Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I have gotten several questions about waratahs, especially from people who live outside Australia who have never seen or heard of them. Before I moved here, I hadn't either. I am offering a selection of three photos of these lovely native Aussie flowers. I will be starting a new waratahs painting, so I have these photos out anyhow, looking to decide which of them will be a reference for the new painting.

Waratahs are great subjects for a painting, or for an arrangement. They have a structural quality and they are very striking. With a very characteristic shape not shared by many other flowers, they are very distinctive. Like many native flowers here, they are a long lasting cut bloom and also long lasting on their plant. They bloom just once a year, but are so spectacular, it is worth the one season a year wait for their blooms.

Waratahs are traditional in red but as you see they do come in white and also pink. The red one on the right is Telopea speciosissima and belongs to the Proteaceae family of plants. It is a floral emblem of the state of New South Wales and it features on many emblems and logos in stylised form. The ones in the mixed color arrangement above that look pale green are probably considered "white". Waratah hybrid varieties now also come in yellow, but I haven't seen that sort yet. There is a native white form that is considered a bit rare. They are hybridised too, as the white one shown below here (which is from my garden).

Another traditional Aussie native flower here are flannel flowers. A very delicate flower with a star shape of a creamy warm white on a grey green foliage plant. The come into bloom in October to December. Here in my garden to bloomed about a week ago, so a bit early due to the warm winter we had. I will have to post how they look now en masse blooming in another post. They got red dust on them from recent dust storms, so I need to let them get rinsed in rain we expect this weekend, or when I next water them...then I can photograph them ! But here is one.

Waratahs and flannel flowers are notoriously difficult to grow in many gardens. I am lucky they both seem to like this area :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Last weekend I spent a few days in South Australia, painting at Jacqueline Coates' gallery Salon Rouge in the small and peaceful township of Kapunda. The town is between the Barossa and Clare Valleys, both fine wine-making regions in that state.

While at Salon Rouge I did some encaustics painting, starting a new direction that I am researching and planning to pursue, paintings inspired by the Imperial Palace in China. Here is a pic of me working on some of the encaustics paintings I have started (also see previous post below for some examples). Salon Rouge has a great set up for the encaustics and many more colors than I have in my smaller home studio space.

It was also fantastic to catch up with other artists there and learn what they are working on. There is a great exhibition on the walls of the gallery at the moment. 'Reclaimed' explores art made from recycled and salvaged materials. Absolutely awesome stuff ! Check out the landscapes painted on wine barrel lids by Deb Hilditch, and sculpture compositions made from old tin ceilings by Ilona Glastonbury, and much more. See for more info on this current exhibition.

When leaving Kapunda to return home, I stopped to photograph some of the local landscapes. The area has had a lot of rain lately, breaking a previous drought. It has really greened up nicely. I saw some sheep and decided a landscape with them might be nice, I stopped by the side of the road and began to photograph them, using a nice optical zoom I have on my new small camera. There were ewes with new lambs, and all the sheep seemed peacefully grazing in the afternoon sunlight. All was well and good in their world. Then ! One sheep, at the top of the hill, noticed me and decided I was too close I guess. I think he was their Sentry. He let out a very loud bleating call and all the sheep close to the fence line turned and ran away !! When they were far enough from me and the fence, they resumed their grazing, and Sheep Sentry kept an eye in my direction, to be sure I kept at a suitably safe distance.

I had not meant to disturb or bother the grazing animals, but guess they felt I was too close for safety. I did get a few more photos of the sheep, relying more on the zoom than I had wanted...but oh well. Then I headed back to the car for my drive back to the airport. Still, a good afternoon and now I have running sheep in pasture to add to my photo library !

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inspired Year

Here is a preview of the work I have been doing while away in South Australia the past couple of days. Medium is encaustics--beeswax, resin, and oil paint pigment melted and applied to art boards I have made up. The subject is inspired by colors and patterns seen at the Imperial Palaces at the Forbidden City, in Beijing China. I visited there in June and had some awesome photos of detail seen on the temples and palaces there. Deep reds, bright golds, and vivid greens featured well and have made it into my latest run of encaustics. The reds you see there are created in several red-like layers, scarlet, bright red, darker bricky red and orange. After I apply the encaustics in layers, I scrape and carve it to expose layers, color, detail, pattern, etc. It also gets hand polished, with a cotton cloth or old piece of wool.

The paintings you see here are not done. They weren't intended to be painted as a pair either. They are inspired by the same reference, a carved architectural panel on a doorway of a temple. However, they seem to go together as a set very well and so they will be further developed as a set. I like that they are clearly similarly inspired, but not same-same alike. More to do on them, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I am off enjoying my Birthday...See you next post
when I will be a bit older, or so I am told ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bittersweet Chocolate

Getting ready to take a few days off and go to South Australia...will be painting and more on what I paint up on my return. I am going to the wine country, and am not taking a computer...but lots of art supplies and a good book are packed.

