Pinterest is easily my favourite social media site. I find it’s best once you’ve built up a healthy amount of boards full of gorgeous miscellany to follow. Every time I open up my Pinterest home page I get an eyeful of Awesome.I spent an obscene amount of time going through the boards I follow trying to choose my favourites to share and barely even got half-way. So I’m sharing just six today and will be sure to do another post(s) in the future.
My favourite pins are often of things that are both utterly useless and strange. I rarely re-pin them myself because I tend to use Pinterest in a very utilitarian way but I appreciate other people pinning them. Averil Michelle is the curator of many dark and delectable collections but the Fairy Antiques board might be my favourite. She also writes the most lovely descriptions for her boards:
“I blame my mother for my love of all things magical and sparkly, my grandmother’s old button box and the monster I knew lived under my bed. Being an eighty’s child, my imagination was inspired by dark and creepy fairy tale films like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Legend. These things stayed with me as I grew up through my dreams and nightmares.”
This is a For Strange Women board. She is the lady on Etsy who makes my perfume (and other people’s presumably). I’ve always been rather partial to the pictures of her own home that she posts on her blog and her Pinterest board of dwellings is no exception.
Either surprisingly or unsurprisingly – it could go either way – art is another area in which I have trouble matching my tastes with other people’s boards. Patricia Berendi pins both Leontine Greenberg and Nicoletta Ceccoli art, so I like the cut of her jib.
My Gods, what the frak have I been doing this year!? Apparently watching and playing too much Battlestar Galactica for one. I’ve been meaning to share these two paintings, which I’ve just listed on Etsy, for an eon so without further ado.
The Little Fisherthing, Katherine Herriman, 40.5 x 30cm / 16 x 11.8″, Mixed Media on Canvas
This piece is very much a storybook scene I painted for grown-ups. Just between you and me, I suspect the little fisherthing is wearing its pants on its head. I can’t be sure
Flotsam, Katherine Herriman, 42 x 29.7cm / 16.5 x 11.7″, Mixed Media on Paper
It is unclear where or when they are but I do know what they are: flotsam. Un-required, driftless, and utterly useless. Happily though, they also possess a boundless supply of great internal merriment.
I created “Flotsam” for a local (heehee, it’s still funny being a “local” of somewhere) competition. I didn’t win, which I was surprisingly un-moved by; I think because my heart wasn’t in it. We had to work in black and white which I found pretty uninspiring and the winner had their work printed on t-shirts, which I wasn’t crazy about.
Actually, I’ve been struggling all year with not knowing where I want to take my art. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!
One of the benefits of living like a gypsy-pauper for 3.5 years then moving half-way across the world without realising you’re doing so is that you get to start your wardrobe again from scratch. This is especially squee-evoking if you’ve been living in hiking pants and polar fleece (gypsy-hiker-pauper?) for said 3.5 years. I loathe polar fleece.
Something I’ve been meaning to do in the fashion department for almost my entire adult life is amass a heaving collection of tights. I’ve always wanted to wear skirts and dresses more too but this is secondary to my tights fixation. I’d always make a point of buying a pair when we were in an appropriately funky shop in Europe, but never wore them because I didn’t have any skirts or dresses (and of course, I’ve left them all behind in Nettle).
I’m now the proud owner of these bad boys, however. I’m pairing them with these dresses from ModCloth (the top is also from ModCloth but the swimsuit is from Bloomingdales). Check out that swimsuit!
I do apologise. June was consumed by America. The glutton. But enough of that; nobody likes a blog post which begins with the blogger apologising for not blogging. I’m currently reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and have been a bit rampant with the old “Highlight” function.
There’s something about the way he says something true with cutting wit and dry humour. I suppose the Internet is rather full to the gills with Oscar Wilde quotes but this is my blog and I’ll quote Oscar Wilde if I want to.
“The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless.”
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”
“And beauty is a form of genius–is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.”
I think the first quote explains nicely the whole “tortured artist” phenomenon. What a mind-frack to choose to devote one’s life to something entirely useless when anything less than total admiration is failure. To admire my own art intensely is my goal but I wonder how many artists achieve it.
The painting I’m working on at the moment has turned into an homage to childhood. I say “turned into” because as with much of my art, meaning has emerged as the piece progresses rather than being consciously imbued from the beginning. The colours in today’s recipe “Just Taller Children”, is the colour scheme I’ve chosen for this painting. “Just Taller Children” is a lyric from a David Bowie song, and it pretty much sums up how I feel about being a grown up.
For me, all three primary colours together is The colour scheme of childhood. As you can see, I’ve put my own particular spin on each colour, muting them considerably from the traditional clean, bright primary colours we associate with children’s things. An interesting side-note: I used to think it unlikely that my art would ever be suitable to be used in a children’s book because I’m not into bright and clean. That is, until I took a look through the children’s book section in a few book stores in France. Apparently French children have a rather more sophisticated colour sense. It gives me hope.
Happy colour mixing! Do let me know how you get on if you try your hand at these acrylic recipes!
