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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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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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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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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Sticky Situations

Have you ever been plagued by being stuck, unable to move forward? Desperately wanting to run towards your dream but, somehow, unable to move. A ball and chain around your ankle perhaps.

(I keep wanting to move Mickey’s apparatus closer to the wall!)

There’s lots of advice (other than silly gifs) on the web to “assist” you in this quest! I’ve always believed that it’s really only me that can find a way around my ruts. But it’s very frustrated when you get stuck again and again and end up feeling like there’s a major fault somewhere that needs fixing.

“Just do it” they say. Yeah, right! Like it’s that easy! There are any number of “solutions” out there, none of which have worked very well so far.

There are so many factors that can contribute to these frustrating times that you have to be very lucky to find the right solutions. Our lives are so variable and different and our backgrounds just as much so. Surely “just do it” is an oversimplification. Does it come from people who miraculously don’t seem to have these problems?

Yet, at the same time it seems to be one of the keys because no matter what tiny thing you start with, it’s likely to make you feel good about what you’ve done and it might lead to more action, at least in the short term. Just don’t “go big” too soon.

It worked today. I chose the mindless studio job of gessoing paper and got into the swing of it. The impetus led to gessoing over six old painting canvases, providing some inspiring textures to work with.

Recently, I watched a couple of videos about this problem and creativity in general.

One of them stated that you can’t keep going with self motivation alone. It later went on to say, about one of the proposed steps, that, you won’t feel like doing it, but you just have to! Wouldn’t that take motivation? Mmmm?

The same video suggested that action changes your mood. Yes, I would agree with this. Taking action means you can cross something off your list. Or, you’ve started and it’s most likely going to be easier to keep the momentum going. You might now be excited and have completed or moved closer to completing something.

(It worked with getting these cards ready for an exhibition. Small images were needed and I found a few so I kept going.)

The other video was looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s ideas and habits around creativity. The ideas, while seemingly simple, point again to motivation plus, interestingly, consistency in habits. Something that can seem difficult to maintain.

The stand out item here for me was keeping a notebook and consistently using it for various things that were suggested.

(I did make a list of items to get ready for the exhibition and it has helped keep me on track.  These A5 size images are now ready to mat up.)

So, to get moving ….. plan something vaguely motivational, however small, to get you started, take some action, write about and record it, make more plans in your notebook and …. back to being motivated! Leonardo would be proud! Together, they all lead to action and hopefully the development of habits.

But what about the inevitable obstacle? Internal, external, emotional, physical and mental obstacles, out of our control or not. In my case, this puts me back to square one! The first video suggested planning for these obstacles.

But how?! Probably, the stronger, more long lived, the habit and the greater the importance we attach to it, the easier it will be to overcome obstacles?

This dreadful thing or one of its cleaning cousins can be constant obstacles for most of us!

For example, with respect to the “obstacle” above, I suspect most of us have been conditioned to feel better about our art time if we diligently put in some time using it, or a cousin, before starting our art! Only if it’s needed of course!

Obstacles come in a wide range of types and it seems complicated. But really it isn’t, once you have a good think, you can try to brush aside the unhelpful thoughts and alter unhelpful habits! You have to try, then try some more and more again, because it doesn’t seem to be consistent or predictable and circumstances change. Habits take a while to change as well. Some sort of reliable method is needed and it probably needs to be your own. Not that of an internet guru, who when it all boils down to it, is just like us, but they’ve found their own way and want to spread the good word!

My advice. Find your own way folks. I’m still looking!!

I like to remember these wise words that are generally attributed to Einstein:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Here’s to momentum and bliss in art!

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What’s Your Motivation?

Or, I could ask “What’s your poison?” because painting and art in general gets into your system and insidiously affects all you think and do. Motivation for most artists is so strong that at times nothing else matters, except perhaps a fire in the studio.

What’s my motivation?

Getting awards and selling a couple of pieces has prompted me to think a little more rationally and less emotionally about why I paint.

Emotion in the how is what we want folks. But, the wrong emotions taking over the why can lead you down many paths that won’t necessarily be good for your art or you.

(Getting motivated by doing collage sketches at the Lady Franklin Gallery!)

The “please buy my art” path will most likely be the undoing of some of the enjoyment in making your art. I’ve experienced this first hand and believe me, it’s soul destroying. I think I have partially let the need to sell go. Sales here and there are certainly great, but that’s a byproduct of painting and exhibiting, not a major reason for doing it.

There’s also the “Why didn’t I/when will I win?” mindset. This whole scene is quite fickle. Wondering whether you might win an award is counter productive. It stops you making art in a relaxed way. You tend to adjust what you think or do to suit judging at the expense of your own preferences. And, funnily enough it can detract from the art you create.

Judging awards is really down to the judges and is difficult to predict. Even if you have three judges, they are all going to have differing opinions about the work being judged. I know from experience that there are always other works as good as the winners, but for some reason, mostly unknown to the artists, a particular piece is chosen. Some years ago, a judge told me I won an award mainly because I had collage in my graphite drawing!

As for my personal motivation, I could ramble on with some arty garb, but I just want to paint, learn and improve my art. For me, the need to be creative, to paint or draw, comes before the subject, medium and techniques. My art (process and product) is, first and foremost, for me! 

With that in mind, these two paintings are the newest additions to the catalogue of art I have available. They’re two works from a small series where I recall really relaxing into painting and, as they say, “just doing it”!

