Last time I posted on this blog it was just before the QT Ipswich Art Awards and I talked about the pieces I was entering for this local competition, that was way back in April…
Well – I am very pleased to be able to say that I won an award in that competition – 2nd prize in fact! 2nd Prize in the Drawing Category for my piece “Simple Joys” – the pointillism piece I agonized over!
And – I sold the other piece! My mixed media “Tree of Life”.
I am not sure which one shocked me more to be honest! Winning my second ever art prize – or selling a piece which I was fully intending to hang in my own home, because I believed that no one else in the world would be able to “see” my vision for the piece.
Since then I have started and scrapped a couple of other pieces for the “Tree of Life” Series (yes, I work in series’ now!) I can’t seem to get that image right – but creating the original piece was a bit of an angst inducing experience – so I am guessing the next piece will also come from this sort of angst.
I am also working on a series in an “animation cel” style. This is proving to be enormously fun and naturally more learning is happening. My whimsical cartoony characters are coming to life in new ways..
And, of course, there are more exhibitions to prepare for – “Stimulate the Senses” in August and “The Image Makers” in November.
So the work/play continues…
Even more exciting news comes in the form of an amazing opportunity through my daughters kindergarten.
I have been asked – and graciously accepted – the chance to act as “Artist In Residence” and teach young children the joys of colour, texture, and pattern through art…
There are no words to describe the honour I feel at being allowed this important task.
It will only be for the last semester of the school year and I am a bit daunted by the idea, but I strongly believe that if I can impart just the tiniest bit of my love of creating onto these precious young minds then I have done a good thing.
Who knows, I might inspire the next young Margaret Olley!
You know when you have an idea, and an image develops in your mind? And you know that sinking feeling you get when it doesn’t immediately turn out the way you hoped?
This happened to me recently… I entered two local exhibitions with brilliant ideas of what I wanted to portray and I had several “aaha” moments where my inner light bulb went off.
The first challenge was an acrylic piece for “little red” at Arttime Art Supplies.
The brief for this piece was a standard sized canvas and a tube of red paint that was supplied to each artist. You could create anything you wanted so long as the colour red featured somewhere in the piece. I played with a couple of ideas and ended up with a celtic spider design. The design process for this piece was fun as it allowed me to play with lines again.
I enjoyed working out where the lines would overlap and where the shadows should fall… the difficulty here came about when I actually started to paint it. My first light bulb was when I discovered that I don’t know as much as I thought I did when it comes to acrylic paint and opacity and viscocity…
I very quickly realised that I was working with two transparent colours, and the composition wasn’t going to work on a black background. Because I had to use a “crimson red” which was the supplied paint and chose to team it up with “pthalo green” I had to fix things up on the run. This involved lots of patience and repainting several areas to get the lines to look smooth and even.
Watching a documentary about street art and graffiti artists I saw the use stencil art in a whole new light. I thought that I may be able to use stencils in some of my own work – especially the fiddly “ribbon” art that I like to do – this is something I am going to play with very soon.
The second challenge for me was the QT Art Awards. I entered two pieces. One piece was definately going to be a pointillism and I had the image I wanted to create in my head.
The lightbulb moment here was when I discovered the concept of complex simplicity.
The composition was going to fill the page, but I saw that doing so would take away from my original idea… the problem here was that I had already done nearly 70% of the work before I decided to change the piece completely. So with a little over a week to go before I had to deliver my work I started all over again! Nuts, I know! But the finished piece looks amazing and I am sooooo very glad that I did change my mind.
The last piece really was a challenge. I wanted to “say” something with this piece, it was going to be a commentary on the way humans have destroyed the natural environment for their own comfort etc… all very intellectual and stuff… any way…
The first idea was to do a tree with all the names of every extinct animal in Australia written into the bark…
The finished trees looked awesome as a piece of art in their own right and I couldn’t get the words to look right … so I scrapped that idea and started another …
I tried many variations of a tree – experimenting with styles and mediums, trying to get it to speak to me…
Then the brilliant idea of seeing a power pole as being a tree dawned upon me… and then it was a bit of jump to get the two ideas together…
I was still not completely happy with the end product soooo the night before I had to deliver it I did this…
And oh my gosh I am so very happy with it! The photo doesn’t do it justice but it’s gorgeous!
I have had an amazing and very draining few weeks but it has certainly given me lots and lots of food for thought. I am sure the work I will produce in the future is a continuation of this evolution of my art.
Motivation… it is something that has been lacking recently…
I could blame it on my shamozle of a studio ….
