July 15, 2014

Challenges

Well who would have thought – the past 18 months or so have been rather challenging in our household  but life is getting back to normal- looking back it all seems rather blurred now – the tests, radiation therapy, oral chemo and all the associated doctors visits etc -and that was just for hubby – then for me two hip replacements and an abductor muscle repair  – which ironically was supposed to have me up and running (so to speak) so I was not  crippled with pain and immobile! Well that certainly didn’t happen but all is going  well now and we are finally getting into a more normal routine!!

One thing that didn’t change was my passion to paint and paint I did – what a life raft  – to have in your life  something that can take you away from the worrying times and actually make life seem on a level plane – in fact I actually produced enough paintings to have an solo exhibition this month!!

Thinking back over the worrying times I came to realise that we can take strength from anything – if  looked at  from a different perspective – we could have quite easily fallen in a heap especially with a cancer diagnosis for hubby but early on we decided that we could only take one day at a time and go with whatever was thrown at us – I would like to point out that we are not brave or have some inner strength that nobody else has or any of the cliche’ that can be offered to sound good but we do have a faith in God who is in charge of our lives and a sense of humour – laughter is such a healing thing, I know it isn’t politically correct to laugh at cancer but there have been some genuinely funny moments amongst all the other stuff – we have been fortunate to be under the care of our marvellous oncologist (who has the most amazing dry sense of humour), haematologist and surgeon who’s care and compassion through difficult moments has been part of us keeping a smile on our faces- one of the funniest moments to us is whenever hubby has to have CT scan locally, once he is put into the machine suddenly heaps of people would be rushing around getting opinions – even though Trev would say – oh I have a huge hole in the bone there don’t panic!! – for some reason I guess they don’t read the paperwork closely and are suddenly faced with a patient who only has a fringe of bone!!

Which brings me back to the inspiration thing  here are a few things I have learned which applies to my life now:

The really tough bits make us stronger – things around us take on a significantly deeper meaning if we don’t just gloss over them – I now look a lot more closely at conversations with friends, try and help practically if needed and find that times like these round us out as people more than the “good times” ever could. – I still need to work on my listening skills but being a woman I can still hold a conversation with three other women and keep on track lol.

The really tough bits also make us weaker!! – I am not ashamed of feeling weak any more, for tears shed and living with a little lump in my chest (I call that lump “the future”) for none of us know what it holds so that little reminder is always there  but I won’t let it be what weakens me further – I just acknowledge that it is there!! and for some odd reason I find inspiration in that thought.

Your friends are there in difficult times – they keep in contact regularly, drop by unexpectedly, (one dear friend made  fruit cakes  so we had something to share if people visited- mind you said hubby who loves fruit cake did try and hide more than one away) and often supplied meals etc which were so welcome when we were both hobbling around, even the cleaning lady has now become a treasured part of our lives – she is wonderful, has a brilliant sense of humour and drops by for a coffee and chat!! – these wonderful people who made and make the process a bit easier and brightened our lives so much.

Don’t stay away – even if you don’t know what to say it really doesn’t matter – words are just words – its the action of doing something that helps so call by for a coffee etc – of course everyone is different and copes in a different way but …. you can always ask what they need !! We don’t know what the future holds but we only have to worry about today as  tomorrow can take care of itself.

So what has this all to do with painting – for me I have become more relaxed about the process -if I make a mistake its ok, I now reduce my compositions down to what is important and don’t put off doing a painting if I want to, I have learned to leave out what isn’t necessary – we don’t need the “fluffy stuff” which can mess up the whole big picture and lastly  the beautiful bits are often the simplest things – gosh it sounds just like life!!  And finally I  now feel like teaching again – I have a two day workshop coming up and that will test how I go but I am looking forward to starting again!!

 

 

 

 

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December 21, 2012

Inspiration!!

 

This is the time of year when we all look forward to Christmas Day – a time of family, sharing the laughter, great food and all the other exciting things that are part of Christmas Day  – but its real significance is in the birth of Jesus in a stable many, many years ago and that is what we should remember – try as I might as I get older the over the top commercialism of Christmas makes me think that it should not be a time of putting pressure on family to give gifts that only last for a short time (of course our young children and grandchildren should not miss out but they don’t need to have expensive and often commercially driven gifts)  I can still remember that when I was a “young un” I used to get very excited at my Christmas stocking – it usually had some very practical gifts like new socks, maybe a dress, some lollies , a toy or two and a couple of oranges – now I have no idea why but I used to get so excited by the oranges!!  Maybe because oranges were more seasonal back then whereas now everything seems to be available all the time.

