The Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s east coast remains one of my favourite places to visit, photograph and paint. The colours are so vibrant – orange lichens on steely grey rocks and that clear turquoise water lapping the silver beaches. Memories are locked into this landscape and each painting embeds those memories deeper in my soul.
You know how my tagline is “life is art and art is life”? Well life this week has been a bit like one of those paintings that start out with a good idea, the sketch goes well , I lay in the first washes and think to myself ” this is going well!” Of course that’s the killer – as soon as I let that little complacent thought escape from the deepest recesses of the confidence corner of my brain I just know that it’s all going down the gurgler!
Suddenly the colours don’t seem right, the tree trunk looks more like a lollipop stick and the river starts running uphill. So I splash on all the paint left on the palette in gay abandon just to cover up the mess and then start out again.
What I always want at this stage is to be able to go back , to lift the layers of paint and get back to that moment when the painting was so full of promise – and just stay there. I wouldn’t add another brushstroke. I would just enjoy the unpainted possibilities.
I’m so familiar with this process that these days I can pretty well spot the moment a painting is going to “turn”. Sometimes I can even ride through the moment , rework the surface and produce a better painting than my initial concept. That’s a very rewarding experience.
So you might be forgiven for thinking that when I decided I was so fed up with ignoring the insistent little invite to upgrade to Windows 10 for free and started the download,that I might have recognised the path I was heading down. Even as my finger hovered over the Install button the IT Geek was warning me that it would just slow down my laptop further .
Did I pause for thought? Well I did pause for just the teeniest moment but I’d already wasted all that download time, and I couldn’t face going back to more Windows nagging everytime I booted up so I closed my eyes , clicked and there it was – the “turning point”!
Up to this moment all had gone smoothly so I wasn’t too phased when the install finished and I saw that my display resolution was horribly wrong. Naturally there would be a way to fix it and hadn’t I given birth to the IT Geek for just such an occasion as this? What I hadn’t factored into the equation was the antiquity of the laptop – the pharoahs of ancient Egypt probably had this very same model interred with them! By midnight the resolution was still horribly wrong, all my photos were elongated and unviewable. I went off to bed in a foul mood cursing Windows 10, the world in general and my self in particular.
The next morning I turned to Google and found I wasn’t alone- other’s had been here before and they had the answers. What a feeling of relief , I could still save this “painting”. I followed all the instructions but my stupid laptop didn’t seem to have read the same articles I had and the vital bits of information were missing. Off to work in a foul mood wailing – I just want Windows 7 back!
Of course the IT Geek saved the day and managed to reinstall Windows 7 a few days later- something to do with holding down F9?? And so I got my reset, I got to go back to the moment before it all started going wrong and now I’m just admiring the seamless simplicity of Windows 7 – no extra fiddly bits, no fripperies and finery , just the bare bones of a very pleasing operating system that lets me view my photos in their proper format.
Sometimes I see something and think ” I like this, I could buy it or I could make it myself”. This happened just last weekend when I popped into my local art supply shop to pick up some canvas and spotted a very desirable little concertina sketchbook on a shelf in the corner. I could have bought it right then but it looked such a simple concept I bought a meter of bookbinding cloth and some fabric tape instead and decided to make some myself. The supplies cost more than the sketchbook but for the same cost I could make a few dozen.
Here’s how I did it.
First I got all my supplies together.
a strip of waste artists paper 10 x 60 cm ( you can use any long thin strip of medium to heavy weight paper)
a piece of scrap matte board ( any thick card will work)
a matt cutter ( you could also use a craft knife)
some scrap fabric
a roll of cloth tape
Step 1 – marking the pages
I divided the strip of paper into 10 equal “pages” by making a small pencil mark at 6 cm intervals along the top and bottom of the strip. (You can make your pages any number and any size depending on the length of your paper strip but there should be an even number of pages.)
Step 2- folding the pages
Now I used the bevelled edge of my metal ruler and lined it up with the first mark on the top and bottom of the paper and folded the paper firmly over the edge to make a sharp crease.
Now I turn the paper over and make a crease along the second fold making sure that the edges of my first and second page line up neatly.
I repeat until all the pages are creased and I have a concertina length of paper. (If you’ve made an error in your marking and end up with a final page that is too small don’t despair! Just cut off the last 2 pages so you still have an even number and continue on.)
Step 3 – cutting the covers
I measure up 2 rectangles of matte board 6.5 x10.5 cm. Using a matte cutter and my metal straight edged ruler I cut out the rectangles. You could also use a craft knife for this step.
