Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drawings, birthdays and stuff

I had a small birthday party on Tuesday – just family and my closest friends.
It was miserable weather so we all crammed inside and sat in one big group – I did lay a big table for lunch but it seems everyone was feeling casual and chose to eat off their laps (well with plates of course). It could also be that as the table did not have enough places and no-one wanted to break up the group it turned out that way.

My friend Nathan has his own catering business so I decided it would be fun to get him to do the catering. He did a fabulous meal – a haloumi cheese salad starter with the most amazing reduced balsamic dressing, a chicken curry with homemade bread – bunny chow style and a gorgeous chocolate cake with cream and caramel on the inside.
It was actually a huge pleasure to have someone else do the catering and he did not charge the earth either – in fact it was a very good price.
He has a passion for food and is a real perfectionist – if you ever need catering done I highly recommend him.

Well, as it was my birthday and all and I received some lovely presents, among them was a voucher for my local arts and crafts shop – yay, plus a couple of books on drawing techniques – which I have already started reading.
So I got a bit inspired and did a bit of sketching – I feel that my drawings of a month or two ago were a bit stiff and I wanted to free up the line and get a more fresh and spontaneous look. I do think I am more of a charcoal person than a pencil person.

Here is an example of an earlier drawing in pencil.

Here are a couple of my latest sketches done in charcoal. They were very quick and easy to do – which was the whole idea behind them.

One of the techniques suggested was to draw by only looking at the subject and not at the paper, which teaches you to see properly. I tried this for a bit and then came up with the above sketches – these were of course done while looking at the paper.
I also wanted to practice more tonal stuff, you know, playing with light and dark and getting the values right – these drawings took a bit longer but were also in charcoal. I have been inspired by the work of James Foster, who spends hours and hours getting his tonal values just right.

The black cat was a birthday present for my sister – who loves cats – if you look closely you will see that I forgot a crucial bit – his whiskers. Lucky for her I added them before she took the picture home.

I also tried out some conte pencils for a commissioned work of a meerkat, I came up with three drawings but I think the detailed one of the meerkat’s face came out best.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wow - What a night!

After Sunday’s success, I decided to attend the Tuesday night milonga at The Dance Junction in Rosebank.

I wore the same flat shoes I used on Sunday – they are not dancing shoes but have enough slide for me to do pivots and ochos in them.

I really felt in the zone last night, every tango was great, each one seeming to surpass the last.

There were quite a few new faces and I was lucky enough to dance with a couple of them, there is nothing like trying out a new partner just to see what they are like – I will confess I am a bit of a tango slut and want to dance with everybody.

I always have to struggle with the concept of waiting for the men to ask me – it is after all traditional, but it rarely seems to happen with the guys I don’t know and I am often left wondering if it is because my tango style doesn’t appeal or something else.

I suspect though it has something to do with a natural human tendency not to ask someone you don’t know because you may end up getting rejected.

The weird thing is I don’t personally have a problem with doing the asking, except that it is supposedly frowned upon for women to ask.

Maybe I should have a survey on this issue – Do you think women should wait to be asked?

I would love to know what the guys feel about this subject.

There were some great highlights for me last night, some lovely creative tango waltzes with Andrea, a rather wonderful couple of tangos with Kelvin from Cape Town, some great connection and emotional tango from Erik and an incredibly exciting set of three milongas with Ryan, who is very creative and very fast with his feet.

Thanks also to Mervyn, whose tango improves every time I dance with him, he was very patient with all my moans and groans about my foot back in February, so I hope he enjoyed our tango a bit more this time.

The best of all though was my foot held out the whole night and this morning, even though there is a bit of discomfort because it is still healing, the joint pain I used to get in my big toe after a night of dancing isn’t there!

So I am feeling rather fabulous today, with memories of a great night and an ok foot.

I just can’t wait for the next one, but will be pacing myself for a while yet until my foot is 100%.

Tango Tea Party

I attended a tango tea party at The Secret Garden in Fourways this Sunday past and what a wonderful afternoon it was.

The women were all dressed beautifully – Natasha looked especially resplendent in a gorgeous purple and lilac Sunday afternoon tea party dress and with matching tango shoes as well.

I loved watching her skirt billowing in the wind while she danced.

In fact the wind got a bit too billowy and as we all moved inside to avoid the downpour, all the canopies blew over at the same time, it was lucky no one got hurt.

It was only my second milonga of the year and it took me a while to find my tango feet.

Thanks to some fantastic (and patient) partners I was soon in the full tango swing of things.

My sore foot managed a couple of numbers in my dancing shoes before I had to switch to flats, but it held out quite well for the rest of the day.

It was my first time on the new portable floor, it was slightly wobbly due to the grass underneath, but since I was in flat shoes it was not too bad. I am so happy that I finally had a go on it though.

