Friday, 7 February 2014

Olives and Pomegranates.


Sieglinde se Sewe vrugte van Israel (commission)
100 c 60 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

This year kicked off with a commission - the best way a year can kick off!
Sieglinde and her husband Johan previously bought one of my favourite paintings, the Pomegranate still life, and decided they needed another piece to accompany it. Being devout Christians, the pomegranate had lovely symbolism for them. The second piece was to be a commission of the seven fruits of Israel - the verse they gave me was Deuteronomy 8:8 - 

'a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, 
a land of olive oil and honey'

The instructions were simply to use wheat, barley, pomegranates, dates, figs, olives and grapes in the composition.
I very much looked forward to doing the painting, and was mostly daunted by trying to find all the components at the same time to photograph (I have no idea when anything is in season). But I accidentally ran into some figs one day while grocery shopping, and I had to continue the search - with complications such as struggling to find dates, because I had no idea what they looked like!)
After the initial stress of photographing the fruit and finalising the composition, the rest was a breeze. The painting just came together, and I really enjoyed the way all the tones echoed each other: the tones of the green olives repeating on the figs, the stems of the grapes, the pomegranate and even the wheat. All the components seemed to have little samples of colours from each other, and the tricky thing was to use the same shades in everything, but having different overall shades to each fruit.
Sieglinde and Johan were dream clients, being excited about the process and being a part of every step, sending me short emails just to say they couldn't wait, and that really affects my attitude while working on the painting. (also, and this may be a little crass, but it needs to be said: having clients who pay on time, and don't guilt trip me about prices is INCREDIBLE, and I hope this sets a trend for future clients!)


Their first purchase: Pomegranate still life
76 x 61 cm

Since we don't actually eat olives (the rest of the fruit I finished off before even starting the painting) and since they were so beautifully shiny in the Seven Fruits painting, I thought I might as well re-use them for the next still life. Well that and (not knowing when anything's in season can really be a problem in my field! I might have to look into that..) I was planning to do a still life with cherries and a goblet, but when I wanted to start cherries weren't in season yet, and by the time I was done with my commissions they weren't in season any more! (you see? definitely a problem.)

 SO. Olives and a goblet.


Shades of Olive (available)
70 x 50 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
Which turned out rather nicely I thought. We bought this goblet at a tiny little 2nd hand store in Durbanville, and it actually says 'UPINGTON 1984' on the side, but it was so shiny, it had to be mine. I stole (was gifted?) the little copper bowl from my moms, it always stood on the mantle at our house when I was growing up, and it used to be my job to clean and polish it. AND the bowl was featured in another favourite painting, 'Vanitas with Cherries' which is owned by good friends of ours.

The afore mentioned Vanitas with Cherries (SOLD)

And so we come full circle, as the painting I started on this morning is once again a Vanitas of sorts. Updates to follow!

Sunday, 12 January 2014


2013: 
A brief summary


Officially back in the studio today - even though I never really left - this only means I'm replying to emails that I didn't get around to last week, and I actually got up early today!

In 2013:

  - I produced more work than 2012, and for the most part on a much larger scale
  - I actually entered two art competitions (to no avail)
  - Painted my first portrait in years 
  - Only participated in two group shows :(
  - But also became represented by an awesome new gallery, who sold a record number of my       work in the first month
  - My paintings and I almost appeared on TV! (this has to be mentioned, it's just too big a deal         not to!
  - I started drawing again
  - I received almost 3 times more commissions than in 2012
  - aaand I lined up some awesome things for 2014

All (except one) of the works I produced in 2013
 Except for the one incomplete leftover from 2013, this is what I produced in 2013 - and the incomplete is for my own wall, so it will doubtlessly be incomplete for quite a while!
Red 'stickers' indicate sold, NFS or commissions.

Work from 2010 and 2012 that sold in 2013

Moving on, I'm quite excited for 2014, I'm already working on the first commission of the year, (with a  couple more in the wings), sold two paintings at Everard Read last week, and got very exciting news over the weekend (nope, not pregnant) which I'll share as soon as it's finalised.
Last monday I was nervous about this year, and then everything started falling into place.

