This was hard

The 30 paintings in 30 day challenge was so exhausting that I'm only just getting around to publishing my notes. (Okay I did sneak in a wee trip to Japan there). Here are my notes ripped direct from my diary during the challenge. They're pretty candid, a little rough, and perhaps boring in parts... but there are some pretty pictures! As you'll see, a strong food theme emerged...

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    Painting Bonsai

    How's everyone going? These blog updates have thus far been few and far between, and it's something I plan to rectify... soooo if there's anything in particular you'd like to hear about from me, feel free to drop a comment in the Disqus section below (for those reading this via email, just click a link to view the blog on the net... or simply reply to this email).

    Without further ado, I give you 'Blossom Bonsai' where the Japan trip's inspiration is starting to seep into my thinking and making. (While we're here, I recommend visiting Omiya bonsai village a northern day trip from Tokyo. There you'll find the most beautiful trees you're ever likely to see.)

    'Blossom Bonsai' 130cm x 120cm, Acrylic on Canvas, framed in Victorian Ash

    'Blossom Bonsai' 130cm x 120cm, Acrylic on Canvas, framed in Victorian Ash

    It’s hard to gauge from this photograph, but at 130cm x 120cm, this a LARGE bonsai, which I know… is a totally oxymoronic statement. How is it not simply a tree, you ask?

    In the Zen art of Bonsai, by making tiny trees, or I should say, assisting to keep trees tiny, our perception of scale is tickled. It’s the same feeling you get when viewing sculptures like giant tubes of toothpaste by Claes Oldenburg, or the eerily life-like creations of Ron Mueck who works in both the giant and the pint-size. The newborn baby should not be the size of a swimming pool, and that middle-age spooning couple shouldn’t fit within the palm of my hand. It confuses us, but tickles us too. 

    A LARGE bonsai adds another layer to that skewed scale perception, and in so doing, highlights what it is that makes a tree a bonsai. It’s not merely about size, it’s about the character of age,  its shape and balance,  its root structure, thick tapered trunk and gnarled branches. These are the attributes a bonsai master is careful to maintain, and ditto when I create my bonsai works. 

    Although executed through very modern painting techniques, these bonsai are “grown” and “guided” in much the same way as a traditional bonsai tree. (Thankfully for me, in slightly less time.) When working with paint-pours, I surrender to Nature (gravity, paint viscosity, surface tension, etc.). I can do little but guide Nature to create what could be used to represent a trunk, age spots, or a gnarled branch. 

    It is in the surrendering to Nature, that allows for the mimicry of Nature… and that’s all pretty bloody Zen. ;)

    'Maple over Rock', 120cm x 80cm, acrylic on canvas

    'Maple over Rock', 120cm x 80cm, acrylic on canvas

    5 Studio Life Hacks

    Okay, so you've been painting for a while, finding your style, and you notice half the art crap you buy you never use, and others, tools and colours emerge as your loyal friends. Some seemingly unlikely, become lifelong friends. 

    5 Studio Life Hacks


    1. Bluetooth headphones

    These haven't been around for that long, but we've become fast friends. You have to wonder how many in-ear and out-ear headphones that have died in the name of art creation. I've killed a few dozen, not to mention the amount of times they've nearly killed me by tripping over their cords, or been strangled in the tangle of cords and jumpers. Or the times they killed the music when my iPod/iphone bungee-jumped into the loo in the defrocking process. 



    2. Sticky-roller

    Dust, brush-hair, human hair, clothes lint and human lint… they're all on your paintings people! You can't get rid of all of it, but this ingenious sticky-roller, that you usually use to de-lint clothes, should be your go-to tool for extracting the nasties. It will quickly become your second-best friend in the studio. Use it between dry layers, and prior to varnish.



    3. Correction Pen recycling

    You could spend hundreds on re-fillable drafting pens, but for me, nothing beats the nib of a $2 correction pen for fine detail. To fill with your favourite ink, or fluid paint, you first need to get inside and clean out the white stuff (clean out with turps). That's not easy… I tried pliers, biting and all sorts to get the nib off. It turns out, canvas stretching pliers (the ones with the silicon rubber innards) will do the trick. What luck, huh?! You may already have some of those in the studio. 


    4. Neck-noodle

    Especially handy in this polar vortex we Australians are suffering through right now ;) Luckily, I have experience painting in such extremes. It's a scarf, that you wear around your neck, but it doesn't have any ends! It's sewn up! No more dangling material in paint, and tripping over your clothes while you keep your neck warm. You laugh now, but that's because you don't have one yet! 



    5. Baby Oil

    It's a wicked brush cleaner. There's something about the type of oil (it being made from a mineral oil) that bonds paint oil to regular detergent, and therefore allowing you to wash out with water rather than turps. It means you can use your brushes for oils and water-based paints in the same sitting. 


    So there you have it. 5 of my life hacks. Do you yourself have some? Something you do that's MacGyver-esque? It doesn't need to be art related. Feel free to drop a comment here on the blog. I'd love to hear from you, hacks or no hacks :)