently. And then what? There is listening. And counter argument. And the one with the greatest gut wins. And the other accepts it. And takes disappointment on the chin. Like a child, a little grumpy but soon engaged with the next wave and past the rock completely.

I wanted to enter a competition to give us some instant BIG cash and a business fast track. I wrote the application and had a feeling we were a strong contender. Lilly felt the same, and then asked me to pull the application. I did. Because I knew it was not right. That for a company like ours to be ethical and brave, we could not. But I am still a bit grumpy. And I think it is mainly because I want to see if we could/would win!

In my house tonight I had an extra child. An international, visiting from London. Squashed in age between my two boys, the resulting trysts were hilarious. Before bed there were re-enactments of the Cirque du Soleil performance we had just witnessed (thanks Grannie!): all strong men and acrobats and silent movie film stars careering around in the playroom til WAY beyond bedtime. Wind down consisted of gluey fingers sticking paper-monsters, a collaborative calamity of a shoebox house (I am no queen of craft!) and a drawing competition. The competition winner was decided by a spinning pencil. The 5yr old judge spun it repeatedly until his brother won. In the end it was decided the visitor should win. Skill played no part in the decider as they agreed all were brilliant. Paper medals were made up. And a very wonky trophy. Photos were taken, the picture gallery hung, and the satisfied winners eventually all tumbled sleepwards.

I sat with the paper trophy and let myself wonder. And then I went back to the competition entry and deleted my submission. Crossing each other out in the over-rule? No.
A lighthouse at a pivotal BIG juncture in the making of this magazine? Yes.
Thanks Lilly.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Risking 'right'

A group of children sit in an art class after school. They tumble in raucous and joyful needing to run and roll the structure of their day onto the gym floor. They eat ravenously, warm yoghurt tubes and squashed sandwiches, chattering playground secrets and relief. Slowly the fidgeting falls away and there is enough calm to gather in a circle and begin. Our time together always starts with questions. What can you see in this painting? How does it make you feel? What do you like about it? What bothers you?  At first it is all averted eyes and shuffling. Then a few clowns take centre stage with the rampant playfulness of tweens. Snorts and giggles. Eventually hands are raised with hesitancy, and often there is a familiar lilt at the end of an answer. A hidden question returned to me, the teacher. Did I get it right? Is that what you wanted? Did I pass your test? Sometimes this goes on for weeks. Cautious. Restrained. Then finally something happens.  A child, usually a quiet one, speaks without raising their hand and blurts out a real answer, unfettered and confident. The room is quiet and the words hang unencumbered in the air. “I like it because it makes me think about my grandma, she was an artist and used to paint just like this. I feel happy to think of her” Everyone is listening intently. Bright eyes sparkle and there is a buzz of excitement and a new kind of focus in the room. An explosion of conversation and debate ensues.

They have incredible ideas these little philosophers, and their relief at expressing authentic voices and angles is absolutely palpable.  Having finally understood that the enquiry is ‘real’, probing and unlimited in its scope a room full of children come alive. School doors open to the world.  Kids sit taller, speak more clearly, and become animate and alert. Instead of searching for test paper comebacks and rote responses they begin investigating their own humanity and unique perspectives with enthusiasm. I live for this moment, when children reawaken to their own ingenuity and brilliance. It takes time, but after a while they are far less afraid to make mistakes, the payoff of risking ‘getting it right’ has proved worth it.

Last week Jo's youngest son experienced exactly this moment:

My 2nd born boy finally drew me a BIG bird...he had kept asking me to 'trace' an outline for him to colour in as he didn't know 'how' to draw a bird. He likes to get things right. He demands specificity about what is real and unreal (notice the grass and the sky). After having an older child who never once asked if his take on the world was 'right' it just 'was', and still 'is' (no matter if the sky is green and the tree upside down!)
For my littlest boy to make the leap to put texta to paper to shape his own imagining it was a magical moment of flight for us both.Is it birth order? Is it because his older brother can do it 'better'? Is it just different personalities? Is it a different way of seeing the world? Whatever it is, after months in the waiting, he loved seeing his bird fly, and oh so did I.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Imagine BIG

We have been documenting BIG thinking. We doodle logo ideas, gather projects, compile content, write copy for media kits, and refine our vision late into the night. We get clear about what we are offering in BIG. Bravery, Generosity, Imagination: A creative arts organisation for kids that is passionate about  the rigour of quality art practice, neither as elitist nor hobby but as a holistic way of thinking and an everyday way of engaging, viewing and responding to the world.  BIG is totally over the sexualization of kids in some fashion spreads and by some marketing companies, and totally into magnifying childhood worlds where kids are free to be kids.

Instead of tiring at the magnitude of work before us, we are increasingly passionate and inspired (and yes, a little sleep deprived!) We are getting ever closer to launching this BIG thing, and thank you for hanging in there and watching as we grow this wilful baby! BIG Kids Magazine is making us wish we could read it already!

Imagine a kids magazine that is aesthetically beautiful yet not limited in style or theme. Imagine artwork and responses from children published side by side the work of emerging and established artists. Imagine a world that enables children to storyboard their passions and create a unique mini 'zine' of their own. Imagine a 'secret' section, a pop out paper playground, or a ‘world’ that can be designed from scratch. Imagine a limited edition pull out art print that can be saved and framed. Imagine the conversations of a junior editorial team at play as they contribute to the content and vision of their magazine. Imagine projects inspiring collaborations between kids and their grandparents, or with a child on the other side of the world. Imagine a world class artist collaborating and responding to the work of a child.

Imagine what kids can imagine, and you have the BIG picture!

