A Proper Holiday

A few weeks back we went to Central Australia for a fortnight. We’d chosen the destination because: a) I wanted a proper holiday not sightseeing tacked onto a work trip, b) we wanted to see the Field of Lights, and c) travelling locally appealed more than venturing into an increasingly crazy world.

Since we don’t enjoy hot weather, timing it for winter seemed wise. It was colder than I expected, though. While it was 19 – 22 degrees during the day, it took a while to get there when it was windy or shady there was a definite chill in the air. Still, I’d rather that than 46 degrees in mid-summer!

Because my back can’t cope with long hours in a car, we flew there rather than drive, and took ‘hop on hop off’ and tour buses to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon Resort and the canyon itself, then to Alice Springs. Once in Alice we hired a car to explore the MacDonnell Ranges.

It was a great little trip and though we never restricted our meal choices all the walking meant that, for once, I returned lighter than I left. As I said to Paul, we could eat whatever we wanted normally so long as we did this much exercise… which simply isn’t possible when you have to spend time working.

I always do a bit of sketching when on holidays – just some watercolour and ink in a book. This time I wanted to get a bit more serious. What I really wanted to do was take my portable oil painting box. However, it’s made of wood and we were doing to be doing a lot of walking. There were also the issues of not being able to take turps on a plane, and oils needing a long time to dry.

To deal with the weight issue, I hit on the idea of using unstretched canvas you can buy in pads rather than boards. I went shopping for a plastic container, and found the perfect one in Daiso, with a compartment the right size for brushes and spatula, and room in the lid (once I’d carved the compartment dividers flat) to hold a painting in place without it touching anything. It just required a piece of card to support the painting, and two cable clips to keep it in place.

The turps and drying time problem was solved when I had a brainwave and remembered that you can get water-soluble oil paints. No need for turps, and they dry faster – and even more rapidly if you use “fast drying medium”.

When everying arrived from Senior’s Art, I squeezed paint into a pill dispenser (also from Daiso) that just happened to fit into one of the smaller compartments, and decanted some of the medium into a squeezy bottle from my silk painting days.

Here’s the complete kit:

For a palette I took a pad of tracing paper that fit into the other small compartment, thinking I’d just rip off a page when I’d finished a painting. This was the major failing of the kit. I simply didn’t have enough room to mix the colours I needed. Eventually I replaced it with a fast food container lit about the same size as the kit, and painting instantly became much easier.

The first painting was quite simple, to allow me to get used to a newish medium and the local light and colours. I wasn’t all that happy with a painting until I got to the fourth, and I realised that if I was to do a trip with the sole intention of painting I needed to allow myself time to familiarise myself with a location.

I’d also take a seat or at least a pillow. A sunhat is not barrier enough between my butt and icy cold rocks at 7:30 in the morning!

I could have done another painting on the last day of the trip, but I decided not to because I was too tired, and a little tired of painting to be honest. Overall I enjoyed the challenge and I’m glad I did it, and happy my lightweight painting kit performed so well. It would be great to take it on more holidays, or on day trips.

Which will probably be within Australia. It was so nice not to have to deal with long flights, jet lag, customs and security queues, adapting to very different languages and customs, carrying passports and power point adaptors. I’m keen to organise another trip, and see more of this great country.

Portrait of George

I’ve finally finished another portrait.

The most difficult parts were the shirt and arm. While the shirt design was fiddly, it was getting the ‘white’ background of it right that was trickier. I painted it three times before I was happy.

I’ve started my next one. Here’s the underpainting done:

I kinda love how weird it looks at this stage.

Spring Painting

I’ve started going to two art classes a week recently – painting and life drawing. My teacher is retiring at the end of the year, so I’m absorbing as much of her wisdom as possible. Fortunately, her niece will be taking over the class next year. Annie has been working alongside Carol for the last few months, so she will be familiar with all the students once she goes it alone. Her teaching style is bound to be different, but we get along well so I’m looking forward to working with her.

I finished Jane’s portrait a month or so back.

creativefidget797

Though I did a photo shoot with a writer friend, the only photos that came out well were in a pose too close to a previous portrait. So I revisited him and did another shoot, and came up with two more choices. Here it is with underpainting and one session of oils applied:

creativefidget798

Because I had to do a second shoot, I had one class with no portrait ready to start on. So I stole some photos of cats from friends’ Facebook feed and painted a mini portraits on a 10cm x 10cm canvas. I did one of Peri Peri years ago. They’re fun and quick to paint, and I’d like to do a whole lot more of them.

creativefidget799

On the Face of It

It’s been ages since I posted about the portraits I do. Well, it’s been ages since I finished one! Now I’ve finally got something to show off:

creativefidget703

I’ve really enjoyed this portrait, but it’s been a slow one. I started it in September. Art classes end at the start of November and resume in March, and though I did manage a few painting sessions during the break I didn’t like what I’d done and painted over it later.

My previous aims to speed up and get four portraits done a year are long abandoned. If a painting needs more time I have no choice but to give it more. And I’d rather take the time to do a good job.

Rachel, Alan & Jason

I had hopes of finishing four portraits this year, but the last six months were so hectic I only got one done, making it a total of three for the year. That was especially frustrating as by mid-year I felt I was starting to get a hang of painting with a spatula.

