THE LAST HURRAH


“The Last Hurrah”, 80 x 60 cms

Luminance pencils on Canson Pastel Board. Own reference & imagination.

This coloured pencil drawing is a scene of utter carnage, but I’ve deliberately expressed it as a celebration of the natural cycle that typifies our environment, along with a second interpretation. 

My wife, Val and I have spent 2 extended periods living in Cairns (Queensland, Australia) since 2010, at Trinity Beach to be precise. We have fond memories of our time there and intend to return for future visits. Along the shoreline of Trinity Beach stand many beach almond trees that oddly enough are currently shedding their leaves. These are large leaves and when they fall, litter the ground and can be quite a nuisance at times, although they break down rather quickly as does much of the vegetation in the Tropical heat. One has to walk past them (not over them) as they can stick to your footwear or bare feet especially when they are wet.

I remember one day noticing some leaves outside the Trinity Beach Tavern, in the car park area in fact. They were flat, extremely flat, withered, shattered into 100s of pieces, the result of being constantly run over by cars, trucks and cyclists. Add rain, wind and foot traffic and you have a scene of carnage, one though that looked rather fascinating; well it did to me anyway!

This may have been a scene of death and destruction, but it was also one of beauty as the last remnants of colour crumbled and dispersed into a  ‘soup’ before its ultimate demise courtesy of a road sweeper.

Towards the end of their growing cycle on the trees, these leaves had begun to change from green to yellow, red, orange, to earthy browns before plunging to the ground below. The cycle is over, the colours have gone, now only a memory.

Our lives are like that, don’t you think? In most cases we live full and productive lives before becoming victims to either, wear, tear, disease or ageing.

Just like the leaves, we return to the ground. But it’s not all gloom and doom! We have opportunities to ‘shine’ during our lifetime: of making a difference, doing something special, something memorable, leaving our ‘mark’. It’s not about quantity of life’ it’s about quality.

For a short time these leaves dazzled their environment with a show of uplifting colour after a stage of ‘conservative’ growth during which they went unnoticed. For a short period of time they starred, they were ‘special’, it was their ’moment in the sun’.

Now that I’m a member of the ‘seniors brigade’, I’m well aware of the impact of ageing. Lately, I’ve been hampered with arthritis in both hands, not for the first time, but knowing what it is and why it occurred, I simply deal with it. I’m not as ‘sharp’ as I once were, but these days it’s a case of being driven by the emotional rather than the physical. Quality of life far outweighs quantity. Enthusiasm is the greatest motivator there is, regardless of one’s age! Like the leaves at Trinity Beach, we can all have our ‘moment in the sun’.

Richard

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AUTUMN CASCADE


“Autumn Cascade”

80 x 60 cms. Luminance pencils on Canson Pastel Board. Own reference.

Autumn is my favourite season, one that is highlighted by wonderful changes in colour, especially here in Australia and particularly in its southern region. It’s a season of spectacular contrasts in colour and shape but also of decline as deciduous trees shed their leaves and the surrounding landscape prepares for the oncoming winter.

The exact location of the subject and inspiration of this drawing is audible before it’s visual. Imagine the sound of a babbling creek. It’s a warm day in fact it’s a very warm day! The piercing sun bounces across tumbling water on its way to the sea, catching the spray. Three leaves cling desperately as the torrent of water echoes past, their colours glowing in the morning light. This is a journey that they would inevitably make, part of the cycle of life in the forest. It’s the ‘Autumn’ of their existence, the time when they will look their best before they perish. However, something is not right.

The location of this drawing is the Crystal Cascades in Cairns, Far North Queensland, a popular swimming and picnic location especially favoured by the local inhabitants. The irony is that there is no ‘Autumn’ in the Tropics, only a Wet season followed by a Dry season. Having lived in this region for two extended periods I got to experience the tropical weather and it certainly was a challenge on occasions!

So why the title?

If you spend enough time in tropical rainforests you will notice that there is a constant cycle of regeneration. Leaves are a good example and the forest floor is a great place to witness this state of change, as are the many streams that exist from time to time. The colours in the tropics are stunning and have had an indelible impact on me and are often reflected in the intensity of my tropical artworks.

