Australian Fine Artist

Archive for April, 2012

Johannes Vermeer

Video of the life and style of a Dutch Master

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who specialised in domestic interior scenes of daily life. During his life the 80 year war with Spain was in progress and there was a lot of political one social upheaval. From it came a basis for a more layered society based less on aristocracy.

His early works had some religious themes but as his style progressed he was able to concentrate on themes that were of more interest to him. Having won over the favour of his mother in-law who left him money in her will, Vermeer was set up in a position where he started on the paintings that he is now famous for.

His scenes of the every day and his idealism of subjects by softening and clever use of light are still sought after today and have made him a master of Dutch painting.

Vermeer used various textures in various parts of a painting to represent different surfaces. He studied his subjects, such as the human figure. The subjects are kept simple, we are led into the focal point with clever use of perspective and composition. In many cases everything centres in on the female figure in the painting, performing a very simple chore or lost in thought. The phrase “lost in a moment” comes to mind when looking at many of the figures he painted.

With so much turmoil going on in the world around him, Vermeer chose to paint those moments in time that are so easily lost. The ordinary tasks of every day life in his time. I find a sense of peace and harmony in his works. I love his use of light and gentle expressions in his faces.

Vermeer died at only 43 years of age. The art market and the country was in ruin after the invasion of the French and Vermeer was not in the mainstream of art for many years. Since he was rediscovered Holland has taken him as one of , if not the master of his craft in the country’s history.

PERSONAL NOTE

I really enjoyed this video. I noted an underlying theme of people near windows through many of Vermeer’s works. He painted the light as it touched his subject and the room around them. Little bits and pieces were highlighted by the glints of light coming from them and colour was cleverly used to bring your attention to the focal point.

We were told that on one occasion Vermeer painted out a whole painting he had included on a wall behind a subject in one of his portraits. Considering the time involved to do that I was so happy to see that master that we so admire sometimes changed their mind, or was unhappy with part of a painting and willing to change it significantly.

When only segments of a painting were looked at, Vermeer’s style became timeless. Brushstrokes were visible, we were able to see how just the touch of a brush could become a pearl earring or the impression of milk being poured from a jug and his application of beautiful bright colours. Methods that are just as applicable today as they were in the 17th Century.

Task: Contrast Johannes Vermeer with Robert Rauschenberg

I have noted these in bullet points.

• Rauschenberg uses materials from daily life in his “found” materials artworks whereas Vermeer painted scenes from daily life as subjects in his paintings

• Both artists had a small town background

• Both artists interested in the available technology of the day

• Rauschenberg has the addition of sculptural elements whereas Vermeer represented 3D using paint and perspective in paintings

• Rauschenberg’s works have a sense of distancing the viewer whereas Vermeer brings the viewer into the room with his subject

• Rauschenberg is rather objective in contrast to the personal and intimate feel of Vermeer’s portraits

• With Rauschenberg I tend to look at technique but with Vermeer I look at and become involved in the moment before thinking about technique

McClelland Gallery Tour

Sculpture Park Tour

As I am a member of the McClelland Guild of Artists I spend quite a bit of time in the gallery grounds. It is a great way to not only relax but also to enjoy any new exhibits. The landscape, wildlife and bushland around all the sculptures is also enjoyable for an artist.

Wandering around at your leisure can allow time to give your own interpretation to sculptures but on this occasion I was suffering from tendon problems so took the ride-on tour with a guide. Doing both I suggest is a great idea. Guides can tell you more about the artist and also how the work was done, materials used and a little of the story behind a work as told by the original artist.

There is a wide range of styles and methods in the park from realist to very obscure. I took a lot of notes about works that got my attention, in particular noting materials used in an effort to understand why they were used for outdoor works where weather is an issue. Some were done in the desire to have the weather “finish” the piece by the ageing process on the materials, others were done with withstanding conditions in mind.

As with my taste in paintings, I found that the more realist works were more interesting for me. Even with a moving story behind a sculpture, I could not make an emotional connection if the sculpture was too obscure in representing it. I related to the two works by Peter Schipperhoen as they were more realist, his marble torso with it’s soft curves was especially  lovely.

Gallery Tour

I walked through the exhibits in the gallery on my own. I had recently been in to see both these exhibits and wanted to go back over my initial impressions.

