anne4bags Botanic Art My art work

Shells — the second study

As I mentioned last time I am studying how to paint shells and other beachy things for an upcoming exhibition.

I wanted to have another go at shells, to experiment with masking fluid. Masking fluid is a rubber latex solution, used to retain highlights and other light areas. Watercolour painting works from light to dark, so it is easy to cover up lighter areas and highlights. They are crucial because the highlights, reflected light and shadows give life to a painting. And they are easy to lose. Masking fluid can help out.

Shells have very definite rings (that I suspect are growth rings — am I right?). On my shells they are subtle but obvious, if that makes sense. I wanted to try to use the masking fluid to develop those rings by allowing their different colours to come through. I had to think through what parts of the shell I wanted to mask; that is, what parts I wanted to be lighter than the next layer of paint. I planned to layer the masking fluid as I layered on the washes.

The photo below shows my set up. Obviously the top three shells are the real ones! You can see small dabs of paint around them. This was to help me decide on the colour mixes. I had recently bought a new paint — Perylene Maroon — and it seems to be perfect for these shells. Mixed with Windsor Lemon it makes a very potent orange and Naples Yellow makes it opaque. The shadows were Perylene Maroon and Blue Black.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

The next photo shows a close up of my work in progress, with a couple of layers of masking fluid already on. The right hand shell is the underside. You can see my drawing with some masking fluid on it. This shell had much less definition, so I wanted to see if I could create it by using washes of paint. The other two were built up by small brush strokes.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

Of course, the masking fluid masks what is underneath and it can be difficult to remember what is there. So when I was removing it, and it peels off easily, I had a little heart flutter in case I had done a major stuff up. Fortunately I hadn’t. However, it leaves quite definite, obvious edges, so there is further work to refine and soften  them.

This is the finished work.

(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)
(Photo and art work: Copyright Anne Lawson, 2013)

I love how the right hand shell has turned out. There are times when creations almost create themselves — and this was one of those times!

As for the masking fluid….I don’t know that I will use it in the final piece. I need to paint some other shells, so I may make a study of them with masking fluid. The masking fluid lines would need to be much finer than I have managed here. Also, I think it is too time consuming.

I have actually made prints of this study to sell in my Etsy shop. I usually sell the originals of my works, but  I want to have the original to use as a reference. Have a look here if you are interested.


Books of the Month

January books (yes I know that it is February!)

Some of the books I read in January…..

Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan: Sunday’s Garden

Reading Autumn Laing rekindled my interested in John and Sunday Reed, and their life at Heide. My public library’s catalogue has turned up a few books, including this one.

The Reeds’ property Heide was a meeting point for artists and intellectuals, who, as the foreword says “rejected the more conventional avenues of living and learning.” It goes on to say

The Reeds, along with Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Max Harris, Danila Vassilieff and others embraced radical art and politics, and pursued a freshness of vision that saw many of them become key figures in Australia’s cultural history.

A story about Sunday and Heide must include the artists and intellectuals who lived there or came to visit. However, this book looks at this fascinating era from a different angle. Sunday Reed was a passionate gardener, and her creative talents came to the fore in her garden. Sunday’s garden details how she designed it, worked in it and encouraged others to enjoy it too.

In 1980 the Reeds sold Heide to the State of Victoria. The art gallery shows world class exhibitions and Sunday’s gardens are still an integral part of the property.

I enjoyed the book. It is crammed with luscious photos, letters, works of art. I wonder though whether I would have enjoyed it as much if I was unfamiliar with Heide. If you are in Melbourne, make the time to go there, if only to wander through the beautiful gardens on the banks of the Yarra and think of Sunday and John.

J.K. Rowling: A casual vacancy

Barry Fairbrother dies, leaving a vacancy on the local council and Rowling follows the ripples that his death creates in the town of Pagford. Actually, there are more than ripples. For many characters tidal waves sweep over them, exposing their foibles, secrets and strained lives.

I wasn’t a Harry fan, so I had no feelings one way or the other about Rowling’s new direction. I didn’t really want to read it, so I grumbled a bit when Ruth suggested it as our Book Club read. However, I am glad that she did because I enjoyed it. (Thanks Ruth.)

Rowling creates a believable group of characters and their actions drive the book. As in Harry Potter, her teenagers are the most credible and well rounded. I really enjoyed the strength and integrity of Krystal.

