Don’t box me in…

Here’s an art activity you might find useful, set yourself the task of creating a cube of a set size then “decorating it with  your art”.

The box could be seen as a sculpture, a painting in 3D, it could be a drawing to… in fact it could be anything. the construction and scale of the cube is up to you. If you are a teacher you miight set the calls the task of doing the cube to the same size eg: 40 cm x 40 cm x 40cm.

The end result could just sit on a table, pedestal etc, or could hang…

Have fun exploring the challenges this might bring and if done in a class, discussing the various interpretations students have to the idea.

Creativity Starts Here, Or Not…

I came across this website years ago and was blown away with the simplicity of what Michael Hewitt Gleeson chats about. His 10 part email training is simple and as effective as you might want it to be. Simply put it’s about thinking, but not in a heavy science kind of way, this is practical material you can use daily, regularly, easily.

I urge  you to take a look and see if it can assist your creativity to be all it can be.

Oh and it’s free!

Note when you have a look you will notice it’s not an art site, nor does it mention art in any way, but the principles for developing creative approaches are in here, so go take a look, sign up, get the emails and let us know what you think.

Creativity is… And?

Here is a little snippet of an article on creativity from Linda Naiman at Creativity At Work feel free to explore her website and find more information on creativity.

I define creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.

“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being…creativity requires passion and commitment. Out of the creative act is born symbols and myths. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness–ecstasy.”
— Rollo May, The Courage to Create

“A product is creative when it is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original not predictable. The bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas, the more the product is creative.”
— Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd

That’s a basic foundation to work from, now the question could be, how do we develop it? Or perhaps the question should be why should we develop it?

Why indeed, the artist or the student of Visual Arts is a person interested in creating things anew and exploring options around subjects and concepts, so the notion of creativity and fostering it should be of high value, especially if you get writers block or you see a blank canvas staring back at you in times of creative drought.

So understanding creativity is one thing, developing it is another, and as such I will leave the development of it for another time. Essentially creativity, it’s develoment and understanding is vital to the artist and finding ways to over come challenges in the development of concepts and subjects is an importnat set of skills to learn.

Creativity, Words & Pictures – A Dada approach

There are many ways to develop a creative approach to subjects and themes, one I learned many years back was how the Dada artists created poetry, in particular they were interested in taking an anti art stance and as such often broke a lot of “rules” around writing and art, the great thing for us is they found some very creative ways to explore things.

One of the things that stands out about this technique (or at least my version of it) is how easy it is to get something going, have fun and watch it evolve (sometimes not, but most times yes!)

The can be a fun technique to explore with friends at a party (when all else seems dismal…)

So the idea is to grab a book or three and aim to grab snippets of information, words, phrases etc and string them together randomly, sometimes the chunks can seem to have some form of connection though.

One way to do this is to flip through the pages and see what grabs or stops, take that page and go for a  stab in the dark, point at a section and write down the words or statements, then string them together and read what you get.

Another approach is to copy a bunch of pages randomly from books on a topic or theme, and then cut up the lines of words, and paste them together in various was, read it out and see what you get.

Often the most absurd strings of words and phrases give the best result.

Now having created the words and or “poetry” your aim is to use the information to form a foundation for an art work. Consider a collage of copied sections of writing, enlarged, painted over, stained, used as a decopage/collage over an object. or perhaps the words in your poetry suggest an image or series of images that relate to your theme or subject, therefore leading your creativity.

It can be a fun technique which might give you ideas and options to explore some creative approaches to your work, now you need never be struck with a blank canvas again.

There are lots of ways you can make this work, adding pictures and so forth to create collages and so on. Think of a few variations on the basic theme of random searching and come up with some techniques of your own, then write them in your Art Journal for future reference.

Visual Art Diary – Art Journal

Many Students have these, and most have them because they are told they have to as part of their studies, perhaps VCE Studio Arts. Ok get over it, you should use one because you want to, not as a have to. Many Artists use them as a way to create lasting record of things they want to record, often from their daily encounters with life.

So what’s the value, the benefit, the reason… Well most people who have one, will have seen the benefit and should be able to tell you, it’s for exploring, writing, gathering, recording, giving you points to reflect on and not just as a sketch book, it’s more than a diary to write in; note the title “Visual Diary” or “Art Journal”.

Here’s a quote from the Victorian Curriculum Board…

A visual diary may take any form that supports the student’s individual design process and is reflective of the key knowledge and key skills as detailed in the study design.

The design process can be presented in a variety of ways that suit the student’s needs or the art form being developed. The visual diary may contain a record of work in development in the form of photographs, sketches or screen dumps. It will contain a record of trials and explorations throughout the design process; these should be in the form of annotations and evaluations.

The student’s ideas, as outlined in their exploration proposal, must be reflected in their visual diary.

My suggestion is to see the Journal as a way to keep things together, so when you want to show how a work of art, or your thinking has developed, you have the “evidence” rather than just having some new art tangent you have miraculously plucked from “thin air”.

In simple terms it’s a diary on steroids, not just a collection of past events, but of present thoughts and ideas as well, that you can reflect on and use in the future. A personal resource of information (it can include anything and everything you can think of that fits on to a flat page.)

