Hazel Dooney

Since 2006, Hazel Dooney has emerged as one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most controversial young female artists. According to the Australian Financial Review, she “walks the razor’s edge between respect and celebrity in today’s artworld” (September, 2006). She has exhibited in solo and group shows in major cities all over Australia, as well as in the USA, Japan, and England.


What are the main medium/s you work in?
Painting (all media), collage, photography, video and sculpture.

What are your thoughts on artist statements?
I hate the idea of artist’s having to make statements – as if the art can’t or won’t speak for itself.

How do you describe your work?
Essentially conceptual, my art is a forensic investigation into my own psyche. It deals with issues relating to how we are constantly re-imagining and re-defining ourselves in relation to entertainment media and consumer advertising – oh, and religion, which, these days, in the West, is just another form of popular consumerist culture.

What are you currently working on?
At any given time, I am preparing for a couple of shows and completing several commissions. In other words, too many projects to discuss with any coherency.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Why are you an artist?
I’m not sure I really had much choice. I’ve been making art ever since I can remember.

How did you get into art?
Art wasn’t a career choice. It was – and still is – a necessity for me, like breathing.

What did you do before becoming an artist?
Nothing. However, in order to survive as an artist, I have been a model, a shop assistant, and a waitress, among other things.

What is your earliest memory of art?
Making sculptures from leaves and twigs.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Only in the sense that I grew up in a lot of bleak, empty rural spaces from which I felt the need to retreat within my art.

What or who inspires your art?
Who? Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, and Francesco Clemente – in roughly that chronological order, I can’t help but like Damien Hirst’s chutzpah too.. What? Nearly everything I experience in media and the consumer environment, from TV and the web to fashion and electronics stores.

How important is art for you?
It is the life I live. How much more important can it be?

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I’m not sure any artist chooses their medium, It chooses them.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
No. Too many people waste too much time arguing over what is and isn’t art – and why. I’m not going to add to the noise.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
I value it very much in my own work but the degree to which I value it in others’ depends on what they are trying to express and why and in what medium.

Does the sale of your work support you?
My work supports me and several others. I am, by any definition, successful – I have been financially independent for three or four years now.

Some say the lifespan of an “artist” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Who listens – let alone bothers to comment upon – what ‘some’ say? You either commit to the life of an artist or you don’t. Some of us have little choice in the matter. One way or the other.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
My work is deeply self-absorbed and self-reflective. Every minute I’m awake I am delving into myself for material and documenting or preserving it in some way. It’s pretty weird, I guess, and very egocentric. I spend a lot of time alone.

What has been a turning point in your career thus far and why?
Learning how to free myself from the traditional sales and marketing mechanisms of the art world using the web.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any of Eva Hesse’s drawings or a Clemente watercolour from his series, ‘Fifty One Days On Mount Abu’.

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?
I have had several but nearly every one of them was a double-edged opportunity: in other words, they took as much from me as they gave.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
My struggles have mainly been with mental illness: I suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder and every day, I work hard to maintain my sanity and stability.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Yes. Apart from a visual diary, I also maintain a blog online, which is very candid day-to-day account of my life and work.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
If and when I am trying to communicate something, it’s important but sometimes art isn’t about communication. It just IS.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
It’s harder than it looks – and less obvious.

What can you tell us about your creative development process?
It tends to be long and painstaking, with several iterations of the idea in text before I even attempt a sketch.

Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
Both. At different times. But I’m not sure art has the monopoly on this.

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Oh Jesus, none of these. It’s about so much more.

If you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
I couldn’t. Could you stop breathing, even if you wanted to?

What discourages you from doing art?

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?
Motivation is overcome every day by discipline and focus. I don’t believe in inspiration. If inspiration flags, I work harder.

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Sometimes. But that is often the difference between a good work and a less good one.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
You don’t have to ask the price when you go to buy new art supplies.

The value of Visual Arts is…
Whatever the highest bid at auction happens to be.

Your first “decent” gallery representation, how did it come about?
I’ve never had ‘decent’ gallery representation – which is why, in 2005, I took the major step of breaking off all my gallery relationships in order to represent myself.

Your first show at a “gallery” you thought was of value, how was the whole thing for you?

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
If artists truly want independence and freedom, they have to be prepared to represent themselves, and to communicate themselves. The business of marketing and promotion isn’t rocket science but it should not be left to others.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
Reverence. And sexual arousal. Together. It was very odd. Especially in a female.

Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
I’m manic depressive. Slumps are long and deep, productivity (when I am up) is high and energetic but less long-lived. I’ve learnt to manage it better over the past few years.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I let the market sort it out later.