One one side of the gallery were very realist sculptures, some over sized. This newer method of artwork called hyper-realistic, to me, is very in your face. Every detail is there and when the piece is probably twice life size and naked, it really is intimidating!

I walked through and studied each piece and sat back to examine my reactions. There was some appreciation of the technical ability but not a lot of the “wow”. I spent more time relating to a small mixed media sculpture by Ricky Swallow. The tool marks were still on the work so I could instantly relate to the artist. There was heaps of room for personal interpretation and appreciation of the materials.

The other side of the gallery had inks on paper showing portraits of children. I really liked the washes and there was emotion in the faces, albeit what looked like mostly sad expressions. I noted at the time that they had lovely “painterly” and soft finishes but were disturbing.

The photographs by Rosemary Laing and Christian Thompson held no great interest for me. As I have manipulated photos for many years on the computer I didn’t see a lot of anything new or creative in these images and they held no emotive impact for me at all.

The sculpture in the centre of this part of the gallery was interesting in the realistic use of materials but also creepy. I don’t know what sort of animal was supposed to be depicted but I didn’t find it enjoyable to look at and I would have been more at home in a butcher’s shop.

PERSONAL NOTES

I always like going for a walk through the McClelland parkland. I think it is more for the natural beauty than some of the sculptures.

I have found that when painting for me there is such a thing as too realistic. My interest in something is lessened when there is too much detail or it looks too much like a photograph.

There seems to be less of the artist in these types of artworks for me. I like to see marks, brushstrokes etc left by the artist. I like having some details left out for me to interpret. I can make more of an emotional connection with something that retains the touch of the artist and allows me to make my own journey. I have also found that negative emotions or very abstract concepts hold little appeal for me.

In some cases I would rather have looked at the surrounding bush than the sculpture in it and moved along more quickly to something else when making no connection or a negative one with an artwork.

John Berger

Video One

Ways of Seeing – Reproductions

John Berger produced four programs of which this is one talking about how reproduction removes the original meaning and context from an artwork.

Until the invention of the camera the eye was “the centre of the world” according to John Berger. The camera began giving more views of the world than ever available before.

Prints are around us everywhere today so what happens to the original meaning and what is the real value in contrast to society’s artificial valuations? Without the influence from outside, what is an artwork “saying” to you? For example viewing an artwork via video can be influenced when music and narrative are introduced. Your emotional link can be altered when different types of narration and music are introduced. which leads us to ask about “art experts” and their narratives. How much do they alter our understanding and connection with an artwork?

Pontification with long and opinionated comments masked as expert knowledge can take away from what we may gain from a painting with our own understanding and emotional connection.

PERSONAL COMMENT

We go to a gallery or exhibition to make the connection with an artwork. I have always noticed the huge difference in looking at a print in a book to seeing the original painting. Seeing the surface that the artist touched, sometimes, seeing the brushstrokes and the painting in it’s original frame makes a huge difference. Learning of the technique and materials used is always interesting for me, but I have had doubts about the expert’s opinions about the meaning in a painting and the motivations behind producing it.

Putting in what may be misleading emotive things like music and narration can take away from the artist’s original meaning and can interfere with the viewer’s right and expectation to make their own personal journey through the painting.

Video Two

Ways of Seeing – Nude or Naked?

John Berger begins this video by asking us “how have women been represented in art?” He goes on to say that we often look for reflections of ourselves in others (IE: approval or praise) in the paintings of a period. In paintings we see the standards of beauty of the time.

From the European depiction of Adam and Eve and religious paintings with their moral overtones contrasted with asian views of the depiction of males and females we were asked to contrast the difference and look at the way that a lot of art was aimed at the male viewer who was in a lot of cases the one doing the purchasing. Females were in western culture in particular, depicted in a passive manner for the pleasure of male viewers. This lack of empowerment did not change a lot until recently in history.

We were asked to think about how the idealistic idea of women should look like at any given period in history. We were introduced to the concept of “self delight” – having a definite sense of self especially when in contact with the outside world.

What do we see when looking at a “nude”? When was it painted, why do you think it was painted? Was it just for the pleasure of a patron who wanted to boast of his mistress or is it in admiration of what was considered the beauty of the female figure at that time in history?

PERSONAL COMMENT

As a female artist I was interested in the views that through history the female has been more of a subject in art rather than a major producer. We learn about a lot of male artists from history but women are less often major topics in art history books.

