Friday, 8 August 2014

 The Winter Exhibition 

So the opening was last night, and it was a roaring success, so many people came out - and it actually didn't rain, thank God! 

I have such a history of being a pain in the butt at openings, being the eternal optimist (you probably wouldn't think it, browsing through the blog!) my 'normal' is to expect everything awesome, I'm gonna arrive and all my paintings will be sold, and they'll come running for commissions and I'll just be blown away.. but a couple of years experience has taught me that no-one will care about me, (at some of these the curators didn't even recognise me) most people only come for the free wine, and there's generally a host of disapproving art students standing around discussing their own art and blocking peoples view of mine. So I'm left intrinsically excited but realistically expecting horribleness but also hoping for great things - it really messes with your system.

But this was inviting and warm, people were super friendly and chatty, and despite the drama of arriving with wrapped paintings during an opening (I was THAT girl) I really enjoyed the evening, as ( I think) did most people. ALSO there was a bit of a buzz about my candies and marbles, and its AWESOME that people are buzzing about the paintings that I feel most passionate about.

Special thanks to Arend and Jeanné for coming through, keeping us company and making it look like we were mingling!

 These are the 5 paintings currently exhibited - I'm probably going to take some more through next week, so GO LOOK! Or if you're not from around here, drop Marzé an email and buy some work ;)

Thursday, 31 July 2014


So this was the Editors letter is the Acrylic Artist Article. I only spotted it recently, and had a bit of a laugh - hyper-photorealist? Surely not!
They did chat about my opinion in the article though -

I chatted to Marzé Botha about it when I delivered paintings to her gallery, after a customer had come in, and freaked out a little about how realistic a recent candy wrappers painting was, told her how strange it still felt that people referred to my work as realist, because I don't think of my style in that way. And she said well you can't deny that they're realistic, can you? But there's certainly more to your style than just that. And then - like me - she sort of ran out of words to describe it further! And when I re-read this article, I thought it might be time to rethink my denials.
The thing is, that I realise people think of Realism as a complement (like saying you have a lot of talent - but don't get me started on that) like the more realistic a painting is, the more skilled you are. And there is a smidgen of truth in that. But Realists actually try to emulate every single detail, they paint the pores, the blackheads, the little embarrassing hairs that everyone pretends aren't there.. So implying that I'm trying to go for that (to me anyway) means that I'm failing, because my work can be so much more realistic than it is!  BUT I also can't deny that the objects that I paint look like the actual objects that I photographed, and that also means realism. There's a very thin line there, and I'm not entirely sure where it is!

What I try to do, is paint what I see. But I also try to sneak in as much colour, brush strokes and movement as I can, without taking away from the painting. I'm trying to find the perfect balance between expression (but in MY way) and realism, and I'm fairly sure that I'll be chasing that dream until the day I kick the bucket. And that's fine with me. But when people 'complement' me by saying its photorealistic, it's like a jab in the ribs, because that isn't my aim. 
That make any sense?

To illustrate what I mean, some of James Hollingsworth's paintings. Which I think are photorealistic. 


And then some of Heather Horton's work, which - in my humble opinion - is not Realist, but has very realistic moments. Instead its all about a balance of brush strokes and colour, and concept. - I assume her work is more Figurative actually, but I'm specifically referring to the more painterly style.

Love, love, love her work!

What I'm trying to do is capture something in-between these two, that still has a painterly feel, but also details that essentially show that I had to be working off a photograph. It's about trying to work instinctively, trying not to over-work, trying to keep myself excited and challenged, and trying to please a viewer or two as well!

*this was not a rant, only an attempt at clarification*

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Exhibition time!

This is a group exhibition that'll run for quite a while, come over and have a chat over a glass of wine! I'll be the one with the greenish tinge on my face - opening nights scare the flip out of me. Excited though!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014



As you might suspect, Reeves' Mars Black is my go-to black, it is fluid, super glossy, intense and blacker than black. Next to Reeves, my Zelcryl's Mars black almost looks like Reeves' Paynes gray, to give you an idea. Which is fine, when you expect it. Zelcryl also dries super matt, and interestingly enough Amsterdam's Oxide Black starts out looking exactly like Reeves while wet, but dries to look just like Zelcryl. But the Zelcryl has much more body, and Amsterdam has the same consistency as Reeves. 
Which all sounds quite pointless, but can be very important while mixing. 
I recently read that different consistencies in Acrylics still means that the paints have the same amount of pigment, it isn't diluted, thicker bodied paint merely has thickeners added to the polymer, while fluid  acrylics is just pigment added straight to polymer. Now I doubt this is all there is to it, and it doesn't really make sense to me, as the different brands not only differ in consistency, but also in intensity - might this be a difference in natural pigment vs. synthetic? I have no idea - I read an article about it and still don't know.
BUT I don't have to (well I do according to the magazine, but I don't always do as I'm told) I don't have to know how it's made to know how to mix it, or how to create the look I'm going for. Good 'ol trial and error takes care of that. My point being that if I add a little Reeves black to a pre-mixed colour on one pallette, and add the same amount of Zelcryl black to the exact same amount of pre-mixed colour on another pallette, the results would be radically different. Enough Zelcryl to darken it one shade would have turned the mix black if it were Reeves. But the Reeves mix would also take on it's excellent flow, and the Zelcryl's would thicken.You get the idea? Again, none of this is good or bad, just things you need to take into consideration.

