Thursday, 31 March 2011

Abstraction [ab-strak-shuhn]

Today I'm going to share a painting that I did in 2008.  It's on mounted board that was previously used for a company's product advert, it's 800 x 1000mm.  I primed it and decided it would be good enough for my first attempt at an abstract painting.  I started painting the dark lines, rotated the board, painted some more, rotated it again and so I went on.  That is how this painting developed.

There have been so many suggestions from people as to what they think it is.  From squid to prawn.  All I know is that it's bright colours cheer me up every day.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Trying something new.

People love to tell you to "live in the moment".  However, one can get stuck in the moment for too long.  Working on a large painting that takes time, effort and concentration and doing little paintings in between the sessions on the larger painting can be quite refreshing.  What is also refreshing is trying out different ways of painting, it can be quite liberating.

Bushveld   350 x 250mm
So without further ado, here are my two latest distractions. 

The first one is not quite complete, I'm not happy with the shadows across the road, so I'm going to leave it for a day or two then see if I can correct them.

Stormy   300 x 250mm
The second one is experimental, I have no idea what I wanted it to be when I started but it became this moody scene created by sloshing brush loads of paint onto the board.  I showed it to my son and asked him what he thought it was, I was so glad when he said, "Clouds, rocks, birds and a wave splashing against the rocks".  Phew!

It might actually get painted over.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

With or without cream?

A few weeks ago I came across this blog, Studio Atelier.  Blog owner, Barb Benik puts up a photograph and you can paint it in anyway you see fit.  I accepted the challenge this month and decided to paint it as the photograph was taken.  I submitted it this morning and since tomorrow is the last day for entries, I guess she will put all the remaining entries up then.

3:38 pm (South African Time)
Just got an email from Barb Benik to let me know my entry has been posted.  Click here to see the post for this challenge.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Little Sisters

Blogging is quite enjoyable and each day, before doing anything else on my computer, I first have to go see who's written or painted or photographed something new.  But the best part is joining a network and I have to share this one.  It's a group in facebook called Bloggers Network and you get to share your ideas and posts in this group.  There's a lovely interaction between members of the group and it seems to be one of the best ways to get your blog noticed.

Now, to get to what my blog's about.  A while ago I was asked to do a portrait in pencil from a photograph of these two little girls.  Their father ordered it as a birthday gift for their mother.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Big Cats in Pastel

When my children were little it was more practical for me to work in mediums that were easier to pack up than oil paints.  During this time I turned to mediums such as water colour and pastel.  Today I will share with you some of my pastel drawings of Africa's big Cats.  I found that pastels work really well for the fur.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Living inside my head

I often sit and draw faces from imagination.  I'll sit and draw while watching, or rather listening to the TV.  I usually start with the eyes and work around it from there.  Below are two examples of these drawings.  The second one was a fun experiment in trying something with more expression.  I guess these are just some of the crazy characters living inside my head.


Friday, 18 March 2011

The Forgotten

I received an email from my father today with two photographs attached. They were taken about 5 or 6 years ago after I had done two pastel portraits of my children.  It was at a time when I was drawing whatever I could to get my eye in again after a time of not doing much work.  I think these drawings are in the back of a cupboard somewhere along with a whole lot of other unframed drawings and paintings.

Do other artists also have a cupboard or drawer filled with old drawings and paintings?  I'd love to know.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Harvest Time

Acrylic on Masonite  40 x 30cm
I'm still busy with the commissioned portrait at the moment.  I think that it is about 90% complete and can't wait to show it to it's owner.

I've also been keeping myself busy with other work.  This one is on masonite board and reminds me of a time when I lived in the Natal Drakensberg.  We would travel over the Oliviershoek pass to Harrismith to take our children to boarding school and often got stuck behind these huge combine harvesters as they travelled over the pass at a snail's pace.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Honour your forefathers.

