My primary medium for creating art is to paint or draw with pastels, soft chalk-like chunks or sticks of colour. Pastels are a medium that I have been learning to use well for several years and there is still so much to learn. Lately I have been experimenting with my mark making, a way of adding texture and interest to my artwork. It has been a fun yet challenging process, requiring me to resist falling back on old habits of softening edges, blending clouds and overworking the detail. Colour is also something I have been playing with, some of my paintings have no more than five colours in them but this one definitely features more colour.
The source photo for this painting was taken in the Mt Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Initially it was a crisp and clear Autumn day but the weather soon changed and the clouds set in, bringing the occasional shower of rain making the track towards the Rob Roy glacier slippery and a little nerve wracking at times.
New Zealand, Scotland and animals continue to be a great source of inspiration for me. I will be attempting to do more portraits this year, people portraits that is so stay tuned if you want to see how I progress.
Today I am hopping on a plane and flying to Edinburgh, Scotland. It has only been 6 months since our last big holiday which makes me feel extremely lucky, holidays like this don’t come along very often. The first and last time I was in Scotland it was 1999, and I was on a tour which stopped overnight in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was short but sweet and the desire to return has never left. Why Scotland now you may ask? The opportunity to join a painting tour with my art teacher Louise Corke and several other artists came up and it was too good to resist, two weeks of painting and drawing in the Scottish countryside, destination Dairsie Castle and Gardenstown.
The tour starts and finishes in Edinburgh so I’ve tacked on a couple of days at the beginning and end of the trip, time to explore and do a day trip to Glencoe via Loch Ness. The group will also be heading to Northumberland to visit the Unison pastel factory and perhaps pick up a few more beautiful colours, such lovely soft pastels and with any luck I’ll be able to bring a box home without them turning to dust. What I am really hoping to get out of this trip is inspiration for my drawing, with the weather always changing (apparently) it should be relatively easy to get photos that I can use for as a reference for my art for at least twelve months.
Blog posts may or may not happen while I’m in Scotland, but you can follow me on instagram, twoblackdogz, because I can guarantee that there will be many, many photos taken 🙂
A while back I shared some photos I took of a sweet little Tawny Frogmouth that paid us a visit. Like the subjects of several other photos I have taken, the Tawny Frogmouth now features in my latest pastel illustration.
This year I’ve been attending regular art classes to improve my technique in using pastels, my illustrations have always been quite detailed in the past, I’m a realist at heart and lean towards being a bit of a perfectionist or so my mother and a million personality profile tests tell me 🙂
It is hard to tell whether I have improved in terms of my illustrations but learning how to loosen up and find a technique that suits me has been a valuable experience. Both the angel illustration and the river rocks image are earlier illustrations, done prior to my art teacher sending me off to classes with a local artist specialising in pastels. I have chosen to focus on landscapes for the moment, they allow me to practice my technique without getting caught up in the detail, plus the colours can be fabulous to play with especially in the clouds.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.