04 February, 2018

Creating history

This is a little technical , kinda, sorta post.

My favourite paintings are ones that have history on them. Not Ye Olde History, or images of battle scenes , biblical etc because I am a historical philistine.
I mean layers and layers of physical history: Paint, wax and tooth.

(although, I have to interject here with a story:  as a child, my friend's parents had a historical oil painting on the wall that was described as " The charge of the Light Brigade" and it was fascinating, gruesome and my first point of call in my education about the wars in the Crimea. It held a place in my nightmares for many years)

Right. Back to history.

I have painted alla prima( wet on wet, all at one, immediate painting.Google it) for years . Mostly, I believe, because I am impatient. My studio process has changed and had to develop as I have wanted more and more from the work. I work slower, in layers, utilising many different tools and techniques( some traditional and some not. I have been banned from "helping myself" to any more of the tools from Charles's toolbox . It seems they are returned in less than ideal state if they are returned at all. I hear you and I apologise. )
I work on multiple painting at the same time, allowing what I learn or discover in one painting to be transferred to the next etc and it keeps all the work interesting. Also, oils take time to dry and did I mention I am impatient?!! Those layers of paint and wax and struggle etc etc all make for a base that is SO interesting to work on, colours sing through unexpectedly and lumps and bumps add to the form and generally, it just all seems to be better with history.

Plein air feeds that need for immediacy and my impatience with waiting for paint to dry( cue eyeroll) and I am grateful for that  extension of my practise, but even now I find I am extending that by working glazes into the plein air pieces when they dry to "further" the work. I tell you, I am still impatient but I am learning that getting better means I also have to go slower. I am a fast slow painter. Yeh, quote me on that one.

So, THIS painting has been in the studio for a YEAR. Yeah, I know, I should charge it rent.
Anyways, I did not like the original iteration. It was tame, it was so tame you could pat it and rub it's tummy  BUT some people loved it and said nice things about it ( which is the kiss of death for me if I am at all ambivalent about a work) so, I went at it again. And I went at it hard and I tell you, I like this one. It has a something.

So, for now, it lurks against the walls as I go gesso more boards and think about history and slowing down and my impatience and the all my other faults. But I am happy with this. For today. Building on history.

31 January, 2018

I took a little break

I took a little break and went on holiday with my family.

I took the painting kit.......yeah, not THAT much of a break!

We started from Dunedin in a big-ass van called Betty (sorry, cuzzies, my boys named her!) that hauled SIX of us( my long-suffering parents joined us) , our luggage AND 3 mountain bikes around Otago. A big thanks to my ceramicist friend Kylie Matheson, who met us at the airport to help transition some of our bulky bike boxes into storage and then back to us at the airport so we could transport the bikes in safety. What a mate!

We travelled to Clyde via Milton, Lawrence, Roxburgh and Alexandra. On these trips, I sit front and centre with camera and take photos and make mental notes. This is where I become inspired and make connections. Anyway, suffice to say I did not move out of this spot the whole trip!

In the hamlet of Clyde we stayed in a gorgeous stone house built in 1884 by the Naylor family and is still owned by a scion of that dynasty. It was a great place to start. Walls were 2 feet thick which is so unusual when all the other houses I know of in New Zealand  are made to withstand earthquakes and are built of balsa wood and paper.

Next was Wanaka and we dissolved into holiday state once there. Biggest surprise of the trip was the route home( with guidance from a lovely lady in the Art Deco museum in Ranfurly who urged us to go via Middlemarch. Bless you!)

Kylie met us at the airport with the bike boxes( again, to our rescue!) and we made it home. All very happy

Here are a few photos that chronicle this trip. The paintings will follow in another blog.

31 December, 2017

Post workshop ponderings

It has now been over a month since Martin Campos came to New Zealand to deliver a 5 day painting workshop .

I have to admit, I expected a post workshop lull in my work but did not expect to have to SUCH a lull. He gave me a LOT to think about.

Workshop experiences affect everyone in different ways. Some people take off at 100 km/hour straight after, churning out new work . Some brew a little before the workshop has any affect on their work . And then for other , the brewing takes longer than initially anticipated. Right now, in the brewing stakes, my spoon would stand vertical in the mug!

It's not that what he said was so phenomenally mind-blowing or would change my whole practise....no, its a subtle thing. It's how to incorporate and extend the principles that I found most useful into my own practise without me looking like a Martin Campos clone. Too often, the work after the workshop bears the stamp of the master. Martin is a great painter and he has his own signature style I admire....but I have my own too and I need enough time to pass so that I can remember his words but create my own response using his teachings.

