Miniature Meditation: White Circle on Blue

I’ve been exploring ideas for scaling down the size of my work. This is in-keeping with my kind of bohemian minimalist philosophy. I live and work in my little flat, and thus, the need to maximise space. I believe in tailoring my art to my living circumstances, and allowing them to be the constraints which inform my processes.

It’s early July, which in New Zealand is the middle of winter, which for someone with rheumatoid arthritis, makes productivity difficult. I can’t get away with straining my hands to paint finnicky details, and my window for doing art is from about 11am until about 3pm, with 1pm until 2:30pm being the best time. My work space is north-facing, which means it can actually get quite warm on a sunny winter day.

Needing an approach which requires less hand strain, I have reverted to my graphic design training, where I learnt that less is more, and to “Keep It Simple Stupid”.

The technique I’ve been using involves building up layers of watercolour onto which salt crystals have been evenly applied.

I have been beginning with Sap Green, and adding a little Pthalo Blue for each successive layer. After about five layers, for this piece, I have chosen to draw a simple circle in the centre, and to paint it white:

MM #1

MM #1

I intend to continue this approach with the circle motif, and then begin to experiment with other shapes and colour combinations in the future.

A Shake Up and Change of Direction

First came the September 2010 earthquake, which for someone with no previous earthquake experience was really frightening, but didn’t cause any damage to me or my abode.

Then came the February 2011 quake, which hit hardest where I just happened to be that day: the central business district. This was huge. Fortunately I was fine, and my flat was still okay. I could still work away at my painting, and was playing around with ways of expressing the feeling around me at the time:

Aftermath #6    aftermath 2

cleanup2    cleanup3

cleanup6     cleanup8

mask 1 2011 for web   purple collage in prog

SOE final 1

One thing that soon became obvious, was that the options for public galleries for me to show this kind of work in, were no longer available, having been deemed to be hazardous.

On the positive, I was learning the third method of Zhineng Chigong, and felt like I wanted to try to have another go at the post-impressionist style I had enjoyed prior to the onset of arthritis, but this time, I didn’t want to have to put up with oil paintings taking a few weeks to dry, so opted to give both acrylics and fast drying oils a try:

hag tree and path 2011 for web

hagley landscape 5 - path 2011 for web

Rhodadendrons 2011 for web     winding path 2011 for web

Each of these was painted from photos I took in Hagley Gardens that Autumn. I was pleased with the results, and continued to develop the technique of using acrylics for the ground, and fast drying oils to layer up from there:

Blue House Final 2012

Green House final 2012

House and Garage final 2012

Suburbian House 2 2012


Part of what I was trying to also do, along with achieving an harmonious composition of shapes, tones and colour, was to express a mood which can prevail on those grey Christchurch periods of three or four days which I feel is under-represented in local painting:

Desolation  5 final

Desolation 1 for web

Desolation 3

Desolation 4

I was glad to have found a way of tackling the kinds of subject matter which I had avoided in my pre-arthritis days, but I was still feeling like I wanted to be more expressionistic, but couldn’t allow myself to be, as I was clinging to a formalist aesthetic style.  I was spending just a few hours a day on each, and doing 2-3 hours of chigong every day also, which was keeping my hands in quite good condition.

It was as if I was trying to prove something to myself by revisiting this style, but the method was slow, and lacking in the intuitive aspect of decision making which is what I love about oils (these last works were all in acrylic).

The urge for self expression, especially by bringing words into the fold, was about to knock down my door again.