Sunday, May 31, 2015

It doesn't get any easier - yet.

I had a bet ( no money involved)  with my brother and sister in law that I would finish a painting by the end of May.

I agreed to a short time frame to force myself to  complete the task.

I bought some new colours to provide more variety - I had read about the usefulness of Payne's grey to tint other colours. Seemed simple enough in theory. Also wanted to try mixing white enamel paint with oils! I had read that some well known artists had done this.

Nine paintings on the go- none yet finished

As usual I let other unimportant things get in the way. In the meantime I completed several drawings - a task that I enjoy but it's painting I want to do. On second to last day of May I started mid morning to start painting. I began on a half finished painting but at the end my attempt it seemed to be getting worse so I put it to onside and began to work on several paintings - applying  mixed colours to paintings that they suited.

After the figure painting I drafted out an image of a bird - an image I have previously used.
See above left

Then I mapped out a couple of large landscapes .

One based on  landscape with Maori pa and a European redoubt based on a drawing I had done.
Pa and redoubt sketch

And another based on a drawing based on a view from an aeroplane flight I had taken.

I also worked on a tree and road landscape that was progressing well - my attempts, once again, seemed to make it worse.

After several hours -time goes fast when you become engrossed in an enjoyable task - even when it wasn't exactly working out.

While away in Auckland I had read a book on oil painting and made notes from it. In my hurry to get on with painting I forgot to look through them - I will make use of then when next I start painting.

It is lack of skill using paints that is the problem

On refection it wasn't a bad start. The only way t improve is keep painting and learn through 'enlightened trial and error'.

This week who knows.

And I don't know who won the bet!

Under painting with diluted paint ( burnt sienna?)  and building up colour - a lesson for me

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Interpreting my bush.

My home is sited  in a bush valley complete with  a stream ,lake and swamp.

Since I have lived here for over forty years I have gained an intimate knowledge and feeling for the bush.

My property , I guess, was once on the outskirts of New Plymouth city but now , as the city has grown, the idea of the land nearby being farmed is hard to imagine - except for old barb wire fences, and some large poplar boundary trees. I even found some old wagon wheels while exploring one day!
Tawa trres

The bush is more or less as it was in pre -settlement days ( usually only rimu tees were felled  locally for timber and there are saw pits in the nearby bush reserve). The local bush is coastal rain forest comprising of pukatea, kohekohe, rewarewa, mangeo puriti, titoki  and tawa  - all of which  ( with the exception of Titoki)there are large specimens in my 'garden'.
Trees, vines and walkaway

In 1947  land was bought by Mrs ( later Lady) V C  Davies of Duncan and Davies fame. Mrs Davies planted a number of rimu and kauri trees which are now over 60 years old.  The land was then sold on to one of D&Ds landscape gardener Graham Miller in 1954 who built a small house which at the time only had a walking track to it. Graham planted a range of introduced trees - camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and maples. He also planted a kauri tree for each of his children. When he married he developed a sealed road to the house - and added to the house as his family required.

I bought the property in 1970 and although I have continued planting I have removed a number of large trees  planted when the property was bounded by farms - mainly big poplar tees but also camellia and conifers planted by Graham. Graham told me it was a 'wilderness garden' when he sold it to me  a concept that suited me but I have come to realize there is no such thing. Plants , near houses anyway, have to be trimmed  and even removed. The next big tree to be 'sorted out' is one I planted in 1970!

Vines and walkway
After years of benign neglect, now I am retired, I have spent more time 'taming' the section. I have developed  ( with a lot of help) a circular bush track right around the property  which was impassible in earlier days. The bush track has two bridges , several duck-walks and lastly an extensive  board walkway.

Rimu tree
Now I would like to develop paintings based on the trees in the bush. This offers considerable challenges - particularly how much detail to include. My intention is to develop some semi-abstract paintings that capture the essence of the bush - its dark and mysterious feel.

I have taken endless photographs but this is all too easy.

From observation and from photographs , plus a dose of artistic license I now
have a number of ideas to work on.  Drawing is the easy part - its the painting that provides for me the real challenge,
Half finished painting

Completed oil 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Trying to get past drawing and just thinking about painting

I started this blog as a personal challenge - to motivate me to get back into art before it is too late.

I also wanted to make a record of some of the drawings/art work that I had done over the years. I had always wanted to do art but have been sidetracked by my enthusiasm for creative education. As part
Based on photo in Auck Art gallery
of my educational career I was able to meet up with a number of well known New Zealand artists and for a couple of years I was appointed as a school adviser in art.

I am still enthusiastic about education but have given up working in schools restricting myself to writing an educational blog and keeping up with reading.

