Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Pa at the Archie again!

Greetings for the silly season! You may have noticed a lack of blog updates for a while... I've had a little break after somewhat over doing things (think pet portraits and moving house) and ending up in a bit of a heap for a couple of months. My doc thought I might have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and referred me to a specialist for a second opinion. The specialist diagnosed CFS and Fibromyalgia so to my great relief I now know why I've struggled with my health for so many years. It has been wonderful to take a real break and learn to pace myself for a more sustainable level of daily activity. I started painting again for a couple of hours a day and managed to complete this commission portrait of my grandfather just in time for my uncle to give it to my aunt for Christmas. I really enjoyed painting Pa again... I've painted him from this same photo twice before (see first 2 attempts below). I took this pic when Pa and I went to see the Archibald exhibition in 2006... he was standing in the sun among the columns at the entrance of the NSW art gallery. The slower painting pace meant I was more relaxed and not in so much pain, the end result being my best portrait yet!

Seemed like I might need some tips with learning how to pace so I called in professional nappers... kittens! For the past few weeks I've been fostering a litter of 6 kitties for a pet rescue organisation called Claws 'n' Paws. They are now 10 weeks old, adorable and hugely entertaining, even if the house turns into a circus when they're in full swing... but they're quite devoted to napping so we have plenty of down time. I'm adopting one of the girls who I've called Daisy... she's an affectionate and loving little creature and I'm so happy to have my own kitty again!

I've taken up crochet and have been making these little mice to give to the kitties when go to their new forever homes...

Wishing you a happy eat-fest with family and friends this Christmas and praying that the New Year has wonderful things in store for you... I hope to keep painting, just at a lesser pace, so do stay tuned...

“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Spring jug

A little 10x10" still life that inspired me in it's simplicity...

I had a really special birthday yesterday full of conversations and connections with friends and family... Today it seems I haven't any words left in me!! So here's a short quote and I'll be posting again soon...

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming. Pablo Neruda

Monday, 30 September 2013

Glengala Day competition winner!

On Saturday I held a Pet Portraits stall at the annual open day of Glengara retirement village where I've been staying with my mum for the past few months. It was terrific timing since I still have works I painted for my Pet Portraits challenge that have not yet been sent to their new homes as well as being able to borrow back paintings from neighbours in the village - some of which were beautifully framed!

My mission was to meet fellow pet lovers, show my paintings and give out my new flyers. I also offered new email subscribers the chance to go in a draw to win 50% off an 8x8" pet portrait. I'm very happy to announce the winner of my very first give-away... congratulations Cathy Rose!! Thank you to all my other new subscribers, it was a pleasure to meet each one of you and I hope you enjoy receiving these updates of my latest news and paintings.

Recently I've looked after my aunt's dog Buddy a couple of times while she's away and it turns out he's a very obliging artist's muse and model. This is a little scene of my mum's living room which I've painted before (see here) but I thought it had a certain extra charm with the addition of said muse draped over the chair. This one is 12x12" and I chose a different Margaret Olley painting for the wall (I just love her work!). I'm still not sure I've nailed the colours, I might go back to it when I'm full of colour-fixing inspiration.

The arts... are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. For heaven's sake, sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” Kurt Vonnegut, (A Man Without a Country)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Ruby the Chihuahua

This is a commissioned painting of Ruby who I met and photographed last weekend. She's a friendly non-yappy sort of chihauhua and I enjoyed her company thoroughly. Of all the photos I took only one turned out really well because of her propensity to squint, but the good one was just perfect.

Professional help was available from my aunt's dog Buddy for this one. He took up prime position on my bed and was flowing with great tips and pointers. In fact he worked so hard he wore himself out!

Here's a time lapse video of the painting in progress:

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Pablo Picasso

Monday, 23 September 2013

Bedroom Irises

In trying to spice up my paintings a bit I challenged myself to paint this entire 12x12" still life with a 1 inch brush. My brushes have been getting smaller and smaller over the years and although I was tempted a hundred times to resort to the control of a smaller brush, I'm glad a I stuck it out because it forced me to paint more freely. I also let loose on it with the palette knife at the end. It's a start! I went and bought a few more big brushes so I can experiment further with it.

Coming soon is my next Pet Portrait commission of a cute chihuahua called Ruby... stay tuned!

“You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is… unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far.”
Alice Nee

Friday, 20 September 2013

Pet Portrait commission - Kiri

Today I finished my first commissioned Pet Portrait! This is a darling corgi called Kiri wearing a schoolbag. Tina and John's son used to dress her in it which was "an indignity she tolerated". I like to think she's about to go parachuting and with the blue background she could almost be flying free.

