The blue girl

2014 was going to be the year of the portrait for me, not having done one for many years I was keen to apply my developing pastel skills and complete at least one portrait this year. It was a little nerve wracking, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and had lost confidence in my illustration skills over the years (hence the art lessons) however recent success with portraits of my dogs had given me a boost.

The girl in the portrait is the child of a friend, a happy child with very pale, translucent looking skin. In order to capture the translucence and innocence I started with a blue wash and then built up the pastel, trying to steer clear of creating too much contrast in her features because it has a tendency to make a young child look much older. It took several weeks to complete, class is only once a week and I don’t do any drawing at home which slows me down immensely.

Pastel portrait of a child
Portrait of a child

The end result is that she looks a little blue, but I quite like it and am happy with how it has turned out and hope that the parents will be too.

Women and art

Brisbane CityCat on the Brisbane River
Brisbane CityCat on the Brisbane River
Rebecca Baumann's Untitled Cascade
Rebecca Baumann’s Untitled Cascade

Recently I had the pleasure of viewing two wonderful exhibitions in Brisbane, one at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and the other at the Queensland Art Gallery. Getting to Brisbane is easy enough, just hit the motorway and find free parking in an area not far from the centre of the city. One of the nicest ways of getting to the chosen destination is via the Brisbane CityCat, I like to park near one of the stops and then relax and take in the view as the ferries take us up the Brisbane River to the Southbank precinct.

At GOMA the second contemporary Australia exhibition series celebrating contemporary Australian female artists was on display, the exhibition featured paintings, sculptures, photography, installations, video and performance by more than 50 female artists. It was fabulous, we walked through installations that consisted of coloured paper on the floor and watched as an industrial fan created movement in a doorway filled with gold foil ribbons. The QR codes made it easy to find out more about the artist and the inspiration behind the artworks, wi-fi is free so I didn’t hesitate to gather as much information as I could, but of course I remember very little now.

Hiromi Tang | Japan/Australia b.1976 | X chromosome
Hiromi Tang, X chromosome
Jenny Watson | Australia b.1951 | A telescopic vision’ series
Jenny Watson, A telescopic vision’ series
Noël Skrzypczak | Canada/Australia b.1974 | Jungle
Noël Skrzypczak, Jungle
Judith Wright | Australia b.1945 | A wake
Judith Wright, A wake

As enjoyable as the Contemporary Australia Women exhibition was, the one I was really keen on seeing was the Modern Woman, Daughters and Lovers 1850-1918 Drawings from the Musee D’Orsay, Paris. The Musee D’Orsay is one of my favourite galleries to visit and many of the artists, whose works now hang on the walls of the Musee D’Orsay, inspired me when I was first learning to paint and they inspire me still. Modern Woman explored more than 90 illustrations of women at the time of the Belle Epoque which was a significant time of change in France. Beautiful pastels by Degas, Cassatt, Breslau and Besnard had me staring closely at the their strokes, my face only inches from the artwork itself although I did try to avoid obstructing the view of other admirers. Some of the illustrations had pastels layered so thick it could have been paint, it made me wonder how they got the pastel to stick and what sort of paper they used. The women in the artworks were real women, unlike earlier artists who depicted women as goddesses and saints, this exhibition featured the beautiful and not-so beautiful, the old and the young, the rich and the poor. My art teacher found many faults with the illustrations, poor perspective and heads or limbs that were too small, large or short, however it did not diminish my enjoyment of the work I viewed. Who wouldn’t like to have the talent and skill that these artists had, even on a bad day?

Rene Piot, Bust of Marie Piot, her hair scattered with flowers c1906
Rene Piot, Bust of Marie Piot, her hair scattered with flowers c1906
Giovanni Boldini, Nude woman in black stockings lying on a sofa c1880
Giovanni Boldini, Nude woman in black stockings lying on a sofa c1880
Albert Besnard, Portrait of a woman c1900
Albert Besnard, Portrait of a woman c1900
Mari Bashkirtseff, Portrait of Mme X c1884
Mari Bashkirtseff, Portrait of Mme X c1884
Leon Kamir, Reading c1921
Leon Kamir, Reading c1921

 

 

 

 

Fun with pastels

Tulip of Versaille
Tulip of Versaille

My first pastel illustration for a long time featured a cow sitting in a field, it took several weeks to finish because I only go to class one night a week and rarely make time to do any illustration at home. For my next piece I decided to do something simple, or so I thought…Tulip of Versaille took just as long for me to complete as the cow illustration and the experience taught me to never judge something simple in appearance as easy to draw.

At the moment I attend art class twice a week, but have chosen to work on two different pieces so that I don’t get bored plus I have two different teachers and I’m curious to see what sort of influence the different teaching styles have on my artwork. Below is my third finished piece of work, I call it Technicolour Venice and if you think it looks too vivid or messy then you would be right, it is a far cry from the style of work that I usually do and the objective was  to be less controlling and perfectionist in my approach with this illustration. Not sure if I really like it, the picture reminds me of artwork you often see reprinted for hotel rooms, placemats and coasters but when I stand a few metres away it doesn’t look too bad.

Technicolour Venice
Technicolour Venice

The artist within

This year I promised myself that there would be no study of boring, work related subjects and plenty of time to draw, paint and take photographs. When I was in school I was always drawing, with charcoal, pen or pencils and it was fun but then I went to Uni and started working and my love for art only extended as far as visiting art exhibitions and taking the occasional photograph. Thanks to my Mum and the joy of gift vouchers I have participated in art classes on and off since 2000, the classes have helped me rebuild confidence in my ability to draw and there is always something to learn in terms of technique and using different mediums.

Now I attend Tuesday night classes, a couple of hours of doing my own thing and when I need assistance or guidance there is always someone to provide it. For four weeks my focus has been on ‘relearning’ how to use pastels by copying a painting from an art book, the paper I used wasn’t ideal, but I’m quite happy with the result – would like to know what you think, constructive criticism is welcome!

Pastel illustration of a cow in the field
Pastel illustration of a cow in the field

My art teacher has recommended taking additional pastel classes with an Australian Master Pastellist, she lives locally so I have signed up to spend a term learning from her. I’ll still go to my Tuesday night class, they’re very relaxing, therapeutic even and I can always use the time to apply what I have learned from the pastel classes. With so much energy and time devoted to art this year, perhaps all my family will receive original artwork this Christmas.

Cheers and have a great week!