Background: Coming to drawing, blind
At school, I could not draw to save my life! An abiding high school memory as a 14-year old is my frustration at the huge discrepancy between the ‘Spanish scene’ image in my mind and the result. Starting with an image in mind as an approach to making art was not for me. For all that was absent in her ability to stimulate creativity, my high school art teacher unwittingly proved to be a very good model of how not to teach. And that was the end of that for almost two decades.
After university studies, a first career in social work and counselling followed. Always deeply interested in art and encouraged by friends to ‘have a go’, by the early 70’s in London, with easy access to the work of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and the like, I enrolled with great trepidation in an adult education sculpture class. This proved to be life changing and, in somewhat unusual circumstances, I found myself enrolled a couple of years later in a Diploma of Art back in Melbourne. (See BIOGRAPHY)
What had come so easily in the sculpture class in London was an enormous and hard-won struggle when it came to leaning to draw. It was a terrifying yet thrilling journey.
My Life Drawing — Portraiture Drawing teacher, David Tolley, was inspirational and his unusual gift as a facilitator provided me, ultimately, with a model for teaching and a particular interest in working with complete beginners.
This change of life direction at thirty brought me, terror-stricken and exhilarated, to art. Discovery of the creative self and the subsequent journey underpin my philosophy of art and my role as art educator. I remain forever grateful to those who nurtured me on that journey. and remain in awe of the transformative capacity of art.
As an art educator, I am interested in offering a starting point from which students are encouraged to explore with emphasis on ideas and process. Open-ended, structured yet flexible, I encourage expansion and experimentation, to move beyond the easy and familiar, to encourage expressiveness and individuality of style and vision.
Typical examples of Bonney’s workshops included the following:
1. Plein air landscape workshop
Working in situ you will, through various strategies, ‘document’ and respond to your landscape/environment with immediacy and energy, establishing an evocative dialogue utilizing any/all media of your choice and can include monoprinting, frottage, collage, natural pigments etc
2. Experimental works on photographic paper
In the absence of camera and darkroom and requiring no prior photographic experience this workshop of experimental works using photographic paper/chemicals includes possibilities of image transfer, photo-documentary reference and free-hand mark making. Affords opportunities for exploring relationship of ideas and means of execution and working with layers of meaning/media.
3. Larger than life: elements of life
Incorporating structure, texture, colour and quirky personal contributions from participants we will construct a fascinating, large-scale still life/installation. This will provide a source of inspiration for exploration of ideas, feelings and new ways of seeing. Diverse strategies and media will be employed. Collaboration may be explored optionally as may be shaped supports.
4. Mixed media
Working in studio with any/all media of your choice bringing from home documentation pertinent to your chosen subject eg photos, photocopies, words, found objects etc which will serve as your individual starting points. This can incorporate specific themes if desired, eg asylum seekers, Stolen generation or other socially/politically relevant issues. We will share discussion of ideas and strategies to build upon.
5. Environmental installation
In this workshop participants will engage with the environment to create transient, site-specific ’installations’, largely utilizing materials at hand. Installations may be documented with photos and/or drawings for later reference or may be considered works in their own right. Participants may choose to work individually or collaboratively. Promoting new ways of ‘seeing’ and ‘feeling’ the environment this workshop expands conceptual awareness.
6. Collaborative works
Based on extensive experience as co-curator and participating artist in Crosscurrents, an inter-cultural collaboration/touring exhibition, this workshop involves a variety of strategies /media applications through which to explore modalities of working with and in response to other artists, thereby reducing individual ownership whilst stretching skills, ideas and visual language of those working together.
The Project was based on the notion that the path of reconciliation involves both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians dealing with the legacies of the policies and practices affecting aboriginal people in the past and challenges us all to heal the scars.
The concept was based on an earlier work of Bonney’s. The students worked on top of photocopies made from photographs of some members of the Stolen Generation resourced over several years by Bonney. Each student brought to the image their own interpretation of the issue and its possible effects, hopes, dreams etc for future generations.
8. The informed body
Using real life body outlines on paper, canvas or permanent board, large-scale works made individually or collaboratively will explore facets of self/life/society, also providing the opportunity to move beyond the rectangle into shaped works.
Artist-in-Residence, Bowen High School, 2001 self-portraits