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.

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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?

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