Monday, 26 January 2015

a 'drop in the ocean'

The surf has been crap for weeks - either a ridiculous holiday crowd on the rare shifty wave inside the point or blowing it's guts out onshore slop further around the bay where I like to get away from everyone. But I've decided to make the most of my daily pilgimage to the beach by doing a 200 metre walk to the inlet and back to get some exercise and pick up rubbish. 

I started out furtively a few months ago - feeling like the local pariah, after all, it's only the dregs of society that handle other people's shit no matter how many brownies (of beer) you give your nice garbo for Christmas. But then I decided to make myself very visible, because I wanted people to see that someone cared enough to do something about the degradation. This issue has reached epidemic proportions - recently images of plankton that have ingested plastic have been posted on Facebook.

I can't be angry at those who walk past me empty-handed and stare blankly - after all, that is what I have been doing for most of my life too. They probably don't even notice the rubbish, or if they do, think there isn't much point in picking it up - the problem is just too big. 

Recently I was on my way back up the beach and stopped to chat with one of the local legend surfers - a very cool young board-shaper with blonde dreadlocks and an equally cool name: Xanda. By way of a slightly embarassed apology I explained why I was carrying a handful of blue and green rope fragments and other bits of detritus.  He laughed out loud and said: 'I do that too!! And I have to pick up every tiny bit - it drives me nuts but I just have to'. Now I don't need this guy's approval, but it felt brilliant to be sharing my obsession with someone from a very different time and demographic to myself. Later the local surf instructor also saw me picking up rubbish and echoed Xanda's comment: 'I pick up rubbish too'. It felt good having a couple of allies.

This is today's stash. I'll admit this is a bit more than usual because the raging onshore wind has thrown up lots of floating plastic on the high tide. Which is good, because I can grab it before the tide takes it out again. When I bend down I say to myself - 'well that is one more bit of plastic that won't end up in some poor fish or bird's stomach'. Sure it's just a drop in the ocean, but at least I feel like I am doing something. The worst thing about watching the destruction of my beloved nature is feeling impotent - although I will probably make little overall impact, I am relying on the flow-on effect. I am modelling the behaviour I want others to follow - kids see me doing it and look quizzically at me, but until today, nobody has commented. Today a woman walking up the beach smiled at me and said: 'Good on you'. And another, a female surfer entering the water, said: 'Bless you'.

Lately I have noticed a trend in social behaviour and attitudes. It is become clearer to many of us that we can't rely on 'the government' to fix things any more. On many issues the people are taking back the power and the responsibility. Again on Facebook, someone recently posted a video of a group of militant muslims promoting Shariah law being shouted down by another group shouting even louder: 'bullshit' and 'where are the women?' It was brilliant to see apathetic Aussies standing up and being counted - we are all going to have to be more personally accountable if we are to maintain some level of equity in this country.

Sure, what I am doing is just a 'drop in the ocean', in retaliation against those who 'drop stuff in the ocean', but I'm going to make a prediction. I reckon, within time, I will see more people picking up rubbish at my local beach. 


  1. Joan Campbell commented:

    The plankton with plastic is a shocking sight when made visible: the visible is bad enough.

    Your writings have brought to mind a quotation from Einstein which you probably know and which I have recently rediscovered:

    "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
    And the rational mind is a faithful servant.
    We have created a society that honours the servant
    And has forgotten the gift.

    We will not solve the problems of the world
    From the same level of thinking
    We were at
    When we created them.

    More than anything else
    This new century demands new thinking.
    We must change our materially-based
    Analyses of the world around us
    To include broader, more multidimensional

  2. Good on you. This is the sort of thing I personally go back and forth on a lot. Swinging between feeling like I'm not doing enough and that I'm hopelessly trying to push shit uphill. It's nice to hear stories about other people who are out there pushing as well.

    it's only the dregs of society that handle other people's shit

    Maybe I'm in a very small minority, but I've never thought that way. I always thought of garbos and shit collectors (nightsoilmen) as doing very important jobs. And in the days before professional sports, I always heard stories about how city athletes sought out positions as garbos as a means of keeping fit. Was this never true, or have general attitudes really shifted that far.


    Not related to your post, but I saw this article the other day and thought it might be up your alley. I know you're an artist and you teach art, but not much more. Do you teach or are you interested in digital art creation? Are you interested in or know much about open-source software and operating systems?

    1. I am with you and respect the garbos, but my intuition tells me it is considered 'beneath' most people to pick up someone else's shit (often their own too) Particularly teenagers - I'm constantly on the case of the local surf groms who are basically good kids, but very reluctant to pick up their lolly papers when I remind them.

      Thanks for the link - this is dynamite and I suspect all part of the 'power to the people' movement that seems to be gaining momentum. i.e. people are getting really sick of huge companies dictating what we do and how we do it.

      I am not very knowledgeable about open source stuff, my partner is more so and told me about GIMP a while ago (which is the old open source equivalent to Photoshop but too clunky for a lot of people) I will definitely have a look at this new software.

      The issue for me in the education system, is that Adobe, which includes Photoshop, is the industry standard - which means they have had the monopoly. We have to train students to be able to use it when they go into the workforce. I think what has happened, is that since Adobe made us all lease our software ie pay per month to be connected to Creative Cloud on the net rather than supporting CS6 (which was the last version you could purchase), people have felt cornered - I know I have. I am still using CS6 and CC isn't that much different. My guess is that Adobe may have to go back to supporting the upgrades rather than holding us all to ransom.

      I'll definitely check out this new software a pass on the info!!

  3. I have been using open-source almost exclusively for several years now and love the freedom it gives me to learn and modify how things work.

