Let's Make a Creative Mess!

Hi Fellow Art Friends,

Apologies for not writing on my blog in recent months. I have been taking a sabbatical from writing and concentrating on family/work/life balance. Some days I just focus on breathing to get through the juggling act! I’m sure many of you feel the same? Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, they teach me so many wonderful life lessons but they are active boys who require my total attention at times.

Delicous Margan veg

Delicous Margan veg

Various sketchbooks in process

Various sketchbooks in process

Last week I posted an image of my cache of sketchbooks which I’ve collected from my recent collaboration with Margan Family Wines. It’s been lovely drawing weekly in their garden; documenting the plethora of organic veg and fruit. It’s a visual feast for the eyes. It it a nice reminder of my "In Season" series too.

A Facebook friend commented that her daughter fills her sketchbooks with drawings too. It made me realise how special childhood is to our artistic freedom and a particular life lesson my kids have taught me.

I encourage my boys to draw outside the lines. Experiment with shapes, colours and marks. Play with the layering of colours and show the journey of the work. All the time simply having fun with the process.

It’s important to celebrate the process of making art and be present in the moment. Try not to have a fixed attachment to a goal or to make the work resemble something figurative. I feel young kids love this style of working. We were all a Picasso or Van Gogh in our childhood.

Our home office with the boys artworks displayed on the wall.

Our home office with the boys artworks displayed on the wall.

It’s when kids reach high school that they can give up. When their drawings don’t “look real” they tend to stop trying. This is when we should really encourage our kids to keep going. Keep looking. Keep experimenting, especially with sketchbooks. Try not to be tied to a fixed outcome, just let go and be free.

Celebrate their imperfections and the fact that they are making a creative mess. It’s such a valuable life lesson. I love how the act of art making can teach us many life lessons.

Let’s face it, none of us are perfect! (Eek, did I say that out loud!)

I love reading your comments. If you like this post please comment/ like below or even share with friends.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Work can be seen at Margan Restaurant at Margan Family Wines, Milbrodale Rd Broke, Hunter Valley,

PRESS RELEASE: AUSTRALIAN ARTIST EXHIBITS IN SWITZERLAND

AWARD WINNING AUSTRALIAN HUNTER VALLEY ARTIST PAINTS ‘VARIOUS SAINTS AND STORMS’ AND EXHIBITS HER ARTWORK IN VALANGIN, SWITZERLAND

 VALANGIN (NEUCHATEL) 23/8/16

Painting en plein air in Tuscany June 2016

Following her artist-in-residence in Tuscany, Rebecca Rath shows her stunning, captivating landscapes in Gallery Belimage in Valangin. The beautiful and the foreboding that is present in her paintings direct the viewer to contemplate Nature Sublime in all its facets.

There’s a connection between man and nature, present at all times yet often unseen. Rath paints her landscapes with the express purpose of creating an awareness of this connection. Unique in style, yet reminiscent of the works of Turner, Constable, but also of writers such as Shelley, Keats, and Muir, Rath’s aim is not just to show a ‘pretty picture’, but to create a specific experience in the viewer.

 Says Rath:

"The modern discourse between religion and scientific exploration has all but blinded man to the innate and inherent connection we all have with nature. It’s as if all our knowing and understanding has made us forget that we are all an integral part of nature and existence.

 If my paintings are often dramatic or foreboding, just the way the sky looks before or during a storm, it’s because I wish for the viewer to experience that same intensity I see. I want the viewer to take a moment and reflect both on the minuteness of being human, as well as on the fact that being human is a marvellous and awe-inspiring reality."

With her exhibition ‘Various Storms and Saints’, Rath hopes to inspire viewers to reflect on how, despite modern life, in essence very little has changed. Nature Sublime still affects us, shares its beauty with us, and should not be taken for granted.

 Rath holds a Bachelor Fine Arts Honours, COFA UNSW. Winner of many awards in Australia and internationally for her photography, drawing and painting, she has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia. Her work has also been exhibited in Italy, the USA and Hong Kong and features in many public and private collections. The exhibition at Gallery Belimage in Valangin is the first opportunity for Swiss art-lovers to experience her breathtaking work in real life.

 She lives with her family on a vineyard in Pokolbin, NSW, Australia. While an academic with a strong philosophical bent, she’s also a down-to-earth person who wants nothing more than for others to experience the joy of art and nature.

Nature Sublime, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm image size

The exhibition in Valangin runs from August 10 -  September 4. The gallery hours are Wednesday - Sunday, 15.00 to 18.00. On view are her most recent works, made this June in Tuscany plus previous work created on her vineyard in Australia. Art lovers looking to experience the effect of inspired meaningful art are cordially invited take this unique opportunity to visit the gallery and, hopefully reconnect with nature the way Ms. Rath wishes.

 For more information about the exhibition, contact the gallery’s director Ms. Vetterli by way of the details provided below.

 For interviews, images or further insight into Ms. Rath’s art, please contact her directly at hello@rebeccarath.com.au or view her website www.rebeccarath.com.au

Françoise Vetterli
Director, GALERIE BELIMAGE
Place de la Collégiale 2, 2042 Valangin, Switzerland
www.belimage.ch  info@belimage.ch
032 753 09 74/ 032 504 20 42

What are values in painting?

