by Liz Allen
a while since I last posted here, but now the summer's
over, I don't have to water the vegetable garden, I now
have more time on my hands. Today my thoughts are
more on the changing nature of the economy and world of
work, due to reading Seth's Godin's blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/09/the-forever-recession.html.
a self-employed artist, I have probably already made the
change, when I left my job 18 years ago for this
unpredictable path. The idea of jobs being chopped
up into little pieces and shared out when required (by
the employers that is), isn't new, but assimilating the
implications of the concept is a bit
mind-boggling. So, you might employ someone to
strim your grass (or weeds) on a monthly basis, but not
employ that person to paint your house. Quite
normal these days. But there is a principle in
Permaculture that the best kind of deal is when someone
or something has more than one use. We have a
donkey who does the job of the strimmer, (eating the
weeds) and provides the manure for the garden... I guess
more and more of us have to turn our hands to an
increasing variety of jobs (but I suggest leaving the
manure to the donkey, unless you are a hard-core
situation is the same for the artist (unless you have
money, that is): artists have to hang their own
exhibitions, produce information, publicity and
transport the work around the place. Then
water the garden, do the shopping, etc, etc. Oh,
and find time for to make art.
in a day's work... and not just for artists, of course.
have found some time to do some painting, so please do
come along to this month's Open Studio, on 21st October,
summer season exhibition-wise was looking a little dry,
but then the idea popped into my mind to hold a monthly
open studio, with a few incentives thrown
Yesterday was the first of these, and I really enjoyed
meeting some existing clients as well as some newer
friends, the latter who came all the way from the
Eastern Algarve. Thank you to everyone who
visited, and a special thank you to those who purchased
my paintings. It's always a bit of a loss when
they go, but they must find new homes when they are old
enough. Sometimes they are very young when they
leave, like the Monchique painting, barely off the
easel... but it is going to a lovely new
exhibition at Mae de Agua begins at the end of August,
and I've heard from the group that we now have to think
of how to get our works to Lisbon...
still tidying up the sides of the canvas - of the Water
Mandala - which is convenient, as I have no idea what
I'm going to paint next.
having a general clear out of clutter accumulated over
the past seven years here, which is a great excuse to
put off painting. But it has to be done, as I
found I am working in a space which is ever
for the exhibition at Mae de agua (Mother of Water) in
Lisboa (August 23 - September 15) with the Algarve
Artists Network group. Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 70 cm
nice to have finished a painting this size relatively
fast... under pressure though, as we had to have
our work finished by today for the exhibition
catalogue. I found it good to have some pressure,
stopped me from dawdling and getting distracted.
Should work like this more often...
theme for the exhibition is Elements, suggesting
something rather abstract. This may have prompted
my old favourite, the mandala format. Not a
mandala strictly speaking, since the circle isn't
enclosed but spirals out from the centre.
idea presented itself to me while I was exhibiting at
the Caldas de Monchique, a place awash with water.
Water is possibly the most important of necessities here
in the Monchique hills. Our house water comes
directly from Foia in a 5km long hose pipe, a rather ad
hoc arrangement set up by the Portuguese who we bought
the house and land from. All the small farm houses
have their own water supply, often from this kind of
hosepipe stuck into a stream or spring arrangement, or
maybe from a water mine on their own land.
this painting water begins its journey over the
mountains, travelling through and over the ground,
through irrigation systems in farms, used in factories
and homes, discharged as grey water down drains, finally
reaching the sea, with its bathers and marine
larger image of this can be seen on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43192018@N03/7455600528/
as an instrument of self-flagellation
(below) about sofa art, I'd like to mention that I don't
advocate art as a means of beating oneself
up. The opposite extreme to sofa art, as I
see it, is self scrutiny to the extent that making art
becomes defined to a greater extent as a socio-political
act (in the broadest sense), that it is made to conform
to today's trends in thinking, that it must be
'contemporary'. If it doesn't possess these
qualities then it isn't really art, the art elite
purports. I can see both sides of this coin, and
really it is up to the person making the 'art' where
they stand on this. For some artists, the making
of art is to express thoughts, concepts and ideas,
rather than to express their feelings and perceptions of
the world around them. For me, it is about the
latter; having been educated in creating art around
concepts and ideas, I found it left me cold... art is
not about being clever. So here I am painting the
way I love to paint.
way, thank you to Alyson and Dave Sheldrake for your
ideas and inspiration for the blog. Maybe you are
my only readers, so thank you!
still raining, I have some time to chew things over, as
well as spend far too much time on the internet.
