Two Ways You Can Influence Yourself

During a recent break from social media I thought about what my free time was bringing to my creativity.  A wandering mind is a curious thing.

This photo and the compilation image of four sketches below it are from a recent wander at Mt Field National Park. Lots of inspiration and influence up there!

The first thing I noticed about my social media break was that all the stuff I didn’t see wasn’t influencing my art.  Fair observation I guess, even if rather obvious!

The good thing about that observational gem is that I found myself being influenced by my own work.  (It’s a never ending circular type phenomenon …. if you let it happen.)  I was forced to think more within myself.  Solutions and ideas weren’t available at the click of a button, nor were they offering themselves uninvited on my screen.

Images such as the one below provide real life influences. These Pencil Pines (Athrotaxis cupressoides) are listed as vulnerable because their population is decreasing.  I love their form.  Even the dead ones are inspiring. Look at how those plants in the foreground are hugging the rock.  There’s a feeling of desperation.)

Something else I do is encourage or allow inspiring “what if?” thoughts to turn up.  They’re related to my art on the whole and often provide me with an exciting new direction to explore.  Sometimes, it’s just an intuitive feeling that “something” is going to come, soon, if I just let it happen. With more free time the “what ifs” began to turn up more often.

What if I throw down some collage before I start my plein air sketch?  So I chose some collage paper I thought was suitable and glued it down.  The “what if” became a “wonder if”. I wonder if this idea will take me somewhere new?

What if I draw as I’m walking along the beach? Literally …. because there’s little to trip over! And, what if I overlap the drawings? “Salty” the duck was doing her own “what if”. She was foraging for food in the wet sand at the waterline.

What if by the end of my break away from looking at the screen, I am able to breakaway from some of the stuff that often keeps my art predictable?  (From my point of view at least.)  What if it feels more authentically mine?

A “what if?” is by nature something new that you haven’t thought of or done before.  So, presumably, it could lead you somewhere you haven’t been yet.

Amazing how more time and quiet, subconscious, consideration can put a spark in your thoughts and your art! 

New Work

Here are several new pieces that have been listed for sale on Bluethumb. Click the images for more information.

“Verdant” 68cm wide x 71cm high
“Romp” 71cm wide x 68cm high
“On the Face of It” 66cm wide x 67cm high
“Forces at Play” 98cm wide x 68cm high

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Working With Wedges

I’m continuing my explorations with the wedges I bought recently. It’s amazing how many random sundry items can be used to drag paint around a piece of paper, old credit cards, cardboard, kitchen utensils……!

(Paint dabbed on direct from the tube then pulled across the paper.)

It’s just so much fun. I find it hard to stop myself from overdoing it and ending up with a muddy mess!

You can also scrape into the paint with these wedgy devices to create interesting effects. Even combs meant for hair provide interesting marks, as long as you don’t go overboard. Finally, a use for those head lice combs I had for the kids!

(I’ve used an old comb and my wedges here.)

They really are a recipe for fun, experimentation and adventure. The hard part is balancing the excited kid and creating an image with a hint of artistic finesse! “Revelation” which I’ll be uploading to Bluethumb soon, was a success story in this regard. Here it is after the first restrained session.

(The beginning of “Revelation”)

With something like this you tend to become tentative about what to do next for fear of wrecking everything. This time I opted to paint in a sky shape quickly and step away. (Must maintain that fresh quality).

Anyway, this is how “Revelation” turned out. It’s one of the lucky ones in that I was able to hold back from overworking things. It felt so good but it means everything happens so fast!

(The completed “Revelation”)

I said to some fellow artists last week that I need a helper, not to do bits of painting or other things, but to stand beside me and snatch my tools away at the most opportune moment in a painting’s development.

I’m about to start some new larger wedgy ones so we’ll see what develops there.

I took some wedge type tools with me on our recent plein air outing. I was hoping it would help make my sketches looser. In the process I discovered a couple of new ways to use them.

(Plein air sketch using wedges and a big graphite crayon for drawing.)

