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

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

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