About face in more ways than one

Episode 41

Wednesday 9 June 2021

My purple, teal and magenta painting I was working on last post is nearing completion. I do love the colours and will use them again.

Delphiniums is also becoming resolved. Similar colour palette. Same size, 50cm square.


My studio is messier that ever with so many things on the go, there is no time to stop. I couldn’t resist buying a little $20 trolly at our $ Store called Shiploads. I have put all my acrylic paints and media in it freeing up another surface(well it was free for a short time). Husband observed that there is little floor or surface space left and he is right. Might be time for a 6 monthly rationalisation.

I sold a 30cm abstracted floral still life on Bluethumb. The down side was presenting, packaging and posting which seemed to take up a whole afternoon. I hope the buyer loves it though. I signed up to another online art store called Art Lovers. It is an Australian site focused on the collector/buyer and provides lots of tips to help people consider and decide on what to purchase. Very informative.

This week I started two projects: one is a rerun of the short free online taster course I did this time last year called Find Your Joy and the other project is about faces. The course involves 4 challenges aimed at freeing up your approach and process. The first was about making lots of different marks using a non familiar palette with a 30 minute time limit. As usual I did two of every thing.

I usually go back in and add more layers but this time I am holding back and accepting them for what they are. The next exercise was to paint a familiar subject but using media that is not usual for you. Because I use many different media, I found it hard to decide what to do. I chose oils sticks which I use often but only to make marks on a painting, not as the sole media. Experimenting with two brands, the first is using soft and creamy R&F oil sticks in a range of colours and the second with Sennelier in a variety of reds and a touch of blue. I used my fingers to blend edges, something I find myself doing more and more nowadays.

Again, normally I would add more layers but I am enjoying the freshness of these.

The final exercise was to paint an ugly painting. Last year I had trouble deciding what to do but decided on a self portrait in hideous colours. It was indeed ugly. This made me think about what is an ugly painting. I have lots of paintings that I am not in love with or even dislike(which I usually add another layer and obliterate). I increasingly find that we are all drawn to different things. So what may be ugly to one person might really appeal to another. I know making mud on the surface can be ugly but I didnt want to do that; too easy I thought! So rather that choosing a particular subject I chose two colours I don’t much like and did another loose intuitive one. Surprisingly I like it! Will I have to try again???

My other current project is an attempt at painting faces for an Art Society of Tasmania themed exhibition next month titled About face. Acrylics are the chosen media although as always I become frustrated with them as they dry darker and dull compared with the wet paint. I am trying to distort the images, especially the eyes rather than create an accurate likeness. So its all from the imagination. This is where they are at. They are A4 size.

Just a bit of fun! Its good sometimes to break away and do something completely different.

Delving deeper with colour

Episode 40

Wednesday 26 May 2021

I am still exploring the purple, magenta and turquoise palette with mixed results. A new semi abstract has started in a new theme of ‘fields of flowers’.

This first painting started in a similar way to my Flourish series with bold gestural marks. I liked it but wanted something different. I think that I hadn’t decided on what colour would star either. So I made a dreadful mess on 3 paintings and then today brought in a more geometric lines and areas. It is now more to my liking but need to wait for the paint to set a little. When you paint intuitively as I try to do you can respond differently each day. Maybe it’s the weather or mood or how relaxed one feels???

If you follow my blog you may have seen the next two in many guises; one in blues and one in reds. They have been overlaid with white shapes, had lots of thin collage added, changed back to monocolour and now the blue has decided to join my Ocean series and the red one my Unearthed series. Think I might now let them be. Sometimes I think I want to achieve effects that aren’t suited to oil and wax medium. I may have to do more work with acrylics than my regular Friday small works. Try some larger ones. The two are shown below.

Scaling up a small painting that you love to 4 times its size is a challenge. This is only the second one I have done. Every thing has to be bigger. Care has to be taken to keep the same feeling as in the smaller one. I am quite happy with this one so far. Not sure if I need to do more. Might put it aside for a week and then see.