Name a book or books, which may have inspired your work as an artist?
‘The Outsider’ by Colin Wilson, unquestionably.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
“Who the f*@! cares what you think?”

Tell us about your studio environment?
I have a wonderful studio in a small house on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean. It has plenty of storage and on most days is bathed in light. The only problem is that the humidity and salinity play havoc with the drying process of enamel paintings.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Slow. Tediously, grindingly slow.

Otto Dix the German artist said (in part)… “All art is exorcism…” Is that the case for you? If so how…
I’m not sure I’m trying to cast out anything. But there are certainly aspects of ritual to the process of making art.

People around you (family friends etc.) what would they say about the way you work, the moods you have, your life as an artist etc?
I am too self-absorbed to have paid much attention to anything they’ve said.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
Yes, particularly music and poetry.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I am emphatically solitary and introspective. I don’t like people much.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Coffee. And, often, loud music.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
Oh I love to mix things up. I do like high quality materials though. No matter how poor I have been, I have always used the highest quality materials available.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you?
Love and passion. And chemical imbalance.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
I’m not sure anyone would – or should – separate these.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
I think I’m pretty much a night person, although one of the drawbacks of success is that I have to be more accessible during office hours!

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
Oh s*!#, what HASN’T changed. I am happier, more productive, more inspired – oh, and richer too, in all senses of the word.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?
What’s it ‘cracked up’ to be? If you don’t want to do it, then f*@! off. Plenty more where you came from.

Do you go into any contemporary art prizes, if so why?
No. Art isn’t a f#@!ing  sport – let alone the spectacle the Turner Prize tries to make it.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
When it comes to my career, I am a complete attention whore. Any opportunity to promote myself or my art is grabbed with both hands. In my personal life, I’m a hermit.

Technology (websites and social networking sites to name a few) has become an important marketing tool for many, how about  you and your art sensibility.
The traditional gallery system is dead, the business of marketing and selling art and artists disintermediated by the web. If you don’t accept and embrace this idea soon, your career will be dead too.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
The end is always the real hot, orgasmic rush of completion – and much anticipated release.

Do you aim to make “masterpieces” with the aim of being seen in the future as an artist that really made their mark in art history?
Does anyone do that? We don’t get to determine greatness. That’s not an artist’s job. That comes later, long after we’re dead.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Listen to no one. When it comes to “what works”, nobody knows anything. Be totally fearless.

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy… click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2011+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au Loaded with creativity boosters, professional development strategies, investing/collecting art and activities for Artists and Students…

The Month…

Here’s an art activity to perhaps keep you from falling into a void with your work, (Not that this ever happens!) or exploring the media and things that happen in our daily lives.

For each day of one month, make an art work about something that happened in the news, you could go for sensational headlines, or page three small stories of low interest but perhaps piercing value.

Perhaps some of the days you will just enlarge a section of the paper and create a simple collage, if ideas are not forthcoming… Perhaps the main works will be the same size all the way through. Perhaps the works become a wide “digital” panorama image on a wide website site where the viewer scrolls through the days.

Whatever the end product, the aim is to work with the inspiration of daily news (images, text, sound, video’s etc.) then explore how this connects each day (or not.) think about abstract ways you could present the information, or ways to use text in the works, and will you let the viewer know what day each one represents?

You could adapt the exercise to look at set chunks of history or a time based piece that explores the same time of day or night over an extended period.

Artist Kerrie Warren – The Chaos Girl

I am delighted to interview Visual Artist Kerrie Warren, a passionate Abstract Expressionist painter and advocate for the Visual Arts. She co-ordinated a cultural art exchange to China (2007 – 2008) with a show called “Wild Dogs From Down Under” The show was so successful she won a regional arts award.

Kerrie Lives in Crossover a minor  but scenic dot on the landscape north east of Warragul in Victoria, amidst green rolling hills not far from native forest, high up from the Latrobe Valley, a fine country environment for an artist. Kerrie has a website (www.kerriewarren.com.au) and is represented by a range of galleries in australia and also in Singapore.

Here is a link to a video of her working, makes for very interesting viewing.

Most artists have an “Artists Statement” Kerrie, what’s yours?
“For me, it is like writing poetry.  As words begin to sing their own song when placed down in such a way on a page, so do the paints, the inks, the mediums…  the process itself begins to take over and at some point I become completely submerged in it all.

It is a dance with colour and texture… the canvas on the floor… no up or down…. and I move around in an energetic fashion: – dribbling, splattering and squeezing the paint in colours guided by my instinct in the moment.