In my last post I asked the question: What is a good painting? I didn’t speak about the technical points of painting and drawing-  composition, value, colour, mark making - as I personally feel the intent of the work is paramount.

Yet, like a baking a good cake, all these other components are really important too. There is the beautiful dance between, colour, composition, marks and value which help create a harmonious artwork.

My friend and fellow artist, Jon Hayes, and I have recently been discussing the importance of ‘values’ in a good painting. He feels (and rightly so) that if the values of a painting are not there then the painting will not be successful.

Values are an interesting subject and I don’t mean the cost of an artwork!

 A value is the light – darkness of the work.

Take away the colour/hue/chroma of the work and you are left with a grisaille or grey scale of the work.

Up until now what eluded me was not the idea of black-white but the importance of the balance.

At art school, a part from drawing and painting, I studied photography. 6 years in a black and white darkroom helped me understand 50 shades of grey! The success of an image hinged on the journey of either black or white in an image. You only have black and white to help with the composition. No colour to distract you.

Nature Sublime 2016, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm
Galerie Belimage

Nature Sublime 2016, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm
* TONAL version

Grey scale

Grey scale

When you turn a colour image into black and white, all you see are shapes and tonal values. If the tonal journey of either one is not there, then the image will not be successful.

This means, even if you have a high (light) key or low (dark) key painting, you must include a journey of the corresponding value to help the eye travel through the work.

It doesn’t mean you need a perfect balance of all greys but a journey of dark or light to help the eye stay inside and not travel outside the work. (This is also of the utmost importance when drawing with charcoal.)

Tonal values are important for composition because they not only help create depth (3D), they support the focal point as the eye is naturally drawn towards light tones.

There isn’t a day when I don’t learn something more about art making.

I hope this has helped many people out there who are still scratching their heads about values and their importance.

Thank you Jon and thank YOU for sharing this journey with me.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently on at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please view Australian works here.
Contact the gallery for more information: info@belimage.ch

What is good art?

The euphoria of our big European trip is wearing off and life has returned to its normal hum of kids, school, business and routine. My eldest has been couch-bound with the flu and as such studio time has been put on hold.

Unfortunately no studio updates to report but I can report on the feedback I received from my last blog post – Constructive Criticism.

Thank you for all your heartfelt responses. It was a pleasure to read them here, via email and all social media platforms.

I thought I would share some responses.

Paul Mordetsky (artist), USA writes: “… it wasn’t criticism at all. It is more like you inviting me over for dinner, serving a splendid stew, and I tell you that stews - any stew - gives me indigestion due to the vagaries of my own digestive system. …… I am not saying anything about you or about your cooking - just stating a valid but purely personal opinion”.

Artwork by Masolino & Masaccio at the Branacci Chapel Florence.

Demetria Verduci (Architect & Manager, La Macina di San Cresci), Italy writes: “As a person arises in front of a work of art … (their response) depends on their background, their culture and even their daily life.  It should not be interpreted as a negative criticism of your paintings, but as a subjective reaction…I believe that if we are serene people and in peace with ourselves, we are also able to understand that a painting, a piece of music or a book express the vision of the author, its personal aesthetic and its message”.

Amy Menzies (artist), Australia also feels the same. “Art is subjective so criticism is an occupational hazard. Emotional on both parties..”

Personally, I want art to make me think. Art that makes you question aspects of life. I think that is the responsibility of the artist. Artists are sensitive (there’s that word again!). These days I see it as a gift, not a hindrance. To convey ideas, feelings and opinions through our craft. After all we are a visual culture.

Art is a powerful visual language which can access society and make us think/feel and act upon. For example, Renaissance art was simply a form of advertising to the masses. Works usually commissioned by the church to teach society how to behave.

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614

The Madonna is often depicted breastfeeding Jesus in paintings and frescoes. I had the opportunity to visit the earliest recorded Renaissance frescoes while in Florence at the Branacci Chapel.

One of my favourite paintings from the Renaissance is Artemisia Gentileschi’s, Judith Slaying Holofernes (I don't know if this was commissioned by the church!). You can see it at Florence's Uffizi Gallery. On its own it is a powerful religious piece but to understand the artist’s background makes this piece even more poignant. A female painter in a male dominated profession must have been challenging.

I love it when people respond to some art and say “Oh but I could do that!”  and my favourite is “My 5 year old paints better than that”.

So, what do you think constitutes good art?

What type of art do you buy?

I love reading your comments. Please feel free to comment and like below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints: paintings & drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently on at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please view Australian works here.
Please contact the gallery for sales: info@belimage.ch

Constructive Criticism.

It has been over a week since the opening and we are finally home after our big European adventure (sigh). As I think about the opening I can’t help but recall a very open gentleman who confidently told me he didn’t like my work.

Big Australian Skies. Installation photo of the current exhibition.
Images left to right. 1/ Towards Drayton's Vineyard, oil on cotton canvas, 86 x 116cm 2/On the table, various en plein air oil paintings from Italy. 3/ Gilleston Island (after the flood), oil on cotton, 86 x 115cm. 4/ Evening Light on Teddy's Hill, oil on cotton, 86 x 115cm.