Do a bit of internet searching and you will probably find lots of outlines for how to create a journal, but the key to creating one is making it work, and that’s simple, get one and use it all the time. Example, I bet you have a mobile phone with you all the time, same with this, you can even have a small one so you can carry it with ease then add your entries to a big one if you want. If the first one gets filled up grab another one and add to that to. One thing I will say, NEVER throw out rip out any part of the diary, keep it in tact, you never know when some info you were going to throw out will be useful.

The Journal can be great to have at an interview for courses of further study, as it can reaveal a great deal about HOW you work and back up the actual work.

If you want to see journalling on steroids (go on take a look…) check out the 1000 journals website and see how others have tackled Journal writing on a massive scale!

And here’s a video to give you more ideas…

Self Portrait Ideas

To many students the idea of doing a self portrait is a challenging experience, especially if it’s at the start of a course of study… “What me on a canvas?” Well I am sure the teacher had good intentions in mind, like wanting you to look deeper at yourself and what you stand for. Also, if you ever get stuck for subject matter, you know yo will always be around to draw.

Here are some ideas to get you started with many taking the “you” out of your portrait.

  1. Silhouette – Grab a digital camera and take a profile shot of you, on the computer tweak it so you only see a silhouette (you might play with contrasty lighting in the initial shot to make it easier). Then play around with ways of using the image (multiple tonal overlaps, outline and tone overlaps, include other objects in the silhouette, play with words and statements.) have a play with it and see what happens.
  2. Installation – Use the silhouette as a starting point and copy a heap of them, paint one side one colour and the other another, then create a sculptural installation hanging them at varying heights with fishing line. For a variation consider stripes or contour lines, or how about a collage of images on each.
  3. Negative you – No not a negative “image” a negative image… So yo take the silhouette and cut out the  you bit, put that aside, now use the bit around you, the negative image… decorate that and see what you can get.
  4. Half you – Take a contrasty photo and  enlarge the image cover half of the face and leave it blank or decorate it, use some of the above techniques to explore with.
  5. All of you – Grab a big sheet of paper (a roll of newsprint or something heavier is good) lay it out on the floor, lay on it, and have someone trace you with a pencil, top to bottom, now take that outline and decorate it, make a giant collage, colour it in, maybe make a few of them and create an installation, try a heavy outline in texta. What about the other side? How will you present it?
  6. The real you – SO the teacher is harping on about “I want to see the real you, no silhouettes!” so create a “real” picture (use a mirror to draw you) then copy it and slice it up in to strips or “chunks” and arrange that as in a collage… Sneaky huh! and the variations are endless.
  7. More of you – Create a card board 3D you perhaps a “box” or three attached together, that includes your head and torso. Attach drawings or draw or paint directly on it. You could have someone take four views of you on a camera, project them onto the “boxes” draw, paint, decorate!
  8. Use your arms – Not your head? Wow how does this work? (pay attention and I’ll tell you…) It’s simple, place your arm on paper or canvas and trace the outline on to it, then the other one… then fill in the space with collages about you, include pictures of you. Pretty handy eh! You can do multiple of these and have fun figuring out how to present them. Want to be more abstract, then find ways to paint or decorate the inside, hmm or the outside… that add depth to your arms and what meaning you want to give them. Stuck for how to decorate? Try a fish bowl approach, put fish in your arm…

The above ideas are starting points around a self portrait, hey you might not love the subject matter (yet) but these exercises can give you some creative options to explore, the sky’s the limit. Try brainstorming some other options with friends or classmates and see what you come up with. Have fun! exploring yourself might be deep and meaningful at some stage, but it does not have to always be that way and often a deeper connections with yourself can come about by more “casually” exploring who or what you are and stand for etc.

Throughout history many artists have explored themselves through self portraits with interesting results, do a search on Rembrant, Albrecht Durer, Andy Warhol and see how they tackled the subject in fairly formal ways.

Review the self protrait exercise (if you have done any) and jot down (where’s your Art Journal) what comes to mind, was it an easy exercise?, what would you have done diferently?,  what’s stopping  you from doing more (if anything)? and how about creative processes, did you really explore the posssibilities of way’s to “decorate” your portrait?

Finding out More

When you want to know more about Visual Art there are plenty (these days) of ways to explore, once all you had was art galleries and a library or two. Now you have access to the internet, which means you have a great way to explore techniques, styles, find inspiration, learn about artists, history, theory and much much more.

So to use this all to your advantage start searching and make a great list of sites that are or could be of value to you. Bookmark them, make favourite lists, then break it down into categories so  you can easily find the things you have find in the right place. store these lists, back them up on paper (in case the system dies…) that way you will be able to explore the extensive world of Visual Art with ease.

Start searching and share your findings with  your classmates. Not sure where to start? grab an art history time line and start exploring the various art styles through the ages and note the things that grab your attention. Keep building ideas from that and seeing where things developed from, note key artists and historic events that happened at the same time. Now that you have started you will probably not stop, as there is so much to explore and be fascinated by. Any key things that stand out, drop a comment in…

Dream Journalling

The surrealists used dreams to make art, and so can you, the challenge though is to remember the dream or enough of it, so that the next day you are able to use the imagery as an art starting point. So here’s one way you can turn that around.

Start by keeping a dream journal and keep it near your bed, when you rise in the morning make it the first thing you do, jot down the dream you had. It might start out that you remember a few people in the dream, or a place, but then over time more details will emerge as the days go on.

On doing this myself many years back, I found I had so much information and detail to write down, I would run out of time in the morning… I should have had a tape recorder to speak it out rather than write it.

