Karen Andersen: Fraser Coast fine artist

I’ve become a big fan of Instagram. Sadly I remain exceedingly unartistic myself when it comes to photography and visual art, but I’m discovering some fabulous business and personal accounts on Instagram and – more importantly – some very talented people!

I don’t even know how I stumbled across Maryborough’s Karen M Andersen but I was immediately taken with her art and started planning my eventual purchase of one of her pieces.

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Karen’s gorgeous Instagram feed

Karen’s refreshingly honest online (you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram or check out her website) about her experiences with depression and anxiety. And she openly talks about the benefits of using art as an outlet for her emotions and creative energy.

I had the opportunity recently to meet her and talk about her work.

As Karen notes on her website, she’s always loved art but grew up in the era when it wasn’t really seen as a ‘vocation’. It was a hobby, not something to pursue career-wise. Fortunately Karen was also passionate about biology and science and left her hometown of Maryborough to study at Rockhampton’s Central Queensland University in 1993.

It didn’t entirely work out for Karen and ended up being the first time she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Karen says there was still a lot of stigma around mental illness in the 1990s and anyone over 30 or so will certainly agree that it’s taken a loooong time to recognise its debilitating effects, and the importance of appropriate treatment.

In the meantime Karen started a family (her two children are in their mid teens) and although she continued to pursue her creative interests (drawing and art journalling) during this time, it still wasn’t something she saw as anything other than a hobby.

In 2016 Karen travelled to Rockhampton to a Ken Done exhibition. Inspired she signed up for a Masterclass run by Done – which was the first the popular artist had conducted.

Karen came away from that with a renewed passion for her art and a confidence which surprised her.

“I don’t know where that determination came from,” she said.

Since then Karen’s more vigorously pursued her art (she works with acrylics on canvas and, as a non-artist, I was surprised at the complexities of surfaces, primers, textures and hues).

Karen now sells her magnificent abstract work via her website.

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I admired a piece of Karen’s work recently (via Instagram) but she responded that it was not yet ‘finished’. I was intrigued and wondered how one knows it’s finished? (Did I mention my ignorance when it comes to ‘all things art’?) Is there a temptation to edit and edit and edit – which is something many of us who write struggle with, I asked.

Karen agrees that’s certainly the case. She says she still experiences doubt sometimes, but she heeds Ken Done’s advice that there’s nothing that a bit of white paint can’t fix.

Karen said her confidence in terms of her art has grown in recent times and she’s far less likely to ‘overwork’ her pieces. She also keeps a sketch book to document her ideas and things that inspire her – and it doesn’t allow her to erase any of her work. (Kinda like journalling I realise!)

Though she hasn’t been putting herself or her work ‘out there’ for long, her talent is already starting to be recognised. She recently won second place at the Hervey Bay Regional Gallery’s Hidden Wonders Art Exhibition and her work has been selected for future exhibitions.

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I love that she continues to be inspired by her surrounds – our beaches, rainforests and reefs. And she finds painting therapeutic and a way to express and explore her emotions.

I again confessed my artistic ignorance to Karen in admitting that I just love the colours of her work. I’m not a particularly visual person but even I can tell that Karen adding a patch of white to a vibrant piece somehow improved on what I thought was already finished.

I’d suggest following Karen on social media or checking out her website if you appreciate beautiful things, love colour and take inspiration from other’s creativity and talent.

I look forward to seeing more of Karen’s work on display around the Fraser Coast and beyond.

For more information on Karen or to buy her work, check out her site: Karen M Andersen.

** Big thanks to Karen for her time and letting me pick her brain. **

Pictures all from Karen's Instagram account.
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Local profile – Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay

As an avid reader and lover of books it’s a no-brainer that I adore bookshops. I particularly love that they’ve morphed over the years and become so much more than places you buy books. Not only can you enjoy coffee and snacks, but many create a wonderful sense of community and promote a love of reading and books to future generations.

Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay (MRHB) does exactly that. I first met owner Cate Akaveka when I attended an author event not long after she purchased the store and was impressed with her obvious love of reading and passion for sharing that with others.

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Cate and her husband moved to Hervey Bay from Sydney in 2001. Her oldest (of two boys) was a baby and they were keen to move out of the city and try a different lifestyle.

Cate bought Mary Ryan’s in August 2013 after leaving the state government. She was keen to invest in something which would keep her employed and when she found out that Mary Ryan’s was for sale she knew it was karma. Or kismet. Or similar. 😉

“I knew right away that it was the right business for me and I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I think I love pretty much everything about owning a bookstore.”

Cate really liked the staff and was very happy when they all agreed to stay on after she purchased the business.

Cate says she’s always been a passionate reader and still has a lot of books from her childhood.

“My mother said she always knew what I was reading because I would become the lead character. I guess I was Anne of Green Gables for a significant amount of my childhood!”

I follow the MRHB Facebook page and am often agog and the myriad of activities on offer.

They have a couple of book clubs—including one for teenagers—which meet monthly. There’s a French conversation group that meets one Saturday each month. And on the first Saturday of each month, there’s a get-together called Coffee, Tea, Philosophy.

It’s a group Cate started because she really wanted to have some meaningful and thought-provoking discussions about things that matter. Fortunately, a few other people felt the same way and this group has now been meeting for over 12 months. Newcomers are always welcome, so it’s something I’m pencilling into my diary!

On top of all of the regular activities I also love the author events on offer.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had some great authors at the shop including Brooke Davis, Inga Simpson and Josephine Moon. My favourite author event was with William McInnes last December. People are still talking about it!”

mary ryan hervey bay

Cate says these events are her favourite part of the job.

“I like to see Mary Ryan’s as more than a retail outlet, but rather an integral part of the community. I think it works because a lot of our customers feel like family and seem to enjoy a ‘sense of belonging’ when they come in.”

MRHB’s cafe is always busy and Cate suggests the that’s because the food and service are consistent and the staff have been there for a long time. In fact Café Manager, Chris, was actually on board before the café even opened.

Cate also thinks customers enjoy the ambience… that the book / coffee combo creates a homely and welcoming feel.

The store doesn’t have a full kitchen so focuses on light lunches, cakes etc.

“Our most popular dishes are the ones that are home-made. Chris’ cheesecakes have become quite famous and we have a number of customers who phone us to hold some for them.”

Not having a set menu means the MRHB team can mix it up a little. In winter (generally May to September) the store offers home-made soups and in summer, pasta and salads.

And something I didn’t know… was that from 2-3pm on weekdays, they have a happy hour with half-price tea and coffee.

But back to books… Cate loves some quirk and names Tom Robbins as her favourite author. And her favourite genre? Literary fiction—books she describes as well written and featuring words in a way that make her want to read them over and over again. She picks Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie as the best book she’s ever read with Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road to the Deep North coming a close second.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for the team at MRHB will order it in for you, or they can help suggest some options. Cate laughed when I asked her about making recommendations and said they’re occasionally surprised. As much as they think they know what titles particular customers will enjoy, there are always some that come completely out of left field which (she thinks) is a good lesson in not making assumptions… or judging a book by its cover! #sorrynotsorry

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Pop into Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay and say hi to Cate and the team. You can find them at shop 5, 15 Central Avenue, Urraween (opposite Stockland Shopping Centre). Telephone: (07) 4194 2111.  Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their latest activities! 

Check out Cate’s recent interview about the closure of ABC Bookshops and any impact it may have on Mary Ryan’s Hervey Bay.

