Monday, 27 April 2009

Anne Staub - Feature

After a bit of a hiatus, the blog is back -my father's on the mend, family crisises resolved, and I've managed to get myself engaged. So - back to real life (or internet life) with a feature on Anne Staub discussed previously. Please click on the pics to see them in their full glory - am limited on the size ( and number) I can show them here!

I'm not neccessarily an enormous fan of photography - but as with everything, there are exceptions to the rule. Anne's work struck me from the first time I saw it as something other than run of the mill photoshopped photos, and she has the honour right now of being the only artist on RedBubble who has moved me to buy some of their work ( granted, a lot of that has to do with the financial restraints I'm under, I'd like to buy a lot of stuff - but there it is.)

So what makes her work stand out so much for me, amongst the 90,000 + photographers on RedBubble? I think all art is most interesting when the artist concerned has the ability to present another world to us - one which we can't always see, but one we'd like to see, and be part of. As a friend of mine once put it, art should show us the magic present in the world.

I could go on about colour, and composition, and when to post process and when to stop, and all these things are great strengths of Ann's. But at the heart of it, it is this that is important. that her art is revelatory - of a world painted in sombre yet elegaic tones, a time past but cherished, a place where objects are seperated from the mundane and the multitude and allowed to exist in elegant purity.

But - that's my take on her work . Anne's answers are as folllows..

1. Your book talks about your ‘creative journey for the last two years’. Does that mark the beginning of a new way of working? Or of your interest in photography? Some background, please!

When I first selected images for the book “My Creative Journey”, it was for me a way of summarizing the last two years. My ideas, my perspective, indeed my journey. I always had in interest in Photography but in the last two years I dedicated a lot of my time to it, photography and creating images using my own photography had turned into a passion. I have learned a lot, it has been very enriching creatively and also in many other ways. After “publishing” this book, I realized that it was also marking the end of a specific creative journey for me and the beginning of something else….

2. I dislike the term ‘digital art’, and I don’t think it appropriate to your work, so I won’t use that – but I see your work as being in an interesting place somewhere between painting and photography. How would you describe it?

I don’t mind the term “digital art” but I don’t feel it applies to my work as to start with. I think I must use about 20% of what my software does offer. Apart from adding textures, contrast and alter colours or tones, I don’t do anything digitally as such to my images which I feel would be considered as Digital Art. I currently describe my work as Photography and Decorative Art. My main interest and passion is photography, I can’t paint or draw, therefore I compose a visual with photographic equipment, sometimes it will be altered, and sometimes it won’t be.

3. When you take photos, is the eventual image you wish to create in your head? Or is it something that comes out when experimenting in post production?

Most of the time it’s in my head, I go out and “see” images (which is rather annoying when I have no camera with me), my eyes pick up on composition, strong lines, contrast and textures mainly, whatever the subject/s. I always know at the time of shooting if I’ll convert an image in black & white. I also usually know if it will be untouched. Other post-processed images are more ideas but I usually know very quickly what I will enhance and/or add to it. I don’t spend a lot of time altering an image (I’ll rather be out shooting), if my idea does not work for my eyes, I will discard it quite rapidly. I never try “to save” an image either. If there is no inspiration to start with or I’m unhappy with the composition or light, I will not use the image or post-work on it at all.

4. Tranquility, Nostalgia, Delicate, Composed and Subtle are the words I would use to describe your work – is that what you are aiming for? How would you describe it?

Different......or some of my work hopefully is. I think these words are a very good description of the journey I have mentioned above, which I presented in various ways (black & white, minimalism, textured images, abstract …). I think my future work will still convey the above but possibly in a less eclectic way. But I can’t see myself ever producing one single “type/style” of images as such. I think variety is the key to ongoing creativity. It’s not unusual to get comments on my work saying that that they saw an image and they immediately knew that it was one of mine. Considering how varied my portfolio is and has been in the past, this is very encouraging as for me not to be concerned about being creative in different ways. Some of my images convey various emotions, sometimes stories to the viewer. Sometimes, it’s reflecting my views at the time, sometimes it’s more open and let them “see” their own and sometimes both.