Logo ideas doodle

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Co-authored Land of Grumpilotta and Little Miss Apple Tree

Jo and I create worlds in the space between us, and tend not to work with the traditional collaborative approach of writer and illustrator. Our ideas grow in a co-authored landscape. Jo writes worlds and words for stories I have dreamt forever. She sends ideas for shapes and shades. I paint with her fingers. Our worlds overlap to the point that we cannot remember which, or who, came first. It is a responsive dialogue that finds a different form depending on the demands of each new world we collide in. The Grumpi ladies have an incredible written history but the story does not arrive in a linear frame. I illustrate what resonates and Jo recalibrates her text in the slipstream and viceversa. Though a very specific aspect of the BIG ship, this practice of co-authorship very much informs and continues to drive our bigger working process in many ways. Here, we are working on a series of online and print-based  limited edition artists books of illustrated prose for the grown and the growing: Books that grow.

Text for the grown...

On the day before autumn, Lotta hitched layer coloured skirts and took whisper steps to a new river. To her first born she spoke, "I will find you there under pebbles and ash and pull you out from the other side of the world, earth covered and brave from the journey". The child had been wanting to land for centuries, drawing maps of imaginary treasure to pass the time until her mother was finally ready to catch her. With strings loose all around her that held tight to her thoughts and dreams, she dived into the future and into the arms of Lotta who wept and sighed and sank in awe at her wondrous girlchild.

...and the growing...

The world is a tree
here, come travel with me
and I'll secret a storm in your name.

You're the wondrous one,
your tale's just begun
oh such joy at the world in a day.

May you splash in the puddle
and unmuddle the muddle
to dance in new ways on the map.

We will follow
and fold you
and love you
and hold you,

and catch you whenever you SPLAT!

Images by Lilly, words by Jo. Ideas, content, and response for images and words and the space between them belong to both artists. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kickcan & Conkers: featuring BIG!

We are thrilled to be featured in such a BIG way on the fabulous blog Kickcan & Conkers. Deborah lives in the south of France with her family and is passionate about the arts, home decor and thrifting. Her blog highlights innovative and adorable projects from around the world as well as daily posts featuring irressistable finds for kids and big kids!  Great for BIG to be travelling at such a young age!  Check out the love here (Thank you Deborah!):

Friday, April 8, 2011

Father/ Daughter FireBirds

BG, 8, On the road
Paul Macklin, On the Road
BG, 8, On the Road

 I have a firebird staying in my house. She is the Rose that introduced Lillly and I so many years ago. She is on the road for many reasons.

Bonnie Grace and her dad Paul  are on the road too. There are four of them, a family, traveling around Australia in a camper van. Learning from life and loving the challenge and freedom of their journey. We will tell more of their adventures soon!

Paul Macklin, Firebird

BG, 8, Bluebird

Monday, April 4, 2011

The practice of landing

BIG is a magazine in the making.

We work in the between hours: between children, between sleep, between work, between cities.
BIG exists is in all the available spaces, which, because of the Perth/Sydney time difference, means it's close to 24/7. We are also dreaming BIG.  There have been times of acceleration, and times of letting the work speak quietly for itself in its own time.  Right now, BIG is in overdrive. Lilly and I run and work at such speed that we collide in the night. This time though, we talk easily through difference and land on the same BIG page.

Twyla at work
The shared landing between us has extended to many BIG things in the last week. We are currently drafting the BIG contents page and are incredibly excited by what is emerging atop of what we thought we already knew. We have also had the penny finally drop with our logo. We have been through so many drafts and much questioning although I am not surprised at the time it has taken to arrive at our latest 'beginning'. People want concrete so quickly. Lilly tells me tonight of the fluidity with which very young kids paint, where nothing is concrete and how the process is everything.  As adults, of course we promote the journey not the destination, but there is much expectation on arriving quickly at certainty without doubt. What IS this BIG magazine, people ask? What EXACTLY will it be? It will be something that is needed, something that speaks to the current generation of parents, artists and carers. And foremost, to KIDS and the child in all of us.  It will promote creative thinking, and even under pressure, I am adamant that we practice what we preach and continue to listen, respond, and follow our attention and interest, all while galvanising these creative drivers into action.

As a lecturer in dance to final year BA and diploma students, my unofficial role as I teach, is to ready and enable each of them to understand their own creative 'drivers', and passion, and be able to translate this to whatever project they land in, dancing or otherwise.  I ask them to invite the possibility that all of their history and experience is accessible at all times (no wonder sometimes its difficult to get out of bed - just think of the weight of all the experience we store in our bones!!). There are 100 touch receptors in each finger tip. Just notice that for a moment.  Sensation leads to such great places. Not all are positive. Richness is found in the range of experience. None greater, I believe, than experienced as a child, in love, and as a parent: Oh the HIGH's. Oh the lows! (Please feel free to add to this in the comments- as a traveller, artist, gardener, crafter, runner, dreamer, baker, student, builder, thinker, supporter, teacher etc. What drives you?)
Twlya in process
 I completely believe in 'not-knowing' as a philosophy in creative practice. It is OK to sit with not knowing, to be quiet in the uncertainty, to trust that it will find its way. To not pressure the end result of everything before its time while being unequivocal in the understanding that such a cumulative process will arrive brilliantly! As a choreographer I am used to visioning projects that may not come to fruition for a number of years due to funding or artist availability or the birth of babies! I honestly trust that each point of 'arrival' makes itself known, in performance-making and life. Sometimes instantly and sometimes over years. Sometimes oh so easily, and sometimes painstakingly. I am deliberately active in not knowing all of the answers and in trusting that the work I do will eventually land in a place where I can see what is  needed. 
Like Twyla, we dive into the grandest of detail and suspend our own disbelief in the BIG process as it grows in scale, speed, and clarity. Listening in every landing.

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