Mentors on my journey of art discovery.
From Mitzi Smith, who qualified as a graphic artist and who is also a talented ceramicist and painter; I learnt that an artist has to be playful to be able to create. And never to take herself too seriously.
A sense of humour is helpful as was the odd drop of absinthe to the French Impressionists I’m sure … I confess that I’ve tried a modern day version of “The green fairy. ” Of course lacking the primary narcotic ingredient, to help unleash some creative magic – Alas! To no avail!
Mitzi taught me that your journey as an artist has to be one of a student that never graduates. You will never know enough, and you will never achieve perfection.
To appease Mitzi’s adventurous spirit, there will always be new frontiers for her to conquer; her art is alive and forever evolving. Mitzi is continuously trying out and experimenting with new techniques and mediums. She loves to break the rules, i.e. pouring incompatible oil and water based mediums onto a canvas just to see what the outcome will be.
Her enthusiasm is infectious and her love of harmony, beauty and art is an aura that envelopes you. I suspect that the word ‘Beauty’ is a favourite of Mitzi’s. Creating art is fun, but again success can only be achieved after suffering some failures and frustration. The glorious and heady highs of selling a painting! Oh, Pour that champagne! Comes inevitably with lows and stacks of discarded pieces (but lovingly painted by the artist), believe me, I have a few.
There will always be new opportunities and another fresh palette to squeeze onto a rainbow of colour and hope. I quote the actor Brian Blessed “Take risks – and open the envelope” It is impossible to be creative if you’re not playful. To quote Mitzi “Go on and have a play.“
From D’Hange Yammanee, who had a strict and disciplined upbringing from Buddhist monks I learnt that it is essential for an artist to have a level of discipline and that you have to start at the bottom. There are no real shortcuts if you don’t have an understanding and appreciation of the basic rules and fundamentals. Rothko’s giant colourful squares are masterpieces because he understood the principles of composition, depth and colour perspective. D’Hange instructs how to tune into colour, to understand the difference between tone, tints and values. Colour and aerial perspective are equally important to an artist as graphical perspective. D’Hange believes that an artist has to endure some pain and suffering for his art. However, I’ve never been keen to rise in the small hours just to capture the perfect sunrise. In this land/seascape painting of Cape Town and Table Mountain in the distance, I am clearly struggling with the colour perspective and D’Hange just could not that accept that Table Mountain is that flat on top!
From D’Hange, I learnt the techniques of oil painting and my love affair with the medium endures. He respects his brushes and soaks them in kerosene after each use. He appears to be an ultra organised artist, leaving nothing to chance. He comes across as being confident and totally in control.It is fundamental for an artist to have patience, according to D’Hange. Mistakes, failures and frustration, have to be endured before achieving success and comfortable confidence. But unlike Mick Jagger who can never get “any satisfaction,” the whole process is strangely satisfying. ‘Though D’Hange strongly disapproves of the use of turpentine, I still can’t do without it, but a tube of burnt umber oil paint is always in my box thanks to D’Hange.
How does one mix magenta? And why is it preferable not to use black straight from the tube? There is death in pitch black; I have found that black can ‘ki painting. White is not one colour but made of many. To analyse the rainbow of colours in a white object is exciting.And why is the sky blue? Blue is the colour of infinity.
Another artist that taught me that having fun and a giggle are essential to the creating process was Ellie Willkie, with her adorable Scottish accent. Ellie graduated from the Manchester College of Art and design in the sixties.She has not only a passion for the visual arts but also has a talent for writing poetry. A poem often accompanies her artwork. This painting of hers, accompanied by a witty poem, has a lady with a gorgeously rounded bottom sitting on a beach wearing a stripy bathing suit.
“The Myth of the Vertical Stripe.”
I’m feeling good I feel a winner
Vertical stripes make me look thinner
And even tho’ I’ve had my dinner,
I’m confident I’m looking slimmer.
I read it in a magazine article,
If you’re rounded, wear the vertical.
I’m feeling gorgeous. I’m looking great.
These stripes so completely change my shape
You rounded ladies can surely see,
With well-placed stripes, you could look like me.
You too could be a sexy winner
Vertical stripes make one look thinner.
She taught me to ‘listen’ to the painting on the easel, to let it speak and to interpret what it is saying. A work in progress will have something different to say to you every time you look at it afresh. The answer to the problem you couldn’t solve yesterday might be obvious today.
Ellie instilled in me an appreciation for all things Art Deco, from art, architecture, interior to fashion design. Tamara de Lempicka’s rounded, sculpted, chunky ladies, often quite masculine, are much more attractive than the stick figure, wispy models of today. Stylish Charles Rennie Mackintosh had such talent for design. From finely crafted pieces of furniture and delicate fine china to exquisite lead glass windows, a Mackintosh design is timeless. I needed to hone my drawing skills when I attempted to paint my ‘own’ Mackintosh-style watercolour painting, using my design of course!
Lalique’s designs are exquisite, and the architecture of the 1930’s Art Deco design era retains a classical beauty.
The Parkview building in Singapore
Ellie has a keen sense of humour and understands the subtleties’ and bold ruthlessness of watercolour. I found the unforgiving nature of this medium to be a challenge, as I need to be forgiven and given second chances. Watercolour demands respect And patience. Then I believe that an artist should always accept a challenge.
Artists can be contradictory. I found the artist Lina Linton, who first introduced me to tubes of watercolour paint (I had previously only used the pans) a fascinating person. She was inclined to come often to the art studio with bare feet, a little dishevelled and maybe just a little grubby from working on an art project or commission. Lina seemed very spontaneous on the surface; bubbly and outspoken, a free spirit. I never saw bells on her toes but she had a gorgeous vintage VW.Beetle.
Lina has a flip side when it comes to her art; she is deadly serious and an absolute perfectionist. She demands the same dedication from her student.To my humiliation, Lina once tossed my painting back onto the table in exasperation. I couldn’t slink away fast enough.