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An artist’s busy life

My life is pretty hectic at the moment and I haven’t made the time to post in quite awhile so here’s what’s been going on in the last 5 weeks:

Some travel. You might not count that as busy work but I did drive almost 7000 km in just under3 weeks so pretty busy! We had some time to explore the far north of Western Austrlia which is a very remote, hot and richly coloured land.

Bungle Bungles, Western Australia

Then we drove down the coast to the Nigaloo Reef for some days of snorkeling . Sunshine every day and clear water.

Ningaloo marine park

…before finishing up with a few days in the wildflowers of WA.

Along Highway 1 near Kalbarri

Commissions…I got home to quite a few custom art requests and managed to get 3 largish orders done in my first week home painting very solid 8 hour days. There are still another 8 lined up !

Setup an Exhibition…of course this wasn’t all on my own but as President of a local art group, The Colour Circle, I was quite heavily involved in assembling panels, hanging artworks and all the other work that goes into getting an exhibition ready to open it’s doors to the public.

I’ve also spent the last 2 days all day on my feet at the exhibition and will have done three demonstrations before we pack it all up again tomorrow.

Some nephew sitting, church service and other bits and bobs have filled in any spare time !

Hoping it settles down after tomorrow but my calendar is pretty chock full as I have 8 commissions, a panel discussion to lead this week and a major market to prepare for in November.

What’s been filling your time lately?

It’s been awhile…

I’ve been so busy enjoying life, painting, travelling around my lovely island home and sorting out my studio I just haven’t made time to post .

Here’s a few pics from my last 3 months…

A little bird collagraph – I do love birds!
Quite a few commissions headed off to their new homes
A week on the fabulous Flinders Island
A lot of eco printing with the ever versatile eucalyptus leaf.

What have you been up to?

printmaking – my new obsession

It’s been awhile since my last post because I’ve been so busy with commissions, teaching a pastel class and being a student in a printmaking class that there’s been little time left over for anything else.

I’ll post some of my favourite commissions after Christmas when all should be happily gifted and it’s safe to publish them without ruining the surprise.

The printmaking has been a world of discovery and I’ve become fascinated by the rich variety of prints that can be made with and without a press . I’ve particularly gravitated towards collagraphs and I think that’s probably down to my messy, imprecise and “what-if?” attitude to artmaking.

My first ever collagraph made with some grasses and sissal . I loved the way the wiping left such a beautiful tone on the background.

Collagraphs are made by adding or subtracting material from the plate. The plate can be strawboard, matboard, or acrylic. You can glue on plants, feathers, seeds, fabric , or cut away the top layer of the paper board to create a pattern or combine all of these!

A collagraph combining glued on paper cutouts and plant material then inked with black and orange which produced some greens where they met.

There’s also linocut relief prints, chine colle techniques, reduction linocuts and a whole range of different ways to create prints from the very precise to the much more abstract and organic.

A linocut inked with black and green using the brayer to create the dappled look of light filtering through the trees as well as the white of the trunks.

Once the pattern has been made the plate is sealed with shellac or varnish and then inked. Inking can be the intaglio method where it’s applied then wiped off to create tones on the raised surfaces and leave ink in the depressions or the relief method where its brayered onto the plates raised areas.

Once it’s all inked up through the press it goes and then the magic moment when the image is revealed!

I love that prints from the same plate can look so different depending on the colour of ink, the method of inking and the amount of wiping.

Of course I can’t resist adding pastel to some. This one was my first attempt at a reduction linocut and it wasn’t a great success but some pastel worked it’s magic and I was happy with the end result.

Mixed media- soft pastel over a reduction linocut print.

I’ve got a whole lot more experimenting to do but think I’ve found my new obsession for 2021!

Eco printing project

During this crazy time in the world my mum was self isolating and I decided to give her a box of eco printing supplies and instructions for her birthday because she was quite interested in it. It was a big success and started me thinking about expanding on it and writing the kind of book I was looking for when I started out on my own eco printing adventure.

A few month’s of intensive work and I finally finished it! It grew from an initial 40 pages to 100 and there is still more I could have included. I wanted to make it informative, useful and easy to navigate with all the basics and some more advanced techniques. I was sure there was a whole lot of people just like me who were looking for information in one concise book.

There’s no “secret” recipes or techniques here. It’s information I found through researching, experimenting and persisting over the last three or four years and anyone can do the same but it does take a lot of time to progress this way.

Yesterday I launched it in my Etsy shop and it immediately started to sell. I guess there are people out there just like me!

If you’re interested you can follow this link to my Etsy store Leaf and Print.

This will take you to the eBook in my Etsy shop Leaf and Print

It includes a whole lot of step by step projects and links to 5 videos and I was fully immersed in eco printing getting all the videos shot, and then sorting all the info, finding a good format and editing it . Here’s some of the projects.

