Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Sort Of Homecoming

With the first leg of our extended vacation over, I'm at last able to sit back and sift through my memories of the past two weeks spent exploring Australia's south-easternmost state of Victoria. When I reflect on our trip and think about it's benefits, my first realisation is that even leaving aside the indelible mark made by the places we've visited, my home state of Western Australia now sits alongside an expanded set of references. Within its new context, I hope I'll be reawakened to the beauty of the environment and its wildlife in and around my own back yard; sometimes a period of absence or exposure to strange surroundings can jolt us into recognising how lucky we are to live in our own home patch and allows us to view familiar sights with a refreshed awareness.

Brushtail Possum

Sandi and I have a brief opportunity to catch our breath before we begin the long drive north to our home away from home at Yardie Creek, some 1200 kilometres north of Perth. Once our campsite is set up, I will have time to sit in one place and produce some art work. After my self-imposed exile from the drawing board, I'm itching to begin work on some new pieces.

My current work-in-progress featuring the black-footed rock wallabies is too large to pack and will have to wait in the queue for my return. I'm keen to complete it and thankful for the chance to revisit their cave in the weeks ahead; the photos I have from our last trip don't reveal the right-hand side of the cave completely and I've been unsure how best to approach it without a good reference photo.

Crimson Rosella

Best wishes


Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Quick Post From the Road

Wombats aren't widespread in my home state so this is the first I've seen in the wild.  Like kangaroos and koalas, they are a marsupial which means their young are born in a very much underdeveloped state and make their way to the mother's pouch where they suckle and develop into something more closely resembling their parents.

After setting off with head torches and camera equipment tonight, prepared to venture into the bush on the other side of a nearby river where we found diggings earlier today, we spotted this one grazing no more than fifty metres from our camp.  As we'd already walked a long way today, we snapped a few photos and returned to camp - mission accomplished!  For those of you unfamiliar with wombats, they are said to measure up to three feet in length, although this particular specimen was a little smaller than that.

Yesterday we found this beautiful spot where the cameras ran hot - with good reason as you can see.

Best wishes

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Farewell - For a While

One of the things which has frustrated me since I decided to give art another chance has been my distinct lack of really good reference photos.   That should all change over the next six weeks.

Sandi has finally convinced me to spend a couple of weeks in her home state of Victoria, part of the country I've previously dismissed as being one of "the eastern states", as if it wasn't deserving of recognition in its own right!  If her glowing descriptions are anywhere near accurate, I'm sure that its landscape, vegetation and wildlife will inspire me.  With a new digital SLR around my neck, there should be many opportunities to record it photographically.

When we arrive home, it's time to load up the car and head north for a month of snorkelling, fishing and kayaking.   With Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range and Yardie Creek in close proximity to our proposed camp, the camera will again see plenty of action and I hope to return home fitter, more relaxed and even keener to continue with my artistic rebirth.  With a collection of fresh, clear photographs, I'm sure I'll resume my painting and drawing efforts with renewed enthusiasm.

We spotted the sign above during our last visit to the area - good thing we're leaving the bicycles at home!

Although I'll pack art materials on both our trips, I'm unsure how much I'll get to use them and whether I'll have anything blogworthy to report.  I'll certainly be keeping tabs on many of my fellow bloggers and I look forward, as always, to following their progress.

Best wishes

Monday, April 6, 2009

Himalayan Boy

Well, OK, it's neither wild nor Australian, but after seeing some fantastic figurative work on display on other blogs - notably the charcoal and Conte drawings of Marina Dieul - I was inspired to give this subject a try.

In 2002 I visited Nepal and was enthralled not only by the stunning scenery, but by the warm, friendly people and their culture. It would seem this little boy had encountered camera-toting tourists before - he posed dutifully without much persuasion.

I used Conte pencils for this one on the usual Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper.  Having come this far with the drawing, I realise that I may have been wise drawing on the the smoother side of the paper; it would certainly have made some of the delicate shading in the boy's face much easier to achieve.  It's also evident that the white Conte crayon I used to restate the highlights once the fixative had dried makes a much more intense mark than the white Conte pencil I'd used initially and I'll need to carefully lift out some of those highlights with a kneadable eraser. 

I'll sit with this drawing for a while, consider what needs tweaking and decide on an appropriate background.  In the meantime, it's back to that wallaby.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wallaby Cave - Day 5

Measuring 40" x 20", this is the largest painting I've attempted to date. Interestingly, I'm finding that working with a larger format encourages a looser approach, something my teachers from bygone years tried to coax me into - with little success! Of course, a contributing factor could simply be my impatience to cover this large canvas. It still seems a slow process, but I'm finding it much easier to improvise within each section, relying less on my photographic references than I have in the past. This will all change when the wallabies make an appearance!

With traditional oil painting, the process usually begins with a monochromatic turps wash to establish tonal values, or a blocking in with approximate colours, again with emphasis on tonal value. I use acrylic paint and rarely use white, relying instead on a series of transparent glazes to gradually establish my final values and colours. Working light to dark and allowing the white canvas to shine through the layers of paint, I guess my technique has more in common with watercolours than with oils. The downside with this strategy is that it's not possible to block in as a first step; I find that tonal values are therefore more difficult to judge in the presence of so much white ground. I generally bring each area within the painting to something approaching a completed state before moving on to the next section, being careful to leave room for final adjustment in selected areas once the entire surface is covered.

Apart from the wallabies, what attracted me to this scene is the dramatic lighting. Despite what the work in progress might suggest at this stage, the foreground is in shadow while the rock and the wallabies at the cave entrance and everything above them is bathed in the gold of glorious late afternoon sunlight. The success or failure of this painting will hinge on my ability to fine-tune colours and tonal values in the final stages to convey this mood.

Best wishes