Friday, 31 December 2010

A Post for Rice

I have been so excited by Rice's blog and her inspiring way of altering clothes. She has an artist's creative and zany sensibility that makes me feel free and happy. I wrote her an email yesterday begging her for more posts on refashioning. She kindly obliged.

Unfortunately I am nowhere near her level of clothing alteration creativity. She has been doing this for yonks. But in the spirit of reciprocity I am going to post my humble beginnings that are still in process. Who knows, maybe she will help me with some ideas (hint hint.)
I like the shape and fit of this black t. But I never wear it because I don't like wearing black on top. I thought I could brighten it up with some beading.
I like it better, but it is rather tame.
Here is a shirt I have had for a few years. I only wear it around the house because of the dowdy shape. I love the colour and the fabric, a lightweight tightly woven cotton.
Here is a top a friend gave me. It has beautiful delicate embroidery and I like that it is blue. I am really feeling like wearing blue. But it is a large and I am a small, and again it is shapeless. (Rice notice my unselfconsciousness about the poor photo, haha).
I am not certain what I will do with these, so I took off the sleeves. I am considering shaping both shirts by taking in the side seams. Then I might put the sleeves back on, a bit shorter than before. Unless I come up with a better idea.
This shirt will stay sleeveless. I am not sure what to do with the length, it either needs to be shorter or much longer. Maybe I will add the sleeves onto something else.

a Suggestion for the End of the Year

I have a suggestion for the end of the year. Even if you don't read this until 2011, you can still do it.

New Year resolutions can be good, but even better is to give yourself credit for what you have already accomplished. My suggestion is to write a list of what you accomplished over 2010.

Be kind to yourself, give yourself some credit. It can be achievements at work, your personal life, spiritual life, all areas. And nothing is too small. Has some relationship in your life improved? Have you become more creative? Have you created pages in your art journal? Are you less afraid in some area? Have you gone forward with a health challenge? Achieved more self acceptance? Recovered from a heartbreak? Exercised regularly, or just more? Been helpful to someone? List it all, however small.

The truth is, we don't actually know what is little or big --
so I suggest you write it ALL down.

Give yourself some credit for what you have done this past year.

By the way, I wrote my list this morning in bed. It feels good.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

the Question of Cosmetic Procedures

The whole cosmetic procedures/ botox/ whatever has come up the past few days. I do next to nothing cosmetically. I wear little or no makeup, I don't dye my hair, I don't even have professional manicures or facials. I just try and be healthy. So kind of funny to have such relatively radical stuff enter the thinking. My guess is that the pressure to look 'good' is just so in-your-face in our culture, it is hard not to have some twinges as we get older. I am 51.

What started it was the other day I was clearing out files and ran across some old photos when I was in my mid-20's. It can be a bit of a shock to remember that you ever looked so young. And so good. (and in my case, sad, but that is another story.)
Gee, even the shape of our face changes as we age.
Anyway, it was just there in my consciousness when the next evening there is a program on cosmetic surgery. It is a reporter trying out all this stuff, botox, laser - she doesn't actually get to the knife, but she does get 50 injections of botox! And a full on laser treatment, blood oozing from her skin. But it works. She looks younger and prettier.
And you know how it is. I am not seriously considering it, but I do pull up the skin on my lower jaw and see a bit of that 26 year old return. Sigh.

Then this morning, eating my breakfast across the table from my DH of 22 years, I think 'how would I feel if he got plastic surgery to look younger?'
And I know right away that I wouldn't like it. Why? Because I love this face, this person, that he has become. He may not be as handsome as when we met, but the truth is that I love him more than I did 20 years ago. And I would miss the face he has now.

It isn't until later in the day that I think 'what about loving myself that same way?' Do I love myself who I am now? Would I feel the same sadness to see her gone for some face younger and prettier?

You know, I am happy to say that I am pretty sure I would.

Monday, 20 December 2010

a New Drawing

I was working on a new (to you guys) drawing today. It still has a way to go.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Another Dye Job

Gee, stuff has been happening, but no pictures to show you so I haven't posted.

I had a model over to my studio last week to take exploratory photos for my new series. She is a student in my Art Journaling class. It was great. She was open and unselfconscious - unusual for someone who doesn't usually model. We got some exciting photos. By exciting I mean that they excite my inspiration. I am not much of a photographer so they aren't necessarily exciting to look at. Some actually look kinda silly. But I look at them and see the painting I will create.

I did some more dying over the weekend. I dyed a skirt I bought at the markets a few years ago when I was really into fushia pink. I think I said before, I have a lot of fushia pink clothes from that time and I am really over it. The other thing about this skirt is that it was too long. It hit halfway between my knees and ankles, a dowdy length on me. So before I dyed it, I shortened it to just covering my knees.

