Saturday, 30 April 2011

I Like the Flowers

"I like the flowers,

I like the daffodils,

I like the mountains,

I like the rolling hills..."

Now you've seen my first ever drawing of a daffodil, why not brighten your day by listening to the song*?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

(*Watch for the dancing cow, it's my favourite bit!)



Friday, 29 April 2011

I Spy With My Little Eye...

OK, I'll admit it - I'm naughty.
It's not even a week out and I've already managed to find myself distracted from drawing flowers. 

Yes, I know what I said in my earlier posts.  I'm already putting myself in the naughty corner!

I *do* have a good excuse though - today's transgression was because I was exploring a new artistic medium for the first time and I was in art class being guided by my teacher (rather than working from home by myself).  *And* my teacher, Ms Cathy, thought that a bit of life-drawing would be good for me.  (Kinda like medicine, I wondered?)

As you can hopefully see, my latest artistic exploration was drawing, using lead/graphite pencils.
Yes, I will admit, I did feel in the first instance that perhaps using lead pencils after painting and pastels would amount to a backward step in terms of excitement and product.  (If I may use a musical analogy for a moment, I think I perceived using pencils as kind of the equivalent of having to practice endless scales on your instrument in order to improve your technical ability and proficiency.  Effective, but so, so, so, boring!) 

It wasn't true. What I learnt at my art lesson is that you may not have endless colour options, but goodness, you certainly can create depth and movement and detail second to none! 
In retrospect, I think I felt that way because I'd only ever drawn using HB pencils. 

I enjoyed learning new skills and acquiring some knowledge - such as drawing with a soft (B) lead will  create a much darker colour on the paper than a hard (H) lead pencil.  Colour a H pencil over a B pencil and you can get some amazing effects - and no issues with your colour turning to mud (ahem).  Love it.  See, I do pay attention in class Ms Cathy! ;-)

Whilst today's drawings may seem rather 'exploratory', I'm hoping I've managed, perchance, to find and capture just a smidgen of the artistic potential that can be achieved through using this simple, yet interesting, artistic medium.  In fact, don't you think it would be rather eye-ronic if I didn't! 

Righto, no more getting sidetracked - back to the flowers!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Why Watercolours are the Toddlers of the Paint World

I have decided that for a beginner painter, watercolours are the toddlers of the paint-world.  Here's why: 


  • They like to push the boundaries;
  • Just when you've got them looking clean and pretty they go behind your back and make a mess of themselves;
  • You're constantly struggling to get them to drink enough water;
  • When they finally increase their water intake, you then discover they've consumed too much and now they won't eat their dinner the paper is so saturated, it starts to warp;
  • They constantly drive you to distraction but you love them anyway (most of the time). 
Honestly - tell me that you can't see the similarities too!

Lilly-pilly blossom

Cherry blossom


Gumnut blossoms
Today's post features some of my very, very, very first attempts at using watercolour as a painting medium.   I sure hope I improve, because what I'm seeing at the moment is a little depressing!  Still, it's a starting point, right?  Onwards and upwards! 

Monday, 25 April 2011

Hello Blossoms!

Almond, that is.

I'm excited to announce that I  have made a decision.  (Yes, in case you were wondering, I am capable of making one. Sometimes. I think.)

I hereby declare that for the next two and a half weeks I am going to dedicate myself to only drawing all things flowers and leaves. 

OK, stop groaning. Please. Seriously. Just let me explain why.  It's really deep, really symbolic and I think you'll like it. 

OK, I lied.  It isn't deep and meaningful at all.

I borrowed a book from the library on how to draw flowers.  As the book is due back in two and a half weeks, I shall time my projects for this amount of time.  I am ultimately a goody-two shoes and I don't want to be fined for overdue books.  No doubt, by the end of these eighteen or so days, I shall be sick and tired of flowers and will want to move on to something else.  Perhaps monster trucks.  (The other option on the library bookshelf.  You gotta love City Council Libraries!)

