31 May, 2013

Oil bars, new brushes and horoscopes

I read my horoscope every day. In fact, I read them for each member of my family , at the breakfast table. I do this not because I believe in astrology, but because they make me mindful of how complacent and set in our ways we can become. Horoscopes often suggest a better way to behave, react or address situations ,treat people etc and I like that positive spin. (well, the one I subscribe to does!)
Yesterday, my horoscope suggested that I tie up loose ends on a project that has ben bothering me. I could have related that to any number of things in my life from taxes to laundry, but I chose to relate it to a commission that has been rather challenging. To quote Sir Edmund Hillary, I "knocked the bastard off " yesterday. ( Who comes down from climbing the world's tallest mountain and declares" We knocked the bastard off"? Seriously! One step for mankind etc is the kinda thing I would have prepared). I did an unusual thing....I persevered. I wiped a few sections off several times, but in the end,  all that work has paid off and I am happy with the result.  The relief of having completed a particularly difficult task.(I have been working on it intermittently for over a month) is quite heady and I felt elated for the rest of the day
I shall have to wait to show you what it looks like in a few weeks once the client has ownership of it.

I also took possession (via my postman, Flash Gordon...true story. His name is Tony, but we all call him Flash.) of 4 new brushes and some oil-bars that I purchased online. The oil-bars are exactly that, oil paint mixed with wax. I love that I can make marks, draw, add a spot of colour etc with them but that they are fully interchangeable with my normal oils. They blend with medium and clean with solvent and are like crayons for big people. Another quiver in my arsenal of paints. ..and MESSY!!!

My new brushes are a bit of an experiment. John Crump uses these DAS 1180 brushes and makes beautiful marks. I have yet to find a brush that is firm enough to hold the oil paint and flexible enough to make calligraphic marks. My local art store does not have a huge variety of brushes and I think this is one arena where one has to experience the brush in order to see if you like it or not. Brushes are very personal things. I have a collection of over 100 brushes....some are good, others expensive mistakes but none are my best brush ever. I have some cheap hog bristle brushes, expensive mongoose, a sable , house-painting brushes, a pastry brush(!) some taklon brushes, some watercolour brushes( but used for oil)......the experiment continues.

So, new toys and a job done. A pretty good friday .

Pollarded tree and sunset
45 x 30 cm
oil on canvas

28 May, 2013

and now for something completely different...

I tried my hand at a slightly abstract landscape, painted quickly and with little detail(my view out the studio window, to be honest). I wanted it to feel like a snapshot, an image, just the sense of the landscape, like a photo taken out of a car window.

I like elements of it (not the dark blob in the sky, i have to remedy that somehow) and I like the colour. To be honest, it took me 20 minutes to paint, so there is not much to it  and the foreground mimics the sky too much, but I think I will persevere and paint some similar scenes...perhaps after each landscape I paint "properly" , I shall paint it like this and see which ones I prefer. I like that idea.

S.P. Goodman does this sort of thing very, very well.

Let me know what you think......unless you hate it, then please ignore this post!

27 May, 2013

Painting in the rain with snow on the mountain behind me

I painted this on my neighbours lawn, overlooking the peat farmlands. It was cold. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain behind me...then to cap it all off, it started to rain mid-painting. I soldiered on through about 25 different light conditions(sun,rain,clouds changing, sun under clouds, sun through clouds, ooh..big dark clouds..where'd they go?..back to rain, oh, here comes the sun...etc), tilted my canvas so it did not get too wet but the palette was a veritable swimming pool. Thank goodness it was oils and not acrylics! Still, hard to mix oils in the rain......

Gillard road
42 x 32 cm
oil on canvas
 If you zoom, you can see the water droplets on the canvas! It will dry out fine, I promise! I am glad I had all the warm/wet weather gear with me!!! Boonies boots,woollen socks, merino gloves and layers and an oilskin jacket. I looked like a Michelin man!

26 May, 2013

Hilltop painting and the return of my mojo

I have felt out of sorts painting for a while . Everything felt stiff and contrived . It made me unhappy. But today, painting outdoors, on top of a hill, I felt the mojo return. I was humming and smiling as I painted. I did not notice the wind, the hear, the cold,nothing. I painted with feeling and abandon and I loved it.

I stopped earlier and painted a early morning roadside scene, but that was just a warm up piece. I wanted more. I drove up to a hillside suburb and knocked on the door of a house with a spectacular view of the town of Te Awamutu ( home of Neil Finn of Crowded house fame) . The young family kindly obliged my request to paint from their lawn and even offered me a coffee! Thank you!

Autumn colours are making a riot of most scenes at the moment (rock on, Mother Nature! ) and I loved the contrast of the obviously mad-made factory building in amongst the gorgeous colour. That is a dairy factory.......I think they make products using milk, like milk powder etc.....

26 x 46 cm
oil on canvas

I loved painting today.

