Thursday, December 31, 2015

Circling Nature.

I have been engrossed in my studies for the Advanced Diploma of Art and Creativity (Level Seven) with The Learning Connexion since last year. This has led to me completing some very different art from what I usually do including "Land Art" with items lying about my back yard.

A mandala made from acorns.

I have in particular become fascinated with mandalas making them with stones, flowers, and painting them on pendants and rocks. Of all the pictures that I put up on my new Facebook Arts Page these get the most reactions.

A wreath woven from prunings.

I was pruning a huge shrub which had overgrown to the extent that it had gone seriously woody underneath. There was enough flexible material left over to weave into a wreath.

A spring mandala.

As the seasons passed so did the amount of natural material I had to work from. Here is a mandala composed of variegated periwinkle interspersed with lawn daisies.

Although these works are ephemeral and have either rotted away or been eaten by farm animals the inspiration I gained from doing them has provided directions I can go in with my art in the future.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


My entry for this year's Art Hawkes Bay Exhibition was the first under new group I began last year- the Tuki Tuki Art Collective. As usual there was the tough decision of what to paint as there was a category for horse paintings and there's nothing I like painting more than a good horse. Unless it's a portrait of a pretty red head.

"Lily" by Jen Longshaw
I first coated the 20" by 10" canvas in a mixture of Payne's Grey/Burnt Umber/Cadmium Red/Ultramarine with a touch of white before pencilling in the outline of the girl in white charcoal pencil. I worked on her off and on for a fortnight before rushing to deliver her on the receiving day (a 45 minute drive to the Cheval Room at the Hastings Racing Centre). 

"Lily" was entered in the Faces category and was chosen by this year's selector fellow Learning Connexion graduate Freeman White. I didn't make the exhibition unfortunately but apparently there was a good turn out as it was held during the Horse of the Year Show which held a few events at the racing centre. This year there was also a scheme by which people could leave offers for the paintings if they didn't want to pay full price. Which is how, at 9pm on 23rd March I received a phone call from Art Hawkes Bay Chairman Hans Doevendans with an offer of $100.
Flier for the 2014 Art Hawkes Bay Exhibition
Not the first nor the last time my work has been lowly valued but as the painting took well over thirty hours to complete without adding in the cost of the canvas, paints etc. this would mean I was working for roughly $3 an hour. Unfortunately I cannot sell my work at such a level- I am a Kiwi and not a Chinese sweat shop. So until Lily finds her forever home she'll hang on my wall staring off into space. A bit like her creator. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Solo Exhibition 2013

In a recession the first thing to go are "luxuries" like the arts. People are trying to cover their bills and don't have extra cash to buy a painting or three. For the artist this means slim pickings financially but also a chance to try things that you wouldn't usually. While working on a small scale or developing a bread and butter line of cheaper work to keep things ticking over while the economy tries to kick start itself again you could also experiment with different techniques or subject matter that you never had a chance to while you were on the treadmill of painting what sold.

Alongside trying to extend my bread and butter range over the last few years I've been studying with The Learning Connexion completing my Arts and Creativity Diploma (Honours) with them in 2013. Studying gave me the freedom to try new things and break away from my usual pet portraits. I could try collage, charcoal nude studies, mixed media- in other words without the constraint of painting what I thought I could sell I could just have fun. It's important creative people recapture that pure joy we had as children when we finger painted without a care in the world before we were told it didn't look like anything and wasn't good enough.

It's difficult to allow yourself the freedom of having fun as an adult. There's always something that needs to be done urgently on the housework front or there's the feeling that you should be out there in the big wide world doing something important like saving pandas. That art is a somewhat selfish pursuit. And as for putting your work out there... Who the hell do you think you are? You're no Monet (or as a picture framer once said to me "You're no Ralph Hotere". To move past this, to try something new and put it up for everyone to see was why last year I had my first solo exhibition at Electra Gallery in Waipukurau. I knew I was unlikely to sell anything, especially as this area is still reeling from the 2013 drought and a downturn in the economy. Instead it would be my chance to showcase the different art styles I've been learning over the past few years as well as demonstrating how my artwork has moved on and developed.

"Fem" a mixed media work on a re purposed gold leafed frame

I had six months to prepare new work but soon discovered that this was still not long enough, even for a "mini" exhibition. I was still working on my largest painting to date the day before it opened ending up pulling my first all nighter painting until an hour before I was due to deliver the paintings.

