"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home" (Twyla Tharp)

Heartfelt ...

© Vicki Lee Johnston

Anybody who knows me understands that I am a mad collector of nature treasures and in particular seashells.  I absolutely adore them, I don't think anything man made could be as beautiful.  Over the years I have collected various bits and pieces and even though I am trying to downsize and declutter all the 'stuff' that accumulates over the years I can't bear to part with these beautiful jewels of nature.  Especially considering so many were found with my beloved husband and children after hours spent wandering beaches.

I always wanted to paint them and in particular one of my favourites, a beautiful heart cockle which I have had from the early days of collecting.  

It just really speaks to me, probably because I am an old romantic and  it has the most beautiful shades of soft neutrals and pinks.  So I decided that for Valentine's Day I would paint it for my husband instead of giving a card.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderful partner in life - he has been my rock, my best friend and such a great supporter of any path I choose, he has such faith in me and the feeling is mutual.  

I managed to draw up this tricky shell with all its bumps and crevices and light and shade.  Due to a week long heatwave I only had two days to paint it so I didn't expect to finish it in time.  I think though when you love a subject and feel an affinity the process is a lot more organic and intuitive so fortunately I did manage to get further along.

© Vicki Lee Johnston
The very early stages trying to capture the road map of detail.

© Vicki Lee Johnston
Although it was only intended as a card I am now regretting using the old SBA course work paper - as you can see the buckling is apparent!

© Vicki Lee Johnston

Getting a bit further into the detail, bringing in warmer hues and subtle shadows.
Voila!  Almost done ... a few tweaks here and there, then my usual method of stretching the paper to remove the buckles and it should do.

© Vicki Lee Johnston
 The quality of the photo is poor but I will get around to cleaning up the background so that it doesn't look so grey.

As usual he almost trumped me with his card which I love - it will be framed also because we love to make plans and adventures together and it also speaks to me.

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone - even though it is a romantically inclined tradition I always see it as an opportunity to celebrate love in any form, whether it be family, friends, pets, nature, the universe ... we could all use more love x
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
is just to love and be loved in return"

'Nature Boy' - Eden Ahbez 

© Vicki Lee Johnston

Authenticity ...

© Vicki Lee Johnston

This is a reflective and thoughtful post which might strike a chord with those feeling a little overwhelmed with the challenges of staying creative while keeping up with technology.  Lately I have seen so many examples of bloggers, artists, designers and creatives yearning for a more authentic approach to their passion - somehow many lost their spark as they were swept into the whirlwind of internet self promotion and marketing - this goes against the grain for many artists because by nature often they are introverted and self questioning, to put themselves in front of an audience is often the least comfortable many of them feel.

© Vicki Lee Johnston

The internet is a fabulous resource, creating pages and accounts are free - you can edit as you go - and it is highly visual and responsive.  Facebook is a great option for creative people to upload their work and feel connected to the public by having a Facebook page.  Post away, it's nice to get some feedback and it's always appreciated.  I am a great admirer of art in any genre and always make an effort to acknowledge work that I love.  It doesn't take long and then you can walk away into the world you feel more comfortable to create in.

© Vicki Lee Johnston

I have also joined Instagram and have spent weeks uploading older images from way back when through to current times, it's nice to see a library of art to show how much work you have done and allows you to see it online from a distance where you can observe more objectively what you like about a piece, how you might change it and what direction you are drawn in. This probably would not happen with your works sitting in a drawer and out of sight.  

However for many who would rather be writing or painting, social media can also take you back to old insecurities about your work being good enough and popularity and social cliques may still tend to develop, even if online. 

 © Vicki Lee Johnston

 This new year has already brought a great sense of introspection and self awareness  - it's so important for me to continue on a path that calls to me.  Social media is important for artists to be seen - I have had communications and requests for work which has  come via my blog, Facebook page and Instagram account.   I also love looking at all the incredibly creative designers, photographers, artists and writers that you come across on the internet. Very rewarding to see the time spent online has been worthwhile, along with making many lovely friends and seeing the artistic talent this world has to offer in many forms.  For every positive there is a negative and vice versa, therefore balance is key so you don't get caught up in feeling you 'have' to be online.

© Vicki Lee Johnston

I am lucky enough to live surrounded by a beautiful garden setting in a lovely old homestead and we have spent most of our time here working very hard on creating a sanctuary.  At the time we moved I had no idea I would be able to study art and design so it's almost a case of "if you build it they will come".   My focus is on  being amongst nature as an absolute priority in my spare time so that I can be constantly reminded of why I first started drawing and painting and keep a sense of joy about the process.   Sometimes the simplest things are often the best and ultimately lead to finding your comfort zone, which is the source of most creative endeavours.

