Work in progress

I’ve been fluffing around again, as is my Ipswich Art Awards tradition.  ONE YEAR.  JUST ONCE!

I mean, I work well under pressure, but how well could I work without pressure.  How about I just have a range of fabulous things to casually choose from one year?  How about I stroll around my house casually sipping a G&T and waffle to myself about the benefits of various pieces?  That, to me, is a sign of success.  Not the ridiculous, poorly organised, procrastinating and then late night flapping around bullshit that I do.


So.  Last night we did some late night flapping around.

This is the ink piece I’m working on.  Because I haven’t done one of these in such a way before, which is exactly the way you win competitions AMIRITE (no, I am not right, I am a twit.  Why why why why why.  You win things when you’ve mastered a particular skill.  Rightly.)

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at art over the past year.  I have a particular love of Asian art.  The ordered chaos of it all, and the naturalism.  I just love it.  I’m a very chaotic artist in regards to my colour choices and the way I throw things around.  I also use mediums like soft pastels that can be erased when I mess things up.  I’m intrigued by ink because I want to have the guts to work without training wheels.  Plus I love the visible representation of where water was, even though obviously it can’t be physically represented on the page.  Water speaks to my love of chaos too.

Around here, the artists who use watercolours and inks tend to be very controlled and deliberate.  Absolutely beautiful, of course.  Very very talented.  They’ve put far more work into perfecting their artform than I have, that’s for sure.  But you know what I love watching in art?  When an artist clearly know what they’re doing technically and then they just let loose and create something entirely new.  Rodin and artists of his time period knew how to do it, kids were taken off the street by the government and taught to be artists with a view of them becoming masons when they grew up.  Matisse was another.  Japanese calligraphers and basket weavers are absolute masters at this.  My heart.

So I decided I’d like to have a inexperienced artist’s crack at it.

Here’s the first few layers.  I wanted to have bleeding ink to represent the smoke and light on a stage.  I painted where the figure is going to go with liquid latex, which I’d removed by the time I took this photo.  To be honest, I think it was a bit on the turn.  Didn’t give the coverage I wanted and was a bear to remove.


Then I coloured in the shadows with a black intense pencil, because I am not ready yet to fly completely without a safety net.  I also think the lines from the pencil could be interesting underneath the brushwork that is going to follow.


I went lightly because I wasn’t sure how dark it was going to be before I added water.

The cat really would quite have liked me to go to bed.


I do love her.

And this is as far as I got last night:


I like it.  I will probably add more shadow before I start doing the translucent white layers.  I’m leaving the face until last, once I’m really sure of what I’m doing.


Mostly I come back to tell you that I’ve been gone

My dears.  What Mountain Goats nonsense that is.

Hi.  I’ve been away.  Out of my tiny mind with stress and worry.  And nobody died (which was likely for a bit there) and now I’m back to masquerade as an actual artist that tries not to be an insult to anyone who actually does art properly in a fashion that doesn’t involve a lot of flailing around.  For Reasons.  Ahem.

What to say… I did end up finishing the Rothko rip off bs down below.  It looks like this:

this thing

Which I did in three days between seeing my clients in the clinic and now I can’t look at it without being stressed.  Spent the second half of last year wondering what on earth I was going to do with the damn thing only to find that my family had been fighting over who gets it.  For now it’s at my grandmother’s and is officially owned by my parents because I don’t go over often enough to have to look at it all the time.

What else…

I went and looked at a hell of a lot of art.  I read a hell of a lot about art

alternate title

Which kind of furthered my idea that a lot of straight white male artists that we’re taught to revere could really have done with a damn good kick in the pants.  I read a lot of other drier, factual, technical things too, I promise.

I made my sister and future brother-in-law a blob for Christmas


They were understandably thrilled.

I decided to snap myself out of my artless, heartless funk by signing myself up to do exhibitions again.

So I’m participating in Arttime Ipswich’s Purple Exhibition, coming up next month.  Kate gives you a canvas and a tube of purple paint and away you go.  Pretty rad.  I thought I’d have a go at Titian, even to go so far as to make my own paint.  Because just painting when you don’t paint isn’t hard enough or something.  So I made tempera out of egg yolk and used soft pastels as my pigment.  Then I found out that I learnt several filthy habits as a soft pastel artist, the main one being that I mix my colours on the canvas while my palette sits pristine next to me.

not titian at all

She’s alright, for turning out ridiculously modernist.  But hey, they had years to work on these things and I had weeks.  Whatever.

I signed myself up to do the Ipswich Art Awards again too, also due within the same time frame.  Mostly I’m still faffing around again.  I have my ideas and my concept pieces are quite highly evolved this time.  I am not feeling it today so I’ve occupied myself with busywork in the background, sloshing around liquid latex again and printing reference material.  Oh, and writing here.  This is totally a valuable use of my time, right?

My problem with one of them is that I thought I’d just get the sky done and then something amazing fell out and now the rest of my plans have to do a significant amount of evolving in order to keep up.


