Friday, January 30, 2015

Better than an iPad

Nature is extraordinary and can keep children occupied for hours and hours.

Dug up from the beach and brought home carefully in salt water,  these two little clams were the subject of hours of scrutiny by my two recent young guests.

The clams were touched, poked, argued about and watched.  There always seemed to be a small figure crouched over the plate where they were kept, observing nature's marvel.

Now the small people have returned home, back to their screens and interminable arguments with their parents about how much screen time is appropriate.  The clams have been returned to the ocean to survive ... or not.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Yes, you too can paint

Painting the pot plants
When I paint in public people come and look over my shoulder. I am always surprised how many of them tell me, "I can't paint, my teacher told me that years ago when I was in school." Sometimes they add wistfully that they have a yearning to paint despite their teacher's advice.

Whatever can the teachers have been thinking, telling children they can't paint? Perhaps it is primary school teachers who were themselves told that they were inept?

My advice to teachers is to lay aside any expectations of how things should look. Painting helps us see things properly and sometimes this takes years.

In this regard I take inspiration from the talented plen-air watercolour artist David Taylor. I took a course with David many years ago. His classes were conducted outside and everyone painted the view except one gentleman who
Painting a figure from a computer game.
produced a series of paintings of colourful circles.

At the critiques each evening, David always found interesting to say about the colour combinations of these circles and every evening I felt enriched by what he had found.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Warwick Fyfe, an Alberich to remember

Warwick Fyfe as Falstaff
Warwick Fyfe is an Australian baritone who stepped in at the last moment and sang the part of Alberich at the 2012 Melbourne Ring Cycle operas.

He stole the show with his wonderful acting while singing this demanding part.

Last November a funding campaign was started called 'Send Alberich to Niebelheim' to raise funds so Warwick could go to auditions in Europe. One of the 'prizes' was an Alberich T shirt. I just got mine so now I am guarding the treasure in suitable attire.

In the meantime the campaign has been oversubscribed (he really 'wowed' the Melbourne audience) and he has done his first audition trip to the UK (has some nibbles we hear) and is off to Europe in April.

Go Warwick!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

White fleshed nectarines

I painted some more nectarines, this time white fleshed fruit. They were in a wooden bowl that my father made. 

The fruit had really dark skins and were more difficult to capture than the yellow fleshed nectarines..

I painted them much larger than life sized on a  canvas that was double the size of the one used for the yellow fleshed nectarines. It was also much better quality, thicker and very robust. It was a real pleasure to paint on. I must get some more canvases like it.

The nectarines were very firm when I bought them, but by the time the painting was finished they were perfect for eating and disappeared quickly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Multi-coloured Marilyn

"This is the real painting," said the nine year old with some amazement, looking at the pop art on the walls of the Art Gallery of NSW. 

His reaction shows perhaps just how much impact the pop artists had - every nine year old is familiar with 'art' images in a way that my generation was not.

The Art Gallery of NSW has included an art corner for children in the exhibition, with games and colouring equipment and it was very well used on the day we visited.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Spiders, webs and a model to help us deal with climate change

This large visitor to my garden built its web high over the back path last week but the web was not high enough as today I found the spider hanging from an inside door jam. Perhaps I brought him in on my hair.

Yesterday I heard a talk about another web,  the inter-web, by lawyer Eben Moglen. It was an extraordinary talk about an extraordinary community, the one that has developed open source (free) software. The community has had to fight to retain its development model, a model which is open and transparent and the most efficient model for solving problems. They have had many enemies, people and companies who have felt threatened by this democratic model, but they have been successful in defending it.

It struck me as I listened that this is the model we will need to solve other intractable problems, like climate change. How fortunate we are to have a model that serves so well, and lucid people like Eben Moglen to talk about it.

More: and here is an interesting discussion about the type of global structures we need to solve global problems.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Jug and Glass paintings

I have always liked painting glassware and the Squirrel painting inspired me to continue with the glass theme. These two 'jug and glass' paintings were painted over the Christmas break. The words on the jug are Siegmund's, from Richard Wagner's opera Die Walkurie.

I guess what I was writing about last post was 'inspiration'.  It is such an amorphous concept, but we all know it when we feel it. Why certain subjects inspire one to produce art is a mystery to me, yet why else do we do creative work?

Glass and Jug II
Acrylic on Canvas
30.5 x 40.5 cm (12 x 16")

Glass and Jug I
Acrylic on Canvas
30.5 x 40.5 cm (12 x 16")

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Painting from the heart

My Hibiscus painting  was not painted from the heart, or at least, not from the beginning. Its various iterations have been recorded on this blog but as I look at them all together I am reminded of the words of an art tutor who said that photographing paintings as they progress can be very rewarding.

In this case my photos document why the heart is an essential component to pictures.

I love flowers, but painting a Hibiscus in a vase on a cloth just didn't do it for me. I knew right from the beginning that I was not inspired by my subject and I should have known better than to start the work in the first place. Perhaps I had been looking at too many 'fruit and flower paintings by old masters.

It is odd how some paintings are quick to paint and 'work' immediately while others, like my Hibiscus, are never happy and glower at you from the corner demanding to be changed.

I have made changes to Hibiscus between other work which takes its inspiration from the Squirrel, work which may develop into a series. The first of the series painted itself fast and needed no retouching (photo soon). It was painted from the heart.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Thank you Michael Taylor, artist

I was reminded of Michael Taylor when I put lettering on the Hibiscus painting (last post), because it was he who taught me the technique. Michael is a gifted teacher and I learned so much from him in 2005 when I took his 5 day life drawing class in Grafton, NSW.

Michael's own work focuses on relationships. It is thoughtful but whimsical, just as he is.

I produced a lot of work at that course that I have since painted over (my first experiments on canvas after years of watercolour on paper), but there is one piece I value to this day. It was painted at the very end of the course on a full size piece of watercolour paper. Those who work in watercolour will know that working on full size (56 x 76 cm) paper is a challenge - not least because most watercolour easels get wobbly holding that sized paper, if they can hold it at all.

The class had been very committed, starting well before the scheduled 9am start time on each of the five days and landing exhausted in the pub about four o'clock. We had two models, male and female and they were exceptional, able to hold poses for long after others would have had to move. They said they did a lot of yoga to prepare for the course.
1127 Couple
56 x 76cm
Watercolour on paper

My final piece was done in a state of exhaustion just as the course was closing. Watercolour is one of those mediums that requires a great deal of practice and care, but sometimes you have to just 'let go' and go with the flow. My state of mind at the end of this course was such that I was no longer able to think or be in control  - I just painted, putting what was before me onto the paper without so much as a minor correction.

The result was a lovely work that I hauled out from all the other paper work a few months ago and hung on my wall. I smile as I pass it each day. Thank you Michael Taylor for your gift.


 The Hibiscus painting has started to change (again). The vase was so lonely there on it's green shelf so I added an oil-stick word, a using  method I learned from the wonderful and inspiring Michael Taylor.