You Can Join the Cosmic Nature Project

In case you missed my previous blog posts about my self-titled series of paintings ‘Cosmic Nature’, you can read about them here and here. But this blog is me reaching out to you, my audience, my viewers, the people that matter.

Cosmic Painting
Here’s one that you can help transform into a finished painting

This is your chance to become involved with my ‘Cosmic Nature’ project. I am opening up this project to public collaboration. Send me, through email, commenting on this post or contacting me via Facebook what you would like to see next from this project.

Detail from Night Parrots, Oils on Canvas

Would you like to see new subject matter, perhaps more planets, more aurora? Any idea that you like. Send me your creative thoughts, your silly titles, your whimsical ideas, and I will choose the best three to become the latest three installments of this series. I will create blog posts about each and will give you the opportunity to be involved at every step of the creative and writing process!

So start sending your ideas today! I look forward to receiving them.

Chloe

Finding Harmony in Art Through Nature

The process of formulating a painting is fraut with difficulties.

What may seem to be a very simple relationship between colour, subject and form to an outsider, is often a complex web of decisions that you made, un-made, and didn’t make at all.

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Songs in Miniature, Oils on Board

The above painting is at first glance a fairly straightforward piece, in composition and chromatically. There are only really two tones here, and the piece holds itself together thanks to this quiet harmony.

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A beautiful location, painting in a 16th Century Palace…and I love the shot of this painting, but somehow, the harmony just wasn’t there. (I will paint this piece again one day!)

Nature works in harmony with itself; even though it doesn’t always seem to be the case. Raging savanna fires restore the balance of populations and fertilize the grass, the weak die so that the strong can survive. There is a delicate, complex web that unites all species, all habitats and all natural phenomena.

The harmony of nature is the theme I approach in painting. And New Zealand’s sparky, fat parrot the Kakapo is a perfect example of this. This unfortunate flightless parrot had evolved in perfect harmony with its natural forest habitat that was free of ground based, furry predators. But times change, and we, like the Kakapo, have to evolve with them or find a new harmony.

The purpose of this blog is for me to lay down some ideas for my next painting; figuring out what harmonies I need to figure out before I put paintbrush to canvas. It’s important for a painting to appear unified and effortless, whilst at the same time evoking a sense of a deeper meaning behind it (and I’m not talking the meaning behind a black square, either, I’m talking something real). How do I transform a subject, a topic that moves me, into a canvas that moves others?

Kakapo Watercolour Painting
Watercolour study for the upcoming Big painting!

Instead of looking at the finished painting as the goal, look at the whole process. An evolution in itself.

A Comparison – Lascaux and Guernica

In the quiet village of Montignac, in the Dordogne region of France, stands one of the world’s finest examples of cave art, and in my opinion, one of the greatest artistic achievements ever. This complex network, like all prehistoric art, represents a great evolutionary leap into modern intelligence, known as ‘The Transition’. Lascaux was discovered by accident in 1940, and contains some simply mind-blowing paintings, both in skill and proportion. One only has to see the scale of the bulls in the Hall of the Bulls (one is more than 5 metres long) to be mesmerised.

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The variety of animal species, including aurochs (ancient bulls), horses, lions, ibex, bison, are painted in a seemingly uncontrolled method; with species sharing space, that would probably have given each other a wide birth in Nature. Also, some of the animals are super-imposed, painted between and across one another, some floating in odd positions, upside-side, bent around to fit with the subtle curvature of a fragment of rock. No backgrounds are ever present in cave art, the source of the rock provides it, and flora is never depicted, unless perhaps in unintelligible lines and dots. These aspects bear a certain similarity to Cubist art; the haphazard but clever layout of the composition, the intersection and angles of some of the animals, all seem to pluck them out of their realistic context, instead forcing them into an abstraction, a spectrum of un-reality. Even the reducing of some of the painted animals to a few carved or painted lines bears a similarity to later Cubism.

The Hall of Bulls and “Guernica”

The Hall of Bulls, the grandest, largest and one of the most heavily painted areas of Lascaux, sweeps across the ceiling, like the great arc of the sun from East to West, seeming to converge in the centre of the ceiling, over the entrances to the narrower, more hostile sections of the cave. Here, horses and bulls seem to run across the sky right above your head, leading us to question, how on earth was this painted, when our ancestors had no ladders, or the use of ropes and pulleys to create a painting platform? Indeed they were brave to enter in the chasms of the underworld, and for the seemingly cumbersome task of painting such majestic murals.

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In the same way that Lascaux is always mentioned at the forefront of prehistoric artistic masterpieces, so must one always mention and ponder on “Guernica” when discussing Picasso and the birth or modern art. Both create a significant impact whilst looking at them, even though their subject matter is very different. Let us first mention “Guernica”.

