Australian Fine Artist

Archive for January, 2013

Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists at the NGV

This exhibition is on at the NGV until March 2013. I found it a feast for the eyes with loads of colour and an enjoyment of a style that I had not been particularly drawn to before.

According to the NGV web site Neo-Impressionism is:

“A backlash against certain aspects of Impressionism, as well as an extension of others, Neo-Impressionism grew from the creative spark ignited by two young artists who became friends in 1884, the classically trained Georges Seurat and the self-taught Paul Signac.”

Neo-Impressionism has been linked with the emergence of Fauvism and Abstraction and hints of futures artist’s styles can be seen in many of the works. Rather than concentrating on merging colours or tonal blends, or even mixing colours, the paintings in this style have dabs or dots of colours adjacent to each other to create a visual effect. It is when you stand back that two or more colours may seem to merge to create the overall colour “look” or the tonal effect. Sometimes complementaries are used side by side and at other times tonal variations of the same or a similar colour may be used as a solid colour underneath with dots or dabs of colour over the top, or loads of “dabs” surrounding each other. Sometimes “dabs” are elongated in a spiralling pattern moving around the paintings, in a method that reminded me of Vincent Van Gogh – but with a much smaller application of the paint from the brush.

When used in large marks on the canvas I found this not as much to my liking and some of Seurat’s work I still find a bit “stiff” looking. There is also evidence of overlooking strict rules of perspective and proportion in some paintings.

The use of colour however, is striking and beautiful. I discovered a couple of artists that I didn’t know about at this exhibition and some new (to me) works that were just breathtaking. I particularly liked the night views of the city and a couple of the portraits were amazing. One in particular, which you see as you walk through the doorway into the room had me stopped and staring at it from a distance and close up for ages. The way the draping material in the dress and the skin tones, as well as the face, were done was something that I didn’t expect from this style of painting. Both cities and portraits are not my favourite subjects and yet the works were so beautiful and so capturing that I had to stop and drink them in. Beyond the style of painting was the sheer expertise shown by the artists in creating a work that could make you love it no matter what the topic was (mind you they were not of some of the horrific sides of human thought and behaviour).

I discovered Maximilien Luce, Paul Signac and Théo Van Rysselberghe (he did the beautiful portrait) at this exhibition. I didn’t know anything about any of them until yesterday and now I have had a taste of their talents.

Like a lot of other periods of art history, Neo-Impressionism isn’t necessarily a style I want to follow or take on. It may have aspects which I can adopt or I may just appreciate what I have learnt. It doesn’t really matter. I am a more well rounded artist today than I was two days ago, I know a little more than I did before. It was also fun. If we get taken back there for my Visual Arts course this year I won’t mind at all.

Robert Wade: The call of the coast at MPRG

The MPRG notes state better than me the information about this lovely little exhibition in the foyer at the gallery.

“Renowned Australian watercolourist Robert Wade has travelled and painted across the globe, from the markets of Morocco to the canals of Venice, yet it is a dramatic outcrop of rock on the Mornington Peninsula which continues to capture his imagination.

This exhibition features fifteen watercolour studies of Pulpit Rock, Cape Schanck which Robert Wade OAM donated to the Gallery in 2007. Painted over many years, the Cape Schanck works range from 1983 to 2007; capturing many moods they are an intense study of the light and atmospheric conditions of what was to become a favourite haunt of Australian artists from the middle of the 19th Century.”

There are also watercolour sketches by Robert from his “visual diaries” in the foyer as well, which gives us who are still on a steep learning curve, an idea of how a professional artist builds up his ideas in his journals before going on to do a complete work.

I am a FB friend of Robert so I loved seeing his works on display at the gallery. Having a good look at his paintings showed me that you don’t have to labour over a watercolour to get great effects. What looks complicated from a distance reveals itself as possibly only a couple of well executed washes when you get close up. It was what was not in Robert’s paintings that most interested me. They were not detailed, not complicated, details and fiddly bits were left out to create a harmonious and alive painting with movement and atmosphere.

This is another exhibition that I could and would like to revisit soon. I found it very inspiring and educational on a lot of levels for any watercolour painting I may venture to attempt.

Vision Splendid: Landscapes of Phillip Island and Western Port at MPRG

An exclusive to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery exhibition.