Oh, and then there was Xmas and a holiday with the family to contend with. The break in the work continues. The brewing continues and so does the time-frame.  I may start using analogies about whiskey , soon!

So I look to my own process and analyse how I work and find that much of what I instinctively do was articulated by Martin. I have never been a painter who worked in an orderly fashion, from A to B and onwards, a clear plan in mind of what the painting needs to look like. I think about how I want the painting to FEEL. Or rather, the feeling I want the painting to convey.  The painting  is most often not about the subject matter at all. I am asked "Where is that?" of my landscape painting. The real answer is that is exists in the "feels"....no geographical co-ordinates for those, I'm afraid. Sure, the landscapes are based in reality on places but are changed by my mind, the passing of time in the memory, the way I paint it, my choice of colours and technique and then it is no longer the Taieri plains, its "Burnt around the edges" ....and all that the phrase might mean.
Burnt around the edges

The workshop itself was great. I struggled. A lot. I always do and I know that its a good reaction because learning something new, upskilling and having to work in ways hitherto unexplored is always difficult. I was not the only one. I was exhausted by 4 pm...and he pushed us through till 5, wailing and moaning! 

I have some notes I wrote down and they read:
Do not be a slave to what you see
Find and lose, repeat


I sit and think and distill and paint a little plein air before I throw myself headlong into painting again .

Happy New year.

08 October, 2017

The exhibition in Dunedin

I have been working towards an exhibition in Dunedin at Gallery De Novo for over a year. Good things take time.

This exhibition was in conjunction with my mate, Di Tocker, the cast glass artist. When we exhibit together ( which we have now done 3 times) we refer to ourselves as The Painter and The Glassmaker. We are a good team because we are so different. It helps our mediums are different too. Think Laurel and Hardy, Spock and Kirk, Thelma and Louise, Calvin and Hobbs.

Let me show you my work.

Aurora Australis
38 x 78 cm

Burnt around the edges
100 x76 cm

Chasing waterfalls
72 x 112 cm

Good fences make good neighbours
55 x 70cm

Green quilt
100 x 50 cm

Guided home
90 x90 cm

Heart Full
120 x 120cm

55 x 81 cm

Magic Hour
78 x 60 cm

Racing the rain
60 x60 cm

Snow quilt
63 x 123 cm

Southland green
50 x 50 cm

St Bathans blue
75 x 75 cm

The ribs of the things
60 cm tondo

120 x 95 cm
Good news travels fast
100 x 100cm

Whispers in between
80 cm tondo

The show runs until 19 October at Gallery DE Novo in Dunedin.

I can honestly say I loved working on these paintings.

28 September, 2017

Feeling cranky

My studio easel is a Mabef monster that operates on a ratchet system to raise and lower the height of the shelf. Now, I am not sure if "ratchet system" is a real term, but thats what I call it. To raise or lower the painting shelf(yes, I may have made that term up too. Go with it) , one has to pull a pin thingy and either push up or lower gently, ratcheting down the ratchets till you get to the place you think ideal. (It never is, but thats a different tale of woe.)
It requires certain angles of leverage to be just so and I am fairly good at gauging it, but not this time.

I have some largish canvasses on the go at the moment and yesterday I needed to raise the level to work on the bottom of the canvas. Monster canvas on the easel, it's lardiness disguised as mere wood and canvas airiness, I casually leaned down , pulled the pin out and then WRENCHED THE SHELF AND THE CANVAS NORTH.....and nothing happened. The Canvas and the easel remained unchanged . Something DID , however, happen to my back.


So, yesterday was spent alternating hot water bottles and ice packs (hideous torture, what mad fucker thought that up?), guzzling ibuprofen and tea and wailing a little.

Now, please do not inundate me with tips on lifting heavy objects, unhelpful instruction to try yoga or  
some arcane homeopathic remedy. I KNOW how to lift heavy objects(theoretically), I yoga REGULARLY and I am all for an arcane remedy if it includes booze, but THIS type of injury was an accident and it requires the remedy that can only be offered by shopping.

So, I need a new easel that has a crank.

NOW you may offer a suggestion.

09 September, 2017

You are invited.....

The packers arrive tomorrow to  crate all 17 paintings in anticipation of their journey from my studio in the Waikato to Gallery De Novo in Dunedin. From the north island to the south island, the paintings are going on a trip.

Seventeen paintings take up quite a bit of space, I must tell you!! I am living in Trip-Hazard-ville.  I am anticipating a small crisis of loss at their departure, but we will be reunited on Dunedin 6 October at the gallery, all hung on the walls and telling their stories.

