Saturday, 18 October 2014

Charcoal portraits

I came across a fabulous website that offers all sorts of on-line classes.

So I watched the one about drawing charcoal portraits and discovered a natural bent for drawing little people.

The thing is, the portraits don't photograph terribly well.  Camera's don't like the contrast between the black and white.

This is my little friend Jase.

Charcoal on white drawing paper, framed under glass, A3

I spent a week in my holidays watching the UK version of Hustle and drawing little people.  Such fun!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How things change

Well, here I was, all set for ten years of making art, when...

it turns out that making art is only one of the creative things I like to do.

Don't get me wrong.  I love making marks that are meaningful and bring pleasure to the eye.  Its just that marks have different ways of communicating. Take what you are currently reading.  Marks on a screen.  They carry inherent and, at times, complicated meaning.  That meaning changes depending on the context of those marks, and even the nature of the one reading.  Not forgetting, of course, the intent of the one making the marks.

So what is my intent with all of this mark making?  

I wish to say something to you, to connect with you, to reach out.  

In the moment that I write these things I merely sit at my kitchen table imagining you, the reader, sitting on the train or at your house or maybe even waiting for a school concert to start.  You have a few minutes and have stumbled across this, and are reading the marks I have made.

It might be a few minutes after I click 'submit' or a few days or a few years, and yet the marks still connect the two of us; you and me.   We exchange pleasantries.  Yes, my day has been fine, as has yours, and yes I am well, as are you.  These are the things we say to each other politely.

On another level we share something more significant.  We each enjoy the marks on the screen, the things they say, the things they don't say.  And so we are here, together, for a moment or two.

Then I will go and walk on my treadmill and you will go to your next thing, each of us thinking about our lives.  But there, in the background is that strange connection that exists when I write and you read. A relationship has started.  This relationship between you and me exists outside of each of us.  You are someone I imagine and I am someone you imagine.

It's probably best that we don't meet.  

I expect we will both be disappointed.  You may have imagined me beautiful when in reality I have a funny red dot on the end of my nose and bags under my eyes that won't go away, even after eight hours of sleep.  And I might have imagined you to be perfect, your life in order, everything as it should be, when in reality there are things you struggle with that you wish weren't so.  

Let's go on imagining together.  Me, making marks.  You, reading marks.  And we shall pick up where we left off all those years ago.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Indecision: A book of indecisive drawings

I have always been a bit disappointed with the type of art making that I am most natural with: drawing.  It seems the least glamorous, the least beautiful, the least admirable type of art. 

But here's the thing:  What does it matter if drawing seems to be the least of all the arts?  In a moment of clarity, an epiphany you might say, it became clear to me that making art to please others just won't do.  In fact, doing anything just to please others just won't do. So I came up with a plan.

Draw.  Allow the process to take time.  Sit with an unfinished piece.  Take time to engage with the mark making.  

Drawing #1 River walk

And have fun.

I have named the sketch book Indecision: A book of indecisive drawings in order to simply draw whatever is before me, with no limitations.  Ultimately this book is about deliberately taking time for creativity, deliberately stopping the chatter, deliberately stepping into flow.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Forgotten lovelies

Looking through some old pictures I came across several small pieces, mere suggestions of pictures.  And in those suggestions are implanted the seeds of joy.

Actual size

In the washing blowing on the line are memories of little clothes slowing getting bigger and bigger to the point of being fully grown.  Happy/sad blown by the wind.

Actual size

On the ocean, moments of peace and beauty, while waiting for the wind to lift and propel the boat forward.

Maybe this post is really about the role of the wind in our lives, journeying with us, moving us onward...

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Barefoot living cont...

You are never more challenged to face who you really are than when you are confronted with a strange people speaking a strange language in a strange country.  Communication becomes about who you are rather than what you can say.  

I remembered my decision about barefoot living and applied it to my time in Africa.

Taken in Ethiopia as we visited an erosion site.

I am a One-Word Wonder when I travel.  I like to be able to at least say hello, thank you and good-bye. I pick up more words as I go, but, the reality is, I am never going to be proficient enough to use words to communicate meaning.  

This was made clear to me when working in Uganda helping people learn how to build a fuel efficient stove, known as the Rocket Stove.  Down on my hands and knees with the people of the community getting the mud ready it was clear that the women were talking about me. I could just catch "Mzungu" (white person) and the sense of their glances.  And there was nothing I could say,

Mixing mud in Uganda.

but plenty I could do.  So I smiled and kept working.  It was hot and we were all sweaty.  

Putting on the finishing touches.

By the time the stove was nearly finished we were a team, language or no language.  We had all played a part in the creation of something that was going to improve their lives. 

It had taken me several hours but finally the women were smiling at me and their kids were playing with me.  

My new friends.

Barefoot living is about being you, words or no words.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Meant to be

Some things are just meant to be.  Like this painting.

Have you ever wondered who it is in your life that reaches out to you?  And who do you reach out to?  I'm not talking about 'using' people, but, rather, being real with each other.  Who is it that you are real with?  

