When “It” Strikes You Down

It can happen any time these days!  Viruses are lurking everywhere!  Not the digital kind, the ones that actually affect our physical health.  The effects they have on our art can seem far worse than those on our health!  At least to us artists anyway.

You don’t have the energy to do much but your mind is still inspired and rearing to go.  Often there will be little things you can do as you laze around lamely awaiting your emergence “on the other side”…. ways to maintain contact with your art spirit. 

During down periods there are several, not so innovative, ways to keep going regardless.  Well, some of the time at least.  Things that help maintain the art spirit while the body navigates the virus.

Sketching is one thing that only requires the amount of time and energy you are prepared to give.  There are a few scattered about here from a trip made while accompanied by “it”.

Another thought that emerged was books.  (There are plenty on the shelves!)  So, bearing the current state of art affairs in mind they presented themselves for selection.  My art life is several decades long and the shelves are many.  There’s a lot of already covered material in there, but plenty of new stuff too.  Mind you, I’m never one to shy away from going back to basics.

This is what jumped out.

Colour:  It’s been on the “get better at this” list for years, so out came a few books to sift through for interesting stuff.  I’ll just admit first up that there won’t be any formal colour mixing exercises happening!

“Colour Choices, Making Color Sense Out of Colour Theory”, Stephen Quiller – I might try using pure colours with semi neutrals! There’s a section on inner vision where he says “each painting and each inner vision must follow its own course”.  Does that mean I can just throw paint about?

“Color Harmony in Your Paintings”, Margaret Kessler – It seems I’m interested in intensity at present.  There’s also some planning stuff here that makes sense if you aren’t up to flying by the seat of your pants!  Maybe there is a happy place somewhere in between planning and complete freedom?

“Confident Color” and “Exploring Color Workshop”, Nita Leyland – These two books are similar.  They both look at various palettes and how to use them.  My favourite parts were those dealing with contrasts and unifying colour and design.

Content:  More particularly emotional, personal content, which is what I think is needed in abstract art. 

Gerald’s book takes you on an indepth study of how to access emotional content in landscape painting.  However there’s a lot there that you can interpret from an abstract perspective.  I wonder, can it be applied retrospectively.  That is after I’ve had my frenzied play sessions!  The key takeaway seems to be – really feel what you’re trying to communicate.

Abstraction:  Just doing it is ok, but that can feel a bit shallow or unskilled, even when backed up by your past art experience.  This book takes you through the principles and elements of composition as they relate specifically to abstract painting.  It’s an indepth look at how to go about learning to paint abstracts.

There are sections on working from reality to abstraction and the other way around.  Rolina writes that, with abstract painting, there are two places to start:  content with no relationship to reality and content that is related to reality.  She talks about “stock in trade” which is your store of visual information (visual memory).  It allows you to work from your imagination while having a solid background to draw upon.  I’ve definitely felt a lack in that regard before!  Is that why it feels like I’m winging it sometimes?

Videos:  You don’t even need the energy to hold a book and turn pages!  But, be warned it can go on forever!  However, there are gems to be found, which is why down time helps.

Ok, so I have a secret yearning for printing.  I like the vitality and fun feel of FroyleArts videos (gelli printing, art journaling etc) (still from the video shown above). The ideas are yet to be used, but they’re there!  Plus she cheers you up when you’re feeling unwell!

(Still from the Ryan Jensen video, link below)

I stumbled upon “Art School Live with Eric Rhoads” and this video featuring Ryan Jensen.  Loved it!  It’s not short (about 50 min) but he has some great advice to offer.  How can anyone paint such paintings so nonchalantly?  He really does make it sound and look easy! 

Free workshops:  You can just watch if you choose.

Judy Woods’ stARTs course  Judy runs a free taster which I have participated in previously.  This time I wanted to look at it more from my own perspective.  You know, change a few bits and pieces.  But … enter a virus, which turned it into more of a watching exercise where I generated ideas to try later.  I did, however manage to do some of what was on offer while adding my own touch.  It certainly encouraged ideas and I’m looking forward to working more on the “starts” that were made.  I think the stARTs course sounds great, but, just not for me at the moment.