Upcoming events (check FB for details):
  1 August - Chris Collin (author of the Funky Chicken)
  8 August - Tara Moss
  8 August - National Bookshop Day
 18 August - The Reading Hour
 3 September - Indigenous Literacy Day

**Pics all from MRHB FB page**

Making the most of what’s on offer

Last week I submitted my first ever article for publication and amazingly the Fraser Coast Chronicle printed it. Because I am *ahem* somewhat verbose, it was much longer than required and had to be culled. A friend suggested I put the entire thing on this blog, given that it’s got a local flavour, so here we go…

My biggest fear on returning to the Fraser Coast after a couple of decades was that that I’d find the region a cultural wasteland.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly the opera-going type, I dislike most stage shows and don’t hang out at music festivals every second weekend. But Brisbane, like most large cities, always had something on offer. So even if I was happier at home watching DVDs and recovering from my working week I knew I could go to trendy markets, a local festival or catch a comedy show.

Which is why I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve found on offer since returning to the Fraser Coast.

I’m not normally a ‘joiner’ but have been busier here than I was in Brisbane. In fact, in my first year back I was kept so busy I even suffered from event-going-fatigue.

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Maryborough Regional Arts Council – foreign film night. May 2015

Many people I meet complain there’s nothing to do and yet when I ask them if they’re heading to Relish Festival, Paddle Out For Whales, Sunday Riverside or Flickerfest they screw up their collective noses.

“I can’t be bothered,” they might say.

Interestingly, it’s not the out-of-town shows or big names performing at the Brolga Theatre catching my attention; it’s the Council and community events I most appreciate.

While I’m more than happy to bag the Fraser Coast Regional Council when (I believe) it deserves it, I love that it’s making an effort to entertain its residents and foster a sense of community and culture. Purists and traditionalists may argue for a focus on roads, rates and rubbish but people won’t stay here if there’s nothing to do. We’re not all great at entertaining ourselves and for many—pubs, clubs and weekend sporting fixtures just don’t cut it.

The first time I attended Gatakers By Night I looked around wondering where this eclectic group of people usually hid. Even my mother who knows half of Maryborough saw a lot of different faces.

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Gatakers by Night in March 2015. More popular than ever!

Although you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to a museum, I also recently visited the dinosaur display in the Maryborough City Hall, hoping the Friday night pop-up bar attracted other likeminded Fraser Coasters keen for something different. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t!)

I’ve started attending the foreign film nights run by the Maryborough Arts Council and will be at upcoming events like the Mary Poppins and Whale Festivals with bells on. Or at least with a vague sense of enthusiasm.

Of course not all events are free, but many are and most offer something for everyone. I don’t always appreciate the music on offer at Gatakers by Night but Iove its festive feeling and take the opportunity to have a couple of wines and visit the art gallery each month.

And although (quite frankly) I hate crowds, it’s wonderful to experience the energetic atmosphere of Relish or the Seafood Festival and celebrate with other Fraser Coasters.

Most importantly however, I’m just turning up. I’m making the effort to support what’s on—conscious we may ‘lose it, if we don’t use it’.

Although I’m a well-seasoned whinger it’s not enough to sit back and complain if you can’t be bothered making the most of what’s there. And that’s something even I need to remind myself every so often.

Foreign films & Flickerfest on the Fraser Coast

Foreign Films in the Federation Room

It’s only taken me three months but I finally accompanied my friend Ruth to see one of the foreign films on show at the Brolga Theatre this week.

The selection of movies, hosted by the Maryborough Regional Arts Council, have been shown on the second Wednesday of the month since February.

From Fraser Coast Scene. And I'm not sure why April and May are around the wrong way.

From Fraser Coast Scene. And I’m not sure why April and May are around the wrong way.

Because of my *ahem* discerning taste (read: laziness) I’d checked out each of the films on offer and planned to attend the final three. This month’s movie, The Lunchbox, was a lovely film from India featuring Mumbai’s very orderly lunchbox delivery system. That alone was easily worth the $12 admission cost. But in case you were wondering, it was also very quirky and moving.

Next on the agenda (on 13 May) is Ida, about a nun in 1960s Poland. It won the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars and is apparently heavy going but amazing. And… I. Cannot. Wait.

