Thursday, 26 April 2012

drawing again

I recently wrote about the dilemma of wanting to work but still being sociable with family over weekends, and set up my drawing things in the dining room. This has proved a great hit (apart from the fact that guests now have to eat on their laps *evil grin.*) Whenever the mood takes me, it is so easy to do a drawing whilst chatting or listening to music together, and having everything ready and waiting has resulted in me being much more productive, as, even if I just have a small gap of time, I can just get stuck in and get on with it.

I am also simultaneously going through my photos and editing many, to print for sale at the Arts Festival, and it has been fun seeing them from a new perspective. Often what makes a good photo would not make a good painting, and taking a photo for its own merit requires a different type of vision than taking a photo as a reference for a painting. But I have found that, in editing some photos, converting them to punchy black and white images, they make great references for charcoal drawings! So I am re-thinking many of my gazillion photos, which were previously not that exciting, but when seen and treated differently they take on a new life. I'll show you an example....

this was just a somewhat messy snapshot of the new mosque near the spice bazaar in Istanbul, on a rainy evening last April (in fact, by coincidence I see it is exactly a year ago tomorrow!) I nearly deleted it because i had another better one of the mosque. Luckily i didn't, because when I was looking through them with my 'art photo eye' rather than my 'scenic photographers eye' I spotted the potential of the girls with the umbrellas and turned them into a black and white shot....

This in turn inspired me to do a charcoal drawing and a painting of the same scene...

Rainy Night in Istanbul charcoal on Fabriano 123x125mm
Rainy night in Istanbul oil on board 250x250mm
This process has happened with several previously rejected shots, and it has been wonderful exploring possibilities. Here are some of the resulting recent drawings.

Agave 1

baobab 5

baobab 6

baobab 7

baobab 8

forest road
Shadow Play
urban decay 1

urban decay 2

urban decay 3

urban decay 4

Saturday, 14 April 2012

the ethics of source material and copying photos....

In my last post, I mentioned asking permission to paint a photograph, posted on facebook by a friend, and I thought I'd share my views on my approach, as an artist, to the copyright of others. Apart from the obvious "thou shalt not directly or exactly copy another person's image" copyright laws, and many artists seem to be abysmally ignorant of even these basics, there are no hard and fast rules, so it seems to be up to each artist to navigate their own conscience and come up with an approach they are comfortable with.

Having been involved in an art gallery for the last three years, which held many open exhibitions for artists ranging from beginners and Sunday painters, through serious part time painters to well known professionals, I was able to observe how this is applied in the local art scene. I had to laugh when, in one open exhibition, a flower painting which was an exact replica of a photo from an old National Geographic was submitted; the reason I knew it was that both myself and a friend had painted the same picture as an early training exercise. There is a certain old Standard Bank advert, featured widely in many magazines several years back, of an old wooden stairway seen through an arch... I have seen several copies of this submitted over the years, with no effort to change the smallest detail.

So it seems to me that the ethics of source material is a subject widely ignored or abused by many artists, and I especially blame many art teachers, who instruct their students to bring pictures from magazines to copy... without a thought for educating their students (or themselves) about the copyright issues of the photographers who took the original photos.

In the early stages of producing pieces that are nothing more than learning exercises with no expectation of selling them or showing them in public, this may be fine. But in my experience, this seems to be common practice even amongst those who have gone on to become competent painters concentrating on realism, and regularly exhibiting and selling their work. Anyone who is beyond the 'learning to copy' stage needs to give serious consideration to the ethical use of source material.

As a self taught artist, who then had some lessons with a couple of teachers along the way, I did my share of copying magazine photos before I even became aware of the copyright issues. (And, I might add, I was not informed by any of those early teachers about it.) However, in all good conscience, once I was aware, I felt it was important to establish a set of values to guide my approach to the gathering of source material.

It is evolving all the time, as access to both images and information on the internet grows, but this is what I have arrived at so far....

For me, if I intend to produce a reasonably faithful representation of an image, even if it has painterly touches or slight poetic licence, I either use photos I have taken myself, or ask permission from the photographer. If, however, I am making an entirely original image from a combination of sources, and just need a reference to get a shape accurate, I have no problem with refering to photo on a public source. I have also printed poor "fast draft" copies of photos from the internet, and incorporated cut out portions of them into a collage, but always in such a way that they no longer resemble the original image.

I also draw a line between using images which are more or less straightforward shots of a scene or object, which would have been accessable to anyone else standing there at the same time and place... and those which, in their own right, have been created as artworks by the photographer, using their own distict vision, style, distortion, setup. I feel that, to reproduce such a photo, would be plagiarism, while to use the former as a reference within an image, containing more than just the info on the photo, would be ok.

What many artists seem to assume is that publication of a photo in a magazine or online grants tacit copying rights. This is absolutely not the case, just because it is in the public domain, the original photographer does not relinquish their copyright on the image. I think any of us who regularly posts images on the internet does so with a desire to share and a realisation that the image might be used. I love it if people enjoy my images, and gladly agree when people ask me if they can paint one. It is a matter of courtesy.

