What were we all doing last year? The answer – probably the same things over and over again. In my case, it was going to work. I was lucky enough to get a permanent job in February, at a large business on the outskirts of town. There’s a large field with cattle and horses and a view of the mountains behind the staff carpark, and before and after work I often photographed the changing sky. Usually I take photographs and observe different locations during my travels, but this year I’m looking to develop a series based on my photographs of the views behind my work. It’s a very narrow focus but even focussing on the same landscape gives a lot of variation. There’s a lot of colour in the sky, and you can see the field change through winter, summer, dry periods and heavy rains.
The first two works were done with alcohol markers
A drawing of the carpark at sunset after a rainstorm.
The field, including an old farm building and a highway.
Another view of the field, with mountains in the distance, this time done in paint pen, on grey Fabriano Tiziano paper.
All three of these works are drawings, and it’s been an interesting challenge representing such a soft-edged landscape in media that might not be designed for it. But I’m proud of these works, and hope one day to get back to painting again
Well. What a year we’ve been having. Started off on a horrible smoky new years’ day, kept going with the smoke and fire for a month. One blessed wet February with nothing much happening, and then the pandemic struck. As a result, my artistic output has been impacted slightly. I haven’t had the mental energy to do very involved, elaborate paintings or woodcuts. I was looking forward to an artists’ residency this year, but that had to be postponed because I’ve got Buckley’s chance of being able to travel overseas! My one saving grace in this time has been the immediate colour and painterly effects of paint pens. All the wonderful opacity and depth of colour of gouache without the difficulty of mixing the colours about 10 shades lighter than you expect just so they’ll dry in the right shade! (Gouache dries darker. Significantly darker. It’s weird.) I purchased some paint pens at the beginning of last year for a specific project, and only invested in a very limited colour scheme, but I enjoyed them so much that I purchased more and more of them.
The Coast and the Fires I was lucky enough to go to the coast earlier this year, before travel restrictions and social distancing measures took hold. The coast had been hit hard by the fires, and it was oddly quiet and strange. Ash washed up on the beach in huge drifts, from nearby burnt forests. Yet it was still an escape from the horrible choking smoke still enveloping Canberra, and I enjoyed the chance to support local businesses and draw some little vignettes in my favourite yellow sketchbook.
When I returned home I tried my hand at a few other ways of working with the paint pens, returning to my love of repeat patterns and fabric designs, and finally finding a use for a sketchbook I’d bought in 2016 with grass green pages.
Escapism in Isolation
When I got home from the coast, I had an intense month of job applications, interviews, applications for German nationality and so on. By the time all this was done, the world had changed. Things shut down. No more trips to galleries to support my friends’ exhibitions, or to see beautiful and unexpected works, no socialising. Nothing except work, family, and indoor pursuits. After a period of being a bit overwhelmed, I managed to get back into drawing again. Now it was time to try a new way of using the paint pens.
The following drawings were done on recycled manila folder cardboard in various colours. I found myself very anxious about being perfect, and so I chose cardboard to work on as it was able to withstand the pens, and I didn’t have to worry about using valuable materials while I was still figuring out how to work with the paint pens.
Most people tend to use paint pens in a very clearly delineated way, where each colour stays within its own borders and doesn’t bleed or muck into the next colour, but I pretty rapidly strayed from that particular style. It might be the wrong way of working with them but I really enjoy the results.
This is most of what I’ve done this year, but I’m still working on art. I really hope everyone is doing well, both physically and mentally. It’s a hard year for all of us.
For my birthday, I requested an introductory set of copic markers. I’d never used them before, but I’d seen other artists work with their beautiful vibrant colours before, and thought it might be interesting to see how they adapted to my way of working.
I wasn’t sure if I’d like them at first, because most copic users tend to draw comic/cartoon characters, filled in with carefully gradated shades. Copics can make a very smooth gradient between closely related shades – but the key detail is that you need closely related shades, like a pale red to a slightly darker red. They can’t be mixed like watercolours. Could I get them to work even if I only had a set of 12 unrelated colours?
My first experiment was to use the chisel tip to make some blocky Finnish wooden houses. The colours in the set of 12 differ substantially in value, so the light blue is much darker than the pink, for instance, but I really enjoyed the effects I was able to create. I used a lot of pink for shading, and for base tones. I’m also not in the habit of using much black, so I used the Prussian blue for some of the shading (the black was also weirdly dried out, so I haven’t been able to use much of it.) Most copic users don’t use the chisel tip at all, because it doesn’t give very smooth blends, but I liked the blocky look for this kind of work.