My cat just fell out of the window next to me. Way to break my concentration!


Well I am honestly still looking for the perfect green. Lukas' Olive Green is nice, great colour, and about the best green I have I think, (except that it sticks to the glaze? varnish? whatever is on the ceramic plates I use for pallettes, all acrylics just slip off when I wet it except Lukas, it needs a good scrub. Strange that) but I don't have a green I swear by. It's always a matter of mixing whichever green you pick with Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, possibly a little black if you're okay with the blue tone. In my experience greens are thin. They need to be darkened and lightened just in order to be thick enough to use. Which isn't ideal. 
Also - and this is probably quite obvious - I always have quite a natural green and quite a synthetic as well - same goes with blues. From there it's easy to change the tone, but I can't mix a synthetic shade from a natural colour, it just doesn't happen.


I've found my holy grail when it comes to yellow's to be Zelcryl's Naples Yellow, or Buff Titanium (which is almost always sold out at the closest store which sells them, which is why I'm all out - curses) Light yellows are SUPER DUPER THIN, (and they always seem to want to turn green) and the consistency gets better when you mix in a little white, but with them already being light yellow, you obviously lose colour. So I've found that if I need a bright light yellow, I mix in a teeny tiny bit of naples yellow or buff titanium (depending of course on the shade I need) - I actually ran out of a light yellow and used Reeves' Deep Yellow, which has a very nice tone, and doesn't seem to yearn to turn green. But thanks to Amsterdam I've got all kinds of choice back in my life! Yellow Ochre is in the mix because with these 5 colours you can really get any kind of yellow you could possibly need.

I'm adding this pic to give you an idea of how I mix - don't laugh at my plate palette, it works brilliantly! I like to do it this way that I can easily track how much darker I'm going on the pallette, avoiding mistakes on the canvas. This is nicely fleshy, but is actually for reflections in a silver bowl, go figure.
That's it for now, that last shade still needs to be applied, so I'm off! Happy Acrylicing!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

 PAINTS - Part I

So I'm going to be talking about some of my favourite paints, in a couple of follow-up posts.

These are my essentials. If I start running out of one of these I panic a little! I'm pretty sure that if I have these 5, and primary colours, I can make magic. I have to admit I've been on a Reeves high for a while, I love the consistency combined with the richness in colour. But mostly you have to take into consideration price and availability - my all time favourite brand used to be Daler-Rowney's System 3, but there's only one store in my general area that stocks them, and that store is about 40min away.. so it just doesn't happen. Reeves is not just excellent, but I can also find them in most Stationary/Craft stores as well as the actual Art shop's that I normally frequent. When I do go there (the 40 min away shop) I stock up, but since they're also a little more expensive, and they wouldn't count as essentials anyway, they're a little lower down on the list. There isn't going to be a lot of Amsterdam on the list, since I'm still getting to know them, and most of the shades in their sample pack aren't shades I use super often, it's going to take a little longer to get to know them. 
So the 5 are Raw Umber, Mars Black, Titanium White, Red Ochre and Yellow Ochre. 


My essentials for gray are the same, except obviously red ochre. I tend to use Yellow Ochre, Mars Black and Titanium White, but not too heavy on the yellow, just enough to give it a bit of a green tone, it really enriches the overall tone of the painting, instead of a flat gray. Raw Umber is in there because I'll add a little now and then just to change things up, otherwise too much of the same creates a flatness again. Incidentally these are also the colours I would use for gold or yellow copper, just in different amounts.


My must-have reds.. Reds can be very complex, and can make or break - for me anyway. Brilliant Red is a nice orangy red, tomato-esque, and to make us love it more it has a lovely glossy finish - most Reeves do. Rose Madder is the pinker equivalent. System 3's Crimson is very close to Rose Madder and used to be just about my favourite tube of paint, but I haven't been able to find any for a while.. Lukas is new in town, and I'm still slowly moving through their colours, experimenting as I go, but they seem to be very close to System 3, only a little bit thinner. This is their Cadmium Red deep, and it falls nicely in between Brilliant Red and Rose Madder, not overwhelmingly orange or pink. And then we have the Zelcryls, my only local paint, but I love them to bits. Their Pyrrole Red Deep is thick and intense, and super colour-fast, you can put a stroke of that over black and it'll still be bright! Zelcryl's Naphthole Red leans towards Brilliant Red's oranger tone, but even oranger. And just as thick and lovely as Pyrrole. But these don't compare to Alizarin Crimson. It's the only paint I've ever found in that exact rich shade, it's super thick, so you have to work it a little, I tend to use it along with a little Reeves to even out the texture. It is matt, very plum, and quite awesome.
I know in terms of Red this is overkill, if I only had one or two of these, I could make it work, but this IS an indulgence. Along with these I use Red Ochre and Burnt Umber (Reeves) without fail to darken. 


