The ups and downs in art

You love being creative, exploring ideas, making, trying, and exploring some more.

Over the years, I realised this process was harder than it looked, but this only happened by being able to look back over various experiences and chatting with other artists.

In reality the process is more like… have an idea, create, fail, rethink, hate it, love it, scrap it! Then you start to worry if this is the right thing to do… Before you know it you are off thinking about more creative ideas to explore and make things happen.

Many other artists I have come across have similar experiences with the ups and the downs. I guess the process is what it is and as creative people we come to terms with the hassles and fight through, but for new creative people like art students if you are unaware of this process you could give up too soon.

Battle the tough decisions, plod on, fight with your inner demons but most of all know that tough challenges probably last just as long as good times… In the end your creative explorations will benefit from your ability to develop a tough skin and being able to hang in when the going gets rough.

Regards

Steve Gray

The Gallery Challenge

Commercial Art galleries are a curious device, over many years I have been to many looking at exhibitions, checking out all manner of works from wild and outrageous avant garde project type shows, to demure decorative works.

Over time some galleries have faded into obscurity, the victim of tough economic times, or simply due to retirement of the directors. All along though they have had to deal with varying challenges.

One of these challenges as I see it is the changing face of gallery promotion and the face to face visitors.

About 25-30 years ago I started dropping in to see what each gallery in Melbourne had to offer. These days I don’t get to them as often as I might prefer but that’s a combination of my own personal situation and time challenges. Back in the ‘early days’ it would be quite common to find a bunch of people doing a ‘gallery crawl’, dropping in to the same galleries as each other. At times there would be a friendly swap of information about what they had seen that I had not etc.

These days I have noticed a lack of people dropping in to visit.

While this may be a product of the internet age where people can see so many artworks online from all over the world, I feel the viewer is missing out on the total experience to be had getting face to face with artworks.

As I walked around the galleries today there were sculptures on a large scale that needed to be seen and indeed experienced in 3D to get the full effect. Other works pinned to a wall in one gallery showed a delightful contrast in the texture against the smooth wall behind the work. Vivid colourful works in another space again challenged me with the details, vibrancy and scale. At every turn there was a great reason to check out the works live, rather than from an online image.

But there’s more to the challenge. The Global Financial Crisis of a few years back has left its mark, with people pulling in the purse strings the galleries have often had to rethink how they go about ‘doing what they do’.

In basic terms the gallery acts as a ‘portal’ for the artist to present and sell their work to the world, it’s a commercial venture in the main, with the main driver being $$ (no cash no business) then comes the concept of presenting the artworks as a philosophical statement of some kind.

What happened in the past was galleries would have 3-4 week shows of an individual or a group show of artworks connected in some way, over the summer period there would be a slow down in gallery visitors as visitors flocked to outdoor activities, this often meant a group show of works from the gallery’s stock room. Then back to the usual round of shows for the next year.

Now there seems to be a trend to do things a bit differently, some galleries are choosing to cut back on their mail outs, preferring to email invites (makes sense) BUT the mail out of luscious catalogues seems to have ceased… now let’s face facts, emails often don’t get opened but quickly sent to the trash, whereas the catalogue and or postcard were more challenging to ignore.

Another aspect which has altered is the broader run of group shows ‘curated’ works by the gallery with the aim of presenting a mix of works to the viewer. I find this somewhat challenging.

Call me old school but I often liked seeing a full solo show, where the visual concept has been given a run for its money, the critics can have a field day and the gallery has to hope it has a sell out on its hands.

Yes I realise the gallery Directors are in business, and they will hopefully make suitable decisions about the most effective way to promote the artists in their stable. Yes I also realise that in a down market those who are new or for some other reason vulnerable to quieter market forces will go out of business if they don’t make solid commercial decisions.

I could then jump in and suggest that galleries team up and create a cluster of art spaces so viewers can see a few in one spot (saw this done in Sydney a few years back in a warehouse setting, seemed to work well for the viewers at least.) Then there was Albert street in Richmond which had about six galleries in the street to choose from. Parking was (and still is an issue) but it seemed to be a mutually beneficial situation, rents went way up for some so they moved or packed up, some wanted to rationalise or alter what they were doing and so moved on our out.

Enough of my information sharing the point I want to make is that the gallery experience needs people dropping in to make it work, it seems there needs to be a change in the way galleries present themselves promotionally and entice people to visit, I think it’s time to innovate or we may well see more galleries disappear off the radar.

Regards

Steve Gray

Key Framing Points

Image courtesy of stock images from freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of stock images from freedigitalphotos.net

There are many things to take into account when framing artworks, the following points should give you some solid ideas about what to consider in the process if you want the item to hang on the wall for a reasonable length of time.

Always frame and mount the picture to make it look fabulous – People often get the picture mounted and framed to match their decor, however only do this if the picture looks fabulous as well. Generally a plain finish is good as it supports the image by not standing out, letting the image be the centre of attention.

Always use a card mat board never paper – Make sure the mat board is acid free. After all you want  your picture to last a long time, so do it right, do it once, why a board instead of paper, the board serves the purpose of keeping the image away from the glass, if you use paper even a slight warp in the image could cause it to touch the glass, the challenge with that is the image can adhere to glass over time.

The proportions should make the picture look good – Often a narrow border will make the image look strange rather than support it in a visually suitable way. Err on the side of generous rather than narrow. Then select a colour or texture for the mat that suits the image. The same goes for the frame.

Use the right tape – In the mounting process the use of archival tape is important, if you use masking tape to hold an image in place the chances are it will lose its adhesive qualities fast, ending up in the picture falling free from the mount. The aim is to have the image hang from the mount by tape hinges, this minimises any effect the tape may have on the material the image is on. Tape is also used to seal up the back of the frame, your framer should also use an acid free one for this purpose.

Limited edition prints – Avoid asking your framer to cut the print size down to fit a frame or to reduce the mat size because of cost, this can detract from the prints value. Often Limited edition prints will have been done on a cotton rag paper and may have a deckled edge, a printers impression (called a chop), these are all things which should be preserved to maintain the value of the piece.

Under glass – Many artworks are framed under glass, this provides protection, physically and chemically as well as some degree of UV stabilisation. Often the only thing not framed under glass is a canvas painting. If you think you can do it cheaply by not using glass think again.

How important is acid free framing? – The work you are getting framed holds some value for you, perhaps the look, $$ value, or it’s been done by an Artist you admire. Either way you want it to last, acid free framing means you want the piece to last. Acid in the framing materials (like those used to manufacture paper and std card) can effect the piece, causing it to discolour and become brittle.

That’s my list for now.

Regards

Steve Gray

Abstract Art

Getting a ‘handle’ on Abstract Art is not easy, to give you some form of introduction I had this video put together as a visual starting point for you to explore.

Abstract Art – Fast and slow

Buying art for investment

Many people buy artworks, making the purchase a suitable investment is another thing from simply liking the work or the artist. Here is a list of nine ways to be certain the works you want to get for investment will be worth it in the end and make a rock solid investment.

Image courtesy of Dan from freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Dan from freedigitalphotos.net

  1. Buy things you like, for the most part you will have the item for an extended period, if you like it you are less likely to sell it in a rush and want a premium for it. If it is hung at home you will enjoy the investment more.
  2. Buy top quality. Top-quality items are expensive; however, can appreciate even in poorer market times. Medium-quality items may only keep pace with inflation. Limit yourself to a medium where top quality is within your budget.
  3. Maintain the item properly with appropriate environmental conditions and regular maintenance. If repairs are required, they should be done by well-trained experts.
  4. Keep good records, when it was bought, how much it cost are al important things to know to figure out the return on your investments.
  5. Insure the item adequately. Most homeowner policies allow for fire and theft but not natural disasters, such as floods or accidents. Have your works included on a scheduled form of all risks for coverage in the event of theft, fire or breakage.
  6. Know the artist, research them, do they have a solid background of winning suitable high level awards? Do they exhibit and produce regularly? Are they well represented in commercial galleries? Are they held in reasonable regard by critics, their peers etc? Does their work have conceptual depth… is the supporting ideas and though processes behind the work consistent and have depth?
  7. Know the style, medium, techniques, similar works and artists. There are many styles, techniques and similar works and artists know all about them so your collection can be built from a knowledge base rather than an “I like it approach”. First and foremost it is an investment, like a blue chip company on the share-market you want to know that it has a solid foundation. Do your ‘due diligence’ as you would on any investment.
  8. Think Blue Chip, There are thousands of artists and artworks on the market, you want to buy works from those who produce blue chip works – The works will last, done to a quality standard. The artist is supported by critical acclaim and peer reviews
  9. They sell well, In the secondary market, auction houses etc. The works by an artist in your collection readily sells and is purchased at a higher value than what it was bought for. This applies mainly to older artists and those from history. A number of younger artists and some galleries may offer works for sale by auction to build an artists reputation early in the auction arena. Research is important here.
  10. You bought it where? Galleries of all types abound, some are renown for the style of works they carry, some will sell anything, some have a focus on framing and the gallery is secondary to them. Other galleries can be artist run spaces and may be seen as a platform for showcasing newer artists and project works. Know about the gallery you want to purchase from, discuss with them the investment potential of the works you are wanting to buy. Buying online can be fraught with challenges, not seeing the works, knowing most people online seem to buy a ‘bargain’ rather than buy for quality sake, let the buyer beware.

Art can be a very practical investment opportunity, like anything you need to know what you are getting into. Will it appreciate in value, will you be stuck with something you can’t sell? There will be many questions, in the end it’s up to you to decide, but please do so with the solid support of knowledge through practical and well informed research.

Draw

Image courtesy of Ascension Digital from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Ascension Digital from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Drawing, the word conjures up a range of emotions, for those that don’t know how to but want to and those that know how. Fear, terror, pain, mental anguish… no of course not, joy, love, passion, thrill these are the descriptors we are after!

Let’s face it drawing can be a major challenge so how do we take the edge off it and make it a wonderful experience?

Let’s try an analogy, learning music. If you’re like me you want to play an insturment like a demon and get all the details right straight away. But first comes the rudiments. On the drums there are various strokes to learn, then it’s suggested you run trhough these every time you sit down to play. Hmm yeah right… On the guitar or the piano there are scales to practice, more rudiments…

With drawing where are the rudiments? I think this is where I had so much difficulty drawing, a limited array or rudiments.

At its most basic level, drawing is about mark making, no matter what material you use, pen, pencil, charcoal, pastel, etc. Take the drawing device and apply it to the surface you want to leave an image on, it’s a drawing. So let’s start there.

Here’s my take on doing the drawing rudiments. It goes back WAY before you want to reproduce an object.

Try these to get yourself ‘warmed up’ to then be able to explore drawing further.

  1. Lightly draw a square on a rectangular piece of A4 or Letter sized paper. Leaving about a 5 cm margin. Draw it free hand, now start to slowly draw vertical lines fairly close together aiming to keep the lines parallel. Draw down the page and then up the page for the next line. Repeat until the square is full of lines.
  2. Do the same, BUT draw horizontal lines.
  3. Now try diagonal lines in various directions.
  4. Try it using wavy lines – explore how you can make slight differences in the waviness of the lines to create an optical effect.
  5. Create a series of long rectangles that would fit into the original square with a gap between them now repeat the above exercises.
  6. Draw small circles in a new set of rectangles, like in No 4, filling the whole space.

Now look at what you have done so far, if any of these has you memerised and it felt like time simply flew by then you are ‘in the zone’! Your aim is to build ‘drawing instrument’ skills.

If you are using a pencil, note what happens to the tip of the lead as you go, and how often  you might have to sharpen the pencil. Try ‘rolling’ the pencil in your finger tipes as you go, to keep the lines sharp and not wearing a flat spot on the tip of the pencil.

Explore this exercise by drawing in different shapes, circles, spirals, organic shapes etc. Try changing the lines in various sections. Try using a carpenters pencil and explore how the flat edge of the tip changes as you draw and roll the pencil.

As an extension exercise, do a search for ‘zentangles’ and explore how doodles can be more than just a doodle!

These exercises should be easy to do, easy to remember, easing you into a drawing state of mind.

Draw and enjoy

Regards

Steve Gray

 

Artist Interview Harley Manifold

Harely is a Melbourne Based Artist you can find more details at his website http://harleym.net/

Portrait

What are the main medium/s you work in?

Oil Painting, and more recently and excitingly plaster sculptures! I’ve never sculpted before and I have found working with plaster to be very difficult but fulfilling. Carving, smashing, sanding. Feels like building things on the farm as a kid.

sunset-parade-112-x-167-5-cm-oil-on-belgian-linen-2013

What are your thoughts on artist statements?

For some it would be like trying to put an IKEA bench together… I like to leave the majority of the thinking up to my viewer, which is not to hard as my work gives over to this easily.

Study for The Tunnel 12.7 x 17.5 cm Oil on Board 2014

How do you describe your work?

Well in the words of one of my all time FAVOURITE lecturers… “Painting… has been done before… Figurative painting, well that has been done to death…Figure in the landscape painting, well it’s a little bit old hat”. My works are largely autobiographical, they sway away sometimes.

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What are you currently working on?

The sculptures, making as many as I can. I’ve made over 50 now, and most of them have been placed around Melbourne and then people have taken them. Originally I hoped they would stay in place, but people are getting attached to them. Except for the feet, they were glued down – so there are a lot of shoeless little sculptures out there…

Manifold_Harley_The_Parade_130x162cm_Oil_on_Linen

One word or statement to describe your current works?

A swipe at myself.

Manifold_Harley_The_Intersection_2009_Oil_on_linen_96x130

Why are you an artist?

I always loved making things, or tinkering things. But I really wanted to be an Air Force pilot, I got all the grades and did the right classes but my eyes weren’t perfect. So of course I choose to be a Visual Artist haha. I don’t know how I would have really been an Air Force pilot, much to sensitive.

