holed up and playing with paint



15 minutes

love folly

mark making


WIP ♥lovefolly♥

lovefolly WIP

Customs rang yesterday morning, which was very nice of them. They’d spoken to Kris the night before. He’s 450 miles from Darwin, sort of backtracking because the poor winds sent him down on level with the Kimberleys. I’m hoping it’ll take him between 5 and 7 days to get here, as the monsoon trough still hasn’t established itself properly. The Customs officer said, “He said to tell you he’s happy.” Not safe. Not well. Happy. I had to chuckle at the message Kris sent through him.

A small painting came after that phone call. What can I say? That I am more affected by my emotions than I would like to admit? “Love is the wisdom of the fool, and the folly of the wise.” (Samuel Johnson)

So did I paint something?

Yeah, I did actually get up the next morning and start a painting. I was all revved up and hungry to create!

What I craved was a HUGE canvas…a meter wide, a meter and a half tall, that sort of thing…a wall that I could walk up to and engage, throw myself at, mano a mano…arms moving in great sweeping arcs of brushstrokes. Looked everywhere on the boat…was so sure I had some huge canvases left over from my last show. Nothing.


What I found were scores of tiny little canvases…mostly the size of a paperback book…and one, just one, tall, skinny canvas—30 cm wide, and 60 cm. high. (1′ x 2′). Oh, that’s right…instead of buying one wonderful, epic canvas for $30, I thought I’d be clever and buy 10 dinky little ones for the same price. Fool. So much for my grand date with creative destiny. I felt so restricted and cramped with this small canvas! My sweeping gestures were reduced to finger-daubing and dabbing with medium-sized brushes.


And the process? Hrrm. Well. I started out the way Downey did in her video…all energetic abstract doodles and splodges of color. I even hit a few spots with water in a spray bottle to make the paint run. Drips. Very outré, drips in paintings, oh my. Yes, yes, everything was feeling very loose, very spontaneous, very earth goddess, moon mother, loose caftans and jangly earrings. There were lots of fantastic body gestures…it was almost a modern interpretive dance. I even played the one song I own that is by Loreena McKennit, can you imagine? Instead of my usual Radiohead, The White Stripes, The Commodores, and One Love Sonic Boom mixes.

Great. Then I started painting in some simple motifs…leaves (ovals with one pointy end) and flowers (ovals with pointy one end), birds (ovals with one pointy end and a tail like a platypus bill), sprinkles of dots and organic shapes sort of thing. Get this, I even flicked runny paint at the canvas, a la angry young men in movies about artists (then “Eep!” Wiped most of it off again.) Art? Who said anything about making art? I was acting out the artist stereotype. I was being ‘creative’. To anyone who may have been watching, I was also being a wanker.

No actual attempts to draw anything or produce something skillfully. No attempts to find a symbol or a subject that actually meant something. It occurred to me that the motifs that came easily to mind were very hackneyed. (That must be why they came so easily to mind, Einstein.) At this point I started to feel like a fraud. Lotus flowers, are you fucking kidding me? Lily pads? What has this painting got to do with me? Do I sound like a Southeast Asian Buddhist to you?

And the painting, ye gods. Did I really channel the aesthetics of the entire Balinese Airport Artists Cooperative? This looks like the stuff they churn out in Thailand to decorate restaurants with. I’m amazed there aren’t any koi in the pond under the lily pads, or bare-breasted women in those pointy golden pagoda hats. “WHAT, NO KOI? Can’t be a proper Asian restaurant painting without the koi! People need something to look at while they’re slurping their tom yums and pad thais!”

Traditional Thai art paintings
Traditional Thai art paintings

But I have chosen to leave the painting alone. May it serve as a lesson to me…what works for others may does not work for me, and shame on me for letting someone else’s style bear too heavily upon my own.

The result may look okay to you, reading this, but believe me, the painting is empty, devoid of soul or self. It’s a lie. Just because it’s an okay-looking lie doesn’t make it right. The paintings of a large molar and two chairs were more honest than this. At least they came from my own head, and weren’t trying to please anybody. I’m going to let Donna Downey’s wonderful video cool off in my head for a while, then I’m looking forward to another session—I’m still inspired by her video!—this time just being myself…don’t matter if it’s fugly. At least it’ll be my own. Kinda like having an ugly child, I guess. 😀

First encounter with anamorphosis

It was one of those tired evenings after work; I came home to a cranky cat and dinner alone (Kris is still out there, somewhere, sailing) and I wanted to do some small creative thing to cheer myself up.

Thought, “I might paint something.”

I took a small canvas, and attempted to splash and drip a base layer of bright happy colors all over it. It didn’t look like anything much when I’d done, and somehow the colors had gone all pastel and sickly looking. This always happens when I haven’t worked with color for a long time…it’s like I have to re-learn what works, what doesn’t, and how to make the paint do what I want it to. Getting rusty. 😦

Mood had sunk even lower by this time. I sank deeper into my chair, chewing on my fag end, eyeing the bottle of acrylic ink that was sitting on top of the canvas on the desk before, and a thought about those street artists who draw amazing, 3D images on the sidewalks, popped up.