My daughter Claire had the time of her life – all those people to be cute for! She just loves to get on the dance floor, so I ended up dancing with her more than anybody else.

In fact, she got quite jealous of Mummy dancing with anyone else, so it was a bit tricky at times to get a dance in. My husband Leo and I managed to squeeze one dance in thanks to Richard who diverted Claire’s attention long enough for one song.

We were all treated to a wonderful violin concert by Ellena – if my tango was as good as her violin playing I would be a very happy dancer indeed! She was brilliant and it was fantastic to dance to live music.

The spread laid out for us was delicious, yummy muffins, scones with jam and cream, spring rolls, sausage rolls, caramel treats and endless cups of tea and coffee.

Sadly I missed out on the after party which took place at The Fish and Wine Co at The Design Quarter, being a mother means I often miss out on lots of tango fun.

I am definitely feeling enthused to do more tango, so will be showing my face at milongas more often.

Thanks to Natasha who organized the event – it was great.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Does your art have soul?

I wrote an article for a website called Empty Easel
and they published it!
Here is the article they published, but you can click on the link if you want to read it there.

I’ve been pondering for a while on what makes a work of art good or not. I won’t say I’m the world’s expert on this subject; after all, I failed art criticism and had to repeat it the next year—though you could look at this positively and say I got an extra year of study on the subject.

So what makes art good or not? Here are the things that are important to me:

1. Art needs to be interesting.

Does it have something to say? Is it able to hold your attention? As a collector, I look for art that won’t bore me after it’s been on my walls for a while.

2. Art shouldn’t try too hard to be “deep.”

I don’t believe good art has to be particularly deep, or political, or philosophical. Sometimes it can be about quality of light or how colours work together. Or it can be about the subject—capturing the essence of a person for example.

I prefer that it make me think a bit, but it shouldn’t be so esoteric and out of reach that it needs an essay to explain it.

3. Art shouldn’t be strictly commercial.

Technically slick art leaves me cold—especially when you just know in your bones that the artist made it just for profit, and it has an overtly commercial ring to it.

4. Art should be unique.

Just making a beautiful, perfect copy of a photograph isn’t enough. There needs to be something more, something that you couldn’t find in a photograph alone.

5. Art needs to show the artist’s heart.

I want to be able to see that the artist put his or her heart into the work; that it meant something to them. I want to feel that they will miss the piece once it has been sold.

I once chatted with a well known artist (this was a long time ago), who was happy to have sold some fabulous prints to a collector until she found out her prints were kept in a special drawer along with works by other artists for investment purposes only.

She was pretty dismayed to realize that her work was bought not for display but as “money in the bank.”

6. Art needs to impress.

Not only should there be some evidence of heart, it needs to make me think, “Wow, I wish I had done that.” This is where great technical skill comes in, and if not that, then great thought and purpose.

When a work of art has all six of these things, it becomes so much more than just an image. A great work of art has soul.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Painting Progress

I have done some more work on my new painting.
There is a bit more underpainting - I am playing around with colours at the moment, trying to see what will work.
The source picture I am using for the room is mostly white - white walls, white bed curtains with a blue pattern and white side tables with white lamps.
I am not sure whether to take a risk and change the colours to darker browns and reds or stick with the source - the problem with making the colours darker is it becomes more of a night time scene and then the shadows and light source will be different. I would also be working more from imagination which means it might not work.
I have an idea of how I want it to look but then I need a source that will help me achieve this.
The great thing about oil painting is I can make changes but I need to decide soon which way I want to go.
Here is the picture I am working from.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Art competitions

Art Competitions

I have been checking out the array of online art competitions – there are loads.
Some are just for fun with free entry, some have small cash prizes also with free entry and some you pay an entry fee.
I am truly excited about this and have entered a free competition – it’s called “Imaginary 2” and as you might guess from the title works must be of imaginary places, ideas and things from your imagination. I have chosen “Piggy Dreams” as my entry.
You can find this competition at A Singular Creation Art Showdown
I have half a mind to enter “Leap of Faith” as well (the pig diving into a swimming pool) – since there is no limit on number of entries.
Most of these art competitions are overseas but lucky for me a lot of them are open worldwide – all made possible by the internet of course.

I added my vote to the previous competition called "Light and Dark 2" - I was too late to enter this one but my hot favourite for this one is a beautiful drawing by James Foster called "Ground Work" - you can see his work here James Foster

Then I had a look to see what the local scene has to offer in terms of art competitions.
There are not a whole lot online, and a lot of the big name ones – like Standard Bank and Absa, are only open to artists under a certain age – so that counts me out.
There is one possibility though and that is Sasol’s “New Signatures” competition which is only open to artists who have never had a solo exhibition and they don’t indicate an age limit. Sasol New Signatures
Here’s the positive note – I won a merit award in this very same competition back when I was a student so as long as I can come up with a worthy piece I am feeling quite good about entering.
Even if I don’t win anything, just getting into the exhibition would be great exposure for me.
I had best get cracking on a worthy painting though – entries close in July.