The Hand  Approx. 160cm sq. Oil on canvas. Currently hanging at Community Church Warragul

You see, God longs for you to be real with Him.  He reaches out to you.  He wants to make things better for you, in you.  It just requires a response. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

What life feels like

This semester's Art class with the Year10s is a delightful place to be.

All of my students are "switched on" to art and willing to try new things.

So today I say to them "we are going to draw how things feel".

"Like, love?" they ask.

"Nope, like 'what does this table feel like?'"

They look at each other with eye-brows raised, and half smiles at my latest "let's try this!" .  We warm up with an introductory activity, drawing what an unseen object feels like, with our eyes closed.  

Then I demonstrate the start of the next activity: drawing our own face by feel, beginning with three minutes of eyes closed.  They giggle and titter over my self-portrait that wanders all over the page as I draw.  I show them that imperfection is beautiful,

and finish my picture with my eyes open, telling them that this is what life is like sometimes:  your head split open and your brains spilling everywhere, looking normal on the outside and undone on the inside.  They laugh with me as I enjoy seeing what life feels like.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bare foot living

To take your shoes off is to allow a certain degree of vulnerability.  The hole in your sock you forgot about is now visible.  Your quirky gag socks reveal your mischievous side.  And you cannot leave quickly, you have to put your shoes on.

It has been on my mind that to really live life includes living in a barefoot manner.  That mistake you wanted to forget about is now admitted.  You say the silly one-liner, revealing your fun side. And you cannot leave quickly, relationships need to be nurtured.

There is risk, being barefoot.  Toes get stood on, prickles are found, calluses are visible.  Risk, and reward.  The grass between your toes, round smooth river pebbles, sunshine on your skin.

My favourite shoes Inktense pencil on drawing paper A4

I set up my favourite shoes and initially sketched the picture with lead pencil.  Once I had the structure and shading I then used Inktense pencils to add colour.  With a small brush and water I went over the colour, creating a watercolour type of feel.  Then to add depth to the colour I waited until it was completely dry and then coloured over random areas.

Drawn back to this image, I continue to wonder over the symbolic nature of shoes.

As a result I have decided to "take my shoes off" more often.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Unfinished business

How often do I start things, get scared and then don't finish them?  All the while telling myself I've lost the flow, I've got better things to do, people to help, laundry to fold...

It often happens when I am getting close to that dramatic moment in the piece.  Innately, I sense the make or break moment and like a true avoider, distract myself.  

So, before Christmas, I start a large watercolour piece based on a calendar picture that was placed in my hand.  I begin with enthusiasm and love the way the piece is coming together, including an abstract moment of playfulness.  Then it comes to a screaming halt. I have the final details to put in and then decisions about how far to take the piece.

That's when - I was busy with Christmas, didn't feel like it, had a book to read, things to think about...

Realising what I had done, I made myself finish the piece.  But, in all honesty, the flow was gone, the spontaneity lost, the joy of the piece gone.  

I'm thinking of putting it on the wall as you walk down the stairs into the studio.  It's big and would be fun to tape onto the ceiling that you walk under.

And that way it will remind me.
Don't be afraid to finish.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A painting is never finished, it simply stops at a dramatic moment

So it's true what they say...

A painting really is never finished. You could keep working and keep working.  But at some point you need to stop, so choose that dramatic moment. 

Think about your own paintings.  That dramatic moment arrives and it takes your breath away.  Then...

look at that messy corner, what about that stroke that is uneven, that colour looks too something, it's only me who sees it, I need to explain more so people can understand.  So you work through that dramatic moment and end up with a slightly muddy, boring piece of work.  Why didn't you just stop?

Too afraid of the secrets that Moment reveals?

Then you have a painting that the family politely say is nice, that you can't give away because everybody already has more than enough of this safe work of yours hanging politely on their walls.  So leave it, like I did... a box, for two years, forgotten.  Then in a search for canvas I can reclaim I came across a whole box of paintings, still packed from when we moved.  And this little painting that I could immediately diagnose:  Too many things fighting for attention, leaving the mountain in the background forgotten.  I happily decide to paint over it.

My plan?  Mix a cool green (Prussion blue and Cad' yellow, it will start as a warm brown but then, as you add more blue, tip into a cool green).  Then mix Titanium white for three tones only (remembering that your darkest tone has no white in it).  Then THE SUBJECT.  A painting I wanted to paint as a child but could never get right:  A path that lead away to somewhere wonderful.  And the attitude "this is a yellow brick in my path to learning". 

Then something out of my control happened.  The previous painting found it's dramatic moment, and I got my path to somewhere wonderful.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The universal "What if..."

What if I understood that my most powerful tool for learning came in the form of the pictures I didn't like, the ones that were wrong or not good enough?  What if the path to freedom could only be found in those self-same pictures?  

What if those awful pictures are actually the stepping-stones through the distractions, through the worries, through the clutter that is in my head?  What if they are my yellow-brick road that will lead me to the Great Oz?  And what if Hubby and B1 and B2 are my Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion? 

