Float Fall, Katherine Herriman, 51x40cm / 20x16", Acrylic on Canvas
Faux Botanical Study No.1, Katherine Herriman, 25.4x25.4cm / 10x10", Acrylic on Canvas
I had an obscenely good time painting the face, the bunting, and the faux flower in these paintings. You may have noticed I’ve optimistically titled the painting above, “Faux Botanical Study No.1″, in the hopes of painting many more.
I spent the afternoon in the higgledy-piggledy second-hand bookstore – Through the Looking Glass – in Belgrave today, setting up my little exhibition in the front window. If you missed last week’s podcast, I’ll be participating in the End of the Line Festival this Saturday, which is shaping up to be a stonker of a day. Stonker’s not a word but it felt right. If you’re a Melbournian check it out!
Nap, Katherine Herriman, 25.4x25.4cm / 10x10", Acrylic on Canvas
Constellation, Katherine Herriman, 25.4x25.4cm / 10x10", Acrylic on Canvas
End of the Line Festival
The paintings above are two of the pieces I’ll be exhibiting at the End of the Line Festival in Belgrave on Saturday 30th November! The festival organisers have hooked me up with an incredibly apt little nook of Belgrave – “Through the Looking Glass” – a higgledy-piggledy second-hand book store. I’m so thrilled with this arrangement because I went through a couple of other potential spaces which didn’t feel right at all and figuring out what to do about that was a whole big thing. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post though.
I’ll be posting the rest of the new work that I’ll be exhibiting on the blog next week. I’m really thrilled to be able to say that this body of work comprises my favourite pieces to date.
My Owl Barn 2014 Calendar
Amazingly, this is my third year doing the Owl Lover Calendar! If you’re new around here, the Owl Lover Calendar is a pretty cool concept — 40 artists contribute an owlish piece of art, which means people can customise their own calendar by picking and choosing their 12 favourite images, which they then print off. Also, it’s free.
So if you’re the type of person who’d love nothing more than to have an owl adorn their wall year round, go and snaffle yourself a calendar.
I discovered Sock Dreams way back in the Nettle days when buying online pretties was a distant dream. I pinned them instead and just the other day remembered all the amazing socks and stockings past me had wistfully pinned and went and bought them!
When the socks arrived in the post I was working on this painting and was struck by the similarity in colour palettes! Can you guess what my favourite colours are?
It occurred to us that when we eventually do buy a house and move in it’s going to be a very empty house. We own all of the major appliances and a bed but that’s really it. We decided it would be a good idea to start buying things for our home now because I have been known to take months to find something to my liking. The only problem with this plan is that we can’t buy any big things like furniture because we don’t have anywhere to put them. Clearly we could live without coasters but… I don’t know what to say. I just wanted coasters.
The Emily and Meritt Bunny Alarm Clock from PB Teen
This was a purely spontaneous purchase, although I would like to have a collection of vintagey clocks one day. I’m not sure I’ve ever loved an inanimate object more except for maybe Beautiful Baby, a doll I’ve had since I was 6 months old.
Replica 1950's Swing-arm Industrial Architects Lamp by Timberson
I’ve been wanting to buy a daylight lamp for my studio table all year. Daylight lamps that are marketed as professional artist lamps are horrible, ugly plastic things but it occurred to me you can just buy daylight bulbs and put them in any lamp. Since this realisation I’ve been on the lookout for a lamp for the better part of a year. Did I mention I’m picky? There are plenty of gorgeous genuine vintage lamps on Etsy but I can’t bring myself to spend $500 or more on a lamp. When I found this replica 1950′s swing-arm industrial architects lamp on Etsy I knew I had found The One. I contacted the maker and was told he doesn’t ship to Australia. Tragedy. After this happened a couple more times I finally settled on the Pottery Barn lamps below.
This green jumpsuit is truly a thing of beauty. I had mine made with gaucho pants as I was a bit worried I’d look like I was wearing pyjamas otherwise and I had the back made a bit less open. Kari of Clementiny Clothing is the maker and absolutely delightful.
Sometimes I just want to share some thought morsels in a blog post rather than stringing a coherent thought together into a cohesive whole. And anyway, nobody doesn’t love nibbles. There is a theme however, the niblets are all art related.
There is such a cornucopia of brushes out there that you may as well buy pretty ones.
