Tuesday 23 August 2011

A year of Art Matters

Flowers in a bucket - oil on canvas Carol Lee Beckx © 2011
It’s almost a year since I started writing Art Matters with the first post - A new beginning. During the time I was packing up my life in South Africa in preparation for my move here to Brisbane, putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) helped me express myself when there were times that I couldn’t paint.

It’s been an eventful year. I de-cluttered and sorted and bid farewell to family and friends. In December I started life in a new country and new city. I shared the traumatic effect on Queensland of the January floods followed later by the devastation of Cyclone Yasi.

Gradually life returned to normal. I found my way around the city and made new friends.  I love having wonderful art galleries in the city to visit. Moving into my own home a couple of months ago reunited me with my belongings and I was able to start teaching. I love the interaction with those in my art groups and it’s rewarding to see their progress after just a few short weeks.
When I began blogging I had no idea who would be interested in reading my musings about art and life. At first I knew so little I wasn’t aware how to access the blog’s statistics! It’s therefore quite gratifying to see that I have readers from a number of different places across the world from Russia to Ecuador, USA, Germany, South Africa and Australia. My thanks to everyone who has stopped by, your interest is much appreciated.
While designing my website I discovered some wonderful artist’s blogs. I have learnt so much from looking at other artist’s paintings and seeing how they approach their art practice. There is a raft of painters doing a Daily Painting and posting every day without fail. Regular readers might remember I tried that back in January – this was a flash in the pan and then life got in the way. It was really difficult if not impossible for me to paint something worthwhile, photograph or scan it and post every single day. I have great admiration for those who manage this while maintaining a high standard.
An artist who succeeds is Julian Merrow-Smith - Postcard form Provence. He has been doing an average of five paintings a week since 2005. Each morning I enjoy the fresh delight of a new painting in my inbox.
Another blog that is well written and entertaining is Life and art – working through the absurdity of life. Gillian Holding is both an accomplished artist and writer. She also posts a daily digital self-portrait in  A Daily self- reflection - showing both talent and staying power.
Liz Steel is does the most wonderful sketches and her travel notebooks are an inspiration - her blog is Liz and Borromini.Katherine Tyrrell's Making a Mark , one of the top art blogs is a must read for artists.
There have been a number of artists who have confessed lately that daily posting is intrusive and disruptive to their development as an artist. This happens when the deadline becomes insistent and there’s no time for reflection, planning and self-assessment as an artist. The other problems with daily painting and blogging is that unless one is extremely imaginative the work will become repetitive and of indifferent quality.
The more I paint the less time I have to write. My solution is to write and post only when I have something to say. Unfortunately the intermittant nature of posting means that readers may forget you.

So please don’t forget the solution - sign up for an email subscription and you will know when there is a new post - and please do leave a comment every now and again - bloggers love to get feedback from their readers.
Now – I’m off to do a little more painting…

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Still life - yesterday, today and tomorrow.

On Saturday afternoon I did a Still Life demonstration at Art Shed Brisbane, a jewel of an art store. It's an artist's delight containing many tempting materials. The demo lasts two hours with a short break at half time. It's not enough time to complete a painting but sufficient to make a good start. I have worked on the painting for another couple of hours, altering some colours, re-drawing certain sections and adding more juicy colour to the poppies.
There is an album showing the process of Blue vase with Poppies on my Facebook Page.

Blue vase with Poppies – oil on canvas 600mm x 600mm
 © 2011 Carol Lee Beckx

It’s fitting that I should be writing about still life at the moment. Australia has recently lost a fine proponent of the genre – Margaret Olley. While her contemporaries experimented with various other styles and ‘isms’ she concentrated on still life and painted the objects in her home in bold vibrant colour, delighting in the simple things in life. She was one of Australia's treasures.

The Still Life genre traces its history back to the Dutch term “Still leven”. The Italian term is “natura morte” which literally means dead nature and indeed many early paintings featured dead birds. The artists wanted to emphasise that their paintings had substance and were not simply indulgent paintings of beautiful objects. So within the paintings there were deeper meanings reminding the viewer of the transience of human life. This was symbolised by wilting flowers, mouldy fruit or the inclusion of a skull.
There is a story from Greece going back to 440 BC that tells of a competition between two of the best painters, Zeuxis and Parrharsius. One painted a bowl of grapes that the birds tried to peck they were so lifelike. He thought he would be the winner and went to look at his rivals’ work. He saw a painting covered by a curtain and tried to push the curtain aside – only to discover that the curtain was in fact painted. Guess who won that round?    
During the Medieval period – there were no still life paintings as most were of religious subjects and the style was largely symbolic. Towards the beginning of the 14th century things started to change and by the following century with the invention of perspective, artists were now able to represent objects realistically showing form and volume.
The first artist to realistically represent simple objects was a Venetian, Jacopo Barbaro who painted the Still Life with Partridge and Iron Gloves 1504 which is in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. He signed his work too – but did so on a small piece of paper painted on the bottom of the picture.
Paul Cezanne said “I shall conquer Paris with an apple” and Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers are among the best known Impressionist works. The genre has had many changes over the years and in the Twentieth century there were many variations.
And now in 2011 the still life moves off the picture plane and on to the gallery floor as still life objects become installations. with the use of computer generated images allows the artist to manipulate images at will.

Monday 1 August 2011

A mixed bag - clouds, quotes and virtual quicksand.

There is a cool breeze but the sun is warm so I’ve moved up to the little balcony off my bedroom to write. The clouds are constantly moving and changing. It will a good place to watch the sunset.

A few weeks ago I was reminded how disposable everything in our world has become. My printer that does/did everything so beautifully (except make tea) decided that it didn’t like the print head anymore. It was a terminal failure. The sad part was that replacing this one little part, albeit essential, would cost way more than a brand new one. So into the heap of useless  trash it goes - a far cry indeed from the days when socks were darned and collars turned. It seems to make nonsense of my efforts to live a 'green' life - recycling and being conscious of waste. 

During the last weeks my priority has been unpacking and organising. The plus factor to all this organising is that I have unearthed a journal from December 2009. It’s always interesting to look back on plans one had and then see what really happened. Much of the writing is about everyday events but there are little gems culled from reading here and there. Unfortunately, some of these will remain untagged, uncredited and anonymous as I was not always careful to note the source of the quote.
For instance: “yesterday will always be yesterday, it’s what we do with the ever-moving now that matters…” and then another: “in learning navigation, there are two things that are important – where you are now and where you are trying to get to”

And in a similar vein, this time I can give it the correct accreditation Edward De Bono said:
" You can analyse the past but you have to design the future."
All too often we remain caught up in the past – re-living and regretting what has gone instead of planning the next forward step. Sometimes being content with the present is sufficient.
Here is another gem – this person was talking about checking emails and social network sites first thing in the morning – he says “It’s like being sucked into a giant pool of virtual quicksand” 

This is good advice that I intend to follow – paint first then check email and Facebook!