Thursday, June 30, 2016

'In The Studio' Continues Here

Over the last years, the single consistent window to my world was a series of untitled photographs on Tumblr, titled In The Studio. I started it on the 15th of June, 2011 a few months after my father died

The photo's are a mix of art, sex, mental illness and my struggle to complete the last of my enamel paintings alone (after multiple production issues with materials and assistants). As I wrote in 2012, the photographs at In The Studio are an ongoing exploration of one contemporary woman's life as an artist, without the usual fey, girlish jitters. They are unflinchingly candid (and not just in their occasional depiction of sex), reflecting a life-long refusal to draw a line between the personal and the professional. The most explicit images are meant to disturb, to make one pause and think. At the same time, they consciously reference the media-saturated, reality-based, gossip-obsessed age in which we all live and work. You can read the rest of my statement here.

The last photograph is from 2015. It was taken at the private psychiatric hospital where I've been treated since 2012. I was exhausted after trialling Chlorpromazine. I had hoped the medication would help me force past the restrictions of my body and mind so I could paint like an unemotional machine. My plan backfired. Instead, I had a severe dystonic reaction. Muscles seized up, limbs jerked uncontrollably. My speech was interrupted by long pauses and stutters. Even my face twitched relentlessly. For over a month I struggled to walk or hold cutlery. Taking photographs was a physical impossibility.

Nine months later my fine motor skills are still recovering. I can take photo's again but I still can't draw or paint precisely. I don't know how long it will last or if the damage is permanent. Either way, life goes on.

Instead of continuing In The Studio on Tumblr I will post short photo' essays here, integrated with the rest of my work. I am not a photographer – I simply want to create a record.
I see photographs as a reflection of my external reality. Glimpses of my internal experience can be seen in the art I make.

he raw, ongoing narrative of my life remains elemental to my identity as an artist. As my work and personal life are entangled, they are often (not always intentionally) revelatory and intimate. I expose myself not to receive flattery but to create a connection with those who view my work that’s as intimate and as open as possible.

Do I still have secrets? Yes. And no, I won’t reveal them.

Above: The final photograph from In The Studio, 2011 to 2015.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Lo-Res Letter To You

A Lo-Res Letter To You is a new, ongoing series of impromptu drawings-on-photo's delivered via Snapchat. It's digital ephemera with no collectible value (that I know of). My hope is that it has some value as an experience. I think of it as an experimental public artwork for the 'million-fold audience of just one'.

Each Snap is
using a small-screened iPhone 4. I draw using my finger. Lines are thick and unrefined with no variation other than colour – no zoom or hacks. I prefer to keep the evidence of my hand rather than use special effects. I make one image a day and post it to my 'story' so it's available to view for the next 24 hours. 

o view
A Lo-Res Letter To You as it's made,
add me on SnapChat. My username is hazeldooney or you can scan my Snapcode, above (click to enlarge). Feel free to screenshot and share the images, as long as they're credited to me, not altered and not used for commercial purposes (see CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 for details).

For new users of SnapChat:
The Snapchat app is widely available and free to download. You can read instructions on how to create an account here. To add me as a friend, open Snapchat and tap the ghost at the top of your camera screen. Tap 'Add Friends', then 'Add Username'. Type in hazeldooney and wait for Snapchat to find me, then tap 'Add'. Alternatively, take a photo' or screenshot of my Snapcode (image above, click to enlarge), tap 'Add Friends', then 'Add by Snapcode'. Instructions for how to view my 'story' are here.

UPDATE July 5th 2016:

In response to requests, A Lo-Res Letter To You is now archived at

UPDATE November 1st 2016:A Lo-Res Letter To You is now also available to view via Instagram Stories at

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Evidence and Emotion

The photograph above is of me at seventeen, at the airport with my father. He didn’t know I’d booked a one-way flight to London via Japan. I wasn’t running away from him. Leaving was the only way I felt I could stop everything I wrote about in Broken.

Months before, I cut off my long dark blonde hair and dyed it for the first time: black. I wore men’s clothing. At the time I didn’t realise how worried my father was about me. But looking at the photo’, it’s obvious.

Creating timelines and revisiting photo’s, diaries and mementos helped me to better understand – and more importantly, overcome – traumatic experiences. Going through my box of personal mementos made me realise the significance of keeping the pony-tail of my ‘virgin’ hair. And why I had so carefully wrapped and kept it among my most precious things.

I’m most interested in photographs as proof, evidence and documentation of events. Several of the new artworks I’m making combine 'evidence’ (photo’s and other ephemera) with expressions of internal experience.

I can’t change my troubled past. But some of the skills I learned while dealing with the impact of it are extremely useful. I am using these skills in other areas, now, as I rebuild a happier life. It’s inevitable that they seep into the way I make new art. 


Long ago, during my brief stint at art school, I was encouraged to keep a visual diary. I was also told I needed to keep drafts of my work. I hated both. My natural instinct is to write about ideas. Then I re-work images or objects as I go – a habit developed from impatience and a reluctance to 'waste' art materials.

Yet I started keeping an artist diary last year. It started as a practical solution. My mind wasn't functioning well enough to categorise my notes and and I kept losing them. So I decided to write everything in one place. Diary entries, dreams, ideas, notes, personal confessions. Everything.

Sketching happened organically. I wanted to remember places and experiments in perspective. I realised (very late) that it's a great way to collect material – memories, observations, references – that can be used later.

