Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Trip down memory lane.

The process of moving involves so much more that clearing cupboards and sorting cups and saucers. It is a time for reflection. Frequently one is brought face to face with people and events from the past. Another box  brings all manner of memories to the surface.
You discover that you have a box belonging to your Mother filled with her treasures – the lace handkerchief from her wedding day, a birthday card you had made, a photograph of yourself in a mermaid costume. The costume was a work of art – made of sea-green satin with a carefully stitched tail and cellophane scales. Photographs of our home when I was a child were also tucked away in a small album. You realise that these were kept with love.

You come across a photograph of a bride bending to greet a little boy – it’s your mother and perhaps an older cousin – it’s an evocative image and you realise with surprise that you had forgotten how beautiful she was.

It’s impossible to simply throw these away, but it can’t all go with me. Modern technology comes to the rescue, allowing me to scan the images and take them with me in digital format. Now I think of ways the images could find their way into future drawings.
Then, in the last packet of documents and photographs, I find a leather document case belonging to my father. Inside are letters of reference written to my paternal grandfather from companies for whom he had worked – in the most beautiful copperplate handwriting – and one of the few photographs of him, striding down the road in Bournemouth – a stern figure, much as I remember him.

A few days ago, a friend who lives out of town phoned me to say she had found letter from me. She had been trying to clear out a drawer. It was jammed and when the drawer eventually opened there was the letter.

It was something we rarely see  today, a proper letter - on paper - written with a fountain pen, thanking her for her support and friendship after I had spent some time on her farm. I hadn’t dated the letter but I knew exactly when it had been written as I had some entries in an old art journal describing the time on the farm. The journal had drawings that echo current ideas, similar themes and ideas, and the ongoing struggle to be creative.  

Then I found something quite different. A slip of paper was amongst the usual debris that gathers in a bedside table drawer. It was a diary page from 2003; scrawled on it was the title and author of a book that I’d been trying to remember for years. It’s the most amazing story of Christina Dodwell’s journey across China, A Traveller in China .
Now I will be able to read the book again, knowing what to look for. You realize that the important things find you when you stop looking.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Countdown begins...

The next few weeks will be very busy indeed. I will be packing up my life and house here in South Africa in preparation for the move to Australia at the beginning of December. This move has been in the planning stages since May 2008 and eventually last week I decided to be pro-active and set a date to move.

Deciding to go now in spite of not having sold my house is a tremendous release . I am no longer going to be baby-sitting bricks and mortar. I am now no longer going to sit around waiting but instead moving ahead with my plan.

Leaving the country of one's birth is life-changing. Leaving part of one's family behind is indescribably difficult. Leaving the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar, leaving for a place where one has no history is possibly the most difficult thing I have had to do. It is perhaps even harder for those that are left behind.

However, this is also one of the most exciting times of my life. The knowledge that I am starting a different kind of life, going to do the work I love gives me an optimism that life will be good.

Now if I just could find a "packing-up house fairy" then I could give her a list of things to do ( it would be a very long list) and I could go somewhere quiet to do a drawing or two.

This Crinum Lily appeared in my garden over the weekend - the first bloom ever,
Do you think it is a "Gooodbye" present?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Drawing - a thin black line

Why do we assume that we need a special talent for drawing? Often people profess to have no talent for drawing, saying – “I can’t even draw a straight line”.
When shown that they can draw – they declare that they must have a hidden talent.

We don’t make that assumption about other talents like reading. What if only those with a special talent could learn to read? The teachers would supply reading materials; not guide or instruct the class for fear of hampering creativity in reading. Then the teacher would sit back and wait to see what would happen.
The kid says, “How do I read this?” The teacher replies: “Just be free, use your imagination - reading should be fun.” Some of the class would be able to read but the rest would say: “I can’t read – I have no talent”.

We apply this strange reasoning to teaching art. We are too afraid to instruct for fear of hampering or diminishing the child’s creative spirit.
Drawing is in reality a way of learning how to see. We can learn to hone our powers of observation with the result that almost anyone can learn to draw.

In a previous post, when I was considering all the different types of media I have used over the years, I left out the two simple tools for any artist that have always been used – a lead pencil and an ink pen. I love buying new pens and pencils – I am happiest in an art supply store or even a basic stationery store. I have become addicted to finding new pens that will help me draw better.

Pier at Blankenberg
Whenever I traveled anywhere, first into the suitcase would be a sketchbook, pencils, pens and a small watercolour box and a brush or two (although I never seemed to get around to adding much colour.) 
Departing ferry, Breskens

These sketchbooks became a visual diary, capturing people and places.
Paging through them takes me back to the experience of different countries more vividly than any photograph album.

Ferry Harbour, Breskens

Pen and ink drawing can provide drama, strong contrast and fine detail. The sketch below was done in the Museum Skone Kunst, Antwerp. I came across an artist painting a copy of Fouquet's Maria and Jesus surrounded by Angels, and couldn't resist doing a sketch of her.

Sketching the copyist in Antwerp, Belgium

Recently, I have experimented with drawing on alternative surfaces such as ink on canvas or on a wooden panel, adding a new dimension to drawing.

Seeds and Leaves 382mm x 760mm  Ink on canvas
It takes courage to draw in ink – there are no second chances – no way to erase the errors. Instead, one has to really look at the subject, focus on where you want the line to go, and execute it fearlessly with a clean fluid line

Protea Cyranoides 200mm x 200mm Ink on Hahnemule paper
©2010 Carol Lee Beckx
I have always enjoyed drawing, it almost becomes a meditation as you hatch the lines to create tone, or trace a fine thread of ink across the paper to show a delicate outline.

