27 December, 2018

The secret to happiness

The secret to happiness is....to lower your standards.


I've said it.
Now its not a secret anymore.

Let me elucidate on that point. I'm not saying you should just give up and stop washing your hair, I mean LOWER YOUR STANDARDS FOR WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.

You know what makes me happy? Time alone. Time with my family. Time with my friends. Time to walk the dogs. Time to take time to cook a meal. Time to paint what I want and when I want. Enough money i don't have to worry about paying bills and making the mortgage repayments. Good Health. Good mental health. Opportunities and a bit of adventure. Someone to introduce me to good books and good music. Nice food.These are my indexes and I know they makes me happy.

At no stage in this list did you read about me wanting to win the Lotto, lose 10 kg, become famous , have lots of stuff and be envied.*

Win Lotto? I did! I married an awesome guy whose funny, kind, smart, sexy and thinks I'm too good for him
Lose 10 kg? I did! About 14 and 17 years ago when I had two , healthy babies.
Famous? Hell Yes! Strangers say hello to me often and compliment my work .(this includes Instagram and Facebook!)
Have lots of stuff? I donate regularly enough  to the charity shops to know I have enough stuff and I never want for art supplies. I have two of everything.I own 15 pairs of identical pumps in a variety of colours.

Are you getting my point? Where is YOUR standard for happiness. I am not suggesting this is an immovable goal and by setting the bar so low you offer yourself no incentive. Precisely the opposite. Set the bar at a reasonable level that you know you might be able to achieve and then, once you have achieved it, celebrate that success and see if you are still happy. If you are, set the bar a bit higher and see if that still makes you happy BUT you still have to achieve your initial standard.
When you are happy, everything else in life is easier.

Here's my take on it

  • Time alone? I get up earlier than anyone else. I walk the dogs. I switch the phone off. I stay at home. I say no to invitations. 
  • Time with my family? I get up earlier to spend time with my husband before the kids get up and before school. We eat dinner together every night. We plan holidays together. I watch them play sports.
  • Time with my friends? I make arrangements, standing or impromptu. 
  • Time to walk the dogs? I see it as thinking time and time to myself. Two birds with one stone!
  • Time to take time to cook a meal? Not every night, Josephine! I plan one languid meal a week, usually for a sunday.
  • Time to paint what I want, when i want? Studio hours are 8-3 , daily. That is a lot of time to paint.I take the weekends off. Sometime my weekend is in the middle of the week.
  • Enough money? yes, but not stupid money. If we want something, we have to save for it. We drive secondhand cars and always have. We save and budget for holidays.
  • Good Health? Everything in moderation, including moderation.  I yoga 2 x a week and a HIIT workout at home 3x a week. I cook from scratch and drink moderately. 
  • Good Mental health? I surround myself with good influences, I don't drink when I am down, I exercise and I am mindful of my thoughts.I employ someone to clean my house once a week
  • Opportunities and a bit of adventure? I manufacture these. I don't wait for them to arrive. I ask for what I want. If I want to learn, I chase the learning.
  • Introductions to good books and good music? Yes, I have people for those! (thanks Michelle and Stef)
  • Nice Food? Well, I am in charge of the shopping list and So I make it so. I buy the good chocolate and have less of it. Quality always wins over quantity.
Those seem like pretty average standard but I achieve each and every one of them and it makes me happy.   Recently, my lack of organisation has left me feeling anxious and disorganised me is not a pretty me. So I have begun organising all my computer files into folders, deleting old stuff and leaving only relevant documents and images on file. I went through my email and deleted and organised it so that emails from 2015 were no longer lingering in my inbox and had a folder!!! I have extended this to my house and am in the process of getting rid of stuff I don't need or want. 

I am spending the few days between Christmas and New Year organising and planning my year, setting goals and evaluating my standard and seeing which need tweaking( not many, I will tell you. Maybe the dog walking one needs to be more often) and questioning relevancy and possible additions. It might look something like : establish a weekly administrative filing /deleting/sorting practise. I shall look at choosing a time later in the day  and later in the week, so monday starts fresh. 