I have been compelled to look for more examples of women being the driving force in art rather than mere passengers since this video. It is not a feminist calling just a desire for more balance. I am not convinced that there is as much behind the painting of female nudes as John has suggested and even if there was, it is possible that a lot of this was taken over after the introduction of and wide use of photography.

In any case both videos were interesting and I gained some different perspectives on both creating and looking at artworks.

David Hockney

Notes from the video about David Hockney and his journey in art

Even though he often derides the use of photography David Hockney has used it often to create his artworks. During the video we saw how he has investigated the use of lenses in the past to create paintings. This can be seen in the many examples of portraits with left handed people in them. The use of the camera obscura and later what has been called optics began as early as the 1400’s and there have been examples of techniques being used much earlier.

After having made those investigations, Hockney then went back to plain air painting. He also investigated watercolours and looked into the philosophy and techniques behind Chinese art. The concept of the three things required in Chinese art were briefly covered: HAND + EYE + HEART. He went on to use some of these philosophies and methods in his oil paintings.

We saw David painting on site in all weather conditions. Putting a composition aside and starting again if it was not working. Trusting his first instinct David often chose subject from a moving car. What may not look obvious in the beginning can make a good painting after working out the composition with some preliminary sketches. He has often painted the same scene in different seasons and these can cover several canvasses. Paintings can be worked on in the studio and then returned to the site for finishing off and establishing effects. He said this was helpful when light and conditions changed.

For the very large artwork for the Royal Academy, Hockney described the process as a “Subjective Experience”. Taking up over 600 square feet and over 50 canvasses he planned the composition both in his head and with drawings. He uses a camera and computer to track the progress of his work and we saw lots of prints used to check progress as well.

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS

I have seen this video bout David Hockney twice now. What confused me in the beginning was his contrary comments about the use of technology in the form of cameras in particular when he then goes on to use the thing he has just spoken natively about. It seems a bit contrary to me.

At one point it is all about plein air painting and then he goes on to use cameras to create his photographic collages. He has since gone on to use laser prints, computers and any other piece of technology that suits his needs.

We saw in the video, a personal assistant doing much of the menial tasks that many of us have to handle ourselves. It is rarely discussed how an artist can be very productive when they are not having to divide their time with setting up materials, purchasing or even the cooking and cleaning, let alone the promoting, organising exhibitions and accounting.

FINAL CONCLUSION

The video left me with confirmation that you use whatever methods you need to for production of successful artworks. Someone may come along and not agree with your methods by saying that for example “you should not paint portraits from photos” which I have heard personally, or you should only paint still life from “real life”. For one thing we don’t always have the luxury of a model to sit for us, and many of us have the restriction of time available so paintings may need to be done over several sessions.

David Hockney has become a successful artist and has done so doing whatever he thought necessary at the time to achieve what he wanted. He has picked up and dropped the use of technology and my only negative comment about that is his contradictory attitude towards the use of things like cameras. I kept thinking just make up your mind will you, you either like the use of something or you don’t.

For me personally, I will use technology happily in aid of my fine art. It is a way of keeping track of works, checking progress, creating something new when designing or composing a painting or can used to produce the final piece. I started “painting” on a computer in the early 1990s as a way of relaxing during a lunch break at work. It was totally unheard of then and I didn’t keep any of my creations. They took a long time to do because of the technology and were sometimes too big to store. Now that we have much improved devices such as software, computers, scanners, printers etc why not use them as just another “medium” or tool in our artistic toolbox?

