NEVER GIVE UP


“Approaching Stanley.”

Rejected, 1988 TasArt Awards.

COVID-19 has resulted in a complete upheaval of our way of life. Currently, isolation is the accepted norm and for how long is anybody’s guess. For some this has provided the opportunity to discover new skills, re-visit practices long-gone from their daily lives, while discovering new opportunities along the way. Long-term social distancing is hard and it’s only going to get harder until a proven vaccine is found and implemented. Boredom has become the number one enemy. For artists and crafts people, this is a perfect opportunity to create all manner of things, that can go a long way to easing the pain of separation, especially from family members. I hope you are coping okay. Things will get tougher before they get better. Stay focussed, keep being creative!

I’ve been dividing my time between gardening and art. Both are going well. My wife and I have a long-term plan for a fruit and vegetable garden at the rear of our block and a native garden at the front. The vegetable garden is almost finished and the construction of our fruit garden will commence within a couple of months. Our native garden will be built early next year. Long-term plans are what’s keeping us focussed and positive.

While in my studio the other day I came across a photo of a painting that I did in 1988. It’s not very good. This fact was confirmed when I entered it in the annual TasArt Awards, one of Tasmania’s major art prizes, based in Burnie on Tasmania’s North West coast. The painting was rejected. I was dejected. Those who have been in that situation will know what I felt like. It’s pretty gut-wrenching to be rejected for any art prize, but this was special, this was my first rejection, but not the last! Failure is never easy to take, but what really matters is how one deals with rejection. You get knocked down, you get back up again; you get knocked down, you get back up again, etc etc. For every art prize one enters, there’s always the possibility of rejection, even if there’s no pre-selection because your work maybe overlooked by the judges and even the viewing public. It’s a minefield out in the real world! If you never ever try, you’ll never ever know what others think of your art, or indeed if your work is worth creating in the first place, Let’s return to my 1988 TasArt entry.

Pre-selection is always a hurdle to overcome when entering such art awards. The good news is that the next time I entered I wasn’t rejected. Yay! I didn’t give up. My perseverance paid off and in the years to come I gained some judges’ commendations and several section prizes. The pinnacle was winning the major prize (then worth $10000) in 2010. This was a moment that I will treasure for ever. I went from ‘Boiled Lollies to Old Gold’ (chocolate). Yes, it took me 22 years to get to the top, but I kept at it.

“Silence at the Table.”

2010 Burnie Art Prize Winner.

Experiencing such ‘failure’ has made me stronger, more determined and confident enough to enter many other art awards over the years and I’ve been well rewarded for my stoicism. It hasn’t been always been all my own way, indeed I’ve had setbacks and even had one of my drawings taken down and removed before it was judged in a major Tasmanian Art Award (the subject of a forthcoming blog post).

‘Keep on keeping on’ and never give up!

I hope you’re coping with all that’s happening and all that’s not happening.

Richard

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

COVID-19 & ART


The world is currently at war with a silent, but deadly enemy that has up to this point in time, reached almost every country. These are difficult times, indeed scary times and the impact of COVID-19 has already had a monumental impact on our daily lives, with more to come. The really scary part of all that’s occurring is that no-one knows when this will all end and when it does, what the world will look like. One thing is for sure, things will never be the same again!

Gardening is great therapy!

Recently, I resigned from my represented gallery in Launceston, Gallery Pejean. It was the right time and the right decision, one that I had been considering for the past 6 months. What a time to do such a thing! I really fear for the Arts industry in Australia. With everything seemingly going pear-shaped, the Arts will be a major casualty. I expect there will be a significant downturn in spending once we’ve beaten the virus. This could last for several years. People won’t have the money (or the inclination) to spend on ‘luxuries’ such as entertainment and art purchases. How many galleries will fold? How many artists will be impacted by an ever-shrinking market? Will online selling of art become the norm? The short-term outlook is grim, but our health is the major priority.

‘Stay at Home’, is the now the way of life, but for how long? 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months? Who knows? The big challenge is what to do and how to keep sane. I plan each of my days with specific goals, one of which is to spend some quality time in my studio. My wife and I are well advanced in the creation of a large vegetable and fruit garden for which I usually allocate half a day, weather permitting. There’s a lot still to be done, but hey, why the rush? It’s important to have (flexible) structure in each day’s plan and a good degree of self-discipline. Boredom is not to be tolerated! Exercise is very important and daily walking (while permitted) is very beneficial not just physically, but emotionally.

The first in my series of drawings of ‘Floating Autumn Objects’.

I have set myself a specific art goal with the intention of staging an exhibition at some future point, probably online, but hopefully in a gallery space. My aim is to produce a series of A3-sized coloured pencil drawings under the theme of ‘Floating Autumn Objects’, using only 8 colours, plus black and white. With each new drawing I must use 8 colours that I haven’t already used. The more drawings I do, the trickier this task becomes. I expect to be taken out of my comfort zone at some point, but I enjoy such challenges! I have chosen my collection of Pablo coloured pencils to work with. They have 120 colours, which will result in a maximum of 14 drawings (as black and white will appear in all of them). I also have several other drawings ‘in progress’ that aren’t related, to give me some variety in my studio work.The second drawing in progress.

Drawing number 3, waiting for colour.

I wish that everyone will stay safe, healthy and occupied during this challenging time.

Richard

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

ART STUDIO


This is my first post since returning from the Australian mainland. Moving house, particularly interstate isn’t fun, in fact, it can be rather stressful!After 44 months away I’m finally back in my studio and I’m so happy to return to ‘my’ work space. I’m over ‘pop-up’ studios, but admit that they have their place and are valuable in the short-term. I managed to produce around 200 drawings in a variety of circumstances and I know that I have ‘grown’ as an artist as a result of being out of my comfort zone. But one’s own studio is to be coveted. It’s unique, it’s special, a haven, an area that one can step away from the world’s problems in one’s own world.


After 44 months away I’m finally back in my studio and I’m so happy to return to ‘my’ work space. I’m over ‘pop-up’ studios, but admit that they have their place and are valuable in the short-term. I managed to produce around 200 drawings in a variety of circumstances and I know that I have ‘grown’ as an artist as a result of being out of my comfort zone. But one’s own studio is to be coveted. It’s unique, it’s special, a haven, an area that one can step away from the world’s problems in one’s own world.

It only took me a week’s moving before I began working. There are still boxes that require unpacking and sorting, but they can wait. I needed to unwind, so I did so by completing some of the unfinished work that I brought back. I’m having a heat pump installed in the next 2 weeks to Winter-proof my studio and by then I hope to have completed the setting out of my floor space.

A good sign of work!

How important to you is your studio? Do you have a dedicated studio shed, room, workspace? There is no doubt that a dedicated workspace can enhance one’s creativity, no matter what you enjoy in the field of visual and performing arts. Sadly, this is not the case for everyone. Having to ‘make do’ is the only option for some. Kudos to those who produce exceptional art in challenging circumstances!

2 drawings that I completed and had framed in Port Macquarie were the first artworks that I have exhibited since my return and are on display at Gallery Pejean, Launceston and gallery pejean.com.au

Richard

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments