As a tutor (and president ) at a local commhunity art group life can get pretty busy, especially when I add in my commission work! Something has to give and posting has been one of the things I’ve let slip, BUT term is over and I have a few weeks off so I want to share how I feel about tutoring at my local art group.
One of the things I find so interesting in tutoring is watching the way different people approach working with pastels and how they begin to develop their own style over the weeks. It’s also the most satisfying part of tutoring. To see someone come in with no real idea of how, or what, they want to paint and watch as they slowly start to rely more on their own inner voice instead of waiting for their tutor to tell them what and how to paint. ( all the paintings are 15 minute minis from students.)
In my class of 14 students there’s a wide mix of abilities, styles and techniques and every week there are 14 paintings that all have something unique to say about the artist and their journey.
On the last lesson each term we all paint a 15 minute mini painting and then do a draw so we each go home with another artist’s painting. It’s a fun way to end the term and a reminder of how different we all are. I have a nice little collection in my studio that reminds me of how far some of the students have come.
My own art improves as I teach and learn from my students. Here’s a couple of the demo paintings I did for this term’s classes
Demos don’t always go great in class- I’m trying to show a technique in a very quick way and that means other bits of the painting don’t get so much attention. I think it helps students when they see there is no magical formula for getting it all right…that we all can improve, we all have less successful paintings but that there’s always something to be learned from each experience. What do you think?
It’s been awhile since I posted so thought I would share a few pages from my current travel sketchbook. I’m swanning around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts for a few weeks and enjoying all the sun, sea and swimming. In between I’m snatching a few minutes to do some watercolour and ink sketches to remind me of the beautiful places I’ve been visiting on those cold winter days back in Tasmania!
I’ve spent a few days doing some eco printing this week. Mostly scarves and upcycled cotton tees. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve discovered some new ways to mordant to get different results so it’s been educational as well.
Here’s a few of my results
It was a fun week!!!
Now I have to soak some more leaves because I used them all up!
A couple of weekends ago I was a student at a Maxwell Wilks pastel workshop. I had a great time and broke out the hard pastels which was a bit of a novelty for me. Have never owned any Rembrandts before but bought a small box of half sticks and reallly enjoyed working with them. The tin of 24 Derwent hard sticks was a sensational buy – only $35Aus and I like them better than my conte sticks and MUCH better than those hard Faber Castels which just do not want to lay down any colour – well not for me anyway! Wish I’d bought the larger tin.
Also used the smooth side of Canson Mi Tientes ( not the gritty, textured paper) . I’ve used it occasionally in the past but was still surprised by how many layer of pastel it will take! I’ll be more prepared to use this paper in the future instead of always using my favouritre Colourfix textured paper. We used a lot of colour and everyone had a blast.
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
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
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!