Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Garden Roses

Garden Roses
Acrylic 49 x 59cm
This is one of the demonstration paintings that I started in my acrylic workshop and then completed in my studio. I had picked a few roses from my garden and placed them in a vase, but this is really painted from my imagination and memory.

The painting surface is a piece of 100% cotton seed-cloth. I cover a board with a thin piece of plastic so that the painting does not stick to the board. I then wrap the cloth around a board and prime it with two coats of gesso and a coat of acrylic medium. I love to work on a hard surface, so I can scratch and scrub into the paint, without worrying about denting the canvas. I sometimes work with liquid paint and this can pool on a stretched canvas. I have now carefully remove it from the board and will have it stretched on a stretcher.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dance 3

Dance 3, Mixed Media
30 x 25cm
I have quite a few small canvasses stacked away in my studio, I usually find them too small to work on and so they remain in the back of my cupboard. I love to play with watercolour and collage but I dislike having to put the image behind glass. I decided to experiment with watercolour on the blank canvas, wondering if the pigment would just sink into the canvas and dry very pale. I used tissue paper to collage some shapes on which to play and this dancer seemed to appear, she has very fat legs! I left some of the watercolour and painted over some of the areas with acrylic and then sealed the image with a coat of diluted soft gel. I now wish I had worked on a larger canvas, maybe I will use this painting as a spring-board for a larger image.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Acrylic Workshop

Recently, I conducted a, "Getting Acquainted with Acrylic" workshop. Most of the participants were oil painters who wanted to try out a different painting medium. The purpose of the workshop was to explore how the paint behaves on the painting surface using a variety of implements, e.g. brushes, knives, cloths, shapers and fingers, using a variety of mixtures of paint, from thin watery washes to sensory mixtures with the feel of soft serve ice-cream. I demonstrated how I customize my paint, adding a little medium and water until it is a lovely creamy consistency. We covered the painting surface with medium and painted directly into this. The medium keeps the surface moist and is ideal for colour mixing on the painting surface.
We created monochromatic landscapes after mixing a variety of values from indigo through to white in small tubs. It was fun to load two big brushes with light and dark paint and move the paint around to create spontaneous shapes. We used a palette knife to scrape into the paint and to mix the thick paint on the surface.
Using white ice-berg roses as our reference, we created lovely organic shapes in our second painting. Thin watery paint was splattered and poured onto the surface and allowed to drip, run and merge.
The shapes of the flowers were then wiped out with a cloth. We played with creating line with a pipette and rubber shapers. Paint was then applied with large brushes, a cloth and our fingers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Approaching North-wester

122 x 46cm
Cape Town is situated on a peninsula and is surrounded on three sides by the sea, beaches and rocky outcrops. During the winter we have many storms blown in by the strong north-westerly wind. We can actually see the heavy cloud-bank approaching over the sea. A ship was recently blown onto the beach near where I live, luckily all the crew survived and I think they have managed to drain off all the fuel to prevent an oil spill.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Surge

The Surge
92cm x 92cm
This is an imaginary landscape that has been painted in many thick and thin layers of acrylic. I love to put down an opaque layer and then glaze over it with medium tinted slightly with colour. I then tend to destroy some of this with a new opaque and tint layer. This painting has taken months to complete!
I am fascinated by water, its movement, its sheer power and the amazing colours that are reflected as the light passes through the tumbling mass of frothy liquid.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I started painting again two weeks ago! I am still very involved with Iain's rehabilitation which could take another few months. I am quite an early bird and used to read when getting up early. I am now painting at 6am and can spend a few hours in my studio before seeing to other commitments at 9am. This is a magical way to start the day! I feel such a connection with my paint and do my best painting at that time. I don't know why it has taken me so long to discover this! I feel as the day progresses, I still try to paint in between other chores, but struggle to get my mind back into that wonderful "space".

Acrylic 92 x 61cm

This painting was hanging on my wall unfinished, in mostly reds and blacks. I completely oblitereated the painting with white and purple and a bird of prey emerged. I see a series emerging! I seem to have a need to paint about feelings of freedom and power.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Autumn in Cape Town

The weather is changing, this is my favourite time of the year! The skies become alive at dawn and dusk with amazing colours and shapes, I can see so many abstract paintings up there. This view is from a beach close to where we live.

