Category: Personal

Pet Portraits vs Wildlife Art – Why I Adore Both

Someone asked me the other day whether I preferred drawing pet portraits or creating wildlife paintings and it really got me thinking.

The answer is actually quite simple – I adore both and for vastly different reasons.

I never thought I’d be an artist and initially I started doing pet portrait commissions as a way to ensure a steady income. It never dawned on me that I would enjoy them so much. While I have drawn a few dogs now (and my first cat portrait – which I can’t wait to share!) they are all so vastly different and each person who commissions a drawing tells me something funny or interesting about the character I am capturing. Whether its a rescue, a loved pet that has passed or a furry child in the house, they all mean something to someone.

This specifically is why I love drawing pets – the feedback when its a secret birthday gift, or know that its a memory worth capturing for life. Each of them are special and unique and it really makes me happy.

Wildlife on the other hand challenges me – the different textures – from horns to feathers to manes and spots. With each painting I discover something new, really see the animal for the first time. Whether they are perched on a branch or lying on a rock I now really intend to capture a bit of nature in all my upcoming paintings. There is a freedom to create and it excites me to get up and get drawing. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a wildlife artist and pay homage to our natural heritage and hope that each artwork will bring joy to the owner.

There you have it – an answer to a quick question. I love drawing – whether its a pavement special or a majestic lion!

Wishing you a beautiful day!

The Time it Takes

Time.

I often ponder on time. My time, the time I have to do or accomplish certain things, the time I get to spend with my kids, family and friends. Time for myself, time for exercise, time to dream. I never realised how much time would go into planning my time and deciding how much time to spend on each of my priorities (that includes writing 5 school speeches this week and attending rugby matches). And as an artist, time takes on a new dimension.

The challenge is that the longer a piece takes, the less its actually worth. With each passing hour my wage per hour reduces and the fact of the matter is that I will in all likelihood never really earn what I spent in hours.

Pastel Waterbuck Painting
‘Kobus’ 40cm x 60cm Pastel Pencils on Pastelmat

Having attempted to be more ‘loose’ and spend less time on detail has proved to be a disaster. What you don’t see is that behind the scenes I am also trying different other mediums, attempting different subjects and playing around. Not a lot – those commissions are waiting for me you know – but just trying something different here and there. Trying to see if there is another way to add to my income. The fact of the matter is that this is my only income.

Having tried different things I have come to one not-so-astounding (at this point) conclusion. I love detail. I flourish on trying to get the hair just right, creating the texture on a nose or horn. I just love discovering details in my subjects that I’ve never noticed, exploring the feeling of the detail, imagining what touching them would feel like. That is me – I am the can’t-back-down-from-detail freak.

Drawing vs Photo
‘Kobus’ Drawing vs Reference Photo

Detail takes time.

Detail doesn’t allow fat sloppy lines and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Detail is patient and precise. Detail sometimes doesn’t allow me to sleep 8 hours.

In the end I want to create art that I am proud of. Art that is me, art that combines a sensitive hand with a love for all things alive. I want to capture the essence and grace of our animal kingdom – whether its a well-loved dog of questionable breed or a majestic kudu.

And that takes time.

One Moment of Insane Courage

Have you ever read a phrase that just embedded itself in your mind even though you cannot really remember the context?

Last week an artist friend of mine asked me how I market my work and there it was, popping into my mind like a Perdespookbossie.  Also referred to as the Candelabra flower, they seemingly pop up out of the earth with a head of dark reddish pink flowers.  Once dry they roll around (presumably scaring horses in the process!) like a tumble weed, scattering their seeds.

My tumbleweed came out of nowhere: I market via one moment of insane courage.  It started me thinking though.  A lot of what we do as artists are moments of insane courage.  Even taking the leap to identifying yourself as an artist takes courage – it means putting yourself and your vision and your interpretation out there in the world for people to see and, well, lets face it: judge.

More often than not we don’t even need the judgement of others as we are usually our own worst critics.  But as I have mentioned before, we cannot evolve and develop without a measure of self criticism.

You might find yourself facing fear of a different kind when presented with a new challenge – something simple like an item you have never drawn, a medium you have never used or an audience you didn’t prepare for.  Yet it is in accepting those challenges and facing your fears and just realising that the only way out is through that you discover courage and experience growth.  In those moments your boundaries shift, your intuitive artistic nature expands and you open a new world within yourself.  One moment of insane courage might just be saying yes when you want to shout no or drawing that first line when all you want to do is start a new drawing.