My father sent me some very old photos of his grandfather, Henry Whittal, who he wrote about in his blog, and asked me to see if I could try and do a painting of him.  I did a quick painting on masonite.  I will leave it for a while and possibly do a bit more work on it later.  But for now, here he is.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Old Friends

When I was about 14 years old, I won a set of oil paints in a local art competition.  I'll never forget that feeling and the smell of the oil paints as we were first introduced.

Once I was married and had children, I put away the oil paints and moved to water colours as they were easier to pack away at dinner time and there were no fumes that could make my children ill.  Then all the paints seemed to stay packed away as the children got bigger and life got busier.  Over the last few years I've painted again, but in acrylics.  But you never forget your old friend, your first love.

A few days ago I discovered my oil paints in the bottom of a cupboard, my heart started racing, my hands started shaking and I knew I had to try them out again.

I opened the tubes, squeezed out the rich colours onto the palette, mixed in the turps and oil and started to paint.  But nothing felt the same, the way the paint leaves the brush and sticks to the board is totally different to acrylics.  It was like speaking a language that you haven't used in a while, you know what you want to say, but the words don't come out right.

Patience and determination do pay off though and the result is this little painting of my son.

"Red Faced"
Oil on board        15 x 15 cm

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Passing it on

Today I'm sharing the work of a very young artist. 

The daughter of a friend of mine was drawing on one of these gadgets where you slide the button to one side and back to erase what you’ve drawn. This can provide hours of fun without wasting paper, but there’s nothing to hang up or display either.

I could see that she enjoyed drawing. So I gave her a small canvas 9x12”, she drew a face on it, I then used black paint to paint all the lines that she had drawn. Then she did the rest. I just guided her on how to apply the paint. She was very proud of the end result.

Can any of you remember the first time you got to use paint and how it did not seem as easy as other people made it look?

I think we should all try and pass on what we do to the younger generation.  Even if you only share with one child, you can make an impression on that child's life.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Trying too hard

Sometimes we try too hard.  Instead of enjoying what we are doing, we are constantly wondering what people will be thinking.  We are trying to impress!  Let me explain.  Someone I know commissioned me to paint a portrait of his late brother.  This gentleman expects perfection.  So, in my attempt at perfection, I have been trying too hard to get the portrait to be 'perfect'.  The harder I try, the worse the painting gets. 

So today I decided to try some of the loose painting style I used yesterday on my self portrait.  I quickly primed a masonite board that I had, and without grids and precise pencil drawing I just went ahead and laid paint on the board.  In less than an hour I had a better likeness on the board than I did on the canvas after days of painting.  The painting is not complete, but since it was just an exercise I'm not too worried.

What now?  Well if I can do it on board without much effort, then I better get back to the canvas and do what I now know I can do.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Mirror Image

Acrylic on board 30 x 44 cm
Once again I'm taking a short break from my main project.  I grabbed a board that I had primed with pva yesterday.  I went and fetched a mirror and decided to attempt a 'proper' self portrait, but in a loose and bold style.  It is very different from my usual style of painting, but I really liked the way it turned out.

I think there are one or two things I just want to fix tomorrow when I can see better in daylight, then I will be happy.

But for now, this is me!


I'm don't have any new work that I'm ready to share yet, so instead I'll show you another one of my doodles.  This one started off quite simply and then took on a life of it's own, I enjoyed working on this one and was afraid I might not know when to stop.  I used gel pens on A4 black sugar paper.  

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Lost in Translation

I was visiting my parents yesterday and was showing my Mom something on her computer.  I needed her to see what I was doing so I called to her saying "You need to be here by me".  She rushed into her study with a fly swatter because she thought I was saying "There's a bee here by me".  We laughed so much at the misunderstanding, but it made me think of how many other messages become lost and mixed up in our lives.

If I don't paint often enough then the same miscommunication happens between my brain and the canvas.  I know exactly what I want to paint, but from when the idea leaves my brain till it's on the canvas, the message somehow gets lost.

The only way to keep that messenger trained is to practice your craft as often as you can, whether it be playing an instrument, singing, writing or as in my case, painting.  I've read about many artists who paint something every day.  I understand why, because every time you place paint down, you learn something new, you discover a new way of doing something. 

