March the 8th is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and highlight the valuable contributions women make to our world. One day is not enough, so this is part of a month-long series of posts celebrating female artists from Australia.
Today’s feature artist is Fiona Dalwood, a visual artist, animator, and graphic designer. Her bittersweet honest, quirky project sharing people’s stories of grief has connected and resonated deeply with people all over the world.
1. What art do you make?
I write, draw, make things with my hands and animate them. In my more grown-up moments I’m a graphic designer.
2. What is one of your proudest achievements as an artist?
My short film “Good Grief” (www.goodgrief.tv) has been one of my proudest achievements to date. I made the film in 2012 while I was doing my Masters of Film & Television at the Victorian College of the Arts. It’s a short documentary about the things we can learn from losing something we love – a parent, a friend, a pet, a limb.
I found making the film cathartic in terms of helping me understand the process of grief (having lost my mother to cancer in 2010) and being better able to relate to and empathise with other people who have gone through a significant loss.
The film has connected me to people all over the world who I would never have imagined having as an audience for my art – from funeral director associations and grief counselling organisations to world class documentarians.
On a purely creative level, my other favourite project was being one of ten Australian creatives invited to design a piece of bus top street art for LEGO’s 50th anniversary in Australia celebrations – I was in pretty good company with the likes of Adriano Zumbo, Dinosaur Designs and Romance Was Born. The CEO of LEGO visited Australia for the exhibition and now my work hangs out at LEGO HQ in Denmark.
3. What has been a challenge recently, and how did you overcome it?
Something that challenges me on a daily basis is trying to maintain good mental health.
I find the see-saw between art life, work life and home life is a major demand on my personal energy and something that doesn’t often balance.
I’m working really hard on finding ways of coping with stress – emotional stress, financial stress, physical stress – and becoming a better communicator in order to help all of those different parts of me live together. I use my art as a way of making sense of this life and I also feel strongly that the work I make needs to contribute something to the world.
It’s difficult for me to put work out there if I don’t feel it’s “cooked” enough or deep enough but I’m constantly putting myself in challenging positions and saying “yes” to things that make me uncomfortable in order to grow and learn. I’m trying to be better at bringing other people in to my development process and ignoring the nagging thoughts that what I’m doing isn’t that great or interesting.
I find the Malcolm Gladwell theory of taking “10,000 hours” to master something comforting because if I can just keep chipping away at my fart jokes then in ten thousand hours maybe one of them is going to be hilarious.
4. What are you most excited by creatively right now?
I have been listening to a tonne of comedy podcasts and I’m pretty excited about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival which is in town at the moment. I have so much respect for the craft of good comic writing and I learn a lot about story construction from these guys. Just listening to a bunch of comics talk shit for an hour is creative fuel for me – it plugs me into a space that is relaxed yet performative, and I can draw while I listen.
Animating is a pretty solo operation and can be isolating at times, so I’m genuinely appreciative of the people who make the time to produce a show that keeps me company while I create.
I love that stand-up is a place where it’s ok to talk about the darkest parts of life and laugh at them, and that’s something I hope to achieve in my work as a film-maker.
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given about growing your career as an artist?
Barbara Kruger said it once on a billboard – “Don’t be a jerk”. Sure, there are plenty of jerks out there, but do you really need to be one of them?
Try making the world an easier place to live in and leave bitching and moaning for the next guy.
It’s not always easy advice to live by and sometimes I fail, but I’d rather make friends than enemies. They’re the ones who’ll come to your shows, buy your shit, retweet your tweets and bake you cakes when everything goes pear-shaped.
6. Where can we find your work and connect with you?
You can watch my short film online at goodgrief.tv or visit my lethargically updated website at fionadalwood.com. I lurk on twitter @egenerica and you can follow my Facebook art page at facebook.com/fionadalwood.
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- Celebrating female artists: Introducing Malia Walsh, theatre & circus artist
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