In my experience marketing yourself is very much the same.  The worst that can happen is a ‘no thank you’. Making peace with the negative responses means accepting that we are all different and that we are all entitled to prefer different versions of art.  A ‘no thank you’ shouldn’t ever be seen as personal – especially where art is involved.  Grab that moment and show your work, show yourself and you will be surprised at the amount of yesses that will follow in the wake.

There are moments when I am unsure whether its me or the courage that is insane, but I am thankful for those glimmering moments. Fear doesn’t stop bad things from happening and it certainly doesn’t stop failing – but it does stop life. In my life, art is life and my wish (as I mentioned on my Facebook page today) is that your love for being creative will always outweigh your fear of failure.

No go forth and make art!

Pencil Blessings

August 2018

August was a month in which dreams came true, which is also why I was quite absent from my blog.

Some time ago I was lucky enough to be contacted by Andre from Artsavingsclub.co.za – a brand new online art shop.  I had come across them while searching for some arty thing and had already dealt with the very professional staff and was completely astounded when Andre and I started talking about running their blog.  In Artsavingsclub I encountered like-minded people as enthusiastic about the industry as I am and while trying not to sound too over-the-moon I wanted to jump at the opportunity with both hands, feet and well, everything else!  Writing has been a secret passion of mine since forever, so its the marriage of many passions.  

On 20 August we published the very first blog – you can have a look at that post here.

At the moment we are working on a lot of different topics to interest and entice all the art-lovers and art-supply addicts and I am very grateful to be affiliated with the Artsavingsclub family.  I am so excited at the prospect of talking and connecting with other artists.

Then on 25 August I married the man whom I want to journey with.  In Christo I have found someone who supports all my imaginings, who makes every ordinary day extraordinary in its simple contentedness.  He lifts my spirit while at the same time grounding my whimsical nature.

Our day was spectacular – a simple open-air affair under the stars, complete with full moon and surrounded by the people we love.  If I had dreamt it it could not have been more perfect!  As with all weddings I cannot believe its already over!

4 days later another dream came true when Andre sent me a message showing me the latest edition of The South African Artist Magazine – so unreal and humbling to be featured in their September issue.  I can never wait for the latest edition and I think it hasn’t sunk in yet that this edition featured my work.  What an absolute honour!

After a month like that, one might wonder what next!  Today we are off to Botswana for a rough and tough 4×4 trip into nowhere and I am looking forward to recharging my soul, being inspired and coming back guns blazing.  I have so many ideas and new things I want to try, so many drawings haunting my dreams that I am already rearing to go.

As an artist I have always been interested in different genres and mediums and after listening to a podcast about being multi-passionate I think I am finally giving myself permission to follow all my wild dreams.

In the end all I can do is step back and be grateful for new opportunities and dreams.  So I am sending my thanks out there and also setting my intent to work hard, play hard and enjoy this journey!

Pencil Blessings xxx

 

The Problem with Perfectionism

I read a quote the other day by Kim Collins: ‘Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection’.

As a self-confessed left brain creative, I admit that ‘perfection’ is something always on my mind.  I watch endless hours of youtube art channels by amazing artists who have, in my opinion anyway, attained that hallowed place where perfection meets art.  I watch how they effortlessly seem to simply put pencil to paper and create pieces of art imitating life in a way I have rarely seen. I analyse each moment, the way they hold the pencils, the direction they draw in, the colours they use.  On my screen the dogs and horses of the world come to life, the big cats seem ready to pounce and the birds ready to fly away.

With each drawing I focus on something that I want to be better in, whether it be a more realistic anatomically correct drawing, or maybe better contrast and shading, or simply using colour in a smarter way.  I spend eons staring at the reference image (yes – I work from reference images!) trying to recreate it.  I want it to be perfect, but I never seem to actually get to perfect.  Looking at the finished piece I concentrate on the flaws and when someone asks me to try a human face or an eagle I cringe away, too afraid that I won’t do it justice.

Right there perfectionism becomes my enemy.  When wanting to attain a level of perfection to such a degree that you shy away from even trying, perfectionism is no longer your friend.  And yes – guilty as charged!!