5. Where do you see yourself going with your work – what are your goals, artistically and commercially?

I have inspirations and ideas which will make me focus more on a certain way of “emphasizing” what I “see” ……. Watch out for “The Ongoing Journey” book… My main aim is to carry on learning and using photography as my main tool to present what I see and how I see it to others, to communicate at times and share ideas with others. I have started selling my work directly and have several events planned this year (all can be seen at I love to meet Artists, Photographers and anyone interested in creativity and Arts in general, I hope to meet more in the future and possibly work with them. I am also looking to exhibit some of my work.

6. Finally, name three artists who have inspired you on red bubble – pay it forward!

So many have inspired me in one way or another since I have joined Red Bubble and because of this I regularly feature others’ work or link to other members’ portfolio. I use my journal on RB for this and it’s quite popular with my “watchers”. I can not name just three and would have to provide probably a list of 30 instead as the use of negative space, textures, composition, tones, shapes, and much more has inspired me through viewing others’ creations on various media, I feel very fortunate to discover, enjoy and learn from so many talented photographers and artists exhibiting their work on Red Bubble from Abstract Art to black and white photography, paintings and drawings, macro and minimalism just to name a few.

Anne's work can be seen at RedBubble,, and Fine Art America

Sunday, 26 April 2009


Due to my father being very seriously ill, I'm having to ignore the blog for a few days and postpone the interview and feature I wished to post on Anne Stuab. It will be up later in the week - in the meantime, take a look at her work here.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Valle d'Or continued

And the latest in the series.

Have to admit, I am thoroughly enjoying making these paintings. The process is somewhat akin to design, imagining what will unfold in the next panel along - half closing my eyes until I can see the landscape before me. I really feel this is a development in the right direction, and I'll push it until the inspiration is all squeezed out.

take a look at the gallery here to see all 5 together.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


A quick update on how the Valle D'or series is going. Two more, both needing a little tweaking - but I'm just not getting the time to paint as my mother as well as my father ended up in hospital yesterday - I am beginning to feel like a victorian spinster aunt, daubing away in between visits to ailing relatives..

And here's how the series looks so far.

On Monday, I shall have an interview and feature with very talented phtographer Anne Staub up. Have a good weekend!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Location Location Location

It's monday again, and the beginning of my third week in France.

It feels strange being back here for so long, and in a little sense feels like I have come full circle. The last time I tried to develop art as a career was out here in France, where I ran in to several problems - not least of which was not speaking the language.

But the biggest problem was then, and is now, that I don't find the landscape here particularly drives me to paint. It is beautiful here - there is no doubting that - but it's a kind of self contained beauty, a tranquility, that seems to have no need for translation by the artist.

The colours are soft, the hills are low, the river meandering and placid. There is no drama - no hook. Of course, I'm doing my best with such materiels as I have, and perhaps for another painter, this would be a paradise of inspiration.

Just not for me. But that's ok - I'm working on my Ville D'or series, and if I can't find what I need directly in front of me, it just needs to go through that extra translation process in my head.
Hopefully tomorrow I'll have more actual finished paintings to show. That's the plan, anyway.
A demain.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I have about 5 blog posts stored up in my head, but getting to the computer to write them has been a bit problematic. But it's 7 30 am, the house is quiet but for the birds singing, so here I am..

One of the biggest challenges an artist faces is developing a cohesive style whilst constantly challenging one self. (hmm. that was a tad generic - perhaps I should rather say it's one of the biggest challenges I face).

Style is important. It makes your work recognisable. It reassures galleries, who see a constant dipping in and out of different methods as the sign of an immature artist. But it also can seem highly restrictive - how can one develop if one is repeating the same thing in different variations over and over again? and where is the line drawn between progression of that style, and doing something totally new and different every week?

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was experimenting with different media - acrylic on very thin paper with chalks. I did struggle on with this for a while, and produced around 7 or 8 sketches using this method, but ultimately I didn't feel I was getting anywhere with these.

There comes a point, ultimately when you have to concede to yourself - this method just isn't working. That building up a body of work that hangs together is only important if the body of work is essentially something that you can succeed with.

The solution was to buy bigger, heavier paper, gummed watercolour paper that I can load with paint and it won't buckle, won't protest. We had a little trip into Bordeaux where I did just that, and I gleefully set about punishing the new paper with lots of water, lots of paint, lots of colour.