Di and I titled this exhibition VISIT. It happened organically because we always refer to our trips to Dunedin and Otago as "visiting". So, what better title than Visit?
Both of us harbour a whimsical desire to live in Dunedin. It really is a special city and is very close to my heart.
I think the works in the exhibition bear testament to how I feel about the whole Otago and Southland area. I like the place in a way that I can't  fully express with words. I like the extreme conditions, the rock, the dry, the harsh vistas that are supplemented with waters of the most insane colour. Its hard and cold and hot and prickly and nothing says "It will be easy here".....and I love it.I respond to that.

There is something in this unfamiliar landscape that I recognise and I try to portray that in my work...along with all the intense emotions that they seem to elicit from me.

So here is your ticket to the exhibition. We would love to share this trip with you.

Di and I will be in the gallery for the entire of saturday . We can talk about the works, the process, the inspiration, our collaboration....natter natter. The visitors are visiting.

19 August, 2017

When the cat's away.....

I am not very DIY inclined . Saying that, I do have a Pinterest account full of clever things to do and make if only i could, say, use a saw. That Pinterest addiction and the exposure to waaaaaaay too many clever projects has opened some kind of Pandora's box of curiosity about DIY. A Glasshouse made of old wooden windows?! Sure, I could knock that together. Raised Garden Bed?Totally doable! Garden furniture with something clever built in somewhere? Sure, why not. A million projects for a palette?????Hell, yeah. And don't even start me on my sewing projects. But I digress....

I also want to be able to be more self-sufficient and do more of my own cutting of boards to paint on etc. To know how to do basic DIY and work a saw should not be too far out of my capability.

Now usually, I start muttering things about machinery and DIY and Charles shuts me down with the reminder that it's quite dangerous and possibly I have more to loose (Digits, an eye, my dignity) that I have to gain. Curiosity is a cat I know well.It has led me down many paths and a few have been a bit wild. But Charles is not here. Charles is riding motorbikes in Australia with the Romanian Photographer and the Naughtiest Man alive. The cat went shopping.

...and bought a circular saw. And board. And hinges. And some other wood thingies I thought would be useful. I forgot screws.

Then I came home , unpacked the thing and went straight to Google" How to use a circular saw". You tube, I thank you.

A few hours later I realised I was short of a few things. A saw horse or two, clamps, safety goggles any experience.So I alarmed my dear neighbours by borrowing their sawhorses and clamps and asking for a live tutorial on circular saw usage , with focus on what NOT to do, too. Brian is a saint. He gave me the tutorial and left.

I enlisted Julius to help me because he HAS actually used a saw before. He is 12. I must admit to being a bit startled at the realisation of how MUCH he knew. He advised me on technique (start the saw before you hit the wood) hat and encouraged me not to chicken out half way through the job. He even worked out a more efficient way to deal with the project of cutting the hardboard.

I was crap at it. The early learning curve is very, very steep. Thank goodness I realised this quickly and lowered my expectations of my DIY Skills from" Rehab Addict" to " Cowboy builders" . Also, DONT'T saw hardboard indoors, it gets everywhere (like a dusting of "what the hell were you thinking dust" on every surface of the entire room. that is going to remind me for days) Also, what you really should have bought is a table saw, a drop saw and a handyman.

Ai ai ai.

But, I did cut the board

......very badly.

I made some mistakes. I chickened out of one cut half way.

I had to restart and forfeit that piece of board.

I stopped cutting 1 cm too soon on 3 cuts. Slow learner, but I did learn.

Modern clamps are so easy to use!!!! I remember those crappy metal vice clamps..the new ones are fancy!

Did I mention fine sawdust?


But I DID cut it and they will be perfectly good boards to paint on....and trim IF I want to frame them. Sigh.

My other neighbour has a table saw. I might go ask if I may have a tutorial on the table saw.......

Charles is home next saturday so my window of opportunity starts closing soon.

Oh, and I was selected for the Arts Gold Awards 2017 with  painting inspired by an exhibit in the Central Stories Museum in Alexandra.

There is a heartbreaking letter attached to an anonymously donated knife sheath and leather strap in the Museum in Alexandra . The letter is from a dying father in England to his son prospecting for gold in Roxburgh, Otago. In the letter , the father farewells his son James with great love and affection but simultaneously  cuts him off financially . He explains that they are destitute if they help him and no more money could be sent to support him and his . This poignant letter, dated 1862, has stayed with me for years. What happened to either is unknown. The area around Roxburgh is unforgiving, especially in winter and I imagined the grief both men felt at the finality of that letter. This work is my interpretation of that story.

Nowhere to Turn

TheExhibition of works will be At Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery
!6 September till 19 November
Central Otago
New Zealand

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