Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Beginnings

With the coming of a new year, thoughts of new beginnings start bubbling, just under the surface.
I often feel just like these baby doves when contemplating a new pristine canvas. These two babies sat on the edge of their nest in our garden for two days before taking off into the great unknown.

Taking that first step using an intuitive painting process is a bit like taking that same giant leap. I have no idea how my completed painting will look, I just have to begin and get swept along in the process.

Where do you start if you are an intuitive or abstract painter? Where do the ideas come from? Shaun McNiff, in “Trust the Process” describes creation as a process of emanation,

“Nothing will happen unless we start working and allow the practices of our particular discipline to mix with streams of ideas and experiences that are constantly moving through daily life”.

I want to put this sentence up in my studio to remind me that I just have to start painting and something will come of it.

I find that I need to get into a certain frame of mind in order to paint. I have a little ritual of going into my studio and pottering about, sometimes reorganising my paints and brushes, filling up my various water containers and putting on my relaxation music to block out extraneous noise. This type of music tends to put me in a meditative frame of mind. I have a collection of this “New Age” music from my midwifery days, when I ran antenatal classes. I used this music to teach the prospective mums relaxation and visualization techniques.

I like to warm up, painting on something that is already in progress rather than going straight to the blank canvas, so I tend to have a few paintings on the go at various stages of completion. Paint that I am using on one painting is usually used to create those first brush-strokes on the new canvas.

I am really interested to hear what you do to get yourself in a creative frame of mind.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a wonderfully creative 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderfully creative 2009!

Instead of going to those crowded shops in search of gifts, I got out my pots and bowls and melted some chocolate with some cream and butter.

Now, I love chocolate and couldn’t resist popping a piece into my mouth before it all melted.

These are the bowls that I really enjoyed licking and scraping – I was transported back to my childhood, watching my mother baking and waiting to get my finger into the mixing bowl before she whisked it away to be washed.

Here are my some of my chocolate truffles, the size of golf balls – of course, I had to taste a few to see if they were tasty or not!

Wishing you all a wonderful Festive Season!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Don' t you just love the bravery of these window cleaners, abseiling down with their sponges and water! I came across these guys high up in the centre of Cape Town. Imagine the advert in the Job Finder, "Window cleaners required, mountaineering experience an advantage"
Suki has now inspired me to be out with my camera, she has taken so many beautiful photo's of her winter environment.

I love that we can maybe influence each other to try different ways of expressing ourselves. When we paint/write/ dance in isolation, it is so much more difficult to keep on moving and experimenting. We sometimes need to feed off each other to help light that spark.

I have found this blogging experience has really opened my eyes to a whole new experience. I am in contact with innovative artists from all over the globe, who express themselves in their own personal way. Many of these artists are incredibly generous with sharing their own experimental techniques and I love to try out what they describe and maybe incorporate the new-found knowledge into a painting.

Yesterday, my friend, Kathy Hebert posted a painting, “The Fishing Nets”. She is a figurative painter with incredible talent, but decided to paint this abstract painting, having been inspired by me. I feel incredibly honoured and quite overwhelmed to have been an inspiration to you, Kathy! I feel so connected to this work. Kathy is a generous teacher of fledgling artists, she opens the door of creativity and painting to new converts – it must be wonderful to see new artists spread their wings!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Flower Seller

I created this painting using watercolour, inks and collage a while ago and it has been hanging in my bathroom, framed and behind glass. I often look at it and wish there didn't have to be glass; something about the glass just kills it. I love working on paper, starting with watercolour and then adding various other media as I progress, but dislike having to frame the work behind glass.

Ellis Cooke describes in a recent post how she pastes the paper onto canvas and then seals it with medium, oh wow! Thanks Ellis! I am going to try this method with this piece and then progress onto some large works when I get the hang of it.

I just thought I would mention an interesting relationship that has developed between my creativity and physical workouts. I was diagnosed a few years ago with Osteopenia, (the precursor to Osteoporosis) where I have a moderate wasting of bone in my spine. I was advised to do regular weight-bearing exercises to build up muscle which helps maintain healthy bones. I am embarrassed to say I have never been keen on sport or exercise, I’d much rather be painting. I decided to give it a go and after the initial effort to get to a certain level of fitness, I now enjoy my hour-long sessions at the gym every second day. I feel this rush of Endorphins (the feel-good hormones) about half-way through my regime and then I am away in my mind, thinking about my painting and writing. I come up with many creative solutions while lifting weights! I also feel fitter and younger now than I did in my forties and have far more energy to explore my creative projects. My physical and mental well being has been greatly improved by these workouts, so I can highly recommend getting physical.

Mr Mugabe’s information minister is now blaming the UK for introducing Cholera as a genocidal tactic to overthrow the Zimbabwe government and people!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Vine Leaves

I added a few more washes and turned my vine painting on its side. I quite like the contrasting effect of watercolour with the oil bars.