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How did you get into art?

How did I get into my current addiction…

Manifold_Harley_Suraci_130x162cm_oil_on_linen (2)

What did you do before becoming an artist?

Wedding Photography and Graphic Design, oh and farming, dish washing and pretending I can cook.

Manifold_Harley_Old_Myers_Building 25 x 35 cm_Oil_on_linen

What is your earliest memory of art?

Scratching crosses on all the walls at home, all the walls…

Manifold_Harley_NGV 10 x 15 cm _oil_on_linen

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Absolutely, the difference between home where the horizon is hours away and cuts like a razor across your vision to moving to the city where you are getting poked in the face by all sorts of strange geometrics and people.

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What or who inspires your art?

Experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met. Places, always places. Music inspires more how I create my art – cinematic maybe?

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How important is art for you?

I get a little restless, twitchy and bitey when I don’t create something for a week…

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

…Good question… The difficulty of presenting an idea figuratively in paint was a challenge I took on because I had no idea what to do with my life at uni. Post Air Force ‘careerlessness’,

I got cornered by two lecturers at the end of 1st semester, if I didn’t pull my finger out and start trying harder they would fail me, they said talent is one thing. Hard work is another. I had shown some promise and hadn’t really thought it was a pathway to take in life… Then I got addicted to the challenge. I had always marvelled at paintings though so I guess that’s why. Sculpture until now had not held a place in my heart.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

I don’t think it’s a super important question anymore, do your thing and if you don’t hurt anyone well…

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

Highly. Both my parents are perfectionists, many times learning how to fence (not the sword type) on the farm, dad would berate me for not making the ties neat. That said in paint, I leave a lot of the ‘mistakes’ and marks in because I think they have an innate beauty, and it’s to easy to get the finest brushes out and just make something like a photo… That however, is just my experience. I like the idea that over time my painting may dissolve into itself…

Does the sale of your work support you?

Yes, I am very lucky, I do work a lot longer and harder than some of my close friends who make a living and work in offices though… I’ve always wondered what it must be like in an office! Haha.

Some say the lifespan of an “artist” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?

LOL, who said that? I mean who says that, really? Lifespan – do they think an artist makes for a market or themselves? I’d love to meet someone who thinks that…

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?

My work is deeply self-absorbed and self-reflective. It’s a personal exploration of, um, my world… (Cringes)… Yeah that’s ‘Harleywood’… (Cringes some more).

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?

There are so many, it would be something I could learn from, maybe one of William Bougerau’s large works ‘Nypmhs and Satyr’. Mind blowing tonal rendering. Makes me realise I have a lot to learn.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

My first exhibition, I think we sold 27k of work and I was 21. I couldn’t believe it, I really had no idea it was possible – it opened the door to jam my foot in.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.

Anxiety and depression played a huge part in my growing up and at school, and that really affected the way I started to paint. Dark places where I could go play in my head, go hide, go and rest. It used to be crippling, but these days I am doing great – I don’t know how it changed, just time. Of course there are always swings, or tectonic shifts haha. I still, despite what most people think on meeting me, get very shy and introverted sometimes. Growing up in the country there were a lot of backward ideas of how a male should be, it wasn’t all accepting, and I’ve never really hung around other artists either…

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Always, and I write in it a lot – though in the last few years they are to do lists (ewwww) I also use Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and a Blog to throw things (not always good) out into the world.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?

It’s not. I do it for myself, I do love it when someone makes up a little story though to what they think is going on! Even if it’s nothing like what I was thinking and feeling at the time.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?

It’s the way I want it to be, otherwise you probably wouldn’t see it – there are exceptions, like when I learn something new.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?

Sometimes it is a very long process, sometimes 6 months of thought goes into a painting before I even start sketching it up. Sometimes it just happens overnight, it’s never the same for two paintings.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?

All of the above, I don’t think it seperates to much from life in general. Well I don’t tend to separate it, it is my life now.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?

What Hazel Dooney said on this matter, it’s much bigger than just a single thing.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?

I would probably pick up a really bad habit if I stopped it, or maybe get a family or something haha. The thought doesn’t register at all.

What discourages you from doing art?

My own ineptitude at handling a piece of wood and hair haha. Sometimes.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

You just gotta’ treat it like a job, people don’t get to go into offices and sit down at their desks working for a big company and go man I don’t feel like doing anything today. That said, somedays I will do something else and come paint all night. But it’s five days a week the last two months it has been seven days a week plus nights (getting ready for a show).

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?

I work on a lot of paintings at once, so sometimes you will get better by working on another and come back and go… oh s#!t that needs fixing!

The value of Visual Arts is…

Indecipherable.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?

I’ve never had ‘decent’ gallery representation, ever, I’ve had people show my work and some who have taken things from me and not returned them… Yes that’s you Adelaide gallery who shall not be named…

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?

Mind blowing, I was very lucky, low commission (they raised it the next year) and 27k of sales…

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?

You work at you artworks, why not work at your marketing? It shouldn’t be a dirty word, you are creative get creative with your marketing…?

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

An old lady once looked at a work, she was short, and she grabbed my arm and pulled me down to her height – she said I love the painting but why is this young girl suiciding!? (she wasn’t she was doing a back flip)… Happiness from owning it, or seeing it – that has been truly moving to see.

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?

I just put a song I can get into on repeat, something that just has a beat or electronic – and just start doing something, even if it’s wrong it’s better to be doing something…

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”

I make it for my own sanity, the rest is out of my hands.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

Hyperion Cantos… Hell of a tale.

Tell us about your studio environment?

Cramped, an explosion of creative refuse.

Is your work process fast or slow?

Depends on my mind…

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…

Oh yeah, you could say that I am trying to work out somethings, I mean it is Harleywood…

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc? Persevering. Focused and most of them say they just couldn’t do it. The hours, the costs…

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?

Love music, absolutely one of the most important things on this earth to me, wouldn’t most artists feel the same?

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?

Both, I am terribly dichotic. I am happy sitting in a small dark spot reading a book and jumping off a cliff to go surfing miles away from any beach…

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?

Music…

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?

Others.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it’s executed?

I remember one of the only lessons I got at Uni. The teacher sat me down and said, there are two ends to a wheel that if you become an artist you must acknowledge. And you will forever rotate around this wheel. One is Technique, the other is emotion. You must always keep these in mind, because it will rotate constantly.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?

When everyone else isn’t working… I don’t know why exactly…

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?

I am more comfortable with what I am painting, I don’t feel like I have to do things for other people to work it out as much anymore.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?

It’s better and worse probably, and longer and more tiring, funnier and sadder.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?

Yes, I think it’s a good way to get people seeing your works, I have gained some great collectors from being seen in major prizes like the Metro Art Prize.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?

I don’t seek them out, but I certainly don’t hide from them. It’s always good to keep your ear to the ground.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?

Hahaaaaaa. Sometimes I’ll leave the studio at night elated with what I have done – then I will come back the next day and go what the f&ck was I thinking!?

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist who really made their mark in art history?

I aim to make things that I am not embarrassed to look at in a few years time. Some of the first things I did were terrible, though I only started painting halfway through Uni. I’ve only been at this about 12 years, and there was a big break in the middle.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

F*ck Nike, just do it.

12 Signs You’re an Artist

Image courtesy of feelart from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of feelart from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Are you sure you’re an Artist? Of course you have the paints, pencils and other instruments to say yes to that question, but how many of the following points ring true for you?

  1. You get excited about clouds… details, marks in the pavement, colours on walls, textures, fabrics and the like, your friends are excited about a new TV show… You are also excited about the smell of fresh paint, turps, raw materials for sculptures the view out the studio window, and ‘oh look a cloud…”
  2. Your family are excited about a social get together, but you’re ecstatic about getting a new canvas. The family event is a success, you wish you were in the studio. You leave the event wondering why people did not respond favourably when you talked fondly about your new canvas and clouds when asked “how are you dear…”
  3. Your friends connect on social media with groups relating to foods and fashion, you join the Cloud Appreciation Society… mutual point of agreement funny cat pictures.
  4. You haven’t sorted the studio in weeks but you still manage to work around all the things in your way despite high levels of frustration at times. Your frustration turns to annoyance when you finally have to clean it up enough to do some more work… this is punctuated with stints of looking at the new posts on face book for the Cloud Appreciation Society “OOOH! Ahhh…” and your friends wonder about your mental state being a wild roller coaster ride.
  5. Your water colour water and your coffee cup become one and the same.
  6. You put some honey just near and ant’s trail, then sit for ages watching how they react to the new food source. This is punctuated by bouts of looking up at the clouds, “Ooh, AH!” the day ends with your partner bewildered by nothing being done, “But you were busy all day right?”
  7. Your friends show off their new outside entertaining area and the furniture, you visualise getting rid of the furniture and can see a great area for setting up installations and trying out new ideas for suspended works, mmm art.
  8. You find a blank surface exhilarating and terrifying all at once, this can be awkward if it’s a wall in your friends home and you are caught touching the freshly painted surface… You don’t care you are searching in your pocket for a pencil to make a start on a new work, ‘ouch’ You found the sharp nub of a pencil, you now wonder how it got there.
  9. You select clothes with patterns and designs which can camouflage paint splatters. Sure you have a painting apron just inches away from where you work, but inspiration can’t wait until you put it on.
  10. Your friends read the headlines on books, magazines and the like, you see the illustrations, layout, colours and textures. Your friends read the book, you flip through looking for pictures and illustrations.
  11. You visit a hardware store to collect a new shelf, but some how you end up in the paint area checking out the paint swatches, ah teal blue! You leave wondering what you went there for in the first place, but are pleased your coulor swatch collection is growing.
  12. You stab yourself each time you sit down due to a very short, sharp ‘nub’ of a pencil that has mysteriously found itself into your pocket again, the pain is dulled by your mind wandering on to thoughts of lead poisoning and the notion that a mind altering situation could evolve from that over time and oh look your cat is chasing your dog… hmm all’s well in the world as your mind now wanders to contemplating visiting the hardware store to look at colour swatches.

Your mind now contemplates the bunch of other things that point out you’re an Artist and your own list builds in your head for a few minutes until the cat runs across the yard and a cloud becons you to come outside and have a look!

Have a few ideas to share, drop a note in the comments for this point.

Regards

Steve Gray

An introduction to impressionism

Dear Art Teachers,

Sometimes you just want  to find a way to get information to your students and cause them to have some ‘wonder’ about it. Then hope they will come back and explore things a little further. This simple video an introduction to Impressionism has a BIG stack of images presented very quickly at the start and then repeated slowly in the second section.

It’s only a few minutes in length, if you show it to your whole group, consider the questions you can add in for the students, if you stop after the images at the start. What subject matter did you see? What did you notice about the detail or lack of it? Brainstorm a bunch of quick ones and then move on, perhaps repeating the questions to see if they picked up some depth in the slower section.

Please let me know if this sort of thing is engaging for your students by adding to the comments section below

A rough History of Art

This video is just over 3 minutes long. perhaps it’s a useful starting point to give an overview of the history of art. Ok so it’s humourous in places, but the intent is there.

Why do we do Visual Art?

For those who wonder about why people do ART, you can now take a look at this short video and then add comments below.

Regards Steve Gray

Paul Compton – Visual Artist

Paul Compton is a Melbourne based Visual Artist and his website is www.paulcompton.net

 Paul in studio

What are the main medium/s you work in…

I mainly draw using ink. Sometimes I use ink mixed with tea and I occasionally use gouache and watercolour. I also create handmade books, zines, etchings and lino cuts.

Lady Gilding 005 high

 What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I find ink to be delicate, versatile and freeing. I used to use an old-fashioned dip pen and felt an instant connection to the tool but now I find my line work is getting finer so I prefer to use a brush instead. I like the unforgiving nature of ink as well, I have to get it right first time or start all over again.

 

Labassa

What are you currently working on?

I made a series of drawings based on the concept of the Wunderkammer (or cabinet of curiosities) for the group exhibition Wonder Room in November and now I am extending the series because I enjoyed it so much. These drawings are a way for me to incorporate a whole range of objects, animals and myths that I love in a playful and engaging way.

Krampus Wreath

 What fascinates you?

I’m fascinated by things that are close to being forgotten and things that are considered a little strange, macabre or “in bad taste”. I love curious historical facts, trivial objects, folklore, supernatural occurrences, odd social customs, crappy television programs, obscure musicians…. Anything that sparks a little wonderment in me.

 

Eddie Munster Vignette

What is your earliest memory of art?

I never really went to art galleries when I was a kid so my idea of art was found in book illustrations and on television shows. I do distinctly remember a drawing I saw represented on television when I was six years old though. It was when beloved Muppets creator Jim Henson died and on the TV a program was reporting the sad news. In it they showed some drawings that children had done about the news. One was a coloured pencil drawing of Kermit the Frog

sitting underneath a rainbow. Big, blue tears were falling from his eyes. It is etched in my memory for the emotive resonance it had. I absolutely love children’s drawings for their rawness and emotive qualities. They’re a lot more honest than a lot of adult artists work sometimes.

Teen Wolf Cabinet M

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

I think an artwork succeeds if it make you feel different in some way. Whether it be delighted, repulsed, uncertain, amazed – whatever, as long as it isn’t indifference. To me art makes you think and feel.

 

Unremembered.jpg4

Do you have much contact with other artists?

I am lucky because a few of my closest friends are artists. They know my work and I know I can trust their input if I am ever unsure or need some perspective on something I am working on.

 

Domestic Disturbance Wallpaper (sample)

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

Apart from the series of Wonder Cabinet drawings I am working on, I am also experimenting with ways of drawing that challenge how I usually work. This is (hopefully) in order to develop a slightly different and more intuitive and free-form style that will suit a series of work I want to create inspired by the writings of a particular poet I love.

