Saturday, August 10, 2019

Thursdays in the Gardens

As part of my Artist in Residency at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I am drawing or painting somewhere in the gardens on most days. On Thursdays I have been posting my location on social media so that other artists or sketchers can join me. This week I was working in the Japanese Garden on Thursday and was joined by eight other sketchers.

Robyn Bauer sketching in the Japanese garden

I was tempted by the winter sunshine but after starting my drawing I soon realised I was getting far too hot, plus the glare from the paper made it very difficult to continue and I had to move to the shade. I still continued on the same drawing from a different angle. I should know better being a Queenslander. I won't make that mistake again.

Pinus Thunbergii, Robyn Bauer

The twisted forms of this Japanese Black Pine were the main focus with the pond in the middle distance.

Sketchers in the Japanese garden

There were dozens of school children who were intrigued to see artists at work and they stopped to watch for several minutes.

Sketchers in the Japanese Garden

As you see we had a lovely group out enjoying the perfect winter weather.

Hard at work

This shelter provides a great resource for artists to see and work, rain or shine.

Robyn Bauer sketching

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

August workshop - Botanical Collage

Using the outlines of flowers, leaves, seedpods and branches, this workshop focused on the use of collage.

I prepared nine collages to illustrate different techniques that could be employed.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

Paper was prepared first with a swish of acrylic ink.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

Various papers were sourced, including napkins and tissue paper. This provided the first layers.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

There is some stenciling done here with paper doilies. Posca pens on the top layer.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

I realised fairly early in this process that using large pieces of coloured tissue provided a transparent layer of colour that linked disparate elements.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

There are bits of wrapping paper on this one and the black ink was added with a twig. Purple flowers painted with acrylic.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

The one above probably has the most collaged areas of all of them. The four flowers have multiple layers of petals. I have ripped up some of my own paintings into petal shaped pieces. The coloured lines are Posca pens and an ink drawing in the middle.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage 

Sometimes if an area becomes too complex you can always collage some white paper over the top such as this white flower on the left.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

This one started with some acrylic ink splashes, then tissue paper then ink and Posca pen.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Collage

This one is based on a painting I had already done of a lotus flower from the pond near the library. Lots of tissue paper to indicate the leaves.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Workshop

Lots of information about the different approaches on the white board behind.

Botanical Collage Workshop

As an extra source of inspiration I bought along my collection of fabric flowers.

Half way through

We worked the surfaces from broad backgrounds to details last.

Botanical Workshop

In the photo above you can see some of my framed collages on the back table.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Workshop

I had such a variety of papers we considered tonal values as we went.

Robyn Bauer Workshop

So many approaches covered meant there were many different outcomes from the group.

Fun with the flowers

As you can see above there was some wearable art experimented with.

Student works

Finally the results. Some outstanding responses. Some of the students continued these at home and I've seen the results on Instagram. They really came alive with some final touches.

July Workshop in the Gardens

Mark-making was the focus for the July workshop.

We talked about close, close, close observation and a response to the natural objects I provided such as leaves, seedpods, branches and other bits and pieces sourced from the forest floor. Although texture was the main focus we discussed the nature of creativity and the value of interpreting the source material.
Other concepts covered included

* The freedom to "play" with art materials
* Getting to know what various media are capable of
* Importance of the accidental mark
* Responding to a place/object
* Working with contrasts ie. Light/Dark, Heavy/Faint, Complicated/Simple,
* How blind contour drawing can help with the integrity of response

We used monoprinting, frottage, drawing and wax resist with ink.

A few photos below.

Robyn Bauer Workshop Preparation

A large variety of media was used but the most fun was had with oil pastels and various dilutions of black ink.

Diluted ink and wax resist

Brushes and twigs were used to apply the ink. 

Robyn Bauer with class

You can see the table centre is full of fabulous botanical bits and pieces found throughout the forest floor.

Class hard at work

There were some very creative outcomes after careful observation.

Posca pens make a good final layer

Textures were also created with sponges dipped in ink.

Studio Chaos

Photo above shows some of the chaos in my studio at home during preparation for this workshop.

Cat helper

My cat (@barneybauer on Instagram) wearing a camellia hat while helping. He doesn't look too impressed.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

June in the Gardens

I am teaching a monthly workshop in the gardens and there seems to be a strange pattern emerging. I end up totally inspiring myself with the workshop activity and for the next week I do work inspired by that thought! It has happened every time so for the next month's workshop I have decided to try and get ahead of myself and do the inspired stuff BEFORE the workshop so that I can show my students the results.

Robyn Bauer - Ink Drawing Botanic Gardens

The example above is an ink drawing done after I taught a workshop about using black ink in different dilutions. We looked at shape and also texture and how a range of tonal values can help create a three-dimensional effect. I had another plan in mind which was foiled because of the rain.

Robyn Bauer Botanical Workshop

Robyn Bauer Gardens Workshop
Robyn Bauer Botanical Workshop

Robyn Bauer Botanical Workshop

A few photos above of the last workshop showing some of the botanical specimens in the centre of the table and palettes with different dilutions of ink.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

April and May in the Gardens

I have become a witness to so many changes in the gardens over the past few months. Different plants are flowering and there are subtle variations in light and colour in the various areas. I have big plans for some paintings that are still "cooking" in my head but in the meantime I have continued with ink drawing on location.

