Out in Nature

When was the last time you took a walk outside? Not the rush from A to B, not the lunchtime dash to the shops but a leisurely stroll with time to stop and quite literally smell the roses and look up at the trees. 

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As we make ourselves constantly 'busy' with everyday rituals and routines and lock ourselves inside our homes and work spaces, I think some of us forget to spend time outside admiring the beauty of nature. 

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I often draw inspiration from nature for the shapes that appear in my art work but I confess, many of these come from memory or imagination or late night internet searches for plants and flowers. And so, this year, I am making attempts to take those steps outside and look up at the trees and appreciate their forms and shapes and colours for real. It feels good for the soul and has been good for inspiration. In fact a whole new exhibition of works is slowly forming. Time to bring some nature indoors to the walls to keep us connected to the natural world and remind us to spend some time outside amongst it. 

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Work in Progress

I have always had a particular process that I follow when creating new pieces. This process really stems back to my jewellery making days where everything was precisely measured and sketched out and I knew exactly how the piece would look before it was finished. Even as recently as last year, all my exhibition pieces were created this way - carefully ruled lines and several colour roughs created for each design before putting paint on the page.

But currently, I am working on a new collection and things have been changing slightly. The drawn lines are still there but the ruler has been mostly left alone. And no colour roughs. I have an idea in my head of what colours I want to use but am working more intuitively to colour these pieces. To be honest it feels a bit more stressful - when so many hours are invested in one piece, you can't afford to get it wrong. But so far, I am enjoying the results and the use of more muted tones and analogous colours. Slowly, slowly, there is a body of work coming together and an exhibition looming in the not too distant future. I look forward to showing you the results of these current works in progress.

Out of Hibernation

One wall of my 'haru'-spring exhibition at Urban Cow Studio

One wall of my 'haru'-spring exhibition at Urban Cow Studio

At last, the sun is starting to shine again here in Adelaide and I am finally venturing out again after my self-imposed hibernation. The last 6 months has been solely centred around preparing for my solo exhibition at Urban Cow Studio, and now the show is in its last week, I finally have the chance to reflect on the experience and appreciate how much work goes into filling even one small room.

I have not counted the hours I spent painting but there have been many a late night and is always the case, the last month was a marathon of brush strokes as I raced to finish by my deadline before opening night. I did snap a few shots that I shared on Instagram along the way but I confess, that when I am in the middle of creating, I am not so good at documenting the process. The longest part about each painting was the fact that each section needs to be painted with more than one layer - at least two and sometimes three or four to achieve the opaqueness I wanted. It was also the first time I had painted on such large canvases and really underestimated how long these would take. But the painting was the fun part. Once the designs and outlines were finalised it was really easy to focus on just one part at a time and mixing colours til I found just the right one. In the end, you always feel like you maybe could have done more or done better but maybe that is for next time. For now I am happy with this achievement and most happy to hear that people who have visited the show feel happy and joyous when they leave. I think that was my greatest goal.

I will leave you with some snapshots of a couple of the pieces in progress.

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Colour Palette

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I truly admire artists who are so skilled at restraining their colour palette to just a few colours. I am always on the lookout for random colour combinations; sometimes it might be a group of toys left clustered under our brown table and yellow chairs or it might be a combination of dishes grouped together in the drainer or clothes drying on the line. I take mental and physical notes of these things and try out these mixes in my colour roughs. My problem is that extra colours always seem to creep in and I have a tendency to always want to include my favourites. It is something I am at least aware of and trying to work on. I read somewhere once from an artist that when you are thinking to add more colours to a painting that it is often better to remove one. I will try to keep this in mind. Alas at present my upcoming exhibition in August is going to be very colourful I think. That can't be all bad though!  

Salad Days at The Prospect

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a little sketch, getting ready for the exhibition

a little sketch, getting ready for the exhibition

The weather is warming up and Christmas isn't far off. If you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet then why not come down to the Prospect for the Salad Days Market and Exhibition.

Yours truly will be there selling some handmade jewellery as well as some of my new colourful prints. I'll also be exhibiting! This will be my last market of the year. Hope to see you there.

Sunday 8th December, 2013

Click over to my events page for more details, maps and times. Plus I've been featured on the Prospect website!