I am having to imagine painting or do paintings in my head at the moment. My husband, Iain had an operation on his back on Thursday and he now has to lie flat for six weeks, except for an occasional walk. He can't bend or sit at all and so really needs my help. I have decided to cancel all my activities so that I can be "Chief nurse and bottle washer" and hopefully manage to paint a bit in between! I do apologise for not visiting any blogs lately, I will get there when things have settled down into some sort of routine.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Cape Town comes alive in summer with a whirlwind of shows and exhibitions, many of which are run by the artists, themselves. We have a huge, very active population of artists living in the Western Cape. I have been involved with an exhibiting group for the last ten years, holding exhibitions in spring and late summer.

Over the last couple of months, I haven’t had time even to think – really… I miss having time just to sit and think about my art and paintings. I am looking forward to the quieter winter months when I can get up early and be able to sit quietly and think and paint a bit.

The sales at the most recent show were pretty lean on the ground compared to this time last year, in fact we sold only half of what we did last February. The economic depression is being felt in the art world here; let’s hope there is an upturn in the world economy soon.

I didn't sell any of my paintings, but I made some good contacts! At the opening of our show, an art acquaintance called me over to meet a man, a French art collector and dealer who was showing interest in my work. We had a very interesting discussion and he asked me if I would be interested in a solo exhibition at his gallery! We have been communicating back and forth and I am going to meet him soon to discuss this possibility. Eeeck, what a very scary proposition! Will I be able to produce enough work and will I cope psychologically with the pressure to produce for a deadline? I know I will really regret this if I chicken out, why am I such a wimp!

I was also asked by the head of the local watercolour society to give a demonstration of my mixed media approach. I find public speaking terrifying but I really feel I must push myself and get myself away from those sidelines that I so like to stand on.
This evening I will visit all my favourite blogs, I apologise for neglecting you!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

African Vineyards

Cape Town is surrounded by vineyards. I love the vine, the way it grows all crooked and gnarled with leaves that turn to a reddish-orange profusion of colour in autumn. While living in the Northern Hemisphere in 2006 and 2007, I used to dream of the vineyards when thinking about Cape Town, they seem to embody and symbolise how I feel about the Cape.

This is one of the “Red paintings” I have been working on. Our vineyards are usually planted on the side of a hill, facing towards the south-easterly wind. We are experiencing days of extremely hot, humid weather and this has influenced me to paint this landscape in these hot colours.

Vineyards at Groot Constantia

A vine in winter devoid of leaves

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Brooke, me and one of my paintings!
I have just returned from the UK after spending 7 days with my granddaughter, daughter and husband. I so enjoyed getting to know Brooke and felt quite a jolt when her little face lit up whenever I walked into the room. I spent as much time feeding, changing, cuddling, entertaining and playing with this sweet little girl without completely taking over! Ohhhh, it is so tough to be living half way across the world!

On my return, I realised the clock is ticking, my next show is in seven days and three paintings are waiting to be finished. I hate deadlines, I am painting like mad and will probably not finish these paintings in time. This is not how I like to paint. These paintings have been on the go for the last three months and still have a distance to go.

It got me thinking about how some situations like this can cut off the connection with creativity.

How often do we think as we view our canvas or paper, armed with a loaded brush,
“Hopefully this will be my masterpiece”?
This thought can destroy the essence of creativity and has to be left at the doorway of the studio if one wants to be experimental in any way. If you have the thought that this painting has to work, you have spent good money on this canvas and you need a good painting for the next show, you are not going to take any risks and try out something new.

It’s almost as if you need to give yourself permission to spend your very valuable painting time just playing with the paint. I think of the days spent painting those layers of paint that are now mostly obliterated with subsequent layers, a little voice niggles away at me,
“Am I wasting my time and paint here?”

The one thing I have to keep telling myself is that eventually the painting will feel complete. I have to develop patience and allow the image to emerge and forget the deadlines!

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Exciting Trip!

Carolyn and Brooke
I am going to hold, cuddle and breathe in that lovely baby aroma of my sweet little granddaughter, Brooke on Wednesday! I held her when she was two weeks old and now she is almost 6 months. I see and hear her on my computer screen fairly regularly using Skype – what wonderful technology – but she feels like a “virtual” baby.
I have bought a cheap ticket to the UK and am going just for a week!