    And since I'm also a keen (digital) painter, I keep a close eye on a number of projects: is the best thing going for simple drawing and painting, but does little else. is a newer and much more advanced (and more complex) drawing and painting application, but lacks tools for photo editing. has been going through some major overhauls recently and is probably the closest thing out there to Photoshop (though still pretty far off, as you know). is a fantastic SVG vector graphics editor. looks like a decent desktop publishing application, but I don't know that much about desktop publishing. is a very powerful but hard to learn video, animation, and effects suite.

    Also, if you want to learn about open-source operating systems and how computers work in general, I think the FreeBSD project, and most specifically, the FreeBSD Handbook, is probably the greatest thing ever.

    I jumped off the Photoshop bandwagon a long time ago, but then, I'm not a professional artist, and don't need a lot of what it offers. I am however (somewhat) aware of what is going on with Adobe, their transition to a cloud services platform, and their long history of price-gouging in regions like Australia. For your sake, I hope you're right about them eventually reversing their current direction, although personally, I have my doubts. Microsoft, which enjoys a similar monopoly position, is pushing the same way. Needless to say, I am not a fan of either.

  4. Thanks Alex. I will keep those links handy.

    I would love to see some of your work if you want to share it. Do you sell it? Or work for a business? I am new to digital drawing and have a lot to learn, though having some traditional drawing skills is helping.

  5. Blogger, please don't eat this comment.

  6. Sorry. Been having some trouble here.

    I've been attempting to start an art blog for a year now, but as soon as I started trying to do pictures specifically to show off, I stopped being able to do anything at all. So right now I'm choked, or blocked, or backed-up, or whatever you wanna call it; but I'm determined to sort myself out this year.

    So here's some tongue-in-cheek stuff I posted to a defunct online community I used to be a part of. All done completely with one or more of the open-source applications I mentioned previously; running on top of an open-source Linux or BSD based operating system.

    A joke movie poster, literally overflowing with inside jokes.
    ... and its companion piece.
    A Valentine's day card for one of the community members.
    ... and an illustration for a fairytale that another member wrote.
    ... and a response to that same person's gripe that it's okay to make nun porn, but we can't even draw a picture of Mohammad eating an apple.
    • And four pics for someone who wanted a tatt design of a hammer-and-sickle wielding unicorn:

    1. These are really good Alex. I like your brishwork in the B & W one particularly. I am way too smooth with my linework, but I've always drawn like that.

      So these are paid work? Or stuff for friends/colleagues? Very satirical - biting sense of humour I too.

      I get the choking thing. I am having the same problem with my 'design' blog 'art geek' I have changed the look and the name 3 times - finally registered this name as a business so I can protect it. I have issues with plagiarism on the net too - I see how blatantly my own students do it and it really sucks. I put file info into some images in Photoshop to 'copyright' them - but someone could easily wipe that anyway. I try not to post large images, but I think a few on my website are big and I haven't got around to copyrighting them.

      I hardly post on my design blog at all. I am not very good at doing things on tap ie I have to be inspired. Which is why I don't think I will do well as a graphic designer!! If I do eventually get there, I reckon my work will be a niche market. But the more I look the more I see so many graphic designers out there already. I don't expect to do it as a full time job ever - maybe just to supplement my job(s) income from time to time.

      As I said, still learning digital drawing. I actually prefer to do hand drawings and scan in and then modify/add etc. I did some inking the other day - in Photoshop and Illustrator. I don't really think I like it that much. I like the hand-drawn look. But I like vector as well. I'm a bit like a kid in a lolly shop at the moment.

      After our group exhibition in March I will post a digital drawing I did for ANZAC - protest of course. Bit of a conflict as the local council give us the Town Hall for free I think, and they are right into glorifying all that war shit. But I did my protest piece anyway.

    2. Funny, I've recently spent a lot of effort developing my ability to draw smoother linework. The grass is always greener, I guess.

      This stuff is just for fun, mucking around with friends. I have done paid work in the past, but mostly just as a supplementary thing. I don't think my problem is so much about performing "on tap", as a lot of my favourite pieces have been done under those conditions; I think it's more that in putting together a showcase of my work, I guess I kinda feel like every piece needs to be of an A++ gold-plated standard ... and so now I can't even bring myself to put pen to paper (figuratively). It's bullshit self-inflicted psychological rubbish, and to be honest, I'm fed up with myself over it.

      I just about only work on a computer these days. Not that I think it's superior to pens, pencils, brushes, inks and paint, etc; it's just that it means I don't have to buy, store, set-up, or clean-up anything anymore. I'm cheap and lazy and have a tiny home. And I think the kid-in-a-lolly-shop thing is great. Try it all. The more arrows in your quiver, the better.

      Also, (and I swear I'm not just trying to be antagonistic on this) I tend to come down on the opposite side of the copyright issue. I love the idea of a vibrant public-domain and am quite happy for people to do whatever they like with my work (not that I support outright plagiarism, especially in an academic setting).

      At any rate, I just had a look at the other blog you mentioned, and there's some really nice looking stuff there; the rhino being the obvious first example. I might have to spend some time going through it properly, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing your ANZAC piece.

    3. Thanks for the kind comment Alex. Sometimes I feel the same way - that things aren't quite resolved enough. But I am also happy to share work-in-progress sometimes, as long as people know that's what it is. I used to be a lot more concerned about presenting perfect stuff, but art is a process and not everything I do is going to be as good as I would like.

      Obviously you are much more generous re 'intellectual property' than I am. Each to their own I guess. I think if someone were to ask if they could use something of mine, I would feel a lot better about it. Depends on whether they were going to make money out of it, or take credit for it. If they needed the money, I guess I wouldn't mind.

      If you get your blog up and running, please send me a link and I'll add it to the blog list on my blog.