The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Posted 12 years, 11 months ago    2 comments

When I teach an art class or mentor any other artists, I always advocate that they read this book. I usually also ask my art students to do the artists pages at the beginning of class if we have enough time as it helps to clear the mind and focus on being creative. Obviously the whole concept is much more complex than that which is why I am recommending it as a must read for artists, especially if suffering from an artistic block as it can help you refocus.


The basic principle is that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron takes you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including any limiting beliefs, fears, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

What I got most from this course was the morning pages and artist's dates. Morning pages are three pages of writing, which sounds scary but it all depends on how big the pages are, these need to be written daily, and are about absolutely anything at all. Its not a novel or something to share with your friends, it’s a mind clearing technique that gets rid of all the stuff going on in your head, like for me, it may be what the day holds for me, exhibitions to curate, fears about how something is or isn’t working, shopping I need to get done and things I need to do with my family etc.  This exercise helps overcomes your internal censor.

The artist's date is a weekly block of two hours spent observing, experiencing, and sensing what is going on around you. It’s about taking time for yourself by yourself and seeing things without the distraction of other people etc. For instance try visiting your local park or a beach both with and then without friends, you will be surprised how much more you will ‘see’ when you are on your own.


If you are struggling to focus or need that extra boost of artistic confidence then reading this book will help you along the way. Julia has a whole range of other books as well but this particular one is my must read for all artists.

But it's not a real job!

Posted 13 years ago    2 comments

How many times have I heard “But it’s not a real job.” Or better yet when I tell people Im an artist they ask “Ok, so what else do you do, like what’s your ‘real’ job?”

Some say that it isn’t a realistic career choice, and the myth of the “starving artist” stereotype is still very much alive and kicking? Its certainly not easy being a successful fine artist (someone who makes a living by creating original, one-off pieces of art) but some people do succeed with it. New Zealand is no different to anywhere else in that we have full time fine artists here too. Think Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Michael Smithers, Dick Frizzell and so on. Being a full time artist is just like any other self employed role, you need to adjust your lifestyle to the fluctuations of the income and be prepared to do things that we call your “bread and butter.” That can be either working part time or creating a line of goods or services that sell easily and make you a regular income.  I myself work part time in an art gallery and at times have taught night classes in art as well as mentored other artists to help make a regular income as well as having a merchandise range from my artwork so I can continue to practice my art and not worry about when the next big sale might be. I have been a full time artist but that’s another story, things can happen in life where you have to reassess if it’s for you or not. Working in art galleries has allowed me to see the other side of the arts business and meet people who have become influential to my art whom Id never likely to have met in my studio at home so Im reluctant to give it up. Only a handful of artists will make it to the level of the four artists I just mentioned, it takes a lot of hard work, the ability to market yourself, a lot of talent and certainly some luck is involved also. So what else can you do in the arts field?

A career in art is not limited to being a painter or sculptor. Behind every piece of art in the media or magazines for instance, there’s a graphic or commercial artist. Graphic artists put the magazines together; illustrators draw the cartoons and graphics. There are website designers and computer-graphic artists as computers don’t draw the images themselves; they’re just the tool, a modern version of a paint brush! And what about animation? There is also film, TV, and stage set building. We have world class facilities here in New Zealand, Weta Workshop for instance, who were behind Lord of the Rings and Avatar. There needs to be someone developing things like computer games and graphics for your phone, the list is endless. You can also do what I do and work in an art gallery or museum. Teaching art is a great way to stay within the creative industries and then there is also art therapy. Some artists get paid to do mural painting and we can’t forget about face painting, a summer job I did as a teenager to earn a bit of cash at a local mall.

There is also photography, interior and landscape design, shop-window design or window dressing, a job I trained in also, back in the days when I believed what I was being told in that fine art wasn’t a real a job! We need framers for our work so framing can be an option. Clothing design, look at all our successful designers in New Zealand. We always need someone to design our furniture and what about lighting design. Then there is architecture and engineering. Hairdressing is a creative sector, and yes I did that too, but again that’s another story for another day! These all require creative skills and, even if in your heart you long to be a fine artist, working in any of these fields will complement what you do at your easel in your 'own' time.

