Art in the community – St Michaels Arch Angel award

Now in it’s third year the St Michaels Arch Angel Visual Art Award is a great way to connect the community to a school.  Although I have seen similar attempts in the past by other schools to connect via  the Visual Arts to the wider community, the team at St Michaels are to be solidly commended for their sterling efforts here, and the fact it has lasted 3 years (and looks like continuing) is fantastic.

Out of a wide range of Contemporary Visual Art works, the team selected 36 pieces to be represented in the Wilma Hannah gallery area.

The aim is to provide their Students with access to high calibre Contemporary works and give the Artists incentive to show works and be in the running for the prizes – the $5,000 acquisitive Arch Angel prize and the Students Choice award.

The main prize was awarded to Lesley Melody for her Painting Lunar Australis with the Students Choice award Going to  Brendon Taylor for his sculpture Memory Lane.

Hopefully we will see many more Archangel Awards presented by St Michaels, giving both students, the wider community and Visual Artists to opportunity to connect. A great example of this was seen as an eager group of Yr 12 Students chatted with Contemporary Visual Artist Bren Taylor about his winning work, followed by many people at the opening taking the rare opportunity to also chat to the Artist Directly.


Brendon Taylors “Memory Lane – Detail

Perhaps next time they will extend the viewing times to cover a longer period, as they have a great starting point to work from and could offer Parents, their Children and the wider community more opportunities to connect with Victoria’s lively Visual Art community.

St Michael’s Exhibition and Archangel Prize
Wilma Hannah Hall, St Michael’s Grammar School
16 Crimea Street, St Kilda

Exhibition hours:
Wednesday 20 July – Friday 22 July, 10am – 4pm
Saturday 23 July, 10am – 1pm.

Warren gets New York Magazine kudos

News flash, well not quite ,as it was from last month, but great news none the less! New York Magazine Gallery and Studio published this article on Kerrie Warren’s Exhibition and works… Well Kerry you must be very pleased to get these great comments, especially in the lead up to more exhibitions like Regionalis. Well done!

New York magazine Gallery and Studio and Kerrie Warren's NY Exhibition in June 09

New York magazine Gallery and Studio and Kerrie Warren's NY Exhibition in June 09

Bacon not Bakin’?

An interesting post on one of the worlds most influential Visual Artists. Was he not what we thought he was?

Amanda gets a mention

amanda van gils

I interviewed Amanda earlier and got the goss on what she’s up to, now others are starting to notice… “Aint the web a grand thing..”

News Flash

I interviewed Ghostpatrol earlier on and now he is the subject of a TV interview… here are the details!

As you may already know, Miso and I spent a portion of last year with the ABC on
our tail. The end result will be shown this month on ABC TV Australia. The Documentary is called ‘Paper Cuts’ and runs for about 30mins. It will be replayed on ABC2 on Sunday the 1st of March at 7pm.
I believe the ABC will have it available for streaming/download on their website
after it airs. I’ll put the link on my website when it becomes available.

The footage shows both Miso and Ghostpatrol working in their studio in preparation
for their Metro 5 gallery show “nesting and dying”.

thanks and take care

david ghostpatrol

Guy Porter


Guy Porter lives in Sydney and has exhibited most recently at Breathing Colours Gallery in Balmain. His website is he has a newer work right here.

Teachers and Students; you can download a worksheet on Guy Porter’s interview here.

How long have you been making art?
Since early childhood – as long as I can remember!

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?


What are the main medium/s you work in…
Acrylic on canvas.


Artist’s statement…
I would describe my paintings as post-modern in that they shamelessly synthesize various eclectic influences. These include abstract expressionism, comic art, and Asian art – particularly Tibetan and Japanese painting.

My paintings feature narratives, most of which arise from the subconscious. That is, I do not set out to try to consciously put forth a ‘message’ to the viewer. Instead I paint what comes to heart and very often the experience of the viewer grants me insight into the meanings of the paintings. I have always believed that the viewer’s interpretation of an artwork is valid and useful, even if it is not what the artist intended.

The contemporary art scene, both in Australia and abroad, is filled to the brim with conceptual ‘high’ art which has the tendency to alienate large portions of the population. In many ways, my work is a reaction against this trend. I hope that it can appeal to individuals of all ages and of all backgrounds.

