This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING A stroll at twilight

READING two “old” books 

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (an actual old book – an old classic and this edition itself over one hundred years old, with very thin pages inside a  stiff, maroon hardcover, the pages sewn together and with black and white illustrations of key moments appearing at intervals through the text.  Something I really like about this book is its size and weight – you can easily hold it in one hand, perhaps as you take a walk, as Elizabeth Bennet liked to do).
  • Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (enjoying the content and even the look of this book -it’s a pretend “old” book, looking as if it were made in the 18th century, complete with rough-edged, thick pages and coming encased in a parchment-coloured hardback cover complete with title in what looks like gold leaf. I am also admiring the chapter descriptions such as this one for “Chapter 1  – on the Origins of Revolution, Both National & Musical, with Reference to Opening Numbers & White House Raps” love it!)

DESIGNING costumes for our performance group 

SKETCHING inside at the Museum of Contemporary Art as the rain continued to come down

SEEING one of my old students visiting there too

LOOKING after Max, home from school on Friday after a miserable night during which he was sick about 9 times in 6 hours… Needless to say we both spent much of that day sleeping.

DRIVING Lucy all over Sydney for social engagements…

WATCHING Sherlock Season 3 (he’s alive!)



By Vita Forest

And Uriel says No, the man over there was not who we were waiting for.  A definitive NO, he was not a sketcher, he was full of rage and swearing and a moment ago, before we arrived, he had been shirtless, not a sensitive arty type, not one for contemplation.  No.  He was NOT part of the group.

Katerina sets up her stool smack in front of her subject.  She doesn’t look for a convenient corner or ledge or wall to lean against.  She doesn’t need a wall at her back to give her power, to give her anonymity, to blend into.  Katerina plants herself right in the middle of the stream, an island the curious will have to circle around it.  She owns it.

Who knew a stool could do that?

I crane up at a stone gargoyle gripping the wall with its six clenched toes.  It could be an owl, a bat, a creature from a nightmare.  Its toes are straining anyway, gripping that wall, about to launch, about to take off.  And a woman from over the sea, from another land, wants to capture me as I capture the gargoyle.  I am trapped on the ground with my sketchbook, mid-sketch, as it is trapped on the wall, about to take flight.  With gestures she makes her request and at my wry nod, comes to stand beside me, to embrace me, to drape her arm around me, as her friend takes the photo (quicker than my sketch), before she too, comes inside the camera’s view finder to stand with me and save the encounter for posterity.  What will they say about this moment?  My friend…  An artist… An Australian…  Will the caption and the tales told last longer than the time it took to take the photo, to construct this story of intimacy and relationship?  Was I like a wild animal momentarily tamed?  How brave to touch the now anaesthetized form of the king of the jungle.

I move to get a fresh perspective, and hear Tomas giving Winona a lesson in perspective.  He tells us that to be expressive, you don’t need to worry too much about perspective.  That’s lucky.  Buildings are hard for me, scare me a little.  I decide to scare myself and sit on the stone floor with the comforting bricks of sandstone at my back and look through an archway to my subject beyond.  My spot is cool and shady but people can and do stroll by, some nonchalantly glancing down at my sketch, surreptitious, furtive, curious without wanting to disturb or invade, playing it cool except for the small girl who peers down, leaning her hands on her knees unabashed and we smile at each other before she runs off, footfalls ringing on stone.

Around us, bells sing and chime.  Up in the tower, someone plays their song and sends it out over the rooftops, over the hills, how far?  The notes tumble and ring against the tiles and the glass and the stone, trickling down to the green green grass, emerald in its brightness, a stage we all face where tourists sprawl before drifting off again, before the heat of the sun becomes too much.

We skulk around the edges, in the shadows, looking in, looking up, looking through, looking past and measuring, recording, watching, the whisper of pencil on paper, the clench of finger muscles, the crick in the neck.  The buildings are at once intimidating and playful, orderly and rambunctious, authoritarian and welcoming.

This is where I came to see my friend’s choir, where I came for a lecture, where Josie Alibrandi raced John Barton in that movie (as Lucy reminded me), where students for years and years meet, and Tomas came in the past with his family on silent Saturdays and abandoned Sundays when they were the only ones around, and this is the place where brides and their entourages visit for the atmospheric backdrops to the beaded and brocaded.  And now we sit, facing in, around the periphery and study and record and express.