Being an artist is an interesting occupation for a sensitive soul, which most artists are (not that I wish to generalise).  I’ve often been called sensitive, like it was a bad word, yet over the years I’ve grown a thick skin to negative comments.

I am still human however and negativity in any form is challenging but these days I try not to dwell on it. I believe, what we think about is who we become.

Both school and art school prepared me for criticism.  Every other day at university we would have group critiques (crits) about our work by peers and academics. Students would stand in front of their work, explain it, and then wait for a response by the group. More often than not it wasn't pleasant.

These days I feel if I get any reaction, I have achieved something. At least the viewer hasn’t simply walked past without looking or feeling.

This forthright gentleman proceeded to tell me that he didn’t like any ‘aggressive’ art both visual and music. He didn’t like my landscapes as he found them ‘disturbing’. He said “I do buy art but it is gentle and soft. I also play gentle classical music at home too”.

I stood there in interest as he spoke about his passion for art. I decided at that moment not to get offended but listened earnestly waiting for his reason.

And to his defence, he had a good one. This colourful, larger than life man, worked in a prison. He wanted a calm environment when he returned home from work.

For me, I like work which is enthusiastic and thought provoking. For example Turner’s tumultuous skies or Auerbach’s haunting portraits.

When I create work, I listen to passionate music (currently on my play-list is Florence & The Machine, Kasabian and The National). I move quickly and earnestly with my pastel or brush. There is a kind of alchemy taking place between me, my brush/pastel and subject. It is very physical working this way, often I am standing up moving around the canvas or paper. My work is therefore energetic; not aggressive but passionate. I am also painting an Australian landscape. It isn't soft and delicate but harsh and dangerous at times (especially when painting outside).

Installation photo
Images from left to right. 1/ Twilight along the Hunter River, soft pastel, 25x36cm. 2/ Break in the Storm, oil on poly, 86 x 116cm, 3/ Dusk along the Broken Back Mts, soft pastel, 25 x 36cm. 4/ Ideas of Wilderness, oil on poly, 93x117cm.

Installation photo
Images from left to right. 1/ Autumn Storm on Teddy's Hill, soft pastel, 56x76cm. 2/ The River Runs Long and Wide, oil on cotton canvas, 90x115cm.
 

So I thank him for his candour. It was constructive criticism.

I feel like I’ve achieved a goal with my work.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints; paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently showing at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please click here to see 'Hunter Valley' work online.
Contact the gallery for sales and further information.

Friends and Fondue.

Last night, at the opening of my exhibition at Galerie Belimage, I was given a big surprise. A friend, who I had met on the internet, decided to meet me at the opening.

We have been friends for about 2 (maybe 3) years and we met for the first time last night, Martin Stellar. I joined Martin’s arts newsletter about 2 years ago and have been in correspondence with him ever since.

Former monk, bespoke tailor, copywriter and now artist mentor, his newsletters are both amusing and informative. Martin calls Spain home but hails from Holland, he was holidaying in Zurich and decided (to my delight) to come to the opening of the exhibition. What a wonderful gift, which I’m extremely grateful for!

Martin and I last night at the opening of my exhibition.

Martin and I last night at the opening of my exhibition.

American art professor Nancy Hart who we visited in Venice. We met at San Cresci in 2014.

American art professor Nancy Hart who we visited in Venice. We met at San Cresci in 2014.

As our family adventure draws to a close, it has been one of the most rewarding events in my life albeit rather exhausting too. Travelling with 2 active boys, who just want to play soccer or Minecraft, rather than visit a Florentine museum or eat fondue on a remote Swiss hillside, can be a challenge.

There have been tears, tantrums and taxing moments (from me!) but what I remember most are the beautiful chance meetings with amazing people who inspire me and now I call friends.

I also appreciate the old friends who I have had the opportunity to share quality time with again.

I have grown as a person, artist, mother, wife and friend. In this post I want to thank all the special people who have shared this journey with us and made it so much richer.

The amazing Mimma, who is the current caretaker of San Cresci and manager of the artist residency, La Macina di San Cresci. Hugs to Duccio too!

The amazing Mimma, who is the current caretaker of San Cresci and manager of the artist residency, La Macina di San Cresci. Hugs to Duccio too!

Spritz o'clock again with artists Elena and Jessica Costa.

Spritz o'clock again with artists Elena and Jessica Costa.

Spritz o'clock with Monique Dufour and Mimma. Shout out to Elisabeth Swanson who left before I could get a photo.

Spritz o'clock with Monique Dufour and Mimma. Shout out to Elisabeth Swanson who left before I could get a photo.

My German 'mother' Elke, Andy, Baxter, 'cousin' Anne,  Oscar and me at the opening last night. Special shout out to Anna and Rito Wolfe who also came to the opening.

My German 'mother' Elke, Andy, Baxter, 'cousin' Anne,  Oscar and me at the opening last night. Special shout out to Anna and Rito Wolfe who also came to the opening.

 Galerie Belimage owner, Françoise Vetterli with moi. Thank you Dani for all your help!

 Galerie Belimage owner, Françoise Vetterli with moi. Thank you Dani for all your help!

I have said this before and I feel like saying it again, “I feel life isn't about the fastest car you have or the shiniest ring you just bought but about the people you love and the people who love you. It's about life experiences & appreciating the joy in your life.”