I mean.

Who does that to themselves.  Anything after that is going to be a bit of a come down, isn’t it.  Am working on the other thing until I get over giving myself the willies.

I’ve also signed myself up to do the Celebration of the Female Form exhibition, which is in November this year.  An exhibition I adore.  The reason why I’m writing this now.  “Have you got a website or link?” she asked.  Good gravy.  Well.  There’s this thing.  Good luck.


So I finished him.  Nine goes I had at his face.  NINE.  We’ll talk about that another day when it’s a bit further away.

He’s fine.  I’d probably keep doing his face over and over until I got to this fictitious point where it is perfect.  It won’t ever be perfect and I’ve got other shit I need to do.


“The Boxer, 1953” by Rachel Brennan, done as a collage in ballpoint pen, ink wash and soft pastels.  Which is not even close to what its going to say on its didactic.  Whoops.

As I said, he still doesn’t look right to me.  A bit part of my problem is that he doesn’t look like Clive Owen, which is what my heart and imagination want.  But that’s a problem that he has in common with just about every other man on the planet so if I’ve gotten used to the rest I can get used to this one.
I’ve gotten started on my next thing.  Because I have five days until I have to hand these suckers over and I work full time at my own small business and I apparently don’t like sleeping and I’ve got my eye on that Hannibal auction that’s going on.  (The hats!  And a murderplaid is out of my budget but you know one of those white business shirts of Hannibal’s would be beautiful quality.  Anyway.)

I’m going to be turning this


into a landscape that looks realistic.  I can’t find the original photo right now, but that’s fine.  I have the printed copy.  You lot can wait.

Seeing I don’t have much time and I’ve stupidly called the thing Grace I’ve been meditating on a piece of music that I’ll have hopefully guiding my hands while making that Rothko knock off bullshit above realistically  look like the Australian bush.  I haven’t done a landscape in ages.  All of my pieces have had people looking directly out at you, and it’s a bit of a mental gear shift that I’m hoping music will help me through.

Fly, by Einaudi, who always soothes the raging beast


Hopefully I’ll be able to encapsulate what I love about art, which is small representation of what I love about being a human being at the end of a very long line of other human beings who have sung and danced and belched and farted and created and fought and overcome and innovated all throughout the past eighty thousand years on this tiny, unlikely blue marble hurtling through space.

It’s a lot to say on an A1 piece of Mi Tients paper, but I’ll have a crack.







(In seriousness – Will add more details, draw his face and add some texture to the background.  There were pipes and taps behind him but I dunno…  I think it might over-complicate things.  Sometimes the purity of a naked dude is enough.)

Oh, he’s drawn in ballpoint pen.

Leaning in to your mistakes

Remember this beautiful thing?


Guess what I did.



But.  I still love the background.  That thing is beautiful and I haven’t finished with it yet.

So.  What to do?  Collage?

Could work.

Not one bit of paper I own is big enough to fit all of him on at once.

The shops are shut because it’s Easter Monday.

I do not want to get through today without measurable progress.



So you turn him into a sewing pattern


Get a paper-obsessed friend to help.  (You don’t actually have an option on this one.  Just go with it.)


Make rude feminist cracks to yourself, muse upon this being the lesson you learn when you think something is going to be boring, put a new cartridge into your grandfather’s pen and hope for the frigging best.

Here goes.

Valiant attempts and stalwart companions



I’m enjoying how much depth I can get by layering translucent washes of ink.


Second layer


Third layer


Fifth layer

I’ll probably do one more and then get started on adding texture with soft pastel or charcoal – maybe taking it out onto some concrete and doing some rubbing, I dunno.  Then I need to tear off that artist’s safe sex condom that successfully stopped fluids from getting where I don’t want them to go.  (The latex masking fluid.  Don’t panic.  I like art a lot, but I can control myself.)   By tomorrow afternoon I should have this bad boy back on the easel where I can get on with the actual drawing part of this Drawing entry.

And once again, my stalwart fluffy companion hung out with me until I finished at 1am, being a very damn good little art cat


Hey, Andy Warhol and Ah Wei Wei totally dig art cats.

She would really appreciate it if I went to bed now, please.

Insert Optimism Here

Well, I’ve gotten started on the next thing.


As a thing in itself, I love how quickly the lines came together and how they flowed.  It’s supposed to go in the Best Drawing category though, and I think it’s going to be a bit boring for that.  I want to slosh ink around and have him scratched out of white lines emerging from darkness.  I don’t know how anally retentive they are about the purity of mediums.  I’ve been refused entry in this competition before because someone put up the wrong drop-off time on facebook and I and three other people missed out by twenty minutes.  What are they going to do about a drawing with ink painted on it?  Stick it out the back near the bathrooms?  Refuse entry again?  Usually there’s a mixed media category, but not this time.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away from it for a bit and come back to it later.  Quite good at cat pats though.  So there’s that.