Dr Who and Vincent Van Gogh

What in the world do they have in common and what could I possibly learn from a TV show?
Well what indeed you may ask if you are not a fan of this recently revived sic-fi cult status series. I will explain first that I was a big fan during the 1970s and lost interested for over twenty years until the most recent and technically upgraded series started about six or so years ago.
I have always like science fiction but it was especially interested in a recent episode when the Doctor made a visit to Vincent Van Gogh a year before his death.
What could an art student or professional learn from a, some would say, cheesy and not to be taken seriously British TV series?
I am going to explain.
Apart from the episode story of the unbelievable fighting of alien creatures there was a much more important message for me as an artist. Vincent Van Gogh battled mental illness probably in the form of recurring depression. His style of painting was not acceptable to many at the time, he only sold one work and struggled to be accepted nearly anywhere from what I have read.
His darkness and struggle however does not come across in the works I have seen from him. He used bright colours, the paint “moves” around the canvas, as if dancing. There is life, light and beauty in his paintings even though coming from a man struggling with constant inner demons. Vincent experimented with different styles and methods and was technically brilliant even in his drawing abilities as I have seen from many of his early sketches.
After having gone to the Mad Square exhibition, where the upheaval socially, the rise of the socialist party and early cruelties of Hitler’s regime were felt in Germany were reflected in the art I was left thinking about how much of the darkness of human nature and social upheaval needs to be reflected in such negative and graphic detail in art. Do I need to pull out my own demons and pain from my own life, or the negatives of history during my lifetime before I can create significant artworks?
The answer for me came in the final scene where the Doctor takes Vincent to the gallery where his major works are being admired and explored by a generation of people over a hundred years after his death.
People milled around and were looking and admiring. They were finding their own versions of beauty in his paintings and enjoying the experience. The curator was a huge admirer of Vincent and found his own joy in his paintings.
In reality Vincent never knew that his work would go on after him to be admired by so many people. That so many would find joy in his work. Out of his struggle and his pain has come generations of pleasure in his creativity. He didn’t paint the dark place he went to in his worst moments. He didn’t use harsh colours, edges or lack of light to pull us into his nightmares.
We remember Vincent as the man who despite his pain and depression created beauty that is timeless that when we are feeling at our most vulnerable or saddest, or most alone – at the bottom of that deep dark well that is depression, we can always try to see the light, the colour and the beauty and not only ourselves benefit but everyone that will come after us can be touched by what we create and be inspired by it.

Welcome to Janice’s Blog Site

Diploma of Visual Art
Chisholm Frankston

As per instructions from our lovely trainers David and Nathan, here is my Blog site for Visual Arts!

I will endeavour to keep this site up to date with the required and non-required editorials and assessments etc as well as hopefully some attractive pics of artworks.

Here are a few bits and pieces I have done during the year …

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Art History – Mad Square Exhibition

Art Gallery of Victoria February 22, 2012

Modernity in German Art 1910-1937

Q.1 i
What did the art that you liked confirm in your sensibility ?
(what you believe is OK)

I found a lot of the subject matter very confronting which I think was the point of the exhibition due to the historical context. I found it hard to find work that I really connected with on an emotional level. The works that I liked more than others used a wider colour palette. They looked like they had more than one message or idea, so that I had to look more intently into the work, to journey through the various stories and “hidden” messages within them. These works allowed for more interpretation by me as the viewer which I found more inviting.

Q.1 ii
How did the work that you didn’t  enjoy inform your own personal artistic philosophy? (when you see what you don’t like how does it clarify your views)

I found that my dislike of harsh edges and violent themes was reinforced the more I looked at the exhibits. Although intellectually I know that art is a good medium for social comment, when it is so violent and negative I turn off after a short amount of time. To be able to glean out the artistic heritage of works and influences used, I had to pull away emotionally from what I was looking at. It solidified my view that the styles of the impressionists, post impressionists and the like – using light, colour and atmosphere as well as their application of paint and pastel are definitely more to my liking.
I noticed, then looked for the influence of different artists in small ways.

Layout of the Mad Square Exhibition

Q.2  i

Did you find the provision of information user-friendly?
– too much?
– not enough?
– what did you read?

I thought that the information next to each work was just enough to read in a larger exhibition like this one. Too much to read means that people linger too long in front of works and other people may not get a good view. The timing of how long you want people to stop in front of a work I would think is important. I read all the information on the works that I was attracted to investigate and kept notes.

Q.2 ii
What style of lighting was there?

The lighting was unnoticeable, so I think it was working really well.

I was there to look at paintings etc not at the lighting so I admit to not taking a lot of notice of it, however, if it had not been working to show off the artworks to the best advantage or making them difficult to see, I think I would have noticed it.

Q.2 iii
What height were the 2D artworks hung at?

It was easy to see most of the area of all the works. They were hung so that I could see most of the piece at my at eye level. It looked like they had an idea of the average height of people and hung pieces accordingly.

NOTES ABOUT ARTWORKS

Below are the notes I took about some of the artworks at the exhibition.

The Sex Murderer
Heinrich Davringhausen

I could see something go Goya in this painting especially in the eyes of the figure under the bed. It looks like a painting done for impact rather that realism or following rules of perspective or classical composition for example.