A big thank you, mille grazie, vielen dank and merci beaucoup to the amazing people I have been fortunate to meet and see again on this trip.

Yours in art and life,

Bec x

"Various Storms and Saints: drawings and paintings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" is currently on show at Galerie Belimage. Please contact the gallery to purchase work. Images of work will be published on my website when I return to Australia this coming weekend.

Arrivederci San Cresci

My time at La Macina di San Cresci is coming to an end and as I reminisce on my special experience, I reflect upon my initial proposal which I sent in 2012.

Searching through my computer files I found my proposal. At the time I was painting landscapes and I wrote “I currently live in Pokolbin, Hunter Valley which is wine country of Australia.  My work responds to this environment and I would therefore enjoy working en plein air within the rural, wine country area of La Macina. To compare, contrast and explore the similarities of these two rural towns would be inspirational”.

It has been 4 years since the proposal and upon my first visit I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the beauty of the landscape, I decided to go back to what I knew best and draw. This resulted in large gestural drawings of local produce. I was happy with what I had produced but I left with a feeling of disappointment that I hadn’t been brave enough to complete my initial project.

Soft pastel drawing in the garden at San Cresci

Small soft pastel drawings on the church floor

Oil on ply panel paintings

Two years later and equipped with my pochade box (en plein air box) of confidence, I embarked on my initial project of painting this majestic landscape. I’m still rather in awe of its beauty however after a month long residency, resulting in 30 paintings, 3 boxes, 20 drawings, sketches and 2 large soft pastel drawing, I am feeling more assured to paint this breathtaking scenery.

I don’t know if I will ever be completely relaxed, in the company of this historical backdrop, but I’m happy with the work I’ve produced. I look forward to bringing a piece of Tuscany home with me and using the colours, marks and textures I’ve discovered here in future landscapes.

It is always hard to say goodbye especially when you fall in love and that is certainly the case here. I love this experience more than I am able to express in writing and to say farewell to my second home (seconda casa) is not easy.

It will be another patient two years (fingers crossed) until I return to take on this landscape again.

A special thanks to my patient little family, Andy, Oscar and Baxter, for joining me on this wild adventure. I hope you had fun too!

Grazie mille e arrivederci Mimma, Duccio, Ugo. I will miss you and San Cresci very much.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

"Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" opens Saturday 9th July 2016 Galerie Belimage Switzerland. All work is for sale. Please contact the gallery if you are interested in buying work.

Residency life.

I’ve been asked by Emma Targett to share more about my residency experience. She asked some really interesting questions and I thought I’d share my response in this post. I hope you don’t mind me answering them here, Emma?

I’d like to start off my saying the following is purely my experiences. Residencies come in all sorts of incarnations, so everyone's experiences will be all different. I’m also travelling with my family which is another entirely differently experience than if you are travelling alone.

About 8-10 years ago I discovered artist residencies. I never knew about them at art school and I don’t know if they are more popular now than when I first started college in 1994. In any such case, when I found them, I really wanted to attend one. The idea of intense focus on your practice in order to develop your work was a dream which I wanted to achieve.

I discovered the website www.resartis.org. It lists all the residencies throughout the world. To my delight it also had a drop down menu and offered residencies for families. This is where I found La Macina di San Cresci.

There are many listed here. You can tailor it to suit your needs and apply to those which are appropriate to your work. There is no point in applying for a city residency when your work is about Nature (unless you have a reason for it!).

The process for applying is different to all residencies, however I feel the key point is to think about why you are applying to that particular one, what you will gain from the experience and what you can also give back. Residencies are usually a communal experience both physically and metaphorically. You may be the only artist at the residency but you are part of a bigger thing. Be prepared to share your space and time with others (many tourists drop into the studios at San Crecsi).

Communal life at San Cresci. Mimma and Duccio live downstairs and the other artist apartment is above left. This is the inside courtyard. Opposite stone wall is the church.

Logistics! This one is interesting, as last time I drew really large pastel drawings and now I’m painting rather small and en plein air. Be mindful of how to send work home as I had to buy a very large plumbing tube to send my work in the post!

Making do with my art supplies and painting outside.

Research local art supply stores before you go, however do take your necessities with you. I have reduced my palette and supplies only through trial and error.

Once again it is all a learning curve and you can ‘make do’ with what you have if you are unable to track down supplies. It may be an opportunity to learn a new technique! You take advantage of any situation as a reason to grow your practice. I try to look at how I can make it work rather than why I can’t do a work, even if I don’t have a certain colour or special pencil.

Finally, I don’t think there are any ‘bad’ moments. The challenging ones test you at times but if you find the good out of them then they are just another reason to grow as a person and as an artist.

You are out of your comfort zone so expect the unexpected but most of all have fun! It is such a special time in your artistic journey.

For me the opportunity to completely immerse myself into a foreign culture, learn a different language, make wonderful new friends, practise my art and share it all with my family is a very memorable experience.

My advice is simple, just do it, your art will thank you for it!

I hope this has helped, Emma.

Please feel free to comment and like below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Being Brave.

I’ve recently been told by my fellow San Cresci residents, Elena and Monique, that I say “Don’t be precious” often. It’s funny how your idiosyncrasies are amplified when you are out of your comfort zone.

