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).


a week with matisse

i’ve mentioned before that i’m a bit of an online class junkie. i often juggle more than i can count on two hands. yes, that bad. thank goodness they’re not terribly expensive otherwise my husband may trade me in for a lower maintenance model 😉

i was especially juiced to get started on my 2014 classes. a few of them are long term classes, spread over months and a couple over the whole year. this staggering of start dates and posts allows me to dip in and out as i please, and since my brain prefers to work on more than one thing at a time i can usually be more productive this way. until i’m not, and i end up a gibbering overwhelmed mess, rocking in the corner of my studio because i tried to paint ALL THE THINGS.

but that’s a post for another day 😉

right now, one of the courses that has me most inspired is Studying Under the Masters with Jeanne Oliver. it’s a 9 week course, with 9 teachers delivering lessons on 9 masters. essentially, we’re all apprentices.

let me tell you, at only week 2, the class is already jam-packed with content.

our first week lesson was centred around the work of matisse. yeah, i got to the point in the end. we’re encouraged to learn by copying a painting by the master, and then to take away what we learn and apply it to our own work.

and at the end of my week with matisse, i’ve learned that:

  • his colours are amazing and not always easy to replicate. even though his work is vibrant, there’s a subtlety that i struggle to capture. i’m not sure if this is a difference in medium or not (he worked in oils, my painting was acrylic).
  • his brush strokes are loose. i had to resist the urge to blend, and occasionally tightened my grip on my paintbrush. i’m sure with practice the looseness will come more naturally.
  • i’ve always photographed my work in its stages in order to see where i’m going wrong but i’d like to do that more often, maybe after each layer, so i can document the many changes each piece undergoes.
  • i want to experiment with colour and try to use more non-traditional flesh tones.
  • i’m less afraid of attempting to mix my own colours.
  • loose strokes are conducive to larger paintings rather than journal work so i’d like to go big at least once this year.
  • the female figure can be rendered with just a few simple lines and still convey a fleshed out image.
  • that one week with matisse isn’t nearly enough.

matisse progression

the difference a day makes

on extraordinary days, the painting is easy.

i crank the music and finger paint and it feels like floating. effortless. on extraordinary days, i forget to eat, ignore the iThings that are usually within arms reach and the next time i glance at the clock a whole school day has passed and i’m running late to pick the girls up.

two days ago, there was such a day. i finished two paintings. i wanted to pull them to my chest and twirl around the room with them because finally i was an artist and everything i painted from now on would be easy and beautiful and would swallow whole days.

but then yesterday, i forgot to breathe. i laboured for hours on a seemingly simple piece whose background i’d completed days before. all i had to do was paint the character and its story.

i put down a layer. then another to cover the first. a third to cover the second. all the while, inhaling and not exhaling. no music played and i didn’t forget to eat. and i cried out, “why is this not working?” 

every distraction was a welcome one. i replied to every text, drank so much tea i couldn’t bear the thought of another cup, and despaired. i was sure that if i stumbled across the perfect quote (i googled for hours) it would all come together.

i limped up to and over the finish line eventually, before i remembered this wasn’t a race. and i’m so underwhelmed by what i produced, i could tuck the piece away and never look at it again.

but the lesson is there among the layers.

creating something from nothing isn’t just for extraordinary days of music and blissful floating between pieces (how romantic that sounds!) dabbing paint here and there. it’s also for the days of struggle, of forgetting to breathe and feeling like a talentless hack who simply got lucky the day before.

it’s for the days of rest, of leaving a painting unfinished and to sketch for the joy of it instead.

or not sketching, but sitting, refilling and believing in the extraordinary days to come.

day one day two