 Where possible, I shall draw flowers from real life.   And if I feel in the mood some day, I shall tell you the name and title of the book I'm using to give me the tips and pointers.  In the meantime, I'm not gunna tell you! I can say that all pictures featured here shall be altered so that I can't get in lots of trouble for being a copy cat.  So there.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Misty - Nanna's little princess

If by any chance someone out there has been wondering what has happened to my posts - I haven't stopped - I promise!  Easter+ Sick children + Husband with gastro + Sleep deprivation = Reduction in brain function and output.  (We are all recovering now, thank goodness.  I've come to this conclusion based on the copious amounts of chocolate have already been consumed by 6.55am.  It was that late only because I forbid the kids to come downstairs before 6.30am!)  

Today's post features a pastel work of Misty, Nanna and Gran-Gran's furry princess.  Misty sadly passed earlier this year after a short illness and her loss was felt very deeply by Nanna and Gran-Gran.  Nanna asked that I draw her little princess, Misty so that they can remember what a lovely little girl she was.  Rather than give Easter Eggs this year, I decided that I would give this picture as a gift and I have been working on her this past week (in between the above equation).  I thought that the symbolism of Easter and the significance of Misty was kind of fitting. 

It was bittersweet drawing Misty I must confess.  How to depict her in the drawing was a challenge as I found it difficult to get the balance right with the expression in her eyes and mouth.  I didn't want her to look too happy, nor did I want her to look sad.  I hope that I managed to do her some justice.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sunflowers 2 - The Finished Painting

And I'm cheering!
The completed painting

I finished,
I finished,
I really, really finished...
I finished,
I finished,
At last it is COMPLETE!" 

I am very happy with how this painting has turned out in the end.  When I compare this painting side by side with my 'After the Storm' painting, I can see that my painting skills are slowly starting to develop.  As you would be aware if you read my earlier posts, I did hit a few roadblocks along the way (the great 'whoopsie' Impasto incident anyone?), but in the end I feel that I managed to do some justice to these beautiful flowers.  (Sorry about the background, I was so excited to photograph the finished painting, that I forgot to remove the newspaper I was working on! I'm sure professional bloggers are cringing, but this is just the way I am.  As far as I'm concerned, in life sometimes you've sometimes just gotta ignore the papers.)

Close up of the large flowers
So what do I personally like about this painting? I love the way the petals curl at the ends - to me they give a sense of movement and I think I can see some improvement with adding depth to the various flowers.  I like the rich red background as well - it contrasted nicely with the colour palette I selected. 

All that is left is to think of a suitable title!  Suggestions?

Finally, in case you are wondering, I've already started work on my next artistic endeavour - another commission - wish me luck! :-)

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

My First Commission!

 As I'm still continuing work on my Sunflowers 2 painting today, I thought I'd share with you my first and very exciting commission!  [This makes me almost believe that I have the potential to be an artist and that maybe I have some artistic ability.  Thanks Natty Nat having more faith in me than I do in myself!]   
Zeke (Left) and Darius

The subjects for my first commission belong to Natty-Nat, my Sister-In-Law.  Let me share with you the exciting conversation that delivered me my first official commission:
Natty Nat: "Hey, Kate, would you draw my fur babies, Darius and Zeke for me? I'll pay you for all materials you require and a little more."
Me: " ______!"  (Silent because jaw was on ground.)  Enthusiasm was  conveyed by jumping up and down on spot in conjunction with lots of fist pumping in the air. 

After I calmed down and regained the power of speech, Natty Nat and I chatted a little about expectations (mostly me stressing that it may be a disaster as I have only been creating for a couple of months).  Natty Nat insisted that I at least try, so we went ahead and planned the artwork.  We decided that as Darius is a very shy boy, he should be drawn with a slightly pensive expression and looking away from the camera.  Zeke however, is quite the furry metro-sexual and *loves* looking in the mirror, so he should be looking straight ahead. I also decided at this point that I would create them from pastel using photos supplied by Natty Nat for reference and hopefully, accuracy.  The above photo formed the basis for the picture.  (Zeke's face however, is taken from another photo.)

Nearly finished....

So I started practicing.  I swear I must have drawn each dog at least five hundred times. (That figure may be a slight exaggeration.  Hey I'm a muso and wannabe artist, not a mathematician!) 