So, whatever 2019 holds for you, try lowering your standards ,join me in the practise and seek out happiness for yourself.

This, for example, is one of the opportunities I have created to learn with a fantastic painter from Philadelphia. I have wanted to learn from him for a few years and he has wanted to teach and travel. So he is coming to New Zealand to visit and teach and I am getting to learn from him.


*I would be lying if I said I never thought about those things but that is the "dark days, 2 am , lost and scared"kinda thinking that I banish as soon as I recognise what it is. Unhelpful and anxiety based.

03 December, 2018

Round and round we go

It is the tradition of two of the galleries I work with to host Christmas exhibitions that feature most of their stable of artists , all painting on the same size and shaped board.

Here are my submissions

Gallery De Novo

Take a trip1,2 and 3

And at Muse Gallery in Havelock North


See what I mean? You can imagine a wall of these ,  like baubles on a tree.

I do love a round . The round shape forms part of the composition in a much more overt or conscious way, quite unlike the rigid rectangle or square. The rounds suggest that anything might be plausible. 
Skew Horizon? Totally legit.
Perspective all wonky? Totally legit.
Proportions weird? Totally legit.

See why I am partial to a shape that encouraged oddness? Total legitness.

22 November, 2018

Workshops and November and podcast and painting the walls

Studio time has been a little fractured , recently.  This is not a bad thing but not ideal either.
Here is a list of things that have kept me from working over the last few months( in no particular order but clearly the more annoying will be written first)

  • injured ligament on painting hand
  • getting the whole house double glazed
  • painting the living area walls, architraves and doors
  • child writing exams
  • child learning to drive and needing practise and avoidance of study time
  • spring...garden plant grew monstrously and quickly. I gave that fight up pretty quickly
  • moved studio around
The shining lights from the above experiences are 

  • that the boy can now drive by himself and is a good, solid driver. 
  • the walls look fresh and the house looks updated
  • the house is both warmer and cooler on the right days
  • the bees are excited I no longer mow the lawn
  • my administration no longer distract me from my painting

The hand, unfortunately, is still bloody sore and will need more rest to recover.....right now, acupuncture is my friend. 

I also decided to teach a workshop or two and really enjoyed the experience. I wanted to teach a course that I would have wanted to take when beginning to paint! The premise is an introduction to contemporary oil painting materials ...... describe what oil paints are, what mediums are and how they influence style , tools such as brushes, palette knives and spatulas , substrates , varnishing and basic studio safety and setup.

The next workshop will be around colour...and there is going to be MUCH colour mixing!

I really enjoyed the process of caring what I know and I met some very cool people, including some creatives I had only met online! Meeting them in person was very special and they jumped in , boot and all, with such enthusiasm that the day flew by before we knew it. 

Mark got very into the pthalo blue...and it loved him back!!!

I am so pleased I advised wearing old clothes!!! Linda was liberal green all over!

Di Tocker and I at the David Lloyd 10 year anniversary show...with our works!


part of a larger painting

The very lovely Sarah Nathan and Mark Hamilton

The dangerous placement of cups near paint!!!!

My painting at the David Lloyd Gallery

I also exhibited in two group shows. go SMALL at The Framing house and The 10th anniversary exhibition at the David Lloyd Gallery.
My painting the Framing House 

I am now off the paint more walls, because it seems the painting is never finished in this house! I listen to podcasts as I paint. John Dalton-Gently does it is a goodie( for painters) , Breaking Art with Jason Naylor is great to listen to local creatives making their way in the NZ art scene and Jesse Mulligan on Radio NZ....because his is such an interesting variety interviewers, subjects and music !!!!

If you are keen to participate in any of my workshops, please let me know by emailing me jennie@jenniedegroot.com. Workshops are $195 per person and include a lunch, tea and coffee .
Class sizes are small and are in my studio in Ngahinapouri, 5 minutes drive south of Hamilton.

13 September, 2018

..and now we are five.....oh!

I turned 50 last week.

There was a time, at 39, when I did not think I would see 40, so I am pretty chuffed to have made it to 50!

