Finally I can show you my latest bird painting. It was a special commission for special top secret birthday present. Now the cat is out of the bag ....er...the ducks have waddled forth?.... heres a picture of it:
PARADISE SHELDUCKS AT WANAKA
300 W x 150 H (12" x 6") Acrylic On Canvas
SOLD - Special Commission Piece
These gorgeous birds have so many different colours in their feathers that I lost count of the tints on my palette. Because my favourite colour is orange I just love the russet coloured feathers that are very dominant in the female bird.
Well winter certainly has arrived in the south of the South Island. The mercury drops pretty quickly mid-afternoon and my latest muse arrives in the garden. My current bird inspiration is the Fantail "Piwakawaka". Their high pitched little tweet is very endearing as they flit about on a crazy loopy flight path. According to Maori mythology this cheeky laughing tweeter woke Hine-nui-te-po (the goddess of death) who then caught Maui in the act of trying to eradicate death for humanity.
I bet he was really peeved when he got busted,
...but probably forgave the Fantail coz he was so cute....or not, he was up to some serious business.
The fantail has 20 or 30 different Māori names. As well as tīwaiwaka, it is commonly called pīwakawaka, tīwakawaka or tīrairaka. In one tradition, it was the fantail that caused Māui’s death, so it is a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house. A fidgety person is described as a fantail’s tail, because of the bird’s restless movements. (Text courtesy of: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/nga-manu-birds)
So the thing about making birdy artwork is that you have to learn to draw the birds. This is all new to me and some days I sit there with pencil and eraser drawing lines.... which get darker... and wider... and altered slightly...and then rubbed out completely...and the whole process begins again! For anyone else who is considering learning to draw birds its probably a good idea to familiarise yourself with the steps of the process (provided below...you're welcome!)
Statements Involved in the Bird Drawing Process:
1st Statement(professed aloud to my 2 cats who nod knowingly):
"This is going to be SO cool"
2nd Statement(muttered under breath 1 - 6 hours from starting):
"Sh*t I can't do this, this looks like crap"
3rd Statement (said aloud to inside of kitchen cupboards 6-8 hours from starting):
"Surely we have some chocolate in this bl**dy house!??"
4th Statement (spoken in baby-talk voice to pencil bird on piece of paper 8+ hours):
"Awwww aren't yooou bewwwdifuuuul little birdy!"
A few times I've been standing on the back lawn and a Fantail has danced around my head tweeting right in my face within reach. I've asked it to land on my arm but it just flies around and around tweeting at me very loudly. It's a really lovely exchange and I was wondering if it was some sort of earthly spiritual connection until a friend told me that when I walk I stir up midges and insects so it would be following me for food.
How deflating! ...
I have been demoted from "Earth Mother at peace with all creatures" to "Bird Food Rouser", Ha! Well I'll let you know how I get on with this fantail painting project :) Meantime, remember its winter and the birds in your garden really appreciate a few seeds and birdy treats to get them through.
Just finished this wee chap "Westie"the Fiordland Crested Penguin also formally known as 'Tawaki' in Aotearoa NZ.
His bleach blonde head stripes reminded me so much of the surfie guys with their unruly sun-bleached hair. Just like a surfer Westie is awesome navigating the surf around the western coastline of the South Island. He doesnt really need a surfboard as his big shiny white puku (tummy) is great for surfing on.
Westie the Crested Penguin
Acrylic on Canvas
20cm H x 15cm W (8" x 6")
Unfortunately he's on New Zealands endangered species list. The culprits for the
declining population are stoats, dogs and humans disturbing their nest ...
(which freaks them out and they don't return home again to feed their young)
... they also get caught up in fishing nets - heartbreaking stuff! For more information on
This wee chap is on my easel at the moment talking to me about what its like to be an endangered penguin in New Zealand...the Fiordland Crested Penguin.
"Westie" (my nickname for this guy) is a hard case looking bird with his bleach blonde highlights up the side of his head - he's strutting his 1980's style at the beach.
He's a total chick magnet ...
...because he helps the female penguin keep the eggs warm until they hatch which can mean he hasn't had anything to eat for 6 weeks - now thats a mean case of the munchies!!
The culprits for the declining population are stoats, dogs and humans disturbing their nest (which freaks them out and they don't return home again to feed their young), they also get caught up in fishing nets - heartbreaking stuff!
Many years ago these guys could even be found in the lower parts of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Unfortunately now theyre only in the lower west side of the South Island and on Stewart Island.
Introducing the Whio (Blue Duck) who is an endangered New Zealand bird...