A week or so later, I started creating them, fur real.  (Oh, I love a bad pun <chuckle!>)

And guess what? I couldn't believe it - what was coming out of my hand and fingers and brain was actually kinda looking like a dog.  And possibly, even like Zeke and Darius.  YAAAAAAAYYYYYY!  :-) :-) :-)

Feeling Framed.

I must be honest and say that I found the experience to be quite stressful - after all it is one thing as a beginner artist to draw a dog, it is quite another to draw a dog that looks lifelike and look like the same dog that you are using as a reference picture.  Then imagine compounding the stress by attempting to draw both dogs on the same piece of quality and expensive paper without smudging the pastel.  Eeeeek!

Despite these feelings, I am very proud how this portrait turned out in the end.  Thank you Natty Nat for the wonderful opportunity!  May it just be the start of many... (she writes wistfully)
[Oh, and I was uber excited to spend my entire commission buying more pastel paper and pastels!  Oh the guilt-free fun I can have!]

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sunflowers 2 - Slow and Steady Progress

After yesterday's disasterous 'We are not going to mention what Kate's initial impasto application looks like on the sunflowers(!)' post, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and kept working on saving the centre of the flower.   (Semi-related question: Is 'depoopify' a word?  If not, it should be.  Please remember that you read it here first, should it take off as one of the new buzz words of the year!)

I also worked on adding some interest and movement to the many sunflower petals.  It is slow and relatively detailed work.  Why, oh why, did I decide to paint so many flowers?!

Anyway, here is a picture of one of the smaller sunflowers I have nearly completed painting.  I hope that you can see some progress has been made since yesterday!

Stay tuned over the next couple of days when I hope to post pictures of the finished painting.  Yes, in case you are wondering, it is nearly finished, but I'm not going to give everything away all at once.  Anticipation and suspense can sometimes be a good thing!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

I Say Tom-a-to, You Say Tom-AH-to / I Say Im-pas-to, You Say Im-PAH-sto

Or maybe not.  Maybe we all just say Im-pas-to.  I think so. All I know is that I want to use it.  So - what is Impasto?  According to the website
 Impasto is an art term used to describe thickly textured paint that is almost three-dimensional in appearance.

Right, it all makes sense.   And so on I continued, reading and reading and reading  various websites and 'info' sites about this medium.  I was so excited to think of all the fun(!) I was going to have that I went out and bought an $11.95 tub of the stuff.

It seemed like fun, that is, until I started to reading about the 'dark side' of using impasto.  Numerous people were writing about the impasto cracking, the canvas sagging or the product simply not drying at all. What?  Problems?

It seemed the biggest issues included applying the impasto on a support (that would be canvas) that was not sufficiently stretched, causing the paint to make the fabric essentially sag over time; applying the impasto so thickly that it just didn't want to dry; or applying the impasto in a hot temperature, where the surface dries a lot faster than the lower layers.  I'm sure there were more, but at that point my brain started to fry.  I mean, this is meant to be fun and free, not a thesis on the merits of using a particular product!

Right.  Let's do a break down of my earlier intentions for using impasto in this latest masterpiece:

Kate's Initial Impasto Intentions Checklist (AKA I-I-I - (it is afterall, all about me!))
  1. Brush:  The biggest, thickest, chunkiest brush I can find, so I could layer that gooey stuff on reeeeallly thickly. 
  2. Temperature: A quick check of the Bureau of Meteorology indicated that today's temperature was around 29C.
  3. Support:  A canvas.  Stretched?  What on earth is that?!

Botheration. [Botheration = The sudden and powerful emotive manifestation of bother and irritation combining to want to cause Kate's head to explode with angst.]

So, what am I going to do? Panic!  I've already started painting on the canvas so I can't stop now. I could just leave the impasto.  However, I really, really, really want to try out this Impasto stuff.  I spent $11.95 on the jar and I can't handle the thought that I'm not going to need it.  It must be needed. This is a DiSastTeR! 

Calm down Kate.


Deep breath in..... Deep breath out.....




