TIME FOR A CHANGE IN DIRECTION


“Those Trees.” 5 panels, each 19 x 57 cms.

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

My favourite coloured pencil drawing for 2019 was a series of 5 that I’ve had mounted and framed as a  single entry for an art prize when I return to Tasmania. I completed a total of 16 drawings of different views of Hyland’s Flat in Tasmania’s Midlands region. Last month I posted the 5 drawings on the coloured pencil Facebook groups that I belong to, only to be rejected by one group because I apparently broke one of their rules of only posting one drawing per post. Maybe I didn’t explain it clear enough! I’ve also included some of my other favourites for the year.

2019 has been a productive year for me with a solid folio of drawings being produced, some sales, trips interstate, being featured in 2 books, a series of successful workshops and I’ll be judging the Mid North Coast Art Prize, here at Port Macquarie at the end of this month.

Things though are about to change.

Firstly, my wife, Val and I are moving back to Tasmania next month, arriving on January 31st. On the way I am conducting a coloured pencil workshop  for 5 days at the Grampians Summer School near Horsham in Victoria. It will be nice to have one more workshop before heading back to Tasmania. I have some plans and goals that I’d like to  achieve once back in the island state, following the re-establishment of my Launceston studio which I’ve sorely missed for the past 4 years. ‘Pop-Up’ studios are fine for the short term, but they are never really one’s ‘home base’. I’ve already joined Tasmania’s 3 major art groups and there’s been genuine interest in me conducting workshops around the state. I’m hoping to keep showing my art in 3 galleries, although one in Hobart is in doubt at this stage. I may have a solo show next year as I certainly have enough work. When and where have yet to be decided.“Tasmanian Daily Bread?”

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board.

I’ve decided on a lower media profile next year. I’ll maintain my Instagram page and this blog that you’re currently reading, but I’m cutting back on my use of Facebook. I don’t like its restrictions, so I intend to leave all the groups I’ve been involved with, remove my art page altogether and a further 2 pages that I am admin for. In their place I will have a new page called ‘artkleko’, or similar. I may join some groups at some point in the future, it depends on where my art is headed.

“Dorrigo DNA.”

Prismacolor pencils on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

And speaking of art, I intend to work less in coloured pencil and return to painting and digital drawing. The latter has been my sole creative outlet for the past month and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed the change in direction and I’m pleased with my results to date. My hands have enjoyed the change too, having suffered from arthritis (severe on occasions) for several months, due I’m sure to excessive coloured pencil drawing! I’m not sure if my digital drawings are commercially viable even though they are single editions. They can’t be any harder to sell than my coloured pencil drawings, that although have realised some sales in Tasmania over the past few years, have failed to be even noticed here on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.

“Kempton Sugarloaf.”

Digital drawing.

I’m unsure if my hands will cope with the cooler Tasmanian climate, so a return to painting is certainly on my ‘to-do list’. I’m interested in a major art project that I’ve been tentatively planning for the past few months (with the help of a second party). If all goes well, I’ll have enough ‘grist’ for my art mill to last me up to 12 months. I also want to enter large paintings in several major art prizes. Coloured pencils simply won’t do the job, nor will they be accepted. The reality still exists that CPs are well down the rung of accepted mediums for art awards (except in Drawing). There’s always been a medium-bias when it comes to coloured pencils and I fear it will always be that way.“Dry Landscape.”

Digital drawing.

I’ve been working with CPs for the past 33 years. Maybe it is time for a change.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the year on Facebook,  Instagram and my weblog. Your encouragement is very much appreciated and highly valued.

A Merry Christmas to you all and may you have a Prosperous and Creative New Year!!

Richard

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DERWENT LIGHTFAST 100


“Colour Rush.”   A4 size

Derwent Lightfast pencils on Canson 240 gsm paper. Own reference.

The recent release of 28 new colours has seen the Derwent Lightfast coloured pencil range reach 100. Will there be anymore to come? Maybe another 20? I hope so.

I rarely draw on white supports but I drew a small composition which was taken from a photo of a rock pool that I took at Port Macquarie, NSW, Australia. It’s usually a colour support for me as the colours seem to have more life and a somewhat painterly look to them. The latest colours went down very easily on my ochre coloured pastel board. Let’s take a closer look at the 100 range. I divided the pencils into groups as I would use them. This  may  not be  technically  correct,  but it should be easy enough to follow.