The result of having lots of things packed up ready for the sale of our house (which seems to be somewhat put on hold)… I have to admit that this has certainly added to my general lethargy… but I am lucky to even have a space to use!
Or I could use any number of other excuses, some of which I am sure we have all used at some point or another… my kids started a new school, my husband has been sick (apparently the “man-flu” is a real thing), my house is a mess and I need to clean it (oh, hang on… ummmm, can’t really use that one can I?)
But the truth is far simpler… I am being lazy … so I need to shake myself out of this slumber and begin work in earnest!
One way I read about – whilst I was procrastinating – is to start writing lists.
This might sound like a simple thing but being able to cross things off a list actually sounds pretty good to me… Smaller more manageable deadlines, lists and more time dedicated to actually producing artwork… Sounds like a plan to me…
With the November exhibition calling, and a few competitions in between, plus some other personal goals I really need to pull my finger out! In the meantime here are some pieces that I have sketched out ready to work on.
It’s not like I am lacking ideas… just got to get into it again…
I am having angst! I am beginning to worry that I may not actually have what it takes to stand up in this art world…
Deep breathe… mentally slap myself… move forward…
One of the things that cause my self-doubt is when I look at other peoples’ work. Then my biggest enemy becomes “Comparison”.
Last night I went to my first Dr Sketchy life drawing session and it was the first life drawing session since, I don’t remember when.
It was fabulous – actual burlesque queens, 4 of them, in costume and stunningly beautiful hair and make-up! We were in a small room with a large bed in the middle – we were so close we could touch them!
When the drawing started I found that I was so out of practice that a 5 minute pose felt like 1 minute… and I realised the value of drawing exercises.
Looking around the room I saw a lot of seasoned life drawing artists – producing amazing pieces of art. Some of them were so quick they were able to capture minute details in their subjects, even adding things and making a comic-styled story out of a single image!
I began to feel inadequate… but then remembered that I have only been doing this for a short time, I haven’t done life drawing in months and these artists whose work I admired have probably been to university and studied graphic design and other artsy stuff.
Deep breathe… mentally slap myself… move forward…
I am pretty much self-taught and am proud of what I was able to capture in my 5 minute drawings.
So… I am still working hard at not comparing myself to other artists. I think it is inevitable that I will still do that every now and then, but I am getting better at recognising my own talents and appreciating others skills for what they are.
As we so very often do at the ending of a year, we review, and take stock and make plans for the coming months.
We say goodbye to old habits, close doors that no longer lead anywhere and find new paths to follow.
One of the things we have had to say goodbye to is the Swich Contemporary Art Space at the Top of Town in Ipswich. Their final exhibition “The End is Nigh” was a fabulous showcase of local artists and a fitting way to say farewell. LeAnne and Gil’s presence will be sorely missed but I wish them both the very best as they begin their next journey.
I am proud to say that my work has hung with some of the talented artists in Ipswich. On this blog I showed you some ‘in-progress’ work for that exhibition … here are the finished pieces!
“Parade of the Planets”
One of my resolutions this year is to be more regular with my blog posts. Life sort of got in the way the last few months and I lapsed. I am now fully recovered but we are still in between moving and selling our current house so my studio space has been semi-packed for a few weeks which hasn’t helped. My sketch book has seen more of me than my drawing desk.
So I haven’t got anything new to show you … yet!
I am thrilled to be able to announce that I have been invited to take part in a group exhibition in November this year!
Together with three artists, whose work I greatly admire, Tom Mason, Lyn Mason, and Glen Smith, we will be “The Image Makers” at the Petrie Terrace Gallery of The Royal Queensland Art Society.
Our work differs greatly in style and subject matter and I am really looking forward to sharing some sneak peeks with you.
I have a long list of other things I want to achieve this year.
My first challenge will be to complete something for the QT Art Awards. I have had several ideas already and this year I will be trying to buckle down so that I am not rushing at the last minute again.
So – last year ended with a whimper – let’s start the new one with a bang.
With less than one month till my birthday I have begun that inevitable self examination of the past year’s accomplishments.
This year is not nearly as bad as previous years, which is a blessing, especially because this birthday is one of those unmentionable “milestone” birthdays.
I am proud to say that I have achieved several of my new year’s resolutions. I have been actively putting myself and my work out into the public’s eye, exhibiting artwork locally in no less than 5 exhibitions, with two yet to go before the year is out.
Selling some pieces has been an enormously validating experience. It has shown me that others value my work and given me then encouragement to keep going.
I am still no closer to discovering my “style” but that can perhaps be the next year’s adventure.