New Work

“Table Cape” and “Dominion” (cousins of “Revelation”) have been uploaded to Bluethumb. They’re both unframed but Bluethumb offers a great framing service.

“Table Cape” 68cm wide x 25cm high
“Veil” 68cm wide x 28cm high

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Art is a Fickle Business

One minute you’re all set to race off in one direction then, something new shows up.  Don’t get me wrong though.  It’s is not a bad thing!

Limiting myself or my art to a particular style seems counter-productive. There”s way too much to do and that’s without any new ideas or discoveries that come up.  The enthusiasm would wane if I imposed limitations on style. I need to be able to take full advantage of unplanned, random “opportunities”.

(“Play things” with a license to be fickle!)

While working on this issue of Studio News, an example of how things can change unexpectedly emerged.

I was processing progress photos of the day’s work and some needed rotating. It turned out that one was better upside-down! In my eyes at least! In the group of four progress shots below you can see the difference. I guess we’re conditioned to see land as darker than sky most of the time anyway.

(Stages 1 to 4 of a current exploration.)

As I pondered, my mind went off on a tangent, automatically brainstorming, the implications and possibilities, as well as how to resolve this painting? This change of direction (literally!) might see me veer off on yet another exciting tangent. I don’t know yet, but I can feel “something”.

It was only a minor fickleness episode but it could change the course of this painting and my art generally. Who knows! It’s a big adventure.

Another painting in the series has shown me something else to investigate. Layer one didn’t cut it, nor did layer two. So I plastered some 3 in 1 paint over the whole shebang. Now I have a background that I really like and it’s asking for something. I don’t know what. It’ll be a waiting game I suspect. An incubation period. Another adventure.

(Layers 1, 2 and 3, top to bottom)

Sometimes, it really is difficult to know what to pursue and what to forget. I think the only way to cope with all this fickleness might be to act on impulse. You know, those sudden intuitive directives that say “just do this, or that” or “what if we do this?” Be impulsive and fickle right back, test the fickleness, use it. Trust your judgement and intuition. Don’t be predictable. Instil a little adventure and excitement into the process and let it show.

New Work

“Trackwork” and “Swell” are now listed on Bluethumb

“Trackwork” 40cm wide x 28cm high
“Swell” 68cm wide x 25cm high

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Keeping the Momentum

Happy New Year to you all!  Let’s get into 2022.

A couple of post Christmas bushwalks in our Southwest National Park have inspired me with their fantastic scenery.  We walked up Clear Hill and then into Lake Judd a few days later.  They’re opposites scenery wise so I have a variety of influences floating about in my mind.

(Amazing conglomerate rockforms on the way up Clear Hill)
(The birth of the Anne River at Lake Judd with the Eliza Plateau behind.  We contemplated the possibility of floating down the river instead of walking back!)

Whilst these photos show the wonderful scenery I’m not aiming to paint realistically.  Rather, my aim is to bear in mind the visual forms and textures, the feel of the place and my emotional reactions.

(The hills on the way to Lake Judd.  The area was burnt about three years ago.)

Ok, enough of that.  Let’s get started on the painting!

I thought I’d show you some progress shots of a couple of paintings from a current group of seven. They’re based on memories of the above plus bits and pieces I like about “Switchback” (below).

Somehow, I’ve ended up with two different styles in this group!  (Your guess is as good as mine as to why?!)

This first one was painted over a previous non-starter (below).

(Starting point – I thought it should work well because the palette is the same.)

As you can see in the photo below, I’m well into these paintings.

First, I created the hill shapes, then I thought scumbling or glazes might be a good way to go. A bit of lifting off opened things up. I scumbled the sky with layers of white and blue, trying to make it interesting, not too flat. Adding some new colour on the hills seemed a good idea and a “lake” began to appear.

(Stage 1)
(Stage 2)

In the version shown above acrylic ink was added to the foreground. It seems a bit too samey though, so, in the next photo (below) you can see I’ve lifted off paint to lighten some areas. I also darkened parts of the foreground to create more contrast. Almost there I think. Just wondering about lightening more areas on the foreground.