San Cresci this way

Gratefully my idiosyncrasies aren’t getting on my fellow artists nerves (well, they aren’t saying anyway!). Elena and Monique have encouraged me to write this post about my ideas of being precious.

Drawing in a storm.

My art has evolved into a fairly fast and intuitive process. I like to capture a moment in a drawing or painting. Fleeting and transient, I seek to document time though marks. As such my marks are rather strong, bold and directional. I don’t have time to be ‘precious’ about the details.

This process has evolved due to my other roles of family life. As described in previous posts, I’m often juggling family duties so my time at the easel is limited. I have embraced this and my art has developed accordingly.

It wasn’t always this way. I remember my drawing test for art school. We had to draw a cow skull in 40 minutes. My line, at this time, reflected my personality. Timid and shy, I was a real wallflower. I don’t know if my pencil even made a mark on the paper that day! I was scared to make a mistake as I really wanted to be accepted into art school.

I couldn't make up my mind so I painted both scenes!

Over time my confidence has grown and consequently so has my mark (my handwriting style). I have let go of many self limiting concerns. It has been difficult at times yet I (and my art) have really benefited as a result. It has been a wonderful journey; an analogy for life.

I actively work at not being precious. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, making that bold brush mark or pastel line. This view has continued through to home life. I now like to use the good china for cups of tea and wear my expensive blouse to the shops.

Life is too short to worry about the details. NOW is that special time to use the good china, wear your best shoes and make that bold line.

Let go. Be brave. You are worth it.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Finding Home

Over 35 hours of travelling and I’ve finally made it back ‘home’. Although exhausted from the tyranny of distance, the moment I laid eyes on the rolling green hills of Greve in Chianti, I was re-charged and full of excitement.

Ugo

Ugo

It sounds corny but this morning I couldn’t help but cry with the pure relief of being here again. I’ll blame the jet lag and sleep deprivation, but to see that nothing had changed at San Cresci was pure joy. Mimma and Duccio are just as welcoming as when we visited in 2014. Their dog Ugo has grown and perhaps there are a few more pigeons in the roof to coo me to sleep at night but nevertheless it is still the same as I remember.

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you had ‘come home’? That life just slotted into place and you felt a calmness and sense of belonging? That is what San Cresci has become for me.

Artists are interesting creatures. We can be obsessive, dedicated, spirited and single minded in our pursuit for that perfect realisation of our art. We tend to be outsiders and are often that square peg in the round hole, so when you find an oasis like San Cresci you hold on tight -- for it’s that sense of belonging which welcomes you.

I’m currently sharing San Cresci with three visual artists from America and Canada. Like-minded, spirited and fun, it is a pleasure to create work among them.

San Cresci is situated top right of the picture.

My family arrive next week which will change the energy at San Cresci. This is what makes the residency even more special. Different people come and go during your stay, which enriches the wonderful experience which is La Macina di San Cresci artist residency.

Ciao from Italia

Yours in art,

Bec

San Cresci here I come!

My bags are packed and I’m counting down the hours until I’m at my artistic and spiritual home, La Macina Di San Cresci (San Cresci) artist residency in Tuscany, Italy.

My family and I had the privilege to stay at San Cresci 2 years ago. I wrote about it in my first ever blog (#artistresidency ). I really don’t know where to begin to explain the artistic oasis which is San Cresci….. maybe I should start with some history?

View from my window towards Greve in Chianti

San Cresci is a large complex which now features a (nonoperational) parish church, owner’s residence, two artist apartments, a large communal basement studio, exhibition space, and a walled garden with panoramic views down to the town of Greve in Chianti and the medieval walled town of Montefioralle.     

Earliest known records of the parish church, San Cresci, date back to 948. The oldest church in the region, San Cresci has been lovingly restored by the new caretakers, Florentine architect Demetria (Mimma) Verduci and world renowned light sculptor Professor Duccio Trassinelli.

Mimma and Duccio opened the residency, about 17 years ago, to welcome international artists across all disciplines. When we stayed we shared the facilities with 3 other artists including a choreographer, visual artist and another graphic designer/visual artist all from USA.

Nestled among the Tuscan olive groves and vineyards, the modest sandstone church contains only a few original Romanesque architectural features including the entrance arches.

The walls of the parish church are adorned with exquisite frescoes dating back to 1800s. Behind the marble altar, a 1615 canvas painting by Francesco Boldrini, depicting the Madonna of Rosario, can be found together with a 16C wooden crucifix with Jesus. A worn groove can be seen on the red and white floor tiles, where countless parishioners have trodden over time.

Entrance to the exhibition room/studio (left) church (centre) , artist accommodation (right)

Inside the church

Named after the Holy Martyr Acrisio, commonly known as Cresci, the pieve (parish) was known to pilgrims, passing through Greve on their way to Rome, as a place to stay and leave their valuable passions behind for safe keeping until their return. Mimma jokes about finding a big cache of goodies during the restoration (1994-1997) alas nothing was found.

What was discovered, during restoration, was a ‘longobard’ stone. This could date back to 500-700 AD when the Germanic people, Lombards ( Longobards ) ruled large parts of the Italy.

More modern history features the French contemporary thinker, Guy Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti who lived in the villa during the 70s.