So what has all the above to do with inspiration well I think that through our lives we need to have something or someone that provides us with inspiration, as an artist I find that I have it in bucket loads inside my little grey cells but that is an individual thing that I use for my paintings but for everyday life then it is my faith that provides what another person cannot –  as humans we all have faults, failings and only a “this world experience” – we only know what we have experienced in this life.   So when I remember that birth so long ago and how its significance still has such an impact today I know that all the inspiration I have has been a gift to me from the one who loves me, hears me, cries with me and although I fail Him (sometimes daily) He forgives and holds me close.

So when inspiration strikes and however it is used in your life remember it is a gift – freely given to use and share.

So may I wish friends, students (who are all friends) people whom I have just met and those I am yet to meet a very Happy and Holy Christmas.

 

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December 12, 2012

A Gift worth Giving

 

 

With Christmas Day fast approaching and all the merry go round stuff that happens with it being able to retreat into painting and spend time doing something creative is for me one of the best things to keep a handle on the day that has become one of hustle and bustle and often not as it was meant to be.

There are ads on tv at the moment that make me shake my head – especially the one depicting a dark and sort of disturbing black santa asking how bad have you been???  I just don’t get it – why would we want to look at ads like that but as they say it’s a free world – but is it really???  Seems to me that this so called freedom has too high a price tag as we are constantly exposed to things that do nothing to instill in us a sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty of life, nature, music and the stillness of a summer evening – even in the art world today there is a huge emphasis on painting ugly, confrontational and often explicit works that do nothing to show this amazing world that God Created.  Now being of the older extraction I remember how we were taught to respect other people and their belongings, to be polite and think about the consequences of our actions – I still remember being told that everything we do has a good or bad consequence and to think about anything before we do it and to chose that which had a good outcome – this isn’t to say that I didn’t make mistakes but I did not come to harm or break the law etc and I have had a full and enjoyable journey so far.

I think one of the best discoveries for me was to realise at around 14 that I loved to paint and I personally am drawn to paintings that inspire, bring something good into our lives and are worth hanging on our walls to enjoy and bring pleasure to the viewer.  Perhaps we need to share our vision of the wonder of picking up a brush, pastel or whatever it is we chose to paint with and encourage another generation of painters with a passion for their craft – maybe we need to think of this as a gift worth passing on????

This may be my last blog before Christmas but you never know 🙂 – so off to change the tune on the door chimer to Jingle Bells – my concession to the lead up to the day!

The scarecrows have got it – scare away the stuff that isn’t good for us  lol

 

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December 6, 2012

A Style of our Own

I have been thinking about how as artists we develop our own “style” of painting and how it is influenced by those whose work we admire, the people who teach us and the way we put our paint/pastel etc down so that it works – that however can rely on a number of factors and one of the most important  is knowing where and how to put that mark!

So I thought back over the years that I have been painting and am amazed at the journey  – it has been one that I have truly enjoyed and of course is nowhere near where I want to be – but I am happy that there has been progress. I have said it before and without doubt that the biggest difference between “now” and “then” is the time I spend actually painting.   I firmly believe that for our work to get better and better then we have to commit the time to putting paint down – there are no shortcuts  – unless you are one of those amazingly gifted individuals who can just do it.

I was talking to another artist at a recent exhibition and she had come to congratulate me on winning a prize and said that she must try something different as she was “good at copying” but didn’t really know how to liven her work up.   I found this interesting and on reflection can see that by copying either a photo or another artists work  it can soon become a two edged sword because we can never make our work look as good as the photo or  that particular artist – it just isn’t possible and we can get stuck in the rut of trying to produce something that isn’t really us – so use copying only as a last resort, a learning tool  and never anything else!! (having said that -re photos  – they are great as reference material, a starting point for a painting and a reminder of light and shadow but do a thumbnail sketch to cement the composition and work out any bugs before you start painting).  I greatly admire a number of artists whose work has inspired, encouraged and excited me but one thing I learned is to take note of how they work and use some of their techniques but to apply them in my own way.

