Reflection – the creative process of painting

Talented Peregian Beach photographer Julie Hemsley did a publicity shoot at Marcus Creek of me when we exhibited at The Butter Factory Arts Centre in 2018. Apart from being successful in promoting our show, I knew that the photos had something that I wanted represent using paint – reflection in water.

The result? One subject, two abstract paintings using two different techniques to convey a sense of the red dress and yellow painting reflected on the surface of water.

Red Dress, Yellow Painting #1 evolved from an abstract work that that I had “retired” because I was unsatisfied with the result. On revisiting the canvas when mulling over ideas about reflection, it occurred to me that the shapes could be the basis for a work inspired by Julie’s photographic images. 

The painting began to take on a new life; linear brushstrokes conveying the sense of distorted reflected shapes and disturbed water; thick opaque paint with no medium; textures from the underpainting adding subtle patterning and interest.

The process of painting the work evolved over five years. First, it was a purely abstract painting with no subject, then an abstract painting with a subject. Finally, in order to fully resolve this work, I had let go of the idea of a subject, and went back to seeing it as purely abstract. Full circle, quite a challenging process.

Jude Tulloch Painting process
Reflection: red dress yellow painting

In Reflection – Red Dress Yellow Painting #2, I used the technique of glazing – building up the surface with successive layers of paint made translucent with medium so that the colours below show through, thereby alluding to something deeper than the surface.

I wanted to suggest a flat surface – water – at the same time as conveying movement on that surface, and the distortion that moving water gives to reflected shapes. 

It was a technique I had used for the series of paintings exhibited at The Butter Factory, inspired by the sunlight shining through the tannin water of Marcus Creek, which, in the early morning light, has amazing reflective qualities.

I find that art is all the the richer when you discover something about the genesis of an artwork, the techniques that the artist used and the painting process. Perhaps that is because I paint myself. I’m curious to know whether others feel the same way or is viewing without knowing a rich enough experience.

Do either of these paintings resonate with you? If so, which one do you prefer and why? 

Is Art part of a life well lived?

I found a large empty commercial paint tin,

took it into the backyard,

started tearing pages out of my handwritten journals,

lit a match,

and unceremoniously fed the pages into the fire.

I didn’t read any of them, just let them go up in flames. 

 Looking back, I can see that the burning of the journals was the beginning of some important realisations that play out in my art practice.

Whenever I am creating, I am totally absorbed and present in moment – or try to be. If my concentration is poor, or my mind wanders, inevitably my painting session does not go so well.

The way that I paint is a process of embracing change. When a painting isn’t coming together, I will retire it for a while, months or sometimes years, by which time it is part of the past, so I can see it with the fresh eyes of the present. Often I will start a painting with something in mind, but the finished work bears little resemblance to original concept.

Covid Capsule, Oil on linen, 61×51 cm

This Covid Capsule painting is an example of how the process works. It started with a painting that hadn’t gone to plan but was one that I knew it still had some potential, so I retired it.

A few months later I bought it back to the present, creating a strange bleak landscape. Then I noticed some brushstrokes that slightly resembled a face appeared on the canvas. And so idea for a covid capsule evolved.

A Map for Navigating Life

  •  The Universe is in constant flux and the only thing that doesn’t change is that nothing stays the the same.
  • The past is gone and the future is yet to come.
  • Human life is therefore a continual process of beginnings and endings, embracing and letting go.
  • This requires acceptance of what is, and some insight to successfully navigate a way.
  • The present is where to direct our energy and attention.
  • Life culminates death, the process of  simultaneously letting go and embracing the unknown.

You might find this line of thought fatalistic or bleak, but for me it is a guiding path that cuts through a lot overthinking, unnecessary worry and regret. As a result I am more productive and proactive rather than being passive, angry, frustrated or disappointed.

Birth and Death: an abstract painting

Birth and Death, acrylic on canvas, 90x60cm

Birth and death are inextricably linked. As one life passes, new life springs forth. This is an intensely personal abstract painting that was selected for the 2018 Taste of Art exhibition at the Noosa Regional Gallery. Somehow it resonates again in the wider context of the pandemic we are facing. I am letting it go, despite its meaning to me, to someone who appreciates the work.

Mixed media – abstract animals

Alternative Universe, mixed media, 46×61 cm (18×24”)

It could have been in storage; A mixed media canvas, propped on the workbench, waiting to be put away before I opened up for Noosa Open Studios. But two of my Marcus Artisan buddies called by and persuaded me to put it on display. Thanks to Julie and Kris, this work got a showing.

I was pleased as a surprising number of people during Open Studios found it intriguing and seemed drawn to it.

Though it is completely abstract, some viewers discovered animals in the forms. I see the heads of the animals on the Australian coat of arms – emus and kangaroos kissing.