A-HA!  Solution:  I shall apply the impasto.  I just shall ensure I will not apply it thickly.  I shall do a 'hint' of texture, rather than the bold use of the product.  I shall save boldness for another day.
As such: Today featured work on the centre of the sunflowers, featuring a gentle, guaranteed not to crack the canvas application of Impasto.  Yes, as you gag and reach for the sick bag, I know what it looks like.   And so I am going to implore you to try and look past 'that' and notice the circular pattern and the possibilities -  not the colour or texture. I promise that by the next time I post, the situation will be under a little more control.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Sunflowers 2 - Poetry in Action...

 I thought it would be fun(?) to describe what artistic endeavours have been taking place this week in the form of a rubbishy an outstanding piece of poetry. <tee-hee!>

Step 1-  Preparing design on paper

Step 2 - Painting background 

~Kate's Ode to Sunflowers~

Step 3 - Blocking in initial flower petals
 Early today I sat & thought - 
'What to do
With the canvas I bought?' 

'Should I paint
A car, a train?
Should I paint me
Soaked from rain?'

'Should it be fun,
Or illustrate power?'
I wondered again later,
While in the shower.

And then like a jolt,
It occurred to me,
To paint more sunflowers
To let me see,
Whether my skills
Were getting a smidge better, 
Or whether my painting ability
Was starting to fester. 

 I'm wondering with interest
As I go about creating
'Will it be fabulous or dreadful, 
This sunflower painting?'

The End*

Classy, right?! Should I give up my day job?  No?
[*I decree that all really bad poems wonderful poetic masterpieces must end with 'The End'.]

Stay tuned for progress shots over upcoming days!  

[Edited to say:  You can see the finished painting here....] 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

After The Storm....

Today's acrylic was my first adventure into the world of painting flowers.  The inspiration behind this painting was growing sunflowers in my garden after a very nasty storm which caused a lot of damage to my home.  (Put it this way, we were out of our home for nearly nine months in order to repair the damage.) 

Sadly, following this event, my young children were very scared of rain and storms. 

My husband and I decided that something positive must be done and that nature should be the answer.  Why?
Because nature caused us this heartache in the first place, so it seemed reasonable to us that nature could damn* well take some responsibility and fix the heartache as well!

As a result, we grew the sunflowers to teach the children that rain is a part of nature. To explain that without water, you can't grow beautiful flowers.  From the moment the seeds were planted in the ground, every time it rained we (my husband and I) would say "Oh look boys, it's raining! This will help the sunflowers grow!"  The children loved watching the seeds grow and climb into the sky until one day they burst into beautiful flower.

It was a magical day of accomplishment and celebration in my family I can tell you!

This experience was very therapeutic - not only for them, but for me as well.  I like how now, when I have a bad day and life is feeling pretty rough, I imagine the sunflowers - for they helped made me realise that sometimes in life you've gotta go through storms and rain in order to enjoy the beautiful flowers at the end.

*Apologies for the use of this word.  However, if you'd been through what we've been through, you would use it too!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Squeek Dreams....

Close up - Ninny and Squeek

Today's artistic endeavour is a pastel creation of my cat Flynn Ninny (named so, because he is a scaredy cat!).  Ninny is posing with his favourite toy mouse, Squeek.  Thanks to my brother for helping me with the title!

I really enjoyed drawing my beloved cat - in fact I would have to say it was one of the most pleasant artistic endeavours I've had so far.  However, like everything else I've attempted up to this point, I did find him difficult to draw.  As a result, I've actually completed this same image on two separate occasions.  (Previous Facebookers have only seen Attempt 1!) Below, you will find images of both pictures.  This enables you to compare the similarities and differences between my first and second attempts.  Think of it as a kind of catty, pastelly "Where's Wally" opportunity if you please! 

You may ask, 'Kate, why draw it twice?'.  For anyone out there who can remember The Curiosity Show from the early 1980's, I am going to quote Dean here and say 'Well, I'm glad you asked.'  (For anyone who doesn't recall  The Curiosity Show, just forget I wrote that sentence, ok?)  

Attempt 1

Firstly, Surprise!  Yes, dear readers, I am a closet perfectionist.  However, more importantly,  whilst I was relatively happy with my first attempt, it just didn't feel right.  And I want to be able to look at Ninny and think "Yes! I like it", not "Dang! That paw looks like a growth."  After contemplating the image for a day or so, I decided  that this would be an ideal opportunity to really build on a concept and this image presented itself to me as an ideal learning opportunity.  The decision was made to start over. 