Here is a video of the painting in progress:

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lovely day in Patonga

I've not been sure what to sink my teeth into next so today I tried painting a landscape from a photo I took a couple of weeks ago, to see what might come of it. There is a lot to learn about making a successful landscape and I suspect it's mostly concerned with getting the values right and simplifying. In other words, deciding what to leave out and what can be painted in one generalised stroke instead of 3 or four more detailed ones. I started off too stiff and detailed and after lunch I went back over the whole painting without looking at the photo and just let loose with bigger brush strokes. I've decided that for an inexperienced painter like me, landscapes are probably better painted from life as there is too much colour information lost by the camera and as yet I'm not sure how to make it up. So I either need to get out there amongst the elements or paint little garden scenes. Or go back to my first love (still lifes)!!!

I will admit I'm rather fond of being inside as opposed to out in nature. For the purposes of painting that is. What a luxury to have a roof over one's head to protect from the heat/cold/wind/insects/sand ETC. And not having anyone looking over your shoulder. And did I mention the presence of certain desirable facilities such as the kettle, the stereo and the loo? Hmmm... I believe I'll have to summon an ocean of will-power to make myself leave the house to paint!!

On monday I drove up to Newcastle with a good friend of mine and we each put 2 works into the Newcastle Emerging Artists Prize which opens on saturday this week. 'You've gotta be in it to win it' as they say and if nothing else it's another experience under the belt.

Yesterday I whipped up a Pet Portraits flyer (which turned into a double-sided postcard) to let it be known at my local vets and pet-groomers that I'm here and ready to paint pets. I also needed to get the flyer off to the printer immediately so it will be ready for "Glengala" (saturday 28th), the open day of the village where my mum lives (and where I'm currently staying for another 3 weeks). I'm going to have a stall for my pet portraits as there's an abundance of pets amongst the village people and I think there'll be plenty of potential customers coming along for the day as well.

It's all go around here... More soon!

For beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, and creeds follow one another like the withered leaves of autumn; but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons and a possession for all eternity.
Oscar Wilde

Friday, 13 September 2013

Kossie, the final Pet Portraits Challenge pet!

Kossie is an australian spotted mist and brother to Ko Ko. He is an adorable cat but loathes being fenced in. Despite all my efforts to stop him escaping, he has earned the nick name Houdini for his ability to escape no matter how many barriers I put in place. He just loves being free to roam where he will. His morning cuddle is an essential start to the day and like his brother Ko Ko, he enjoys destroying my soft furnishings and having his cattachino off the kitchen bench. One big difference, he hates Buddy (the dog) licking his ears! And he loves his chicken necks, usually devouring Ko Ko's before he has a chance to get to it.

I feel like I've been in a time-warp of pet portraits and I can't remember a time when I wasn't whipping up an entire painting on a daily basis. Actually I'm quite weary now that I've come to the end of it, but quietly satisfied as well. When I came up with the terrific four-weeks-of-daily-Pet-Portraits idea with my trusty brain-storming assistants (thanks mum and Vic!) I had no idea how much it was going to involve. From priming boards, securing pet submissions, painting from photos to the best of my ability, taking time-lapse videos, fine-tuning my email subscription settings, communicating on facebook and my blog, setting up my 'books' to do invoicing and receipts, stationery, packaging, framing and remembering to take breaks and eat and unwind and spend time with people... No wonder I need a few days off!!!

I'm very grateful to everyone who has trusted me to let loose my creativity on their precious pets and to everyone who has bought their painting and to everyone who has 'liked' the works on facebook, left comments, sent me encouraging emails and just generally cheered me on. It's been wonderful to connect with new and old friends and also to see that it might be possible to make a living as an artist with the help of the internet and social media. One day at a time!

So what's next? On monday I'm driving up to Newcastle to submit a work for the Newcastle Emerging Artists prize. I have a couple of pet portrait commissions coming up and I'm planning to keep painting small works of subjects that inspire me, whether from life or photos. I'll continue to update the blog whenever I have new work so stay tuned. You can make sure you don't miss anything by subscribing to email updates (top right). Also, if you're interested in framing ideas, check out the new tab I created at the top of the blog called 'framing'.

Thank you again for all your support, more soon!!

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Jess was born at Lake Maquarie, one of a litter of about ten pups. Her father lives in the foothills of Barrington Tops. Jess is a quick learner and will do anything for you, preferably for a reward of dried liver.   The love of her life is her frisbee and she would chase it all day if she had the chance. She also loved chasing horses but learnt a bit of a lesson one day courtesy of a hind hoof. She is now a little more wary.
Harrison Family

I love the look on Jess' face in this portrait, there's so many things she could be saying, like: "you've got some liver for me after this posing-for-the-photo-thing don't you?", or "you know how much I love you, I could look in your eyes all day" or "can I move now pleeeease???"... Here is the time lapse video of the painting in progress:

