Sunday, 27 July 2008

OK, at last, here's the new batch.

My solo exhibition at the new Blou Vrou (Blue Lady) Gallery opened on Friday night. The opening was fun, thanks to all those who came along. The show runs till 8th August, and is a mixture of new works, with selected older works that show the progression of how ideas and styles evolve into new ones.

The new works are a further exploration of the "Africa Weeping" idea, using running paint to depict the meltdown that is taking place in so many societies and economies on the continent. Within that framework, I have explored differences between rich and poor, and also hopefully managed to express the courage of the women, who hold their families together against the odds. I also hoped to show the spirit of the children, who, despite facing the bleakest of futures, manage to still be children, and make their own toys, or just have fun. Despite the terrible conditions so many live under, they have a dignity and cheerfulness that is a real lesson to many in wealthy societies who seem to do nothing but be dissatisfied with their lot in life.
Many of the children are depicted as faceless, in similar white garb, because to the rest of the world they are often seen as faceless hungry masses rather than unique individuals. The scenery, clothing, cattle and features of the people are typical of Northern Africa, as I have been using photgraphs taken by my kids, working amongst the displaced people in Sudan, as inspiration. But I have deliberately kept them non specific, as many of the problems there are common to most of the continent.
Sometimes I have detailed a face, and tried to show the strength and dignity behind the pain.

One man's wealth is another man's.....


Vortex, 400x400mm
Using the rich warm colours of Africa to again express turmoil and meltdown, this is pure abstract.

1st world 3rd world, bridging the divide.


Africa weeps for her children 2



Africa weeps for her children 2


Africa weeps for her children 4



Does anyone care?


The next two are dealing with special South African issues:

Heritage under threat



This painting was inspired by a comment we had on our Port Elizabeth Daily Photo blog, on the post called Red Location. ( it highlights the destruction of the historic cottages there, Visit Facebook to join the group "Save the historical Red Location Cottages" at )

The Red Location is one of the blots on Port Elizabeth, a black township, established by the British Colonial Government in 1903, and made worse under apartheid. It is a place of abject poverty, most of the residents living in shacks made of waste material, plastic, old corrogated iron and weathered timber, on the edge of a windswept wetland overlooking the sea. It was the place where the anti-apartheid movement in the Eastern Cape flourished and many amazing stories of underground meetings and couragious resistence are told. The multi-award winning Red Location Museum has been established there, to celebrate the courage of the resistance leaders, and bring much needed tourist money to help upgrade the living standards of those who live there. If the history of red location interests you, Max and I did some posts about it when we visited last year, and also went into the origins, when we discussed Richmond Hill on the PEDP blog. Anyway, sadly the original shacks, which are national monuments and need to be preserved as a reminder of what this nation has been through and that we must never allow such things to happen again, are being stolen bit by bit, and sold to scrap dealers, and outrage over this prompted the painting. The gold stripes represent the stitches that we need in order to repair the torn fabric of our society. The words read "The time is running out. It is urgent that we unite and work together to mend the rips in the fabric of our society. Our freedom was won at a high cost – and we have the opportunity to rebuild and restore – but there are too many who vandalise, steal and destroy. We need to end the negative actions and save our heritage to remind us of our past- then build the future hand in hand.”

Happy Birthday Madiba



This one is special to me because it is a tribute to my hero (and I am not a person who easily puts anyone on a pedestal, I firmly believe in treating all people with the same respect and dignity, be thry royalty or a humble street sweeper.) But my respect for Nelson Mandela is enormous. Last week, on the 18th July he celebrated his 90th Birthday, and I did this painting on that day to celebrate the occasion. The quotation from Madiba reads: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."


And finally here is one that was done on site at the Algoa Bay yacht club when I went there with some friends to paint en plein air the week before last. (We also went last week, that painting is still in the pipeline.)

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Admin and all that

I think when I decided to become a full time artist towards the beginning of last year, I had some sort of idealistic image of wafting into the studio (or, in those days, the corner of the study!) and producing masterpiece after masterpiece, without interruption.

The reality is pretty far from that, and I am very grateful for the business background I acquired during the previous 16 years of running my own interior and furniture design company.

Art needs to sell, and in the beginning, until one is able to reach the level where it is in such demand that it is sold before it is painted, (and if even Van Gogh never got to that point in his lifetime, there is no guarantee that it will ever happen! ) it takes a lot of effort. But the aspect that has surprised me is the degree of organisation that is required.

There are several galleries which organise open exhibitions on a regular basis, often with themes which are announced in advance, so that pictures can be prepared specifically for them. But one has to build relationships with the gallery owners, and keep in touch with them, in order to keep up with what is happening when and where.

Some offer solo exhibitions as well, which requires the preparation of a large body of new work, often in a limited time frame. There are a lot of logistics to consider, sometimes the galleries help with them, but often it is left to the artist to handle invitations (design, printing and posting, which means building up a mailing list of interested people) hanging the pictures (having arranged framing if necessary), catering, press releases etc.

Talking to the press at the opening of a recent exhibition

There is the internet, often these are international sales, and all the work sold in this way has to be carefully packaged, quotes need to be obtained for various modes of shipping, and foreign payment facilities need to be sorted out. There are commissions received via various sources. And I have found it necessary to create a catalogue of all my work on my computer, with photographs saved in 3 different sizes (high res, medium for my blog and tiny for e-mails and the website.)

And then there is the issue of pricing. Do I value my work too highly, or do I undervalue it compared to what clients perceive its worth to be? And as I get better known, do I get stuck in a rut of familiar prices, or do I keep escalating them, and by how much? How do I cope with the fact that different galleries require different commissions and hanging fees, and if I sell in foreign currency with different exchange rates, how do I deal with that?

With regard to this side of the art world, I am lucky to be married to an Excel boffin, who has set up a wonderful database for me. All I do is decide how much I want for a painting, and punch in the commission structure of the particular gallery or website that is selling it. Then it calculates the selling price for me, and converts it into US$, Euros and pounds. The main thing, when painting frantically and meeting tight deadlines is remembering to photograph and catalogue all works before dispatching them.
For me, my lack of any sense of time is the biggest handicap. When I am on a creative roll, I lose all track of the time, and often have the flimsiest idea of the date! But delivery dates and collection dates come and go relentlessly, and need to be kept track of. This gets complicated when there is work in several galleries simultaneously.

Creating art is a right brain activity, while the admin and organisation is a left brain function. I have found it necessary to develop the ability to switch between the two on a regular basis, but for me it works better if I dedicate a block of time to creating, and then a block to admin. I do not paint as well if I am interrupted by the real world frequently while trying to remain in my creative "zone".

empty easel and blank canvas, a sure sign that at the time these were taken, I was involved in running around sorting out admin, between creative bursts!

Sadly, not all galleries are as efficient as they should be, and I have also found that I need to keep tabs on who has what, and if it has been sold, did they remember to pay me for it. Because I am a fairly prolific painter, I have a big portfolio to keep track of, and in the beginning I found out the hard way that no-one is going to do it but me!

So the next time you see an artist and think dreamily that it must be wonderful living on cloud nine all the time, think again! Cloud nine often drops one back to earth with a bump. Still, I have not regretted the decision for a moment, and feel really blessed and privileged to be able to follow my heart like this.

Now, where did I put my camera?