That's all for now, I've spent more time in front of the screen so far today than I have in front of my easel, so I'm off! 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Nelson Mandela: 
A tribute to our Madiba

525 x 380 mm
Pencil on 160 gsm untextured paper

More or less on the heels of the Einstein Commission, I was asked to do a drawing of Madiba. However before we had even decided on the photo, the legend passed away. Which gave the whole process a very serious air - this had to be more than just an accurate representation of our late president, it was to be a tribute, lovingly rendered and thought upon, with my main goal to capture his compassion.

This was the biggest drawing I'd ever attempted, double my usual A3 size, and as such I was looking forward to it, but also quite nervous. Usually the details are small enough that I can improvise to a degree, but in this photograph every line and pore was there, and had to be accurately depicted. It took more patience than I thought I had, but was very much satisfying in the end!

Guide sketch

The second attempt at the eyes - the first were so nervously drawn that I had to start over, 
wasting the first evening of work completely, and making me quite nervous!

Progress

Progress - (the unsightly cardboard added to my easel for stability)
The materials

The apprentice

More or less done with the face, except for final touches

The second attempt at the hair, the first attempt
dutifully erased after another wasted evening of work
Detail

Detail (and my favourite part of the drawing, the upper lip)

Detail

Detail

Detail

I struggled to avoid a little smudging while working on the jacket, but only the
guide lines were smudges, none of the final pencil strokes!

Complete!


(edit) Proud owner Roan van Vuuren after the delivery!



Monday, 11 November 2013

Einstein
 And his spectacular jersey

A couple of my friends (or rather two of my friends, who happen to be married) have been captivated by my drawings for years - and pull faces every time I mention that I probably won't draw anything again soon; I had in fact given up drawing to paint 6 years ago, haven't picked up a pencil in all that time, and why would I?

Well I would, if commissioned. And so I was. (2007 Marike would be so surprised)

Ina's parents love art, have been collecting for years, and own a couple of beautiful specimens. And she's been telling me forever about their love for art, and how they'd most certainly love my work, etc. And so, with her dad's 60th birthday coming up, I was called upon to immortalise (as many have done before me) classic Einstein (as opposed to sticking-out-his-tongue-Einstein)

Naturally I stalled for quite a while, having not attempted a drawing in so long, I had no idea whether it would come to me easily, I'd forgotten all the tricks, I even had to stock up on pencils, putty erasers and even paper from scratch (initially buying a whole pad of the wrong paper of course - terrible yellowy textured stuff, impossible to even hint at detail on)
And my time away really showed, I started out drawing the eyes, and having done that, had no idea where to go from there, how do you work on the left side without smudging the right, everything was terribly unplanned and, well, unexpectedly fun.
The wonderful thing about drawing is the instant gratification, its there, its done, and you can move on.. when I paint there's none of that, there's too much to focus on, and I work in layer upon layer, sometimes having no idea how to move on, or how far any part is from completion, until it surprises me.

The drawing took a week, and I am quite satisfied with it - re-learnt many lessons, keeping the white bits white being the most important, planning ahead, and taking it slow (in painting I tend to think it's fine, I'll come back later to fix it, and that isn't always an option in drawings) 
The other thing I found out, was that during my break from drawing, a period of 6 years of continuous painting, I had really learned to 'look', I found it so much easier to spot detail, and figure out what to do where, because of the 6 years of improvement. I am an avid believer in (if you're going for anything remotely realistic) it being more about learning to look, than it is about learning to paint. The more you see, the more you can paint, if you don't see the different hues in skin tone, you can't paint them, and the more you see, the more depth you can create, the more detail you can add, the better the realism. (I know, it's not all about the realism, but let's not get into that today!) And I could immediately see the difference when I started drawing, it had just become so much easier. Almost a relaxing experience, after a painting. 

The reasons I dropped drawing for painting was - first - because so many of my friends (who know nothing about the art industry) told me that I'd never earn a living from drawings, the cash is in paintings - and secondly, and more importantly - I felt as if I couldn't really express anything of myself in drawings, I was possibly better (then anyway) at pencil work, but I was basically just trying to see how well I could copy a photo, and that's not really the artists way! In paintings there are so many ways of putting yourself in the work (not counting blood sweat and tears).
Since then however, the distance from my drawings has showed me that there is a style to my drawings, and while it will never take the place of my paintings, it isn't something I should be hiding from the world. And so, without any further ado, Einstein, and his lovely jersey:











He's a little smaller than A3 - as you can see, the sketch pad is A3, and it's 130 gsm paper - I'd have preferred something a little heavier, but I wasn't about to buy a third pad!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


All the Candies
 Making up for lost time

Sweets for my Sweet
60 x 90 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
I know, I know, I haven't updated in ages - I don't pretend to have an excuse for abandoning the blog, except being so busy painting, that I can't seem to lend time to anything else! 

