Sunday, 18 October 2015

 Traveling a small watercolour set and a good brush opens the opportunity to work just about anywhere.  In September I was the presenter for three days at the "Master Artist in the Library" event here in town.  Armed with a small bag of pebbles, and my trusty 12 colour watercolour set,
I painted these little guys

Each is about 3" x 5", on  5" x 7" precut watercolour paper.  I tend to travel with sheets rather than blocks if I am painting inside.  The blocks are great when painting outdoors, the wind does not catch at the sheets and I find the paper dries out more quickly outside, so there is more wetting needed.

I generally don't use resist, relying instead on marking key points in a very lightly wash before defining shapes more heavily.  I like how this lets the compositions enfold and breathe rather than being tightly drawn beforehand with pencil.

Monday, 12 October 2015

"The Studio"

One of the most helpful insights since coming back from vacation pertains to the studio, on keeping it clean and having distance from the world.   I have since recommended to a fellow artist that she create just such a space in her studio. One wall  not cluttered with other paintings, or paint splotches.  A clean wall with a single nail on which to hang the current work  and a comfortable chair to view it from.

Let me back up. Travel always opens up the eye as we are jolted out of our habitual environment and are forced to see afresh, but my little epiphany comes found the work I did while on holiday, perched on a stool in the corner of a kitchen.  The paintings came so easily.  The watercolours lay down smoothly, cleanly, with  a clarity of mind and purpose that made me feel in love with painting again.  In comparison my home studio is crammed full of bits and parts. Oil, Acrylic and water colour mediums, books, brushes and paper, canvas, models and paintings; it all sits around chaotically grabbing at my eye and brain.

Ahh, the brain.  Here is the meat of the matter.  It isn't just that all the stuff grabs at your eye, but that it grabs at your brain. Each empty canvas suggests a painting. Unresolved work silently asks the question, what if?  Half-hearted efforts  whisper, why didn't you spend more time with me? Poor work shouts at you, YOU CAN"T PAINT!

Having a clear work space, encourages a clear conversation with your work.  Let go of the relics and remnants around you and focus instead on the process.  What did you experience, what did you discover, what did you learn?  Where are you going next?

To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. (Joseph Campbell

Watercolour work from my holiday this summer.
This is the order I painted them in.  
I plan to do them in oil over the winter.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Welcome back! I hope your summer was what you needed it to be.  That lovely summer sun is slowly making it's way back to the southern hemisphere and it is time to gather up loose ends and make preparations for winters shorter days.

This summer, I accompanied my mother (89) to her home town in Europe.  We spent our days visiting with folks well over eighty and taking slow walks through the orchards, vineyards and cobble stone streets. Away from the internet, the combination of a different place, the slow pace and looking at life through the eyes of the old provided me with a very different viewpoint than my life back home.
My little holiday studio 

I set up a rough studio in the unused kitchen   and happily painted a portion of each day away. For the most part the world shrunk to the elements directly within my immediate surroundings. Unhooked from almost all media sources: television, radio, newspapers and internet, the peaceful, patient, matter of fact, capable aura that hung about the farming people we visited seeped into the fabric of the passing days.

Now back home, I have switched back into hunter gatherer mode, actively on alert for what is new, sorting what is relevant or not,  consumed with deciding what has to be done next, what needs to be addressed now. I find myself checking the internet whenever I pass the screen and building stacks of newspapers with passages circled for further attention. I make lists of phone calls to return, commitments to follow up. I am sure you all could all add to this list of frenetic hunt and search behavior.

The difference between the two worlds is more than just having more to do.  I feel a  profound and physical shift in my brain, as if my grey matter is literally working from another area.  There is also a shift of operating modality, as thought is now charged with a resolving a different equation and is searching for a different balance. I sense that the farm-time-paradigm allowed for a different route of thought, not just a different scope of thought. 

As the holiday fades, my access to this route of thought is slipping away and I feel the sharp keen of an important loss. Perhaps, if I can pin enough of it down in print, it might amount to a map, or maybe it is a compass, to carry me back and forth between both states of thought.

Post Script:

One of the circled articles in my pile of newspapers bears the heading  Douglas Coupland, The Internet, how it's changing us, and the acceleration of acceleration itself. Our Brains, Rewired." The article features an excerpt from Coupland's book, Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent  The following lines caught my eye:  
"Time is moving too quickly these days and yet, at the same time, it's moving too slowly. Quite simply, by brain no longer feels the way it used to; my sense of time is distinctly different from what it once was and I miss my pre-Internet brain... What's really happening is that, after more than ten thousand hours of exposure to the internet and digital technologies like my iPhone, my brain has been rewired, -or rather, it has rewired itself. Science has a name for this process: Hebb's Law.  When neurons fire together, they wire together.  It's no coincidence that the ten-thousand-hour rule has recently entered our culture's popular imagination, explaining to us that after doing something for ten thousand hours, you become an expert at it, because that's how much time your brain needs to fully rewire itself to adapt to a new medium.