International Marriage: Limited Edition Prints

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Now that the UPPERCASE directory of illustration is in print and I've been able to let the cat out of the bag I'm happy to announce that I have created a series of limited edition prints from my painting. "International Marriage" (pictured) is available here in my online store.

This print is limited to an edition of 100 and your print will be the next available number in the edition. Print is signed, numbered and titled beneath the image. Printed on beautiful archival quality Hahnemuehle Bamboo paper.

More from UPPERCASE

It was truly a thrill to receive my own copy of Work/Life 3 - the UPPERCASE directory of illustration. If you haven't seen it yet take a look at this short video which features many of the artists who submitted self-portraits. Cute! You can see what a beautiful publication it is. I'm very honoured to have taken part.

Buy your copy here at UPPERCASE.

Work/Life 3

Work/Life 3:the UPPERCASE directory of illustration

Work/Life 3:the UPPERCASE directory of illustration

Finally, I am excited to share the graphic I created for Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration. I have been following and subscribing to UPPERCASE magazine for a while now and when I saw a call for entries to their latest edition of the Work/Life series, I decided to apply. I don't actually consider myself an illustrator but I was drawn to the theme of this book which is: an illustrated life. I love hearing about other artists and designers' lives and how they stay inspired and creative and I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to challenge myself and share my little story with the world.

I was genuinely surprised to hear from the publisher/editor/designer of UPPERCASE, Janine Vangool, who asked me a few more questions about my reasons for applying for this and what experience I had with commissioned illustration work and working in a digital format. I was pretty sure that was where my application would end but in the early hours one morning Adelaide time, I received an email from Janine welcoming me to the project. I was so excited and nervous all at the same time.

Work/Life 3 is a directory of 100 illustrators from all over the world. Each participant was first interviewed about their life and practice and then given an individual assignment. My assignment was to create a colourful pattern design or graphic that contains inspiration from both Australia and Japan. I loved the assignment but it was also such a broad and huge area of inspiration that I had to narrow it to something I could manage. I turned to my love of flowers and began to think about flowers and plants that I had seen while living in Japan and combine them with native Australian flowers. 

Initial ideas and sketches  

Initial ideas and sketches

 

I had about 5 weeks to complete the assignment and I basically went into hibernation for all of April as I worked away every evening on coming up with ideas and developing these initial sketches into the final design. Some of the imagery I used was very obvious such as the blossoms from Japan and the wattle from Australia but other things were more subtle like one of the flowers I remember seeing on my walks in Japan or some of the edge patterns I created which reminded me of some of the edge designs that you see on tatami mats in Japanese houses. I probably found it harder to fulfill the Australian side of the brief but similarly I looked to the ordinary native plants in our area, the bottlebrush and eucalyptus flowers and bright pink native ground cover that I used in semi-circles down the bottom to reference Japanese fans as well. 

Sketches

Sketches

I worked on several variations around these initial ideas and probably had the most fun when I started to think about colour. 

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Eventually, I decided the final outline of the graphic I would use and began to paint in gouache the final design. Although I knew that I would be submitting the final design in a digital format which meant I could make any corrections using a digital pen, I wanted highlight the handpainted nature of the work and didn't want to make any mistakes. So initially I began painting 3 final pieces at the same time with the idea that I would choose my favourite colours and patterns at the end. 

final outline

final outline

working on 3 at once

working on 3 at once

As the deadline for submission drew closer, I had to abandon two of the paintings and concentrate on finishing one. In the end I used the image almost exactly how it was hand painted although I decided to re-paint a couple of sections to simplify the flowers and then I cut and paste these digitally to the final image.

Part of the submission requirements were to send images of your workspace, yourself and or things that inspired you. I owe a huge thanks and credit to my husband, Hiro,  for taking these images, some of which were used in the book.

painting the illustration

painting the illustration

the view from above!

the view from above!

me in my little corner of the world

me in my little corner of the world

I channeled all my creative energy into this project and I was really happy with the final result which I think is a good representation of my style, myself and the way I like to work. I decided to call this piece, 'International Marriage' because it combines inspiration from both Japan and Australia and also reflects my own life as I see the beauty in being married to someone from another culture. I really enjoyed every part of making this contribution to the Work/Life 3 directory and what I loved most about it is the realisation that even having to stay up late every night to work on this, even working on all the tedious and time consuming parts, even when your hands hurt and your eyes get blurry,  this is what makes me happy and this is what I love to do. 

