18 May, 2016

Workshop planning

I took a trip to Stellenbosch , South Africa, to attend my 30th school reunion. I shall not bore you with the details but I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed my nostalgic weekend.  But my trip was not only to connect, it was to include  painting and some workshop planning.

Whilst there, I scouted a venue and locations for a plein air workshop that I intend to offer 19-22 November 2016. The location is the rather gorgeous town of Riebeeck-Kasteel in the Swartland, the grain fields and vineyards an hour or so north of Cape Town. Details will follow, but I intend to teach the basics of plein air painting, how to edit scenes, work with limited palettes, composition and even paint a nocturne!!! I have a program that will cover 4 days( and nights!) of painting and perhaps some morning yoga too, if I can convince my local yogi to join us! (Yoga is totally optional but recommended!!) The final day will see local artist and plein air painter, Jenny Parsons, hold a masterclass. She will impart her wisdom, shortcuts and insights into the immensely rewarding and pleasurable art of plein air painting.

Anyway, I painted as much as I could and came home with several studies and a sketchbook full of notes and scribbles, thumbnails and a camera full of photos. My studio in south africa is very much a compact one but I seem to add equipment to it each time I return...brushes, paint, canvas, squeegees, varnish....next time I will leave an easel there!

Although I am not teaching plein air regularly on a tuesday this term( it's just too wet to guarantee much painting....I seem to be the only keen person to stand in the rain, painting!) , I will hold a weekend workshop at a location that has some indoor/ shelter available. It can't all be a sufferfest!!! I will let you know when I have the date and venue squared up on that one too.

This is very much a WATCH THIS SPACE post, I realise. I think you could call me a paint-tease.

Small study of the N2 to Cape Town

I delivered this to it's new owner!

The Plein air work of Jenny Parsons in the gorgeous Riebeeck Kasteel Gallery

The front verandah of the hotel! Gin and tonic, anyone?


......and studies

.. some freaky stuff I saw in a backyard on a walk.....



interacting with some public sculpture...

..finding some commonality....

more painting...The Occupation: Story of an African Farm

18 April, 2016

Postman gets a hernia.

A package arrived. It wasn't a surprise because I had ordered the package myself, but it WAS a surprise to the postman who delivered it. He knocked on my front door,  and forgoing any of the conventional niceties of polite conversation that would include enquiring after after my health, perhaps some brief discussion of the weather, he came straight out with " What the hell have you ordered now?/!!".  His candour is refreshing. " Cut to the chase, Flash" I said.

"I almost needed a bigger van" he spluttered. There was almost no room for anything else in the back of the red NZ Post rural delivery van.

Canvasses have arrived. Monsters.  Wall encompassing, would -not-be-out-of-place-in-a-hotel sized canvasses. They arrive, swathed in cardboard, rustling with bubblewrap innards and eye-blindingly white. Pristine.

It's a bit like receiving a new baby. Totally perfect and only you can really fuck it up from here on in.
Same thing, totally. Been there, done that. They still talk to me.

So,  pop canvas no.1 onto the easel, splash paint around liberally and marvel how much it actually requires to give it a bit of a going over...just once. Hop online and order more paint. Hop offline and keep painting. Marvel at how small your biggest brush feels at this stage. Hop in car and rush off and buy house painting brushes.  Buy coffee whilst out there. Back to studio. Get fright at how big canvas is (again) . Procrastinate and pretend to "research" online. End up looking at pictures of dogs with beestung faces.Take dogs for walk. Walking is always good for settling things down, especially babies and canvasses.
 Come back to studio. Headphone on. Paint.

120 x 120 cm
A detail of the big MOFO.

13 April, 2016

Doing it right.

I had a most unusual experience recently.

A visitor to my  studio expressed her dismay that my landscape painting were abstract.  She was expecting beautifully rendered , representational( i.e. realistic) landscapes of bucolic country scenes.   You know, like real landscape painters.

I could not have been more delighted.

I work really hard to find that sweet spot where I feel my paintings need to be. That spot is some place on the line between reprepresentaion and abstraction....and that line is long and has many sweet spots, just not always MY one. Its a tensionbetween the two elements that I try to achieve. The Twang of Perfect Place and Feel ( to me).

 The work is hard because I have to give up some things in order to achieve others. I destroy a lot of good, observational passages to get to the "twang" that I feel.

I know this all reads as artists mumbo-jumbo, but I cannot tell you how delighted I was with my visitor's comments .It means I am doing something right.  Never before have a I reacted so well to criticism!! Might be the last time, also, so please don't feel free to bombard me observations about my flaws or flaws in my work!

It gave me the courage I needed this morning to destroy work I had spent weeks on and repaint in the fashion that I felt better suited the  painting.

Not a masterpiece, just a small victory and a move towards that sweet spot.

10 April, 2016

World famous in New Zealand

It's a joke in our family when asked what our goal is( asked of any individual) that we reply " World Famous in (insert town name here)".
I am raising mu sights a little and am now going for the whole country( tongue firmly in cheek). Watch out, New Zealand.