So In my attempt to do something a bit more often than I have been, I did this painting on board. It is 60 x 40 cm in size.  It isn't of any place in particular, it is just inspired by the beautiful coastline of the Eastern Cape. 

In the meantime I'm still busy on the portrait, it is driving me a bit crazy at the moment.  I will post a photo when I am happier with it.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I read somewhere that Guilty pleasures are the little things that make life just a wee bit better.

Somebody asked me about the painting that's on the easel in the photograph of me.  This is not a painting that I've shown to many people, I've never exibited it either.  It's a painting that I did purely for myself, one of those selfish pleasures of creating something purely for my own enjoyment. 

I'd always wanted to do a painting of a male torso and one day my daughter brought me several pictures that she had cut out of magazines. We chose one and I turned it into my painting.  So there you have it.

Another of lifes guilty pleasures is a nice glass of red wine.  Here in South Africa we are so lucky to have some of the best wines in the world.

Recently I was given a bottle of Hill and Dale Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, 2006.  What a delight to the palate.  The wine was so smooth and definitely something I will look out for in the stores.

when I am busy painting I like to play some of my favourite music and will often pour a glass of wine for myself.  Doesn't that just sound like the kind of thing artists do?   Well, unless I go and get another bottle of wine soon, there will only be coffee or tea to drink while I'm painting.

Speaking of painting, time to get back to that portrait I'm working on.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Getting to know you.

I'm not sure how other portrait artists work, but for me it's a case of getting to know my subject a bit better.  If I've met my subjects then it's a bit easier to interpret them in my painting.  Sometimes I'm able to convey a little something that was not in the photo.  Then there are the times I'm required to paint purely from the photo, I can do that too, but then it just becomes a reproduction of the photo.  Maybe it sounds silly, but that's the way it works for me.

If the painting is of someone I've not met, I will ask for other photographs of them to see them from different angles etc.  I will try to find out more about the person's personality and so on.  All these things help me to create a portrait of the person, and not just a reproduction of the photo.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Odd One Out

This morning I added a photograph of the Cherry Guavas that grow between my yard and the neighbour's.  This afternoon I decided to paint them on a small canvas of 8"x10" (203x254mm). 

They were a lovely distraction from the large portrait that I'm working on and a chance to test out some acrylic retarder that I bought recently.

Acrylic paints dry quite quickly in our hot climate and when working on a large area that requires some blending, it would be great if I had a bit more time.  The Acrylic Retarder keeps the paint fluid long enough to do the blending.

Simple Pleasures

Someone told me once that I should try and spend at least half an hour outside in my garden every day.

This morning the weather was so perfect that I decided to sit and paint outside on my stoep. I carted everything outside, including my birds in their birdcages and there I sat with the sounds and smells of being outside.

I had made myself a mug of coffee and put some delicious Hanepoot grapes in a bowl to nibble on. I believe that elsewhere in the world these very sweet grapes are known as Muscat d’Alexandrie. I love them and know that they are usually available around February/March.

Another little treat at this time of year is the Cherry Guavas that grow on the hedge between my place and the next door neighbour’s. This year, despite the drought, this hedge has yielded a beautiful crop. When the colour of the fruit changes to deep red they are ripe. The best ones are usually at the top of the hedge, so I have to find something to stand on to pick them.

As per usual the wind picked up around mid morning so I moved everything back into the house. At least I can say that I spent more than half an hour outside today.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

How do I do...

Artists throughout time, have done self portraits and it is interesting to see how artist's see themselves.  I've done a few over the years, mostly from photos though.  It is still strange to see myself appear on the page from my own hands.  Even though they are from photographs, there is always something else that comes through, because we do tend to draw what we think we see or know.  When looking at them I wonder what it tells other people about the way I see myself.

Colour Pencil - 1983
Pencil - 2011

So maybe it is not the mirror that reflects who we really are, but the way we represent ourselves in our art forms, whether it be painting, writing or any other for that matter.


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