Then a funny thing happened.  Andre – the amazing human behind artsavingsclub.co.za, sent me a few tester pencils to review.  Included were two pastel pencils.  I have been a little hesitant to try pastel pencils as I know they can be messy, but I tried them and was immediately in love with the rich pigment.  Two pencils and I suddenly wanted more!  My mom, who has been slowly acquiring her own selection of pencils had purchased a set that proved difficult to colour with for the same reason – messy.  So, I swopped two sets of colouring pencils that I don’t use anymore for her pastel pencils, ordered a couple of my favourites from the other brand, patiently waited for the Pastelmat and there I was, ready to do it.  But of course, wanting to be perfect, I was afraid to do something big.  I decided on a Lilac-breasted Roller – smallish, bright and hey, I’ve done one before right?  So how hard could it be?

It ended up being more fun than I ever anticipated and I even used some of my other coloured pencils in between and it became a lovely experiment with no intention of being perfect.  I had no expectation and could enjoy the process of creating free from the burden of chasing perfection.

As I mentioned I had done a Lilac-Breasted Roller before, and that is where the biggest aha-moment happened.  I could directly compare the images and even I am able to admit the difference between the version I did late in 2016 and this one is big.  It might not be perfect, but there is a definite improvement and isn’t that what the pursuit of perfection is actually about?

So here I am making a midweek May 30th resolution – I am unfriending Perfect.  I am letting it go and focusing on the fun, and hopefully in another year-and-a-half I can draw another Lilac-Breasted Roller.

Would you like to see the difference?  I am cringing at the prospect of sharing this, but here goes.  Practice might not make perfect, but it does fuel improvement!

As a sidenote to this – notice the funny-looking white stuff on the 2016 image?  That is because I wasn’t using artist-quality archival mediums as I am now, but at that point I was just starting my drawing journey.  That however is a blogpost all on its own!

Now go out and create something that scares you silly!

Why Coloured Pencils?

As I took my first images to be scanned for prints, my now-fiancé asked me quite unceremoniously whether I really thought it would sell. Not because he doesn’t like the art or believe in me – as a matter of fact I think aside from my mom he is my biggest fan, always encouraging and somehow believing I can draw things I am not even sure I can – but because it is coloured pencil. “Is it even commercial?  Why don’t you rather consider oil paints?”

I had to ponder my answer. In my experience people often have a tendency to reply to seeing my work with a statement like “You use colouring-in pencils?” or “Ok, you use crayons” (insert my wide-eyed horror here!).  We seem to have gotten bogged-down in our primary-school definition of coloured pencils, labeling them only as a tool for kids and colouring.

And right there, in that simple presumption, I realised, lies the beauty of the medium. It is that simple – not only can even kids use it, but it is versatile enough to colour with, draw with, and yes, make art with.

Let’s look at coloured pencils from the point of view of an artist then.  Why – as an artist wishing to sell your work – would you choose this medium?

Maybe your definition of art refers to Renoir and Van Gogh and the classic masters whose paintings have endured for hundreds of years. Well, the great news is that coloured pencils can be as long-lasting. Companies like Caran D’Ache and Faber Castell have poured their passion and expertise into creating pencils that are lightfast, superbly blendable and highly pigmented – ensuring you have artist-quality tools to create with.

Coloured pencils are easy to travel with, enabling you to create your art anytime, anywhere. With handy sets of every size in durable travel-friendly cases you can simply pop your paperpad and pencils into your suitcase and ferry them wherever you go. Inspiration strikes in exactly those places where you least expect it, and this handy medium will be right there at your side without the fuss of needing an easel, multiple brushes and the odd bits you require for other mediums.

Versatile does not even begin to describe the scope of the medium. A choice of everything from charcoal pencils, to watercolour, pastel pencils, oil-based pencils and ink-based pencils mean there is truly a brand or style that will suit everyone.  You might prefer a more painterly approach – then use watercolour pencils or simply use a solvent to blend your oil-based pencils.  Maybe you love the bright vibrancy of ink – then try Derwent Inktense.  The subtle shades of the Derwent Graphitint might appeal to you if you love natural muted shades – and they are water-soluble too!