Work/Life 3: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration is now published and I am eagerly awaiting my little copy to arrive downunder.

Harvest

'A strange flower

for butterflies and birds

the Autumn sky'. 

A strange flower 1

A strange flower 1

'Harvest', a group exhibition of 33 artists, opens this evening at Urban Cow Studio. This year, for me, has been about embracing all opportunities that come along even if I feel a bit scared or unsure;  when the chance to be involved in 'Harvest' arose, I was keen to challenge myself and see what I could create. Each artist was given a Haiku poem by Matsuo Basho as a starting point for their piece and each work was to be presented in some way on the same size canvas.

I chose my Haiku poem quoted above because I love the first line, 'A strange flower', which I knew I would be able to work from. I find strange and unusual things interesting and I liked the idea that these birds and butterflies were attracted to these strange flowers. I have included butterflies in my drawings before but never birds or animals of any sort so I knew this would be the challenge for me but I also felt the piece would be a bit empty or lacking if I left them out.  I began by researching rare flowers and Australian birds as a source of inspiration for these images and from there made numerous sketches of these things, partly from reality but mostly from my imagination's interpretation of them. I narrowed it down to three ideas I had and kept working on these with the plan that I would choose my favourite to exhibit. But in the end I decided that they would work together as a series of 3 closely linked by theme and colour.

 

 

A strange flower 2  

A strange flower 2

 

A strange flower 3  

A strange flower 3

 

Sometimes people ask me how I have created something and I know that I also enjoy seeing the process of how others work, so I thought I would share some of my progress shots that I snapped along the way.

 

After the initial sketches were finished and the final images decided, I completed colour roughs in pencil for each design. 

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colour roughs

colour roughs

After that, the outlines were transferred to each canvas and I began painting the final pieces in Gouache. I worked on the three pieces at the same time so that I could share some of the similar colours between each canvas. I tried to remember to take photos of the progress every day or so but in the end I just had to keep painting and I think I held my breath for a whole day when I had to paint in those (relatively) thin, straight lines at the end. I also never photographed the near disastrous moment when I discovered bright purple paint running across my canvas when I had tilted it to pain the edge, But these are the little learning lesson we have a long the way that teach us things and are all part of the journey and memory in creating something. 

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Painting in this way in small sections is a very tedious and time consuming process but I have to admit this is what I love to do and I thoroughly enjoyed creating these three designs. Often it is good to have a brief to work to as it makes you think about your work in new ways and in this case, include images I would never have thought to incorporate. I am most looking forward to viewing the work of the other artists and seeing how they each interpreted their Haiku poem which should provide the viewers with a really rich and diverse collection of work. 

Treasures from Japan

The first time I went to Japan, I wanted to buy everything I saw and squash it all into my suitcase to take home and treasure forever. Now I am a more content to window shop probably because I know I will be back again but also because my shopping these days is more about things I actually need rather than everything I want. But of course I did sneak in a little shopping on our last trip in July and was also given some beautiful things too. More than the items themsleves, I treasure the memories they hold which remind me of where I was and who I was with.

A birthday present for myself - a much needed foxy new purse and Orla of course!

A birthday present for myself - a much needed foxy new purse and Orla of course!

My favourite pens and pencil which I have in a .3 and .4 but needed a .5! 

My favourite pens and pencil which I have in a .3 and .4 but needed a .5! 

Beautiful washi tape that is less than half the price of what you have to pay in Australia.

Beautiful washi tape that is less than half the price of what you have to pay in Australia.

cute notebooks for gifts.

cute notebooks for gifts.

my most treasured gift from my husband for my birthday.

my most treasured gift from my husband for my birthday.

I couldnt cut the tag off for ages because I loved the type so much.

I couldnt cut the tag off for ages because I loved the type so much.

A couple of much needed t-shirts and if there had been more time (and money) I would have liked more! 

A couple of much needed t-shirts and if there had been more time (and money) I would have liked more! 