Tomorrow is the last pet portrait of my four week challenge, so be sure to come back and see Ko Ko's brother Kossie!!!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Sammy is a 12 year old pure bred Pomeranian who has been with us for 10 years after adoption from doggy rescue. He is a placid dog who only barks when people ring the doorbell or he wants treats. Sammy likes his daily walks and can seem aloof especially to other dogs. Sammy loves to go everywhere with us and sulks when left at home alone. Apart from being a fussy eater we love him to bits and many people mistake him for a female because he is so gorgeous.
Ken and Audrey

Sammy really is a gorgeous dog, I got to meet him to take the photos for this portrait. It was challenging to capture the subtlety in colour and form of his beautiful thick fur. Here is the time lapse video of the painting in progress:

Also, my pet portraits challenge ends this friday (nearly there!!). From then on I'll be painting other things like still lifes, interiors and landscapes (whatever takes the fancy really) but will continue to do pets by commission. I've made a new tab at the top of the blog called Pet Portraits which covers all the information to do with commissioning a painting of your pet. Feel free to share it with your friends of family. They are great value and make lovely gifts.

If you enjoy this blog and would like it delivered straight to your inbox whenever there is an update, just pop your email address in the "Follow by email" box at the top right and you'll never miss a thing!

The second-last pet tomorrow will be Jess!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Holly is a lover not a fighter. She adores everyone and loves to play with other dogs, large or small. Just like Bailey, our other Jack Russell, she loves the beach, but not swimming. She won't venture in too deep, but loves to run through the shallows. Her other favourite things are food, her lovely soft bed and watching tv with the family, (especially Meerkat, Manor, or any other wild life programme). Holly is now 10 years old and still plays like a puppy with Bailey who is 7 years old.
Nick and Jan

I'm happy with how Holly turned out to make a nice partner for her sister Bailey (see yesterdays post). Here is a time lapse of the painting in progress:

And now here is the long awaited frame idea I promised a couple of weeks ago. It's a type of 'float' frame done in a way so that none of the painting is lost behind the edge of the frame (or mounting) which is important for these small works.

The idea is to choose a wide frame to increase the overall size of the painting and attach the work to the MDF backing board, which in this case was painted black. No glass is needed and the price for this particular gold frame from my local framer was $33. Of course you can choose any colour or style of frame that you like and suits your painting and the backing board can be also painted any colour. You could discuss different options with your framer who might have other ideas to suggest.

If you live locally and would like to go with a frame like this (you can choose another colour or style but the price might vary) then pop down to see Josh and Kathy at:

Central Coast Picture Framing
15/15 Clare-Mace Cres
Berkeley Vale
(02) 4388 4038

Remember to mention me and they should know exactly what you are after... Please come back tomorrow to see the next pet portrait which will be Sammy!!

Monday, 9 September 2013


Bailey exudes the joy of life, she is the happiest little girl from day-break, until late into the night. Her favourite activity is swimming and she's quite a water baby. Bailey is a fearless swimmer which is a worry when the surf is up. Her other favourite times are spent running, playing ball, digging on the beach and delving into her large toy box. She also loves her sister Holly, (who is actually her cousin). Holly and Bailey are both pure bread Jack Russell's from different breeders in western New South Wales, but they share the same grandfather.
Nick and Jan

This is the last week of my pet portraits challenge... I love this one of Bailey. The strong side light really helped to make it a successful painting. Here is a timelapse video of the painting in progress:

I changed my email subscriptions service from Feedburner to MailChimp so if you're a subscriber feel free to give me feedback on how they compare and if you have any problems with the emails at all. If you haven't subscribed and would like to receive an email with each of my blog updates feel free to sign up! All you have to do is put your email in the box at the top right where it says "Follow this blog by email" and hit subscribe.

Make sure you come back tomorrow to see Bailey's sister Holly!!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Ava Blu

This is Ava-Blu. She is a lilac pointed Ragdoll. She is very sweet and loves to be where the action is. We got this little girl as a retired breeding cat after she had just had 8 kittens! Her personality is very kind a gentle and she likes to be snuggled up on the couch next to you.

What a beautiful cat, I'm inspired to get a ragdoll! Due to popular demand the time-lapse video is back. I had to work out a way to set it up that wasn't going to put a kink in my neck from the tripod being in my way... I think I've perfected it now and the lighting might be better too:

For anyone reading this update by email, you can go straight to the website to view the video by clicking on the title 'Ava Blu' at the top.

This is the end of the 3rd week, just one week to go of my pet portraits challenge. I promised an idea for framing and I'm still waiting for my framer to finish my prototype which I think will be great. Hopefully I'll have that early next week. On monday I'll be posting up a gorgeous dog called Bailey so stay tuned and have a great weekend!!