It is a joyful torment for me as the painting won’t let me go until it is finished. It demands my full attention until a climax is reached, the point where it resonates on its own and I am released from the process… “

So, what or who inspires your art?
Nature inspires me, Jackson Pollock inspires me, galleries and art supply stores inspire me, inspiration is everywhere!

I take it that Pollock is your favourite Artist, are there any others that come to mind?
Yes, Rothko, Leonie Ryan, Peter Biram, Steve Gray, and Ursula Theinert.


Kerrie, how did you get into art?
I’ve always been that way inclined, always loved drawing and writing poetry but it wasn’t until I was 25 that I enrolled to study art full-time and embrace it as a ‘career’.

Many artists struggle to support their “Art Habit” how about you?
At this stage, my work supports itself and sometimes treats me to a journey overseas.  My understanding husband and a company that I am a director of supports our Day to day physical existence.  Though very soon I do hope to be ‘the best investment’!

Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?
I feel like they happen quite frequently, I generally feel like something wonderful is just around the corner and often it is.

What can you tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
My aim is to remove ‘thought’ from the process itself and allow other doors to ‘open’.  That’s the concept behind my work. This is very important for me to achieve ‘sensation’ and  ‘the experience’ which is expressed through gestural movements, gravity and paint, captured on canvas and offered as a form of communication to others.


All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
These happen quite regularly too!  Mainly financial struggles.  As my ideas grow, so do the expenses that are attached to them.  Inside the studio I feel rich, timeless and in harmony with the universe….  Outside the studio I can sometimes feel financially poor, challenged by time and not so harmonic with my environment.  Best to stay in there as much as possible!

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
I work to the rhythm of life; I follow instincts and am content to drown in the depths of it all.  I don’t question it, I just paint.


Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
I watch some viewers search for a hidden ‘meaning’ when there is not one.  I don’t mind whether they get it or not.  My work is either loved or loathed and I like the fact that it stimulates such strong emotions in others.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
Being a ‘good drawer’ was encouraged, but not Art as a Career choice.  It was never discussed in that manner so I had to discover that for myself.


Has being involved in the arts proven to be a millstone or a point of elation?
Both!  Mostly elation of course or I would of ceased this as a profession a long time ago.  It is a ‘torment’ at times as it has such a strong hold on me but then I like that too…

So what would happen if you stopped doing art right now would you miss it?
A part of me would die.


Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
I can feel ‘tormented’ leading up to the climax sometimes, but it clearly resonates to me when I need to put my brushes down.

Can you give us a descriptive approach to your current works?
Patterns in Chaos.  As I work with instinct and energy, I can see that my work clearly relates to Quantum Physics.  Particles and Molecules moving in unpredictable bursts, sometimes in pattern like waves….  I’m fascinated by this, the fact that what appears to be a solid object is not.  Whilst watching a TV documentary program one night, I viewed a slide of molecular activity and I was surprised to see how much it looked like one of my paintings!


Tell us about getting caught in a creative “slump” and how you got out of it?
Thank goodness this doesn’t happen that often and only when I have asthma or a cold and my ‘energy’ to paint is running low.  To get out of it I need to take better care of myself, relax and flick through art books!  When my personal energy returns, so does the need to paint!

How would you describe your creative process?
After building the stretcher, whitewashing and preparing the canvas, I already feel that I have a relationship with it.  I require uninterrupted time to paint.  I become a hermit and don’t answer my phone.  I like to have a clear mind and an open heart and let myself go, allowing instincts to push and pull me…  there is a point where it takes over and I become a witness.


Tell us about your studio environment?
It’s cozy, the size of a double garage and well fitted out.  I love being in there.  I store my finished works in the house so that I have as much ‘space’ around me as possible!

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I love ceramics and sculpture….  I have a soft spot as I studied ceramics initially for 4 years.  I love the’ tactile’ and bring this into my paintings.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I’m definitely a hermit when I work! and people know not to stand in my way when I get started.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
It has been a constant evolution for me.  One step has clearly led to the other and I can see from an objective point of view that I am working hard for each achievement  and earning each step as I go along…. there is still a long way to go…

So finally Kerrie, is making art all it was “cracked up to be”?
Oh yeah and it’s so much more!

Do you have questions for the Artist? Go to the comments section at the bottom of this post and ask away.

Want to see more Artist Interviews the day they are posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/stevegray58

Check out our other Art Site http://artstuff.net.au

The Monoprint as a Technique to Explore.