Paintings and my "Kitty Bling" sculpture displayed in the gallery's front window

Kevin Annand who manages Electra was waiting patiently as I turned up over half an hour late and was encouraging about the different work that I was hanging although he warned me that gallery sales were down to what they had been in previous years. When I returned the next day I discovered what a great job he'd done in displaying my "Mini Exhibition" at the front of the gallery.

Some examples of my work including "The Committee" the painting that resulted in my first all nighter

The exhibition last two weeks and I had some good feedback from people who went along to view it. Everyone differed in their opinion as to which piece was their favourite. The CHB Mail ran an article Kevin wrote about me (accompanied by two photos) which was reproduced in the Electra Newsletter the following month. Unfortunately all this publicity didn't translate into sales.

"Arabian Knight" in oils

Well not immediately anyway. Kevin kept back two small bunny paintings and one was sold early in January 2014. Would I have another solo exhibition? Definitely. Perhaps in a couple of years and goodness knows what I'll be creating by then.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Feel The fear And Do It Anyway

I have many creative ideas to the point that I'll need, as a friend once told me, to live forever to finish even a portion of them. Having a block is never a problem with me but anxiety is. Not beginning a project because I think it's beyond my capabilities has meant I will often put off work till tomorrow deluding myself that I will magically become Leonardo De Vinci while I sleep. Another day means another bout of procrastination and then a week turns into a month with very little of worth done in the art line.

Deadlines always helped me to paint something. Entering an exhibition means I have to complete work although I might not begin painting until the last minute, sometimes working until 3am and sending the painting in barely dry. Not only does this mean that I can convince myself that I can't do any better because of the time issues it's also stopped me endlessly reworking a picture which in a way is a good thing.

I have learned to embrace these foibles of mine. I know the panic I feel in the middle of painting will pass, that I can only do the best I can do at the time. Instead of looking at the entire work and thinking "I can't do this, it's too much" I'll tell myself I have half an hour spare and I should try to finish the eyes or the hair or slop in some background. Working in small bites of time really helps although discovering what times of day I work best has been a major development for me recently. For example I enjoy working late morning and mid afternoon plus some of my best work has been done late at night. If I need a nap I'll take one so that I can come back fresh. Tiredness just feeds anxiety.

In late May I attended "The Art Of Innovation" workshop run by Alice and Jonathan Milne of The Learning Connexion which pointed out many of my hang ups and worries plus encouraging me to find solutions to overcoming them. Listening to the other participants I realized I was not on my own in feeling inadequate whether it was having a messy house in one case to having health issues in another. My solution was to constantly have a goal or deadline before me and to feel the fear and do it anyway.

My first fearful deadline was to enter two 4" x 4" paintings into Electra Gallery's "Small Works" exhibition in early June. I didn't step too far out of my box and stuck with my tried and true animal portraiture. The first work is of a mini lop bunny called "Loppy". I gessoed the canvas black and then spent some time building up fur in glazed layers of acrylic.
"Loppy" an acrylic painting on 4" x 4" boxed canvas

Everything is better in pairs so I teamed Loppy up with another popular breed, a Dutch bunny called "Lapin". I have kept rabbits since 1986 so it was with some amusement in my family that when I searched for my biological mother we discovered her maiden name was Lappin. I was truly a bunny girl born and bred.
"Lapin" another acrylic painting on 4" x 4" boxed canvas
The next exhibition of note in the area was the annual "Art Extravaganza" at the Pukeora Estate in Waipukurau. This is probably the biggest exhibition in Hawkes Bay these days with entries coming in from around New Zealand. I have entered six times, been accepted five and sold twice so it's something I always try to paint towards. For two years I have intended to complete a huge painting developing a drawing I did several years ago. I even bought a 20" by 40" canvas (the largest I would have ever attempted) which leaned against the easel reproachfully for months before I gave up and opted for safety completing a small cat painting instead.
"Kitteh" an acrylic painting on 8" x 8" boxed canvas
Of course I knew they'd think I'd mistyped the title so the painting was displayed as "Kitten" but I had some positive feedback from those who saw it although no sales (well we've been through a severe drought here this year so all the farmers are broke and not buying art).

