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Artist Interview: Michele Clamp

It is my great pleasure to introduce readers to British artist Michele Clamp, scientist turned watercolourist.

The Interview

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Michele Clamp and I am a watercolour artist.

Why do you do what you do?

I am tempted to reply ‘Because I can’. If you had the opportunity to create beautiful things that reflect who you are as a person and how you see the world why wouldn’t anyone? But maybe that’s too glib an answer. On a day to day basis painting simply makes life worth living. Even when the work goes badly (as it often does) it is still worthwhile. Painting is difficult, frustrating, unpredictable, and often not taken seriously by many. And objectively I am unlikely to go down in art history and sometimes it seems unlikely I’ll make a living at it. But none of that detracts from the satisfaction of setting your brushes down at the end of the day with something new on the easel. If, as I am lucky to have happen, other people want to take your work into their homes and it gives them pleasure in their lives so much the better.

How do you work?

Regularly. That’s the main thing. I have a routine – go upstairs to the studio, put the lights on, put the radio on. Open the palette, top up any colors that are running low. Arrange the brushes and get the water pot filled with fresh water. Tape a fresh piece of paper to the empty board resting on the easel. It’s almost a ritual and it’s necessary. I am then in the right frame of mind to prod around in my subconscious to find out what I am itching to do.

As I am a watercolour painter and paint quickly I almost always complete a painting in a single session. This creates a lot of forward momentum as the weeks go by and I can move from subject to subject quickly. Other times I’ll work in series over a month or so. It could be birds one month, cityscapes another.

Even if a brush isn’t put to paper on any given day ideas are bubbling through my mind. These could be ideas for subject matter, design or style. A big portion involves reflecting on past works that may or may not have succeeded. What do I like, want don’t I like. Did I capture the light or the mood? Did it capture something about the moment that I didn’t expect and can I build on that.

What is your background?

Like many artists my interest was sparked in childhood. My father was a talented amateur artist when he was young but only had a limited amount of time to spend on it when I was a child.  Even so I remember sitting beside him as he sketched outside. I had my own small sketchbook and tried to learn from him as he drew landscapes in the Essex countryside, marking in color and lighting notes as he went. These were intended to be preparatory sketches for larger oil paintings but sadly these almost never came to pass. However, I had almost no detectable talent at that point. My mother is still incredulous that I’ve ended up painting as she often remarks how bad I was in those years. It turned out that the art bug didn’t bite me hard until I was about 13. Somehow something clicked in a school art lesson. Mrs Amner our art teacher had put a group of us in front of a huge old mechanical typewriter and we were instructed to draw it. Not an easy subject for us but the longer I looked the more the complex mechanical shapes made sense and my pencil followed suit. I’d discovered the pleasure of truly seeing something and representing it on paper.

I loved painting and drawing throughout the rest of my school years and did them both in parallel with science and maths. When it came to deciding on college I plumped for science and went on to do a degree in physics at Oxford followed by a PhD. Art was on the back burner for many years. I had a wonderful career in science and worked in many interesting areas including the Human Genome Project. My science career took me from Oxford to Cambridge to MIT and Harvard and I was extremely lucky to be part of the genomics revolution over the past couple of decades.

I always knew I’d come back to art at some point although I didn’t know when. It’s little appreciated that science is a hugely creative endeavor. Like art it’s also all-consuming – you can’t dabble and expect to do it well. So after emerging 5 years ago from immersion in the research world I needed a creative outlet again. And watercolour was there waiting.

From 2012 to the end of last year I balanced painting with working. This year, however,  we bit the bullet,  quit our jobs and I get to paint full time.  It’s bliss.

What is integral to the work of an artist?

Ah. There’s a quote about science by the famous physicist Richard Feynman that pops into my mind here. ‘The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.’ So honesty, humility, and at least an attempt to keep the ego on a short leash.

What role does an artist have in society?

Wow.  That’s a biggie.

What has been a seminal experience?

These are all hard questions but this one stumped me for a long while. I have to admit that I am not one of those artists that hate everything they do. Not that I’m uncritical (not at all) but I’m usually pretty positive about the work I produce. Very rarely does something emerge that is totally worthless in my eyes. I am self-aware enough to realise that I am hugely biased and lucky enough that I don’t need huge amounts of external validation. A year after I had returned to painting, however, something happened that made me think this wasn’t just an activity to please me. I used to go to a lot of classes at the local adult education centre in Cambridge, Mass. and they’d regularly run shows with students work.    When I’d been painting for about a year I managed to get 8 pieces into their summer show. I’d put prices on them but really had no expectations in that area.  When I arrived at the opening I was astounded that 3 had already sold.   As the evening went on 3 more sold and I was emailed by someone later to buy another one.  One painting was so popular the  organisers emailed me to ask if I had anything similar as they’d had so many requests.   It gave me huge confidence that this wasn’t just a solo journey.   

How has your practice changed over time?

The big thing was understanding how important just showing up is.

What art do you identify most with?

We live in a very noisy world. So shouty art is not my thing. Art that screams at you and grabs you by the lapels is not for me. I like art that slowly gets under your skin. Art that creeps up on you over a period of time. Art that you come back to after years away and go ‘Ah yes now I get it’. Subtlety, nuance, layers, longevity. I’m British – what do you expect?

What work do you most enjoy doing?

