Glimpse of a life: the unexpected joy from a gifted collection

There is something special about being gifted a collection of art books – or a collection of anything.

Rosemary’s mother was an academic, who, when she retired, took up painting. Amongst her bookshelf-lined walls were three rows of art books. Would I like them, Rosemary asked? My bookshelves are full to brimming, but how could I resist more art books? I will take them over time I said, and go through them at my leisure. So I piled about a third of the collection into the car boot.

Before I leave, Rosemary shows me a selection of her mother’s work, stacked in a wardrobe that is now devoid of clothing. It is an eclectic collection, the work of a hobby painter: still life studies; busy people populating the outdoors; landscapes; and stylised figures.

Collections speak of the person who created them. This collection tells me that Rosemary’s mother had a wide and varied interest in art. She must have read voraciously. There are books on Australian painters such as Robert Bunny and Tom Roberts. Scholarly works like Australian Surrealist painter James Gleeson’s book Australian Painters  sit alongside art books for the general reader.

Books on: Brueghel, Cezanne, Munch, Kandinsky, The Impressionists, Goya, La Belle Epoque, Life and Times of Durer, Graphic Works of the American 30’s, couple of weighty tomes on how to paint and much more.

At home, after making space in my bookshelves I begin to unpack the treasures, finding unexpected snippets of information.

In a book by Alistair Duncan entitled Fin de Siecle: Masterpieces from the Silverman Collection, there is a tiny clue to Rosemary’s mother’s creative process. A small piece of paper with the handwritten question “possible?” bookmarks a page of beautifully photographed Tiffany Lava Favrile vases. They are stunning vases, and I recognise the shape as similar to some of the vessels in the still life paintings.

Did Rosemary’s mother draw her creative inspiration and ideas directly from her collection of art books? Perhaps the figures from the detail of Bruegel’s The Corn Harvest inspired her outdoor scenes with busy figures.

Then a piece of scrap paper with a pencil sketch on the back drapes out of a book.. What inspired drawing and what do the figures represent – Matisse’s dancers, a piece of painted pottery or is it a narrative of some sort?

I am left with questions that will never be answered, and further thoughts about collections: of art, of memorabilia, in galleries, in museums, in libraries, grand and small collections, serious or quirky, public and private.

What makes a collection? Why do we humans seem to have a propensity to collect? As a child I collected stamps for a while because my Dad collected stamps. I still have my little collection – in a blue stamp book. Every stamp has one thing in common; it speaks of my love of horses.

A little gallery

I’ve converted my messy art room into a mini gallery that opens for business from tomorrow  for the next two weekends (Friday to Sunday) and next Tuesday (Oct 5) Hours: 10.00 am to 4.00pm.

After seeing the workspace in the garage, visitors will be able to see what the paintings look like on the wall, and gain some insight into how they evolved.

I’m not prolific but I work with passion and give art my all. The hard work of getting everything ready behind me, I can now relax and enjoy the next couple fo weeks of art making and meeting other art lovers/artists who enjoy a having glimpse into the world of  artists at work.

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? 

Artist #2 Susan Nuevonen

My latest art acquisition, a print of a work by Susan Neuvonen, fellow Noosa Open Studios artist. Susan, along with Desley Roach, Trish Menzies and I, all Marcus Beach residents, joined together to form the Marcus Mini Art Trail. I visited Susan’s studio yesterday for a preview, and felt drawn to this image. The work is poignant. Like all good art, it comes from the heart. Out of grief and mourning emerges something very beautiful.

Here are Susan’s words:

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.

Why blog if you are a visual artist?

Fun street art in Paddington Sydney

It is difficult to be a painter alone in your studio, no matter how much time you spend there. You have to show your work and engage with an audience, for it is social contact that energises and renews us.

Christopher Allen, Arts Writer, The Australian 

Christopher Allen goes on to say that perhaps artists were luckier in earlier times when they were commissioned to paint significant subjects for public places such as churches. Their works had a shared meaning that people understood and that was relevant to the time and place. Artists therefore had a responsive wide audience. 

Now, perhaps with the exception of graffiti, art is not so imbedded in the fabric of society. It has become rarified being ‘held’ by esteemed institutions. In contemporary western society at least, you can see fads in art and ‘trending’ artists. There is fierce competition to get a gig at a commercial gallery, or to be part of a prestigious gallery ‘stable.’ We speak of ‘the art world’ as if it is quite seperate from the real world.

That leaves an outsider artist like myself, who hasn’t been to art school. but who is serious about her practice, wondering how they can find a way to escape from what Allen calls “the quicksands of solipsism”.

Being an artist is about creating works to be viewed

A website and blogging is one way to reach an audience, though it does have limitations where visual art is concerned. That said, it has never been easier to publish your creative work, be it literary or visual.