Attempt 2

So, my dear readers, I pulled out the pastels, my brushes, rubber gloves, dust-buster and tissues (creating, just like children, is messy!) and drew my furry baby again. It is obviously a very personal thing, but in my heart of hearts, Attempt 2 feels better.  You may, or may not agree!  I am very happy that at least my children liked it and commented that "Ninny looks like Ninny and Squeek looks like Squeek".  Yay!  Progress! Onwards and upwards, so they say.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The great baby hair battle

My fabulous teacher, Ms Cathy, suggested that I should try painting with acrylics.  Being little ol' "I like to bite off more than I can chew" me, I decided that I would paint a woman holding a baby.  This was a great idea - except in all my life I've never drawn a woman, let alone a baby.  And I have most certainly never tried to paint one!
My goodness - Do you have any idea how hard people are to draw for mere mortals like me? Even now, I'm still freaked out over how hard the hands were to draw.  Arrrrrgggghhhh!  Still, I persisted and soon enough I felt like all was going relatively well.  A bit here, a bit there - a dab here, a splat there.  Until..... I got to painting the baby hair.  Nothing worked.  Seriously.  Over the period of one hour my baby was:
  • Comb-over baby;
  • stripey hair baby;
  • blonde-frizzy-I've-just-stuck-my-finger-in-a-light-socket-baby; and
  • bald baby.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING(!) worked.  The frustration was starting to get to me. Being impatient, I decided in the end that I should just combine all four elements together.  And it was better.   I struggled with a title for my first masterpiece and asked for suggestions.  Beautiful ideas sprang forth from family and friends, but I felt that I needed to pay homage to the struggle that this painting presented.  Finally, in an instant like a lightbulb shorting out in my brain, THE title came to me.

As such, readers, I present to you the long awaited title of this painting ....

 Mother and Blonde-Stripey-Comb-Over-Bald Baby

We like? ;-)
The finished picture is something I actually am quite proud of.  Not because it is perfect.  Not because it is necessarily even good, but because it is something that I created from a vision and saw it through to the bitter, messy, stripey end.

Pete the Pastel Peacock

On this laaaaazy Sunday afternoon I decided to try drawing a bird for the first time.  No, dear reader, in case it is reeeaally bad, it is not a budgie, or a magpie, or a seagull - it's a picture of a peacock!

The inspiration for this picture was from a photograph taken by my eldest son at Alma Park Zoo last year.

Originally Pete (the peacock - I like to give my creatures a name!) was drawn all by himself.  A big, bright and bold creature on a burgundy background. I loved the colour contrast, but really didn't like the way Pete looked like he was floating in air.  [Still I wasn't sure I should do something until a variance of words from the old The Muppet Show somehow came into my head - "It's... Peacocks In Sppppaaaaacccceeee!" That wouldn't do - something must be done!]

Because I can and I could, I decided to add lots of smudgy, tropically earthy background colour and gentle texture in an attempt to 'ground' Pete.

I kinda like it!  I can't help but wonder, is it boring?  Is it dynamic enough?  Are peacock pictures a dime a dozen?  Oh well, what's done is done - welcome to the family Pete! 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Great Pastel Discovery Commences.....

Just this past month, I've discovered the joy of pastels.  Coming from a musical background, the notion of using my fingers in a visual creative process to not only draw, but to blend, smudge, smear and just make a general pastelly, blurry mess appealed greatly.

My wonderful, gentle and inspiring art teacher, Ms Cathy suggested I use pastels to draw a beautiful woman in a veil.
I banished the little sing-song-inner-voice that seemed to be on repeat, "You're gunna smudge her! She's gun-na smuuuuuuudddddgggge!" from my consciousness and in no time at all, the pastels were snapping (oops!), my fingers were covered in all colours of the rainbow and the paper was covered.  It was so exciting to discover that purple could be used as part of her skin tone, blue could be used in her hair and green to highlight her veil. I was working upside down with the picture and my lady and after a couple of hours I turned her the right way around to find I had created...
I was so shocked to discover that she ended up looking relatively human at the end of the process.  I kept wondering out loud "Did I just do that?"  This, my friends, was the picture that made me first wonder.... It's been previously proven I have some musical ability, but could I possibly, at all, have just a teeny, tiny, incy, wincy smidgen of artistic creativity as well? Or was this a one off fluke?  Only time will tell. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Why Write a Blog? It's All About Give and Take