 

Thinking of Catland (Picture of Louis Wain)

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Yes. It is full of very rough scribbles, notes about books I have read and quotes from people I found interesting. It would not be very compelling or attractive to anyone else but it makes sense to me and is necessary for remembering ideas and revisiting past musings.

Coy Swamp Creature

 

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Odilon Redon is an artist I’ve admired for a long time. To me, he is the kind of artist and thinker I aspire to be. He said, “My drawings inspire and are not to be defined. They determine nothing. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous world of the undetermined. They are a kind of metaphor.” I have a very long way to go!

Edward Gorey will always be a hero of mine. I admire his very individual and distinctive drawing and story-telling style. He was not afraid to make the books he wanted to make, even though many people scratched their heads in bemusement at them.

Grayson Perry is another favourite. I admire his multi-disciplinary approach to ideas, his skill, sense of humour and his ability to create work that is very contemporary but also acknowledges past artworks and history.

Rabbit in the Hat Trick

 

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?

I hope that my work speaks for itself. Art is like comedy in a way. One person’s hilarious comedian is another person’s tiresome bore. You either get it or you don’t and that’s ok with me.

 

Little Mermaid C M

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

I often do the titles before the artwork! A lot of the time the title dictates the nature of the piece I am working on whether it be humorous or strange etc. It’s very rare that I call something untitled.

 

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

Many but the most notable are The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (I hope to do a series of works directly inspired by this story in the future), Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I’m also very inspired by non-fiction books about history.

Pickled

 

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

My studio is in my home right next to my bed. It is a small table with more space on it devoted to toys and curios than to work space! I find a small space to work more comfortable and inspiring.

Pretty Harpy C M

 

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…

This is certainly the case for me as I often pick images and symbols that come intuitively. The artworks always end up saying a lot about my personal makeup and sometimes revealing more about myself than I was aware of at the time of making it.

 

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?

I much prefer to be isolated in the creative process.

 

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?

A cup of tea. Preferably English breakfast.

 

Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?

I really think they go hand in hand. If the subject of the work is most important then it must be executed well to give that subject/idea solidity and character.

 

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?

I am a complete geek when it comes to researching historical facts and curios. I love to make reference to obscure subjects and figures from history in my work. To me, a solid understanding of what has come before me leads to more informed contemporary work.

 

Do you collect anything?

I wouldn’t say I have a large enough mass of anything to call it a proper collection but I do have a penchant for collecting authentic Victorian era postcards. They are full of charm and character and I particularly love ones that are pre-owned and have hand-writing on them.

creative meanderings

I’m starting a new activity in 2014, part of it involves creativity. I wanted to create a list of creative ‘jumping off points’ to clear my head and let me focus on other aspects of the program which runs over nine weeks.

Here is what I came up with, do you have any you would add to this list? Share them in the comments.

Scamper – Discuss spinoffs of the original idea – What could be added to it to make it better or different? Great if you have a starting point idea or product

Opposites – Think opposite to what you want (a challenge etc) – Brainstorm and explore – add pictures – look for relationships to the original challenge

Word play – Opposite words – String a whole bunch together and see what patterns show up – write down the findings and discuss – I used to do this at University with a friend at lunch time, the aim was to find the word that was most opposite or different to the word the other person just mentioned, it gets funny I can assure you of that

Visualize – to music, to art, to anything that gets your mind going – Jot down your findings and explore those further with discussion

Doodle – Draw a group doodle on a large piece of paper perhaps with an idea, or challenge spelt out in the middle, discuss and write down your findings. anything new or exciting? with four people on each side of the paper the drawings and findigs can get very interesting fast

Keep a note book – Jot ideas down as they come to you during your time away from your activity

Keep a dream journal – First thing in the morning (or in the night if you can’t sleep) jot down the key points of the dreams, as you develop this skill more details can be recalled. Note do the dreams become more lucid as you do this?

Distract o fun – Find some toys to play with, e.g. a big beach ball and play with your group keeping the ball afloat or some other game. Discuss what went through your head after a few minutes of playing. Any key points to explore from that? What happens if a key discussion point is talked about as the ball goes around the room?

Environmental change – When you go to a new place, take a walk etc,  you can clear your mind and allow fresh thoughts to take place. A great way to start a meeting or team get together

Walking meditation – Slow deliberate mindfulness created with a quiet walking meditation, follow the leader, walk in rows, or any other combination where the slow breathing and mindful movement can allow a fresh start to your thinking processes – Discuss the findings

Musical break – Listen to some classical music, explore the emotions the music conjures up, what can you get from that, what did you notice. Jot down the emotions and discuss which ones are more positive and why you think that.

Laugh – Find something to laugh at that is suitable for all ages and have a good laugh. This frees up the endorphins, dopamine and other “feel good chemicals” in your brain. what does this positivity lead you to?

People – Explore personality types and appreciate why EQ is probably more important than IQ

Team creative writing – Have a group come up with a bunch of characters and jot down some scenarios the characters could get involved in – What can you now do with the information?

Collage – Find old magazines with images of value to the group and their interests, cut and paste on a series of large sheets of paper and explore the possibilities, play music in the background for stimulus, try starting with a short visualization

Random objects – Come up with 3 random objects people can visualize, write the name of the objects down, get the team in a circle to make up simple quick stories about the three objects, the funnier the better!

Exhibitions

Blood in sink

Image courtesy of Simon Howden www.freedigitalphotos.net

Deakin University Geelong has a gradaute exhibition on at the moment, (Oct 2013) I went to have a look today and thought some of the works were worthy of mention. I figured I would be able to link you to images online, but no I can’t find any.

I know I should have taken my own pictures, I had my smart phone with me, but I didn’t.

So the bright young things that were there today all busy ‘manning the door’ can smile all they like, it seems as if apart from the email invite I got to the opening, there is little else to let people know it’s on.

It’s at the top of the stairs on level three of Costa Hall, enter from Gherignhap Street.

I can see the Lecturers etc pondering if it’s okay to let the students have an exhibition, I get the thinking around this but who will really care if they make it or not, or if the exhibition is a flop (how would that be measured anyway?)

I wanted to tell the world about a few pieces a few “Artists” but alas I can not. I could go back and get the details. Nope I won’t do that. I could send them an email and have them provide me with details, nope that’s not on my agenda either. The fact I had a small window of oportunity to view the show in the first place was amazing for me.

I am left to ponder though.

I could pose more questions, I could look deeper to see if there is more to find on the web, but no, a quick internet search should be ebough to be able to find the info. So another exhibition by emerging ‘Artists’ goes by and a select few will have the pleasure of seeing what’s on offer.

I could tell you about the skateboard Art, the actively operating scuplutre with trees and words, or the big graphite drawings of landscape, or even the large ‘jar and plaster’ piece but no I will have to withhold on all that and invite you to find out for yourself, somehow…

 

Don’t Get Caught the Scams and Tricks to be Aware of

Visual Arts can be a tricky road to traverse and as if the twists and turns are not enough to deal with you find there are potholes as well! Here is a starting point to finding out about just some of the many scams trying to catch the naieve Visual Artist out.

http://www.artscams.com/

You will soon learn that having an online presence will attract all manner of scammers and proposers to lurk in your email  system. You will get congratulations, you have been chosen… or here’s your chance to make it big… and any number of weird and wonderful ‘opportunities’ you may find tempting but can lead you down a slippery slope of “Oh no that cost me $$ I don’t have and I saw nothing for it”.

I hope you are able to keep the scammers at bay and realise fast that ‘if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’

Regards  Steve Gray

The Notion of Art

At times I struggle to come to terms with art, what it is or perhaps what it is not.

In the first sense there are so many genres of art to consider from people who ‘dabble’ in paint and pastel on the weekend to those who conceptualize and possibly create, to all sorts in between.marilyn1

Perhaps there is something fundamental about the whole notion of art that we fail to teach people about how to explore the genres and respect each for what it does for the person and its possible wider cultural context. From technical execution to conceptual creation and validation, which is ‘right’ is probably not a suitable response from an ethical perspective and showing respect for the person’s input and creation of an artwork.

What makes something what it is, is perhaps more a question for philosophers, the perception of reality, the notion of meaning, the use of the sum total of our experiences, values and beliefs for how people formulate their responses to questions about objects which may or may not have cultural significance.

Is that a measure of art, it’s cultural significance? Perhaps that’s too open, too broad. Perhaps there is another quality to measure art by that has nothing to do with culture. I am left to wonder if there is anything non cultural. Take a standard definition of culture, “patterns of behaviour” as a basic guideline, now try and explore the notion of no pattern. In our existentialist world all we do can be linked to some form of pattern.

Did I just create the answer to my question? Therefore perhaps everything is of cultural significance, but to what degree it is significant is another thing.

Did I just open up the concept that all things are therefore valid but the depth of validity will depend on the viewer and how they process the information provided based on their values, beliefs and experiences? Possibly.

In looking at what has been explored here I guess we can start to ponder how people get to learn what they learn and push boundaries around the value of that learning.

Have you learnt about art through some cultural dialogue, have you learnt enough to cause you to be respectful of others positions on art and what they may create? Have you learnt to conceptually process information and come to some notion of right or wrong about something not being art?

Discuss…

Carolyn O’Neill – Artist

Carolyn O’Neill lives in Hamilton, Victoria, her website is www.carolynoneill.com.au

website artist pic resize low res

How long have you been making art?

I first started painting 10 years ago after attending a beginner’s art class whilst living in Melbourne. The freedom I felt from picking up a paint brush was pivotal and I haven’t stopped painting since.


Grace

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I am an avid op shopper and collector of Mid Century home wares. My shelves are also piled up with vintage interior decorating, and art books. I dream of owning a large original modernist home one day to display my ever expanding collections. Interior design is another interest of mine.

Balancing Act low res

Artist’s statement…

The act of self-expression inspires and motivates me. The ’action’ or the physical outpouring of one’s inner self becomes a connective force. This raw but intangible energy is what I attempt to convey onto canvas.

I’m inspired by the early abstract expressionists from the 1950’s such as De Kooning, Pollock, Motherwell and Kline. Like them I feel that I am unable to express myself through representation. I desire to move beyond the recognisable ‘surface’; evoking a deeper emotional response.

Much of my work is autobiographical; depicting my inner world and emotions. They are similar to journal entries that are painted rather than written with references to biblical themes and the inspiration of music.

My work is generally unplanned; it is spontaneous and intuitive. I tend to work at a frenetic pace which I find both exhausting and energizing. It expresses a rollercoaster of emotions in varying degrees. The exploration of line, colour and form are a continuum in my creative process.

The physical and emotional tension in my work is evident in every brushstroke and drip of paint. It is this visual dialogue that allows me the freedom to express not what is seen; but what is felt.

Abstract art is similar to a piece of music which may not describe anything tangible or tell a story; yet may stir emotions. An abstract painting depends on colour and design to do the same. “

Intersect

What are you currently working on?

I have just completed some for a group show which opens this month (Aug 2013) with Manyung Gallery in Mount Eliza, Victoria. The theme is ‘Femme Fatale,’ as all the artists exhibiting are women. Some of my work will be featured in an art collectors book “I LOVE ART; The A –Z of Contemporary Art” published later in 2013. Perhaps a solo show in the near future.

Detour low res

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

It was vital in my development. I learnt early on not to take criticism personally no matter how harsh, but to grow from it and remain teachable. The process was challenging but eventually paid off. I often sought out my lecturers for feedback as I was always keen to learn as much as possible.

Equilibrium low res

Have you always been interested in art?

I’ve always had an appreciation of art. The vigorous brush strokes and the depth of colour in Vincent Van Gogh’s work has always moved me. The intense emotion in his work continues to inspire me. When I first started to paint I aspired for my work to evoke a similar response.

Exuberance low res

What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

 

I worked as a psychiatric nurse until recent years. It has been a dramatic transition from psychiatry to artist and the recognition of emotions and the expression of them are relevant to me and my art practice.

Meander

What or who inspires your art?

It’s the freedom to express myself and create in an intuitive manner without boundaries. My faith is my anchor and the bible is a constant inspiration as is music. The creative process in every medium inspires me; like discovering the meaning behind the lyrics of a song or musical composition. Since I often use the titles of songs or lyrics for some of my paintings, I enjoy the process of researching them.

Other art forms including architecture, modernism, collage and sculpture further connect with my work. I often find myself distracted by my surroundings; cloud formations, the pattern on a metal fence, the structure of a leaf, reflections on the water. I am confident that inspiration can be found everywhere if you start are looking for it.

Mysterious Ways

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

My art Lecturer kept encouraging me to move onto oils to bring more depth into my work. The texture and fluidly of oils when mixed with medium add further areas of interest as the rich tones fuse together and set into place

Pipedream

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

You have stayed true to your vision and continued to grow as an artist whilst remaining consistent. If you can make a living from your art then you are very fortunate.

Transcendent

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years? Yes it has changed significantly. One of my lecturers used to comment that I ‘flew on a wing and prayer’, often finding myself getting stuck as I never planned ahead

Of late I have become more productive as my process is somewhat planned. I now work on several pieces at a time to build up layers of paint and formulate a structure/composition to work with. The colour palette tends to evolve as I mix the paint and add medium.

transition resize

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

Yes I am a great believer in visual diaries; they help keep me focused and organised. Actually I have a pile of them and try to keep a small one in my hand bag to do some quick sketches or writing just in case a moment of inspiration strikes.

It also helps me focus on my goals and keeps all of my art paraphenalia in one place.

emerge resize

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

For me they are necessary, especially with abstract work to better engage the audience. Sometimes finding titles is a painstaking process and I find myself searching for the right words. There are times when a song or a word comes to mind and seems to be the perfect fit. The role of title in my work is to invite further contemplation.