It does seem that this blog is also diverting me from painting but it has made me really enthusiastic about drawing - drawing is a lot easier and takes less time and it is also easier to experiment with different styles and themes.

View from plane
Painting is still my intention. I recently bought a very large canvas but its size is somewhat off putting. I also have three unfinished paintings to complete. Ideas are not the problem - the problem is one of technique about using oil paints.

Last week I flew up to Auckland to stay with my brother Graeme and his wife Mary. Graeme is also keen on art and is currently finishing a large painting of a old butcher shop he observed  in Whangamomona while staying in Taranaki.  He also likes drawing but on a larger scale than my efforts.

While in Auckland with Graeme and Mary , we visited a number of art galleries. At the Dow-Langsford Gallery we saw paintings by Dick Frizzell (who I admire greatly), John Walsh's Gallipoli paintings and Rueben Patterson's art ( Rueben has recently become my neighbour). I like Walsh's staining technique.
A favourite image

At the Auckland Art Gallery there were good exhibitions of New Zealand Art - including Michael Snithers, Don Driver ( I have a wonderful Driver in my 'collection') , Dick Frizzell and Colin McCahon.  We visited the Billy Apple exhibition whose work is somewhat challenging to say the least.

On another expedition we visited the new Lopdell Gallery which featured amongst other artists the pottery of Barry Brickell. To complete our art visits we viewed the art on display at the Muriwai Surf Club.
Coastal Taranaki

On returning to New Plymouth I have completed a number of drawing exploring a set of art felt pens - some based on views of the Manakau from the plane. Other drawings are either based of images from the TV or earlier ideas. I have collected lots of images with my camera and keep them on my computer for reference.

The challenge is to complete my paintings and to do a new one. My brother and his wife have a bet on me to complte, or not , a painting by the beginning of  June. In my held mail were two brilliant books on creative education - I couldn't resist reading them!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Figure drawing - personal history

Drawing the human figure is an interesting and challenging task.
Dancers - Henry More!

My first introduction to such a task was in the 60s.  I had a wonderful friend Erika who ran a creative dance school. The dancers moved to classical music and made use of colourful scarves. This coincided with my interest in Henry Moore and his drawing of people.

Drawing from the 60s

 At another friends advice I went
de Kooning
along to figure drawing classes - and few years later to life classes run by well known New Zealand artist Tom Krysler. Tom was an interesting tutor who encouraged class members to develop their own style. Unfortunately the drawings completed in these classes have been long lost. If I remember they were done on large pieces of paper using  charcoal or large crayon.

In the last few years I have returned to figure drawing and I am planning to develop some paintings along the theme. Two artists have caught my attention for inspiration de Kooning and Richard Diekenkorn. Painting in figurative style in the 80s, after a period of abstract expressionism and hard
Diekenkorn drawing
edged abstract painting, their work appeals to me. As for de Kooning I particularly  like his female figures before the disintegrated into more expressionistic work.

Two other influences that seem hard to ignore in this area of figure drawing are Picasso and Matisse - I  particularly like Matisse. Both seem to appear in my drawings - guess I will have to live with their influence until I work through them.
Pat Hanly

One New Zealand artist I admire is Pat Hanly - the figures on the beach series. They seem to me to relate to Matisse's later cut out pieces.

Everything goes into the mix - who knows what might emerge? That's the ultimate challenge of art.

Small painting 90s
Recent drawing

Painting in progress

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Images of Taranaki and the NZ land wars.

For most of my career visiting rural schools, as part of my job as a school adviser, I have paid particular attention to  noticing Maori Pa sites and the remnants of European redoubts.
Graet places to climb up to and explore

A European redoubt
Pa site
During my primary schools year we learnt nothing about  the  Land Wars and our learning about Maori culture was limited to a romantic view of pre- European life - and learning stick games with rolled up newspaper and learning string games.

From memory there was nothing about Maori language and the life of present day Maori in our own area.

There were Maori students in our class - I often wonder what they were thinking. At least we were taught the main events in New Zealand history but, as mentioned, not tied to local reality.

At our small district high school ( now closed) we had a teacher who introduced us to the land wars that our town was central to. We visited the site of a major battle where a number of colonial troops lost their lives fighting the Taranaki war chief Titokowaru.

Pa and redoubt

Small painting

As a result of this teacher's enthusiasm I have developed an interest in the land wars and early new Zealand history. Over the years I have explored a number of old pa sites and European redoubts. When I was a teacher  my class followed the excavation of the Omata redoubt.

As a result of my driving around the back country, admiring the landscape and historical sites, I have done a series of drawing to capture my impressions.

I have a feeling they would make great semi-abstract paintings.