Let’s begin with the Green Family, that make up 21% of the range. An excellent selection of deeper greens, very ‘European’ I feel, but not so many on the ‘brighter/lighter’ side.

 

The Brown Family has a good balance of ‘earthy’ tones and make up 20% of the total range. I didn’t include Yellow Ochre and Mustard in this group because their pigments were more aligned to the Yellow Family.

The Blue Family represents 15% of the range, the majority being deeper blues. I feel that some warmer/lighter additions are needed. Mid Ultramarine is the nearest to a ‘sky blue’ and it needs some company on either side of its tonal value.

I quite like the Yellow Family (10%) and I’ve included Yellow Ochre because of its lightness. Banana is an interesting addition.

The Grey Family (11% with the inclusion of White) could do with some deeper cool and warm greys.

The Red Family (12%) has a lovely bright orange (Flame), but nothing either side in the form of a vermilion and an apricot colour. The pinks are very ‘fleshy’, maybe the omission of a richer pink maybe a lightfast issue.

The Magenta Family is small (8%) but quite varied with some close cousins in the Blue Family. Where is a true pink?

The Black Family has 3 members (3%). I like the softness of the Mars Black, compared to Black. Midnight Black seems to be a distant cousin of Dark Indigo.

The Verdict: There’s no doubt that Derwent have created a range of quality coloured pencils that should seriously challenge most of the major brands. I’m a fan of Coloursoft and I see strong similarities between the two pencil sets, the difference being the quality and depth of pigments in the Lightfast range. I am a little disappointed in the dominance of darker/deeper colours over warmer/lighter tones. There is room for up to another 20 colours in the range. There seems to be a strong ‘Northern Hemisphere palette’ in the range which is to be expected as that’s where they are manufactured and that’s where their greatest market is. Having said that, I particularly like the selection of browns as they suit a lot of my ‘stone’ drawings. In large sets of coloured pencils we always seem to ignore certain colours, I’m no different, but simply having a ‘full set’ of coloured pencils is something special and that is why I expect a lot of people are eagerly awaiting the release of Derwent’s set of 100 Lightfast pencils.

Richard

 

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DERWENT LIGHTFAST SET OF 72


“Mersey River Stones.” 40 x 60 cms

Derwent Lightfast pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

As soon as they had been released, I was keen to try Derwent’s latest range of coloured pencils. With the name ‘Lightfast’, it was obvious that these pencils were aimed at the top end of the coloured pencil market and that made me very happy! Lightfastness has always been of concern for professional artists in all mediums and indeed for anyone who exhibits their art. I have 39 different sets of coloured pencils, the majority having a good lightfast rating, while some haven’t. The pencils that have a high rating are the ones I use for any work that I try and sell or enter in art awards.

What’s the big deal about lightfastness? It’s simple, one doesn’t want their work to fade within 12 months, do they? Always choose a quality pencil with a high lightfast rating, because you’ll also work with high quality pigments that give excellent surface covering and ease of application. Cheap pencils cost too much!

Before I ‘saw the light’ and ‘converted’ to Cps, I worked with oil pastels, soft pastels and finally pastel pencils. My first set of Cps was a 72 tin of Derwent Cumberland Artist’s and they were a joy to work with. Because I’d favoured coloured papers with pastels, I continued this approach with my pencils, with greys and ochre colours being my favourites paper colours. The pencils’ coverage was excellent with good results and I was rewarded with several art prizes. That was over 30 years ago and since then my Derwent Cp arsenal has increased dramatically. I now have Derwent’s Coloursoft, Inktense and Procolour pencils, with Coloursoft being my favourite. That was until Lightfast pencils arrived.

Last year Derwent (for whom I’m a Cp tester) sent me a tin of 12 to try and this year I received a set of 72 and so far, I’ve completed 2 drawings. I’m looking forward to receiving 28 more colours (that have recently been added) in the next month. A set of 100 coloured pencils will make Lightfast a strong competitor alongside Caran d’Ache, Polychromos, Prismacolor and Albrecht Durer brands.

PACKAGING: The strong metal tin looks impressive thanks to Jesse Lane’s ‘eye-catching’ artwork (pun intended). The pencils themselves are clearly labelled and as is a Derwent tradition, coloured at the top end. I was a little disappointed though at the lack of strength of the plastic inserts, fearing the possibility of disturbing the pencils if they were mishandled in transit.