Step 4 – cover with fabric
Next I cut out 2 rectangles of scrap fabric 3 cm bigger all round than the covers. I fold the long edges over to the inside of the cover and fix in place with cloth tape. (You can buy cloth tape at a hardware or art supply store). I mitre the corners and fold the short edges in and tape down making sure they sit neatly at the corners. (Mitreing the corners simply means to fold the side edge in to the top of the cover so it forms a 45 degree angle as in the photo below. ) The second photo shows the covers – outside and inside. You don’t have to be too neat with the tape as long as you keep it 3mm from the edge so it won’t show later when you glue the paper over the top.
Step 5 – glueing in the paper
Place the front cover face down and spread glue evenly over the taped area . Leave 4 mm unglued at the edges. Place a length of flat ribbon across the centre of the cover over the glue.
Now carefully line up the first page of the concertina strip so it sits squarely on the cover and gently wipe away any glue that oozes out. Spread the last page with an even coat of glue and line up the back cover neatly over the page. Check that front and back covers line up squarely.
Step 6 – leave to dry
Now just leave it folded up and place a heavy book for a few hours.
Step 7 – admire your handiwork.
Here’s one I did using black bookbinding cloth. You can use any covering you like , art paper, magazine pictures, collage, leather or fabric. You could also use coloured matte board and just leave it uncovered.
I’ll post another photo when I finish making my dozen… and later I’ll post some pics of what I ended up using them for.
So go ahead and sort through your card, paper and fabric scraps and make yourself a beautiful, personalised concertina book- you don’t need to draw or paint – you could use it for poetry, a fun letter to a friend, a Valentines gift filled with expressions of love. The list goes on.
Post a photo – I’d love to see what you and your imagination can come up with!
Over the last few years I’ve done quite a lot of commissioned paintings. In lots of ways it’s very rewarding but it can also be a bit of a sticky wicket if you don’t manage the process well from the very outset. I was reading a great article by by Lori McNee that covers this topic from go to whoa and it made me think about some of my experiences with clients and what I’d learned from them.
What do I enjoy about painting a subject chosen by a stranger? Firstly – I feel a bit chuffed that someone who has never even met me has decided to trust me with their vision, their story and their cold, hard cash! Sure they’ve seen examples of my artwork and style on their computer screen but that can be a bit different than seeing a physical painting.
Secondly, I learn a great deal by letting go of the subject matter choice and moving outside my normal choices. I develop new insights and skills as I tackle different subjects and this can lead me down new and interesting artistic paths. Of course I’ve had to sit on the chuffed feeling sometimes as it trys to egg me on to tackle a subject I know will be too far outside my skill set (portraiture – I once did a fantastic portrait of my teenage son with beautifully draped clothes, shiny metal chair legs and in his own words”the face of an ork!”. I did fix the problem though- when revealed to him a few hours later he was perfectly happy with the addition of the paper bag over his head).
Thirdly, I enjoy helping clients realise their artistic vision. I’ve created paintings to celebrate anniversaries, weddings, retirements,to immortalise family memories, homes and special pets.
I’ve painted the lake where that proposal was made, the hiking track that gets visited every year, the view from the family lake house for a soldier on active duty.
I’ve had some wonderful feedback
“Thank you so much for making this a great Christmas for my family! My mother cried when she saw the painting and it now hangs over their fire place!”
… how could I not be touched when a client feels this way. It makes up for any frustrations during the process.
There can be difficulties. Maybe that’s because the reference photos I need to rely on are just not very inspiring, perhaps the client wants a composition that I know isn’t going to work or they have an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes to complete a painting. I recently had a request by a client in New York who hoped I could do quite a complex urban scene and have it reach her in New York from my island home of Tasmania in just 2 weeks. Postage alone would probably take more than 2 weeks!
I find that good communication will sort most of these problems out – I’m the artist and I need to be providing good artistic advice and choice about composition, colour and size of the painting depending on the subject and taking into account my clients own vision.
Taking on commission work has taught me some valuable lessons:
be clear from the outset what the client wants
be clear whether you can ( or want to) take on the commission
agree on all the details composition, size, cost, materials, delivery time
don’t give the client too many choices – less is more
put the details in writing
get a deposit before you start painting
provide updates as you go so you can make changes at an early stage if needed
pack well and always use a tracking service
If you haven’t tried commission work and you get an opportunity I recommend the experience as one that can grow your artistic skills and foster some very rewarding client artist relationships.
Yesterday was one of those days when I had BIG plans. I was going to make my first Youtube video… how hard can it be? Quite hard as it turns out!
I had the plan for a demo of a pastel painting all ready – I’ve done a fair few painting demos in my time so I have a good handle on how to paint and chat about it at the same time. I set up Red Velvet on the tripod and fiddled around till I could see my head and the painting paper in the screen- it took a bit to get them there at the same time.
