I’ve been trying out a few new gels and pastes lately in my acrylic paintings and having some fun. Here’s a 30 x 30 cm canvas I just finished using some clear tar gel and molding paste to help create that tangle of flowers and weeds in the foreground. Will be trying a few more ways of using the gel I’m sure.
On Saturday I realised that I was supposed to hand in a painting to the Art Society of Tasmania’s March member exhibition the VERY NEXT DAY. The theme is “From my Studio” and I’d been putting off deciding on my entry because I don’t really have much of a view from my little studio room. Both windows look out onto the side path which has a large concrete retaining wall a few feet away. I painted it with a mural years ago but it’s a bit faded now so the view is not so inspiring.I’d been wrestling with the idea of not taking the theme literally but instead thinking of it as a prompt.
“From my studio” I :
- imagine dreamworlds of abstract patterns and shapes
- reach into my memory and paint from images past
- travel to far countries via my photo records
- dip into my sketchbooks and reinvent a scene
but somehow this time I did want to represent something literally seen from my studio. It’s been niggling away at me and I just couldn’t make up my mind so on Saturday when I was tidying up my photos on my laptop I came across some great sky photos – they were taken outside my studio and I can see that sky through my window!
It wasn’t enough on it’s own even though I liked the pattern of the trees against the sky so I gave it some more thought as I sanded back an old frame I’d just bought home from the recycling centre. I decided to use the frame dimensions as the painting dimensions and to do it in pastel. So there I had the bones of an idea, the format, the medium and size worked out and now I needed to flesh it out a bit more.
The format was a bit unusual ( 2:1 ) and it presented a few challenges. First I needed to crop my sky photo to fit whilst keeping the feel that had attracted me in the first place.
I felt the foreground would need something of real interest in it to make the painting work and that a few diagonals would help to lead the viewer up into that wonderful sky. It must be interesting , be able to connect the strip of grass in the foreground with the trees in the middle and distance , fit in a narrow space and importantly , it must thematically connect as an idea with the sky- not a lot to ask right! One of my students had used a reference photo of mine with an old fence post during Friday’s pastel class and I’ve used that post before so I pulled out the photo and used it to block in a post on the bottom left which would stop the down hill run out of the corner as the eye followed the diagonal line of the sloping paddock ( we live on a fairly steep 5 acres).
I did a little value study to see if the shapes would work and decided to add in a little extra grass in the foreground.
Having kept the viewer in the painting I really wanted to reward them for staying with me! There are a lot of birds around our place and they’re a constant joy so a bird seemed a good idea. I have a collection of reference photos I’ve taken but none of them seemed right. The Black Cockatoos were big enough, I had photos of them in flight but they seemed too dark . The parrots were too small and too bright. Then I hit on the idea of a wedge tailed eagle , wings outstretched , landing on the post. I did a trial sketch of the eagle, thought it looked right and started on the painting.
My first go at the eagle wasn’t a success! It looked the right size in my sketch but when I blocked it in with charcoal I could see it was too small. There was no real connection between the grass and the trees..so out it came!
In my final version I removed some of the
trees behind the eagle so I could highlight it against the golds of the sky,
the tail connects to the grass, the head to the sky and the wings lead up into
the trees and onto the sky. I feel I’ve set up a good dynamic ,flow and
counterpoint using the diagonals of the post, paddock, legs, wings and
treelines. The old post stops the viewer from leaving via the bottom left
corner. Although the eagle is fairly dark against the trees there is enough
light and contrast from the white feathers and the golden glow of the back
feathers so that he is easily seen. Looking at it now I can see that perhaps
I’ve split it too neatly in half with the light and dark values but that’s a
lesson learned for next time!
And that’s how I was able to come up with a concept to fit the brief, paint it, frame it and deliver on time. From the initial idea to the finished framed painting took me 6 hours and I’d been procrastinating for weeks! Sometimes it happens when it happens!
