Thursday, 28 March 2013

Testing the Beta Sketchbook

The choice and quality of drawing tools is very important for an artist.  Last year I was given the opportunity to work with a number of the exciting Derwent drawing pencils and Artbars. So, too, the paper used has a big part to play in the final result of a drawing or painting.

I have discussed various sketchbooks on Art Matters as my search continues for the perfect book. There are a number of criteria - the quality of the paper; the responsiveness to a variety of media - i.e. is it suitable for pencil, ink and watercolour; the size of the book; the robust quality of the binding and the cover.

I am definitely prejudiced in favour of bound books, never having liked the mechanical feel of a ring-bound book. I like to have the freedom to paint and draw across the gutter and, moreover, I just love a proper book. However, Stillman & Birn books come in both Hardbound and Wire-bound formats so everyone can be satisfied.

The new journals produced by Stillman & Birn have been in the news on drawing and sketching blogs all over the world. These sketchbooks are now available here in Australia. I have been given one of the Beta 14.0 x 21.6cm sketchbooks to try.

The Specs:
The paper in the Beta is 180Lb./270 GSM;
Natural White
Cold Press surface
For Multi-media work
There are a number of different sizes in each of the series. I haven’t tested any of the others yet so I will confine my comments to the Beta series.

The binding is extremely strong and if broken in correctly (yes, it’s recommended that you are tough with the book when you get it) will open completely flat. The cover has a good surface that will stand up to being thrown around without starting to look shabby.

I started off with a simple pencil drawing, and then tried the same subject in watercolour only.

A spray of bougainvillea from my early morning walk provided the subject for trying ink with watercolour. This I followed with a detailed drawing of a Chinese Dragon vase using a very fine pen - the Platinum Carbon pen. 

The final sketch in the first series of tests was a plein air drawing of The Old Windmill in Spring Hill, Brisbane. For this drawing I used a Pigma Micron 005 and watercolour.

The Old Windmill in Spring Hill, Brisbane.

Although I have done only a few sketches to date, I found that the paper responded very well to all types of media with good results. I’m looking forward to more drawing fun over the long weekend.

A Blessed and Peaceful Easter to all who will celebrate this special time.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

More studio visits...

While writing about my own studio in Inside My Studio, I began thinking about more artists’ studios and the many videos showing their studio spaces and work process.

Bunya Riverside -oil on canvas - 1016mm x 1016mm - Carol Lee Beckx ©2013

Recently I discovered Brian Rutenberg, and the video series AStudio Visit with Brian Rutenberg. He is a painter based in New York. His vibrant abstracts struck a chord deep within me. 

These Studio visits are great; the paintings are inspiring and provide a wealth of inspiration. Brian talks about his paintings, the influence of his teachers, as well as other artists. He gives us some insight into some delicious colour mixtures, particularly when adding a neutralizing colour. Be prepared to spend some time with Brian - the visits are up to number 27!

Another artist whose videos I have enjoyed is Krista Harris She has produced three videos where she talks about her process and shows snippets of her painting in the studio. These are not "how to" in the sense that you see her completing a painting, but rather an overview of how she builds an abstract work. 

Rebecca Crowell is an artist deeply involved with the surface of her paintings, as she says on her website:
"Multiple layers of paint are selectively scratched, eroded and dissolved, an approach that reflects the natural processes that inspire me."

This video shows how her paintings grow organically, layer upon layer. Often the format of the painting is changed by adding a second or third panel to the work.

Enjoy watching these - and then - back to the studio!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Inside the Studio

Artist’s Studios fascinate other artists, collectors and art historians so I thought I would give you a glimpse into my studio. It’s a smallish space - I have banished my car and taken over the garage for my studio. An air-conditioner has been installed to prevent me melting in the heat of the Australian summer, and to any painting fumes. However, I am careful to use odourless solvents and mediums and where possible to open up the doors and let in the fresh outside air.

This post was prompted by an interesting Facebook Page called, suitably, A Peek Inside Artist’s Studios which invites artists to post photos of their studios.

Looking at images of artist's studios reveal a multitude of approaches to studio design. There is the 'nothing gets moved/cleaned/thrown away' variety and also the pristine clinically clean and tidy kind. I must confess I didn't find too many of those!

I think I tend to fall somewhere in between. At heart I am practical and tidy. When I'm working materials go everywhere with abandon.Then I have to tidy up. OK, it's confession time - I have to make room for my students...