Does your work have social, political, cultural and or personal messages?
I am interested in the relationship between humans and animals. While humans are also animals, we dominate the planet to the detriment of the environment and other creatures. My paintings allude to the futile efforts of humans to subjugate other creatures, sometimes with comical results.


What are you currently working on?
A painting called “Rock N Roll Dragon-Slaying”. It has 3 serpent-like Chinese dragons intertwining beneath a giant hibiscus tree. Around the edges are hundreds of little men playing drums, electric guitars.

What fascinates you?
The moon, stars, and that cosmic sense of being.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

Why are you an artist?
I can’t help it. It is like an itch. I just keep painting every day.


How did you get into art?
I have always loved art. In high school I first decided that I wanted to be an artist and began drawing and painting to the exclusion of all my other subjects.

What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
It is limitless.

Your art education was…?
Chelsea School of Art, London 1995-1996
Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore 1996-1999
RMIT 1999 BA Fine Arts (Painting) – Distinction


The craziest thing you did at art school was…
I made a parody of Damien Hirst’s preserved animals using soft toys and teddy bears.

Was your education helpful, or a hindrance?
It felt like a hindrance at the time but ultimately it was helpful and I miss the art school environment.

Have you always been interested in art?

What is your earliest memory of art?
Splattering paint on paper.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
Yes, I grew up in Singapore and I have been influenced by the various South East Asian cultures, which form a melting pot in that country.


What or who inspires your art?
I was very inspired by my first art teacher in Singapore – Mr Teo Eng Seng. He is a renowned artist over there and is very eccentric. I learnt much from him about art theory, particularly about overcoming boundaries.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?
When people started buying my paintings in Australia.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
I paint in flat colours. Matt acrylic is the perfect choice for this reason. It also dries quickly so I can work over the same area the same day. It is also water-based and less toxic and less malodorous than using oils with turpentine.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
Yes. I’ve somehow managed to crystallize all my previous influences into my own style.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.)
These days I’m more influenced by CG, digital, and fantasy art. I get more inspiration for painting from watching Lord of the Rings than by attending galleries.

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
Both you and others enjoy your work.


What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
I tend to see paintings in my mind in their completed form weeks or months before I start painting. I often make preparatory drawings but try not to get carried away otherwise the painting itself loses spontaneity. Sometimes I just write down an idea for a painting. In the past I would spend more time sketching and preparing to ‘execute’ the work. Things have loosened up since then. In this regard you could consider my paintings as drawings, which I have coloured in.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
For me, it is more important to have clarity about simple concepts than complex ones. Complex concepts are best left to the subconscious and often emerge later once the work is completed.

Do you have a personal description of “Art”?
The twentieth century taught us that any attempts to define ‘Art’ simply provide an opportunity for someone else to try to break that definition. It is like a dog chasing its tail.

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…
Yes, I’ve had several commissions over the last few months.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
Very important, although the conceptual artists would disagree.

Do you have much contact with other artists?
A few. I have a friend in Pakistan who is a Stuckist artist (Asim Butt). I love his paintings and we correspond regularly. We’ve been talking about doing a collaboration.

Any upcoming or completely new projects you want to talk about?
My next solo show will be at Breathing Colours Gallery, Balmain, from 3rd-14th June 2009. I’m currently working on several major paintings for the show.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
Nope, I love it.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
Rubbish. You can pick up your career at any stage.

If you could have any piece of artwork in your personal collection, what would it be and why?
Any hand-painted Tibetan tangka painting. A big influence on my work.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
My main struggle has been living as a nomad most of my life. I’ve lived in several different countries and have had to re-invent myself each time I move.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?
Not really but I have a sketchbook for ideas.

What happens to works that “don’t work out”?
I keep reworking them until they do.

One thing you wish you had listened to from an art teacher or lecturer?
I seem to have developed more as an artist by ignoring what my teachers and lecturers told me.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?
Be true to yourself.

Do you aim to break the rules of basic composition, layout etc or do you ignore the “rules” and just create?
There seems to be something of a taboo about having cartoonish characters in paintings in a fine art context. Some galleries have brushed me aside saying I’m an ‘illustrator’ or a ‘fabric designer’. People expect paint to be thrown at the canvas and it seems that pop art is the only acceptable way to introduce comic / cartoon type characters into a contemporary gallery. My work challenges this notion. The way I paint is the most effective means to convey what I want to say, and it really shouldn’t matter if stylistically it resembles ‘Where’s Wally’ or Leunig.