It surprises me, how much the length of dresses and skirts matter. A few inches can make a huge difference in how they look. I also lengthened a denim jumper by 2". I feel like I can wear it unselfconsciously now.

Here is the skirt before dyeing:
Here it is now:
It is a time of inspiration for me. I am thinking how to refashion clothes, and planning for new paintings. I haven't really figured out how to share that with you guys. Any ideas?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Sale Remnants

I bought these remnants on sale today at a shop that makes children's wear. I have been looking for bits and pieces for refashioning my clothes with. Remnants from the fabric shop are more fabric than I want (I just want bits) and too expensive. I have been looking for good stuff at the thrift store, but haven't found anything.
I like these because they are high quality and have cute designs. Some are already partially sewn, but I can take them apart if I need to.

I am considering making the semi-circle with ruffles in the middle into an apron. I think would just have to cut a bit off the back and add a waist piece that ties.

The striped piece on the right is very stretchy and already sewed into a tube. I could just cut it into and have leggings. I probably won't do that.

The polka dot is also stretchy and the rest of the fabric is woven. Check out the kids on a may pole in the screened borders, one white and one red.

I got the whole lot for $5.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Secret Art Journal

I have begun a secret art journal. It is for my new series of artworks. Don't tell anyone.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

I didn't Mean That Short!

I went for a haircut Monday. I asked to go a bit shorter than last time. She was cutting away, and it was looking good, like my first short haircut about 4 or 5 months ago.
Then I made a comment "this is about the shortest you could go...". I meant it like 'you wouldn't want to go any shorter than this'. I don't think she answered but soon after that, she went back and cut more off one of the side thingies by the ear. I was a little surprised but she is a good hairdresser and I trust her...
Then she just kept going. I guess she really had to by then. You cut it off one place and then it has to all has to balance up. It wasn't a mistake, she did it on purpose. She seemed very pleased by how it turned out. I was speechless.
Later, I was wondering, did she take my statement about not being able to go shorter as a kind of challenge?

My husband likes it. That helps. I don't think it looks bad, maybe I will get used to it?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Refashioning my Clothes

I really like the idea of refashioning clothes. Unlike a lot of people I don't have loads of clothes - probably because I don't enjoy shopping. But I do have a fair amount of old clothes.

I love the idea of recycling clothes instead of buying new stuff. It could be recycling my old stuff or clothes that I find at a thrift store. It all leads to less stuff in the world.

But I especially like the idea of refashioning clothes because it is another way to be creative.
The top shirt is one I found in a thrift store. It fits really well but I think the black and white check is pretty boring. I love colour.
The shirt below it is an oldie of mine. I like the fit but I wore too much pink a few years back and am mostly over it. I folded and stitched the shirt as an experiment.
I plan to dye both shirts with some old purple dye I have had for about 8 years.
This is a t-shirt I am experimenting with. I bought it in the menswear department for $10. I liked the design on the front, but that boxy t-shirt shape is horrible.
First I sewed up the sides for a better fit, then I cut off the sleeves and the neckline. When I took the photo, I had just sprayed it with some fabric dye over a stencil. Here is a post where I talk about the dye that I used.

I don't think this t-shirt will ever be a favourite, but I am enjoying trying stuff out.
This is after the dye bath. The stitched shirt didn't really happen. The stitching on the front doesn't show and on the back it looks more like a botched dye job. Which I suppose it is, haha.

It doesn't really worry me. I think the stitching could work if I used thicker thread. I might try it again on a different piece of clothing.
Finally, the checked shirt. I love it! you can't see the checks in this photo, but they are still there. Now it is a black and purple checked shirt. I am sure I will wear this a lot.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

to Blog More I may have to Comment Less

I think I want to blog more, but to do that I might need to comment less. I hope you guys understand.

I have ideas for posts and I start them but they don't get published. Then down the track, I lose interest so they are never posted. Because spontaneity is the nature of the blog isn't it? Blogs did start out as online diaries.

I know people who plan posts weeks and months ahead. I think they are mostly people with businesses. Fair enough. They usually have very professional blogs. But I am more comfortable just posting off the cuff. This isn't a business, it is just sharing. And I have more I would like to share, I just need a more time to do it.

I have been enjoying bringing my days to you. Sharing what I am up to in the studio. I worry a little as I don't see other professional artists doing that. Is there some good reason? Will you be bored of the painting before it is finished? Will galleries be less interested if the work has already been "shown" online?

Friday, 26 November 2010

Drawing to Understand Stuff

I have been wanting to draw this sweet native violet growing in our paving. Yesterday I did.