Acrylic On Canvas
20cm W x 15cm H (8" x 6")
Because he's a bit shy he mainly hangs out in the fast flowing parts of rivers in mountainous areas so we don't hear about him much. He's a hoon on the rapids (why else would he own a kyak??). He's a one woman man who helps guard the nest which is built on the ground - not great when theres predators around (stoats and other such furry losers)...and that's why we're losing them. To read more about Mr Whio (first name "Terry" unconfirmed at this point) go to this page HERE.
There's something about a duck painting. Ive always liked them when Ive seen them in other people's houses jammed in a row up the side of the hallway door. Nature portraits. Not a feather out of place. Mallards,
yikes! 1990's flashback of me ordering a "Fluffy Duck" at a bar!??
Ducks are sort of reagal and quaint... but also hilarious with their puffy chests, short legs and kitchen spatula beaks. Im not the only one who finds them funny... here's my son at 4 months old absolutely losing it (quacking up??) watching the ducks at the park...
New Zealand's native Whio (or Blue Duck which is actually grey, someone explain that one to me ) is endangered and he's a bit of a hoon when it comes to white water rapids.
Mr Whio is my current painting challenge/learning curve.
SO here are my first pair of duck legs...
...so far so good...
Theres 2 days left to go in the 2017 Wild Dunedin Festival. Anzac Day will be a good opportunity to get out and participate in some of the local events.
Its a very foggy day in Dunedin today...rubbish for many things, but it provides great flat light for photographing artwork!
A few more Monarch Butterfly brooches now finished and ready for sale ($35 each + P&P).
I paint these using a brush just slightly larger than a cats whisker (both of my cats "Gavin & Colin" will verify this) and take almost 5 hours to hand paint. My 0000 size brushes wear away so quickly that
I actually started collecting my cats whiskers
whenever I saw them around the house thinking I might paint with them oneday! Sustainable art practice??
Approx size is 75mm W x 35mm H.
Message me on FB or go to www.swankyjoe.blogspot.co.nz if you're interested :)
If you look at photographs of the New Zealand early settler women many of them look hard as nails and very unimpressed with life. They'd give you a cuff around the ear and a tongue lashing you would never quite recover from. Coming to a new country and living in the amongst the bush in makeshift tent houses would have been hard yakka...
..and then there were the bugs that became your bedside friends....
My painting entitled "The Settler" is a two sided idea; on one hand this woman is the early settler in her long Victorian dresses forced to live amongst the strange insects of Aotearoa in damp unhospitable housing; and on the other hand she is a mother who settles babies to sleep, perhaps even the powerful force that is 'mother nature' who gathers up her beloved creatures and protects them.
Acrylic on Canvas
540 H x 375W
Now showing at the Otago Art Society's "Off The Rack" exhibition at the Dunedin Railway Station. The Exhibition Opening is Wednesday 22nd of March at 6.00pm...all welcome.
Detail of NZ Insects
STAGES OF A PAINTING ...
Over the years I've changed how I do a painting. The best way I've found is to paint in the base layers of each coloured section and then work each section up in layers. I do the highlights and finishing touches across the whole painting last.
I find that by blocking in the colours on the whole canvas it means you can gauge how your colours/highlights/shading are working together and it tends to avoid a lot of rework.
Years ago I used to paint one section of the painting until it was completed and then attack the next section which led to all sorts of hideous stuff ups as I wasnt able to cross reference colours and highlights.
Example of "The Settler" painting at each stage (apologies for bad lighting in these photos!)
And lastly....THE BOX TRICK for getting your pencil drawn image onto your canvas very quickly....
I've spent years trying to draw grids on my canvas to copy a drawing across at the right scale and its so painfully show and frustrating as hell...so I was stoked when I found this clip on YouTube:
To save you some time, learn from MY mistakes.....make sure you only use a clear glass bulb in your lamp (not frosted) AND make sure the plastic you draw your image on is also clear (pages out of an old clearfile are perfect for this). If your light bulb or your plastic sheet is frosty/obscure then you wont see any image projected.
I've set aside my scary spider drawings for the past week to get a landscape painting done for the St Leonards School exhibition (Opening night Friday 24th of March at the St Leonards School Hall at 7.00 pm - All Welcome! Drinks & Nibbles & Art - what could be better on a Friday night!!) On the Otago peninsula is a lighthouse sitting on the edge of Taiaroa Head. Its rugged cliff faces jut out into a wild bit of east coast ocean. It has an albatross colony, and a visitor centre, and a historic fort which is all highly publicized ....AND a whole lot of early Maori history that is quite hard to find!
*** NB: Another place I've been trying to locate on the Peninsula is "Tarawei's Leap" - if anyone knows where that place is exactly drop me a line! There's so much amazing history around the Dunedin area but trying to piece together the story with the actual location is quite tricky.