Also, I don't feel like talking about the work, it just is what it is today. I had planned an elaborate still life with a shiny silver goblet and cherries after Sweets for my sweet, but found - to my great surprise - that it isn't cherry season yet.. and the pro's of painting sweets is having to buy a LOT of them.. and in my books that is a very large pro. So here they are, both on their way to galleries, but neither have left the studio yet. And the sugar rush seems to be wearing off. And so, enough chit chat, off to get paint on my shirt-sleeves again! 

Next time, hopefully, more thoughts.

Haphazard Candies
80 x 100 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

Friday, 27 September 2013


September 2013

 The end is near

Maryke se Orgidee
70 x 90 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
And what a crazy year it's been! But I'll get to that in a second. 

Maryke's Orchids, a commission of her own flowering orchids. I always approach flower paintings with trepidation, since I've been 'feedbacked' more than once that my flowers tend to be flat, or flat in relation to the other subjects I paint.. and this commission came after the marbles commission that I enjoyed way too much, so I was quite nervous. But my usual mantra of 'put more paint on until it's done' seemed to do the trick, the client is very happy, and facebook was sad for a day that the painting wasn't available. All good.

Halfway though the previous commission though, and through this one as well, I was approached with an incredible offer, so my mind was racing, and several days were spent chain smoking and looking at paintings, rather than layering on more paint. And this was the second time this year that I went through such a rollercoaster of excitement, and not-so-excitement.
I had been approached by a local media/decor/entertainment/whathaveyou magazine's tv counterpart, they had started an art segment on their weekly show, and would love to interview me. 
Let the chain smoking commence! 
At the risk of selling myself short, I do NOT have a tv personality, I nervous up, stutter, lose all manner of intelligent thinking and reasoning, and ultimately throw up or pass out. In that order. So this sort of opportunity terrifies me. But my husband spent the evening telling me how beautiful/talented/awesome/funny/wonderful I am, and I believed him enough to agree to the interview, and I was actually very excited about it all. 
They gave me the dates for the shoot, and then proceeded to ignore me until after the dates had passed. Then contacted me again with new dates (without apology) which were a month and a bit in the future; and a day later asked me if we were fine then to shoot the next day. My studio was not camera-ready. Nor was my regrowth or wardrobe, I had not had time to chat with the galleries about borrowing back some paintings to show, nothing was ready. 

I trust my gut. But when I have a bad gut feeling, I challenge it to make sure that I'm not just afraid, or nervous, and using any excuse not to move forward. But I like a certain amount of professionalism in these situations, and especially when it comes to my Art and my name, I do a lot of 'soul searching' (or what ever you might call it). This is the name under which I paint, it is my brand, and I have to avoid damage to my name at all costs. And at a certain point you have to stop and think about whether this kind of 'opportunity' will do more harm than good. And at the same time I kept wondering if this could be the push I'd been waiting for, my first step into 'the big leagues' if you will.. 
There are two blogs that helped me out quite a bit though, Seth Godin - here, and Artbiz - here, both of which had done posts about how it's ok to say no to work/opportunities in certain situations. And while I had actually been quite excited about this, and what it could mean for my art, it just didn't feel right, they hadn't won my trust, I knew of no-one who had seen the show, their youtube posts had no views, and above all, they didn't seem to take it very seriously, they just needed footage to fill the allotted time slots. So I'm fairly sure that bird has now flown. Although it might just contact me next monday to hear if I'm ok to shoot the next day, who knows. And perhaps it's just that the timing is wrong, and it works out next year, but right now I feel that the choice to not do it was right.

At the beginning if this year I was super excited, having done a pretty in depth interview about my work, and specifically acrylic painting for an overseas glossy magazine. Which was subsequently bought over by another company, and then shut down. Queue chain smoking.
BUT doing those interviews taught me so much about myself and my work, that I decided to start this blog, so that was good. I believe that in fine art it's all about growing and climbing slowly. And I've said time and again that I believe if you put everything in, the rest will follow. It's scary to have the power to make these massive decisions, that might make or break you as an artist, and might come back to haunt you, especially when I have zero interest in marketing or admin (I know I know, it's super important) and all I want to do is paint without distraction. But such its life. And if I fall down, I'll just get back up again.