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“Guernica” was created by Picasso for the Spanish display at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937, at the time when Guernica, a small basque town in Northern Spain was horrendously bombed by German and Italian forces during the Spanish Civil War. The town was in ruins, completely destroyed, and Picasso felt in necessary to bring the attention of this war to the world. This huge, seven-metre-long mural is monochrome, consisting of only black, white and greys. It is shocking in its grim portrayal of the war, and though its style is cubist, and almost crudely cartoon, its impact is not decreased. In fact, the exaggerated faces of the screaming Basque people, the animated dead baby dangling from its mother’s arm, the raging horse dominating the mural and the fallen horse beneath it create a scene of almost pitiful hatred. Though controversial, “Guernica” achieved what Picasso wanted; awareness for the suffering during the Civil War. Today this painting hangs in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, as a standing testament to those who died.

The comparisons between Lascaux’s Hall of the Bulls begin here. Both murals are chaotic, with the figures, whether of animals or people, are all pushed together, almost colliding into one another closet to the centre of the painting. The positions of Lascaux’s bulls and horses, with small, barely visible stags between them, suggests an air of excitement, or fear – perhaps this scene was replicating a hunt, or a stampede, or the animals during bad weather – and its is in this same fashion in “Guernica” that certain figures are concealed and distorted by another. There is a strange mix, of animals and figures, that would not usually have shared the same space. Also, scale and proportion is altered; the fallen person in the left of “Guernica” is the same size as the wounded horse. Limbs are too large, eyes are misplaced. The stags in The Hall are tiny in comparison to the horses they run beside, when in fact, the two species are of fairly similar size. The horses and bulls trip over one another, all heading towards the centre of the ceiling Perspective is practically unapparent; it is only evident in Lascaux due to the shape of the cave walls, and background too, is minimal.

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These common traits give the murals further impact. Where perspective and background fall away, the mind is freed by their restrictions, able to draw up fresh conclusions that would have otherwise been limited. Is “Guernica” a scene inside a building or a house, is it in the ruins of the town itself? Are Lascaux’s bulls running at each other, or are they actually running in the cave? There are numerous possibilities.

Both creations leave us feeling mystified, amazed and insignificant. They are both depicting scenes that we can never truly touch, and never truly understand. They leave us questioning our own destiny; where we have been and where we are heading as a species. Perhaps Lascaux symbolises the fight for evolution between the species, and “Guernica” reminds us harshly of our own.

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As our ancestors re-emerged from the cave and began to create words, language, civilisations, obviously their production of art and their need for it changed. Art became something much more decorative, with body adornments such as jewellery, pendants and figurines being carved. Art became more portable, and pottery flourished. As art movements develop today, rapidly changing from one to the next and colliding in the middle, to create something entirely new, the same is true in Pre-history. Stone-carving took a back seat and metalworking was developed, and the Bronze Age brought about greater skill and diversity of art. Just like today, art was taken over to the artisans, instead of being mass-produced by the civilisation as a whole. The ‘Primitive’ art created by our hominid fathers gave way to the Symbolism of Ancient Egypt and the architecture of the Nile Valley. The richly detailed art of the Americas was the first Romanticism, and in the Southern Hemisphere, the Aborigines of Australia gave us the first glimpse of Surrealism.

As artistic movements reappear, as suddenly as though the sun sets, perhaps Pre-historic art will re-emerge, in thousands of years to come. Its importance in our transition from ape to man should not be underestimated. Without the ochre horses of our ancestors, we would not have any of the masterpieces we see today, in our museums, in our homes, and in our hearts.

Finding Happiness as a Painter

Every time I paint, I feel like I’m learning a valuable lesson.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently reading about painting; colour theories, techniques, and trying to get to grips with my craft. As it turns out, taking a more painterly approach, as apposed to an artistic one seems to be my current muse.

At the moment I’m working on a series of three oil paintings which express what it means to be maasai; the semi-nomadic warriors of Kenya and Tanzania. Their culture centres upon intricate rituals and rites of passage, their unique relationship with the land and the natural world; the maasai don’t eat wild animals but herd livestock and obtain the vast majority of their sustenance from their cattle. They also have a complex and often hostile relationship with lions, their adversaries; lions have targeted the maasai’s cattle, and lions have thus been killed both in retaliation and as a rite of passage for the young maasai warrior coming of age. Today though, the maasai’s traditional ways of life and lifestyle are changing; former enemies; maasai and lion have become a unique partnership. One’s knowledge of the other allows the maasai to keep their precious cattle safer, whilst protecting the lion, which has rapidly reduced in numbers throughout the African continent. And it is this changing dynamic between human and animal which fascinated me in my series of painting The Endangered Peoples.

African Oil Paintings

Working on the first of three paintings, featuring a zebu, one of the species of cattle common to the maasai, I’ve discovered that its the process of painting; planning and applying colours, laying on specific sweeps of colour, then at other times a random flick of a palette knife here and there…the process of creating the work is not about conceiving the idea and then simply laying it on a canvas, but deconstructing its elements, and then constructing it again in away that is unique to you.

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Zebu Oil Painting
Still some more work to go!

Finding happiness as a painter is the first step to finding happiness as an artist.

All paintings featured in this blog post are for sale unless otherwise specified. Enquiries may come to cjwaterfield@gmail.com

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Colour Theories – Inspired by the Palaeolithic

It’s difficult to recall the exact moment when I discovered Palaeolithic Art. I can only imagine I was at least partially exposed to it through the medium of art history, or television, or books. I remember as I delved more into this topic, being instantly hooked by the subtlety of colours in the brilliant, rust red bison and stunning horses.

