15 May 2023 | Disability
Graceville Art Festival 22-25 June 2023
Careful, measured meaning is mapped out by artist Billie Baxter before she loads up her paintbrush.
A compass, protractor and sometimes even a trusty nail, string and pencil to get a really big circle are the tools of trade for the Buderim artist.
Billie is the featured artist at the annual Graceville Art Festival, which runs from 22 to 25 June in Nambour.
The festival is a celebration of art and community connection. Local artists as well as people with a disability and/or mental health concern will be selling and displaying their works at the festival, as well as being a weekend packed with workshops and activities.
Graceville Centre is a mental health and disability service based in Nambour.
Billie will have several of her unique surfboard artworks on display. She also paints on recycled records and CDs.
The process of preparing and painting the surfboard surface takes careful work.
First you strip, sand and thoroughly wash the board to get rid of any oils.
“Then you paint and finish off with a top coat to make it super hard and really strong,” she said.
“I like working with acrylics, especially metallics and pearls. Gold is great to use because when you have it in the sun it looks one way but when you move it, it totally changes.”
Mandalas – which are symbolic shapes used in meditation practice – are a recurring motif.
“The process of setting out a mandala is all about measurement,” she said.
“When you are marking it out it can take longer than the actual painting because there is so much measurement involved.
“You have to work out how many mandala circles fit on your materials, every degree has to be measured or it just doesn’t look right.
“I use protractors and a compass and something called a stanley compass which gives me a bigger circle. If you want a really big circle there’s the good old nail and string with a pencil at the end. You just learn and adapt your methods.”
Billie has experienced two major health incidents that have really dictated the way she paints. A brain haemorrhage in her 20s and spinal cord damage more recently mean she has had to re-learn how to draw twice.
“So I moved to painting dot mandalas, the small movements and precision is actually really well suited to my limited range of movement,” she said.
“Mandala painting really gives you peace of mind because it is repetitive you get into a meditative state. It’s good for your mind. The world is such a busy, stressful place that it’s really calming for your mind.
“I love doing art, but it’s also my therapy.”
Billie ‘s art is not her only spiritual fuel. She is a keen community volunteer with the Dignity Circle at the Nambour Community Centre.
She is passionate about older women and homelessness.
“The Dignity Circle is a place of belonging and a place of achievement. Dignity Circle and the community centre support people to find housing options for older women. People my age are the fastest growing group of homeless people. Until recently my housing situation has been insecure so this is a really important area to contribute to.”