When I was unpacking my boxes some favourites were the two Ardmore ceramic pieces. I bought the bowl and jug  many years ago(pictured above). This was before the Studio found fame on the world arena, and when they were (sort of) affordable. I decided immediately that instead of hiding them away in a cupboard I would use them in the studio to store my watercolour brushes.

This video is an interview with David Dawson provides not only a glimpse into Lucien Freud’s Studio but his way of working and personality as well.

I find the images of the studio of Francis Bacon quite disturbing - I couldn't  in my wildest dreams work in a studio that wasn't organised.

The piles of stuff would literally drive me crazy. I must confess to having a “be kind to brushes” phobia - I cannot bear to see brushes abandoned in tins, encrusted with paint. I need a clean palette and lovingly cleaned brushes.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


On reading Carol Marine’s story Dudes having coffee on her blog Painting a day, about random photos turning out to be people she knows, I remembered this story about a dog and a painting.

I was at North Beach in Durban, South Africa. The orange umbrellas at a beach cafĂ© caught my eye so I took a number of photos with my phone. These resulted in a number of drawings and a painting called Red Bandana. The painting was sold and I thought no more about the day at the beach.

Red bandanna - oil on canvas -500 mm x 500 mm Carol Lee Beckx ©2013

A couple of years later, I phoned a supplier to place an order for my shop. After placing the order we had a conversation that went something like this:

Supplier: “Are you Carol Beckx, the artist?
CB: “Yes, I am”
Supplier: “I have a painting of yours”
CB: “Oh, which painting do you have?”
Supplier: “I have Red Bandanna. I saw a photo of it on the gallery page in the Sunday paper. I recognized the dog so I went to the exhibition and bought the painting.
CB: “What a coincidence!”
Supplier: “Yes - the people sitting at the table with the dog are my friend and I with her dog. She was a bit upset with me when she found out I had bought the painting of us having lunch at the beach!”

Monday, 4 March 2013

Two Portraits delivered

This weekend I braved the pouring rain to travel down to the Gold Coast to deliver two portraits. These are very special portraits as they were a gift for some good friends. Dakota and Belle now take pride of place on the wall in their home.

Dakota - oil on canvas - 8" x 8" Carol Lee Beckx ©2013

I did so enjoy taking the photographs and then painting these portraits. Dakota, in particular, was a challenge as he is so dark and it was hard to see sufficient contrast.

Visiting the two dogs (and their owners) this weekend, I am happy that I managed to capture something of their unique personalities.

 Belle - oil on canvas - 8"x 8" - Carol Lee Beckx ©2013

Visiting the two dogs (and their owners) this weekend, I am happy that I managed to capture something of their unique personalities.

Friday, 1 March 2013

My Website - change is in the air

When I set up my website a few years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted - but do we ever? Moreover, do we always want the same thing? I don't think so, because human nature being what it is, we are restless creatures, always wanting something more, wanting new things.
Carol Lee Beckx website screenshot
Bigger,better, brighter, faster are the driving words of our society. Technology helps us do many things at top speed.
My original website, designed to showcase my paintings, was set up in the months before I left South Africa. I was a complete novice and didn't really know what questions to ask. The website looked good but from the word go was not the most user friendly beast. Consequently, I would be loath to try to change images or text as it was time consuming and frustrating.
The young guys who helped with the development were a little out of their depth. That was confirmed when suddenly last year my website did a disappearing trick and someone else had my domain! They had forgotten to renew the domain account.
Another big problem was that the landing page required Flash which is a complete no no for IOS. So unless someone had the URL to one of the other pages my website was effectively a closed door to all mobile devices.
Fortunately a swift move on the part of my website host, restored the domain and no harm was done. Recently when links to the various pages started breaking - I realised it was time for an overhaul.
My chief requirement was that it should be easy to use and elegant. I need to be able to make changes and additions myself. Much as I enjoy the drama of the black with white text, it's hard to read.
Anyway I feel like a change...
Sold Portfolio page
Soon there'll be a whole new look. For the moment and most likely permanently, this blog will remain where it is. I like the idea of not having all my eggs in one basket. working with two separate platforms seems to make sense to me, as the experience with the website has shown.
I'll be interested to hear what you think of the new design when it's unveiled.