Tuesday, 24 February 2009

back in the drawer

'kitty kat' 5.83" x 8.27"

many years ago, i had a job organising workshops for health professionals. one of the workshops was 'writing for publication' presented by a popular professor. being the organiser, i would sit at the back of the room while the workshop was in progress, doodling and making notes. i picked up some valuable tips, applicable to any piece of writing.

the professor told us to write and write and write, then put your manuscript in a drawer and forget about it. for a week, a month, preferably a year..... don't even think about it during this time. then when you come back to it, be prepared to edit harshly - don't say in ten words, what can be said more articulately in five. this is the part i love the most - the challenge of reducing my words to the minimum. it's the same buzz that you get from completing a puzzle!

so i did this with the children's story i'm writing & even though it is only nine pages long, i shut it away for a few weeks. i took it out of the drawer this week and of course there was much editing required and new ideas bubbled up. i tinkered with it some more today & it is in much better shape now. yes, it's exciting, but it's back in the drawer again, just to be sure!

the first water-colour illustration is almost completed - eight more to go! it is a constant weaving of the visual with the written word. a creative dance!

Friday, 20 February 2009

secret No: 7 - consulting with guides

this serene pic taken on my last 'artist date'

i am participating in the next chapter group reading 12 secrets of highly creative women, by gail mcmeekin.

having a creative guide or mentor is something that seems to have passed me by. a mentor to encourage my artistic talents and provide some direction when i was younger would have certainly changed my life, but i guess it wasn't meant to happen back then.

however, the universe always provides and blogging entered my life. it was my first taste of what it could be like to be with a group of women who were creative, spiritual and supportive of each other. it was like finding my tribe at long last.

reading the wisdom of wonderful seasoned artists like judy wise and nina bagley, to name only a couple, is such a treat. each of you creative blogging souls out there have sent my thinking off in new directions with your ideas, books, links, images & demonstrations.
this 'next chapter' group provides us with a deep focus on the thing we all love the most, our creativity. we are learning from each other and by generously sharing our fears, hopes & wisdom we gather courage & momentum.

out in the wider world, australian artists rebecca cool, cressida campbell & del kathryn barton are guiding lights for me. not only inspiring with their art, but also with the lives that they lead. my country has produced some truly amazing artists.

if ever i am lucky enough to find a flesh & blood creative mentor who will sit down with me and share all their wisdom, i will hang on to them very, very tightly!

Friday, 13 February 2009

secret No: 6 - conquering saboteurs

i am participating in the next chapter group reading 12 secrets of highly creative women

conquering saboteurs... dealing with gremlins can be our biggest hurdle to success, or if you take them the right way, they can be the very thing that guides you towards success.

i believe that when our self-critic comes along, we should deal with it in the same way we would deal with any other critic - listen politely, take any constructive ideas they may have, then remember your strengths and throw away the rest. if you know your own strengths and remind yourself of these often, it is not so easy to fall into a trembling heap - you know the power that you have.

gremlins have been hounding me for a while now telling me that my water-colour technique was not up to scratch. i believe that my strengths are colour and design. with this core of self-belief, i was able to listen to the gremlins when they told me to look at the quality of my work.

i could have torn up my efforts in disgust and cried or given up completely, but instead i listened. my work was not bad, it was just time to find some lessons on technique - a learning curve. read some books, watch a demonstration, do some research. things are falling into place now and i am moving forward with confidence, now that i have acquired some new skills.

so if you can find your strengths and remind yourself of them every day, you will empower yourself. if someone tells you they like something about your work, write it down. print out an encouraging blog comment, write your strengths in lipstick on your bathroom mirror! create a positive mantra built around them. then when the gremlins come along you will be able to stare them down, or better still, take away something useful.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

inspired by a diamond python

this is the snake i've been working on. i found inspiration in 'the encyclopaedia of australian wildlife' by Steve Parish. the snake that caught my eye was a non-venomous diamond python curled up very cosily in a birds-nest fern. although the diamond python in the book is quite beautiful, mine is nothing like it and i've used lots of detail again (click on the picture for a closer look).

the white lines on the leaves were made with the help of masking fluid (sometimes called frisket) which is a liquid latex solution that you apply with an old paintbrush, then paint over the top. when you've finished painting it simply peels off with the help of a plastic eraser. it works with any water-based medium. i'll play with this some more as it was lots of fun and the possibilities are endless.

the body of the snake was perfect for practicing 'transitioning'. i don't think i've quite got it yet. to create the effect of roundness it is necessary to apply a wash then lift off some of the paint down the middle with a dry paintbrush, to reveal a light turning edge. lots more technique to practice.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

a couple of things

what is it about fish that i like so much? colour, pattern & shape mostly. i seem to have collected quite a few in the form of pottery, mosaic & ornaments over the years & i love to paint them. fish are considered to be a sign of abundance in chinese culture and apparently it welcomes in good fortune if you have fish symbols in your kitchen. our kitchen is in the wealth corner on the bagua map, so maybe i should make a nice big fish painting to hang there, welcome in some good vibrations!

