The Grok and the Gratchy

This winter I hibernated.

It’s actually the first time I’ve had the luxury to hibernate—in my first year of retirement I set up my studio, a stash and some websites for rumination. In my second winter we travelled to Japan and I made some work for an exhibition. My third winter was for renovating. Winter four gave permission for quiet, warmth, relaxation and thought.


Image by Alex

While I hibernated I thought about clouds and stripes and water. And balloon flowers and colours and pies.

I thought about my two favourite words the GROK and the GRATCHY.

I wrote some notes for a treatise on understanding why you grok certain things in the world.

To me the idea of grok is another way to describe aesthetics, [a term which needs further definition itself, but briefly, to me it means] the deep knowing and deep feeling I get when I encounter a thing [usually visual] that is particularly and inexplicably appealing to me.

The idea of gratchy according to my definition is the feeling and knowledge that a thing is important but very boring and tedious. It may even be challenging but you just don’t want to engage in the challenge.

The grok and the gratchy are both important but why do I love one and not the other? When you are teaching, why do you have students in the palm of your hand when they grok and swinging from the fans when they are gratchy?

Why is my grok not the grok of everyone else? Why is my gratchy beloved by my beloved?

How do you recognise a unique and innate aesthetic sense? Not one that is too sharply shaped by the opinion of others? Is such a sense unique to every one of us? How do you feed and therefore develop this aesthetic sense?

The grok and the gratchy are new terms to help me deal with the dirty word of aesthetics. I had been thinking that the grok is more important in understanding our aesthetic sense. Now I’m starting to feel that the gratchy, as the ‘other’ in this discourse, may be more illuminating.

There’s been a little complication with my complication

‘There’s been a little complication with my complication’—a line from my favourite movie Brazil—describes how things are at the moment I haven’t been here (at artistpractice) for a while. Our renovations meant that my studio was under siege for months. I have only just managed to get it back in order to work in there.


Studio reset/refreshed!

While I was unable to paint I knitted up a storm—blankets, beanies, scarves, cowls—and my knits went crazy for stripes, chevrons and plaid.


I am completely mad for plaid (Japanese schoolkids sporting plaid). Image by rumple teaser

I thought more about my ‘Finger in too many pies’ problem and realised that it isn’t going away so I started a new blog at (starting a new blog to solve the issue of always looking for ‘new’ makes sense doesn’t it?). Yes, to me it makes sense to move all my other pies [the knitting, stuff about daily life, philosophical ponderings, the politics, and the gripes about education] to another place so that this blog just concentrates on artmaking practice—mine and others’.


Love you to visit my new blog!

Speaking of artmaking practice, I was inspired by my clever nephew to think about doing some writing about the practice of other artists. My nephew has just recently done his HSC and we did some work together ahead of his visual arts exam. I haven’t taught this particular syllabus but the level of language and conceptual understanding of artmaking practice required of students was fascinating to me. I thought it would be interesting to do some blog posts here that look at the material and conceptual practice of artists.

So back to my statement ‘there’s been a little complication with my complication’. My own artmaking hasn’t diminished, I have just stepped sideways and have been exploring image-making and materials in a different way for a little while. I can now embrace the craziness of the runaway lateral thoughts.

I can deal simultaneously with multiple needy ideas. I’ve always thought that there has to be a connection between all these interests and explorations and ideas. There may well be some beauty in this intricate weave.