Friday, 11 August 2017

Our Fragile State

Please note: this post deals with a topics we often avoid - suicide and depression. 
Please discontinue reading if this is confronting.

If you need help please contact one of the many organisations that offer support.

Beyond Blue
Lifeline Australia Crisis support and suicide prevention
Queensland Health

Pink Roses & Mirrors - oil on canvas 500 mm x 900 mm 

We are fragile. So very fragile. We live with such high expectations. We have high expectations of others but more particularly, we have high expectations of ourselves. When we don't match up to those lofty ideals it's easy to berate ourselves and feel that we are failing.

Sometimes this self criticism, self loathing even, takes over and we fall into a bottomless dark pit. We see no escape. 

This week I watched Australian Story. It was an episode entitled The Bridge and had a very personal connection. Usually TV programmes are about others, people far removed from me, people that I don't know. This time it was different. The story was about someone I know, someone who serves on the same committee as I do. 

I realised immediately that I didn't  really know her. My knowledge was limited to superficial knowledge. I didn't know her back story at all. It made me realise that in our daily dealings with others we ought to remember that they often have a life we know nothing about. A life with problems and struggles in spite of their seemingly normal attitude.

Five years ago, my friend, a high achiever, was struggling to cope at work. She felt that she was failing, and was not living up to the standards required of her. In a very short time, only about ten days, she came to the decision that everyone, including her small two year old son, would be better off without her. She walked over the Story Bridge in Brisbane and jumped.

Against all odds, she was seen by a passing ferry as she was about to go under. The ferry captain came alongside and a deck hand pulled her out of the water. She was alive. A miracle. 
Today she has reclaimed and rebuilt her life. Thankfully she is now in a good place.

As I watched the story unfold, what struck me so forcibly was the rapid disintegration of her state of well being. From coping with work and achieving her goals, from being in control, the drop to utter despair took a few short days. We are so fragile it doesn't take much to take us to the brink.

I write this as a reminder, to myself as much as a reminder to you to look to the people around you. We don't know their struggles. We don't know their despair. 

We can only be aware, be kind, and to listen.

If you live in Australia, I urge you to watch the episode. You can see a replay on  ABC iView. 

If you need help please contact one of the many organisations that offer support.
Beyond Blue
Lifeline Australia Crisis support and suicide prevention
Queensland Health

Monday, 7 August 2017

Looking back - September 2010

In September 2010 I wrote about a memorable visit to Philanjalo, a hospital in rural Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. Philanjalo means live longer. My sister and I visited a relative who was a doctor at the hospital. We were able to find out about the lifesaving work undertaken there. 

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Philanjalo - live longer

The countryside is dry, dry, dry. There are rocks, dried aloes, and dry earth. There is no grass to speak of – what
there is has been turned to stubble by the goats. No rain has fallen since April this year. The streams and rivers are collections of boulders – there is no sign of water. All my photographs have a haze –a dust haze that coats the land-scape. The sky will only clear when rain has washed the sky.  
Tugela Ferry mountains
I spent last weekend in Tugela Ferry in rural Kwa Zulu Natal, one of the poorest regions in the whole of South Africa.Along the road we pass children with 20 litre containers of water on their heads or in wheelbarrows - if they’re lucky. They get water from pumps at the roadside and then have to transport it back to their homes often kilometers away. We are greeted with smiles and friendly waves – so cheerful in spite of extreme poverty.
Carrying water home

My contact there, a doctor working at Philanjalo, showed us around. Philanjalo – meaning live longer - was started as a hospice for aids patients.The local people have a very high incidence of MDR TB – multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis and XDR TB, coupled with an HIV AIDs infection rate of about 50%, making it exceptionally difficult to treat the disease.With the outbreak of the TB epidemic TFCARES set up the clinic as a research station.Doctors from all over the world come to Tugela Ferry to do research into MDR TB and XDR TB.Now the emphasis at the clinic is on ARV treatment - treating the side effects of HIV Aids. I was struck by how clean and efficient everything was – and the cheerfulness of both patients and staff in spite of the enormity of the problems 

faced. Philanjalo works in conjunction with the Church of Scotland Hospital and provides both clinic and

On Saturday a trip to Msinga Hill was proposed. Oh dear, I thought, not mountain climbing! Not at all - there is a road to the very top. The purpose of the road  

became all too clear with the incongruous presence of a cell phone mast. 

Msinga Hill Rocks
From the top of Msinga Hill we could see patches of green along the Tugela River – the lifeblood of the area. 

