An Artist's Journeys in Nature

Archive for June, 2012

‘Unfolding’ – Botanical Art

Fern Frond Unfolding - PencilStill working on items for Society6, so here’s another.

It’s based on the New Zealand ‘Kiokio’ fern – one of the Blechnums : Blechnum capense.  They often grow on  banks, and the fronds can reach quite a size – often 2 or 3 feet long.  They look like great green waterfalls.

Where there is plenty of sun falling on them, the tips of the fronds take on an orangey hue.

The interesting thing about this genus is that its fertile, spore-bearing fronds are a distinctly different shape from its normal fronds.

I’ve brought this out in the painting – the fertile frond is shown in white silhouette behind the normal frond unfurling.

kiokio_450


Here in New Zealand, any kind of unfolding fern frond or ‘koru’ is regarded as a symbol of new beginnings, development and growth.  For me, it is also a symbol of enormous power.  A botanical magnifying glass reveals some mighty wonders!

Click on image for more details.

Patricia

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Flight of The Kukupa

Kereru-kukupaHere’s a follow-on from my last post, as I’m busy putting up new items on Society6.

This is a painting of a NZ native pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), the Kereru, or as they’re called up here the Kukupa, soaring above the volcanic outcrop where I live.

They are quite a large bird, with very distinctive and beautiful coloring, the breast pure white, the head, neck, back and wings green of varying hues with purple and grey intermingled.  They have quite a heavy flight, although their nuptual flights in spring are quite spectacular.  A pair produces only one chick a year, so it it doesn’t take much brain to see how easily numbers become depleted.

Sadly, this bird is becoming scarce here because although they are protected, certain people think they have the right to take them for food.

Flight of The Kereru - Acrylic - Patricia Howitt

Flight of the Kukupa or Kereru – Native New Zealand Pigeon

When my parents moved in here about 40 years ago, and for many years after, the kukupa native woodpigeon could be seen in numbers swooping and soaring over the thermals from the warm rock face.

Nowadays, thanks to attention from some people, they are so depleted in numbers that I rarely see one in the bush, let alone up on the rock. The irony of it is that according to Maori tradition, the area behind this rock, known as ‘Kukuparere’ was fabled to be the place where ALL the Kereru birds in New Zealand originated from.  So much for respecting our treasured legends!  Where are the kaitiaki?

Click on the image for larger size and more details.

Patricia


Spirit of the Volcano

Volcano Spirit - Acrylic - Patricia HowittThought by way of a change, I’d add a painting I’ve just put up in my store on Society6.

This was inspired by New Zealand’s magnificent Central North Island Plateau (National Park as we call it) – the location for 3 volcanoes, 2 of them active.  Note: Mount Tongariro has proved me wrong on this, with a series of recent eruptions – Yay!   The ‘inactive’ volcano – Mount Tongariro – has so many blown-out craters, it’s probably more like a bunch of volcanoes in its own right.

If you saw the “Lord of The Rings” series, one of our active volcanoes on this plateau – Mt Ngauruohoe – was featured as Mt Doom.

Ngauruhoe is actually a beautiful, symmetrical cone, regarded as a female in Maori tradition, and she looks anything but ‘doomful’ under normal conditions.  She does, however, tend to have a plume of steam arising from her crater quite often – a sign that she is by no means as sweet-natured as she may look.

Anyway, the inspiration for this small ACEO painting was Mt Tongariro doing its undoubted best.  Click on the image for larger size and more details …

Volcano Spirit - Acrylic - Patricia Howitt


The Big Decision

Future Shock - Acrylic - Patricia HowittAt the age of 13 in the Scottish educational system, a pupil has to make the choice of what they want to do in life. Obviously a very big decision, quite hard to make at a relatively young age: I don’t know if things are the same now.

The options for me were Languages, Science and Art.

I wasn’t in any doubt what I wanted to do and it was called Art.

But here’s where one of life’s major disappointments reared its head: my father’s response was a flat, “No! You will never make a living at art. Keep it as a hobby and enjoy it.”

Hobby? Aaargh!

Burnout - Oils on Board - Patricia Howitt

This was painted later in life, after I moved to Wellington to work as a lawyer.  But it reflects the desolate feelings I had earlier – plus my grief at devastation of nature.  Click on image for more details.

