Monday 27 February 2023

Soap opera series

This is not a series so much as a set of four and I hesitate to write about it. I decided to do so simply because I hadn’t written about my practice for a number of days and had also met a point of stasis due to the fact that this week I have several evening commitments either pencilled in or otherwise. The ‘Soap opera’ series of paintings represents a departure in a new direction because until recently I’d been making standalone works, though the ‘NRL’ series can easily be framed in three sections each of six panels (and I did a round 18 panels for this reason).

The reason for starting the ‘Soap opera’ series was because of faults in the previous ‘Crime drama’ series, two of the panels of which are substandard. In that series two of the panels have women looking down but this pose is inexactly rendered and the women who are both the same woman look like different individuals. In fact I am so dissatisfied with them that I will probably go back and redo them instead of ploughing on, I hate to leave a job badly finished.

I like to be tidy.

I had planned to do a ‘Disaster’ series based on a bridge collapse in 2007 for which I have photos in my archives. This will have to wait even though I have already assembled the text necessary to complete it. You can see in the images above that I’ve included TWO bits of text in each panel, one in collage and one in Posca. Sitting in front of the TV and noting down promising advertising slogans allows me to formulate the artwork in my leisure time when I can be productive due to planning.

The ’Soap opera’ series uses photos of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ a favourite show of mine that I routinely tune into in the late afternoon weekdays. I matched the faces with advertising slogans, see if you can pick the faces and the companies that paid for the ads. As I’ve said elsewhere I often find the ads more entertaining than the programs and certainly the quality of the drama or the perceptiveness of the psychological insights is just as sophisticated in either case (this isn’t saying much for TV shows) allowing me to mentally sneer while exposing myself to the illumination of the television screen on its entertainment cabinet. Perhaps my time would be better spent reading a book but I have had trouble concentrating on literature or history since Putin began his ghastly and illegal adventure on his western border.

And see if you can spell out the sentence made on the panels.

This week I have several evening events to go to and will probably get time for painting though knowing me I’ll just refuse to go along to an opening for a show of paintings and stay home making my own instead. Last week I’d planned to go out to a poetry reading one night but had a need to paint so stayed home instead of catching the train to North Sydney.

I need time, lots of free time.

Since the 22nd I’ve been restocking the garden, mostly just finding things to buy on Facebook Marketplace, making an appointment, and jumping in the car to drive. I went north (Wahroonga, Warriewood) and south (Sylvania, Monterey) for pots and plants and bought soil from two different places including my local IGA which stocks potting mix out the front near the checkouts. I garden in bursts of activity in the same way I paint, I’ll do four watercolours in a day, cut out the collage and stick it on once the paper’s dried, then add the Posca marks before going to bed. Like that old government health campaign: “slip, slap, slop.”

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Crime drama series

The photos used for making these paintings date from 2007.

I never throw anything away that might be useful, and I had no clue back than that one day I’d be making paintings from them. Well, what I said is not quite true as I sometimes throw away opportunities, like when at the end of my BA I got a job instead of making art.


I showed the following paintings to some people, notably on Facebook, and the reaction was positive so something might eventuate. One person I know said to scrap the collage but I’m not taking anyone’s advice on matters relating to art look where it got me. Haha!

Because I watch a lot of crime dramas I’ve been thinking about why we depend on them for so much of our entertainment, it must have something to do with the fact that crime is punished based on law and law is something we make, so watching crime dramas is like a form of applied civics, where we get to contemplate a human-made cognitive artefact in peace. 

Life is not always fair and the justice system is clearly not working – people continue despite the apparent warnings given by sentences, to commit crime – so it’s worthwhile sitting back to wonder at the rules. Most crime dramas are suspended on the notion that murder is illegal, which is should be, but there are rules that surround it that make us form opinions about justice and what it means.

Crime dramas also have an institutional bias in the form of deference to authority. Within the hierarchical structure of the police there are some people who are further up the blasted tree than others. But the police also throw their weight around and in crime dramas, because they’re mostly based on the notion of killing another human being – depriving them of happiness, time with family, the ability to reproduce – this use of threat is implicitly justified whereas in real life the police are often involved in imposing unjust laws so we are less likely to agree with their conduct if we knew about it.