These two images (above and below) are stalled at the second stage of proceedings while the other brownish one (above) is still at stage one.

When I look back at all this perusing, I feel like good use was made of the down time.  There’s quite a bit to explore as a result!

Now, all we need is recovery with plenty of energy and action.

New listing on Bluethumb.

Exploration in Blue and Yellow” 40cm square

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How to Feed Your Creative Beast

There are many ways. Some artists express their emotions, some explore political or social views. For others it’s nature – living creatures of all sorts, botanical, geographical, meteorological. Still others are into representing humans in all their pictorial glory or perhaps still life. You must to find your own authentic muse and cultivate it.

So, how does that and fill your creative well with inspiration and enthusiasm? We all know that feeling of seemingly having nothing, absolutely nothing, that feels like our “thing”. It’s soul destroying to say the least.

Has our muse left us to our own devices? A scary proposition for some no doubt. I’ve been in that place more often than I care to remember. However, these days I seem to have reached a place where there are a reasonable amount of creative ideas waiting to be born. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

How do you do it? Does it just happen? Is it a struggle or can it come easy?

Firstly, it isn’t a struggle. Trying too hard won’t help. And no, it doesn’t just happen. It can come easily though, well, easier than you think! There are some things that can get in the way however …. perfectionism or waiting for the “right” thing or time. Better to experiment! Try things, have fun and enjoy the journey to your creative energy.

As a landscape inspired artist who also bends to the whims and wishes of my “art”, I fill my creative well as I create art. Each piece or series of pieces leads me forward. I find new inspiration and ideas in almost every piece of art I make, be it a painting or sketch. Even if the inspiration arises from a disaster!

The other way I find my muse or muses is to venture out into the landscape. Feel it, be in it, experience all that goes on. While there, I will sketch and ideas will begin to present themselves. There’s also photography, like the shots you see above. It allows you to visually capture your surroundings. What it does not do is help instil the whole experience of being IN the landscape like painting or sketching does. Even a quick scribble sketch can do that. Perhaps they capture the feeling best of all because they’re often done quickly and the marks are made with speed and abandon.

Sketches are a great way to refill your empty creative cup. The act of making a sketch or painting en plein air can be exhilarating and set your mind on track to plenty of creative ideas.

To summarise, immerse yourself in your artmaking and follow your intuition, it will lead you to your creative power.

See my new work on Bluethumb (below).

“A Rock and A Hard Place” 20cm wide x 24.5 high
“Within the Boundary” 40cm square

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

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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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Fiddling and Floundering About

Now here’s a funny thing. When you play and fiddle about with a painting it seems there is more interest than when you’re trying to orchestrate things. Interest from both others and yourself!

Early this year these two small paintings, painted freely and mostly unselfconsciously, were highly commended at a local exhibition. They’re from of a series of 10 small paintings I made as part of a challenge another artist and myself set for ourselves – to paint every day during January. The others are on my website.

“Confluence” 20cm wide x 20cm high
“Convergent” 20cm wide x 20cm high


It was a very pleasant surprise standing outside in the covid line to pick them up when a friend said congratulations! Making this small success even more pleasant was the fact that they were the first abstract paintings I have exhibited. These pleasures are short lived however and it was on to the next project.

During June, Louise Fletcher’s “Find Your Joy” taster course was repeated. I participated last year and got a lot out of it. It’s about following your likes, playing and not focussing on results. This is good for someone like me who used to plan her art to the nth degree! Here is one of the exercises we completed. We were limited in tools, media and the number of marks we could make with each.

Paradoxically, limitation is a good way to expand possibilities and generate ideas.


Recently, I’ve been wondering where things are headed for me artwise. It’s both difficult and exciting. You know you want to head down the abstract road but you seem to be floundering about. I guess that’s what you do when you’re finding your way.