I am not a big one for parties, big celebrations or surprises .(Dear God. My worst ever would be a surprise party.I want to hide just thinking about the notion)

Di and Annemarie know my I am surprise adverse, but  laid claim to the day and told me that they would organise a "mystery day out" and I was to" wear street clothes and shoes you can walk in". Seeing as I have no idea what streetwear is and all my shoes are flat, I decided to dress as normal and wing it. Good call.

Heres how the day went:

8:30 am Collection from home. Give presents of beautiful studio tea mug and soup mugs(handmade in Whanganui by Ivan Vostinar) and luscious hand cream( for painters hands!)

9:00 Breakfast at Suburban Kitchen in Cambridge and onto a trip up to Sanitarium hill. Established ages ago as a TB convalescent hospital on top of the hills behind Cambridge with stunning views over the Waikato . Daffodils, tui's, snowdrops and cyclists all converging at the top at a surprising new find.Cool. Down the hill and we dropped in on a joiner friend of Annemarie who built a house that looks like it belongs in a fairytale book. Made with love, peppered with stained glass windows and bespoke joinery and an amazing view...from the outdoor bathtub!

10:00 Then off to meet Adrian Worsley in Te Aroha for a private tour of his gallery and studio. Holy Crap. What a place! Go and visit(phone and see if its open but make a plan and go) We had a great time wandering around his curated collection of scrap metals and then into his workshop to see his studio. The man has vision.
Then he took us to view his house that he had rendered in local stone and blew our minds once again with his attention to detail. I don't think he ever sleeps!

12:00  Wallace Gallery Morrinsville was the next stop to see the exhibition of husband and wife artists, Tim and Tracy Croucher. It was a good exhibition and lovely to see so many examples of their work, side by side. I could have happily walked off with a few.

13.30 Back to the Tron for a salad Lunch and then to catch a movie at the Lido. Wings of Desire has been remastered and was showing at the film festival. I last saw it in 1988!! I profess it puzzled me when I first saw it ,  but viewing it all these years later, I realise I did not have the life experience at that time to understand all the angst that was portrayed in this Wim Wenders movie. Beautifully shot (the usual Wime Wenders full immersion to a vision), it was an eye opener for me as it portrayed Berlin, 2 years before the wall came down. That seems like another life ago. Last century stuff ...and yet, I was witness.
17.00 Off to Freit gallery for the opening of Spa Garden, another exhibition by Tracy Croucher! Different subject matter but the artist's hand is very clearly Tracy's.

Home at 18.30 for Thai takeaway, courtesy of Charles!

That's a helluva birthday!!!!!A great day, no wild surprises , just lovely surprises and of a calibre that left me grateful that I could still BE surprised !! Thanks so much, Di and Annemarie!

Me, age 4 or 5 and 50.

26 August, 2018

Who the hell are you?

It struck me that I don't really know who you are. (except you, Mom. Hi!) I write to you but  probably not as often as I should.  The reason for my tardy attention to correspondence lies in that first sentence . I don't know who I am writing to!!

So, who the are you?!
I'd love to know!

I know the comments section suck and the hoops you have to jump through make you feel like a circus lion( pissed of and dangerous, right?! Also, with amazing hair). So , here's the thing, just email me directly.  jennie@jenniedegroot.com

I write and tell you all about my work, the kids, my travels and workshop experiences, some mad things that happen and studio life, but I don't know who you are. Tell me who you are and why you read this blog. If I know, then I write.

Ok, today I shall write to Mom and Barb( because I know you two!) and others.

Spring it itching to burst forth and I am looking forward to warmer , brighter days . All my painting have been rather dark recently and I have let them be dark. Today I mixed a batch of bright green. It sat like a blob of snot( this is Pulitzer prize describing) on the palette, but I left it there.  I had made it and that meant that my sub-conscious may be trying to tell me something. Maybe lighten up a little? maybe spring is almost here? maybe green is the colour of jealousy( it is! Old Green eyes!) and the colour of the land around me at the moment? Whatever, chartreuse green snot blob. I will work it out eventually.

I am listening to art podcasts at the moment.
My favourite is a New Zealand podcast called Breaking Art .....you can also find it on iTunes....It's my fave at the moment because it's specifically about NZ artists and our environment in NZ. The other is John Dalton, an irishman who has the gift of the gab and interviews wonderful artists, international artists (and a few of my heroes.) He's a good laugh and has a wonderful accent.