Meantime, lest you think I have done nothing...I have been tidying up before leaving. A personal obsession, to leave things orderly and return to the same. I have even tidied up the sunroom studio (where I paint here) and the upstairs studio flat (where I design and now do some of my CSC remote work now) too !

And, this week Ian has installed new lighting in the dining room. So elegant and looks fab ! I will be painting the chocolate brown on those feature walls a bit darker, more bittersweet chocolate than milk chocolate. Color ref is Porters 'Turkish Coffee'. I already have the paint ! (trust me, this will look even better !)

More on Sunday, happy birthday ;)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spring Thinking

Over the weekend I started another monarch butterfly painting. Just getting started. I have time tomorrow in between work "shifts" to consider what to do next !

It just seemed like a spring like thing to paint. Balmy 31 C weather on the weekend...and it had me out gardening, pulling weeds, planting things. And thinking about butterflies.

More soon, time to go do more work, working another "split" shift today....just one more meeting to go !

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Doodles & Checkerboards

Some of you who have known me for awhile will know that I have an utterly compulsive doodling habit. I doodle when I am talking on the phone. I doodle when in meetings or lectures. I make random doodles on notes I take. I have been doing this for years and have on occasion been known to hand a sheet full of doodles to a lecturer or meeting chair as a "picture" of their presentation !

Doodles actually assist me to concentrate in many cases.

Years ago, when I had no extra money to buy art supplies such as I have now, I would buy some watercolor paper stock and get pen and ink and after the children were asleep I would put on some tunes and draw doodles to wind down and run off some brain charge energy I guess. My doodles feature geometric patterns, cross hatching, asymmetrical designs, swirls, little stars and dashes and dots, triangles, arrows and other symbols. Any psychologists reading this may have an opinion about what these doodles mean ! My doodles are monochromatic...but read on about the latest turn of things. I still make them, often in my work notebook, most often when on concalls (if you have concall meetings with me and want to get a copy of the doodle our meeting inspired, let me know !). In retrospect I think the doodles have been channeling a message to me that I have largely ignored. The message has been about my inner artist, longing to emerge. Sadly, for years I have paid little serious attention to this frantic message.

Now I have the benefit of having found a new interest and passion, one that has probably been around for a long long time in me and has been desperate to get more attention !

Fast forward from years of doodles to last week. We had new flooring put in the kitchen and laundry and it is in a black and white checkerboard pattern (Pook shows it off in the photo above). I have always wanted a checkerboard floor ! Now we have one and it is fab :) Fresh, fun, and looks clean when it is clean (which the previous floor wasn't--very hard for a Virgo to live around that). The new floor made me wonder where my old doodles were, because I recalled they had checkerboard motifs in them. I have kept them for years. Turns out 18 years to be exact ! I found them safely stored in an art portfolio, kept pristine and flat and in great shape. They are signed and dated too, back to 1991 and 1992.

I decided to hand color them with some of the water colors I have so many of and don't use enough ! So here is a GREAT thing to do with the fab water color paints. It took a few hours to hand color in water color three of the small doodles. Each of the small ones is on paper sized 4.25 " x 5.75". So pretty small and densely covered with doodle motifs. I have three larger ones I will do soon. I mounted the first one on an acid free archival mat board, and it looks great. I dubbed it Crazy Checkerboard, signed it (now that it is complete, the doodle pattern also has a "signature" embedded in it, almost camouflaged in the pattern, so a secret sign !).

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Shown above: Local scene here in the yard. Laughing kookaburras in the neighbours' tree against a blue sky. Sorry if they are a bit hard to see, but there are four of them in there, I counted !

(for those who don't know kookaburras, they are a member of the kingfisher family of birds and the term/name Laughing refers to their loud cackling call, when there is more than one doing this they sound like they have all heard a very funny joke).

And in similar color as the sky shown here, a new acquisition, 1960s era vintage Tonka farm style truck. Has seen a bit of action (we call that character !), is not mint, does not come with the box. If you want those things, you will pay 500-700 for one of this era. For me, this one was the one, because of the great color !

It arrived, packed well and carefully in a box, inside a cool vintage suitcase I got from the same seller. It's in perfect condition and is displayed in the lounge (living) room. Ian saw it and discovered it was made in NZ ! I think it was meant to come here and be with us....

