Saturday, 31 March 2012

a glimpse into an artist's studio

Many people are curious about how an artist's studio looks. I also enjoy visiting my friends' studios and seeing how differently we all work. Obviously so much depends on the personality of each artist and the available space. The ones I can never get over are the tiny immaculate ones, which are so foreign to my somewhat (OK, very) messy way of working. Strangely enough, although I am a complete dirtbag, who splashes paint around liberally, I always have to start each bout of painting with a relatively tidy workspace. This is the studio during this week's tidy up.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

just sold one of my favourite works

We lose them, they expand: oil on canvas 1000x1000mm (SOLD)
Another sale through I have mentioned before what a pleasure they are to deal with.... this painting is one of those that just flows from you as it goes along, almost with a mind of its own, and I am quite attached to it... it is a very emotional and political work. Off to Pretoria tomorrow.

elusive Baobab photo

In a recent post I spoke about my love for baobab trees and mentioned one that is on the side of the main road to Zimbabwe, just outside Musina, that must have fallen over at some point, and just continued growing along the ground. After turning the house upside down, I have still not found the actual photo I am looking for, but my daughter came across another one of the tree, taken on one of our family holidays, around the late 1980s.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

two small works in very different styles

Tree of Life: oil, conte and collage on canvas 250x300mm
The obsession with baobab trees and lost children continues :)

Rainy Day - Galata Bridge: oil on board 250x250mm

I am having a love affair ... don't worry my husband knows about it... I am crazy about the City of Istanbul!
I am reading everything I can find to feed the passion (look for Orhan Pamuk if you want to read some great Turkish literature that truly captures the essence of the place) and have been going through my photos converting some into moody black and white shots. These will be the basis for a new series of small works. This one was done with thin glazes on board as the technique allows for a monochrome look but with a buildup of subtle colours.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sometimes it is harder to name a work than to paint it!

.... this is a case in point.... the social conscience type works are easy for me because I already know the emotion or message I want them to convey, but I find ones like this seem so difficult ... the descriptive names seem a bit lame... trees, forest, waterfall. Moods might be a bit twee... serenity, the awesomness of nature etc... so, any suggestions?

sentinals.  mixed media on canvas. 1200x900mm

(PS. thanks to my facebook friends who came up with some good suggestions, I particularly liked Esme Goosen's idea and have called it "sentinals")

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Generating Images

One of the great things about the Greg Kerr workshops I have been attending is the homework.... I know, homework is usually a drag, right? But he sets such great projects that it really is fun, at the same time as enlightening. I have already mentioned the little book of tiny charcoal drawings that featured in the previous "dark cloud" workshop. And I posted the two triptychs of large charcoal drawings. What I haven't done yet is tell you how the source material, on which the drawings were based, was arrived at.

We had to make a little theatre from a cardboard box and furnish it with some prescribed items and some flats made from photos. Then we had to play around with lighting the whole thing dramatically and take black and white photos of the result. This provided a bunch of suitable material to use as a basis for some drawings and paintings.

It made for some great moody material to base the drawings on.

The latest workshop is called "the dinner party", and the whole program is based on the idea of hosting an imaginary dinner party at which there are 6 people (5 guests plus me as host). We began by researching  the guests and generating images that would express who they are (were if they are historic characters). My guests are Peter Clarke, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Kevin Carter, JWM Turner and Sam Nhlengethwa. I chose all because over the years I have admired their work, and it has been fab digging into their biographies and getting to know them better as people. In the case of Peter Clarke, I really did get to know him, as he very kindly invited me to tea the last time I was in Cape Town, and we spent a delightful afternoon together chatting like old friends, he is a really humble and inspiring man with a naughty twinkle in his eye and a great sense of humour.

Our first task was to make valentines cards for each guest and ourselves. Here they are:

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

JWM Turner

Kevin Carter

Sam Nhlengethwa

Sue Hoppe

Peter Clarke
From these we did a series of small paintings as tributes to each guest, which are not yet finished, as we'll be tackling them again later in the process, but this is how far they are for now:

Charles rennie mackintosh tribute

Kevin Carter tribute

Peter Clarke

Sam Nhlengethwa tribute

Sue Hoppe tribute

Turner tribute

Next we will do a large format painting of all the guests at the dinner table and as part of the process of generating images for the large painting, we again had some great homework. This time we have to make little clay figures and arrange them in different ways around a table, and again do a series of monochrome photos.
Here are some of the results:

Looks like we are in for a fun year!

