Thursday, December 31, 2020

Curtains to match the paintings




Not that long ago during the opening of one of my exhibitions, I had an interesting conversation with collectors that I had not met before. They bought a piece some years ago along with other artworks and recently they had redecorated their house to match the art they own.

This was a revelation to me and indeed I had not heard of that type of thing before. Often art is bought to match the décor – a legitimate reason for buying art and it is what interior designers specialise in. There is nothing nicer than paintings that complement their surroundings.

Changing the décor to match the painting is another world and it indicates is that artwork can be more precious than a roll of wallpaper with some artworks living through a lifetime of redecoration.

The artwork mentioned above was be all accounts not the home décor kind, so to decorate a house to go with it is really something special. It elevates a painting above the roll of being a decoration and indeed there are many works that come under this category.

Painting that are purely for décor are rightly subservient to the needs of the decorator – their roll is a supporting one to make a house look nicer. However, other types of work that does not come under the ‘wall art’ banner have other reasons for hanging in someone’s house.

There is the sentimental aspect of art too. This is more about the pull-of-the-heart, than thinking about the curtains. Things like places, people and other specific types of subjects can capture the imagination of viewers and the pull can be so strong that they have a need to own it.

Even though artists may have thoughts and stories about their work, viewers can have their very own stories about it. It could be that it triggers a special memory and this reason alone is popular with buyers. It is an amazing experience for an artist to know that one of their paintings has touched the heart of someone else, even if they didn’t buy it.

Art that is bought for sentimental reasons is likely to become a life-long friend of the family that will live through the ups and downs of a household, often through generations. In a way such works become little anchors for the soul in the some-times turbulent sea of life. Paintings that we can enter into, can take us away when we need to.

So, the reasons for buying art is not all that difficult to understand, it is loved because is perfect for the home décor, it is loved because of it has touched our heart or it could be one of those other pieces that acquired as an investment. Any of those will make an artist happy!

What’s your take on all of this? Drop in your comments below.

Mike Barr

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Autumn Shadows - Largs Bay








100x50cm acrylic on treated mdf board

Summer time sees a busy sailing club at Largs Bay in South Australia. The set up and finish of the days events is always the most interesting with the floury of activity. A beautiful part of Summer in a wonderful place.

Dark summer clouds cool off the weary sailors as they pack up for the day and head for the sailing club.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Proof of life


Semaphore Sunday - with life










Semaphore Sunday without life


The world if full of landscape paintings and has been for a long time. They are popular because most of us love a spectacular landscape in real life and it's great to have them in painting form too.

There are so many forms of landscape painting today, but they all have something in common. They either contain signs of life or they don't.

Signs of life can mean several things including humanity, bird and animal life and inanimate objects like buildings, boats and other things that indicate life is going on.

Some artists don't like sullying the landscape with humans or other things pertaining to them. Some find it too difficult to add signs of life without spoiling what they have already achieved in the landscape. Other artists purposely add life signs to enhance their landscapes.

It is a worthy study during art shows or at a gallery to see how landscapes make you feel, with and without life.

I believe there is a lot to be said for animated landscapes and there is a long history of them. Artists like Winslow Homer changed seascapes into a living drama with his fishermen battling the sea. He turned placid lakes into insights on how life was lived in the wilds. John Constable turned landscapes into calm windows of life with his addition of rural workers, cattle and cottages.

We may not come under the same category as these artists, but incorporating simple signs of life in our landscape could transform them.

Just a few birds in the sky can enhance the feeling of the expanse of sky and if you put them at different angles it can indicate a windy day. In a seascape, a white mark or two that symbolise sails, will eradicate the sterility of the horizon.

Adding figures not only adds human interest to the story of a painting, but it also provides scale and identification.

Proof of life in paintings does something important. It has a reassuring effect upon us. I have seen lots of perfect jetty paintings with not a hint of life in them, pristine beaches with not so much as a shell, grand cityscapes where no one lives and endless green pastures where no beast grazes. 

It can be disconcerting to behold our world without the heart-beat of life and so simple to fix with a few marks from a brush.


Mike Barr

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The secret to painting looser

There is something about a loose painting that attracts our attention whether we are an artist or not. There is an intriguing way in which such works draw us in to finish the unfinished and revel in that which is suggested. These looser works also tend to be the painting equivalent of a movie, as the animated brush strokes carry us along.

Some time ago In a conversation with a fellow artist and teacher, we discussed how many artists wished they could paint in a looser style as if there was some formula available. We agreed, that a looser style largely comes from confidence, borne from doing it a lot. The untouched brush stroke which can sometimes make a painting, has likely come from years of experience.

So, there is a real interest in being able to paint in that looser style, but the question is, how is it possible?

Firstly, the subject matter must be simplified. Simplifying everything in our minds is the key even before we start painting, whether it is from a photo or real life. Our natural instinct is to copy everything and painting looser requires that we see bigger shapes, leave out a lot of detail and suggest that which is small. It's a true education in art to paint this way, even if we only do it occasionally.

Big Brushes
Big brushes, especially in the early stages will help a lot. It's hard to be fiddly with a 2-inch brush! Having said this, there are artists that can produce loose paintings with a small brush. All said and done, painting looser is a state of mind.

Limit the colour
Also, If you have a million colours on your palette, you will be at a disadvantage. Concern about colour can tighten up things because we are thinking about the mechanics too much. Colour doesn't make a painting, but feeling and movement certainly does and this often comes from tones rather than colour.

The biggest contributor to successful loose paintings is confidence and there is no way around this. Painting is an acquired skill and skill is a product of repetitive practice.  Confidence is the product of this practice - many hours of practice and learning from mistakes - our own and those of others.

Can you speed things up? I think you can and it's done by painting lots of small pieces but with the initial intent of them not being finished works. This mindset will help you from being too careful, after all practice pieces are just that. However, you'll find that a carefree practice piece might just present itself as one of your best!