Above: Excerpt from my notebook
Everything, Part One. Private psychiatric hospital, 15 April 2016.

Inner Life

I still dream vividly. When I wake, it takes a while to adjust to reality. Writing down dreams (and nightmares) helps speed up the process. It's a kind of purge – taking an experience out of my mind and putting it somewhere else. Then I focus on my surroundings: changes in light, the way the curtains move in the breeze, the sound of my own breath.

My art rarely develops from dreams. I don't analyse them, either. I'm interested in them only as a glimpse of the unconscious mind.

I was caring for the children of an old adversary while cleaning the house of someone who had been murdered. It turned out the victim’s family bought the place. They came to help. Everywhere they'd cleaned, they placed strange porcelain knick-knacks.

The family wanted to show me how to bake bread. I opened the oven door at their instruction. It was hot already and there were loaves inside. The tray was big and heavy, made from cast iron. I didn’t have an oven mitt or cloth so I used a fire iron to manoeuvre the tray. While I was pushing it back into the oven a loaf of bread shaped like a puppy fell on the floor. I picked up the pale golden loaf, laughing because it was lovely. It came to life and licked my neck.

Dream, 29 November 2013.

Reading List

Books I’ve revisited as I clarify the direction of my new art, writing and photography:

Blue by Derek Jarman (exquisite)
Days: A Tangier Diary by Paul Bowles
Eva Hesse, Transformations – The Sojourn in Germany 1964/5 and Datebooks 1964/65 by Sabine Folie, Georgia Holz, Eva Hesse and Gerald Matt
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) by Andy Warhol
My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (for research only – I find the book so boring that even skimming it is a chore)
The Lives of Lee Miller by Antony Penrose
Freud at Work: Lucian Freud in Conversation with Sebastian Smee by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson
Francesco Clemente: A Portrait by Rene Ricard and Luca Babini
Encountering Eva Hesse by Griselda Pollock and Vanessa Corby
Eva Hesse Drawing by Catherine de Zegher (editor)
Frida Kahlo: The Painter and Her Work by Helga Prignitz-Poda (my favourite painting by Kahlo is My Nurse and I, 1937)
Frida Kahlo Masterpieces by Schirmer’s Visual Library
Frida Kahlo by Andrea Kettenmann
Clemente: A Retrospective by Guggenheim Museum Publications
Andy Warhol “Giant” Size by Phaidon Editors
Jean-Michel Basquiat by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Luca Marenzi
Derek Jarman’s Garden by Derek Jarman with photographs by Howard Sooley
Micro: Very Small Buildings by Ruth Slavid
The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Fifth Edition by Ralph Mayer

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What Am I Doing Here?

Not long ago I told a friend that blogging is dead. Yet here I am, re-starting a blog I began in 2006 and abandoned in 2013.

I want to write about my work again. I've experimented with various platforms over the last months but this format remains the clearest way to communicate. The layout is user-friendly, readers can search key words. My development as an artist is documented here. Although my past can be discomfiting to revisit, it's important to claim both successes and failures and show how (and why) my work has evolved.

Besides, writing is an essential part of my creative process. I've always used words as a way to figure out ideas. My earliest visual diary is full of scrawled text with more diagrams than drawings. I work out how to make the art itself later.

It is inevitable that I will say too much. I'm terrible at moderation. I am silent or I speak my mind. I care about authenticity more than I care about being liked. There is still no line between my art and life. And 'real' life is messy, exquisitely beautiful, equally painful and constantly in flux.
It's also the shared experience that connects us, tenuously, to each other.

Hazel visits Port Philip Bay, postcard to my mother from one of her closest friends, 1996.

Friday, June 10, 2016


After a ‘perfect storm’ of madness, bankruptcy and the death of my father – followed by years of intensive treatment for bipolar disorder as an inpatient at a private psychiatric hospital – I am rebuilding my life as an artist.

My resources are limited but I don't want to borrow money to start over. I figure it's better to work with what I have

I have a room to work and sleep in, enough money for food and health insurance, intelligence, talent, experience, courage, a reputation (for better or worse), debt, bipolar, dystonia from trialling Chlorpromazine, insomnia, an excellent psychiatrist, a progressive private psychiatric hospital I can go to if I need intensive treatment, twenty-seven sheets of Arches watercolour paper in medium 300gsm 297 x 420mm, eight 14ml and thirty-six 5ml tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolour paint, two 37ml tubes of Winsor & Newton gouache, thirty-nine 14ml tubes of Winsor & Newton gouache, three high quality paintbrushes in different sizes, five 7B lead pencils, a box of ephemera from my life, a digitial camera, an aging laptop, internet access, a cheap printer, an early model smartphone, a sewing machine, a car I bought for $500, a muse, a few close friends and – last but not least – people who support, collect and care for my art (and, despite everything, me).

Where I am now is unfamiliar territory. I did not expect to find myself here. But I know what to do. The first step is to
assess my position. The next is to find a way forward.

Above: Morning in my bedroom, study, studio.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Dooney Lives

No. 1, 2016.
Lead pencil on 300gsm watercolour paper,
15.5 x 12cm (6.10 x
4.72 inches).

The first in an ongoing series titled Dooney Lives. More works will be posted regularly at and (images on the latter cropped to fit Instagram's format).