Community Gardens along the Tugela River

Violent inter- faction fighting previously wracked Tugela Ferry.  However, life now seems more peaceful – perhaps fighting poverty, MDR TB and HIV Aids is enough of a challenge for the people of this village.
To give you an idea of the value of the work done by these marvellous doctors and nurses, I quote from an email I received from the doctor we visited:
“The patient that I had to treat yesterday and who I thought would die, when I saw him today, he is sitting up in 
bed, eating and chatting to his relatives.   Miracle”

Monday, 31 July 2017

Looking back - August 2010

I started writing Art Matters towards the end of August, 2010 when my move to Australia was becoming a reality. (I had applied for a visa back in February 2008) It follows that around this time of the year I become nostalgic. I thought I would revisit some of the posts that I enjoyed writing as well as those you enjoyed reading too.

When I began the blog I knew nothing and had to learn everything along the way, including how to add photographs. 

My second post  on Art Matters 'Deciding to Move'   sets the scene...I've added a favourite painting from that year. It's the view from my daughter's farm across the Barbeton Valley to the Kaapse Hoop mountains.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Deciding to move.

Towards Kaapse Hoop - oil on canvas  760 mm x 915 mm

In May 2008, I made the decision to relocate to Brisbane, Australia. Now, over two years later, the move is becoming a reality. It's strange to be in neither one place nor another and it's almost as though one's life is in limbo.

Although I studied art at high school and later trained as an art teacher, most of my life has been spent following other career options - more out of circumstance than a specific plan. I have been amongst other things: a landscape gardener; a mosaic artist; a book illustrator; and at one time junior and high school
teacher teaching a variety of subjects - English, Maths, and History.
For the last 12 years I have been the owner of a retail shop that has no connection with the "art world"
at all.

I taught art formally for relatively short periods, but have lectured and demonstrated for numerous
art groups. Although  making art has had to be done alongside other occupations, and has often taken
a back seat, I've learnt to be very productive in short bursts when a gap appeared in my day.

I plan to change this and now, eventually, do what I love - paint, draw and teach art.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

It's me who is my enemy

It’s me who is my enemy
Me who beats me up
Me who makes the monsters
Me who strips my confidence.
~Paula Cole
Please  listen here: Me - Paula Cole

Cannas - watercolour - hand painted collage papers 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Black and White at Aspire Gallery, Paddington Brisbane

There's something very appealing about the simplicity of black and white - the strong contrasts catch the eye. Working in ink with a fine pen is meditative. You can loose yourself in the repetition of the lines, building up delicate cross-hatching, gradually darkening the values.

Teacup with Cherries - ink on Zeta paper - Framed 230 mm x 230 mm 

These two ink drawings are part of the Exhibition Black and White currently on at Aspire Gallery, 53 Kennedy Terrace, Paddington until the 22nd July. There's a wide variety of work being shown - paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculpture and a fabric installation as well.

Porcelain with Tomatoes - ink on Zeta paper - Framed 230 mm x 230 mm

My drawings hanging in the Gallery. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Switching mediums

I have always used different mediums. When I attended art school (way back when) oils were the medium of choice. I know I'm giving away my age, but Acrylics were relatively new then, and not very good. Watercolours were definitely not a good choice for making an impression on the lecturers. The medium was deemed not important enough for profound artistic statements. In spite of the focus on oils at Art school, subsequently I worked for many years in watercolour, loving the way the paint moved.

Personally, I prefer to stay with one medium for a while, delving deep, discovering, experimenting and developing a theme. Then, after some time with a medium, say watercolour, I crave the smell of oil paint; the texture of it; the feel of the brush on the canvas; the freedom to scrape away and paint over.

Ideas stemming from seeing the magnificent rock formations during last year's visit to the Tasman Peninsula are influencing my current obsession with surface. I am focusing on the way the paint lies on the canvas or panel; the topography that is created through layers; through incising lines into the semi-dry paint exposing earlier layers; by dragging painting over uneven areas building a history of marks.

WIP Detail - Untitled - as yet - Oil, Oil pastels, Charcoal and Cold Wax on panel

Then as a complete change of pace I have a couple of ink drawings on show at Aspire Gallery 53 Kennedy Terrace Paddington. The group show Black & White is opening this coming Saturday 8th July, 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm and will run until 22nd July 2017.

Cherries in a Teacup - ink on Zeta paper 230 mm x 230 mm

Porcelain with Tomatoes - ink on Zeta paper 230 mm x 230 mm

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A short Sabbatical - at home.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the bad luck to have another driver run into the back of my car. I was stationary, he was watching the lights at the intersection not  car in front of him. 