Part of being a successful artist is being able to sell yourself, good marketing skills are so important. The world will rarely come to you; they don’t know you are there, so you need to let them know you are. In this day and age a web presence is almost a must. Having a website to showcase your art allows the whole world to see you and is also useful when you want to show someone your latest work, much better than lugging a photo album around with you! I personally use webwidgets for my site. Theyre affordable, helpful and easy to use and give you the control to change things yourself, which is important for artists to be able to do.

Art will not always about making money although we need that to survive and to buy more supplies so we can keep on creating. You have to decide what's more important to you: money or having a job/career you thoroughly enjoy. Assess your priorities and make your choices accordingly. Do without rather than go into debt for a non-essential item or trip (and take a critical look at what you consider essential). Wouldn’t you rather be able to say: that you lived an interesting, creative life or that you lived in a huge house had a flash new car and the latest fashions? Would you regret not finding more time for your art?

Some people choose a job simply because it pays the bills and leaves them with plenty of time to pursue a fine-art career part time whether its in the arts industry or not and if this works for you then all good, the best of both worlds perhaps?  It takes a lot of determination and hard work to make a career as a fine artist. You need to create paintings people want to buy, some see it as selling out to paint stuff that goes with someone else’s curtains. But I think you need to be realistic, if you have a studio full of work that’s not moving because it’s all your heart and soul type stuff then you’re going to have to rethink things if you want to make money from this career. I find its best to do acombination of commercial stuff and some from your heart and soul and then you are more likely to be successful. If you manage to make it to be a top artist you can paint what you want to your hearts content, make it your goal!

Artists and Gallery relationships

Posted 13 years, 2 months ago    162 comments

Paintings and sculpture


There has been quite a lot of interest and debate over the legal issues artists face with consignment of work into shops, art shows and galleries.  With the economy affecting such establishments negatively, there have been many closures and some artists are getting caught out, loosing work that they can’t prove they own or scrupulous business owners simply doing a disappearing act taking the artwork with them and artists unable to track them down. Some feel that artists are left with a one sided relationship based on trust where they are the only ones taking risks and facing liability if things go wrong.

A careful read of most gallery or art show contracts show that there is an ‘all care and no responsibility’ clause meaning if something is damaged or lost you have to prove that they didn’t take reasonable care in preventing the situation to be able to get any compensation. Contracts also reveal a lack of insurance on most parts, asking the artist to cover their work again leaving them vulnerable to being left without cover if situations like shoplifting of your consignment goods happens where insurance becomes null and void, never mind the extra cost such an insurance attracts and then a close look at the fine print often reveals you will only get paid out on the cost of materials like a few dollars for paint and a canvas or the raw materials you used for your sculpture etc.

It’s a disturbing trend where artists often leave their artwork at shops and galleries with no paperwork involved and no more than a verbal agreement on basic things like price. It’s easy enough to write out a consignment note on a receipt book purchased form any stationary shop so both parties have a copy that states clearly the agreed price and titles of artworks along with a statement making it clear that the items listed are on consignment and belong to the artist until paid for in full or returned. This is called a ‘ROMELPA clause’ and you find out more information on that here -

Unfortunately it’s not as cut and dried as it used to be in that once upon a time that was all you needed, with the advent of  the PERSONAL PROPERTY SECURITIES ACT 1999 (PPSA) that came into force in 2002, you need to cross those ‘t’s’ and dot those ‘i’s’ a lot more than before.

So what can you do to prevent this happening to you? First up the paperwork suggested above does help much better than having no proof what so ever, but keeping a good eye on things, keeping in contact with the places you deal with and keeping in touch with other artists involved in the same area so that you can let each other know of any concerns before anything does happen and you can get your work out safely.

With the damage of artworks there is not really a lot you can do without proof of wilful damage or neglect, but a quick word to other artists around town often will reveal if it’s a common trend for a certain establishment to not look after their stock etc. If artists start communicating better with each other we can perhaps take back a bit of that control over what happens to our work and make galleries and shops more responsible for upholding their side of the bargain.


Art on Barton, Hamilton's new art market

Posted 13 years, 2 months ago    3 comments

This weekend saw the first street art market for Hamilton called ‘Art on Barton’

This event was designed to get local artists together and provide a venue for them to show their work with other artists and be able to share and sell their artwork themselves.