Calm in chaos

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

Most recently ‘Living with a creative mind,’ by Jeff and Julie Crabtree. It has a strong focus on the psychology of creativity and has helped me understand myself much more. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has been on my book shelf for quite a while too. Both of these books have insightful. I find myself referring to them on occasion.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?

I tend to be isolated, especially if I’m preparing for a show then I’ll be in the studio all day, every day and sometimes late at night. I have definitely become more of a ‘home body’ over recent years and feel quite content with that.

Delivering work to galleries or picking up art materials in Melbourne gives me the opportunity to catch up with friends and check out some exhibitions.

Fire and Ice resize

Technology (websites and social networking sites to name a few) has become an important marketing tool for many industries and individuals, what are your thoughts from a “You Inc” perspective and your art sensibility.

An artist website is an online portfolio . Given the rise of technology, well presented images of your work are crucial. Social media has been very beneficial and has opened up lots of opportunities. Having a Facebook artist page is another great tool for communication.. This has enabled me to connect with a wonderful online network of artists from all over the world.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out? Study artists that inspire you. Try lots of techniques and don’t be precious about ruining your work. . Learn to accept criticism. Find your own unique style and build on it. Learn the art language and use it to describe your work. Use a visual diary to record your inspirations. Go to lots of openings and build relationships with artists and gallery directors. Don’t give up.

Storm in a bottle

How long did it take to develop your own style?

It’s taken me 10 years. It wasn’t until I studied Visual Art that things started to ‘click’, providing me with an in depth understanding of Art. Through much determination and perseverance my work has developed into an abstract expressionist style. Learning the technical aspects like composition and incorporating the elements and principles of design.

I am continually challenging myself to create work that is balanced, considered and complex.

There is less of struggle when I consider the composition and harmony of the work. Since it is intuitive and emotional, there is a hidden order to discover. Every brush stroke and drip is there for a reason and gravity helps too. Harmony cannot be achieved without considering the work as a whole. They have become like conversations where no one is being left out; so the communication is flowing. My work generally starts off in a state of chaos with splashes, drips and paint covering the canvas. Then the process of reining it in and connecting it together begins with reinforcing some areas whilst eliminating others. Resolving the work until it is complete in my eyes at least.

 

1.       Grace, 152 x 91cm

2.       Balancing Act, 140 x 82cm

3.       Intersect, 120 x 90cm

4.       Detour, 120 x 90cm

5.       Equilibrium,120 x 90cm

6.       Exuberance,120 x 90cm

7.       Meander,122 x 92cm

8.       Mysterious Ways,120 x 90cm

9.       Transcendent,122 x 92cm

10.   Pipe Dream,152 x 91cm

11.   Transition, 152 x 91cm

12.   Emerge, 152 x 91cm

13.   Calm In Chaos, 180 x 100cm

14.   Fire and Ice, 152 x 91cm

15.   Storm In A Bottle, 108 x 100cm











 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kuldeep Chaudhari – Photographer

Behind The Image

There has never been a shortage of photographic Artists since photography was invented. They are masters of capturing and saving remarkable memories of unforgettable images. Whereas some practice photography as a hobby, many of these Artists have made this art a lifelong profession. The amazing creativity captured by photographic Artists can be appreciated by analyzing the Artists behind these great works. Kuldeep Chaudhari is a Photographer whose work provides a fine example of the kind of creativity every ardent photographer would admire.

115970-5478194-11

The Artist

Kuldeep Chaudhari is a 29 year old Mumbai based documentary and street photographer in India. The post graduate and later freelance photographer was born in 1984. Photography was not his career choice in his early life. He started out working for a multinational company before he discovered photography. His interest in photography grew from his love for capturing images and moments on camera. What started as a hobby finally became a full time profession. He is a nature lover and a passionate trekker. His works include street images that have opened his mind and made him more sensitive to the world around him. His creativity is exemplified in one of his famous photographs titled “putting your best foot forward” which portrays men dressed in white performing exercises at an urban park in India.

During his journeys on the streets of his city, where he met new people and saw different things, he began to explore his artistic side. He found that through this exploration, photography helped  in opening his mind. Since then has become concerned and sensitive about his environment. Photography has not only helped him grow in confidence but has also contributed towards making him a more responsible individual.

Kuldeep Chaudhari has inspirational, touching and powerful works which can be found at Saatchi Online

Deborah Klein – Artist

DK Portrait

Deborah Klein divides her time between Abbotsford, an inner city suburb of Melbourne and Ballarat, in south-western Victoria. Her website is http://www.deborahklein.net/ and she has two blog sites:
Art blog: http://deborahklein.blogspot.com/
Book blog: http://mothwomanpress.blogspot.com/

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I’m interested in other art forms, including, music, theatre, literature and film. They have all impacted on my work – particularly film.

Mildred Pierce on St. Kilda Pier, 1995, linocut, 65 x 46 cm

What are the main medium/s you work in…

Printmaking, drawing, painting, and artist books

Lace Face, 1996, linocut, 46 x 30 cm

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?

My visual language has evolved over the years and is multi-layered. Many works pay homage to women and their creative histories.

The work is unified by its concern for women: the untold numbers who have been completely written out of history, the courage of those women and girls who must still fight seemingly unsurmountable odds to have their voices heard.

Chocolate Argus Winged Woman, 2010, linocut, 40 x 40 cm

What fascinates you?

Recently I’ve become fascinated by animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette films, especially her masterpiece The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). Her films were the primary inspiration for my current silhouette-based work.

I’m also fascinated by silent film. Before the invention of sound, movies told their stories almost entirely without words. They had subtitles, but these needed to be succinct in order to ensure minimum interruption to the primarily visual narratives. I’ve only just become aware of parallels with my current artist books. Each one has a short descriptive title, but the narratives are entirely visual.

Homarsupial and Lyrebird, 2013, unique artist's books, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Can you give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

My first solo exhibition to focus entirely on silhouettes has recently finished. The exhibition was in two parts: a wall-based installation of thirteen vertical one-of-a-kind concertina books and an installation of miniature silhouette paintings. I’m now in the process of extending and developing both of these series.

Miniature silhouettes, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 7 cm, 7 x 9 cm and 5 x 7 cm

Why are you an Artist?

I’ve never stopped to question why – it’s all I ever wanted to be.

I had always loved art, but until early adulthood the only significant works I’d seen were in the National Gallery of Victoria or reproduced in art books. Moving to London in 1973 changed my life. Over my seven and a half years based there, I also travelled widely and saw a great deal of extraordinary contemporary and historical art in the flesh.

Soon after arriving in London I visited Paris for the first time. It was this trip and the artwork I saw there that galvanized me into becoming a fully committed artist, rather than just paying lip service to the idea. After that there was no turning back. I drew and painted for most of the time I was in London. But increasingly I felt the need for a more formal education. In 1982, the year after my return to Melbourne, I enrolled in art school as a mature age student.

Harpy and The Maiden Flight, 2013, unique artist's books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

 

Your art education was…?

and still is, broadened and enriched immeasurably by experiencing art firsthand, not just on a computer screen. There is no substitute for the power of the original work. The Internet is a useful resource, but as Jonathan Jones recently wrote in The Guardian: “The entire online world is less substantial than a single piece of paint on one of Rembrandt’s encrusted canvases.”

On a more formal level, I gained a Bachelor of Fine Art (Printmaking) at Chisholm Institute of Technology, Melbourne (1982-1984) a Graduate Diploma at Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education (1987-1988) and a Master of Arts (Research) at Monash University, Gippsland Campus (1995-1997).

Fuchsia and Cactus Flower, unique artist's books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

What did you do before or during becoming an Artist?

For some years I worked in offices. In those pre-computer days I was an abysmal typist and gradually drifted into retail. The benefit of both livelihoods was that I didn’t have to take the work home with me. In my own time, I was free to make my artwork.

Immediately after graduating from art school I worked for several months at David Jones department store as on-call casual. It was a stupefyingly mindless job. Rescue came later in the same year, when I was offered a six-months long position at the Print Council of Australia. After that time elapsed, the PCA employed me as a permanent part-time administrative assistant. I worked there for over two years. It was demanding but also very stimulating. I learned a great deal, met some amazing people and made some lasting friendships, most notably with Diane Soumilas. Many years later she would curate the touring survey exhibition Deborah Klein – Out of the Past 1995 – 2007.

In the early-mid 1990s I ran occasional linocut classes for beginners at the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne. Between 1999-2008 I was a part-time lecturer in the Printmaking and Drawing Departments at RMIT University. I enjoyed teaching, but finally left to work as a full-time artist.

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far? 

In 1992 I received a letter from the Australia Council informing me that my application for a three-month studio residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris was successful. It was a tremendous thrill and completely unexpected, especially as it was the first time I’d ever applied for a grant. When I opened the envelope I was so geared to reading a letter of rejection, it took several moments to get my mind around the letter’s actual content.

Do you remember your first artwork?

One of the first artworks I remember seeing was Ulysses and the Sirens (1891) by John Waterhouse at the National Gallery of Victoria, which was then situated in the State Library of Victoria building. I must have carried the memory of that work with me from then on because decades later I began the Myth-entomology series, which included a flock of winged women. Although my linocuts and paintings were drawn from personal, rather than classical mythology, I’m certain the series had its origin in the Waterhouse painting.

Common Rose Swallowtail Winged Woman, 2010, acrylic on linen, 36 x 36 cm

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?

My family was always encouraging, although my mother had the greatest input, introducing me to books, film, music and the visual and performing arts. She also took me on my first visits to the Melbourne Museum and National Gallery of Victoria.

Art wasn’t viewed as a serious profession, however, and I was discouraged from studying it at tertiary level. By the time I put myself through art school as a mature age student, I’d lived overseas for several years, was passionate about art and knew very definitely that it was what I wanted for myself. But I’m still grateful to my mother for sowing those first seeds.

Fishwife and Sea horsewoman, unique artist's books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

Growing up in 1950s and 60s St. Kilda was in many ways a lonely and isolating experience. It was a very different place when I was a child and adolescent: sadly run down and rather seedy. Yet it had a certain mystique, and looking back through admittedly nostalgic eyes, far more depth than it has today. St. Kilda-related iconography infiltrated my work for many years, and even now occasionally makes an appearance. The Film Noir quality of the downtrodden St. Kilda of my past, with its fun fair, beach, pier and art deco buildings, was another driving force behind many of my works: the seminal Pirate Jenny Prints, 1988, the Film Noir series, including the linocut Mildred Pierce on St. Kilda Pier, 1995 and from the Tattooed Faces and Figures series, Luna Park Face, 1996 and St.Kilda Warrior, 1996.

Eve's Apple and Tree House, 2013, unique artist's books, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? 

There was a great emphasis placed on drawing from life when I was an undergraduate, which I’m very thankful for. But I don’t remember us being encouraged to draw from our interior lives. My first post-art school works were large-scale drawings and linocuts drawn directly from my immediate environment.

In 1987 I undertook a Graduate Diploma at Gippsland School of Art (now Monash University) as a part-time student. I was accepted into the course on the basis of my interiors and still-lifes. But these genres had already ceased to challenge me.

On a train journey to Gippsland I first got the idea for what became the Pirate Jenny Prints, a suite of linocuts inspired by a character in The Threepenny Opera, which I’d always loved. I remember scribbling like a crazy woman in my sketchbook for the entire journey, fearful of losing the germs of ideas that appeared to come from nowhere.

Written by Bertolt Brecht (book and lyrics) and Kurt Weill (music) The Threepenny Opera (1928) was set in London’s Soho and populated by prostitutes, thieves and murderers. In actuality, it was a satire of Germany’s Weimar Republic. At the time I conceived my works, I was back in St. Kilda, living in Grey Street, then one of its more squalid pockets. I wanted to tap into the singular energy and edge St Kilda had at that time, just prior to its gentrification. Prostitutes used to line up in front of my block of flats. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to transfer the opera’s original setting to my hometown, although in the end, it only featured in some of the works. The Pirate Jenny Prints freed me, enabling me to draw inspiration from other art forms and to incorporate more personal narratives. Essentially it became the cornerstone for all the work that followed.

This was a dual turning point, as it was also the first time I met Euan Heng. He was my supervisor and became a lifelong mentor. I had been accepted into the course on the basis of the interiors and still-lifes, but he supported and encouraged the direction into new and uncharted territory.

Pirate Jenny at Luna Park, 1988, linocut, 61.5 x 45.5 cm

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)

From secondary school level, if not even earlier, my favourite artists were Rembrandt van Rijn and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, although Rembrandt’s work was more an inspiration than an influence. The line up has expanded considerably since then. But these two still loom large on my list, which now includes David Hockney, Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Paula Rego, Maria Sybylla Merian, Rogier van der Weyden, Rene Magritte, Bill Viola, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Christian Schad, Euan Heng, Stanley Spencer, Edward Hopper, William Larkin, Caspar David Friedrich, Vincent van Gogh, Francisco Goya, Peter Blake, Johannes Vermeer, Hans Memling, Lionel Lindsay, Marcus Gheeraerts II, William Blake, Nicholas Hilliard, Hans Holbein, Annette Messager, William Kentridge, Gwen John, Grayson Perry, Marcel Dzama and Lucian Freud.

In addition, the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Georges Melies, G. W. Pabst, Fritz Lang, Josef von Sternberg, F. W. Murnau, Louis Feuillade, Paul Leni, Robert Weine, Orson Welles, Charles Laughton and Lotte Reiniger have also been influential.

Corporeal_Ethereal, 2012, linocut, 60 x 50 cm

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

you are consistently making your work, setting yourself new challenges and goals, and remaining true to your vision, regardless of fads, fashions and the fickleness of the art world.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

It’s essential that works be as well crafted as artists can possibly make them. Artistic creation shouldn’t just be about the concept. We owe it to our artwork and those who buy it in good faith. Shoddily made works can also create nightmares for conservators.

