raw with more

i have stashes of old paintings in various parts of my studio. some are tucked away on a bookshelf, others sequestered in plastic display folders and then hidden in a drawer.

some are in journals that are then stacked precariously upon one another, never to see the light of day.

little pieces of me, quietly gathering dust and waiting to be rediscovered.

i forget what i have. sometimes that causes me to believe i haven’t been very productive at all. that i don’t have enough to stock an etsy store.

last week i decided to start collating, scanning and photographing my finished paintings. it’s a tedious task, but a necessary one if i ever want to be a working artist, and i’m easily distracted from it.

it’s the equivalent of having your mum ask you to tidy your room as a kid. you end up finding stuff you’ve forgotten about, or thought you’d lost, then playing with it and making more mess than you started with.

i was that kid.

i’m still that kid.

in april of 2014 (don’t you love that everything is time stamped now so we don’t have to remember dates?) i took one of mindy lacefield’s primitive portraits classes and produced a couple of quick, raw studies on 5×7″ canvas boards. i had the opportunity to sell them at the time, but i felt they were worthless practice pieces and i couldn’t bring myself to put a price on them.

fear? probably. i’m sure at the time i beat myself up for being a big chicken.

but now i’m really glad i didn’t let them go, because when i found them a few days ago, even though i still couldn’t see worth in them as they were, i realised there was the potential to take them further. earlier in the week i’d been playing in my journal with a redheaded, slightly punk/goth girl and decided to give these two old paintings a similar makeover.

they’re such simple creatures, right? they were painted very quickly with big brushes and a limited palette and i loved how raw they were. i wanted to preserve some of that crude technique but give them a little more depth.

i had just two rules.

no expectations and no overthinking allowed, just intuitively grabbing supplies and distressing the hell out of them with a scraping tool whenever they looked too polished.

i used stark reds and lots of black, colours i tend to shy away from for their boldness. i’ve avoided black because other, more experienced artists told me to it has a tendency to flatten a painting, and the only reason i used it here is because i blindly picked up the wrong bottle (right next to the payne’s grey) during my not-thinking practice.

hurrah for happy accidents as i really like the end results.

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i’ve since found three more primitive paintings in a similar vein.

sweet.

 

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working with ease.

i’ve been working a lot on letting go lately.

letting go of the past, of control, of outcomes. in both life and art.

i’m happier than i was. there’s more peace and love and connection. i rail less against the things that have happened, that can’t be changed. it’s time to set aside hurt, anger and blame, and create space for those other qualities that i’ve always coveted instead.

grace.

flow.

forgiveness.

ease.

this push and pull of old habits vs new has been evident in my art during the last few weeks. very much so in my most recent painting, the deer girl that some of you may have seen on my instagram and facebook accounts. i shared in-progress photos of her as she emerged on the canvas. the end result was this serene, ethereal, gentle creature, in a style that i believe might actually be my own (oh happy day!)

what i didn’t show you, was the before.

the before was messy and clumsy, forced and frustrating.

she started well, the october project in suzi blu’s ongoing patreon subscription.

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we were grooving, these fluid, flowing inks and i. but then, ugh, something went so very wrong for us.

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she sat upon my easel and taunted me. i refused to trash her. instead i forced myself to make eye contact with her every day. knowing that something was off, i would take photos with my phone and study the painting from this new vantage point.

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time and again i went back to her with my mantra “trust the process” and changed something. i made the neck slimmer, longer, shorter, wider, i dropped the shoulders, raised the shoulders, gave her boobs (then even bigger boobs – wtf?) and still i couldn’t make her work.

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the other problem? i was trying too hard to paint suzi’s girl. suzi’s, not mine.

i rarely take the step-by-step approach in classes anymore but i was working on a larger scale than i’m used to, with unfamiliar media, in a new way and somewhere along the way i lost my confidence and began to feel vulnerable – “i can’t show this shit on social media, people will think i’m rubbish and unworthy and…” oh shut up. i went into damage control – and in this case that looked like me pausing the lesson videos every few minutes and trying to replicate what was before me.

brene brown calls this ‘making the uncertain certain.’

and i should know by now that it doesn’t work for me.

i finally admitted to myself that the problem was the face. the face that i’d lovingly crafted for an hour or more with coloured pencil, the foundation of the whole piece, was too big for the canvas and i needed to admit the obvious and let it go.

when the realisation hit me that it was time to give my girl a facelift, i felt a tangible shift.

i grabbed my sander and went to town on the canvas before i could change my mind. i wish i’d taken a photo of that moment when i brutally erased hours of work with a power tool, because it felt like a pivotal moment for me and you guys would have been a little horrified 😉

the second face was small and sweet. i took out my journal and got to know my inks between its pages and realised they made terrific organic dreadlocks and antlers. and as i flicked through instagram, an image popped up on my explore feed of a woman wearing antlers and doe-ish makeup.

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this was serendipitous.

and the process of painting this time was a completely different experience. i had a sense that if i allowed space for grace and ease, i would find the way through.

it sounds a little bit ‘woo’ when i write that now but i’m ok with that.

i’m softening.

i’m letting go.

