Recent visitors to the Eltham Library children’s garden may have noticed a beautiful new splash of colour adorning the fences… but where did it come from?
With a grant from Nillumbik Shire Council, Eltham asked local artist Simone Thomson to liven up the garden with a mural. Simone has created a beautiful dreaming story that ties the community to the landscape and shows the history of the land that the library stands on. The brilliant and earthy colours, animals and scenes presented in the mural mean that it’s easy for a child to get lost spotting all the little details.
We will let you come and learn more about the mural in person, but we thought we should shine a little light on the wonderful artist behind the work: Simone Thomson.
YPRL: Tell us a bit about yourself
Simone: I am a Wurundjeri and Yorta-Yorta Melbourne artist through my mother, and Irish through my father. I am mother to three grown daughters and a son, and I have two fat old cats: Lily and Tigger. I love to run and go for long bush walks; I love to travel (though I’ll give that a miss for a bit I think). I have swum with sharks and sky-dived over the Swiss Alps. I have dirt-drifted in a race car, hot air ballooned, ridden a Harley, got washed out at Niagra Falls, slept in an overnighter in the Trans-Siberian Rail, watched the Monaco Grand Prix trackside, and driven across Ireland by myself.
YPRL: What prompted you to start making art? How has your art changed over time?
Simone: I was the first graduate of Victoria’s first and only independent Aboriginal school – Worawa Aboriginal College in Healesville. Aboriginal Culture was first and foremost in our curriculum. We would learn our language and cultural practices on a daily basis. I remember the day I picked up my first paintbrush: I was fifteen. I haven’t stopped. If anything, my art has more direction now. In my earlier days I didn’t really have a plan, though that said, half the time I still don’t. I usually let the story evolve and it tells itself to me.
YPRL: Can you tell us a bit about the mediums you work in, and what your favourite medium is?
Simone: I have always been a creative person and enjoy learning, experimenting, and trying new ways to express my creativity. I have created emu feather hangings, made large wood installations, [and] painted indoor and outdoor murals, totem poles, boomerangs, shields, jewellery boxes, gallery pieces, corporate fine art, Reconciliation Action Plan art, sporting guernseys, sporting shoes and recently; the Indigenous Round Netball for Super Netball. They’re just a few of the ones I can remember! My favourite medium is the one I’m working on at that time, as long as I’m in my ‘zone’ that’s where my smile is.
YPRL: What is your favourite part of the mural you have painted for us?
Simone: I love the rainbow Serpent! It reminds me of my childhood. I used to dance traditional Aboriginal dance with my sister and cousins and perform throughout Melbourne and Victoria. Good old Rainbow Serpent, good old memories.
YPRL: Where do you find your inspiration?
Simone: The bush, the river, the mountains, the beautiful earth. I absolutely love the colours of the sky; they are truly represented in just about every piece of art that I do. I also have a great respect for the Dreamtime stories learned throughout my life. Aboriginal people have a soul-deep connection to country and our ancestors. This makes us who we are.
YPRL: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
Simone: I don’t know if I’ve ever been given ‘advice’, but I could probably say that what I have learned is that art is very subjective, and everyone sees the story differently. In my case, it is very important to me that the viewer or audience firstly ‘feels’ my story before drinking in the detail. So, to that – be sincere with your paintbrush and be true to yourself.
YPRL: And the question every librarian has to ask: What are you reading at the moment?
Simone: Aah, yes … I have two by my bedside but have yet to open. I usually work till midnight so I’m usually out after that. One is The Dry, by Jane Harper and the other is Priestess, it was a gift for my b'day last year. It’s by Julie Parker.
The mural will be a focal point of future celebrations and events but is up now in the garden for all to enjoy.