Some times in the Visual Arts you see things that make you go “wow”, or “OH WOW…” many years back I had one of those experiences when a group of 1st Yr Diploma students started in printmaking. I was new to the technicians role and although Mono-prints were something I knew about I soon realised that at the time I knew very little (until that time I probably didn’t see the benefit).

What stood out was the sense of wonderment this technique produced in a short time frame. Ok so here is how it was set up, on laminex tables (usually done on a plate or a toughened chunk of glass.) ink was rolled out (the sort they use for linocuts), print paper layed on top and then the students drew designs on the back. Being strong black, the light lines drawn in pencil and pen on the back of the paper, brought vibrant strong lines to life. On other tables other colours were rolled out, but the black was the most popular the contrast grabbed attention and by using a range of devices to make marks with, a range of tone and textures were created.

It’s a simple process, and on pulling a few prints in the leanly rolled ink (less seems to be better in this case), a few more rolls to bring it back to “life” and you can create a whole bunch of images. That was one WOW factor for me as ink on paper usually involved lengthy processes, now here was one print technique that happened fast, and done well on the right paper the deep velvety look of the ink can be fantastic.

The other wow factor was watching students develop ideas on the run, a few sketchy ideas and they were off. The potential therefore for a printmaker/drawer to create a vast amount of works on a theme is very possible.

So next time you want to do more than a doodle or sketch, try out some mono prints (this method is only one of a number of techniques and does not require a press).

Art Supplies…

As art stores go I am attracted to a few, and the reasons are fairly stand out. Locally Frame Factory (Jenny and John) are always able to handle my framing and bits and pieces fairly well, a bit of a chat, a wander about picking up bits and pieces and I’m off. Parking can be tricky at times as they are on a corner… but hey that’s life. On a bigger scale though Neils Printmaking Supplies in Brunswick (don’t let the name fool you!) has all the quirkiness you could want from an art supply store and good prices to boot on most things.

While in Melbourne, St Lukes Artists Colurmen 32 Smith St Collingwood are up for a chat (check out their KHADI paper! made in India by a few hippies! and their Golden Acrylics, the BEST acrylics under the sun.) it’s like entering an olde worlde apothecary without the old worlde bit jars of raw ingredients etc set off the theme.

It all comes down to service, quality and value, but the big thing for me is the friendliness, heck some of what I buy is tre’hexpensieve anywho… so the friendly chat pushes me over the edge just a tad… They don’t know me from a bar of soap or if I am a big timer or a no timer… so that’s great same service no matter how big I’m not.

Artists and business…

“Many artists enter the ‘real’ world with little to no idea of how to build a practice which can sustain them. So they eke out a living in low-paying jobs while creating art part time. Unsurprisingly, many become demoralised and give up art.” Jane Hayley

Well Jane when I went to art school there were no “jobs” mentioned, promised or otherwise (thoughts of maybe a Sales Assistant in an art shop, a curator, or an Art Teacher bounced around in my head, the latter causing me various ‘conniptions’ at the time…) Oh and what about graphic and multimedia arts, oh they have a separate course for that… The brochure that rambled on about the “Diploma of Visual Arts” talked about expression, exploring, creating, developing… but jobs… nah.. not a skerrick of that. Nor did it mention the idea of a “business” and being self employed and the various ramifications of that. I was lucky and landed a technical assistants role in the print department of the uni I studied at, but that was a go no where role, four years later I was bored out of my nut and went on to another technical role… non art related.

So whats the value of visual arts in career terms? Should it be hailed as purely a device for those “tortured souls” that want to tread the “self discovery” path, or for those few that have the “ability” to get through to the galleries, get a show, and entertain the collectors with articulate intellect and lure them into a spending frenzy, being touted as the next “big thing”? Sure there’s more to a “Career in Art” than self discovery for example the fact you can go into another career and utilise your creative skills, show me  career that values and fully implements the sort of creativity and innovative approach an “artist” can give and I’ll gladly sign up, the fact is most careers along these lines end up being nothing more than an ideal wrapped up in a notion of “a better workplace due to the integration of various intelligencies and creative approaches”, while in reality the HR person that thought that up has since been shafted due to economic rationalistic notions of make money have fun.

So Jane, it’s easy to see that artists can fall for the notion that a “Certificate in Art” is somehow useful and become disillusioned when the “paper” promised so much, but delivered so little. In the race for funding $$ I don’t blame the educators for putting their “spin” on the arts, but somehow the way the Visual Arts is “sold” to students falls short, something must be done to stop the waste, and the demoralization of folks that tread the path of righteousness. Perhaps this is a duty of care issue and the brochures on these courses should come with a stand out disclaimer of some kind…

So many have so much faith, yet over time the faith wears thin and the strength to tackle, create, explore, develop and make anew, fades into insignificance, so much so that the years of study and the investment of time and $$ leave little but battle scars and a sense of worthlessness, as if duped by an investment scam and feeling ones life savings have vanished and never to be retrieved.