Craftsmanship is integral to my visual language – for example, the Knots and Braids (1998-2004). The main focus of the series was the high price that can be paid for physical perfection, exemplified by the women’s meticulously wrought hairstyles. If the imagery had not been well crafted, its basic concept would have been undermined.

Maid Made, 1999, acrylic on canvas 30 x 22.5cm (centre) 17.5 x 12.5 cm (L and R panels)

Do you have much contact with other artists?

My partner Shane Jones is also an artist, as are a number of friends. I’m very fortunate to have access to them for mutual discussions about work and ideas.

A year ago I became acquainted with Deborah McMillion, an Arizona-based artist. She first contacted me after seeing some of my work on the Internet and recognizing many mutual thematic similarities. She’s become a firm friend, although we’ve never met face to face. We frequently discuss our work, all the while discovering what an uncanny amount we have in common. I’ve come to value her informed and honest feedback, especially when I hit a brick wall with what I’m doing.

On occasion I’ve worked collaboratively with other artists on themed exhibitions. This can also be an extremely rewarding experience.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?

I’m currently making work for Wonder Room, a large-scale group exhibition at Maroondah Art Gallery that opens on 17 October. It’s an example of a collaborative project between five like-minded artists: myself, Rona Green, Heather Shimmen, Paul Compton and Filomena Coppola.

The exhibition’s point of departure is the Wunderkämmer. The idea of an eclectic collection is liberating – it encourages a far greater diversity of work, embracing differences and contrasts, rather than mix-and-match aesthetic similarities. As part of my contribution, I plan to extend and develop the fledgling silhouette works. In addition, I’ve created a collection of diminutive insect women – 30 watercolour paintings that reside in a miniature plan cabinet. Also in progress is a limited edition portfolio of “Unnatural History” illustrations comprising hand-coloured linocuts.

Emergent Cicada Woman, 2013, linocut, hand coloured, 22 x 18.5 cm

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?

A key turning point was in 1997, when my linocut The Lair of the Lyrebird was awarded the Grand Prize, Silk Cut Award for Linocut Printmaking.

The Lair of the Lyrebird, 1997 Linocut on interfacing, hand stitching 64 x 74 cm

The prize was an all-expenses-paid stay in Amsterdam. I’m a long time admirer of Flemish art and the city is renowned for its museums, most famously, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. It is also the home of Rembrandt, one of my first artist-heroes. His house, now a museum filled with his sublime etchings, was another highlight.

Winning the Silk Cut brought a nod of affirmation from my peers and also led to teaching work. The award was acquisitive; the National Gallery of Australia and Bendigo Art Gallery acquired the remaining prints from the edition of three.

The Lair of the Lyrebird was an experimental print made as part of my Master of Arts Degree at Monash University. I was awarded a Monash Graduate Scholarship, which enabled me to undertake a concentrated period of research. During that time my ideas and imagery changed dramatically; this was the work that spearheaded that change. For the second time, Euan Heng was my supervisor and once again he supported the new direction, rather than forcing me to stick rigidly to my original proposal. Conceptually this work sent me even further along the path towards the work I make today.

ARTWORKS FROM TOP:

Mildred Pierce on St. Kilda Pier, 1995, linocut, 65 x 46 cm

Lace Face, 1996, linocut, 46 x 30 cm

Chocolate Argus Winged Woman, 2010, linocut, 40 x 40 cm

Homarsupial and Lyrebird, 2013, unique artist’s books, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Miniature silhouettes, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 7 cm, 7 x 9 cm and 5 x 7 cm. Wooden display case 32 x 32 cm

Harpy and The Maiden Flight, 2013, unique artist’s books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Fuchsia and Cactus Flower, unique artist’s books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Common Rose Swallowtail Winged Woman, 2010, acrylic on linen, 36 x 36 cm

Fishwife and Sea horsewoman, unique artist’s books, 2013, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Eve’s Apple and Tree House, 2013, unique artist’s books, ink and acrylic on handmade Khadi paper, each 80 x 15 cm (open)

Pirate Jenny at Luna Park, 1988, linocut, 61.5 x 45.5 cm

Corporeal/Ethereal, 2012, linocut, 60 x 50 cm

Maid Made, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 22.5cm (centre) 17.5 x 12.5 cm (L and R panels)

Emergent Cicada Woman, 2013, linocut, hand coloured, 22 x 18.5 cm

The Lair of the Lyrebird, 1997, linocut on interfacing, hand stitching 64 x 74 cm

Deborah Williams – Artist

Deborah Williams is a Printmaker liviving in Melbourne and is represented by Australian Galleries Melbourne & Sydney

She has been on a professional level since 1990 and you can find more information on her at  www.deborahwilliams.com.au

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Artist’s statement…

When I look at dogs in and around me, I question whether dogs are seen for what they are, as separate beings. I observe that while we do not objectify our dogs per se, our feelings are frequently filtered through human perspectives; these dogs are therefore, anthropomorphized brought unwittingly into our worlds.

I strive to challenge the anthropomorphizing of dogs even though I acknowledge that my work, in common with historical and contemporary contexts of the representation of dogs, is none the less filtered through my own perspectives and brought into our world.

For a dog, it must surely be a complex relationship, enduring and interdependent, loving and loyal, yet simply ‘other’. It is the ‘other’ that I endeavour to depict.

It is this latter context, which I focus on. I aim to depict the dog not as a breed above, apart or beyond, but of its own. Captured in a moment.

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Why are you an artist? 

I’m not sure being an artist was really a choice as the drive is so strong that even when I have wanted to ‘throw in the towel’ I haven’t been able to. I think I would be lost without this ingrained desire to create.

How important is art for you? Well, it is my life, so incredibly important.

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Your art education was…?

2006 – 2011 MFA Research Printmaking, National Art School, Sydney
2006 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
1994           Bachelor of Arts (Honors) Fine Art RMIT
1991 Diploma of Education, University of Melbourne –Hawthorn Institute
1987-1989       Bachelor of Arts (Printmaking) Victoria College, Prahran
1986 Box Hill Tafe, Tertiary Orientation Program

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The craziest thing you did at art school was…

Act out the Russian Revolution for a project based on Russian Constructivism while studying at Box Hill Tafe (TOP)

Is there any one thing that has given you a big buzz in your art career so far? (Seeing your work in a particular collection etc…)

Representing Australian Galleries at the Melbourne Art Fair in 2008 was a huge buzz.

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What is your earliest memory of art?

Arthur Boyd’s Melbourne Burning. A reproduction of this painting hung in the hallway outside my bedroom door. I distinctly remember spending many nights looking at that image and discovering new elements I hadn’t seen previously. It scared me, yet intrigued me.

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What caused you to choose Printmaking?

I grew up with Noel Counihan’s lino print Hunger, 1959 . I believe my parents paid $50 for it. Counihan believed printmaking was a Socialist art form, easier to disseminate to the masses. This philosophy had a direct impact on my decision to study Printmaking and has continually inspired me. This in turn links into the Political household that I grew up in, which at times I rejected but essentially and perhaps subconsciously was motivated by. Instilled with a passion for fairness and social justice. And Counihan’s print illustrates just that.

5_Her world_2011

Does the sale of your work support you? If no what else do you do to support your art?

I am unfortunately not able to live off my artwork, however I am lucky to have employment in an area directly related to my practice. I teach Printmaking in the Diploma of Visual Art at RMIT University and I also do some sessional teaching at VCA in the Drawing Print media Department.

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Do you have much contact with other artists?

Many of my friends and work colleagues’ are artists. My life is enriched by having so many creative people in my life.

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Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Mike Parr, specifically his printmaking. His exhibition at Anna Swartz in 2010 The Hallelujah Chorus, has been one of the most memorable exhibitions I’ve been lucky to witness. An amazing series of collagraph and drypoints, they were almost sculptural. The physicality of his works, the immediacy of the mark, are both dynamic and raw. I’m not sure I’ve seen this in prints before.

Leon Golub is an artist I have admired since Art School. There is a great energy in his work, they are gutsy and evoke an emotive response. I am also informed by his use of space, stripped of detail.

Noel Counihan, his images keep me grounded. They challenge me to keep reflecting and I believe always will.

10.of its own

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

Make the work for me, the moment I start making works to please people as opposed to responding to my own drive is the time I believe I should stop.

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Musical influences, Okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

Daft Punk, Gil Scott Heron, Nina Simone, Mazy Star, Polica…….

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Some say the measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?

It certainly is an intention of mine. I think if I can grab the viewer’s attention and draw them in, I have achieved my aim.

Do you ever question being an artist?

I question being an artist less so now than I did when I was younger.  There were periods when it was difficult to keep putting time and money into making work with little reward. I considered a change in career, however the drive prevailed.

What did your prices start off at?

I used to give my work away!

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

The way I work is very slow so I generally have many works evolving. This is partly because I would get bored if I was looking at the same image every time I was in the studio. It can take months to resolve and complete a work. Having up to ten or so works on the go means I can easily move from one to the other.

How did you manage to survive financially at the beginning of your art career?

Lots of different part time jobs from bar work, gardening, house cleaning, waitressing and working in a Medical bookshop.

How do you establish your art work prices?

That is a very difficult task and thankfully I do not set the prices, my Gallery does.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

Absolutely no idea, I discovered the workings as I trundled along.

What is your work space like?

Organised chaos. I aim to be very organised but there is jut so much stuff! I do know where most    things are though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editions – For Printmaking and Art Photography

In Printmaking and Art Photography there has been a long standing tradition to “edition” the prints. There is a good reason for this which shows up in the history of printmaking and is carried on into more modern processes like photography.

Back in history, etching and other printmaking processes were one way an image could be distributed to the masses, people could see scenes drawn by Artists and Illustrators from other parts of the world for instance and thus a simple post card was born. Often these would be grouped together to form a range of scenes e.g. of a city. This was long before Photography.

Along the way Artists needed to have some measure of control over the number of prints made, as the image on a metal plate can wear down and quality lost. To ensure the integrity of their name and the quality of the image they would edition the ‘good prints’. If an assistant wanted to create more prints to sell on the ‘side’ the print would not have had the number and signature from the Artist.

Another point to add is the print often takes a number of runs through the press before the plate fully reveals the full image. The Artist should then select the best set of prints from a printing run to ensure the edition is equal in image quality. All other prints can then be discarded.

In the process the prints are numbered and signed. If their are 25 prints that were equal in final quality, then the edition would be 25 so each print is then assigned a number, ideally in the order they were printed. Therefore 1/25 – 2/25 and so forth.

In the process of printing there can be an initial ‘top quality’ print which sets the standard by which the other prints are compared to to check they match this quality. this print is then call the  “Bon å tirer” which is French for “Good to Print”. Often the initials bat are used where the edition number would go at the bottom of the print on the left hand side and can be signed as well to show they have approved it.

The Artist can also create other prints in the Edition one example is an Artists Proof, often a print the Artist keeps for their own collection, or sometimes given to an Assistant or the Publisher. This is signified as A/P in place of the number on the bottom left of the print.

The notion of creating an edition has also been used in Photography as a negative or digital image can be reproduced multiple times, to ensure the value of the finished art work using an editioning process ensure the investor/collector is assured no other ‘copies’ will be created, therefore maintaining the value of the work.

Printing studios or Publishing houses can also add a ‘chop’ to the final edition, this is an embossed symbol of the printers ‘mark’. This can add to the validity of the quality of the printed edition.

Shane Jones Artist

Shane Jones lives and works in Abbotsford and Ballarat, Victoria. He is represented by Charles Nodrum Gallery and The Art Vault. Shane has been making art for over 35 years you can see his website at www.shanejonesart.com and follow his blog here http://jonesartblog.blogspot.com.au/

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Shane, do you have any interests other than art you feel are important to mention?

Cinema, theatre, music, sport. Although it’s hard to say what impact these interests have on my art practice, apart from horse racing, which is a subject I am now engaged with.

What are the main medium/s you work in…

Mainly painting, but sometimes printmaking and sculpture.

Irreversible, 2005, oil on linen, 61 x 50.5 cm

How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other? 

My work is realistic but the subject matter is not always what is depicted. I see it as a mixture of  the realistic, the conceptual and the philosophical.

How important is art for you?

There is nothing more important than art in all its forms. At its highest level, art shows us the best that human beings can do, and excellence and imagination can only inspire one and enrich one’s life. It’s the only form of true magic we know, since it’s beyond technical tricks that can be explained in a manual or a  secret that can be passed on.

Missing, 2010, oil on canvas, 83.5 x 60.5 cm

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?

I had been working as an artist for nearly 20 years before I went to art school, but  my work changed a lot when I did. I think what art school taught me was that instead of painting an object for its own sake, the greater aim was to paint an idea. Since art is an extension of your thoughts, then if you change your thinking you change your art. I didn’t need to change my realist style, rather it was more that I added something to it.

Quodlibet, 2006, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 81.5 cm

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?

I did not grow up in a visual art environment but I was always encouraged in art by my school teachers. There was a retired policeman who lived down the road, a Mr. Thompson, who once studied drawing at the National Gallery Art School at nights and  he was also encouraging. I grew up in Mordialloc, Victoria, which was then an important horse racing area and I became an apprentice jockey in my teens. This is significant at this time because I am making a body of work with horse racing as a subject.

Self Portrait, 2009, oil on linen, 35 x 25 cm

What or who inspires your art?

Artists, both historical and contemporary, have always inspired me, but life does too. Artists show you what can be achieved and life provides the experience and subject matter that leads to the making of art. I also think that if you see your own art progress, then that can be an inspiration too.