It's exam times for the boys, which translates into a hilarious combinations of stress, ordinary teenage- ring behaviour and moments of profound insight and clarity that make me feel like I am in an emotional pinball game(yes, I am the ball).
All my life, my father would say "read the questions" prior to every exam....and it's good advice. So today, as I was dropping Lucien at school for his physics exam, I rolled the car window down and bellowed" READ THE QUESTIONS" and drove away laughing as he stared daggers after me . I broke the rule of " Don't speak to me when I am at school because your very presence is embarrassing" but also, it appeared my fathers voice was coming out of my mouth! Or at least, that's what I heard.

Back to the painting.

Oh look. A Mondrian landscape with a green line. It seems I have become a town planner.

Time to go pick the kid up from his physics exam. I hope he read the question.

Here's mine

Who are you?

12 August, 2018

Runaway brain syndrome and Spark

My brain needs constant attention as it has this overactive curiosity gland that gets me into a lot of trouble if it is allows free reign .Runaway brain syndrome. We all know a curiosity gland is a real thing, don't we? (It's not) .
I know I need to direct my curiosity and I have a list as long as my arm , pinned on my noticeboard,  of topics I can investigate if  and when I need to. I need to do this often as I am easily distracted into tangential internet discussions that end up with me ordering welding kits online or trying to knit scandinavian jerseys or learning how to cure animals skins  etc This list needs curating because it must be

  • interesting...fascinating, in fact
  • relevant to being creative
  • non-dangerous( see above)
  • keep me on task
  • inexpensive(see ordering of welding gear)
  • keep me out of trouble
In the medical professions, Continued Medical Education (CME) is sometimes even built into budgets and timetables.  I envy Charles this opportunity. Last week, Wintec hosted SPARK and this is a local convention that I consider to be  MY Continued Professional Education.Spark international Festival of Music, Media, Arts and Design is in it's 20th year and is always worth a look see.I loved being a physical part of something. So different from my solitary routine in the studio.  This year the lectures were streamed live and I am still watching some I missed ,online. It was a lineup I enjoyed although there were not the numbers of visual artists I would like to see and listen to....... but I am biased. Angela Tiatia, Sara r Radin, Ant Donovan, Bob Jahnke, Jason Naylor, Pecha Kucha, Weasel Gallery opening of telly Tuita and Rachel Hope Peary's final Honours critique were just a few I got to see. All were worth it in ways I did not expect and am grateful for. Go look them up on Facebook or Instagram.

I added so much to my list of things to research, people to look at, work to consider and theories to ponder. I shall be busy for a while .
So, my Trade Me shopping has taken a back seat and I've shelved the scandinavian knitting patterns and put google translator away. I'm on to learning some new skills and hopefully can share more about those in the near future.

Curiosity is a wondrous thing. I am an autodidact. I am always wanting to learn new things and I direct most of my own learning (with the help of others when I ask). I love a good workshop, I read voraciously, my art library is growing  and and I never worry about spending money on books. Clothes, yes. Books, no. The internet is slightly dangerous as it is so monetised these days, but I manage to look and learn (Thanks YOUTube).

So, the curiosity gland has a prescription that can be filled from the list for the next while.

Thank you, Dr Spark.

Me, in green, orange shoes, having an out of body experience.

Jason Naylors VW Combi

Bob Jahnke's talk on some of the technical aspects of his sculpture creations. 

I stole all these off the SPARK Facebook page. 

27 July, 2018

A sudden intake of breath

Nothing in my life is off limits when it comes to me mining it for inspiration. It has to be that way because if I segregate my life into what's public and whats private and don't let them feed into each other, I lose half the good inspiration and definitely half the motivation. Sally Mann, the photographer, copped a great deal of flak because she took photos using her children as models. There were some contentious photos but they were all 100% authentic to her vision.( and some critics are prudes and such is life). Local painter Carmel Van Den Hoeven is painting her domestic life: the piles of washing, ice-cream in a bowl on the kitchen table, more washing..and it rings true because THATS WHAT HER TRUTH IS , right now. I venture that 10 years from mow, you won't see those from her AT ALL!!
I dont paint my kids or my interiors, but I do paint my experiences and emotional interior.

