Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflecting on my Arts Practice 2010

Well what a year 2010 has been. I became a mum for the first time, and while trying to me a mum I (stupidly) held my first solo exhibition, eScapism, in November. It was certainly a challenge, but somehow I got through it. (Probably because I missed out on alot of naps I should of taken). The first few months was ok because bub slept more, then as time got on, and naps became fewer and shorter I found finding the time to paint even more difficult. So I put bubba into daycare 2days a week. This was a godsend as it meant if didn't have to spent as many late nights working on my paintings for the exhibition. 

So I accomplished 12 paintings for my exhibition from large to small. I even managed to paint 2 small postcards for two gallery's annual members auction exhibitions during this time (and I SOLD them!). And when my exhibition was installed, it meant the last two months of the year were free to do my own painting. So my first piece was the Whimsical Bird Tree featured earlier in this blog. Then I was on a roll of creativity, bursting from my seams...I started doing some pen ink drawings, and ink and wash drawing, and a few more painting (4 finished and 2 works in progress).

Visit my gallery here to see the most recent works I painted this year; Whimsical Bird Tree, Oriental Lanterns, Chocolate Cupcake, and Wrapped Sweets. And sold paintings include; Botanical Garden Bridge, Garden Flowers in Vase, Breaking Wave, as well as two paintings sold from my exhibition eScapsim and a commission.

I had two articles published in Artist Palette Magazine; one a feature article on Cell Art Space, the management committee I was a member of, and the second was a feature article on demonstration on me. 

I started my Redbubble and Zazzle store sites. I have bought some products and very impressed by the quality. Great for gifts! Check them out. You get unique products with my original art images on them.

So all in all, completing 16 paintings in a year is a mighty feat to have been a new mum, working part time and having my own exhibition! So I think a pretty successful year of creating art. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Contract to Commission Art Template

As an Artist progresses in their art career they may be approached to do a commission.

A commission is a contract between you the supplier of a service (for work and materials) to the client. Basically someone is hiring you to create an artwork for them and in return pay you for your services.

Just like any negotiation, it is important steps are taken to ensure your rights are protected. So drawing up your own Contract to Commission Artwork document protects you, explains what both parties expectations and responsibilities are, and is a legal binding document.

A legal document does not necessarily mean you have to have a witness or get a JP to sign it. It can be a verbal agreement. It is always better to be more prepared and take safer measures to ensure you do not get screwed over. So having a contract in place is a great idea for Artists. I send mine to the client while in the enquiry stage so they know what to expect and are aware of the conditions.

So some things to consider in your commission contract:
  1. Your details of course
  2. Describe what is the purpose of this contract -what is being commissioned
  3. Discuss payment options and methods
  4. Give details on timeframe to complete artwork and for payment to be made
  5. Delivery details e.g. insured, shipping? When?
  6. What happens if the client does not like the finished product? How flexible are you? What is your 'policy' for returns or refunds?
  7. How can the client take care of the artwork to ensure its longevity?
  8. Most importantly -COPYRIGHT -clearly state your rights

Other links which may be of use to you creating your own contract:


Creating Art on Commission Without Getting Burnt: A Short Guide for Artists, Empty Easel, 27/05/2008. by Dan.

Commission the Artist  by Jan Keen 

Sample Art Commission Contract by Kelly Borsheim 

Commission Contracts by The Art of Business

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to write a Letter of Support for Grant Applications

During my years of TAFE and University studies in the arts, we have learnt and studied much about grants and applying for them, even practicing with made up grant applications to get the experience in filling out the forms. But until you either finish your studies and are ready to embark on your professional art career do and actually do one for real, do you come across things practicing does not inform you of. 

For instance, we know and are told and learn that you need to get quotes, budgets and letters of support...but it wasn't until I was applying for my own first time real grant application did I find it a bit of an obstacle.

There is not really a "formula" on how to write a letter of support (LOS) nor really what to do. Yes some grant applications do describe the  things they require, but it is not always clear what is actually required. 

For me I am someone who likes to know the 'structure' or template to follow something.

So from my experience of securing my own grant therefore have completed the relevant components such as acquiring LOS and also writing them for fellow colleagues here is some information on what could be required and what you might include. The easiest example I can tell you is think of your LOS like a job application cover letter (but written by someone else).