Using the information gathered you could use that as direct material or as inspiration for works. Either way it can be a very compelling as well as highly useful way to develop your art ideas.

So You Finished Secondary School Art…

You finished YAY! but hang on a minute now there is tertiary studies, what have  your teachers told you about that? Maybe not much, except for the fact that most tertiary institutions you will need a folio of work to gain entrance. It’s a bit late to panic, and knowing what they want to see in the folio to give you the edge is like guessing the length of a piece of string…

If you have read this article early you might be in luck. You see I would like you to have the best chance you can to get into higher level study (if that’s what you want…) So may I suggest that you add to your portfolio of works well in advance, so you can prune out any works, which are not as good as you would hope and get on with presenting your best work (what does that mean anyway?)

In the VCE+ section of this Blog you will find a range of practical exercises that you could do at home, these could be works to bolster your folio by adding depth to the theme’s you have been working on. For instance if you were into a theme that included people and their emotions and had created some larger works, which had taken you time… what’s stopping you from exploring the theme further with some smaller works, which might look at details or some other tangents of your main work.

I guees the thing is making sure you have works to show the interview panel which will give you the edge, so you can put your best foot forward. Knowing what they want to see is another thing altogether.

Art activities, lets share the good stuff!

I have listed a bunch of art activities, the sort that are useful for artists and VCE+ (yr 11+) students to utilise… If you have any activities like this you would like to share, which you believe can be of benefit, I will gladly check them out and put them in here for everyone to check out and utilise. Drop me an outline note to,

Steve Gray

Going Abstract

The word “abstract” is generally thought of as the opposite of “realistic;” although abstract art is not realistic it can range from stylised (or simplified  piece of work), to a totally abstract piece, which is a completely new object in the world.

While “abstract” is often thought of as a specific style, there are as many branches of it as much as there are ways to use abstract to explore visual concepts. An artist might choose to do an abstract work to somehow communicate different things than a realistic work might. When it came into being, being able to do things abstractly, freed up artists to explore their worlds in fresh ways.

So let’s do some basic exploration, starting with a realistic drawing, trace it and simplify it’s structure, then trace the initial tracing searching for aspects of the original you may want to alter and shift. Take this piece and now evaluate it in basic design and compositional terms adjusting it to suit. Perhaps you have been able to keep some of the original “feel” of the initial drawing and have now used it as a catalyst to explore other aspects of the drawing.

There, you have just created something abstract or at least stylised. Playing around with these types of techniques can give you the chance to explore media, design elements and aspects of communication which may be worthy of future exploration.

An extension exercise might be to create as many stylised versions of a drawing as you can, selecting a few and using different media to alter them from their original concept.

The Paper Cut

Check this image out…

So simple  yet so powerful! The placement on the page, the framing the whole thing… Now get your thinking caps on and come up with some ways you could do the same, perhaps consider simple shapes, perhaps shapes cut out appearing to fall off the page… perhaps different coloured shapes.

Of course there will be a million different ways you could cut paper to communicate a concept, but it would seem that often the simplest seems to work the best.

Have a go and see what you can come up with.

Oh and who is the artist? Well have a look and see.

Exploring More Colour

In exploring colour options for art works many people will be familiar with primary colours and then secondary colours, but wait there are tertiary colours… what about those?

When you get let loose to create anything you want and start to explore things you get to a point of realisation there are many colours not on a standard colour wheel, then you find as you mix varying proportions of more than two colours you get the tertiary mix.

For many their first foray into tertiary colours looks like mud on the page! So it requires you to handle it carefully so as not to end up with a mess.

as an exercise in colour mixing you can play about with dashes of colours painted on a page and rotate the page every so often (Hey it’s probably not High Art but its  an exercise to try out things…) you might mix a palette of say 5 tertiary colours and tone them with small amounts of white, while every so often trying a new colour and some more white.

As you play about with the colour on the page, consider the design, consider if there is usefulness in overlapping the colours and letting one show through the other. Also consider the white space, is there enough to balance the way the painting looks (what ever that means to you and the image you are creating!)

You want more? Consider the metallic colours silvers, gold, iridescents… There is now a great range of these and they offer a whole range of possibilities for mixing colours that sparkle and shine in different lights.

Even though it’s JUST a colour exercise, use the opportunity to explore some form of design on the page, so you can come up with more than a colour exercise. Perhaps a great design copied and coloured in a bunch of different ways might be a useful exploration.

If you want a real twist try playing with stripes of colours going light to dark in a range of tertiary colours, perhaps expore some “Op Art” designs, or find a 3D object  you can “decorate” with your stripes, imagine a 3D Op Art box suspended on a fishing line and rotating in mid air, it could be a great start to a whole new group of art woks for you.

Exploring Drawing

There’s lots of ways to explore drawing skills and for many the task of sitting down to reproduce an object causes them some stress, will I get it right, will my brain hurt afterwards… Well here’s a simple exercise that can take the edge off things and give your brain a few chances to explore but not hurt too bad! (No promises…)

Fold a piece of paper in half, on one half draw a continuous line with a reasonable amount of twists and turns on it, start at the top and work your way down.

Now open the paper up, half has what you have just drawn the other half is blank (well it should be!) now fold it back closed, and put it on a light box or against a window (so you can see the design through it.)