My next goal is to finally complete that huge canvas. I've gessoed it and chalked in the outlines and it's staring at me from an armchair in the sitting room. I've got my first solo exhibition in November this year and I have no choice but to get it done. Plus I have a website to complete and two markets to prepare for. So now I am feeling the fear big time but picking up a brush nevertheless.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fun With Collage

I look forward to Tuesdays now since our TukiTuki Art Collective mornings are about having fun and learning something new. Last week we met at a member's home in Waipukurau where Marie Neilson introduced us to the craft of embossing. My favourite part of the craft was that it involves "Sparkly Stuff".
Busy having a ball!
Marie and Pam had also brought along items to demonstrate stamping. After eeewing and ahhing over a Neapolitan ice cream style ink pad in pinks and mauves we watched as she taught our other Marie how to make a bunch of pansies. I have one stamp which I bought for 50c on a sales table at our local scrapbooking shop so I may actually get this out and use it now.
Two Maries sharing stamping tips
I began a collage which I managed to finish yesterday. Firstly I painted an A3 size piece of watercolour paper with purple, alizarin crimson and cerulean blue acrylic paints. I then leafed through some old glossy magazines (NZ House and Garden are my favourites) for images that jumped off the page at me. I positioned these before gluing with Mod Podge. I had also painted tissue paper with watercolours and these were shredded and added to the mix. Later in the week I applied impasto gel with a palette knife, nearly asphyxiating myself in the process (safety note- make sure the room you're working in has a window open) before adding more tissue and overlaying with paper lace. I also added some tiny gold hearts with a gel pen but these aren't easily seen in the photograph.

"Airs and Graces" collage
I realize some people look down their nose at collage but when you consider that Picasso was one of the first artists to employ it in his work I think they should begin to lighten up and smell the Mod Podge. I probably won't be able to sell this collage but it was a bit of fun and I inspired myself with some new ideas which I can put in my future work. Following the example of one of my friends I will now devote a visual diary to collage and feed that inner child. I think I will have to live and extra fifty years to fit in all the new things I want to learn plus find a rich sugar Daddy to fund them all.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

TukiTuki Art Collective

I don't cope well with change but sometimes it is time to move on from situations and to begin new things which is why I started an art collective two weeks ago. I invited seven people from my previous art group, five have committed to joining although one will only be attending once a month. There are only two rules- one is that we're serious about having fun with our creativity and the other is "No Committees"! Each Tuesday we will meet at a different home to do something enjoyable, bring along our latest work for feedback and generally have a laugh. After some discussion we decided on the TukiTuki Art Collective as a name as that encompasses a large area although at the moment the group is by invitation only.
My small visual diary exclusively devoted to Zentangle
I haven't painted in the past few weeks although that doesn't mean I haven't been creating. I bought a small 21cm x 14.5cm visual diary which could comfortably fit two Zentangles on each page. I enjoy working in graphic black and white and these works have been a relaxing change for me as I leave the workbook beside the sofa so I can pick it up when I'm in the mood. I have challenged myself to use one element from each tangle in the following one to allow some sense of continuity. If I really wanted to challenge myself I would complete one Zentangle per day but I am one of the slowest workers in the world and a girl can only cope with so many changes in one month!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rush Munro

Had another trip to the big smoke with the occasional Stud Muffin yesterday so I could spend time with my sis in law on her birthday during her lunch break. After a lovely vegetarian meal Mike and I finished our day with a visit to Rush Munro's for ice cream.
The pond at the entrance to the shop holds one of the most obese goldfish I've ever seen
When I was a kid if we headed Hastings way on our weekly Sunday drive we'd sometimes stop into Rush Munro's as a treat. I didn't realise at the time the unique taste was due to them making their ice cream from natural ingredients which they've done since the shop opened in the 1920s. But my parents always had ice cream to go so I never got to sit in the lovely courtyard garden and enjoy the atmosphere.
In the courtyard is another pond with some fresh water crayfish fighting it out with the goldies

We were able to forget the drought and all our other concerns as we sat under the trees eating a passionfruit cone each, watching the sparrows fight over the few crumbs that came their way. Anyone else who entered the garden also seemed to magically mellow in mood striking up conversations.

This little fountain was the scene of some major fights as sparrows fought over showering rights.

My favourite items in the garden were feature ceramic tiles popped amongst the pavers, a mosaic drinking fountain and giant terracotta pots filled with plants. I know that taking even just one of these ideas and implementing them in my garden would make it a better space. But after leaving this leafy sanctuary in the middle of the city I realized something much more important: it really is all about the ice cream!