I was a bit limited with what I could realistically depict with 12 colours, so I went for some beautiful poppies, using the famed Copic brush tip this time. I was extremely happy with the luminance of the poppies, but when it came to drawing the vase, a Rosenthal vase in the form of a crumpled paper bag, I realised that having only one shade of brown, an extremely saturated burnt sienna, was probably not going to cut it. I needed to get some more markers.
A self portrait! At this stage I still hadn’t gotten a full range of subtle pinks and beiges, so I improvised with violets, yellow, sandy beige, pale blue and the very vibrant sugared almond pink. As alarming as it is, I’m happy with the result. The original photo had a strongly-lit, clean-faced sparsity to it, and this drawing doesn’t stray far from it.
I purchased more colours – pale blues, grey blues, pale greens, a beautiful pale yellow and a sky blue, and drew this landscape. It’s based off a beautiful photograph by early colour photography pioneer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. His photographs were taken by a camera that recorded 3 separate exposures, to represent the cyan, magenta and yellow hues that would combine to make a full colour image. Many of them have this interesting slight halo or refraction, from when elements in the image have moved slightly between exposures. To make the dark greens, I layered forest green on top of vermillion, leading to a similar colour-artefact effect to the ones in Prokudin-Gorsky’s photographs. I’m very proud of this image, and the beautiful landscapes you can make with markers. It’s a lot easier to get lovely saturation and luminance with a marker than with watercolours (not that I’ll ever forgo watercolours) and you work with markers in a similar fashion, from light to dark. They have the brightness of inks, and many of the techniques I’ve learned with ink and watercolour translate well to markers.
Finally, a combination of a historic photograph and a photo of my own. The two girls are taken from a colour autochrome by Etheldreda Laing, the horses from photographs I took during my residency in Hungary. It’s somewhat eerie to think that the two girls in the original photograph were photographed before the second world war, and yet they’re in full beautiful colour, one of them even wearing sneakers with her dress. I loved the look of their dresses, with the way the stripes described the folds. I subscribe to the view of many watercolour artists that using grey or black to shade can deaden an image, and that using a complimentary colour or a cooler hue works better. I’m a very big fan of purple, especially when representing human skin tones, and pale blue, to shade grey and white forms. Pale blue and pale purple were two of the first additional colours I got – and you can see the colours used to shade the white horse, along with a sandy beige and a flesh pink. Dark purples and dark blues and browns also have a richness that black lacks, especially when layered, and red is an excellent compliment of green.
In a sense, there’s a purity to my earlier works, the odd combinations of colours I was led to use by my limited colours of markers. I’m acquiring more and more hues bit by bit, whenever I notice a missing colour (drawing this picture, I wished I had a yellow ochre.) I’m not sure if my pictures are actually better for having more realistic colours. Sometimes it can be good to have a limitation. With all that said, I’m proud of my works. I’m very impressed with the markers and what they can do, how easy they are to use, and how one isn’t restricted in style, as I originally feared. I’m yet to see how they work en plein air (although I’m not a fan of working this way), nor have I travelled with them – they’re expensive, and being on a plane might upset them – but I hope to draw more pictures in the future.
This above painting was one of the more infuriating ones of this project. I’d purchased a few different varieties of masking fluid, only for one to be so thick and chunky that it dried almost immediately and couldn’t be carefully applied – and for the other to adhere to the paper permanently! (It was also a bright turquoise green.) The painting was more or less ruined owing to green gunk being all over it, so I painted over the masking fluid with thick, black waterproof ink. It’s an odd effect but it saved the painting.
The Goulburn scene is one of the paintings I’m most proud of. The three colours combined to create a beautiful range of hues, representing the strong, cold winter afternoon light.
The above painting isn’t quite with three colours. I selected an orange, a green-gold and sepia, and was left with a pretty grim range of colours. Adding a randomly selected blue – prussian blue, a colour I don’t use very much in my regular works (I prefer phthalo) – opened up the colour palette and made the image sing. I’m very proud of my gradient, representing the empty rural road.
When I first selected the colours for the next painting, I ended up with a turquoise, opera rose (a bright magenta) and gamboge yellow – basically cyan, magenta and yellow, the true subtractive primary colours. This was too easy! From the pure printer’s primaries, you can mix almost every colour ever created, thus defeating the whole point of using three randomly selected colours to paint anything.
