My most vivid memories of painting aren’t related to painting at school (although I was quite fond of finger painting in Primary School) they are of my Mum who was often painting in Oils. I remember distinctly one painting that was a portrait of a Japanese woman with traditional hairdo and Kimono. Her hands were clasped under her chin as her elbows rested on the table. Obviously I was quite taken with the painting as Mum worked on it as I asked to be able to “paint” my own version! I must have been only about 5 years old at the time and I’m pretty sure that mum let me use a textured Artboard and some of her oil paints. I can still see the woman in my mind’s eye. I recall that I was very happy with the fingers as they had the same rounds fingertips and short nails as the ones in Mum’s painting. The hair looked similar as did the little dangling ornament in the woman’s hair but I couldn’t get the eyes and the faint smile right! Mum redrew them for me but somehow they still looked wrong, the mouth was too wide. I wondered how it could be that in her painting it all looked right but when she fixed mine it was not quite the same. I guess it shall remain a mystery.
There were quite a few paintings that my Mum did that I spent a long time looking at trying to burn every detail into my memory. My favourite was one of my sister Karen that used to hang in the hallway. Several years ago I asked about the painting as I was testing my memory concerning it, I remembered that it was textured, the pallet knife bricks in the background and the teething toy and the little red bunny slippers and I tried to draw what I thought the rattle looked like as it had little knobs of paint to imitate the raise teething surface. I was pretty close in getting it right. I had thought there was a rolling ball in the middle but as it turned out I was merging a memory from one of my own kids teething rattles with my memory of Mum’s painting. Here’s a photo of the painting that is a little damaged and now is stuck into one of Mum’s scrap books. For some strange reason Mum seems to think it was a painting of me. She keeps talking about the room that the child is in trying to recall if she used photos or painted it there as we had moved from Sydney to the house Dad built in a town several hours drive away. It even looks like my sister & not me. Strange how memories can become muddled isn’t it?
The new house was quite unusual with the main front entry door opening into a room with a cut off corner. The feature of the room was the spiral staircase. It was an amazing staircase with a welded steel pole supporting timber treads that extended to the walls including those of the cut off corner. The floor under the staircase was Mum’s handiwork and consisted of tumbled river stones glued to the floor & mortared in between then painted with a clear finish that made the stones look like they were wet. It was my favourite place in the house though it was often my task to clean the floor which was quite a challenge! I enjoyed going upstairs two steps at a time. I smile when I think about that habit as mention is made of Tamzin going up the stairs two at a time in the Novel “Wish for a Pony”. At one stage I had the room that was at the top of the stairs directly above the lounge room Later Dad turned it into an office and I shared the Rumpus Room with my sister.
The following painting is definitely of me. Originally it had a very ornate wide timber frame & it used to hang over the head of my bed.
I remember getting out of bed one night one night & going down stairs to the lounge room where Mum & Dad were to say that I couldn’t sleep. I had been down in the lounge room for only a few minutes when there was a loud “crash bang” from my room. Mum, Dad & I raced upstairs to see what had happened and there laying on my bed right where my head should have been was the painting! I felt so strongly that I had been protected from harm and the painting was later hung with stronger hooks in a different location!
Warning Art can be bad for your health!
In High School my favourite subject was Art of course. I had the best Art teacher of the 3 that taught at my school. You could say it was merely opinion but it has more to do with her abilities in many and varied mediums. Mrs Stanley had the most amazing green eyes that had tiny little checks of brown, gold, grey and blue. She had a way of making even boring subjects like Art History seem so exciting. She challenged my desire to draw everything in a precise and realistic manner. One time when I was in junior High School (Year 8) we were required to use a technique that involved masking geometric areas and painting solid colours that were left to dry before the tape was removed and new tape added to allow adjoining areas to be painted. I quite liked this technique but still wanted a realistic subject matter. I love photos and scenes that show strong contrasts of light and shade, especially those that occur under stormy skies. My favourite TV show at the time was a TV adaption of the Horse book series about Follyfoot farm. I decided my painting would be of the “Lightning Tree” that stood in the Stable Yard.