Truth is, there was a System 3 flesh tone that I used to use ALL THE TIME when I did portraits in like 2004 or whenever that was, but the only way I can fabricate it is by mixing Reeve's Flesh, Zelcryls Naples Yellow and a little Red Ochre. So if I can be completely honest I've only done caucasian portraits recently, I think these shades would go far, but I would add a Blue tone I was going very dark. To me the key to painting skin is layering, if you stop and analyse just a small area on your cheek, you'll find that there are sooo many subtle differences, its a playground for a painter!

That's all for now, bare with me, I'll go more in depth as we progress!

Friday, 18 July 2014


You know whats nice? When there's an early morning knock at the door, and it turns out to be a delivery man with a bunch of paints! Less nice when it happens while you're wearing your husband's long johns, and still have bed-head. But does anyone ever knock on the door unexpectedly when I'm having a great hair day? Nope.

Anyhow, I'm testing these paints, and it got me thinking that I should do a little rundown of my favourite shades of my favourite brands. So this is just me announcing that. :D

Thursday, 17 July 2014

 Self-Portrait with a Snail 

Picture for me the one thing you enjoy doing above all others. The one distraction, the thing you look forward to during dull work hours, the thing you wish you were doing instead of going to that party you simply couldn't get out of, the one thing you never tire of. Imagine with me, being quite good at that thing. Good enough that you get that sense of accomplishment, of having created. You pour yourself into it, holding nothing back, and in return it gives you a satisfaction above anything else. 
Now - you're going to have to humour me - picture yourself posting an image of this creation, this 'thing' you spent all your waking hours working on, this 'thing' that took 3 weeks to complete, on facebook - brimming with pride all the while. And BEHOLD! 7 likes! One comment telling you that you have talent! You can die happy! 

No? Oh. Right. A little disappointing.
Such is the silly highs and lows of social media.

I needed a photo of myself looking like an artist. The only professional photos of myself that I have are wedding pics, 3 years old, and decidedly weddingy.. that and facebook pics, pics with my face squashed into friends faces, into my husbands cheek, pulling ironic pouts and silly faces, or holding a wine glass in front of half my face. I can do some photoshop, but these photos are above my ability to professionalise!
While moaning about this, and dreaming out loud to friends over the weekend about what a ridiculously over the top photo shoot I'm going to end up having, with a top hat and a live fox around my neck of course, someone mentioned me doing a sketch, and I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of that before! So obvious, faster and easier than photoshop! 
And so on monday, after a monstrous amount of admin, and with the prospect of more admin on tuesday, I sat down and started a scribble. Note - not a drawing. Not anything serious or awe inspiring (ha)  just something that looked sketchy and fast and sort-of like me. I didn't shade, I didn't even hatch, I literally scribbled. And I googled a pretty scarf and drew that on me to make me all sophisticated and grown-up seeming. 
I had so much fun messing about with it, and felt myself relaxing for the first time in weeks. I lost myself for a couple of hours, and that was great. Like massages and Pedi's are to other girls, I imagine.

I uploaded it to facebook, just because I hadn't uploaded anything in a while and I like to remind people about my existence now and then, and WOAH! 57 likes!
Which is nice. I guess, people liked it, and getting likes on your actual face does soothe the self-esteem. But tp get that much attention on something completely not serious, not hard, not really skill-work, that took 4 hours and is tiny, and which I will now that I've photographed it, throw away. And when I upload a painting I get 13 likes on a good day. A painting that I worked on for a month. It actually was my life for a month. 

And there lies the point. We really shouldn't try to find any sort of meaning in likes. I know, its a moot point, but when you upload something you made, it becomes the most important thing in the world for a little while - don't argue unless you've been through that torture! 

I guess people appreciate drawings, because everyone has doodled, everyone tried a sketch at some stage in their lives, whether anyone ever saw it or not, and so people know it's hard. But I spent the evening ranting at my poor innocent husband about it. About how hard painting can be, and about how that isn't even a proper drawing, I USED SCRIBBLES! But it doesn't matter. It's facebook. Where people share inspirational posters of baby animals and remind each other that it's friday on

I am learning not to find my happiness in people. I've been learning this for about 6 years I think, I'm getting better at it, but sometimes I fall, and I base a thought on something off social media. I'll try harder, promise!

Also - the bun in my hair kind of looks like a snail.