i'm reading a compelling book called 'the other hand' by chris cleave. it is such superb reading i was surprised to find myself half-way through the book, having only just picked it up. it's about 'little bee' a nigerian refugee and her arrival in london, fleeing a terrifying past. not a subject i thought i would enjoy reading, but so well written & current, i recommend it. i found my copy in the local library.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

beautiful swimming pigment

i'm loving my new water colours. beautiful pigment swimming all across the page, swirling together. this was another exercise where i practiced different techniques. the secret is to use the best quality paper you can and the best quality paints & brushes.

i'm still very much a novice and need to practice some 'transitioning' (perfectly blending two colours together such as yellow and orange, from darkest to lightest). i have made a design of a snake and the roundness of its body will give me opportunity to practice this. i'll let you know how it goes.

the watercolor book: materials & techniques for today's artists by david dewey, is on my (very long) book wish-list. i just sold my little fish from a couple of posts back, so it looks like the money's been spent already! :)

the music in my sidebar the be good tanyas 'littlest birds' is well worth a listen today, it is such a joyful, feel-good song, i'm thinking of buying the album.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

secret No. 5 - committing to self-focus

i am participating in the next chapter group, reading 12 secrets of highly creative women

a yoga practice is something that is important to my self care and i give it priority. my family know that it is my time to re-charge my body & mind and nourish myself spiritually and they respect this. i respect myself by taking this time every day. i once 'crashed & burned' after a period of putting everything/everyone else first and i can't let it happen again. if i care for myself first, everything is better. to make it happen, i need to manage my time well.

i am inspired by people such as scientist & plastic surgeon dr fiona wood, who was our 'australian of the year' a few years back. not an artist, but highly creative. she has six wonderful children, goes to the gym every day (fiona says she would not be able to do what she does without maintaining a degree of fitness), makes her children’s lunches, takes them to swimming practice before breakfast, takes them to & from school, later drops into the hospital to perform a couple of surgical operations and amongst all this managed to invent ‘spray on skin’ for burns victims (developed post bali bombings). yes, she is brilliant, talented & focused, but success would not be possible unless she organised time to nurture herself first.
it IS possible for each of us to somehow find blocks of time, no matter how small, to focus on listening to our own body, mind & soul and no-one should feel guilty for doing it.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

secret no 4, new technique & watermarks

i am participating in the next chapter, reading 12 secrets of highly creative women by gail mcmeekin.

i'm a little late with secret No. 4 - surrendering to creative cycles, but here are my thoughts anyway. in this chapter gail mcmeekin talks about times when we may be creatively 'fallow'. this is a time when we need to trust that creativity will return as part of a natural cycle. ebb and flow.

i can't remember ever being creatively fallow exactly, but there have certainly been times when all my attention has had to be directed to other things, such as children, jobs, caring for an elderly parent & achieving better health. throughout all of these times there have always been opportunities to be creative in different ways. in fact caring for children is a highly creative endeavor and illness gave me the gift of time at home to concentrate on making art.

so i think it's more a case of sometimes being in creative neutral rather than being at a total standstill. for me it seems that my creativity is always looking for a way of being expressed, even if it's only putting on some eye-liner and mascara in the morning or making a pizza!


this fish (which hopefully you can see through the watermarks) has been a lovely experiment in watercolour technique that is new to me. i have always used watercolour pencils, but for a while now i have found that these were not allowing me to paint the way i needed to. i was lucky enough to find a demonstration by artist lori rase-hall who uses watercolour in tubes and cakes. lucky me! new paints & new brushes - and the 'know how'!

i thoroughly enjoyed making this and played around with a text watermark demo that i found. i'm not saying it's the best site, i haven't really shopped around, but it was good to see what is possible, if you want to protect your artwork on the internet.

Monday, 2 February 2009

studio central

my studio has been a moveable affair of late and after christmas i found myself set up in the corner of a quiet upstairs bedroom, away from it all. isn't this what we all want, our own peaceful, secluded sanctuary?

not me it turns out! last week with temperatures soaring, i took over the dining room table where it was cooler and discovered i really loved being at the centre of the house. i could stir a pot on the stove, then walk over to my canvas and add a brushstroke or two, chat to family members, the light is good, breezes waft through the back door. i seemed to be more comfortable & therefore more productive there during the day & in the evenings. it became tricky at dinner time though!

so i decided to move downstairs permanently. a quick move of furniture and my little old art table is now part of the hub of family life. the computer is in the same room, so this works well also.

i am in the process of writing & illustrating a small children's book which is quite a challenge and i'm loving it!

i searched the net for demonstrations of watercolour illustrations and found these two from english children's author/illustrator quentin blake and californian watercolourist laurie rase hall. both these wonderful artists share their processes generously and hand on some wonderful tips. 'fireflies at night' by illustrator Paige Keiser is very sweet and fun to watch too.

more demo's here by other artists in all different mediums, if you are interested.