The work of Tony Allain – a wonderful artist from NZ whose application of pastel is just inspiring and a comment from him really struck home when he said  -“I have learned over the years to make a mark and leave it even if it is in the wrong place. All other passages will cancel out these imperfections” – how true is that  but of course we do have to do battle with that inner voice that says  – oh a mistake – quick fix it !!!   I fall for it too many times.

When I am tutoring I feel I have a responsibility to encourage students to learn but at the same time to explore and understand, so that when experimenting with strokes, direction and analysing why one stroke worked and another didn’t then they are building a style that will become theirs – not a replication of how I do it but their own unique way – it is comfortable to be in that place where we are satisfied with what we are producing but for me I have this desire to push myself to learn something new each day – its’ exciting too.  Of course many of us aren’t that intense about their art but  I want to learn more and more and even though I try many things I know I have developed a style of my own –  so don’t be afraid to play with paint –  push it beyond where you have been and see what happens!

In the painting below I have tried to just give the basics without too much detail – I actually like it 🙂

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November 30, 2012

Weeks End

Well as another week comes to a close and the weekend approaches I look back and am amazed at how time spent in the studio is like a little bit of heaven on earth and it made me ponder on why it gives me so much joy.  I was asked the other day what is it that inspires me to paint and I feel most strongly that it is I have been given a gift that I cannot waste, by gift I don’t mean I am on myself and think that I have something that others do not but as a Christian I feel that each of us are given something special that is unique  and I would be remiss if I didn’t use, acknowledge and be thankful for it. Having said that, I am under no illusion that I am special or have a “bigger slice of the pie” in the talent stakes than any other artist but the one thing I do have now is time to work hard and be the best that I can be because anything worth while is only achieved by working hard.

Painting is a simple pleasure – it can be done by anyone and although you hear protestations of ” I can’t even draw a stick man”, whenever you  hand over the paint brush to a person they nearly always end up smiling (well almost –  I did once have someone who  was close to tears because she spent most of the time comparing what she was painting to the person next to her and judged herself as failing).

In this world of instant everything time spent on producing a piece of art regardless of where we are on our painting journey is time well spent – when you pick up a brush and start to paint then everything  around you fades, you are in your own little world and even though it can be mentally tiring and sometimes it doesn’t  work out  I have found  there’s a part of every painting that  has a little gem.

So use your gifts to give your life a bit of magic – it may not be as an artist but that’s ok – find something in your life that really makes you want get up in the morning – as for me opening a box of colour will always do it! – ( you thought I might say a box of chocolates didn’t you 🙂 – that works too!!)

 

These pink roses were just there –  so I painted them  (in oils)

 

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November 19, 2012

Painting each Day

I have long held the conviction that to gain a genuine insight into how we go about improving the quality of our paintings then we have to be prepared to put the time in and paint! – it’s as simple as that !  I have had many a long talk with friends (artist one’s) regarding this and I am always intrigued when some have such busy lives that they find it hard to put in time to just relax and paint (can those two words be connected??).   I know currently it is difficult to have sales happening on a regular basis but instead of not producing much it’s a wonderful time to spend honing and refining our skills or even trying something new.  As I am now part of the grey haired set I recently decided to look at the things that were clogging up my time and made a conscious decision to devote myself to becoming the best that I could be – whether I will achieve that who knows but……… I’ll give it a good try.  So I now consider if I (a) want to do something that is asked of me, (b) if it is going to eat into the time I need to “do that painting” or (C) is it really important??  Having said that I know we have to produce an income to survive but by cutting out the unnecessary and committing to painting as often as we can with out becoming anti social, then we are on a winning streak.  I discipline myself to paint most days or to at least prepare by drawing up, thinking of what colours etc will work best in that particular painting and so on and if time has got away from me as it does some days then drawing is such a lovely pastime that even 30 minutes spent with a pencil  will put you ahead of those who only paint sporadically.

Our motivation to paint should be because we love it – and Richard Schmidt in his wonderful book Alla Prima says this which sums it up beautifully:

“If you want to be famous, get into politics, or crime or show business or sports.  If you paint just to get rich, shame on you but if you paint because you must do it or die, then your are my kind of painter!! “

Wow – I know exactly how he feels .

 

 

The Creek – Oil

October 15, 2012

Waiting for the Light to come on…..

How often when we begin thinking about a new painting do the words “what shall I paint” preface any actual start but this can be put on the back burner if we – dare I say it – have a bit of preparation ready to be accessed- this can be in different forms – when you get an idea jot it in a notebook or in this day of technology on your ipad /iphone .  Collect reference data or in the case of  “objects on hand” get in the habit of setting up some subjects in your studio (if you have one) or in the spot where you generally paint.  As you walk past you can rearrange and replace  -if this is done over a couple of day you will find that you can see when a compositional hitch rears its ugly head and fix it.  This can make the difference between feeling relaxed about starting a painting and casting around desperately to find some inspiration.

I have an 8 drawer trolley file in which I store my photographs and clippings that I can use as a starting point for my paintings – they are sorted into various subject matter ie landscape, seascape, still life etc,  most of them have been used several times in many paintings, and as well as photos, beloved objects like jugs, silver pots and flowers litter the studio but that is also the great thing about painting – by surrounding yourself with interesting objects all you need is in the one spot (or in my case on shelves, around the walls and on top of the cupboards) – lovely clutter.

You also can use times when you are touring around to keep your eye out for interesting places – (not being much of an en plein air painter I do so admire those hardy souls who do paint outside)- with the availability for  most of us to take great photos with the many point and shoot cameras available today resources for subjects are many and abundant. All you need is to switch on your “artists’ eye’” and really look at what is around you and you will come up with some wonderful subjects!!

Talk to artist friends as well – there is nothing quite like getting together with like minded people and bounce off each other (of course if you have a ripper of an idea for a painting keep it to yourself – and then do the big  TA DA at the next exhibition you enter it in) LOL.  Below is an example of a painting from an everyday source – a couple of flowers in a bottle – used it!!Image

September 21, 2012

Frost and Sun

September 21, 2012

Art & Life

What an interesting week I have had and whilst sitting here chatting with my daughter and looking back over this past week I have decided that no matter how we plan what we might do each day it can change within a couple of hours.  It is like that with a painting, we can start off with a great idea firmly decided and off we go – for me I like to block in the darks especially with the current series that I am working on and push a “turpsy” wash over areas of colour and light and see this wonderful happening on the canvas or in the case of a watercolour on the paper and it can go in an entirely different direction the starting idea is not necessarily what we finish up with!  Life is so like that – we have the darks and the lights and all the colours in between but what a canvas to play on but with the confusion of our hectic and often over the top world our lives can turn into the living equivalent of an abstract painting.  For me I can see the link – how in an abstract world like ours with its rushing here and there, pressure and competitiveness -stillness and serene moments are few and far between and in a life where violence, excess and a thirst for being number one are values that are held to be the “be all and end all” we can often lose sight of that precious gift that painting gives to us as artists – a time where we can let go of the world out there and just be creative – for me painting is not about the awards,  being well known or even selling (although that is mighty helpful and of course always welcome) but about bringing a bit of beauty to those who like and view my paintings – if I do that then I am happy.

So take time in your life to look at beautiful paintings, listen to uplifting music and sit back and enjoy the stillness.

September 12, 2012

Keep Painting and exhibiting!!

Having just finished two paintings for an upcoming exhibition it made me think how fortunate we are that there are Art Societies, groups, businesses & galleries etc who are willing in these hard economic times to make available prizes to be awarded and a place to display our paintings – what a boost to the morale of artists who are “doing it tough” – I think of the many paintings lining my walls (and of family members) and I am so grateful for these events that give us an opportunity to show prospective purchasers our work.  Not to say that we will necessarily sell or win an award but the broader our exposure the better chance we have.  For myself even though times are tough I just don’t see the point in not painting – I have sadly heard fellow artist say things like – “i’m not selling so not much point painting” of course framing cost etc can make budgeting for our art a bit more difficult but there are always ways to get around any problem with some creative thinking.    But the best thing is to just go into your studio, painting place or class and lose yourself in that which makes you happy and for me working out how my painting is unfolding on the canvas, paper or whatever I am working on is what it is all about – the practical stuff can wait – I am an artist !! Yes!!

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