I like to buy the professional artist quality materials so when it all goes horribly wrong I can’t blame my tools.
It’s easier to work bigger than smaller.
People are much more impressed with big art.
When I think I’ve dulled down a colour enough, I should dull it down some more. It will look brighter on white and next to black.
Understanding tinting strength is so important for successful colour mixing
These are some detail shots of a painting I finished just today. Frequently I’ll finish a sketch for a painting then dread painting some aspect of it which I find tricky. Fine lines in particular inspire such a reaction.
I’m really happy with how these lines turned out and it’s a crazy simple thing which did the trick: Tiny little dots.
I painted the lines as usual. That is with a series of cock-ups, rubbing outs, and painting overs. But once I had the basic lines correct I then added tiny white dots to where the highlights would lie and tiny dark dots to the shadows. Now instead of having what looks like exactly what it is – a flat line drawn in watered-down acrylic paint – I have a textured piece of cotton string with 3-dimensionality.
This technique also worked really well for highlighting the rim of the cotton spools.
I’ll be sharing full images of this piece in the coming weeks.
I’ve been feeling somewhat adrift this year. Since quitting my full-time job 4 years ago to live nomadically in Europe, I’ve always had forward momentum in my life. In the first couple of years it was all I could do to just focus on re-designing my entire life, my entire me. Becoming an artist. Struggling with learning technique, learning mediums, remembering how to draw. Drowning in information about blogging and selling online and scaling that learning curve. All the while living in foreign countries and just trying to soak it all in.
Then, last year I opened my Etsy shop and I had that to focus on. So far this year my only real goal or forward momentum has been to make paintings and list them in my Etsy shop. As it turns out, this isn’t enough. I’ve been feeling deeply unmotivated this year.
All year, I’ve had a sense of emptiness. Travelling Europe the way we did was such an enormous dream of mine; something I’ve dreamt about since I was a child. And whilst we were doing it our lives had an inherent meaning. We were living a dream. Throughout this year when I tried to come up with a similarly compelling dream for my art I couldn’t think of anything. Artist-me grew up on a diet of Kelly Rae Roberts’ teachings; the main doctrine being to “dream big”. I think maybe I don’t want big. Maybe vagabonding around Europe was my big.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve struggled with defining success, knowing what it looks like for me. This of course has a lot to do with not having any goal posts. I’ve read a lot of other people’s definitions of success and the few that have resonated somewhat with me I’ve made note of. One in particular I read on The Minimalists blog is:
I mostly like this emotional equation, although I have a problem with “happiness”. Happiness seems like a meta-category of a lot of different things to me. More like a result than an action. The other two elements of the equation are or can be actionable verbs, whereas “happiness” is something that happens to you as a result of other things. I feel the need to break “happiness” down to its lowest common denominator. I think a more useful understanding of what I think the author means by “happiness” is this from Tim Ferriss:
“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase… When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss”, I propose that they are, in fact referring to the same singular concept: excitement… The question you should be asking isn’t, ‘What do I want?’ or ‘What are my goals?’ but ‘What would excite me’?”
On Constant Improvement
This one’s a no-brainer. If my work was to stagnate and my art didn’t improve from this point forth there could be no happiness.
I believe that “contribution” is about meaning. It’s hard to find meaning in one’s life if it isn’t intersecting with anyone else’s. Like excitement/happiness I think “meaning” would be a more accurate word here as I believe “contribution” is simply the most obvious way of creating meaning. Another possible synonym is “connection”. Connection to something bigger than oneself.
I much prefer the equation with these tweaks:
Excitement + Constant Improvement + Meaning = Success
Why The Hell Are You Doing All This?
When rifling through the blog posts I’ve saved on this topic I came across one titled, “Unmotivated to Get Shit Done? Here’s Why”. I actually find this blog post a bit obnoxious, possibly solely because it quotes “The Millionaire Fastlane”, which sounds like the epitome of douch-baggery. However, the essence of the post is: “Those magical cocaine-blowing-insanely-focused people have a strong sense of why.”
Yeah, I don’t know what cocaine blowing is either. Isn’t that the opposite of what you’re supposed to do with cocaine. Or is that the point? Anyway…
Why The Hell Am I Creating Art?
Because I believe most things human-made detract from the beauty in the world and that makes me sad.