The painting originally had a frame that I constructed at school. The entire class were taught how to build their own frame. I am thankful that I learnt such as useful skill. Even though I haven’t built any frames for myself since that time I have had the need to repair and ‘square’ several mass produced frames that have fallen apart as a result of a shoddy gluing job! I still have the Lightning Tree painting minus the frame which was ‘repurposed’ by Mum when she needed one for a painting and didn’t have the money to buy timber to make a new frame so I must have done a god job building it. The painting has been damaged a little over the years and also some of the paint went mouldy, which I expect was as a result of storing the mixed acrylic colours (as 3 coats per section were required) in pre-used glass food storage jars. As a result of cleaning the mould off the violet triangular area directly behind the smaller forked section of tree truck has resulted now in what looks like spots of rain or hail. I feel this adds some unintended realism to what was meant to be a geometric image with flat colours!
In my last year of senior High School we were required to do a major Artwork. I chose to do a painting. I was determined to paint a picture of a horse and foal that I saw out the bus window everyday on the way to school even if it was considered a ‘childish’ subject matter to choose as a senior Year major Artwork. The mare was called Flicka & she was a Skewbald (Bay with white patches) her newborn foal was named Jubilee as he had been born in the year of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations. With mum’s help I was able to take some nice photos and have them developed and enlarged. My only regret was that it was quite difficult to get close to the mare & foal as there were other horse in the paddock too so I only had distant photos that weren’t of the highest quality.
First I was required to prepare a board to paint on. Everyone who had chosen painting was shown how to glue an oversized piece of calico (aka Muslin USA) onto the flat surface of a specific sized piece of Masonite. When the glue had dried the board was flipped over and the excess fabric pulled tight and glued so as to form neat corners on the back. The addition of fabric to the surface of the board gave it a nice almost canvas type texture.
First I drew lots of pictures of Flicka and Jubilee.
Mrs Stanley knew how picky I was about drawing horses, every detail had to be correct so she devised a way to get more expression into my drawings that were then to be used as a basis for the painting. She got me to do 3 second and 5 second ‘sketches,’ using a paintbrush and black paint. This technique was then to be used for the painting.
After much drawing practice with the paintbrush I was permitted to draw my horses on the board using the same quick drawing technique. Colour was added and instead of a ‘normal’ scene with the usual green grass & blue sky I was able to use some lovely earthy premixed colours that the School had recently purchased. Everything proceeded well until the day I came back from lunch and walked into the room to see Mrs Stanley and Mrs Chick (one of the other art teachers) having a critical discussion about the background of the painting. “It is too busy” they said “it needs a blank space to let your eyes rest” they advised, holding two sheets of art paper over the painting. I was sceptical to say the least, I liked it the way it was….but as history shows the modifications were made and the painting completed including a frame that also had caused much discussion between all three teachers until it was decided that the image should continue onto the frame. I have to admit I quite liked the idea about the frame but I still get questions about the ‘blank’ patches as to why the painting appears to be ‘unfinished’. That’s the art world for you I guess! I still prefer realism!
Outside of school I loved to paint also. As my Dad was a Carpenter/Builder he had access to ‘paint’ and to off-cuts of Chipboard/Particleboard. The paint was not the usual type of paint an artist might chose because it was actually a timber finish for furniture a colour rather than a ‘Woodstain’ and it was an Estapol (TM) product. There was a lovely range of premixed colours that were intended to be painted on & left to dry a bit then whipped off to allow the wood grain to show through. I used it full strength on the Chipboard/Particleboard pieces of Timber that Mum would prepare for me by beveling the edges with a sander.
My favourite painting was of my “Wish for a Pony” horse that I called Wildfire.
Here are some more examples of the use of the Timber Paint.
I also tried other use other types of paint such as the previously mentioned Acrylic paints and occasionally I experimented with a more ‘watercolour’ painting style.
Then there was Hobbytex (TM) which was a type of fabric paint that came in tubes and was squeezed onto fabric via a special nozzle. Wildfire was again the subject for two Hobbytex paintings. The herd of galloping Horses was created by tracing horses from the Racing Section of a major Newspaper and arranging the individual horses to form a suitable composition. If you look closely you’ll see that Flicka is there as well.