Oh that’s easy – good work. Definitely good work. Seriously though it’s easier to answer that by thinking about the work I don’t enjoy doing. And that is work that I do when I start taking myself too seriously. Stuff that I plan when things are going well and I think I’m really getting to the next level. I get really ambitious and start large complicated paintings and work really hard and all the fun goes out of it. I start fooling myself in other words. I learned early on that your really good work comes from painting what you want to paint. However you don’t consciously choose what you want to paint – it comes from somewhere below the surface and it takes practice to let that side of yourself free.

What is your favourite artwork?

That is far too difficult a question to answer. If I absolutely had to pick one it would be John Sell Cotman’s Chirk aqueduct. It’s a watercolour (of course) and I first came across it as a kid in one of my parent’s art books. It has everything I love – subtle colors, strong design and I enjoy it a little more every time I come across it. The composition is slightly off kilter – it looks as though it doesn’t quite fit on the page. It’s a little disconcerting the first few times you come across it but it’s that little bit of quirkiness that offsets the restrained colors and apparent lack of action.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

Hmm. Is it any lonelier than all the corporate nonsense I’ve had to deal with elsewhere? Performance reviews, 360 assessments, endless pointless meetings, snotty emails, deadlines and justifications? Nope, not really. Just don’t look at the bank balance.

Hethersett-Church
Hethersett Church, Norfolk UK. Michele Clamp. Watercolour 8”x10”

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

A few months after I’d started painting again regularly I was showing someone photos of what I’d been doing on my phone. I was still feeling my way but some were good, some not so good, but there was definitely something worthwhile there. On one photo they stopped – it was a quick watercolour still life sketch.   I’d managed to do something with lush colour and broad brushstrokes and it had confidence and ease and energy. ‘Oh Michele’ they said, ‘If only you could live your life the way you paint’.    That comment has always stayed with me.

What wouldn’t you do without?

My husband James Cuff.  Constantly supportive and encouraging even when things aren’t going well.  And makes a mean gin and tonic.

 

Thank you for the insightful interview Michele. To see more of Michele’s work please contact her on the details below.

Website :       micheleclamp.com

For Sale:        micheleclamp.com/paintings-for-sale

Instagram:    @micheleclamp

Email:             michele@micheleclamp.com

Facebook:      MicheleClampArt

 

Beauty, one brushstroke at a time.

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Practice drawing at every opportunity

If there is one single ‘truth’ in art it is that Practice is King. Since I’ve been taking my iPad with me wherever I go I have had many opportunities to practice my drawing without being too obvious about it. People get self-conscious when they know you are sketching them.

At our monthly portrait group meet up on Sunday I was grateful for the opportunity to capture facial expressions. My iPad drawings are rough, just quick planning sketches, some of which will become traditional oil paintings. I love the freedom that these quick sketches give me to not be too precious about the outcome and to have a source of inspiration to develop a larger or more complex work from later.

klara-guarded copy

I use a rubber-tipped stylus and a drawing App called ‘Sketches’, unfortunately my iPad is too old for newer drawing Apps like Procreate; but the App that I use serves my purposes well enough.

That’s my drawing tip for today. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

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Artist Interview: Julee Latimer

I have a treat for readers today! An exclusive and in-depth interview with one of the most interesting artists I have had the pleasure of speaking to; contemporary artist Julee Latimer. What Julee does with paint will make you look at the materiality of paint in a whole new way!

The Interview

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Julee Latimer and I make beautiful things.

Why do you do what you do?

I have a passion for creating, for making things with my hands.

How do you work?

I start with a colour. Making a work often revolves around one colour in all of its nuances. I make a number of pour paintings all using different varieties of one colour with possible additions of analogous hues. When dry I use these paintings to fragment, layer, and weave. If I am working 2D, these pieces end up on a canvas. When working 3D I test techniques for enabling free standing or suspended form. As I progress, the work often begins to remind me of something and the name springs from there. Sometimes I have an idea in mind, such as a mythological place or a sunset. It is only impressions of the colours that these ideas bring, so again, I begin with colour.

All of this takes place in my studio whilst listening to audio books in a loop and drinking green tea from a gorgeous patterned teapot.

What is your background?

I have drawn and painted all of my life, changing the spelling of my first name when I was about 8 in readiness for becoming a famous artist. I did a degree in Interior Design stopping 6 months before the end as I realized that the big picture does not interest me as much as the details I then studied Colour Therapeutics.. I moved countries 12 times in 17 years and whilst living in Indonesia I read an article about mosaics. It started an obsession that lasted years. I worked professionally as a mosaic artist completing residencies in schools, exhibiting widely, including a solo in New York. I wrote a book ‘Sculptural Secrets for Mosaic’ and taught the art form in Sweden and then in Melbourne. I also worked as a freelance knitwear designer for a time. Four years ago, my practice moved away from glass and into paint again. I am currently in the final stages of my BFA with a double major in Painting and Sculpture.

What is integral to the work of an artist?

Trust, belief, dreams and solitude.

Latimer, Julee. Bombe-belicious
Latimer, Julee. Bombe-belicious. 2017. Acrylic and glass beads.17 x 21 x 21cm

What role does an artist have in society?

All artists are different. I should like to transport my audience into another world and to add some beauty to their lives. I would like my work to make the viewer stop for a while to contemplate.

What has been a seminal experience?

In terms of my painting it was the realization that I could work on plastic. This freed up a whole new direction where I could use paint in its dried form as a basis for sculptural techniques. I was also mighty relieved to say goodbye to the paintbrushes, I have never liked the feel of them in my hands.

Explain what you do in 100 words.

