New year, new energy

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.

Fabric of Life 1

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 2

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.

 

 

 

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All hung up!

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!

Exhibition pic

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.

 

Inktober 2017, the first five days

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…

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Day 1: Up and to the left

Day 2: Landscape with poppies

Day 3: J is for Judy

Day 4: The source

Day 5: Angelfish

I’ll post the rest here in batches of five. If you can’t wait five days I am posting daily on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/judybackhouse/).

A face emerging

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.

Face No.3: Kindly

Kindly2 small
Face No.3: Kindly by Judy Backhouse © 2017

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.

Small Kindly eyes

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.

Face No.1: Determined

face-1-small.jpg
Face No.1: Determined

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.

making faces

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.