Do artists feel dissillusioned by the fact they have a room or three full of “art” that gets them a piece of paper with the illusion of some vague promise… they sure do Jane, they sure do…

Artist sells for millions – Damien Hirst

The news media is all over this guy (English Artist Damien Hirst) and the ongoing success with his work.

If he is making this sort of money I think I’ll become an artist! (Oh I already am…? darn what went wrong?)

It raises the BIG question, what makes an artist successful?

The student, painting and costs…

As a student of the arts cost is generally a big factor, you want to paint but by the time you make a stretcher, get the canvas (heck linen is so expensive, canvas is it…) then stretch it and undercoat… PHEW it’s time to paint at last!

All very well but the cost is sending you broke… so what to do?

Q. Especially in the start of the learning process, are you about to create a masterpiece? Chances are no…

A. So why go expensive, grab a big chunk of “straw-board” whack on the undercoat and get started.

1. It’s faster to get started.

2. It’s cheaper.

3. It’s easy to store…

Lets face it even if you do a “masterpiece” on board you will probably be able to copy it in canvas anyway…

Limitations… size, no canvas texture and permanency. Other than that give it a go…

How about another idea, use canvas, but stretch it onto a board of some kind, plywood etc using drawing pins, paint let it dry and hang it using bulldog clips. You want a neater finish? hem the edges on a sewing machine…

Hey what about those cheap Chinese canvases you see in the two dollar shops? are they any good, short answer, no… but if you want cheap and are desperate to paint grab one or twenty and go for gold! some of the sizes are bigger than straw-board so that’s useful. Its cheap but storage becomes the issue (again!)

Remember this… “Make Art Have fun…” (at least some of the time.)

Hi everyone and welcome!

Here it is, my art blog…

Firstly, book mark or RSS feed the blog, so you can come back to it. Then check out what’s here in the categories. Take a good look and email me if there are any things there you can assist me with!

So it’s new, it’s fresh and with any luck it will be hugely valuable to a LOT of people in the visual arts.

Enjoy folks!

Steve Gray

Art Books…

Many artists have produced art books, do a search ont he internet and I am sure you will find some great examples. The idea is simple enough, create some images that are “bound” together and you have a book. some are printed, some a drawings, some include text some are concertina style so that they can stand on their own.

Perhaps pick a theme you want to develop and explore some possibilties for content and presentation.

Artists books often stretch the notion of a book having a cover and standard content the skies the limit!

Exploring colour

One of the best things I remember at art school was being given a task to develop a range of colours for a litho print, 2 days later I had an amazing array of colours in little foil packets ready to select some for the print. Thing is I could not tell you what the print turned out like but I remember the process of mixing small amounts of sticky ink and wrapping it up for later use!

Using colour in art is important and over time I have seen various exercises that explore primary and secondary colours but going to pastel and tertiary colours is another thing, here are a few things simple projects you can do on your own or at school to explore colour more.

Colour explorer

Create a series of squares on A4 card (about 6 is good) and divide the squares in half, now put colours in each side and add contrasting colours to the other side of the square, create multiple versions of these practicing better paint application, and colour combinations. I am sure it can be done on a computer with a simple paint program, and it would save a lot of time, but if you want to be a painter the brush technique development and mixing paints is invaluable.

Other approaches – Divide the squares into three sections – Make larger squares – Make a series of five stripes of varying widths and explore the colour combinations – Use strips of coloured paper in varying widths to make a collage of coloured strips – Use overlapping coloured paper shapes to explore colour and design ideas.

Even though these seem simple the variations are endless and can help you to develop an understanding of colours that work well together and those that clash. In a sense it’s like creating your own colour swatches, the type you see in paint stores.

Want to take it further, cut up coloured strips of paper and create stylised (simplified) landscapes using the strips pastes in various combinations, try it and see what happens.

Brainstorming on a Fresh Level

I have just come across this, tried it a bit and thought “let the world know…” In an art sense I am big on using words to explore things creatively and one of those is brainstorming.

Here is what I found it’s an online brainstorming tool that’s free to use and allegedly you can have others access the same site and work collaboratively, and for a group art project (say a community arts project) that could be very useful.

I am think however that its just a great tool to use just on my own to explore ideas.

