“Through these tough times, the arts can play important roles for individuals and communities by providing entertainment, distraction, solace and contributions to mental wellbeing and community resilience.

CQUniversity and the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network will be exploring some of the ways the arts can be used to respond, reimagine and rebuild through the Tough and Tender Beauty Artist ‘at home’ residency program.

Tough and Tender is the signature project for the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network for 2020-21 and will profile the importance of the arts for creative response, resilience, recovery, memorialising and celebration. A range of activities will take part place over the next 15 months with a culmination weekend in June 2021.

As phase one of that project, the CQ RASN has invited artists/creative practitioners from diverse artforms to engage in a one-month residency ‘at home’, with the first residency starting from 4 May.

An initial selection of six artists from diverse regions and artforms will engage in their own practice and way of working, reflecting upon the current context and responding to the theme. These artists will share aspects of their process or work through platforms such as blogs, podcasts/artist talk and social media posts throughout the month.” (https://www.cqu.edu.au/cquninews/stories/engagement-category/2020-engagement/important-role-for-the-arts-in-regions-during-tough-times)

My concept was to interview 5 different people in the Gladstone region. One Senior, one adult, one child, one person who recognises as having a disability and one person who identifies as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Once interviewed via FaceTime/Skype/Zoom I created a piece of artwork in response to what each individual had shared with me in relation to the subject matter of the project. The finished piece wins then gifted to each person that had taken part for them to keep.

Below are segments of my blog for the duration of the residency:

‘No Cats on the Tracks’ Pastel and pencil on Arches paper. 57 x 75 cm June 2020.
Last week I chatted with 7 year old Eli.
Eli shared with me many aspects of his life – both the literal and the abstract.
Which became the basis of my approach to this work.
Eli and his family have 3 cats at their house and they are quite inquisitive when it comes to Eli playing with his trains and railway tracks. Eli was very expressive and descriptive when it came to this subject. I was completely sold on his storytelling.
‘No Cats on the Tracks’ tells a visual story of boundaries and control. Where we want to go; what might be holding us back. Where borders surround us from what we are not yet able to do – blocking entry to what we imagine we can. To society seeing us in a certain way, when we only want to be accepted for who we are.




I applied for this opportunity to take part in the Tough and Tender Beauty Artist in Residence ‘at home’ late one night, in a panic. 

While I normally like stick to what is familiar (to ease anxieties) things weren’t normal anymore. I needed to branch out, to connect with others out there and other opportunities further from my comfort zones and region.

My normal lightbulb that balances above my head was sitting at an all time low that night of 15 watts, but then hit at a high of 350 when I saw this advertised via CQRASN. Yep, I had an idea.

An idea to do things differently. Because that was what life was like right now – different. 

I wanted to talk to different people, and make work in a different way to how I normally would.

I needed to challenge the differences that I was facing, and raise the bar – and fight through the changes that COVID-19 was causing. 

Interviewing five VERY different people from the Gladstone region allowed me an opportunity to see things in a myriad of different lights. How they arrived at this place in the world – and how they arrived at this point in time now. What makes them tough, tender and beautiful. And then from my perspective – how is this visually translated? 

I learnt a lot about each of these individuals – and along the journey 5 other artists and our mentors…..And myself in the process.

Listening is learning.

Don’t try too hard.

But if you do, laugh about it.

Be vulnerable.

And you will hear someone’s heart.

This is what I experienced.

This has been a massive experiment for me. But it has made me recognise the importance of “resilience, recovery, memorialising and celebration” (Tough and tender beauty website homepage) through seeing the light in others….And also when it has been dark.

I am so grateful to CQRASN, the mentors, the artists that they have put together in the first round of this project – the audience; viewers….And the people that have taken the time out in their lives to share their story with me. 

Life is different right now. But for me, it’s become better because of this project.


‘Petra’ Pastel and pencil on Arches paper. 57 x 75cm May 2020. Melissa Peacock

I hugged someone for the first time in months that wasn’t my husband or our son. 
And it was Petra. I broke the rules, but then so does Petra. And I really needed a hug.
During the  second stage of my interview with Petra, she talked about her life after returning to Australia, buying a home with her husband. Study, work and their two children coming into the world.
Petra is dedicated to making a difference, both within her personal life and out in the community.
She is philosophical and ethical.  

Petra was homesick for ten years, but immersed herself in fishing, the beach – exploring the outdoors and acquainting herself with the locals. 
Culturally, Petra noted, embraced and adapted to certain circumstances but still observes how we are all so different.
She fills my cup with new ways to look at things – a perspective that is both refreshing and honest. 
Petra is a great friend. 


In 2015 I had some work in a small gallery in Melbourne. A few months after having my work in the space, the owner of the gallery called me and said “Your work looks too much like an indigenous artists work. And because you’re not an aboriginal, I can’t have your work in here anymore.” My mark making then was actually very much connected to my anxiety. The repetition much like a version of stimming for me. Her assumptions on my style stung a bit, but I’m forever fascinated by this remark.

It also got me thinking about what an artist maybe influenced by….How that is perceived and translated by the art world and it’s audience?

So when it came time to interview Gooreng Gooreng Elder, Uncle Richard, thoughts of this disgruntled woman’s voice floated back into my mind. 

I felt very conscious of how my approach to the work would be translated. And I kind of went in the opposite direction of how I usually work. 

This drawing is unusually literal for me. 

But Uncle Richard was clear, direct and specific in his story telling. 

“I believe in the saying ‘it takes a village….’ but we have been conditioned to think independently now….To think “I’m going to do it my way”.

And rarely do we come together. We seem to have lost the ability to care for one another. We don’t have the structures in place for our community.”

Uncle Richard has had leadership roles in Co-op Housing and Mental Health. 

He is passionate about education “when it is done right” and his faith (When I sent him an image of the early stages of work he asked if I could please include the Bible) . 

He looks out for those ‘that have fallen between the cracks’ and is “hopeful that we use this time wisely – as individuals and as a nation”.

“COVID-19 has excited me because it has changed some of the thinking in our community….We can’t survive independently.”

But Uncle Richard has concerns that when restrictions are lifted, that people will return to their previous  lifestyles. 

“Maybe the government will introduce some new things…..We want change in our lives, but only individuals can do that – only they can do it for themselves to make the right decisions.”

The drawing brings Uncle Richards highlighted subjects into the work – education and literature (we discussed Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu), his various roles for individuals and groups within his culture and community. His faith and his ‘religion’ – sport!

Some feature in a faded memory, some bold and very present to the viewer. 

Three colours captured amongst what is black and what is white.

It was a refreshing shift to draw differently, yet each time I listen to the interview, I draw more and more from what Uncle Richard is saying. His wisdom and my lack of insight into his culture colliding in between, with me wanting to know more.

Image below:
‘Anne’ Mixed media on Arches paper. May 2020