Miniatures with a Japanese flavour


The next miniature exhibition is approaching, so I have been gathering the works I intend to submit. I can put in two framed works and two three-dimensional works – one of the 3D works is in the miniature awards exhibition at the moment, but can be exhibited again as the two galleries are not close together.

The exhibition is called ‘A Brush with Japan’ so all the works will be inspired by Japan or Japanese gardens and will be held at the Gosford Regional Gallery. The gallery has a long cultural connection to Japan, and is surrounded by the Edogawa Garden which is laid out in the Japanese horticultural style.

My works are not Japanese in any literal sense, more representing my feelings and impressions of Japan. These ideas have suffused most of the work I have done this year. Above is my favourite piece, more of the piano keys. I have now painted eight or nine of these, and I have selected the three above to work together in one frame. The title for these is ‘Three Obi’, and I am very grateful to my blogging friend Julie Podstolski for suggesting it. Julie has a long and deep interest in all things Japanese – see her amazing drawings here.


The second framed work I made when I was experimenting with encaustic earlier this year. The support is Ampersand Gessobord, and there are layers of oil paint, Neocolors 2 – which are water-soluble oil pastels – and wax. The layers are built up and scraped back to reveal colours hidden below, a process of discovery and surprise. To me it suggested windswept snowfields, so that became the title.

This three dimensional work has been shown on this blog before, but a little more work has been done to it, just general tidying up and refining. I have another wonderful blogging friend, Poppytump, to thank for the title of this one, ‘The Hidden Secrets of the Geisha’. She came up with it when I last showed this, and to me it sums it up perfectly. There are little objects hidden within each part, and these are all stored away in the shelves. For some of Poppytump’s wonderful photos, sketches and poetic words, see here.


The last piece is ‘Architecture in Japan’ which I wrote about in my last blog, made from interlocking pieces of prints.

The works will be submitted at the end of this month, then I will be off on a long camping trip. I will be taking my sketchbook and my camera, so will do blog posts as and when I can. So please come along for the ride!


Miniature art awards exhibition


Last Friday was the opening night of the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition. The society is based in New South Wales, but we have members from all over Australia. There are generally two exhibitions a year, one for members only which is held in a different gallery each time, and the awards exhibition which is open to non-members.

This year there were 151 works in seven different categories – drawing, watercolour/gouache, printmaking, oil, acrylic, mixed media and 3D and handmade books. The judge, who changes every year, was Cherry Hood, an Australian artist who is well-known for her large scale portraits in watercolour. Judging is a big job – each section plus ‘Most Innovative Work’, ‘Best Traditional Work’, a special award that has a different focus each year, this time was for a work depicting the human form, ‘Most Imaginative Drawing’, and of course ‘Best in Show’.

I submitted four works, all of which were accepted. Two in drawing, one 3D and one – the piano key I have shown before – in oil. To my delight I was awarded a Highly Commended for the piano key. The judge’s comment was ‘An extraordinary concept – oil paint on a piano key. Very enticing and exquisite.’

At the top is one of my drawing entries, which I called Convict No 4. It is done on scratchbord, which is a board covered with black paint over a white chalky surface, so I create the image by scratching into the surface, revealing the white. Thinking in reverse is tricky at first, but becomes second nature after a while. I started this one a long time ago, and kept coming back to it, getting a bit braver all the time, taking off more of the surface. He is part of a series of Victorian convicts in miniature – you can see more here that were done in pencil.  He is 6 x 8.5 cm.

The second drawing is called ‘The Invisible Man’. It is a commentary on how tattoos sometimes seem to take over the entire person, and become more anonymous over time. It is 9 x 8 cm, drawn with liquid pencil, graphite and coloured pencil. I drew the silhouette of the body builder, then placed it randomly over the previously prepared background to create the man’s body.


My 3D work is intended to also go into the Japanese-themed miniature exhibition in August, so I am hoping it doesn’t sell in this exhibition! It is a miniature version of a larger work I did earlier this year, but using different original prints, cut up and assembled into a structure of interlocking panels that suggested Japanese architecture to me, so I have called it Architecture in Japan. It is 14 cm tall.


Paintings out and home again

Two of my paintings got a bit of fresh air and exercise last week, going into a group exhibition. This one is run every couple of years as a fund raiser for the fistula clinic in Ethiopia, a very worthy cause, with all the commission going to support the work done there repairing women’s lives. One painting was sold, ‘Fecundity’, the first one shown below.

I read a post recently about the difficulty of choosing titles for artworks – they need to sum up what you feel about the work without necessarily influencing the thought processes of the viewer – I feel there has to be some room for them to add their own sense to the work. Some titles can be off-putting, you can realise the artist saw the work very differently from you. Jokey ones have their place (occasionally) but can demean the work, and long ones are just a nuisance, as I discovered years ago when I called a print ‘A Very Large Sunflower in Front of a Very Small Window’. Try putting that in the space allowed on an entry form! So now I favour very short, ideally one word titles, that try to sum up my feelings. There are times when I have changed the title of a work between one exhibition and another because the new one seemed more appropriate. The second painting below was originally called ‘Flamenco Heart’ but is now ‘The Bullfighter’. It just seemed more suitable.

Both are oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.

Fecundity_web bullfighter_web

Mini exhibition (with not a miniature in sight!)

Every year the Workshop Arts Centre, where I hire a studio each week to paint, gives members the opportunity to be part of a self-managed group exhibition for a weekend. Despite having just returned from overseas, and about to go off again, I decided I would like to be part of it this year. The whole workshop was used for the exhibition, with artists displaying their work in studios and the gallery. The positions were allocated by lottery, so I was very pleased to get a space in the gallery, with proper hanging facilities and good lighting. We were asked to not bring too much work, as in past years there has been more of a garage sale atmosphere than exhibition, so I decided to restrict myself to drawings and small paintings, so no prints or miniatures, but I did bring some of my miniature books. We each manned our own space and were responsible for our own sales and organisation.

Fewer people than we hoped for came through, but I sold some of my small paintings and covered my costs, however, the positive for me was the opportunity to see my work massed together, and most importantly, talk to visitors as they came through. It was fascinating to see which works they responded to, and which artists, as the work on display was very diverse. I was particularly relieved to get a good response to my drawings, with people coming very close and studying them carefully, and showing interest in the inspiration behind the works and the techniques. I am very aware most people tend to gravitate to colour, so to get a positive response to graphite work was satisfying. Next time maybe they will put their hands in their pockets …

My space in the gallery
My space in the gallery
The centrepiece, exaggerated, overblown tulip in coloured pencil
The centrepiece, exaggerated, overblown tulip in coloured pencil
The small oil paintings
The small oil paintings
Pencil drawings, exaggerated flower and pod forms
Pencil drawings, exaggerated flower and pod forms
Three pencil drawings, one pen and ink
Three pencil drawings, one pen and ink