There is something intimate about drawing something. I have always loved violets, but I didn't realize until I drew one, how they bunch in little islands attached by their long stem. At what angle the stems actually attach, how the stems then sprout tiny tiny buds that become bitty leaves that grow and reach up and become these islands. And how the flowers perch above it all.

There was so much to see.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Painting of the Girl Continues

As I have posted the drawing, I thought I would show you how the painting is going. Here is my earlier post where I blog about beginning this piece. I don't know if you can see the difference, but I have made her face a bit fuller, her mouth smaller and her nose flatter. I wanted her to look more like the drawing.
I have lost a some of the contrast in this photo. I will try and take a better one further along.

Here it is at the earlier stage. Which do you prefer?
By the way, she isn't finished yet. I need to do more with her 'hair' and I also want to take her dress further.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


I have finally had to give in to wearing my glasses occasionally. I need them in the studio when I get into the fine detail in a painting. They have also been helping me draw small stuff, like where the leaves meet the stem in a plant and how fungi curl.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I think she is finished.
It would be really helpful if you would tell me what you see when you look at this drawing. There is no 'right' answer.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Different Ways to Art Journal

It is hard to believe that I have only been art journaling since July 2008. It is such a big part of my life.

In that time I have had several different approaches and ways that I have used my journals. The fact that it is so versatile is one of the reasons I love it. I find that I will be working a certain way and after a while I will get a bit impatient or bored. The question will come up "am I finished with art journaling?" So far I am finding this just indicates time for a change. And strangely enough, I usually already have an idea what the change it, but have been putting it off.
These journal pages illustrate how I have been working for the last 4 or 5 months. Previously I was doing a lot of collage from magazine images. Then I found that I wanted to work with my own drawings. I have been drawing in my moleskine (love the moleskine card for drawing in pen and ink) and then photocopying the drawings, sometimes at various sizes, and using them for collage.
See how I used the same woman, but changed her size and colours? I photocopied the image so when I used her as a collage element she was a black and white line drawing.

This has been really fun, and I will continue, but a feeling of boredom or maybe just limitation is creeping in. Time for another change. I will tell you what that is in the next post!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Maybe I will Get out the Watercolours again

Here is the view out one of my studio windows. Those are tin sheets covering the lawn mower and some firewood.

Several years ago I did a show of tiny watercolours. Since then I haven't used them much. But now I am feeling pulled again. Maybe it is all the drawing I have been doing. I want to pop bits of colour in.

I got my old tubes of watercolour out from the ancient chest of drawers in the studio. I have a lot of very old (twenty years) art materials. When Jane came to visit, she saw my coloured pencils and called them 'vintage'. That was funny.

I am tired of plopping bits of watercolour onto a white plate. I thought about going to pans, but I have all these old tubes. So I started looking at watercolour palettes. I didn't really want the heavy metal one, I have had some experience of them rusting. The plastic one seemed a bit cheap. So my dear friend Sabine from Still@the Centre ordered one inbetween. A nice light plastic but good quality so it will last.
The tiny palette on the left is one I have had for twenty years. I used it for sketching when out and about. It fills full of water. Pretty cool, but not much colour mixing room.

I am excited to use my new palette.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Continuing on with the New Painting

This was the underpainting that I started for the new painting a few weeks ago. Perhaps you remember from my earlier post.
And then I continued on by whiting out the figure with gesso. As this underpainting was in acrylic I could use acrylic gesso. You can paint oil over acrylic, but not the other way around. The figures on the left are photocopies of the drawing. I used them to help me with size and composition.
This was my second painting. This time the background was done in oil so I overpainted with underpainting white. It is oil but dries faster than regular titanium white. It looks pretty bad, but that doesn't matter at this point.
Here I have begun the figure. She looks pretty ghoulish, but I am not worried. She is only an underpainting, I have more layers to go. I am just laying out the colours and drawing to see where to go next.
Now a bit further along. Can you see that I have changed the background? I put a glaze of burnt sienna in oil to warm it up and relate it more to the figure. I have worked into her face to get some sense of her. Next I will start working into her 'hair' and torso. I haven't really worked out the fungus-hair yet so I am a bit nervous about that. I don't know if I need to go back and finish the drawing first or if I should just jump into it on the painting. It will probably depend on whether I feel like drawing or painting when I return to the studio.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Looking at the New Series

The past week I went a bit further on the drawing with the fig tree. (Go here to see the earlier version.) It has been slow going with lots of decisions. Somehow I feel like this drawing is setting the mood for the series, so there is a lot of time spent with me just sitting and contemplating.
I hadn't originally planned on the brown ink wash over the tree. I wanted it to be just drawing. But the tree didn't have enough 'weight' so I took a chance with the wash. I am glad I did. I want it to have a feeling of looming over her small figure.
(It looks yellow because of the light when I took the photo.)
The next day I really felt the need to have some kind of 'overview' of what is happening with the new work. How is my older work that I have already finished to fit in with the new? Which of my finished paintings are part of the new series, and which aren't? I brought a few works that were in my last group show out of the house and into the studio trying to see what fit.