Our Plein Air exhibition this weekend was a real success. We held our show at the home of Noeline McMaster and our artists set up their easels and painted in Noeline’s spectacular garden throughout the weekend. Our visitors were delighted to watch and interact with the artists at work. Here are some photo's of some of the artists explaining their work.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, people were so interested to see what we were doing. I had many people complementing me on my paintings hanging on the show and even had two people ask if I could teach them to paint in watercolours! One lady brought some paintings from the boot of her car for me to give her some advice!
Before me was a profusion of pink roses tumbling over a low stone wall which really appealed to me, I love roses! I was aware that I was there to demonstrate painting outdoors, so decided to take a more figurative approach to the painting.
I started with watercolour on some smooth hot-pressed watercolour paper. I decided to experiment with rubbing watercolour pencil on a piece of sandpaper, letting the small particles fall into the wet paint. Oooh, it makes star-shaped speckles in the transparent paint. Then I had fun flicking on various colours into dry and wet areas.
I dipped watercolour pencils into the water and played around with making various marks. Next I had fun with oil pastels, using them as a resist for a further layer of watercolour. Mmmmmm, I had such fun!

Saturday, February 7, 2009



Acrylic, 122 x 88 cm

This painting was originally posted under the name “flight”. I have been working on this canvas on and off for the last few months, I have even hung it at a recent exhibition and then worked on it again after the show. Do you ever do this?

I have turned the canvas horizontally, it looks better this way. My eagle represents strength and determination. She has the ability to move freely from one dimension to another, to soar above mundane daily life with absolute freedom.

I love to turn my paintings around and hang them up for a while in this new view of the work, it is like having four different paintings! Contemplating my paintings in progress plays an enormous part of my painting process, I spend ages looking at them in order for the paintings to direct me and tell me where to go next. I usually work on three or four at a time and so my studio can become very cramped with canvasses standing about. I dream of having a studio the size of a church hall!

In order to hang them all up without banging a million nails into the wall, we put up picture rails in my small studio and have hung chains from which I can hang the paintings. I screw a nail into the middle of each stretcher bar and then tie a loop of string so I can hook up the painting in whichever way I fancy. I can move these chains according to the size of the paintings and can hang two or more on the same chain.

What do you do with your paintings while working on them?

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Chance Encounter with a Stranger

Detail from a Chagall etching
Don’t you wish that life could always potter along on an even keel? Sometimes events descend on us that can really knock us sideways, just like a kick in the stomach. You can suddenly feel you are on a roller coaster that dips you into the depths of despair.

All of us go through times like these. As time passes, the ups and downs may become less pronounced and we may hit a plateau where we may float along with a welcome bit of peace and tranquillity.

A few years ago, during one such extraordinarily distressing time, I was on sales duty at a local exhibition. I had also been feeling dissatisfied with my paintings, they seemed to say very little about how I felt and who I am. Deep inside me I had questions about where my art was taking me.

An elderly man came in with his hiking boots and old gnarled stick. This exhibition hall is on the side of the mountain and we frequently get hikers stopping by. He spent ages, carefully looking at each painting. He called me over and said,
“These artists are very proficient in what they do, their technique is excellent but there doesn’t seem to be much soul in many of the paintings.”
I was immediately intrigued and questioned him further. He said,
“Artists are usually quite sensitive people and everyday life can be turbulent, life is a journey, it can be a difficult journey. An artist should use the power of that turbulence in their paintings. I am not saying they should paint dark and negative paintings, I am saying they should somehow portray the difficulties of life and how those difficulties have been overcome”.
I am trying to remember is his exact words, they were so relevant to me, they almost took my breath away.

We spoke for about 45 minutes – he spoke to my very soul without probably realizing it, he came and told me where I could go with my paintings and also a little bit about healing my soul. As he was about to leave, I asked him his name. He smiled in a gentle way and said, “Virgil” and went on his way.

I felt that I had been visited by some sort of vision. This dear, sweet man set me thinking about a new direction, a new path on which to travel.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Conversation with Kim of Creating Space

I have been interviewed by Kim of Creating Space! Please visit her blog and let me know what you think .... I have really bared my soul here....

Just thought my friends in the USA would like to see this quiet, contemplative spot on the Liesbeck River in Cape Town. I hope your storms have passed over now. Looking forward to more winter photo's, Suki!

My dear blogger friend, Cynthia awarded me this award for not only being worth reading but also bringing my sweet natured yet powerfully potent heart to all of my creative work. Aawww!!! She is this amazingly talented writer and so I feel really honoured that she considers my words significant!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Mandala

There is something very therapeutic about creating a Mandala. This one is about 66cm in diameter and done using various pencils on a board.

