Artworx Gallery | Contemporary Art & Gifts | Goolwa SA

Artworx Gallery - currently celebrating its 10th anniversary - is a regular award winner and the finest contemporary art gallery on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula.

IS IT TIME TO QUIT THE CLASS?

Unless the art class you attend is part a needful social outlet, there is no need to be going there for years on end to improve your art. The sheer weight of class hours alone does not equate to being a better artist. 

It's a bit like students being involved in higher learning right into their thirties. Life has left them behind, while they are still 'learning' about stuff. The very best learning in painting or life is done on the job and life experience shows the truth of this.

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IN THE ZONE

In life there is hardly any success without momentum. Whether in the business world, sport, home life and yes,  even in art - momentum plays a huge part in progress. The winning ways of momentum can be seen first-hand in sport. Two teams may be evenly matched in skills but in the end, momentum and the mental confidence that accompanies it will irresistibly win the day.

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RISING ABOVE THE ORDINARY

If we are concerned with selling our work we have to rise above the average. People will love paintings before they will buy them and with so many artists around we need to stand out from the growing crowd.

While it's easy to see how ordinary other artists' work may be, it's almost impossible to see it in our own.  It's just the way it is and it's a real problem with art.

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THE EVOCATIVE PAINTING

Recently I viewed a very realistic painting of an expensive watch on Facebook. It was undiscernible from a photograph, so much so, that people questioned whether it was in fact a painting. Some step-by-step views showed that it was indeed hand-painted.

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THE RISE OF DECOR ART

If you've been involved in the art world for a while you will know that as far as paintings go, the biggest selling items are those bought to match home or office decor. If it's not true in other countries, it's certainly the case in Australia.

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BEAUTIFULLY BLURRED

Within the ranks of artists, the term lost and found edges is quite a cliche - we hear it a lot.

However, when it comes to actually painting it can be forgotten, right along with other things we thought we had learnt along the way. It's easy to forget when we are busy at the easel!

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TRAPS FOR ARTISTS

With more and more people taking up art, particularly in their later years, it has produced it own little economy.  In many respects it is good for artists. Never before have art materials been so accessible and affordable. Learning painting is also not a problem, as the mysteries of the skill are taught and outlined in the myriad of online tutorials, art classes and workshops..

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MY KID COULD PAINT THAT...

It's something most of us have said or at least thought when we see some pieces of art - particularly if it's got a high price ticket.

What is often not recognised in the strange world of art pricing, is that the price is often bound up in who the artist is and not the art itself. The more well-known the artist is, the more likely they are to attract higher prices for their work.

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THE MYSTERY OF THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

After reading a rather baffling artist's statement the other day I thought it was worth a few words.

It is now common for galleries and art prizes to request artists come up with a statement about themselves and their work. This is in addition to any achievements they have gained over the years.  The artist's statement is important.

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THE OVERLOADED PALETTE

I noted online recently an artist starting off painting demo with a palette full of colours. There were 21 colours in all – a formidable array for painting a landscape and the finished product told the story. The landscape in question turned out to be quite detailed but the overall colour scheme was jarring. The overloaded palette was the downfall of an otherwise competent work.

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FINDING INSPIRATION

It has been said that inspiration is the luxury of the amateur and in a sense, this is true. A professional artist can't wait for some inspirational moment before they can paint - poverty will be the result. In fact the need for food and shelter is inspiration enough for those who live by the brush!

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PAINTING WITH A VISION

In some respects taking up painting is like learning to drive.

Gear changing, clutches, brakes, mirrors, accelerators and coping with live traffic are familiar memories of our first days in a car. All we could think about was the actual procedure of driving, with hands firmly gripping the steering wheel.

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THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL

The Devil is in the detail

If you are a botanical artist or photo-realist, then detail is crucial. If we are not one of these two types of artists, and paint in a representative way, detail can be one of our biggest traps.