22 May, 2013


I sold three paintings at the Original Auckland Art Sale! Yippee for meeeeeee!

I wonder where they will be living? I would love to know!!

19 May, 2013

Gillard road Barn

Just down the road, about 2 km, is a farm with a barn pushed up against a stand of wonderfully old Kahikatea trees. I have lived on this road for 8 years and I drive it regularly ( so regularly it is in that dangerous "accidents within 5km of home" zone)  and only noticed it last year. Clearly I have been concentrating on the road and now my mind is just wandering because I can't help but look at it every time I drive that stretch now!  All the swerving makes the kids nervous because it is just before a highly dangerous bend in the road.

Barely noticed
oil on canvas
45 x 30 cm

Close up of fence

15 May, 2013

The English Garden

The brightest days cast the deepest shadows.

 I spied this couple in the White English garden, an Arts and Crafts  inspired garden . I liked the image so much I drew it first (unheard of, for me!)

It reminded me of an alfresco wedding...a perfect aisle!

I have taken possession of a shipment of canvas.....six different weights and tooth (how rough/smooth) and am experimenting with them to see which ones I prefer.  I have gessoed a few pieces with black and am playing with a dark ground again....mmmm. I am always amazed how free I am to whack paint onto a dark surface and yet plain white makes me nervous, timid even.

the Aisle
20 x 30 cm
oil on panel

14 May, 2013

Blue sky dreaming

29 x 29 cm
oil on board

I love the idea of these two birds, one focused and intent on getting the insect , the other daydreaming , faced away.

08 May, 2013

Waipu Cove revisited

Sometimes, When a painting is not working , I wipe out the bits I don't like (oh, the joy of oils)  and put it aside for another time. Painting is often just problem solving. I often don't know the answer but I like to think about it, research or ask someone their thoughts. This has sat untouched for months and , in my effforts to shake off the painting cobwebs , I have been revisiting old, unfinished paintings to see if a fresh mind can solve the issues.

This one was just such a painting. My problem was how to introduce the stream into the painting ...my first effort was a wiper, but I am happy with what I have done today.

 I might still fiddle with the beach, but I thought it was a good start.

ps. we are now in winter. If I was on a beach it would be dressed in 4 layers of clothing and possibly rubbing alcohol!

04 May, 2013

The power of red

I love red. I wear it a lot, I am drawn to it in any colour scheme and I recognise the power it has in any landscape to make things "pop". Some artists use red as their signature colour , signing a painting possibly devoid of statement colour with the swoosh of powerful red, intended to highlight the provenance of the painting. I like that but it's too subtle for me.

I have a love hate relationship with red. It is so powerful that it needs balance.Too much and the painting becomes visually assaulting.  I posted a painting on my FB page and a friend commented on how I use red in the centre of my paintings , so I went back and had a look at some of my paintings.

I see what he means!

02 May, 2013

How long did it take to paint that?

I get asked "How long did it take you to paint that?" a lot!  The answer should be simple, but it's not. If you mean the mere physical process of putting paint on the canvas, then the answer is simple.....it's just a matter of looking at your watch and documenting the hours. If you are talking about the mental aspect, ...well, that is not so easily answered.

There are some days when I paint plein air that I go out and the painting is done and dusted in 2 hours. The reason for that is often a direct result of the planning I have done prior to arrival on site. I have thought about the light, the scene, the concept of the painting. I might have drawn up a small notan study, perhaps taken photographs but I would have certainly thought about it a lot before I put paint on the palette, let alone on the canvas. It could also be that that is all the time I have. The light changes quickly, the weather conditions change and what started as a sunny scene might have turned into a purple-skied storm.

What's to think about? Just paint!  Not so simple ( although somedays, when I am in the zone, it is a bit divine.) In order for the painting to read well it also has to satisfy some rules. No big ones, just basic ones that generally make the painting better. I think about the concept ( usually the answer to the question: What am I trying to convey here?) , the light, what size canvas , the composition(more can be said with what is left out than what is included) , the weather condition s(paint fast, the rain is coming!), and the list goes on a bit ( a bit technical) but it takes some preparation and time.

There is also an attrition rate with paintings.  Not all paintings are goodies! One of my favourite artists, Edward Seago, ordered that a third of his painting be destroyed after his death. These were the ones he declared to be not suitable for exhibition or sale  ( lord know they would have been brilliant by anyone else's standard). I remember being shocked at this when I first learned of it but I know that every artist, no matter how good, has paintings that either don't work, have flaws or just don't "feel" right...and those paintings are lessons and contribute to the time it takes to make good paintings work.

 So, in a nutshell, it is a combination of factors that make a good painting and to use time as any measure of it's value is not useful nor helpful.

I am taking the time before my children go back to school to get organised and focussed with my next few months of painting. Planning is part of painting!

Study for a painting of The English Garden
pen on paper

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