I am nearing the end of completing this little painting, which I have really enjoyed doing. As mentioned in a previous post, the concept is based on an ancient Greek myth of Zeus disguised as a swan who seduces the innocent Leda.
I wanted a kind of African nuance, but ethereal too, with allusions to flight and feathers; the dreaminess of Leda’s imagination as she ponders Zeus’s love…
Recently I received a very touching email from a young painter who wanted to know more about me and my artwork. She was especially interested and inspired by my painting technique and use of colour to express the elements portrayed in my work. Many people ask me where I learned how to paint the way I do – and the the basic answer is that I taught myself.
This will be the first of a few blog posts where I will endeavour to share my knowledge and experience painting with watercolours, acrylics, pen and ink, and maybe a few other things as well!
To start at the beginning of my artistic career – I was an obsessive drawer from the age of two, and by about 4 years old I felt a very strong urge to create images from my very active child’s imagination in any way that I could; luckily my parents, being artistic themselves, encouraged and nurtured me all through my creative journey. Drawing came most naturally to me, but soon I intuitively began to experiment with colour, design and composition.
An elderly lady with whom I attended some after school art guided me to growing confidence in expressing my inner artistic vision, with the use of pattern, complimentary colours, symbolism and playfulness in art. I will always be indebted to Mrs. Smith in Johannesburg for the joy she instilled in me for the creative process that all humans inherently posses.
In grade 2 I traded a drawing I made of 2 giraffes kissing, for a chocolate bar, and from that time on I knew my art was worth something. I sold my first painting of a fairy holding a peacock when I was 15 years old, then when I was 19 I embarked on starting my own arts business, beginning with screen printed t-shirts of my fantasy drawings with unicorns, mermaids and cats. Here are the first commissions of that time:
My style was still very linear and graphic, but later that I year I completed work for a more painterly, dreamier commission, combining the subject matter of a cat with a passion for the colour green:
Green Cat 1995
This Green Cat was done on canvas board, using a technique which I had developed in my final year at school for my art exam – a self portrait painted on stretched canvas using pen & ink, watercolor and acrylic. I found that the best way to learn to blend watercolours was the hard way: use a very difficult surface like canvas (primed) , to develop a respect and understanding of the more watery aspects of paints and how to make them work for you. The trick is to begin with a light wash of whichever colour will be dominant in your painting, and then work over that in gentle layers as your vision unfolds.
Self Portrait 1992
Mostly, however, I was doing very intricate black and white drawings using a technical Rotring drawing pen with archival pigment ink, which are great for steady line drawing because they steadily dispense the ink through a precision point with a continual flow, making the lines even and smooth and easy to fill in. Below are examples of this type of drawing, which were for a series of 3 commissions. I started with the faces and a rough idea in pencil of what the composition and organic shape of the composition would be, then just drew straight in ink using the process as a form of meditation. I still use this technique today, and never fully sketch my paintings or drawing out. I find it is much more authentic and spontaneous to rely on what comes naturally from one’s imagination through hand and instrument, than to relay on sketching everything out first.
Here is a later example of this process at work in Fairy Cat:
Later, well into my 30′s and living in Australia running a business Redwhisper Studio co-owned with John Robson, many customers there asked if I had been to a “Steiner” or “Waldorf” School because my artwork was so much like what the educationalist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner taught. This was completely fascinating to me: that I had never hear of him until then, but upon further investigation I realised that my intuitive painting was very much like his artistic educational vision – very dream-like, with bold and emotional use of colour and delicate blending of thoughts, impressions and the very colours themselves to convey the essence of the artist’s inner world.
Ceiling, First Goetheanum, by Rudolf Steiner
What this said to me is that everyone has innate creative ability, and those of us who choose to express it through painting need look no further than our own intuition and imagination. Of course, this does take discipline, hard work and inspiration, but the tools are there inside us, just waiting to be unlocked and used.
More on how I explored this in the next part…..Thank you so much for visiting my creative blog, and please feel free to share your own creative thoughts, I would love to learn and share with you!
This is a close up of painting commission currently underway, the beginnings of which you can see below or here. I have been painting mostly with watercolours, adding touches with acrylic paint and pigment coloured pencil. There are two faeries, and a hedgehog so far….click on the image to enlarge and see if you can spot them! More little creatures to come later…
I have a fascination with red poppies and with cats, and have often portrayed them together in little montages and pieces of art, but have never done a full painting of these two lovely themes together.
Here are the beginnings of a watercolour based painting that I have been working on, Art Nouveau style, with pigment inks and white gesso highlights. The paper I use is Stonehenge cream paper – great for mixed media and especially good for etching and watercolors. I painted a yellow wash with touches of orange for a base design of colours to set the tone for what looks to be a folk-art kind of painting. ~ More photos as I go along !