We draw.

The A to Z of my A to Z challenge 2016

By Vita Forest

The changing colours of Skyspace

The changing colours of Skyspace – for the letter S

Well, the April A to Z challenge finished just over a week ago and I am still processing the roller coaster that it was.  I learned a lot and spent the month fairly buzzing with creative juices.  Here are links to all my output.  Some travel, some artistic adventures and lots of flash fiction.



A is for… Art

B is for… Bed

C is for… Cinderella

D is for… Doorknob

E is for… Everything

F is for… Flowers


G is for… Gabriel

H is for… Home

I is for… Ibis

J is for… Joy

K is for… Kiss

L is for… Love


M is for… Monolith

N is for… Narcissist

O is for… Old-school

P is for… Peak hour

Q is for… Quentin

R is for… Red


S is for… Skyspace

T is for… Train

U is for… Unconscious

V is for… Venice

W is for… Wedding

X is for… Xanthe


Y is for… Yearning

Z is for… Zone


S is for…Skyspace

By Vita Forest


While visiting our friend Fleur in Canberra, we made a pilgrimage to the National Gallery to experience once again James Turrell’s Skyspace. 

It is an art work but also an experience.  Although it is open during the day, it is best visited at dawn or dusk, as that is when you get the extra dimension of colour.

In the fading light of sunset, Fleur, Max, Lucy and I passed through the gate behind the gallery and across a paved bridge over some water.  The paved path continues across grass and descends down, becoming a ramp, down below the level of the tiny lake that encircles a grassy pyramid (nicely reflected on the surface of the water).  If you walk slowly, you can look out across the water at eye level – a vantage point I don’t normally see, so of course I stop and look and admire.

You descend below the water level, below ground level and pass across another boundary and enter the pyramid.  It is grassy on the outside, but inside, surprisingly coloured in a chalky, pink render, it’s sloping walls opening to the sky.  At this point, the feeling of passing into another zone is encouraged by the increasing sound of flowing water, which completely blocks the noise of outside, as the walls of the pyramid completely block the sight of it.  Inside the pyramid, the path splits and you walk either left or right around a turquoise-coloured infinity pool, over whose edges water pours continually.  And in the very centre of the pool, (again not visible until you have crossed the threshold and entered the pyramid) rises a domed building, completely enclosed within the pyramid.  It is build from shards of stone, slotted together cunningly without any obvious joining materials, like a dry stone wall or a ancient cairn.  You marvel at its walls, rising and curving upwards as you walk around the pool, before coming to another “bridge”, this one crossing the pool and leading you into the dome.

Another surprise.  You enter a large but cosy room, walls white with a generous ledge running the entire length of the walls from one side of the doorway to the other.  This is for sitting or even lying on.  You sit down on the bench and lean your back into the comforting curve of the dome and look up.

There appears to be a hole in the smoothly arching roof (or wall – where does one end and one begin?) or is it a disc?  But then a plane streaks a white line across the blue, and you realise that you are, in fact, looking up at the sky.

It’s very lovely at any time, but if you go at dawn or dusk you will also be treated to a subtle light show projected onto the roof of the dome, that changes as the sky outside lightens or darkens.  You have to slow down and watch and be right there to see the colours change from pink to blue to green to purple.

Max leaned his phone of the side of the bench and took a time-lapse film of it, but when you are there, you hardly see the change until it has happened.  One colour slowly and imperceptibly fades into another.

The changing colours of Skyspace

The changing colours of Skyspace

James Turrell’s art is all about colour and light.  He strips away all other distractions so you can focus on these elements.  Depending on who else is in the dome, it can be serene and spiritual or voluble and excited.  (Saskia was frustrated on a previous visit when she wanted the former and got the latter…)  Our experience this time was fairly silent – I took “silent” photos on my phone, raising my hand in salute every few minutes.  Fleur was amused and sent me a text –  It’s almost religious, even though we sat only a couple of metres apart.  Lucy wandered in and out of the dome, comparing the colour of the sky with and without its ring of colour.  Max slouched back against the wall and checked the progress of his filming.