I personally fell in love with the ability to easily create fine detail (my go-to pencils for this is Faber Castell Polychromos and Caran D’Ache Pablo), but the chunky thick creamy Derwent Drawing pencils are so amazing for backgrounds.  I have seen the most amazing wildlife and animal portraits in coloured pencils, but the astounding range of colours available means you can also create stunningly accurate skintones, and finely detailed landscapes.

Using Coloured Pencils is really childs-play (don’t tell anyone I said that!) and the techniques involved are simple and easy to master.  YouTube offers a vast array of tutorials by excellent artists.  From shading to cross-hatching and layering, the information is endless.

In the end, as an artist, you might want to sell your work.  The secret here is that with millions of people out in the world, there truly is a place in the sun for everyone.  People do not share the same aesthetic tastes, and the person who walks into a gallery to buy the oil painting, is not the same person who would necessarily walk in and buy the sketch.  But someone will appreciate it – and as the lovely people over at the fine art printing company who do my prints say – it sells exactly for the reason of being different.

It is therefor no secret that I am a big Coloured Pencil fan and should I decide to broaden my horizons and venture into something different, I might just try Pastel Pencils.  How is that for being adventurous?

Go on – buy a set…try it out… You know you want to!

Pencil-blessings…

A Note on Making Time

This morning I was driving to Kaapsehoop for an early shoot, pondering the things I intended to accomplish today – a public holiday I might add.  And again it dawned on me: Life just gets in the way some days.

Aside from the art I have a photography business to run, the kids have schoolwork and activities, there is dinner to prepare and school lunches and errands to be run, not to mention the house that needs to be kept more or less presentable.  The fact is that life demands more time than I seem to be able to produce during any given day.

I chat to so many people with demanding jobs and schedules who wish to spend more time doing something for themselves – whether it be going to the gym or pursuing a hobby or maybe just getting out of the house.  As I was driving along, listening to cello music on my phone and admiring the lovely hillside clothed in green plantations with mist hanging low over the treetops the day felt so promising – just like every other beautiful morning.

But then Life happens and your intention of spending an hour drawing before tackling business emails slips away as the groom informs you he forgot to mention the horsefeed is finished. Yesterday.  And now pony needs to eat but has no food.  You dash off to the feedstore.  Crisis averted.  The clock chimes 10 and you jump into the emails, telling yourself you will grab an hour for drawing when the kids do homework.  With some work done you fetch them, watching the last moments of rugby practice and then as soon as your son gets in the car he hands over the notice – a school project due in two days.  The hour is spent trying to find sources on some interesting old thingy for history.  Then you rummage through the freezer trying to find something to cook because you had every intention of defrosting it, but its bursting out of its seems with bits and pieces of meat you were still going to prepare, and now you stubbornly refuse to buy anything before cleaning it out.  The stove’s gas lets you down about halfway through preparing dinner and then your child brings a letter from school reminding you of the swimming gala he needs a new swimcap for and you realise you only have tomorrow 7am to do it because its tomorrow and that is when the school clothing shop is open.

Believe me – even when this is something you decided to take seriously and do as a business, life still gets in the way.

So I made another resolution.  A middle-of-the-week-middle-of-the-day-nothing-special-at-all resolution.  The kind that you don’t write down, you just do it.

I stopped and told myself that being a better mom and better creative means that sometimes I have to allow the kids to mess the whole kitchen while preparing their own lunch, or that hubby-to-be needs to make his own coffee, or the horse needs to just eat the huge bale of grass obstructing my view of the dam for one more hour – so I can draw, or practice cello.  So I can find that peace in me that allows me to be the person I am.

So I can allow Life to not get in the way, but be lived.

I will not try and tell you this is easy, or even possible every day.  But I will tell you that its a decision and not something that happens by itself.  To put time into the thing that keeps you passionate and happy about Life, you sometimes have to put Life aside for a moment.

So draw.  Or run.  Or play cello. For yourself.  Now – while you have a moment.

And me?  I am busy drawing this little waterbuck duo – they’ve been shouting my name for a while.  The reference photo comes from a dear friend who has been kind enough to send me a heap of reference photos for drawing.

And when I am not drawing?  I am trying to learn to play the cello, and horse-permitting I might spend an hour or so practicing this week.  It really calms me and its great to just do something that occupies my mind fully.