The last few months have bought a few personal challenges which I won't go into here, but throughout all my worry and anxiety I found my visits to the gardens to be a real therapy for me.
I have started on some much larger drawings, all created on location in various shady spots. The weather has been kinder too, with the heat of summer behind us.
Japanese garden, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

These drawings are on A2 sized sheets, 42 x 60 cm. Difficult to carry around but worth it for the immediacy of the mark-making done with the subject right in front of me. They are really tonal studies utilizing every range of tone from very black through to the white paper. These tones are pre-mixed and carried in my array of tiny bottles.
Large cactus, ink drawing ny Robyn Bauer

There is quite a lot of detail in these drawings which can only be seen in the originals. Every type of pen was used, including twigs found on the spot. The textural qualities of the various leaves and plant surfaces are incredibly beautiful and I really want to do justice to their qualities. At the moment it's all about texture and tone.
Fig Tree Study, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

I love nothing more than sitting in the cool of the rainforest area studying the magnificent Fig Trees with the vines that cling to them creating an interesting cascading veil effect. I wish I could convey the earthy smell of these areas.
Under the large succulents, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

During April and May I actually had a broken arm although it didn't stop me working. I developed a new strategy of working with my non-dominant hand and even now that my arm is healed, I make sure to use my left hand for at least some of the drawing. I also do quite a bit of "blind" drawing where I am really concentrating very hard on what I am looking at and don't look at the paper. When I am teaching, I call this the "Zen of Seeing".  It gives a quality of authenticity to the mark-making, a real feeling of leaf structure and appearance.
Rainforest stream, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

I have given several free workshops which have focused on tone or value and its importance in helping to achieve a strong composition. I have lots of tricks that I use, including the use of a viewfinder, creation of a thumbnail sketch and squinting down with your eyes to simplify the shapes and reduce the colour to a clear tonal range.
Large lagoon with waterlilies, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

A funny and unexpected side effect of teaching the monthly workshops is that I end up inspiring myself! Ideas occur to me while I am teaching (I might have started off with a different plan and weather necessitates a change of direction) and then I can't wait to try them out.

Succulent area, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

Still making new discoveries both with the wealth of subject matter and with techniques I am inventing to interpret my surroundings.
Sculptural tree form, ink drawing by Robyn Bauer

I am planning to spend some time in the City Botanic Gardens as my residency allows me to do this also. They certainly have the large century-old trees. Just have to work out the logistics of getting all my gear in there on the bus!

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Weeks 5 and 6 including Workshop 1.

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Finally some welcome rain! Unfortunately though it was the day of my first workshop in the gardens. I had several contingency plans for light rain, heavy rain or just spitting. Luckily for an hour or so it held off and we could draw outside.

My first workshop was entitled "The Body Language of Trees" and we worked with charcoal.

We started in the seminar room for the overall teaching component and then headed to the Australian rainforest area and Aboriginal trail. Here are a few pictures from the day.

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Robyn Bauer Workshop

Apart from the teaching, I have spent several days in the Gardens drawing on location as usual.
I am still formulating ideas about how these observations will translate into much larger works. I have started a couple. But in the meantime, still drawing. Drawing is the basis of everything.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Week Four in the Gardens

Even though is is now Autumn, we had incredibly hot weather this week. I worked mostly in the studio apart from a couple of little forays outside to walk in the gardens.

Robyn Bauer- Lotus painting

I have taken hundreds of photos I can work from although I still want my work to have a quality of having been done on location. The magnificent lotus plants are growing in a raised pond just outside the admin and library complex at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. I wanted to capture both pods and flowers. I have finally moved to working on canvas after all the drawings I have done.

Robyn Bauer - costus barbatus

This brightly coloured flower is a type of ginger called costus barbatus and it really stands out against the more muted colours of the eucalyptus behind it. I am building these paintings up in layers and they are still works in progress.

I managed to get hold of these books about Australian landscape artist John Wolseley from the Mt Coot-tha library. Much of Wolseley's art has really been a search for a way of representing the uniqueness of Australian flora, fauna and the environment generally. They are visual meditations on the natural world. He seems to achieve a spiritual interaction with the landscape. (Aboriginal people have always done this) 
Many artists working in a western manner have never quite achieved this depth of response. The landscape has been painted, but there has been not so much focus on the flora and fauna except for natural history artists.

What I am aiming for is something that crosses these different traditions; Not a photographic representation or a collection of scientific observations,but something that takes from or blends different approaches. I am nowhere near achieving this yet but maybe after my year in the Gardens I'll have more of an idea. 

What I can say so far is that I want my work to show some visual clues as far as colours, shapes and a response to an object or place in the gardens. I have plenty of visual stimuli and my drawings have explored some textural observations. I am trying to find my own way.

There is also the excitement of process. As I've said before, I want even the studio work to have the immediacy of en plein air response.  The excitement of discovering something exotic to me will hopefully come across.