What is an Artist Residency?

First and foremost, it is an opportunity.  

There are different types of residencies available for artists (as well as writers and other types of artists, not just visual artists).  Broadly speaking, a residency is a chance to concentrate on your art away from the distractions of your everyday life in a supported environment for a specific time period.

The studio at the Gatekeeper’s Cottage

Some residencies are fee paying, some subsidised and some without any charge at all; in fact, there are some where the artist is granted a small stipend in addition to housing and a studio space in which to work. Some residencies are fulfilled in isolation, some in a community where the focus is on connecting artists and/or learning new skills. Local, international, government or privately funded, a residency can be a wonderful time of extending your practice whether it is in developing new directions or focusing on a particular project that needs some significant hours or taking classes to learn new skills.

Most residencies will have a fairly stringent and competitive application process and may take some time to achieve. It is advisable to do your homework about the residency you are planning to apply for.  Things to spend time thinking about before submitting an application can include:

  • what sort of arts the host tends to support
  • what sort of facilities will you need (work and personal)
  • who is providing the funding behind the residency
  • what other artists have taken the residency (can you ask them about it)
  • what is it you hope to gain from a residency
  • can you afford it (in $ and time away from home/work life)
  • will you need to apply for a grant to support yourself and the travel to and from the residency
  • are you prepared to wait/are you flexible in timing
  • research the location – no point applying for a residency in February in Finland if you simply cannot cope with cold weather!

The Police Point Artist in Residence opportunity is offered by the Mornington Peninsula Shire and facilitated by their Arts & Culture program. My thanks to Jane German and the team at Morn Pen Arts & Culture for their assistance.

Below are some of my works from my recent residency at the Gatekeeper’s Cottage at Police Point.

Further information on artist residencies can be found here:
Visual Arts Hub
Australia Council

Police Point Artist in Residence

The Gatekeeper’s Cottage

I acknowledge the Bunurong as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this land where I am temporarily residing. I give respect to the Elders — past and present — and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

A long held dream has arrived in the form of two weeks of dedicated art time. Sharing this with my buddy in art Thea Bates is one of the most relaxing and inspiring times I’ve had in many years. We are both working at our art every day, going for walks, cooking and talking up a storm. Sharing ideas and methods as we’ve been planning since 2017 when we majored in painting together.

Point Nepean has had a mixed history since the colonisers arrived.  From the 1840s when lime burning kilns dotted the area to the many years that the quarantine station was operational; from the military cadet school with its weapons training areas to Operation Safe Haven in 1999 when 400 Kosovars were offered refuge here from the Serbian-Albanian conflict. You can learn much from the transcript of the Park Victoria audio tour of Point Nepean.

The beginnings of a large painting inspired by the rocks and the trees here at Police Point.

Now one of its offerings is a supported artist residency in the historic gatekeeper’s cottage. Dating from c.1888, the cottage was initially built for the quarantine boatmen.  Minor changes have been made to the building over time and an extension now forms the studio space. The entire cottage was renovated to heritage standards in recent years.

This is a nationally significant cultural heritage site located in the traditional lands of the Burin’yong-bulluk, one of at least six clans of the Bunurong who were part of the Kulin Nation of central Victoria. Known for thousands of years as a meeting place, this end of the Mornington Peninsula is known as having special meaning for women.

Inside a cave in the cliff face.
Remains of a pylon from the old quarantine station

My thanks go to the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Arts & Culture team, especially Jane German. 

Banksias & me

In 2014, I began volunteering at the State Library of Victoria as a tour guide.  The regular exhibition training is always interesting and enlightening; being a tour guide has widened my world further.  My favourite exhibition to show people through is the World of the Book, one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the history of book design, production and illustration.

One of the people I learnt about in that first year was Celia Rosser. At the time, the library had a couple of Celia’s Banksia works on display and it was a great pleasure to show them and talk to the public about her and her important work.  Part of being a library tour guide is that you are encouraged to go away and do your own research on items within the collection that particularly interest you.

Celia Rosser is an Australian national living treasure, in my opinion.

Born in 1930, Celia is an Australian botanical illustrator who, over 25 years within the Science Faculty at Monash University, completed a monumental series of works, The Banksias, which were published as a three-volume series of monographs containing watercolour paintings of every Banksia species.  The enormity of the accomplishment continues to astonish me.

Beginning the works in the early 1970s, the publication of the final volume in 2000 represented the first time that such a large genus has been entirely painted.

In in 1995 Celia was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia and in 1997 Celia was awarded the Linnaean Society of London’s Jill Smythies Award for botanical illustration. Monash University awarded her an honorary Master of Science degree in 1981, and an honorary PhD in 1999.

In 2018, Hamilton Gallery in western Victoria displayed, for only the second time ever, the full set of watercolour originals which made up The Banksias publications and on a wet May Saturday I saw them and was transfixed.

Since then, I have been reading about, drawing, painting and posting about banksias.

The hashtag #banksiafriday is a fun one to join on Instagram.

Recommended reading

George, Alex (2012) A Banksia Album: Two Hundred Years of Botanical Illustration, National Library of Australia, Canberra

Landon, Carolyn (2015) Banksia Lady Celia Rosser, Botanical Artist, Monash University Press, Melbourne

Nikulinsky, Philippa (1992) Firewood Banksia: Illustrated Native Flora, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, North Fremantle