Seeing inspiration in the everyday

There’s no denying that our trip to Italy and Dubai was inspiring; I will be looking at the photos for years to come. Sure exotic people and far off lands are exciting as an artist, but we can’t be forever on holiday (not with my luck at Lotto anyway!).

Much of my inspiration comes from the land around me – the buildings, paddocks, the distant view of Mt Egmont, the waves crashing into Mana Bay at Patea Beach. Places that are accessible and affordable to get to. I try to have a camera with me most of the time so I can take a photo when something grabs my attention, often because of the light. I have a semi-organised filing system on the computer for my photos and also save some to cd in case my computer ever dies.

These two  images are a digital combination of three photos; Mt Egmont, the waves crashing into the sand at Mana Bay and a cabbage tree at sunset. When I play round with the images like this I’m not necessarily wanting to achieve a particular end result. It’s more about knowing the subject, feeling comfortable with the shapes and just letting them seep into my brain. I know that I paint differently – better and looser – when my brain really knows the subject and can let go of some control.

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Winning entry, and a shared win too

The piece of work I posted about yesterday won the ‘Most Creative’ award for the latest NZ Art Guild Challenge, and shared ‘The People’s Choice’ with Sharlene Schmidt.  You can read about Sharlene’s winning entry here.

The next challenge looks equally exciting, I can’t wait to get into it. The reference photo is shown below – we can be inspired by it in an way we choose. The actual instructions are “Use the following reference image to create an original artwork in any media you choose. Your creation may be a direct and literal representation of the reference image or be inspired by parts of it. This is your chance to be as creative as you would like”. I think the pinky red, green and turquoise may be calling my name…

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Missing Dad – digital entry for Art Guild challenge

Missing DadThe current NZ Art Guild Challenge is lines. I took some photos of Mana Bay yesterday, where the Patea River meets the Tasman Sea. They photos are full of lines; lines of old wharf poles, the line the sea wall, the horizon line, the lines of waves. I have layered it with a photo of my late father, Mansel, who during World War Two was Able Seaman Barker.  I then scanned a page from the diary he kept of his return journey home, leaving Liverpool on the 2nd November 1945 and finishing December 18th in NZ waters. Seeing lines of Dads writing still makes me miss him…we are lucky to have his diary as they were not supposed to keep one. Dad hid his and just braved it out when they said they’d be looking for illegal goods before disembarking.

Finally I have added John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever” as a top layer. Although he did not talk about it, I believe Dad loved the sea. The two of us often swam together in the sea when I was a child. I miss you Dad, and always will.

More mapping, of a sort.

I am still deeply fascinated by the way in which Aboriginal artists map the land. I have been going through some of my stash of photos, and there’s quite a few of them, looking at the land and what has taken my eye in the past. Is it mountains, the sea, grass, buildings – what? Turns out the sea and Mt Egmont feature pretty prominently.

Then I got to thinking about what I like in others people’s work, and in my art journals. And what I like – and don’t like – about the mapping sketches I have done so far. I like simplicity, but I also like layers. Into Photoshop for a while, and I came up with 3 images that I like. This week I will be taking them onto paper for a play round to see if the ideas translate into the material world. You just never know until you try it. For the record, the images are a combination of  Waverley beach and the lillies we have growing outside Mum’s room so she can enjoy them.

beach flower 1

beach flower 4

beach flower 3

Monoprinting on fabric

My friend Trisha and I have a private challenge going on, where we each create a textile piece once a month and share the process, and results, with each other. I am running a bit behind, however…

I have been seeing a lot of artists doing monoprints and linocut lately, and that got me thinking. Today was THE day, Taranaki Anniversary – an extra day off work to do art with. Cool!

I simplified the photo using ‘cut out’ in Photoshop, reversed it and printed it out. I drew the basic lines onto acetate then painted it with acrylics. (they dried a bit too quick on the heat really). I did a quick test run on some scrap paper and was satisfied I had the basic shapes. I’d already washed and ironed some very pale fabric, but left it vaguely damp. I re-did the paint on the acetate, laid the fabric down, put paper over the top and rolled like heck with a brayer. I lifted it off quickly before the two bonded together and there it was – my first monoprint on fabric. I repainted and lifted off another couple, so I would have some to play with.

This is much more abstract than last month’s work, and I’m pleased with that. I want to do some stitching on top of the paint now, to put some details in here and there. Oh, and while I was at it, I layered the base photo and the fabric monoprint on top of each other in Photoshop – just to see what would happen.

Original photo and fabric monoprint, layered in Photoshop.

Full tide #1 – enjoying our beach

I have been really intrigued by the Watermarks blog; a collaboration between some fabulous artists who are all inspired by water in one form or another. The artists are Vivien Blackburn, Lindsay Olson, Katherine Tyrrell, Laura Frankstone, Gesa Helms, Jeanette Jobson, Tina Mammoser, Sarah Wimperis and Ronell van Wyk.

Stay with me through a little geography. Where we live, Patea, is on the west coast of the north island of New Zealand. Patea is built on top of 200 foot cliffs, only about a golf course width back from the edge in places. From our home, at the beach end of town, we look out across the golf course to the Tasman Sea. About 2 minutes drive away is Mana Bay and the sea walls that give the fishing boats access to the sea – being the west coast, the seas can be treacherous. The road down to the beach settlement, about 10 houses in all, is quite steep and has a couple of lookouts along the way.

At the beach itself, there is a jetty, the sea walls, two beaches separated by the Patea River which flows down from a hydro dam, a rock wall that protects the far shoreline and a beach that is really a tidal river edge. All the sand is black iron-sand; the Japanese mined here for iron-sand until the early 80s.

I love to go down there are look around; sometimes I take Mum down, just to get her out of the house for a bit. In summer the iron-sand gets incredibly burn-your-feet hot. And to that the summer colours of sunset in our clear skies, and the feeling can be one of almost overwhelming heat. Hot skies, hot sand, hot colours, hot summer air. All against the beautiful clear blue of the Tasman Sea.  

I have been working small again, 4×8″ on gallery wrap canvas, and exploring how I feel about summer at the beach here. This one, Full Tide #1, is for sale on ArtFire.  There’ll certainly be more to come; I love the colours, and the memories that inspire these works.full-tide-11

So inspiring

The view out to sea at the moment is so inspiring that I can feel a wee series coming on. This weekend I can going to spend some time playing with thumbnail sketches, thinking about colour and texture and composition and … you get the idea!

Next year one of the exhibitions I have coming up requires landscape oriented canvases no less than 60cm wide. So, I’m thinking very narrow and very long; perhaps just capturing the waves in action in a fairly abstract way.

*this* is what inspires me


I live in very rural New Zealand. Yes it’s a bit run-down, yes it has some problems, yes the old freezing works is a bit of an eyesore. But you know what? When I look at this photo, freezing works ruin included, I just see the beauty. How can I not be inspired with such stunning views around me?

One photo is looking up the river towards the old works, the other is looking out to sea. That’s the local volunteer coastguard rescue boat you can see, having a practice run. Tony is a medic with them. Where would we be without volunteers…