Suicide
George Grosz

The use of vivid greens and reds seem to be used to create emotional conflict and impact. The figures are nearly caricatures and the artist has not represented the scene in a realist manner.

Woman in a Hat
Ernst Kirchner

The artist has used a limited palette and the style reminded me a little of Cezanne. It felt a bit more positive than the artworks so far. There was no attention to detail and it was not of a realist style. There was colour, movement and the “idea” of a person rather than a realistic representation.

Wolf in the River of Blood
Johannes Safis
The Danger of Bolshevism
Rudi Feld
To the Lantern
Max Pechstein
Grave Digger (poster – I have shortened the name on this one)
César Klein

I have put these works together as they had a lot in common. For one thing – lots of red and black. Colours of the Nazis, colours of death and blood to western cultures. They looked like images done to bring fear and show the darkness in the human psyche. I wondered at the time if Siimon Reynolds had called on these images for his ad campaign for the grim reaper years ago. The Grave Digger I found to be especially depressing.

The Dream
Max Beckmann

The softening of edges and the use of more colour made this painting more appealing. I was reminded a bit of Lewis Carrol as I was invited to investigate the painting further rather than just stand back and be immediately shocked. His topic may not have been cheery but at least it had a lot going on in it and I was interested in the composition.

 The Felix Müller Family
Otto Dix

This painting looked very Picasso-like. It appeared to pull apart the layers of people to reveal their inner demons. It was like it was representing society pulling apart families, peoples and cultures. Bold colours emphasised the strength of emotion and violent undertones.

Black and White Etchings and Prints
Various

These were very much like modern cartoons you can see today in most newspapers or on the web. Very political and lots of social commentary.

IMPRESSIONS

Although capturing the social and political upheaval and changes prior to WWII, with dramatic and effective story telling, my overall reaction is of a negative experience as a person and artist. Being confronted with so much of the violent side of human nature tends to make me retreat from making any sort of emotional connection with something whether it be a painting, a film, a book or a person’s behaviour in real life. I can intellectualise it to a certain degree, and in the case of art, can analyse the methods, reason and styles but I can’t enjoy them or connect to them.

Bauhaus
Various

Many styles we use today come from the Bauhaus. We take a lot of them for granted I think as they around us in minimalist interior decoration and architecture all over the place. I like the idea of taking something, like a simple shape and using it in a new and creative manner, to see if it can be representative of something else. If it can convey a new feeling, story or form.

Portraits
Various

As these paintings were more tonal and had a wider palette in most cases I found them more appealing, even though I am not usually too interested in portraits. The expressions were sometimes confronting but I found myself looking for influences from earlier periods in art and more inclined to stay and explore each work. The techniques looked a little more realist and I could see styles like those used in the early Renaissance in some of the faces, especially in the way the eyes were painted.

Metropolis Posters

I have seen the movie Metropolis. It is an epic movie with not only social impact but also a very emotional story. It is clever and the story holds up today. I found it to be a roller coaster of an experience and a beautifully filmed masterpiece. The poster brought back all my memories of the experience of the movie. I love this style of poster, I find it elegant and very “sic-fi” for those of us who very much enjoy reading and watching science fiction and science fantasy.

The Mad Square
Felix Nussbaum

I was confused as to why this painting was the last thing I saw in this exhibition rather than the first. I would have thought as it was named the Mad Square, this work would have been used as an introduction to the theme. It looked like it was plonked in at the end as an afterthought.

I liked this piece, it had a lot going on and the application of perspective was very helpful in giving depth and also guiding my eye through and around the painting. Parts were done with detailed realism and others were quite loosely represented. This helped me keep moving around and exploring rather than getting bogged down in one area. There also seemed to be a lot of story to be told. There is a lot of energy and the painting doesn’t feel depressing or intimidating. I looked at this work a lot longer than many others in this exhibition.

Holiday Activities

Apart from and Including Homework!

To prove I am either dedicated or ensane I have entered two more art exhibitions during the break, starting in May.

Coming up soon are The Berwick Artists Society Art Fest (in conjunction with the Pastel Society and City of Casey) and the AGRA Autumn Exhibition (at their Camberwell Gallery).

I am also trying to get all my homework done for next semester although my problems with Austudy are making motivation harder right now. However I have a nice new lino cut completed, a new wax sculpture mostly done – I only need some little enhancements to go on it, most of my blogs are done except one and will be resourcing materials for my “found materials” sculpture soon as I just cleaned out the studio and now know where everything is!