Robert Engwerda: Mosquito Creek

Set in 1855 on a gold field in Victoria; it gave a good insight into what life would have been like. It was a good read, but the ending was most unsatisfactory. Why did it have to end abruptly and leave so many loose ends?

Books of the Month

November books

Who doesn’t like a good read? Some that I read this November were:

Autumn Laing by Alex Miller

Miller thought he was going to write a book about a famous Australian artist, Sidney Nolan, which would have included his relationship with Sunday Reed. Sunday, with her husband John, owned land on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne. Their home, ‘Heide’, became a centre for artists who were pushing the boundaries of Australian art. They were looking for a way to tell the Australian story and not just follow the European one.

However, the voice of Autumn Laing, who is loosely based on Sunday Reed, dominated Miller’s mind and then his story. At the beginning of the novel Autumn is a feisty, farting old lady, who is furious to find that she feels the need for redemption. She begins to write the story of her affair with emerging, powerful artist, Pat Donlon (again, loosely based on Nolan), and the impact it has on her husband Arthur and Donlon’s wife Edith, as well as their friends.

I think Miller has two strengths. Firstly his ability to create characters. I enjoyed the way he wove his descriptions through the book and even the minor characters, such as Stony, have solidity and interest.

The second strength is the way he has the philosophical discussion about Australian art through the book. There is no polemic, but Miller looks at the issue from a range of different view points, from Edith’s to Louis’, and especially Donlon’s — don’t talk about it, just do it. And then there is Autumn’s realisation as she flies above inland Queensland

“Scrawled lines of green and gold and deep brown, random silver foil meanders, broken and uncertain in their courses, and white sky windows through to the world on the other side of this world. Australia was revealed to me as an elaborate, multicoloured etching; the vision of an unknown artists’s eye. A portrait of my country, unfamiliar to me, wrinkled and crumpled, scratched and scoured. Broken with abrupt shifts of tone and form, stains and inexplicable runs of colour one into the other, purple and rose madder, vast swathes of grey and fierce angry dragon spots of emerald green.” (p389-90)

It was our Book Club book for the month and our discussion was lively as we tried to come to grips with creativity, Australian art and truth  — accompanied, of course, by glasses of champagne, a cheese platter and a yummy orange cake. Thanks for suggesting the book Marie!

A castle in Spain by Matthew Parris

There are many books about Englishmen and women buying and renovating derelict houses in Mediterranean countries. Parris’ book is different because it is largely about the house, l’Avenc and the surrounding  Catalan countryside, rather than the trials and tribulations of builders and red tape.

L’Avenc is high on a cliff in the Collsacabra area in Catalunya (Catalonia), the hinterland of Barcelona. The house was partly Gothic and then added on to in the Renaissance. When it was bought by Parris, his sister and brother-in-law it had been deserted for decades. Rebuilding it took time and money, and skilled labour from local craftsmen.

I have become fascinated by the Pyrenees after a trip to south-west France earlier this year. This book fueled my interest in this area south of these magnificent mountains. He describes a landscape of rugged beauty and villages carved from stone, of walking tracks that take you along cliff tops and through gorges. An area to wander through and enjoy. And all of this just a short drive from the Costa Brava coast.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Just when I thought I had read all the Prachett books in my library, another one jumps out at me from the shelf. This continues the fabulous Discworld series. Like the others, it kept me amused!

My art work Travels

Travel journal

Like most people I collect things as I travel. I have inherited my Mum’s passion for brochures but I also add my own treasures from the natural world — feathers and shells and seed pods and flowers (often photos, because I know I can’t pick native plants). Then there are the memories and the information. On past travels I have kept written journals. However, over this year I have become more fascinated with pictorial journals, looking at how other artists create their keepsakes. This time I decided to record this journey to Menindee and the Flinders Ranges differently.

I have used a Daler-Rowney book. Its paper is 150 gsm, and a good quality cartridge which took watercolour washes quite well. It is 27 by 22 cm and is landscape. Although it is bound and not spiral, I really like how it opens flat. I have been able to work comfortably across the double pages.

I had so much fun at night  working on this journal. (No TV in the caravan!) I needed to think about the layout, how to make it visually interesting, what I wanted to record, as well as making each page cohesive.

I would love to know how you record your special memories. Why don’t you leave me a comment?

My art work

Goose feather

Just finished and listed in the Etsy shop, a pencil drawing of a goose feather.