Australian Fine Artist

Archive for the ‘General Topics’ Category

Art and Journalism: the artful skill of swaying human opinion

Truth, according to philosophy, will depend on which philosopher you listen to. Plato thought that an eternal truth, or Form[1], existed that was beyond human ability to reproduce in art, and difficult to explain. We often ask for, or even demand truth, or “the truth” in the legal system, and society in general, but is it subjective and how do we know when it is being manipulated or subverted for various reasons?

I ask this because art, especially fine art has grappled with this concept for thousands of years. Additionally, we expect unbiased truth from our communicators and leaders, and are sadly disappointed at the least when they fail to meet these expectations.

Heidegger claimed that “When truth sets itself in the work, beauty appears. This appearing (as this being of truth in the works and as the work) is beauty.” [2] Which sounds good, but truth in the real world is not always beautiful, sometimes it is ugly and painful. So, how does this relate to journalism? How are the two related, and what comparisons, or contrasts can be drawn between the two?

Let’s look at art from another perspective. Art can connect with people by revealing a story, or narrative, it can be emotive – making you feel joy, sorrow, anger, empathy, it can attempt to tell a truth as interpreted by the artist. However, as we may know from eye witness accounts of crime, ten people witnessing the same event can provide ten different versions, because human attention, memory, and vision is not perfect, and we are influenced by our personal life experiences. The artist, therefore, rarely tries to tell “the truth”, they tell “a truth” for the viewer to see and analyse for themselves. This is subjective, whilst being analytical, and always as a product of the artist’s creative imagination. We are not meant to look at a painting like the charge of the light brigade (Scotland Forever, 1881) by Lady Elizabeth Butler as an historically accurate representation. It is meant to raise the emotions and patriotism of the viewer, to praise heroism, not to report the facts. In 1922, she is quoted as saying as much.

Now let’s look at journalism in the 21st century. What is its purpose? As it can come in a variety of forms, investigative, commentative, feature writing, and opinion piece, for example, how do we separate one type from another, and do they overlap, allowing opinion to bleed into investigative and ‘hard’ news?

Personally, when I watch the 7pm news on ABC for example, I want unbiased facts, and just the facts. There isn’t a lot of time to tell all of the events of the day, so I have little patience for emotive rhetoric padding out stories taking up precious air time. If I want opinions, I will watch or read clearly labelled opinion articles and blogs. Conversely, I know that when I access opinion pieces, in addition to a certain amount of fact, that can be verified if I care to do so, there will be subjective ideas and critique from the author/speaker.

Journalists tell us stories, like artists, they can be interpreted via the fallible senses of a human, but the difference between artists and journalists is that it is the job of the news to as much as is possible, present ‘the facts’ without bias, or favour. Personal and corporate opinion needs to remain in the area of the blog or opinion piece, and not discolour the picture being presented so that fact and bias become so intermingled that one cannot be distinguished from the other.

A small example occurred today. The report was about the impeachment of President Trump. The reporter talked about the only other times presidents had been impeached. The reporter said that Johnson and Clinton had both been impeached, and later acquitted – facts. They then went on to say that Nixon ‘fled’ from office when faced with three articles of impeachment. This is just a small thing, but the addition of emotive language into reporting changes how we hear it. Nixon resigned – fact. Why not state the fact?

Of course, we want journalists to be empathetic when a disaster is being reported, BUT, they must also remain objective. Stephen Ward wrote, “Reporters are not automatons, but emotion in journalism can be manipulated.” That is why there are professional standards, which I think, are being eroded by the infiltration of subtle emotive rhetoric and bias. Ward seems to have a pessimistic outlook for 21st century journalism, when he writes, “Journalism of the early 21st c., irreproachable from outside, differs in essence and is completely reflected on by the realities of the informative era, so that through functional transformation, certain objective pre-conditions of self-destruction arise. Among the symptomatic signs of devaluation of professional standards, the most expressive and most notable ones, according to a destructive force, are tendentious, purposeful global changes of conceptual tasks (to control and construct – depending on the model of journalism: whether informative or analytical), on secondary tasks (to entertain and advertise). Sometimes it is combined as an incomprehensible hybrid.”[3]

Just as we are swayed by the emotive content of a painting, designed to do so by the artist, some journalists of today are attempting to sway feelings and emotions by surreptitiously including emotive language into their reporting. As you look at a work of art, for example, The Third of May, 1808 by Goya, and feel your empathy and possibly anger rise witnessing the murder by firing squad of members of the Spanish resistance, examine how you react to the next stories presented in the newspaper, online or on the TV. Is your reaction valid, and authentic, or is it being manipulated by the emotive words placed amongst the facts by the journalist? Are they reporting the story based on the facts, or are they attempting to sway your opinions, and future action, with clever manipulation of words to ‘paint a picture’ distorted by their interpretation and biases?

Remember, a painting’s purpose is usually to make you cognitively think and imagine, and relate to the artist’s story on a human, and usually emotional level. It is the ‘artist’s truth’, unlike the task of the ‘hard news’ journalist, which should be to present you with, as far as is humanly possible, ‘the facts’, irrespective of their personal opinion.