Nice site dear bubbl people! (hey I wonder if they look like Michelin men? 😉

VCE+ Resources

Many teachers working with students at Yr 11 level and beyond have ideas, topics and teaching processes they use that are fantastic. I hope to share some of these with you to build a learning resource for students at all levels.

Lets face it at 2am when an art student gets the “itch” to learn or explore the last thing they need is to wait until the next art class at school! Lets create a WHOLE BUNCH of Visual Art resources these guys can tap into… Power point slides, short video’s you name it I want it (and so do they…)

Have you got some great approaches you can share? Any great ways to explore the theory side of Visual Arts? Drop me a line and I will make sure that any contributions fully acknowledge you.

Sculpture prize not given…

The Age Sept 16… Richest Sculpture Prize Scrapped…

Judges decree the Lempriere sculpture prize entries were not good enough to make the award this year.

I guess the big issue about this could be that the entries this year were by invitation only, and in the past it was open slather for sculptors to apply. Perhaps someone felt the invitation only (by a panel of experts in the field) would probably cut down on the work involved in choosing works.

In the end the only winners are the organisers, that save the cash for next time and have kept their workload to a minimum. The sculptors on the other hand have wait and see what happens and will they be “Up To Standard” next time?

Fallen Angel – Brendon Taylor

(Not an actual entry in the scuplture prize but a nice sculpture just the same!)

The Art – Business Conundrum

Here is a link to a bunch of PDF files (resources) artists can use to assist their businesses, this is from the people at the Australian Business Arts Foundation, seems great to me, (the concept anyway, the files I have not looked a yet.) however there is a challenge I have with this, let me explore it.

Artists are artists, not business people (Okay there are a few, but let me tell you I think there are VERY few). I recall watching a documentary on a New York Gallery owner that prepped artists so that when she took collectors and investors to their studio, they would “act” like artists… she would call first on the phone, arrive with viewers in tow, and they would be “pre set eccentric” and acted as “artists” should, creative and unusual. In her terms the artists she represented were often introverted, low sales skill oriented and so needed to be represented by a person with the business skills to present them in their best light. Sales went up as a result, happier artists, happy collectors and investors, and of course the gallery Director.

Artists are creative souls and as mentioned I believe few have (or want to have) the skills to “sell” and all of the files mentioned above are about presenting and documenting your work, maintining a client database, getting shows in galleries (I should read that one…)

In simlistic terms the personality type required to be a business person is clearly different from the “type” required to be an artist.

Perhaps there should be a “scoop” at the end of “art school” to pick up the “artists” and provide them with a business resource support device (read business incubator with mentors and $$) to ensure they have the business “representation” they require, as many will fall out of the “tree of life” having to adapt from an artistic stance to a business based one. Perhaps we should just give them wings or a parachute to soften the blow of the fall…

Art Theory Approaches

When it comes to understanding the theory and history of Visual Arts, some teachers seem to turn into zombies at the whiteboard going “Blah, Blah Blah!” Then at end of the theory session you can then walk out thinking in much the same “Blah” way! Okay the Teacher means well but they might not have to sort of passion for the theory and or history of art that others have.

It may be that the teacher is more dedicated to the “hands on” side of art. So to give yourself the edge in your studies it can be very useful to take matters into yoru own hands. Try some of these as starting points to discovering the “Vast World of Visual Art.”

  1. Create a time-line of art – list the main artists from each style and basic characteristics, then on a computer, create a set format or layout and add each finding from your time line via an – add image examples for each style represented. Slowly build this up into a resource you can understand and work with. Try making it up out of sheets that when taped together make a l-o-n-g line of information that can be folded out. As a class project a teacher could set this as a section for each student to explore.
  2. Develop a glossary of art terms and techniques – Add your own own notes and interpretations to the research you conduct. Here’s one to start with in Word format.. glossary-of-art-terms just add to it.
  3. Art analysis – Create a power point presentation in point form, of how to analyse a “representational artwork” using basic composition and art principles. (There are a few outlines in here somewhere…)
  4. Create a guide to safety principles in art – Find creative ways of presenting the information, a video on a video website could be a start, keep it stupendously simple, maybe a power point?.
  5. Artist interview – Create an oral presentation on one artist of your choice. (3 – 5 mins). Ask yourself what questions would I ask them, and would they be of interest to the audience?
  6. 2 x 1 analysis – Create a power point presentation of two works by one artist, exploring what they may communicate, outline what else was happening in history at that point in time.
  7. Create a formal design guide – Using the design principles often used in photography “how to” books, create a design guide that showcases these methods and then take it further to find advanced design methods used by artists in the past. Feel free to directly copy the original design outline and use the advanced methods yourself.