Although the weather was forecast to be severe with thunder storms we still went ahead with the event. Even though it did rain, it wasn’t as bad as expected, the first half of the day being fairly dry. I think the general spirit of the event got everyone going and nothing could make them disheartened. There were many comments from other artists how they were enjoying just being a part of the local scene and having the chance to meet other artists, as working home in their studios is so isolating they often don’t get that opportunity.

The best thing about such events is that other artistic genres can be involved also, like musicians busking is both ideal for the general feel of such an event but also for the buskers in that the audience is larger than usual and they tend to be more artistically inclined and like to hear new stuff so the buskers often make more money.

We had a face painter at this last event and her skills were much higher than your average Mums helping out at school fetes sort of thing so it was value for money for the parents and great PR for the painter in that her clients were literally wearing her art on their faces for everyone to see, what better advertising can you get?

There’s scope for so much more and I think this art market will lead to great things both for the arts community and Hamilton itself.

Part of the plan for Art on Barton was to encourage shoppers to return to the CBD as shopping centres are springing up outside the main centre and were drawing a lot of the shoppers away.

Hamilton desperately needs more art events like this to encourage artists to bond and create a more cohesive arts society that we can be proud of and make us much more visible to both the general public and artists who are new to the area and want to share in an arts community. It also means we have another draw-card for tourists and locals as something to do while in Hamilton. Yes we have the V8s and the Balloons over Waikato along with other types of markets and various one off events but regular monthly markets for quality art always interest people in general and with several coffee shops in the street, it’s a chance to sit down have some lunch and enjoy the atmosphere as well as take home some art for your home or office.

There are other markets in Hamilton but generally they cater for other things like food and general crafts, brik-a-brak and such things as farmers markets for fresh produce.

Ree Varcoe from Hamilton Central who organised the event is looking at regular art markets the next one being the 6th May 2011 which everyone is keen to be a part of and with so many other artists popping up on Saturday who didn’t know about the event and wanted to join in, I think future ones will be bigger and brighter and well worth the effort of a visit if you are in town or even just passing through Hamilton.

Any enquires for future events please get in touch with Hamilton Central

National Painting & Printmaking Awards 2011

Posted 13 years, 3 months ago    0 comments

Its that time of year again, where the  New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Award is happening at the Hamilton Gardens' as part of the Summer Arts Festival 2011.

Over 300 entries were submitted this year so it was certainly a big job for the judge, Warwick Brown, to pick this year’s winner. Warwick Brown is well-known as a commentator, author, gallery owner and now artist; and is widely experienced in the New Zealand art scene

The highly sought prize, donated by the Philip Vela Family Trust, is worth $30,000 which, together with assured purchase of the winning work, places this event at the forefront of New Zealand’s art awards.    Since the awards started back in 2000, winners and also finalists have used their achievement to springboard their careers. The list is now become a "who's who" of the country's top artists.

This year's winner was - John McLean for his oil painting on canvas titled 'Dinghy and waka with unstable foreshore structures.' 

With merit awards going to -

Garry Currin for - 'Various distances apart    Kaipara'  (oil on canvas)

Jenny Dolezel for 'What is this 'Real Life' thing I keep hearing about? (III)'  (oil on canvas)

Gina Jones for 'Untitled' (square hologram)  (lenticular photograph)

Ian Moore - 'JG01.1'   (acrylic on canvas)

Scott Powell for 'Interculture'   (acrylic)

All artwork is for sale and the exhibition is free to attend. Open from the 19th February until the 20th March 2011

The Left Brain, Right Brain thing.

Posted 13 years, 4 months ago    0 comments

The concept of right brain and left brain thinking developed from the research in the late 1960s of an American psycho-biologist called Roger Sperry. He discovered that the human brain has two very different ways of thinking. One (the right brain) is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other (the left brain) is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole. Sperry was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1981, although subsequent research has show things aren't quite as simple as once thought. Creative types often complain of not understanding business things and this why.

Its true we do have only one brain, but it's got various individual parts. There is the cerebral cortex that controls rational functions, and is the main part that is made up of two halves. These two halves are connected by masses of nerve fibres which allow 'messages' to pass between them. Funnily enough these halves are commonly called the right brain and left brain. For some reason, our right and left hemispheres control the opposite side of our bodies, so the right side of our brain controls our left side and processes what we see in our left eye while the left side of our brain controls the right side and processes what our right eye sees.