Because when I wasn’t creating I would become angry-jealous when I saw wonderful things I wish I had made/could make.
Because art is the only thing I’ve been vaguely above-average at.
Because the frustration of not being able to translate inspiration into action is one of the worst feelings in the world and the joy of the converse is one of the best.
Because before I ever began painting, art supply stores would fill me with a deep sense of yearning and I inexplicably enjoyed just being surrounded by art materials.
Because I remember feeling a deep sense of disappointment with reality as a child and I’ve never lost the wish that it was little bit more magical, a little bit stranger, a little bit more artful.
Completing the Equation
I feel like clarifying my “Why” has answered the “Meaning” part of the equation for me. As long as I keep painting I can’t not fulfil the “Constant Improvement” factor. Which just leaves “Excitement”. I essentially started this blog post saying that nothing excited me. That was true until just a few days ago.
When we were still in Nettle (our motorhome in Europe for any newbs), Mike told me of a children’s picture book he remembered very fondly. The way he described it made me intensely curious to check it out when we got back to Australia. I only remembered this a few days ago when we were staying with Mike’s mother in his childhood home and asked if she knew where it was. She put her hand on it almost immediately. That night we went to bed, and read the book out loud. It was delightful and magical and ridiculous and so so inspiring. It was the type of children’s book I’d be deeply proud to have created myself and the thought of making my own truly excited me.
I’m going to write a children’s book.
The irony that this blog post exists next to one in my sidebar titled “The Big List of Dreams” is not lost on me. However, if you read it you’ll learn that I was participating, with some skepticism, in an online group which not only subscribed to the “Dream Big” philosophy but extended it to “Dream Broad”. Turns out, I’m more of a depth girl, myself. I have no idea why this post has persisted in the “Popular Posts” category for as long as it has.
Writing this blog post induces many a twinge. Since settling back in Australia my partner and I have been house hunting whilst we bounce between various, temporary house-sitting jobs. As I write this, our belongings are strewn across the spare bedroom in my mother-in-law’s house as a result of us rifling through boxes and bags to find things we need in the 6-day interim between house-sits. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the immense good-fortune we’ve had in finding enough house-sits to last the better part of a year but, it’s getting old. I’m ready to have a home again.
We’ve had a surprising amount of near misses with house-hunting this year. Everyone says, “you’ll know it when you see it”, which is a feeling I’ve actually felt on several occasions but there’s always been some major, deal-breaking detraction. I’ve never been told, “you’ll know it when you see it but you’ll find one reason or another to hold out for something better”. Are we doing it wrong?
First, there was what the real estate agents dubbed the “Hobbit House” (they know their market):
The absolute deal-breaker with the Hobbit House was the busy tourist road at the bottom of the garden.
Then came a house I loved even more than the Hobbit House:
I adored this house but Mike didn’t and I have to admit, his reasons for not loving it were all valid.
Next, there was the circa 1917 guest house of the Belgian Consulate, which I love beyond all reason:
Images do not do this house justice. It was very higgledy-piggledy and labyrinthine with amazing valley views. The tragedy of this gorgeous beast is its location. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we’re looking for a house in the Dandenong Ranges (“The Hills”) – an area of outstanding natural beauty, east of Melbourne. Unfortunately, my dream house is located in the edge between “The Flats” (nasty suburbia) and where The Hills get good. Sob, sob.
The weekend before last we had a glut of house inspections, one of which came very close to being “the one” and another was never really a serious contender but deserves an honourable mention.
This house gave me the “this is the one” feeling:
This house had what was possibly the most tragic deal-breaker to date. Not only was it a southerly aspect with a hill to its northern side (little sun, lots of damp), but the view from the property was nothing but manky pine trees. The tragedy is that the location is otherwise spectacularly good. It’s actually situated in one of my favourite residential areas in The Hills and is in walking distance to my favourite Hills town: Sassafrass. I think we may have found the only property in Sassafrass to have an ugly view.
I actually never fell in love with this next house but it gets an honourable mention because:
Mike tried talking me into it
Finally, there’s the house which ticked all the boxes but which was inexplicably not The One.
On paper, this house was perfect. When we actually tried to imagine living in it though, we just couldn’t see how it could work. The layout was all wrong and just didn’t seem functional.
