Quite often, the problem is that everything looks so easy when we see an expert doing it. Have you ever tried to whirl dough like a pizzaiolo? Ride a monocycle? Spin a lassoo? We are not born with these skills, any more than we are born able to walk or talk. We learn these skills by copying people around us that have already mastered them, by trial and error, failure, success and determination. How many times does a baby fall down and get up again before it learns to walk? How much babble does it produce before the first words form? They just don’t give up, do they? And we don’t laugh at them for trying and failing either; we encourage them and we applaud when they succeed. Every parent wants their child to walk and talk, so these skills are actively encouraged from birth.
Driving a car is an incredibly difficult skill to learn. Steering round a corner, changing gear, indicating and being aware of other traffic all at once seems completely impossible at first. With practice we can do all those things (except indicating, which seems to be illegal in Malta) – and maybe even sing to the radio at the same time.
Of course it looks easy when an expert draws, but everyone has to start somewhere. Some children have a gift for seeing differently and they really can find realistic drawing easier to master. It is a skill that can be taught and learnt though. After that it comes down to practice and practice and more practice!
Classes Update We are still making the most of the A/C every Tuesday morning at Le Meridien - must take a photo there next week!
And -surprisingly - we are STILL meeting at Villa Bologna to paint outside in the gardens! Even though we are in the midst of a heatwave (this is not funny in Malta, temperatures are around 38 C) the trees have kept us cool and calm every week so far !
The festival was the brainchild of renowned local percussionist Charles (City) Gatt, and back in the 90's I asked him if I could try painting there on the spot. For a while there were four of us, but now it's just me, and I really look forward to it every year.
So, how do you paint on the spot like this?
1. First step is to draw obsessively for about 50 years until you can do it almost automatically. Draw from reality, not from photographs so that you can translate 3D to 2D. Draw and sketch as much as you can.
2. Experiment with different materials and approaches until you know what works for you. When I am painting dancers I like to use wet media, such as gouache (a more opaque version of watercolour) and soluble crayons. For me, this combination captures a feeling of movement as the water dissolves the colour and gives it a sense of freedom.
For the jazz painting I prefer acrylics as the colours are stronger - I can see them in the poor light. I also have longer to work on each piece, as I'll explain later.
5. On site, make a space that you can move easily in, and protect it as best you can - people will walk all over you if they possibly can. Most really don't care or have any respect for what you're doing. They won't appreciate that you actually need to focus and concentrate to work this way.
It's an honour to take part in this cycle by capturing as much as I can on paper. The only way I know is to watch the action in front of me until I can identify with it and develop a feeling for the rhythm and flight of it. Something, some beautiful shape will strike me, and I then need to take a kind of mental photo, an instant snapshot in my mind. It's like pulling the image out of the air and putting it on the paper before it fades. I can't look back until it takes form, and then I can move on to another. I don't really 'see' the pictures as I produce them, and they often surprise me afterwards.
I used gouache for these works as I love the fluidity and versatility of the medium. Gouache is similar to watercolour, but has more body to it. It can be used as solid colour or in thin washes. The linear definition is Neopastel, a soluble crayon which again gives me the choice of wet or dry drawings. Where it touches the washes of colour, it dissolves and fuses with the paint, which I feel adds to the sense of movement and action.
The paintings are approximately 50 x 35 cms and are 27 euro each. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing any of them
To see the rest of the collection, please click HERE
Class Updates - The regular class at Le Meridien continues every Tuesday in the KuDeTa bar near reception. This is not a structured course, more of a drop in workshop. Last week we did an all-white still life! I demonstrate, help individually and hope to inspire!
Classes are from 10 am til 12.30 pm and cost 20 euro
We are still managing to meet every Friday at Villa Bologna - so far the heat has not really bothered us. There's so much shade and so many cool things to paint! For the last couple of weeks we have been concentrating on 'portraits' of trees, which could inspire us for ever, as there are so many characters in the gardens! We won't be meeting this week, the 17th, as I will be up late the night before painting at the Jazz Festival - sorry folks! Back to normal on the 24th though. Normal-ish, anyway.......
Classes start at 9.30am until 12pm and also cost 20 euro.
Contact me HERE for more info
It’s debatable whether the intense study of technical skills enhances or erodes self-expression and creativity. The argument against it is that once you have learnt to draw in a tight and representation way it can be difficult to loosen up afterwards and not become a slave to the outward appearance of your subject matter. Creative interpretation can be stifled.
On the other hand inaccurate drawing in a representational piece is enough to ruin it. If, say, the perspective is wrong in an otherwise good drawing it will jar with the viewer. They may not even be able to identify what it is, only that something doesn’t ‘feel right’.
More naive and experimental approaches often produce much more interesting images, but personally I feel it’s a mistake to encourage abstraction – in children or adults – before they have grasped at least the basic fundamentals of accurate drawing. Drawing, for me, means developing the skills of seeing what is really in front of us instead of what we THINK is there, and having the motor skills to capture it. Otherwise, what are we abstracting FROM?
Abstraction can be used as a vehicle of frustration at not being able to draw, but it also serves its purpose as a powerful way to express feelings. Not many well known artists of the past began by painting abstracts however. They arrived at abstraction after many years of study, beginning with formal drawing.
I am far from being a Well Known Artist, but my artistic journey parallels these observations.
I left college able to draw very realistically, which I was pleased with at the time. I hadn’t learnt much about colour or painting techniques though. I subsequently met someone whose watercolour skills I admired and I absorbed her guidance like a sponge. It took me about two years before I was happy-ish with my abilities. I was able to put the two skills of drawing and watercolour painting together reasonably well and that set me on a path of experimenting with the idea of drawing in colour.
Years later, faced with a huge life crisis, I found my ability to capture seen objects no help at all. I began to create three-dimensional works from driftwood and found objects, and also to experiment with mixed media. This gave me an unrestricted outlet for emotional release. I still find the challenge of unpredictable methods and materials a source of inspiration and surprise. I know that I can tie things down with a bit of drawing if required, but it’s very exciting to just let paint flow and see what happens.
For exampIe, I created a series of semi-abstracts based on the full moon. I set out with the idea of making interesting and emotive paintings using mainly one colour (Prussian Blue) and a simple circle.
My years at art college still stand me in good stead, but I also consider myself self-taught to a great extent. Or perhaps I should say ‘self-teaching’ as I certainly have not finished learning or exploring yet.
Classes Update -
Tuesday Mornings at Le Meridien continues to be fun - last week we worked on how to darken watercolours without ending up with mud!
Fridays at Villa Bologna in Attard is as lovely as ever. We are starting at 9.30 am now, so that we finish a little earlier to help avoid some of the midday heat. We may move to evening when it gets even hotter. This week we are going to make tree portraits.....
All classes are two and a half hours long and cost 20 euro each. You can use my materials for an extra 3 euro.
Call me on 99458286 or contact me HERE
I love to paint - and draw - and help others to discover their creative side too.....
Be the first to see my latest work and hear of new classes by adding your email address below. Thank you!