This drawing is as much about energy as it is about colour. I wanted to create an image where the interaction between the water and the leaves resulted in a unified composition even though there’s on ongoing struggle for (the leaves’) survival. Some of the colours are indeed ‘Autumn’ in their appearance and to me, this could be a scene anywhere, not just the tropics.

And for another surprise!

It’s been a struggle to complete this artwork due to a severe bout of arthritis in my drawing hand, something I’ve dealt with before. I’m on the mend but it’s a timely reminder that I need to be aware of the ‘signs’ in future. My drawing technique is rather ’firm’, but that’s the way I’ve always drawn. Maybe it’s time for less drawing and a return to painting.

This drawing is a metaphor for those (like me) who are in the ‘Autumn’ of their lives. We have a great deal of experience and although we aren’t as sharp and able as we once were, it’s time to ‘shine’ before we face our ‘winter’.

Richard

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A CURE FOR ARTIST’S BLOCK?


“Conara Landscape” 40 x 80 cms

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel Board

Finalist, 2014 Bay of Fires Art Prize.

Do you ever suffer from Artist’s Block, that moment in your creative journey where you run out of ideas, inspiration and motivation? I think I’ve found the cure!

AB comes in two forms; no idea on what to create next (creatus nilus) and so many ideas in one’s head that a single choice seems impossible (creatus overloadus). I’ve experienced both and in fact the latter for me has been the worst.

In 2014 I was a finalist in the Bay of Fires Art Prize in Tasmania with “Conara Landscape”, a drawing that could be described as an abstract landscape. I didn’t win but it was the first one to be sold on opening night. I was chuffed! What became a bonus for me was that this drawing became my ‘go – to’ artwork when I was stuck for ideas. To date 19 drawings have been the result of returning to my 2014 entry and re-examining its composition and coming up with a new approach. Of those 19, 2 have been National Art Prize finalists and one was published in CP Treasures 5 (USA)last year.

In other words, when you’re stuck for ideas look at some of your previous work, even those you deemed to be ‘failures’ and examine them with fresh eyes. Re-arranging a particular composition or combining parts of 2 or more artworks may trigger an idea. Have you ever tried cutting up a photo of one of your artworks and re-arranging it? I have, with very pleasing results. I’ve created several ‘jigsaw’ compositions and they in turn have given birth to ideas for additional drawings.

‘Idea Overload’ can be so frustrating! The harder you try to decide what to do, the more confused one gets! The solution is quite easy. I recommend the ‘step away from the studio approach’. Don’t attempt any art whatsoever, take a break, a clean break, even leave your residence and do something unrelated for the rest of the day. Take a walk, a long walk, or go and socialize. Give your art some space. You need to relax. Try it. It works!

Over the years I have created a series of resource folders that contain photos of subjects that I may someday wish to paint. As I usually work in themes, this approach has been very beneficial. I also have created another series of folders that contain ‘possible’ subjects for drawing. As with the resource material these folders contain resolved images that are waiting to be drawn. When I add a new folder it often results in at least 6 photos that I intend to draw. I have found to my dismay the more photos I have, the more confused I get when it comes to deciding which one to draw. The answer? Don’t think too far ahead and plan your next artwork towards the end of what you’re currently working on.

Always ask yourself,  “Why am I doing this?” When you know the answer then you’re ready to create a new artwork.

Richard

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DEDICATION OR OBSESSION?


For as long as I can remember I’ve based my artwork on the study and interpretation of themes. This has enabled me to come to know my subjects on a deeper level. I enjoy collecting, analyzing and at times, investigating the history of some of my art chosen themes. Not only is it (for me) a fun thing to do, it results in a greater respect for the subjects I draw. I rarely simply interpret a photo. I’m not a fan of duplicating what one sees. What’s the point? The way you both see and feel about a subject should be bound together in the visual statements you create.



Like so many artists, I collect various objects. Stones of various sizes are one of my favourite. On my travels over the past 3 years I’ve come across many beautiful stones, but a good deal have been photographed as they’ve often been in National parks. However, here at Port Macquarie, I’ve steadily built a rather nice collection, mainly beach stones and some of them have been immortalized in coloured pencil.