A cute cat keyring that meows when you clap your hands - I have had to switch it off as I have found it randomly meows when its in my bag and I get strange looks from people. Okay I didnt really need this one!

A cute cat keyring that meows when you clap your hands - I have had to switch it off as I have found it randomly meows when its in my bag and I get strange looks from people. Okay I didnt really need this one!

And a gorgeous Mee a Bee purse from my friend Jacqui who creates beautiful kids bags in Japan. It was our first time to meet so this hold really great memories. That requires a whole other journal entry.      

And a gorgeous Mee a Bee purse from my friend Jacqui who creates beautiful kids bags in Japan. It was our first time to meet so this hold really great memories. That requires a whole other journal entry.

 

 

 

Yellow Tree

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Between the clouds and rain last weekend, I managed to step outside and snap a few photos of the beautiful yellow leaves I have been admiring from our kitchen. They are providing lots of inspiration at present and at least look warm and sunny even if the weather is much cooler. 

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In the Last Week



In the last week, I bought a bunch of Proteas.
Made some sketches of the Proteas I bought.
And made some cut out paper Protea flower cards.
And delivered a little bunch of new cards to Urban Cow Studio.

A Mouse in the House!



We have a new mouse in the house! Not the furry variety but a sleek shiny plastic one. It's funny how sometimes the smallest things on your desk like a new pen or pencil or eraser can inspire you to feel like working. I love my new yellow mouse!

Flowers on the Desk


I have pushed aside my little black and white drawing I have been working on to have some fun with the coloured pencils! I think my vision is going a bit blurry looking at fine black lines late at night so it might be time to swap back to colour for a while!

Blossom

 
I have just flipped the calendar over to March. We are technically in Autumn now so I guess it is ironic to share this Spring image at this time. I have been working on a little series of Spring blossom illustrations that I started in the Spring last year when I was admiring the little blossom tree in our back garden. Spring is always a season filled with warmth, colour and hope. I love the idea of colour emerging out of the greyness of Winter and I also like to use the image as a metaphor to remind us that even in the difficult times and during the coldest months, we can be comforted by the knowledge that Spring always comes.
It also reminds me of all the wonderful Springs I experienced in Japan where the cherry blossoms are magnificent. For those in the Northern hemisphere, not long to go now - flowers will soon be blooming.
 

Ballet Pink



There is something so soft, delicate, pretty and inspiring about ballet pink. Our youngest little one has just started ballet classes a few weeks ago and I had much joy buying pink leotards, skirts, tights and tiny ballet slippers. It is no secret that if I have a chance to live again on this earth, I would love to come back as a dancer! I am loving this pink and enjoying this time.


His Shoes

2013



Well, he is finally sound asleep after numerous nervous questions. His bag is packed, his shirt ironed (yes, it was a rare occasion for the iron to make an appearance in our house), his oversized shorts carefully tucked and sewn at the sides by his nanna so they wont fall down when he runs. And his shoes - his shoes sit shiny and new waiting by the front door waiting to be worn for the first time tomorrow.
I will shed my tears now beacause tomorrow I wont have time. Tomorrow, I will be busy packing lunches, tying shoes laces and lining up little ones for the obligatory first-day-of-school photos. We will drop him off with smiles and reassuring hugs as he begins his school adventure. I know he is ready for school and I am ready for him to go too so I am not sad about him going to school - just more sentimental when I think back on the last 5 years and all the time we have shared and how he has grown. Apart from a handful of odd days and of course kindergarten last year, I have been with him every day since he was born and of course every mother has their days but really he is pure joy. Recently, during the holidays, he randomly calls out to me and says, "Mamma, I love you". And I keep wondering how much longer I will hear these words before his vocabulary is filled with other words and phrases and teachers' and friends' names.
Having a baby, is like being given the best gif t ever. You take care of it and love it and keep it all to yourself until one day you have to share it with the rest of the world and let other people help to grow and shape it.
And so when I look at his shoes, I keep seeing how much he is growing and remembering how lucky we are to have spent those first years with him. As our life now is about to be bounded by set terms, early starts and school holidays for the next 14 or so years, I hope the journey for him is a brillant one.

2012