Usually, the trap is set to spring as we get closer to finishing a painting.  When we start a work, the concern is about big shapes and tones, and often we can really like the result of this almost-relaxed stage. It can be surprisingly alluring, but we push on because it isn’t the vision we had at the beginning.

As we get even closer to what we think is the finish, something happens. Even without thinking we start looking for extra detail to add.  Actually, the detail in the reference uses a megaphone to alert us to the fact that we have omitted certain things that will render the painting a failure without them.

I was caught out a few days ago while painting a pair of kats on a beach. Seeing that the canvas was biggish at 90x90cm, I had decided on a larger brush to do most of the work.   The shadow and sunlit parts of the sails were the real focus of the painting – the broad sweeping brush seemed to work in getting the desired result.

Everything was broad, but as the work came closer to a conclusion, I decided it was time for smaller brushes. As soon as I picked up the small brush, I was looking for small things to add – I had one foot in the trap!

I picked up a delicate rigger and put in some rigging, after all, it was in the photo. This wasn’t so bad, but then I started painting the ribs in the sails with the same brush, yes, they were in the photo too.

The problem was, that after all the broad brush in the beginning, it has set the tone of the painting. Being broad for most of the painting and then fiddling with a rigger just wasn’t working. A better option would have been to imply the detail with a large brush and leave some stuff out altogether.

Issues like this needs constant attention, because when we don’t think about it, the default ‘let’s consult the photo for details’ – kicks in.

It’s amazing how well detail can be implied with a large brush, and all it takes is a bit of practice and being aware of falling in to the detail trap. Being broad is not every artists cup of tea, but chronic attention to detail is there to trap any of us at any time!

Mike Barr

The ribs in the sails were initially put in with a smaller rigger (as in photo) but just didn't look right. I ended up implying them with a larger brush and it was kinder to the overall look.

The ribs in the sails were initially put in with a smaller rigger (as in photo) but just didn't look right. I ended up implying them with a larger brush and it was kinder to the overall look.

PAINTING DISTANCE

PAINTING DISTANCE

If there is one thing that landscape artists should learn, it is painting the illusion of distance.  I say illusion because that is just what it is, after all, it’s just paint!

One of the biggest problems facing artists that paint from photos is that photos rarely depict real life distance.  I have seen this problem often in paintings where distant objects are the same or similar tones to things that are in the foreground.  All that drawing and detailed painting can be perfect but if there are no tones that depict distance, then the painting is flat and lacking. I know it is a quite punishing statement, but the solutions are simple enough if we are interested.

First and foremost, we have to unshackle our thinking from the grip of the photograph. The photograph demands out attention and silently insists on us copying it even when doing so is not going to produce a good painting. The power of the reference photo is so strong that if we stray from it we actually think we have failed and conversely if we end up with a painting that looks exactly like the photo we think it is successful. Of course, both things are wrong.

Success is more likely when we just regard the reference as a guide.  It is one thing to read it but quite another to actually implement this thinking. It takes conscious thought from the beginning of the painting till the end.

Next, is real life observation.  Getting out and looking at the effects of distance on colour and tone is crucial.  Every time you step out of the house you should be looking for it. The more you see it and understand it the better your paintings are going to become. There is nothing like Plein Air painting in getting our brains to switch on to the colours and tones of distance.

The blur of distance is largely lost in photographs - particularly snapshots in which the focus is on everything.  In real life, when we look at one thing, the rest becomes out of focus. We should paint similarly to this too if we want to produce works that have depth. Getting into the habit of even slightly blurring distant objects will have us on the way to producing paintings with great depth. Add to this a little bluing off as things get further away and we will be using something called atmospheric or aerial perspective. It's where everything is turning into the colour of the sky the further away it is - even mountain ranges do!

Happy Painting!

Mike Barr

Two Yachts - this was painted in acrylic plein air at Seacliff. I have blurred the background detail as well as toning down the colours. Note that the touches of red in the distance are not as intense as those close up. Also the blurring of the background has allowed the yachts and sailors to have prominence.