My new works are a bit dark( ok, they are very dark) , all traffic cones and flashing lights, dark landscape , ominous horizons. This is because I am teaching my oldest son  to drive. He is 16 (legal age to learn in NZ) , he is a cautiously good driver BUT , as with all learning, there are a few hairy moments every now and again. I defy anyone to tell me they were otherwise when they were learning. I know I ran over a kerb or three and definitely took corners wide, freaked out on highways and made mistakes.
It's all good to teach a kid in daylight, saturday afternoon when all is quiet, but that does not help him learn what it's like to drive at night, when EVERYTHING looks different and lights reflect and refract all around. So, I teach hime to drive at night too. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Jesus, it's a bit scary sometimes but I try remain calm. So does he. Chevrons, traffic cones, reflective strips, cyclists, rain, fog , streetlamp, oncoming cars......it's like a circus through the windscreen. And it all feeds into my brain and my work.

I was looking at the works of Caspar David Friedrich recently. Bear with me. He is rather famous for what we would now see as a rather sentimental or kitsch image (depending on how hard your heart is). This one is probably the best known,  titled "Wanderer above the sea of fog" Painted in 1818,

And he painted
 this too,Seashore by Moonlight.

Critics suggested that he was trying to paint what was best described by poetry. He was part of the Romantic movement that included poets, writers and musicians and  emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing  emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature. 

You can see where I am going with this......
So, a landscape painter in a car, being driven at night by an earnest yet novice driver , encountering all sorts of challenges is BOUND to conjure up some images that good old Caspar could identify with.

This painting is titled
A Sudden intake of breath

04 July, 2018

A Busman's holiday

The lines between work and play, my life and my life as an artist, are very blurred. This is pointed out quite regularly to me by my long suffering family . They understand that my job is not like a normal job and everyday stuff feeds into it ...which is why, half-way through making dinner, I dash off to the studio to jot something down or make an adjustment on something I have been working on. This also explains why I am a master at getting burnt stuff off the bottom of pots.

a busman's holiday
phrase of busman
  1. 1. 
    a holiday or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.
    "a fire crew's Christmas outing turned into a busman's holiday when their coach caught fire"

Going on this trip to Ireland and the UK was definitely about work, developing some skills, affirming some knowledge and keeping myself abreast of trends and influences but it was by no means onerous. I LOVE this kind of professional development and if going to a gallery or a museum to see a carefully curated show is work, BRING IT ON!!!

I am not going to go into detail about what was learned in Ireland because I am still working that out myself. Suffice to say, it involved a lot of drawing. I thought I did not draw because I rarely sketch things out with pencil and paper before I paint,  but it turns out I do. .... albeit with paint! My technique for painting is remarkable similar to what the instruction revolved around and that affirmation was a good boost for my faith in intuition regarding my development.
I regularly drew a good drawing and pushed  and pushed it...until it was past redemption but I generally knew when it was done and did not mind destroying it because thats the function of this kind of exercise. I brought almost nothing home, preferring to go back to my notes that I scribbled each night ( before the Guinness!!) as us three housemates digested the days learning. Michelle, Anne and I shared our take-away learning and were  grateful to Anne who wrote down a whole lot of notes in her trusty notebook and allowed us to riff off those notes. I also took a gazillion ( true and accurate  number) process shots and they are invaluable.

Here are some photos,

The Irish sea is the oddest colour. Alex Kanefsky describes it as a mixture of Prussian blue and Van Dyk Brown. He may be right.


a significant road 

an unpronounceable fishing village

day-glo seaweed stuff on the slip

gritty but accurate

money can't buy that colour roof

Dunfeeny stone. its over 5000 years old.

Dunfeeny stone in a cemetery. The grass was waist high and I kept stepping in holes

Peat drying in stacks, awaiting bagging


chaos and confusion

chaos, confusion and Andrew(who was the cause of most of it)

I run a tidy ship

ruler and scalpel were my best friends

towards Downpatrick head. This view never got stale.

