Friday, December 14, 2012

I'm Dreaming Of A Rich Christmas

Every year I promise myself that I'll begin preparing for the Hastings Community Arts Centre Christmas Sale from January. Then suddenly we're into June and by the time I get anything half done it's October. This year I knew I definitely needed to repaint my wooden jewellery stand as it was looking scruffy and the cream paint wasn't setting off my work so black it became!
I have found wolf pendants to be extremely popular so I've always made sure that there's at least one for sale but tigers are also well liked. Lions, not so much. And as for warthogs...
This year I have also begun painting more abstract colourful pendants which I sell more cheaply as an alternative for non animal loving buyers.
I am also selling my hand painted brooches, cards, soaps and all the small ephemera which seems to be better selling than the larger work. If I'm to get more outlets (which I intend to try to do in the New Year) I will need to keep working regularly as despite their size these small items do require quite some work.
If you happen to be in Hastings pop into the gallery and take a look at the massive range of gifts that are available there. It's a great way to support your local artists and to find a unique gift that hasn't been mass produced in China.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Trenrose Gardens & Birdwood Gallery

Not often I'm double booked but the weekend of 17th/18th November was going to be a busy one as my friend Marie and I had a stall at Trenrose Gardens in Tikokino. Every year during the second weekend in November several established/historic gardens in the Tikokino/Onga Onga area open to the public and Trenrose opens while the peonies are in bloom.
Marie did all the hard yards arranging the booking, finding tables plus borrowing a marquee for the weekend since we would be outside. And as the 17th was my birthday and I'd been invited to lunch with the occasional stud muffin and my sister in law she offered to man it on the Saturday as well.
Of course by the time I'd fed the latest clutch of chicks, the goat, rounded up the cats and piled all my stuff in the car I was running late but when I arrived at Trenrose there weren't too many visitors so we were able to set up in peace. We didn't realize it at the time but this quiet start did not bode well for the day.
Then we were off to Birdwoods Gallery which is situated in the relocated old St Peter's Church Hall from Waipawa (my father taught Sunday School there back in the day I think) on Middle Road near Havelock North. There we saw an amazing range of African and ethnic inspired ceramics, sculptures, textiles etc. but the real highlight for me were the amazing African sculptures out the back.
There was a group of hippos nestled on the lawn while a dodo perched on the old wooden fence that bordered a wild piece of field with mown paths meandering amongst warthogs, giraffes and stone figures. A flock of topiary sheep with metal heads stood near the entrance to the sculpture garden while little metal birds were dotted about on the fences or in the trees.

By this stage the weather was cool, breezy and drizzly so we went into the cafe which was featuring an exhibition of paintings by mother and son Vicki and George Williams. Vicki paints birds and draws animals while George paints large acrylics of black labradors. Although the exhibition had only just begun ten works already had red stickers on them. By this time my sister in law had arrived so we enjoyed a leisurely lunch before investigating the nearby sweet shop (a relocated pioneer cottage) before returning to the sculpture garden once more. In total we spent three hours there which would account for my longest visit to a gallery. Ever.

When we returned to Trenrose however it was a different story. The weather had been so awful with pouring rain that visitor numbers were down three quarters on the previous year. Marie had sold a few cards for me in the morning but that was all. We packed up early hoping that the next day would improve.

When I woke up at 7am the rain was hammering down. Once again I was running late but Marie and I set up quickly and waited for the weather to improve. Then the gales arrived. The tent began to disintergrate so there were running repairs that continued throughout the day. However the sun broke out inbetween the downpours so more visitors began to come through the garden although they were more interested in buying plants than our work. However during Marie's lunch break I managed to sell one of my pendants and cards so by the end of the day we had come out of the weekend with a small profit. One of the stallholders who had been coming for nine years it was the worst year at Trenrose they'd ever experienced. I felt it was official- I was a jinx.

During one of the sunny spells in the afternoon we explored fields of flowering peonies and on the way back I bought a huge jar with two goldfish from a lady selling pickles. As you do.