I bring impressions to life. Hmmm… 95 words to go…

I use the back of the paintings as much as the front. I make sculptural works out of paint. I make art for inside and out. I like to paint everything vivid colours. I am continually working on new explorations to incorporate into my work. I love the idea of taking mundane materials and transforming them into something remarkable.

How has your practice changed over time?

Early on I tried to draw and paint realistically, but felt the need to look closer, closer, and closer until the works were more abstract. I like to create beauty so was drawn to the sparkle of glass and used it in all of its forms to make mosaic. I like to create three dimensionally so quickly began to make sculpture to place glass onto. I like textural works so gravitated toward making unique knitwear. Now I combine all of this into my painted creations.

What art do you identify most with?

I take a lot of inspiration from fibre art and craft practices. I think though, whatever I do, I tend to do it abstractly.

What work do you most enjoy doing?

Losing myself in colour, thinking up new ways to use colour, deciding which colours to explore next and how. Fragmenting works and putting them back together again.

What themes do you explore?

My works seem to revolve around the unseen, impressions, invisibility and changing perceptions.

What is your favourite artwork?

I don’t have one.  Artists I admire come and go according to what I am working on at the time. At the MOMA exhibition, NGV Melbourne, the three artworks I was most moved by were the shadows cast by Anni Albers weaving, Al Loving’s torn canvasses and El Anatsui’s bottle cap wall hanging. Although I paint, I am only rarely inspired by other painters.

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Latimer, Julee. Eye Candy. 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 38 x 115cm.

Describe a real life situation that inspired you.

I think that the constant moving that took up a large part of my life plays an indirect role in the way I see the world – in flashes and glimpses (stopping and starting) rather than full on and complete. Lately, for example I created paint weavings to symbolise the memories of past homes and the people I have left behind. But this recent project is the first that has dealt directly with the influence the moving has had on me and I found it very draining. The moving also indirectly influences the way I often work with ideas of invisibility and lack of support, both of which are felt when moving to a new country, in my experience. Mostly, I think I process information by fragmenting it, whether emotional or visual. For example, I couldn’t decide on a flavour at the Gelati Bar a few weeks ago. I came away from that experience with impressions of the pattern and swirl of the myriad of colours. This played out in my Gelati painting. So it is not all inspirations of great depth.

Why art?

Why breathe…?

What is an artistic outlook on life?

It is appreciating the unseen space that exists between the layers of life.  It is seeing the beauty in the ordinary.

What is a memorable response you have had to your work?

When one of my paintings was featured in Art Edit magazine, it was critiqued by three interior designers. One of them said “it was like a psychedelic jewel box or a slice through the earth of a land made totally of candy” (Brett Mickan, 2016). I liked that description as it suggested the playfulness of a kaleidoscopic journey. The Untitled work became Candyland.

Latimer, Julee. Near or Far. 2018. Acrylic and metal mesh.105 x 60cm

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

It can be isolating and there is a great deal of alone time, but that does not necessarily equate to loneliness. I tend to look up every few months and realize that I need company. I arrange dates to catch up with friends and invariably eat too much café food along the way.

What do you dislike about the art world?

Launches – my own and other peoples.

Business – the need to market myself on umpteen online platforms.

Finances – the way in which galleries will promote the artists who sell over the many artists who are making fabulous work and could sell, given half the chance.

Discounts – galleries who offer reductions of any kind on artwork. It puts out the wrong message, looks unprofessional and means that work hours often go unpaid.

Fees – the extortionate fees required to exhibit or to enter art prizes.

What do you dislike about your work?

I dislike having to sort out the irritating stuff, like how it will hang, can it suspend without seeing the fixings and how will it transport if someone wants to buy it. Specifically, I dislike everything I do in the middle part of its creation. I think of my process like a journey, the upward incline of excitement as the idea takes shape. The drop into the shady valley when it looks nowhere near as good as in my head. The mountain top I reach when the work is finished and I can’t believe I actually achieved the result I wanted. For this reason, and for my sanity, I always work on a number of pieces at one time.

What do you like about your work?

I like the vast amount of alone time it affords me. I like being surrounded by the colours that I resonate with. I like that I make use of my hands to create wonder on a daily basis, assuming it all goes to plan. Mostly I love to be able to bring my imagination to life in interesting visual ways.

Latimer, Julee. Sunset. 2017. Acrylic on canvas.183 x 60cm

Should art be funded?

Hell yes.

What role does art funding have?

It validates what we do and allows us equal footing with those who have a regular monthly pay packet.

What research do you do?

I do a lot of googling and reading art magazines, both online and in print. I visit the NGV (International and Australian) a fair bit, getting to as many curator talks as I can.

What is your dream project?

To realize my ideas at huge scale by the creation of works that people can be enveloped in. Ideally this would be at the NGV and I would be paid for it (handsomely). I would have a team of practically minded assistants. I would also have a marketing agent to shield me from too much reality, such as TV appearances

What three artists would you like to be compared to?

I have no interest in being compared to anyone. I feel that one of the most insulting things an artist can hear is ‘your work is so similar to…….’

Latimer, Julee. Avalon. 2018. Acrylic and paper on canvas. 91 x 91cm

Favourite or most inspirational place?

I have a studio in Venus Bay, South Gippsland. It is peaceful there facing a farm filled with cows and kangaroos. There are cockatoos and galahs squawking, butterflies flitting and the scent of jasmine and lavender on the air. There is the roar of the ocean in my ears. I can think clearly there and the emphasis is not as much on outcomes as it is in my home studio.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

I have thought long and hard over this question and cannot think of anything in particular. However, I like this quote although I have no idea who said it, “do what makes you happy and the money will follow”, beautiful sentiment and it is so nice to be happy whilst I wait.