Needless to say the history of San Cresci is long and rich. I look forward to immersing myself in its history and spending many warm Tuscan nights in Mimma’s garden discussing Guy Debord, Roman architecture and everything Italian.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Economy of scale...Reach out & Get in touch with an artist.

This week I was sharply confronted with the injustice of the economy of scale in the western world.

My son is a very sporty boy. One afternoon, after he played soccer, he asked for a sports drink. Stopping in at the petrol station he ran in to buy a drink. I gave him $5 and expected change. I received 10c. 10c!! $5 for a 375ml sports drink!

Currently our dairy farmers are struggling with price cuts and they can’t even get 37c per litre *. The dedication these farmers put into their work is staggering. Early mornings, in all weather, no holidays or weekends, caring for animals and they can’t even get paid a decent amount for their labour! I know this personally as our friends are dairy farmers.

In contrast, a global corporation, which is worth millions, can put $5 (retail) *on a synthetic mass produced beverage.

What is going on with the world?

Where is the economy of scale?

Lotus, monotype and pastel drawing, 56 x76 cm . From my 'In Season' series.

Lotus, monotype and pastel drawing, 56 x76 cm . From my 'In Season' series.

 Bland artwork from a bargain store

 Bland artwork from a bargain store

I bring this back to artists and handcrafted artwork. I speak for many artists when I say that we spend hours on our craft. We learn and practise our craft nearly every day. Like the dairy farmer, it is through long hours of dedication we produce our work. We are not mass produced. We are not global corporations. We are people with a passion, to create work for YOU.

These days’ people can go to a bargain store and buy a mass produced artwork. They have no real connection with the artwork, it simply is the correct colours for their wall and matches their furniture.

I ask the question, next time you want a piece, why don’t you make a connection with a local artist? You can find us on all social media these days.

Reach out. We don’t bite. We are sometimes shy but really appreciate a kind word about our work. It gives us motivation to keep on going.

Moreover, we appreciate your support, especially when you make a connection and buy our work. When you buy the work it is a beautiful reminder of your experience with the artisan. It evokes memories which are lasting. It is a purchase which keeps on giving, for both the artist and patron (buyer).

The local bargain shop doesn’t need your support regarding art. They have other products to sell which are mass produced.

Please support local artists. Buy branded milk. We may be a little more expensive but it is worth supporting local businesses.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

* Currently it is $1 litre retail for supermarket branded milk. I don’t know the cost price for sport drinks.    

Keeping my sanity!

Juggling family life can be a challenge especially when you are creative. Sometimes when the need arises and the creative urge is calling, you are mid-flight on the school run or helping with homework. The school holidays are the most challenging - play dates, bored children and Mum’s café always open.

The summer before last I was determined not to surrender to the humdrum off domestic life and amble about in creative frustration but find a way to paint/draw if I had a few minutes of ‘me’ time.

As a result I organised a quick go-to kit which I could whip out at a moment’s notice and paint straight away. A kit which could fit into a bag and I could carry anywhere – hassle free and discrete. Invention out of necessity. Necessity for my sanity!

So I ‘invented’ my plein air pencil case. Borrowing my son’s pencil case I sought out my essential art equipment which could fit easily inside. Quality of products wasn’t a priority. My purpose was compact and quick access. After a few trials of my plein air pencil case, I found I kept including the following things:

What is in my current pencil case.

Pencil case
2B Pencil
Erasure
Stanley knife/ or pencil sharpener
Small watercolour sketchbook (300gsm)
Clips
Small set of watercolours
3 small brushes
Felt-tip pen
Small cardboard view finder
Tissues

Since my invention I have completed 5 small sketchbooks and found my sanity has returned. I only need 10-15 minutes to draw. I draw anything from landscape to still life. Labouring away at a work isn’t the goal. Capturing a moment is the purpose. I keep all the works. Even the not successful ones, as they serve as the most important learning tool.

My method is to draw a QUICK pencil outline, then I use watercolour in a relaxed approach. Once dry, I draw over the top with a black marker. The marker is great as each line is a commitment. You can’t rub it out! If you have been a student you will know how much I dislike erasures, so I only use it under extreme situations. I like to see the journey of all the marks made. These marks make the work more interesting.

Sketchbooks

I will be including this kit in my suitcase when I go to Italy in June.

I hope this helps any frustrated creative soul!  Keep the pencil case in your bag and take it out when the urge arises. You could be on the train on the way to work or waiting for the kids while they do sport. The possibilities are endless.

I’d love to hear about your successes with your little kit. Please feel free to drop me a line.

Yours in art,

Bec x

What is a body of work?

This week I said goodbye to a recent landscape series which is a part of a bigger body of work. The recent work has taken me over 4 months to complete. This work began in 2006 when I found the joys of painting ‘en plein air’ around the Hunter Valley.

I will see the work again shortly, when we attend the opening of the exhibition at Galerie Belimage, however it was a heartfelt “auf weidersehen”. My paintings are an extension of me, they are like my children. I have laboured over them, loved them, nurtured them and now let them go. It is challenging. Some works are very close to my heart.

 So, what is a body of work?

A body of work (oeuvre) is a cohesive series of artworks which are all linked in style and theme. An artist can carry this subject into multiple disciplines however they usually concentrate on 1 or 2. For example, I focus on drawing and painting.