Acting on this "what if" I took the time to make art...not very good art.  Embarrassingly so. Holding back judgment I just let it be and moved on to the next piece. 

Then something a little bit special happened.

Charlie's place, Oil on canvas, 30"x18"

Early in the piece I ditched the brush for a rag, adding and subtracting paint, using turps and allowing the canvas to participate in the piece. This is "watercolour" thinking where the paper plays the role of white. I took this blending as far as I could, and only then used the pallet knife and the brush to add details.  

One victory does not an Emerald City make. But I can move forward, with the support of my crew, and sing...

Follow, follow, follow, follow, 
follow the yellow-brick road

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Word pictures are beautiful too

Sometimes I cannot decide if I love paint or pen best.  

On the beach

The sand on my skin
Distorts my perception of myself,
Transforming me
everyone else.

audacity like gulls.
Build the castle higher.
Make it prettier.
Dig the hole deeper.

Insistent voices
as I dig in the sand.
To no avail.
The rain softly pads on the grains.
A child falls on the castle.
The tide fills the hole.

The Ocean has sought me out.
Cool, refreshing, lingering,
Washing sand from skin.

Revealing my true appearance.

The Ocean calling to me.
Swim, child, swim.
You were made to swim.

Shelly Beamish Dec 2012

Written as I begin to reflect on the possibility and hope of a new year.  

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas angels

I find myself occasionally saying yes when perhaps I should say no.  

So, here I am, procrastinating all week long over a painting I want to paint for the thing I said yes to when I should have said no, that doesn't have to have a painting but I want it to have one because that's what I do.  

It comes to crunch time when if I don't paint it now it won't be dry enough to hang before Hubby goes to work.  I do what all good artists do:  I google for ideas.  There in google images is a vibrant angel that I base my work on.

I get set up outside and chat to Hubby while I enjoy simply painting.  I use the tiny inspiration picture, repeat the one angel three times, and make it all very big!

The acrylic paint responds well to the retarder medium, painting with a 1inch flat brush.  The MDF, base coated with a warm cream (adding depth to the feel of the painting without any extra effort), takes the paint well.  All in all the process is relaxing and enjoyable.

Two and a bit hours later and nearly finished, I paint the faces and hair last, one shot and no "fixing".  These guys need to be imperfectly engaging.

Hubby, my "go-to guy', takes the painting to church to hang. 

It is to be the backdrop of the Nativity play.  I had grand plans for a big "reveal' moment when the Innkeeper is woken by a chorus of angels and takes the curtain from the window and tada! there are the angels.  One little issue of scale.  The star of the show, Daughter, isn't going to be able to reach the top of the "window".  I have visions of torn curtains and large pieces of artwork falling off the wall, and can the reveal idea. 

Instead, Daughter and all of the other children are wonderful.  The angels are happy and sing their praises beautifully.

And maybe, just maybe,  a yes that should have been a no was really better off being a yes.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Worshipping God through art

It's one thing to take your time, plan a piece, slowly pull it together, fix mistakes as they's a whole other world to set yourself a time limit (1 hour) and make yourself a promise (no going back).  And to choose to focus on God and not yourself...

I get up early, make Hubby come with me, take my easel, a big board and my basket of paints etc around to my local church.  I wait outside while Hubby runs the gauntlet to turn the alarm off and switch on some lights.  Seems it's kind of dark inside even though the sun is up outside .

Hubby gets me settled and goes home to wake the kids and start breakfast.

I set up my limited pallet: titanium white, paynes grey and carbon black.  The picture has been on my mind for a few weeks and I have already decided that I won't wash my brush.  Beginning with white I gradually add paynes grey to build up the storm.  It feels odd to paint "up" the board as my normal habit is to begin at the top of the board and paint "down".

I play worship music on my phone and sing while I paint.  There is no one around and no neighbours. I sing loud, and paint fast.  No going back means not fussing with details but just giving over to the whole process.  It is invigorating and uplifting, and sobering at the same time.  As I use more paynes grey I become increasingly aware that there are many people who feel the way paynes grey looks: far away from hope.

Chosen 1m x 1.25m (Approx) Acrylic

But hope is not lost.  God promises to be there for us, closer than the shadow at our right hand.  He chooses us, all we have to do is accept.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Happy little moments

Some things are just happy little moments in different wrapping.

So here is one wrapped in a song.  Owl City - The bird and the worm is a happy little tune with my favourite line of all time "With fronds like these who needs anemones?".

And another happily little moment exists in these two paintings.

Oil on canvas, approx. 1m x30cm.

This self-portrait (how I appear on the inside!) is how feeling happy looks to me.  We aren't always in this moment but it is there waiting to return, when the colour and conditions are right.

For me happiness and joy are one and the same: both a gift from God, both part of the foundation of being human, both to be enjoyed but not pursued for their own sake.

To pursue happiness is like trying to catch a butterfly, elusive and ever out of reach, damaged if we snatch at it. Instead we must allow the butterfly to come to us, enjoying its delicate features and intricate beauty.