Whilst at the MPRG for the natural history exhibition I was able to have a look at this one which is in the next section of the building. As it is based around the Peninsula, I think i may have enjoyed this one even more than the first I went there to see. With the talents of  Eugene von Guérard, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Walter Withers and including recent artists such as Rick Amor on display, there is something for anyone who loves the Mornington Peninsula and Victorian Coastline around to Philip Island and along the west coast.

Since the timeline covers such a wide span, the styles in this exhibition vary and there are examples of Australian Colonial, Australian Impressionist as well as Modern Contemporary. Some of the scenes are so recognisable to many that you will immediately know where the artist was working.

I really loved this exhibition, I could relate to the subject matter, the styles were something I could understand and deconstruct in some cases to get inside that artist’s head a bit. Some works were just stunningly beautiful to look at. Something to enjoy just for the sake of drinking in something mentally stimulating and emotionally peaceful at the same time.

This is an exhibition I could easily revisit.

The Art of Science: Natural History Illustrations at MPRG

Illustrations by some of the best known artists who devoted their talents to recording our natural environment.

This exhibition showcases the development of scientific art from the Melbourne museum’s seldom seen collection of artworks and rare books, and images produced with microscopes, macro-lenses and computers.

Even if you don’t paint in a detailed manner, looking at the works by these very patient and dedicated artists give understanding of how these very lifelike images were created. I took the time to look at these creations from a distance end then very close up to try to nut out how every image was created. There is so much detail and fine pencil, pen and brush work in some, that it must have taken months to complete some of them.

I found myself attracted to the expressions in the eyes of the birds. From here comes the “spirit” of the animal and it is usually where I start from when doing an animal portrait. I then went to the details in the feathers, including the water colour washes that gave the colours to the wings and the detailed fine lines to show one feather from another as well as all the details in each individual feather. It’s a style that I don’t use now, but can appreciate, as well as the fact that you never know when you may use it again in the future.

If you have only seen these images in book before, it is well worth your while to see the originals. There are examples of animals from other countries as well as our own including the beautiful hand coloured aquatint, engraving on paper called Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus),  from The Birds of America 1829 by John James Audubon. It’s so good that since studying printmaking last year I now know what an aquatint is so could understand how the image was made to a certain degree.

A very interesting exhibition and well worth the visit.


Art Books

Last summer I was given a book to read by artist friend Margo Vigorito. Fortunately she said I could take my time with it, because it took me all year to get through it! I am not a slow reader, that is not the reason. The book was titled:

Alla Prima
Everything I Know About Painting
By Richard Schmid

According to Richard’s web site: “ALLA PRIMA is considered one of the most comprehensive art instruction books on the market and a standard in classical art education both in the United States and abroad. Read about talent, skill, confidence, perception, and control. Find out what values and edges are all about, some sound ways of starting, 19 key ideas about color and color harmony, drawing expertly, simplifying composition, the 40 most common problems in painting – and what to do when a painting crashes. Explore these and many other fascinating things that we all need to know to paint the paintings we dream of.”

Well it was brilliant! Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it and I can only agree. Richard covers anything from colour theory, tone, values and composition to your mental approach to painting, how to fix what looks broken and myths about painting and art. In amongst all this are pages showing his work.

I was sorry to have to hand it back as it is one of those books you need to have in your studio. I will be looking to buy it as soon as funds allow, trust me! I read only one chapter at a time, totally soaking in everything I could. So much common sense and me with so little brain matter to hold on to it!

I highly recommend this book for artists of all levels. It isn’t cheap at over $90 but I have spent over $250 for a good art history book in the past and  not regretted it.

Coaching the Artist Within
Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists and Musicians
By Eric Maisel

Whilst handing back (reluctantly) Alla Prima to Margo, she told me that she is happy to lend me art books to help my career! With that she handed me another book to follow on from Richard’s.

Coaching the Artist Within has less to do with the mechanics of producing artworks and more with the mental and emotional approach to our work and careers. It has taken me a little while to get to it as I have been clearing out the studio and working on other projects, but one night I couldn’t sleep so decided to start on it. Bad move as I found I had trouble putting it down!

I am only half way through this book (Jan 2013) but can pass on some of the subjects covered.