This is what I ended up with. Some of the paintings are finished, quite a few aren't. My experiments and beginnings are in there too. Also a book on Moreau, as I feel a few of his paintings have a message for me right now.

There were two finished paintings that I haven't shown, and four unfinished that don't fit in. Two of these I may finish, the other two I will discard.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Drawing in the Studio

I was drawing in the studio on Tuesday. Most of the day I was working on my drawing of a girl near a huge fig tree. I am using photo references for this, though I have been out drawing in the fig trees as well. Drawing them from life has been really helpful when I use the photos because, as I said in the earlier post, there is so much information missing. In the photos you get no idea of their size or the incredible depth and dimension of these powerful trees. Depth gets lost a lot in photos. I spent a lot of time trying to put back in information that I couldn't see in the photos, places where depth and detail was just lost.
In the afternoon I brought in this vine and was drawing it from life. I noticed, again, how much easier (and more fun) it is to draw the real thing. Everything was there, I could see all the little details, like how the leaves have a tiny notch where they attach to the branch, as well as being able to turn it over to see what is happening on the back.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Don't work from photos

Or I should say, don't work from photos if you have another option.

Yesterday I was reading the blog of a very creative and talented blogger. She had posted a painting that she did of a cup. She described her process, the first step was to photograph the cup. This was interesting, as she owned the cup. I commented with the question "Why not just paint the cup? Why paint from the photo?"

I have nothing against using photo references. I use them when I cannot take the actual thing (usually a person) into my studio. I would always prefer to work from life, but it is frequently not an option.

It is frustrating to work from a photo. Why? Because photos lack information. Colours are different, usually colours are missing. Whole bits of what you are trying to paint or draw disappear into shadow. You can' t see what is happening around the corner, you often can't even see that there is a corner. Volume flattens in too much light. I spend hours in the studio trying to re-imagine all that is missing from my reference photos.

Now granted, the blogger I was speaking of was painting a study. And it turned out okay. Maybe she got what she was after.

But when I asked her why she didn't just paint the cup, she answered that she isn't good enough at painting.

That got me worried.

It is true that when you paint from life you have to convert it from 3-D into 2-D -- but this is a lot of what drawing is. And if you want to learn to draw it is the difference between taking the dead end road or the ongoing journey. If you work from photos to learn to draw and paint, the drawings (or paintings) might look better in the beginning, but you won't get very far. (this is not intended as any criticism of the creative blogger. I am sure she knows what she wants.)

My advice to anyone who wants to advance their drawing and painting skills: Do it from life. Painting an actual teacup will take you further than painting (or drawing) a photo of anything. This is nearly always true, but especially especially when you are still learning.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Beginning New Paintings

I decided to start some new paintings, small ones so that I could begin to work some ideas out. I elected to paint over one of my old paintings that I don't like. I started with sanding the old painting. It's on wood so I can do that.
Instead of painting it over with underpainting white, I thought I would try and use the previous painting for a kind of multi-layered background. Like I might do in my art journal. So I put a glaze of ochre yellow over the top.
While that was drying, I began another work, the same size. I also want to do a multi-layered background on this one, but this time with acrylic. I have put down yellow ochre and a layer of cobalt.
I have added more layers of oil to the first background. It is looking quite dark, and the figure isn't disappearing as I wanted.
On the acrylic background I have done a gesso resist print with a leaf, and then come back with more layers of colour.
Now I start to plan my composition.

I copied my drawing to a few different sizes to try them out on the background. Then I drew the figure onto the background and gessoed it. This is because I want to paint from a white ground.
I used the same compositional tool with the oil background. This time I tried four different sizes. The first one is too small.
This one is too big.
I like this size. Would you have chosen the same one? There isn't really a wrong choice, it just depends on what you want to express.
I liked her better shifted toward the front of the board.

I prefer the acrylic background to this dark oil one. But either one could end up being the better painting, you just don't know.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Wonderful Jane Davenport

I had a visitor last week to my studio. A special event as I live way out in the hills.And extra special when it is the very talented Jane Davenport, best known for her colour saturated photography of cute bugs on gorgeous flowers. She is also a keen art journaler, painter and drawer, and has a fantastic shop in Byron Bay, Institute of Cute.
Go to Jane's site to see more beautiful photography and her art.
We had a lovely artie visit talking painting, art journaling and drawing. No one understands like another artist.