Some of the colours of Skyspace

Some of the colours of Skyspace

All the mechanics are hidden.  The light source enclosed in a tiny lip that ran above our heads, the water draining away into a hidden cavity beneath the walls of the pool, and our way out lit by strip lights shining from deep in the recesses beneath the walls.  Best of all, in winter you are not distracted by the bitter temperatures because the bench inside the dome appears to be heated or insulated…  You feel warm and cosy despite sitting inside a stone building whose roof opens to the elements…

M is for… Monolith

By Vita Forest


Ewan sits still on the black-leather-excuse-for-a-couch.  Why did they choose it?  Certainly not for comfort.  His buttocks hardly make an indent in the seat, there is so much stuffing.  And the backrest is so far back that he has to sit forward, perched on the front, as if he is about to take off.  Which he is, he supposes.

The receptionist smiles at him again.  He nods to her.

No, she could not help him.  He’s just waiting.  No, he would not like a magazine or a glass of water.

He puzzles her obviously.  So be it.  He sits so still and stares out, past the mockery of an ikebana on its pedestal, through the glass doors to the people rushing by outside.  Marching up and down the street, eyes glued to their phones.  It was a wonder they didn’t bump into each other.  It was quite a skill really, when you thought about it.

He senses it to his right, just in front of the lifts.  Pride of place.  Why was it here in this sterile waiting room?  What did it add to the ambience?  But he would not look at it.  Not yet.  It might put him off his game.

He will sit and wait, thank you.  He will wait until the time is right.  Ewan is tall and thin and bald.  His cranium catches the light that bounces off the streaky marble floor.  Everything is so hard here, every surface, every face.  But perhaps he is just imagining that.  He feels a pulse throbbing in his left temple.  He rubs his knees with his hands and takes a deep breath.  He nudges the bag with his right foot, feels the hard edge of the axe with his shoe.

Steady on!

The lift dings.  He looks over and through his creation.  The lift door opens, but it is not him.  Not the doctor who walked around the gallery waving his important hands at Ewan’s work.  Not the one who chose his sculpture for this lobby (to go with the uncomfortable couch and the awful ikebana – what was he thinking?)  Not the one who took the sculpture and ignored the invoice.  The invoice that Ewan needs to be paid.  The doctor who is not available when Ewan calls, who will return his call soon.  The one who took his work, the work that is standing before the lift, like a dare.

Ewan blinks and sees that the waiting room is free of waitees.  It is just him and the receptionist now.  This is it, he thinks.  He bends down and slowly unzips the bag at his feet.  His eyes flick up but she is on the phone, tapping away at the slick computer on her desk.

He grasps the handle of the axe and with one fluid movement lifts it out of the bag and charges at the sculpture.  He sees it now, its beauty, its perfection, the love he poured into it.  He sees it all, just before the axe swings forward and hits home.


L is for… Love

By Vita Forest


Stella wants to scream.  She just cannot believe it.  Yet it is absolutely no surprise.  It could have been predicted.  Anyone else could have predicted it.  But she was in love.  She would always give him the benefit of the doubt.

She felt ashamed.  And blindingly angry.  Enraged.  Absolutely.  Brimming.  With.  RAGE.

She stalks up and down the room.  This used to be her sanctuary.  This used to be her home.  She had made it their home.  She had put her work aside, her ambition, to make this their home.  Doing all the mundane things that needed to be done so he could concentrate.  What a fool she had been!

She had let her in.  Stella had let her in.  Stella grabs a cushion from the sofa and screams into it, pressing her face into it, smothering herself.

But not enough.  She feels a small hand on her leg.


Stella breathes into the cushion one more time, then puts on her happy face.

Must not frighten the children.  Must calm down.


She picks up the small soft creature and hugs him to her.

“Can I have a drink?”

“Of course.”

She dances him over to the fridge and pulls out the bottle of milk.  She swings over to the shelf and finds his favourite blue cup with the kitten on it.  She pours him some milk.  He kicks her gently and slides down to the floor, reaching up for the milk and trotting away with it.  She leans on the counter and remembers.

“I need to focus, can you take the children out?”

Of course.

