Body like a back road

Yes, it’s more of the music I love – “Body like a back road” by Sam Hunt. This morning I’ve been doing some of the boring bits needed to get paintings ready for exhibiting, like painting the edges white. As I work, Tony’s been reading a book, Faith’s been sleeping/barking, and we’ve been listening to some of our favorite music on iTunes. The sun is out, the washing is drying in the back porch and (almost) all is right with the world!

As I did this page I dropped the letter b from my Dy’s alphabet stamp set. We must have spent 20 minutes looking for it. I was beginning to think it had joined all the odd socks in the universe somewhere. But, no – it had somehow gone under the bottom drawer next to me. I have no idea how…

Dylusions. Small journal. Paint: Vanilla custard, Rose Quartz, Slate grey. Stencils: Diamond in the rough, Star struck, Holes. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other: Tim Holtz Tall Text stamps, Pitt big brush pen, Archival ink. Distress ink, Distress collage medium.

back road 20190831

An iterative process

Developing a body of work is a strongly iterative process for me. I start with an idea and play with it, refining and revising until I have a huge pile of works, especially if I’m working on paper. Perhaps only 30% of those works will make the final cut.

The final works often bear no resemblance to the initial ones; sometimes I can only ‘feel’ the linkages, not really see them. But the linkages are there, because each work is a visual representation of the ideas in my head. When I am deeply engrossed in a body of work there are repeating colours, shapes, lines and patterns that appear over and over, often without my being aware of it at the time.

My process is really about the process, not the final image. A lot of my current works are small – either A6 (4.5×6”) or A5 (9×6”) on beautiful Hahnemuhle watercolour paper. I might have 10 or 20 pieces of paper on the go all at once. I put down colour on each piece in layers, then work back into them making marks, adding patterns or collage – back and forth amongst the pile, strewing them all round me as I work. It’s messy and intuitive.

Choosing pieces for on the advertising ahead of time is stressful because I don’t know what the final works will be. But choose I must – and I have. Dimmie, who I am exhibiting with, is going to produce the poster etc with her awesome design skills.

The photos show some of the possible works, and a pile of works I’ve done to date. 

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hokitika gorge works.jpg

Working on the Hokitika Gorge

Over the weekend I spent some time working on slightly larger paintings inspired by the Hokitika Gorge, following my visit after Easter. These are on Hahnemuhle 300lb watercolour paper using heavy body acrylics and water soluble crayons. I love the granularity of some of the mark making.

Do I know what the shapes mean to me yet? No! But that’s okay. I’m happy to sit with not knowing, because that’s often how my art works. What I do know is that the shapes are embedded in what I’m doing and critical to the works.

west coast 1west coast 2west coast 3

 

 

Trusting my intuition

In November I visited the Hokitika Gorge and fell in love with the clear blue water so it quickly became the subject of a joint exhibition I have planned for this November. The works will show the iterative process I use to get to the final works.

Recently I had the chance to visit the Gorge again. In packing art supplies I chose my basics – Phthalo turquoise, cobalt teal, gold, white Heavy Body Golden acrylics. I kept reaching for Golden Fluid Titan Pale Green – an odd pale green grey beige. Not the colour of the works I’ve been doing at all. I put it away, then got it out again; in the end I decided it was such a small bottle I’d take it with me.

I started doing small backgrounds before I went back to the Gorge and kept using that colour. My brain was saying it was wrong – my hand, and my intuition – were determined though.

I stayed with Alan Fowlie, a family friend, and before he took me to the Gorge he warned me the water might not be that amazing blue because of floods 3 weeks prior. Ok, sure. When we got to the gorge and I got my first fresh glimpse of the water I was stunned. Yes, you guessed right … the water was the exact colour I’d been creating.

Incredible! That’s what happens when I am fully tuned into a subject and immerse myself in creating without overriding my intuition. It’s a lovely place to be, and involves letting go of control.

Hokitika 1Hokitika 2hokitika 3hokitika 4hokitika may 2019

 

Art Auction – Italy poppies

I’m not generally a big fan of the “please donate art to our auction” fundraiser. No one asks the accountant, lawyer, or plumber to donate the equivalent. Artists are targeted because they have a physical product and “you can just make another one – right?”. Anyway, that aside…

St John in Hawera are doing an art auction to raise funds towards a new station. Tony was an ambulance officer for about 16 years, and Mum was a very regular ambulance user, so it’s a charity close to my heart. Heck, I’ve used them a couple of times myself 😉

My artist’s statement for the exhibition:

In 2010 Tony and I travelled to Italy as I was one of 40 New Zealand artists who had works in the Legato exhibition in Cassino, Italy. I took 4 works over, celebrating 4 men including my father, Patea grocer Mansel Barker, otherwise known as Able Seaman Barker.

The trip had a profound impact on me, and on my art. I have continued to paint the Italian landscape, and works which depict in some way the lives that were touched by WWII. Two of the works which went to Italy have been exhibited here in NZ as well, and newer Italian works have been exhibited in Wellington. In 2016, by invitation of the curator, I exhibited works in Italy for the Legato exhibition which coincided with 70th commemorations.

This series of essentially black and white works is inspired by the poppies, which grow amongst the rubble throughout Italy, bringing colour to the landscape.

Poppies at the railway station Italy 2012Poppies at Sorrento 2012

The images in my head

Some of the gelli prints I did yesterday *needed* me to do some more work on them 😉

I’m using hand painted papers as collage materials  to add circles. I suspect they echo the rocks I saw at Hokitika Gorge but I’m not sure. That’s the thing with my art process – it’s intuitive and iterative. The first few tentative works in a series and the final pieces are often worlds apart and, for many people, the final works have little or no relation to the initial inspiration. And I’m totally ok with that.

