Who Moved the Goal Posts?

When is creative work finished? It’s a question that is almost as frustrating as asking what the meaning of life is!

In an attempt to figure it out, we’ll follow five stages of “Vestige” as it goes from the “oh my goodness” stage to “ok, I see what’s needed” and on to completion

There are some creative pursuits where you know the finish point when you begin. They generally don’t tend to allow for much initiative or alteration along the way. Things like knitting to a pattern or building a house for instance. The creativity tends to happen prior to beginning the actual work. Thus, once you begin creating the “creation” you have a plan showing exactly where you need to head in order for your project to end successfully. Art, as in fine art, is not always like that.

As you can see there definitely wasn’t a plan for “Vestige”! Drastic measures were necessary after the above bout of intuitive play!

In the past my art was always planned, as mentioned previously, but now it is freer, led by what happens from minute to minute. It’s a great way to work. There’s more freedom, experimentation, questioning, playing and dreaming. However, it does mean that the “finished” stage can either jump out at you unexpectedly or, on the other hand, remain so elusive as to almost drive you mad!

Some artists, myself included, will often say that their art is telling them what it wants. What this really means is that we can either see what is needed, or we can’t. In which case the work gets done or we wait for “something” to occur to us. Often, the wait is long and tedious, as it was with “Vestige”! If you look closely around the upper left central area of the above photo you will see a small patch of light green. That patch could have inadvertently been covered in the painting frenzy but it remained visible to “tell me something”. You can see what I did with the idea in the finished painting below.

Since starting to work this way it has been difficult to accept that one piece in a series might be finished very quickly while another will test my patience severely, like “Vestige” did.

This piece “Hushed” is a collage on canvas and was finished right after the first piece of paper went on. (A large piece of tissue that I had prepared as part of a collage paper making session.) I stood there unsure, thinking it looked done, but I hadn’t done enough work, had I? It shouldn’t feel finished yet, should it?

It’s sister piece (above) which you’ve seen before remained “unfinished”. It didn’t feel done and sat around taunting me for a few weeks. How could I make it feel “finished”?

I didn’t want to overwork it but at the same time it felt like something was needed. Should it be left aside for later review or succumb to the changes that were lurking in my mind. The fact that the changes didn’t feel “solid” made me hesitate. I wasn’t even sure which way was up!

Eventually, a decision was made to add some collage to the sides of the canvas and reassess things after that. It didn’t alter the face of the canvas, but the sides now look finished!

There’s still uncertainty over this one. Maybe it might tell me it’s title and all will come together and make sense!

New Art Listings

Recently added on Bluethumb. Click the image to see more.

“Feeling Frosty” 40cm square

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Diversification – A Bit of Carpentry

As a general rule, being an artist and making art means displaying it for others to see.  That exercise involves framing, packaging in a matboard mount or attaching it to something else that can be hung on a wall.

New frames can be a very costly exercise and I seldom use them these days. Cradled wooden panels have become my preferred way to display work.

Currently, I work on heavy cartridge paper using acrylic paint and mixed media.  It means more paintings can be started and allows greater freedom and spontaneity because, “it’s just a piece of paper”.  The paintings, if successful, then require framing or mounting on cradled wooden panels like the one below (reverse side pictured).

Here we have a difficulty.  You cannot buy large sizes of these cradled panels easily where I live and if you can they seem to be quite flimsy and warp easily.  Thus, they are best made to order. I decided to learn the craft myself.  Luckily, my husband has helped a lot. Also, a friend has gone down this track before me and has been able to give me some tips! Check out her art at gayeoakes.com

Like any new task this one involved some planning and the gathering of various bits and pieces: mitre saw, plywood, lengths of wood for the cradle on the back, glue, sandpaper, nails, filler, hammer, clamps and a ruler. My new Bessey variable size clamp is shown below.  A slight rearrangement of the studio was necessary to allow room to move with lengths of timber.  A heavy strong table to work on helps too.

I’ve made several panels now and it seems to be going ok.  Smaller sized panels are easier because there’s no need for bracing the cradle to prevent warping.  However, larger sizes require cross bracing as shown above. 

Frustrations, so far, have been in the form of balancing perfectionism and budding woodwork skills.  They tell me it’s going pretty well, all things considered, which is good.

Taking on new tasks initially involves learning.  After that comes a settling in period where you are improving, refining skills and work methods.  The hope is to make everything streamlined and straight forward.  Plus, hopefully, speed the process up a bit.  Well, one aims for that at least!

This is the clamp in action (above) and a small finished panel (below) which is ready to have a painting attached.

I’m enjoying the process so far.  Let’s hope that continues because “someone” needs to make them!

Yes, I’m still making art as well! 

Here’s a collage that started as a first layer for “something”.  Sometimes, these first steps stump me.  They can look like they’re almost done when I’ve just began.  It’s most perturbing for someone that likes to “get their teeth into things”! We’ll have to wait and see what eventuates here.