David Lloyd George said: “Anything can be achieved in small deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap; you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps”

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Posting Comments 101

Ok this is for people new to the world of blogging. If you've been blogging or reading blogs & posting comments for 100 years you have my permission to click to something else.

Bloggers love to get comments - that way we know that someone is out there.
Yes, we can check the stats and see that, yay, someone in Brazil has been visiting, but a comment is just that much more real.

But when faced with the choices on ways to sign in, most take one look and run, fast.

So here are the basics:
  • Click on 'comments' at the bottom of the post: (0) comments means you will be the first to comment
  • Write your comment  - it doesn't have to be nice but nice is good
  • Choose an identity
  • If you have a google account sign in with that
  • If you don't have a google account use your name and email address
  • Or you can be anonymous
  • Or you can use name/url - if you have a website - then you also get a link to your site
  • Then you will have to prove you are a person - squiggly letters
  • Then publish your comment
  • If it doesn't appear right away it means the blogger wants to check that you have written something nice and once checked will publish the post.
Ok? So let's hear from all of you.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Drawn from Clay - ancient and modern inspiration

This series of paintings was done in response to an invitation from the Ceramics Association of Kwa Zulu Natal to exhibit with their members at artSPACE Durban. I was joined by other painters for the exhibition “Drawn from Clay” to create a conversation between three dimensional ceramics and our two dimensional paintings.
 "Rose Imari Baluster Jar & cover" Watercolour
  170mm x 100mm ©2009 Carol Lee Beckx

The inspiration for the miniature paintings arose out of a fascination I have had for antique Chinese and Japanese porcelain.
The fluidity and sureness of the brushstrokes on ancient ceramics gives the work a fragility and timeless beauty.The paintings evolved as homage to the ancient masters of ceramic art.
I wanted to show the works in a miniature format, so the viewer would have to come up close to enjoy the detail. The paintings were placed in shadow box frames so that they would be displayed as precious artifacts.

The paintings were done with minimal preliminary drawing, only a soft pencil line to indicate the outline of the vase. I wanted to replicate the direct process of the brushstrokes, using watercolour in the same way the porcelain painters would decorate the original vases.

Cups & Bottles series


About 3 years ago I visited the Queensland Art Museum. I was struck by ceramics displayed on a long shelf along one wall of the Gallery. The pieces - all glazed in similar colours - were displayed in groups. The stillness and simplicity of the vessels echoed the paintings of Morandi.

I took a few photographs and intended at some time to do a series of paintings inspired by these ceramics.

When I was researching some ideas for Drawn from Clay, I found an article about an Australian ceramic artist,
Gwyn Hanssen Pigott.  She was artist-in-Residence for a time at the School of Mines & Industries, Ballarat Ltd.

I was fascinated to discover she was the same artist I had admired in Brisbane. The images shown in the article were of groupings of cups and bottles before bisque firing, so the pieces were matt – no shiny glazes – just such beautiful shapes – they had a quiet, serene presence.

I found her working methods so interesting to a “non-potter”. She would throw a series of bottles and cups and when lifting them from the wheel gently squeeze the forms, adding subtle changes and complexity.  Some were dipped after being thrown and squeezed into different shapes. The pieces in themselves were so simple – but placed in groups the interaction between the pieces made powerful compositions.
Cups I Oil on canvas 610mm x 760mm
       ©2009  Carol Lee Beckx

I began the paintings with a deep burnt sienna ground – it seemed logical to tie the paintings to the colour of clay, and then worked up the shapes leaving hints of sienna here and there.

As I painted, the forms seemed to come to life and begin to move. I had the sense that the cups were about to jive off the canvas.

 After Gwyn had seen some photographs of the paintings, she said that she had been originally inspired by the still life paintings of Morandi. It was interesting that her ceramics were now in turn, inspiring new paintings.

A complete portfolio of all the paintings on this exhibition can be seen on my Facebook page Carol Lee Beckx Artist.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Juggling roles – life, motherhood, art and the hiatus that wasn’t.

The joy of a personal blog is that you can do as you please – change your mind or go off at a tangent. A comment to ‘Different times, different media’ caused me to stop and reflect. I realised that I had left out quite a bit. So, instead of the topic I had in mind, I’d like to expand on the hiatus that, in fact, was hardly a hiatus at all.
Sure, I didn’t do much painting but it’s not as though I stopped. During the years the children were growing up I did a short spell of high school relief teaching - English and History. Then, surprisingly, a year of teaching Grade 2 children. Today the thought of teaching thirty children aged between seven and eight fills me with quiet horror.
Over a period of about twelve years, also on my list were illustrations for a series of Children’s school readers. For a year I gave private art classes. I made mosaic designs for swimming pools and school badges. Somehow this segued into the design and construction of garden water features and a garden landscaping business. In fact, on remembering all these activities, I feel quite exhausted. I’m surprised I found time to bring up the children – fortunately they seem to have turned out just fine.
Life has a way of happening rather than one being able to follow a specific plan. In fact, often plans have to be abandoned, when something else takes you down a new pathway. All these things I have done make for a very interesting life – I can’t say I have ever had time to be bored.
Eventually I decided that I’d had enough of other stuff and was going to paint full time.
But, oops, I landed up instead buying a retail business. I have learnt such a lot about business, developed unexpected skills, and met such interesting people. It’s twelve years later and once again the new/old plan is being revived. Finally, perhaps, I am now ready to be a painter and to teach, something I trained for years ago.