Maybe this is making me grumpy, or maybe it's time to
get a few things off my chest. Sofa art is
one. By this I mean paintings which are purchased
with the sole intent that they should match your
decor. They will be hung over the sofa in pride of
place. Sofa art is often abstract, and quite often
comes in two or more pieces (a diptych or
triptych). Ebay used to be full of these
paintings, but having just checked again, there are
still a few, but now these are from China. They
cost around £36 and are usually simple shapes or forms,
repeated, swirled (quite a bit of swirling), but really
rather lacking in personality. Bland. But
it's the lack of personality which worries me.. who
would want to own a painting like this... ?
happier note, this week I discovered Cinnamon Tea at the
Dutch shop in Lagos. It must have some strange
properties as the owner of the shop started singing
"Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young.
Physically though, it is actually just tea bags
flavoured wtih cinnamon, and I know I could just add
cinnamon to my usual tea, but it does seem to have
something quite rather subtle and special about
it. Looking forward to my next cup...
networking - or just a waste of time?
Pinterest, now Pictify... what is the end game?
There is no end game. Just on and on like a fly
caught in some programmers web - more of a spider's web
than a website. They seem to be constantly changing the
rules so you have to waste a lot of time discovering how
to use and implement their new changes. Is this a
good use of my time, I ask myself. If someone sends me a friend request
on Facebook, I will respond, but as from a while ago, I
spend as little time on this annoying website as I can
get away with. -' Grumpy' of Monchique.
I think it's better not to think about what I'm going to
paint, rather allow it to happen. When I
think too much about it, I start to want certain
results and get irritated when they don't happen.
The reason they don't happen is because I'm trying too
hard. That never works out. The best
way for me is to just turn up in the studio and
just get on with painting. The planning part is at
the beginning, at the drawing stage. After that,
best not to think about it. It seems to work...
unless I'm trying too hard.
the way, I have now finished a painting begun in
2008! It's of the river at Alte.
thank you, whoever you are, for following my blog.
If you have any constructive comments, suggestions or
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seem to have been painting endlessly without finishing
anything. The reason this is a problem is that my
impatience wants a result, so I can move on to the next,
then the next, and so on. And the irony of this is
that I know that impatience is counterproductive and I'd
advise anyone else to deal with it, to stop being
impatient. So I'd better follow my own advice and
find patience. Meanwhile the garden has
won, and the beans are planted out.
hope and pray for rain, so I won't have to go into the
garden and deal with its demands. Today I was
lucky and it rained. Up at 5.30am, after an hour
or so of yoga I went back to bed. Up again at
7.30, and after answering emails and cutting up card, it
was indeed time to begin painting. I hope I'm not
the only one who puts off beginning their work. I
now have about four oil paintings on the go, as what do
you do when you're waiting for the paint to dry, but to
begin another one. Why am I working in oils, you
may ask. Sometimes I find the colours of acrylics
too harsh. But, on the other hand, the effect of
the oils can be a little too muted for my taste.
But with the oils, there is velvety softness of surface
which is very alluring. I like the way I can merge
the colours with oils, whereas with acrylic paint I can
see the brush strokes, which irritates me. I don't
mind brushstrokes, but when the effect I want is
softness of blending, then oil wins. After working
for nearly an hour on a less detailed verson of 'An
egret flew in front of me, into the garden of a mountain
house', I turned to the many oil sketches and
experiments lying around the room. As if to prove
me wrong (about what I said about not doing work
influenced by past civilisations) my piece said to me it
was about the Discovery of Chocolate, and has Aztec
Art v. the garden
and life are equally important, and where does one draw
the line anyway? (excuse the pun). Yesterday at
the artists meeting, there were discussions about
possible new exhibitions and new works, maybe 10 per
artist being made. Well, I only paint around 12 or
so paintings a year... maybe I just work too slowly, or
is it that there are other things that have to be
done? Looking around me, I see that the seedling
beans need to be planted out, and the kitchen needs
extreme cleaning. Outside the grass has grown high
after the rain, and will need dealing with. These
things have to be done, if I want a remotely hygienic
kitchen, or fresh green beans this summer. I
admit to having a thing about growing my own veg, it's
really about having the best stuff to eat.