As the day wound down the owner of the gardens went round every stall owner and gave us all a bunch of white peonies in bud which brightened up the house for many days. Enthusiastically I've ordered a few bushes which will be ready to plant in March so the memory of that soggy weekend will live on in my own garden.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Year That Was

In the eight months since my brother's death I have been going through the motions of keeping busy and trying to be cheerful but my health told a different story with two major illnesses over the winter months. However I kept plodding away with my artwork if not with any writing of merit. Two weeks after his passing in April I attended a workshop on Goethe's Theory Of Colour with Bettie Huibers at Otane. I never imagined the poet to have investigated this subject so thoroughly or to have inspired so many artists. One major inspiration I came away with was that we should practice with colour every day in the same way we're meant to draw. It is a huge subject that we only touched briefly on during the day workshop but I hope that I can explore it further. Before long it was June and the Arts and Crafts Corner Otane Inc annual exhibition. Every year a corner of the Herb and Garden room is given over to guest artists from one of the other groups at the centre and this year it was the turn of the Art Group. Donna Dahm and myself held a retrospective of our work and Donna enjoyed several sales of her landscapes while I sold a cat painting. Most of my work was behind the door as I had an oil nude displayed which counts as offensive in this area although I received some rave reviews from the male population.
Other works I included were animal paintings and I received a commission for a dog portrait from a visitor. Many people who weren't interested in buying a larger work did make their way into the art room and bought cards I had made from my paintings as well as some of my stoned jewellery.
For the past few years the Art Group has had a Theme wall during the exhibition and this year it was "Carnival" time. Work ranged from masks to circus and resulted in a very colourful display. I had been working on a major collage piece which I called "The Fortune Teller". This mixed media lady was fairly large and consisted of magazine paper, glitter, paper lace and paint. I have no idea why some art lovers turn their noses up at collage as this work took me as long to complete as a conventional painting. She now hangs at the back of my TV and her eyes follow me about the room.
In August I worked on a rushed job for a work colleague of my aunt's who wanted two doorstops made of her deceased cats. She had lost most of her photos due to her hard drive crashing so there were only three to work from so some imagination was used.
"Smudge"(above) was painted on a large river stone which had natural cat-like bumps and lumps. The photos were taken from a distance so I had to imagine what the eyes looked like close up.
"Pixel" had blue colourings which gave me an opportunity to mix in beautiful rich grays and siennas and the eyes were full of colour and reflection.
September is time for the Art Extravaganza which is held as part of The Festival at Pukeora Estate, Waipukurau. My entry was "Meeting of the Lop Society" a work I had begun last year and which has been sitting on a chair in my kitchen while I tried to work out what was wrong with it. In the end I decided the middle rabbit (originally a small lop huddled down) was the problem so one night I covered it with black gesso (and the rest of the canvas) just leaving the two other bunnies sticking out of the darkness. I also changed the right hand lop to a ginger. Although this work didn't sell at the Arts and Crafts Corner Otane Open Weekend over 3/4th November it had so many comments that if I'd charged 50c for every "oh you can almost feel the fur" comment I'd have earned a good $25! Goes to show that if you leave a painting to gestate long enough and have the courage to paint out a good proportion of it you can still turn it round.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Eulogy For A Brother

Richard Longshaw 5.7.1954- 31.3.2012

I hope that during these past few months Richard finally realized how deeply he was loved and by how many people. I don’t think he ever truly knew how much we all needed and valued him. Whenever someone had a crisis or needed something done Richie would be there. Sometimes just the fact he was in the room would make you feel better, safer, as if everything was going to turn out alright. He always put others first before himself and constantly thought of how to make their lives easier. I have lost count of all the times he came to my rescue; repairing computers, helping get a sick animal to the vet and helping me move house on too many occasions.

When we moved the pony and donkey in a horse float Rich would insist on riding in with them so they wouldn’t be stressed. When I had to have my old pony put to sleep Richie drove all the way out to where I was living at the time to keep me company while the vet did the deed before lying on top of Toby the goat so the vet could trim his hooves.

I have happy memories of Richie and I going shopping and having long philosophical conversations about science, quantum physics and Top Gear. He would go into in-depth descriptions of how he fixed someone’s computer or the reason why a car wasn’t running properly and I would nod my head as if I actually knew what he was talking about.

Dad always said Rich was the “luckiest unlucky bugger” he’d ever met. His boat La Paloma blew up with him on board but he only suffered a flash burn on his chest. His trawler “Trojan” sank off Mahia although fortunately he wasn’t on board. We would always joke about the Longshaw luck. Just as well the other part of being a Longshaw was having a robust black sense of humour.

Richard tolerated the intolerable and suffered fools. Whereas I would get angry about someone’s actions Richie would shrug his shoulders and say “oh well that’s just them”. But under that seemingly strong calm exterior there was a sensitive soul who could be so easily hurt by people. He was truly a gentle giant and for me he was a wonderfully kind and caring brother.