I started art lessons February this year.  It was fun.  It was casual.  Art and I shared a "Kiss you, kiss you, I'm (not) gunna miss you" kind of relationship.  When I wanted 'It'  ('It' being art), 'It' was there at a click of my fingers (or flick of my paint brush).  When I wasn't in the mood, 'It' didn't mind at all.  Really, 'It' and I shared the perfect take, take, take relationship, with me being the taker. 

It was so fun having a shallow, one-sided 'It's not about you, it's all about me' kind of affair and our relationship continued like this for a while.  Then, suddenly, one morning around two months ago,  I realised I no longer wanted to be just the taker in the relationship.  I felt guilty.  I realised that 'It' wasn't just an 'It'.  'It' had a name - 'Art'.  I felt so guilty about this, I almost felt like I owed Art an apology.  Something along the lines of:  

Dear Art

I am very sorry that I have been such a taker and not a giver. 

I'm sorry that I called you 'It'.  'It' was wrong. 

I promise to try and be more considerate from now on.

I hope we can still be friends.

Artistically yours,


Did it work? No. It wasn't enough.  Art was still unhappy.  Art was not going to accept my half-hearted crummy mental letter of apology.  Art wanted more.  (Who was being selfish now?!)  In retrospect, I can now see that Art was very, very sneaky.  Art waited a little longer, watching me go about my day and my art lessons in blissful ignorance, until the moment was right.

One day, a week or so later.....Wham! Bam! Kapow!  I didn't know what hit me!

It was morning, it was early, the birds were singing and the kids were fighting.  I was drinking my usual ('Wake up Kate!') mug of coffee.  It was, in fact, a perfectly average kind of morning.  Until... suddenly it occurred to me that instead of feeling grumpy about the school lunches yet to be prepared, I was contemplating the shape, the style, the values and tones of my coffee mug I was holding and devising how I would somehow make the time in my already incredibly busy day to draw, colour and capture it with my (newly bought) pastels.  'Uh-oh', I realised,  'I'm in trouble...'

Then (please imagine an impending drum of doom sound), with dawning shock and embarrassment, it occurred to me that I'd been posting more than a few "Look at my picture / painting(!)" Facebook images lately - probably far more than would be the normally accepted etiquette.  Oops. 

'So', I pondered, 'What does all this mean?'

I explored this thought process further and started to ask myself what on earth made me feel compelled to show the world all the pictures, paintings, drawings, scribblings, musings, cutting, pasting, sticking, splatting and... well... all SORTS of things that I haven't even discovered yet but will (hopefully) discover? And why, WhY, WHY do this even though what I create may not be terribly good?

Simple, I realised.  I finally admitted to myself (and now I'm admitting to you) that art has worked its way into my heart. Sneaky thing.  Eight weeks as of today and counting.  Is it an addiction?  Or maybe it's that initial honeymoon glow of love and attraction?  Is it some sort of chemical imbalance?

I'm not sure.  All I know is that I love Art.  Art may not always love me, but I can accept and live with this.  Afterall, no relationship is perfect.  All I know is that when I'm creating, I feel happy, calm, content and peaceful.  That is a wonderful way to feel and to exist in this crazy world.  That's why.

Finally, it's at this point I feel I must be honest and upfront with you now, dear reader:

In some ways, whether you or other people in the outside world are of the opinion that I do or don't possess any talent or artistic ability isn't really the purpose of this blog.  (Although of course, all compliments are welcome! Gentle constructive advice is also gratefully received.)

Art Finds Kate is designed to document my personal, artistic journey and to share my joy, my frustrations and my experiences with you.  In essence, if you sometimes smile, or frown when reading my posts; if I make you think or consider or perceive art in a slightly different way from how you did before or; if  you suddenly consider the notion "If Kate can.... Should I?" then all the effort required for me to create and write this blog is worthwhile.   Enjoy!