Looking back, I can understand his reaction at that time, but it sure was hard on me.  What’s more, I was also very good at both languages and science.  It wasn’t as if art was my only option. So I didn’t have that leg to stand on.

One doesn’t argue with an RSM, especially my father.  With a great deal of sadness, I decided to go for languages.

There was nothing else to do but carry on …

The Bleeding of The Land - Acrylic - Patricia Howitt

The Bleeding of The Land – Acrylic – Patricia Howitt

This is another later painting and it’s worth clicking on the image for a fuller explanation of what’s behind it.

My dad’s comment impacted very heavily on my mind for far too long, and I am only just now beginning to shake it off.  What’s more, I never until very recently fully forgave him for what he’d said because as I grew older, and especially lately, I became so very aware what a strong influence it had on my thinking and choices since.

Though I sold quite a lot of art all through my legal career, I found I had indeed a very deep belief that I’d never make a living at it. How deep that belief was, I only discovered when I quit my job and moved up north here – about which, more later.  It seemed like I would never shake off the stigma (as I saw it) of not having been to Art School.

Parents: Be careful about what you say to your kids – especially about their dreams.  Select your words carefully.

Patricia


Sculpture and The World of Greek Coins

Alexander Coin - Patricia HowittThe brilliant artists who decorated pottery throughout the Hellenistic world from 2000 to about 450 BC left a legacy that was unsurpassed in the civilizations of Greece and Rome, and probably unequalled worldwide in any era since.

They decorated huge wine-mixing bowls, plates, drinking bowls, flasks and funerary urns.  Their individual styles became known, and enough of their works have survived that even today, many of these artists are identified by the names of their most famous pieces and have listings kept of their works.

Quite some achievement,  2000 – 4000 years later!  How much art from today will survive that long?

Greek Black Figure Vase

Art and Ancient Greek Coinage

Equally to be marveled at were die-makers throughout the Ancient Greek world who created the designs for the coinage used by all the city states – of which there were many – all having their own traditions and ‘coats of arms’.

These artists carved in metal, in intaglio (in reverse) the dies from which the many city states’ coins were struck on a regular basis – coins that are works of art in their own right.

Greek Coinage

Can you imagine the skill required to carve perfect works of art of that size – in reverse? In metal? By hand? A study of the development of Greek coinage from about 700 to about 150 BC brings to light a whole new world of artistic triumph:  marvelous, almost unbelievable skill.

If you are interested, go HERE and click on  the Alphabetical Index of Issuing Authorities for Greek coins.  You will find at the top of each issuing authority page a link to pages with thumbnails, which saves a lot of blind delving.

To round out this post, here are one or two of my own sculptural tributes to the Greek die-makers, sculpted and cast in epoxy resin soon after we came to New Zealand.  Size – 9cm (3.5″) diam approx:

Alexander - Mint Alexandria c 300BC Pallas Athene - South Italy 445-410BC
Seilenos - Aetna Master  470BC Dionysos - Sybrita c 360BC
Gryphon - Panticapaeum c 380              BC Heracles & Lion - Syracuse c 395 BC
Eagle & Snake - Olympia c 480 BC Eagle's Head - Elis c 400 BC

More Classics

Greek Vase Painting - Patricia HowittOf course, it wasn’t too long before a “Movies” scrapbook got started.

It was  mainly for movies about Greece and Rome, and I combed the magazine stands for movie magazines with reviews on anything new in the genre.

Today, things haven’t really changed.  The Internet is a wonderful medium for making “scrapbooks”, and we create them all the time – be it in blogs or static websites, with photos, artwork or videos.  It’s really great to catch up legitimately with an old hobby in a new format – without feeling ‘wussy’ !

And naturally, there had to be more artworks …Alexander & Caryatids Drawings - Patricia Howitt

The Masters of Greek Vase Painting

The other thing I frequently go back to in wonderment is Greek vase painting. I love the limited palettes, the brilliant composition, the strong but sensitive lines.  These artists were indeed masters:

Greek Vase Art 1

Greek Vase Art 2

And a little tribute of mine:

Ganymede & Heracles - Patricia Howitt

But the Greek Vase painters didn’t have it all on their own – more next time!

Patricia