I needed to set up some extra side lighting so went to get the side lamp from the lounge room. I just needed to get the cord out from under a pot plant stand. A small voice in my head suggested politely that I should empty the stand before I tried to lift it but it’s lazy sidekick shouted – just get on with it ! Forty five minutes later I was still cleaning up the mess from where the pot plants had tipped off leaving about a ton of dirt and a few litres of water ( aka mud) all over the beige carpet and my laptop. But I did get the cord out and finally was ready to start filming. During this forty five minutes The Writer (aka husband) had eaten a delicious lunch by the pool and then had a refreshing swim.
Take one ! Well it “took one” for about 3 minutes and 45 seconds and I was doing a spot on intro when I noticed the record light had gone out. Take two! Things went a bit smoother ( except for the bit when I made the mistake of looking at the LCD screen which I faced to the front – of course it was a mirror image and in my spatially dyslexic way I started pointing to the wrong side and became mesmerised by the way my mouth didn’t match up with the words spewing forth from it). Take three – and I finished the intro.
This is a piece of cake I thought to myself -then in a moment of digression …. maybe I’ll have a piece of cake before I get on with it. Actually , it was only a raw carrot as I’m in the process of shedding 18 Kg before I head off to Italy in May and eat my way through a mountain of fresh pasta and about a thousand scoops of ice cream. Anyway, after the carrot feast I got back to it and did an outstanding first section of the painting demonstrating clearly and articulately how to develop a lively sky and laying in the basis of the sandy beach. I turned to face the camera and started my spiel ” and now we’re ready for the sea and the path- oh bugger! the videos stopped again!”
There was a lot of mucking around this time . I downloaded the instruction manual as it clearly was not enough to take the quick guides exhortation to simply press the start record button to start and then press again when I wanted to stop. There was obviously some vital step missing. I looked for that step for about half an hour before giving up and just having another go.
Things went better – but only after I scrapped the first painting and set up a new one. (Remember there was no actual footage of me painting any sky or beach!) So now I only have to splice all that footage together into a seamless video with a great voice over and some carefully selected sound track. Should be a raw carrot!
I love my camera! It’s most important quality is the deep, shiny , cherry redness of it. Let’s face it that’s why I really choose it above all the other offerings out there. Oh … and the 60 x zoom lens which makes me go weak at the knees.
Sure I read some reviews – well actually a lot of reviews because I’m just that kind of person. Sometimes the thing I want has evolved beyond all expectations just by the time I finish the review process. And that’s good thing right? Otherwise I’d be lumbered with what used to be a top of the line , “you won’t buy better than this” thingummyjig when there’s a new generation ( or two) thingummyjig with much better features and benefits. I do know my features and benefits – I read a lot of reviews!
A typical “I really like, want, need one of those” starts with a lot of internal struggle to overcome the guilt of spending a large amount of money on something I don’t actually need. Every human needs clean air, food, water, shelter, safety, love – and there are so many of our human family who don’t have these basic needs that my “wants” start to seem pretty selfish. After the struggle I usually donate a chunk of money to the Fred Hollows Foundation and start the serious business of choosing the best thingummyjig for the amount of money I’ve determined is morally acceptable to spend.
I’m a bit emotionally exhausted at this stage and my enthusiasm starts to wane … I know I want it but the longer the review process goes on the more I think my current model is pretty OK and will I ever work out how to use all those new features anyway. All the weighing up of pros and cons starts to make me tired and grumpy and in the end I give up and make do with the one I already have. The upshot of this is that inevitably my thingummyjig stops working at a critical junction and I race into the nearest shop and buy whatever model stirs some distant memory in the review archive part of my brain. That’s how I bought my last mobile phone anyway.
I probably could have put off the whole camera buying trauma for some time if I hadn’t tripped on a hike at Zion National Park and sprained my ankle. You’re asking why I needed to buy a new camera because I sprained my ankle? Was it because I couldn’t hobble close enough to all those desert icons and needed a longer zoom lens? Actually it was a bit simpler than that-I failed to mention that my camera was enjoying an outing from it’s protective bag at the time of the fall and started faking a critical injury and refusing to work. I suspect it just wanted a holiday too.
I wasn’t looking forward to the hard slog of choosing a replacement – it was only 6 months old but that’s a long time in tech time and I knew I couldn’t just buy the same model – there was bound to be a better one out there by now.
So it was a relief to start reviewing cameras and come across a chunky little number with a stunning red exterior which set it apart from all it’s drab competitors. The other clincher ( as if I needed one) was the “moon” zoom. As soon as I saw the moon crater photos the reviewer claimed I could take with Red Velvet ( yes I named her) from the comfort of my back yard with no more than a simple tripod and a click of the zoom button I was sold. ( Actually I was so lazy I didn’t use the tripod but the moon still looked pretty fab!)