I have sprayed and stored all my drawings into my folio so they are now safe. (I have been doing some drawing practice whilst watching TV during the evenings but won’t bore you all with those!)

…and just to prove I am not quite right in the head, I have done a new oil painting on board. I primed several boards and old canvasses recently and decided to revisit a subject I have done before with a very limited palette. French Ultramarine Blue, Yellow, Crimson Lake and White. Just for the fun and the practice. I will post it in this blog. Please forgive the quality of the photo, it was done with my phone.

Oops, almost forgot. I recently met a neighbour who had been living in the street for twenty years and is an artist! She invited me for coffee this week and that was yesterday. I’ve had a tour of her studio and we get along really well. I have an open invitation to call in anytime! Networking can be great fun! By the way her name is Cherry Beresford and she is really good! I think if you look on the web there may be some samples of her work.

…and I have been contacted by McClellland Galleries who are interested in me volunteering at the Gallery! We have just set up a meeting for tomorrow so I’m looking forward to that. I think that will be great experience.

I hope everyone else is having a happy and productive break. I can’t wait to see you all next semester. HAPPY EASTER!

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Berwick Art Society Monthly Demonstration March 2012

Demonstrating Artist: Greg Allen

Subject: Portrait Painting in Water Colour

I have seen Greg Allen demonstrate before at McClelland Guild of Artists. He has the great ability to be entertaining and informative at the same time. The last demo I was at he succeeded in completing both an oil and water colour painting with only a little extra time. He also gave practical explanations of techniques which helped us to understand some of the beautiful effects he is able to put into his paintings. For this demonstration he arrived with a HUGE watercolour portrait painting of a very Australian looking rural man. This was the subject he was going to do a smaller copy of for the evening.
Greg told us that he is more well known for his landscapes but as a professional artist said that you need to push yourself and be ready to take on subjects that may not be in your favourites list or what you generally paint. He has been painting portraits since the early 1990s and has been working very hard on getting the “modelling” of faces right. He noted that getting the expression and the spark in the eye was an important thing to aim for.
Greg spent a little time telling us how he got started. He entered such things as the Dandenong Art Festival for young artists under 25 years of age (which I also entered a few times at about the same time) and was originally an oil painter until he went to the National Gallery and saw the most amazing water colours during the 1980s. He still does some paintings in oils but since then water colours have been his passion.
We were also told about the fun and not so much fun of painting commissions when the subject is Sheedy and you miss one of his trophies in the painting and have to go back and put it in! Fortunately “Sheeds” is a very nice guy! The club must have been happy as they followed up with another job not too much later.
Greg did get a lot of painting done whilst telling us such entertaining stories. I watched him do his preliminary drawing on a sheet of approximately A2 300gsm watercolour paper. He had it done in a matter of minutes. The painting was started with washing water into the areas he wanted to get his first wash on to. As water colours gain a life of their own sometimes when you decide to use them, Greg explained, you take on risk. Without risk in your career, however, you will never see growth and never have those happy accidents that come from letting go and letting the medium go where it will.
The creation of drama for a portrait is a main theme that Greg spoke about. This can be achieved by the use of light and shadow. Decide on a light source and get it going across the face so that one side falls more into shade. This will help when modelling to give depth to features such as the nose, cheeks and eyes.
As the portrait was of a rural man Greg was able to use some browns and even mauves for skin that has been out in the open for a lot of the person’s life. For the roughness of an unshaven face Greg used salt sprinkled on to the chin and neck. This had the effect of soaking up the paint around it and as it dried, the effect of short whiskers appeared. Longer whiskers were marked in with Greg’s fingernail quickly scratched through the wet paint! Really handy tips! Another great tip was that of getting creases in skin to show the modelling of the cheek, like you get when you smile. The crease was painted in with a fairly dark brownish colour and then a clean wet paint was used to soften one side. We had a practical demonstration of painting to get a sharper line on one side and a blend on the other with just the use of one stroke painted through a pre-wet area on the painting. Paint half on and half off and you can continue pulling the paint with a clean wet brush on one side for a wider softer effect. Highlighted areas on the face were either left unpainted or if they were to be soft, a wet brush was used to lift the paint off a few areas.
The big lesson which I learnt with Glen Hoyle last year was reiterated here. Know when to let your painting dry thoroughly. You can easily create mud by going over with washes when the underneath is still too wet. Also don’t forget to stand back and check your painting. People are not going to stand right in front of your work, they will probably be seeing it from across a room, so that is where you need to check it from. It’s no use if it looks OK right up close but fails when you step away from it.
Greg told us that is very important that you get your modelling of the face done first and then go in with the details and REMEMBER to check your colours on a test piece of paper BEFORE you commit them to the painting! Especially important for watercolours as you can’t always fix a mistake as you would with oils or acrylics.
A little more redness in the cheeks shows a healthy complexion, the eyes are like a sphere sitting in a crevice under the brow, a hint of green can be used in 5 o’clock shadows to make them stand out against skin tones, the ears can show light through them as they are usually thin with little or no fat or fleshiness. Keep a mirror with you to check your progress, it will show you straight away if there is something going wrong between your model and the painting. Remember that the iris etc in the eye rarely shows the whole thing, the eyelids cover possibly a third of them, so don’t paint all of them in for a more natural look, lightening the bottom of the iris will also help with the modelling.
We were thrilled to see the final result of all his work at this demo. Greg said that the painting was not really finished but when the matt went around it, WOW! It looked great.
I had a chance to chat with Greg after the demo. He is a very generous and friendly artist who loves not only painting for himself but teaching others how to improve their skills as well. My thanks to him for taking the time to give us such a great demonstration and also for his personal time afterwards.

