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Writing, Retirement and Painting?

By Robyn Canning

In response to our recent newsletter for support, we received an offer from Robyn Canning to write a blog. Thank you, Robyn. We really appreciate your contribution to our organisation. Read on to read Robyn's first contribution.

Where do I start this article? I have never written a blog for others to read. I have written journal notes and memoirs all my life, short stories and poetry, initially for no one but myself to read, until at 64, I joined a creative writing group and shared my work (a very daunting experience!).

You might ask what this has to do with art. After all, this is an artist group. I thought a little of my creative side might help you understand what I am about to write. So, if you haven’t already yawned and stopped reading, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Robyn. I live in the northern outer suburbs of Melbourne, in the beautiful semi-rural location of Mernda. I was fortunate enough to retire at 62 after 40-plus years of office work and living in the inner suburbs of Melbourne all my life. My husband and I moved to Mernda in 2016 and have loved it ever since.

One of Robyn's colouring in book pages.

I had carefully planned my retirement and thought it would be a time to expand my love of writing, and at first, this happened. I also started dabbling in adult colouring and bought several of these books and discovered I really enjoyed the relaxing therapeutic nature of colouring in. I especially loved the scenes that were already drawn in the books. I would love to draw something like that, but having been hopeless at drawing when I was young (art was just a good way to get out of school work), I continued to use the colouring books. The challenge of making the colours work together and making each picture special was something I liked.

Being a person who feels the need to keep their hands busy, this was a perfect way to compliment the time I spent writing. At some stage, later on, I wondered if I might take this further and started thinking about learning to draw. At the bookshop (at that stage, I hadn’t discovered online tutorials), I found a book called “Anyone Can Draw” by Barrington Barber.

In my mind, I set this artist the challenge to prove himself right! I read the book with interest and started the exercises. To my great surprise, what I drew, by copying the techniques in the book, was quite good! Of course, I didn’t just settle for my biased opinion (although I knew how bad I had previously drawn, so I had a good idea of what was better than that!) I asked my husband, who smiled and nodded, saying, “that’s not bad”. I took that compliment as it was the best I had ever had regarding my attempts at drawing, and I haven’t stopped drawing since - my art practice had begun!

When I read Peta’s email for volunteers to help support some activities that MAVA provides, the roadblocks in my head started appearing. I had committed to working all my life, and many of the tasks sounded like being back at work. However, I know how I appreciate the work this group does for artists, and I know that to do this well, Not for Profit organisations need volunteers. I had worked as an assistant to the CEO of a Not for Profit most of my working life, so that assistant was ‘kicking in’. How could I help without over-committing? I decided that although I am a novice artist and very inexperienced, my passion and enthusiasm for painting, drawing, sketching and anything creative to do with art might be something others would like to hear. Possibly not artists who are already professional and well on their way to achieving their goals, but those, like me, who are starting and want to hear what others do.

A selection of Robyn's watercolour practice paintings

I write this blog without any expectations that others will like or even read it, so unless I receive a resounding ‘don’t bother’ I will continue.

My next blog will definitely be all about art and things I have discovered about this wonderful creative experience!

Until then, have fun creating!


If you want to share your experience, please contact us via the Contact Us page and send us your story. We would love to hear from sculptors, jewellery makers, ceramicists, printmakers and anyone whose art practice has three-dimensionality.


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