Friday, 23 March 2012

ooops, nearly forgot these little guys

These two small canvases were done for the recent Same Size Same Price No Signature held at artEC Gallery, both sold on the opening night.

Lost generation 5 300x300 oil on canvas

Lost generation 6 300x300 oil on canvas

New Work.... New (ish) directions

It is such a delight to be back in the studio... and one cool thing about an absence, for me, is that I never quite know what direction things will take when I get back there.

Even when I am so busy with other stuff that it seems I am not giving my art a moment's thought, it seems to brew away under the surface, and erupt in its own new direction when given half a chance.

New, yet not new, always there is the history of past work, past methods, past experiments, past social concerns even... and each new burst of work is enriched by this growing deposit of personal art history that builds up as the years go on.

The output of the last couple of weeks testifies to this... painting, drawing and photography, all of which have played less or more dominant roles in the past, have appeared in new guises... they now seem to have come together, so I start with a painting on canvas and drawing and photographs bringing a fresh dimension. I have used both on canvases in the past, notably with drawing on the protest about the demolition of the Red Location shacks in about 2008, and photography on canvas in the raindance series in 2009 and the prodigal son comic book story in 2010..... but in this one, done specifically for a forthcoming exhibition of large works at the Athenaeum, they just came together as I went along. It also revisits old themes (the checker-board and running paint referring to conflict and social meltdown, but now free of the shackles of black and white.... the theme of division and gulfs separating people recurs, as do the lost children.

Bridging the Divide 1500x1000mm mixed media on canvas (SOLD)
Another thing I have painted often over the years is Baobab trees. They are so quintessentially African. They represent happy memories for me because I grew up in Harare, as landlocked as you can get, but whichever direction we travelled in for holidays, whether to Mozambique or South Africa for beach holidays, or to any of the lovely spots we frequented along the Zambezi, from Victoria Falls to Kariba or Mana Pools, we always had to go through a lowveld area dotted with these comical amazing trees. There is a wonderful one on the road to Beit Bridge from Harare, which is hollowed out, and has a cathedral like feeling when standing inside it. I am told there is a hollow one in South Africa, so large that it is used as a pub, but have never been there personally.

(updated 24-04-2012... just found 2 photos of the tree from inside and out on the delightful facebook site 'Africa, this is why I live here' run by Ayesha Cantor.)

Just outside Musina is one that must have fallen over at some point, and just continued growing along the ground. I have hunted for my old photo of Max standing on it, but in vain.... tidying the study is another of the neglected tasks I need to tackle soon...

often drove past this tree during my childhood, between Masvingo and Beit Bridge. This was taken in 1975
Baobabs 500x600mm oil, charcoal and crayon on canvas

Shelter, mixed media on canvas 1200x900mm

Sunday, 18 March 2012

"Finding my way"

I painted this towards the end of last year, at a time when my best friend was going through a very bad time after the loss of her husband. It is hard to say if the emotions around her situation influenced the mood of this painting, certainly not on a conscious level but I am often surprised at how much of what is going on in my life and the lives of those close to me is able to filter through subconsciously into my work. In any case, the minute she saw it she related to the lost and lonely figure battling against the storm, and bought it!

Finding my Way oil on canvas 600x800mm (SOLD)

the joys of drawing...

Yesterday I touched on the subject of drawing... so today I thought I'd tell you something about the Greg Kerr workshop which brought about the desire to draw more and more... and show you some of the results.

If you have not had the opportunity to study formally in the subject you are making a living from, you often feel at a disadvantage. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you have to have an art degree in order to succeed as an artist, but there are times when you feel a bit of training and background knowledge would make the process a lot easier. There is sometimes a temptation to doubt one's own judgement because it is not based on academic study, but often on raw instinct.

To overcome this, I have made a point of attending whatever suitable workshops I have been able to manage (time and cost often being the main limitations.) But having said this, you have to be selective. There are unfortunatley a lot of people who, having spent a year or two producing reasonable facsimiles of magazine photos, and attending a few classes, set themselves up as art teachers. It is important to know, if spending valuable time and money on training, that the classes are run by someone with the credentials to take you further and give informed input and guidance, not by the blind-leading-the-blind.

In Port Elizabeth, we are very lucky to have a retired painting professor, who is not only a leading light in his subject, but also a brilliant teacher. As a bonus, he is widely read, appears to have total recall of every word of every book and poem he has ever read, and knows just about every worthwhile piece of music ever composed. He is, into the bargain, a not-too-shabby singer, so his classes are a stimulating mixture of art tuition, pushing our boundaries all the time, with loads of song, poetry, pithy quotations and laughter thrown in.