Life has been pretty busy for me lately which will come as no surprise to those of you who have read a few of my posts! I keep taking on new projects and beefing up existing ones because I want to make the most of my time and talents while my mind is still sharp ( well…semi-sharp!) and my limbs can do as they’re told. I was slowed down this week as my Mum was unwell and I spent a few nights at her place with no internet connection and a lot of quiet time to reflect. Here are some of those reflections…
Often I can’t see the whole picture and I build up “truths” from the broken fragments I can see. Maybe I should be a little less sure of my view of the world and a little more willing to consider someone elses “truth”.
Rock is a solid substance yet sometimes it seems to flow like this river of rock on the Mt Carmel highway. Even those people who seem to have their lives and views set in stone can have a vulnerable, kinder side if I take the time to get to know them.
Water is beautiful, refreshing and restful but it can also be a force that can sweep you off your feet. People have many sides – I should be grateful for their complexity .
The evening glow is a lovely, but maybe it’s not so lovely for some of the older people we know and they need some help to enjoy it, to feel safe and protected so they can have an opportunity to reflect on their lives and share their wisdom.
It’s not always smooth sailing. Enjoy it while you can!
Don’t forget to look below the surface! There are some beautiful hidden treasures I will miss if I don’t dive a bit deeper
Memories are precious. Share them before I forget them!
What have you been reflecting on lately?
Some recent reflections
I found this sitting in my Draft bin and realised I’d never posted it – so here’s a little story form Dec 2017.
Early December amongst the manic finishing of Christmas commissions I got a very professional and pleasant email from someone purporting to work for Etsy in Australia. She asked if I would agree to loan a small painting for a photo shoot at Australian House and Garden magazine. I just needed to send it the next day to reach Sydney in time for the shoot.
My first reaction was that it was a scam. Someone was trying for some free Christmas presents! The email looked legit but I knew that Etsy had closed it’s staff office in Australia earlier that year so my suspicions were fueled. The IT Geek checked it out and assured me it was definitely a scam.
Donning my figurative deerstalker I started my own little investigation. First I asked around on the Etsy teams if anyone knew of a Sarah who worked for Etsy. Straight away someone replied that there used to be a Sarah who worked in PR – maybe it was her? Next I googled the company name on her email and that seemed to be a legit PR firm. I google earthed the address she’d asked me to post it to and that was a photo studio complex. Lastly I phoned up reception at the PR company and asked them to put me through to Sarah , and they did.
With all the evidence in I decided to send off the little painting, the IT Geek was still sceptical.
Two weeks later it arrived back, well packed and a thank you note included.There was no mention of when or if it would appear in the magazine and I assumed they didn’t use it.
Then a couple of days ago I got tagged in an Instagram post and there it was, my little seascape sitting on a bedside table in a beautifully styled bedroom. And 1 day later the painting was sold!
Maybe I wouldn’t have sent it if it was a more valuable painting but I’m glad I was willing to take a small gamble, do a bit of due diligence and cough up for the post. Now to go and check out that legacy I just need to send my passport to collect…..
I’m recommitting to getting in some plein air painting on a regular basis this year so headed out with my painting buddies for a session at a local beach area this week. Here we are having lunch in the shade after a hot few hours painting away and trying to get my acrylics on the canvas before they dried!
I love the name of this group. POGO is short for painters of the great outdoors but I always get a mental image of a group of artists bouncing around on pogo sticks with their easel and paints flapping around them as the go.
That wasn’t quite us but we did have a lot of fun and I will be making a real effort to schedule in every 3rd Monday of the month for a painting battery recharge in the fresh air.
We had a wonderful day trip down the Tasman peninsula this week for a spot of photography and some snorkeling.
Our first stop was at Remarkable Cave at low tide . This is a double entrance sea cave with spectacular views out to sea through one of the entrances.
Next stop the Tessalated Pavement which has such interesting rock formations.
I managed to scare myself here by snorkeling right over the top of a huge stingray which had just been disturbed from his hiding place in the sand by my husband who was swimming ahead. I saw what I thought was a strange piece of drift wood a few inches under me and almost reached out to touch it as it looked so smooth… then I saw it was the stinging tail of a ray and I back pedddled very fast. A few weeks ago at a local beach a man died from the sting of a stingray and I did not want a repeat !
