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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Sending Your Work Out Into The World

Things get busy when there are exhibitions lurking about!  It’s been a busy time preparing work for several exhibitions, as well as getting the four small paintings below ready to go to Miss Bond, a lovely shop in the Salamanca Arts Centre here in Hobart.

“Tryst”, “Around and About”, “Rendezvoux” and “Orbit” all 20cm x 20cm square

I really enjoy painting these little paintings.  They’re so crisp and playful.

On another playful note, here are three of them on display at Miss Bond accompanied by shadows and reflections.

These two paintings (below) have been dropped off for the bi-annual Clarence Open Art Exhibition which is on from 2 to 24 July 2022. It’s held at Rosny Farm Art Centre and Rosny Barn in Rosny Park.

“Veil” 60cm wide x 70cm high

Just before publishing this “Studio News” I visited the Exhibition. While I was standing near “Veil” a collector arrived with one of the exhibition organisers to place a red “sold” dot under it! I wonder, what are the chances of a sale happening with the artist there on a casual visit and standing not far away from the painting?!

Back to business ….. To facilitate the hanging of “Party at the Gorge I needed a large cradled panel.  I’m pleased to say that I was able to pull off that minor feat of carpentry with help from a friend and my husband.

“Party at The Gorge” 67cm wide x 70cm high

At one of the art get togethers that I attend, we recently had a covid variety Cancer Council fund-raiser. Usually, it’s a morning tea for all the various groups that frequent the Centre but, as we all know, covid changes things.

This year it was decided to have everyone work, in their groups, on specially chosen master works by artists like Picasso, Vermeer etc. We were all given an outline copy of the artwork to work on in whatever way we chose. You can see some of the results below. Our room sure looked brighter when they were all put up. For the privilege of this experience, we each made a donation, and supplied ourselves with morning tea.

It was a great idea, something different, and very interesting to see the variety of approaches that were taken. Mine is a mixture of collage and paint (below). It’s after one of Picasso’s Weeping Woman paintings. Others used materials from their area of expertise, such as fabric and wool. One was entirely collage, another completely monochrome, everyone’s choices varied greatly. It really got some creative juices flowing. Lots of fun! Some “Weeping Women” looked positively distraught, others less so.

I’ve had a forced break from art for a couple of weeks but I’m back in the saddle now.

There are more paintings to prepare for coming exhibitions, cradled panels to be constructed and new works to begin. An artist’s work is never done. That is, if you can call it work!

New art on Bluethumb.

Only one listing since the last Studio News but I have more to finalise. Another job for the list!

“Within the Boundary” 40cm x 40cm square

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Using Loss of Control to Your Advantage

It occurred to me recently that, not only is the painting of each piece of art out of my full control, but, so is the whole adventure. No longer do I, or can I, plan what a painting might look like.  Neither, can I plan where I’m headed on this journey in the short or long term!

Firstly, the act of painting.

I’ve been “planning” a couple of things. One is, to mix some more original colours before I start and make the paintings more authentically mine.  Also, I’ve had lots of ideas for design starting points.  I seem to collect heaps of them for just this purpose! 

But, it just doesn’t happen folks.  The gear is laid out, the paper ready and in I go, with minimal, if any, thought of my plans, loose as they may be.  Stuff just happens, as it did in the first stage of the painting above, leaving me with the job of deciding what “it” wants and following the leads.

At this next stage, below, I’ve collaged on some paper, some of which is thickish handmade paper. I’m wondering if it’ll last the distance? But, hey, I’m not in charge, so who cares.

I pressed on with it, feeling both out of control and excited.

It seemed like a good idea to digitally explore the possibilities so I used a photo editing app to play about with the paintings. Using the “whiten” feature I designed various sky shapes. Two variations are shown below.

I ended up with heaps of options! Which to choose!?

Below, I’ve painted the first layer of white paint for the sky shape of the selected option. Then, it tells me, “fix” that big blue bit at the bottom.

So, I did that, but still not happy …. it needs a little something?

It’s only minor but I added some graphite outlines and emphasised others. But! It’s still out of control! I can’t seem to “like” it enough for it to be finished. Not sure it should even exist! (It may be the first layer of something else.)

So, you can see, there really isn’t any way to control where a painting will finish up when working like this. There may be more to do on this one, or it might be painted over. These developments, however, inevitably lead to new ideas and discoveries, both welcome and unwelcome!

Secondly – overall plans for the year.  I made a few in some areas, such as a small list of themes or “subjects” to tackle!?  But, you guessed it.  We’re not on track there either. We’re off somewhere looking for something else, with no idea what it is!

Now, to be fair to plan making, my art and I are heading in the general direction that I planned. I’m making art and moving forward with associated stuff. It’s just that our route is taking us on a few unforeseen deviations along the way.  It makes for a more interesting trip. Who knows where we’ll finish up!

Do you suspect, as I do, that art might be different to a lot of other things, in that all this change and redirection of effort can successfully be allowed to happen? It can lead you to the unknown but pleasing goal you didn’t know you had!  The one you were not obliged to achieve.  And along the way you created paintings that you didn’t know you were going to paint.

New Paintings

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

“Shardonnay Mountain” 71cm wide x 67cm high
“Stay Cool” 68cm wide x 66cm high

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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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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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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. 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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Out There

One of my clear memories is a sort of feeling of release and relaxed bliss.  At some point I seem to fill up with awe at what surrounds me and the fact that I am able to be there.  There’s usually a big sigh and a feeling of peaceful contentment to follow.  Joy!

What is this rambling on about?

It’s how I sometimes feel when out in the wild landscape.  Here, in Tasmania we have some wonderful bushwalks that take us out among the mountains, rivers, a multitude of various types of landscapes.  It’s where I love to be!  Even better if there’s time to sketch (an artists’ equivalent of smelling the roses!).  You may have seen the photos in the last Studio News.

These works are the beginnings of a new series – “Out There.”  It’s a broad theme which leaves my options wide open.  What will develop as I find my way around the ideas? Where will it lead?  Perhaps, in future series things will narrow down a bit and be more specific.

(This first layer could be titled “Into the Blue”! (I got carried away using my new painting wedge.) There’s a lesson there, but I’m not sure what it is? It’s either go slow, or don’t? Things can work out either way it seems.)

These photos show the first layer for two of the paintings.

(This one is more random!)

Where to next? Sky shapes were used to define the mountain range. Later, more white was added to the sky.

There was an urge to draw into them rather than add too much more paint. So, out came the Neocolour II crayons that have been sitting about for ages awaiting this precise moment! (They haven’t inspired me much before, so we’ll see how this goes.)

(This is the painting from above after I had a little play with the Neocolours.)

There are five of these long ones (70×30cm) in the group. They’re great to just wander up to, make a few marks and wander off again. That’s one of the benefits of drawing materials … ease of use!

Is this one done yet?

New Work

“Genesis” is now available on Bluethumb.

“Genesis” 54.5cm wide x 56.5cm high

Until next time and ….. as the sign someone was holding up in our street this week said …… “Keep your chin up”!

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

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