Exuberance and containment

8 July 2021

Episode 44

I read a quote this morning which expresses the feelings I have about my current work

To paint abstractly is to paint pure feeling

Roger Cecil A secret artist

My last post showed the early stages of 4 new paintings all much bigger that I have attempted before. I was inspired to go bigger by a friend who said to a few of us “paint something big for the (Art Society of Tasmania) Annual exhibition”. So I did because I cant resist a challenge. I found that I love painting on a larger surface attached to my new painting wall. It allows for grander gestural mark making and just feels so good!

Firstly I needed to get assurance from my man Gil that he could fabricate the boards I needed and that is now done. I can’t wait to see how they look mounted and on the wall.

I have almost completed the six; three of them are entered for selection in the previously mentioned exhibition. It runs for 10 days from 10 August in the Long Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart.

These first two have a floral influence and are not destined for this exhibition. The others are an interpretation of sketches done en plein air in the country side at Richmond in June.

Abundance in red

Abundance in blue- Unfinished

Enclosed within

Within the bounds

Enclosed without

Abundance in green Unfinished (not true to colour)

Excited by how these turned out, I am now working on 4 more inspired by the American Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell. Bolder colour on these 60 cm, 40cm and 30cm works.

60 x 60

40 x 40

30 x 30

The past few weeks have been very busy with all the above, trying to fit in pruning my 50+ rose bushes, and struggling with my website. The latter has been evolving but its not working how I would like and the quest to change it is proving very time consuming and frustrating. I need something simpler I think.

I am getting reading to mount my paintings on my lovely new boards in the next few days. Then onto the next series I hope.

Keep well, warm and safe.

Rust and red

Episode 43

7 July 2021

This past week my palette is mainly rusts and reds. I explore more large gestural work, add autumn leaves to others and play with acrylics.

The past few years have seen me focus on the media of oil paint and cold wax. I love this for its gorgeous creamy texture which is applied with everything but brushes. It just feels great and lends itself to a history of layers. Oil sticks have become of more interest too me because I can use large gestural movements to create spontaneous marks and shapes. I have been exploring this medium and trying to keep the freshness of the initial stages alive. There is a tendency to get too detailed if I try to add recognisable objects into the work: even if it all come from in my mind.

This is one of two I had on the go in my last ‘news’. Its not finished because I think it is too busy so I need to simplify without over working. A challenge.

Leaves have become an obsession lately and I have been creating the following four works using hand made stencils and mostly transparent colours in magenta, brown pink and raw umber. Not yet finished and I am not happy with the second one. The first two are 50 cm and the last two just 30cm.

Moonlight 1
Moonlight 2

On my drawing wall are two new gestural works done mainly with oils sticks: one in neutral colours and black and the other in neutrals and orangey reds. I am really liking where these are going and waiting on a delivery of more R&F oils sticks before I do more. Maybe I will start another two. This is really addictive.

Barbed enclosure

Rock face

Coming up in the next 6 months are several community art exhibitions where I will be entering paintings; that could be 30 or more works to prepare. I will update my website with details soon.

As well as having work on display and for sale on my website, I now have paintings in two Australian online art galleries Bluethumb and Art Lovers, shops on Facebook and Instagram. This week I will put up 6 new paintings at the Rosny Doctors Medical Centre. A lot of work to keep track of.

I love to show and share my work but find the hard sell approach on social media recommended on most online art marketing sites difficult to deal with. It seems to be counter to the artistic process although I guess both are addictive.

I have certainly learned that to move your art forward you need to be spending a lot of time doing it; not thinking about it, reading about it but doing it. And doing it with a joyful playfulness. Which brings me to my play pieces in acrylics. Six pieces of paper joined and treated as one then separated.

The last two are stage 3 on two of the six. Fun to do but I am enjoyed my oil stick play more. What about you?

Is bigger a size or state of mind?

Episode 42

23 June 2021

I learnt something I mustn’t forget last week. I don’t like painting heads and faces. Even when trying to distort the image and avoid realism one seems to get fiddly with detail. It might be also working in acrylics. They look great and vibrant when wet but dry darker and flat so what looked good loses its impact.

That said, having finished the Find Your Joy free Taster course for the second time I realised how much my knowledge, skill and understanding has increased in the past year. I am more comfortable with using acrylics when the situation calls for them too.

My current challenge is to paint two large 90cm square abstracts which have hints of florals in them. Scaling up is not easy, not only does the substrate enlarge but so should the marks and shapes that comprise the painting surface. You need to be able to view the work up close but also from several metres away. It must be interesting from each perspective. More paint is needed to be mixed and the gestures made with whole of body if possible.

A new painting wall is set up and my first pass is in acrylics. I was frozen by the large white space; something I don’t experience in my usual size work which ranges from 30 to 70 cm.

The board attached to the wall and being painted white

These are being painted side by side. The next pass is with white oil paint with wax medium. Not all the surface is covered and the edges are blended.

The next stage involved introducing some loose drawing with oils sticks in three blues.

More gestural mark making with paint applied with a silicon spreader and oil sticks, bringing in some tonal difference and inference of florals. Nothing is thought out beforehand, I just work intuitively responding to what is there. Walking across to the other side of the room frequently is essential. It helps the daily step tally too. The secret is not to care if you might mess it up. It is just a challenge and opportunity to take it further to something you do love.

I am really enjoying these so far. The tricky part is knowing when to stop. This is often a stage or two before I realise!!!

Also on the easel this week are four 40 x 50 cm boards. They were painted not long before COVID and were in a small solo exhibition called Unearthed I had in a small cafe in a large arts precinct. Unfortunately, the exhibition was closed down after a few days and these four have lanquished on a shelf near my studio since then. I had pulled them out to reconsider a few weeks ago, thinking of making them more interesting and spontaneous. I loved them as they were with multilayers of paint creating gorgeous textures. But my work has changed since then. On a late autumn walk I came across some beautiful rich brown, red and gold leaves laying on the soggy ground. I collected a handful and bought them home. The idea of juxtaposing leave images on the four works took hold. Stencils were made and I gradually built up leaf shapes. I am really liking how these are developing. I love the richness of the transparent colour, especially the brown-pink and the magenta. They are not as spontaneous as I hoped but does it matter! They will be what they want to be.

On Monday, I joined my Plein Air group for a visit to the historical and picturesque town of Richmond. Avoiding the obvious landscape options, I concentrated on drawing shapes around me; with my third sketch being inspired by the rusty barbed wire fence. I worked only in India ink. The sun was shining at last after a week of cold, damp and cloudy weather. A throw down and get together over lunch topped off the day.

Barbed wire

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