Starting a new painting is much more fun, interesting and motivating compared to the more thoughtful, challenging end phase; when you are never sure you have finished or can go too far and spoil it. Using my purple, magenta and turquoise palette with the addition of ultramarine blue and a liitle indian yellow, I started this field of delphiniums. I created a blue turquoise under painting and am slowly build up the colour and texture of the flowers. Enjoying this.

Stage 1

Stage 3

I need to decide which direction to go next. So many options. Its great to have the space to work on several pieces at once. I seriously need to have a tidy up though. What chaos!

Enjoy your week!

Playing with a new palette

Episode 39

19 May 2021

I was inspired by a painting I saw online which featured a colour palette I rather loved so I have been playing around with that in the past week. Turquoise, purple, touches of magenta and gold with black, white and greys to tone down the strength of the colour.

So I started two works; one a play piece and the other what I intend to be a finished painting. Who knows what will eventuate????? I like the first one which is the play piece best, but the second one has only had two layers so a way to go yet. I am interested in what you think about them?

A surprise this week was an email from the Australian online art store called Bluethumb, where I exhibit and sell my work(in addition to my website) to say a painting was chosen as a staff pick. This was one from my Flourish series.

This the the original painting and you can find it on my website by clicking on this link https://wordpress.com/page/gayeoakes.com/1009#flourish-2

Must sort those paper clips too. I think I have two paintings finished this week Floating free and Riot of colour. They are shown below with links to them on my website.

Floating free


Riot of colour

See it on my https://wordpress.com/page/gayeoakes.com/416#riot-of-colour

I have been playing around with putting my painting in room settings. I hate it though when viewers describe painting as a ‘bedroom’ painting or worse a ‘bathroom’ painting. This used to happen when I worked in watercolour.

Monday was my plein air group POGO’s monthly drawing outing. This time on the riverbank at New Norfolk. Cool but enjoyed the sketching and good company of friends. Here is the scene and my sketches drawn with my Lamy fountain pen, indian ink and watercolour and a brush.

grasses at the rivers edge

That’s all for this week. I hope you have enjoyed my news. Love to hear from you.

The voice of tides

Episode 38

6 May 2021

My coastal series has been on the back burner for a while. I’ve been collecting sketches and images in my sketchbook with the intention of developing a new series of semi abstract paintings but haven’t been able to plunge in. Finding the right balance between realism and abstraction is difficult and even when you have an intention the sub conscious mind often intervenes. Having a photographic reference can pull you to be more realistic. The thinking brain over rides the intuitive. Several months ago after a visit to the east coast of Tasmania I completed two little panorama sketches of a place we visited. These were done very quickly with a palette knife and inspired me to do a series but I have been focussed on two other series, florals and shapes. These are only small 30 x 12-15 cm

Weeks ago I had prepared the paper for four paintings 44 x 31cm each. And there they sat. My plan was that if they were successful I would present them with a mat board surround ready to frame. So here they are. More realistic than I expected but even so I rather like them.

Music to the soul

Incoming tide

Out going tide calls

Whispering waves

Below are some works I like by artists Patricia Sadler and Sharon Bruster from the UK. They have captured the feeling of their local shorelines in acrylics. My media is oil and cold wax which is a creamy texture and harder to manipulate and control. It is applied with the tools shown below as well as a pointed palette knife.

24 Patricia Sadler ideas | abstract landscape, landscape paintings,  abstract art landscape
Patricia Sadler
Wild shore by Sharon Bruster

I think I need to find some more stormy images to extend this series. I used mainly Pthalo blue and pthalo turquoise; fairly strong colours, to reflect the beautiful turquoise of Tasmania’s east coast. The weather is not always like this, so I will explore further in my pursuit of greater abstraction.

Please let me know what you think.