Thursday, 5 September 2013


Chinook is my best mate, he has an awesome vocabulary and copies everyone's words and mannerisms perfectly. He thinks he a dog! He shakes hands, fetches a little cat ball and likes lying down on the bottom of the cage rather than sitting on the perch like a bird. He loves helping me with the gardening and chewing my note pads when I'm writing.

I had a budgie just like Chinook when I was in high school so I really enjoyed painting him and remembering Charlie at the same time. I even got out my rarely-used pthalo blue to get that lovely blue he has down his chest and at the top of his beak.

I just added a 'contact' tab along the top of my blog. I realised there was no easy way for people to find my contact details here so now there is!

Also, just letting you know again in case you missed the beginning of my Pet Portraits challenge, all these pet paintings are 8x8" (that's about 20x20cm) so they are quite small. There is no obligation to buy your painting so if you would like to you will need to let me know by email (see the contact tab above!). If your painting was one of the first five then it will be $75, otherwise they are $100. The prices include postage within Australia, or home delivery if you live close by!

Please come again tomorrow to see the last painting for week 3, the lovely Ava Blu!!!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Molly II

Molly is a gorgeous, 14 year old, tennis ball obsessed girl! She is affectionate, enthusiastic for all things that involve her, from a cuddle to a long walk, but her absolute favourite will be a good game involving a tennis racquet and ball! She will often make her opinions known, whether it is about dinner, or escorting her 'mum' to the train station in the morning.

I struggled somewhat to get this painting to work since in the photo Molly was quite a distance from the camera and she lacked a lot of detail. I'm learning what a difference the quality for the reference photo makes. Anyway, I think it still shows her very sweet nature and she looks like she's just resting after a romp around the park chasing her ball.

Please visit again tomorrow to see a special feathered friend called Chinook!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013


Molly of Glengara, a gorgeous 21 month old Cavoodle latte in colour who charms every person she meets with her very friendly nature and silky soft fur and her ever ready licks, she is so full of energy I think we could run the village on it, she absolutely loves her walks around the village, not to mention barking at any other dogs she meets and when at home is on duty every waking hour in case somebody attempts to pass the house.
Phil and Dianna

Molly lives on my street and wanted to be part of the pet portrait challenge. She's very excitable when visitors come (in this case me) so we had to bribe her with treats to take some photos of her... you can guess what has her undivided attention here!! Somehow though it turned out like she's having a fanciful dream about something rather wonderful in her doggy future. Tomorrow we have another Molly!

Monday, 2 September 2013


My name is Simba and I am a three year old Chocolate Burmese.  I am an Aussie, currently living in Singapore. I have a gorgeous but annoying younger sister called Poppy and Bella and Liam are my besties! I have an infatuation with socks and I love to carry them around the apartment like 'prey' and leave them as gifts for my owners. I also like to show them how much I love them by rubbing myself all over their leather shoes and handbags. I have mastered using the human toilet since moving overseas and I'm very proud of my achievements! My favourite place to sleep is on top of the fridge where its warm and I have a birds eye view!

Simba was the first photo so far in the pet portraits challenge that was taken using a flash (as opposed to natural light). It confused me initially trying to work out if the light was cool or warm and correspondingly, whether the shadows were cool or warm. Possibly because there is so little shadow area and a very cool purple half tone light... so my conclusion is that flash light is in fact cool which creates warm shadows. I think painting natural light is definitely easier as the planes of the form are clearer and there is a more obvious separation of shadow and light areas. All good experience though and she came up nearly as cute as she is in real life. Tomorrow we have Molly!!

Friday, 30 August 2013


This is Hazel, a very happy and energetic 18 month old Border Collie. She loves to round things up; humans, other dogs and anything else that walks, crawls and even flies past! She’s into all sorts of games like Frisbee, catch, tip and fetch (although she hasn’t quite gotten the hang of the bringing it back part yet)! She’s always learning new things and has perfected the handshake and is now working on collecting the paper. She’s a beautiful puppy and attracts a lot of attention wherever she goes – which, of course she never gets sick of!
Ayling family

The lovely Hazel marks half way through my pet portraits challenge. Being thrown into intensive painting for a purpose like this has forced me to figure out many things about the way I work, sit, time manage, rest and not overwhelm my mum with all my crazy ideas! I'm also chipping away at the businessy side of things like setting up a cataloguing system for my work and keeping track of invoices and other things to do with numbers. So it's a busy time but I'm looking forward to seeing where this creative journey takes me.

Thank you again to everyone who has participated in the challenge so far. As there is no obligation to buy your painting I won't send you an invoice unless you let me know you would like to purchase it. Just pop me off an email buy clicking here... Have a great weekend and come back on monday to meet Simba!!

