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Here you will find a mix of my work in progress paintings, tips and techniques for visual artists on all sorts of topics, and stories of my art adventures (with some camping and photography fun thrown in)!


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A different style - featuring pastel paintings by Jenny Grogan

Ever find yourself in a style rut? Can't work out how to improve your paintings? Maybe you should try a new medium or subject, or spend some time with another artist!

Artists typically aim to improve the aesthetic quality of their paintings, their level of technical expertise, and the uniqueness of their style. Sometimes when you work on something for a long time, however, you can get into a 'style rut', where you can't see how to improve, or any longer make sensible judgements about the subjective value of your art. When this happens, there are a few simple things that you can do to get that direction back.

  1. Experiment with a new medium

  2. Try new subject matter

  3. Work with another artist and see what they do

I've just had a fabulous Easter weekend doing pastel paintings and rediscovering painting directions with my mother - Jenny Grogan. She now has her own website here:

In this post I'm featuring her two latest wildlife paintings, one of a little thornbill in a casuarina tree, and another of a brilliant azure kingfisher (see Figs. 1 and 2). She took the photo references for these paintings at the Border Ranges National Park and Clarrie Hall Dam in north-east NSW, Australia. We were using Schmincke and Artists Spectrum pastels on Mi-Teintes Tex paper.


I'm very fortunate to have an exceptionally talented mother (in many more ways than art). It's hard to believe, but this is her first foray into painting with soft pastels! She has an amazing sense for colour, texture, light and form, and you can see that in these paintings. She has been a constant source of guidance and inspiration for my painting endeavours.

While she benefited from the immediacy and looseness you can achieve with pastels (compared with her usual medium of oil paints), I was fortunate to recognise some of my own artistic shortcomings through watching her work.

In particular I noticed that light and colour are more important than detail for bringing an animal to life in a portrait. Mama's thornbill portrait (Figure 1) is very illustrative of this effect. While the little bird itself is filled with the visible texture of retained pastel marks/strokes, it comes to life on the page due to the creation of form through light and shadow. The retained marks give the thornbill character that set it aside from typical 'realism' painting, and make it especially endearing.


Her second painting, this time of an azure kingfisher (Figure 2), demonstrated for me some elements of good composition where all predominant visual lines led to the bird, drawing in the focus. Another technique she used (and which is particularly important with wildlife portraits) was to tie the bird to its environment by incorporating elements of blues and orangy browns into the background.

So now I'm going to reassess my pastel painting technique and see if I can expand my abilities and style!

Do you ever find yourself in a stylistic rut where you can't do anything new and exciting?

#jennygrogan #thornbill #apr14 #pastel #azurekingfisher #style

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Laura is a visual artist, veterinarian, conservationist and disease ecology Research Fellow trying to juggle a multitude of passions - and she's too stubborn to drop any of them! She is particularly fond of bush walking, rogaining, camping (especially with her mother, Jenny), bird watching and photography. She lives with her partner Pete in sunny Brisbane, Australia, and dreams of having an art studio in the rainforest!

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