COLOUR RANGE: Landscape colours were well represented. The overall palette was somewhat subdued and I hope that the additional 28 colours will contain some warmer even brighter examples, such as brighter blues, turquoise, deeper greys, a vermilion and a strong pink. Not sure about the 3 shades of black.

APPICATION: The pencils sharpen easily to a point and lay down their respective colours well, very well. I find high quality pencils perform best when they are warm and these are no exception. They were a joy to work with on different coloured supports (papers). The pigments are strong and cover exceptionally well. I was impressed! For those (like me) who often use Luminance pencils, you will notice that the 2 brands are very similar to hold and work with (and are about the same size as each other). Both brands are very responsive with Luminance being slightly ‘oilier.’

BLENDING & LAYERING: I usually apply a maximum of 3 layers in my drawings and I experienced no concerns with Lightfast pencils in that regard and the same applied when working under or over layers of both Luminance and Prismacolor pencils.

Lightfast White with Mid Ultramarine

HIGHLIGHTS: WHITE is a prized addition when working on coloured supports and Lightfast White won’t let you down. I tested what I believe are the top  5 coloured pencil whites on Canson Red Mi Teintes paper with the strongest being, Museum Aquarelle,  Prismacolor, Lightfast, Luminance and Supracolor in that order. All 5 pencils performed admirably and confirmed my opinion concerning their status.

YELLOW OCHRE, SANDSTONE, FLAME, BURNT SIENNA, MIST, TURQUOISE GREEN, PLATINUM, GRASS GREEN (LF11), LIGHT BRONZE, SCARLET, DERWENT RED and MUSTARD are personal favourites.

THE COST: I’ve read that there is some concern regarding the ‘high’ cost of both sets and individual Lightfast pencils but as the saying goes, ‘you pay for what you get.’ Yes, Lightfast maybe more expensive than most of the other brands but it must be remembered that these are high quality coloured pencils. Cheap pencils cost too much!

I believe that Lightfast pencils are the best product Derwent has produced and the release of a set of 100 is something worth looking forward to.

Richard

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LANDSCAPE DNA


“Norfolk Plains DNA” 40 x 80 cms

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

Winner of the Norfolk Plains Art Prize 2013.

 

In the mid 1950s I was given a box of Australian made Builda Brix by my parents. My favourite objects to build were cargo boats that I’d ‘sail’ across the carpet of our lounge room. (I can still remember the sound that the boats made when I pushed them around). It was then that I fell in love with bricks and continue to do so until this day. I love bricks! They look so neat, come in so many colours (these days), sound wonderful when they knock against each other and look so good in a wall or surrounding a house. A also have great admiration for bricklayers, what clever craftsmen they are!

It wasn’t until 2011 that I took an ‘artistic’ liking to bricks. A couple of nights in a cottage at Avoca Beach in NSW confronted by a series of patterns on bricks inside our accommodation reveal ‘landscapes’ that I had to draw once I’d returned to Tasmania. I did. The result was a series of ‘Brickscapes’, some reminiscent of the style of the late Australian artist, Fred Williams. One of these drawings was awarded the Norfolk Plains Art Prize in 2013.

At that particular time I was involved with a Northern Tasmanian brick manufacturing company and was hoping for an exhibition in their (new) showroom in Hobart. Sadly, that never eventuated and my ‘brick’ theme went silent until a few weeks ago when during a stopover at Dorrigo in NSW, I noticed some interesting patterns on a brick wall. Here we go again!

“Dorrigo DNA”

This series of drawings is about the patterns I see on bricks and my interpretations. I see ‘landscapes’ from different parts of Australia. The marks and patterns remind me of DNA profiles, hence the titles. Some of the bricks I’ve seen contain strongly marked patterns, the result of crushed previously fired bricks being added to the clay mixture before it is formed, fired and stacked, ready for use.

“Outback DNA”

Future directions? I intend to photograph and catalogue as many interesting brick patterns as I can before returning to Tasmania next February. I may even return to the brick company and see what they’ve been up to since I left the state in 2016.

Richard

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IS ART A WASTE OF TIME?


“Coastal Rocks”40 x 60 cms

Prismacolor pencils on Canson Pastel Board. Own reference.