An eternal spirit

Episode 37

28 April 2021

Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing.  Making your unknown known is the important thing.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe was one on my earliest favourite artists and I have a book about her and her work by Susan Wright, ‘Georgia O’Keeffe – An eternal spirit’ published in 1996 . As a beginning artist I wanted to paint larger than life, close up flowers and did so with some success. I worked in watercolour then. These are a few examples of Georgia’s work. They are probably a metre high.

Pink Sweet Peas 2 by @georgia_okeeffe #precisionism
Pink Sweet Peas 2

Large Dark Red Leaves on White by @georgia_okeeffe #precisionism
Large Dark Red Leaves on White

I am still drawn to flowers because I love the organic shapes and limitless colour palette. I have been trying to work bolder and looser and as large as my substrate allows. This week I started a new one and feel I am achieving what I want although I am still undecided on the colour balance. These are the first and fourth layers only using paint and a 5cm silicon shaper(like a kitchen bowl scraper).

My deep pink peonies is finished I think. I am quite satisfied with how it turned out even if it wasn’t as I thought it might be. It is 60 x 60 cms.

Pink Peonies

I have two paintings on show in May at the Lady Franklin Gallery in Lenah Valley. The theme is Inspired by music .

Habanera Bizet’s Carmen

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Spring

I am taking a week off this week to catch up on other chores that have been accumulating while I have been working hard in my studio, but also helping my husband painting the exterior of the house. We are having wonderful mild autumn weather, except for a blast from Antarctica last week) so its great to get outdoors for a change.

I am think of working a few more large florals and then shifting to my coastal series. I must have another read of my Georgia O’Keeffe book. Georgia was born in about 1888 and lived until her 90s. She was a prolific artist who lived in the desert of New Mexico in her later years. Painted a lot of animal skeletons seeming to float in blue skies.

I would love to hear from you and welcome any comments and thought you might have about my art.

An empty mind full of ideas?

Episode 36

21 April 2021

To express yourself in a creative way you don’t need structure, you need an empty mind.”


A problem when your mind is so full of ideas. Loose very abstracted florals are one of my current obsessions. I love colour, I love gardens and flowers. I know I can paint realistically but I want to go to another level. And I have been trying. I want there to be the barest reference to flowers just the joy of seeing, smelling and touching.

I had done several 30cm square works (on my website soon) which I felt were getting closer to my intention. Inspired by artist such as Conn Ryder, Wendy McWilliams and Sandy Welch I decided to move up to four times the size.

A work by Conn Ryder from Pinterest

These two below are my works in progress. I start out quite loose and free but get drawn back to realism. Going larger means I should go larger with size of marks and shapes; that means larger paint spreaders and more paint on the palette. These were done mainly with oils sticks. They aren’t thick enough for what I want to achieve. Still a lot to do on these. I have to wait sometimes for the paint to dry before going further.

I know flowers don’t appeal to everyone, especially abstracted ones. I know I can paint more realistic flowers and still lifes but I want to push myself. Also, even if I am not satisfied someone else might absolutely love it. Challenging myself and experimenting are what drives me, not so much the number of sales or likes.

A friend, now a ‘collector’ asked the other day how I know a painting is finished. It’s much more straight forward with representational work; usually only a few tweaks to finish something. For me a painting gets to a stage where I feel their is a variety of interesting marks and shapes, interesting tonal and colour contrasts but also a cohesive colour palette. There is a danger in ‘fiddling’ and loosing the freshness and spontaneity. The question I ask is , ‘Is there any more I can do to take it where I intended?’

I don’t feel the need as some artists do to control or influence another’s response to my work. Every viewer brings their own context, feelings, memories, hopes and dreams. I feel if I have created with passion and joy that is enough. Make of it what you will.

Struggling with two from my shapes series. I wanted to use stencilling over complex and mono colour backgrounds, one in blues, one in reds. The lighter overlays and rigid structure weren’t working for me. The blue one has gone back to the blue base and the red into more geometric shapes similar to work I was doing over a year ago. That might all change.

