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What you do on New Year’s Day, you do for the rest of the year.


January the first has such a heavy load to carry. 
All those New Year’s resolutions (revolutions) promises made, inevitably broken. 
January two is easier, no hangover from last night, or last year.
Just a day. Like any other day.

If any day we live could e’er be called
“just another day”.


My grandmother emigrated from Scotland as a young woman, and she brought her New Year beliefs with her.  When we were growing up, mum, her daughter, would make two fruit cakes at Christmas. One for Christmas day, and the other for New Year’s Day. She’d say: Whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you do for the rest of the year. Which makes sense. Even for those crumpled teenagers we’d find on the beach the morning after the famous New Year’s Eve party, at the bowlo.

New Year’s Eve is a bit of a non-event for me. Between Boxing Day and New Year’s, I’m at the beach. About December 31, there’s a niggling feeling I should be somewhere else. But it’s just a passing thought – the surf, shady trees, and novels are too inviting: the quiet too vital. 

But I do stop and have a bit of a think about what I’d achieved in the year just gone, and make some tentative plans to do better this year.

Plein Air as future plan

If I was to do for the rest of the year what I did on New Year’s Day 2021, then I was in for a year of painting and drawing in the out-of-doors. Because that day, and for the two weeks I was at the beach, I made artwork every day, in my small sketchbook, from what was around me. Nothing too serious, mind. Flip-flops, hat, bag with painting gear, and a small umbrella. Oftentimes still in my bathers, I’d grab my cousin to see if she was up for a walk, and off we’d go. 

One day we took cold sausage sandwiches, and a thermos of tea, then walked and painted our way around the headland. A fabulous day. Another day, mum and I both drew from the car park overlooking Gap Beach (mum says she can’t draw, but she did that day). Later, at low tide, we parked and watched the 4WD cowboys lining up to conquer the sand-dune beach-access. 

The result of that fortnight’s work is a sketchbook of images that tell both the story of our Christmas, and the singular beauty that is a coastal holiday town in January. For my burgeoning plein air practice, it resulted in a surer mark, and was a gentle way back into the studio after an eye injury had slammed me into inactivity and inability for most of 2020.  Inactivity not visible to you, my digital audience, not because of secrets, but because it was too enormous to share flippantly. My eye is not 100% but in stepping out of the studio into the carelessness of plein air, I see my practice differently.

Has it worked?

photo of a hand holding a sketchbook showing drawing of the river bank and the go slow sign near the boatramp
As prophesied, I have spent more time this year drawing and painting en plein air. I'm working faster, the sweet spot is sweeter. I've recognised that although I have a strong studio practice, the plein air component is a vital part of the process. In the words of the inimitable team at Mythbusters, that a theory PROVEN!
I felt so confident that in my August exhibition, at the Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, I included sketchbook pages as part of this very important solo show. I even have ideas for an exhibition of sketchbook styled artworks.
Later in the year, I spent a solid week painting a new shed west of Stanthorpe where I filled another sketchbook. It was made of different paper stock, so it allowed a more flippant mark. I worked on a larger page too, that was fun.

Conclusion

What is done on New Year’s Day has a direct bearing on the rest of the year.
So start the year well people, curved balls have become
de rigeur, let’s give the year the best start possible.

 

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