Maree Hackett is a Professor, Program Head, Mental Health, with the George Institute of Global Health and an occasional artist. As a researcher, she studies depression, stroke and other chronic illnesses. As an artist she mostly draws with dots (pointillism), but sometimes sketches and paints.
I now refer to myself as an artist, or an occasional artist in addition to my academic role as a professor. I aspire to be a full-time artist but that is a way off still. My art is a distraction and an escape from the daily grind. It is such a luxury being able to focus on one thing for long periods. However, ‘Wonky Duck’ emerged through a uniquely collaborative, inter-generational process, inspired by a shared love of art and enabled by technology.
A Twitter contact and stroke survivor in England called Ben, who I follow but have never met in person, is immensely proud of his granddaughter Niamh. Ben has been helping with Niamh’s home schooling especially during the first lockdown and was regularly tweeting pictures she was drawing and sending to academics she knew. And Niamh was missing her friends from school. You see, Niamh, aged 7, aspires to be a Professor. She has met several Professors who have been helping her grandad Ben to recover from his stroke. She’s a fan.
Ben and I got to twitter chatting and I offered to try a drawing session together – Australia evening/UK morning – where we all drew while video conferencing. Very 2020! Ben had to agree to draw as well. We set aside one hour. It was lovely. I got to chat to them both, have a laugh and draw and share. I drew ‘wonky duck’ (Niamh had asked me to draw a duck) and Niamh drew a pink horse and Ben a blue one. It was a lot of fun and a new experience for us all. Niamh continues to draw…Ben, not so much.
But this isn’t my only experience of a remote consultative arts practice. Two of my biggest fans were one of my best friends in England and my father. I helped my friend, who could already draw and paint with watercolours, start painting with acrylics, when she was terminally ill. I did InkTober (https://inktober.com/) and she did what we dubbed PainTober. We shared our progress on all our creations – our creative masterpieces and our failures. She painted right up to several days before she died. Her family even brought her easel into her hospital room. It gave her focus, enjoyment and the ability to create when most other things were broken. In the week after she died I helped her three young children paint some large canvases with acrylics. My father just enjoyed my art and I also shared progress pictures and ideas for pictures with him. Both my friend and my father died in 2018. I found it very difficult to start drawing/creating again. I missed their feedback and the companionship of the art making process.
One of my brothers is a great artist https://www.instagram.com/clivesart/ . We also share our art and critique each other’s work. He has been creating regularly these last two years, so I am living my art-making vicariously through him at the moment.
I mostly create quite small pieces with pointillism. I mostly draw birds and animals. People get up close and personal with the works to see the tiny dots. I hope it makes them smile. My husband regularly quips ‘I don’t know why she doesn’t just use a dot matrix printer, it would be so much easier’.
My biggest difficulty is making time for or prioritising art making. We are building a house at the moment so between that and paid work, time for art is a rare commodity. I aspire to being able to create art full time. My mum was also an artist and she always wanted a space/studio where she could leave out all her art supplies and create. But I have learnt that given enough light, and reading glasses now too, I can create art anywhere.
I love looking at art, walking through small galleries, speaking with other artists. One of my favourite mediums to appreciate is sculpture – large and small. I’d like to have a go at that one day…given enough time.
More of Maree’s work can be found at www.instagram.com/mareazles