Tag Archives: contemporary

Fireflies II: Moondancing

I wanted to encourage my valley neighbours to explore their environment after dark so I placed a Post on the local Facebook friends page about firefly season. Well, newcomers were excited and older residents told stories of their encounters with fireflies over the years. I asked if they would let me share their secret through painting and so I was invited to explore Camilla’s ‘Fairy ground’. We entered the ground just on dusk with Camilla’s family and I was able to take sketches until the fireflies appeared.

There were not many but they appeared out of the gloom in silence and went along their pathways around the fairy ground before disappearing into the shrubs and trees. We were all delighted.

Over a cuppa that night, the full moon rose

and from the balcony we could see all the way down to the coast and the twinkling lights came on as the last of the sunset clipped the top of the Currumbin border ranges…. and so a painting image was born. I returned a couple of times to get photos of the children for correct dimensions, but the visits cemented the choice of image.

Well it sat in my mind for 12 months. I was so busy I only got the background done in that time,

but finally the way opened and I painted the rest of the image in a week or two.

It was at this point in the painting that I felt something quite special flow through me. I knew my idea was going to work, but something else was at work here. Something greater than me or Camilla’s fairy ground or the moon. You might call it my Muse who took over, but something really deep inside was telling me I had something special coming to fruition. It had taken me 12 months of planning and it was not only going to work but work really well. What was that?

I chose oils on canvas as I had used the waterbased oils and wanted to see if oils and medium worked as well. I really like the layering of this ancient technique, but I got caught in a technical trap when I tried to use the medium the same way I used the water. Both were fun to put on canvas, but the medium dried shin-ey and detracted terribly in the final image. I was horrified. I could only wait and wait for it to dry before I could colour match and lay the final layer of paint without medium and I was finally delighted with the finish.

I’ve lived with the finished painting now for a few weeks waiting for it to dry and encounter after encounter has brought me to tears – overwhelmed by its beauty in the details of the light playing along the branches, in amongst the trees and on the mountainside behind. This is what I’ve always sought in paintings and it is very rare indeed.

I have posted elsewhere about Kant’s ideas on Beauty and I found it in Albert Namatjira’s and William Robinson’s paintings, both of which made me feel I was in the presence of God, but I never expected to find it in my own.

I placed the painting in my bedroom and woke to the delight of watching the deep dark shadows resolve into branches and leaves, grass stems and thin saplings, children’s faces and fireflies as the sunrise flooded my room. In each moment I was overwhelmed more and more, captivated by the shape of a tree, action of the children, light of the moon, shadows in the fallen leaves and so it went on – with relentless caresses of pleasure to the eye.

What an amazing feedback loop for my creativity. I now know how to do it – and here’s the secret for you all – capture the LIGHT!

Footnote: The painting now hangs in Camilla’s house. She loved it and felt the same way I do. Now that really is special.

art thoughts

Kangaroo oil paint

I receive a number of email notifications from magazines and galleries which give various images from contemporary painter/artists.  I don’t know whether it is the format (online image) or whether it is the art, but I find very few that fire up my imagination.

I find image after image which consists of no more design than plonking an item (be it figure, unnamed form or anthropomorphic animal) in the centre of the image and adhering to nothing more than two or three layers at best.

I seek art that takes my breath away – that awe inspires me. I’m looking for intriguing design, expert technique, a interesting idea, imagery which connects to memory and mediums which support the industry.  Only one of these is required for me to be impressed, but I’m constantly disappointed in the vast majority of images I see today, even those by the art world’s heroes and heroines. Most have even lost their ability to shock while others simply disgust me.

Del Barton’s paintings were the last paintings that inspired me from the major art prizes held in recent years. And William Robinson’s body of work never ceases to move me to the heights of artistic ecstasy I keep looking for in other contemporary work.

Perhaps I just don’t get out enough, perhaps I haven’t read enough contemporary writing to convince me or perhaps it is, as I suggest, something in the artwork itself.

I have been pondering on these topics and reading widely to find an answer to the disappointment I feel as I engage with the artworld with my own paintings.

Australia has a dismal record for supporting the arts, so perhaps addressing this issue will help to overcome the deficiencies in the art market too.

I hope so.