Last year I signed up for my first full year course with him. It was called Dark Cloud, and was geared towards establishing, amongst other things, an understanding of tonal vales, and generation of evocative images. The workshops consist of 4 full days, spread in 4 groups throughout the year (16 total) with assignments and preparation in between.

During the first 4 days, we had to produce a triptych of large charcoal drawings inspired by photographs we had prepared in advance. They had to show a progression from bright, more or less happy, through light puffy clouds, to a dark and ominous mood in the last one. Being me, I felt obliged to have some sort of cause or message within the pictures, and of course went over the top and did 2 seperate sets of 3 based on 2 different ideas.

The first one dealt with the sad state of decay of 2 of my favourite old buildings in PE, the derelict old Milling/Brewery  buildings. Here is the result:

ignore the blue tinge, caused by bad white balance on the camera, the paper really is white.

The second triptych showed churches, mosques and a synagogue, and basically expressed the idea that while all the major religions are fighting amongst themselves, the people they should be there for are dying... either directly as a result of the fighting, or perhaps just spiritually from neglect...

After the first workshop we were given a task that turned out, for me, to be a turning point in my approach to art... we had to produce 25 tiny delectable little charcoal drawings based on the reference material we had first generated in our photos, and bind them into a little A5 sized artists book. I chose the buildings, and found the production of these little drawings totally compulsive. Here are some of them:

 I just loved the process, and it is finding its way into my current work in the form of charcoal and conte crayon drawing incorporated into some of my paintings on canvas.  (I have done this before, there were some in about 2008 that I did with sketches included on the canvas, but it is now happening more regularly.) However it is taking so long to upload and they are all already on facebook so here is the link to the tiny drawings album.

The remainder of the workshop was about painting, and I learned a lot, but for me the drawing was a highlight. This year I am attending the Dinner Party workshops, and will share some of the insights and results in due course.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The first week of the rest of my life....

Over the last few years my once regular blogging has diminished to a trickle, for a number of reasons which have basically been discussed in previous posts. However, my knee replacement has been a huge success and as of this week, I have finished my 3 year term as Chairperson at the artEC/Epsac Community Art Centre (check out the website or facebook page to see what the gallery and art centre are all about.) This means the biggest stumbling blocks to my regular art production are out of the way, and the studio is beckoning.
The other stumbling block is probably still there, and that is the relative slowness of loading pics on blogger rather than facebook, although it seems to have improved a lot since my last attempt.) I have decided I must just grit my teeth and put up with this, as facebook is usually limited to one's friends, whereas blogger is more of a public forum. And it has formed a useful journal and catalogue of my work and arty musings in the years since I started it, so it is worth continuing, if only as a record for posterity.

A backlog is always a pain to catch up, so please bear with me, and I'll slowly trawl through my pictures from the past year or so and fill in the gaps.

For today, I want to share a few of the recent works produced since the last post, and also a piece of good news. Well actually, great news I think, I recently sold a painting to the World Bank, along with the publishing rights, to be used on the cover of their next financial report. So 5000 copies of the painting will be circulated around the world soon, sheesh you can't BUY publicity like that, never mind being paid for it!  The sale was through who sell my work online, and are a delight to deal with. If only all art agents and galleries were as ethical, efficient and pleasant to deal with! (my page there is here.)

It was this one called Conflict Resolution. It is an expression of the idea that we might be opposites, one flamboyant and unpredictable, the other controlled and thinking "in straight lines" but we always have a little of each other in us, and if we make the effort to reach across the things that seem to divide us, we will find we have more in common that we realise, and actually enhance each other.

Conflict Resolution, oil on canvas, 900x1100mm
(World Bank is the copyright holder of this Work)

Ok and some recent ones in no particular order:

children of the shadows, oil and metallic foil on canvas 1000x1000 mm

.....And then, thanks to the Greg Kerr workshop I attended last year, a new departure for me. I have always skirted the issue of drawing, and jumped straight into the whole delectable world of paint and colour. But Greg revealed the subtle delights of charcoal drawing and since then, I have been enjoying the occasional foray into charcoal on paper. In fact I like it so much, it is now finding its way onto my recent canvases, and I am loving explorations of paint and charcoal drawing together...  but that is a story for another day :)