Being an artist gets kinda weird sometimes because you come up with these hair-brained ideas about what you're going to paint and then you begin a strange research process. Firstly Ive got to say I'm terrified of spiders. They gave me nightmares as a child, and shrieks as a grown woman. As part of my latest idea I am having to sit and learn to draw a Katipo spider from a book of NZ creatures. His legs are shiny, his multiple knees (??) are spindly and smooth....BLURGH!!!
My mouth has gone dry,
my skin is prickling...
(better not be anything crawling on me!) and I'm supposed to sit here and stare at him until I've drawn all of his creepy little bits in perfect proportions....ewwww ewwww ...ewwww! The hilarious thing is the mighty Katipo spider we were all warned about as children is a whoppingly pathetic 8mm in size. I seriously thought they were going to be 40mm at least just by their dangerous reputation.
Next my research takes me to marvellously gorgeous yet totally impractical fashion from the Victorian era.
"OH GOD I CAN'T BREATHE"
(Photo courtesy of Victorian & Edwardian Fashions For Women 1840-1919 by Kristina Harris)
I'm pretty sure that's whats running through her mind as her bone corset crushes her vital organs into minute steaks.....but isn't the jacket beading absolutely stunning??
Can you imagine being a NZ settler woman moving to the damp muddy bush country of Aotearoa in heavy skirts (the women in skirts guys, not Aotearoa) with spiders and wetas running up your skirt in the night time? They weren't a wussy bunch that's for sure.
Next up I have to figure out how to draw a head turned sideways with a front-facing body....and so then comes the selfie...complete with fuzzy hair!
It is then I find out how hard it is to stand facing forwards but turn your head sideways and still be able to look at the camera to check you're not photographing the ceiling. Obviously I'm not as stoic as a settler as I'm complaining about having to turn my eyes sideways!
More HB pencil, scraps of paper and hours of erasing and I get this...
So this painting project is keeping me very busy at the moment....will post an update of how the painting is going very soon.
In my next post I'll also share with you a fabulous hack for getting your drawn picture onto a canvas (or a wall!) that I wish I'd known ten years ago.
You know its windy in Dunedin when an old wood framed window takes flight of its own accord! Luckily no broken glass, just some very squashed little trees which should come right with a bit of a talking to and cooing from a deranged gardener :)
Speaking of things that go FLYING....these hand painted Monarch butterfly brooches are now finished and ready for sale.
Now available for sale $35 NZD each plus P&P. Only 4 available now!
On this day (Valentines Day) 3 years ago my son Sam was born at 6am in the morning. Three years have flown by - and I haven't gotten any older (stop sniggering!) So the annual twilight vigil in the kitchen happened lastnight. About 6 cups of sugar became a vision of wildlife and rodent cuteness. I finished (or gave up) at 3am this morning, had a shower and went to bed. Fifteen minutes into sleep I awoke with a terrible realisation....I had forgotten Maisey Mouse's tail! (Staying up really late heightens your sense of paranoia and dread making you slightly irrational). This years cake is done and dusted. Happy birthday my favourite little man!
In case you thought the black-legged thing beside her was a tarantula....its her favourite toy Panda....
In the heat of summer (yes that’s right New Zealand, that
two days in late December) you’ve got a hankering for a bite that’s sweet and
crisp….maybe even chilled from the fridge…gasp!
Growing up in NZ we had the baked Granny Smith apples
stuffed with dates and cinnamon; the stripey rose blushed gala apple (the
staple of every school lunchbox); the deep magenta red of the Red Delicious
with its knuckly bum (weird! - but Im right arent I??); bobbing for elusive apples at school gala days; and not
to forget the mystery apple concealed under toffee (which was kinda growse if
it was mushy and bruised – but hey, we only wanted the toffee anyway ay, and why couldnt they triple dip that sucker?).
Does anyone else remember their parents telling them that if they ate an apple core an apple tree would grow out of their head? I was terrified!
I think the coolest name for an apple variety is a Peasgood
Nonsuch but my favourite apple is actually the Fuji – its HUGE and
crunchy and slightly tarty (just like me - yes I AM crunchy).
So heres to summertime and the apples of your childhood.
How did your New Year's resolutions work out so far? I vowed to drink more water every day and 25 days into January I'm now drinking an average of one glass per day instead of the one glass per day I used to.....um....okay okay.....its a work in progress!?? Change is hard ay, and water is boring - it would be no problem if it was coffee ("I must drink more coffee in 2017. Whoopeeeeeee!")
"So there it is, I have a drinking problem".
There are so habits I cant change, and one of them is writing lists. I am CHRONIC. There I said it. I have "To Do Today" lists, and "What I Got Done" lists, a shopping list, lists of things to fix, lists of things to build. I have lists stuck on the fridge, in my diary, on bulldog clips, on scraps of paper all through the house.