Curvy” 20cm wide x 20cm high – To find out more on Bluethumb click here
“Orbit – 20cm wide x 20cm high – To find out more on Bluethumb click here

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Going Feral

When you receive word that your art has won an award it’s both humbling and exciting.  It makes you motivated to push the boundaries even further.  Although, I don’t think I’ll pursue this particular style further it will lead me somewhere new.

“Feral” was awarded Runner Up at a local Show

Likewise, selling a painting has a similar motivational effect. You need to make good use of these feelings by getting on with more art.

“Fusion” sold at the same show

Keeping Busy!

You know how there’s a plethora of art courses online?  Well…. just to add to my workload, I found two that I decided to squeeze in.

One, “Time to Shine” by Alice Sheridan seemed very timely and I could do with improving my social media posts etc.  There’s some excellent content and challenges to keep you busy!

The other was a Judy Wood’s workshop where I have been exploring a different way of working.  It involved collage, layering black, then some white paint and working towards an image on top of that.  I felt like I’d gone a bit feral when I covered the whole thing in black! I’m not sure I like a lot of black.

These are the paintings.

The one above was the first to feel sort of ok.  After thinking on it for a while, I made some minor adjustments in the bottom left corner. Still thinking though.

Number two here felt tentatively, almost, done after I demolished a large black area in the bottom third. That line on the left is trying to say something though?

I love how a picture can come to a point where it feels like it’s time to stop. It isn’t finished yet, you know that, but at some point, serendipity will play a part and the required touches will come to mind!  Just like magic!

Now for this little fellow.  Normally, I’m not keen on “seeing” things in my abstract work, unless I intend it of course, but for some reason I grew quite attached to this guy holding what could be a fishing rod.  Perhaps it’s treasure he hooked?  Anyway, I thought this one is a bit whimsical and could almost be declared “done”. 

However, as often happens, thoughts can change and after an incubation period all these works were all declared “feral” and unworthy of inclusion in the “finished” pile.

Back to the drawing, or painting board!

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Plenty to do!

I’m all set up in my new studio and there’s been a burst of play activity on the new painting wall!

The room is so much brighter than the old one and Jessie, our kelpie, and myself are loving having the French doors open. She naps and I work. Here’s a shot taken from the doorway. The walls are a lighter than they look here. Cameras!!??

Can’t wait to get settled into producing whatever artworks are lurking about.

Apart from painting the studio, building the painting wall with my husband, then moving in, it’s been a busy time organising pieces for three exhibitions that are coming up.

Making Art

There’s been minimal painting or even thinking about painting lately. I fiddled a little with the work in progress below but it’s still not making me happy and the solution is not forthcoming. Maybe some rubbing back?

I often attend the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s “pARTicipate” sessions. Last week Allan Mansell gave a printmaking workshop.

Allan instructed us in making collagraph prints. He had plenty of great reference material to choose from but I chose to make a print of our mountain, Kunanyi/Mt Wellington. It’s right on our doorstep and a wonderful backdrop to Hobart. Currently, it’s the subject of much debate as developers are itching to build a cable car that cuts across the “organ pipes” (as we call them) along with all the required supporting infrastructure.

The print turned out pretty well and Allan’s advice to remove more ink from the sky was spot on! He may have prompted me to make more use of my baby etching press. We’ll see what happens.

Those composition/design finding exercises continue to inspire. It’s fun creating random pieces and marks, cutting them up, reassembling them in different ways or cropping them to find pleasing compositions. Trouble is, I don’t know whether there’s enough time left to use them all, or even just the best ones!? Still, it’s all about having fun.

Which one of these would you choose to develop first?

“Wetland Walk 3” sold at the Rotary Hobart Art Show which is great! I hope the new owner is enjoying it.

I hope the world is treating you well in whatever your endeavour of choice is.

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Spread the Love

A selection of paintings by Wendy Galloway

There must have been something in the air! For the last Rotary Club of Hobart exhibition I put a painting in the Philarthropic section where donated works are auctioned to raise funds for worthy causes. After donating that one, I’ve received two more requests for donations. All unrelated, but isn’t it funny how these things go?

“Cradle Mountain, Autumn Snow”

I donated the painting shown above to be auctioned for “Engender Equality” (formerly “SHE”) – a Tasmanian not for profit organisation dedicated to supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence. 

Plus, I sent off some A5 size images (below) to donate to the Gateway Baptist Church in Launceston. They’re had a fund-raiser event for the children of Haiti.

It’s a great way to help others and create space for more art at the same time. It all just sits there gathering dust otherwise and if you have to dust, you’re not painting! Come to think if it …. wonder if you could paint with the feather duster? Why not?…. Our clothes airer has transformed a collage paper drying rack!

There hasn’t been much painting going on lately. There’s been lots of sorting and culling art stuff ready to move into a new room. I want it to be a lot less cluttered and the new room has more light with French doors that can open up in good weather.

I’ve played more with those black and white designs. You may remember the painted squares that were created for this exercise from a previous issue of Studio News, “Trying Times”. Picking out a few squares to put together rather than always using nine seems to make better, more open designs. They’re yet to be used in paintings though!

This last one is really doing it for me. Wonder what will eventuate?

During the studio clean out I found some “junk” to use for printing collage paper (polystyrene, old cork placemats, foam and cardboard packing with a nice pattern). Amazing what a person can hoard away as potentially useful…..one day! It really is fun fiddling about making collage paper. Nothing can go wrong and everything is potentially useful.

Life is short people ….. Gather stuff and use it! Make Art! 

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