Today’s featured coloured pencil drawing happens to be my biggest selling print as a greeting card not only in Australia, but overseas. For some reason this drawing has universal appeal. Is it the subject, the medium, or the colours and shapes?

I recently took part in ArtWalk 2019, an annual local council arts initiative at Port Macquarie (Australia) where I’m currently residing. For 3 hours on Thursday, July 18, between 6-9pm, about 11,500 people visited the CBD to witness a massive range of visual and performing arts. This event gets even more popular with every passing year. I wish though that it be held over a weekend, not simply an evening. On my stall I offered cards and prints for sale and my return this year exceeded my participation in last year’s event, so from that point of view I was successful. Unfortunately, I was situated well away form the fine art stalls and performers, limiting the amount of customers I could have had if I were nearer to the ‘action.’

What pleased me most was the reaction of people to my work. The vast majority were amazed that my cards and prints were derived from actual coloured pencil drawings. Two comments stand out: “They’re only photographs,” and “I wish I could take photos like that.” I’m not sure what to make of either!

Despite the popularity of my work, why has it been such a challenge to sell my original drawings?

Creating art is part of a process that often involves extensive research, planning, making, framing and marketing. If you simply create art for your self, then it’s about the processes involved in making something and keeping it for yourself. Sharing one’s art is a very different matter and can be classified as the ‘serious side of art.’ It also can involve a great deal of expense for materials, framing and promotion. The latter can also include gallery representation, a website and market stalls.A selection of my recently released prints of some of my coloured pencil drawings that are also available as greeting cards.

For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that we first and foremost create art for ourselves, enjoy the process and take solace from the products that result. When one crosses the line into the commercial art world, strange things can happen. One can be seduced by the market’s demands and produce work that’s popular. ‘Popular’ has a great chance of selling. If that’s the way you want to go, you can expect a reasonable financial return for your efforts. But what if you want to simply ‘be yourself’ and create work that has personal meaning? Starve?

There are a number of artists who have succeeded being ‘themselves,’ I’m not one of them. The past few years have not been good for me sales-wise in respect of my coloured pencil drawings. I am however, enjoying success with my greeting card range and lately, with my recently released range of prints. Despite some limited commercial interest, I’m wondering though if it’s all a waste of time. I get depressed when I see art on social media that is popular, selling and what I consider insincere and of questionable originality.

I promote my art as one should on various social media outlets, my website, online galleries, my RedBubble shop, this blog, through my art workshops and in 3 galleries for (lately) very little return. Having been away from my home state of Tasmania for the past 3 years hasn’t helped maintain the sales I was experiencing before I left. Breaking into new (local) markets has been a challenge that has eluded me. I’ve been featured in national art magazines as well as overseas publications and books. This ‘promotion’ has resulted in no sales of my work whatsoever. I’m beginning to question if it’s all worth the effort and I believe that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

The art market seems to pay little attention to the skills of artists. If people like an artwork and are prepared to pay for it, then a sale is made. Producing ‘commercially popular’ artwork sits way above any comparison to artists’ skill levels in many instances. ‘Nice, happy, friendly, non-offensive’ artworks will more often than not, sell. I can understand that if art’s your living you have to make art that brings in the dollars, but is the joy of creating art diminished? For some, maybe not and good luck to them!

From time to time I’ve questioned my skill level, but with 50+ art awards to my credit, I must be doing something right now and then. Maybe my subjects are too personal; what I like to draw lacks ‘commercial appeal.’ It may be the fault of my preferred medium, coloured pencil. The latter is a point worth consideration and is worthy of a blog post itself. There is (still) a deep misunderstanding concerning the merits and value of coloured pencil drawing as genuine artworks of merit in the Australian art market, especially away from the big cities. Why are my greeting cards so popular, while many of my originals still reside in my studio?

Next year I’ll be returning to Tasmania and to my own studio as well as re-connecting to the local art scene. This will be the ideal time to re-evaluate my involvement with art. Should I continue with drawing with coloured pencil or should I return to painting or my love of digital art/photography? Can I combine them all? Should I continue teaching? If so, should I change my approach? I want to write a book about my art and after several starts it’s still a ‘work in progress.’ Maybe it’s time to get it done. Are more public art demonstrations and art markets the answer? If all else fails, it’s back to fishing and golf!

