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.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Inspired by my next trip to Africa

A couple of years ago we took our children to Ethiopia.  Friends were working there and it was a good opportunity to experience what life is like for other people, people who don't have what we have.  Since then I have been very interested in the work done by Beyond Subsistence, a non-profit organisation committed to helping those in third world countries through forestry and agro-forestry.

In April of next year, 2013, I am heading off to Africa again, this time with Beyond Subsistence to see the projects they have happening in Ethiopia and Uganda.  Trees make a big difference to how people are able to live their lives.  Trees provide food, shelter, fuel and an income.  They improve crop production and give the soil stability. It is something I see as very important.

And so, I have been inspired to create.  This time, lino prints.  A new medium for me to play with.

Subject #1 The African Acacia: Over-harvested, the African Acacia often stands as a lone tree, symbolic of the wilds of Africa.  Unfortunately, lone trees don't provide sustainability.
My first attempt at lino printing and I need to practice my technique as I did forget that final step of using a spoon to rub the print onto the paper for even paint coverage.

I like this night time image.  Lots of stars (as a result of forgetting the spoon step!).

The simplicity of the image means that it is eye-catching no matter the colour choice.

Subject #2 The Australian Acacia:  This native Australian tree grows well in Africa and is useful for all of the things mentioned above.  The seeds are high in protein and can be eaten.  The trees grow quickly and are easy to manage.

This print is hand-coloured with water-colour paint on a black print.  I like this particular piece but after some consideration I began to feel that it looked like a coloured-in photo copy.  So I decided to try colour.

I love this.  I know what it is.  If you don't "know" then I doubt you could "tell" which means the image may not travel well.

I especially loved it in green.  I might hand-tint them but I can't quite make my mind up.

Subject #3 Mother and child.  
Trying something a little more challenging and here it becomes obvious that I am new to lino printing.   Despite the many problems associated with the actual cut (I need to cut more out of the print) and with the actual printing (I need to press the paper harder), the image still retains its integrity.

The sadness and story of the image is easier to see here.  Dark, alone, desolate. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

She doesn't even know it's for her

What began as a "lets just splash some paint around and put emotion on the page" has become one of my favourite paintings, and a gift that the receiver doesn't know she's getting.

Inside 100x70cm (approx.) Watercolour on drawing paper

Using masking tape I randomly laid down some strips.  I didn't think about the strength of the paper, and this would be a problem later as I had to pick it off very, very carefully to stop the paper tearing.  Then I chose alizarin red and ultramarine blue (? My memory is a little fuzzy with that detail) and mixed up a couple of washes. Using clips I attached the paper to a board and began playing with paint.  Initially I didn't think about  a picture at all, but then it began to appear:  the rain on the window, the feeling that I was standing inside looking out, the storm rolling in (as viewed through the open panes in the top right corner).  Once the piece was dry I detailed the rain on the window and the window panes with pen.

And now, all that is left is to tell my friend that the painting is for her.  She's seen it.  She knows the full story.  She wrote the music that goes with the image.  Now to let her know...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Breaking the block

So a friend says to me "why don't you try painting how you feel?" and I think "nutter, what would a non-artist know?".  Apparently more than I think! And, hey, any idea is a good idea if it gets the paint on the canvas, right?

I go home and get out the oils, the turps and a pile of rags.  I ask myself "what colours do I love together?"  Answer:  all complimentary combinations, this time blue/orange.  And "how do I feel?"  Answer:  in a whirlwind.

(Unnamed) 36x48" Oil on deep canvas

The experience is very freeing.  I use a rag with diluted Ultramarine Blue and use big sweeping strokes.  The variation in tone is an indication of the dilution rather than a mixing of white with the paint.  I take the pallet knife and loaded only with white I scrape on the froth.  With orange on the pallet knife I lay in the daisies and the girl.  With a little blending I am finished. 

I am pleased with my work, my blue stained fingers and the block is broken.  For the time-being, anyway.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A time to be quiet...

I'd like to say that I "chose" to take a sabbatical from my blog but the truth is far more simple and far less noble.  Life has been challenging these past six months, and I just didn't feel like hanging out.

It has taken time to rebuild after a long cold, wet winter.  My motivation to create art has come and gone and come back again.  Even now, however, my standard of work feels like it's morphing into something new, with new ways of being inspired.  It requires risk taking and the ability to be okay with making mistakes.

Promised Land, Oil on MDF approximately 1 x 1.5m

This piece began as cerulean blue at the top of the board.  As I worked my way down the board the picture formed under the brush.  It was an exciting process that took my breath away at times.  I'm not entirely happy with the grapes in the foreground, but, as yet, I haven't felt like repainting them.  It feels like a new sort of painting for me as I didn't plan it, think much about it or follow a plan.  Instead I simply worked with the concept of "the promise of good things to come".