This is a sketch of my brother done whilst in Bordeaux and coloured up after - potraiture is really not my thing ( it looks nothing like my poor brother), but it felt so good to play with colour again, and get away from the muted effect in the paintings above. But where's the style, my head was screaming - how does this fit in to my body of work? It doesn't.

So I stopped and had a bit of a think. I'm away from home, I don't have all my usual tools around me. It's ok to experiment. It's ok to take this time out of linear progression and try and do altogether new things. It's ok if they don't work, or if they don't fit. With this pep talk in mind, I let myself go completely freestyle, concentrating only on the colours I wanted to achieve, and letting my mind wander a little.
And I started to paint a little french valley out of my minds eye, following it with another as my mind travelled along the horizon ( from right to left, strangely), and another... and now I'm just having fun seeing how much of this place I can 'see' before the vision runs out.

Developing a cohesive style is important. It will demonstrate to myself as much as anyone else that my art is backed by rigour, and thought, rather than just the dabblings of an amateur. But it can wait a little longer.

Monday, 13 April 2009


It's been a bad week all round, for personal reasons as well as artistic ones - but I'll save you the details and talk about the artistic reasons here. As mentioned previously here, there were a few things I was trying out for - The Saatchi 'best of British' Tv talent show for art, The Royal Scottish Academy spring open exhibition, and last but definitely not least, the part time job in an art shop.

I didn't get any of them. None too surprising really, as I was aiming high, certainly with the first two, but rejection is still always disappointing.

I've noticed, however, that rejection in my mid thirties is much easier to take than rejection in my teens, or twenties, or even early thirties was. When I was seventeen, I applied for all 4 Scottish art schools, and didn't get in any. I was heartbroken, angry, hurt - and swore off art for a very long time (at least a couple of years-heh). But part of me was also relieved, because I knew at heart I wasn't quite strong enough to deal with my art being ripped to shreds in the name of constructive criticism, big baby that I was.

But now, I find myself much more sanguine about these things. Perhaps a few years on crafts markets toughened me up - watching tourists look long and hard, then stroll past and spend their five Euros on plastic light sabres instead of my pretty prints. Or, perhaps it's just something that comes with age - an acceptance that wanting does not equate getting, yet that one should not use failure as an excuse to stop trying

Whatever the reason, my confidence and equinamity is happily undented by rejections these days, and I'm just focusing on getting busy looking for the next opportunity. And hapily, I have the Tuesday Art School to look forward to, details of which came through this week - masterclasses run by Artist Kate Downie for a small group of 6 students. I think this is actually the best opportunity that has come my way, and I'm really rather glad it's the one that came through.

Lines V

Sunday, 12 April 2009


In between dog walking and gruelling hospital visits ( 5 hour drive) yesterday, I did at least manage to do some sketching, which I am much relieved about. It doesn't do to go to long without painting lest one lose the habit.

These peices are acrylics and chalks on paper, and are a bit experimental for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I'm not using reference photos for them, but rather painting 'out of my head'. I think I've mentioned previously that's not something that comes easy to me, but with these subjects the basic ideas behind them have been rolling about in my head for years, so it's not been too hard.


I've always been fascinated with the linear aspect of the french countryside, whether it be stands of poplar trees, rows of vines, the way the countryside is criscrossed with irrigation ditches, or even just the plough lines in the field. This juxtaposition of the geometric and the organic has been subject matter for me - in my head, if not always on paper - since I arrived here in 2002, when the highly detailed watercolour below was done.


Secondly, the medium is new. I could only bring very thin cartridge paper with me, which has its own challenges - it buckles over the slightest application of water, so paint has to be built up in thin, sponged on layers. It's always fun to try and get around a technical limitation like that, but also one musn't expect brilliant results on the first go - or even the second or third. So I'm calling these experiments, and hoping that I can improve upon them in the next few days using the same methods.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009



As mentioned the other week, one of the nicest things about RedBubble is finding other artists whose work inspires you. One such is Deb Milligan, whose abstracts seem to glow with light. The more I look at them, the more I want to go back and look at them more - my only regret is that as an Australian artist, it's not very likely I'll get to see the originals of her work any time soon.