Things to be included for someone else writing a letter of support for you, the artist, applying for the grant or vice versa if you are writing a LOS for someone else:
  • Who is the artist/Who are you
  • What is your relationship to the applicant? How do you know them?
  • At what stage is the applicant in their arts practice (ie emerging or professional) 
  • What qualifications do you know of the applicant possesses
  • What similiar experiences in skill or knowledge whether work, volunteer related or other do you know of the applicant has which could assist completion of the project. 
  • Provide information on you, the referee, to give credence to the applicant. E.g. Your professional background. Your profile in the arts industry if applicable. 
  • Summarise how the applicants' project would be beneficial to the arts and therefore should be funded 
  • Give your referees as much notice as possible. As they have to find time to write this for you.
  • Give your referee a sample of what is required to help them know all the facts and what to write. I.E. Sent them information about you and the grant you are applying for. It is better to provide more information then what is required as sometimes it can take a couple of days for them to get back to you.
  • Give them a deadline a few days or so before you need it. As sometimes they will take right up to the deadline or over.
  • Include this information on a letterhead if you have one


  • Your Details
    Funding Body
  • Re: Letter of Support
  • To whom it may concern,
  • Opening:
    a) I am writing in support of (Artist Name) application to recommend the support of his/her activities in the request for funding for his/her project…
    b) (Your Organisation name) is delighted to support (Artist Name) in his/her project…(explain project)
    c) I strongly support the application for project grant funding by (Artist Name)…
  • Go onto explain your knowledge of the Artist’s work and work experience background –like a mini CV. For example;
    a) I have known/worked with (Artist) for some time and have been impressed by his/her dedication to supporting the arts through his/her volunteer contribution (list organisation and responsibilities/tasks)….
    b) The Artist has (list degrees), work experience in/as (list previous volunteer or paid employment), other commitments he/his has embarked on include…His/her continual enthusiasm, motivation and support for the arts is met with encouragement and support from myself…
  • Back up the Artist by saying how beneficial the success of the grant funding will be for the artist’s project and community, e.g. public participation will encourage cultural awareness, incorporates the wider community to interact with the arts/their community, encourages educational development with children etc.
  • Conclusion:
    Ending sentence should reiterate your support for the benefits of the project to the community
  • Kind Regards,
Chrissy Dwyer
2 Scarlet Rd
Forest Green Gardens
Artland 1234
Artland Art Council
Art in the Communities Funding

Re: Letter of Support

I am writing in support of Crimson Phathlo’s application for funding to conduct a two-week
children’s art workshop. I have known Crimson for a number of years as a fellow peer through
our studies -having completed a double degree (Bachelor of Visual Arts/Bachelor of Education)
together at University.
As a professional art teacher myself and Crimson’s colleague, I support and encourage her in
her endeavours to become a successful art teacher through gaining the experience necessary to
develop her career in teaching children. Crimson has shown her enthusiasm for advancing her
career by volunteering during the school holidays to assist me in my children’s art workshops.
She is passionate about teaching children art, and educating them through art. Her dedication
to her arts practice is demonstrated through volunteering her time, and with developing her
own lesson plans.
By funding the application to support Crimson’s children’s art workshops, she will be able to
deliver the opportunity to a broad scope of children the availability to participate in educational
creativity for minimal or low cost, making art more accessible to the wider community.
Therefore I wholly support Crimson’s request to gain funding to conduct children’s art

Chrissy Dwyer

I do not profess to know if this information is correct or true to what the funding bodies seek. Each organisation is different in their expectations. Read through your submission guidelines on what they require, they do say what they want, read between the lines. Always go back to how the grant will benefit your project (and them of course).

Grant Application Writing Factsheet from AbaF

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to make a rainbow butterfly cake

With the expectation to do something great for my daughter's first birthday cake, I decided Iwanted to do a butterfly. Later I decided I wanted it to be a rainbow cake. So researching online I found some examples and here is my example of how to make a rainbow butterfly cake. (it helps to have a tin shaped in a butterfly as I did so you don't have to figure out how to cut the shape and how many cakes to cook and in what size tin).

