December 14th, 2011
At last Maudy has given us an egg, such a tiny thing with delicate speckles that I can hardly bear to think of eating it. She made such a fuss in the chook house yesterday so I knew something special had happened. When I looked there it was sitting next to the egg Sage gives us every day that is almost twice the size. Perhaps Maudy will always give us these dear little ones because there was another one in the hay today. She seemed so proud of herself and even allowed me to hold her for a while. Being very shy I'm trying to build her confidence so she's not so nervous and already she seems calmer around me, not so nervous happily scratching around my feet.
December 11th, 2011
Most artists get to the stage of wanting their work to look more painterly, well I do and there is, of course, no 'magical' way to suddenly loosen up the way you work. Like everything else in painting it's a goal you have to work at, but one that is achievable through practice and persistence so here are some interesting tips I found to help you on your way to that loose and spontaneous style so many of us aspire to.
Tip 1. Use the 'wrong' hand:
If you're left-handed, put your brush in your right hand, and if you're right-handed, put it in your left. It'll feel awkward and you won't be able to paint as precisely as you can with your dominant hand. This lack of co-ordination also means that you can't get into that automatic paint mode where your brain says "I know what an apple [for example] looks like" and you paint an idealistic apple rather than the one in front of you.
Tip 2. Work in the dark:
Well, not complete darkness, but in reduced light where you can't see every last bit of detail. Try lighting a still-life with a strong lamp from one side (oblique light). Or if you can't change the light, squint your eyes so the lights and darks in your subject become stronger.
Tip 3. Leave stuff out: This works for me as I'm a 'minimal' artist anyway, preferring to tell a story with the least amount of detail I can get away with.
Our brains are quite adept at filling in missing details, so you needn't put down every single thing. Take a long hard look at your subject, trying to decide which are the essential bits. Put down these only, and then decide whether you want more detail or not. You'll be surprised at how little is necessary to capture the essence of something.
Tip 4. Don't paint outlines: This is a powerful tip to remember and can go a long way to helping you create the 'loose' look.
Objects are three-dimensional, they don't have outlines. If you're unsure about this, look at your body and see if you've got an outline or if you're 3-D. You do have an 'edge' when you look at e.g. your leg, but as you move, so this changes. Instead of drawing an outline (or painting one) and then filling it in, paint the object as a whole.
Tip 5. Let the paint drip:
Load your brush with lots of dripping color and let it run down the surface of your painting as you apply it to the 'right' place. Don't tidy up the drips. They add a fluidity.
November 28th, 2011
This is one of my favourite photos of London on our last day in the city before going to Tring in Hertfordshire. Look at that beautiful sky ! It was a magic last day in a city I love being in which is unusual since I'm not a city person. There is something about London that's compelling though. It's exciting and huge and there is just so much to see, so many incredibly iconic landmarks of history and such a diverse mix of old and new structures all thrown together and somehow it works. For five days we walked everywhere from St Katherines dock where we stayed. We took the tube almost every day to visit the places on our list. Kensington one day to see the Princess Diana memorial walk and the Natural History Museum then on to Buckingham Palace. Another day we went to Waterloo to see one of the highlights of my whole trip, the annual SOFA cat art exhibition. Such a thrill to see so many brilliant cat artists exhibiting. I just wish I could have been part of it too but we weren't arriving in the UK at the right time to deliver an artwork unfortunately but it's definitely on my list of ambitions. The National Portrait Gallery was stunning and featured marvellous exhibition of black and white photographs of the most glamorous Hollywood stars from the past such as Brando Liz Taylor Jean Harlow and Garbo and many more, such nostalgia. At St. Martins I found a 'to die for' leather coat I couldn't resist and a small pewter perfume bottle and venetian bronze lion and marble bowl I had to have. Most nights we staggered home exhausted with only enough energy to pop into the Waitrose downstairs for a formidable choice of fresh and mouth watering foods including my favourite Eccles cakes ? I love the gorgeous buttery flaky pastry wrapped around a sticky centre of currents.
November 28th, 2011
Sage has asserted herself to claim her rights in the chicken pen as top chook. For the second time she has attacked a brush turkey in a comical display of territorial dominance when he found his way in to steal food. Having gone to sort out the errant turkey I watched in amazement as Sage went into full attack mode when the turkey panicked and started to run along the penís perimeter trying to escape when he saw me. She chased him right out and away from the pen vocalising her displeasure with loud clucking for good measure as the turkey ran for itís life. She is still the only chook out of the four laying an egg each day which is a bit disconcerting since Christine did start to lay then stopped mysteriously. Having consulted a UK website in the hope of finding some clues about why I discovered itís not an uncommon problem and the reasons are many and varied so I remain hopeful that given time they will follow the great example of Sage who even gave us an egg in the cat carry box I used to bring them home in. In fact yesterday she gave us an enormous egg that turned out to be a double yolk which thrilled me to bits.