Worlds 3

Deb describes her work on her gallery thus :

My work is largely, though not only, abstract – usually painted in oils or acrylics.
My abstract paintings speak of particular moments in time, glimpses of dynamic stillness when the Universe is at play within us. Through my art I try to give expression to the subtle shifts contained within these openings

A moment's recognition

As time goes by, I find myself more and more drawn to abstract art - I'm also envious of those who can create it, as I don't have a natural facility for it. When abstract art works best for me, it's something that evokes a mood, a thought, or an emotion that can't be put into words. This ability to transcend written language is what I love most about Deb's works.

Night Lyric (water) Solitude's Shadow Connection

She is also a superb colourist - deep rich muted colours blended beautifully as in her Water or Spirit series, or violent fiery strong colours leaping out from a dark background in the Fire series. I'd urge you all to take a look at her galleries, grouped into elemental series - as I can only show the works very small here and they really don't do them justice.

Deb has kindly agreeed to answer a few questions on her work :

Have you been painting long? give us a bit of background…

I remember when I was 9 deciding that when I grew up I was going to be a famous artist. I rapidly dropped the ‘famous’ but that initial thought has guided me ever since. I have been painting for 30 years and focused first on watercolours as they were easy to travel with while I was backpacking in my early 20’s. In my 30’s I moved away from representational art, and nearly a decade ago developed a love of abstraction, which holds me in its thrall still


Your paintings are very cerebral – they reflect a pace in the mind rather than a physical place. What comes first, the thought or the painting? or do they evolve together?

This is a difficult question to answer and any response is more an exploration than a definitive answer. Often the thought, or the general theme, comes first. Usually this thought is elusive and difficult to pin down. so I will write copiously trying to capture it. Sometimes, when all the elements are out in the open, I will then try to identify the essence of what I want to capture by writing it in haiku form. This strips away all the fluff and leaves me with a very clear direction to follow. However, I don’t always use that tool. At other times I start with the elusive thoughts still wandering freeform.

When I paint I am often guided by the sensations within my body. When I feel it in my heart, in my stomach, in my hands - even in my mouth - then I know that the painting is working for me. It is a deeply visceral, even primitive feeling. It is only later that I step back and analyse it, refine it, work ‘by the rules’. Initially though, I gather the awareness of what I wish to convey within my body, observe my physical, emotional and intellectual reaction, and then endeavour to give it expression through paint.

Regardless of the way in which I start, the painting itself often tells me more about my initial intentions as it evolves. Sometimes it is only when I have finished that I fully understand what my intentions were. I enjoy allowing the painting to guide me.

Tell us a bit about your methods : sponge,rags,brushed,fingers, type of paints – how do you do it?

My methods vary depending on the subject. I usually start in acrylic and work up a base painting. Sometimes I continue in acrylic, for example with Solitude’s Shadow where I used brushes, sponges and rags with glazes to create the dappled effect. With Connection and Transition, I continued over the base painting using oils, with palette knife, brushes and my hands. With these two paintings I was trying to capture a range of different expressions of ‘energy’, both through colour and technique, hence they include gentle glazes as well as more dynamic brushwork. At times I may take off more paint than I put on, using paper towel and other materials, especially when I wish to create a layered veil-like effect. Then in other works I create a highly textured surface by building up layers of acrylic paint using a palette knife.

What inspires you, motivates you to keep painting, and gives you joy doing it?

I just love painting. I love getting lost in the process. I love the difficulties inherent in presenting or exploring complex issues through abstraction. I love the complex simplicity that is necessary in abstraction. I am inspired by the exploration of ideas, trying to understand the world and my place in it better through this exploration.

As an artist, do you have a goal you are working towards? is there a direction you would like to take, or does your art work evolve by itself?

At the moment I suspect my work is in transition and I am not quite sure where it will go. However the overall goal is to continue to improve my work, keep improving my CV and so increase the opportunities to show my work to a wider audience. three artists who inspire you on Rb – pay it forward!

Victor is one of the most talented artists I have seen on redbubble – he has a superb eye and masterly technique. I love the work of Midori McCabe for her purity of technique – she gets straight to the essence. And John Fish is a great inspiration for his transformative visions, both in paint and word,

Amongst the photographers I also pay respect to Jordanpaint for her clear and beautiful abstracted vision which always inspires me, and Skip Hunt for his superbly crafted images of life as a citizen of the world.

Thanks to Deb for great answers. Please take a moment to look at her gallery here - and I hope you enjoyed what will be the first in a series of artist interviews.