I hue shifted the palette, choosing a cadmium red, a cerulean blue and a lemon yellow. With the more limited range of colours, I painted a building I’d photographed in Montreal.
After painting so many blocky little Finnish houses, it felt very challenging to represent a Victorian house, with all its angles. I’m particularly proud of the light pole with all the signs. I got new, effective masking fluid and was able to use it to mask out the stripes on the road and the light pole and signs, to great effect. I look forward to using it again.
I’m not sure when I’ll next paint something with three colours, but I feel very proud of this little series.
I’ve been very busy this year with paid work, and haven’t had much of an opportunity to work on my own practice. But recently, I was relaxing by watching some painting videos and came across a challenge: paint a picture using only three randomly selected tubes of watercolour. Kasey Golden, the original artist, has a flatter, more stylised style, but I tend to paint pieces veering more towards realism, so I wondered what it would look like using a similar limited colour palette.
First, I painted an outline using ink, before I knew what my colour palette was going to be. I went for a landscape – based on a photograph that I’d taken 3 years ago. I’m always looking for visual information when I’m walking around, whether at home or travelling. I never know when I’m going to want to use it as the starting point for an artwork.
I originally intended to use two colours, but the first two randomly selected colours I pulled out of my bag were viridian (a blueish-green) and turquoise. I thought that would be too similar for the basis of a picture, but with a third colour, burnt sienna, I was able to mix a whole range of colours.
It was very difficult to see what some of the hues actually were when they were still wet. I then got very involved in painting grass. Several days later, I was finally finished.
I’m extremely happy with how this turned out – with the beautiful range of harmonious colours I was able to get from just turquoise, viridian and burnt sienna – and I’m curious to see how it would look if I were to do another randomly coloured picture without relying on a black outline to hold the picture together.
I’ve had requests for more entomological designs and I found out about these wonderful creatures called leafhoppers. They’re like tiny, exquisitely coloured cicadas, and they come in a variety of fantastic patterns.
the leafhopper pattern is available in both large and small sizes
I’ve decided to try something new with my upcoming fabric designs. For this design of leafhoppers (a relative of cicadas), I’m offering it in both a large (actual size of painting) and small size! My little hand is for scale because I didn’t think to have a ruler with me when I took a photo of the samples 🙂
Remember my Rubus design? I’m now printing it in a large size! Since it’s a very small painting in real life (that little thimbleberry is the size of my thumbnail) you get a loose, painterly look at a larger size, but I think it’s still very effective!
If anyone makes anything with my fabrics, or buys any of my homewares or products, I’d love to see the results!
You might recall some of the striking photographs I uploaded of my time in Kristiinankaupunki. Well, I’ve continued to be inspired by my travel photographs, and have made some further paintings and drawings!
The Bothnian sea!
View from the attic window
strange, twilight summer sunsets
These last three images are experiments in paint. I am a self-taught watercolour painter. As a consequence, there are several techniques I never quite learned how to do. Large scale washes and cloudy skies are one of those things. I figured it was time to try and get this technique down pat, using my photographs of the nordic summer as my inspiration.
houses of kristinestad painted in gouache
I don’t paint with gouache very much but I felt the flat colour worked very well to capture these little wooden houses. They’re such brilliant colours! I made this design available on Redbubble and on Spoonflower, so if you want to have curtains with little houses all over them, it’s within your reach!
a rushing river, rendered in ink
I had a lot of fun with the challenge of drawing this turbulent river, and its surrounding rocks and puddles with dip pens and a bottle of ultramarine ink.
A forest stove, woodblock
Another forest stove, etching
These last two images are prints that I developed when I was in Kristinestad, but wasn’t able to print properly. When I had the chance I ran them through the press at Megalo and they came out great!
I was lucky enough to spend June of this year in Kristinestad, Finland, as an artist in residence. It was an incredible, special place. Kristinestad is the only town in Finland to have never burned down, and so it’s full of cute wooden houses from as far back as the 1700s, all more or less intact, on the shores of the Bothnian sea, with the forest a short walking distance away.
I had an absolutely wonderful time going about the town and photographing all the beautiful old buildings in the never-ending summer light. The locals were also very welcoming, and were very excited to show me and the other artists their houses, the forests and the surrounding towns.
