Monday, March 28, 2011

Te Papa Visit 2

Great Egret study

Fairy Prion study

Fairy Prion gouache on gessoed panel study

So I just want to say that Te Papa's research facility that houses it's specimens is hands down one of the coolest places I've ever been. It doesn't hurt that it is literally across the street from campus. The main museum is about a 20 min. walk from school and if you are ever in the neighborhood it's a must see. As some of you know I pleaded my way into a series of sketching sessions that take place in the research facilities bird specimen room. (And by room I mean an enormo-deluxe-warehouse-heaven-like space.) I've gone for the last two Mondays for 2 hr. sessions and I'm scheduled for next Monday. It is my hope to keep the sessions going.

My first visit was overwhelming and Gillian, the specimen manager, was amazing at keeping me somewhat focused. Last Monday was much more productive. Gillian is familiar with what I'm wanting to accomplish and she had some amazing specimens already picked out. Last visit I drew from the bird skin specimen drawers (Snipe, South Island Robins, Great Spotted Kiwi - some of the skins were over 100 yrs. old!) and this time I worked from stuffed taxidermy birds (Tui, Fairy Prion, Common Diving Petrel chick, Red-crowned Parakeet, and Great Egret). Above is work from 2 of the 5 specimens I viewed.

A couple of days ago I began reading the biography of Walter Buller. He was born in New Zealand in the 1800's to missionary parents. He was responsible for discovering and documenting numerous native NZ birds. He was also to blame for the demise of some of these birds but that is a different story. Gillian and I spoke of him and at the end of my session she brought over a drawer that contained about 7 of Buller's specimens! His dang paws touched those birds - they are outfitted with his original tags! I asked if all of the species were alive today and a few are extinct. It was agreed that I will work from that drawer first next Monday. Nerd heaven....

Rats. Check. Beginning from the left hand side we have a Norway rat (largest), house rat, and lastly a ship rat. The background is based on all of their coloring combined. I don't know what else to say other than NZ didn't even now what a dang mammal was until us peeps brought these rats over (along with countless other animals) and they killed lots of indigenous critters. God, we're such a-holes.

The End.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I learned that a 500-1000 word critical essay discussing my research topic for the semester is due next Wed. and I don't have a single word or solid thought. In reaction, I spent a decent amount of time making a bumble bee sculpture. Apparently my Te Papa visits are having an effect on me...taxidermy-style. This bumble carcass was laying outside of the art building. R.I.P. bumble.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rats & Seagulls

Red-billed Seagull

Rats In-progress

To go along with the irony of the sparrow situation, I add the Red-billed Seagull. I see these guys just as much as the good ole sparrow. I enjoy watching them. They can be found atop a high perch checking out the scenery or fighting each other over scraps. The piece of wood came from the wood workshop.

Okay...Rats. Thank god I don't see them as much as the above mentioned critters. I've only seen one and it was outside scampering into some bushes and not in my skid row apartment. Over the course of my 5 weeks of school, I've gone in a completely different direction from my usual work but now it's time to pull in the reins a bit before I get completely lost making weirdo stuff.

Back to the basics. Do I stay with birds? "Why birds?", "What would you be painting if you didn't paint birds?", "Since your visits to Te Papa is your interest in dead or live birds?" a nut shell I don't know how to articulate the direction I'm headed in. I got a heap load of books which I thumbed through but I felt it necessary "to paint it out".

So, I thought one way to figure out how I feel about birds in my work is to make a painting without them. I do know that I love to draw the organic shapes and work with the natural colors of critters so I'll just paint some non-avian animals.

The ironic thing is that I chose to paint a ship rat, a norway rat, and a house rat because they are all non-native New Zealand mammals directly linked to the extinction of many indigenous birds. Take out the image of the bird but the bird still remains...

The Science of Sparrows...Completed!

Science of Sparrows I

Science of Sparrows II

Science of Sparrows III

Science of Sparrows IV

Science of Sparrows V

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Science of Sparrows

Oh the irony. Travel to the other side of the globe to see indigenous NZ birds and all I've seen is a heap load of sparrows. That's what happens when you don't leave the city. So, make art about sparrows.

Above is my progress for The Science of Sparrows. On the wall are my working drawings based on zoomed-in images of sparrows (main focus is the coloring from the feathers). After enlarging the pics I pull out circular shapes. The five pieces on the table are the beginning stages of the oil paintings based on the drawings.

Above is a close up of Painting IV from the series. The next step is to work on the circular shapes. I'd love to cover these in resin or at least a gloss finish but I'm having issues with debris getting stuck to wet paint because of the construction taking place in the studio and the constant need to have the windows open (no screens). If I can find a quiet and still place to varnish then I'll move forward if not...flat finish it is.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Abstract...Say What?!

Assignment #1...Remake

This is serious people, assignment #1 grad school-style...remake a work that you've made in the past. Remake it in any way that you see fit. Go! Above you will see the original work on the right hand side. (The frame encountered some traveling damage). It is a pastel, charcoal, and gouache work of a secretary bird that is covered in resin. Part of my whole "drainting" experimental series. On the left hand side is the remake. (I scrapped the Dodo sketch).

A long convoluted story goes along with it of course and I will spare you the details but the jist is that I was wicked frustrated, did not have the proper supplies, no mode of transport to get to said supplies and no funds to purchase them. In hindsight it would not have been a big deal knowing the information I know now - they don't have the same supplies that I am used to in this country anyways...make due. Well, make due I did. I used what was in my skid row digs - scotch tape, magazine bits, and a McDonald's bag. I ripped up pieces of mag pages to match the color and ratio of color used in the painting. BAM! Remake.

