Blogging history. Looking at SeascapesAus.

Do you have a blogging history? I would love to know if you do.

Blogging is a world of ups and downs, of flow and block, but overall one demanding great commitment. There have been times when I have “gone dark” while travelling, times when I have sparkled and when I haven’t.

It is five years last February since I launched my first blog at SeascapesAus. Over those years quite a bit of momentum built up. There were lots of conversations and exchanges in a fascinating and diverse community.

The themes of that blog and this one have a slightly different emphasis.

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Aloes, Lockley; 2009. In private collection.

SeascapesAus was about art in general, exhibitions and painters I admire, with some painting demonstrations and background stories.

At the focus is directly on my work and my processes as an artist.

Over the next month or two I’m going to share a few earlier posts just for fun. I hope you will enjoy them!

blogging history-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

You may even jump for joy like these fellows.

Acrylics: reconsidering their use in outdoor painting



They are back on the table and the palette. After a few months learning about oil paints and how they respond indoors and out, my personal reaction to the fumes has forced me to reconsider acrylic paints.

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Oops! There’s that splat again.

The good news

  • For me, the simplicity of cleaning up with water is a huge bonus.
  • There is some odour, but it is not overpowering and gives me less discomfort (headaches or nausea) than oil paints do.
  • The speed of drying outdoors is a benefit. Paintings in progress or finished are easy to transport with just a little care. Their “plastic” surface means they are sealed to some extent when the surface is touch dry. They are not immune to scuffing but are less vulnerable than freshly painted oils.
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Wintry day in summer; 25x30cm, acrylic on linen panel

Some of the bad news

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Outdoor kit, with hanging water containers
  • In these dry times, water is a precious resource. I am finding fewer taps in parks and public places these days. The artist needs to carry water, at least for washing brushes. For me this involves at least two water containers – one for the wash and the second for the rinse. Water is heavy.
  • Because of the “milky” medium in which the pigment is suspended, acrylics tend to dry darker than it appears while wet. Brands differ I am sure, and the more dense the pigment in relation to the carrying medium, the less the tonal change.

And that’s just SOME of the bad news. Unfortunately there is a bit more. I will fill in the gaps another time.

Adventures with Oils – time to quit?

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The past few months have been coloured by adventures with oils.
I have been tutored by a dear friend who is an experienced art teacher, with large and small classes as well as individual tuition. Mary has taken me through mixing, palettes, brushes and clean-up, fat-over-lean and things like that. She painted along while I learned to apply these new ideas, both outdoors and in the studio. Remember the hedges?

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Parked for colour; oil on linen panel; 20x25cm; framed; $AUD340

The good news

You might already know how oils behave. And about their luscious colours and texture. They feel great on a firm brush. There is a creaminess and body AND high intensity of colour. The colours mixed don’t dry before you have finished with them. The paint can blend on the canvas, which is a plus for soft effects AND a minus for mud.

But the positives outweigh those negatives, if you learn to be mindful of their slow drying habit. In plain language that means, avoid touching or scuffing the wet surface. Try not to make a mess!

adventures in oils-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

….and the bad news

Unfortunately there is another story to tell. I have been using odourless turps but my medium pongs a bit. Technical term, sorry. The paints also emit a fume or two.

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On and off in the past month I have had bouts of nausea with no obvious cause. No, definitely not that.
Last week’s painting session was in more confined quarters than usual and my nausea was strong. Fresh air helped but when I brought my pot of medium back inside, there it was again, worse.

Adventures with oils – what now?

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Mulberry and hedges; 25x20cm; oil on linen panel; framed; $AUD340

Time for odourless medium.  Or perhaps water-based oils?

What a shame! I was just getting started and there are three or four outdoor paintings in progress. It could mean I’ll soon have a few paints to pass around. There will be some grief for ending these adventures. For the moment I will persist with outdoor painting in oil where the breezes help. You have to wonder though, about the toxicity of the whole process and knowing the fumes don’t disappear, but add to an environmental load.

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What has been your experience?

Painting clinics – for talkative works

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Painting clinics are sessions for a Review-Refresh-Recover approach to my work. Not all paintings are ready to meet the world immediately. Some wait quietly in the corner. Others hang on the wall, but catch my eye sometimes while I work on other things.

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Me, ignoring the talkative ones.

There are conversations that go on behind the scenes in the studio too.

Some paintings call out:  “Look at me! Look at me!”  Some say:  “It’s about time you spent time over here.”  Others whisper:  “I’m not quite right yet.”

Painting clinics

The chatter builds up. There are usually about five or six works competing for my attention by this stage. Eventually there is no option except to stop other work and focus on those talkative paintings.

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The clinic allows me to tackle them one-by-one. Up on the easel, with full attention, the painting is in the spotlight. By this stage I am quietly reading it. The passage of time has usually helped the freshness of my vision at this point. It may need stronger form and less detail, more tonal drama, or more exciting colour contrasts at the focal point.

Sometimes it takes a day, sometimes two or three. Whatever it takes I enjoy the interruption. And the surprises that emerge. Since I have been using oils, the surprises are in the colour.


I will include some thumbnails to illustrate what happens.

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Mary’s hedge. (allow for different lighting)

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Jetty Road, Brighton

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From Linear Park, Walkerville

Confession time. Sometimes there are paintings that go “west” rather than “well”. There are two lingering giants among my paintings that I have trouble reviewing right now. They have had a few clinics but suffered rather than prospered under the brush. I don’t paint giant-sized works these days and these two are at least 100x100cm or more. They have gone quiet for now as we are temporarily on bad terms.

More about them later. They are next on the clinic list!