I had a very wobbly moment today. I wanted to check one of my travel sketch books and I just couldn’t find it! I spent last weekend moving my art supplies into our home office and my husband out ( he’s retired now – why does he need an office?). It’s a tiny space, 2×2 metre , so not much room to lose anything you would think. Wrong! I’ve got a complex system of wheeled storage that I move around depending on what I’m doing and where I need the space. There’s a lot of storage for such a tiny space. And then there’s all the other nooks and crannies around the house where I’ve squeezed in a bit of art ephemera that just won’t fit in that little 2m cube. ( I used to have a bigger room but the prodigal son returned and there went my art studio).
So I emptied drawers, moved piles of books, checked under the bed and in the wardrobe. I found some odd socks, 2 dollars, a missing earring and finally three sketch books – but there’s a lot more than that. I could feel my skin getting clammy and a mild sense of panic rising at the thought I might have lost them. Of course I eventually found them – there’s always that one drawer you forget about even when it’s right in plain sight. The heart rate returned to normal and I sat down for a satisfying hour of memories.
Why did I panic at the thought of losing them? Because these travel art journals bring back a lot of sense memories that I just don’t get from my photos.
I can smell the lavander…
I can taste the salt in the breeze….
I can feel the heat bouncing off the rocks…
I can hear the sound of my laughing children in the room behind me as I sketch at the open window…
I can feel a frisson of fear as my husband stands too near the edge….
I can feel the joy of finally getting to those US desert national parks after a decade of wearing my husband down – he loved it! ( not the wearing down part – the desert colours part)
Travel is a big part of our lives – and travel sketch books have become an integral part of that experience for me.
This is my very first post! I thought I would start with a demo painting of a local seascape to share my painting process with you. Hope you find it interesting…
Sometimes I’ll know just what I want to paint – other times I’ll look through old photos or my ideas board until something says “paint me”! Today I chose a photo of a local beach at low tide – I like the sense of distance and the diagonals in this photo. I know it will need something else to bring it alive but I have an idea for that.
Choosing the paper.
So I’ve decided which reference photo I’m going to use and now I need to choose the colour of my sanded paper. I use either Canson or Mi- Tientes sanded pastel paper because the tooth holds layers of pastel and I don’t need to fix the finished paper. ( more about fixative later!)
Anyway how to choose one colour from all the possibilities?
I take the photo and look for papers that either provide a strong contrast with the main colour or temperature of the subject or one that matches the dominant colour and temperature or maybe one that matches the temperature but is a darker or lighter tone than the dominant tone of the subject.
Here I’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours so I lay the photo over the intersection of the papers and see which one I think feels right.
I choose the mid tone colour as I think it will give a good under colour showing through the pale foreground sand , it takes care of the middle ground and won’t dominate the sky which I want to stay light and bright.
Now for the pastels!
This is when I get out my boxes of pastels and the fun starts. I’m going for my Great American ArtWorks seascape set, a fantastic set of Sennelier half sticks and my “orphans” box and a couple of pastel pencils to sketch it up.
I could transfer the image by any number of methods but I’m not too fussy about getting it exactly right and just sketch in the main forms of the mountains, hills, horizon, sea and sand The one thing I am careful about is getting the horizon dead level! I use a dark pencil for the background and then a light one for the sand and sea as I don’t want the dark to show through later layers.
Now I start blocking in the main shapes loosely. Mostly I use the local colour ( the actual colour I see in the photo) but in the middle ground hill I pop in some bright reds and golds. I want these to show through a little under the final greens to give some added warmth to the painting. I make sure to put in some light pinks and yellows at the base of the sky for some sparkle. The wet sand gets a swathe of dark blue as it will be useful later in establishing the dips and shadows in the sand. Once I’ve finished blocking in smooth the sky and hills with the side of my finger to blend the colours.
The sky and hills
Next I work in some blues in the background hills and some greens in the middle hill. I add the suggestion of trees and some more golds into the dry paddocks. Also a little work on the junction between the wet and dry sand.
The sea and sand
I add more layers of pale pinks, yellows and blues to the sky and some of the same colours in the sea. I start adding layers of creams, siennas, ochres and some purples to the wet sand and darken the edges of the sand bar . Now I add a sprinkle of washed up sea grasses to the edge of the wet sand.
Next it’s a bit of a suggestion of the path and then some seaweed on the dry sand.
Some shadows on the path
Now some seaweed
I work up the grasses around the path using darks and then some lighter colours for the sunlit side. I use some hard conte sticks for the grasses. Notice I’ve darkened the water’s edge some more and added a little pink to the water as well. I want to give a sense of how shallow it is here. Some shadows from the grasses help to show the slope of the path.
I want to add a little life and movement so I pop in a few wading birds on the wet sand. They also help carry the eye from the strong sand diagonals back towards the water and hills. You can see I’ve also strewn a few white shells and some darker marks around for a bit of added interest and texture to the sand.
A final distant sail boat , my signature and the painting is finished. On the whole I’m quite pleased. The finished painting retains the strong compositional lines that first drew me to the subject but I’ve warmed it up, strengthened the contrasts and added some movement.