Collages are developing. Shifting focus to a different media is an approachthat is great to rest the eyes and the mind. This is one of four 30cm collage paintings and a couple of sections of my concertina book. It has been fun to do and interesting to work with acrylic paint again rather that oil and cold wax. I don’t use brushes either with acrylics, techniques learned from oil and wax.

Pages 1-3 of the concertina book

Pages 7-9 of the concertina book

I was thrilled recently to sell a set of four small works to a lovely lady in Rosebay. They were from my leaf series.

Tomorrow I attack with passion and exuberance a large sheet of prepared 300gsm paper which is on an easel. There will be large marks and lines using heaps of paint. Hopefully I will achieve something exciting!

Love any comments or suggestions you may have to improve my blog and website gayeoakes.com

Where to now?

Episode 35

1 April 2021

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. Life has intruded. Creating a photo book of my son’s life so far for his 50th birthday was quite a challenge and a distraction. Lots of frustration due to impatience and lack of technical skills. I chose to do it in a powerpoint application rather than commercial software. This gave me more flexibility but no help desk. It was great to finish it and present it on his birthday.

Card made from collaged papers and paint

I feel like starting a new series of painting but am torn as to where to focus. I have been researching in recent months a semi abstract coastal theme so might pursue that. I thought I would do a review of my work using a mood/brain map, discovering that I have already seven themes/series on the go. So many ideas within these but I feel I should narrow the field and focus on maybe three.

My most recent work has been on a shapes theme; complex colourful background with negative shapes stencils over. I had four on the go and they all went in completely different directions; certainly only one went in planned direction. I like to paint intuitively and not control the outcome. They are shown below; two are rectangular 50 x 60cm and two are 50cm squares. The formats are quite different to work with.

No painting is ever finished for me so sometimes I have to call a halt or I have too much on the go. Even though I might have reservations someone else might love it and want to buy it.

In the online membership group Your Art Tribe we focussed in March on learning about collage. I rather enjoy printing on tissue paper from a gelli plate, direct paint transfer or digital images. This is then torn or cut into shapes which are applied with a medium onto the painting surface. The tissue become transparent.

I started my first concertina book; 12 pages measuring 3 metres wide and 25cm high. That has been very interesting. I have worked further on these than the photos show.

I would like to experiment with larger versions of collage and paint. Another theme!!

Sales have been slow this year so I was delighted to sell a small unframed still life at the Lady Franklin Gallery in March.

An arrangement 2

Now to focus on my themes for the next 3 months. Wish me luck!!

Blooming good

17 March 2021

Episode 34

This month I am exploring collage work. I have experimented before and had some wins and losses. Making collaged cards to sell in a gift shop became tedious and uninspiring and I haven’t until now developed any enthusiasm. I had some inspiration from an online art community I am a member of earlier this month and this week spent more that a day printing collage papers from tissue; 70 sheets to be exact. When applied to an acrylic or oil based painting the paper becomes transparent and only the paint or ink marks show. It’s taken me a while to perfect the gluing process.

A close up from a painting in progress

I have also started a concertina or accordian book. This is 2.5 metres long and folds up to about 25cm square. I made it myself and it was surprisingly easy. Funny how you think new things will be difficult and how motivating when you find it a breeze. The paper is 300gsm and so quite heavy and able to take a lot of punishment with water, glue, mediums and marks. I have been working on half of one side; firstly with ink and crayons then collaged paper. I am really enjoying the process and will soon start adding paint as well.

I have also been working on a large drawing adding different marks each day. The urge to add paint is gaining momentum, but I am not sure where to go or if to add some colour. A challenge for this week!!