Professionally, what is your goal?

To have gallery representation worldwide. To be in major international collections. To have articles written about me and my work. To be able to afford a marketing agent and professional photographer. To be awarded grants to exhibit internationally. To pay a teenager to handle all social platforms.

What wouldn’t you do without?

My family and colour.

 

Thank you Julee for baring your artistic soul to us with your insights and for sharing your beautiful works.

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If you’d like to see more of Julee’s work she can be reached via the links below.

Web               www.juleelatimer.com

Gallery           www.bluethumb.com.au/julee-latimer 

Facebook        www.facebook.com/ArtbyJuleeLatimer

 

 

I am a member of blogging communities, you will find my posts here too:
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Possible

It’s Thursday morning in what has been a full and busy week. Nothing like a bit of caffeine to keep the momentum though.

Here’s to a productive day and good coffee. Because with enough coffee anything is possible.

 

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Artist Interview: Thomas LaBadia

I am happy to announce the return of our Artist Interviews. The first series was popular with readers, I am certain the 2nd series will be too.

In this first interview of the new series I’d like to extend a warm welcome to American artist Thomas LaBadia. Tom’s paintings have mesmerised me and I was understandably thrilled that he agreed to be interviewed on the site. This in-depth interview is jam-packed with many of his beautiful artworks. Enjoy!

nostradamus
Nostradamus. 2018. Mixed Media: Acrylic Paint, Black/White Charcol over collage. Size: 24 x 20

Who are you and what do you do?
I am Thomas LaBadia, I am an art director, graphic/web designer and a mixed media artist.

Why do you do what you do?
I have been creative my entire life, so it was natural for me to pursue a career as a graphic designer. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to try more traditional ways of creating.  Although I was a digital artist for several years, I felt that I wanted to step away from the computer and work with my hands.

How do you work?
I find that working intuitively is what works best for me. I allow my paintings to be what they want to be. Although I often start out with an idea, or begin by following a lesson plan of some kind, I find that I am most successful when I allow the painting to guide me.

Tom2
King For A Day. 2018. Mixed Media: Acrylic Paint, charcoal and Pastel pencil. Size: 18 x 20

What’s your background?
I have been a graphic artist for over 20 years and I have lived in South Florida for almost 30 years. Prior to that I was a hairdresser and a salon owner in a small upstate NY town.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Authenticity to me is necessary if an artist wants to create work that is original and personal. Although I think it is also important to study the work of other artists, I think the goal is to use what you learn in your own unique way and not to copy someone else’s style or identity.

What role does the artist have in society?
I think that most things in life include art in some way. I think a visual artist can connect people who would otherwise be disconnected, and connection is always a positive thing.

Tom3
The Truth is a Beautiful Thing. 2017. Mixed Media: Collage, Colored Pencil, Acrylic Ink, Pen. Size: 20 x 20

What has been a seminal experience?
A few months ago I was at a local gallery where I ran in to an artist I had taken private lessons with for several months. He is a highly skilled portrait artist and his work is very photorealistic. Although it was never my intention to create photorealistic portraits, I have always admired his amazing technical skills. As we were both staring at an extremely expressive, technically ‘off’ portrait that was the furthest thing from photorealistic, he turned to me and said “I wish I could paint like that, but when I try I just can’t stop myself from going back and ‘fixing everything. I just can’t do it and wish I could.”

It was then I realized that being able to work expressively was also a skill and that creating picture perfect portraits was maybe not as important to me as it once was.

Tom6
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Acrylic. Size: 10 x 12

Explain what you do in 100 words
At the present time I am working exclusively on mixed media portraits, mostly of men with beards. Although I work in a variety of mediums, I am mostly starting my portraits in acrylic and finishing them in charcoal or pastel pencil.

How has your practice changed over time
Although I painted often as a child, as an adult it was like starting over. There is so much to learn when you are just starting out. Not only are you missing the technical skills you need to accomplish what you want, you are also learning how to use art supplies properly at the same time. When I first reintroduced art practice to my life, I was not focused and had no direction whatsoever. I was easily intoxicated by the next great class or art supply I wanted to master and as a result I did not grow as fast as I have this last year when I decided to focus exclusively on portraits. I think artists tend to be easily distracted (I know I am.) I would say that is what has changed the most, forcing myself to stay focused on one thing at a time and avoiding distractions.

I also tend to use rather subdued colors now. In the beginning I was really into super bright colors. I don’t find that I do much of that any more.

Tom9
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Acrylic Paint. Size: 20 x 20

What art do you most identify with?
For sure it would be expressive portraits. I love everything about them.

What work do you most enjoy doing?
I love painting men with beards. I think what I love most about beards is how they can transform the look of someone’s face. There are so many styles and shapes that give the face an added dimension.

What themes do you pursue?
Men with beards. 

Tom11
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Mixed Media: White/Black Gesso, Acrylic and Charcoal. Size: 15 x 20

What’s your favourite art work?
I love any of Andrew Salgado’s portraits. His work is so unique and so expressive.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Last year I went on a mini-vacation to New Orleans. Although I met friends and we spent a couple of days together, I had a few days by myself to explore. I spent that time in the French Quarter exploring many of the amazing galleries and meeting artists. Although I was already familiar with the work of David Harouni, seeing it in person really inspired me. I think it is impossible to really experience art the same way on a computer screen. I know that even with my own work, I find it impossible to take photos that show off the color and texture as one might experience the piece in person.

