As a women I understand the effects visual media has on female self esteem. So when my almost 5 year old Niece, Zarna, asked me to paint her a picture of gymnasts for her birthday I had to ask myself “how should I depict women in a painting for her?”
The constant barrage of media depicting women with skinny bodies, flawless skin and carefree lives makes those of us with less than skinny bodies, skin issues and troubled lives a little bit self conscious!. I don’t want that to happen to my gorgeous little niece!
My initial thoughts were to paint chubby, short, tall, out of proportion gymnasts reading books so that for years to come she is influenced by real life. In real life women come in all shapes do they not?
I sifted through thousands of gymnast pictures online to get inspiration and what I found is that all gymnasts who are high achievers have very little body fat, are on the short side, primarily small breasted, fit and flexible!
So in the end although I would have like to have made a political feminist statement about women in this painting I decided to paint the reality of what champion gymnasts actually looks like. I will leave my statement about womens body shapes for another painting. Hope she likes it – I will be giving it to her tonight!
There have been many times I don’t know when to stop painting a picture. Sometimes, like with this Circus Acts painting it took me 7 years to start.
Having re-baselined my Circus Acts canvas over the last few days, getting composition and the final characters ready, in acrylic paint before I start the major oil paint operation (see main image of this post), I have come to really like my 3 tone characters. It makes me think that maybe they should all just be in monochrome colours. The rawness of the painting as it stands tonight; lent up against my easel makes me smile. I like the lines of chalk that I scrapped on to remind me where the light is coming from and the characters are pretty easy on the eye to consume.
Last night a friend of mine said she really liked one of my paintings of Sydney Harbour. I am always surprised when anyone says they like this particular painting as for years I wasn’t ever sure if I really finished the picture. It was in 2007 when I painted this Sydney Harbour scene. I didn’t like the painting and I was 100% sure it wasn’t complete but I didn’t know what else to do to finish. So I put it away, allocating it to the ‘Unfinished’ pile of paintings.
After years of not liking the painting I gazed at it again a year ago and decided I actually mostly liked it. I hung it up on my wall and there it remains today. Not perfect but finished nonetheless. When I look at it now it reminds me of my skills back then. I look at it and I think of the things I would do now if I was to do it again but I leave it be because it is finished, it was finished in 2007. It would feel like cheating to improve something I finished 8 years ago. I’m happy with it and lucky for me a couple of people even like it!
I trust more in my instincts now then I did back then. Now when I cant think of anything I else I can do to improve, I know that its time to stop. I put down my brushes and allocate it to the ‘Finished and Did My Best’ pile of paintings.
I looked on the internet tonight for tips on “how to know when to stop painting” and I got all sorts of websites giving advice like “watch out for muddy colours” and “get rid of your reference pictures and step back to look at it as a stand alone piece”. I think that advice is useless because it assumes everyone has the same perception of muddy colours and that artists can actually take an objective view of their own work (impossible I reckon – what do you think? Are you an artist? How do you look upon your own work before or after it is finished?).
When is a painting finished?
Nothing is ever really finished because as artists live, grow and learn we do more, do better, do different. So knowing when to finish a piece of art can only ever be decided by the artist at that specific point in time. A different day = a different finish.
Is my raw circus painting finished? No way! I will continue the Circus Acts painting for now as I have so many more ideas to bring to life on this canvas. Watch this space!
My first lesson in adding more than just the thing I am painting to a painting was when I got feedback from my uncle and grandfather on my first two oil paintings. One was of a sunflower and the other was of Australian wildflowers.
My uncle told me I was missing light on my wildflowers. I had slaved for hours over the various details and composition and picking the flowers. I was disappointed I didn’t get a “oh I love it!”.
When I showed my grandfather my sunflowers he said “your missing life from your painting”. Again disappointment reigned supreme as I was hoping for that elusive “oh I love it!”.
I went back to the sunflower painting and I added a lady beetle and spiders web to the leaves/long stalks.
I missed the point completely!
More paintings and more feedback I got to the truth.
How light falls on your art is one of the crucial elements that brings it to life.
15 years later here I am about to begin painting one of the most complex light settings in the history of paintings (I think). “A circus act with flood lights of various colours falling across many circus performers.”
Tonight I took a photo of my draft artwork and in photoshop I added various light effects.
As lights will be the last thing I add to the painting I will be printing out my final composition with the lights turned on and sticking it up next to my canvas so I remember where the light is coming from as I create shadows and bright sides to each of my circus performers.
I drafted this circus sketch in 2008 inspired by going to de a cirque du soleil show in Sydney. I spent hours colouring the hand drawn sketch in Photoshop and went as far as to pick a canvas sketch it out onto the canvas and splash paint onto the background.
Then I put it in storage not be looked at or worked on until today.
7 years later in 2015 I am finally getting back into it. First task is to re-sketch the performers – get composition correct. Then colour them in with pastels to get costumes and colour scheme correct. My plan in to paint the scene in oil paints… I wonder if I will get that far this time.
I do love sketching the muscles on the performers and I’m sure I will spend many hours deliberating over the costume designs and color schemes!
There are some new art markets in town which were opened yesterday by the Mayor of Woollahra, on the grass outside Victoria Barracks, Oxford Street, Paddington. Like the Bouquinistes along the Seine River in Paris, selling books and postcards, or the art markets on the Monmartre Hll, this is an open air venue with screens showing the different artists’ work. The new venue is an inspired way for local artists to show and sell their work under the old Jacaranda trees – you can walk along, browse or buy from the broad range of works on display.
People of the Ferry progress pictures. Another few weeks before I get to all the details and that includes the details of many friends who have kindly agreed to catch a ride on one of my yellow sea monsters!
Oil painting is my thing due to the complexity but large works can take months so I like to whip up a few acrylics in between …this one is called “Light at the end of a tunnel” made with acrylics and modelling paste with brushwork overplayed. Modelling paste is my new favourite toy!
I love beautiful umbrellas. I have done for years. These are my two newest and oldest sun umbrellas both over 100 years old they have withstood the test of time with their beautiful craftsmanship. I feel an umbrella painting is coming on. Might need to get some friends over so I can get an aerial shot of all my umbrellas being held up with their wings to the sun.