I’ve looked these anamorphic drawings up before, and have seen some tutorials on Youtube, mostly using grids on Photoshop to distort an image, or a webcam to flatten the image to a single-point perspective.

I wondered if I could do a small anamorphic painting without those aids or gimmicks? Like, what if I just shut one eye (so that what I saw was from a single-point perspective), kept my eyes at the same level as I drew, stretched my pencil hand out in front of me, and tried to get the pencil lines to evoke the ink bottle from that one perspective.

anamorphic first attempt

The pencil drawing itself didn’t look like anything, but as I started to paint in the shape (still sitting low down and back from the canvas, with my arm stretched out) a little bit of that 3D-ness started to creep in.

anamorphic first attempt

By the time I got to the point you see in these pictures, it was 2 a.m…EEP! The picture above, even with such a sketchily done painting of the bottle, looks much more convincing, because this is the lighting I painted it by, and the shadows/highlights of everything else on the desk around are bathed in the same light.

The pictures below were taken the next day, in sunlight…the illusion is less convincing because the slant of light, the shadows (or lack of shadows) and subtle messages the eye sends the brain are telling you that something is not right.

anamorphic 4

anamorphic first attempt

Here’s what the painting looks like, when viewed straight on. I haven’t finished the painting, yet, but even when viewed from the correct perspective I can see that I haven’t made the black rubber dropper bit at the top long enough. But I’m definitely going to be playing a bit more with this tricksy sort of painting, it’s heaps of fun!

anamorphic first attempt

Copper plate books

Leontopontes, plate and print

More unusual journals by my best and most enduring bookbinding student…

Once Kris made up his mind to use these old engraved copper printing plates as book covers, he knocked them out at alarming speed over one weekend. I think it’s a great way to use a printing plate at the end of an edition (or after you’ve decided you don’t want to be a printer, anymore, in Kris’ case).

The story of our adventures with printing is amazing, in itself. I know a little bit about printing, which is probably a hindrance rather than a help, because I believe that to do things properly you have to have all the right tools, materials, and the know-how to tweak a hundred little complicated and technical settings…

Kris knew nothing whatsoever about engraving copper plate, or printing from those plates, and so he just jumped in and did it. He used an old copper water tank that he cut up and flattened with a hammer (I helped by telling him that he couldn’t print on anything but perfectly flat, smooth, new plate); then we went to print and didn’t have any of the additives for the ink, nor whiting, nor tarlatan to clean the plate…didn’t even know in what order the plate, paper, and blanket were supposed to be when we rolled the sandwich through the huge old press at the Darwin Visual Arts Association.

I was ignorant, worried, narrow-minded and a naysayer…while Kris was determined, untroubled, innocent and had a great time rolling out half a dozen designs all that afternoon, clear and charming prints, in spite of all that we did wrong. Since then I’ve become a little more like him…I still like the idea of new things bought just for the purpose; like the idea of doing it “by the book”. But if I can’t do it the ‘right’ way, I know better than to let that stop me from doing anything at all. So he is also my best and most enduring teacher.

– – – – –

Like the mother of pearl and the wooden journals, these are going into Kris’ exhibition/book launch on the first of February, next year. Where an actual print has survived, he’s going to include it with the sale of its copperplate journal.

More copper-covered books over on his blog…

Copper plate books.

über embroiderer : ana teresa barboza

by ana teresa barboza | embroidery on fabric

It’s been a long time since I scoured the internet for an über embroiderer. I think it’s because I’m reluctant to have this blog turn into some kind of curatorial mirror of other people’s work…just another ‘pin board’ that raves about the same things that other blogs do, pulling in creative ideas from elsewhere and not producing anything original of its own.

But Ana Teresa Barboza’s embroidered pieces were too good to pass by. Wish I could say I found them myself, but I’m not really that keen a surfer—the hours one must devote to combing blogs and sites for ‘material’ are, to me, better spent making something with my own hands; so I was alerted to these fantastic embroideries of Barboza by The Artful Desperado, whose far more cutting-edge blog undoubtedly lives with its fingers on the pulse of art and design.

Once again, amazing work coming from South America (judging by her CV, Barboza is Peruvian)…and this really makes me wonder how many more über embroiderers (and artists of other disciplines) doing really fresh, incredible things, are missed because they don’t turn up in, say, the first 20 search results of an english-language search engine. There must be hundreds. South America is really starting to look like a kind of petri dish for creativity and new approaches to art, craft, design. But one almost has to be there, immersed in the cities where they work, as well as in the language, to discover them.

Kris and I are moving to S.America in two years’ time, and I have been making notes of all these artists and projects and places that I would like to meet/visit in preparation for that time. It’s getting so that I can hardly contain myself, I want to go now, now, NOW! (But wait, need to earn some money, first, so maybe it’s time to wrap up this post and get back to work!)

by ana teresa barboza | embroidery and fabrics

by ana teresa barboza | graphite and embroidery on cloth

Much more to see on her blog so be sure to pay a visit. I only went two or three pages deep…who knows what treasures hide in the archives of Barboza’s posts!