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fractured portraits. beginning.

i feel as though i’ve turned a corner in my art practice this past week.

for the longest time i’ve been going through the motions. doing the work. getting better. working on technique. but i was flip-flopping between the art I want to do and the art I had settled into, like a comfortable pair of trackie daks (tracksuit pants for non-aussie speakers), and the indecision led to a breakdown in my desire to motivate myself.

seriously, i began to wonder if i wanted it enough.

what was wrong with me? why was i not skipping gleefully to the studio every day or challenging myself to try something new? why was i only doing class assignments and not picking up my paintbrush in between lessons?

yeah, i think too much.

my heart had moved on from where i’d started out, but my head was having a little trouble keeping up.

stay.

paint the safe thing even if it no longer fires you up.

in painting whimsy, i’ve had several commission queries and offers to illustrate books. people like the cute little soulful girls in my journals and as much as i enjoy sharing them with everyone, they were always about my own personal healing and never about selling my art. don’t get me wrong, i’m grateful for every offer of support i’ve had from the people who want to buy my art.

of course i want to sell my art.

one day.

but not this day.

right now i just want to keep growing toward having the ability to paint the art that i enjoy. the aesthetic i’m drawn to. and that involves changing the way i select the online classes i enrol in, or the artists i study and try to emulate. it means not signing up to every class even though i know the teacher is a rock star, or buying every shiny damn art supply that a teacher demonstrates in class, but learning to master the ones i enjoy and are used by the artists i want to be like when i grow up. charcoal, acrylics, oils, plaster and digital mediums.

i’m learning to assess honestly. does this fit with the aesthetic i want for my art?

that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for soulful little girls in my journal. there is always healing to be done. but they do need to budge over a little bit to make room for the other stuff.

the first step in the right direction for me was taking Kate Thompson’s new Fractured Portraits class. kate has long been one of my favourite teachers and her aesthetic always resonates with me, no matter which direction she takes it in.

we’re learning to sketch the planes of the head with charcoal and then sculpt them using paint.

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and to loosen up by drawing from a photographic reference with two pencils taped together.

Two Pencil Drawing

gelli plate printing and plastering on ledger paper to make backgrounds for the next painting project.

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i’m feeling a little guilty about this one because the ledger paper i’m using is 116 years old! obviously not guilty enough to use something else though 😉

the feature image on this post is ledger paper with drywall tape, venetian plaster, cheesecloth and stencils and it’s all so textured and yum.

and i can’t wait to see what happens on it next.

isn’t that how it should be?

changing places

i’m starting to take over the whole house with my arty endeavours. a few weeks ago I realised we weren’t really using one of the rooms in our house – a front lounge room that we’d overhauled a couple of times, but because there’s no tv aerial in there it was largely ignored. we solved the tv issue by signing in to Netflix on the smarter-than-me tv.

oh glorious Netflix. what did we do before your existence?

so having the use of the front lounge freed up our family room. and the brain-cogs began a-whirring.  i was finding my current studio to be claustrophobic. it used to be a spare room, and little by little, the spare room junk was starting to creep in again. plus, one corner of the room housed a giant coat rack treadmill and my gym equipment, leaving little room to swing either of the cats. not that I would of course. unless I want to have my face ripped off. which I don’t.

i made puppy dog eyes at my long-suffering, beardy husband and he agreed to help me switch rooms. most of it was done in one day. except for that bastard coat rack treadmill. that took us a lot longer to move, and neither of us escaped without injury.

my old studio is now ‘the crib’, where the children go to watch tv, play the Wii, eat crap and leave the wrappers everywhere. in theory, hubby plays his guitar in there too, but I don’t think he gets much of a look in. the grainy, rubbish picture above is my new space. i kept one of the couches so i have a sketching nook (when the dog isn’t hogging it), my floor and table easels have a home again, and everything is within reach.

Who am I kidding? This is the dog's couch. She sometimes lets me sit on it.
who am I kidding? this is the dog’s couch. she sometimes lets me sit on it.
Current work.
current work.

which means i have no excuses not to paint every day, right?

this is the day i started to howl

i struggled to the surface and whispered good morning to a house whose rooms were empty and was grateful that last night i’d had the foresight to make overnight oats loaded with plump berries and shredded coconut and i’m on trend because my breakfast is made of superfoods,

because i really couldn’t be bothered to tend to my needs beyond a cup of tea.

that first eyes-closed sip always promises peace and bliss if only for the time it takes to swallow.

and as i pulled my tank top over my head i spied the cross that serves as a bullet-proof vest upon my fair skin, jesus at my shoulder for eternity, even when i don’t feel him.

i harvested vegetables that i did not have a hand in bringing to life. i’m afraid to taste them in case i plucked them from the plant too early. i am clueless in such matters. and they felt prickly, which put me off further and so instead of a fresh salad, lunch was nothing more than tipping cereal into a bowl with a splash of soy milk, and i did go back for seconds, not because i was still hungry but because i forgot to take a photo. i ate the second bowl anyway.

happy mail from daniel smith.

no, daniel smith happy mail from senior art. because sometimes i have to paint watercolours on crazy thin paper, and the only way around it is to make that paper toothy, and i will hopefully never buy the crazy thin paper journal to document my life ever again but i probably will because sometimes i just want the thing that everybody else has even if it’s not what i need.

and oh, botticelli, i love your work, but i’m afraid to paint you. i keep finding excuses to stay away and when i glimpse your roughly sketched out madonna, i flinch with guilt and back out of the room with the stealth of a disguised criatura (which is a word i stumbled across whilst reading about wild women).

and i thought it might be nice to pursue my wildish nature beyond a jesus-god sunset.

because i cannot be without it a minute longer.

i should probably start with the botticelli.

Photo and words for Full Circle workshop with Misty Mawn.

And me.

Botticelli painting in progress for Studying Under the Masters with Jeanne Oliver (Botticelli lesson by Jenny Wentworth).