Nearly everyone thinks that you have to be an expert drawer to be able to paint great pictures. I don't believe this to be so. But it depends greatly on the type of paintings you want to produce. If you want to create portraits or lifelike figure drawings, of course you need to be proficient at drawing. Michaelangelo didn’t trace the figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The other myth re drawing ability is that you have to get the image perfect first time. Not so. You can have as many goes as you like at making the image look right. The trick is to know that your drawing isn't right for the purpose you have planned in the painting. Being able to draw well helps but it isn't essential. What is essential is practice. Athletes train. Singers, instrumentalists train. But not artists! Why not?
Yesterday I put out the challenge for you to have a go at creating an image of Ned Kelly or any folk hero of your choosing. Here is my Ned Kelly.
Oh my God, I can hear you scream. He doesn't have a head. Why not? Well in the back of my mind I seem to remember something about Ned being buried (after the hanging) without his head. Isn't there some story about his head being lost? Would someone in the know please enlighten me. But that's not the reason I left off his head. Couldn't draw it? Not a bad idea but no. I left it off for several reasons. First because our image of Ned is wearing his homemade armour not his rather handsome Irish looks.
And I didn't want to put him in the armour because I couldn't do it as well as Sidney Nolan! I have included his helmet hanging on a stump next to him with his name faintly written on the metal as a way to identify the figure as Ned Kelly though no longer does Ned need its protection. The real reason I left off his head was to catch your attention! And to give the image ambiguity hopefully provoking the thought that we really don't know the truth about Ned Kelly. Was he a murdering villain in bullet proof armour, terrifying everyone who met him or was he the handsome Irish lad persecuted by the police, a victim of his poverty? I have put Ned in a coat to keep out the cold of criticism. And I've put him in the desert which is totally inaccurate historically as Glenrowan is nowhere near the desert but because the desert is synonymous with Australia, as is Ned. The wishy washy gum tree and landscape is an attempt to imply that the scene is unreal. Ned however is far from unreal as he proudly takes his place in our history, just a little left of centre! And this is from his perspective not the way you are looking at the drawing. Why are his hands in his pockets? I can't draw hands!
Now I haven't received any drawings of Ned but I know you are busily creating them! So what to use to complete today's Blog. I thought we would take time to remember Ned's sister Kate who was only 14 when the Police Trooper Fitzpatrick made sexual advances towards her which escalated into the tragic events that unfolded culminating in Ned being hanged. Kate went on to marry and lead a very sad life dying tragically at 36, possibly murdered by her abusive husband.
You can read the story here.
Kate's story has been recreated by Sydney artist Gria Shead following a similar narrative style to that used by Sidney Nolan in his iconic Kelly series which we saw in yesterday's Blog. Shead's body of work is titled Flash Kate. Here are some of the paintings starting with The Kelly Household.
And this one is titled Kate and Maggie. Maggie was another sister.
I knew very little about the work of Gria Shead until I started to research paintings of Ned Kelly and his family. I love her sense of narrative but more than that, she has a most stimulating palette with wonderful vibrant colours juxtaposed to create dramatic contrasts. I think those of us who like to paint could learn a great deal from these images. Here we have the Glenrowan Aftermath.
To conclude today’s blog is The Arrest of Maggie's Husband who was William Skillion. William was arrested along with Mrs Kelly following the fight with Fitzpatrick. Unfortunately it was Joe Byrne who was present not William Skillion who received a 3 years gaol sentence even though he wasn't present at the homestead on that day. He was so bitter for this terrible injustice that he never returned to his wife (Maggie Kelly) and children.
A so ends a very sad tale, immortalised in paintings by some of our most talented artists.
I’ve been thinking about Ned Kelly and how fate dealt him a nasty blow the day he (and his siblings) were born into the home of an exconvict and his 18 year old bride struggling to survive in the harsh Australian landscape, thousands of kilometres from their homeland Ireland. It leads you to wonder how much of our personality and talents we inherit and how much is shaped by the environment. Where is this leading? To our next blog where I am going to start examining families of artists where several members and several generations possessed artistic talent.