The police are not always apt to live up to the notions proposed by crime dramas. They are not always fair. Even if they are not sent by the Devil they can be not only illegal in their conduct but immoral too, depending on who you are.

So when I watch ‘Kavanaugh QC’ or ‘Midsomer Murders’ I am participating in a kind of ritual like a demotic sacrament, it offers me a ticket to Eternity on the Celestial Express at least for an hour or two, I can sit back and watch my life play out or I can imagine other lives through the lens of justice. Secondary themes add interest in case you get sick of just another bloody murder.

I watched a fun retrospective of ‘Midsomer Murders’ the other day looking back at 25 years of the program and the word used in the subtitle was “mayhem” but I rather think that crime dramas of any sort – even those with methods of murder as bizarre as those used in MM – give structure and meaning to our lives, most of which are tied to institutions of some kind and most of which will involve some sort of notionally illegal activity whether that is the use of illicit substances or casual speeding. We are none of us saints but we are all on the bus.

Next stop: the Pearly Gates.

Sunday 19 February 2023

More Japanese sayings

This morning I got up at my usual hour and at a stroke finished a work I’d been too tired to complete the night before, though most of the work had been done before I went to bed.

These two paintings are based, like to other works (at the framers’), on Japanese sayings Yukiko my former wife kindly gave me. “Tana kara botamochi” means ‘A lucky break’ and “Mago ni mo ishou” means ‘Clothes make the man’ which isn’t easily translatable directly into English but translates directly as “Even the horse-boy has clothes”.

I got these “kotowaza” or “sayings” from Yukiko on 22 December but hadn’t done works based on them until now for various reasons mainly because I was working on other things.

When I completed the first two works in Japanese (the ones now at the framers’) I made them on four sheets of A5 paper but as you can see the new ones are on only a single sheet.

This innovation is the direct result of my work over the past month as I took a break from painting over the New Year only getting back to it in January in fact toward the end of the month. My practice got a boost when at the beginning of February I sold a painting on the street to an acquaintance. Since 3 Feb I’ve been painting steadily limiting myself to single sheets.

As with writing sonnets the limitation of single A5 sheets frees me up to find savings elsewhere. By keeping the works small in size I can also share them more easily because you can quickly chuck a few in your bag when you go out and show people what you’ve done no matter where you are.

'A lucky break', 2023.

'Clothes make the man', 2023.

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Making the 'Shipwreck' series

I stopped making watercolours in December as the silly season started, I had my friends Ming and husband Omer staying over and it was harder to find time and space to do the work, but on 26 Jan I had nothing to do and the TV was being monopolised so I picked up my brush again. I made four watercolours and added collage in a ‘Cars’ series. 

New paintings (the ‘Apparel’ series and others) were made and I even sold one (see relevant blogpost) with the most recent series being the ‘Shipwreck’ series (see photos below). To make these watercolours I went back to my records looking for photos from the TV showing ships in distress including three involving the Pasha Bulker, a cargo ship that went aground in Newcastle in 2007.

It’s hard to put my finger on why I wanted to paint ships after the ‘Cars, ads, pop music (CAPitalism)’ series just finished but I was looking for a subject that would allow me to explore the figurative. In fact on 13 Feb I spoke with a friend overseas via Fb Messenger video call and we talked specifically about the figurative mode. She sent me a link to a show in Britain featuring works with a strong figurative cast and I remembered how Ming had voiced a preference for 19th-century Orientalist paintings.

We’d gone to Istanbul together 4 years previously and in the Dolmabahce Palace had experienced (unfortunately photos not allowed) dozens of amazing works painted mainly by foreigners living in Turkey. It has always struck me how useful such paintings are as they cement outside of time the realities of life on the ground, something that, especially at a time when photography was difficult or non-existent, is important.

When Ming and I spoked about this I remembered aloud how the records of Western explorers had become, for Aboriginal people living in Australia today, important sources containing clues to how life was lived in the past. Since so much damage has been done to Aboriginal culture this is critical.

Anyway I have more figurative works lined up and will post about them when the time comes for me to sit back and take stock again.

Sunday 12 February 2023

Making the CAPitalism series

Following the NRL series’ completion I spanned a gap and started to use photos of the back-ends of cars I’d started making on 19 January when outside a friend’s yoga studio I snapped a photo of a Ford Ranger XLT. On 6 Feb I took a photo of the back-end of a Range Rover at the same spot. I used these two photos to make watercolours then stuck advertising slogans on them using collage. See below for the first two in the series.