03 July, 2018

My first pint of Guinness and other stories

A few years ago I identified a painter whose work I admired and who was painting in a way I found compelling. I wanted to find out a little more about him and discovered he was a professor at a university in Minnesota BUT he did teach workshop in Ireland over the summer break.  The Ballinglen Arts foundation in Ballycastle, Co.Mayo, Ireland, was founded some 26 years ago by two american gallerists who established the foundation to bring artists of recognised ability from both Ireland and abroad to live and work in Ballycastle. Their residencies are famous and the list of Fellows is a bit of a who's who of contemporary painters . Andrew Wykes is a fellow and has had several residencies there and now teaches some workshops. The workshops are a fairly new arrangement and suit the likes of myself who can only pop over for a few weeks, not a few months.

Because I am not one to go on adventures alone( it's boring! Who will I talk to?!) and every Han Solo needs a Wookie, I asked Michelle Ives to join me and what an excellent decision that was. We all know Chewbacca is the reliable one.  Michelle lives in Glasgow, and so the plan was for me to to fly to Glasgow and recover from jet lag( more on that later) for a few days , then fly to Dublin together and drive cross country to Ballycastle and return 9 days later, better artists.

So we did just that.

We arrived late on the first evening, the last of the group of 10 and were welcomed to a late meal around a table that would become a regular fixture of good food and fun figures. Understandably, there were a good few american artists ( Ireland being only a hop skip and a jump for many) and two from Italy and one Brit. Michelle grew up in South Africa, like me, lived for 14 years in Wales and has lived in Scotland for 6 years. Who knows how we classify her!!!
Introductions were made, wine was drunk, we hit the sack and slept like babies, ready for day one.

Day One

We hit the ground running and headed to Downpatrick head to draw . Draw rocks.  It was hot! Who forgot to tell Ireland I had packed for DISMAL weather!I had woolen trousers, waterproof shoes, fleeces, beanies and raincoats.  I almost went swimming.I would have drowned in the wool, though.

   Back in the workshop space we popped our drawings (there were several) onto the walls and discovered that drawing pins were useless when trying to get those puppies up on the wooden walls. We had to wear shoes because the floor was littered with bent drawing pins and the ashes of the expletives that followed a session of pinning.
NOTE TO SELF: line a workspace with stuff you can pin work into easily and save yourself some drama.

The library at Ballinglen arts foundation is a treasure of art books. I camped out here a lot. 

The workshop was 7 full days of tuition, 9 till 5, with an hour for lunch. We rarely took the full hour and only once did I slink off and doze under a tree in the garden .....but that was early days and I blame it on the jet lag and excitement.

We drew every day, over and over again, outside if the weather was good, inside from references drawn outside if weather was bad. We drew small, we drew big, we made mess, we raged and roared a little and at the end of each day, after dinner, we retired to the pub and drank a few pints( or half pints) of Guinness and got to know each other a little better. The publican was a man called Patrick but it was pronounces Porrig, had an accent so thick I thought I was having a stroke each time he spoke to me . I knew what he was saying but didn't, all at the same time. (Or maybe that was the Guinness. ) I know I said" May I please have 3 half pints of Guinness" and he said" brrr good dggggroooode aaaaagh euro"  I knew he was asking for money because Euro sounds like Euro in any accent. And thats how ALL my interactions with him went. Eventually, I felt we might descend into charades. I was prepared to go there. No one should have to work that hard for a drink.

Anyway, so the days flew by. The longer we spent time in Mayo, the more dire the weather became.  I went out painting with my little pochade box every morning at 6 am because the light was gorgeous and I was awake.(thank you jet lag) I dragged Michelle with me and housemate Anne, who had never panted plein air and got into the swing of things. Michelle was invaluable as a insects attractor whilst I  avoided being bitten by the legendary irish Midgies. She was devoured and sprouted red bumps like a measeled child, poor girl. The sun rose just after 5 and only set after 10. It was crazy beautiful.

I fell in love with the lady next doors washing line. 

And that was day one and a story about the pub. More will follow.

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