A bit of ecoprinting…

I’ve been dabbling with my eco printing again. I invested in some timber and built a small bench and shelves outside the laundry area so I can keep my soaking leaf collection and dye pots in some sort of order! It should be complete ORDER but I get too carried way with the excitement of making new discoveries and it all ends up bit of a jumble…still the new shelves do contain it somewhat.

I finally found a smoke bush tree in the neighbour’s garden and he kindly allowed me to harvest the autumn leaves so I dried then before we left on our travels and now I’m using them…I’m a bit like a miser slowly and grudgingly depleting my stockpile because they’re all I have until spring brings the new leaves…But am loving the results.

Eco print on silk
Smoke bush eco print on silk

I’ve also tried some natural cochineal dye which ended up giving a lovely watecolour effect when overprinted with leaves.

…and I collected onion skins for a few weeks and dyed some silk scarves with them…sunshine in a dyepot! Photos to come at a later date.

And let’s not forget the humble gum leaf which gives such lovely results when sandwiched between 2 silk scarves and steamed for an hour.

So not a lot of posting’s been going on but my dye pots have been getting a goodly amount of attention and I’m learning as I print and dye.

Could try harder…

In my first retirement year I went a little ballistic and took on some big projects. I tried lots of new ideas and by the end of the year needed a quiet Christmas.

Twenty years ago I was into a lot of crafts and feeling that I could do many things well but nothing seriously great. It was about then I started focusing on painting and that became my passion. I stopped dabbling and concentrated my dwindling spare time and my creative budget on progressing in this one field.

Though I continue to learn and try new mediums my years of focus have given me  a certain confidence in my art skills that’s let to a successful You Tube channel and local art tutoring.

So why does my retirement report card read ” could try harder”?

Well, it’s funny how life is cyclical. Twenty years on and I’m again reminding myself I don’t have to try every new craft or technique that catches my interest. My artistic confidence and extra time have led me down that dangerous, but so enticing , dabbling path again .

I firmly told myself to get a grip and let go of all those projects…and there I was five minutes ago chatting to my sister and the whole conversation was sprinkled with new ideas for more projects. I think she might have referred to me as a dynamo or some other tightly wound object.

So- I must try harder!  To de-project, to do more of a few things, to resist the urge to splurge on those silk dyes . I must focus in and simplify my creative pathways.

Today I took the first step. I went down the paddock and picked eucalyptus leaves from three different trees, I placed them in separate tubs and covered them with water. Now I will patiently wait 4 weeks before I use these leaves in my first carefully documented eco printing experiment.

This is something I planned to do when I retired and I jumped in feet first , producing a few interesting fabrics and then a few more very uninteresting prints. Other ideas and projects got in the way and I never persued that idea. I have a habit of wanting instant results, I paint quickly, I read a book in one sitting , if I can’t sew a dress in one night it’s not worth making.

I will try harder – to start at the beginning , to work through the middle and complete my eco printing goal . I have a plan, and it’s a long term plan. I know this is something that I can’t master easily, that needs documenting as I go, that will be very rewarding if I invest the time it needs. So here’s to a year of trying harder!

 

 

Off to the seaside!

All packed up and ready to head off in the morning for a few days at Swansea- a lovely little seaside town on Tasmania’s east coast.

I can’t believe how much I’ve packed! Every time I travel I promise myself next time will be different- I’ll only take the essentials, I’ll pack light, every second item will be flung out of the suitcase- and then I find myself thinking ” there’s still a bit of room in here, it’d be a shame not to take another dress/top/tube of paint/kitchen sink”.

There’s a carry on size bag for my clothes, shoes and toiletries, a cooler bag of groceries, a plastic crate of painting gear, a backpack with electronics and a box of small canvases and art books!!!! Oh – I forgot the beach bag full of bathers,towel and snorkles.

I plan to do a lot so of course I need a lot. Here’s my to do list in no particular order

  •  walking on the beach
  • swimming
  • snorkling
  • painting
  • prep some art lessons
  • eating healthy meals
  • more walking
  • a few more paintings
  • a big bowl of icecream
  • a pastel sketch or two
  • consume some of mum’s Mrs Smith’s biscuits
  • back for more icecream
  • maybe a bar of chocolate
  • walk outside
  • back for a quick snack

…I think that about covers it. Maybe all I need to take is a big bowl and a spoon?

Taking a break from reality.

As with most things there are pros and cons to taking on painting commissions. Mostly I enjoy the challenge of painting to achieve an agreed result and it’s certainly helped me improve my realism as I’ve taken on new subjects  such as aviation art.  The downside is not having enough time to explore and loosen up with a bit of experimentation.  So now the end of year rush is over I’ve decided to take a break from reality and try a few different approaches and see where they take me.