(Stage 3)

Now for the other style. It’s a bit more intuitive and abstracty but still with landscape shapes.

I managed to pull this out of the random starting marks!

(Stage 1)

I felt the stage above needed more colour so I’ve added raw sienna and turquoise inks (below) plus I attacked the sky and painted over some of the drips.

(Stage 2)

I then added warm colour in the white areas but it’s not feeling finished yet. I’m still feeling uncomfortable with that light square even though it’s smaller. Can that sky do with lightening too?

(Stage 3)

A couple of the paintings in this group are tentatively finished, but I like to wait a bit in case I see things to fine tune. Some paintings say “I’m done” quite quickly while others take their time.

It’s time to think of the next challenge.

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Resolutions in December!

Things have progressed with the “On My Marks” series and it’s time to start contemplating what’s next.  I guess that’s fitting for the new year!

There are eight works at 25 x 25cm and most of them have changed quite a lot from those first marks.

“Switchback”, below, is the most successful I think.  It’s going to be the inspiration for another series shortly.  I like the way I’ve done the sky and the variety of marks and shapes that make up the “land”.

Switchback” 25cm wide x 25cm high

Reactions vary when my arty friends see me working on my art.  It’s interesting to see who likes what and sometimes, I can predict their preferences.  My own favorites will sometimes be different again.  Regardless though, I keep plugging away towards some sort of resolution.

Resolution?  It can be at one of several stages.  I might feel quite unsatisfied with things or I can be comfortable with what I’ve done to varying degrees.  The best result for me is to be feeling excited and inspired to move forward.  There’s a large range of perceptions between the two extremes of unsatisfied and excited!  The “unsatisfying” paintings are set aside, in “halfway hell”,  to be reviewed sometime in the future.  They might get a touch up if I can see something to improve, or they may end up in the reuse box.

This one has been a challenge.  A problem child that wouldn’t cooperate!  It’s going to “halfway hell” but I’m leaning towards using it for collage.

The in-between/comfortable paintings sit, waiting, until I make alterations or come to another conclusion regarding their fate.  Are they done or not?  I have to remind myself that not everything can be “exciting”.  They might still be good enough to send out into the world.

This fellow is one I feel comfortable with.  It’s almost there but I need to think about why that is the case and what I might want to do about it.

The “exciting” ones are offered for sale and entered into exhibitions.  There are only two in this series that feel “exciting” at this stage.  “Switchback” above, at the start of this Studio News, and “Refuge” below.

Refuge” 25cm wide x 25cm high

“Refuge” is one that felt exciting to varying degrees along the way.  I still like it and it’s a starter for exhibitions etc.

Bearing in mind the different opinions of others when deciding these things is fraught with danger.  I need to make the decisions myself otherwise I’ll forever feel uncomfortable about what I do with particular pieces.

I think, putting the doubtful ones aside earlier, rather than later, frees me up to build on what has been successful.  Some would prefer to keep at it, trying to resolve things, but I feel better if I put them aside and move on.  Depending on how far aside I put them, I may review things later and do more!

I wish you all a very happy and enjoyable Christmas and I hope the New Year brings all you hope for along with some nice surprises you weren’t expecting!

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On My Marks Series

I’m on the move!  With all the work for the final 2021 exhibition organised I started a new group of paintings …. the “On My Marks” series!

The above is a tiny section of a mark making and collage exercise.  It appealed to me immediately. I like the shapes and the flow of the lines.  Now that I look closer, I can see a sneaky “s” hiding in there.  It’s basically a curvy design with a hint of diagonals. That texture is nice too.  The crop won’t be translated visibly into the new work, it’s a starting point, an inspiration!

The palette of colours I’m using is one I’ve been playing with for a while.  Pthalo blue and raw umber yellowish with black and white.  I’ve added cadmium yellow light to the mix.  It’s providing some brightness and a little touch of playfulness.

(The bottom sheet are mixes made with the addition of the cadmium yellow light.)