Using your other hand trace the outline of the design (yes the picture shows up on the back of the page).  Now open out the page and see if you can draw a mirror image of your first design (freehand this time) on the original blank part of the page.

The more you try this the more you will exercise your brain and be able to come up with a range of more complex designs.

Drawing Straight

Try working on a drawing using only straight lines, often used in life drawing classes you can use it on any subject.

Instead of drawing the outline of the object you are looking at, use loose straight strokes of the pencil or crayon, having some part of the line you have drawn become part of the object you are drawing. You will end up with HEAPS of lines on the paper and suddenly you will probably have found out something about exploring negative and positive space…

7 Steps to Great Gallery Representation

In a recent chat with a gallery director, I found there are just seven steps artists need to follow to make a good gallery connection. Stephen Nall was a Director at Dickerson Gallery in Collingwood and a casual chat revealed this great little list of things to know when you aim to approach a gallery.

  1. The galleries style… – Have you looked at the gallery’s website and the artists they represent? Check out the type of works the gallery has, often the select artists work that fits to their target market. They know their clients and the works they like and purchase. So if you are into street art or grungy ephemera of some kind a gallery that has highly finished landscapes and still lives will probably ditch you in a second, so save yourself the hassle and rejection go for a gallery with a closer match.
  2. Are you passionate about art? – It’s one thing to say you are, but how does that show up? Is your portfolio of work showing it somehow? Is your visual diary or journal gushing to communicate your passion? Are you able to hold a reasonable conversation about Visual Art with a range of people… all of these things can assist in showing your prowess as a passionate person thoroughly engaged in the pursuit of artistic notoriety…
  3. Is the work well finished? – Quality framing, if it requires it… Quality materials used, student based paints can fade fast… The difference can be subtle but make the world of difference. Take the buyers perspective, when they get the work delivered they want it to stay in one piece for a LONG while to come, so quality counts.
  4. How compelling is making art for you? – If a gallery represents you the aim is for a long term relationship, of mutual benefit for both parties… So they want to represent artists who truly want to be engaged in the creative and practical process of making art. Sure you can have a creative slump now and again, but the art process should be seen as a long term goal from your perspective.
  5. Family support – People are only as good as the foundations that support them, partners, and their extended family can assist in setting the artist up for success or they can do the opposite… Art creation in the main can be a tough road to traverse so the familial support the artists gets can be a vital factor to ongoing success. Therefore be aware of how negative communication about the artist making work can put too much downward pressure on art making and creative development. This may not be a question a gallery will directly ask about, but may well be something they look for, perhaps subconsciously
  6. Be market savvy – Know that being an artist is about being a small business operator, you have to market yourself, be willing to be marketed, can communicate with people in a professional way, can manage yourself and your “business” effectively.
  7. Likability – Just because your partner or  your Mum likes your work, doesn’t mean everyone else will, sometimes you may need to “harden up” and take some hard knocks along the way. Not every artist has sell out shows, not every gallery will love what you do. This does not mean your work is not valid, it does  however mean you may have to be resilient and have the ability to bounce back fast to move on to the next level.

Thanks for the chat Stephen I appreciate it, and to the readers, I trust it’s of value to understand more about what a gallery might be looking for, so do some homework to avoid some hassles along the way…

Creative Twists

Any one that has done effective brainstorming in a corporate setting and put the solutions into action will know the process can be very useful, sometimes a facilitator will use some form of creative brainstorm to get people thinking.

Often they use words, statements, short stories or symbols with some form of puzzle or conundrum to tease the participants minds into a creative approach.

Artists can use this to, and I find often that artists are perhaps more natural or less inhibited in coming up with creative approaches as it happens at a more unconscious level (especially with practice.) So lets take a simple approach and twist it.

Write down five things that interest you (it could relate to a theme or line of research on a topic) then for each thing write down something different to that, do that 5+ times for each word, then it’s up to you. For me the first “logical” thing would be to take the last words from each list and then figure a way to make these fit to your original “theme”.

To take this further you could do the same with symbols printed off a computer. Or explore the first word exercise using symbols to respond to the last word you got. Or take all the words, put them in a bowl and randomly select a few and group them together.

Ideally I guess the “creative process” is about taking the absurd, mixing it with a dash of logic, and exploring the boundaries. Then in a useful stance the organised artist would possibily create a dictionary or encyclopedia of wierd creative approaches, systems or ideas…

Working Away From the Void.

Occasionally artists end up so wound up about a set topic or theme they have been working on, they can fall into a void, believing the topic has been somehow exhausted. Or they go to start some new work and find a creative slump, and a “black hole” or “void” has got them in it’s spell… Breaking free from that can happen, however at the time the situation can be daunting if not debilitating.

One approach might be to develop a small sketch type book or visual diary, where you push other boundaries of exploration around your topic. Perhaps there are small drawings, words to associate (or not), different colour schemes, alternative symbols, metaphors or visual devices of some kind.

Clearly the aim is to develop ways of knowing when you are close to a void, and how you might manouvre to stay away from it. Hopefullly these will give you a starting point to work with.


When people draw and paint skin, they often want to make it look like skin, the colours, tones, textures, it all comes together to make it look “right”. Well what if you were to alter it and makes things different. What if skin was rendered to look like metal, or wood…

In many digital paint type programs these sorts of effects can happen fairly easily, If you have these to work with, then check it out. If you don’t, while drawing an object, consider what would have to change in the drawing to make it have the “skin” of something different.