For now I am happy to continue “playing”. I have realised that one of the joys of practising my art is that there are no set rules to follow.
I do know that I enjoy my pointillism work – and it appeals to other people as well. The below piece is finally finished and will be exhibited later this month as part of the “End is Nigh” exhibition at the Swich Contemporary Art Space in Ipswich. I think I will continue to develop this style and I already have ideas for new pieces.
I had grand plans to create Christmas cards and publish a children’s book but these have been shelved for a little while because my family and I will be moving house in the very near future.
This is another adventure that will mean quite a few changes. For now it means that my studio space is packed up into boxes so that the room can be presented as a bedroom to any prospective buyers. While it does not prevent me from doing any new work, in fact my sketch books and pencils have made their way to the dining table, it does mean that my focus is now on packing and tidying and making the move as smooth as possible for my two children.
I still have a few things I want to achieve in the last days of my thirties. But I am happy in the knowledge that I can sit back and revel in my success even if I don’t manage to finish that piece or start this one.
I have done alright this year, bring on the next one!
Inspiration…. it is something that seems to sneak up and tap you quietly on the shoulder to whisper sweet nothings in your ear. It is the idea hidden in an insect’s wing, or a child’s laugh. It appears in that half seen shadow at the corner of your mind.
For some people finding inspiration seems to be a struggle, for others the thought trigger got stuck on go.
Having an abundance of ideas might seem ideal for an artist. And invariably it is better than not having any at all, but it can also be a curse.
I am one of those people with lots of ideas. Some might say too many ideas.
My muse is constantly sitting on my shoulder and shouting in my ear to do this or that. Unfortunately the problem is that I have a lot of interests, and this encourages that screeching witch to continue her rant.
Painting, drawing, sculpting, beading, sewing, collage, pyrography, digital manipulation, lapidary, jewellery making, photography, writing, cooking, gardening, bonsai…. etc, etc.
Ideas for new projects are always near at hand. The quiet moments alone are filled with thoughts and images in my mind for something new and completely fabulous. Quite often however I don’t get the time to devote myself wholeheartedly to these fresh endeavours. This naturally means that I am the queen of half-started projects, and always have at least 3 on the go at any one time.
I love the beginnings of a new idea. That feeling that you are onto some extraordinary design.
And then when something that you have envisaged in your minds’ eye comes to life in your hands it is almost a godlike feeling. You are the origin of this fabulous piece of art. This thing you have fashioned from ideas and magic speaks to you during formation, and then is silent. It speaks to your audience once completed, and then the itch in your ear needs you to start something new again.
Inspiration for me comes in many different forms. I have two young girls and they influence a lot of my work. If I am ever after an idea of something to draw I just have to ask them. I have lost track of the number of butterflies or unicorns I am asked to create. Being children they also have a unique way of looking at the world so some of their ideas are completely off the wall, and sometimes it is just the seed of an idea which I then build up to something else. Like my flying elephant for example.
I also enjoy the outdoors. I grew up in a very small town in the Northern Territory surrounded by bush and beach, and occasionally find that I physically need to spend time amongst the trees or on a beach to help ground me. I collect leaves, feathers, nuts and seeds that spark my imagination for future pieces. Sometimes the actual items I collect become part of the art piece as in my mixed media bird…
Or this leaf…
Having spent a lot of time recently just sitting around, I have been keeping my muse at bay by literally working on 5 different projects at once. I have 3 pointillism pieces going into an exhibition at the end of the year. The piece below is titled “Parade of the Planets” and is done completely in pen dots…
Because of the repetitive nature of this work I am working on all three so that I don’t get bored, and just in case, I am constantly within arms’ reach of my sketch book. Which is how the below piece came into being…
Plus with Christmas just around the corner (only 75 days) I thought I would start on a set of cards, so I began doodling some illustration ideas…
Oh and I also have an idea for a childrens’ book I want to write …
And a series of pointillism pieces, done in pyrography, on reclaimed timber…
A steam punk inspired insect drawing …
I also need to finish that collage project …
And I really do need to have my own solo exhibition sometime soon … I have the theme sorted out, I’ve got the ideas …
Can someone find me some more time please …
And in the mean time I will work on silencing the muse ….
This post was going to be about inspiration, but that is going to have to wait for another day because I want to share something more personal.
There has been a lot of rhetoric about the arts. It seems that there are quite a few uninformed politicians and even some members of the general public who believe that “Art” has no value.
In Queensland funding has been reduced, courses dropped, awards axed. And it appears this diseased thinking will continue.