When I got to meet David and see his work in person, I was mesmerized by his use of texture, color and the SIZE of his paintings. My appreciation of his work quadrupled just by walking into his gallery and seeing his work in person.

Tom7
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Charcoal Drawing. Size: 18 x 20

Why art?
For me art is like eating and breathing. When I am not working on art I am thinking about working on art. It is just a part of who I am and always has been for as long as I can remember.

What is an artistic outlook on life?
I feel like being an artist is a gigantic gift that I greatly appreciate. Seeing life through the eyes of an artist is almost indescribable because you see so many things that other people don’t ever notice. The way the light shines on something, the textures in nature, how two unrelated objects look together. The possibilities are endless, and art is a part of every moment of every day in some way.

Tom5
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Mixed Media: Acrylic Ink, Black/White Charcoal. Size: 10 x 12

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I recently worked on a piece that was not very well received at home. As you know art is so subjective and while I don’t anticipate everyone falling in love with everything I do, there are pieces that I personally like more then others. Although I loved the piece I am speaking of, I almost didn’t share it because of the extreme negative reaction it received at home. I decided that I would risk sharing it anyway and it was the first time I had four different people approach me, asking if they could buy it. At this point I don’t really sell my art, but it did open me up to the possibility that one day perhaps I might consider it.

Tom4
The Forgotten Superheroes. 2018. Mixed Media: Collage, White/Black Gesso, Colored Pencil, Acrylic Ink. Size: 20 x 20

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I am probably the wrong one to ask. I LOVE being alone. I am happiest when I am in my home, playing music and working on art. I don’t ever want it to end.

What do you dislike about the art world?
I can’t think of anything I don’t like, but I am not actively involved in the art world. I have a few close friends who are artists and I like the online communities I participate in, but other then visiting galleries, I can’t say the art world is a part of my daily life.

What do you dislike about your work?
I wish I could be more accurate and that I could be more successful with hands.

What do you like about your work?
I like that my work has a style of its own that people seem to recognize right away.

Tom8
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Mixed Media: Acrylic and Pastel Pencil. Size: 20 x 24

Should art be funded?
Absolutely.

What role does arts funding have?
They say that children who participate in art are 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than those who don’t and that early exposure to the arts sharpen minds and creativity. For this reason alone, it is important to fund the arts.

What research to you do?
Other then researching reference photos as a starting point and attending online workshops to learn the ‘how’ part of how to achieve a painting, I can’t say I do a ton of research.

What is your dream project?
The one that I am working on at the moment.

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I would rather be known for my own style, than to be compared to someone else.

Tom10
Untitled: Portrait Study. 2018. Mixed Media: Acrylic and Pastel Pencil. Size: 20 x 24

Favourite or most inspirational place
Asheville, North Carolina where I hope to one day retire and live.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I have always loved this quote by Ira Glass. When I first read it, it really resonated with me.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Professionally, what’s your goal?
I am very lucky. I have already achieved my professional goals. I love being an art director and can’t imagine every wanting to do anything else. My paintings I do for myself and have never had an interest in doing things to sell. Although lately I have realized that I may need to sell my work, just to make room in the house. It is starting to take up a lot of room that I don’t have 😊

What wouldn’t you do without?
Art – of course and maybe coffee. 😊

If you’d like to connect with Thomas to see more of his inspirational work you can reach him via his Facebook Profile.

Basic Shapes: Drawing Technique

Learning to draw can take years of practice, knowing some basic drawing techniques however will help to render accurate drawings in less time. In this post I will share another effective drawing technique that even new artists can practice with good results. Be sure to check out the Top Down Drawing Technique that I shared recently too. The source image for today’s drawing is from Gary Faigan’s book The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression. Today I am attempting to depict pain as expressed on the face.

The first step is to reduce your subject (or object) to basic shapes as shown below. A nose, for example, becomes a rectangle with small triangles on either side. The eyes are mapped in with two simple squares.

pain1

Using these basic shapes as guides we then start adding more detailed lines, always trying to keep the elements proportional to one another, taking  into consideration how wide the eyes are in relation to the nose, how far apart etc.

pain2

Once we’re happy with the placement of our elements we should spend some time refining the drawing, erasing where needed to make corrections or using heavier lines where appropriate as seen below. Shading consists of 3 parts, mid tone, darker tones and highlights. Shading is necessary to create a 3D effect. In the image below I have added my mid tone (and just started plotting out my darker tones.)

pain3

The next step is to create definition by focussing on the darker tones. Here I used hatching to define the darker areas.

pain4

I wanted more depth so added darker tones below.

pain5

The eyes needed to be darker yet which I corrected below.

pain6

Now all that is left to do is to add highlights. This creates the illusion that lighter areas are protruding from the face (whereas darker areas are receding.)

pain7

I did this drawing on the iPad while researching facial expressions for my portraiture project. The convenience of iPad drawing suits me when I want to do a quick study like this example.

One thing we will never be able to avoid if we hope to improve our drawings is to draw as often as possible, every day if we can.

Give this technique a try and let me know how it works for you. Until next time, happy drawing!

 

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Facial Planes Study: Portraiture

Today I did a study of Frederic Fiebig‘s 1905 Self Portrait, primarily because I am currently interested in facial planes on my portrait painting journey. I did not try to replicate his palette (and still have lots to learn on colour mixing) so the colours are different.

