Saturday 31 May 2014

'Melbourne tram on a wet evening', oil on board, 20 x 15cm

I was stuck behind this tram on a rainy evening in heavy local traffic and realised it was a very nice arrangement of colours: greens, greys, pinks and blues. I frequently paint small scenes or 'memories' like this as practise, and very ordinary subjects are the most useful. Sometimes I paint directly from observation where it's convenient (ie. I can sit down with a small painting kit for 30-60 minutes); more often I refer to a photo (as above, from my phone), reinterpreted according to memory since photos alone rarely capture the right feeling. The small size also encourages a certain looseness and experimentation, I'm less concerned about whether it is a good picture or not and more interested in closely studying those things I'd normally ignore. For me, this is basically what painting and drawing is all about: learning to look and pay attention.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Academic Nest Egg

A resident peacock inspects work on a big gold egg at the University of Western Australia

This egg, completed recently as one of several sculptural elements occupying a small courtyard at the University of Western Australia, clearly arouses the interest of birds as much as passing students and academics (very appropriate given the name of this blog!). It's a fixed concrete form overlaid with gold mosaic tiles, occupying a previously empty space beneath the large sun-dial mural completed last year; perfectly realised thanks to the meticulous handiwork of Iain Middleton and his team, working to interpret my notes and designs. You can find out a little more about both the sun dial and courtyard here, including more pictures and a short video profiling construction, or visit the University of Western Australia if you happen to be in Perth, and have a strong urge to eat your lunch while sitting on a big gold egg - and really, who doesn't?

Thursday 15 May 2014

landscape-portrait / portrait-landscape

A personal project I've been revisiting on and off over recent years is a series of drawings using a kind of generic portrait form as the basis for landscape imagery. On reflection, a lot of my work as an illustrator has been a mingling of landscapes and portraits; The Red Tree for instance beginning as an idea of representing inner emotional states as vast outer landscapes, also true of Rules of Summer as a way of articulating childhood experience. These 'heads' are quite similar I think, but the other way around, impressing the landscape into a figure: probably not so much an original idea as part of a long tradition (related also to body adornment, tattoos and so on). The distinction between a landscape and a portrait in painting is perhaps relatively a recent one. Our ancient ancestors might not have seen the point in such a separation.

'Head with weather', pastel on paper, 40 x 60cm

'Head with cypress and path', pastel on paper, 40 x 60cm

'Head with goldseam', pastel on paper, 40 x 60cm

'Head with cave and tree', pastel on paper, 40 x 60cm

Monday 12 May 2014

'The New Year', pastel on paper, 2013

I'm trying to get into the habit of posting regular new sketches and other interesting things on this blog, particularly those that are unlikely to be published, not being part of any project - at least not originally. This one is a pastel drawing which I has since proved useful as a poster illustration for a young artists award (for school-age artists), based in my home city of Perth, Western Australia. Many such drawings start out as a jumble of shapes that eventually resolve into something, either successfully or not! The most interesting detail of this one may not be immediately obvious. This and a handful of other works will be exhibited at the Illustration Cupboard in London later this year, a very nice gallery to visit if you haven't already.