Since I would be without my car for at least this week, I decided to take the opportunity to take a sabbatical - in my Studio. There are no classes - the Studio is closed for the winter break - I have no appointments or obligations - I have uninterrupted time to draw and paint. 

I start each day with a walk in the park across the road from my home. Each morning I vary the route, sometimes walking up the road to enjoy the sunrise. The downside of this route is an increase in traffic noise, but well worth it for the beauty of the sky. Here are some images on my Instagram page - Early morning colour

Once home, I settle myself in the Studio and get busy. Mid morning I take a short break walking up the road to Deja Bru Cafe for coffee. While there, I have time for a quick sketch, then it's back into the Studio for the rest of the day.

Monday 26th June

Tuesday 27th June 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Abundance at the Lethbridge 10,000

I'm really happy that a painting of mine will be on show for the Lethbridge 10,000. It's my fifth successful entry to the annual show. This exhibition of small scale paintings, now in its eighth year, is on from 8th - 18th June at the Gallery, 136 Latrobe Terrace. The work of all the finalists is up on the website - here is a link: Lethbridge 10,000 Exhibition

Abundance, painted in watercolour on Saunders Waterford paper, is a bouquet of some of my favourite flowers. I've enjoyed working in watercolour, losing myself in the gentle colours and details of these blooms. 

Abundance - watercolour on Saunders Waterford  Framed 535 mm x 535 mm 

Friday, 2 June 2017

I love my job...

 I love my job - working as a full time artist and art teacher has been a dream for many years, and now is a reality. One of the special perks of being an artist is that I get do many different things so life is interesting and challenging. 

Deja Bru Cafe, a favourite local coffee shop, has been a staunch supporter. Soon after the Cafe opened I was commissioned to paint the large Parisian mural. 


Then I painted these collections of the delicious treats. 

Sitting in the sun with a coffee provided the opportunity to sketch the interior on more than one occasion. 

Recently I was asked to give a favourite inspirational sign a face lift. The hot Brisbane sun had bleached the text to a shadow of its former self. 

So here it is restored once more.

Now for the sad news - Jess has sold Deja Bru. I would like to thank her and her family for the tremendous support and friendship they have given me over the years. Jess is certainly one of the beautiful people...
My best wishes to the new owner, Peter. I wish him every success in the future.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Story of a Painting

This week two paintings went to new homes. The first, a triptych, Sinister Pools, is set in a beautiful part of the Southern Drakensberg just off the Underberg Road. When I re-read the post, I realised just how much I loved being near the mountains. During my last few years in South Africa, the mountains were the theme of several paintings. A deep connection to place, to country, remains.

When I arrived in Brisbane, I needed to acclimatise myself to Australia. I needed to find motifs that would speak to me in a personal way. I felt I had to move forward and discover the special places in my new country. In some ways, I was too emotional to keep painting South Africa. A clean break was necessary. Now I feel ready to revisit my history and paint the landscape of my birth once more.

I will be visiting my family in December and hopefully I will be able to include a visit to the mountains. 

Sinister Pools Triptych 3 x 910 mm x 610 mm

Here is the original post:

Sinister Pools - The story of a painting

High in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa near Garden Castle, the Umzimkulu River spills out of the mountains and starts its journey to the sea. The river twists and turns its way through fertile farmland. As one turns off the main road from the village of Underberg to drive into the mountains, the river is alongside the road. The water tumbling over rocky cascades thrills adrenalin junkies on canoes.
In between there are deep dark pools that are part of the lore of the local trout fishermen. The mist rises off the river in winter at dawn and I imagine the atmosphere is dark, cold and sinister, hence the name. 

The triptych is a gentler version of the scene. I was not up at dawn to photograph the river and I haven’t battled with elusive trout. The day I was there it was sunny and clear. In the distance, the mountains were a soft lilac contrasting with the sharp green of the fields. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Sktchy 30 - 30 sketches 30 days

There's satisfaction in meeting a challenge; in taking on something and seeing it through to the end. I have successfully completed Sktchy30 - 30 days, 30 sketches. Some days it's been a struggle to complete a sketch, with the post going up only at the end of the day. On two days I failed to post so the next day I did two to catch up. I've taken a few shortcuts, there have been the odd quick 10 minute sketch and on one occasion I used the quick sketch and did a little digital manipulation for the next day's post.

