Thinky thoughts! #BlogJune 30

I’ve been talking with my friend Penny tonight and, as often happens, the art chat circled back to the roots of our addictive natures, which for both of us led to morbid obesity. We also talked about symbolism in our art.

Penny asked why the Patea freezing works and cool stores appear and reappear in my art, even when I’m seemingly concentrating on the Hokitika Gorge colours. It’s an interesting question.

When I was sitting on Alan’s lounge floor in Hokitika contemplating the series of abstract mixed media pieces I was working on I suddenly realised I’d been loosely drawing the shape of the cool stores.

I’m Patea born and bred and, at 56, have only lived away from here for a few years. I left at 18 and came back at 27. This is home. Growing up, the Freezing Works were central to our lives – Dad’s grocery business depended on them in some ways, friend’s parents worked there, friends expected to work there as generations before them had.

The freezing works dominated the landscape as we drove into town from the south – a symbol of home in the same way the maunga is. The freezing works is long gone, demolished after a fire. The cool stores remain, long-abandoned and heavily graffitied.

My addictive nature has its roots in pain essentially, according to Dr Gabor Máte in his book “In the realm of hungry ghosts; close encounters with addiction” and more recently the movie “The wisdom of trauma”. I’ve talked about some, but not all, of that pain before so let’s put that aside.

For me the freezing works and cool stores symbolise home – not just my town or the family home – but Mum, Dad and my sister. They stand for love and safety or, to put it into an addiction/pain context, those buildings represent anti-pain. No wonder my mind pulls fragments of them out all the time…

2012 as a blogger

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views. In 2012, there were 57 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 559 posts. There were 129 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 190 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per week. The busiest day of the year was June 10th with 177 views. The most popular post that day was New home office / art room.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012.

Visitors came from 98 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were not far behind.

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Getting other people into scrapbooking

We’ve been celebrating heroes this month at our LibraryPlus. As many of you know, I love to scrapbook – paper, scissors and glue for adults. I decided to make up a ANZAC / Heroes scrapbooking kit for our customers to try as part of our ANZAC events. Lats week a few ladies gave it a try at Patea and tomorrow they’ll be doing the same in Waverley. We had a wide range of ages and abilities in Patea that morning and they all did so well; going home with a finished page they could be proud of.

This is the basic layout they made. Each brought along a photo for us to copy for them, and we handed them a kit with  a page of step by step instructions. The packs are random colours, but all pre-coordinated so they just have to put it all together. This is my Dad, in 1945, as a young man in the Navy.

Two exhibitions due to start

It’s been busy here lately, so much so that I didn’t even do my weekly post last weekend. And yes, I do feel bad about that -posting once a week isn’t a big ask so how could I miss it?

I have two exhibitions about to start. The first is works from Legato at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. You can read about it here. I have three works in this exhibition, all three were shown in Italy, along with a fourth which has been sold to the daughter of the man it commemorated. The new owner is very happy with it and I won’t be asking to borrow it to show – they’re all deeply personal works and it deserves to stay put with her.


Roy Lehndorf: taken too young. Cath Sheard, 2010.


The second exhibition is ‘Borderless‘ – 35 talented, NZ Art Guild members join together to illustrate that art is truly borderless. Through unique artworks and diverse medias that show that art is our one true global language. It has no boundaries, it crosses borders between nations and culture. It creates a dialogue between individuals, communication between communities and allows us to see and to listen to each other. Art lets us imagine what is possible, it heals, reveals and transforms. This runs from the 16th to 23rd February at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. I am sending two works, both mixed media pieces about the now-demolished Patea Freezing Works. Incidentally, someone asked me about the titles of these two pieces – did I mean “working IN or AT the Freezing Works”? No; the titles refer to nature working on the freezing works to reclaim the buildings by growing over them with weeds, rust weakening the structures, birds nesting in the gutters and so on – nature just doing her own work.


Working on the Freezing Works XI. Cath Sheard, 2010.