Explore the surface of your drawings and works more and check out what happens, the resultant creative shift may be well worth your while. A standard scene might be given more depth of meaning by giving it a “new persona”.

Artist Web Sites… 8 Things to consider.

In putting together this Blog site I have looked at probably 50 – 100 sites now, some for art galleries and some for “artists” from the high end contemporary ones to leisure painters and lots in between.

After looking at so many I have come to the crashing reality that my own site is not all it can be (a few more tweaks yet!) however I have found there are MANY sites that are a down right pain in the butt to look at! Simply put they have a few things that annoy the daylights out of me… In this list I highlight a few and give a few pointers you might like to consider yourself.

  1. Splash pages – Don’t waste my time, get me to the site, and give me a good dose of your best when I get there! What’s a splash page? Well it’s like in a  book when you open it up and get the title page, not yet to the text and so you have to flip another page to get started… Usually it says “Click here to enter…”
  2. Flash sites – If your web dude says “We’ll do it in FLASH!” you might think it sounds great but folks unfortunately its not overly useful for search engines to find them (not enough text usually) and they can take a while to load… (anything over a few seconds and I am out of there!) Sure your web dude will show  you some snappy creative bits but hey that’s not always useful for the end user to find and use your site.
  3. Dud’s – You see the small pic, “Click here to enlarge” so you do… “Error image not found” ARRRGH! not good guys, check your site is operational, or if an image has been taken off, take off the link to it. Do this regularly even if you have not added things to it, and don’t think for a minute that your web dude (or dudette) will do it for you.
  4. Failure to make it useful – Do some research on artists websites and see what the “big guys” are doing, Art Galleries for instance are acutely aware (or they should be) of how to market to the end user, and the good sites seem to belong to the good galleries. The same with artists, think big time artists (cutting edge, avant garde, contemporary, edgey, street wise) you can find them via edgey art – culture – type magazines on the web that have a link to the artists site if they have reviewed them. VERY USEFUL, some of the ones overseas are really up there and happening in relation to the latest technology, design and making a decent impact, yet your “web dude” may not know about them. Heck find one or three and show the web guy what sort of look you want and utilise the research others have done.
  5. Blog – This is all about keeping connected to the end user, the buyers, the galleries, the patrons of the arts, students, teachers you name it. Many of the sites I have seen recently have either failed to keep their blog active (if they have one) or have put lame entries about some kids birthday party they went to… That might be fine for Twitter, or a forum, but not so big for your blog. A blog can also show a work in progress, which can be a fabulous way to engage a possible patron.
  6. Fast loading pics – I get there, I want to see it and I want to see it now, not in five minutes time. Have the site checked by people on a range of computers with varying download speeds, from dial up to high speed broadband. Then make sure the images load fast on all of them.
  7. Know your aim – Is the site for selling, your ego, keeping people informed, making comments about the world around you? Know the aim and set your site up to do one of these well (the other things can be a side consequence).
  8. Get subscribers and do the math – My web guy did this early on for my blog, and I can (some how) check to see how many people are following my blog. It lets people know when I have posted a new article or interview on the site. Also have intstalled Google Analytics and know your stats, the best site in the world with only two people looking at it in the last 6 months is not useful, in fact it’s a waste of money. It’s one thing to be able to be seen 24/7/365 but another thing entirely to be found and regularly checked out. If you are not getting visitors, put your marketing hat on and figure out how to inspire people to go to your site. Being active in Vis Art forums and having links to your site from there is one way, look also at social networking sites…

So make it easy on the viewer and easy on yourself. If you are aiming to sell your work, the end user will want to be able to to connect with your site fast, get a look at what’s going on and go from there.

Thinking About Adding More?

It’s too easy to think of a painting (or any medium for that matter) as a canvas with paint on it, but it can be so much more. In a formal sense it’s called collage.

Think a bit more about what’s in front of you as you plan an art work, if it’s a painting you can attach other things to the canvas, you can create collages of text and images, you can make the work more 3D by attaching all manner of bits and pieces, the aim here is to make sure you attach the items well and ensure they are light enough for the canvas to handle the weight. As with any work of art a starting point would be to consider the end product, what you want it to look like and what you may be aiming to communicate.

In parctical terms cyou can attach most things to canvas with a good PVA type glue, its fairly acrylic based and can be watered down with water to make a thin transparent glaze. Not sure? grab an offcut of canvas, and try out a bunch of things, see what sticks and what doesn’t.

Google me an artwork…

Stuck trying to come up with an idea or series of works? Or do you lack stimulus for ideas… well take a look at google maps, if you want to create an interesting landscape check out some desert areas with meandering dry river beds, more the page about until the image look right, the use a program like GRAB for the mac, you can use it to grab a screen shot of the section  you want, save it for further use.

Or for a comment on things urbane, check out views of towns and cities, again go for a composition that works, grab the image and off you go.

Or try selecting a panorama type format and make some wide format studies.

Perhaps go for a conceptual approach and pick a place name  and see how many places have that name… compile a work based on that place name. It could be a collage, an installation or whatever.

You could try train stations, air ports, sports stadiums, schools the list is endless.

So go and map out some art ideas, if you run out of inspiration from this source I would be surprised!

