Maudie – a movie review from an artist’s perspective

Maudie, the true story of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, featuring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, both Academy Award Nominees, is a movie that moved me profoundly.  It was difficult viewing Maud’s mistreatment, her husband referring to her worth being less than his dogs and chickens, and the like, but the strength of art being in one’s soul, blood and very being, its relentless and irrepressible fight for expression was awe-inspiring.

Maudie

Not that I equate myself to Maud, but I can totally relate.  My youngest child was unwell his first few years of life and to try to somewhat satisfy this internal literally clawing feeling of art trying to get out of my body, I used to sign out the maximum amount of library books of artists’ works that I could.  I would flip through them while I was breast feeding, trying to quench some of my art appetite through my eyes and when I worked six days a week and lacked painting time, while lying in bed, I would imagine a blank sheet of paper, draw the picture, paint the wash and proceed to create the painting step by step.  I would chastise myself to go to sleep because doing this imaginary painting was going to take hours.

I have met several people who have done Fine Arts Degrees that have said that they haven’t painted or drawn since.  I so wish I could have done an art degree but maybe I would have had the same end result.  I can’t fathom this because the art in me feels like an unstoppable force, as I think it felt for Maud.  She couldn’t help herself and drew at every opportunity, including drawing with her finger in the condensation on the glass of windows.  When she took on a housekeeping job, she had ZERO chance in stopping herself painting when she found a tin of paint.  She opened it and dipped her finger into the paint and began painting the internal wall of the house using her finger.

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Maud responded to an ad for a housekeeper job and then transformed the interior of the house with her art.
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A Maud Lewis painting 
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Road block by Maud Lewis.  It’s nice to see her sense of humour.

I also related to Maud’s distress when somebody wanted to buy a painting that was unfinished.  I had a similar experience and I distinctly remember the feelings of strongly not wanting this to happen.  I had to firmly and repeatedly say no.  It was a small practice painting of elephants and I hadn’t even painted the eyes yet, but it looked completed to her and she said she liked it as it was, and she wanted to take it.

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My practice painting that somebody tried to buy before the elephants even had been given eyes!  I still have this painting as it was an experimental piece.

I found Maudie a wonderful movie and I wonder how many other artists would be struck by some of the universal, undeniable artistic shared characteristics and feelings depicted?

Maud Lewis, I salute you, your art and enduring inspiration.

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Maud Lewis 1903 -1970

Maud 7

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Composing Composition

About five years ago I relinquished my management position and moved into a teaching position (both full-time positions) so that I could devote more head space to my art. I then went part-time because I needed ‘time’ to paint.  I also secured a permanent market stall site (#30) at Salamanca Market in Tasmania.  Working part-time and having a stall is somewhat of a game changer.  My art has to supplement my income, and now I find myself in the new realm of managing the tension between what I want to paint and painting what sells.  There are plenty of positives with this but sometimes it feels a little like a conflict-of-interest inner struggle is happening.

I painted these two paintings pre-part-time employment. One sold like hotcakes and the other not.  Can you guess which the best seller was?

Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens
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Beauty Queens I

I sell 100/100 limited edition prints.  I quickly sold 100 Beauty Queens and about six prints of Beauty Queens I.  I’ve painted a replacement Beauty Queens and now with only two left, I’m painting it again as this is a popular print.

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Replacement Beauty Queens

I’m in my comfort zone painting emus at the hair salon and it’s fun to paint. I’ve decided to mix it up a bit this time otherwise it starts to feel a bit too comfortable, which actually makes me feel uncomfortable with my art.  For me, probably the most challenging part is composition.  My favourite emu in the Beauty Queens I painting is the emu with the row of curlers down her neck.  I’m painting three versions and then deciding which one I think works or doesn’t work.  I find it too difficult to be able to predict which composition is good until I see how the colour and form work together.

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Beauty Queens V
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Beauty Queens VI
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and then one in the same composition…. just in case… Beauty Queens VII

Which one do you think works best?

Thanks for reading my post.  I’d love to hear from you, about your art, earning a living from art, composition dilemmas or ….

Why I Like Being a Stallholder

Yes, there are some cold, dark, Saturday mornings in the winter that I moan and groan with the thought of struggling all day to keep my toes warm, despite wearing three layers of everything.  It is really not an enticing prospect to help motivate me to get out of bed but most of the time this is not the case.   I really like having a Pjpaintings permanent stall at Salamanca Market.