“I have to go to this silly show, publicity you know.  You don’t need to come.  It will be late.”

Of course.

What a fool she was.  What an idiot!  She had enabled him to pursue this new, shiny thing.  This unattached, adoring person who was never tired, never drab, never anything but alluring.

And he had gone out again now.  Right after he had told her.  He would give her some space, he said.  She rushes to the sofa and beats and beats and beats it.  And now it was the witching hour.  Bath time, dinner time.  Time for tears.  But not hers.

Stella grabs her phone and rings him.

“Come home, I need to go out.”

She hangs up.

Marlena… no Sophie.  No they would be busy too.  No, she needs to be alone.  She needs to think.  He better get here soon, he at least ought to show her that courtesy.  What was he doing?  Untangling himself from her grip?  Toasting his bravery?

Stella wants to scream, but instead she marches to the bedroom.  Under the bed, her pencils, her sketchbook.  She pulls them out.  She will draw it all out like she used to.  She will exorcise all these emotions through her fingers.  She will drive away and find a table somewhere, anywhere and draw.

Stella wants to scream but instead she will scribble.  Instead she will do something she had given up.  Something there was no time for anymore.

G is for… Gabriel

By Vita Forest


Phoebe wandered through the rooms of the Victoria and Albert.  This is why she was here after all.  To see some art, to get inspired.  She should be happy, she really should.  But there she was, weighted down in her chest by loneliness.  Who knew that when she wasn’t there, the slightest little thing could trigger this almost crushing nostalgia for home?

Clear blue skies, the shriek of lorikeets, she was even thinking about how the chocolate tasted different.

Good grief! as her friend Rory would say.  Friend… That was another thing.  So far today, the only person she had spoken to was the woman at the ticket desk who hadn’t even looked at her.  No wonder Phoebe was feeling a little bit wobbly.

She walked through another gallery.  A sculpture gallery.  It was full of scenes of violence.  Silent violence.  Frozen violence.  But violence.  It was as if some fairy had stopped time at the exact moment that the blade was about to pierce a neck, or the fingers were about to crush a windpipe.  Muscles clenched, adrenalin flowing, mouths screaming in agony.

Amongst all this mayhem, some kind of art class was sketching.  They were sitting cross-legged, leaning sketchbooks on their laps and hatching and cross-hatching away.  Looking up, looking down, the sound of the soft brush of the lead on the paper.  Phoebe walked between them, as fascinated by the living as she was by the stone.

Will you be my friend?

She wanted to lean against that beanied boy and sketch the struggle with the snake behind him.  She wanted to lend someone a 4B pencil and borrow someone’s scarf.  She wanted to know all the in-jokes, who always left their homework to the last minute and who was going out with whom…

Will you be my friend?

Maybe she wasn’t cut out for travelling.  Maybe she should have just stayed at home.  It took so much energy.  Working out the smallest things – how to buy a train ticket, what the five pound note looked like, where to buy decent bread.  But she was being ridiculous.  This was what she had spent the last year saving money to do.  She should damn well enjoy it.

Phoebe passed through a set of glass doors that sighed as she pushed them open.  She found herself in a cool, dim room lined with tapestries.  Pre-Raphaelite, she thought.  She strolled through the hush, past the angels with thick feathered wings and draped robes, past the maidens walking in a garden or perhaps it was an orchard.  There was fruit.  What kind of fruit?  The Pre-Raphaelites liked their nature didn’t they?  She could probably recognise it if she looked.  She sat down on a bench in front of it.

The door opened behind her.

An apple.

She could hear someone’s feet moving across the cold wooden floor.

Will you be my friend?

They came and stopped in front of the same tapestry.

A pomegranate.

And sat down beside her.  Right beside her.  Phoebe turned her head in surprise.

Gabriel looked at Phoebe and smiled.  Would she remember him?

Phoebe stared at him, raising her hands to her cheeks in astonishment.

“I know you,” she whispered.  “I know you!”

“Good,” he grinned.  ” I hoped you would.”

Phoebe was shaking her head, “You don’t understand – this is amazing.  I’ve bumped into someone I know in London!  It’s like, a miracle.”

And the draughty room rang with the sound of their laughter.