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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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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