Then there all those other lovely possible competitions out there but I just don’t have a great body of work yet. I am working on it though.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Swimming Pool is done

As promised, here is my finished piece called “Swimming Pool”

It appealed to me because of the colours and the striking composition.
Thanks to the photographer who took the source photo, much as I would love to take credit for the composition.
I fancied painting a swimming pool because of the pool I did in my painting called Leap of Faith – below.

I just loved the contrast of the turquoise blue versus the blue of the sky.
Both blues seem to enhance each other and I feel that the swimming pool painting explores this further in itself – seeing as there is no sky.
The deeper blue of the shadows creates a lovely contrast with the light blue of the sunlit water, this theme is followed through with the contrast of the brilliant sunlit paving against the shadows formed by the cracks.

I am going to put this painting up for sale.
It will be my first because the piggy paintings already have a buyer so I am holding those back.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A breakthrough!

I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling artistically stuck – I have been battling with two paintings, one a landscape and the other a swimming pool.
I got fed up with the landscape so I put it to one side and started the swimming pool.
Then I found myself floundering over this one too.
So I spent some time contemplating my early work and remembered how easy it was back then, it all seemed to flow. I realized how much I liked to express myself with paint, using lots of brushwork and clean colours.
So I decided to stop being such a slave to the source – you know, trying to get it drawn exactly right and matching the colours etc.
It was much more fun to get free with the colours, making them my own; I also switched brush types and got into layering thick creamy paint onto the canvas, and not getting too fussy about the details.
Now the swimming pool is almost finished! Just need it to dry a bit and then will add some finishing touches.

Then I started a really big canvas, my first big one in more than 20 years, I am quite excited about this one and because I was on a roll I didn’t get intimidated by the size.
I felt like everything was flowing, it was like the good old days.

I will post the swimming pool once it’s done and I am thinking of showing progress pics of the big one so you can see the process from start to finish.
Here is the first shot.

I am not so sure about the composition, I think it needs more distance from the bed, so I may have to do a redraw. Drat.
Or maybe not. Decisions, decisions. Shoulda made a preliminary sketch first on a smaller piece of paper, but hey, I was on a roll. I have never done preliminary sketches before so why start now? Makes sense though, I know lots of artists do this and it is especially important to get the composition right.

I am so happy and lucky to have this passion for art because I am sorely missing the tango floor, I will really make a plan to show my face at a milonga soon.

So far the zebra poll seems to have more votes in favour of finishing them.
I am considering this – since I already have a scanned image of the work as it is now for posterity.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Some old stuff

I was scratching around in my cupboard over the weekend and found some of my earliest paintings.

The first one I must have painted at around 15 years old – I was given a set of oil paints as a present plus a book on how to paint landscapes.
As paintings go it’s not that great, but I am pleased I kept it as a record of my very first attempt.
I did a second one that was better, but it’s gone missing.

There were some others too but they are long gone.

Then I found these two, I think I did them around age 16/17 – I know because I signed and dated the horses as 1983.

I never did get around to completing the zebras – that’s always a problem for me – finishing what I start. Silly really, only had a few black stripes to add in.

I did all three paintings from imagination, before I went to university and learned that it is much better to always use a reference (like a photo or the real thing) when creating art.

They are also pretty small, the horses and zebras are about A4 in size, the landscape is just slightly bigger than a credit card, or about the same size as my cell phone.

I also found this one, pretty romantic teenage girl stuff, I remember it was also done the same year I fancied a boy in my class at school, who was tall, blonde and oh so handsome.

I remember he asked me to draw him a picture once, so that day I came home from school and spent an entire afternoon drawing the same pair of fighting horses over and over, I wanted to get it just right so that he would be ever so impressed and fall in love with me right then.
Well, I gave him the horses but the lurve thing didn’t happen. I can still remember that drawing clearly and how I agonized over it, wonder if he still has it?
This one I think was inspired by a coaster with Camargue horses on it, I managed to find a relevant poem to go with it in a time when there was no internet.
For those who don’t know, there is a wetlands region in France where these special horses live, they are an ancient breed.

So I have been wondering – would it be kosher for me in my old age to finish the zebras now? It’s so tempting to add the missing stripes, but it feels as though the painting would have been done by two different people – the young me and the old me.
Also, I would never be able to look at it and see it as one of my earliest works anymore, as though adding a bit now would destroy what it is.

Maybe I should have a poll on this - do you think I should finish the zebras?