The Famous Straight Six, 2013, oil on linen, 76 x 91.5 cm

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…

The word success is often misused where art is concerned. It usually means how many sales you have had or how your career is coming along. Artists like Van Gogh, Cezanne and Constable for example, were highly successful artists although they made little money from their work and had relatively insignificant careers. I think the best you can do as an artist is to move someone silently, inside, and this power is independent of the politics, marketing and fashions of the art world. If you can do this, especially for viewers of the future, then you are a successful artist.

Untitled #22, 1998, oil on canvas, 183 x 91.5 cm

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?

I work mostly from life, so I don’t rely on preparatory drawings or sketches. I generally have a good idea of what the finished picture might look like before I start, and sometimes I carry an idea in my head for years before I act on it. Working from life can sometimes give me ideas I could never make up, like someone being in a particular spot, the play of light or the fall of a shadow. I love detail, so my paintings need many sittings to complete. Recently, I have been exploring the subject of horse racing, but I have had to rely on photography to make these works, so my philosophy of working directly from life has changed. It’s impossible to get a horse to pose, especially when you want the image to be of a horse in motion.

Untitled #26, 1999, oil on linen, 152 x 83.5 cm

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?

For me, art is light and space which is greater than its subject matter. Light and space give life to ideas and energize the mark making, but art is also the combination of craftsmanship, thinking and feeling. Sometimes subject matter is mistaken for the art, by that I mean that great and noble subject matter does not automatically mean great art. There can be more art in a simple still life than walls filled with political or social commentary.

Untitled #46, 1999, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?

Craftsmanship means that an artist directly thinks and feels through the hands. If artists cannot make images with clarity, then they cannot fully bring their art into the world. Something beautifully made is not just about skill,  it’s about being involved in what you do, loving what you make. From a technical point of view, if making art is worth doing, then you owe it to your art to make it last.

Untitled #73, 2000, oil on  canvas, 152 x 83.5 cm

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

Much of my work is based on identity considered through the questions – Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Since these questions cannot yet be answered, it means that we do not understand who we really are. My work is based on the idea of identity as a question rather than a definition. I am also interested in space as something that contains mystery, which reflects the three questions.

I have always avoided story telling in my work, but now the horse racing subjects have perhaps provided me with a narrative to explore, which is reflected in the titles. It has also directed my attention away from an interior space into a more open dimension.

Untitled #87, 2001 oil on canvas 152 x 101.5 cm

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?

Two come to mind. Once a person said to me that I am not a real artist because I paint from life. But on several other occasions others have said that my work looks like I love what I paint.

Untitled #102, 2002 oil on canvas 110 x 91.5 cm

How do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?

When I see my early works I sometimes wish I could retouch them. But I have also been pleasantly surprised to see works that don’t look too bad. Whatever I think of them, the one consistent thought I have is that it was the best I could do at the time.

Untitled #104, 2003,oil on canvas, 91 x 50.5 cm

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?

My local library was one of the most important locations for me when I started as an artist because it was the only way I could access great art. There was not one book that inspired me but the many books I discovered on the shelves. Too many to name.

Untitled #109, 2003, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 35.5 cm

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?

I have a place to work at home, but since I paint from life I have to be adaptable. I have painted portraits at the sitter’s home, painted at racetracks, the country side, street scenes from inside the car, in small rooms, large rooms, in windy conditions and in very hot or cold temperatures. So long as I can see the work in a good light then all other problems can usually be managed.

Untitled #110, 2004, oil on canvas, 102 x 92 cm

Is your work process fast or slow?

Sometimes it can take a year or two for a work to be completed, not that I am continuously working on that one piece, but rather it was the time it took to finish it. On other occasions it can take a month or two or a week or two, and I sometimes retouch a painting several years later. When painting outdoors, bad weather can mean long delays between painting sessions. I have never finished a painting in an afternoon though, unless it was a quick sketch for its own sake, which would remain the finished work.

Waiting for the Winner,2012, oil on plywood, 40 x 40 cm

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?

I think that is a great description of what a work of art should do and it’s what I would like to achieve with my own work.

How many artworks do you work on at the same time?

For many years my ideas have been expressed through still life and self-portraiture, which means I can set things up in the studio and work on them. This allows me to begin a work and see it through to the end before I start another one. But since I have been painting outside for these last few years, and as the weather can influence when I work on a painting, I now have a number of things in progress at the same time. I can have up to 5 paintings in different stages of development.

Tell us your most memorable art experience growing up.

When I began to study art seriously I found the most difficult questions to consider were how do you become an artist and what does this mean. For many years I thought about art and experimented with many techniques but made little progress. I finally went to London in 1981 and  came across the small outdoor oil sketches of John Constable in the Victoria and Albert Museum. This was a turning point in my studies because I saw for the first time that I should be working from life, and this important revelation has stayed with me ever since.

Does the sale of your Artwork support you?

I have never made a living from my art practice, but sometimes I think this might be a good thing for me. Since I paint slowly, I need a lot of time to make a single work or prepare for an exhibition, so I would need to sell my work for large prices to live off it, but this does not happen. I also like the idea of having time to think about what I am doing and experimenting, without the pressures of selling. Throughout my life I have had a several jobs like jockey, bricklayer, bicycle courier, self-service petrol station attendant, taxi driver, track-work rider, part-time art teacher and to date I have a small lawn mowing round which I’ve had for many years.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2013+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58 or LinkedIn http://lnkd.in/ZW-iDZ

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LIST OF WORKS – From top

Irreversible, 2005, oil on linen, 61 x 50.5 cm

Missing, 2010, oil on canvas, 83.5 x 60.5 cm

Quodlibet, 2006, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 81.5 cm

Self Portrait, 2009, oil on linen, 35 x 25 cm

The Famous Straight Six, 2013, oil on linen, 76 x 91.5 cm

Untitled #22, 1998, oil on canvas, 183 x 91.5 cm

Untitled #26, 1999, oil on linen, 152 x 83.5 cm

Untitled #46, 1999, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm

Untitled #73, 2000, oil on canvas, 152 x 83.5 cm

Untitled #87, 2001, oil on canvas 152 x 101.5 cm

Untitled #102, 2002, oil on canvas 110 x 91.5 cm

Untitled #104, 2003, oil on canvas, 91 x 50.5 cm

Untitled #109, 2003, oil on canvas, 30.5 x 35.5 cm

Untitled #110, 2004, oil on canvas, 102 x 92 cm

Waiting for the Winner, 2012, oil on plywood, 40 x 40 cm

Rona Green – Visual Artist

Rona Green is from Melbourne and is represented by  Australian Galleries in Melbourne and Sydney, and Solander Gallery, New Zealand. You can see her website here www.ronagreen.com and her blog ronagreenblog.com

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How long have you been making art?

I clocked up a fine art degree in 1995 and have been working at being an artist since then.

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Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I really enjoy listening to music, reading and going to the movies, and I adore reality television programs. As my art is concerned with narrative all these interests directly feed into it.

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What are the main medium/s you work in…

Printmaking, drawing, soft sculpture and painting.

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Artist’s statement… 

My work explores ideas about identity through a narrative approach. The pictures I make investigate the potential of the body to be a vehicle for story by means of transformative devices including anthropomorphism and body markings.

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How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other? 

It is representational, specifically figurative, with a narrative quality. The imagery is based on observation and twisted with imagination.

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What are you currently working on?

Producing a body of work for a solo exhibition to run from 27 August to 15 September 2013, at Australian Galleries, Derby Street, Melbourne.

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What fascinates you?

The strange and unusual.

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Why are you an artist?

I cannot envision an existence that does not include making pictures.

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How did you get into art?

It probably all stems from my Nana and Great Aunt introducing me to needlework and quilting as a youngster. I loved the processes of coming up with designs, selecting colour schemes, choosing materials – the fusion of the cerebral and the tactile. Then later, towards the end of high school, I first contemplated that being an artist could be a viable option.

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How important is art for you?

Not a day goes by when I don’t work on my art in some way, so I would say it’s pretty important.

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What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?

That a picture is perceived in a unique way by each person that looks at it.

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Your art education was…?

During high school I always took art as a subject. After that, I went on to do a year and a half of a Diploma of Photography, then switched to studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Art at La Trobe University, Bendigo, finishing in 1995. In 1998 I went back to university to attain a Graduate Diploma in Visual Arts at VCA. And earlier this year I completed a Master of Fine Arts degree through the Monash University Gippsland Campus.

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What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

I’ve been a full time artist for the last couple of years but prior to that while working part time at my art other employment included customer service at Kwik Kopy Printing, Technician at the Australian Print Workshop and teaching at Box Hill Institute of TAFE and RMIT University (where I still teach a drawing class once a week for a few hours to animation students).

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Do you have much contact with other artists?

The vast majority of my friends are artists or other types of creative people. I thoroughly delight in talking shop! Also, a part of my artistic practice is organising print exchange folio projects and this activity facilitates regular engagement with my professional peers.

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Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Alberto Giacometti appeals to the Existentialist in me. Peter Blake taps into the part of me that is a fan of things. Jean Dubuffet because he is super terrific at almost everything.

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Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I’ve always got a few note books and sketch books on the go. I do find books a somewhat awkward format for storing and retrieving information from. In my studio I have a few large double-sided pin boards on wheels and I prefer to put stuff up on these so I can take things in all at once and ruminate.

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Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

In a nutshell, my work must amuse me (I’m not sure if technically that is a philosophy but it is amusement that drives me).

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Musical influences, okay this is about Visual Arts but most artists have favourite music they enjoy while working or just in general what about you?

A sound system in the studio is integral! I wouldn’t go so far to say I like all types of music but my taste is eclectic. Today, for example, I listened to Pink Floyd, Ghost, Quiet Riot, Wham and The Dictators. Musical favourites I’ve had since my teen years include The Cure, Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths. Other stuff that gets played quite often is Morrissey, Accept, Supertramp, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, Mojo Nixon, Anvil, Jimmy Buffet, New Order, Jethro Tull, Rainbow, Spandau Ballet, Thin Lizzy, the list goes on…

 

What can you tell us about your creative development process?

To generate ideas my preferred methodology is gathering imagery, collecting words, joking around, constructing characters and personalities, manipulating esoteric information, collaging. Reference material for my work is gathered by picking through a variety of sources such as primitive and fine art, comics and cartoons, reality TV, film, music, magazines and books, and the internet. Popular culture in general and subcultures especially feed my imagination. I take a lot of my own photos to refer to (of animals and people). Brainstorming and stream of consciousness activities are valuable for me. Researching my interests and what captures my imagination is exciting and rewarding. I keep notebooks and jot down everything that catches my attention. And I incubate what I find and call on it as required.

 

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?

Giving work a title is so much fun! It’s like the icing on the cake. I often think of a title for a piece early on, sometimes this becomes a working title and changes later, and other times the title comes last. The title of a picture can be used as an aid to enter into the work by the viewer which I think is a good thing.

 

Is your work process fast or slow?

S – l – o – w …

 

Which is more important to you, the subject of your work, or the way it is executed?

Both are equally important. It is difficult to realise an idea without technique.

 

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?

Smooth. There is something comforting to me about smoothness!

 

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Have a vision, work hard and don’t give up.

 

Have you ever made an artistic pilgrimage? If so, where did you go and why?

Of a sort, yes. I travelled to Borneo to investigate Iban tattooing traditions.

 

Do you have a group of artists that discuss your ideas with?

The person who I throw ideas at, brainstorm with, ask for advice and assistance from, is my partner Aaron – he is in tune with what I’m about and I can trust him to be completely and brutally honest when critiquing my work.

 

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

None what so ever! It certainly is a world of its own.

 

Do you have ideas turning over in your head all the time or…

Yes. I never suffer from the problem of being short of ideas. If anything I have too many. I’m not saying they are all good ideas though!

 

Did you have an inspirational teacher, and how did that affect you?

Over the years I have been so lucky to have had a number of inspirational teachers. In high school John Watts (photography teacher) and James Watt (art teacher) made me see that being an artist was possible. University lecturers Peter Jacobs, Julie Millowick and John Robinson were all pivotal in shaping my identity as an artist. And my Masters degree supervisor Rodney Forbes was such a generous contributor to my further development as an artist.

 

Do you collect anything?

Quite a few toys, dolls and figurines decorate my environment. It is not a collection with a ‘curatorial direction’ though, it is a fairly broad community of sorts. Favourite items include a RuPaul Glamazon doll and Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator figurine.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58 or LinkedIn http://lnkd.in/ZW-iDZ

http://stevegray.biz

Rosa Tato – Visual Artist

Rosa Tato currently resides in Northcote, Melbourne and was represented by Axia Modern Art until they closed in 2012 Her website is www.rosatato.com and www.facebook.com/rosatato.com.au

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Interest you have other than art that you feel important to mention.

Cooking, learning about food and its historical evolution, Dreaming…

Did the place where you grow up have an influence?

I am a Melbourne gal through and through.  There were incredible rich experiences in my upbringing. My parents were founders of the Spanish Club on Johnston St., otherwise known as ‘Hogar Espanol’. I led a  double life of sorts… late nights (as all Spaniards do!) at the ‘Club’, and trying to keep awake at school!  Such fond memories of picnics, long lunches and dinners, Spanish ‘school’, live music, flamenco lessons, and fabulous aromas that came out of the Club’s Kitchen.

My first commission was the creation of a poster for a University production of “Pharlap”  directed by Peter Green in 1983.  A silk screen stencil made in my father’s garage. My process of cutting still exists. Some recent artworks have begun with an intuitive hand cutting process in paper, so my love affair with the stencil continues… I recently tracked Peter down and found the poster on his Kitchen wall!

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What or who inspires your art?  Have your artistic influences altered over time (eg artists?)

I am inspired by quality exchange with people, their stories, cultural dialogues as well as the investigation and research of cultural objects unknown to me. My own small art collection is about the artist’s personal triggers  – there seems to be a theme of intimacy & the unexpected impact of  relationships.