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Find the 3D addition!

This large, 1.2m x 1.5m, acrylic piece has been sitting in our family room while I have worked on it.  The studio, down stairs, is very cold at this time of year and even the acrylics have trouble drying in any sort of reasonable time.

So this last week we have lived around the piece.  Mini, our black moggy, took a fancy to it and decided to include himself.  Can you see him?

PS.  All of my good intentions to draw from the right side of the brain have been railroaded by a mix of procrastination, a couple of good books and Le Tour de France!  


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Life "on the right side of the brain"

"Artists say that they feel alert and aware yet are relaxed and free of anxiety, experiencing a pleasurable, almost mystical activation of the mind." (Edwards 1979, p4).

An artistic flow, according to Edwards, is about the way you see things.  Likewise, our relationship with God is based on how we see things.  In both cases, our vision is often off.  We are not seeing what is actually there, and so we don't represent reality in either our art or our relationship with God.

It is my aim, over the next few days/weeks to complete some of the exercises that Edwards sets (in order).  The first four activities require that I produce what I know will be fairly ordinary pieces.  But I also know that establishing where I am at right now is important.  How else will I know when I have improved?

Challenging thought though:  admitting to the ordinary state of our relationship with God.  Or maybe you have already learned to live life "on the right side of the brain"!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Irrationality is something I do well!

Ever read this book?  The upside of irrationality, Ariely (2010).

True confessions:  I love behavioural economics. Affluenza, Freakenomics, all books that are not only interesting but seriously entertaining. So I have learned about the disease of consumerism, and how to catch out teachers who cheat.

And now I am learning about the impact stress can have and how return is diminished when the stakes are high.  I see it in my students.  They perform well on tasks they believe don't matter but the minute it is something that appears important, they choke.

I do this with my art too.  When I genuinely believe that it doesn't matter, the work flows and is beautiful.  Get me in a situation when I feel it does matter, and any skill I have disappears out the window, leaving me with low-grade, slightly disappointing pieces that people politely smile at.

This is the challenge:  to not care if I live or die (metaphorically, of course!)  The less I care, the better the work is.  The less I care, the more likely I am to overcome the wall I have hit with several projects.

I'll be really interested to see what the suggested solution is.  How do we switch off our perception that something matters more or less than something else? to harness the power of the irrational...

Monday, 11 June 2012

Living deliberately

Spending a weekend away with some friends gave me the opportunity to complete the following tangle.  An exercise in relaxation, I felt my mind settle as I worked my way through the repeated pattern and predictable lines. 
Interestingly, as the piece progressed so did my thoughts about deliberate living.

It is so easy to be distracted by momentary things and find that time slips by unnoticed.  One of the problems of having a ten year plan with my art is how easy it is to lose focus.  And this year hasn't really progressed as I imagined it would. There just hasn't been the time or the inspiration for two competition entries each month, and I have found myself, at times, writing rather than painting.  However, the great thing about a final destination, the what, is that mid-way you can change the way there, the how.

This one piece has reminded me just how much I enjoy simply living, how important it is to repeat those things that work and change those things that don't, and that friends can help you remember who you are.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Calming the frantic mind

The past couple of months have been doing my head in.  Seeing the surgeon today revealed Frankenfoot as the final dressing and strapping was taken off.  Still as yukky looking as ever, I found myself with an instant head-ache and the real threat that those cornflakes I had for lunch were going to make a second appearance.  Thankfully Paramedic Hubby stepped in, literally, so that I couldn't see the foot, held my hand and reassured me that things were actually very positive.  And he's right.  My foot/toes are straighter than I ever remember them being.

What I have learned is that bunion correction surgery is very painful, but more than that, I have learned that when I am stressed I over-think everything.  Great when intuition and problem solving is needed, not so great for everyday funs-ville life.

For us melancholy types tangling, or zentangle as it is officially known, is a great way to calm an over-active, aka crazy-lady, mind.  These following pattern ideas are not mine.  I just googled and found inspiration in the websites I came across.
There is something soothing about repetitive pattern, serendipity and an easily achievable task.  Tangling is accessible to all, no matter your confidence level.  And it always looks good.  Go to it!  

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Inspirations - learning from others

Just recently I attended a professional development session provided by my school and conducted by a talented artist, Anne Marks.

Amongst other things, she challenged me to think about what inspires me, and to do as they do.  So today, browsing an English magazine I came across an advertisement that used a pen and wash drawing.  I cut it out and stuck it into my folio.
I annotated the picture, noting the things that I really liked about it.  Then I redrew part of the picture just to get a feel for the use of line and tone, and for fun!

Next step was to use a source picture (another ad' from the same magazine!).  I sketched it for realism and tone.  Then I got out some watercolour paper and used pen and Inktense pencils.  After sticking the images into my folio I grabbed a .8 pen and roughly drew in the image as a wall paper.  