I ended up with a sharp-edged result, (much like his) which I then proceeded to soften. I think that was probably a mistake, but hey I am engaging in experimentation so all is not lost. Which version do you prefer? I think I prefer the hard-edged one.

I prepared my small canvas with black gesso before applying oil paints. Working on a non-white ground really does create a different effect and also helps to eliminate the ‘white canvas intimidation’ that so many of us face.

A copy of Fiebig’s 1905 painting directly below:

frederic-fiebig-a
Frederic Fiebig. 1905. Self Portrait. Oil on cardboard.

My hard-edged version below:

hard

And my soft-edged version:

soft
Anndelize Graf. 2018. Fiebig Study. Oil on canvas. 8 x 10 inches.

Thanks for joining me on my portrait painting journey. I hope you will return soon to see what I attempt next as I work at improving my portraiture skills.

Have a creative weekend all. 🙂

 

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Learn to be stupid & to say ‘fuck you’ once in a while

We’ve all been there, when self-doubt takes over and we fall into a creative funk.

If that’s you, stop what you’re doing right now. Put the sound up and listen to the words of Sol Lewitt (read by Benedict Cumberbatch at Letters Live) from a letter written in 1965 to friend and fellow artist Eva Hesse, in response to her frustrations about suffering a creative block.

Profanity and humour used in spades!

Video below:

 

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Exhibition: Portraits of the World – Switzerland

I discovered the inaugural exhibition series Portraits of the World (Dec 15, 2017 – Nov 12, 2018) online that will highlight an international portrait artist each year. This year the featured artist is Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) showcasing his painting of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi. Hodler’s contemporary palette and brushstrokes contribute to the effect of motion through dance that he captured so well. 

The dancer’s pose is classical, reminiscent of elements in Sandro Botticelli’s (1445-1510) painting The Birth of Venus, juxtaposed by Hodler’s modern rendition which successfully marries the old and new in an exciting portrait worthy of praise.

botticelli-birth-of-venus-1

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus. 1484-86, Tempera on canvas, 172.5 x 278.9 cm. Reproduced from: Uffizi, Florence.

 

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‘Racing’ – Sybil Andrews

Andrews has created an artwork that adheres to the Gestalt principle of good continuation and depicts the speed, energy and exertion of the horses and jockeys as they race – in unison – along the track. The fluid motion of the shapes resemble waves racing to the shore. There is no time to waste and one gets the sense that nothing could stand in their way toward their end goal. Within the many abstract shapes and negative spaces we observe a sense of urgent pursuit. The bright reds and oranges add to this sense of urgency and excitement as horses and their jockeys lunge forward toward the winning line.

It is all about winning in horse racing as gamblers cheer their favourite to cross the line first. Andrews gives us a glimpse into this fevered sport and the effort involved to achieve this from a historical context.

 

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Facial Planes (Portraiture)

I am new to portraiture. Most beginners will agree that it is a daunting and intimidating task. My first step toward portrait painting was to do a study of the facial planes based on a plastic head model in my studio, using oils on canvas. There is much room for improvement and I will need to practice a lot more before I’m totally satisfied with the results, but it’s a good start.

Facial planes are important because they are the building-block of shading, they help to determine where highlights and shadows go on the face to create a 3D effect rather than a flat painting. Different lighting effects will cause some facial planes to recede into shadow while others are highlighted, these change as the lighting and viewer angle is changed.

Like most things portraiture does not exist in a vacuum, there are many things to consider, not least of all how to accurately draw the face before painting it. One way is the Top Down Drawing Technique that I blogged about a few days ago.

As I develop my portrait painting skills over the next year or so I’ll post updates on the blog for those of you who’d like to follow my progress.

 

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10 Creative Ideas

Lazy Sundays. Those are the best kind. It’s also the perfect time to get your art on! Below are 10 ideas to inspire your creativity today.

  1. Organise your art supplies. Need inspiration? See what this art blogger did.
  2. Visit an art gallery or museum today, take a friend with you.
  3. Paint a rock, leave it somewhere in your neighbourhood for someone else to find. Inspired by The Kindness Rocks Project. Check them out!
  4. Spend time doing some Art Journaling. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.
  5. Do you enjoy adult colour-in pages? Here’s a link to 15 free printable colour-in pages.
  6. Paper Mâché! Learn how to make your own with these awesome paper mâché recipes.
  7. Perhaps you’d prefer to spend time in the garden? In that case here are 34 inspiring ideas to create your own inexpensive and easy garden art today.
  8. Or perhaps you’d like to make your own rubber stamps? Find out how here.
  9. Want to paint a portrait? Here is a great step-by-step guide to paint a portrait in oils. For beginners.
  10. Perhaps you’d like to improve your drawing skills. This blog article shares 7 tips to improve your drawings.

 

How will you ‘art’ today? Happy Sunday everyone!

 

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‘Nature Morte’ – Pablo Picasso

‘Nature Morte’ boasts long lazy and continuous lines as they sweep across the painting in a relaxed and confident manner, employing the Gestalt principle of good continuation. Contrasted with shorted bursts of line emanating from the light bulb overhead. Here is a scene that takes place after the rush of the day is complete and the subject relaxes over a meal and wine. Forgotten is the harshness of the day with its perils and challenges, as the focus moves to this moment, this experience of winding down in the evening.

Picasso has once again captured wonderful shapes represented as abstract shapes, reflective shapes and shadow shapes; all of which adds depth and interest to his artwork. The earthy tones of terracotta and grey/blue contribute to the calm of the scene before us. His white and black lines are confident, implying a strong connection to the hearth and home as the subject basks in the warmth of comfort and a home cooked meal.