"Linear thinking can take us from A to B but imagination can take us anywhere".
Albert Einstein

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Paddy is a small poodle cross who has been with us for twelve years. He loves his daily walks both in the morning and evening. His favourite summer past time is chasing lizards in the garden and he waits very patiently for them to reappear. Paddy is a great joy to our grand-daughters and usually gets greeted before anyone else. He has been affectionately ‘adopted’ by many residents in our village and welcomes into the house whoever may knock at our door. He has been known to visit various residents for morning treats and in one case used sit by their fridge in passive anticipation. In his later years he has settled well into a retirement lifestyle - walk, rest, forage, rest, walk, eat and sleep but all the time making sure we were still here.

I decided to do Paddy uncropped as the photo wasn't greatly detailed and I think he turned out really cute. I met Paddy a few weeks ago but sadly he has since passed away. Sorry Nancy and Russell, I know he was very dear to you. I hope this painting will stir good memories and make you smile when you see it.

I have to say that a painting a day is quite a challenging pace. There is a movement of Daily Painters (see Daily Paintworks for example) and to be honest I don't know how they keep it up! I think most who post daily, paint 6x6"s and that would make some difference. I'm trying to paint quickly but as true to the photos as possible to catch the personality of each pet. Anyhow, nearly half way there...

Please stay tuned tomorrow for Hazel!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Daisy will be 9 in November. She's a very good natured girl, obedient, loving and especially loves children. She's an extremely gentle dog, doesn't bark and seems to need to help with all the household chores!

Daisy is an adorable dog, maybe it's her ears! I think it turned out to be a happy little painting with the yellow background.

I rearranged the painting space in my room the other day so that the wardrobe mirrors are behind me. It's so helpful to see the painting in reverse because the eyes get tired after a while and can no longer see drawing and value mistakes. Having a quick glance in the mirror is like looking at the painting after a 10 minute break, mistakes leap out at you from everywhere! Note to self: when I move back to my own place set up a mirror behind me.

I went to meet my new local picture framer yesterday to discuss economical framing options for these little paintings. I think we've come up with a good solution which works out about $33. The framer is making me up a prototype which I'll photograph and post on my blog when I pick it up next week, with detailed description so you can ask for the same thing at your own framer if you like the idea. More about that next week. Please come again tomorrow to see Paddy!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


'Our Kooka' is a wild bird that has been visiting us on and off in the Blue Mts over the past eighteen months or so, since around January 2012. She starts to appear on our balcony most mornings for a very tiny portion indeed of organic mince meat and soon gets into a daily routine lasting several months. Then one day, all of a sudden, she flies off never to be seen again, or so we think. Lo and behold, our kookaburra reappears four months later to resume her daily visits for many more months, becoming so familiar with her hosts that she will quite happily sit on the feeder's lap. Sadly for the latter, she has yet again flown the coop, at least for a while.
Marnie A

I was really looking forward to painting Kooka, since I've met her personally on my aunt Marnie's balcony in the Blue Mountains... as it happens, I really struggled to get the background to work. In the photo there were the railings of the balcony to the left and behind but because the light was hitting them quite strongly and Kooka was in shade, they were too distracting. I scraped and repainted them in every non-distracting way I could think of and eventually because time was limited (one pet a day!!) I decided to paint the background without the railings... Tomorrow we have the lovely Daisy!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ko Ko

Ko Ko is a 5 year old Australian Mist. Very affectionate, he dribbles with joy when being patted. His days are spent lolling in the sun, curled up next to his brother Kossie. His great loves are: having his ears licked clean by my dog, Buddy; licking cattachinos (cappuccino milk froth) off the kitchen bench (!); sitting on the top shelf of the bookcase and flinging books to the floor; and sharpening his claws on any soft furnishings that happen to be handy when the urge comes upon him.

It was fun to paint Ko Ko because we're the best of friends... he always comes running to greet me when I visit Vicki and he won't leave me alone until we've had a full and generous cuddle. I didn't quite finish the Kookaburra today, but will post him tomorrow, stay tuned!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Pet Portraits Challenge update

Greetings! The first week of my Pet Portraits challenge is complete and there are 3 weeks still to go. I'm happy to say the response I've had has been awesome and now I have a pet to paint for each day of the challenge. I'm full up!! Thank you so much to everyone who has sent me photos of their beautiful pets. They are wonderfully various, from tiny to great, furry to feathered!

During this four week challenge there is no obligation to buy your pet portrait but if you would like to, it will be at a reduced price of $100 ($75 for the first 5) including postage. If you decide to buy your portrait it will be ready to ship to you around 2 weeks after it has been posted on the blog. Just let me know if you would like to purchase and I will send you an invoice and ship it off to you as soon as it's varnished and ready to go. If you live close by I might be able to home deliver!

Of course I would still love to paint your pet after the challenge is over. From then on Pet Portraits will be by commission. I will post up sizes and prices in the coming week, as well as my recommendation for an economical way to frame your pet portrait (stay tuned)...

