A few years back I completed a course on “Resillience”. As part of it we created value statements for different facets of our lives, including our worklife. Value statements are what we see as important in life. They help set our direction. Anyway, I’d like to share here what my value statements are for my worklife…
What do I want to be known for, as an artist?
As corny as it sounds, I’d like to be known for making a difference in the world. It is my aim to both empower others through the art I create AND through the art I help others to create. Hence my slogan “empowering you through art”.
I genuinely believe in the power of images (both for the viewer and the creator), and I believe in using this for ‘good’.
In my own art, I value focusing on the good things in life and in inspiring others to see/remember this too, so the aim for virtually everything I create is to have some sort of positive or uplifting message (even if its simply beauty). I love having the ability to create images that at the very least, make people smile, and it’s an added bonus when it also in some way inspires them too!
The more teaching I do, the more aware I become of the benefits for others of creating their own art. Learning to draw opens up a whole new world for many people, not just in terms of being able to create pictures themselves, but in how they see the world and the beauty it contains. Because it is a skill where you improve by making many mistakes, pupils learn to become more accepting, and even welcoming of them. This is an important lifeskill, much overlooked by our current schooling system.
Anyway, that’s a wee bit of an insight into why I do what I do. Yes I’m an unapologetic idealist and I do really give a damn about the world I love and live in!
PS What do you think? I’d love to know – so please comment below…
I love it that my work creates smiles. However when people comment ‘cute’ and walk on past, I know they’ve missed the point…
I have a background as a farm worker, agricultural scientist and a veterinarian so I have worked on sheep farms, in sheep shearing sheds and on a research station where I had my own flock of sheep. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to get to know sheep and I learnt pretty quickly that despite outward appearances of sameness and a strong tendency to follow and flock together, they are remarkably – unique.
So even though I describe my work as anthropomorphic ie likening animals to humans, it’s really the other way around. I use sheep (and other groups of herd animals) to represent humans/humanity and to help us remember who we are. We are all the same in so so many ways. Talk deeply to anyone and I can guarantee that beneath that surface veneer they will have remarkably similar challenges to you…just presenting in different ways…
Yet, on another level…within that ‘sameness’ we are also unique or at least capable of being unique. There’s no doubt humans have a tendency to follow each other and this is used to great effect by corporate marketing agencies! Standing out from the rest becomes a choice. A scary one. But one we are all capable of. We can all chose to express our own uniqueness in multiple ways. We can stand up for what we believe in. Make the ‘right’ decision. Go the extra mile for others. Have the courage to follow our dreams.
…so that is an insight into why I am drawn to painting sheep…
PS Comments appreciated – don’t be shy!
I am regularly asked this question… and I have to admit to quite often struggling with the answer! I hesitate and say something vague like ‘a wide range of things’. Oops, foot in mouth. Sometimes it would be so much easier to paint one specific thing but that doesn’t work for me - I get bored easily! In fact that’s why I love being an artist, I have the power to create an endless array of different images and I unapologetically have a diverse range of artwork. So, how do I answer?…
I detest labeling… Why?...because I find it terribly limiting! Yet I still do it… It seems it is human nature (or at least the ‘left brain’ side of human nature) that wants to or even needs to, pigeon hole everything… I attempt to do this by grouping the variety of images I create into series. So the answer to what I paint might be: animals (creation series), landscapes (exploration series), ideas (ideation series), baches (bach series), and geometric landscapes/cityscapes/still lifes/abstracts (geo-graphica series). There is some overlap between these series and some of my artwork could go in more than one… but that would be confusing.
So what is the common thread? Image making is uniquely human (animals do not chose to actively draw/paint etc) and my artwork is all about remembering the good side of our humanity, remembering what we are capable of… and what we are responsible for – appreciating what is good in life and on our beautiful planet. So maybe that’s a better answer… “I paint about humanity, especially the good things that make us human” …and that’s why I have this statement on my website (and business card):
“I believe in the power images have to uplift us. They help us remember the good within us and within our world inspite of how the world might sometimes appear. They help us remember our humanity. I create my artwork to do just that...”
What do you think? Please comment below…
In future blogs I’m going to write about why I’m often drawn to paint sheep and other groups of animals (hint: they are metaphors for humans). …and How I go about it… Oh and if there's anything else you'd like me to write about please also comment...
At times I've felt guilty about being an artist. I believe in meaning and I want to make a difference. I've wondered if I am actually making a difference, and if so, how? As you probably already know, I've tried with my previous careers (animal scientist and veterinarian), only to end up disillusioned. Being a vet - 'saving animals and helping people with their pets' - but the reality was all too often different - euthanizing animals, especially unwanted kittens post-Christmas and poorly socialised young dogs, combined with the pressure to get through a quota of appointments and surgeries made it not particularly meaningful for me. 'Solving world hunger' as an animal scientist was more like using creative writing to abate the constant threat of losing funding and dealing with bureaucracy and corporate politics didn't help.