I’m not a natural talker. I avoid phone conversations the way some people avoid the dentist. I used to worry that my mind must be devoid of thought because everyone around me talked so much I wondered at how much they had to say! Clearly, I was painfully young and didn’t yet realise that all those people chattering away also had nothing to say. I’ve also since come to learn that my head is full of things that are best captured in pigment, not words. Which brings me to my conundrum. Now that I’m fairly competently turning the ephemeral notions in my mind into tangible paintings, people are expecting me to talk about them; with words.
Double tapped by the universe.
And to be honest, it’s not an unreasonable request that I be able to string a few coherent sentences together about my art. The article that inspired this post, advised: “Describe your work as if you were talking to someone who could not see the picture, as if the only experience they will ever have of it is what your words can tell them about it.” A sadness welled up in me at reading those words. I can’t explain why but it probably has something to do with the deep disservice I’m currently doing to my work by doing this so very badly.
The great advice in Lori’s article is bountiful. So much so that for the first time, I actually feel excited at the prospect of talking about my work.
She suggests we “describe the mood of the piece” – The mood of a painting is one of my topmost priorities and it seems like such a natural starting point for talking about my art.
“Mention the colours, but also use words that describe the colours and their effect, words like luminous, dusky, radiant, glassy, or diffused.” – Again, such an important facet of my work I’m actually looking forward to choosing the words to describe my palette.
“Think about action words. Art is not passive. What can the piece DO? Will it inspire and motivate? Charm and delight? Soothe and nurture?” – I’ve totally got this one in the bag.
My lofty goals for the next time I’m asked about my art:
Say something coherent. Possibly several things.
Say it in a confident manner.
Cultivate the mindset of a professional artist (a pedantic note to say that I realise this is more of a pre-talk activity, but yeah).
I think this entire problem stems from a lack of conviction that my work has value and the expectation that other people agree. I think it’s immensely important that artists be able to articulate art’s value, so I leave you with this:
“Artists capture ephemeral ideas from the ether and breath life into them. We take shapeless notions and render them anew by giving them structure, life, form and voice.
What we do and create has value.”
- “The Successful Artist Mindset” by Baang and Burne
We’ve officially missed our flights back to Europe from Australia. Deliberately. Friends and family and the forest have proven to be impossible to leave a second time around. Read on to catch up on the unforeseen (aren’t they all?) happenings of the last few months.
We stay with Mike’s parents for the first couple of weeks back, which is a place we’ve house-sat together in the past, so it feels like home (and of course, it’s Mike’s childhood home). We both love it here as it’s nestled on the edge of the national park in the Dandenong Ranges. For the first few weeks back, we’re immensely jet-lagged and wake up just before dawn, around 5:30am. Every morning, about 10 mins before the sun rises, the kookaburras all begin cackling together as if they know something we don’t about the movements of celestial bodies, and it’s all one big joke. The lightening sky quietens them and the sun rises in-spite of their derision.
The weeks before our flight were spent hopping between AirBnB places in the UK, in our attempt to escape the dreary existence of living in a motorhome in a field which is steadily becoming more and more quagmire and less and less field with every passing soggy day. It’s the middle of summer, when we arrive back in Australia; 30+ degree every day. We take our breakfasts on the verandah overlooking the Dandenong Ranges national park and list the birds we spot with gleeful grins plastered on our faces – rosella, kookaburra, sulphur crested cockatoo, king parrot, black cockie, pink gallah, rainbow lorikeet. The birds were something we knew we were going to miss. In fact, they and our people were the only things we did miss about Australia, in the end. After breakfast we recline on the lounge chairs on the verandah, soak up the sun, read, watch the birds and bask in the surreality of being back in Australia.
On our first walk into the forest we say to each other how great it would be to see an echidna or hear a lyrebird perform again. We hear a rustling in the undergrowth and there’s movement by the side of the track:
On our next walk we hear a lyrebird display. This is an old recording as it was too distant to record this time around (if you’re not familiar with lyrebirds, they imitate the songs of other birds, so all the songs you hear on this recording is actually one bird):
A couple of days after arriving home we drive down the Mornington Peninsula to visit family. We’re shocked at the brownness of the countryside. Everything looks so ugly to my eyes. We also notice the difference in architecture here compared to Europe, as we drive through Melbourne’s sprawling outer-suburbs. Everything looks temporary. As if everything’s been built as cheaply as possible and only expected to last as long as the home owners do. If it wasn’t for The Hills (what Hills People call the Dandenong Ranges), I would find this a deeply depressing place to return to. I’ve never felt an affinity for Australiana and I think of my lush, green, wet forest as an oasis.
I’ve been exercising only sporadically since the weather in the UK became too cold to exercise outside and we then bounced between temporary AirBnB accommodation. I’m really looking forward to going for a run in the forest but don’t get very far before I see the echidna again! After watching him for 10 minutes I head off again. The screech of sulphur crested cockatoos follows me through the forest as I run. I swear they’re following me; probably suspicious of my reasons for running in the same bit of forest their vulnerable babies are nested in.
I head to central Victoria to see my folks who live in a tiny town called “Dookie”. More brown, more depressing. The front lawns and nature strips of the houses in Shepparton (the closest large town to Dookie) are brown, dying, and dusty. When Mike and I see people mowing their lawn in a cloud of dust we joke that they’re mowing their dirt.