Just to balance things out a bit, here’s one where a third “let’s start again” layer isn’t doing it for me!

New Work

These new pieces were listed on Bluethumb recently.

All the Rest is Sky” 40cm square
Sanctuary in Monochrome” 40cm square

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Start Strong and Follow Your Intuition

Enthusiasm is usually pretty high when beginning new work.  That was the case with this painting.  Let’s see what happened along the way and what seems to have eventuated.

It started with some fun wedge marks using “in your face” Indian yellow. Cheerful, but a bit much all over things eh!

Sticking with “in your face” colour I applied red gold and white, along with some graphite lines. Scratching about to create some texture seemed like a good idea too.

I couldn’t get away from the strong colour so I thought, ok, stick with it. On went some pthalo turquoise and white in a frenzy of mark making. Oh well! That was fun, but mmm? What now?

No! I thought. That’s enough killer colour! So, now, how to deal with it? Easy option …. wedge on some white, not to thickly cover it, but to take the edge off. After that it cried out for some glazing. So, I obliged using a little red gold, not much, and some Indian yellow.

When I say not much red gold I mean only a little glazing-wise, but those stronger lines were added as well. It was a risk I took and I think it paid off. The lines provide a nice structure.

It might be finished (above) but I’m going to wait a short time to see if my completion comfort level changes. It’s a fairly busy painting which feels a little unsettling.

(Detail)

If the painting sits well after a break it’ll be declared done and take its place on Bluethumb. There’s a slight question in my mind about whether to highlight or push back some parts, or perhaps a bit of both.

(Detail)

The beauty of waiting a while is that, usually, as soon as you look at it again, you know exactly how you feel. The break provides a bit of emotional distance and allows you to view things objectively as well as letting your intuition have a say if it feels inclined.

Ok, what’s next?

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Why Do We Need a Why?

There’s lots information out there about needing to have “something” to offer in order for people to connect with us or want our art. A point to argue or illustrate.  A cause to champion.  A story to tell.  A theme.  A colour palette.   A mood.   A consistent feeling or look, and so it goes on.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into having to “provide” all that anymore.  To justify what I’m doing with “art wank”.  (As MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, here in Hobart calls it.) Besides, you can’t please everyone!  Either people appreciate what you do or they don’t.  I paint because I want to paint.  Simple! 

Sure, it’s nice when others approve, purchase a piece or a painting gets an award, but these things are short-lived and not the main motivating force as I work. There may be themes, colours, a cause or a story to tell, but they will have arisen internally as part of the process, not because it’s an external requirement. In fact most of my art is informed play that may become a painting …. if the art gods are willing.

Landscape is my thing and there are many reasons why that is so.  It varies all the time and I love the variety as much as I love making art.  I don’t feel I need a big overarching reason.  Making art is making art …. an experience to be enjoyed.

It’s an inquisitiveness that drives me.  A need to try some things, learn and discover, see what is “out there”, or “in there.” To make an image, that becomes a record of this wonderful process.

ART is a big word!

It’s a privilege being “in charge”, consciously or not, of this creative “thing”.  And it is a big “thing” because it becomes bound up with your very existence.  Creativity and making art has been my companion as long as I can remember. It doesn’t define who we are, it’s just what we love to do.

I know of artists that have “worked” almost right up to their last breath.  A local artist I know has failing sight but it doesn’t come anywhere near curtailing her art activities.  She’s an inspiration.  It’s a need and a love of doing it that drives us forward. Not the idea of making something for others.

Can artists choose to just enjoy making art and viewers just enjoy looking at it?

No commentary, philosophical reasons or wordy explanations.

Pure enjoyment for all!

I may be oversimplifying it, but sometimes I think we could do with more appreciation of the simpler side of things.

New Paintings

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

“Catchment” 98cm wide x 68cm high
“Persistence” 40cm wide x 40cm high

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Click here to find out about exhibitions Wendy currently has work in.

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Details Without Fuss (or the Devil!)

There are some wonderful treasures that present themselves to artists.

(A favourite detail. A tree that happened by chance.)

I start my paintings with a layer of playfully random marks. After each layer I take a photo for my records. Occasionally, there’s a painting that draws my attention more strongly, keeps me absorbed, finding more and more areas of interest. Sections to use as focus areas, places to hold a viewer’s attention or to spark ideas for new work. Indeed, my Instagram feed is loaded with such images!

The details or areas of greater interest that I speak of here are happenstance, random and unplanned. Yet, they forthrightly demand my attention, my glance and my imagination. Often, on a scale much greater and stronger than those that I could plan.

(I love the freedom and fun of these details.)

Chance details are suggestive, not prescribed. They are open, often ambiguous and beautiful to look at. They leave much to the viewer to determine for themselves. It’s an adventure where everyone’s interpretation can be their own.

(This is a detail from “Veil” (below). A great one to inspire another landscape on a larger scale.)