Surprisinly it has nothing to do with which hand you use as your dominant hand either, being left handed does not make you a predominabtly right brain user nor vice versa.. And, remember, just like you don't do everything with only the one hand, so your brain doesn't do everything with one side, although there is generally a preference. It has been noted however that a significant number of artists are left-handed, and more so than would be suggested by the one-in-ten occurence of left-handedness in the population.

So how does the Right Brain / Left Brain Concept relate to Artists? Well when you start a painting, its necessary to be able to visualise the finished artwork in your mind (this is the right brain, working from the whole), then start developing the painting, chosing the elements, matching and mixing colours, placing in the shadows and highlights (this is your right brain working on various things simultaneously, cool aye!), but at the same time be able to look critically at what you've doing (so the left brain comes in and it is being analytical, also a necessary part of the process!).

Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as being more 'creative', there is no right or wrong here; it's merely two different ways of thinking. Just like being right-handed is not superior to being left-handed, although its amazing how often we still hear this ‘ideal’ from some right-handed individuals (Can you tell Im left-handed?!). What's important is to be aware that there are different ways of thinking, as well as knowing what your natural preference is, and if it's strongly verbal (as in left brain) rather than visual (the right brain)  you can be open to trying new approaches which deliberately approach painting or drawing in a right-brain sort of way. Its rare that artists do both realistic type work (What they can see.) as well as imaginative type work (What they can't physically see!) at the same time, but it doesn't mean it doesn't happen, its just that most seem to choose to stick to one or the other. I personally hav found that it takes quite a bit of 'brain power' and energy to switch over at times!

Most of us have heard of the book ‘Drawing on the right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. In this book Betty puts forward techniques which you can use to consciously access the right side of the brain with your drawing; it helps you draw or paint what you see rather than what you know. It's become a cult classic and has helped many people to draw who thought they couldn’t before. I had a go at some of the techniques along with one of my daughters who thought she couldn’t draw and we enjoyed the process. Turned out my daughter could draw and really well but I needed to be able to show her this method to get her started! I think it’s often just a mental block or fear of failing that makes people not try art! So if you know someone like that, get them this book!

The Artspace program on Community Radio

Posted 13 years, 4 months ago    0 comments

Community Radio has an arts program that they broadcast every Thursday evening from 5.00 - 6.00pm. Called the Artspace program you can tune into it on 106.7FM and 1206AM in the Waikato and on Village Radio in Tauranga. You can hear the program via live stream or on podcast also at 

This is a good way to keep up with whats happening in the art world in our region and if you have an arts event to promote, or you know of something happening in your community then give them a call. The would laso love to hear from you if there is an arts issue that you’d like to hear more about, so this is an excellent opportunity to have your say or find out more about the arts and what is happening in the area.

The studio itself is located on the corner of Collingwood and Ruakiwi Roads in Hamilton's CBD. They are happy to conduct interviews over the phone from anywhere in the world so you don't even have to go in!  Just give them a landline number and they’ll give you a call.

You can find Community Radio's Artspace on Facebook also, check them out here -!/pages/Artspace-Radio/158122214198469  and if you have any other enquiries feel free to give Renee a call on 07 853 6472 or 021 322 407

Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2011

Posted 13 years, 5 months ago    0 comments

The Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, a popular annual event in the Waikato, will be held from the 18th February to the 3rd March 2011. The festival is sponsored by the Waikato Times and is a massive two weeks of art events held at the Hamilton Gardens off Cobham Drive. Over 65 acts will be performing in over 200 events of which there are some free and some ticketed. With so much variety planned, there is something for every possible taste.

The Waikato Times Wine, Food and Jazz Festival will held on the 26th and 27th February in the Rose Gardens during the Arts Festival and is an event you won’t want to miss with local vineyards and restaurants taking part.

The National Painting and Printmaking Awards, one of New Zealand’s most  prestigious awards will be exhibited at the Pavilion with the awards ceremony taking place on the 18th February 18 at 6pm. Tickets are $10 at the door or can be purchased  from WSA at Artspost Victoria Street Hamilton. It will be a stimulating exhibition of the work of some of our best visual artists, selected by this years judge Warwick Brown, who is well known writer on the visual arts in New Zealand. Don’t forget to vote for your favourite piece in the show as there is a People’s Choice award also. For more information and a list of events, you can see the calendar and download your own programme from the events website here -