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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Grey Cross, Immortal Artist and "Legacy"

I am honoured to be featured on Immortal Artist, the blog site of Grey Cross, as the premier artist for November.

Grey's work is hard to summarise: experimental and continuously evolving art; a living blog which is also constantly evolving and developing; an untiring promoter of opportunities for artists; a champion of other artists; tireless on Twitter.  His blog motto: "Always approach your art with a warrior's spirit and a saint's heart."

If you haven't visited his blog site, I suggest you do so. For artists, there is so much of value; for lovers of art, so many riches;  for anyone with a soul, much nourishment, for anyone with an open mind, much that will provoke reflection.

And now a little about my painting, "Legacy" which is featured on Immortal Artist.

Legacy, acrylic on canvas, 36 by 24 inches

What it is "about"

Anglo-Australians, like myself, have always had a problematic relationship with the land of Australia. On the one hand the land is seen as hostile, strange, ripe for exploitation; on the other, seen as unique, beautiful and fragile. Neither relationship strikes me as particularly healthy. Contrasting to this is the orientation of the original peoples, who see country as a living, contemporary and eternal, spiritual and material reality, not separate from persons. The continuous interchange between humanity and country is mutually supportive and both spiritual and material. There is no separate conception of "nature" v "humanity",  "spiritual" v "material".

The neolithic and mythic evidence points to a similar orientation being prevalent among the pre-christian Anglo-celtic peoples. (Paul Devereaux, 1992, Symbolic Landscapes: Dreamtime Earth and Avebury's Open Secret). Now, I neither want to romanticise the Aboriginal orientation nor develop some sort of new agey fantasy of a golden past, nor do I want to appropriate the Aboriginal notion of country; but I do want to acknowledge, explore and understand my own connectivity with nature as an empath.

In particular, I feel deeply the pain and scars caused by the people of my lineage on this land. That pain and its associated longing for healing of nature and ourselves underlies the work I am currently doing.

So that is what legacy is "about".

How it developed

Since I paint intuitively, I don't begin with a firm concept, but rather some sort of initiating gut feeling. I had been developing small scale composite Australian landscapes from collage elements and gouache. 

"Legacy" grew out of that work as a larger scale expression of the same feelings and concerns. 

It was painted fairly quickly. By day 3 it looked like this.I remember that it was a struggle to get to this stage. At this point, I was hopeful and dissatisfied at the same time. Something was just not right about the composition. 

After letting the painting rest and just watching it for a few days, I realised that those lovely swirls of tumble-weedy paint just had to go. One has to be bold. adding the red rust bar meant that a further red-rusty "hill" had to be added above the horizon and the existing red-rust "hut"? had to be strengthened so that there was a triangular connectivity of shape and colour.  That necessitated the strengthening of the counter circular movement through the main lines of the composition. 

Now this sounds awfully well-thought out. At the time, I was simply responding to the painting. This is all post-hoc explanation.

As you may guess, it was at this point that my thoughts about what the painting was "about" started to become clearer.

But one thing I have noticed, time and time again.

And I also find that the destroyed part will turn up somewhere else at some time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Studies after Turner (repost)

These are four little studies I made after some paintings by Turner. Apart from my respect and admiration for his work, Turner, I discovered, used similar methods to mine in the initial stages of his paintings. By following his method more closely, I hoped to learn techniques which I could apply and adapt to my own work.

The other incentive in doing these studies was to learn something of the circular compositional form, which I could then apply to my own work. In Turner's work, the circular composition is carried by the flow and direction of the colour, rather than the disposition of forms.

These are studies After Turner, rather than studies Of Turner. In making these studies, I was not attempting to copy the originals or to take the original and use it as a motif. Rather, I wanted to use the original compositional form and an approximation of the colour scheme to recapture the sensation of the original. By sensation, I mean my empathetic internal physical response to the painting, which is a combination of visual, visceral and kinaesthetic senses.

As you can see, the studies move quite a way from the originals.

In the final two examples, I have taken the elements of the earlier studies and other paintings by Turner, and made free studies which are not based on any specific original.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Picasso Rules, OK?

On Twitter, I pointed out that Pablo Picasso did NOT say 
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Apart from the fact that no-one on the Internet ever cites a source for the supposed quote, the phrasing is so unlike Picasso (a turn-of-the-last-century Spaniard). It is, however, very much the sort of pithy one-liner favoured by motivational speakers from the united States.

In replying to my tweet, @revrvpark tweeted

You are saying it is a bogus quote. Would you also, as an artist, say it is bad advice? Isn't it better to have a deeper well to draw from?