I drew this just after I turned 50. I incorporated the Picasso, “Woman Dressing her Hair”, I really identify with how her body seems to be all over the place and the parts not quite fitting the whole.

Next to her is Vincent’s empty room at the Saint-Paul hospital at Saint-Remy with his cloud swirls and cypress trees overlapping. His crows fly on the other side of the woman.

I liked the image of the baby hands holding on to some aging hands, I think this was torn from a magazine and copied. Children are peeking through the cracks next to the empty room.

The watch signifies the march of time, with the watch strap becoming the arms of a sea-anemone and the pattern is repeated on the side, I think they are trying to hold onto everything familiar.

A woman’s face is fragmenting in the changes occurring in her world.

A cloud woman hovers over an imaginary landscape representing creativity and intuition.

Kim is posting an interview with me on 28th January, so please pop over to her blog on Wednesday!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A New Website!

Please visit my new website, http://www.diannemcnaughtonart.com/
I am back after a break with blogging and can’t wait to visit all your sites and find out what I have been missing! The only creative thing that I have done in the last three weeks is to create this new website for myself. Please have a look and tell me what you think. A friend gave me the link to this great site that helps you create your own site completely free of charge, http://www.synthasite.com/
I decided to buy my own domain for a small yearly amount. This is optional and you can get a synthasite domain completely free of charge. The site is managed by yourself and it is very easy to update whenever the need arises.
I have verified my site with google and there is one more step that I need to take with some help from a more experienced webmaster.
I would love to be able to sell paintings from my site and am still looking into this – Paypal does not work in South Africa, I can spend money with Paypal but not receive money. So if anyone out there can give me advice here, I would appreciate it. I have linked my other site, http://www.southafricanartists.com/ as my online shop for the while.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Painting on Black Gesso

I decided to work on three different shaped canvases, a rectangle, a square and a long skinny one (since I had these in stock). A pot of black gesso has been sitting in my cupboard just looking at me – I bought it ages ago but have never used it. (Do you have a cupboard full of stuff you haven’t used?) I decided to experiment with applying a black coat to most of the canvas, leaving some white shapes to play around with. I see Mary Ann of Blue Sky Dreaming is also working with black gesso at the moment! I then applied a transparent glaze of Alizarine Crimson and Quinacridone Gold over the white areas and really loved how the shapes hung softly in the darkness. I wanted to see if I applied white acrylic ink, spraying with water to loose the hard edges, I might be able to get a similar effect.
When I looked at the three works, I became a little uneasy about what was appearing, the strong darks with the reds stirred up strange feelings in me, they were disturbing! I wanted to cover the paintings with white and yellow. (Every time I turn on the TV, there are dire warnings of a global economic meltdown and I am worried about the implications for various members of my family – I think I am painting these fears).

I get to a mid point in the painting, when I become impatient and I have to tell myself, “Don’t rush it, take your time, let it evolve”. I can have days when I become quite frustrated with what I have done, the paintings don’t look as if they have moved on at all. The next day, the paintings may evolve and I can perhaps see where they are leading me.

The painting at the top of my posting was about the doorways that open up to us, (in landscape mode) but I prefer it turned upright – the genetic connection theme has appeared again. We have a really nasty genetic thing in my family of which I am a carrier – this keeps coming out in my paintings. I don't have photo's of this one at the beginning, only of the square one that still needs a bit of work, so will post it next week. I still have to do a few clear glazes and might paint some more, so this painting might change again!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Tagging and an Award!

A Tagging from Suki, I am to list five things that I do daily to keep my spirit happy and healthy.

This is quite difficult, because I do many things to keep my spirit going, but not everyday, I often alternate certain things ....

1. I love to get up early when the world is quite and make myself a cup of tea and read from one of the various books I have on the go. I do this every second morning.

2. On the alternate morning I go to the gym and exercise for an hour, getting those endorphins going and building up my bone strength.

3. I paint nearly every day to keep my spirit happy.

4. Music feeds my soul, I love my music and collect CD’s of my favourite artists. I particularly like musicians who write their own lyrics and music. I feel bereft if I don’t listen to music sometime during the day.

5. Writing in my journal or on my blog keeps my spirit soaring, this I definitely don't do everyday for lack of time!

I am challenging all of you fellow bloggers to write about what keeps your spirit happy and healthy!

Also thanks to Soulbrush for this award she gave me at least a week ago!