The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 5 – Rainbow Bee-Eater

The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 6 Rainbow Bee Eater a 

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 4 – Rainbow Bee-Eater, oil on composite aluminium panel, 40×40 cms

Rainbow Bee-eaters are one of the most delightful little birds that live in our locality. It takes very special flying skills to make a living out of catching insects on the wing.

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 4 – Galah

The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 9 Galah a

The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 4 – Galah
Oil on aluminium composite panel, 40 x 40 cms

The next in my series of birds on the wing.  Galahs always have a sort of cheekiness, don’t you think?

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.

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.

Cloudy Thoughts – D’Entrecasteaux

Cloudy Thoughts - D'Entrecasteaux, mixed media on paper, 61x81 cms
Cloudy Thoughts – D’Entrecasteaux, mixed media on paper, 61×81 cms

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:

XXIX

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.

XLVII
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.

LXXII
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.

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?

Bierstadt_Albert_California_Spring_1875

Before the Storm

Before the Storm, oil on canvas, 40 x 80 cms
Before the Storm, oil on canvas, 40 x 80 cms

I have been working on a series of paintings of sky and clouds for my current studies. A friend sent me a couple of his photographs as a challenge.

Approaching storm reference
Approaching storm reference

What began as an attempt at a literal rendering of the photograph gradually morphed into something completely different, through the liberal use of artistic license.

What a beautiful place to live – 48-58

Storm Clearing Hinze Dam - oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Storm Clearing Hinze Dam – oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Calm Pool Mudgeeraba Creek, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Calm Pool Mudgeeraba Creek, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Antarctic Beech Tree, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Antarctic Beech Tree, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Mudgeeraba Creek, Spring Foliage, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Mudgeeraba Creek, Spring Foliage, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Top of the Falls, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms.
Top of the Falls, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms.
Dancing ghost gums, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30x 30 cms.
Dancing ghost gums, Springbrook, oil on canvas board, 30x 30 cms.
Clouds over the Tallai Hills, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Clouds over the Tallai Hills, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Poinciana in Bloom, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms.
Poinciana in Bloom, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms.
Coomera Falls, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms.
Coomera Falls, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms.
Into the Canopy, oil on canvas board, 30x30 cms
Into the Canopy, oil on canvas board, 30×30 cms
Forest reflections, Mudgeeraba Creek, oil on canvas board, 30x30
Forest reflections, Mudgeeraba Creek, oil on canvas board, 30×30

 

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.