© Vicki Lee Johnston

                                                 “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
                                                                                             C Jung

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Colour as Therapy ....

For almost eighteen months I didn't post here on my blog at all ... I had a bit of an art and personal crisis going on and I was struggling to keep my head above water.  Blogging is a funny thing, sometimes you have the urge to broadcast and other times you feel like deleting the blog and yourself from the online world altogether.  I had been making a lot of art but not feeling comfortable with the process.  I think I have a balance now - if I want to put words and pictures on a page that are meaningful to me, hopefully they may be of interest and if not - it still makes a nice visual diary to reflect on.   

The quote above resonated with me so much that earlier this year I decided to get away and spend some time with a lovely friend, amazing artist and teacher Susan Harrison-Tustain.   I had recently been working on a significant art commission which took months to research, plan and complete and I felt the need to explore the properties of colour a little further.   It's a fascination I have as many artists do, especially with watercolour - the interplay between colours, the subtle gradations and in particular how colour temperature affects a painting.  Susan is a master of this work so I spent the week in her studio exploring a whole new world.

 We talked a lot about colours, hues, textures, light, how the background affects the subject, colour harmony  ... the list goes on - way too much to cover here and I have a book full of notes which I was taking as Susan talked about colour relationship, her knowledge was extraordinary.  For those who are interested in her technique and process - there are a few great DVD's to choose from on Susan's website.

I was thrilled to see she uses the same paint palette as me - the good old milk glass egg dish - and it was interesting to work with her preferred brand Schminke watercolour paints, the colours were beautiful.
Susan works with many layers of colour and I love the way she uses yellow as a priming colour to 'set the tone' so that the finished product comes alive.

 As I wanted to spend all our valuable time painting and learning more about colour I brought along  a photo which was used for reference and allowed more time to focus on watercolour and learn about building up the layers.

My home town is a long way from anywhere, so travelling from Western Australia to the North Island of New Zealand required flying through the night for eight hours  - then driving for three hours to Susan's home town.   I was pretty exhausted at the end of it but when you are doing something you love with the company of like minded the time really flies.
Thank goodness I took plenty of notes and photos, being tired doesn't bode well for all that close work and information.  Susan and her lovely husband Richard were wonderful hosts, we have so much in common - our mutual appreciation of so many beautiful things and I will never forget how kind they were, not to mention stunning cooks!

It was a very memorable time and enabled me to put a few things in perspective.  We were then able to switch off and enjoy the beautiful sights that NZ has to offer.  One of my favourite pastimes is kayaking so I took every opportunity to get out on the water and just glide in the peaceful quietness - simply magnificent.  Just what the doctor ordered, peace and tranquility out amongst the beauty of nature.

A big thank you to a good friend and wonderful mentor, for  restoring a more playful and adventurous approach to the beauty that is watercolour.

"Nature always wears the colours of the spirit"
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Otehei Bay, New Zealand

Diversion ...

Framed and ready to go

The Watercolour Society of WA Annual Exhibition was a great success in terms of numbers attending and artworks exhibited - almost 300 which were received with great enthusiasm.
My botanical rose painting looked a bit subdued in amongst the vibrant colour and movement of the works in the gallery - portraits, landscapes, architecture etc  with many artists taking advantage of larger sheets and full colour to portray their subjects.

Initial washes

I love to see work in progress photos of watercolour paintings to see the layers and detail bringing it to life.  Sometimes I think I prefer those images to the finished piece!

Starting the leaves

Rose leaves are so complex, take longer than the flower

 I knew my painting would be the shy girl in the corner - botanical art is the kind of work that the closer you get to the painting, the more you see - everything is in focus and detailed.    Many mainstream artworks are best viewed from a distance where you can get the full visual impact whereas botanicals invite you to step in closer ... just as in nature.

I always do a quick check of black and white tonal values:
© Vicki Lee Johnston

"Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way" 
 - Edward de Bono.
This quote was posted online recently and resonated strongly with me, thanks to friend Sarah from The Natural Year

The artistic path has led me down many roads and the newest route is taking somewhat of a detour to my norm.  I am working on a couple of projects to explore a slightly new way of working.  My subject is still nature - still botanically correct - but there will be some subtle changes and shifts in the way I present the work which is already bringing in positive new energy and optimism.  We have to find the fire that lights the creative juices and keeps us inspired and motivated, even if it takes us on the path less travelled.

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