Writing this post has been rather therapeutic! I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about finding our home after listing just how many amazing houses we’ve found – it’s actually quite a hefty number. Having said that, it is 9 months worth of houses and how long can we keep saying no to amazing places?! Huh, that optimism was short-lived.
Taking the long-view, there is absolutely no rush. There is no benefit to rushing a decision that’s going to effect where we live for the rest of our lives (at least for the foreseeable distant-future). And yet, I want a home. Can I do this temporary living arrangement for another 9 months?
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m focusing on a signature colour theme for my next few paintings to establish a cohesive look. I’m really happy with how my master colour scheme is coming together in these two pieces (the purple and green ones, not the pink one).
Technique wise, I’m also doing a couple of things differently in these two pieces. I can’t seem to sit still when it comes to technique. Probably because I haven’t found anywhere worth sitting still long for. For one, I’m focusing on keeping my edges soft. Until now, I’ve really been about the neat, crisp edge. I’m really liking the effect so far.
I’m also layering different colours on top of each other, as opposed to working from dark to light in the same hue, which is how I usually build up my layers. I’m finding this both a more enjoyable way to paint and the end result to be more interesting.
I’m also using shading very selectively in the hot air balloon piece. I’ve not shaded the hot air balloon itself at all. The jury’s still out on this.
The “House on the Rock” in Wisconsin is what I imagine might have happened to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory if Willy didn’t have the constructive pursuit of making candy to distract him from the dark depths of his deranged mind. We spent a month in the United States in June this year and the House on the Rock was probably The highlight outside of spending time with precious people. I’m actually at a bit of a loss to describe what it is exactly. It’s not a mere museum. It’s an unhinged mind made corporeal. It’s the end result of the lifelong obsession of a well-financed hoarder to gather the world’s miscellany throughout time and space in one place. And so much more.
House on the Rock is home to the world’s largest carrousel. (The photo above is of a smaller carrousel of creepy porcelain dolls, right beside which is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). The carrousel’s other feature of note is that there is not one horse amongst the carrousel animals. Apparently when Alex Jordan finished the world’s largest carrousel-of-horror, he noted the complete lack of horses, and liked it that way; so he hung all of the superfluous horses on the walls instead.
It’s impossible to do justice to House on the Rock with photos alone because of its huge collection of room-sized assemblages of animated, automated music machines, mechanical puppetry, and ye olde novelty carnival games. This video does it justice more than any of the others I’ve seen on You Tube (it gets to the good stuff after the first 35 seconds):
I very much want to thank our friends Tara and Tyler, for impressing upon us the worthiness of visiting this marvellous monstrosity, and Keith and Sarah, for putting us up in their home and taking us to House on the Rock.
In conclusion, if you ever feel like glutting yourself on the unhinged and deranged, I can’t recommend House on the Rock, Wisconsin enough.
Since being back in Australia I’ve been offered the opportunity to exhibit at a Melbourne cafe and a couple of other opportunities have arisen that I could apply for. This has forced me to start thinking like a professional artist. I was looking at the paintings I’ve made this year, all together, and realised that all of the different colour schemes didn’t really gel with each other.
I really love seeing an artist’s work all together, looking cohesive. I find it immensely inspiring. That’s something I want to experience one day myself.
As I had the epiphany that my work lacked that cohesiveness, I was in the middle of painting with yet another colour scheme which also wouldn’t match any of the other pieces I’ve finished this year. I immediately stopped working on this piece and decided I needed to paint my next painting in a sort of “Master Colour Scheme”. A colour scheme I could base all other colour schemes off. The idea being, that when I am developing new colour schemes in the future, I can compare them to the “Master” and if it clashes I wont’ use it.
These are my staple colours; plummy purples and earthy greens with plenty of neutrals.
There are a couple of colours in the colour mixing grid which aren’t to my taste so I want to be clear that I’m not saying that this is the best colour combination in the world. I am however, very pleased with the results of playing with this palette on a canvas. Probably because I could omit the mauve (vom) and dirty up the mint green with raw umber.
P.S. After uploading this post to my blog, I realised this is essentially my blog’s colour scheme!
Nellie Windmill is the project of Katherine Herriman... (that’s me). Hi! I'm a painter. I create more opportunities for daydreamer types to keep their heads in the clouds. But really, I just want to add to the beauty in the world. Since 2009, my nomadic studio dwells in a motorhome called "Nettle", somewhere in Europe.
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