Rowan Atkinson as Maigret - brush pen on Tan Strahmore

I have explored the use of toned paper, a surface I've seldom used - and have begun to enjoy the results. I particularly like gouache and charcoal on this coloured paper.  
I've done more drawing with coloured pencils, and while I do love the meditative state that using this medium encourages, it's way too slow and time consuming for me. 

Now I confess that as the last days of April arrived, I'm rather relieved that the challenge is over. If you have trouble committing to daily drawing, then a challenge is good to get you going and keep you motivated. Generally I do something art related every day - drawing, painting, reading, or preparing for classes in the Studio, yet somehow having to meet a deadline each poses extra pressure. 

Thank you to Sktchy for the inspiring prompts each day and thank you to the Sktchy community of artists for your support and encouragement.
To see my profile and all the portraits on Sktchy please click on this link: 
Carol Lee Beckx on Sktchy

Graphite - Alpha softcover

Charcoal and white pastel on Tan Strathmore 
Sleeping baby - charcoal and white pastel on Tan Strathmore 

Black & white Ink 

Maria - Brown ballpoint pen 

Three Friends in a triple portrait - a catch up for a day missed. Ink on Zeta paper 

Isobel and her cats - A quick ink drawing - I loved the triple profile poses of these three...

And a little digital manipulation to the previous day's sketch. 

The beautiful Delia - Coloured pencils on Tan toned Strathmore.
Tara - Watercolour and gouache on Alpha paper

Beautiful Alena - Watercolour and gouache for the lace on Alpha paper

Daniel as Spider-Man watercolour and ink on Zeta paper - Sktchy Pick

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Sktchy30 - The halfway mark, meeting the challenge

There are plenty of challenges around. A recent one was #oneweek100 people; there's the 365 day drawing challenge; Celebrate ink in Inktober, etc. Frequently, I have started a challenge with enthusiasm and optimism only to abandon it halfway through. Sometimes it was due to the choice of prompts which were uninspiring (to me) sometimes other matters took priority.

When the Sktchy app came up with #Sktchy30 I thought that it was something I could achieve more easily than most of the other challenges. Each day a prompt from Sktchy arrives in my inbox. As an example, describe the rituals that get you creating; incorporating play into your work; the use of  colour; describe your workplace/studio environment.
Since the email arrives in Australia in the afternoon(early morning in the US) most of the day has passed before the prompt arrives. I prefer to start drawing early or even the day before which make using the prompt difficult. So I decided from the beginning to create my own challenge:
  • to see if I could use a different medium or try a different technique each day.
  • If time was an issue on a particular day then the sketch would be quick 5/10 minutes
  • If I had more time on another day, and had already completed a sketch, I would start something more ambitious to complete another day.

If I'm working later in the day and I can incorporate the prompt that is a bonus. So far the prompts have been more motivational than a specific theme or subject and my plan is working. I also remembered a toned sketchbook that I had hardly used. Experimenting with various mediums on this surface has been an interesting exercise. I think I might even grow fond of the paper! 
Here are some of the work created during the last two weeks. 

Watercolour on Alpha paper

Gouache on Alpha paper

Quick contour drawing - ink and wash

Digital drawing - Procreate

Colour added - Procreate

Gouache on Strathmore toned paper 

Experimenting with masking fluid and watercolour 

Mark Rothko - screenshot from a video about the artist

Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit - gouache on toned paper

Gouache on toned paper

Digital drawing - Procreate

Ballpoint pen, white ink and gouache

Friday, 7 April 2017

Man's Best Friend

It's said that a dog is man's best friend, and that is true for a recent commission. I was asked to paint a special double portrait as a birthday gift, featuring a young man and his best friend Tommie.

I used a couple of different photographs for this ink and watercolour sketch. I was able to combine the best photo of each of my subjects for the final composition. 

I love creating paintings to commemorate a special friendship. 

Brendan and Tommie - ink and watercolour 8" x 8" 

Framed and wrapped, ready for delivery - and yes, I always forgot to take a photo before the cellophane goes on...

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sharing Memories

The wonderful thing about painting is that it allows you to recreate a memorable experience. During the Christmas holidays we were up at Noosa. We were about to board the boat to return to the holiday apartment. 

For the briefest moments, the evening sky was breathtaking. I managed to capture the light on a very short video. Seconds later the sky was dark, and night had fallen.

This painting, which has been selected for The Rotary Art Spectacular online Exhibition 2017, allows me relive those special moments. I can now share my experience with you. 

Evening Light - Noosa oil on canvas 760mm x 1220mm