That provoked me to think some more about the matter and here is an extended version of my reply.
It essential to understand thoroughly the methodology of your art form, but not to be constrained by established practice. As for rules, rules are made when people have lost sense of the essence of the practice. Rules are irrelevant to good art. A good artist will make art regardless of the "rules". The rules may be broken or not, but the artist doesn't care either way. What matters is the art. If the artist tries to just follow the rules, the art work will probably end up deadly dull and predictable, if perhaps technically competent. If the artist breaks the rules just for the sake of it or for the sake of controversy, the work will probably end up being a mess, without any depth to it. In both cases, the problem is that the artist has focused on the rules, rather than on the essence of art making.
In any case, I don’t think that whoever said this was actually giving advice to artists. Rather, I think that what was intended by this is something like: learn the rules thoroughly, so that you can break them with elegance and skill when and if you need to.
Personally, my inclination is toward the Taoist approach. Understand the essence and forget the rules.
And just to round things off, here is the master Pablo Picasso In His Own Words 

(from Picasso: In His Words  Hiro Clark, Editor)

“A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture lives only through the man who is looking at it.”
"Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us."

And my favourite 
"Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird?"

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New Gouache Paintings

I've been very busy making torn paper collages and getting an assemblage ready for the Art From Trash Show (more on this later).

I've been missing the pleasure of working in paint, particularly gouache. I really enjoy its luscious velvety quality, the way it interacts with water, how you can use it impasto, how you can lift colours and, if careful, use it in glazes. It's a remarkably versatile type of paint, much under-used and under-appreciated, in my view.

Having a small window of opportunity (30 minutes!) I whipped up these three simple semi-abstract landscapes. I can see a vague connection with the scenery observed on my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand. There are similarities to the Canterbury Plains area which we traveled through on the TransAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth. The website is not hyperbole. It is one of the world's great train journeys.

While I was painting these, I felt awed by the miracle of paint. How the texture, colours, marks and "accidents" suddenly conjure an image.It never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Recent Sales

Two of my  A4 size gouaches were sold at the recent National Exhibition of A4 Sized Artworks, curated by the Contemporary Art Society of Victoria. This was held as part of the Herring Island Summer Festival in Melbourne.

Edge of the Heartlands 1 (gouache)

" Edge of the Heartlands 1" is an intuitively developed painting. The image of the edge of a salt plain with the vestiges of man-made structures and the owlish bird has implicit layers of psychological meaning. 

Henderson's Place (gouache and watercolour)
"Henderson's Place" is a composite painting, made up of discrete, intersecting vignettes. It combines aerial views with conventional views and distant perspectives with close-ups. It draws on my memories of western Queensland, Australia.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Twitter Art Exhibit TAE17

Very pleased that my contribution to the Twitter Art Exhibit for 2017 was sold, raising money for Molly Olly's Wishes.

City Dawn (gouache on paper)

You can find out more about the Twitter Art Exhibit phenomenon here.

Basically, artists on Twitter donate a postcard size art work and the proceeds from the sale are given to charity. This year the Exhibit was held in Stratford upon Avon (as at the time of writing, still showing 2-19 April).

The recipient of this  last year's exhibit was Molly Olly's Wishes who support children with terminal and life threatening illnesses across the UK by providing wishes and therapeutic toys and books. . and on Twitter @MollyOllys 

The opening was a smash hit (Periscope footage)

I've been participating in the Twitter Art Exhibit since it was started up by David Sandum  @DavidSandum in 2010 as one the 260 artists from 24 countries who answered David's call to help raise funds for children's book for the Moss public library.

If you are an artist on Twitter, I would encourage you to get involved next year. As David said

Through art we can change the world.

And next year is NOW.

 If you are not an artist, I suggest you get along to Canberra, Australia next THIS year for TAE18 and buy big for Pegasus Riding for the Disabled.  who provides horse and farm activities for people with a disability in the Canberra region.

For more information on the Twitter Art Exhibit

Twitter:          @twitrartexhibit 
Instagram:      Please find us on Instagram by searching: TwitterArtExhibit
Hashtags:     #TwitterArtExhibit #TAE17 #TAE18

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Paintings for sale on Blue Thumb

I have recently added this series of moody semi-abstract landscapes to my Blue Thumb site for sale.

The paintings were developed intuitively over a three week period. For me, an unapologetic Romantic, they evoke the drama of a storm in the highlands of Tasmania.

Makes me want to declaim Shakespeare:

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head!   (King Lear Act 3 Scene 2)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Paintings accepted for show

The Art Society of Tasmania have just accepted two of my painting for the upcoming "Water ways" show to be held in conjunction with the wooden boat festival here in Hobart, Tasmania.

Surge 1 (A surge 2 is awaiting varnishing and Surge 3 is on the easel) and Bicheno Blowhole.

Surge 1

Bicheno Blowhole

The show will be at the Long Gallery, Salamanca and run from 10 to 19 February.

Update: 14 February "Bicheno Blowhole" is sold.