When I arrived in Portugal in March 2019 I brought with me a small supply of blank postcards. I had the idea that I would paint or draw what I noticed each week and send them home to my mum as a more interesting variant on the usual tourist postcards.
It was a fun project, not least because it meant that I spent my days looking for something that caught my interest and I spent a bit of each Sunday making the pictures. So here they are, with what inspired me.
My first postcard was drawn on the plane, in the air as I left home. Economy class tray-tables are not ideal supports for drawing, but I don’t sleep on flights and I had a lot of time to occupy.
My second postcard was the view from my new apartment in Guimarães. I was enchanted by the ornate glass domes that provide light in dark stairwells and the different textures of the roofs.
My third postcard came as a result of a visit to the local art museum which houses a great collection of African masks. I left Africa to see African art? I rather liked this particular one, because it wasn’t scary. He looked so happy.
Here’s a happy chap
The next week I took a trip up the nearby Penha “mountain” in the teleférico. (I grew up hiking in the Drakensburg. I have standards for what can be called a mountain.) At the top I found giant boulders scattered about. Which inspired the fourth postcard below.
Portugal is famous for the beautiful tiles that decorate the buildings here. So much more interesting than bland, flat paint. I spent hours in the tiny streets of Guimarães, Porto and Aveiro admiring the designs. So postcard five was a little homage.
Finally (when my six postcards were coming to an end) I took a walk in the city park early one morning to find the small pond filled with frogs all croaking together.
I duly sent all six postcards off to my mum. So far, only one got to her. Whether this is a result of the postal service in Portugal or (more likely) in South Africa, we’ll never know. But I like to think that they will make their way there eventually or make someone smile wherever they end up.
I have started this year with reorganising my studio. It’s a major revamp – with new shelves and new pinning boards along one wall. I’m also taking the opportunity to sort and clear out all my stacks of old pictures, doodles, sketched ideas and junk.
As a result the studio is a bit messy right now. Any art I make is squeezed between piles of stuff waiting to be moved or sorted. So it’s mostly small stuff. This 25cm x 25cm canvas was just able to fit in the space I cleared last week.
I’ve been thinking about energy a lot, what with trying to recover from an exhausting 2017 and paying close attention to what energises me and what depletes me.
Somehow energy is represented in my brain as these round bubbles with different textures. Some are spiky and bright, others swirling and sparkly. This “fabric of life” painting shows some of these energy representations, against a background of woven fabric.
Fabric of Life is painted in acrylics on a gallery wrapped canvas. The painting goes around the sides of the canvas as shown above. It is finished with gloss acrylic varnish.
Well I managed to complete 31 days of drawings. It was actually rather fun. Some evenings I only got to my studio after 8pm, and feeling rather uninspired, but the muse was there, every day. It’s a good discipline, but if I did it again, I’d make it a first-thing-in-the-morning priority, like meditating before breakfast.
After all those portraits, I needed something a bit more random, so these pictures were inspired by a range of things; happy feelings, the uncertainly I’ve been living through with my business, and experiences of meditating.
Day 21: Playing with bubbles
Day 22: Living with uncertainty
Day 23: Breathe freely
Day 24: Purpose
Day 25: Field of flowers
The Inktober exhibition at Assemblage opens on Thursday the 9th November at 6pm at 7th Floor Nedbank Corner Building, 96 Jorrisen Street, Braamfontein. Do come and see all the results of Inktober 2017.
This face was inspired by a picture in Germaine Greer’s wonderful book, The Boy. The Boy is well worth a read, especially for mothers of sons in a world where there is so much focus on daughters. The beautiful illustrations (paintings and photographs) are a wonderful source of inspiration.
I liked the picture for its combination of angelic beauty with a direct challenge. I call the painting Sullen because it is a look I have seen on so many young men at that point where they stake a claim for independence. It seems to say “I am not who you want me to be; I will be my own person.” The refusal to participate comes across as sullen.
This picture combines reds and blues to create the pinky-purple tones with a little yellow and sienna for warmth.
It is painted in acrylic on a gallery wrapped canvas and is finished in a matt acrylic varnish. At 40cm x 40cm it is a little smaller than others in this series. It is ready to hang.
There is something so self-possessed and quiet about this face, it’s almost serene. But there is that glint in the eye and the flare of the nostril reveals a steely determination. He may seem passive, but he is going to get his way, quietly and patiently waiting for the opportunity. This underlying energy is revealed in the background.
This painting is based on a photograph, in a very old copy of Du, of a carved statue. My academic training makes me want to cite the source, but I am resisting. I love that art can be layers of invention and re-invention.
Determined is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas and is finished with a gloss acrylic varnish. It is not framed.
I’ve been silent for a while on this blog because I have been launching Better, a physical space for creative makers in Johannesburg. If you are in Johannesburg, come along and visit. If you are a creative sort, looking for a place to create from and a community, join us.
The new year has been busy. I am in the process of opening Better, a physical place for creative makers to hang out, and that has kept me from this blog. But there is lots to share.
Those of you who talk with me about my art know that I’ve been saying for a while that I want to paint portraits. I think that portraits are about the highest art form there is. To try and animate a human face has to be the ultimate creative challenge.
Last year I played with painting mandalas because I wanted something easy to practice with, but I’ve decided that if I really want to paint portraits, I need to practice on those.
So I have been sketching faces.
It’s interesting how compelling faces can be. I find myself staring at people in the street and tracing the lines of their faces in my mind. When I find an interesting face, I want to draw it over and over.
I’ve been sketching with watercolour too, as this forces me to work more intuitively and to focus less on accuracy.
So far, I’ve discovered that faces are fun to draw, once you get over the terror of how difficult it is. Sketching faces is far more about line and shadows than it is about colour, which is a bit of a new space for me to play in.
I’ve started work on some paintings of faces too and will share those in my next post.