This is a scene that we can all relate to, the homecoming after a long day at work. It speaks of home comforts and security and the simple pleasures and satisfaction of good home-grown nourishment. From this point of view I think the artist is inviting us to see his work from a viewing context, because while food can be obtained anywhere there is nothing quite like the comforts of home.

 

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A Creative Life

As I was reading journal article called A Creative Life by Susan Brandeis I saw more and more parallels between artists and shamans. This is not the first time that similarities between the two have become apparent to me.

In Shamanism the practitioner experiences a spiritual ‘calling.’ Ignoring this places the shaman at risk of illness and/or madness. So too with the artist, it is only in the creative process that the deep restlessness that haunts us finds stillness and calm through expression.

This reminded me too of a TED Talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert who delivered one of the most inspiring and powerful talks on the elusiveness of creativity. She described those moments of inspiration as a freight train rushing by, demanding the artist to drop everything else in pursuit of this ‘train.’ Sometimes requiring us to reach out and grab it with both hands in an attempt to ‘pull back’ the creative thoughts so that we can record or process them before they are gone. In her article Brandeis speaks of imagination and creativity, working hand-in-hand; she addresses the importance of the brainstorming process and the need to engage fully in this in order to reach moments of clarity and creative enlightenment.

Like the shaman who walks between two worlds, the world of the living and the world of the dead, so too do artists operate between consciousness and subconsciousness; the latter from which many ideas and connections are born. It is however futile to ‘chase the train’ unless the artist is willing to regularly engage in free range thought processes like brainstorming. Relinquishing control and surrendering to the process is what is required to conceive ideas and inspiration from which to create good art and to find the many possibilities and connections that the original ideas can be linked to. This is the realm in which originality is born through extension of ideas and processes.

 

References:
Brandeis, S. 2007. A Creative Life. Surface Design Journal. Vol 31(2), pp 6-11.

 

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Top-Down Drawing Technique

Drawing can be a frustrating experience if we don’t have a fail proof technique. This is one of my favourites, known by many names including the top-down or ‘figure in the stone’ technique. In order to accurately capture the dimensions as well as plot the composition on the page one begins with quick broad strokes to capture the largest general shape first (demonstrated below in orange.) Once we’re satisfied that we have the overall shape as accurately as we can (taking note of angles in relation to one another) we ‘carve out’ negative spaces and angles in a generalised manner too, demonstrated in black pen below. Obviously this is all done lightly in pencil in a typical drawing.

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If we’ve done this correctly, adjusting as we go along until we’re satisfied with the angles, ensuring that our relationships / proportions are accurate, attention can be given to drawing in the details as demonstrated in the image below.

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This technique works with any subject matter, be it still life, landscape or portraiture. For demonstration purposes I drew a simple tea cup on the iPad which I coloured with digital watercolour and shaded with hatching.

If you’re frustrated by drawing give this method a go, and let me know if it works for you. Remember you can improvise as you wish once you have an accurate drawing on paper, allowing your personal style and creativity to flow freely. I deliberately wanted a loose style of drawing as can be seen by my pen strokes.

Cuppa anyone?

IMG_8251-a

 

Daily Prompt: Witness


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Gestalt Theory

The Gestalt Principals are about the brain’s ability to create order from chaos through a process of organising information. Our brains naturally seek and recognise patterns. Psychology has defined these principals as:

  1. The Principal of Figure / Ground
  2. The Principal of Proximity
  3. The Principal of Similarity
  4. The Principal of Common Fate
  5. The Principal of Good Continuation
  6. The Principal of Closure
  7. The Principal of Area and Symmetry

Therefore when these principals apply the brain will perceive another object, independent of its parts. This is best demonstrated in the image below where the brain perceives a large triangle in front of the circles even though what is presented does not include a triangle, merely three circles with ‘pie slices’ removed from them. When we ignore the triangle and focus only on the circles they start to take on the shape of ‘pacman.’ The gestalt therefore is the perception of a shape other than the parts of the whole.

The Gestalt Theory can be witnessed in text too as the spaces between letters which gives these letters the ‘shape’ of words.

“Gestaltism — a human behaviour theory that describes how the mind structures and arranges visual data — suggests that human beings naturally create order out of the things we see.”

gestalt-triangle-630x659

 

A brief description of the 7 Gestalt Principles.

 

1. The Principle of Figure / Ground

The two images have the same composition, however the image on the left is perceived to be a grey square (figure) on a white background whereas the image on the right is perceived to be a grey object (figure) with a hole in it (placed on a white background.)

Screen-Shot-2018-08-25-at-2.10.19-pm

2. The Principle of Proximity

The Principal of Proximity demonstrates how we view items in relationship to each other. As shapes are repeated and aligned we perceive them as being part of the whole.

Screen-Shot-2018-08-25-at-2.16.24-pm

3. The Principle of Similarity

Elements that are similar are perceived to be more related than elements that are dissimilar.

gestalt-pattern-image

4. The Principle of Common Fate

Elements that move in the same direction are perceived to be more related than elements that are stationery or moving in different directions.

Screen-Shot-2018-08-25-at-2.33.29-pm

5. The Principle of Good Continuation

Elements arranged on a line or curve are perceived to be more related than elements not on the line or curve. In this example the red dots on the curved line seem to be more related to the black dots on the curved line than to the red dots on the straight line. This is because the eye naturally follows a line of curve. The relatedness of continuation is therefore stronger than the similarity in colour.

continuation

6. The Principle of Closure

We tend to look first for a single, recognisable pattern when looking at a complex arrangements of elements.

closure

7.  The Principal of Area and Symmetry

The eye seeks symmetry, a ‘flow’ through the design.