A typical Finnish stove in a restored wooden house
Inspired further by the forests, and the light, I did a few smaller drawings, experimenting with technique. The first little landscape was drawn entirely with six different colours of pencil; the second, with six colours of pen.
While it can be hard work, I like the effect created by the layering of different simple colours to create a complex range of hues and tones. On my return, I drew a picture of the river Aura in Turku, using five colours of ink and a nib pen, and I love the richness of the result.
I’m often very frightened to do small drawings in my sketchbook. As a perfectionist, I wonder whether what I’m drawing will be any good, and I feel that people will leaf through, expecting finished masterpieces. When creating art it can be extremely stifling to be constantly worried about whether or not you’re creating a great work whenever you put pencil, pen or brush to paper. I need to remind myself that it’s more important to keep creating than to worry about the worthiness of my work before I’ve even made it. I put these most recent works on my Redbubble because I’m proud of them.
Kristinestad has two things. First, a lot of jackdaws. These small squeaking birds are called Naakka in Finnish and I found them extremely endearing. Second, Kristinestad has a lot of flowers – not only in the kukkakaupat (flower shops), but also growing wild in the forest, in thick carpets of the most thrilling and vibrant purples, pinks and blues.
Last year I took part in a contest called Create Art History, held by the State Library of Victoria, held in partnership with Redbubble. The library provided inspiration material from their collection, and the task was to reinterpret the material into something new. I selected this image, called Sea Creatures, by Isaac Commelin
Inspired by the sea creatures massing around the ships, as well as the engraving style, I decided on an elaborate ink drawing I called Leviathans. Unfortunately I failed to place in the competition (which seemed more focussed on photoshopping/image manipulation than my typical style of working) but I’m proud of the design anyway. It’s available on Redbubble for all those fans of whales out there.
Next, a design celebrating Australia’s diverse range of black and white birds – the Australian Raven, the Currawong, Australian Magpie, Magpie-Lark or peewee, and the White-Winged Chough
Finally, a bird colour wheel! I love the diverse and fabulous range of plumage colours in the natural world, and decided to…well, a bird colour wheel is relatively self-explanatory. The most difficult thing was curating the bird species. It turns out it’s fairly difficult to find bird species that are near-uniformly one bright saturated colour all over – but I found some appropriate species eventually! All the birds are painted in watercolour. This design is also available on redbubble.
Do you like any of the fabrics shown below? You can purchase them on Spoonflower, as anything from gauze to denim to polar fleece, as well as wallpaper and wrapping paper!
This title might seem odd to those of you who know me in person. While not a lot of my textile-related work gets displayed on the website, I’ve been sewing for years, including going to trade school to learn professional sewing and patternmaking techniques. I also did a little screen printing on fabric during my degree. But recently I’ve started really getting into thinking about not just designing and sewing garments, but designing the prints on the fabric themselves.
Four of my own designs, printed on textiles from Spoonflower
This design is a watercolour painting of several different species of Rubus, the berry family that includes the raspberry and the cloudberry. I saw many of these beautiful berries in Europe. You can get the design on several products on Redbubble, and also on Spoonflower as a fabric!
I’ve always loved the variety of fantastically coloured, unusual birds out there, and fruit doves are particularly wonderful, especially when contrasted with the drab ubiquity of the feral pigeon. This piece was a joy to create – a faster, looser watercolour, less intricate than my berries, and it prints beautifully. Here you can see the design printed on twill. You can also get it on Redbubble and Spoonflower!
Strychnine and Oranges
I also began to experiment with the beautiful capabilities of ink. Ink has such a wonderful luminous character, and using ink one can get pure, saturated colours. A while ago I’d had an idea for an exhibition called your fodder is my poison, which would involve a series of images that contrasted food plants with poisonous ones. This design follows from that idea, and depicts a combination of oranges with poisonous strychnine fruits. Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower
This design shows several of Australia’s most notorious feral animals and plants, in luminous rainbow inks. I particularly like the purple glow of the banteng. Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower
Ink Pink Poppies
This design is slightly different because it repeats vertically rather than vertically and horizontally. I was inspired to create this from the wild poppies growing in our garden last year, as well as the brilliant colours of the ink I used.
I ordered this pattern as wrapping paper and it came out beautifully! Available on Redbubble and Spoonflower
I’m very much looking forward to creating new interesting designs this year. I think creating a repeating pattern in woodblocks would be particularly splendid. But in the meantime, I’ve got quite a bit of sewing to be getting on with, and I’m thrilled!