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

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.

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

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.