Collage Study with Watercolour and Plastic

Collage in grey and orange for web

Study in watercolour and plastic film.


The orange squares have been cut from a used plastic bag.

These squares were then stuck onto strips cut to the appropriate width. These strips were from and A5 piece of paper, onto which I had painted a simple repeating pattern of vertical brush strokes done with a chisel edge brush. Painting these strokes is calming and meditative, and doesn’t tense the hand muscles, because I have wrapped sponge around the brush and slid a used toilet roll over the sponge, so that I have a very wide handle.

The other piece of paper was the one that I was cleaning my brush on. I cut the strips with my paper trimmer to ensure that they would sit flush against the other strips.

The fact that the paper thickness is the same for each strip, means I can then collage over top of them without having to worry about visible dips and rises on the collaged element.

I envisage these works as mainly decorative, which being small, and having subdued colour, should go well with most interior colour shemes in people’s homes.

Experiment with Watercolour and Plastic Bag

In trying to think of another way to use plastic bags in my art, rather than fusing and collaging them, I got the idea to draw on them with one of those permanent markers that can write on plastic/glass etc. But what to draw?

I had a study I had done, flouting the conventions of watercolour, by not using blending, and by using black. It was too small to do the line work with brush, so I thought, why not use a translucent plastic bag?


Watercolour and plastic scan 001

I stuck the plastic film on with acid free glue stick. If you look closely you can see some of the little wrinkles. This plastic “skin” could say something about superficiality, or the permanence that such a plastic image can have in the minds of people.

Mixed Media Abstract Painting with Reconstituted Frame

There are so many discarded frames out there which really were good looking in their day, but have been through the wars over the years. I purchased one for about two dollars, removed the faded old print within, and painted glue over the top, upon which I then sprinkled talcum powder. The reason for this was that I was making no real progress trying to sand it back, so I thought the powder would give me a new surface for the successive paint layers to grip onto.
Then I chose to make a DIY texture paste by mixing one part white acrylic, one part talcum powder, and half part PVA glue, with water to achieve my desired consistency. The surface of the frame was already dented in a number of places, so my aim was to give the paint a rough and bumpy look.
I have added a close up so that you can see how I got some incidental crackle effect, which was unintended, but I think I will use this intentionally in the future.
With the circle series that I’m working on, I am purchasing frames first, and making the pieces to go with them.

reconstituted frame


reconstituted frame close

Symbolic Abstracts Exploring the Circle

For the series of abstracts I am currently working on, I have chosen one symbol: the circle. Why the circle? Well, there is no particular preference for any geometric shape, it’s just that I had to chose one, and then allow the series of works to evolve around the use of this shape.

It is a very inclusive symbol, and seems appropriate for bringing together my technical and stylistic approaches to reference philosophical and psychological themes.

I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s writings where he cites the circle as being the best symbol to describe the hero’s journey, which I like to think of as a healing journey.

Here’s a little dialogue he had with Bill Moyers in regards to the circle.

The hands-on mixing of colours, building up of textures, and making intuitive decisions is what I think of as the existential aspect of my artistic practice, whereas, the introduction of measurement and proportion incorporates the metaphysical and rational Platonic aspect. I want the works to be expressive, as well as decorative, chaotic, yet ordered, small in size, while expansive in their effect.

A4 size circle with green for web

A4 size circle with green close for web

After painting the shape of the circle, I then cut a circle out of pieces of paper which had first been coated with a base colour mixed with sand texture gel, and had had some acrylic pouring and blotching done to them.
I then sliced out a section from this textured circle to reveal the colour underneath add further interest.

These sections could be thought of as phases in the mythic journey, or just as phases in time. The thing I don’t like about analogue clocks and watches is that they can trick us into thinking that we just repeat the same cycle over and over, like clockwork, but don’t account for the unique weather, mood, or challenges of any particular cycle, or phase within that cycle.

Circle on blue with black and black frame for web

Crircle on blue with brown and square frame for web

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.

Revisiting Neo-Expressionism, and Looking Closer to Home

As I mentioned previously, I had realised that the formalist approach was limiting, in that it’s not an approach designed for expressionism. I wanted to work in a way which was more intuitive, and could express my feelings in a simple way which could appeal to a wide range of people. Of course, I was still wanting to use non-toxic mediums, but I hadn’t really experimented with watercolour and acrylic.

So I purchased some hardboard and gum tape with the intention of building up grounds with blending and blotching techniques. The resulting textures I could then gaze at for a while and anthropomorphise whatever figures and forms I see. I was getting into various conspiracy theories at the time, and these kind of became source material for the works, which were devoid of colour, for the dual purpose of making the process simpler, and expressing feelings of despair which were associated with working a lowly part time job and needing some welfare to supplement my income.

The meek shall inherit the debt     Austerity Measures


I continued exploring the same themes while beginning to bring in colour, especially by way of water soluble crayons and acrylic.

Treadmill    triangle circle square


I was enjoying these much more, but still felt like they were a means to an end. They are imitations, especially of Jean Michel Basquiat, from whom I was definitely learning helpful things, but whose style i also wanted to divorce myself from a bit.

I decided to look a little closer to home for inspiration for how to move forward. I took the time to watch a few documentaries on New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, whose ingenuity gave me some good ideas. He uses words in his work, and he manages to merge minimalist style with expressionism. I’ve also been lucky to have been exposed to the paper assemblages of James Robinson, who really exploits paper in ways which allow for the element of surprise akin to that of how I imagine the alchemists of old went about their work.

He’s also a fellow chigong student, and introduced me to Yuan Gong, a simpler style of chigong invented by Yuan Tze, which I have since begun to learn and practise.

These two artists, along with Shane Cotton, have managed to continue along the same line as Colin McCahon, in the way that they explore the sacred and the sublime aspects of New Zealand life without resorting to obvious and over-used “Kiwiana”, as so many here are like to do.

During this period I picked up another part time job, so another challenge these days is managing my time so that I can continue to be productive with both poetry and painting.

This almost brings us up to present day, where I find myself trying to find the best way for me to do all of the things I want to in painting, and to make it cost effective.