Art, in all its disciplines, permeates every single part of our modern lives.
You wake in the morning to your alarm clock playing a classic from “Queen”. Wearing your designer dressing gown, you collect the morning newspaper. Watching your favourite morning show on TV you notice an advert for the latest best seller from your favourite author. Using your “smart” device on the train allows you to catch up with the episode of that show you missed over the weekend. Later a friend calls to ask if you want to join them to see the new play at LaBoite. Then after work you go to the local pub to listen to live music.
And this scenario is just a tiny example. The reality is that art is literally everywhere and unless you live under a rock, in a cave, you are being exposed to some sort of art all the time.
Not only does art enhance life aesthetically but it also has other uses.
It has been proven that listening to music can help calm and heal. Artistic play helps children’s cognitive and communication skills develop. Carers for children within the autism spectrum and mental health workers use music/theatre and other art forms to connect with their charges.
I can personally attest to the fact that the act of creating art helps heal.
The first time I painted in acrylic’s I was going through one of the darkest times in my life.
I had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured at 12 weeks. I nearly lost my life. The weeks following that were difficult – I was healing physically – but emotionally I felt empty… like I had a hole where my heart should have been. I saw a psychologist and took little white pills for a while.
Then I picked up a paint brush and began to paint. What I painted wasn’t important as the mere act of pushing paint around a canvas was therapy in itself. An overnight cure it certainly wasn’t but it gave me a calm space in my mind to process feelings of guilt, longing and hurt. And eventually the darkness lifted and I was able to carry on with my life.
Since then I have found that quiet space extremely useful. Many times I have sat down to draw or paint and I am able to completely lose myself to the piece of art I am creating. I am one who tends to think way too much and stress is not my friend, so having the ability to still my mind is extremely valuable.
This skill has come into its own recently.
As some of you may know I have been very ill lately. I have an unexplained pain in my pelvis. Ultrasounds and CT Scans have left my doctors scratching their heads. I have endured 5 weeks of pain which at times is quite severe. I find walking uncomfortable and haven’t been getting much sleep.
One thing that I have been doing a lot of is my pointillism art. I am working on a set of three pieces based on the end of the world. Because of the nature of my pain, sitting and doing dot work is very therapeutic. It is like meditating. I am concentrating on where the next fall of the pen should be and not the pain in my tummy. I am sure that if it wasn’t for the distraction of completing these pieces I would be climbing the walls.
The next step is to do some exploratory surgery to hopefully find, and fix, the cause of my torture. I am booked into have a Laparoscopy next Wednesday. The fabulous doctor who saved my life 7 years ago will be the one performing the operation.
I wonder what sort of music will be playing in the background…
I have been quite ill recently so I have had a lot of time to sit and think, or should that be dwell?
Something I struggle with is the nagging whisper of self doubt. It has got to be the number one killer of inspiration and creativity. Actually several artist friends that I have spoken with all suffer the same affliction.
That little voice in the corner of your mind that says things like…
“That’s not good enough”
“Nobody will like that”
“What are you trying to say with that piece?”
For me personally I think some of these thoughts come from my lack of knowledge in some areas of arts practice, and my own perception that I lack particular skills simply because of my inexperience.
But in reality, I over think everything.
I have a habit of second guessing myself. What I mean by that, is that I have an idea, which initially I am in love with and think is fantastic, but then the little gremlin that lives in the dark recesses of my subconscious speaks up. I start on a roller coaster of doubting my original idea and try to come up with something “better” or more “clever”. Something that my little gremlin believes would make a better impact or a piece of art that actually “speaks” to that general population of “them” – the viewer.
Case in point – take a look at the journey I went on with my recent competition piece for the Portraiture Award. The first struggle I had was to choose a subject! Oh my gosh! How difficult that was! I literally spent weeks on searching through images on Google trying to settle on someone to portray.
My gremlin kept harassing me, saying things like,
“It has to be someone famous”
“They have to be recognisable”
“Someone who has made an impression on the world”
“Who do you admire”
And all the while I kept thinking I don’t really have any hero’s. I mean, I have people I look up to, but in quiet and personal way – not something I wanted to express publicly in a competition situation. So finally I chose someone who made me laugh. John Cleese. I watched him in the “Monty Python Picture Show”, my friends and I laughed till we cried while watching “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” more than once, loved “The Life of Brian”, and then enjoyed watching “Fawlty Towers” with my parents. “A Fish Called Wanda” became a favourite movie, and now with my children we enjoy his voice talents in various kids’ movies.
Once that decision was finally made I then had arguments with myself about the execution of that piece.