Setting up and taking down each Saturday is not as bad as it sounds and it is a source of weight lifting and exercise without the gym fees.  During the setting and packing up time, before the gazebo walls go up, is actually the easiest time to chat with your neighbours and the market community around you.  Close bonds are developed as we get to catch up every week over many years.

The best thing about having a stall is the conversations with people from all over the world.  Salamanca Market is a major Tasmanian tourist attraction that gives me the opportunity to meet and interact with people from everywhere, including Canada and Belgium, where I have spent some of my life.  I sometimes even attempt to have a conversation in French.

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Meeting a fellow Belgian

Art exhibitions or galleries’ privacy clauses prevents me from finding out who bought, or where my art work went, whereas at Salamanca Market I can interact with those that are taking home my artwork.  It is such a buzz to be able to talk about your art work with those that love it enough to buy it, to hear how they connect with it and their stories.  For example, a couple who sold their house in Brisbane and moved to Emu Park, Queensland, were looking for a piece of artwork featuring an emu and were thrilled to discover my stall-full of emu art.

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Family Outing

 

The motto of my art is “helping put smiles on faces”.  It is lovely seeing all the smiles at my stall and when people see the perfect gift for a baby, daughter, son, family members and friends or gifts to take with them to give to hosts when travelling and relatives abroad.

 

Also, you meet many people that are attending all sorts of conferences, competitions and events in Tasmania that I would have never had known about, if it wasn’t visitors telling me about them.  I am amazed at how much we host here.  Recently we’ve hosted the Australian Society of Micro Biologists Conference, Sausage Conference, Underwater Hockey Championship and much more.

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Some sort of event taking place in Hobart

And finally, all the great stories I hear on Saturdays and the interesting characters I have the privilege of meeting, makes great weekly writing material and another avenue of connecting with people through the written form.

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Regular bagpipe group meet-up at the top end of Salamanca Market

Resist!

Defend – Conserve – Protect.  Do you know whose slogan this is?

If you guessed the Sea Shepherd, you guessed correctly.  The Sea Shepherd movement involves defending, conserving and protecting our oceans and marine wildlife, combating illegal fishing, sea life rescues and many years of pilot whale defense campaigns, actually virtually forty years of campaigning.  Their 40th anniversary is quickly approaching and one of the ways they are marking this momentous occasion, and organisation, is by hosting an art exhibition at the Waterside Pavilion at Hobart Docks, Tasmania, commencing Monday 2nd October through to Sunday 8th October.

I was thrilled to have been asked to participate.  The theme is quite broad – conservation. I thought I’d have a go at what most people associate with Sea Shepherd and that is whales.  I’ve never painted a whale before and I have always found painting water particularly challenging.  So, my first plan of action was to buy paper that had some resist (unfortunately I didn’t take note of the name of the papers I bought.  I just went with feel but I will go back to the shop, buy more, take note of the names and will come back to report my findings).

Watercolour paper absorbs the paint too much for the watery effect that I’m seeking. This is a painting I did two years ago on Daler & Rowney 300gm Aquafine Aquarelle Watercolour paper.

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Unfurling

I wet the paper and then applied watered down Ecoline ink to create a watery background.  Aquarelle paper has quite a bit of resist and this lack of absorbency allows you to create this look.

Ecoline ink
liquid watercolour

I tried doing the background for a whale painting on the Aquarelle paper and I wasn’t impressed with the first coat.  It doesn’t have as much resist as I would like. I wet it all again and tried lots of splattering.  I’m happier with this and will give it a go.  I’ll see what the end outcome brings.

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background painted on 300gm Aquarelle Watercolour paper

I painted this humpback adult and young whale on a paper with a lot of resist.  It feels like it almost has a plastic coating.  It was so much fun to paint on.

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Humpback Whales for Sea Shepherd Art Exhibition

I wet the paper and then applied the watercolour paint.  It was really, really wet so I left it to dry and went upstairs to make a nice cup of tea (I love hot cups of tea!).  A couple of hours later, I checked on it and discovered the paint in the bottom part of the painting, had formed the coolest bubbles ever!  They are soooo cool.  I’m just in awe of them.  Had I known this was going to happen, I would have applied this colour to a lot more of the painting.  I think this colour may have also helped to make the whales look more like they are underwater too.  Unfortunately the photos don’t accurately capture the life-likeness of the bubbles created.

 

I’m going to continue to try a variety of papers with resist and I will let you know how this goes.  Do you think I’ll have a repeat of unintentionally creating the coolest bubbles ever?  Has any of your painting experiences resulted in cool bubble-making??  I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading,

by Patricia (Pj), the unfurling artist

Bad Ink

I’ve started using ink a lot more since doing the Inktober Challenge in 2016.  I mainly use it to outline Australian native animals that I draw.  I mix Indian and Quink ink together and use a reed to apply my outlines.

