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.

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

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

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

Keeping up the tradition.

En plein air (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃ plɛn ɛʁ]) is a French expression which means "in the open air" and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif ("painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees") in French. It has its roots in the Impressionist movement (late 1800s) with Monet & Van Gogh but can be dated earlier with the Romantic Period (early 1800s) with Constable.

With the onset of Spring, my painting buddy Jacquie Mather and I decided to dust off the plein air box and get out among the vines to paint. Plein air has a long tradition in Australia ( with the Australian Impressionist painters Tom Roberts & Arthur Streeton) and is still firmly held as an important part of an artist's practice. It is both challenging and rewarding when you can capture the essence of the landscape through a mere stroke of the brush or drawing line.

 A few pages from the sketchbook.

A few pages from the sketchbook.

 With my painting buddy Jacquie. View looking down to Ivanhoe, Lindeman, Tinkler and Drayton vineyards from Mount View.

With my painting buddy Jacquie. View looking down to Ivanhoe, Lindeman, Tinkler and Drayton vineyards from Mount View.

Here a few photos from our recent sojourn up to Mount View. A wonderful day spent with my buddy over looking the Valley - just need to remember the sun brolly next time as the sun gave us a few more kisses than we would like! I intend on working these sketches up to larger paintings.

Bec xx