Watch out for another post on tips and tricks soon.

Thank you for reading my musings…

Much love

What If?

Last night I sat until late packaging prints – I am delivering a whole batch tomorrow and I am very excited, but its been a lot of work trying to get the packaging, labels and certificates done and signed.  In the background I had music playing and while I worked I pondered.

What If? What if – just like the other times – I had set the proverbial pencil down again?

People often ask how the ‘drawing-thing’ happened.

“Did you always draw – from when you were a child?”

No, not really actually.  Though I distinctly remember being twelve and sitting at my desk in the corner of my room with the afternoon sun on my back and looking up at a photo of myself as a baby, and the sudden urge to draw it.  Using my simple HB pencil and a sheet of printing paper, I drew what could be deemed as my first and only self-portrait.  If I close my eyes I can still see that drawing in my mind, and I know it must still be somewhere in one of my boxes of childhood memories.  It was good I think.  My mom loved it – but then, she always was my most ardent supporter.  It looked like the photo, and I pinned it to my board – often thinking I should try something else but also mostly thinking that it might have been a fluke and wondering whether I would in fact be able to.  So I didn’t.

Years passed.

My son was small, a year or so old when I tried again.  I bought acrylic paint, two canvases and painted our cat.  He looked slightly skew, but it was a cat.  Then I painted a zebra, and again I felt happy with it.  Happy that it looked like a zebra, but frustrated that it lacked the detail I so love in wildlife art.  So yet again the paint and brushes were filed and I let it go.

More time passed.

About 3 or 4 years ago I tried charcoal, but found it too black – I discovered I like colour.  One day I walked into a shop and impulsively bought a set of coloured pencils.  I drew a bird or two and suddenly something clicked into place.  Over the next 2 years I drew a handful of images and started reading up on coloured pencil techniques.

And then, in January 2017 I decided to make a resolution – I was going to take my art more seriously.  Shutting my eyes as I swiped, I invested in artist quality pencils and paper.  This site is the result of that resolution.

So what if?  What if this time, like every other time, I allowed myself to be dissuaded by the doubts and fears.  What if my drive to do better had once again dimmed my spirit instead of fueling the need to learn.  What if in that one moment when the art dream was knocking on my door once again, I had decided that it was just that – a dream?  What if I missed out on the fun I am having now?

I am by no means where I want to be – I learn with each piece.  But it has awakened a part of my being that is floating deliriously happy at the prospect of each new drawing.  I have also by no means ‘arrived’ – a serious amount of water is needed to fill that dam.  But I am, quite literally, living the dream of building and filling that dam.

People often say that ‘what ifs’ shouldn’t be pondered,  but usually this is because of opportunities missed.  So don’t miss that bus.

Go out and chase your dream.  Open the door to that idea that keeps knocking on your door.  Pursue it with fervor and wild abandon, breathe it like you would air.

Shouldn’t we all have one excitingly idyllic dream to give life to?

What if you just did it?

The story behind Tlou

Tlou is a very special drawing to me.

In October 2016 I had the privilege of visiting the Chobe region with my now-fiancé and our two boys.  During what felt like the peak of the drought we spent a few days at Senyati Lodge near Kasane.  What made Senyati special was the man-made waterhole and underground hide.  Climbing down into a narrow tunnel that runs underground to the hide, you could view the wildlife at the waterhole from only a few paces away – so close that the kids would come running to tell about an elephant bathing at the fountain – splattered with mud from said bath!  The unique vantage point also gave new perspective on these majestic creatures as they towered over us.  More than once my heart beat in my throat as one stepped closer and I could just imagine an elephant standing on the hide!

It was during one of these afternoons that I photographed Tlou.  Every afternoon literally dozens upon dozens of elephants would visit the oasis.  Around us the vegetation was scarce – with no rain the grass had dwindled to mere stubs here and there and the trees were mostly barren.  Around the waterhole it was green and lush.  This little guy came rushing into the patch of mud from the overflow and promptly started playing in the mud.  His tiny little trunk was going everywhere, swinging around and spraying mud just about everywhere aside from over his body!  We watched him for quite a while and ever since Christo and I would often just refer to ‘our little elephant’.

In the end I drew him for Christo and I am excited to share our little elephant Tlou with you!

Watch out for prints of Tlou available soon!

Much love

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