I have included photos of a selection of some of my stone drawings in coloured pencil over the years. Most of these have been ‘arranged’ either on location or outside my studio. I plan my arrangements, even on location when I feel that there needs to be some changes in the arrangement of objects. I prefer a strong light source as it can result in some interesting shadows.

My other themes include objects floating on, or below the surface of watercourses, the Midlands landscape in Tasmania, the shoreline at the southern end of Lake St. Clair (Tasmania), the life cycle of the Australian Scribbly Gum in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour in NSW, the impact of colour in Tropical Far North Queensland, Hyland’s Flat and the Kempton Sugarloaf in Tasmania’s Midlands region, shells, landscape simplification, or ‘cleansing’ as I call it and waterfalls.

Do you collect things? Do you favour certain subjects in your art?

Our everyday lives are strongly influenced by our ‘likes’ and ‘tastes’, it defines who we are. I like to think that I’m a dedicated artist, but one that’s also prone to be obsessed from time to time!

Richard

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FRAME TESTING


“A Hint of Spring”

How does one know what frame will suit their latest drawing? Do you have a supply of frames ‘ready to go’ in your studio? Do you frame everything the same way? Do you have a reliable framer who looks after all your framing needs? Are you on a strict budget? Do you do your own framing?

Framing is usually expensive if you want your artwork presented in the best possible way. ‘Budget’ framing is fraught with danger and will often result in your work failing to gain that coveted red dot. Not all drawings have to be framed, nor do some require a clear, protective cover such as glass or acrylic, but the vast majority do. For the past 12 months I have used shinkolite instead of glass. It’s lightweight, clear and has the highest UV rating. Its clarity substantially improves the look of one’s drawings. It’s not cheap but worth the price in the long run.

“Dubbo Dry”

I’m fortunate in that I have an excellent framer here at Port Macquarie. Ken and Cheryl at Canvas Momentz are experts in their field and I can always take my work to them with confidence. Sometimes though, I like to see how my drawings would look in certain frames before I go to my framer,  so I’ve photographed some of my existing framed work and superimposed my drawings via Photoshop. It’s not always shown in the exact proportions but it usually confirms what I’m after.

Framing is such an important stage of presenting your artwork and your work deserves to be seen at its best!

 

Richard Klekociuk

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ALONG THE PIONEER AVENUE (Tasmania, Australia)


Like many Tasmanians and tourists alike, I’m fascinated with a group of 8 Roman Cypress trees that can be seen on a small plateau (Hyland’s Flat), just south of Conara in Tasmania’s Midlands. Against the surrounding landscape they appear rather alien and the fact that they have survived for 60 years is in itself something to celebrate. The trees were planted in the Spring of 1939, part of an ambitious project that resulted in the growing from seed and planting (in groups, not continuous) of over 6,000 trees (almost 100 varieties from around the world were initially chosen) along the Midlands Highway between Hobart and Launceston as a memorial to the state’s pioneers. Only the strongest trees survived the climatic conditions, but many can still be seen along the highway today.

Hyland’s Flat is a stark example of the extremes of landscapes in the island state. More often than not, it’s devoid of grass, but somehow weeds survive and even thrive at certain times of the year. Then there are the 8 Roman Cypress trees that have defied everything Nature can throw at them for 60 years. Only one tree has been (partly) damaged, but it like the others, still remains strong.

It would be true to say that the stand of trees so exquisitely planted, caught my eye first, but it was the landscape that ‘lured’ me into a more thorough investigation. Several trips to the location followed by a walk (with permission) on the land itself, realized a substantial amount of photos and a greater understanding of what I’d been looking at from a passing car for near on 60 years.

I have begun a series of coloured pencil drawings that will not only feature the trees from a broad range of angles, but will look at the surrounding landscape minus any detail that impairs on the viewing of a ‘pure’ landscape. I call this ‘landscape cleansing’ and it’s been part of my landscape approach for about 12 years. Come to think of it, it’s another reason why I love ‘those trees’ with their manicured look. My first series has a similar palette, but that will change in due course. Next year I will spend time on location at different times of the day and in different seasons to note the change of light and colours of the landscape. I aim to draw more trees from other stands along the highway in coming years.