The intention is both quantity and quality. The idea being, if you focus on one subject/ one medium you become more adept technically and thematically.

Your skills are refined thus refining your message through your medium.

Monet's water lilies. Photo taken when I visited MOMA NYC in 2011. What an amazing experience!

Monet's water lilies. Photo taken when I visited MOMA NYC in 2011. What an amazing experience!

A body of work has no end. You return again and again over many years, usually via a series. An artist (I say that term loosely as this can also include writers, actors, and musicians) can focus their entire oeuvre on one idea.

A good example is Monet and his water lilies. Over time his paintings became lyrical, deeply emotional and abstract.

To stay on one theme enables an artist to concentrate on the development of their skill set. Push their boundaries and open up possibilities with their style. Focus creates confidence too. At art school we were encouraged to draw an apple every day for a month. Alas I didn’t have the stamina to complete it but these days I still set myself similar tasks. Usually the concluding work is stronger than the beginning work. Like physical exercise, you only get stronger over time and repetition.

Nature is my body of work. It is a reflection of where I live. It is an extension of me. I am deeply passionate about it and conveying it through my art practice. I can’t see me changing anytime soon.

I hope you will stay and enjoy the development of my body of work with me.

“Various Storms and Saints; Recent landscape paintings and drawings from the wine growing areas of Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” Opens July 9 2016, Galerie Belimage Switzerland.

Studio chaos last week.

Studio chaos last week.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

 

Inaugural 'En Plein Air, Around Hermitage, Artists Vineyard Access & Competition''

“Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vivacity of touch which one cannot recover in the studio... three strokes of a brush in front of nature are worth more than two days of work at the easel” (Eugene Boudin)

 “The master of skies”, Impressionist painter, Boudin used Nature as his studio with the majority of his paintings being completed outdoors.

En plein air’ is a French term which means open (in full) air. I have spoken about it in a previous blog post. The Impressionists coined the term as they often painted outside in search of the perfect light.

This week the inaugural ‘En Plein Air, Around Hermitage, Artists Vineyard Access and Competition’ was held. The premise being the “vineyards being opened up to artists for a whole day to paint, draw or in any fashion (to) capture the beauty of the Hunter”.

I adore painting outside , so naturally I couldn't help myself and take part. I feel the spontaneity and challenge of painting directly in Nature encourages intuitive brush/drawing marks. You can’t labour away with a certain area but rather work quickly to capture the mood of the scene. As a result, the work is alive with a certain kind of energy.

Working from a photograph doesn’t enable you to see the subtle nuances of foliage, the contours of the land and the vivacity of colour (which I often see in the sky and clouds).

IMG_2902.JPG

Painting ‘en plein air’ is a perfect moment of being present; akin to meditation. Being in Nature, painting Nature.

I look forward to next year’s event.

An exhibition of the works will be held at Mistletoe Vineyard. Event details soon.

Yours in art,

Bec

The first Instagram exhibition!? May I blow my own trumpet?

There is a saying in Australia, to blow one’s own trumpet. It means to say self-gratifying statements to raise one’s ego or status. It is looked down upon and seen as egotistical. Therefore if this offends please tune out now or if you are happy to placate me, then please keep reading.

August 2014 I curated an exhibition called “#Fridaysketchclub”. It was held at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre, Australia. The premise was an international drawing exhibition showcasing the work of artists who all meet through the social media platform, INSTAGRAM. At the time I did not assume that we were the first group to organize such a show therefore didn’t publicize accordingly. How egotistical would that have been!? Little ‘ol me in country Australia organizing the first ever Instagram exhibition. It is now coming to light that perhaps we were “one of the first”. A gallery in America did a similar show in 2012. Now a gallery in London, The Unit Gallery, is claiming to be ‘the first ‘Instagram exhibition.

A little background information about our show.  In March 2014 a fellow Instagram artist friend, Jon Hayes (@j.hayesart) and I had the idea of creating a hashtag for artist friends- #fridaysketchclub. The idea was to create a drawing or sketch on a Friday. Hashtag the work, post it on Instagram, then over the weekend look at the hashtag and comment on the work of a fellow artist. Non-competitive, a safe and happy environment for like-minded people to connect through their love of art. During this process I had the idea of an exhibition. I organized a meeting with Brad Franks, the manager at Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre. After pitching my idea, he graciously offered me an exhibition slot in August 2014. It was a boon as my fellow artist friends were creating beautiful work and this was a wonderful time for a show.

Inviting my friends to take part, 11 committed to the idea and the exhibition coordination was in full swing.  Although I was excited, I was just about to embark on a month long artist residency in Italy so the timing was challenging. Arriving in Italy I found that I could not use my email and laptop so I had to coordinate the entire exhibition via Instagram. My artist friends were amazing and very encouraging. Each artist, who I have never met, trusted me and I was very appreciative of the support.

The artists included: Jon Hayes (USA), Paul Mordetsky (USA), Jakob Pinto (USA), Joy Thomas (USA), Curtis Jensen (USA),  Brian Martin (USA), Caragh Savage (UK), Jerome Royer (France), Anne Kristensen (Norway), Terge Thomassen (Norway), Reza Doust (Canada) and myself. Each artist sent 2 works. I framed all the works and with the help of the gallery we hung the show.

