Jewel Box

Jewel Box - Susan Skuse - 2015 Oil on canvas mounted on board 4x panels 30x80 cms
Jewel Box – Susan Skuse – 2015
Oil on canvas mounted on board
4x panels 30×80 cms

Jewel Box is another in the series of paintings I have been doing of Mudgeeraba Creek. I was walking along the edge of the creek one day when I noticed a shaft of light coming in between the tree branches and lighting up the stones on the floor of the creek with a golden glow. The richness of the reflections of leaves and branches, and the shapes and colours of the underlying rocks seemed to create a complicated sort of Rococco pattern; not a collection of mundane objects, but a secret cache of precious things. That’s why I’ve called the work ‘Jewel Box’.

Holmes Art Prize – Steve Hillier Finalist

Stephen Hillier, Breakfast at Sweethearts, Oil on Canvas, 92x80 cms
Stephen Hillier, Breakfast at Sweethearts, Oil on Canvas, 92×80 cms

This is my partner, Steve’s entry for the Holmes Art Prize, a stunning painting of the Black Shouldered Kite. It was an education to see the meticulous dedication that goes into painting a work like this. Long after I thought it was finished, Steve was working away, adding details and making subtle adjustments that I could hardly see. Very unlike my own slap-dash approach. But hey, vive la difference!

You can see more of Steve’s work, including some of his un-feathered birds at Visual Emporium –

Finalist in the Holmes Art Prize – The Art of Riding the Wind

The Art of Riding on the Wind, Oil on Aluminium Composite sheeting, 9x panels 40x40 cms, overall size 135x135 cms
The Art of Riding on the Wind, Oil on Aluminium Composite sheeting, 9x panels 40×40 cms, overall size 135×135 cms

Here is how my bird panels look when put together as a single work. I am very honoured to have had this work selected as a finalist in the inaugural Holmes Art Prize run by the Regional Art Gallery of Caloundra. It is a specialised art prize calling for “excellence in the realistic representation of Australian birds”. They have attracted entries from the top nature and wildlife artists from all over Australia, so, without undue modesty, I am still wondering how I managed to get in. The show will be on from the 12th to 30th August at The Oakes Resort, Cnr. North Street and Landsborough Parade, Golden Beach. My partner Steve also has a work in the show – a beautiful painting of the Black Shouldered Kite, which I will post next.

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 2 – Australian Magpie

The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 7 Australian Magpie a

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 2 – Australian Magpie
Oils and acrylic on composite aluminium panel
40 x 40 cms

This is the second of my Riding on the Wind series, featuring one of the dependents of this household, the Australian Magpie. Birds all seem to have their own style when it comes to flying. The Magpie’s is determined, efficient, but not flashy.

The work is done on composite aluminium sheet. The sky has firstly been painted on using airbrushed acrylic, followed by oil paint, and then the bird has been added in oils.

Sea of Dreams

Sea of Dreams, oil on canvas, 91x91 cms
Sea of Dreams, oil on canvas, 91×91 cms

This is a bit of a multi-purpose work, exploring two subjects that are deeply fascinating to me – the sky and the sea. I was trying to capture an unusual pearly light that you sometimes see at dawn, and I think I’ve got at least part of the way there. I’ve called the painting ‘Sea of Dreams’ because it looks a bit surreal to me.

My Cloud Atlas

Atlas of Clouds, acrylic and oil paint on composite aluminium panels, each 400x400mm
Atlas of Clouds, acrylic and oil paint on composite aluminium panels, each 400x400mm

Painting the sky is a huge challenge, I have discovered. This is the final work for my most recently completed uni unit. I was trying to capture some really difficult aspects of the sky, such as its luminosity, its changeability, its vast size, power and mystery. In the end I discovered that painting on aluminium composite panels gave me the best results for smooth, luminous colour. There are still some technical problems to overcome, which I am currently working on.

Learning from the Masters

After Bierstadt's California Spring, oil on canvas, 60x60cms
After Bierstadt’s California Spring, oil on canvas, 60x60cms

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?


Summer Storms

Summer storms

Summer storms have come
scattering the last blossoms
of golden wattle.

3 Panels – 92 x 45 cms each – oil on canvas.

This painting is part of my series titled Looked for beyond Seeing: Portrait of a Rainforest Stream which I’ll be working on throughout this year to complete my Fine Arts degree. What really interests me here are the simultaneous impressions of the water’s surface, the reflection of the sky and the creek bed beneath. Some of my other work has taken a more abstract approach, but for this one I have kept it quite realistic, just strengthening the underlying abstract composition and the naturally occuring patterns.

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