Before any decisions can be made it all depends on whether or not I can continue to find ‘joy’ in anything creative, for without a love for what one does, how can joy be found? Why one does art is just as important as the art one creates.

At the end of the day, our priorities in life will determine the journeys we take.

Richard

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TEACHING AT TOOWOOMBA


We are all different; we look at the same things, but we all see things differently.

At the beginning of July I had the pleasure of conducting a five-day coloured pencil workshop at the McGregor Winter Arts Retreat in Toowoomba, Queensland. Workshops of this length can be demanding on both tutors and students but we got through okay, no doubt assisted by the first class organization that prevailed throughout the week, the planning stages and post-workshops.

My teaching style is as much about the ‘why’ as it is about the ‘how’. Why create art if you don’t know why you’re doing it? Technique is important, but it’s not essential. Skills will come over time with practice, but motivation, understanding and accountability to one’s self are vital if art is to have any personal meaning. The process of creating art is very therapeutic, but rarely is it simply ‘busy work; the product is the bonus. Understanding what you are doing and indeed why you are doing it gives one a much greater chance for success than simply ‘doing it’.

My classes are not based on everyone drawing the same thing for the same outcome. I don’t believe in that method of teaching. We are all different, we look at the same things, but we all see things differently. Art is based on personal expression/interpretation. What’s the value in drawing the same subject to an exact formula? I teach individual programs as I did for the majority of my career as a full-time art teacher. It’s not that hard to do. Skills and techniques that are taught are far more relevant if each person chooses their own subject matter. It’s also likely to increase self-confidence knowing that you have had some influence on the lesson outcome. I struggle with the teaching of photo-realism as an art response. What individual response is there when what one creates looks the same as everyone else’s?

The only time I come anywhere near a mass-produced topic is with my exercises in colour; even then I set broad guidelines, allowing for individual responses.

Each of the 5 days at my Toowoomba workshop saw a different topic, with a different outcome. My 10 students performed admirably and considering their wide range of abilities and art experience, there was no doubt that the week was successful. I was particularly pleased with the final session on the last day, where several students spoke with passion to the rest of the group about their ‘journey’ throughout the week.

A summary of the week’s activities:

Day 1: Introduction to the materials on offer – Caran d’Ache Lumimance, Supracolor and Museum Aquarelle pencils, Canson Mi Teintes papers, Montval Watercolour paper, drawing paper and recycled drawing paper. The role and value of visual diaries. Colour pencil and paper identification and testing followed by an individual response to a set exercise.

Day 2: Construction and techniques of landscapes.

Day 3: How to compose a successful still-life from objects seen and/or collected.

Day 4: Creating abstracts from Nature that have a personal meaning through the markings of the scribbly gum moth.

Day 5: Resolve unfinished work from the previous 4 days. Create a drawing that contains elements from the previous 4 days. Discuss your work and share your experiences.

This is why I still love teaching art.

Richard

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PUZZLING ART



“Coffs Harbour Landscape” 40 x 60 cms.

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

I have an interest in both mosaics and jigsaw puzzles. Simple tile mosaics can be fascinating in both their designs and flexibility of pattern composition. They can be abstract or realistic. The CP drawings below were inspired by the patterns on the floor of a shopping centre in Coffs Harbour (NSW, Australia).


“Summer Landscape” 60×80 cms.

Luminance pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.“Mosaic Landscape”

Over the past 12 months I’ve been working on jigsaw compositions using previous work as a starting point. The results have been very encouraging, the bonus being that I’ve seen my older work in a completely different way. My first effort, “Hyland’s Flat Deconstructed”, was a finalist in the 2018 Fire of Fires Art Prize.

“Hyland’s Flat Deconstructed”  52 x 78 cms

Luminance pencils on Canson pastel board.Own reference.“Unsolvable” (Climate Change) 60 x 80 cms

Luminance pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

In this drawing I deliberately broke up the composition to highlight the craziness of climate change and its impact on the landscape.

TOP: “Deconstruction 1., NW Tasmanian Stones” 52 x 78 cms

Supracolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

mypicturepuzzle.com were kind enough to send me a copy of my latest drawing with a jigsaw template to give me an idea on how it would look. I can see the potential and hopefully I’ll have some jigsaw puzzles manufactured.

Richard

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