"Cue fanfare, perhaps just trumpets."

I am delighted to tell you that I am now being represented by Gallery De Novo in Dunedin, South Island New Zealand.

I have been looking at South Island galleries, trying to find one that I would really like to work with and who presented art and artists in a way that I would like to be presented. It really is quite an important decision where to show your work and with whom you enter into a working partnership.I have been looking carefully.

I visited Dunedin and went an a gallery stalk, family in tow. This was a deliberate tactic. I visited all the galleries I had previously identified online and via word of mouth and then went in and had a good look at the work, the space, chatted to staff( if they even deigned to talk to me! I was dressed like a tourist!) and got a feel for the various galleries and their staff. Sneaky and totally worth it, but how else does one find out ?

Gallery De Novo was a standout.

I approached them and this painting now hangs in the window at 101 Stuart Street, Dunedin.

Hushed arrival

If you ask them nicely, they might also show you these other 4!

The Exit plan1

The Exit plan 2

19 March, 2016

March Madness


March has been manic.

The exhibition opened 3 March after a gestation of 9 months and has been well received. It's a mistake to think that once the work goes into the gallery the job is done. I think about it constantly and everyone asks me about it.  We have spent every saturday in the gallery talking to collectors and visitors about the works, the processes and whatever else comes to mind mid-chat. I have analysed, revised and generally autopsied the whole show and it's not even over yet! The presence of it is exhausting.

The first week after opening saw me experience quite a downer." Post exhibit blues" proclaimed Di. She was right. It's that same feeling I used to get after finishing a series of punishing exams. You expect to feel elated at the prospect of freedom and finality, instead you are confronted by a void and wonder what it is you are supposed to do now "the thing" is done.
It only lasted a week. I made some half-hearted attempts to clean out the studio, my standard go-to procrastination routine, and then started painting. To be honest, the first day I just mixed colours and messed around. I had no direct objective and that really helped because then I had no expectations  either. I had a plein air class that I love teaching, visited a gallery or two, read a bit and defunked myself slowly back into my life over the week.

It did not help that in the week after the exhibition, the kids actually needed me to stump up and perform as mommy and I was struggling with it. School swimming sports, Hockey practices, sick kid, meetings with HR Advisors ( I am also chairperson of the school board) to talk about audits and best practise policies and did I mention it's end of year for Tax and my books need attention?!  I felt I was dropping balls all over the place. I kept it together, no one forgot to feed the kids or the dogs but the quality was not there.

Then everything started to right itself. I have spent a week with the feeling you get that reminds me of those moments JUST after you stop hiccupping: relief that it's over, residual muscle ache from a spasming diaphragm and an anxiety that it may not be over just yet! You breathe carefully for a while.

Half way through the month.

Just keep breathing.

Paint is going on canvasses. I have new work planned and a series lies against the wall, first pass on every canvas. I am planning a painting trip to South Island mid winter. I know.Crazy but good crazy. I have small shows lined up till the year end and I have exhibition dates pencilled in for 2018. The planning is good for me. It provides the structure I need to flail around in safely. The painters birdcage.

The Opposite of Amnesia
Oil on board

03 March, 2016

Some Paintings from the Exhibition

It's always a good thing when the most expensive painting sells first!

I am still digesting last night's opening and will write about it soon, but for now, some pictures without words.

A Question of Grass 2

A question of grass 1


A beautiful Menace

cloud bursting

Cold comfort

First home/last home



Inheritance 4

Landscape no1



Red postbox on repeat

More to come.

The Exhibition runs until 31 March. Artists inshore each saturday, 11 am till 2 pm.

17 February, 2016

Upcoming exhibition: The Painter and the Glassmaker

 In a few weeks ( ok, 18 days, I am counting) Di and I will be exhibiting together at Soul Gallery here in Hamilton. It has a lovely exhibition space and be are going to fill it with paintings and glass.

The opening preview is on 3 March, 5-7 pm and everyone is welcome to attend.

Additionally, we will be in-store on saturdays throughout the exhibition to talk about the work and discuss the processes we use to create and have photos showing our studios and such.

The show is on for a month and I will post some photos when we have set up.

Heres a blurb:

The Painter and the Glassmaker

Glassmaker Di Tocker and painter Jennie De Groot join forces to present The Painter and the Glassmaker at Soul Gallery, Hamilton

In their work, both artists deal with the idea of recollection. “ Our works come from memories of an actual situation or place that is transformed over time by the mind and the hand”

In Tockers’s collection of ‘moments’, figures may be travelling to new places, waiting patiently for a companion or perhaps have been left behind. Figures are universal, in that they are not bound by specific identities- their form is simplified to a representation of humanity to more directly convey broader ideas about relationships, memory and connection.
De Groot shares this idea of not giving too much away, describing her paintings as “walking the line between suggestion and representation”, enjoying the tension between realism and expression.
De Groot and Tocker demonstrate masterful skill in their respective media resulting in beautifully executed works.

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