Two Yachts - this was painted in acrylic plein air at Seacliff. I have blurred the background detail as well as toning down the colours. Note that the touches of red in the distance are not as intense as those close up. Also the blurring of the background has allowed the yachts and sailors to have prominence.

HEARTFELT EXHIBITION OPENING

THE TIMES

October 30 2018 - 10:42AM

'Heartfelt Art Exhibition' opened at the Artworx Gallery in Goolwa

Media personality Brenton Whittle stepped in to open the 'Heartfelt Art Exhibition' in place of Anne Wills, who was scheduled to open the exhibition at Artworx Gallery, Goolwa, on Sunday, October 28.

Co-owner of the Gallery John Francis advised the 90 guests that Anne had experienced a bereavement in the family. Brenton congratulated owners Liz and John Francis for their energy and enthusiasm and support in promoting local artists

The 'Heartfelt' art exhibition includes works from Mark Judd,  Lorraine Lewitzka, Bruce Davey, Graeme Townsend, Dean Fox, Tom O'Callaghan, Peter Coad, Llewelyn Ash and Iroda Adil.

Each artist has a style of their own - from fantasy, still life, wild life, murals, vibrant colour to soft water colours and from stunning bushland scenes to the beauty of coastal areas- this exhibition has so much.

The exhibition will be on display at the Artworx Gallery until November 18 and the Gallery is situated on Hays Street, Goolwa. For more information visit the website www.artworxgallery.com.au 

OPEN: Mayors Graham Philp and Keith Parkes with Brenton Whittle, who opened the exhibition and Artworx owners Liz and John Francis. Photo: David Woolaway.

OPEN: Mayors Graham Philp and Keith Parkes with Brenton Whittle, who opened the exhibition and Artworx owners Liz and John Francis. Photo: David Woolaway.

Participating artists of the Heartfelt Exhibition with Artworx owners Liz and John Francis. Photo by David Woolaway.

Participating artists of the Heartfelt Exhibition with Artworx owners Liz and John Francis. Photo by David Woolaway.

THE POWER OF CALM

The Power of Calm

Among the many paintings being produced today, an increasing proportion of them are meant to confront the viewer in some way. It may be controversial subject matter designed to jolt an opinion. It could be an image of the darker side of society or human life or maybe disfigurement of an otherwise pleasant thing for no other reason than to disturb us.

There are other disquieting paintings that have no shock-value in their subject matter but they have random and jarring colour use and confusing patterns. I have seen many such things in print and on TV that not only clash with everything else in the room, but more importantly they generate visual discord and may I suggest, even mental discord.

In a world that is so full of ugliness it seems we can't get enough of it and such art appears frequently especially in public buildings and institutions. Publicly funded art is hardly ever calming or understandable.

There is a lot to be said for paintings that produce calm, simply because they have power to do just that.

I once painted just a sky with clouds and a lawyer bought it for his office and told me it was for the times of stress when he could just turn his chair and look into the serenity of the clouds. It showed me that there is power in painted calmness particularly when people crave it amongst their daily troubles.

The calming influence of such paintings not only reaches out into the homes and offices in which they hang but they also have an effect on the artist too. We cannot be untouched by the things we paint because they come from the heart.

Angry, ugly and unfathomable art may draw praise from the art world, but it really helps no one else. Artist statements may attempt to legitimise their visual chaos, but often descend into coded artists’ speak that is so outrageous, that it is pure comedy.

The world needs calming and I think it is within the power of artists to spread calmness, beauty and awe through their works. It's a worthy cause rather than adding to society's dark side.

Mike Barr

Caption My Clouds - acrylic on canvas - 90x90cm. If you look at the painting long enough you can see the clouds move.

Caption
My Clouds - acrylic on canvas - 90x90cm. If you look at the painting long enough you can see the clouds move.

THE STUDIO

The Studio

Artists can worry unduly about having a studio, and while it is a lovely thing to have, a palatial studio does not always equate to grand work.