Re “Contextualise”

In the pop era (to name just one…) Artists took things from the everyday and presented them to us in different materials to put them in  another context, and cause us to look at them  with fresh eyes. Perhaps this can be a starting point for you to explore things too.

Take a cast off item of any kind and try out some different ways of decorating it, to make it different.

Take a chair for instance, paint it in stripes, or a cast off computer printer, or a cabinet. Think decoration, think make it very different to it’s normal decoration or use. try tissue paper scrunched up and attached with glue, wall paper, plaster thrown on and sculpted.

There are a million and one possiblities so explore… a group exercise might be to take a well known object (lets say a cereal packet) and re contextualise it, a group of 20 students would clearly have 20 different apporaches to the one object, the value of the end product? Probably low as an object of “collectibility”, but  as a process in creative exploration, quite possibly priceless…

Art Can…

“Soothe the soul • be awe inspiring • relax us • aggravate • communicate • annoy • colour our world • build skills • raise awareness • form ideas • scintillate • shock • inform • make us laugh • show a way forward • tell us about history • imitate nature • give us an outlet • fill a space • cause dissent • create unrest • make us think • create miracles • inform us • teach us • lead us • create passion • build character • be three dimensional • tell stories • build esteem • give us culture • alter our environment • keep us human • infuriate • give us a place to hide • show us how to explore • build our vocabulary • hold us back • light new paths forward • ease our pain • show others our thinking • make the dark light • make the light dark • increase our knowledge • hold us true to ourselves • influence our thinking • manipulate our feelings • teach us about others • show us other views • give us energy • cause us to explore • show us new worlds • cause us to be introspective • make us extroverted • cause interest • build wealth • health • strength • make us sing • cause us to rejoice • mislead us • take us anywhere • drain us • be unconscious • make us incompetent or competent • illustrate • paint • give form • cause us to write • be two dimensional •  massage the mind • brighten the world • make money • build metaphors • break down barriers • build bridges to new experiences • persuade  • liberate • be useful • fascinate…”

Are there more? Of course! Drop a few suggestions into the comments box, take the link below.

Musically Creative

Many people work with music on, while others work in silence. For the music heads, here are a few ways you might use music or sounds to a broader advantage rather than just background melody to entertain you as you work…

  1. Get the lyrics – Have a favourite song? Then illustrate it. Create some designs based on the lyrics. Or go searching for lyrics that fit to the work goals and or style you have, You might just find some songs that support your cause. Many lyrics are available on line for free.
  2. Get instrumental – Listen to instrumental music (from classical to new age and all the “bits” in between) listen for patterns, listen for rhythms. At times you will find these stylistic devices easily, and other times not often, but if music is your thing  you will be able to decipher these more readily. Now figure out how to take the “musical imagery” and translate it into “visual imagery”.
  3. Think fast – Try using some music that really gets your mind racing… perhaps it’s a favourite piece with a quick tempo, now, lets say it runs for 3 mins… Then draw like crazy in that time frame, and get a whole bunch of ideas flowing fast. The more you do it the more you can pick up… try the same piece at a few different times in the day or on different days, then compare the sketches, marks, imagery and intent, is the much difference? Chances are you might capture a whole bunch of ideas but not neccessarily realistic images, objects etc, you might find a more abstract or stylistic approach happens this way.
  4. Colour relationships -In listenting to the music, what colours and tones come to mind? Deep dark tones, or light bright ones? Cool or warm colours? Whatever it is, there is a chance to try out some colours and see what comes together from that starting point. Most Artists seem to wok from an object based starting point, but what’s stopping the creative process from evolving from another standpoint? A… Nothing but your imagination.
  5. Search music and art – On the internet it’s amazing what’s out there, and at times you can find links to the ways others have used these sorts of connections to create art, so see what others are doing too.
  6. Swap it around – Blues music is called “Blue” as it is often sad and makes people reflect on or feel “blue” what if you were to chage it so that the music could reflect an opposite stance? What if you did blue pictures but in vibrant oranges and yellows? the results could challenge some of your perceptions about the way objects and colours interact…
  7. Do the reverse – If music can inspire us, then what about art inspiring music? Hey do a search on the net for that… Or if you are musically inclined can you make music to an artwork? Go on give it a try and see where it leads to.
  8. Nature’s music – How about sounds in nature and considering recordings of sounds that are nature based? If a group of birds were chirping for a few minutes, could that be the starting point for creative exploration? You bet… If you could record some natural sounds and on a computer soundtrack program (Like Garage Band on a Mac) you could play about with various sounds on a variety of tracks, then you might create a starting point to explore.

That’s Eight starting points to creating musical starting points, are there any others? Sure there is, and if  you want to share them here, add a comment to this post to explain how  you or others went about it.

Want people in your work but can’t draw?

Try a collage, get pictures of people from magazines and newspapers, cut them up and make your works based around these images.

You could start out by sorting the pictures in to body parts in folders and cut and paste to suit, sure the sizes will not be exactly how you want but it will give  you the chance to work with people images. If the sizes are all wrong try enlarging and reducing to get the scale the way you want it.

Try a photo, these days with the popularity of digital projectors it’s possible to take photo’s of people (get your friends to pose for you) and project the images onto a canvas and create your work from there.

Geometry in Art

Throughout the history of Visual Art there has been a series of reference points to the use of geometry in art and quick search on the net will show many examples of Persian tiles and mosaics, Indonesian Batiks with repetitive patterns, Japanese screens with patterns, right through to Op Art and in the digital age in the use of fractal formulas to create designs and images of intrigue and great visual depth.