And finally in late June, I’m off to see Force Majeure from Sweden about an avalanche and its impact on a family on a skiing holiday.

Tickets are $12 for non members or $10 for Maryborough Arts Council members and include wine and nibbles after the film. The movies start at 6.30pm and—a note for newcomers—are shown in the Federation room which you enter from the rear (river side) of the Brolga theatre.

 

Flickerfest at the brolga

Maryborough is one of only nine cities in Queensland to play host to the popular Flickerfest. The festival of short films began almost 25 years ago and is the only international  ‘Academy’ and BAFTA-recognised competitive film festival.

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The 2015 Flickerfest, ‘License to Thrill’ kicked off in Sydney in January before touring the country. Films will be shown across two sessions at the Brolga theatre on 22 April 2015.

The first session, commences at 6.30pm and features the Best of Australian Shorts. After intermission you can get your giggle on with the Short Laughs Comedy – On Tour, starting at 8.45pm. (NB. Links in this paragraph link to information about the films on offer.)

Visit the Our Fraser Coast site for info or bookings.

Tickets for single sessions are: $12 or $10 for friends of the Brolga / members of Maryborough Arts Council; or $20 / $18 for both sessions. 

Gatakers by Night

It took a while but I finally made it to Maryborough’s monthly soirée at the gorgeous Gatakers Artspace (within the Portside Precinct) – Gatakers by Night.

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Held on the last Saturday of the month (from 5-9pm) the free event features musicians and the opportunity to partake in the Night Watchman’s tour, visit the Military museum and often incorporates the launch or opening of a new show at the art gallery. Of course, if you’re like me you’re happy to kick back with a glass of bubbly (or two!) and enjoy the intimate environment and entertainment on offer.

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Wine, beer and softdrinks are available as well as a coffee van. Stalls offering pizza and cakes (mud cake or pavlova!) were also on hand. I would have liked a bit more variety (as a coeliac) but did note that the food available can vary from event to event.

September’s Gatakers by Night (GBN to those of us in the know… actually that’s a lie. I’m just using the acronym to avoid having to type the entire phrase again and again!)  featured local Irish band, Slainte – who everyone agreed were just fabulous.

printspaceThe new printspace – a collaborative project between Gatakers Artspace and local printmakers – was also launched in a building adjacent and I look forward to seeing the printing equipment (donated by Sue Flavel) in action down the track. Watching artists doing their thing is something GBN offers which you don’t find elsewhere.

And now the equipment is in place printmaking workshops are being held on a regular basis.

September’s GBN also featured a fashion parade – supported by Bundaberg designer Julie Appo featuring some amazing textiles,  and fabrics – part of a training course for local Butchilla girls.

girlsIt was a great opportunity for those involved AND we had the opportunity to see some gorgeous designs. Incidentally, I later checked out Julie’s website (as I really liked a couple of the pieces in the parade) and discovered that she also makes / sells accessories and homewares!

It appears she’s just setting up her online store but I wondered if she’s considered distributing her fashion and goods through other places – there’s a new art gallery / store on the Esplanade at Urangan which would be a good match!

compentriesI hadn’t been to the latest shows in the gallery so wandered through and was incredibly impressed by Visual Art entries (right) in the North Coast North Exhibition – part of the Creative Generation Awards involving a number of schools in the region.

For those interested, the Fraser Coast Chronicle ran this story in relation to the show, as two pieces by Aldridge State High School students have been selected to be displayed at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane next year.

art downstairsI also loved the rest of the work at the gallery (those on the left were my fave and yes, it appears I have a penchant for the bright and colourful!). I also enjoyed watching local artists in action, including  Brett Jones who launched his drawing magazine on the night – in an Australian first.

I loved so much about the evening. And it was interesting to see an entirely different crowd of people. Quite frankly I never knew there were as many edgy older women and funky young people in the area!

I’ll most definitely be back for more!

For information about the next GBN and other Fraser Coast Events check here, or like them on Facebook.