It was a love affair that has lasted for eight years, and counting, and delving deep into this subject, I learned a lot about colour and mood, and how one intricately leads to the other.
The Solutrean Expression
The Solutrean Expression, 2012

While there’s no comparison between grinding earth, spittle and biological compounds with our easy squeezable plastic tubes, the qualities of those colours are no less obvious.

Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Naples Yellow and Burnt Sienna are my palette staples; and here are just a few of their bold combinations.

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Spiritual Cosmos, 2014
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Cuba, 2016…a different subject for me, but still drawn to those dominant red and yellows! Privately Owned
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Olomayio (Lion Hunter), 2015

To be influenced by the deep past is the best source of inspiration, and limiting yourself to just a handful of pigments is a perfect way of creating your own painting signature. Why choose from 50 pigments when our great-great-great (cont,) grandparents were happy with just those that they could work with their hands?

All paintings featured in this blog post are for sale unless otherwise specified. Enquiries may come to cjwaterfield@gmail.com

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Colour Theories: Purple

We are a pattern-seeking species, and this is never more evident than in the career of any long-term established artist. From signature brush-strokes to colour meanings and even position and juxtaposition of objects, patterns are evident within any body of work. Evolution from disjointed works of art to art with purpose, evolution and a timeline doesn’t happen overnight, but sometimes it does seem to happen by accident. Look at Van Gogh’s early works, thickly pasted potato peel and dripping in mud-hues, or Marc or Monet’s early experiments with muted hues and brush strokes.

We all have our comfort zone, our comfort colours, even if we don’t necessarily have our feet on the ground artistically.

Purple is a colour that was once prized for its rarity, instability and its costliness. The colour purple is not overly feminine or masculine, and it doesn’t come into my daily life at all. I don’t own any piece of purple furniture, fabric, home decor, pottery or flowers. Yet it seems to be becoming the dominant colour in my watercolours.

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This colour has the ability to hold a painting together; it transforms something black into something solid, alive and that interacts with its environment. It can be used for hard and soft equally well. When used with complementary colours it transforms into depth, shadow, and light.

To find out more about commissioning a painting or to enquire about specific paintings for sale send me a message through my Facebook Page or take a look through at my website: cjwaterfieldart.com

My Own Little Art History

A brilliant piece of advice I came across recently is that you need to learn about your own art history, not just that of the Great Masters and contemporary artists, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

I often work within specific themes or phases, but most recently these have been troubling me somewhat, and I’m trying to take a few steps back before I find the next big theme or style, but I can feel it stirring! So, now is as good a time as ever to talk about where my art came from.

It was in 2008 – 2009 when I first painted on canvas, and whilst early attempts were nothing to write home about it terms of technique, I love them for their rawness, their touches of surrealism and their honesty. I was painting what I felt like, with pretty much a disregard for rules.

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Synesthesia, 2008

This painting, Synesthesia, explores the difficult and complex ties between our senses, and I believe was inspired by either a poem I wrote, or a conversation I had with a friend. Just as senses become blurred and intertwined, so is the specific memory of this piece. In execution it’s fairly poor, but I’d love to explore this theme again taking on what I’ve gathered over the last 8 years.

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Dogs are Palaeolithic, 2010
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The Spectrum, 2010

Moving on then, and it’s easy to see from experiments in surrealism where my next source of inspiration came from. Around this time I was fascinated by Palaeolithic cave art, and understanding where art and techniques came from as well as the significance of nature and animals in art. The piece above shows greater confidence with colour, handling of the paint and composition. In fact this was my first piece to sell at an exhibition.

I even started using natural materials such as shells, sand, stones and feathers on my paintings (though unfortunately not much photo evidence survives).

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I’d say it took me four years to get properly into my stride; then there was this:

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The Solutrean Expression, 2012

This piece put in to practice the influence that the cave painters and Franz Marc had somehow blended together in my brain. A combination of bold colour and line with simple structural elements to create a sense of the animal, the subject of the piece. Inspired by Lascaux’s Panel of the Chinese Horse and Red Cow, this is where art truly began its astonishing journey, and I guess in a way where mine started too.

This was a painting style that stuck.

Then became softer, more brushy and using colour to evoke mood…and this was all in the same year!

Then the works became even more textured, but with more colour control.

In 2014, I turned to painting people, and decided to highlight some of the endangered peoples and cultures all over the world, and once again the painting style changed drastically, becoming freer, and adapting to the different needs of the subject.

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Spiritual Cosmos, 2014

In 2015, things became a little weirder. A series of events, preoccupations and responsibilities took  over for a while, and I think that reflects in my art. There were less concrete themes and styles, less experimenting and perhaps a little bit more fantastic indulging.

 

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Axolotl

As for 2016, for now I’m going to leave this chapter in my little art history unpublished. It’s  too early to tell…

To find out more about commissioning a painting or to enquire about specific paintings for sale send me a message through my Facebook Page or take a look through at my website: cjwaterfieldart.com