What medium was I going to use. Which style suited the subject best?
All the while I was quickly running out of time – the deadline was looming – and I still had no idea exactly what I was doing!
I even had a poorly executed attempt at abstract with acrylics.
In the end I silenced my inner gremlin and went with my gut. I followed my instinct and completed the piece in the style that I had originally thought would be perfect and that is how we came to the finished pointillism piece.
I am so glad that I did because it is amazing. I didn’t win any prizes in the competition, nobody bought it and it didn’t make people’s choice, but I did learn a hell of a lot about myself and how I process work.
Now it hangs proudly in my living room as a testament to how far I have come, not only as an artist but as an individual human being.
I have made progress towards learning how to trust myself more. The first idea usually is the best, because it is that seed that started the idea growing in the first place. Sure you can expand and cultivate the idea but where you started from is equally important as to where you end up.
So – I can do this – or at least I am going to try to keep listening to that first voice in my head and ignoring the quiet gremlin within.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath
“If you hear a voice within you say „you cannot paint“, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh
“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.”
― Robert Hughes
“I don’t believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me.”
― Tennessee Williams
In fact the list is almost endless… just about any material can be used in just about any way to convey an idea to a viewer.
I personally have way too many interests. I have dabbled in many different mediums and styles. Ink and Brush, watercolours, pen, pencil/charcoal, pastels, collage, and am at TAFE studying acrylics at the moment. Beading, sewing, sculpture and paper art are all things that I enjoy and would love to spend more time developing.
I completed the below pointillism for a portraiture competition recently.
This piece took me every spare moment I had available for about 2 weeks straight. I found a photo of John Cleese on line and sketched the outlines onto my paper and then with a .005 felt tip pen spent hours doing individual tiny dots. Not one single straight line exists in this drawing. It is amazing how difficult it is to resist the urge to actually “draw”. The finished piece is absolutely fantastic – I didn’t win anything but I am very proud of how it looks.
This next line drawing piece was inspired by a photo of my daughter and her dad fishing together.
This style came about almost by accident. My friends and I had gone to the Matisse exhibition in Brisbane for some inspiration, and then we had a life drawing session not long after. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted from my usual methods so my lovely friend suggested I “leave something out” as we had seen Matisse do in his work. So, I did, and the resulting piece was just lovely. After some humming and ahhing I was encouraged to enter the piece into the 2012 Just Nudes exhibition where it sold and won Best in Show by a Local Artist.
I enjoy the contour line drawing style because of its simplicity, the ability to convey a feeling in as few lines as possible. And this style appeals to my eye.
But then I also love the colours and movement available with the use of watercolours. This piece was inspired by the birds that sit in our front garden to eat the nectar in the native trees we have planted there.
I started using watercolours when I was asked to illustrate a book back in 2010, I had never used them before. I had worked mainly in pastels or pencil. I like to think I still have a lot to learn with them.
But with some artists you just have to look at their work and immediately you know who created a particular piece.
I am not there yet, and I am not sure I want to be there. I am still having fun, and learning about different mediums and what results can be achieved.
For a long time I have worried that my art didn’t speak. I have been to many different exhibitions and read a lot of artist statements about why they created a particular piece or series of works. And quite a few of them talk about what it is they are trying to say with their art.
I don’t create a piece to voice an opinion, or impart a message.
I create art because I “feel” it. I am inspired by many different things and often an idea for a piece will just emerge and I am compelled to create it.
One of the best things I have done for myself and my art is to put myself “out there”. This year I made a resolution to actively get my work into the public eye. I have entered exhibitions, I have deliberately put more work on line, and I have sought other avenues to promote my art. One of these ways is the Handmade Highstreet Shop in Annerley, QLD, and the other was the Sunset Markets in Ipswich, QLD.
The quickest way to build self-confidence is to stand on the side of the road with a selection of work and let complete strangers critique you. The very first day was gut-churning and nerve wracking! As any artist will tell you putting work in the public eye is hard, standing next to it and trying to sell it is harder! At least at first.
I have met many, many different people. Some just give a cursory glance and continue walking, others pause and make appreciative noises. And then some people share with you a personal story about why a particular piece of art made them stop.
I am at the very beginning of my journey, and because of all these reasons, I am going to continue to create art simply “because”. I am going to continue to use different styles and mediums because different images simply “feel” better in a certain medium or style. And I am going to continue to push myself creatively till it all just clicks into place.
I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, but it would be cool to think that one day someone will look at my work and say “That is an Andrea Baumert Howard original!”