November 22nd, 2011
After being confined to their pen for about two weeks I thought it was safe to let the chooks out into the world to free range. They were very excited and rushed out to scratch and explore. For their first outing I waited until mid afternoon so they weren't out too long before it started to get dark. Almost on cue they head for their roosting box as the light disappears from the day so I don't have to go looking for them. Christine is now laying and like Sage allows me to pick her up for a cuddle while Onion and Maudy haven't managed to lay at all and remain quite nervous. Perhaps they are low ranking chooks because Christine is definitely a leader and has taken to complaining loudly if I don't let them out to free range. I was a bit worried about them annoying the neighbours but fortunately they seem to stay within the boundaries of our garden. In the morning they eagerly greet me for the scraps a good friend brings which they relish even though at first they didn't seem to know what they were. Yesterday I could repay the kindness of the gift of scraps with a half dozen eggs. Oh I get such a thrill collecting those gorgeous little warm eggs.
November 11th, 2011
What is it that's so appealing about having chooks and a supply of fresh eggs I wonder ? Apart from the fact that they taste so much better than the bought ones I think it has to do with knowing where your eggs come from. For such a long time I've felt uncomfortable every time I put a pack of eggs in the shopping trolley knowing that despite the label saying free range they probably are no such thing. No one can be unaware of the miserable existence of the battery hen. Maybe it's got a lot to do with our desire to produce or grow our own food the way it used to be before we all got so reliant on supermarkets. Whatever the reason it's a thrill to visit the chooks each day and see those dear little warm eggs on the hay.
November 9th, 2011
Another print sale to a collector in Seattle US and I'm just so pleased. All the effort and hard work of creating websites blogging and general self promotion is paying off at last. Sometimes I've wondered if there really was any point to it all but what I'm learning is that it takes time, that it really doesn't happen overnight but it will happen !
November 8th, 2011
So far only 'Sage' is laying, and she has given us an egg each day announcing the arrival with low clucking noises. Perhaps Christine, Onion and Maudy will eventually get the idea of what to do from her. We had an episode a few mornings ago when I discovered a young brush turkey in the pen. The chooks werenít taking the least bit of interest in it until I entered the pen which frightened the turkey because he thought he was cornered. Once he started to panic and run along the inside of the pen two of the chooks chased and attacked him forcing him to take flight out of the pen in terror. Somehow I don't think he'll be back !
November 6th, 2011
For the first time since childhood I have some backyard chooks, four of them in fact. They are at the age known as point of lay which is self explanatory I suppose. I collected them from the produce store a week ago using a cat carry box to transport them home and on the way one of them laid an egg so I thought things looked pretty positive. After all why have chooks if they don't give you eggs ? Having bought a DIY chookhouse on the net and paid a couple of guys to build a platform for it and a pen I thought it would be reasonably straightforward however my husband found that there were bits missing and damaged as he was putting the house together so that meant having to make modifications before we could paint it. After consulting my book about chooks I realised that ensuring the chooks comfort was directly linked to egg production so further changes were necessary before we could relax and wait for our eggs. The chooks seemed to approve of their patch of backyard raking and scratching in the dirt but when night came they inspected the house and decided to find somewhere else to sleep. Before we knew what had happened one had flown over the 2m fence and was running around the perimeter of the yard frantic because it was separated from the others with my husband in pursuit in the half dark. Having eventually caught it and closed them all in the house we realised we'd have to clip their wings in the morning to avoid this unwelcome drama happening again. It's been several days since that episode and we've made a few more home improvements and today we had our first egg laid in the nesting box.
November 1st, 2011
Having just sold 'Jasper' one of my original pastel paintings at the Alan Reading Memorial Art Awards in Maleny last week I'm pretty pleased with myself. It could just be the motivation I need to start a new painting. The art exhibition was a tribute to Alan a keen supporter of the arts who lost his battle with cancer last year. His wife Lyn decided to honour his memory with this exhibition to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. It was a great success and I was happy to be a contributing artist, and since I sold a painting I will definitely be entering again next year.