Strelitzia seedhead – large

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The dry Strelitzia seedhead offers me lots of opportunities to explore its wonderful intricate and messy form. This drawing follows on from the smaller one I did recently (see here for images). I have used a different angle, more front on, and enlarged it by about 2, maybe 3, times. The drawing is relatively faithful to the actual object, but I couldn’t resist exaggerating some of the tendrils and dried petals, they were asking to be taken on a journey. I love the abstract qualities of this seedhead, and the eccentricity of it. The glossy black seeds are embedded in bright orange fluff, the only colour apart form the tones of brown.

The decision to add colour was made at the beginning, but its something I still feel unsure of – there are hints of brown in some of the shadows, but the main colour is in the fluff surrounding the seeds. Now I am wondering whether this was a good idea, I think it was, but maybe the colour should be more intense … what I don’t want is for it to look gimmicky, the colour should be a natural addition, not something that is noticeable for its oddity. I will be interested to hear opinions on this! Below is a photo of the drawing on my desk before I added the colour, and a detail while the drawing was coming together.

I used 2B and 8B graphite pencils and a 2B 2mm clutch pencil, which I can sharpen to a needle sharp point. The image is about 32 cm wide and 38 cm deep.

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The Kimberley in July, Part 2

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Twelve drawings are now complete, so the next stage will be working out how to put them together in a book. I think it will be a concertina, as this gives the opportunity to see the sequence of the images.

See the previous post (here) for more background to where the imagery for these postcard-sized drawings comes from. Below are the final six.

The Kimberley in July

For almost 20 years we have travelled through Australia, top to bottom, all around and through the middle. To the wild and remote places that most people never go. On every journey I take a sketchbook, waterproof pens and a travel watercolour set and I document our journey, in words and in drawings. The drawings are mostly of the objects I find, feathers, shells, leaves, bones, occasionally a bit of landscape. I take photos too, but it is the sketchbooks that really keep the memories fresh.

The drawings are also a resource for works that I create later. I redraw loosely from my original drawings, sometimes altering them a little to suit my new purposes, but the essence remains. My present project is using drawings from a 2009 trip that went up through the centre of Australia, through the Kimberley, down the Western Australia coast and home to New South Wales via the Nullarbor Plain between July and September.

I cut sheets of watercolour paper to postcard-sized rectangles 150 x 105 mm and started, choosing images that worked with the shape, and adding the handwritten notes that I put in my sketchbook. The intention is to make these into a book, possibly a concertina that will show the progression of images, but that will evolve later. I’m not sure how many drawing I will do either … so far I have completed 6 and one is in its pen and ink stage, before I add the colour. I have included it to show how they begin.

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Deconstructing strelitzia

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The Bird of Paradise plant, or Strelitzia Regina, is a strong, powerful plant, with long, paddle shaped leaves and exotic flowers that resemble a bird’s head. When the flowers finish, they dry out and swell, twist and split to reveal glossy black seeds sitting in a bed of bright orange fluff. The seed heads are a bit like an alien being, complex and elaborate. Irresistible to draw.

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There is so much going on in the seed head it isn’t necessary to draw it all, I refine the messiest parts to glean the essence of the plant, and sometimes exaggerate the twists just a little … I decided to work only in monochrome because I can get a better feel for the detail, and also remove myself a little from reality.

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This was drawn with just an HB and a 2B graphite pencil, on Arches watercolour paper. The image is 36 x 23 cm.

A small PS – the drawing in my post in November, ‘In the Air’, has been accepted into the Adelaide Perry Drawing Prize, here in Sydney. It is one of the most prestigious drawing prizes in Australia, and it has been an ambition of mine for a number of years to get a work in. This is my third attempt. These prizes are very much a lottery – this time 43 works have been selected out of almost 500 submitted, so clearly there will be many good works that didn’t get in, but somehow my drawing chimed with the judge. I am ECSTATIC!!

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Odds and ends at the end of the year

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a range of different artworks, in a somewhat disjointed way. I have had the (totally delightful) distraction of the unexpectedly early arrival of my first grandchild, a little girl called Lumi. She was tiny, but is thriving, clearly a determined individual! And now the lead-up to Christmas provides other distractions.

On one day last week I heard that I had made two sales, very different artworks in different places. One was a painting, sold through Bluethumb, an online gallery. I have had work there for about a year and a half and had previously sold two paintings to the same buyer, but that was all, so this was a nice surprise. The other sale was one of my miniature hand-made books which was in an end of year group show, this too was quite unexpected. Neither work is new, but I had faith in them both, so it is good to know people liked them! The painting is called ‘Enigma’ and is oil on board and the book is called ‘Sleeping Beauty in Short, a book in a box’.