Margaret Olley

Portrait of an Amazing Australian Painter

I must confess to knowing little or nothing about Margaret Olley until today which is a shame on my part.

What an amazing woman she was. I accidentally recorded a documentary about her after one about Manet that I was intending to watch and was able to watch both uninterrupted this afternoon. As I am facing my Austudy being cut off in June because of some bureaucratic red tape and hence the end of my art studies, I was in deep need of some positive input to help me to not give up.

What I saw apart from the intense colour she used was an artist who had an ability to take the everyday of things in her home and surroundings, as many of the original Impressionists did, and turn them into incredibly beautiful art. Her flowers pop off the canvas and seem to be still very much alive. The little reflections on surfaces invite you to look closer, and as an artist – to try to check out how she achieved it! Her room spaces have a sort of organised clutter that you wander through as if you were actually in the room with her, the half open drawers  and piles of books with not quite readable titles also make you start to imagine and make up your own story.

It seems that Margaret was not a fan of many of the styles of art that I don’t connect with either so I found an immediate connection with her and a confirmation of my direction with my own art. People would look at her paintings, I think, and gain a feeling of brightness and be cheered by the use of light and colour as well as the feeling of familiarity and even comfort from being in the home space of the artist.

I liked seeing her liberal application of paint on the surface. She seems to have a fearless use of the brush. I found her work inviting and have been looking further at her style and how she changed through the years as she kept experimenting and dedicated herself to her calling. She lived with her art all around her, it was a constant part of her life, not just something that she did as a job, or a career that she put away from view on weekends. She lived it, she breathed it, it was part of her very soul.

As a female artist I found that through the program I was feeling a kinship to her journey, including her bout of depression, which I also suffer from, her understanding that her art would require her to make life choices as far as family and relationships – which I have also done to a certain degree, lots of little things that rang true. Margaret painted right to the end of her life, which means she was always engaged, always doing what she loved, always creating and  being true to herself and the world about who and what she was. She also encouraged other artists on their journeys, being very generous and giving of her time and support.

This spirit of mentoring rather that competition, encouragement rather that discouragement was very moving. In so many parts of life I’ve seen examples of ruthlessness and dishonesty – especially in business, which has been a big part of the advertising and printing industry, which I was working in for over thirty years. You just didn’t encourage up and coming competitors in the business as you were in fear of losing your job to them. Getting “killed in the rush” or “stabbed in the back” by a co-worker on their way up the ladder was not uncommon. Thankfully the community I am building up around me now and being included into by many generous artists is more like Margaret’s. The memories she has left and the warm way in which she is regarded is a great legacy.

What is that saying about what you want inscribed on your tombstone?

I like “Here lies a good person and a great artist who was loved and will be remembered and missed”

I can only hope to be half the artist this woman was. I am so glad I accidentally recorded this program. I’d like to learn more about Margaret’s art and hopefully get to see more of  it in real life soon.