What sort of research and or reference material do you do for current works and has that changed over time?
I paint from imagination.

Musical influences?
Ravi Shankar, Tool, John Maclaughlin, Alanis Morrisette, Daft Punk, anything and everything, you name it!

Do you hope the viewer will “get” what you are trying to communicate or do you feel compelled to spell it out to them?
Often viewers understand more about my paintings than I do. I don’t set out to try to communicate something.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
My aim would be to produce some sort of reaction in the viewer. If a painting communicates something specific then that would be an added bonus.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
How much hard work goes into painting the larger more detailed paintings!

Respond to the notion “Art is a device for exploring the human condition”…
See above about trying to define art.

What discourages you from doing art?
Nothing at the moment.

Is motivation to work an issue for you and how do you overcome it?

Do you have a challenge knowing when a work is finished?
Not with my current methodology but it was an issue in the past, so I know how it feels.

What about the role of titles with your work, some hate them others revel in them, what about you?
The title is actually very important for my paintings. Sometimes I rely on the title to throw the viewer off guard.

Are their special aspects to the making of your work that you want to share?
For me, that point of creation where you put down the initial pencil sketch for your painting – that is sacred. The rest is just colouring in.

You know you have “made it as an artist” when…
I finally admitted to myself that I was an artist after years of self-doubt.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
This is challenging for me and I am endeavouring to improve in this area. It is not easy pricing paintings.

What is the most unexpected response you’ve received from a viewer of your work?
When five different people wanted to buy a painting I had already sold.

Have you had much connection post sale with purchasers of your works?
Only if the painting was sold to a friend.

Metaphors, analogies, symbols, stories, how important are they to your work?
Each of my paintings has an underlying narrative. The narrative often evolves as I paint and the meaning often only becomes apparent once the painting is completed.

Is your art, “art for art sake…” or a matter of “art for commercial viability?”
Art for arts sake.

If you have been working as an artist for a while, how do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?
I’m happy that they are being enjoyed somewhere by someone.

If someone says to you “Oh your work is decorative and lacks any meaning…” your response would be…?
To ignore them.

Tell us about your studio environment (too big, too small, enough storage or not, the light, the position, how you found it etc)?
Too small at the moment, but I’m expanding it.

Is your work process fast or slow?
Fast for compositionally simple paintings, slow for compositionally complex paintings.

What would you say are the top three things that make you successful as an artist?
1) Painting what and how I want to paint,
2) Hard work,
3) Making art a process of giving as much as it is a process of self-gratification.

Art as a therapeutic device; do you think it is useful for this purpose and is your work in this category somehow?
I do feel better about myself and the world after a long painting session, so yes, in that sense it is therapeutic for me. When my paintings make other people laugh, it becomes therapeutic for them too.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
I would agree with this. However, usually if people like something they will know it straight away. People buy paintings on impulse. Chasing someone who is ambivalent or is ‘thinking about buying’ is rarely a useful exercise.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I play guitar.

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 prefer to work alone.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?
Lots of light.

Are you a purist with your art materials or willing to mix things about?
My early work suffered from mixing materials around too much. These days I stick to acrylic, although I use whatever I can find that is the right colour and sometimes use emulsion paint for backgrounds.

What or how do you respond to the term “starving Artist”?
It is a cultural stereotype, you don’t need to starve to make good art.

What moves you most in life, either to inspire or upset you that might be connect to your art?
I am moved most by the behaviour of animals, particularly my cat and dog.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
The subject.

Do you prefer a perfect smooth technique or a more energetic expressive technique and why?
I combine a smooth painting technique with energetic expressive overall compositions.

Are there times of the day when you prefer to do your work?
In the evenings, but I do make myself paint from early in the morning in order to stay productive.

From your early beginnings at art school to now, how have things altered for you?
I used to be more egotistical – the paintings were all about me. Now I paint for other people.

Is the making of art all it was “cracked up to be”?

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I am coming out of my shell – I’m now looking for ways to bring my art to a wider audience.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination or some other method?
From imagination.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
Current paintings are always on my mind – when they are finished it is a relief.

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?
The German philosopher Schopenhauer said that the hunger for fame was the last desire for the wise man to give up.

What do you love/hate about being an artist?
I like how being an artist makes you enigmatic.

The problem with the art scene today is…
Conceptual art.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Work hard.

Compiled and Edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Artist. © 2009+

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.

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.