Category Archives: Just musing

How the muse works …(sometimes)

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! 

Smoke filled sky from outside my studio 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.

Cropped to fit the 2:1 format

  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.

Value thumbnail

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. 

Wedge Tail Eagle sketch

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! 

This eagle is too small!

 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!

The Eagle’s landing

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!

Some recent reflections

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…

Reflections. Pastel on paper.

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”.

Red rock river. Mixed media on paper.

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.

The Wave. Mixed media on canvas panel.

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 .

Evening Glow. Pastel on sanded paper.

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.

Sailing on the Ariel. SOLD

It’s not always smooth sailing. Enjoy it while you can!

Snorkeling in Sicily SOLD

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

Fraser Island memories. SOLD

Memories are precious. Share them before I forget them!

What have you been reflecting on lately?

Some recent reflections

Scam or glam?

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.

The Wave
The Wave- Acrylic on canvas.

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…..

A day out with POGO

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!

Here we are lunching in the shade after a mornings painting.

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.

A day out

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.

Remarkable Cave at low tide.

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 Acrylic on canvas

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!

Looking back on 2018….

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.

Sharing an idea from the Gallery on my Patreon page.

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.

Using black paper with pastels

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.

Palette Knife Mountain painting.

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!

A lesson on how to choose the paper colour
Some of my pastel collection for the class to ty.

Then there was all that busy , busy commission painting for Christmas.

One of my fave commissions this year.

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?

It’s been awhile…

Here is why it’s been awhile between posts…

I’ve been

  • 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 ?

 

 

Mini story cards.

I recently made some new linocuts and decided it would be fun to add a little story to them for the back of the cards I planned to use the prints on. Here’s what resulted.

 

 

“The Birdwatcher’s Club”

The cats met every Tuesday around lunchtime for a spot of sedate birdwatching. It was quietly thrilling as they took up position on the windowsill, never knowing what they might see through the dining room window that day. Perhaps it would be a baby Blue Fairy Wren so tiny and vulnerable as it took its first tentative flights, or maybe an endangered Swift Parrot attracted by all the ripe Irish Strawberries lying on the ground, or the first of the winter  Robins with their bright crimson breast so easily spotted as they perched on the low wooden fence. The possibilities were so deliciously varied … 

15319637401694
The Birdwatcher’s Club

 

“Harry the Hairy Nosed Wombat”

“Harry was debating if he should get his hairy nose fixed. He felt sure it was hampering him in his quest for love. Maybe it was as simple as investing in a good razor?   “

 

15319637185913
Harry the Hairy Nosed Wombat

 

“Tassie Devil”

Tassie was sure that now he had finally made it to the front cover of a greeting card he would be spotted by a talent agent and make the big time. Maybe a wildlife documentary or even a cartoon of his own. “

 

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Tassie Devil

I enjoyed this so much I think I might try some more…..

 

 

 

The dreaded demo

I had the first lesson of this terms pastel class today. I know I need to demonstrate techniques for my class and I’m happy to do it but it does put the pressure on to make a “good” painting! When it all goes wrong I can hear them thinking ” I’m paying her to teach me!!!!”

So it was a bit of a mistake to try a new approach today that I knew would take too long to finish. I planned to only do a small area well and leave the rest of the subject area pretty empty.

DSCN1995

Plans never go to plan! I started out with the idea of concentrating on the barn and rendering that to a finished stage but then my students had the audacity to follow through on my suggestion that they interrupt at any time and ask questions… I found myself moving into the trees and the sky in response and the end result looked like the unfinished scribblings of a two-year old let loose with the crayon packet! I meant to take a photo but somehow forgot so you’ll just have to imagine it but you can use the following to gauge it’s true horror. To be fait it was a lot more resolved than this but still very, very uninspiring which could be why my sub conscious forgot to take that photo.

Not content with one mess I grabbed another sheet of paper and scribbled a bit more .

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I could have done better with more time but I’m always conscious that the main reason they’re in the room is so they can paint and I like to keep a strict 30 minutes for my into waffle and demo so I packed up the waffle iron and got them painting …and they did some great work which I like to think was partly in response to the earlier 30 minutes of demo and discussion. ( and which I hope they think was in some way a result of my teaching points or it coud be a very empty class room next week!)

When I got home I needed to finish that barn! An hour later I put the finishing touches and then tackled the scribbled sheet with an imaginary reflection scene. It felt good to relax with no video running, no need to talk about what I was doing ( I may have babbled on a bit to myself , but myself is very laid back when listening to myself, so no pressure there) and no one to see the end result as it unfolded. It could all go in the bin if I hated it.

DSCN3997

Demonstrating to a live audience is full of pressure, a video is a bit better but if it all goes wrong there’s a lot of wasted time ( and to be honest I get a bit tired of talking while I paint – although the IT Geek would tell you I never get tired of talking!) and doing commissions is fraught with possible problems to be resolved. Painting just for me happens a lot less than it used to and I really, REALLY, enjoyed it.

I plan to do more!

Oops…

If you’ve never edited an hour plus video you probably don’t realise how long it takes……forever! By the time you cut out all the “lost for words” moments and the “totally wrong word” moments not to mention the ” absolute drivel” and ” sheer babbling” there’s a whole lot of virtual video tape littering the lounge room floor.

Then there’s all the dead time when you had to leave the room to go to another smaller room for a moment. Or when your other half walks in waving your mobile at you as it shrilling tinkles out it’s little tune. All that joins the rest of the dross in the cut bin. Then there’s a little bit of zooming in and recentering and a title and end card to make. You probably get my drift…it’s very time consuming.

My new Patreon page is up and running and a few people have found there way to it and actually signed up. So I have some paying supporters who I’ve promised to deliver video lessons to and I’ve done the painting demo, videoed the whole thing and then posted a photo of the painting with a promise to deliver the completed video lesson shortly. All good so far, until I find out 40 minutes into the edit that one of the clips is corrupted and I can’t recover it. Well, I don’t find out about the not being able to recover it until an hour later when I’ve exhausted all the online advice I can find ( and let’s be truthful here- all the online advice I could find and understand).

Now the thing with doing painting demo videos is that you can’t do a retake of a painting. If the video doesn’t work it’s pretty difficult to unpaint a finished painting. It can be done- with a tub of white paint- but I didn’t feel like doing the whole thing over so I gave it some thought.

That’s when I came up with the idea to paint another version on a very small square  right up to the spot where the video file cut out on me. I filmed the missing bit of the painting and then patched that into the existing video, zoomed it up and another 2 hours later….yes there was another problem!….I finally finished the edit and sent it off to renderland.

I have earned my sleep tonight… and am very glad I’ve only committed to two full videos each month!

PS I did enjoy both paintings. If this Patreon thing works out maybe I can hire a video editor!!!