I really wanted to remember this day so got straight into the paints when we were home again. Here’s my effort to capture the clear water and sunny day.
If painting on site isn’t an option then painting from a very fresh memory is the next best thing. I’d taken a lot of photos, swam off these rocks and lunched looking over the view so when it came to the painting I really only needed these memories to get me started and didn’t have to refer to the photos at all.
Immersing yourself in your subject is a great way to get that emotional content we should always be aiming for, and swimming is a great way to immerse yourself if your subject is water!
As the sun rises on a new year ( just used that so I could tie it in with my feature photo!!)I looked back at some of my arty adventures during 2018.
I joined a artist coop early in the year and have had a lot of fun sitting in the Quoll Gallery. It’s always nice to meet the people who buy my paintings and they love to meet the artist! I’ve also met a lot of other artists who , like me, love to check out galleries wherever I travel.
My Patreon page was a bit of a risk because I knew it would eat up my time. It’s been artistically rewarding as I’ve met wonderful people from all walks of life with a love of art in common. I have a small bunch of subscribers which has allowed me to interact with them more and really get to know them and their artistic aspirations and I’ve enjoyed the exchanges we have. Because it’s small I can spent time critiquing their paintings for them and answering their questions which I think would be impossible with a really large group. As I prepare the lessons and exercises it’s made me reflect more about my own art practices and I think it ‘s improved me as a teacher and an artist. Each month I concentrate on a theme and here’s one of the painting demos and lessons I did last month for our “Using Darks Effectively” theme.
I travelled to the USA, Canada, Italy, France and Switzerland and had a blast. Got a lot of painting done, hiked, swam, snorkeled, ate, photographed and soaked up the scenery. Don’t ask me what was my favourite place because I just can’t narrow it down! Here’s a few paintings I did while travelling.
Also a video of me getting into a bit of palette knife painting in the Vanoise region of France while Trevor did a hike.
Then there was the Etsy Christmas Market that I was on the organising committee for. It went fantastically but sure took up a lot of time.! Here’s a photo of one of the happy stall holders taken by Raven Jay Photography.
I’ve also been teaching a pastel class at one of our local art groups, Colour Circle. It’s been great seeing the students try new techniques , experiment, move out of their comfort zone and improve their skills. This year I’ll be adding a mixed media class which promises to be great fun!
Then there was all that busy , busy commission painting for Christmas.
It’s been a great year and now I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 will bring. What did you do in 2018? What are you looking forward to in 2019?
Here is why it’s been awhile between posts…
- inundated with Christmas painting commissions,
- am taking a pastel class
- and a workshop for beginners,
- am on the committee organising the annual Etsy Made Local Christmas market
- as well as trying to make stock for the market itself
- and trying my hand at eco printing – some new experiments going on
Life has been super busy and blogging has taken a back seat. So here are a few photos of what I’ve been up to… in no particular order. What have you been doing ?
Here’s a few paintings and sketches I’ve done this trip…. I’ve enjoyed every one!
This is a small palette knife painting in acrylics. I like the touch of colour amongst the green here.
Lot’s of wonderful rocks I tried to capture with the palette knife again. Spent a few hours on this one and didn’t even notice The Writer had returned from his walk even though the smell of his stinky cheese snack should have alerted me!
Love those Tuscan clouds and spent a happy evening chasing them with my acrylics.
Done with my travel pastel set from the front lawn of our house in Sardinia. Lovely orange lantana offset the clear blue sea- the snorkeling was fantastic here!
Yes- those doors are a bit askew. It was windy as anything when I did this and the paper kept blowing over. Reminds me of all those green meadows, the early morning smell of cow country and the ceaseless and musical tinkle of cowbells.
It’s been a lot of fun but I’m back down to earth with a thump in a few days when I arrive home to a list of 6 commissions to get done! Will enjoy the last few days here in the glorious Aosta valley with trips to the Gran Paradiso National Park for some hiking.
A few small paintings – all done at Podere Pietrata near Radicofani in southern Tuscany. I just walked out the door and turned in a new direction every evening. They’re simple and not perfect – but they capture the feeling of the place – which is the whole point of plein air painting for me.