It can be an interesting area to explore and often the designs have stemmed from nature, with floral patterns, symmetrical flowers, sea shell sections and crystalline structures, there are many ways that geometry manifests itself.

Finding ways to explore geometry is limitless and can often give designers and artists an intriguing source of inspiration and starting points. Look up the work of Bridget Riley, M.C. Esher or Victor Vassarely as a start…

Be Bold…

Many artworks start out as a light sketch and build up from there… That’s the traditional way, but who says it has to be that way?

Try a bold start instead, you might have a light drawing or an image in your head, so get out a big felt tipped pen or a big brush with black ink on it and jump in. Explore and test out a range of options to make you think outside the “square” you might normally work in.

You can always add to the mix by putting lighter colours over the top to “tone it down” if need be and then again you can always add more black over the top.

Consider laying out a few heavy papers in a row, then doing a design on each and building the images up quickly using the above technique, you just might find some ways to express ideas you may not have explored yet.

Perhaps you can try fine dark lines instead of bold ones and if your design lends itself to a lot of lines on the page the deep and dramatic can show itself in the details, or how about changing the colour of the outlines… The skies the limit!

What is Contemporary Art?

Contemporary art is a term used a great deal, but what does it mean? Let’s take a look at some possibilities and explore a bit further from there.

“The art of the late 20th century and early 21st century, both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern art. As the force and vigour of abstract expressionism diminished, new artistic movements and styles arose during the 1960s and 70s to challenge and displace modernism in painting, sculpture, and other media.”
Fine art registry – Glossary of terms.

“Contemporary Art encompasses all art being done now. It tends to include art from the 1960s or 1970s through the present.”
Tennyson Gallery – Glossary of terms

“Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II.”

Some Contemporary Art Movements, styles, variations.

Abstract Expressionism
Bay Area Figurative Movement
Lyrical Abstraction
New York Figurative Expressionism
New York School

Abstract expressionism
Bay Area Figurative Movement
Colour field
Computer art
Conceptual art
Hard-edge painting
Lyrical Abstraction
New York School
Nouveau Réalisme
Op Art
Performance art
Pop Art
Post minimalism
Washington Colour School

Ugly Realism
Video Art
Arte Povera
Land Art
Body Art
Feminist Art
Yunnan School
Bad Painting
Post Minimalism
New Image Painting
Nuovi Nuovi
Ascii Art
Aboriginal ‘Dot Painting’
Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru
Mühlheimer Liberty
Trans avant-garde

Free Figuration (Figuration Libre)
Neue Wilde
Chicago Imagism
East Village
Appropriation Art
Mail Art
Graffiti Movement
BritArt / Young British Artists (“yBa”)

Net Art
Information Art
Arte factoria
New Media Art
New Leipzig School
Tiki Art
Post colonialism
Cynical Realism
Internet art
Young British Artists

Environmental impressionism/expressionism


Post Conceptual Art
Relational Art
Software Art
Sound Art
Street Art
Ungraven Image
Videogame Art
VJ Art

The above list is created from a range of resources on the internet (Wikipedia is but one), the validity of any of the categories listed above is probably rather subjective in many cases, so in the end it comes back to you and your research to be able to “verify” what’s listed and not just accept it as “fact”.

Lets explore the  notion of contemporary works of art and their categorisation further. Note in the opening quotes, the idea of any art created now can be classed as contemporary. As true as this is there is another factor or two that needs to be explored here. Take a look at a range of art you might see every day in peoples homes, framing galleries, or as posters etc. the works are often decorative, things of “beauty” to decorate not so much to push boundaries and or cause people to think.

Note the lists above do not have a category for decorative art, fantasy art, art therapy, nor leisure painting. What needs to be mentioned is the role of art curators, art critics, artist’s peers and the like have in supporting artistic directions, styles of art and or groups of art. In a sense art that communicates on a deeper level could be a way of summing up “serious art” and in this case contemporary works. Therefore some of the categories left out are probably no considered “High art” although the artists may have very serious intent.

In exploring the fractious and nebulous world of art, take in all comers, and check out where they “fit” in the scheme of things. It’s important to be able to measure and find a place for things, push boundaries and check out what’s taking place so you can explore things in their right context. Perhaps from this article you can create a checklist of things to consider when viewing an art work to see if it is indeed a contemporary work of “value”, decoration or a piece of therapeutic merit.

Painting on Paper

A video about painting on paper, I like the process the artist uses, rather prolific and an interesting way of working.

The Art Student and the Value of Art

There is an ongoing question about the value of art, and a quick search on the “Internet” will show some results. But of equal note is the notion of art students doing their bit to come to terms with how something that may not have mass value or appeal is a useful niche market to pursue especially in challenging economic times. perhaps the title of this piece should be “The Artist and the value of art”.

So is art something which is vital, a need or is it a non vital want that merely fulfills the desires of those who wish to express their status, and buy in at the highest they can afford and hope for the best, or are they connected to the work at some higher level? Perhaps they just “like it” and have the $$ to splurge (ignorance may well be bliss!)

So ask yourself about the value of art and the pursuit of it, explore the notion a bit at least, you may well be chasing a noble cause or causing a noble chase!

Art Matrix

Here is a link to a discussion on an art matrix device.