Patea Freezing Works – Freeze Dried

During the week I finished another of the Patea Freezing Works series, and have one more almost done. All three have the same vibrant reds and pinks in the background, and a lime green accent. The starting point is a series of photos taken by Aaron Cubis, whose work can be seen here. It was very generous of Aaron to let me use his images; some of them are stuck on the wall above where I work as inspiration. My husband looked at this one and pointed out that I have used two different points of view – true, but for me the photo is a jumping off point and these are about colour, texture and pattern, not the geometry of the machinery.

These three works in the series are off to Hamilton to the Thornton Gallery this week for the ‘One size fits all’ exhibition. It’s exciting to be part of this annual event. Here’s a little bit about the Gallery.

Their website says: Thornton Gallery has been established in Hamilton since the early 1970’s, is well known throughout the Waikato and Auckland regions. Thornton Gallery is one of the largest privately owned gallerys in New Zealand. Thornton Gallery stocks an extensive range of New Zealand Artists. Along with original art works by New Zealand Artists  including paintings, ceramics, sculpture in stone, wood, copper and bronze, art glass and  jewellery, Thornton Gallery sells New Zealand limited edition prints, reproduction art prints and a large range of imported graphics, both framed and unframed. Quality is an important criteria for the works exhibited in our gallery, along with integrity. We believe that art enhances life and is an expression of being.

As for the Freezing Works itself, the cleanup has not gone quite as smoothly as hope and is costing around $1 million more than anticipated. Council projects manager Viv Eyberg said the contractors had found more asbestos than expected below the foundations of some of the buildings.  Any asbestos below one metre had been capped with a protective membrane. Once the site was finished and certified there would be soil monitoring and nine monitoring wells set up along the estuary where water samples were taken to ensure no contaminants leached, Mr Eyberg said. Here’s a newspaper article about it if you’d like to know more.

Freeze Dried 2010

Freezing works: lights on, no one’s in XV

After a bit of a break to attend to other things, I have photographed another painting that I finished 10 days or so ago. As with the others, it is based on photos of Patea Freezing Works. This one is a bit different. I was unsure about it, so was letting it sit for a while. People who have seen it have been really positive so I think I’m calling it done. It is 16×16″ acrylic on gallery wrap canvas and is for sale on my Etsy.

The demolition of the works is progressing quickly; most of the major structures above ground are no more. Except for the chimney, whose fate has yet to be decided…

Patea Freezing Works – On the grid

Although I finished this one last weekend, I haven’t had time to blog about it. So here, we are, back to Saturday – I’m up nice and early and into it. The photo this is based on was taken some distance from the site by Phu Tran. One of the reasons I like this shot is the strong lines of the chimney and power poles through the centre of the scene. As I keep painting the freezing works over and over again I can feel what I am painting, the how I am painting it, is becoming more focused. The color palette remains the same, even how I apply the paint has stayed the same, but the lines and final marks are becoming much more of a focus for me.  Some of the earliest works now feel a little ‘soft’ to me and may yet get some tweaking.

Patea Freezing Works : on the grid

It is the middle of summer here; hot and muggy most days. I am not using my art room at the moment because it is far too hot out there; the walls are iron and there’s no ceiling, just the roof, so nothing to deflect the heat. I use our third bedroom as an office for the newspaper we publish. I have commandeered the desk for painting. I have a table-top easel, a roll of paper towels, old wash clothes, a small box of paints, a jar of brushes and a giant bucket of water. Oh, and my color theory notebook with all my color experiments in it and a pile of canvas – I’m about to move from 16×16″ to 20×20″.

So, this one is 16×16″ acrylic on canvas, and is for sale on here on Etsy.

Patea Freezing Works – Framework

I showed details from this painting a few posts back when I was talking about the colors I am using. Those photos also give some idea of the mark making involved in these pieces. I start most of the works with a few lines in a black Cretacolor pastel pencil – both as a rough guide to placement and just to get some marks onto the canvas so it’s not so ‘new’ any more. From there I put really runny white acrylic over most areas and start brushing thin acrylic color into the white. Again, just tinting the surface and giving me clues about what goes where. In some areas I will keep working away at it until I have a fairly flat area of final color. While this is happening others areas are drying as quite pale washes.