Sometimes I resent the demands of the garden. ' I want
to paint!', I cry (quietly to myself).
of these activities will bear the most fruit, I wonder?
The Law of Diminishing Returns is something which is in
the back of my mind most of the time, though maybe not
consciously. Yesterday I read a great blog about
this Law, and when to recognise when what you are doing
is not going to bear sufficient fruit to have been worth
the effort. http://kirstyhall.co.uk/blog/?PHPSESSID=883ecf525b511296bb6966428bb4763d
something will have to give. Now, I've cleaned the
kitchen, it's art v. the garden... again.
out of my comfort zone.
on this oil painting from my sketch of the shopping
streets of Loulé: the oil colours seem so muted
compared to the acrylics, but these are the colours it
wants to be. As ever, I'm painting everyday
things, perhaps with a feeling of detachment...
painting in progress
and Damien Hirst
that the scammers still visit me. I received the
following email and recognised the familiar signs of a
I must confess I am impressed by the wonderful pieces
you have on display on your website,because they are
attractive, so I would be more pleased if you could
email me an on-line portfolio or inventory where I could
view some of your new works.
I am making an inquiry, if you ship to Saudi Arabia and
if you accept Master Card/Visa as a method of payment.?
I will be more than happy if you can get back to me as
soon as possible.
4 Al Hamad Sahad Estate Riyadh
Saudi Arabia Zip Code 11564
of all, a genuine purchaser would inquire about a
specific work. The scammer is always certain that
they will buy your work. And they don't seem to be
able to write or spell properly. They never
suggest payment by PayPal. If you get an email
like this, and if you decide to follow it up, always
insist on payment by Paypal.
more information about scams aimed at artists have a
watching Monday night's Channel 4 programme about Damien
Hirst, I was impressed by his complete and total belief
in his own work. But of course, why not?
This is one of the top secrets of success: any artist
has to have this to be successful.
of the trip can be seen here:
it did rain).
to Vila Nova de Milfontes
ready for an overnight trip to VN de Milfontes.
It's a relaxing place on a river estuary, on the west
coast about 50km north of Monchique. My
drawing book and pencils are packed (I just can't get
excited about working from photos). Hope it
doesn't rain. Here's my painting of Milfontes from
an earlier visit:
March 2012Monchique to
become a European City of Art
with Laila from Hotel Vila Foia today in the Ochala Casa
da Cha, she revealed the plans of the owner of the Vila
Foia, with the help of the town's mayor, Rui André to
submit their proposal. And if, surely, when,
successful, this will make Monchique Portugal's first
European City of Art! As one of the artists
involved with the submission, I will be describing why
Monchique is such a good place for me to be, as an
artist. After the weekend...
29 March 2012
think that my paintings are very accessible.
I like this aspect of them.
For a long time I was trying to make my paintings
a bit mysterious. Perhaps
I felt that it would make them more interesting.
As if the world around me wasn’t interesting enough.
I based my work on past civilisations like the
Aztecs and Mayans. I
am interested in those peoples still, but have grown out
of the need to make my art work around them.
Or rather, what we know of them from the remains
of their civilisation.
They were interesting though.
And there is a lot of speculation about the Mayan
calendar ending in
and the implications for us humans living on the earth
enough, I don’t
think there will be implications, but that’s
paintings I do now are the result of looking at the
world around me. When
I moved the
7 years ago, all was new and exciting, and this current
theme, or series of paintings was born.
About six months ago I had the urge to paint
differently and tried various ways of expression which
really helped me to clarify my less conscious beliefs
and attitudes to abstraction.
To cut a longish story short, I have now resumed
painting in my usual style.
I tried other ways, but really feel that this one
is the one for me. To
what extent does an artist choose their style in any
I am caught in the treadmill trap of producing the same
kind of paintings. Trying
new and different ways of painting, (but not dissimilar
to those of other artists) brought up a lot of feelings
and ideas for me. The
concept of getting out of one’s comfort zone is interesting, but it seems to me
that artists don’t really do this, once they have their own style.
Perhaps we do in small ways.
When I have to paint a different subject to one
which I’d normally choose, for an exhibition with the AAN,
this entails leaving my comfort zone, at least a little.
The subject of ‘water’
for the exhibition H²O, seemed like a bit of an
uncomfortable shift at first.
But after the painting of the Lily
Pond, Caldas de Monchique (sold) I really enjoy
painting this subject, and am embarking on more in this