So where do my ideas come from?
Mostly, my ideas come from everyday life and simple things around me. I like to go for walks with my camera and see what’s going on in the world.
Morning light is very important to me, I guess that's because I'm a morning person. Morning light is cleaner and fresher than afternoon light, it highlights what one might not necessarily notice on a dull overcast day, it creates amazing shadow shapes.
With “drinking on the job” (Lion Nathan, Ormiston Rd) I was fascinated by the plumbing, pipes and vats etc and the shapes, it’s really beautiful at 6am, fantastic amber lighting from within. I’m keen to paint the dairy factory on Te Rapa straight, will take a drive down again to have another look and photograph. This is driven by my love of geometric shapes.
I describe myself as a people person, although i can spend a lot of time isolated while i'm working i need the variety of getting out, meeting friends for coffee or dinner or a chat with a stranger in the queue at Foodtown. I love watching people enjoying their hobbies and time together with their mates.
Sometimes I'm inspired by other artists, although I try not to look too hard so I don’t get too influenced.
What am I thinking while I'm working?
At it’s height, it’s best, I am so intensely involved, I have no idea what’s going on around me, I'm super focussed. I do not hear people talking directly to me, I don’t see anything but my work. I often appear to be very relaxed and cruising.
I sing and whistle to music either in my head or on the cd player (I find the radio too disruptive, esp. Harvey Norman ads, have changed radio stations because of this). It has to be happy music, i don't listen to our local concert station, it always seems to be dirge music. I suspect I’m annoying to others if I’m painting with a group, but I don’t notice, lol!!
All through my process I'm thinking about how I can use the principles of design to convey my story and which elements will speak the loudest for each element within my current artwork. Complementary colours to contrast each other, lightest lights against the darkest tones, cool vs warm, shapes and marks and economy of brushstrokes.
When I’m finished, I’m often quite exhausted but very relaxed and in a fab mood, I’ve had a good day.
How do I prepare?
I always have music on that I can either sing or whistle with (not opera because I can’t keep up and it breaks my concentration when I muff it, I start giggling), my favourite has to be happy music with a good beat, my running music is good. Classical music is too dynamic and disrupts my focus.
I clean up studio, re-organise, filing (uuurrgghhh!), seems to clear out my brain.
When I travel, I do a lot of walking, it’s when I’m walking that I see things, the slower pace gives me time to think (for example, I saw a beautiful scene in Bangkok that I missed because we were in a taxi, by the time I realised, it was too late and the driver didn’t speak English so I couldn’t tell him to go back). Now that I have a good camera I take it with me most places and take lots of photos, mostly as reference for shapes and reminders of things and places.
I often prepare with lots of photographic reference and combine different features from each and discard the remainder. I do lots of drawings to help me understand the subject, sometimes they’re a lot more complex than I realise:
(a) Practice drawing subject
(b) Design the painting with thumbnail sketches, lots of them until I get it right
(c) Fool around with the shapes and create something unique
In what ways do I consider my work to be creative
My work is creative in that my images are not photographic representations. I'm not interested in realism or faithfully copying what's in front of me. I’m most interested in giving my impression of a scene:
How much do I leave to chance?
I don't leave very much to chance, most of it’s under control (unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean a good painting!) but the odds are more stacked in my favour because of all my preliminary work.
Sometimes too much research, too much drawing, too much fluffing about becomes procrastination, esp. with a new or complex subject. Sometimes ‘just do it’ is the right thing to do and then I accidentally come up with something quite cool.
How much reason is there in my work or the way I work?
It’s all built on logic and reason, for example, no matter what the subject, the viewer has to be able to see what the subject is otherwise there is no point, I have to paint a jug that looks like a jug (it might be a crazy jug but everything tells you in some way ‘this is a jug’), I might want to make the viewer work to see what the subject is but I don’t want them to get bored and give up either.
My work is formulaic to a certain extent:
a. Always research shapes and reference material
b. always practice drawing and developing the shapes for each new work/series.
c. Sketch out many ‘thumbnails’ to develop design or pattern of painting
d. Work out process required for most of new work before I start
e. Always create an abstract underpainting
f. Always finish off with calligraphic accents and darks
g. Often do 3 or 4 versions of same subject from different angles or different palette or different format, or simply try to paint it better than previous version.
Having said that, on occasion, I’ll have a crack at creating a painting without very much preliminary work at all, it’s quite exhilarating and makes me work very hard, intense focus is required!!
To what extent is passion involved in my working process?
It’s really hard to create a painting about a subject I have no interest in, having said that, I can make myself want to paint a particular subject simply by working through a research process and getting to know and appreciate the subject.
The more research I do about a particular subject the more passionate and determined I become to paint it. I fall in love with the subject it could be something as simple (?) as a brick wall or the way the light falls on a glass and the shapes and colours it creates. The intricacies of a subject become fascinating, although I don’t paint a lot of detail, I go through a process of working out what I will leave out, what to include and which details describe my message best for that artwork.
For me, there is a driving force to create and always has been. I’ve always drawn and painted (I painted watercolour when I was very young). It seems stronger now than ever and I think this may be, in part, because I paint most days, so my brain is more switched on to looking for subject matter and planning my next work.
I think also one becomes more passionate about a particular process if one feels they have achieved some success using it, it spurs one on to use the same process again and again.
If you would like to learn more, see my Paintbox Tips blog or join one of my classes or workshops.