Motorola

 

 

References:
Symmetry vs. Asymmetry
Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception
Gestalt Theory for Interaction Designers
Use Gestalt Laws to Improve your UX (part 1)

 

Post Humanism

What might we look like in a Post Humanism world?  My dark creative mind immediately conjured a dystopian future. Yeah, pretty grim stuff but someone’s gotta do it.

I had so much fun playing with iPad art in this project and was somewhat influenced by David Hockney during my artist research. For those of you who don’t know, Hockney is considered an influential figure in the British Pop Art movement and has embraced technology as a new medium with which to create art, the iPad being one of his favourite ‘canvases.’

Below follows an excerpt from my concept statement (to add context) and a few of the drawing outcomes.

My Post Human world visually focusses on a dystopia that dehumanises citizens through genetic modification. In this world people are divided into groups according to their designated roles and duties. Their bodies are genetically engineered to grow multiple body parts that facilitate enhanced productivity in their assigned social duties. Labourers are allotted extra limbs to enable faster and more efficient productivity; citizens designated to the breeding group develop extra wombs to facilitate multiple pregnancies simultaneously. Scientists and academics assigned to the ‘thinkers’ group grow extra heads, thus two brains instead of one; and law enforcers develop chameleon-type eyes that enhance their vision, enabling them to see in multiple directions at once.

Thanks for reading, now go make some art. On your iPad.

Thinker

Anndelize Graf. Thinker. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.

labourer1

Anndelize Graf. Labourer I. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.

Labourer3

Anndelize Graf. Labourer III. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.

Breeder2

Anndelize Graf. Breeder II. 2018. iPad drawing & digital collage.

 

 

Mark Making with the Body

While examining the marks we make on our environment with our body I decided to focus on an old pair of favourite shoes that I have thoroughly worn out. The stitching has come undone over the years leaving holes though which my toes peep. Old leather, old comfortable favourites like old friends that I feel sentimental about. Unlike old friends though I can no longer be seen wearing these in public, however they have pride of place in my art studio now where I wear them with great fondness.

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Enlightenment for Sale

Following up from my last blog entry I completed the body of work in the previous painting unit. My concept changed somewhat however (as is typical for practicing artists) resulting in work that addresses a serious issue with humour and absurdity. This was my Statement of Intent:

My work will address the theme of Light with a series of oil paintings loosely done in the style of chiaroscuro to evoke questions surrounding the darker nature of so-called ‘enlightenment’ associated with the New Age / Pagan movement.  I chose chiaroscuro, typically dark dramatic paintings, to juxtapose the ‘love and light’ approach of New Age spirituality in an attempt to draw attention to this underbelly of the movement; the appropriation and subversion of spirituality. This will be a focus on the exploitation of people seeking spiritual enlightenment by individuals who have commercialised spirituality, making it a consumer commodity, to lure people with false promises and absurd claims whilst motivated only by money.

I intend to depict objects that typically would be found on a Pagan altar to represent the elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air. However, to draw attention to the consumeristic angle of the New Age movement these sacred objects will be replaced with mass produced supermarket products instead. The labels on these products will reflect the absurdity and hilarity of claims made by self-professed Gurus who exploit spiritual seekers. Oil paints as my medium of choice is a connection to the classical as well as to the longevity of the old Pagan religions. Using humour I hope to draw attention to the seriousness of spiritual exploitation by the financially motivated whilst engaging the viewer in a lighthearted manner.

water

Anndelize Graf. 2018. Water. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.

earthAnndelize Graf. 2018. Earth. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.
fire

Anndelize Graf. 2018. Fire. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.

air

Anndelize Graf. 2018. Air. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 40×40 cm.

guru

Anndelize Graf. 2018. Trust me, I’m a Guru. Body of work: Enlightenment for Sale. Oil on canvas. 100×100 cm.

 

Working with Time: Interior & Exterior

After a 3-month study break to ward off mental fatigue I am ready to tackle my next unit; this time I will be engaged in traditional painting techniques to reinterpret one of my earlier exercises in which I examined Light.This involves setting up a still life arrangement and photographing it at different times during the day to record the changing light, then choosing the best to paint on canvas.

When I originally did this exercise I chose an hourglass, a crochet soft-toy (that I had made) and a lotus for my still life. The overarching theme was Time, I chose the soft toy to represent youth and the lotus to represent ageing. The exercise consisted of two parts, an interior still life (as mentioned above) and an exterior setting depicting the changing light. For the exterior exercise I chose our mail box as I was focussing on lost love letters delivered decades later whilst musing about how the delay in delivery might have affected the lives involved. Time, such a fragile thing isn’t it? Lost time, like lost letters, being most tragic of all.

In the exterior painting I wanted to attempt abstraction and quite liked how it turned out, especially the play of light and shadow as the nearby tree cast its shadows against the mail box. The style that I was playing with in both paintings is Fauve Expressionism, whereas I will be attempting classical realism in the reinterpretation of this exercise over the next few weeks. As I prepare for the start of the next unit I am spending time reconsidering this exercise and how I might approach it next.

IMG_5962 copy

Untitled. 2017. Oil paint on canvas. 50x50cm. 

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Untitled. 2017. Oil paint on canvas. 50x50cm. 

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