By Elzette Bester

    During the many Lockdowns in Melbourne throughout 2020 & 2021, visual artist Elzette Bester was aware of the instant isolation and anxiety felt by herself, her family, and her local community. Her son then in primary school was given tasks for home schooling that explored learning about other states and countries, and it made her wonder how she could use her illustration skills to bring focus back to his immediate environment that will also benefit her community. She thought of what children were able to see and do daily at home with the many restrictions in place, and her surrounding backyards, parks, and neighbourhood was something everyone had access to.

    She first created an Illustration called ‘My Beautiful Neighbourhood Garden’ in black and white that could be printed in large batches. She teamed up with local café, Three Zero Two Zero, in Maxweld Street, Ardeer, to stock the copies for pickup, and made soft copies available via email or her socials to print out at home.

    Elzette instinctively knew that young and old would not only recognize the elements drawn, but also learn and enjoy their beautiful surroundings by doing a mindful and calming activity like colouring-in.

    She did not want it to be about doing the ‘best’ colouring-in or staying inside the lines. She wanted to give her community a reason to walk up the street to get a coffee (mask on and social distanced!), say hello to a passer by or neighbour, have a break from work or learning, or simply take a moment to pause in what was a distressing and anxious time.

    Elzette created a second illustration, ‘My Ardeer’, which depicts café Three Zero Two Zero, the iconic prickly pears of Ardeer, the ducks on Kororoit Creek, and her dog Buddy waiting like a good boy for his Mum. She included a postcard layout that could be cut out to send to loved ones and family via snail mail.

    Doing something kind for herself, which included creating this work and sharing it with her friends and community, was essential for Elzette’s own mental wellbeing. As a mum of a neurodiverse family, a migrant, and proudly neurodiverse herself, her art practice is a vehicle for connection that gives her focus when the demands of life become overwhelming and exhausting. She believes when we are open about our own mental health challenges and how it affects our parenting, work and daily lives, the gift of art will extend beyond colouring-in sheets or printed illustrations. It will invite kindness and empathy, and that we all have a space and a place to belong.

    Elzette’s colouring-in illustrations are still available for pickup at café Three Zero Two Zero in Ardeer. Over 1000 copies have been picked up, coloured, shared, and enjoyed since 2020. 

    This work plus more of Elzette’s artwork will be exhibited at the Community Bank Seddon from 14 November 2022. Prints are available on her website, or shared on her Instagram @elzettebest

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