I'll probably do a more in depth post in December, looking back on this year, but this is where my head was at when I was working on this painting, so I thought I'd share.
I'm proud of the work I produced this year, I have achieved a lot, and I worked really hard - which shows, I'm tired to the bone. 
But being this tired along with being proud of yourself is overall a great feeling. 


In progress

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

SPI National Portrait Award



 With love, tenderly
100 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas

I ended up not being one of the finalists, but I get to finally share the work with you! This is my portrait of my mother.

I have mixed emotions of the competition in the aftermath, to be honest. (but of course I do, I wanted to win!)
I know this painting is technically sound, probably the best work I've done (if that's the criteria) and for certain the best portrait I've ever done. But I am also aware that the composition is quite unoriginal, and I guess to the judges it would just be another 'expected' piece. Which is where it becomes tricky. Because what is the criteria, really? 

This is definitely my mother, so much so, that while it was waiting to be entered into the competition, standing in the corner of my studio, if I was having a bad day (which I was for about 4 months straight) it would lift me up, I would feel reassured just meeting her gaze - can you see how proud she is of me? That look, that is exactly how she looks at me, to me it captures our relationship. The tears in her eyes, the suppressed smile, which can turn into throw-your-head-back in laughter in seconds. It HAD TO be traditional, because it's my mother, but there's so much more to read into than just traditional, boring, been there.. The lipstick and pearls, she only wears them for special occasions, I can still smell that lipstick from her kissing us goodbye when my dad took her out on an evening, if she applied lipstick, you knew it was fancy. If she was pushing open her ear piercings to wear her pearls, it was very fancy. I accentuated the lines on her face, I couldn't hide it, there are too many stories there, all the grief my brother and I (and my dad) gave her through the years is written there, the lying awake, hoping the kids get home safe, the teenage fights, the rebellion of your children, my dad's illness, all the stress and worry she carries around from that. And of course the laugh lines, no one can laugh as heartily as my mom, her laugh carries across rooms, always heartfelt, she spreads joy where she goes.

There is so much to say about the relationship between a mom and daughter. To try and capture all the feelings, 29 years of closeness, fights, gossip, comfort and and and.. this is why it was hard for me to enter into the competition, I have so much affection for this painting BECAUSE it's my mom, and I knew there would be a bunch of tired judges (who might or might not have already seen 1000 portraits ranging from terrible to incredible) who knew nothing about us, and who wouldn't really bother seeing more than just a portrait of a middle-class woman, because there was still more paintings to see, because there's no angst, no nudity, no racial or political issues. I didn't want to subject this painting to THAT. But the thought that I could lead my mom into a room where this painting hung as a finalist pushed me to do it, that and the thought of what she could do with her share of the prize money!

I'm proud of this painting, it is everything it needed to be, without pretentions, I captured a personality as I see it (isn't that the essence of portraiture?) and my mom loves it (she claims it's my best work) as does my close family. So the work is a success. I won't let this competition lead me to feel any different about it.

HOWEVER I did expect to see more awesome work in the finalists. When I found out it wasn't a finalist I wasn't too surprised, as I understand they're looking for revolutionary, but many of the finalists aren't. In fact one of the paintings is very much like mine, only unhappy. I don't want to criticise other work (I tend to be a bad loser) but I saw some of the works that also didn't make the cut, and they were great, and so between that and my work, I expected something incredible. But all of those works that I saw that didn't make the cut would easily have fit in between the other selected works, there are better and worse paintings that most of them. And if I was pushed to select a winner from the finalists, there are at least 3 I liked better than the winner.. but that's my taste, and of course I'm overly critical, I'd probably be singing a different song, had I been chosen!

A young man -Heather Gourlay-Conyngham

This is the winning work - I think they were lead by the '13 BP awards winner, (who happened to be one of the judges) as this reminds me quite a bit of her winning portrait of a young man on a chair.
You can see the rest of the 40 finalists on the Art Times facebook page.


So that's that, mom's coming back to the studio to keep me company, and I'm looking forward to having her back.