I tried to reconcile my art aims with what is actually happening. Remember, we’re a little out of control here! However, my aim so far has been to show people what I love about our landscape, mood atmosphere etc but recent work doesn’t seem to match this at all! Maybe my updated modus operandi might be to create fun, playful images based on landscape – feelings, shapes, textures, gestures or anything else landscapey that takes my fancy?

These small play images were started recently to explore the idea.


Don’t know where they point to yet but there are a few ideas in there.

Recently, our plein air group, POGO, painted at Richmond. Although cool, it was a beautiful clear, sunny day. It resulted in six sketches to use for collage, finding compositions or generating inspiration. There’s no pressure to be exacting about these sketches. It’s an exercise in being there and taking things in.


There were a couple of crops that might be useful as a starting point for something new in the future. Here’s to the future and more fiddling and floundering fun!

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Playing Outside

seascape horizon in blue, black and white

Have you watched an artist painting or sketching en plein air or perhaps tried it yourself?

Playing with abandon, like a child…..just you, the paint, paper and brushes, all working together can be very invigorating.  Take it outside and you add another exciting element to the experience.

I love the way children are fascinated when they find you painting. They immediately become inspired to try it themselves ….. when they’ve finally asked all their questions!  Generally, there’s a supply of sketchbooks in our caravan to give away when we’re travelling.  I’ve also given kids the odd sketch or two because they are so enthusiastic.

I once sketched a young girl climbing some Northern Territory rocks and gave her the sketch.  Next thing we knew, her young brother was posing for me to sketch him too!  Naturally, I obliged. Subsequently, the family “parked their caravan” at our place while travelling in Tasmania. Making friends with art!

My motivation these days, when plein air painting or sketching, is not to go home with an image that visually represents a scene.  Rather, it’s about getting the feel for a place, the atmosphere, mood and the felt characteristics. 

What colours, textures, techniques, movements and marks could be used to express how the area makes me feel?  Are there ways to use tools, make marks and find effects to create a sense or feeling of place? …… Something that comes through and from me, my random choices, arm, hand and body movements?

I’m not asking myself these questions while working though. It’s more an overarching aim, to be achieved or happened upon by “just doing it”.

This can result in some rather messy images, as you can see above!  But, hopefully, within the mess, there is treasure! Something to be reinterpreted and to inspire new art or ideas.  There are often useful crops (small sections/images) within the sketches.  At the very least there will be some marks to reuse in the studio to help when attempting to recapture the experience.

Things don’t always develop further right after a sketching trip.  Inspiration could happen any time, even years later. There’s a lot of potential “material” waiting patiently in the studio to fuel art.

We’ll look at just what might happen with all that “material” in future issues of Studio News.

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Drive-past Sketching – Our Journey Begins

Have you tried memorising or sketching views while travelling in a car? I’m sure you would find it good training for developing fast looking and sketching skills. However, you do need a chauffeur!

This sketching technique grew out of sketching in the car over a couple of years. Long trips watching the landscape pass by and being inspired by what I saw had me thinking. Even though the subject would waft past quickly I decided to give it a go. Here’s a very early one. (That bird had a takeaway coffee cup!?)

Initially, the sketches were not so loose, but they developed into a technique that worked really well with mixed media – collage, coloured pencil and gouache as in the beach boxes painting below.

Sketching on the move became addictive and I longed for lengthy trips in the car. My bag became fatter and heavier as sketching gear became a constant companion. The kit has since been refined – sketchbook, fountain pen and water brush, plus extras in a small bag if I want.

No time for being careful. I still remember what this countryside looked and felt like.

The waterbrush was put to work in this one. Now …. how to use all these sketches?

Abstract ambitions had surfaced somewhere along the road and the simplified sketches of that wafting scenery were perfect for interpreting in an abstract or semi-abstract manner. The mixed media painting below is one of an early series that these sketches have inspired.

From here on, things start to snowball, but more on that later!

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