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.