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Etching is a print medium I have always loved, but have done little of in recent years. It is time-consuming and heavy on equipment, so when a printmaker friend who is also a magnificent teacher said she was going to conduct two mentor workshops in using aluminium plates (as opposed to copper or zinc which I have used in the past) I seized the opportunity. We had a small group of wonderful artists, it was an enormously pleasurable experience and I was reminded of the scope within etching, and how much I enjoy it. There are a few fundamental differences with using aluminium – the acid for etching is very gentle, and easily accessible from any hardware store, and there is no need to go through the complexities of applying aquatint in order to create tones, as when areas of the aluminium are left exposed in the acid, it bites leaving a texture on the plate. The darkness of the tone can be controlled by how long the plate is left in the acid – it can be pulled out and blockout applied to the areas to be kept lighter. The downside is that it can be unpredictable, and it is more difficult to obtain the clear, fine lines that are possible on copper or zinc, but this unpredictability is what I am hoping to exploit when I make more plates next year. The first image below was comparatively controlled, the second one is the same size (10 x 15 cm) and was more experimental in the way I blocked out areas, then wiped off bits of the blockout in an almost random way.

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Drawing into my monoprints is continuing – a never-ending source of surprise and pleasure! The image below is a small part (about 20 x 20 cm) of a larger piece, with a ghost mono print underneath, worked into with coloured pencils. I am now thinking of simply taking the elements that work from these larger pieces and treating them as small finished works. I haven’t come up with a title for this one, so any suggestions welcomed!

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I am so grateful for the continuing support from the people who visit this blog, and who follow me on Instagram and Facebook. So many developments and new directions have come from the intelligent and thoughtful comments that you go to the trouble to make. I am constantly inspired by seeing the work of artists I follow too, so thank you, have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, and looking forward to an inspired and productive New Year!

In the air

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Liquid Pencil is a medium I keep returning to. It has an unpredictability that I like, surprises emerge that I can take further. This drawing is on Yupo paper, which has a plastic-like surface, not at all appealing for regular drawing as it is slippery and resists most media, but Liquid Pencil pools and smears in ways that I can use by drawing into with an 8B graphite pencil. I used an old, poor-quality paintbrush to apply the Liquid Pencil. Hairs were coming out and dragged behind adding to the unpredictability of the resultant forms. I twisted and flopped the brush in an uncontrolled way. The only level of control that I imposed was to have the marks diminishing as they came down the sheet. My favourite marks were those that were very light, they offer more opportunities for working into.

The resultant forms are reminiscent of animals, birds, insects, underwater creatures, but none are identifiable with anything we recognise.

Within our world are many other worlds, tiny, incomprehensible, outside our imagining. In a cloud of dust particles may be creatures and lives we cannot know. The creatures in my drawing come from these other worlds – I do not know what they are, but they have a beauty of their own, a history we can create for them but never know the truth of. The truth is what we make, and everyone who sees them will have a different truth.

The paper is 50 x 40 cm. Below are detail images – black and white images on Yupo are very difficult to photograph well, so I apologise for the uneven tonal qualities.

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Small worlds

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One of the monotypes that I made back in May has moved into its next stage of development. It started as an abstract image in cool, soft colours. Then I started to work into it with coloured pencils, developing some areas, adding form and tone, creating depth and texture. This stage was quite pleasing, but I knew it couldn’t stand alone as a framed image, so I put it aside till inspiration struck for its further development, which it did last week.

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The monotype in its original state
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After coloured pencil was added, and turned 90 degrees

One form of social media I am very fond of is Instagram, I only follow artists and find it endlessly inspiring, sometimes scrolling through images something will stop me, and an idea will come from it. One thing I saw recently was work from artists in the Middle East and a small image of a mass of circles joined in a curtain-like arrangement gave me the ‘Ah ha’ moment I needed. I knew the answer to the future of this particular image was circles. I have a small tool that can be set to cut circles of different sizes, so I set it to a diameter of 6 cm and started cutting, completely randomly, deliberately not choosing what fell within each circle. Eventually I ended up with 25 circles. One of the friends that I create art with every Friday offered me some concertina-folded paper, just to see how the circles looked on either grey or white. Serendipity again – I think they look beautiful just on these concertinas! However, there are still 15 left, and these may be joined together with jump rings to make a hanging artwork, or perhaps arranged in a panel like small portholes, or they may stay solitary – the next stage will answer that question!

I have  called them Small Worlds, as that seems to me to be what they are.