#fridaysketchclub exhibition Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre August 2014

#fridaysketchclub exhibition Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre August 2014

Fast track to a few months ago and my group of passionate Friday Sketch Clubbers contacted The Unit Gallery and the curator to explain that they were not the first Instagram exhibition. A small social media confrontation ensued and we all finally came to an agreement that neither was the first. Naturally I thought they would do the gentlemanly thing and change their PR but no. Now they have blocked all my friends from their Instagram account. Why block us? What are they trying to hide?

I know we are a smaller group of artists who don’t have the support of a so-called high profile London gallery but we do have a voice and we do count. Recognition should be given when it’s due and this is such a case.

You have kept reading this blog so you must feel the need to support our cause and blow our trumpets. Please help give our group the recognition we deserve. Your voice counts!

Please comment/like below.

Bec x

Rain rain don't go away.

I love the rain. It sounds beautiful on the tin roof. I can hear its melody now as I write this blog. The plants thrive, frogs croak and our tanks fill with precious water. You miss it when it doesn’t come especially after bouts of dry weather.

We moved up to the Hunter Valley about 10 years ago, during a significant drought. The ground was parched, nothing grew. The red soil dust got into everything. We had to buy water and not a drop was wasted. Mice thrived in the conditions. We found them everywhere, even in our beds. It was a challenging time.

But Nature provided. The rain did eventually come. Overnight the ground rejuvenated. The grass grew, a luscious sap green colour. Instead of mice in our beds we had endangered Green Tree frogs in our toilets.

Nature is my muse. Inspiring, beautiful and mysterious. I love her ability to rejuvenate despite hardship. The 18th C Romantic artists Turner, Friedrich and Constable were also captivated by what they called Nature Sublime - Fullest Feeling of Sublime: Immensity of Universe's extent or duration. (Pleasure from knowledge of observer's nothingness and oneness with Nature).Schopenhauer

Have a great weekend and I hope you get out and enjoy Nature Sublime.

Bec x

Meeting the inspriational artist Judy Cassab.

The Australian art world lost a beautiful soul this week, Judy Cassab. Gifted, gracious, passionate and inspirational, a lady who I had the privilege to meet and consequently correspond with years later.

About 12 years ago I was working in an art gallery in Mosman, Sydney. My boss at the time asked if I would like to accompany her to the opening of the famous Archibald prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Naturally I jumped at the chance and accepted eagerly. The Archibald Prize at AGNSW is a celebrated portrait prize and a hot ticket on the Sydney art social calendar.

The opening was packed and I was in awe of the celebrities and acclaimed artists who mingled in the crowd. I noticed a familiar face who I had only read about in books, Judy Cassab. Telling my boss, she immediately introduced herself to Judy and I followed suit. Fumbling for words, I explained that I adored her work and would love to have a piece one day. To the shock of my boss and myself, Judy graciously invited me to visit her home to look at her work. I was speechless but managed to say a big YES and thank you!

Post the opening, I wrote to Judy and asked if I could visit. She replied and we arranged a time for the following week. Her home was inspirational. Walls were covered with art and artifacts from some of Australia's most celebrated artists. She showed me a beautiful drawing of her Grandmother which she had drawn when she 12. It had the hand of a master. Exquisite marks and confident lines. I was also surprised when I saw her studio had white carpet! The sign of a confident artist who knows she won't make a mess.  I did buy two works that day. One for my mother and one for myself.

Later Judy and I exchanged letters. She encouraged me to find my 'handwriting style"; one which was my signature mark. I connected with her passion, dogged determination and what she explained as "I'll show you" attitude. Meeting Judy gave me the courage to pursue my passion of drawing. Perhaps if we hadn't met, life may be a little different today. A real 'sliding door' moment.

Love and blessings to this beautiful lady who overcame extreme hardship to pursue her passion. May her legacy live on.

I'll be lighting a candle for her in the studio today.

Vale Judy Cassab. Thank you for believing.

Bec x

Judy's letters

Letters from Judy and her two books.

Has the Internet hampered our chances for creativity?

 

 

It has been raining for the past few days. Although it is good for the water tank and our vines, it also means bad internet reception. Bad internet reception equals no WiFi which means limited smart devices and emails. It's great at home as we get back to basics. The board games come out after dinner and a disco can spontaneously start in the lounge room. Kids laugh, the dog barks and we sit back and watch the raucous.

Plein air painting in the backyard.

Plein air painting in the backyard.

I wonder what life was like before the Internet or even television. I imagine artists developing their skills with many evenings spent painting, drawing, sculpting, writing or playing music - practise does make perfect. Has the Internet, television and other electrical devices limited our creativity or is it simply a different type creativity?

Wine barrel art. It has been nice picking up the brushes again after some time way.

Wine barrel art. It has been nice picking up the brushes again after some time way.

As for me, I have been painting plein air under the awning of my shed and making do with a wine barrel for an easel. Even the rain won't stop me. It simply makes more interesting paintings! The Romantic 19thC English painter Turner famously strapped himself to a ship mast to fully experience the eye of storm. Now that is commitment to the craft!

Four little 5x7 en plein air oil on panel studies from this week.

Four little 5x7 en plein air oil on panel studies from this week.

Bec x