Back to blooms. I feel I am getting closer to what I want to achieve with my loose florals. This is my second set of six and I am very pleased with half of them. Trying to keep loose and fresh with just a hint of flowers. Compared with the last set they are much more successful. Its very easy to overwork which is what happened to the previous lot. They measure 30cm square and will be mounted on cradled boards or they could also be framed with a mat board surround under glass.

Yesterday, I went to the Tasmanian Bush Garden near Buckland with a group of 8 artists to paint and draw en plein air. Lots of loose drawings with ink and a nobbly stick resulted for me. A man made but authentic looking waterfall flowed down a rocky cliff face. A relaxing and enjoyable day. The patterns in the rocks were fascinating.


Episode 33

3 March 2021

Floundering in February and now marching on. I was struggling with some in my shapes series in the past few weeks. Life interrupted and threw me off course for a bit. I let my intuition override my intentions and then found it difficult to resolve two paintings.

Despite this set back I was determined to spend more time drawing due to some prompts from a few different quarters. I have been slow to get going; was hoping for 3 drawings a day but it feels like a chore somehow with no specific purpose. Yesterday I decided to start two big ones 50 x 70cm. Think I am happier working large where I can put more physical energy into my mark making. I will continue to add a layer every day for a while to build up a composition and will also obliterate parts of it and rework. Should enjoy this and I am working in my sketchbook as well.

One of the two in my shapes series I struggled with is shown here. I didn’t keep to the planned colour palette and ended up with a very mid to dark toned painting. I had built up a complex underpainting of 10 layers then used cut out masks to retain the background when adding a layer of dark blue, then more masks and a layer of white. I tried to increase the tonal differences but still not happy. Part of the problem is learning how best to use your medium; oil and cold wax can’t do everything but has some wonderful qualities. Think these need to be turned to the wall for a few weeks then looked at with fresh eyes.

I have also been working on six loose floral abstracts. These were done with thick oil sticks. The intention was to have abstract works that barely look like flowers. I made a few wrong calls along the way but two of them are pretty well resolved and I have started another six but using paint and silicon spreaders to move the paint and make marks. I start out painting them as one on a large sheet of paper, with masking tape placed where they will be separated. These are looking more promising.

They will be separated now and worked on them as individual paintings . Fingers crossed!

Six paintings have replaced those hanging at the Rosny Doctors complex at Rosny. They are Rock patterns 2 and Treasure beneath shown below, 50cm squares. I have 4 from my leaf series as well.

Rock patterns

The treasure beneath

The Art Society of Tasmania has an exhibition this month titled ‘Feast for the eyes’ opening next Saturday morning at the Lady Franklin Gallery. I have two small works hanging as well as two unframed ones.

I have started two more in my shapes series and I hope they are resolved more quickly than the last ones. Happy Autumn!

Fiesty florals and other things

Episode 32

9 February 2021

Last week I showed the beginning of six 30cm square abstract florals exercises.

I have been trying for a while to really loosen up my approach to florals but I always seem to start fiddling and realism takes over. Well my imagined realism. I love flowers and gardens; they are as much a part of my life as painting is.

These are two I have been working on for a while and am yet to finish. I didn’t achieve the looseness I wanted but I an happy with them. They are square; the first is 40cm and the other 60cm.

I find the work of other artists inspiring and informative. I know what I like but need to learn how to create those effects in my own work. I want to get more energy and gesture into my strokes especially in the final stages. I have studied a number of artists including Sandy Welch and Conn Ryder. A work of the Conn’s is shown below by courtesy of Pinterest.

Abstract Artist, Conn Ryder, Abstract Paintings, Colorado, Home Page

Further work on two of the six square floral exercise are shown below. They are created mainly with R&F or Sennelier oils sticks. The former are much creamier and easy to use in this way.

My pink series continues on in the background and I am wanting this one to be finished. Just a few tweaks needed.

I am planning to get back to some expressive drawing soon and bought a new sketch book for that purpose today. Just have to find time to do all I want. And there are four collage exercises needing some attention. Love this art life.