A closer look at the pen and wash.  Not quite as good as the Inspirations piece, but a person has to start somewhere!

Friday, 25 May 2012


Mother's Day found me enjoying cupcakes for breakfast and waiting for Hubby to get home from his night shift.  Being the good Hubby he is, he bought me a black and white page sketch book and a tin of pastel pencils.

We then spent the day with our mothers enjoying lunch together.  I sat watching the action happening around me (thank you oh reconstructed big toe!) and passed the time trying to sketch those around me.  Pastels are new to me but I was inspired when a friend showed me a pastel drawing on black paper.  But I found myself experiencing pastel fail.

That is, until a couple of weeks later when I casually flicked through the images I had drawn that day.  Fail.  Fail.  Fail.  Oh...who drew that?
I actually found myself thinking, who had I let draw in my book?  And then I remembered.  I had taken five to ten minutes to simply sketch with abandon.  I turned the page over and immediately forgot about that fleeting moment.  Win.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

In the classroom

Spontaneity and freedom in art making are challenging.  It is so easy to stay with safe art.   So often, safe equals boring.

To inspire and challenge my students I set them the task of creating with paint and paper.  The subject was "school" and they had spent time researching and thinking about what symbols in their lives represented "school".  Then I gave the instructions "don't over think it, just do it", and demonstrated.

School A3
This was the result!  

Monday, 21 May 2012

A new image to develop

Hi Everyone,

I'm sorry I haven't been around for a while.  I had surgery on my foot five weeks ago and it set me back a bit.  I assumed, wrongly, that I would be able to make heaps of art while I recuperated.  Dealing with pain is something that is new to me and so this has been quite a steep learning curve.  It seems that I can't make art when I am in pain!

But now I am back :)

So, here it is: a new image to develop.  And this one is a keeper, right the way through to a large oil painting.  But first I need to develop the image and get a better feel for what it is about.

My room in heaven
This is my initial image drawn quickly with 0.3 pen on A4 paper.  I really connect with the ambiguity of going through a door into the wilderness.
Dancing on the shore of heaven
I took a little more time with this image (still under an hour).  Using pastel pencil on A4 white paper I wanted to explore ambiguity further.  Thus the dancer in the wilderness.

Ultimately I am aiming toward quite a large abstract piece in brown/green tones.  I love my pallet knife and oils, and without question this is what I will use with the final.  Before then I plan on continuing to explore the image.  There is something about this one that has captured my attention.

Hopefully it won't be so long before I am back again.  I see my surgeon again next week and should be off the crutches soon.  

Monday, 9 April 2012

Does God show-off?

Hiking to my favourite mountain the weather closed in.  Clouds formed before our eyes and swirled around us.  One moment bright sunlight, then next darkness.  We were a part of something much bigger than just water vapour and wind.  Was God showing-off for me?

No, something much more relational, and much less arrogant.  The God of this Universe so often seems to fit with our idea of Dumbledore, wise, but removed and ultimately powerless against death.  This God who makes clouds around us and sends wind to carry them into the sky, this God is dangerous.  This is a God not limited by human thinking, and not bound by death.  This is a God who doesn't need anything from any one of us, but who goes out of His way to engage us, to be in relationship with us, to pursue us.

He is the bad-boy your parents warned you against.  The black-sheep who upsets every family gathering.  The rebel who dares you to be just as rebellious.  
He's the One who takes delight in you, and gives you good gifts everyday, should you choose to notice.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The things artists dream about...

Exhausted from a busy term at school, and with the house free of all noise (thanks to a concert that Hubby had taken the kids to), I went to bed early.

The sleep was sweet and the dreams crazily clear.  So I dreamt that I was sleeping under pencil circles.  Big, drawn circles.  Not those little fussy circles that might actually be a crotchet throw rug tossed on the bed at the last minute on a cool indeed. Big comfortable pencil circles.  As real as can be, and as comforting as a crochet rug.
My scribbled representation of sleeping under circles.

Who knew pencil circles could be so clear and comfortable?!

Friday, 30 March 2012

They're up!

We mounted The Wind Triad on wooden frames and then put them on the wall at our local church.  They are based on a verse from the Bible.

John 3:8  The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

I know I have a leaf sticking out of my head and that this photo doesn't really do the pictures justice, but they do look good.  
You can come and see them at our Sunday Service 9am at the Community Church Warragul.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Still working the process

Okay, so I get home today and have another go at the paintings.

I use a bigger mop brush in order to stop myself overworking the detail and I hold the handle near the end.  Any mistake is actually just part of my "handwriting" and I mustn't be afraid to let my voice be heard.

