Just at present I am investigating paintings of the sky for the current study unit of the Fine Arts degree course I am struggling with. Although the thrust of the educational program is unremittingly “contemporary” (with all the overtones that word seems to have picked up when applied to art), I still could not go past Albert Beirstadt as a mentor and guide. Beirstadt was a German born painter who revealed and romanticised the American West in the 1850-1870s. Dramatic skies always play an important role in his paintings.
In this work I have tried to get into his headspace a little. Unfortunately, working from low resolution reproductions found on the internet, I have not been able to really see the details of his brushwork or get an accurate fix on his colours. I’ve tried to be pretty faithful to the original, but I do note that his oak tree seems to have morphed into an Australian gum tree. And his cow seems to have turned into a horse. It’s pretty rough and ready, having been painted in two sessions, and needing some time to be spent on refinement.
Painting copies of master works is a time honored tradition in art studies, and I can appreciate why this is so. As you paint you have time to appreciate how the artist has solved many problems of composition, value and colour.
Below is the original Bierstadt work. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Always Emptying; Always Full – oil on canvas, 30 x 122 cms
This is a painting of my local creek. I’m going to be doing a series of paintings of this creek in the course of my university studies over the coming year. With this one I created a panorama of photos taken while standing on a rock in the middle of the stream. My aim was to make the viewer feel surrounded by the scene – not just looking at it as though through a window. I painted with very thinned down oil paint on an absorbent canvas surface, trying for the fresh look of transparent watercolour. The title comes from a line in the Tao te Ching – “the universe, like a bellows, is always emptying, always full.” The creek is my little metaphor for the universe.
I see that the year is fast running out. I must get on and post more paintings that are sitting around my studio. I’m pretty sure I’ve made my goal of 100.
I was driving down the Pacific Highway, where the road follows the McLean River, when I saw these marshy fields infested with water hyacinth, (which is a horribly noxious weed), all in furious flower. I had to stop and investigate, taking lots of photographs. It looked from some angles like a Dutch tulip farm. The colours of the flowers were echoed in the stormy sky. It was kind of an ‘aha’ moment — yes, I see, beauty really is no guarantee of virtue, contrary to what Mr. Keats had to say (“beauty is truth: truth, beauty”)
It was about this time last year that I visited the Blue Mountains for the spring Garden Festival at Leura. I got some wonderful reference shots of the canyon walls, including the one I painted this picture from, taken from the top of Wentworth Falls. This painting is built on a textured base of torn strips of thick hand-made paper to suggest the feel of the rock strata. I’ve used unblended rectangular strokes of strong colour to bring out the colour variations in the cliff face. Sadly this year parts of the Blue Mountains have already been damaged by fire and many homes lost. Fire is a constant danger in this region and I fear this summer is going to be a bad one.
I guess this would be called a quadtych – but that sounds strange. After painting my twenty small paintings for uni (see my post – ‘What a beautiful place to live’ ), I’ve been experimenting with doing groups of small paintings mounted together on coloured backgrounds. I’ve used small canvas panels for the paintings and have mounted them together on studio wrap 38mm deep canvas. The scene is a small part of a glorious sunrise I saw on my last visit to Port Macquarie, but it really could be anywhere along the coast. I’m putting this one in a show at Lismore in a couple of weeks time.
I recently had the task of painting twenty small sketches of “my place” for the Fine Arts painting unit I was then doing. These are some of the paintings that resulted. The exercise focused my thoughts on what I find so special in the place where I live. Many of the paintings were of Mudgeeraba Creek, an unassuming little water-way that wends its way through sub-tropical rainforest, often very shallow, rippling over polished river stones.
I started this painting some time ago and have only just got around to finishing it off. If it is finished, that is. It often seems to me that the painting finishes with me, rather than I with it, if that makes any sense at all. Anyway, this was painted from a photo I took on a little holiday jaunt with my good friend, Janine. The lake is the out-flow of an underground river that flows through the Jenolan caves system. The suspended limestone material that it carries gives the water an incredible opalescent jade colour.