30 December 2011

Celebrating a milestone

Here's a recent picture I did for the 1st birthday of some sweet twin girls in America. Their mum ordered a commission in time for their party as a gift they could look back on in years to come. I've done a few portraits now for 1st birthdays which have made for a really personal gift and standout amongst the amount of toys the birthday girl or boy receives. It's certainly getting harder and harder to choose gifts for young children when most of us have the privilege of buying our children whatever they need, whenever they need. While a portrait might not be a child's most favourite gift while they are young, it is sure to last longer than most presents they will receive, with their appreciation for the artwork growing with them. Below is a picture of my beautiful God Son Jamieson critiquing the portrait he received for his 1st birthday.  

11 May 2011

To mum on mother's day

Mother’s Day is one of my most favourite days of the year. I’m not a mother yet, but I am fortunate enough to have an amazing mother to celebrate this special day with. My mum is a true inspiration and one of my closest friends. She has an admirable “know no limits” attitude and once said that if she ever got a tattoo it would be on the day she received a black belt in karate (she has a brown belt) and it would be the Japanese word for persistence. That’s my mum. So, for Mother’s Day this year I decided to do some portraits for her. The series included myself at the age of 2, my mum at the age of 1 and my brother at the age of 1. It took about 12 hours to create the finished piece as each portrait is only the size of a standard photo and the smaller the portrait, the harder it is to draw. I actually pulled all my neck and back muscles from bending over for so long! Mum really like it and it brought back some wonderful memories of our childhoods. She deserves so much more, but hopefully this is a small token of my appreciation of everything she’s done for me. Thanks mum!

25 April 2011

Meet my hero Tripp

I think it's fair to say that babies are pretty remarkable. Despite their tiny size, they are just full of personality and wonderment and seem so perfect in every way. Well, a few months ago, I stumbled across a blog which journals the life of young Tripp Roth. Just like every baby he was blessed with beautiful features, a charming little personality, a cheeky smile and the cutest attitude!!! Tripp also came into this world with a rare genetic condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa which causes his skin (both internally and externally) to blister and slide away with even the slightest bump or friction. It’s very painful and requires Tripp to stay well bandaged to protect his fragile skin. Despite this, Tripp has thrived and blossomed into a beautiful individual who laughs, smiles and dances. He’s an amazing fighter and a true reflection of the human spirit’s ability to endure adversity. Tripp also has another special talent; he seems to bring out the best in everyone who meets him or hears about him. Reading over his blog it quickly becomes evident how Tripp’s story inspires such generosity in people. In my line of work I’ve met many psychologists, social workers, motivational speakers, humanitarian aid workers and special education teachers with years of experience behind them, but none have been able to inspire the generosity in people that Tripp has – and he’s not even 2 yet!!!  Thankyou Tripp for your special gift in bringing out our best!

21 April 2011

Meet Bailey

A few years back, I worked for awhile in foster care and child protection. One of my jobs was to “placement match”. This meant assessing the needs of a new child coming into care and deciding which family they would best be suited with. It was a really tough job and one that I didn’t always get right, which only made it all the more unforgiving. One of the children I had the pleasure of meeting was young Bailey. He needed a new family just before his first birthday. Bailey would have been one of the most adaptable and resilient babies I’ve met and always had a toothy smile and giggle for every audience he came across. He looked like the typical surfer with his curly white hair, blue eyes and board shorts and had about the same streak of courage and determinism too. He’d just jump right in and ride every wave no matter how consuming.

One of the most frustrating aspects about the child protection system is how helpless you feel in getting the needs of each kid met. It was always a perpetual battle to obtain clothing, medical aids, a paediatric appointment, counselling, play therapy, a health care card, a birth certificate, a hair cut, approval for a change in diet or even a playdate with the biological parents. Most days on the job were spent jumping through hoops to obtain the most simplest of human needs for each child. Bailey was the first child who taught me not to focus on what can’t be done, but alternatively to focus on what can be done. As his first birthday approached it appeared he would be unable to spend the actual day with his natural parents, and as he was new in care, the funds to support his living had not come through, leaving his current foster family chewing into their savings to provide for him and several other children they were caring for. While I’m aware that Nelson Mandela never literally advocated for the human right to have one’s birthday celebrated and acknowledged, I feel that birthdays are a very momentous occasion where people you love take a moment to appreciate that the world has been privileged to have your presence in it for another year. Everyone deserves this. Bailey was no exception and with the support of his foster family, their friends, my petrol money and my friends, we gathered enough to give Bailey a birthday with cake, presents, cards, and party food. Will he remember it? Probably not. However, it was a significant milestone on two levels. Bailey turned one. And we finally found a way around the hoops and bureaucracy to show a child that he’s appreciated.       

11 March 2011

Exploring texture

One of the best aspects about portrait art (or any art style for that matter) is the ability to use artistic mediums to help enhance the mood or personality of the subject being drawn. These two images steer away from my usual style and have been created using a mixture of graphite and charcoal instead of lead. I have also used a more textured and “heavier” paper to work on. Normally I use paper stumps to help develop a smooth and flawless look, however harder strokes and more deliberate shading techniques can still work and have the advantage of helping to add movement to a portrait. If you’re currently experimenting with technique, I can confidently recommend Secrets to Drawing Realistic Children by Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick Parks. It was my bible and inspiration in the early days.   

10 February 2011

Mother and Child

The mother and child image is one that is very pronounced across most forms of art and portraiture. From the famous Madonna Litta painted by Leonardo de Vinci in 1450, to the 1880s interpretation of motherhood by Vincent van Gogh in Mother Roulin with her Baby, to the Impressionist representations of Edmund Tarbell’s Mother and Child and, to the highly contemporary reflection of mothering by Keith Haring’s 1986 Mother Holding Baby, the concept of motherhood seems to resonate a competitive streak in the artist keen to portray the highly emotional, complex, devoted and intense relationship between a mother and her child. It was certainly a challenge to produce this image and I still think I have a while to go before I can translate that emotional bond onto canvas. Perhaps this is something that will come more naturally once I’ve had a child of my own - that’s if I still have the time to draw!  

07 February 2011

A clean sheet of paper

For many years I had a passion to work in the advertising industry. It was a place which indulged creativity and lateral expression on so many levels that it often became overwhelming. A copywriter who was well known for his contributions to a string of successful pasta commercials, shared with me that all creativity starts with nothing more than a clean sheet of paper and a sharp pencil. I didn't pursue a career in advertising, instead I left to educate disadvantaged youth about drugs and mental health. Minor side-step. However, to this day all of my creative endeavours have started with a clean sheet of paper and a nicely sharpened Derwent 2B.