Wind #1
I darkened the shadows and lifted some of the intense red.  Then I put a light yellow wash over the red to the right of the leaf.  Now I will think on the left side of the leaf (as opposed to the left side of my brain!).  The trick here is to know when to stop.  A little more is needed but not too much.  Watercolour likes to stay where you put it.  Recovering light paper is second to keeping it in the first place.

Done.  I really like how this has come up.  
This is the focal point leaf of the triad; the one that signals the difference between just falling off the tree and being caught by the wind, lifted to new life.  

Next challenge, mounting these bad boys on wooden frames.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The "thinking" stage

So, the paintings are to a point now where they are almost finished.

Time to think and reflect.
Each piece is about 75cm x 113cm and will hang on a dark brown wall.  They will be staggered and represent the freedom that comes when we allow God to move in our lives just as the wind blows through the leaves.

Wind #1
The contrasts in this piece are not strong enough.  The leaf needs to be darker where the background is lighter, the right side.

Wind #2
Same as for #1.  The darks need to be darker.

Wind #3
I'm pleased with this one. The contrasts are stronger and so it is clearer and more engaging.

Tomorrow's job is to darken those leaves.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Slowed down by the studio cat

Rather than be anti-social, I took my board and paper to the lounge room.  I sat on the floor and started drawing the second of the "Wind" triad.  Before I knew it Little Moo had settled in.

I seriously can't convince Little Moo that she could actually sit on my lap.
Never mind, I'll take whatever I can get.

I did, however, finish drawing the second and the third paintings.  And have masked in the second.  Progress!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Fresh inspiration

This has been a hugely encouraging week!  The result?

I feel inspired to create and am going big.  

Aim:  To create three large watercolour pieces that hang off-set from each other.  
Subject:  Autumn leaves blowing in the wind.  

Masking in the leaf.

 I have a saying in my head and am working on nailing it down.

I took the painting outside and painted in the background.  

Messy but so much fun!  It was very wet and will need a day to dry thoroughly.  

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hovercrafting video

I know, I know, this is supposed to be a blog about my art journey.  And I think today I might have taken a baby step forward.  But in the meantime, here are the Twins.

Sigh...they grow up so fast.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Twins learn to fly

So I am up early with a million things to do.  A house to tidy, washing to peg out, more washing for the drier, pamphlets to deliver, food to gather, fuel to get, papers to buy (love my Saturday papers!) and on and on it goes.

Low tide and the bay turns to mud flats.  The perfect conditions for learning to fly the Hovercraft.  Us girls disappear to go shopping and leave the men to it.  Sexist?  Maybe.  But what mother wants to watch her sons put themselves in danger as they learn how to operate a vehicle of any sort?

We buy some girlie things, quilts and aprons and candles.  Driving back in we debate: who is it flying in the 'craft?  It looks like Hubby or even FIL but then mother eyes see.  It is Twin 1, and he is confident, controlled...and very dirty!
The before and after shot.  

Flying in the Hovercraft.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The lesson of the inane

There is something therapeutic in just letting a pen draw on a blank page.
Learning from the silliness evident in ourselves is tricky.  No one wants to admit to being obsessed, self-absorbed, distracted by breezes, carelessly forgetful...

But there it is...a work in progress.  Truly. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Beaminator gets a face lift

It has to happen.  A person turns 40, they get wrinkles and BAM! face-lift time!  No one escapes, not even the virtual face.  

So I am giving Beaminator a face-lift.  Boring is as boring does.  And lets face it, life has really side-swiped me this year, leaving no time for art making (excuse me while I wallow in my one person pity party...sigh...pass me the jelly beans).  My 10 year plan and goals for this year seem very much out of reach , and the only way to move forward is to blog it.

Momentarily interrupted by Twin 1 and Twin 2 snorting Smiggle erasers.  Apparently they smell nice (the erasers not the boys).  The Twins are 13, identical, and looking like Mike TV from Charlie and the Chocolate factory after he was stretched in the taffy puller.  Daughter, owner of the smelly Smiggle erasers,  is unaware of the snotty abuse.  It may well unravel tomorrow when she reads this...

Such is the fun of Family Life with an Art Nutter!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A five minute moment

My wonderful students were labouring over their work, bogged down with making sure every line was exactly right.  On the spur of the moment I decided to show them that imperfect pieces were often interesting.  So, I grabbed a bottle off the shelf, did a quick pencil outline. Talked about drawing what we see not what we think (thus the square bottle in the corner!)  Grabbed my wet pallet, and threw some paint onto the page.

Not bad, even if I do say so myself!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

My first public chalk painting

I have been working on this chalk painting for a little while, preparing the design in the holidays and then doing a couple of run throughs yesterday.

Today as part of our worship of God in church I painted this.

It isn't a theological piece, rather an act of worship to God.  He gives generously and this is one way to lift our thoughts and hearts to Him.