[1] Plato’s Republic

[2] Mersch, D. (n.d.) A Short History of “Truth” in Art Retrieved from

[3] Ward, S. (2010). Emotion in Reporting: Use and Abuse. Retrieved from

Academic Manifesto of Practice

Impressionism is not dead, nor is it’s modern application a sentimental reflection of 19th century fine art. I am a modern Impressionist painter and fine artist. This is a simple statement of who I am. As a modern Impressionist painter, I ‘see’ the environment differently, expressing my interpretation of the land and sea using Impressionist techniques and theories. As a fine artist I create paintings that are ‘historically reflexive’, and according to Beardsley “capable of affording an aesthetic experience valuable for [their] marked aesthetic character” (Davies, 2002. pp. 171-173). This may appear to be an outdated way of thinking confining me to a narrow perspective of who I am and what I do, but it is my opinion that an artist must develop a clear understanding of themselves and their work, to place them in context with (or against) the broader ‘Artworld’. This is in contradiction to Lieu, who states that the distinction between fine art and other definitions is artificial and that most art can be placed into any category (fine, visual, illustration) (Lieu, 2013. p. 5). Davies also argues that with the introduction of ready-mades by Duchamp in the early 20thcentury, the definition of art has only become more difficult. Their opinions, however, do not mean that I have to agree with them. As an informed and experienced artist, it is more important, in my view, to clearly establish my identity and purpose, whilst remaining mindful of the movement and artists that have inspired me.


Single and Multiple Pigment Colours

Why Reading the Labels on your Tubes of Oils is Important

You may have noticed that oils come in averiety of  ‘series’. The number of the series reflects the quality and intensity of the pigment, and the amount of them used in each colour. A good quality oil paint will have a nice buttery thickness as it comes out of the tube, and only a small amount will reveal a strong intense colour when mixed with white.


Painting Nudes 2017

The Third Workshop Semester 2 with David Chen

The topic for this workshop was controlling tone. In a tonal painting you decide if you want to complete a dark, medium or light toned painting, you also decide on the temperature of your colours, which can be either overall warm or cool. The overall colour of the painting is decided as well.

So what you may decide on, depending on your preferences and taste as a painter could be an overall tonal painting that is in the cool reds and a middle to dark tone, to create some richness and drama.


Scumbling with Oil Paints

Scumbling is a method used when painting that I have recently taken up as part of my repertoire for gaining depth and unity within a painting.

It could be compared to glazing, as the use of transparent and semi-transparent paints is involved. The difference however, lies in laying down a darker background, then adding a transparent white, waiting for it to dry, and then ‘scumbling over darker transparent colours to either unite the painting with a similar tone or temperature, or to create a specific colour impression.

One of my best examples of scumbling was used in a very large work over 4 canvasses. I wanted to give the painting depth and pull it together with the use of scumbling with lighter and darker alternate cool and warm tones. This also gave the impression of the metal objects in the painting, which I was very pleased about.

I use a mix of Liquin and Linseed oil to get a little more drying time, but if you want one layer to dry very quickly, use the Liquin on its own. Liquin dries fast, sometimes in a matter of hours, so you need to be sure about what you are doing.

If you want to watch a short video about this method of painting look at:

Happy painting!

Odds & Sods. 2015. Oil on 4 90x90cm canvasses. © Janice Mills.

Painting Nudes Semester 2-2017

The First of Five Workshops with David Chen

Last semester ended with us understanding more about skin tones and how to use edges, tone and colour to place the model into a scene.

This semester we began by going over David’s philosophy for the workshops and his experience as first, an art student learning Academic Art Training at university (something that is not widely covered in Australia) and later as a practising artist and art teacher.

The technical issues that David has overcome during his 40 years as an artist and teacher are invaluable for students to learn as we take on the difficult subject of the human body.


Painting Nudes 2017

The Final of Five Workshops with David Chen

During this workshop, we learnt about another method of working the model into their surroundings. Rather than having your subject, be it a human figure or even a still life or an animal, looking like they are part of their surrounds, and keeping the painting interesting takes planning and often altering what you see to what you want. During this workshop, we could either take from the objects surrounding the model and apply our imagination to make them work, or use vignetting (leaving areas of the canvas white) to merge parts of the model into the background and surrounds.


Modelling Paste and Impasto for Painting

Adding depth and texture to your paintings

If you like the texture of paintings that shows mounds and gullies of paint rather than the flatter surfaces typical of traditional tonal paintings, you may want to consider using modelling paste with your acrylics.

A similar product is available for oils, and is as easy to use. It is typically called impasto. Both of these products added to the paint will add a large amount of volume without taking away from the intensity of the colour. If it does change to another brand. Good quality ones which I have used are Winsor & Newton and Atelier.


Painting Nudes 2017

The Fourth of Five Workshops with David Chen

This workshop followed on fromthe previous subject about “loosening up” your painting style. One thing that I have noticed over recent years is how edges can make or break a painting. The softer and “looser” result that you may be looking for has to do with how you approach painting edges, particualrly those on you main subject in relation to the surrounding composition.

There are a few different methods to help with creating interesting edges that also bind your subject to their surroundings, rather than having them look like cardboard cutouts.


Painting Nudes 2017

The Third of Five Workshops with David Chen

When I began training with David Chen, my goal was to not only learn the principles of Modern Impressionist painting, but also to ‘loosen up’ my style a bit from what i saw as sometimes ‘stiff’ and contrived results. Sometimes the details become so important that I forgot to place the subject within and connected to the foreground and background in which it was situated.

Context is just as important as your focus and main subject, and when the subject began to look disjointed, unrelated or worse, like it has been stuck or pasted on top of an unrelated scene, is when I start wondering how this could have been avoided. My thought was that if I could put more planning and less effort into my paintings, that would be a start, but what kind of thought and what kind of effort?