Have you experienced circumstances where one person can see something in an image, yet others must strain, not visually, but imaginatively, to see it? It’s one reason why I have come to enjoy non-realistic or abstract paintings so much. I know there is great skill in painting realistically because I have attempted it myself. I also know artists that “do” realism to perfection. Now though, I much prefer to create art that leaves a lot of the interpretation to the viewer and let’s me create with freedom.

I like to think that my past experience and knowledge emerge automatically to help me as I create. (Learning to trust yourself and your judgement is the key I think.) It leaves room for a more relaxed, playful process. Treasures and chance effects can emerge into the openness of abstract creation but they would be locked away should I insist on depicting purely what I see.

(Look at all the details in this. Too many for me, but there’s lots of inspiration and ideas.)

“The devil is in the detail” they say! Concentrate on the detail too much and it will be to the detriment of the whole image, stifling any sense of creative freedom. Too much fussy detail will do the same, giving the viewer too much to interpret or worse still, nothing to interpret! Of course detail overkill can happen with any painting.

By the same token though, a beautifully executed hyper realistic painting can take your breath away. In these works the detail serves a purpose, it’s not included just for the sake of it, to prop up a poor design, or because it’s there and the artist’s eye sees it all. These details work with everything else in the painting to unify the whole work, not to “rescue” it.

(I took the lines for a walk in this one using wedges and pencil. The dragging creates some wonderful effects.)

It can definitely be a challenge walking the fine line between just enough and overkill.

A bit of Luck!

“Veil” is exhibited at the Huon Art Awards at Cygnet here in Tassie. To my surprise it was awarded Highly Commended in the Acrylic Section. The exhibition is in the Cygnet Town Hall, open daily 10 to 4 until 20 March.

“Veil” 60cm wide x 70cm high

New Work

“Revelation” is available unframed on Bluethumb. Bluethumb offer an easy to use framing service where your artwork is framed during its journey to you.

“Revelation” 60cm wide x 70cm high

“Another Turn” is a small 20x20cm ready to hang painting that I’ve listed this week.

“Another Turn” 20cm wide x 20cm high

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Click here to find out about exhibitions Wendy currently has work in.

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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. Why not 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. 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

A couple of 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 there are a variety of influences floating about.

(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 the aim is not 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!

Here are 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, we 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, the paintings are progressing well.

First, the hill shapes were created, then some scumbling or glazing on parts. A bit of lifting off opened things up. The sky was scumbled with layers of white and blue …. trying to make it interesting and 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. Parts of the foreground were darkened to create more contrast. Almost there I think. Just wondering about lightening more areas in 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)

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

(Stage 2)

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

(Stage 3)

A couple of the paintings in this group are tentatively finished, but there’s a “cooling off” period in case there are 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.

You can see all my art on Bluethumb.

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Click here to find out about exhibitions Wendy currently has work in.

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A Series of Resolutions

There are eight works in the On My Marks series 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 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.  It’s interesting to see who likes what and sometimes their preferences are predictable.  My favorites are often different again.  Regardless though, I keep plugging away towards some sort of resolution.

Resolution?  It can be at one of several stages.  Things might feel unsatisfying or uncomfortable to varying degrees.  The best result 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 there’s 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” or the collage box.

This fellow feels fairly comfortable. It’s “almost” there. “Almost”, why is that the case and what do we do about it?

The in-between/barely comfortable paintings sit, waiting for alterations or until another conclusion is reached regarding their fate.  Are they done or not?  Not everything can be “exciting”.  They might still be good enough to send out into the world.

The “exciting” ones are listed on the website and entered into suitable 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.  It’s a starter for exhibitions etc.

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

Putting the doubtful ones aside earlier, rather than later, frees you up to build on what has been successful.  Some would prefer to keep at it, trying to resolve things, but I like to put them aside and move on.  Depending on how far aside they are put, I may review things later and do more!

You can see my available art at Bluethumb.

Images in the website Gallery also link directly to Bluethumb.

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On My Marks Series

On the move with 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, the shapes and the flow of the lines.  If you look close, 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!

This palette of colours is one I’ve been playing with for a while.  Pthalo blue and raw umber yellowish with black and white, with cadmium yellow light added 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.)

The series started with eight small squares taped together.  To begin, intuitive marks were made 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, it felt like 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, they were allowed to “cook” for a while.

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

Here are two of the squares.  The bottom one is more interesting 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!  A bit of collage, then they needed lightening up with “sky” areas.  The images were leading the way.  (If they”re leading me I don’t have to take responsibility!)

Sometimes you don’t know whether what you want to do is right or not.  No, that’s all the time really!  It means that you do things and immediately regret them.  Why do you go further when you liked what you had originally? People often say that you build up a history by creating layers.  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 shown earlier.  I’ve done more to them now.  The first one has been turned upside down!  They’re still not done.

(Not sure that I like the green here.  Not feeling very fond of the blobbiness of the “hill”, although, there are some interesting marks in there.)
(After a bit more work.)
(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.  More to do or more to learn, or both!  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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Click here to find out about exhibitions Wendy currently has work in.

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