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My inks and reeds

I usually have a few on the go so one of my kitchen counter tops has been taken over by these.  Having them accessible lets me add to them during those short down times.  For example,  while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, I paint a few blades of grass or I use it as a motivational tool before I try to make myself start making dinner. For example, I’ll allow myself to only paint a platypus’ beak and then I tell myself I can paint more when I finish making dinner.

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The kitchen counter top with three platypus drawings in progress
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Platypus I was inking up before going to work

I was inking up these platypus before work, and hadn’t quite finished the third platypus in the top drawing, when I realised that time had gotten away from me.  I quickly started packing up.  Ink is a fantastic median on paper to work with because it is bold, dramatic and versatile but when it gets knocked over and spills everywhere, ink is bad, which is what happened.  It fell off the kitchen counter onto the floor, splashed up onto the cupboard doors, dining room chair, dining room table and me.  Charli, the dog, immediately wanted to smell it.  I chased her out the door, tried to clean up the best I could and threw my clothes into the washing machine to soak before I rushed out the door.

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ink clean up
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Anyone for yummy ink soup??

I got to work and discovered I hadn’t got all the ink off of me and that my shoes had taken on a more authentic artistic look!

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Ink work that I didn’t have to pay for
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My shoe taking on a more artistic look

I’ve had other unfortunate experiences with ink.  A while ago, I placed my art bag on the front passenger seat and when I removed my bag I discovered that my ink bottle had leaked.  So, as a result, the front passenger seat has a permanent rather large ink spot on it.  Another time, an ink bottle leaked in my generous sized pencil case.  What a mess that was, and a job to clean!

Despite my bad ink experiences, I’m still a big fan of ink and use it almost daily.  Has anyone else had any “bad ink” experiences???

 

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inking finished and watercolour being added
August 2017 platypus
painting finished despite all the drama!  🙂

Windows – I can see clearly now

 

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                                The Domain House, Hobart, Tasmania, sketched April 2017                                Drawn firstly with a beige watercolour pencil, then fountain ink pen and finally watercolour washes applied.

I started urban sketching about 10 months ago when I visited my son, who is living in Africa.  Below are some of my sketches of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 2016.

Among the challenges of perspective, angles and a myriad of others things with urban sketching, there are windows.  How do you paint windows so they are not flat, dark looking spaces?  How can you paint “lively and happy” looking windows?  Often the windows are very dark but I don’t want to duplicate that darkness into my sketch.

So, I’ve been playing with different approaches and mixtures of colours trying to find a system of tackling windows that I’m happy with.  I’m still working on it but here is my latest window-painting strategy.

I have found that the trick is painting wet-in-wet and using lots of clean water. Sometimes I use a fleck of Turquoise or Cobalt Blue to start off, then I paint a line of the dark blue/black colour on the shadow side and the top part of the window.  I load my brush with this colour and then I rinse all the colour out of the brush (and this is important because you need to now use water that is clear of colour) or use a different clean brush. I then apply water, rinse the brush out, apply more water and continue the process.  I gently move the paint when I want to spread the darkness around a bit further, being careful to not lose the light captured.  I want to try to avoid creating a solid colour.  If it does start getting too dark or solid, I drop a great big drop of water in and that usually fixes things up quick-smart!

How do you tackle window-painting?  I’d love to hear.

Cheers for now, from Pjpaintings – the unfurling artist

Creative Journeying

A warm welcome to my unfurling:     Journalising Creative Journeying.

Unfurling:

As a beginner artist, as many artists do, I held my art close to me.  My skills developed and I became more confident.  The art became more and more a part of “me”, who I am and what gives me joy.  It became a means to help spread joy and put smiles on faces, and a smile on my face.

I have a Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/pjpaintings/ and a website: www.pjpaintings.com where I post finished, predominantly successful paintings but I also want a space where I can share the “engine room”, so to speak, of my development of new skill areas, where I can share my ideas, thoughts, flops, and strategies to change flops into non-flops.  My emus will be a constant during my branching out, but I do want to explore and track the development of other art genres.

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Bonnie & Me!

For example, I’ve recently discovered urban sketching.  Drawing and painting with my paper flapping in the wind is a different experience.  I’d like to share what I’m learning while I’m learning it and would love to hear from you.

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Drawn directly with ink and reed (reed displayed in photo) and then watercolour applied. Swan Street, Hobart