Then next time your teacher says to create your own assignment around art theory or history, you will now have some where to start from.

The language of Visual Arts

For many taking on art studies at Yr 11 and beyond it’s about the creativity and “doing” side of the arts, wthen all of a sudden some one says “It’s time to do some theory” Yikes!

I remember for me the hardest part was getting my head around the language, as the terms used were not part of my vocabulary (not at that point anyway…)

A few points that may be of value here, any word you are not sure of that you hear in relation to the visual arts, write it down, then grab a dictionary and check it out. There are specific Art Dictionaries that are VERY useful. (I often found myself flipping through the art dictionary out of interest for many of the words and what they meant.)

I also found that people talking about Visual Art soon sent me to sleep, I later found out this was due to my language skills being not up to scratch. However the more I listened the more I got the gist of what they were on about. Suggestion, read (or at least scan through) any writing you can get on visual art, magazines, journals, newspaper articles, exhibition reviews, artist interviews, T.V. shows and so on, it all helps.

It takes time to learn a new language so be sure and check out ways to get a grip on the new terms and words, the proof of your learning is in the use of the words when you talk about art to people about it and both parties know what you mean.

Investigate and experiment

In the early units of study for art in secondary schools there is an emphasis on investigation and experimentation. The aim being to give you some starting points to creating and looking at art.

One of the big challenges I see with this is the time given to do it in, so often teachers do what they can and hope for the best. If you want to get ahead in the “study stakes” you might find you need to create a whole HEAP of homework for yourself! hey don’t stress out from it, just think of it in terms of “I want to do art and I want to make sure I give it my best shot” so here are a bunch of possible ways to “get ahead” and stay there.

  1. Visit art galleries – An easy option but too many people don’t do it, jump online (oh wait, you are already…) and start googling art galleries in your area and beyond. Go for commercial galleries and make a habit of getting to as many as you can during holidays and weekends. Analyse everything and collect postcards, invites and other information to give you ideas and ways to explore art further. Remember many galleries change the displays every 3 – 4 weeks so know when the next show is on.
  2. Explore a variety of techniques – Example drawing, with pencil, charcoal, crayon, pens, brushes, paint, sticks dipped in paint or ink… Check out art classes offered during holidays and weekends, they may give you access to materials and process you don’t have at school…
  3. Chat to artists – Find ones with websites, there might be a number of local ones you can catch up with, ask them questions, interview them, find out what makes them tick. Then use that information to give yo more starting points.
  4. Use a journal or visual Diary –  Whatever you want to call it, put all your images, drawings, scraps etc in one place, then use it as a resource to explore visual ideas more deeply. Often you can get ideas for new works by flipping through a journal and seeing what images or concepts stand out to you.
  5. Explore creativity – This is not often taught in schools, many teachers may think that students that do art have some special “talent” it’s not always the case. If you have some art ability and you are studying at this level check out as many ways that you can find to be creative, check out lateral thinking, critical thinking, problem solving… do searches on these and other topics to do with the creative process and see what others are doing.
  6. Use words – Okay it’s visual art, so why use words? Well not all of us have a “visual mind” or if we do it may need a break from pictures and words can do that. Words, phrases, poetry, stories, metaphors, all of these can give you creative starting points to work from. One way is to look at writing or mind mapping a bunch of words on a topic and then checking out the connections that may arise from the investigation. Stories might  give you a way to illustrate a theme, it might lead you to writing a story to then illustrate, either way they can be powerful starting points for you.
  7. Ask questions – Chat to people about art, survey them if you like, to find out what their opinions are…  you might be surprised at how much people know… or don’t know about art.

If any or all of the above don’t get you thinking about ways to investigate art further then I’ll eat my hat, you will note that it gives a bunch of starting points to work with that should spark some interest for you at some stage.

More art analysis

If you have looked at the basics of analysing art, then you might find this approach a little more challenging, if the artist is not there to tell you about the art work you might have to spend some time guessing, or in a gallery you might find an Artists Statement to give you some starting points or clues to go from. To assist you further, see if any of these statements give you some good clues.

Define the purpose
• To create beauty
• To reveal truth
• To immortalise
• To express religious or other values
• To stimulate the intellect
• To create order and harmony
• To create chaos
• To reflect society and culture
• To protest injustice/raise social consciousness
• To express the universal
• To meet the personal needs of the artist.