This is how my new Art Nouveau inspired fairy painting is looking so far…
I have been painting it on Fredrix watercolor canvas, which is proving to be somewhat of a challenge as it is very slippery and I am finding that the water-based pigments do not adhere too well on the specially coated canvas. it is also very sensitive to any natural oils that come off one’s hand whilst painting, making in effect waterproof! I will be using acrylic to give this painting more adhesion and substance – will post the next and final stage in the next 2 days…
Thanks for looking! – You can see the first stage of this painting Here
It is time for another fairy painting! To me, fairies represent the feminine spirit in Nature: ethereal, transcendent, beautiful and inspiring.
I love the work of Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha ; his illustrative style is highly decorative yet maintains a wonderful evocative realism that captures the feminine essence within the natural world exquisitely. I also have a fascination for the exotic luna moth and want to combine those two inspirations with the magical ambiance of a crescent moonlit night… ~ You can see more of my original fairy and fantasy paintings here. ~
Here is the quick sketch, and the beginnings of the painting. I am using Fredrix watercolor canvas which is so interesting to paint on. It has a smooth and very watercolour- paper like canvas surface, but one can achieve beautiful blending and painterly techniques.
I have been very busy painting these beautiful little pieces of art, each a one-off original miniature painting : I have produced about 20 or so, a selection of which you can see below.
Some of them are inspired by Art Nouveau style artwork, reminiscent of the art of Odilon Redon, and also the stunning designs of William Morris of the Arts and crafts movement in the late 1800′s. Each one has been carefully painted on gorgeous silky handmade mulberry bark paper in vibrant watercolors with highlighted colors in pigment gold and silver ink.
The border has been uniquely drawn in a combination of silver and gold ink.
The paintings, measuring 4.5cm x 4.5cm (1 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches) have been mounted on stiff coloured card which actually opens up and can be written inside, so this makes an ideal and very collectable all-in-one gift !
You can find a range available for sale in my Etsy online shop here: Small Original Art for Sale ~~ or you can simply click on the Permalink below each image to find out more details and see a larger image…
Contact me if you see something below that is not for sale there…and thanks for looking!
I have realised that I have a fascination with throwing cats and fish together.
It started with one of the first etchings I ever did, in London where I learned the craft 14 years ago; for some reason I was compelled to portray a little black cat swimming merrily along with some goldfish:
I hand coloured it with gouache, loved the result, and put out an edition for sale, which you can find at my Online Shop.
The image of a cat’s fantasy underwater realm stayed with me, and a number of years later I painted a whimsical watercolour and pastel of the same topic, only with added water nymphs and spirits:
A gorgeous Print is for sale here.
Yesterday, I found myself in one of Johannesburg’s quirky bead shops, where I picked up a wonderful stash of gorgeous Czech glass beads and findings with which to play and create, and the result, unsurprisingly was this:
I had such fun making these, and have decided to start a few themed jewellery pieces along these whimsical lines. This pair and other lovely creations can also be bought in my Shop!
….with more to come soon….
Here are two shots of the progress of my mermaid commission so far – I have blocked in the basic colour and forms and composition, and started on the face details of both mermaids. I always like to do this initially to get a feel of the facial expressions and features that set the tone and nuance of the overall image. I have used acrylic drying retarder when painting in this technique, which gives flow to the polymer paints similar to that of watercolors.
Here are a few shots of my large acrylic Mermaids in Atlantis painting as it progresses from firstly a wash in greens and pthalo blues, with acrylic drying retarder mixed in with water to give a watercolour effect:
Then, in the second shot I have marked out all the figures and large details in white chalk, which is easy to wipe off with a damp cloth. I begin to block in the basic colours of the larger elements in the composition.
I have finally found a way to paint with watercolours on stretched canvas that works for me, as I sometimes get a bit bored with conventional watercolor painting on paper. And it’s always good to paint something that is ready to hang in only a couple of hours!
I painted it fairly quickly while doing a few hours at the wonderful art & craft co-operative that John and I are members of – The Nook – here in the Blue Mountains.
It was a very spontaneous painting; I had been cherishing a gorgeous photo of an owl for many years from which I had been wanting to paint some kind of picture. It has been stuck to my cupboard in the studio waiting to be realized. We are lucky enough to receive occasional visits from what I think may be a Barking Owl – he sits on top of the clothes line and watches silently in the dark with his curious eyes…
You can purchase a gorgeous giclee print of this painting here.
This is the progress of “The Mermaid & the Sailor” painting- I got really carried away with the detail and flow, but enjoyed the meditation and depicting all the beautiful (and sinister) creatures of the deep.
Here it is as a beautiful print for sale in my online shop: “The Mermaid & the Sailor”
I realised after finishing this painting that whilst doing it I had been reading Possession by A.S Byatt-
an extraordinarily moving story encompassing love, passion and the mythology of the Mermaid along with Darwinianism, and Feminist and literary commentary. An amazing read…
The circus painting is also finished… phew…it was entirely fueled by cups of tea, red wine and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and it is my tribute to the Greatest Show on Earth which resides in all of our dreams and imaginings…
The original is a very detailed watercolour, acrylic, red wine,gouache and vintage lace & ribbon collage (you can see it’s progress in my previous posts). Below this is a detailed picture. It has been sold out as a Limited Edition print but you can buy a greeting card Here.