Thank you again for all the positive feedback you have given me, I'm very grateful and feel encouraged to keep painting!!! Until tomorrow...

Friday, 23 August 2013


Jake is a 5 year old Hungarian Vizsla cross who we nickname our Velcro puppy. He loves to lean against people and can't ever seem to get close enough. He loves to play ball on the beach, defend his family from any unknown dangers and takes great joy in finding the sunniest spot in the yard to lie down in - currently my veggie patch!

Painting Jake was quite a challenge for me. When I started planning the painting I realised he's actually in dappled sunlight which had me somewhat confused about what was sunlight (warm) and what was a lighter part of him in shade (cool). I think I got there in the end. Stay tuned for next week's pet portraits, including a kookaburra!!

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Timmy is a playful energetic Lhasa Apso cross who loves people. He is a lively, affectionate and faithful companion who loves to sit beside my chair in the garden. He's a bubbly pooch who has a deep curiosity and love for helicopters...when he hears one overhead he runs outside stands on his back legs with front paws to the air indicating he wants to be lifted up to get a better view. His sporting activities include chasing one particular ball which is falling to bits and chasing the noisy cockatoos flying above the house. Oh yes, and Timmy loves a good ear massage and a warm rub on the back of his neck.

Timmy was great to paint, so much flowing hair! I didn't manage to get a time lapse for various reasons... still I'm happy how this one turned out. Stay tuned tomorrow for Jake!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


This is the late "Cattie" née "Penny" who died on 27 May 2003 at around eighteen years of age, sadly just six weeks after her big move from Darlington in Sydney to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. She was quite the scaredy-cat when first adopted as a mature eight-year-old, or thereabouts, by two equally middle-aged human carers. But her timidity soon diminished and for the next decade she settled in to ruling the roost and a life of leisure in her very own domain. She was always adept at keeping her adoring 'owners' in check when it came to feeding and other matters, such as shedding her black and white fur everywhere she went. Thus in the company of her loving admirers, the rest of her life was spent truly enjoying free range over her three bedroom terrace and luscious, albeit modest, garden.
Marnie A

I needed to paint Cattie 'in full' since the only photos of her were printed ones without a lot of detail. But I think she came up well in the end. Here is a time lapse of her. I tried putting the camera on the other side of me to prevent the glare problem but instead my hand was in the way. Still working on the best set up for it!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Reo is an eight year old Australian Stockhorse. His fancy name is Baymak Reo, but most of his friends just call him Reo. Reo likes apples and is scared of butterflies. Because everyone knows that butterflies eat horses. Especially the little white ones. You know, the ones with sharp teeth that pretend to eat broccoli but really they hide in the grass and JUMP out and try to grab unsuspecting horses by the throat, so they can drag them back to their lairs and eat their flesh – yeah, those ones. Broccoli – pft! Reo is so not fooled by that.

I really enjoyed painting Reo, he's a lovely horse even if he is scared of butterflies... Here's a video of the work in progress... I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do my videos with lighting etc so hopefully by the end they'll be much better. Tune in tomorrow for Cattie!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pet Portraits Challenge kicks off... here's Ruby!

This is Ruby, we rescued her from death row at the pound when she was 3 months old. She was an abused dog, having had her tail broken by her previous owner. Ruby is the most loving, loyal dog and greets everyone she meets with kisses and a wagging tail. She loves going for a run, is very fond of cashew nuts, and most of all, she loves to snuggle up to you any time of the day or night.

Ruby is my sister's dog, thanks Phil for starting me off with the lovely Ruby! Thanks also to everyone who's sent me pics of their pets, I'm looking forward to painting them all. If anyone is interested in having their pet painted, please see the instructions for sending photos and learn more about my Pet Portraits Challenge here.

I'm also experimenting with an app called Lapse It and made a time lapse video of this painting. Enjoy... and do come back tomorrow to see my cousin's horse Reo!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A comfortable place to sit

Here is a comfortable place to sit on a warm winter's day. I finished this 10x10" painting of mum's living room this morning. I'm a HUGE fan of the late Australian artist Margaret Olley so I added one of her paintings in place of the more modern painting that is actually there. Tomorrow I'll be starting on my pet portraits. I'm looking forward to posting them daily from monday, stay tuned!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Pet Portrait a Day!

This is Buddy. He's a social butterfly who loves going for morning walks to greet all his friends and sniff out the daily news behind every post and tree. He dreams of walks that never end and looks forward to long morning cuddles in bed on the weekends. In the evenings Buddy practices his fine acting skills, pretending to be fast asleep when it's time to go out in the cold for a pee before bed time.

This is my second attempt to paint Buddy. As I'm painting each day and getting used to the primed boards I'm slowly improving my technique so I had another go at Buddy on a larger board (10x10").

