Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Butterflies and Cats Whiskers?

Its a very foggy day in Dunedin today...rubbish for many things, but it provides great flat light for photographing artwork!

A few more Monarch Butterfly brooches now finished and ready for sale ($35 each + P&P).

I paint these using a brush just slightly larger than a cats whisker (both of my cats "Gavin & Colin" will verify this) and take almost 5 hours to hand paint. My 0000 size brushes wear away so quickly that 

I actually started collecting my cats whiskers 

whenever I saw them around the house thinking I might paint with them oneday! Sustainable art practice??

Approx size is 75mm W x 35mm H.

Message me on FB or go to if you're interested :)

Monday, March 20, 2017

A cuff round the ear ...and a trick involving a box

If you look at photographs of the New Zealand early settler women many of them look hard as nails and very unimpressed with life. They'd give you a cuff around the ear and a tongue lashing you would never quite recover from.
Coming to a new country and living in the amongst the bush in makeshift tent houses would have been hard  yakka...

..and then there were the bugs that became your bedside friends....

My painting entitled "The Settler" is a two sided idea; on one hand this woman is the early settler  in her long Victorian dresses forced to live amongst the strange insects of Aotearoa in damp unhospitable housing; and on the other hand she is a mother who settles babies to sleep, perhaps even the powerful force that is 'mother nature' who gathers up her beloved creatures and protects them.

The Settler
Acrylic on Canvas
540 H x 375W

Now showing at the Otago Art Society's "Off The Rack" exhibition at the Dunedin Railway Station. The Exhibition Opening is Wednesday 22nd of March at 6.00pm...all welcome.

Detail of NZ Insects


Over the years I've changed how I do a painting. The best way I've found is to paint in the base layers of each coloured section and then work each section up in layers. I do the highlights and finishing touches across the whole painting last.  

I find that by blocking in the colours on the whole canvas it means you can gauge how your colours/highlights/shading are working together and it tends to avoid a lot of rework. 

Years ago I used to paint one section of the painting until it was completed and then attack the next section which led to all sorts of hideous stuff ups as I wasnt able to cross reference colours and highlights.

Example of "The Settler" painting at each stage (apologies for bad lighting in these photos!)

And lastly....THE BOX TRICK for getting your pencil drawn image onto your canvas very quickly....

I've spent years trying to draw grids on my canvas to copy a drawing across at the right scale and its so painfully show and frustrating as I was stoked when I found this clip on YouTube: 

To save you some time, learn from MY mistakes.....make sure you only use a clear glass bulb in your lamp (not frosted) AND make sure the plastic you draw your image on is also clear (pages out of an old clearfile are perfect for this).  If your light bulb or your plastic sheet is frosty/obscure then you wont see any image projected.

Have a good week everyone! :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Guiding Light of Taiaroa

I've set aside my scary spider drawings for the past week to get a landscape painting done for the St Leonards School exhibition (Opening night Friday 24th of March at the St Leonards School Hall at 7.00 pm - All Welcome! Drinks & Nibbles & Art - what could be better on a Friday night!!)

On the Otago peninsula is a lighthouse sitting on the edge of Taiaroa Head. Its rugged cliff faces jut out into a wild bit of east coast ocean. It has an albatross colony, and a visitor centre, and a historic fort which is all highly publicized ....AND a whole lot of early Maori history that is quite hard to find! 

My digging led me to this guy (don't let a bad haircut fool you - this guy is switched on!)  

...and a brief biography of his life  (bit of bedtime reading?).

And so here's a painting with a stormy wild cold ocean, a gorgeous lighthouse preventing ships from running aground, a limb of warm land stretching out to the russet sky, and a story of a man.

"The Guiding Light Of Taiaroa"

Acrylic On Canvas 
680 W X 300 H

 ***  NB:  Another place I've been trying to locate on the Peninsula is "Tarawei's Leap"  - if anyone knows where that place is exactly drop me a line! There's so much amazing history around the Dunedin area but trying to piece together the story with the actual location is quite tricky.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My mouth has gone dry....and... I can't breathe...

Being an artist gets kinda weird sometimes because you come up with these hair-brained ideas about what you're going to paint and then you begin a strange research process. 

Firstly Ive got to say I'm terrified of spiders. They gave me nightmares as a child, and shrieks as a grown woman. As part of my latest idea I am having to sit and learn to draw a Katipo spider from a book of NZ creatures. 

His legs are shiny, his multiple knees (??) are spindly and smooth....BLURGH!!! 

My mouth has gone dry,
 my skin is prickling...

(better not be anything crawling on me!) and I'm supposed to sit here and stare at him until I've drawn all of his creepy little bits in perfect proportions....ewwww ewwww ...ewwww!

The hilarious thing is the mighty Katipo spider we were all warned about as children is a whoppingly pathetic 8mm in size. I seriously thought they were going to be 40mm at least just by their dangerous reputation.

Next my research takes me to marvellously gorgeous yet totally impractical fashion from the Victorian era.

(Photo courtesy of Victorian & Edwardian Fashions For Women 1840-1919 by Kristina Harris)

I'm pretty sure that's whats running through her mind as her bone corset crushes her vital organs into minute steaks.....but isn't the jacket beading absolutely stunning??
Can you imagine being a NZ settler woman moving to the damp muddy bush country of Aotearoa in heavy skirts (the women in skirts guys, not Aotearoa) with spiders and wetas running up your skirt in the night time? They weren't a wussy bunch that's for sure.

Next up I have to figure out how to draw a head turned sideways with a front-facing body....and so then comes the selfie...complete with fuzzy hair!

It is then I find out how hard it is to stand facing forwards but turn your head sideways and still be able to look at the camera to check you're not photographing the ceiling. Obviously I'm not as stoic as a settler as I'm complaining about having to turn my eyes sideways! 

More HB pencil, scraps of paper and hours of erasing and I get this...

So this painting project is keeping me very busy at the moment....will post an update of how the painting is going very soon.

In my next post I'll also share with you a fabulous hack for getting your drawn picture onto a canvas (or a wall!) that I wish I'd known ten years ago.