My main interest here is in the sea and the sky; in the way these elements dominate the landscape and make humankind’s efforts at control look insubstantial. The sky, on this rainy day, set a sombre tone that was reflected in the waters of the Channel. The scene evoked thoughts about the transience and insignificance of my life compared to the sublime power of the natural world, and the verses from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam included in the work give expression to these thoughts. It’s probably not possible to read the verses from this image, so here they are:
Into this Universe and Why not Knowing
nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing;
and out of it, as wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.
And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help–for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
A number of different processes and materials were used in this work. Silver leaf was laid down over some areas of the sky and a verdigris preparation was used as underpainting on the land and areas of the sea. The scene was then painted in acrylic paint. Some collage elements are included in the sky and for the text. The work was then coated in encaustic medium to give depth to the colours and to enhance the surface texture of the work. Details of the sea were added with oil paint and stylized cloud shapes were stenciled into some areas of the sky with the intent of contradicting a straightforward naturalistic reading of the work.
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?
For the final year of my Fine Arts study I will be working in depth on a single subject. I’ve chosen the local creek, Mudgeeraba Creek, which is a beautiful little spot. There will be a lot more creek paintings coming up in future months. At this point I am trying out a variety of approaches. Hopefully along this journey I will discover my own special way of interpreting this subject.
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”)
This was my entry for the recent Border Art Prize. Didn’t win, didn’t sell, situation normal. It’s a departure from my usual style. The painting started with a background of rust paint – you paint it on, black and gluggy, and then put on an oxidizer, that makes the surface, well, rust. When its rusted enough, you can seal it off. It makes a very interesting coloured and textured matt surface. Then I used some net fabric as a stencil to apply modelling paste, palette knife ditto, and a lot of dribbling, flicking and dotting. I was trying to get the impression of a group of rather graceful looking trees clinging onto a cliff face and swaying in the breeze. I think I got something of it there. The original photo reference, which bears little resemblance to the painting, was taken at the Minyon Falls lookout, Northern NSW.
These are three paintings I developed from the small paintings I put up in the previous post. They are all scenes from Mudgeeraba Creek, a few kilometres down the road, right up in the headwaters of it, where it is very shallow. There is a fantastic quality of light there in the early morning, when the sun is lighting up the tops of the trees but the under-canopy is in shadow. The colours of reflections this makes is amazing – like liquid gold and green satin. The work is currently on display at Monet’s Art Garden Gallery, Metro Centre, Hollywell Road, Labrador. The mosaic table-top in the foreground is also my work, if anyone is wondering.
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.
I had another productive Sunday painting with Erna last weekend. This painting is from a photograph I took on an early morning walk at Port Macquarie. Looking into the sun doesn’t make for a very good photograph, but in paint the light and sea mist look more convincing, I think.