I'm setting myself up to improve my pet portraits and need your help. Starting next monday the goal is to paint a pet each day for the next four weeks (weekends off) so I need pets to paint!! Furry or feathered, big or small... If you'd like to help me along, check out the instructions below. There will be no obligation to buy your pet's painting when it's done but if you would like to then the first 5 to send their photos will have the opportunity to buy their paintings for just $75 including postage (within Australia). Afterwards they will be $100 each which is still at a discounted price. Pet portraits are a beautiful way to capture your pet's uniqueness or remember a pet that has passed away and also make a wonderful gift!


1. Email 2-3 photos of your pet (click here for email address). Provide clear, in focus photos of at least the head and shoulders of your pet, taken in natural light if possible. Please don't tightly crop!! I'll choose the photo that I think is best and crop it as needed to work well in the square format.

2. Include in the email a short bio of your pet with name, age, likes/dislikes, personality, quirks/charms... This will be posted to the blog along with your pets painting.

3. If you decide to buy your painting it will be 8x8" and come to you unframed. It will take a couple of weeks to dry completely so expect to wait a little before it arrives in the mail. Paintings are on archival, primed MDF boards using artist quality oil paints and satin varnished.

4. Within Australia all postage will be included. International postage will be a bit extra and I can quote you the price before you decide to go ahead.

5. Payment for paintings will be via PayPal. Signing up for a PayPal account is free, quick and easy. Ask me for more information if you're not sure.

I'm all fired up to paint pets so please get behind me to make this a successful challenge!!

Thursday, 8 August 2013


After painting the 8x8" of Buddy, I'm going to be painting each of Vicki's cats - I guess that will make it a 'triptych' (sounds very fancy). Since I didn't have the right sized boards ready I did this 6x6" practice of my cat Teddy. Very sadly I gave him away last year so I could return to Italy so this will be a nice reminder of him to have on my wall. I'm still trying to get used to painting on these boards. My soft mongoose brushes are working the best... I also got into it with the palette knife for a bit.

Exciting news! I bought www.marniehanlon.com which will redirect to my blog for the moment but feel free to try it just for fun. I'm learning as much as I can about the art of 'marketing one's art' from the Blog Talk radio show Artists Helping Artists. It's brilliant. If you are trying to make a living as an artist here is all the information they should be teaching in art schools in the form of weekly podcasts by an incredibly generous artist called Leslie Saeta and her monthly co-hosts. There are interviews with well known artists and how-to's on just about everything you need to know how to do!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


Today I did 2 small 'portraits' of my aunt's dog Buddy. They are both on primed MDF boards which are quite different from painting on canvas. The surface is a bit slippery and I found my softer nylon brushes worked better than the bristles which tend to just scrape the paint off. I might experiment with different brushes until I get the effect I like. I need a lot of practice but it was quite fun doing these little quick paintings after spending a whole week on one and trying to keep up the enthusiasm for it. The close-up with red background was from a photo Vicki gave me on an 8x8" panel. The other one is 6x6" from a photo I took of Buddy today. I told him to sit as I backed away with the camera in hand. He kept a close eye on me waiting for the command to be released from his task!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Canowindra Talls exhibition and other musings

Every year the River Bank Gallery in Canowindra (pronounced Ca-noun-dra) holds serveral exhibitions open to anyone to enter. The up coming one is called Talls and works of any subject can be submitted as long as they are painted on the 24x12" canvases provided by the gallery. Vicki and I discovered this cute little town and its wonderful gallery when we were travelling the countryside back in 2009. We met Catherine the gallery owner and talented resident artist David Isbester and were really taken by their enthusiasm and commitment to local artists. A couple of years ago I submitted 2 works for the Smalls exhibition and they both sold. This is my Talls entry. I'm calling it "The Happy Gathering". The format is quite tricky! I did colour studies for 3 different ideas before I thought I had something that might work. I'm still not sure that it does but it's more 'brush mileage' under the belt and another step towards Improvement which sometimes feels painfully slow.

I've been painting for four and a half years now and I've definitely learned a lot in that time. But when the goal is to make a living and when I compare where I'm at with other artists that I love and admire, it's hard some days to fight off doubts and gloomy thoughts. I love Artists on Art, an online magazine (which I highly recommend if you're an artist. There are four issues a year and the cost is only US$14 a year). In the first issue was an article by Daniel Sprick which was encouraging for my impatience and helped me to see the big picture of an artist's journey:

It usually takes about ten years of intensive effort to achieve mastery in any domain, and in the arts it may require another ten years after that to begin to express anything that is truly one’s own. Artists must be patient and be true to themselves and trust their own tastes and their own habits of working and living, and be true to their own aesthetic preferences. Each individual has his or her own truth to tell, and with a mixture of sincere effort and good fortune it will be a meaningful one for others.