It will make a fine subject for a still life or whimsical painting, don't you think ?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I am experimenting with some lovely watercolors, absolutely awesome pigments made by US Seattle based paint company Daniel Smith. I buy these pigments when traveling in the USA and when I stop by my parents house, they keep the delivery for me and I pack and bring it home in my suitcase, watercolors not being problems to carry. I usually open them right away to have a play, the colors are great !

This said, watercolor is not my favorite medium...not for things that require much precision. Makes one wonder why then I am buying watercolor paints ! But for more fluid and abstract paintings, maybe they are ok. I am experimenting using them on some Fredrix watercolor canvas wrapped around a timber frame, so they don't need special framing. I should be able to use a good archival waterbased varnish to finish them off.

Here is the latest experiment with this, part of a series I have been working on called Healing Heart. I love the vivid sea colors around this and also the rich reds of the heart. The dark green on the right is Daniel Smith's Genuine Jadeite, from their natural mineral series of paints. This paint is STUNNING ! Deep green and beautiful, rich, and mysterious all at once. It inspired the sea colors surrounding this heart, which is being healed, its scars and hurts being soothed by the deep and calming blues and greens that give it hope and live to carry on. The light blue shown on the left of the heart is a special paint with iridescent properties, called Cabo Blue Duochrome. It is also gorgeous and looks really good with the darker turquoise and blues next to it. I have created texture also with rough sea salts, that were applied when the paint was wet and left to dry. Some of them stay embedded in the paint and glint and sparkle when the light catches them. Other grains get brushed off and leave little organic marks, symbolising the unique and changing nature of individual beauty of our lives.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Touch The Sky

It's Saturday, and a brilliant sunny day. I got some good painting in today. I finished Touch The Sky, the composition with the butterfly on the collaged vintage seed catalog pages. I darkened the bottom, so make the butterfly "emerge" from darkness as it soars towards and up into the sky. I also added blue and really liked that, making the sky look blue, as skies on sunny days do. I really like the blue with the brilliant orange butterfly. The dark parts and also the blue are put on roughly and with some spilling and scumbling and I liked the textures. Looking closely at the surface, the vintage pages of the collage on the canvas show through and you can see words, pictures, and so on from the old seed catalog pages.

This will get glazed tomorrow. I will also finish a small painting I am doing of a rose on a canvas collaged with vintage sheet music. The sketch has been on the collaged surface for months and I need to do it and declare victory on that one ;)

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Having finished the bright pink floral composition, I have gone back to finish Lion #2. And also to have a play with some verdigris base and oxidising patina I bought and am experimenting with. I am using the base and patina solution on some vintage items, like old skeleton keys. I also tried it out on a decorative piece of wannabe architectural salvage (by this I mean to say it is not a bonafide architectural fragment, but is a plastered reproduction I had picked up some where). It was cream colored before and looked ok, but turned out really well in the verdigris finish ! I have it displayed in front of a rich deep tomato red wall, as shown right. Love it, love it ! I will be doing up more skeleton keys and am also on the hunt for other objects to do up in the verdigris base and green patina. Nothing is safe from this search, anything could get picked and painted ! Who knows what might get painted in verdigris finish ?! (OK, cats are exempt)

And I have started in on the next stages of Lion #2. Because, I have waiting in the wings a fantastic third lion composition to start. But I am not allowing myself to begin on it before I have the Louvre Gate Lion well on his way to completion. I spent some good quality time with the Louvre Lion, getting him on his way. Nice teal tones in shadows on his back are looking good...and I corrected the proportions of his tail. I even did up a bit of work on the window frame behind him and also on the platform he perches upon.

However, I did allow myself to do a bit of sizing up of the third lion and I picked out a suitably sized canvas for his painting. Stay Tuned !

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


As hinted at the other day, I did begin to photograph bees. I like bees and find them fascinating. They are so busy and industrious. I have been collecting pictures of bees for some time now, building some good reference material for some sort of bee related composition. I needed some close up photos of bees too, hence why I set out with the Canon DSLR to go find the bees. I was photographing them where they are happiest in this garden, on and around the lavender. On photographing bees: it requires some patience ! The bees don't stay still very often. It was a hard call to decide to watch a lavender flower and wait for a bee to arrive on it, or to follow bees as they moved from flower to flower. The bees photograph best on the sunny side of the flowers too (too hard to see them on the shady side).

I continue working split and odd hours shifts again this week. In between early and late shifts today I got the floral painting pretty much done, spending a lot of time on fine tuning the petal colors and highlights in places and also the background. Yeay ! All that remains to be done is tidy up the sides and then to glaze it.

Meantime, I have it up in the Dining Room, so I can gaze at it from across the room (from the kitchen). It looks very good from across the two rooms, having a good visual presence.

Oh yeah, need to decide a title for it too.