An important aspect of intuitive painting is the ability to tap into your subconscious mind, bring information to the surface and be able to use it in a creative way. I have read that dreams are a window to this area of the mind. I have great difficulty remembering my dreams if I don’t try and consciously bring them to the surface as soon as I wake up. Intuitive painting is all about revealing yourself absolutely, honestly, warts and all. This way of working gives you transparency and coming to terms with this gives you incredible freedom. “This is me”, like me or not and these are my paintings which you may like or not.
I great way to tap into the subconscious, is to make a, “Life collage”. A few years ago, while attending Margie Johnson’s watercolour lessons, she had us make this type of collage. She had laid out a pile of magazines, put on a lovely classical piece of music and asked us to spend 10 minutes tearing out images. We had to empty our minds and not think about what we were doing, not showing any preferences for the images. We then took a large piece of paper and had to paste down the torn pieces quickly, without any thoughts of composition or preference. All the collages were put up on the wall and we were asked to really look at our own piece for five minutes and then make a few comments to the group. My collage absolutely astounded me! I had created this without conscious thought. I couldn’t believe how much of myself was revealed there, it was really scary!
Every torn piece of magazine held a huge amount of relevance for me. It is a great resource for ideas for future paintings.
I love these kind of creative exercises! Do any of you have any good ones to share?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Poor Zimbabwe!

I know this is not an art-related posting, but I am feeling desperate for the poor people of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe used to be the land of plenty and was called "The bread-basket of Africa". Now they have no clean, drinkable water and the water is now contaminated with the Cholera bacteria. The government has run out of water purification chemicals and much of the capital city of Harare is without running water. They have little electricity and cannot find fuel to boil water, (I think all the trees have been cut down for fuel already). Raw sewerage is running in the streets and food is scarce.
The sick and dying are being taken to hospitals that do not have the resources to help them, these hospitals are lacking in staff and medicines.
The whole infrastructure has collapsed.
This is one of South Africa's neighbours and the government here is doing little to alleviate the situation. The Zimbabwe has collapsed and millions are going to die if something is not done soon. The International Red Cross & Crescent is trying desperately to help these poor people. The amazing group Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors without Borders are trying to do their best in an almost impossible situation. Please go to this site to see what they are doing in Zimbabwe.
These poor people are going to have a very bleak Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lost in Translation

My dear friend, Kim, asked if I ever use photos as a memory aid after a painting session outdoors. I used to do this when I first started Plein Air painting, but found I often mucked the whole thing up in the process! I find that when a painting is in its final stages, it needs me to do the problem-solving thing – I stare at it for ages, from quite a distance and in different lights (dawn light is great) and I allow the painting to speak to me. Ideas of contrasting light and dark, warm and cool, hard and soft edges come to me and I go with them and complete the painting in this way.

I find painting outdoors a most meditative and healing practice. It so fits in with my need to paint intuitively. We find calm and peaceful locations, where all the worries and anxieties of the world seem to slip away for a few hours. There is a feeling, an atmosphere about a real location that is “Lost in translation” when using a photograph. I just breathe in the visual, auditory and sensory stimuli of the location and then I am thrown into the process, trying to visualize that feeling on the canvas or paper. Since I made the transition from rendering a purely figurative image to allowing the senses free expression, I feel this amazing sense of freedom.

Kim asked about dust and dirt adhering to the canvas, when acrylics outdoors. I quite enjoy texture and so am quite happy to add a bit of sand and grass to the mix! It gives the painting a sense of authenticity, a little bit of the location forever locked into the painting! You have to wait to do those lovely clear glazes back in your studio, Kim!

On Monday, I sat under a canopy of vine leaves swaying in the breeze, with the light shining through the leaves, making them translucent. I left with an unfinished watercolour, due to the antics of the baboons. In my studio, I decided to try out some of my newly acquired oil bars on the painting, thinking it is such fun just to experiment and see what happens. The contrast between the watercolour and oil bar is intense, highlighting the transparency of the watercolour. I might continue and add another wash to the piece.

Our dear friend Suki recently lost her mother and I would like her to know that even though some of us live very far away, we are thinking about her and are there for her on the www.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More Plein Air Admirers

More interested bystanders at our Plein Air group on Monday!

The baboon found a good vantage point on the wall lamp behind Gerda and once Doreen is immersed in her composition, nothing much will disturb her!

So we decided to do a spot of "Life drawing", African style but the models were not very good at keeping still for any length of time!

Our sandwiches at lunch time started a flurry of interest, so we retreated into the kitchen to eat in peace.......

I took my watercolours with me and had a great time abstracting the essence of the leaves on the vine growing over the veranda. I was unable to complete it, due to the above visitors. I will work on it today, using my memory and imagination.

Those of you who will be wondering at our apparent lack of concern for our safety .... our hostess, June, says these baboons are frequent visitors only on the lookout for food. A couple of days ago, she found a large male in her kitchen, he calmly opened the freezer, pulled out a drawer and took a loaf of frozen bread and some chicken. She flicked at him with a towel to get him out, he calmly turned round and ambled out onto the veranda. He took a frozen slice of bread out of the packet, patting it and blowing on it before popping it into his mouth!