The collaged shapes are very specific. I have quite large sheets of randomly painted papers and when I cut a shape it is carefully chosen for the colours. Then I test the shape on the base work and sometimes trim a millimeter or two off here and there, more than once, before it feels right!

What I know of this Hokitika series is there’s some distinct colours, lines and shapes that are appearing over and over again. I’m still working quite small – these are about 6″ square – but will work bigger eventually.

gelli hokitika gorge 20190311 agelli hokitika gorge 20190311 b

 

Get your gelli on

I love gelli printing, and have taught it in the past. I’m going to be teaching it again this winter, in Greymouth, and am really looking forward to it. I may do some more classes here in South Taranaki too.

In the meantime, I have a joint exhibition booked for the Lysaght Watt Gallery in October with Dimmie Danielwski – I’ll be using some existing works but also making a new body of work based on my visit to the Hokitika Gorge last year.

With those two things in mind, I’ve been doing some gelli printing. I’ll use the captions to explain what these are.

gelli 201490310 a

Multiple layers using stencils.

gelli 201490310 b

Multiple layers using stencils.

gelli 201490310 c

Using a final layer of paint to pull all the leftover texture off the plate.

gelli 201490310 d

A more painterly approach, using a brayer and the end of a paint brush.

gelli 201490310 e

A more painterly approach, using a brayer and the end of a paint brush.

gelli 201490310 f

Single layer print using a gel texture plate. 

gelli 201490310 g

Single layer print using a gel texture plate. 

gelli gorge 20190310 a

Done using a brayer, and lifting small amounts of paint off at a time. This probably isn’t complete; I’m likely to do more mark-making into it yet. This is very much Hokitika Gorge inspired.

gelli gorge 20190310 b

Done using a brayer, and lifting small amounts of paint off at a time. This probably isn’t complete; I’m likely to do more mark-making into it yet. This is very much Hokitika Gorge inspired.

gelli gorge 20190310 c

Done using a brayer, and lifting small amounts of paint off at a time. This probably isn’t complete; I’m likely to do more mark-making into it yet. This is very much Hokitika Gorge inspired.

gelli gorge 20190310 d

Done using a brayer, and lifting small amounts of paint off at a time. This probably isn’t complete; I’m likely to do more mark-making into it yet. This is very much Hokitika Gorge inspired.

The art in my head

In November I spent a few days in Greymouth and Hokitika, and visited Hokitika Gorge. The shapes and colours have invaded my mind & are appearing in my art.

When I did my final (4th) year at The Learning Connection a few strong marks emerged, including a sort of curved power pole with a cross beam, normally in cream. (I can’t find an image of these works anywhere)

I’m finding those marks have reappeared in a new form – this time as a cross with some tiny hatchmarks near it, a cross and some hatchmarks inside a circle, and a curved pair of parallel lines with a cross beam. The circle / oval are featuring too, and are fairly new to me in terms of consistent use.

I’ve shown below some works from 2008, and some of the new works I’ve been doing, which are gelli prints as a base with mark making in subsequent layers. Looking at these, the connection between the 2008 marks, and today’s marks, isn’t as obvious as I thought it would be … 

(in other news, I think my scanner glass needs a good clean)

West Coast V.jpg

It’s beginning to look

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … at least on my craft desk. As I said to my sister Ailsa last night, why buy 20 Christmas tags for 70c when you can use $100s of dollars of product and oodles of people-hours to achieve the same thing? I occasionally see a meme about crafting being cheaper than a therapist, and just as good for you. That’s just not true; if you buy enough supplies, it’s way dearer than therapy 😉

Also, Dimmie has hung our exhibition in Eltham for ArtsFest – thanks so much for all your hard work Dimmie. She sent me some quick installation photos before her phone ran out of battery.

zzz art 1zzz art 2body of workzzz xmas

 

New exhibition & mental health

I’m excited to be exhibiting with Eltham artist Dimmie Danielewski during this year’s Arts Fest 2018. As part of this new body of work, I have changed my bio to read:

New Zealand mixed media artist Cath Sheard’s work bring a lightness to, and shines light on, the often-untold stories of women. By focusing on topics such as anxiety, chronic illness, and sexual violence the artist hopes to open up a safe space for discussion. Her work also records memories, especially of the landscape of her youth, as well as her internal dialogue.

The new bio feels right to me; my work has changed in the last few years and my bio didn’t really capture that. The idea of bringing lightness to a subject, while shining a light on hard stuff, is increasingly important to me.

I said in my last post that I had decided to go to counselling to continue the healing journey. I started counselling last week; I like Shanti and feel we have come up with a good plan. Basically, she works on getting people sleeping well first, so their mind starts to relax and heal, then formulate a sentence that captures one thing to work on, and teaches the tools needed to keep repeating the process.

Shanti and I talked about some of the issues I’d discussed with the weight loss psychologist. I’m realising I can’t even identify some emotions, and certainly don’t express them, nor am I good at saying what I want outside of work. We think my first sentence to work on will be something like “I am able to identify my emotions and verbalise my feelings and wants”. As she said, that alone will make a huge change to my life.

I’m always quite open and honest on my blog but even I am going to redact a bit, mainly to protect other people because I can’t tell some stories without impacting their privacy too. What I am discovering is how much unsolved stuff is in my head – things like the miscarriages, but also things from my youth, sexual & emotional abuse and stuff from my first marriage. Issues that should have been sorted decades ago … so now it’s time to get it done.

 I’m fine – there’s no crisis, but it is stuff I need to work through. I think it’s important we talk about our mental health otherwise the stigma will never go away. I have cut back my time online, especially Twitter where it can be quite political and intense, while I look after myself.

 body of work