I started with eight small squares taped together.  To begin, I made some intuitive marks using leftover paint from exploring the colour mixes.  Then, some drawing with water soluble graphite and water flicked about to create a few drips.

Standing back to look at them, I felt they needed a bit more warm colour.  So I added more marks with a raw umber yellowish mix, did a spot of drawing with a coloured pencil, made some more drips and lifted off things here and there.  Then, I left them alone to “cook” for a while.  We’ll see what I feel like after that.

It can be difficult not to plough ahead with things, but sometimes I get to a point where I know I’m just continuing for the sake of it, not because I have a useful contribution to make.

Here are two of the squares.  I’m more interested in the bottom one than the top one.  There’s still a way to go though, so don’t panic!

(The first step of these two is on the left, and the next stage, with more warmth, on the right. A little “spot the differences” moment for you!)

What to do next?  I had a look and decided to do whatever came to mind, or hand!  I started with a bit of collage, then felt I needed to lighten them up with “sky” areas.  I was led by each image as I worked.  (If they are leading me I don’t have to take responsibility do I?)

Sometimes you don’t know whether what you want to do is right or not.  No, that’s all the time really I think!  It means that you do things and immediately regret them.  I often wonder why I keep taking things further when I liked what I had at the start.  People often say that you build up a history by creating layers.  I think that’s true and I have done that successfully, but I’m not convinced it’s the only way to work.

The four images below are the two paintings I picked out to show you earlier.  I’ve done more to them now.  The first one has been turned upside down!  They’re still not done.

(I’m not sure that I like the green here.  Nor do I feel very fond of the blobbiness of the “hill”, although, there are some interesting marks in there.)
(After a bit more work.)
(I quite like the make up of the bottom part of this one.  The colour seems better somehow, even though there’s green here too.  Maybe that sky needs to be taken back to white…..or blue?!)
(This sky seems to bring it to life.)

The others are coming along too, but there’s more to do.  Either more to do or more to learn!  Painting is a learning experiece as well as a creative one.  There’s always more to learn, especially from the “duds”.

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Trying Times

Ok, so things were organised for the first exhibition on the list and it’s been fun trying out a couple of different things.  There’s a busy time coming up exhibition-wise! These three paintings were entered in our local Art Society exhibition.

“Fusion”
“Summit”
“Glacial”

Things have changed course a little at the moment. I did an online course by Bibby Gignilliat which involves greater use of collage.

(These pictures show the first layer of four 30 x 30cm images.)

It’s fun plastering pieces of paper down willy-nilly without having to think much about it. Just grab a piece you like the look of, tear it up if you want, try a placement or two and glue it down. I even graduated to spreading the glue with my fingers! Takes you back to early childhood! After all, aren’t we all trying to regain that childhood freedom in our art? It remains to be seen whether I start actually painting with my hands, we’ll have to wait and see about that one.


The image above shows the next stage in the development of one of the exercises. At this stage you’re not concerned with composition. It’s about creating a “surface/history”. I’m not sure where they’re headed yet but I do like the surface the process has created so far.

Something else I’ve been trying (thanks to Jenny Nelson) is an exercise in mark-making that leads into design and composition. You create dark marks of any sort, freely and randomly, spreading them around the paper. Then the paper is cut up into squares (I like the idea of just tearing it up too).

It’s like a jigsaw or puzzle with no image for guidance. A design forms as you play. Squares are swapped and moved about until you find something you like, then they’re glued down. Working with black and white helps you quickly see the basic design. It’s much easier to decide whether things work or not and simple to make adjustments as well.

Ok, one done, so now what?

Well, now you can use these value plans or designs in paintings. You can also alter them as you see fit, then use them, cut them up again in a different way, or make bigger designs out of several.  I’ve changed the one from above so it’s more to my liking (below).

Having a design you like that has impact, movement and interest helps the painting process in general, as well as guiding decision-making as paintings near completion. Notice I said guide. These things are not carved in stone!

I’m looking forward to where both these exercises might take my work.

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