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.
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
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!
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!
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.
Friday I got to art class early and started this one before my students arrived. I got the basics in and then finished it the next day at home. It took me right back to Arches National Park and I was there again amongst the blue green sage brush which is such a perfect foil for the riot of red, orange and ochres of the rocks and soil.
I fell in love with this plant and one of the most beautiful views from the many places we stayed was the sage brush plain outside our lovely cottage in Kanab. I would just stand and gaze across the blue green brush as the evening descended feeling joyful and serene. A nice state to end the day in. ( and Utah was pretty nice as well!)
Of course this is exactly what Arches National Park is so rightly famous for and I was mesmerised by the thin slivers of rock forming these arches . So graceful yet they were formed by years of abrasion and erosion. I wish I had been shaped so gracefully by my own years .
Every mile of desert landscape we travelled through was colourful, varied and wonderful. I was never bored by the passing landscape and so grateful for the experience and the opportunity to take some hikes that got me up close and personal with some of the landscape. I think you need to get out into nature and experience it in order to get real emotion into your paintings.
I hope that this painting somehow conveys to you those feelings I had as I wandered along the desert trails. The real joy I felt at the exuberance of colour, a sense of wonder that the solidity of those rocks could be changed and sculpted by wind and rain into such delicate structures, a feeling of connectedness to the landscape and a profound thankfulness that places like these have been protected and preserved for generations to enjoy.
If you want to see a real time video of me painting this it will be coming to my Patreon page as a full length video demo in September and will make it’s way to my You Tube channel in October.
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.
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 .
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.
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.