For me, where it becomes abuse, is when it is copied, as is, and used in a way that implies it is the original work of the person using it, with no acknowledgement to the original person who saw and captured the image. The photographer in me finds this very annoying. I even recently 'unfriended' someone on facebook because he makes a habit of stealing other peoples images and presenting them as his own. (Lol, normally I wouldn't be intolerant enought to act on that alone, but this guy even gets out of his car in a friend's Game Reserve, gets his kids to photograph him with the wildlife behind him, and posts it in his facebook albums, bragging about his 'farm in Africa'. When he posted a famous image by one of the Bang Bang Club photographers taken before the democratic elections in 1994, of someone burning to death in a 'necklacing' incident, implying that he had taken it recently and putting himself in great danger photographing the violence which is "getting worse by the day" it was the last straw for me.)

But sick loonies aside, with the proliferation of easily copied images on the internet, and easy 'share' buttons on facebook, I guess this is an issue to which we all need to give some consideration... do we acknowledge the original source or carelessly and sometimes unwittingly 'steal' images to share with our friends?

Friday, 13 April 2012

new works in various media....

Hi, I have been so loving having more time to be in the studio lately, and while there are still many interruptions, I am getting a lot done whenever I am able to spend a while there.

I have been enjoying using different techniques to express the mood in each picture, so they are an ecclectic mix of faily standard oil painting, some mixtures of paint and charcoal drawing on canvas, and some very transparent layers of glaze coats and wet into wet on smooth boards, which gives a deliciously seductive result. And the the small charcoal drawings are ongoing too.

One thing I have not featured on this blog yet is my photography, but it is another medium I am busy with, and I am delighted with some large prints I have had done this week, ranging from A4 to a gi-normous A0. I'll show some of those pics in another post, but seeing them small on the computer screen really does not do them justice, they have such a presence in the big prints.

testing the waters 100x800mm oil on canvas (SOLD)
This is the daughter of a friend of mine... and I found their holiday photo of her dipping her toe tentatively into the water very touching, so I asked permission to paint it. It seems to me to be about so much more than a physical testing of temperature... it recalls all the insecurities of adolescence, being on the brink of the adult world, with all its possibilities and attractions, but also dangers and fears. Wanting to jump in, but being so very unsure of what one will find, or how one will be received.

New Mosque Istanbul 250x250 oil on board
Istanbul, it features in my thoughts, longings, reading and painting.... what a magical, mystical, contradictory and altogether enchanting place!
strolling in the rain, 250x250mm oil on board

Galata tower, Istanbul 250x250 oil on board (SOLD)

Rainy night in Istanbul 250x250mm oil on board

Rainy night in Istanbul 2 250x250mm oil on board

Be my Shelter 1000x800mm charcoal and oil on canvas

lifeblood charcoal on Fabriano 230x240mm

rainy night in Istanbul  230x240mm charcoal on Fabriano

Sunday, 08 April 2012

found it!!!

Ok so a few posts back I spoke about my love for baobabs and mentioned a tree with a hollowed out trunk. We managed to find the negatives of the tree and Max scanned them for me, if you look closely you will see three people peeping out from it, our two kids and a friend who came with us on a trip to Zim circa 1997.

I also mentioned that I was looking for a certain photo of Max next to a famous tree near Musina... I found another pic of it which I posted, but could not figure out what had happened to the one I was thinking of. Well, quite by chance, in the meantine, Max has decided to scan our old slides, and we found the pic I was looking for, no wonder I couldn't find it amongst the prints, I had forgotten it was a slide. He is mortified about the attire, but hey, short shorts and long socks with veldskoene was standard Zimbabwean attire... ok admittedly the handkerchief with knots in the corners was not your average bush hat, but it was hot and a man has to make a plan, LOL!!!

Lots of inspiring material here, and I am sure lots more baobab paintings and drawings still to come!

Working while being sociable: some drawings.

A slight drawback of being an artist who is married is that art is, essentially, a solitary occupation during which one retreats into an inner world of right brain activity, oblivious to time and the world around one. Mealtimes and appointments come and go unnoticed. This is fine on days when one's partner is at work, but unfortunately when the muse is dancing attendance, it does not always coincide with those times. So what does one do in order to remain relatively sociable, but still allow the creative flow?

For me a solution has been to mostly do my big oils in the studio during the week, and if I am still on a roll over the weekend, I work on small oils or charcoal drawings at the dining room table, so that Max and I can be companionable, but still get on with our various creative pursuits at the same time. (He will generally be found doing his photography or writing during these times, or recently, sorting through old slides to scan.) This Easter weekend has been a case in point, and so far, between movies, meals with the kids and an Easter egg hunt, I have managed to almost finish a few small paintings, as well as these 5 little charcoal drawings... the paintings will follow when complete.

Tuesday, 03 April 2012

3 New works

Wetlands 1200x700mm oil on canvas
Solitude 600x500mm oil on canvas
shoreline 750x600mm mixed media (oil, stitching and photographs on canvas)