The same friend who gets me to drive her to yoga said that the colours used in these didn’t reflect the subject of the ads, so I deliberately took photos of more colourful cars for the next ones. See below a Toyota Corolla, a Yaris, a Ford Mustang and a Toyota RAV4.

Making these car rear-ends with their flower-like light arrays, the hard plastic coloured in order to provide a signal to drivers behind, enabled me to explore the figurative in another way. While the NRL series had bordered on cartoon, the CAP series is resplendently real. I showed them to another friend and she was appreciative so to this point in time I’d gotten mainly positive feedback, for which I was grateful. 

This second friend is the same one who introduced me to Posca pens, which are used to put the drawings of pop music record albums on the paintings. Because I did the Posca marks in different colours I had to choose something that would show, and I’m not sure that I’m always successful in this.

I love bright colours it’s probably due to the Portuguese influence in my genetic makeup, so making the red and blue CAP paintings was a lot of fun. It’s always a trick to control the watercolours, and I was glad I’d bought different sets as well as individual tubes so that, say, for red I can choose slightly different hues to make up the design. Even the cheap Officeworks watercolours still get a show-in because those sets are the ones that contain the bright pink I sometimes use for highlights.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

NRL series of watercolours completed

In less then a week I finished a series of watercolours based on NRL teams, in fact I started on Friday and completed the last one on Tuesday. Because of a new team joining the league there are 17 teams now featured. 

Some of these were done in one go, like the Cronulla Sharks’ painting, and others, like the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles painting, took two goes to get right. When I initially did this latter one it looked more like a parrot than a bird of prey. Discarded efforts go in the recycling bin.

For your enjoyment I’m including a few of the paintings below. 

Stay tuned also for the new series which is based on cars.

Friday 3 February 2023

First sale of a picture I made

Starting last week I’ve been making different series of watercolours this time adding collage with advertising slogans on top of colour fiends. I do washes with different brands of watercolours then let the sheets dry before sticking cutout letters and shapes onto the paper. In fact I started on this jag on 26 Jan because a houseguest was watching YouTube in Chinese without subtitles available, it was the excuse I needed to make something instead of consuming something else, I made sets of four pictures starting with the theme of cars, graduating to apparel (clothes, glasses) and finally doing some about real estate.

Though it’s not immediately apparent what these pictures are “about”.

Yesterday I was talking with Simon who I started the Eastern Suburbs Art Group with (back in July), we were travelling on the train to Kings Cross on the way to the galleries in Rushcutters Bay. We talked about consumer culture and he focused on a type of combat sport that is very popular in some sectors, probably he knows I don’t watch sport so was ribbing me. He said there is a UFC fight on soon in Perth between two major figures and we laughed a lot, I guess he wanted to discuss spectacle and the ways we look for entertainment.

We met up with Sophie and Anthony at Arthouse Gallery, two years before I’d bought paintings by James Ettelson at the same location. This time he was showing spectacular large colourful works and smaller limited run prints. I told my friends about what had happened two years earlier, I was apparently in “on the ground floor” whatever that means, I only buy things I like and I don’t sell them for profit if the value escalates.

In a little while we walked down toward the railway viaduct to go to another gallery where I got tired and sat down to wait on a park bench made of stone. Some people brought dogs along to poop while I was waiting and then Sophie came out with two men in tow and introduced us, I said hello and the six of us walked to Victoria Street in Darlinghurst where Daniel and Gavin had left their bags in their office. Anthony and I sat down on a street bench while Simon stood on the pavement and the three of us talked, then the other three came out of a gallery and I showed Sophie paintings of mine I had brought in my knapsack. 

A miracle happened when Daniel whipped a $50 note out of his pocket and said he wanted an orange one, I think “orange” had cropped up in one discussion or another I wasn’t following closely, so I took the pen he had with him and using a restaurant table I signed the back of the paper. This is the purchase, ‘Apparel VI’.

When I got home I labelled the rest of the series and told Daniel via SMS the title of the work he’d bought. It was a memorable night as you can imagine as I lost count of the number of people I told about the evening’s events. I shall write more at the end of the year in my annual memorial.