We’ve scored a house-sit in a beautiful mud-brick house in The Hills for the remainder of the summer. The final thread tying us to Berlin is severed when we’re offered the house-sit again for June-October. We’re not going to save any more money to buy a house by living in Berlin cheaply than we will living in Melbourne rent-free.
We spend the weekends going to open house inspections and hanging out with friends. It’s astonishing to think that after 3.5 years traveling Europe we’ve returned to Australia in a financial position to be able to look at houses to buy! Spending time with kindred-spirits every single weekend is such a joy that leaving again for such a long time has become unthinkable.
Summer comes and goes all too quickly and autumn sees us back in Mike’s mother’s house whilst her and her partner travel. The weather finally turns (summer days here linger until you think there will always be bright, sunny days, until one day there isn’t), and we’re lighting the fire everyday and revelling in the fact that we have a fire to light. My favourite days are ones like today when it rains and I can watch the forest, thinking of all the little creatures and wondering where they go to keep dry and warm (just like I did when I was little), from the comfort of my adopted cozy, fire-warmed home.
We’ve both fallen back into a routine, although now with weekends – we didn’t take weekends whilst we were traveling; we didn’t even know what day it was most of the time! With just five days a week to work on my art and the social media side of things, I’m finding it very difficult to get things done. I’ve taken to working on my art most days of the week instead of alternating between art making and the business side of things, like I used to. I miss the productivity of reclusiveness and am grateful I had utter seclusion for the first couple of years of my painting career.
Life feels very full in a way it never did before we left for Europe. Essentially, our 3.5 years on the road on the other side of the world re-calibrated our lives. It gave us the freedom, the time, the energy to delve into our respective passions completely undistracted. Mike has returned to Australia with an outrageously successful business and a product so innovative even Apple themselves are using it. I’ve come home with the skills, and dedication, and confidence to finally be able to take what’s in my head and turn it into something that exists in the world that never existed before and share it with people. Before leaving Australia I was frustrated at not being able to portray what was in my mind, fearful that I’d never be able to, and horribly devoid of time and energy due to working full-time in a profession that required me to work outside of where my temperament and skills lay.
The 3.5 years of vagabonding also brought what’s important into sharp focus. After almost four years without friends and family, apart from each other, we absolutely cherish our loved ones. Now, I get to both deeply enjoy my quiet days at home painting, and then revel in the company of beautiful people at the end of the week. In the in-between times, I dream of and plan for my future home and garden with my beloved man. What more could a girl want?
I’m frequently asked about the inspiration for a piece and I can’t answer in any satisfying, coherent way. People seem to be really disappointed by this, which makes me think that maybe artists also need to be storytellers. The interesting thing about this sketch-soon-to-be-painting, is that after I drew it a very clear link could be made between it and The Inspiration.
Upon finishing this sketch of a little planet, I remembered that I had recently finished reading “The Little Prince”. Although, I was never consciously thinking of the book whilst drawing, it seems like too much of a coincidence to not be directly connected. This is part of the problem with the question, “what was your inspiration?”. I’m not necessarily conscious of my inspiration.
I’m really unsure about how I’m going to go about painting this piece. I think it’s going to be very experimental. Wish me luck!
It’s that time again, where I introduce you to an artist who makes me yearn and covet and turn a particularly unflattering shade of chartreuse. Suddenly I want to work in oil on ginormous canvases. Until now I’ve been utterly, illogically, intimidated by large canvases, despite the fact that it’s easier to work big than small.
I deeply relate to these words of Melissa’s but in a strange sort of a way:
I feel that I am just now beginning to create the work that I have been working toward all these years. I am grateful for every bad painting I have painted to get here. Julia Cameron said “Remember by being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance over time to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.” I do not feel that I am at any destination, simply on a journey. It is exciting to watch my work evolve. Every group of new paintings I love more than the last.
You see, I have this conviction that within me lies the ability to make the type of art I yearn to make. Each new painting proffers a glimpse, each time ever-so-slightly clearer, of My Art.
As far as I can tell, Melissa only has an abandoned blog and sadly no other web-presence. It’s still worth a look though, as she did blog for a good few years before The Great Fizzle-out of 2011.
Painting “Winkle & Tonk” was an exercise in restraint. I’ve often seen selective colour paintings or photographs – that is, when most of the painting is in a neutral colour and only portions of the painting are coloured – and resolved to one day give it a go. I’m not sure if I forgot or was doing an Orwellian double-think trick, but I almost painted Winkle purple before I remembering.
Luckily, I managed to reign in my colourful ambitions and settled on a more subtle use of purple to highlight his baubles and mittens and a complimentary shade of yellow to highlight Tonk’s horns and striped socks.
The background colour of the middle canvas was supposed to be a neutral colour as well but came out way more yellow than I was expecting. This gave me the idea to make the middle canvas colourful. If you look closely at the “gems” in the centre, you’ll see both Winkle and Tonk’s own personal shades of purple and yellow represented.
Winkle & Tonk are currently keeping my Etsy shop company, whilst they await their friends in-the-making to arrive.
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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