Munch’s sensibility of color + intensity has always impacted me whilst these other artists – Antonio Tapies, Anselm Keifer, Cristina Iglesias,  and Louise Bourgeous  – color, texture, textiles and scale are key indicators.

Can you name a fave artist or three?

Chillida, Oteiza, Basterretxea are 3 sculptors from the Basque region who have sought to make art that explores their Basque identity in such a hostile environment…under the Franco dictatorship. I admire them being able to create under such extreme and tiring circumstances. However, what resonates with me are their processes, and materiality, whilst passionately exploring the possibilities of abstraction. They gleaned inspiration from the human figure, nature and artifacts of ancient civilization.

Do you get creative glimpses of urges and how do you work with these?

I often reflect and yearn to be disciplined enough to work on my practice every day. A drawing, an entry into my diary, an experiment…  The reality is that I create when I am immersed in a situation when a deadline looms. Recently, a project I worked on stalled for many months, and fortuitously was able to have time and space to ‘articulate’ and review the artwork and the experience related to a dynamic social art project. This ‘time’ allowed for reflection, several changes and ultimately an outcome I was happy with. I often have several visual diaries on the go and when I take time to open them up and re read them, there is always an underlying thread  relating to a process that I am wanting to explore.

Do you have much contact with other artists?

I am acutely aware of the importance of keeping in touch with my art school friends. It connects me to similar issues and concerns that we are faced with. Following close friend’s art practices is very important to me – an intimate sense of following their process. By meeting and discussing things regularly has resulted in working on projects together. In 2010 after more  than 12 months of planning, I took part in an artist in residence program with fellow artists Alexandre Prado and Angela Leech in the remote community of the Shire of Menzies, in Western Austalia. Three distinct workshops were held at diverse locations throughout the Shire in conjunction with the Remote Community School, Menzies Aboriginal Corporation and Moropoi Station.

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http://www.visualarts.net.au/noticeboard/angeleechrosatatoalexpradomenziesshireartistresidence

I am a member of Artery Cooperative which is a Melbourne based artists initiative. www.acoop.com.au

Artery is filled with individuals that are committed to sharing knowledge and skills, and nurturing emerging artists. I have enjoyed being a part of this community on a wide range of levels. Artery started because there was a need to create an environment that was about sharing of resources and fostering a sense of leadership, and equality. Artery is filled with passion, belief and this resonates at meetings.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note? 

A permanent work based on ‘El Pañuelo series’ for Crown Casino was commissioned by Batessmart in 2010.

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Mills Gorman Architects commissioned me to create some designs for site specific functional features. A steel balastrade, floor to ceiling timber screen and columns have been integrated throughout Maha (part of the Press Club Group) in Melbourne. (A steel balastrade, floor to ceiling timber screen and columns)

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MAHA dining

In collaboration with recent arrivals from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka,  – & other CALD Communities, I was commissioned by the City of Melbourne and North Melbourne Language and Learning (NMLL) to create a sculptural installation. A 30-metre long steel panelled artwork incorporates patterns and motifs that represent the cultural diversity and personal histories of people from 16 countries.

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Have you had any big breaks?  All artists seem to have struggles….tell us about any you have had? 

There have been some really pertinent and timely ‘breaks’.

I returned to study as a mature age student. In second year I was the recipient of the George Alexander Scholarship. It enabled me to finish my studies (my two girls were 5 and 9 at the time). Getting through the next three years as a single parent was a definite struggle. The scholarship, guidance and financial assistance allowed me to keep studying & essentially stopped me from leaving University.

I assisted Melbourne based sculptor, Penelope Lee in 2006 & 2007 during the making of a large permanent installation (made of hundreds of Sherrin Footballs). Penelope’s belief in my ‘making’ skills meant that I walked into the world of Public Art. Hundreds of footballs were sourced from all over Australia, some signed, some dated back to the early 1900’s. Cutting, placing, creating patterns on steel structure was part of our process for well over 7 months. Project management, sub contractors, timelines, the world of budgets and pressures! The day the work was installed at the Members Area of the MGC (Melbourne Cricket Ground) will be one of my fondest memories – climbing up scaffolding with engineer. I felt at home. Penelope had a vision for a work that symbolized Melbourne to its core. It was not about an individual footballer – but about the game, it’s history, the object. I would thoroughly recommend any artist to assist or volunteer if the opportunity arises.

MCG completion

 

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On reflection, the ‘football project’ was the beginning of my preoccupation of creating a work related to a cultural object; an underlying theme in my work. The deconstruction of a cultural object  – works from a desire to create an understanding of a story.

In 2007 I received funding to partake in an RMIT Art Residency in Shanghai with fellow artist Kasia Lynch. This was a great surprise and as my circumstances did not allow for a 4 – 5 month residency, I was able to split the experience into two. This was the first time I had traveled abroad based on my art practice. A series of works were generated relating to the discovery of ancient Chinese lingerie.

Tu Don Metal Series

 

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I received ArtStart an Australian Arts Council initiative in 2010. This grant enabled me to reflect and take action on professional limitations as an artist.

In 2012 I was invited by NGV Studio’s curator Reborah Ratcliff, to be a part of Fluoresce. It was an ideal fit for the NGV as our studio promoted new and experimental art forms – encouraging innovation and experimentation in content, context, interpretation, participation and display.  As a group we created an evocative works of color, fleeting shadow and light.

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What is the most unexpected response you have received from a viewer of your work?

Whilst in China during the second phase of the residency, the idea of installing preliminary works in the back streets of Shanghai meant for a great deal of preparation as I required an interpreter, and a local to take me to ‘zones’ away from the main streets. My interaction with women who remembered the object was crucial to my investigation -finding women over the age of 70. Weaving in and out of gates and seeing the ‘inside world’ of Shanghai, women came out of the shadows squealing with laughter and delight.

They were acutely aware of my presence, enthused by the work (in progress) and its meaning…crowds formed and followed us. Women wanted to wear the work, others wanted to hang the work on their clothes lines, others tried it on and began to perform. There was no language barrier…This was documented and my observations exquisite – those that hid, men who also came to show me their mothers lingerie.  I engaged with the Chinese clothesline, an intimate space in public chaos. The unexpected discourse and social interaction was unexpected.

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Do I have a connectedness to other art forms: dance, theatre, painting, architecture

A desire to create work for artists that can engage, dance, perform in, around, through or behind. Collaboration with choreographers/producers from the inception of a performance appeals, so that the work is site-specific, large in its aspect and has the capacity for interaction. Focusing on inherent shadows and materiality in the planning could be very interesting.

Most artists are more at home isolated in their creative process, whilst others revel in being a part of a group to bounce “ideas’..how about you?

I feel very isolated at times, as recently I have been working from my home studio. Subletting one’s space becomes an option at different times. I am aware of importance of being in touch with the outer arts community.  I like to have a few projects on the go and at least one where I can be a part of a collaboration. The latter means meeting, sharing processes, sharing ideas, feedback and dialogue and experimentation in thought.

How important is society, culture and history to your work?

Very… Looking back at Artist or Project Statements, submissions  and evaluations, the idea that work can capture a time and a place in our minds is important. I am interested in remembrance, memory and truth in that I am reminded of the potential of storytelling as a means to making art…the idea that the work can capture a time and place in our minds…  Such interactions with minority groups (see below) recently has created a cultural and important message.

There has always been an intrinsic need to learn about another place or culture. The unexpected impact is an important insight into my role when making work or in collaboration. I have been working as an Arts Facilitator in a wide range of fulfilling programs and settings resulting in short term dynamic artistic experimental outcomes. In 2012, for example, I worked alongside young offenders at the Juvenile Justice Centre. Personal histories were embedded in works and the desire to share culture and memory was integral to the individual artworks that were created.

My own artistic knowledge and discovery, equals a developing and positive art practice.

Currently working on 

Reorganizing my studio and space! Since the completion of the Public Art Project at North Melbourne Housing Towers, (and my eldest completing High School) I am tying up loose ends. This is proving itself to be a significantly big job, before I can work on a new project or create a new body of work. Gaining equilibrium through a massive clean out is crucial!

I am also resolving lighting issues with several private residential commissions, Crown Casino and the Embracing Distance North Melbourne Project so that I can document the work. Quality photos of all artwork is constantly on my mind. Recently I have created works in steel in small intimate spaces and documenting their ‘shadow work’ is a challenge.

I have been implementing, and creating fully operational Pop Up Art Studios in Supported Residential Service (SRS) environments around the North West region of Melbourne with Arts Access.  My time working at these studios has meant rewarding workshops requiring much fluidity and organically driven sessions including the observation of individual processes in art making.

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Successful Artists…

A recent survey of practicing Visual Artists gave some interesting results, the sort of information you need to know to be ahead of the game in Art

The question was posed as “What are the top things you need to succeed in Art?”  Some of you would probably think of a top level Education from the right institution, nope that didn’t rate, how about the ability to sell? Nope not that one either, how about a big stash of cash… nope. business skills nah not that either. Here’s the list.

Further down the list came these.

A great list of things to know. So how will you go about building your skills in each of these areas to ensure you are doing all you can to be a successful Visual Artist?

Meditation, Another Key to Overcoming Creative Blocks

Could Meditation be the Key to Overcoming Creative Block? – Eve Pearce

This is clearly stating the obvious but one of the most important ways to remain at your artistic best is to ensure that your creative juices never dry up. There is little point creating something which is a carbon copy of what a thousand artists have already produced, no matter how skilful you may be. However there will inevitably be some periods in your life when your creativity drops. How do you reinstate it and make sure you can continue to work during these periods without compromising your art? Research suggests one method for doing this might be meditation. Some people assume meditation is unfounded nonsense but there have been various studies conducted throughout the years that have proven its effectiveness at stimulating creativity.

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

A study carried out earlier in 2012 by Lorenza Colzato and her team of researchers at Leiden University in Holland, concluded that certain types of meditation have benefits that extend much further than relaxation. The findings suggest meditation can have a long-lasting effect upon human cognition, influencing our creative thought processes. Colzato investigated the way in which meditation affects the two main contributors to creativity: convergent and divergent styles of thinking. Divergent thinking is a thought process used to generate ideas by exploring numerous possible avenues. It is a form of mental brainstorming where as many concepts as possible are created, some of them good and some of them not so good. Convergent thinking is the process of attempting to think of a single solution to something. It is thought to work in conjunction with divergent thinking in order to facilitate creativity.

Colzato and her team assessed which meditative techniques influenced creative activities the most by getting participants to take part in creativity-based tasks after bouts of different forms of meditation and then monitoring how effectively they were able to carry them out. She concluded that ‘open monitoring’ meditation enabled those taking part to perform to a higher level in tasks based around divergent thinking and ‘focussed attention’ meditation enabled them to do better at tasks involving convergent thinking. ‘Open monitoring’ meditation is meditation that does not focus upon a set concept or object and ‘focussed attention’ meditation is meditation that does.

Implications of the Study

The results of this research are useful to Artists because they provide instruction as to which forms of meditation can be helpful at different stages of the creative process. In the early stages, when you are looking to generate as many ideas as possible before picking one to work on, it might be useful to practice open monitoring meditation. Find a quiet space, sit down in a comfortable position and try and be aware of your thoughts and feelings without reacting to them, letting them wash over you as if they belonged to somebody else. This sounds difficult to master but practice makes perfect. When you have chosen what you want to do and need to figure out the best way of putting it into practice then you might benefit from focussed attention meditation. Again, sit down in a quiet place, but this time light an incense stick and focus solely upon the smell of the incense to the exclusion of everything else. You will find that this will clear your mind so that you are more able to focus upon the task at hand once your meditation session has finished.

Why Not Give It a Go?

As I have previously stated, some people are sceptical about the benefits of meditation to artists but it is a good technique for overcoming mental block and can create the piece of mind required to create art that is truly innovative and original as opposed to being centred on tired, clichéd concepts. Numerous well known artists meditate in order to gain inspiration, including installation artist Isaac Julien, who cites it as one of the most useful creative techniques. It is far from an unproven piece of new age rubbish; meditation is used by trained psychologists in order to relax patients, incorporated into drug counselling sessions aimed at treating causes of depression that might trigger cravings in addicts and even taught in schools as a means of reducing stress amongst pupils. Why not give it a try and see if it helps to get your creative juices flowing?

Creativity Lost

Your creative job role ‘says’ you can think in different directions, but after a while strategies and processes which once worked for you could run thin, become stagnant or otherwise fade into the distance.

No one in a creative role wants this to happen however when it does it having a plan of action to get a fresh perspective can be useful to find a fresh approach to that demon ‘creative block.’

You could look at what you currently do and figure out some starting points from that (mind-mapping could work to do that). You could ask how others handle it (research the net for interviews with people in similar industries for how they do it) perhaps it’s a cyclical thing and your ‘biorhythms’ etc. play havoc with your creative sensibilities.

Creativity might be a process driven ‘thing’ for you or perhaps an off-beat ‘seat of the pants’ ride into the unknown for others, an in-between view might list serendipity as the catalyst for a creative approach.

What next you might ask…

Brain basics - Perhaps we need to think about the creative process from a neurological viewpoint. Our senses take in information, our brains process it, it goes into our memories and can be retrieved. If This part of the ‘Neuro process’ is not enough (hey you have run out of creative options, that’s why you are reading this yeah?) then you have to feed it with fresh material. for it to utilise. This way your brain can take some of the old and mix it with the new to let you formulate or percolate options to explore. Explore LOTS of fresh material for your brain, think “What can I feed my senses with (other than drugs…) which will be different to what I have been doing?”

Break your cycle/s – If you find you have challenges to your creative processes you might need to break some personal and or other cycles, are there specific situations or times when your creativity is at a low point? Are there external factors (other peoples cycles) which interrupt your processes. Knowledge of these may cause you to avoid them, work around them, and/or adjust them to suit.