These lovely locals sold and are off to Canada! Have a great trip guys...take me with you!!! (I've always wanted to go to Canada :) )
There was that one embarrassing moment in school where I uttered aloud something about Canadians coming from Canadia. I would like to go and apologise to the people of Canada in person. And YES, that is a ploy to get me to Canada.
I was trying to think what I could make for a christmas present for a friend who is butterfly mad. I painted a Monarch Butterfly brooch....and I liked them so much I made more! I hand cut each shape from a polymer vinyl and then spend 4 hours hand painting in the details with acrylic paint. They do take a long time, and they're not going to make me rich, but I love them to bits! They're bright and breezy and fun to wear....and it helps that my favourite colour is orange :) Sizes and shapes vary a bit due to the hand making process. The patterns are all slightly different making yours a unique one-off. Approx size 75mm W x 35mm H.
Down in the deep south the Kowhai trees are in full bloom now and the trees are heavy with glorious yellow flowers. I started taking photos of the flowers, which led to drawing the flowers, which led to drawing a tui....and then 2 weeks of mad-midnight-mummy painting to produce this:
My obsession with the Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pigeon) continues! If you ever get to live in an area where these gorgeous birds reside you will no doubt also develop a deep affection for them (even if they eat your Kowhai tree half to death and leave it looking like a beaten twig). The 2016 Great Kereru Count has just ended in New Zealand. I only recorded sighting three of them as I've spent most of my time indoors with a cold in the last week or so. Usually I see them every day that Im out in the garden. I've even had a conversation with one! They try to initiate conversation with other Kereru by making an "oooo-o!" sound that rises in pitch at the end (sounds quite funny really). A Kereru was sitting on the power line about 3 metres above me but facing away from me. It said "ooo-o!" so I said it back. This happened 4 times in a row and then the bird turned and looked at me....and I swear if it could have rolled its eyes it would have. This painting shows 3 stages of the display flight of the male Kereru which typically happens at the start of a nesting phase. The bird flies up high into the sky until it is vertical with its wings outstretched and then plummets downwards again and flies away.
Flight Of The Kereru
Acrylic Paint on Canvas
65 cm W x 25cm H
(Currently part of the Otago Art Society's Spring Exhibition Sept - Oct 2016
Dunedin is such a stunning city for its heritage buildings and architecture. One day recently I was driving around town and turned a corner to find this row of old houses. I absolutely love how the different styles of house are wedged up together in the same street like little doll houses. I just had to paint these! Many of these wonderful houses are in a fairly run down condition, so I paint them in the colours I would choose if I owned them and give them a new lease of life...if only in the art world. This painting is part of the Spring Exhibition at the Otago Art Society in the historic Dunedin Railway Station building in October (exhibition opens Friday 30th Sept).
The 2nd in the series of 4 bird paintings I am working on. The Kakapo is a New Zealand native bird that is struggling against the threat of extinction. They are a nocturnal bird who are not prolific breeders, and remaining numbers are small. In this painting I have tried to set the bird in his natural environment at night time but stepping out of the dark to be lit by a lamp commonly found in NZ homes. He is stepping into the limelight so that we can know him and fight for his survival.
I see the male Kakapo as an old man who wanders the forest floor; a dear old gentleman who is unable to defend himself from predators.
I adore native birds and we have so many stunning ones in Aotearoa.
I've started a series of quirky paintings where the birds feature with props or settings that tell the viewer something about their habits/personality or history.
This is the first of the series = The Rifleman. Others I am working on are the Whio, the Kakapo, and the Yellow-eyed Penguin.
It is thought that the name 'Rifleman' came from the similarity between the green of the birds plumage and the uniforms of the rifle regiments from the colonial era.
The Rifleman is carrying a Lee Enfield rifle which was used in New Zealand in the Land Wars/Musket Wars against the Maori people. Here I have put a native bird of New Zealand armed with a rifleflying high above the land. Maori eventually came to own these rifles to defend their position on their land.
Acrylic On Canvas
20cm W x 15cm H
(Currrently featured at the Otago Art Society Gallery Shop)
A couple of years ago I drew a tree in pencil on a really rough surfaced canvas. I never wanted to paint over the pencil image and it took me a while to figure out what to do with it. I decided to paint in a magical night time scene with birds and a fairy so that the figure of the tree would seem other-worldly .
The Wishing Tree
Acrylic & Pencil on Canvas
55cm W x 30cm H
I really like how the fairy lights came out looking a bit vintage, and that the owl is a bit grumpy looking as if he's saying "what are you looking at??"
But I think the fairy needs to have a makeover as her face looks a bit crumpled and old. I'd prefer her to have soft rounded features that glow with a greenish tinge....and maybe have a nose that isnt so huge!!