Once I have paint over the whole canvas, and some areas at a near final colour, I start blocking in larger areas of more concentrated colour. I use big brushes, a lovely wide 1 1/5″Color Scraper, painting knife and old credit cards. As I get more color on I start adding marks using the knife, the edge of the credit cards, brush handles etc. I also scratch paint off again with the same tools. With some of the flatter areas I may mist them with water and then blot some of the paint off with a paper towel. I keep an old houseplant watering bottle on my desk for doing this. The Atelier Interactive paints are especially receptive to this sort of treatment.


Most of the finishing of the work is done without using a brush, except for a rigger, because I like the marks to show.For me it is important that people can see my hand in the work. I think over time we each develop marks that are distinctly our own; even if someone else tried to copy them, they’d never be quite the same. It’s like giving an authentic signature and a forgery to a hand-writing expert; the differences show.

So, this work is titled Framework, and as with the others in the series so far it is 16×16″ in acrylics on gallery wrap canvas.

Patea Freezing Works – Switched Off

This is another work which I completed at the weekend, called “Switched Off”. It stared with a photograph of a power switch on a factory wall, with the coloured wires going up he wall towards the ceiling. I don’t know what room it was in within the works. All the other works I have done so far have focused on the exterior of the works, but I have some incredible photos of the interior, including gears, switches and chains. Later, as the demolition continues, there will other things come on site, such as air quality monitoring kits and ground testing equipment. All fascinating stuff in its own way.

Switched Off

Speaking of fascinating. I am reading a book called ‘100 most important science ideas’. I love science; things like Fibonacci’s Numbers, the Golden Rectangle and Schrodinger’s cat. Sadly, although fascinated, my brain is not very good at science. I have a dear friend who is incredibly logical. If you gave us both 30 bits of related information, all on separate bits of paper we would handle it quite differently. She would arrange them all, mentally sort and sift and calculate – then come up with the correct answer. I would look at them all, handle them and scribble on them, perhaps fold some – then go quiet on you. Two hours later my brain makes a leap of intuition and I yell out the correct answer, frightening small children and animals in the process. (no wonder my husband sometimes panics when I do crosswords) So, I am destined to enjoy, but constantly fail at, science – ah well…
Anyway, back to art, which is much more suited to my slightly unusual brain. As with the other Freezing Works paintings, this one is 16×16″ in acrylic on canvas and will be for sale through my website.  I may not get it uploaded tonight as I seem to be having problems with our wireless connection.

Patea Freezing Works – Bare Bones IX

Bare Bones IX

In  my last post I talked about how I selected the colours for this series – a combination of the local light, the colours of our land and probably most importantly the colours that describe how I feel about the Freezing Works.

I don’t normally work in such a high key palette but in working through Confident Colour, Nita Leland’s book, I realised that on many ways I prefer high key even though I tend to paint quite dark. I made a conscious decision to lighten up. It has been a tiring week and work, then this morning I got up and did  3 loads of washing and ironed 5 ambulance shirts, made our lunches, loaded the dishwasher etc then headed for my art room.

Remember I said that the colours I am using are partly an expression of how I feel in my memory about the freezing works? Turns out they are also a reflection of who I am feeling at the time, which is no great surprise I guess. How do I know this. Because I painted for a couple of hours then roamed off to get a cold drink. When I came back to my art room – oh my goodness!

This afternoon’s effort is dark and gloomy, despite using the same few tubes of colour as before. It is my use of them that has changed. Grey sky, gloomy buildings, dark shadowed land. Dreadful…so tomorrow it gets gessoed over and I start again.

I did the only sensible thing I could do when I realised what I had done. I went into Mum’s room, where she was doing a crossword as always, and got into her bed for a nap in the sun (giving her strict instructions to wake me after 30 minutes). It’s amazing what a quick nap can do for your day. It’s funny, at the weekend I often have a wee nap on or in her bed while she reads or does the crosswords. Some of us never get over needing our Mum no matter how old we are…

In the meantime, here is one I finished a couple of days ago now. It’s 16×16″ in acrylic on canvas and called Bare Bones IX. It’s for sale on my website here.