  • Opening up an internal dialogue. Encouraging yourself when you should, chiding yourself when needed and having enough self love so you don’t need it from outside
  • Deciding that you matter. Your dreams and your work matters
  • Making meaning: How you will lead your life. Make that meaning matter. Ask yourself what your life purpose is.
    Making use of your talents. Using your whole being every day. Serving higher values such as truth. Get satisfaction from your life. Work on meaningful projects. Holding meaningful and loving relationships.
  • Get rid of your wrong thinking. Negative thoughts drag us down and stop us from fulfilling potential. Positive self affirmations are important tools to help us grow. Instead of “I can’t do this today, I don’t think I can paint this” try, “I can do this any time I like, today tomorrow, any time, all I have to do is give it a go”
    Here are some examples: I am off to create. I can handle this. I have everything I need. I am ready.
  • Creating positive mental energy. Creating positive obsessions to combat negative ones. Talk about your art with phrases such as “I can’t wait to get started on you” or “I am really looking forward to the fun of doing this project”.
  • Creating in the Middle of Things. Since we do not live in a vacuum, we are always in the middle of things just as many talented and brilliant people before us. Creativity has blossomed in the middle of wars, natural disasters and personal tragedy. Often when isolated from life and the world creativity suffers as we draw on life even if not consciously. Many people allow “things” to take over their lives so they never complete or even start working on their dreams, aspirations or talents. Make the time. If it is important, you have to make it a priority. Set aside definite time in you day or week to fulfil your personal goals.
  • Centring your thoughts, breath and clear your mind.
  • Committing to being goal oriented. Create rituals that help you succeed.
  • Planning and doing. Make sure you follow through.
  • Living a creative life. It isn’t a little box you pull out every now and then. It is you, with you all day every day.
  • Keep a diary of your goals
  • Write lists of what you want to achieve each day.
    For example:
    Wednesday March 1 diary page.
    1. Emails. Check to see if exhibition receipts have come in – half hour
    2. Research on the web for new outlets, opportunities and exhibitions etc – 1 hour
    3. Plan and start a new pastel painting – 1 hour (flexible) I’d like to do a new seascape I have been thinking about.
    4. Complete rewrite of lesson 1 to Keynote application – Half day
    5. Write new blogs (books, plans with drawing course) – 2-3 hours
    Have a plan for the year
    1. Seasonal exhibitions at AGRA and Vic Arts (so I need to have 8 artworks done this year to show).
    2. 9 workshops – monthly on Saturdays with David Chen
    3. Complete Dip.Vis.Art with HDs
    4. Prepare for teaching drawing by upgrading lessons, finishing meeting room etc and promoting at the end of the year
    5. Continue volunteer work with McClelland Gallery
    6. Exhibit in at least 2 other art exhibitions each season.
    7. 2 hours of homework weeknights. Set aside Saturday afternoons as well if required.
    8. Another Artist of the Year award would be a bonus.

There is a lot in this book and I am glad I have decided to write about it in this blog, as it cements the ideas into my head better. Some ideas I am glad to say I have been practising for a while, such as keeping a diary and lists so that I keep on track and get things done. Others concerning having positive dialogue and not being my own worst critic – I am still working on.

I will update as soon as I get on to my next book. Until then happy reading and creating everyone.

Water Colour Workshop

OK! I am starting off the year with a workshop with brilliant watercolourist Glenn Hoyle!

The workshop is on Sunday 20th of January 2013 in South Frankston.

Encouraged by my “other half” who is, by the way, paying for this workshop (thanks honey!!!!) I am going to attend a full day with Glenn to again wrap my head around this sometimes tricky medium.

Glenn has a way of making water colours make sense and not at all threatening, which many of us have experienced when tackling them by ourselves. I have produced some of my best water colour paintings, which by the way have also won awards, after attending classes with Glenn. I am so very happy he had spaces available.

Another advantage of attending a workshop with Glennis that he had such great drawing skills. For this piece we spent a good amount of time drawing up the painting first. Glenn went over how to get the proportions and shapes right by dividing up you paper and getting your larger shapes in first, working out how objects relate to each other and looking at negative space around all the objects. Once you have all the larger features drawn in lightly, the rest come much more easily. You can then use an eraser to lift off any lines you don’t need or darken a few so that as you paint you have reference points.

All these techniques could just have easily have been for a drawing class. If I had started on a sheet of smoother hot press paper for example I could have continued on with several graphite pencils and created a drawing instead of a painting. So it is a good to get your drawing skills, no matter what medium you are using.

Here is the painting completed at Glenn’s workshop.

Completed at Glenn Hoyle's one day water colour workshop.

Completed at Glenn Hoyle’s one day water colour workshop.