I'm staying with my mum for the next couple of months and I'm thrilled she's allowing me to paint in my bedroom! (it's all about drop sheets and towels - so far so good). The wonderful thing about my temporary studio is the south-facing aspect. The light is consistent for most of the day which makes a Big Difference compared to painting when the light is constantly shifting. I'm quietly thinking it's a bit sad I don't have a single south-facing room in my own house but maybe I'll become a pro at paintings called Interior with Sunlight.

From now on I won't be sending email notifications to those on my mailing list but if you would like to know when I've updated Marnie's Art, please pop your email into the box on the right that says 'follow this blog by email' and you'll (hopefully) not miss a thing! I haven't tried this system before so please let me know if you have any trouble with it. More soon...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Back to Oz

It may take a bit to get used to everyone speaking english and which side the passenger sits in the car, the lack of architectural wonders and the long distances between Things of Interest, but it's taken no time at all to readjust to the fresh air, eucalyptus trees full of lorikeets and kookaburras and the warm sunny winter days...

I'm back!! I know I've settled in somewhere when I've organised myself and surrounds enough to get painting. Relief! I've been up the road to do a quick plein air study (to warm up the brushes) and am currently working on an idea for this year's Talls exhibition at the gallery in Canowindra (near Orange NSW). All submissions are to be painted on a 24x12' canvas ordered from the gallery so they are all the same format. It will be an interesting exhibition and I'm looking forward to starting my painting when the canvas arrives...

So to fill you in on my final months in Italy... summer was very slow coming to Florence this year (and the rest of Europe by all accounts) so I despaired of having any warm weather before heading back for my fourth winter in a row (because of hemispheric changes). But after packing up my life, shipping off a box of my choicest items and farewelling the dear friends I have made, I headed south with the lovely Susan and her good friend Lillian (who's now my good friend too) and spent a week in the Bay of Naples soaking up the sun and enjoying a full week of splendid south Italian summer weather.

We rented an apartment in Vico Equense from where we could easily visit Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, Capri and Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Theoretically at least. In practice we found that random trains were cancelled because of unpaid workers striking (meaning over an hour waiting for the train at times) and although we had a marvellous view from our apartment, it came at the cost of lugging ourselves up a mean hill to get home every day... brilliant for the thighs no doubt but a bit of a strain after a hard day being a Tourist. No sympathy from an 80 year old local who'd lived there all her life and whose muscles were 'accustomed' to the hill!!

The highlights for me were definitely Pompei and Positano. Pompei was an endlessly fascinating step back in time by nearly 2000 years. We had an informative and entertaining guide called Fabio who added Italian vowels to the ending of eacha anda everya worda. He pointed out tiny details and nuances that we never would have noticed or thought to look for, like evidence of donkey parking and groves in cobblestones from the heavy iron wheels of chariots. A bakery where they found carbonised bread pieces and how stepping stones were used to cross the road without soiling one's feet in the general muck created by fountains and sewerage running freely through the streets. How I would love to time travel and see the city in it's day fully functioning and alive with the busyness of every day life.

We reached Positano via bus from Sorrento along the cliff-hanging roads hugging the stunning Amalfi coast. Stunning. The bus driver negotiated the curved and twisty road like one without fear of death and we stuck our noses to the windows like trusting little tourists and tried to capture some of the beauty on our snappy cameras in order to take it home with us. The bus stopped at the top of the town and the amble down the steep road to the centre was punctuated with the delight of the views on the left side and the pleasure of quaint little shops on the right. The streets were clean and colourful, the water clear turquoise, and the locals bright and friendly. It's hard to imagine a more beautiful place. No wonder it's a popular destination for weddings, honeymoons and beachside holidays. After our slow stroll down to sea level we stopped for a bite to eat and soaked up the carefree resort vibe and collectively marvelled at it all. We each managed to pick up a ceramic treasure or two on our amble back up the hill and the afternoon light over the cliffs and sea was something I've filed away in the 'best memories' section of my brain since the camera wasn't capable of doing it justice.

You can see pics and read a bit more commentary from our trip here

So my time in Italy is finished for now but my budding artist's journey is barely begun and I plan to keep a more regular account of my painting progress here so do stay tuned if you'd like to see what I'm getting on with. Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me, more soon!

PS. I went to the NSW art gallery the other day and as always lingered over the Australian Impressionist section... there is an Arthur Streeton landscape there that I love called 'Still glides the stream and shall forever glide', which is a line from a poem by William Wordsworth:

I thought of Thee, my partner and my guide,
As being past away.--Vain sympathies!
For, backward, Duddon! as I cast my eyes,
I see what was, and is, and will abide;
Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;
The Form remains, the Function never dies;
While we, the brave, the mighty, and the wise,
We Men, who in our morn of youth defied
The elements, must vanish;--be it so!
Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live, and act, and serve the future hour;
And if, as toward the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.

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