Centaurs and rose bushes – lost in the labyrinth of too many ideas

What do you get when you put a mind already full of potential projects in front of Pinterest, Instagram and the wider world in general? Excitement, passion, curiosity and a mania for surplus creative ideas.

The world is this whirling carousel of “could’s” and “should try’s” and I find myself weaving in and out of semi-completed artworks and half-baked techniques like a kid running enthusiastically through a hedge maze.

Don’t get me wrong, I pick up handy hints and techniques that are really pretty cool along the way, but I find myself torn down the middle between on the one hand, expanding my horizons and on the other developing my work to its true potential.

I have a passion for materials you see – I love paper most of all – the folding, cutting, layering, scrunching, twisting; then add in texture, applying media like the free flow of watercolour, the definitive strength of Indian ink, the cleanness of printed graphics and gold foil, the magic of marbling.

I love the maths involved in taking the two dimensional and creating three. My years of teaching Graphics are coming out through my processes as I find myself doing a modern twist on Instrumental Drawing to create a 3D paper house or to try and get my head around a kirigami pattern.

As always, I find I’m split between a very logical and mathematical, almost scientific problem-solving based methodology and the free-play nature of art and the wild discoveries that it brings.

Maybe that makes me a sort of liminal being like a Centaur, half human, half horse with experience of being both but sometimes viewed as neither. It’s funny – I often feel at war with my own personality but maybe I need to embrace the inner Centaur. In Greek and Roman mythology liminal beings such as these often played mentoring roles because they carried a unique perspective through living in two worlds and being able to relate to both. Maybe to be two things at once doesn’t always mean being stuck in the ‘in between’.

So how to be both things without being superficial, underdeveloped or spread too thin? I think accepting my logical/creative split down the middle as being a strength rather than a weakness is a start.

To really develop my work might just mean putting limits on inspiration time and instead, taking on the advice I read recently in an article (https://www.entrepreneur.com/amphtml/234140)

“Ideas are like rose bushes: they need to be consistently pruned and trimmed down. And just like a rose bush, pruning away ideas — even if they have potential — allows the remaining ideas to fully blossom.”

It’s easy to prune away an underdeveloped or dying branch, but when there are fresh buds or healthy flowers there it’s hard to snip them away.

I’ve recently found this hit home in a practical way when trying to sell my work at a local artists’ market. Sales were pretty average that day and looking back over my display and doing more reading it keeps hitting home to me that my work is too broad. My display was too full and didn’t allow my signature work to speak. It’s pruning time for me and it’s a hard thing for me to do.

In what ways have you had to prune back aspects of your life or work? Are there any tricks you use to help you know what to cut and what to keep? Does anyone else ever feel like a centaur, at war with their seemingly double-sided personality or skill set?

I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment below!




Architectural Watercolour with It Hao Pheh

Last week I had the pleasure to attend a demonstration by Melbourne based artist It Hao Pheh. Held at the Berwick Artists’ Society, it gave me the opportunity to see Pheh’s process in action over two hours as he showed the early stages of a large scale watercolour work.

Trained in Malaysia and England, his watercolours are both beautiful and sensitive. He tends to predominantly focus on architecture and landscapes. His art, unlike much traditional watercolour is quite drawing-dominated and tends to keep tight control over the medium, working flat on a table rather than allowing the water and paint to bend to gravity’s will through a more typical vertical set-up. He sticks with a limited palette and basic brushes, using a spray bottle to introduce the water just as much as applying it with the brush. He also uses a lot of stippling of paint which adds interest but is also quite beautiful when applied to imply the leaves on trees or other small details.


He is a very friendly and humble person and it was lovely to be able to speak to him after his demonstration. Watercolour is the one area of painting I have never been trained in and he said that was fairly common that it didn’t get covered. I’ve only tried it once myself and had great frustration with it but a deep appreciation for its beauty at the same time. Pheh said he considered it the hardest painting medium to master and I happen to agree. Watching him, it looked so easy but I feel that (to use a music analogy) it’s the jazz of the painting world. Oils and acrylics can be controlled and pushed to the artist’s will, however there’s a certain level of improvisation and ‘letting go’ required of a watercolour artist while under the surface there has to be solid technique. The work is extremely intentional and yet very free. There’s a lot of skill in getting that balance right.

I appreciated his tendency to limit his palette and materials. He was trained to work with what was available to him at the time and to value portability so he could paint anytime, anywhere. It did remind me of recently when I was playing with my son in the park -digging holes in the tan bark with sticks. The thought crossed my mind at the time how satisfying it was to create with what’s around you – that there’s a simple joy in drawing a picture in the dirt (or whatever colour’s left in your paint palette, in It Hao Pheh’s case). As a child I used to enjoy crushing rocks and clay and mixing them with water to create paint. There’s something in me that wants to get back to that idea of not needing much to create work. (It would also help me to fit my art supplies in my cupboard a whole lot better!)

It Hao Pheh’s work uses white space masterfully. He really knows what to leave out and doesn’t overwork his images. In response to a question asking why he didn’t paint the sky in his work, he said he was very influenced by traditional Chinese painting where it’s the subject that provides the context (if you paint a bird flying you know that what surrounds it is the sky). There’s no need to over communicate and it prevents the subject from being overpowered.

In light of what I saw and learnt from him last week I have a feeling I’ll be experimenting with watercolour fairly soon. Wish me luck!



It Hao Pheh’s next demonstration will be during Strathdon Art Show, Forest Hill, on 25 March, Saturday 2-4pm. Open to the public.

It Hao Pheh teaches classes at the Sherbrooke Art Gallery. http://www.sherbrookegallery.com/art_classes.html

To view more of his work, see:




Coming to Heide in March

By Lamplight and Arome Boutique are joining forces again in March to bring you our latest offerings at the Heide Makers’ Market. We’re hoping for beautiful weather in order to enjoy the sculpture garden and have the opportunity to meet new people, talk about all things arty and soak up the atmosphere.

If you’re free on the day we’d love to see you there!

Saturday March 11th, 9-2pm  

Heide Museum of Modern Art (Sculpture Garden)
7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, Melbourne


More information available at https://www.heide.com.au/whats-on/makers-market

You can also follow the market on Facebook and Instagram (/heidemarket)


Welcome to Behind the Scenes…


Hello there! I’m Katy: artist, designer, teacher, stay-at-home mum and juggler of all things work/family/creative. Over the last 6 months I’ve started my fledgling business By Lamplight, selling art, photography and design online through http://www.etsy.com and also at local markets in Melbourne. I named it thus because the only time I can really sink my teeth into my artistic endeavours is when my adorable and energetic little boy (who’s just hit the terrible two’s, might I add!) is off to sleep.

While creating and selling my art, photography and design work is fun, I thought it could be just as rewarding to show you my process, share with you the inspiration and new skills that I gather along the way, and let you in on some of the books, magazines and exhibitions I’ve been following. For you mums out there, I might even throw in some posts about parenting and being creative as well as how I’ve gone about launching my creative dream. And of course, I’ll be keeping you updated with my new artwork as it hits my Etsy store (bylamplightdesign.etsy.com).

I’d love to hear from you with your own ideas, with any questions about the techniques I post, as well as hear about your sources of inspiration. It would be fantastic to build an artistic community where we can exchange our joys and frustrations along the way to making beautiful things!