Rachel
creativefidget376

Jason
creativefidget443

Alan
creativefidget444

Maybe next year I’ll bump it up to four. I’ve just started the next one, and I have a few people lined up who are keen to pose for me.

Rachel’s Portrait

creativefidget376

I thought I’d finished Rachel’s portrait a month or so ago, but after looking at it for a week I decided to do some tweaking. Mostly adding reflected colour to the balloons. Only then was I happy to sign it and call it ‘done’. Today I delivered it to Rachel, who now has to find a wall space large enough for it.

It was a fun portrait to do. Bright and cheerful, and a nice contrast to Jason’s portrait, which is all dark and moody. Doing two portraits at the same time has worked well for me, even though I usually only work on one at each class. I’ve started to take for granted that I know how the paint will go on using the spatula this way or that, and how far I can push the paint around before it muddies, though I still stuff up regularly. Thankfully oils are very forgiving.

Jason’s portrait is close to done. Another session, I hope. Last week I also did the underpainting for the next one:

creativefidget379

Works in Progress, or Not

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve finished Rachel’s portrait. Well, mostly. There are some tweaks I want to make, now I’ve had time to examine it critically. I’d be doing them this morning, if I wasn’t in the goopy, vertigo-ey, exhausting phase of a head cold, and not wanting to spread it around.

Jason’s has a session or two to go:

creativefidget377

I’ve started stitching on one of the garments I wanted to embellish. After a few false starts, I settled on purple and mauve flowers with green branches winding between them.

creativefidget371

I started the eye:

creativefidget372

The leno scarf isn’t finished because I’m holding off working on it. I want to show it to the weaving group:

creativefidget370

The Double Trouble baby blankets are going slowly.

creativefidget369

The art necklace… what necklace?

Portrait Update

Both of the portraits have progressed since I last blogged about them two months ago:

jason_may

I’m not avoiding Jason’s face and hands, I just love painting clothing too much. And it amuses me that, with the underpainting showing, it looks like I’m painting a green man.

rachael_may

I’d worked on Rachel’s face three times at this point and there’s still some work to do. Her eyes are more open on the reference, for a start. Her lips need refining. The balloons will get more tweaking, too. They’re still a bit flat, texturally.

Portrait Progress: Rachael & Jason

Last year I painted two portraits. I remember thinking that I might get one done per month, apart from the month I went overseas and December. Well, that proved a little optimistic. Still, I would like to get more than two done a year.

This year I’m aiming to have two going at the same time and get four done in a year. So I’m staying at art classes for the full day, not just the morning. I rarely managed to get any writing done on the afternoon of a painting day last year, so I may as well keep painting. But in case I get sick of working on one portrait all day, I have another on hand to switch to.

At our New Year party I asked around and found a willing victim: Rachael. I told her to think about where she’d like to be in her portrait. A few days later I tweeted about having a bath full of balloons leftover from the party, and she tweeted back that this would be an awesome setting. So we had a photo shoot:

trudi_shooting rachael

After considering a close up of her face surrounded by balloons, or a painting that showed she was in a bath full of balloons, I went for the latter. The smaller the head is the harder it is to get detail in, so I chose a large canvas. After sketching in the details in red I decided to paint the sides and bath silver then, like in Cat’s portrait, leave some of this underpainting showing. Here’s an early shot:

rachael progress 1

The next week I worked on balloons:

rachael progress 2

Having done two portraits of women and starting another, I wanted a male subject for the second one. Jason, a horror writer friend, was up for it. He chose the Polly Cocktail Lounge in Fitzroy, with its furnishing in rich colours and boudoir-like atmosphere.

I chose a smaller canvas than I did for Rachael’s portrait and underpainted with gold and green (the green is looking rather blue here):

jason progress 1

Then I got stuck into the clothing. I so love painting clothing:

jason progress 2

It would be great if I had these finished by the middle of the year. Which means I should start thinking about arranging photos shoots for two new subjects for the second half. I have one willing male subject from NSW that I have to arrange a photo shoot with, and a female one who put her hand up last time I asked around, so I’ll have to see if I can make those happen.

Happy Camper

Last weekend we went camping. Since I’m supposed to stay off my feet for six months or more, when everyone went walking on the Saturday I stayed in the camp site. But that was fine with me, because a hundred metres or so away were some impressive views. I took my homemade ponchard box and did two paintings, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

creativefidget298

creativefidget299

While having lunch, I spotted a goanna snooping around the edges of the camp site.

BillyGoatCamp01

BillyGoatCamp02

I took a lot of pics, but the goanna managed to hide behind things most of the time. Later, while I was sitting quietly reading and having a cuppa, I had company again. I stayed put, and to my amazement he/she came right up to my chair. I had my iPhone on me, so I took a video, but my attempts to embed it on this page haven’t worked, unfortunately.

The walkers came back a few minutes later, and with some frantic signalling I got them to approach quietly so as to not frighten off the goanna. Much snapping of photos followed – probably much better ones than I took with my iPhone.

On the way to and from the campsite we drove past a lot of bushfire damage:

Along country roads:
BillyGoatCamp03

BillyGoatCamp04

A plantation:
BillyGoatCamp05

Even along the main highway:
BillyGoatCamp06

And the coal mine was still alight:
BillyGoatCamp07