Diary of an Artist – Mental Health Month in North Western Australia

During Mental Health Month (October 2016), Zest Events International teamed with  Shire of Ashburton to deliver a series of creative workshops and 3D artworks to remote communities in North Western Australia.

From Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th October, Zest Artist Anton Pulvirenti toured the Pilbara region to promote mental well-being in the local communities. During his trip Anton kept a diary…

Wednesday 5th October – Pannawonica (1429 kilometres north of Perth)

mulla-mullaI woke up at 5 am this morning to a soft and faded pink and pale blue sunrise over a landscape dotted with mulla mulla, termite nests, low set native trees and spinifex. Mesa formations surround the town of Pannawonica. I had breakfast in the Rio Tinto miner’s mess before 6 and mentally ran over the design for the days drawing. I began work at seven while the temperature was warm and pleasant. There was no wind, a pavement artists delight!

While I was working, I spoke to a few mothers and a couple of subcontractors. The interesting thing about Pannawonica is that it is a closed mining town, and as such, there is zero unemployment. Everyone works, and it makes for a very friendly family atmosphere. I had the ‘happy brain’ drawn out in charcoal by about 10 am, just as it started to get hot and dry like an oven. The flies were pesky, and proved quite annoying as I blocked the design in. The ‘happy brain’ was looking up at a tree just to the right, which was dangling with boot and miners helmets. There is a tree just out of town that leaving miners hang their boots on, it’s become quite the ritual. I drew a couple of boots into the happy brain’s hand. At one o clock with the piece finished I packed up. I ran a ‘funny faces’ workshop for 5-6 year olds. The kids drew noses, eyes and ears and we stuck them up on a wall, which we then rearranged into crazy funny faces which evoked many giggles. The second workshop was fun too, and the kids drew aspects of Pannawonica on sheets of paper which were arranged and stuck up onto a wall in an approximation with Pannawonica’s actual geography. After packing up, we drove to Oslow, a gas mining hub about two hours away through some of the oldest land on earth featuring spectacular Mesa formations.

Happy kids standing around a happy brain 3D artwork in Pannawonnica

A tree with many boots and shoes thrown and hung on the branches by local Pannawannica peopleThursday 6 October – Onslow (150kms west of Pannawonica)

After strolling along the shore at near the motel, Shelley, the community officer and I drove over to the MFC ( multifunction centre). This is a large sport facility and community centre paid for by companies like Rio Tinto and Chevron. I gave a funny faces workshop for a few 5-6 year olds. We did musical drawing, and a drawing where we raced from one end of the hall to another to complete a series of faces in a series. Each series featured a different emotion. The next workshop, ‘my town’, was with a dozen kids of the 7-10 age group. We made drawings of the town of Onslow. We finished with myself drawing some portraits of the kids which they completed and inserted into the map. Peter and I then drove for 5 hours through more spectacular scenery in the Hammersley ranges. There was no cell phone contact at all. We drove past some remote aboriginal settlements and a few mines. You can tell a mining town when it approaches as is the case with Paraburdoo and Tom price, as the surrounding mountains are cut away in areas where the mining company mines the choicest pickings.

Kids participating in an art workshop

Friday 7th – October – Paraburdoo ( a purpose built mining town, 400 kms south-east of Onslow)

I walked down from the accomodation and gave a class to about 19 kids. It was quite unruly. I am told that is not unusual with that group of kids. No one seems to know why. Joy and I drove the 80 kilometres back to Paraburdoo. The class there were angels in comparison. They ended up doing a map of the whole Pilbara…and were totally engaged for two hours. I had dinner at the miner’s accomodation across the road and was very tired, as the heat is very sapping, and I am not yet used to it. I woke at 6 and headed out eat breakfast. I then walked into the scrub and did a little drawing of the mountains in the distance overlooking Paraburdoo. Even at that hour, the sun was biting, so I set up in the shade of a shipping container. I’m glad I brought my aeroguard.

Drawing of outback bush landscape, drawn from the artists perspective

Saturday 8th October 

Today was the big showcase day. The good bit: I was going to draw a bungarra – I love goannas; the bad bit – the heat was going to be intense. I had to start at 11, just as the day was getting hot…so I knew the clock was ticking and I had to work very quickly before I tired and lost concentration. I had the drawing completed in an hour and had it blocked in by one. I drank lots of water and had to take rests. The event was designed to bring the community together, so there were representatives from different community groups. As usual, more people stopped by as the drawing looked more finished, from 3 onwards. I chalked out a brain with a miners hat on at 5. The work got a great reaction from the audience, and I felt the event had been a success.

 

Sunday 9th October Tom Price (82 km north of Paraburdoo)

Tom Price is a larger mining town in the Hamersley ranges and at 747 metres above sea level is the highest community in the state.

A red mountain in Western Australia. Mount Nameless, Tom Price.It was the same today, though easier. I drew another lizard at ¾ size as I had to be finished by 11. It was a difficult start as the heat the day before had dried me out and I felt quite ill. After we finished at about 12, Peter drove me out to the Hammersley gorge in the Karijini National Park. It was one of the most amazing pieces of natural landscape I have ever seen, and it is as if a dinosaur will walk around the corner at any minute! The landscape also reminded me of the blues of the watercolour paintings of  Albert Namatjira and Hans Heysen.

Peter also took me to see a two and a half kilometer long ‘million dollar’ train, so called because each carries about 30,000 tonnes of ore valued at $50 a tonne. Peter drove me to the bus stop and I took the bus to Paraburdoo. I said goodbye to the wonderful Pilbara and was shortly in a Boeing 717 back to Perth. What an experience!

Find out more: Art is a well established therapeutic tool

Contact us for further information.