For my first series I have adopted a horizontal ‘panorama-style’ composition where the trees dominate the composition. Some drawings are devoid of surrounding detail while others reveal the surrounding mountains. It’s late Summer and it’s dry, very dry, but still the trees remain defiantly green and strong. I also aim to produce a series of ‘vertical’ panorama-style drawings that will present me with challenges in structuring the composition as my subject is very ‘horizontal’. Very few will feature the entire group of 8 trees, the emphasis being a ‘slice-like-look’ at certain aspects of the landscape in question. The good thing about thematic work is that it can ‘take-off’ in a variety of directions. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can produce.

Richard

I am extremely grateful to Tasmanian Historian, Dr. Marian Walker from the University of Tasmania for her assistance and especially for her publication, ‘The Road to Eden: the Pioneer Avenue between Launceston and Hobart.’

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TROPICAL FLOW


“Tropical Flow”

60 x 80 cms

Luminance, Prismalo & Museum Aquarelle pencils on Canson Pastel Board.

Own reference.

Despite having lived in Cairns for 2 extended periods, having to battle the high humidity in the Wet season was bad enough, but add a good dose of heat and you have can experience some uncomfortable moments. ‘’Air conditioning is the answer!’’ I hear you cry and yes, you are correct, provided you are inside a cool building but what if you’re outside in a rainforest? Even in a well-canopied rain forest there’s little respite from the heat. Mossman Gorge is both one of my favourite forests but the most physically challenging as it’s hot, wet and sticky but oh, the wonderful drawing subjects that exist there make each visit worthwhile!

The Flecker Botanic Gardens is one of my go-to places that I visit each time I return to Cairns. It’s simply wonderful and contains so much ‘grist for my creative mill.’ The plants, flowers (especially the orchids), trees and the variety of leaves are amazing!

I wanted to end the year with a large drawing that tells of my love for this place but at the same time the impact that colour in the Tropics has on me. It’s not all bright and intense colour, there is a lot of decay on the forest floor but on this occasion I wanted to focus on something that was cheerful and uplifting.

I chose a part of a small creek that (usually) flows in the gardens and took numerous photos during a visit there last year. I did some ‘playing’ on my computer and came up with a stylised composition that featured whole and parts of leaves and other small pieces of vegetation that were moving past on, or just below the surface. I chose a ‘hot’ palette and for contrast I used Prussian Blue in the background; flickers of light and sky can be seen as well. If you look long enough at this drawing you will see traces of realism, hence the semi-abstract label. This isn’t an attempt to reproduce what I saw, it’s more to do with how I feel about the subject and its environment.

Being quite abstract, this drawing will not go down well with the majority of CP artists. Realism is by far the most important feature of coloured pencil art subjects and I believe to a certain extent is its Achilles Heel. There is much potential for the medium to feature in other directions, not just photo-realism. I suspect that the majority of positive responses will be about the colours in this drawing, not the composition or shapes but I don’t mind. If an art piece gleans no response, good or bad, it has failed to do its job! All my abstracts are based on observations of Nature. I want each drawing to make ‘visual sense’, so I work hard to make sure I create drawings that have a balanced composition something I believe is essential to every artwork.

If you’ve been watching the progress of this drawing on Facebook or Instagram you would have noticed that I used a grid to draw in the required detail. I use a large grid, dividing my pastel board into 12 equal areas. I don’t trace, in fact I don’t approve of the practice unless it’s of one of your own drawings. Tracing won’t teach you how to draw, it teaches copying.  I draw what I choose to see, not what I have to. By using a large grid I can make changes as I go and there are times when I get a different result than I expected. I like the freedom that the ‘unknown’ brings when drawing this way. I always want a drawing that reflects my inner thoughts, not a replication of a photo. I do though accept that we all work differently for a variety of reasons.

Vive La Difference!

An earlier example:                          “A Tropical Moment.”

I only sold one abstract drawing this year, which only goes to prove that the art market doesn’t favour coloured pencil abstracts. Despite this I’m determined to continue this direction in my work along with my landscape work. Who knows, maybe I’ll attract the attention of some keen buyers next year?

Another example:                           “Floating in Silence.”

I have a second drawing planned and this will feature some semi-submerged leaves, partly covered by rippling water. These drawings take me about a week to complete but I’ll no doubt slow down for the festive season.

Whether you’re a subscriber or a casual reader of this blog, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for your support throughout 2018 and wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Richard

 

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