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.
Here are my 31 Inktober pics all hung up for the exhibition. I spent a rather hot hour yesterday doing this, in the company of other wonderful artists quietly working on their walls. A sense of calm chaos. The exhibition is on the 7th floor of a rather empty office block. Lots of walls and views!
I got a chance to look around at some of the other work on display. There is some really good stuff. Only about half of it was up when I was there, so I am looking forward to seeing lots more tonight. That said, mine are the most colourful. Clearly not too many people have worked out that ink comes in many colours.
The exhibition opens tonight (Thursday, 9th November) at 6pm at 96 Jorrissen Street in Braamfontein. There is some parking in the building, but the Joburg Theatre’s parking is just a block away too. Do come along and say hi. If you can’t make tonight the exhibition will be up until Sunday, see details on my previous post.
On impulse, I signed up for the Inktober challenge. It’s a real challenge because I have never used ink before. I just assumed that ink was always black. Then I went out and found some great colours at my local stationers.
It’s been interesting, learning what ink can and can’t do. I’m loving the unpredictability of it all. I’ve also found it goes well with my favourite silver pen.
So here are my first five contributions to Inktober…
I find the process of painting these faces to be like sculpture. The face emerges as I work on one part of the surface, applying colour to create contours or features.
So I thought you might like to see the process. Here are three pictures of the face emerging from the canvas (left ot right). They were taken about a week apart.
At this stage I am waiting to see if the picture on the right is “finished”. Usually I wait a week or two , just living with him in my studio. Sometimes I notice things that need more work, sometimes I don’t.
When I’m happy that there is no more to do, I’ll varnish the picture and name him.
This painting is based on photographs of Michael Stonebraker published in the Communications of the ACM (June 2015) at the time when he was awarded the ACM Turing Award for his contributions to Computer Science.
I think he has an interesting face. Ageing, not symmetrical, but with the kind of confidence that comes from doing worthwhile work. I have taken liberties with the specifics of shape and proportion, exaggerating the diamond shape of the face. The kindly eyes become the focus.
The colours include bright crimson, phthalo greens, both deep and light, and a rich magenta that becomes lilac when mixed with white. There is a fair amount of sienna in there too, also lightened with white. I love the way layers of colour sculpt the contours of the face creating the impression of lines, where there are none.
Face No.3: Kindly is painted in acrylic paint on a 50cm x 50cm stretched canvas. It is finished in gloss acrylic varnish.
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.