On my first play date with loosening up I splashed around with acrylic inks on watercolour paper and then added in soft pastels for texture.

Mixed media painting of rocks.
Painted rocks. Acrylic ink and pastel on watercolour paper.

 

This was a lot of fun and you can see me going for it here:

And now I’m adding the pastels:

 

Of course I haven’t left realism too far behind… there’s clearly sea, sky, headland and rocks. What I have done is  forget about the actual colours of the rocks and let loose with the inks adding lots of juicy, vibrant colours. Then I used my soft pastels to reshape some areas , add in a bit of texture and try and bring the whole together into a cohesive painting.

It was energising to paint for the love of painting, to not worry about getting an exact rendition of a scene, to only please myself. At first the jury was out on whether it was a success as a painting but the verdict came in a few days later and I added it to my new larger painting outlet on BlueThumb Art.

The pre historic artist.

It’s difficult to put into words how and why some art moves me so. I’ve often seen reproductions of pre historic cave paintings and found them interesting. Interesting is such a bland kind of word and accurately describes my reactions to these reproductions. I admired the semi accuracy of the bison and horses, I idly wondered what pigments they used and assumed they painted what they saw in their daily life.

It wasn’t till I visited my first cave with pre historic paintings that I experienced a visceral reaction to the dimly lit animal outlines painted as they were reverently introduced and illuminated by the guide. It surprised me and excited me. It caused me to speculate on the how and why of these ancient works of art. It sparked my imagination in a way I hadn’t expected.

This first cave I visited was Pech Merle and the visit was so memorable  because of the art but also because the guide was the grandson of one of the two boys who rediscovered the cave in 1922 . It was obvious by his reverence for the paintings and his patient attention to seeing that every visitor got a good view of each  that he felt a special connection to the place and the artwork

Image result for pech merle spotted horses

Since then I’ve visited several caves and each time I find myself inexplicably moved by the simple renditions of animals. I wonder what drove ancient man or woman to make torches , grind and mix pigments and then walk deep into a dark cave, using valuable time and resources to carefully create an outline of an animal. To seek out and use rocky contours to suggest the flank or shoulder. To re emerge from the darkness and leave their artistic expressions without an audience.

Cave art in Europe was not done as decoration for living quarters. They didn’t just think ” that wall could do with something to brighten it up” and mix up some water and ochre pigment from the floor and get the kids to do a bit of finger painting. There has been no evidence of occupancy of these caves. So was it for some kind of ritual, part of their spiritual life? Some cave art depicts animals not found in that region at the time the painting was done. This prompts the thought that art knowledge must have been passed down from one artist to another – to accurately depict an animal never seen would be a very difficult task. Was the artist an important member of the clan? Was the art part of initiation ceremonies? My list of questions goes on and on.

I paint for many reasons. In response to a particular light effect, because I want to capture a feeling, to express gratitude for this wonderful earth, to calm my racing mind, to create someting of meaning, to bring joy to self and others. My most burning question is what motivated the pre historic artist. Do we share the same artistic DNA? As I visit each new cave I find it easier to believe that the people who created these paintings were artists foremost , no matter what the role of the art in the social, ritual and spiritual life of their clan. The paintings reflect a delicacy, thoughtfulness and immediacy that I associate with art rather than design.

I imagine one artist teaching another to draw with sticks in the sand, to mix pigments and to make their first treck into a cave . They must have practised many times before their first cave painting as there is an economy of stroke that is only accomplished through repeated practice. Was the artist born or chosen? Was it the role of women or men or was it open to both?

I know the stories of Van Gogh, Da Vinci, of Rembrant and Vemeer and it adds context to their paintings. I long to know the stories of these pre historic artists and in their absence I make my own stories. One day maybe I’ll flesh out my stories and fill a book……

Drip – A Short Paragraph Story

This is a shout out for Claudette over at Ceenoa. A little disclaimer here – she’s my sister but family allegiance has no bearing here. You don’t see me directing you to my brother’s blog do you? well that would be difficult as he doesn’t actually have one- but if he did I probably wouldn’t send you there unless he wrote something as zenfully, satisfyingly readable as this short paragraph story from Claudette. Go ahead and make your day….

Ceenoa

There’s a leak, a trickle of drips. I try to calculate the time between each, wondering idly if there is rhythm to their falling. But it is erratic; sometimes a staccato of drips, then a plop of drops, or a slow slithery splat. Suddenly the curtain of approaching rain reaches my house, drumming on the iron roof it sounds like I imagine gravel in a blender does. Just as quickly the spring squall passes, and I focus again on the leak. My child has a cold, I find them a clean hanky.

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