Last Friday as I watched Richard lie on the verge of his last voyage into the next world a few lines kept continually running through my head. They were from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Requiem”

''This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.''

Monday, March 05, 2012

Drawing Upside Down And Inside Out

We recently held an all day drawing session at the Otane Portrait Group beginning with a discussion on how each of us would begin a drawing working from this great shot of tennis player Rafael Nadal.

Each person explained how they would work and it turned out that everyone would begin in a different way. Some would sketch out a faint oval with indications where the features would go, a couple of us would begin with one facial feature and work our way out intuitively from there. The conclusion was that there wasn't one "right" way to begin a drawing. But then to throw a spanner in the works a couple of us mentioned how much easier it is to draw upside down. When you work from a reference photo turned the wrong way suddenly your brain has to work from its right side. A face becomes a series of simple shapes which you reproduce. Often for beginners the results can be extremely satisfying. Even for veteran pencillists it is handy to forget what you think you see and return to drawing simply what is there.

We spent a good thirty minutes facing Rafa's rotated photo on an easel and when we finally turned our drawings right way up we had a good laugh at the distorted features. But over the following half an hour when we drew from the righted photo it was fairly obvious that these pictures were no more interesting artistically than the so called "wrong" ones. It just felt as if it were easier to draw this way when in reality our brains were busy telling us "well an ear should be placed here, a chin should be there" rather than allowing us to reproduce what we saw.

I would honestly recommend everyone to try drawing wrong side up on occasion. Not only can you pick out your weaknesses but it's fun not being in control. With our little group it was a great leveler. Working upside down we were all equal in our sudden drop in confidence and in our ability to laugh at the results. Sometimes though something wonderful would result as in this lovely pastel.

And where is my finished masterpiece? Ah well both my upside down, inside out and round the right way sketches are like me- a work in progress.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Art Hawkes Bay Exhibition 2012

I am a person who needs deadlines. Perhaps it's because I am a perfectionist who puts off till next year what I should do today because I know I'll never get it quite right. If I have a time constraint I can always put down my perceived failure to reach perfection to running out of time. This is why I will often begin a painting a couple of weeks before an exhibition and why you'll often see me feverishly painting at 2am on receiving day.

After a dismal Christmas Sale at Creative Hastings which saw some of my work stolen I wasn't in the mood to paint but the Art Hawkes Bay annual exhibition was coming up at the end of January and I knew I needed a kick start back into some sort of creativity. But what to paint? Plus I had to send in the entry form with a title and price before I even began work on my picture. I became depressed sorting through photos I'd taken trying to rustle up some inspiration. I knew I wanted to attempt a portrait but nothing leaped out of my files that said "paint me".

Finally I went through my camera and found a shot of one of our models who had just been in a play at the Waipukurau Little Theatre. At the time I couldn't believe how she'd transformed herself from a bubbly blond into a dark femme fatale (a German spy no less) but soon as I saw the photo I knew this was the shot to base a portrait on. I grabbed a black canvas and set to work sporadically over the next couple of weeks although the entire painting only took eight and a half hours to complete. This woman was a "Thoroughly Modern" flapper.

No 2am painting session for me this year. The painting was covered in bubble wrap and ready to go the night before receiving day. The selector was Brent Redding a very well known Hawkes Bay artist but I had no idea whether he would like my picture. Then a message was left on my phone Tuesday night from Ian Thompson, Founder of Art Hawkes Bay suggesting I attend the Opening Night at Vidal's Winery that Thursday. I'd had no intention of going before this but on speaking to a couple of friends from my art group I was persuaded it was important I go along.

So Thursday 26th January I caught a ride with three other members of the Otane Art Group to Vidal's winery. The opening was at 6pm but the room was already crowded with dozens of people looking at the 150 paintings displayed. An hour later there were speeches before the prize giving for each of the categories. My category "Culture" was third on the list and I heard my name read out as the winner so had to go and have my hand shaken. Val Donkevoort, also of the Otane Art Group, won Best In Exhibition. Afterwards I was congratulated by Ian Thompson, Brent Redding before our small group of four were invited to stay for a platter and drinks with the committee at 8pm, the only artists to be so honoured apparently.

It wasn't until 10.15pm that I finally arrived home although I wasn't actually able to get to sleep before midnight due to the excitement which resulted from the combination of winning a certificate, $250.00 in cash and the severe diarrhea that hit me soon as I came through the back door. And did my painting sell? No. Which just goes to show that you can win a prize but people may still not want a German Spy hanging on their wall.