Analysing the elements of art
• Locate the focal point (where your immediate attention/eye goes).
• Define the medium (painting, sculpture, photography, drawing etc.)
• Abstract, realistic or stylised?
• Have they used light and dark for contrast?
• Does the colour have a psychological effect or create a mood?
• What is the effect of texture, finish, materials used?
• Look at the design features, Line shape, tone, colour form, subject matter and composition as starting points. How well do these work to communicate the artists intent?

Often in analysing art you can use these starting points and couple them with further research on the artists online or in books. Imagine thinking one thing about a work, only to find the artists view is quite different…

Notice how the analysis process os not so much about “do you like it” but more about exploring the intended message. Use this as a guide to looking at art and how you can explore things more deeply.

Suggestion – If you spend a lot of time in art galleries pondering about art, it’s value’s and meanings you might find it taxing mentally and physically, so I suggest you make the process brief, checking out each work for only a few minutes (or moments) then moving on. You may even find having a quick browse and returning to works that “grab  your attention” for an extended look can be useful.

Basic art analysis

Here are some techniques you can use to analyse artworks objectively.

Analyse – Looking at works of art, designed objects, photographs etc with the aim of investigating them without putting a value judgment on them (Like it – don’t like it).

Evaluate – Develop an objective and hopefully an informed opinion about the objects by looking at:
• What is it? Painting – sculpture etc…
• Who created it?
• What date was it created?
• What size is it?
• What materials is it made out of?
• What is the main subject matter, landscape, portrait, landscape, abstract?
• What is contained within the piece? Figures, trees, flowers?
• What, if any is the meaning the artist or designer was trying to convey?
• What techniques did they use?
• What art style does it fit to, if any?

Context – Put the work into context. For example:
• Why was it created? (cultural – personal – other)
• When and where was it created?
• What is its purpose? (if any!)
• Is it functional, conceptual or purely aesthetic?

These are starting points you can use with any artwork, with practice over time you may start to discover greater meaning even in the most abstract of works.


If you are a student it can be highly valuable to analyse works fast and this is a great way to get started.

Categorising art

Categorising art, some starting points.
In art there are many types of works and categorising them into styles can be a minefield, here is a starting point to negotiating the minefield.

  1. Contemporary – Considered to be the cutting edge of what’s taking place in the art world… New players abound, and also artists of repute who have earned the title of contemporary artist who are heading to mature contemporary status. The new players can provide the viewer with interesting and fresh perspectives on personal, cultural and social issues. The works can range from high to low skills, to avant-garde high depth to lower decorative pieces with minimal meaning.
  2. Mature contemporary – These artists have been selling for years, some have passed on, some are still with us, but the work has sometimes gone from owner to owner being auctioned off in art auction houses. Usually a much lower risk for an art investor than an emergent contemporary artist and often nowhere near as expensive as a classic. The works will have stood the test of time and the artist will probably have a cult following in the art circles, not to mention solid mentions in a range of art books.
  3. Classics – The bigger picture of art from the past, from high-level well renowned artists to others of little note. Again, in the bigger auction houses, museums and from some antique dealers. These works are more historic and can cover from early prehistoric artefacts to works up to the 1970’s
  4. Leisure – The art works of people who create for enjoyment, some of these works attain a level of notoriety (often very localised) however their value is often in the technique and style rather than the ability of the works to communicate concepts at deeper levels. Often these are hobbyists that sell to help supplement their income or pay for their materials. As an investment they offer little in the way of $$ return as the artists often have little recognition in the active investment art world, any value is often sentimental. Uncle Mike might be a dab hand at painting a bunch of flowers, but beyond that the work has little value other than decoration. (With all due respect to Uncle Mike).
  5. Decorative – Renovation and do it yourself shows on TV, show how to ‘take a canvas and tun it into your own piece of art’ the aim is to decorate a wall or space. This is all about colour and design basics and not about art for art sake communicating cultural, social and or personal themes. The images are usually meaningless and serve only as decoration.
  6. Therapeutic – This can cut across a range of categories, but I wanted to give it a spot on its own. It can be in any medium and involve processes to assist the “patient” to explore, themselves, and issues relating to them.

There are probably a whole host of categories in between that fill various gaps but the above list is a starting point for you to explore.

When looking at works of art you now have a perspective from which to view and assess them. So when asked “What do you think of our latest acquisition” when Aunt Millie points to a new painting in the lounge… you can start out with a discussion using a few of the points above. “Oh Aunt Millie, its rather colourful and fits the space nicely, tell me all about it…” then listen to hear how it was purchased, and for what purpose, decoration, investment or because it is communicating something to her on a deeper basis.

From all sides the list gives a starting point to understanding so the visual arts might be more clearly defined for all parties.