Assignment #2...Remake the Remake

For the 2nd assignment I drew a secretary bird on the above piece of wood (landscape orientation) then placed globular/molecular/circular things on top. I used some of the colors of the bird to fill in the circles and decided to cover up the bird all together. It made total sense at the time.

Experiment One

Got a fantastic book at the library on aerial shots of landscapes around the world. Work with me and believe that the above three experimental pieces are based on those landscapes.

The Sparrow Experiment

So I think it's pretty funny that I came all the way across the globe to see indigenous birds of New Zealand and because I have yet to leave the city, I have seen nothing but sparrows, seagulls, and starlings. All of which I'm very familiar with. So what ever shall I do? Make art out of the irony. Above is actually based on a zoomed in photograph of a sparrow. Today I began the practice oil painting of this work. When I feel I'm trodding on more solid ground with this experiment I have 5 delightfully delicious 12"x12" wooden panels to continue with.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Okay so it's taken me living 35 yrs., a divorce, selling my home & beloved truck (Oh how I miss you Baby), giving up my puppies (the loves of my life - I weep when I think of you both), quitting my job, being away from everything I know and everyone that has meant anything to me, and moving to the other side of the planet where I don't know a goddamn soul to undertake a grad school experience in an educational format that makes no sense to me to be able to remember and live by the two things that have resinated in my head since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (and it might very well be the $7.99 wine talking or the new full on skid row digs)...1. I never want to regret and 2. the worst thing that could happen in any instance is that you die and you have to do that anyway. I'm still lost, lonely, and broke but for some reason it feels alright now. So have a solo dance party (curtains open) with the volume a little too loud, have a margarita with lunch, say something that makes you blush...

Having said that I will move to a lighter subject I would like to entitle...Kiwi observations.

  • always, I repeat, always have a cardigan and/or rain jacket on hand
  • "Give Way" signs instead of "Yield"
  • candy = lollies
  • garbage = rubbish
  • elevator = lift
  • $1 and $2 coins instead of bills
  • "Way Out" signs instead of "Exit"
  • I've found that Wellie (anyway) is light on the street signs and numbers
  • no screens on windows
  • not expected to tip
  • no big "car culture" the vehicles here look like toys and/or toasters
  • "Working Girl" (this one is for you 2 Bucks) is big...for the walk home - sneakers with women's dress suits and flip flops with dress slacks (the best sighting was a suit on a skateboard)
  • the cheapest tequila is $30NZD
  • wearing no shoes is not out of the ordinary
  • walking on the left side of the sidewalk takes some getting used to
  • forget your makeup and don't worry about your hair - the wind will inevitably jack it up
  • gruesome warning labels on smokes
  • semi-bland food

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy B-Day New Digs!

Check out that sweet view! It's my one week anniversary to moving to Adelaide Rd in Mt. Cook, Wellie today! Yes, it is a fully linsenced bar but don't worry mom and dad the bar is closed...

Numero cuatro...that is me. (Unless you are a killer and/or that case I'm in numero tres).

Gotta love those high ceilings...makes up for the wicked small sq. footage elsewhere.

What a wicked fancy front entry way!

This is looking into once was an entry way to the now closed bar. Please note dead plant in corner. R.I.P. plantie.

Friends Meet Studio, Studio Meet Friends...


So above is my studio...I plan to spend as many waking hours here as I can. It's a large space with amazingly fantastic light (when the sun decides to make an appearance) that I share with 10 other fellow first year post grad students. We divided our spaces during our first class on Wed. We are a mature bunch...believe it or not I'm one of the youngest and everyone has been really great. I'm extremely excited to see what everyone will begin working on. I'm one of the few "traditional" artists so I hope that this group will give me a better understanding of contemporary/abstract/installation, etc. art practices.

Here is my view which was a dreary one today. Wellington, why is your weather so angry? Today it was rainy, humid, and ferociously windy all at the same time. The few occasions that the sun is shining it's truly the most beautiful weather I've ever seen. Take the good with the bad, eh?

Studio Practice Project #1

Studio Practice Project Numero 1:

First project of the semester is due Wed. (Tue. for all of you Americans). We had to choose a piece that we made in the past and remake it different media, different size, etc. I chose a 24"x36" pastel and charcoal sketch of a Dodo I did a couple of years back. That work was based on a few images I collected from story books so it's a tinge on the whimsical side. I'm getting really interested in bird/animal preservation so I wanted to remake it in a more accurate and "scientific" way so I chose to use a photo of an dodo skeleton. The final product is covered in a very simple and sterile frame (reminded me of preparing slides for a microscope) and then I painted directly onto the glass with acrylic paint - just pulling out highlights and shadows. It makes for a bit of a 3D effect.

Dodo Subfossil Specimen from the Natural History Museum in London

Massey is a very researched based university which is very different from my previous education and one of the reasons I chose to come here. Anything that makes me work in a different way is going to yield a different outcome of work and that is what I'm down for. I may be pulling my hair out in a few weeks time when papers begin to be due in art theory and research class but in the long run I think that me and my work will be better for it.

Stoat/New Zealand Bittern

As I've mentioned, I'm becoming extremely interested in the archival conservation of animal specimens. Taxidermy, bird skin specimens, the works. Upon coming to NZ I was blown away at how many indigenous species of birds were decimated due to human contact. We introduced a heap of non-native critters to these islands which literally wiped out a huge number of animals species for good. This semester in Studio Practice we are to produce a body of work which I'm beginning to work on...well the idea anyway. Above is a combination of a New Zealand Bittern that is now extinct due to the introduction of the stoat.