I have only recently acquired a studio - a granny flat that has been occupied by quite a list of family inhabitants but now dedicated to paintings and storage of such.  Storage really is the big thing!

Before this it was done on the front or back porch, the shed or dining room.

My best award-winning painting was produced on the front porch on a hot windy day.  I'd already had a painting marred by it blowing off the easel and was aware of the conditions while I painted the next one. I was engrossed in the process when my neighbour decided to take a look and I didn't see him coming until his head appeared from behind the canvas.  His quiet "hello" had me jumping out of my skin - I'm sure it nearly killed me!

It made me think though, that the small distance between artist and canvas is holy ground.  This applies to working in a spacious studio or on the porch, this connection between the artist, the palette and the work is intense and private - it becomes a kind of sanctuary.

The very mention of the word studio though, somehow conveys the idea of a public place of worship. Some just want to drop in, hang around, chat and be a co-inhabitant for an afternoon or two. 

The artist's workspace, wherever it happens to be, is best utilised when there are no distractions. The process involves the whole person - body, mind and spirit. A disruption to any part of this will be a loss to the artist and the work.

Background noise that is unavoidable can be blocked out, but another person demanding friendly attention will spoil the circle of creativity.

Many of us have to set up our equipment every time we want to paint. I know how arduous this can be, but at the same time, the setting up is preparing our minds for that which is to come and painting time is even more precious. 

Of course, there is a lot to be said for a space that we can just walk into and start painting. But in the end it's the magic that takes place mentally and physically in and around your easel that counts.

While we might dream enviously about some of the pristine large studios we see, it's worth considering that some of the best works have been produced in less than ideal surroundings.

Mike Barr

Caption: Ten years ago I painted in the shed at the back of the garden for a while. There was barely enough room for storage but the little space between easel, artist and palette was all that counted.

Caption: Ten years ago I painted in the shed at the back of the garden for a while. There was barely enough room for storage but the little space between easel, artist and palette was all that counted.

JUST ONE THING

Just one thing….

Whilst looking at Turner's Snow Storm painting the other day, it struck me that there is one thing that sets up the whole work.  The painting is wildly dramatic with its swirling snow storm and heaving sea, but the one object that makes it really work, is that little mast on board the steam ship. The slender pole is slightly bent in the gale, and of course, the flag is outstretched to its limit.

In the overall painting, the mast is a small object, but really it is the star attraction that draws us into the painting's drama! Not only is our eye magnetised by it within that seemingly small visual break among the clouds and waves, but it also indicates the ferocity of the conditions.

This painting by Turner contains secrets for every artist.

Drama - not every scene we wish to paint has built-in interest and drama, but I believe we should think about putting both elements in the paintings we produce – whatever the subject.  Just one thing can transform a work from being okay to outstanding, and in some instances, just one or two brushstrokes can do it.

Interest - interesting subjects don't always make interesting paintings, and often it can be as simple as there being too many things to look at.  Recently, I came across a painting of New York City and every single window in every single building was carefully painted in, including the Empire State. It was a monument to the patience of the artist, but it said nothing about the city. The drama of this amazing city was lost in the attention to detail.

Having detail in the whole painting will have us observing the detail, but it can block us from entering into it. It is better that viewers become participants rather than just observers.

In Turner's painting we are visually dragged into that point of interest on the boat, with the swirling blurry storm helping us in, without halting our little journey. It really is a masterpiece.

Like Turner's bending ship's mast, it’s worth our time to figure out what will change a painting for the better. It could be an addition, a subtraction, a splash of colour, or light, deeper darks, or simplification.  Don't be confined to painting what you see – paint for added interest. Paint the drama of life, whatever it is.

Mike Barr

Caption: Turner’s  Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth – oil on canvas 91x122cm.  With this work who could deny that Turner was the father of impressionism.

Caption: Turner’s Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth – oil on canvas 91x122cm. With this work who could deny that Turner was the father of impressionism.

CONTACT US

Liz and John Francis

12 Hays Street
Goolwa, South Australia

Phone: (08) 8555 0949

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