MICHAEL RAFTOS - ARTIST
In high school I used to draw with pencils, biros and watercolours. My life has taken me on a very long detour into the digital world of making computer generated graphics. I always had a yearning to go back to the simplicity of the drawings I did long before I went to art school. I don’t think I had the courage or the confidence back then. A few years ago I made a conscious decision to return to that time and start again where I left off. This is the first year I feel I can truly call myself an artist.
You could say I treat drawing like a job. I prefer to see it more like a kind of monastic discipline. In a typical 'good day' I spend the morning drawing and the afternoon attending to art businessy things. I need routine with everything to keep me on the straight and narrow. This year I have experimented with all sorts of configurations to find a way in which I work best. For me, learning to be my own boss has been extraordinary and challenging and it continues to be so. The longest part of preparing for an exhibition is creating the volume of work required. For me, pencil drawing is a slow meticulous process, which can’t really be rushed. A drawing can take around two weeks or more to complete.
I built myself a tiny house in fits and spurts between 2013 and 2015 (an integral part of the plan to join the circus or live in the woods). I wanted to live in something that I built myself and purge my life of all the rubbish that I had accumulated over the years. Funnily enough I found that the biggest distraction wasn’t all the things around me, but it was my own mind. It’s quite an exercise trying to tame it.
When I’m not drawing I like to go to the Botanic Gardens and practice Kung Fu moves. I’m living out a fantasy from watching all those martial art movie montages in my youth. I also think they might come in handy if that zombie apocalypse eventuates. I might also be engaged in a spiritual quest to achieve righteous six-pack abs, but this is very difficult when you have the best pies in the universe down the road at Johnny Baker. I spend my weekends with my delightful lady friend in Melbourne. She’s pretty tops!
My book, Absoloopy consists of drawings from 2016 and 2017. When I started drawing again, I didn’t have any goals in mind. I didn’t have a master plan and I didn’t know I was going to produce a book. I started drawing hoping that if I began doing what I always wanted, then a path to follow would come to me. This seems to be the case so far, although the path has not always been a comfortable one. The response to the book has been good so far. I sold out of my first run and I am halfway through my second printing. I’ve recently approached some retailers who are enthusiastic about it and next year I will be approaching bookstores and other distributors. Why not buy a copy here: https://www.raftos.com/product/absoloopy-illustrated-book/ (wink)
My aspiration is to be skillful enough so that my work is a source of stimulation in times of torpor and a source of comfort in times of stress for myself and for others. If I could accomplish that, then I feel I would have contributed something of value to the world. Action seems to be my biggest struggle. Being paralysed (whether by stress or listlessness) is something that I continually need to attend to. 2017 was a pretty great year for me. I reconnected with old friends, met a lovely lady to spend time with, started my art business, put together a website, held three exhibitions and created a book. I’m looking to build on that in 2018 with exhibitions in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. I’m also planning to find some giant gold nuggets in the area so I can purchase a deserted tropical island, naturally rich in all the things to make tom yam soup, and spend my days drawing in a hammock.
Favourite things to do here: Vaughan Springs, Dog Rocks, the Botanic Gardens and Kalimna Forest are lovely places to go for a meandering stroll. I also really like getting a cup of tea and sitting up by the Monument or the Old Gaol and looking out over our pretty little town. Margot Wine Bar is a great place to sit and have a drink. The Theatre Royale is a great place to go to the pictures. The coffee from Republic and Saffs are extra special.
Since moving here I’ve noticed I have developed a funny problem. People are really friendly in Castlemaine and I find I smile and say "Hi" a lot to people as they pass in the street. It's become a bit of a habit that I can’t shake off. Now, when I go to Melbourne I find myself saying "G’day" to people in the street and am met with curious looks and blank faces. This might happen to you if you move here. You have been warned.