Struggle free zone – If you struggle to create then the ‘flow’ of creative options can be hampered, so avoid struggling. Perhaps it’s a ‘self-talk’ thing.  ”I have to but I CAN’T!” This puts pressure on you to perform, pressure may well work in some instances for some but not for others, which is it for you? What if you are used to struggle and pressure to perform and you don’t get it…Either way you get to deal with some form of struggle. Figure out ways to avoid it.

Connect with more creative types – The ones who want to share ideas openly, then you share, they share and so on. Record the ideas and images that form in your head anyway you can. I think it’s a lot like panning for gold, the more you do it the more chances you have of finding some gold!

Get more of the right tools – If you want to build anything you need tools, do an interweb search for creative tools and make it your business to add to your tools, if an old one wears out or needs sharpening then get new ones or sharpen those you have.

Now make them work for you. In a results based world where goals are etched in stone (often by others) ensure your lost creativity can be found and your world is effectively mapped out. No longer will you be lost in your own territory, but you should be able to add to the map/s you already have.

Dear Artist learn your lessons well.

I love hearing great examples of things I have discussed in my art ramblings on this site, one in particular happened recently in a chat to a good friend. He probably did not realise what he had said that made me go ‘oh yeah, there it is’ but it did.

The ‘thing’ that stood out to me, is to do with what you sell you work for, how you sell it and how people try to buy. Simply put a lot of people fall into a ‘selling mode’ more akin with everyday objects and not with high end, specialty products. Let’s get this straight before I tell you more of his story, Art works are a high end item, they have been hand crafted, (generally one off’s). This fact alone makes them special, those who know your artistic style will also know what makes your Artwork special.

If I go to buy any other one off specialty item, I immediately know there will be, no returns, I will pay the price set for it and there will be NO discounting (or even asking for a discount). Even if it’s a product I order in at a shop, which is not normally in their stock lines the same (almost unwritten) rules apply.

The above illustrates the ‘guidelines’ people use to buy speciality items, there are rules…

My friend went on to say “I’m tired of tire kickers the ones that say, yeah I really like your work, when my tax return comes in I’lll get that… yeah… I will, Hey call me after the show and I will buy direct and save yeah… oh and how about a discount? But it’s a while off yet before I get my tax back…” Needless to say they don’t buy.

My Arty buddy has heard this type of excuse and many more like it too many times that he becomes frustrated and may not sell as much as he wants to. The funny thing is he doesn’t need to be in this position, his role is as an Artist, he should therefore be utilising his Agent or the Gallery to do any sales and chit chat about the buyers ‘situation’. His role is to create the works and talk to people about the art in terms relating to the works.

The problem is people view their world through various filters (created by values, beliefs and experiences), these can either limit what they see or expand what they see, This then impacts how they perceive and what they think about their circumstances and situations they find themselves in. My arty buddy has had enough experiences of ‘tire kickers’ he sees more of them than he should! Therefore people ask for discounts, ask to buy outside of the gallery situation (in the hope of getting it at ‘wholesale rates’ his frustration builds and the cycle continues. His challenge becomes how to break the cycle created by his ‘filters’ and move to the next level.

What can we learn from this.

My Arty Buddy will read this and say “Oh…” followed by “Yeah but…” and my response… “Take it or leave it, my years of sales training, business and life experience, making artworks, watching people in Galleries, chatting to Gallery Directors etc is of value to me and hopefully it can be of value to you too.”

Gallery Dreaming

I was a little surprised at the gallery staff for not acknowledging me as I walked in and out of their Galleries in the USA. A far cry from being acknowledged MOST times while doing the same thing in Australian galleries, I think it’s good customer service..

At first I through it was rude, and then I considered they might have always been this way and we just do things different ‘down-under’ then my thoughts turned to economic reality. If they have been doing it tough due to the global financial meltdown then they probably would be focussing on the top level investors, rather than the possibility of a walk in retail sale or in my case a walk in viewer only.

I have heard the galleries there have got ‘serious’ about the way things happen, if you want to purchase a piece from a high end gallery you had better make sure you are ‘worthy’ of having the piece, it’s no longer enough to be able to afford it but you need to show you are going to add value to the mix. Somehow you need to show you are a Visual Arts zealot, willing and able to promote Visual Art, Not going to JUST hang the piece on the wall at home or in an office where the general public never gets to see or appreciate the works.

With so much high level thinking and posturing about the guardianship/ownership of Art works, it’s no wonder the galleries showed little acknowledgement of my presence. In fact I should be pleased they let me in at all, perhaps they will one day develop a scanning device which will only let in those who meet exacting standards of “Artistic merit”.

Art Galleries (esp. commercial spaces) have long fascinated me with their various approaches to showcasing art, how they select and or reject Artists, how they support and nurture them. So to see the USA approach should not have surprised me so much as caused me to realise Art Galleries are still fascinating places to observe and connect with.

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

Here have a fabulous resource in Kindle format book, download it to your computer and read it on your favourite Kindle reading device. All yours for Just $4.95!

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

If you get some value from it, drop me a line in the comments section.

Note this is Version two of the book after exhaustive work by a number of Students at RMIT in Melbourne, Peter Biram their Teacher and yours truly, taking on board their comments and thoughts. Many thanks guys.

cover-image

If you enjoy reading some of the artilcies in my blog on professional practice then this succinct guide will allow you to discover more ways to make your Art work for you. When  you want to develop and or discover art career strategies and more, here is a great place to start.

Art… Fair?

Whilst wandering around the Art Melbourne ‘Art Fair’ I was taken with the quality of works on display this year, and in the individual Artist section, one thing stood out to me from a marketing perspective. What were they aiming to do?

Some will say ‘all of the above’ while that’s a nice idea, I wonder how many did all of these… oh sure the last one is a no brainer, they all get to add the event to their bio… But about the other points how do you think they would have gone?

Every gallery I know is turning away Artists, even very good ones. Did any of the Artists invite gallery directors to come and view what they had on offer and chat about what they had, or did they just hope to be the next big undiscovered Artist the gallery would find and ‘take under their wing.’

Selling is almost the natural enemy of the Visual Artist (that’s why they want a gallery to represent them) Some did, and that’s great but was it because they ‘sold’ the work or people just liked it and bought it. (Ooh those colours will go nicely in our living room…)

No idea  how many ‘Investors’ were there… Art Lovers yep.

So for the investment of time and effort, was there any value? For those who travelled from interstate, it takes a lot of organising, transport costs, air fares and the like to get there and be there for the whole time, 3 or so days standing, waiting, chatting, shuffling, keeping amused in the quiet times, knowing what to say in the busy times.

I guess it’s one of those things of ‘damned if you do and or damned if you don’t’ so it’s a try and see type thing. Will the Artists come back next time and do the same? Did they do enough this time to stand out from the crowd and get noticed for ‘all the right reasons?’ Or was it a sore feet exercise that drained their bank accounts, energy and spirits enough to say ‘Never AGAIN!’

So Dear readers I leave you with some marketing questions, did any of the Artists involved, know specifically why they wanted to be there? Did any of them achieve this? Did any of them do research to find out from previous Artists what they thought…

Do I have answers for any of the queries I have raised? probably a few notions and concepts but in the end it’s more about what the Artist wants and then figuring out how to get there. Go ahead and post some comments on this article and see if any of the issues raised spur me on to writing about options and possibilities.

Why Do You Do It? (Make Art That Is)

Why do you do it (make art that is)

There are many reasons for making art, so what one or two fit for you?

Whatever your reason/s do  you do it for the right reasons or other?

Dear Art Student

You are probably about to start your studies for this year and are wondering what will be in store for you.

Perhaps you are just starting out in secondary school at maybe Yr11, your folks said yes to you doing Visual Art because you have taken on a bunch of highly academic subjects and this will be a welcome break from all that.

Perhaps you have done Yr 11 and you liked Visual Art for some reason and want to do more, something seems to be compelling you to carry on. Your folks are still happy(ish) for  you to have this as a break from other studies… Your Father wants you to go into accounting or some such, your Mother just wants you to be happy no matter what (sweet aren’t they).

The Art Teacher says at the parent teacher interview you should do Art because you are good at it… maybe it’s the first time you have heard that and it feels nice.

Perhaps you have completed Yr 12 and are looking at what courses to do. Your Mum’s words of ‘being happy’ seems to suit you more than some career choice your Father has in mind. Besides, the Art Teacher said you were good at it and the word career seems so, well, final, and long term.

“I want to do art Mum” (words which will may haunt you forever) – Your mum goes into bat for you, your Father tells you he loves you and with gritted teeth he says “whatever makes you happy” followed with “I just hope it’s the right decision” (the guilt starts early but now you start to notice it’s cruel bite).

Now with excitement and a dose of trepidation you stumble forward, the course is signed up, you spend the summer break telling your friends, you get a little arty in the way you dress and wear you hair, it’s all part of it right? Mind you any thought of drawing, taking photos or any visit to an Art Gallery seems like some form of imposition.

Then things get underway, you don’t realise it yet but the teachers talking at you may have had exhibitions (possibly quite a number of them), they have probably struggled to make any decent cash from the sale of their work, and they may suggest that “It’s art for art sake” and their argument then seems to get clouded in various forms of justification for the arts some of which may proclaim it as a lifestyle.

It’s all heroic, you, them, their stance on Art, learning about cultural things your circle of family and friends may never seem to grasp (philistines!)

Paint on canvas, clay in kilns, metal beaten into submission, computer graphics that defy logic and a bunch of theory work you just want to sleep through (the arty parties can do that to you)

Before you know it the study is finished, the folio is bulging (or not) and there you are standing all alone, as if on the edge of a massive cliff. The wind howling about you ready to push you off at the slightest misstep. Then words from the seemingly not too distant past echo in your mind ‘I just hope it’s the right decision’ and ‘Just be happy’.

There you stand pondering what next. Will I make it as an Artist, will I get that magical ‘creative position’, or will I be resigned to a life of working in an Arty Shop, or some other form of job you so willingly describe as slavery, which you could have done all those years before with or without a ‘qualification’.

Life unfolds before you, time fleetingly drags you into the unknown with a clear disdain for any dream you may have. In a stupor of positive energy you grab a list of Galleries to go visit. You tuck your wares under your arm and fall headlong into the misery of trying to get galleries to take you on board.

It’s then that you realise you know so much, yet so little about the whole “Visual Art thing” and that your qualification only stands as a reminder of a small part of your ongoing education and connectedness to art. It’s then you realise the hard bitter battle you have started and may not win (ever). It’s then that you realise your heart is an object to be trampled on and kicked aside by others who take a deep breath and say “Oh, here we go again, another ex art student… sigh.”

You also realise this journey is more than a qualification, more than a piece of paper with your name and a stamp of approval. No, you are just beginning to realise the world owes you no favours but gives you endless opportunities to explore, make statements, hold a flame of truth aloft and forge forward with hope and a rickety confidence stemming from who knows where.

Your journey has begun, travel well young person. Learn much and learn often, give everything your best and hold your head high. This thing we call Art is a beast to be reckoned with, which can test every fibre of your being and in exchange it MAY give you great gifts, but don’t hold your breath, if fact you might do well to give up now, walk away from the alluring beast, stand aside and let it pass by. Pay it no disrespect as it does pass, and you will live a life less tortured free from the shackles of it’s malevolence.

However if you do let it pass by will you ever know the ecstasy which can come from the angst ridden beast? Will  you ever know if you are the next Picasso or Rembrandt? Will you ever know if this thing which started out with your Art Teacher telling your parents ‘you are good at Art’ can give you an enhanced spirit, a sense of belonging, an edge in making sense of this crazy crazy world.

Go forth in this bizarre world and make your mark, but do so guided by more than just a throw away subjective line about your skills, or your retaliation against your Fathers advice and guilt throwing. Go forth in the world with wonderment and joy, explore deeply and rigorously and let all that it presents fill you with ecstasy. Then and only then, will you be able to hold true to your ideals of Visual Art, creative life and all it has to offer.

Creative Distractions

Creative idea development is a big thing for some, trying to explore and follow idea starting points to give their works added depth and meaning.

I’m a bit of a fan of using words and statements to explore with, so I thought I would share one method I stumbled onto recently.

My work has been following a couple of directions and one of those has been heading into ‘dark territory’ where malevolent ideas have been thrown about. I now find myself coming back to this point. But my visual ideas were seemingly going no where and so what to do.

My last visual idea had dark figures in it, so I did an internet search on that. This led to a few things and I jumped on the idea of getting to the “essence of darkness” so I then zoomed in on eyes and breathing, contemplating options about how they might be explored for my theme.

The visual options in my head were off on some tangent… the name Richard Serra (Artist) came up somewhere in the search, I was now off to look at some of his images and drawings. Interesting, I started to think more in terms of symbols and how I might tackle things from there (I already do a fair bit of symbol work so it fits).

I did some word work searching some more and coming up with more options, this is what I got.

- Dark symbols – Black liberty – Black place. Then my thoughts stumbled across the notion of what’s this all about? Persecution – Bad treatment of people – Liberty… but how are they liberated if they are killed in process? Hmm some sort of spiritual freedom might now be the case.

Therefore my final statement hit me as I pondered all this “You are now free”.

This could become a title for a show – a single work – a body of works – a series It’s now up to me to put my findings into some visual concept and see if it all fits to my notion of what I might want it to be.

What do you want from art?

As a Student, or Artist, whichever position you are in, stop and have a think for a bit. What do you want from Visual Art.. and perhaps why do you want it.

Lets explore a little. Oh and feel free to give me feedback via the comments as I think this is a hot topic to think about.

Student

Artist

Note at the Artist’s level the wants can be different to the student’s but there is a solid overlap.

Would working on these points assist or hinder the people involved? or would it provide a springboard for further discussion, development etc…

Let us know what you think!

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