So back to being an artist... I love my work, I love creating and at some level, despite the odd nagging doubt, I've always known it's meaningful so I came up with a mission to find out and really clarify for myself why art, and by inference artists and art appreciators are important. So my sincere thanks to my family, friends, clients, and whoever else was willing to answer my questions as to why art is important. Here's a somewhat shortened and summarized list of what they had to say:
Art is important because:
* It makes/helps us feel
* It encourages reflection and meditation
* It's something we connect with
* It's an expression of ourselves
* It decorates the walls and our homes are empty without it
* It's a future investment
* It encourages us to appreciate beauty
* It brings 'soul' into our house
* It's a reflection of our traditions, beliefs, values and lifestyle (from a historic perspective cultures were studied by the art that was produced)
* It reflects our humanity back to us
*We just love it and couldn't to it ourselves!
So what I've learned from this exercise is: art is important because it is a barrier-free and deep (often unconscious and deeply spiritual) form of communication. It crosses time, age, class, race, sex and language barriers. It is uniquely human - created from the imagination of the artist to be appreciated by those that connect with it's messages and who then use it as an expression of themselves. Art is NEVER without meaning, and always leaves an impression whether we (or the artist) fully understand or even know the artists original intention!...
Namaste and Best Wishes
I am regularly asked this question. Unfortunately the answer is "How long is a piece of string?"...
Let's firstly consider when a painting actually begins...
I create my work essentially from nothing (ie a blank canvas) and an idea from within my head (in my recent video I make reference to this using the quote of Teresita Fernandez - "being an artist means always starting from nothing"). In the case of landscapes in particular, that idea may be aided by one or more photographs and/or drawings. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I take a heap of photographs when I'm out walking/tramping or kayaking. Sometimes the photograph may have been taken weeks, months or even years before I even begin a painting. Or the idea may have been written in one of my many 'ideas' books long before I decide to develop it into concept drawings and eventually a painting.
Now lets consider when a painting finishes...
This is one I think all artists struggle with! Knowing when one is 100% happy with the work created. Sometimes I can feel completely happy with a painting, leave it for a while and then look at it again and see something I can improve on. Sometimes I do this on purpose, especially if I am using a new set of colours, techniques etc. I guess this arises because there is a certain amount of closeness between myself and my work and it can take putting it aside (or even sending it to an exhibition!) and doing some other paintings, before I might see ways of improving it that I hadn't noticed before...
Such was the case with 'Kepler Tops' below (the one on the right is the final, final one!)
So in conclusion: there's no real answer to the question "how longs does it take to finish a painting?" because it depends on many factors, and to be honest (and in true artist fashion) I don't keep a specific record of when I start and when I finally complete something!!!!
I watched the news a while back and saw, the tremendous show of solidarity in Paris when around two million people took to the streets... and then I read Marianne Williamson's blog "How Terror Loses and Humanity Wins". Here is an excerpt from it:
"A rally of 2 million people on the streets of Paris is a beautiful show of solidarity, ultimately even more so if it becomes a template for how we live our lives each day. We need to join as brothers and sisters now, not just as a reaction to tragedies, but as a way of preventing tragedies. Every decent man, woman and child at that rally felt like they belonged to something, felt they were part of something, felt they were standing for something meaningful that day... and that is the answer."
Coincidentally I'd not long completed a painting that illustrates this, so it felt appropriate to share it here. It is a work I'm very proud of and which I feel is my best 'Ideation' painting yet. It was in a national exhibition in Wanaka, 'The Aspiring Art Award' where although it was a finalist, it did not receive any awards (much to my sensitive ego's disappointment!). Here's the work, "Remember Our Humanity".
...and the story behind it: It all began because I wanted to illustrate the idea of 'connection' by jigsawing people together. Once I began the concept (on paper), the idea took on a life of its own. Eventually, I produced a unit tessellation of an interconnected man and woman which I repeated and formed into a sphere. This became the initial painting (which took many weeks!). I could see all sorts of possible interpretations related not only to our connection with each other but to all other life-forms and our responsibility as caretakers of the world. I titled it "Remember Our Humanity", after exploring and linking my work to my answer to "How long will we remain masters of our creations?", a question posed in a design thinking paper I was taking (another whole story!). I added in the white t-shirted figure with the watch to bring in the human concept of linear time (the watch) and -the white shirt - in reference to our responsibility not only to the earth and its nonhuman inhabitants, but to providing peaceful solutions to human conflict (ie not war), which will be essential to ensuring the survival of our species.
I hope that made sense!!!! I would love your feedback as to what this image means to you. You can do so in the comments below, or on my facebook page (click on the facebook icon at the top of the page to go there).
May life bring you much love, joy and happiness. May the inevitable challenges you face be endurable and may you realise the gift that you all are to humanity.
Sending you all my love and best wishes.
PS This painting is now available as an A4 pigment ink print...click here to see it.