Robyn Emerson


Autumn, 2024

“People say that what we’re all looking for is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings somebody else pulls.” Howard Thurman

“Talent is the ability to let ideas manifest themselves through you.” Rick Rubin

There’s a particular smell that announces the first real morning of Autumn, it’s a fresh crisp smell in the air, even before the leaves change colour, even before the temperature really drops.  The smell of the first morning of Autumn is one of my very favourite smells of all time, along with the smell of freshly washed sheets on the line in the sun, the smell of jonquils on a frosty morning, and the smell of a new born baby’s head, straight from heaven.   I think any of these could be bottled and I would so prefer to use them instead  of the chemical perfumes you can buy.   No matter how expensive they are they couldn’t compete with Smell of the first crisp autumn morning No 5. 

And with Autumn too there comes a few lasts; the last swim of the season, how far into Autumn can I stretch it?  Will I beat last summer’s record and have a swim in May?   The last evening of riding my bike through the warm night air, the last summer rose. 

There’s something about Autumn that makes me feel like it’s time to turn inwards and do some work, it’s easier to go into the studio when it isn’t a beach day.  The energy collects itself in, discards the leaves and waits.   This Autumn I’m continuing writing my book on creativity, while rejuvenating my painting practice and my studio.  In the Adelaide heat I had to move a lot of my painting mediums and waxes into the house away from the heat in the studio, so now I’m moving them back, rearranging shelves, paints, watercolours, clearing off my desk ready for work.

If you feel like it, Autumn is a great time to collect and dry some leaves, you never know when it will be the right time to use a few dried leaves in a painting. Perhaps you’ve got to be reminded to collect them, like me.   I find the leaves of the smoke tree and the cercus trees are best for this, but eucalypt leaves, crab apple tree leaves, pom pom bush leaves, any leaves will work really.    Just choose your favourites and put them into a book at the bottom of a pile, by the end of winter they’ll be ready to use.

Autumn is also a big time in the garden for planting, especially spring bulbs.   You plant them and you water them, but you don’t really know what they’re going to look like in the spring.  You just plant them, and give them good conditions for growth, plant them to the right depth, give them water and sun, then allow them to rest until the time is right for them to bloom.   And it’s like this with any art too, you plant the ideas, give them the right conditions for growth, application, care, time and then wait to see if their time is right.    You allow your ideas to follow their own paths in your garden.    Not every idea is going to bloom as soon as its planted, they have their own seasons of rest and renewal too, like us.    If an idea doesn’t bloom straight away for you, maybe it’s time isn’t right, maybe it needs time in the dark to develop into what it might be.   Sometimes letting your ideas rest in the dark is as much a part of the creative process as seeing them in the light.

Untitled, Leaves, Oil and Encaustic on canvas, 2020. Private Collection.

Books on my bedside table:

The creative act, A way of being, Rick Rubin, 2023

The Strange death of Europe, Immigration, Identity Islam, Douglas Murray, 2017

The Writing School, Miranda France, 2023.

Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.

Robert Bresson