Perhaps it’s something that could be debated further here in our comments? Your thoughts?

Interesting Resources

I came across a couple of resources which may be of value, can anyone tell me if they are? esp if you are a member…

I found things a little difficult to navigate but the potential seems to be there.

Ok when I sign up to something I expect it to be useable, hell I am reasonably web savvy… So when I get lost in a site trying to figure things out surely others might too, is that good? short answer… no.

Brian the Angry Art Teacher

This was a neat little find and one I will put in the links as well, a good laugh for the Art Teachers among us, and a learning opportunity for the Students!

Brian The Angry Art Teacher

Photography Basics

Lets look at Photographic Art as an artistic communication device and the ways you might go about using a camera to explore creative concepts, here are a bunch of points to consider when “painting with light”.

  1. Media – Traditional Photography uses film (positive or negative) and prints – Digital Photography uses electronic methods of capturing the image, storing it, then software to manipulate it and store it. There are lots of reasons for choosing either however as the popularity of digital image making grows so will the demise of film happen (at least in the mainstream).
  2. Equipment – Cameras (Film or Digital) Compact or SLR (Single Lens Reflex). Generally camera’s do one thing, capture a scene and to do this there are considerations as to the end product quality you want. The compact cameras generally have less ability to control the image, while the SLR type camera often gives the photographer more control of the image, it’s exposure via the aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity of the recording device (ISO). Whichever you choose the aim is to get the best image for your requirements.If you are buying a camera, do careful research, with the Internet it’s very easy to research the various merits of each camera with review sites. Note a simple indicator is the megapixel size the more megapixels the bigger the final image can be. However 10 megapixels in a compact camera can be different to 10 in an SLR. (The image sensor is allegedly bigger in the SLR which is good.)
  3. Subject Matter – Depending on what the photo artist is trying to convey (emotion, feeling, or subject specific reporting) will depend on the subject choice mainly. The Artist will probably have this as their first consideration, Photo journalists covering a specific event would aim to have images directly related (generally) to the event, e.g. a political campaign, the subject would usually be the candidates. The same for the Artist, they would probably have a clear idea of the subject to begin with.In starting out, may I suggest you select a subject and photograph it very thoroughly. Explore it from lots of angles, in lots of lighting situations, with various exposures. Often the temptation is to take a few images then walk away.Consider carefully being thorough, often a great image is let down by a “tweak” one way or the other. If for instance you are going to do a series of portraits to explore a theme and lets say the theme is old age. Then get as many photo’s as you can, and you could do that by asking lots of people in the “old age” bracket to be your model’s.
  4. Composition – Many Photo Study type resources will have illustrations showing the rule of thirds as one of the main compositional techniques used by photographers. Simply put it’s the division of the image in the viewfinder in to thirds, the idea being to put the subject matter on one of the dividing lines, and the composition will generally be more pleasing to the eye. There are a range of compositional devices to take into consideration so do a search and find a few others to explore.
  5. Design Elements – Line – Shape – Tone – Form – Texture – Colour – Composition – The aim here being to choose the elements that will present your subject matter to ensure you are best able to communicate  your visual intentions. Usually the best end product is created when the starting point is the best, from subject matter, lighting, right through to the appropriate design elements.Perhaps your images will have a combination of these to get your concept across to the viewer. Consider creating a visual resource of each of these in photographs to put in your Visual Journal or Diary as a reference point.
  6. Technicalities – With the subject matter and design elements in place you can look to the technicalities and the way they can assist to convey your message. The correct exposure will mean the image presented, has a good range of tones and shows the subject well. Correct focus will ensure the image is as sharp as it can be or fuzzy if need be. Remember the aim is to convey your message as best possible, therefore make sure you explore the camera controls and appreciate the different settings. Perhaps spend time trying out the various settings, and working from there, with a digital camera you can delete images with ease and keep on shooting.
  7. End products – From a printed image to a slide show, or an onscreen presentation online, the end product is up to you. At this point the scale of the image becomes important. An image which is average as a postcard print may well be a masterpiece printed as a huge poster. There are traditional methods of printing as well as printing via ink jet and laser type printers some are very high end devices and the resultant print can be rather costly, but the results can be well worth it.
  8. Manipulation – Images can be printed straight (as the artist saw it in the camera) or manipulated. Purists of the Photographic arts often state it should be “straight” on the other hand the digital age has given us such a wide range of controls to utilise the manipulated image has gained popularity due mainly to software products like Photoshop by Adobe.

    May I suggest that as the Artist you consider selecting some great images (technically and aesthetically) then copy it and play around with various effects like posterisation, solarization, high contrast and so on. The results can take an amazing image and make it stunning, however the opposite is also true!

  9. Developing your skills – Taking photo’s is easy, getting great results takes a combination of all the above. consider taking a huge bunch of photo’s to explore, the design elements, the technicalities of the camera, the subject matter, the composition and so on. This way you can develop your own skills and put together a resource of imagery that  you relate to.Perhaps you could create a web page or slide show indicating each of the elements which go together to create a great photo. Search for photographic exercises to assist you to explore the medium further, as the better your skills become the more effective your ability to communicate your visual concepts.

That’s a start, have fun taking photo’s and exploring ways to more effectively communicate visually! Remember with a digital camera you can readily delete images so take HEAPS of images and explore all the photographic medium has to offer.

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