What you will need:
  • Two (moist) Vanilla packet cake mixes (I choose Betty Crocker)
  • Ingredients required on packet (ie eggs, water, oil etc)
  • Food colouring
  • Tin
  • Bowls and spoons to divide mix
  • Lollies and chocolate for decoration
  • Icing (frosting came with cake mixes)
  1. Follow packet cake mix instructions to mix cake. I made cake in two separate bowls as I didn't have 1 bowl large enough.
  2. Get out bowls and spoons. Scoop cake mix into bowls. Choose amount of cake mix in relation to colour process. For instance, lightest colours to have the most cake mix and darkest colours to have the least. This is because the dark colours will dominant. Also, pour in lightest colour or most cake mix first. 
1. Divide cake batter into bowls
2. Add food colouring

3. Because my bowls for the colouring weren't big enough, one colour bowl was enough for one half of the butterfly.
4. Layer colours in a pattern if you wish

4. Pour the remaining colour in
3. Pour first colour into tin
6. Add layer 3

5. Layer next colour on top
7. Add layer 4

7. Add layer 4

8. Add remaining layers in decorative pattern
Trying to be artistic

Now its play time! When I had finished with all the batter I needed (remember to leave a minimum of about 2cm from the top of tin to allow for cooking), I decided to play a little with the left off coloured batter. It was a very fun, creative and liberating process to dripple and swirl the cake mix. A great idea to do with the kids and a good excuse to bake ;)
Abstract art: Playing with dyed cake batter
Abstract art: Painting with dyed cake batter

Cooking Cooking Cooking. Add lined tray below in case of overspill 

Whola! Cooked cake. Chop off it's top (or is that its bottom?)
 Decorate and celebrate!   

* I also made some butterfly cupcakes with jam and fresh cream to accompany the cake 

This blog with the demo was my inspiration (not the recipe but how to go about it)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Paint: Hints and Tips

This post is going to be an ongoing list of hints and tips related to painting I will share as I too come across helpful ideas. Leave a comment if you would like to add yours too.
  • If you spray the canvas first with water (a water atomiser rather than any old sprayer as the water droplets are finer) for gessoing, underpainting, blocking in or whatever application, the water helps spread the paint without thinning or diluting it too much
  • Use a medium/s to help the painting process, these really do make a difference. Whether it is for slowing down the drying process or thinnly applying the paint.
  • Use old Yellow Pages (Phone Books) to assist the clean up process for wiping oil brushes or even scraping and cleaning the palette. The less painting going down the sink the better for your plumbing and the environment.
This is just to start with, stay tuned as I add more...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How to plan an art exhibition: To do/Check List

Are you thinking of having your own solo show, and want a guide to help you plan your timeline? I have compiled a sequence of tasks to be completed and when from my experience from working as a committee member in an artist run initiative, student exhibition participation and my first solo exhibition experience.


Generally most exhibitions are planed between 1 to 2 years depending on the Gallery location. Some exhibitions can be executed in a short timeframe of 6-12months or less. This timeline for planning an exhibition is based on approximately a 12month timeframe with room for flexibility. I am using the example of my own first small solo exhibition.

Countdown to exhibition…

12months plus to go 
   Start establishing your idea and theme. Do this by brainstorming or mind mapping. 
   Research your ideas. Create Thumbnail sketches. 
   Research potential galleries 
   Research potential funding sources 
   Draft up a budget (source quotes for; gallery hire space, materials, photography,  invitations, postage, catering, courier/delivery if required 
   Apply for gallery space 
   Apply for funding

12months to go 
   Further research, investigation and exploration of ideas. 
   Start sourcing materials (i.e. canvases, paints). 
   Begin painting if you are ready. Even if it is just priming (Gesso) the canvas ready

9months to go 
   Start working on paintings if you haven’t already done so. Have 2-3 being worked on at the same time so while one is drying another one could be worked on.

3months to go 
   Design and draft invitations
o   Have a general idea of invitation design. Consult a graphic designer if required to draft up invitation designs. Or if you’re doing it yourself, start thinking about it.

2months to go 
   Finalise invitation ready for printers 
   Start sourcing contacts for mailout if you haven’t already. It is a big job.
o   Tip: Create an Excel spreadsheet as you can merge your information into Word later and print no fuss on sticky labels. This helps save heaps of time and you don’t get hand cramps then!

6weeks to go 
   Send invite to printers. Allow 2-3weeks buffer for corrections and changes, the printing process and their level of busyness 
   Write an artist statement 
   Update your website with information on your upcoming exhibition

4weeks to go 
   Complete final touch ups and changes to artwork. Start varnishing completed paintings if you haven’t already done so. 
   Start drafting artwork details for price list 
   Start writing exhibition statements (brief blurbs on each artwork about inspiration, technique, subject matter etc) if required

3weeks to go 
   Organise catering.
o   Depending on your launch date (if it is the date of the install or a week later as typically the case) allow for 4weeks notice to caterer of; budget, food requests, estimated number of attendance, time etc. 

Package invitations for mailout. Add invite, business card.

2weeks to go 
   Ideally be finished painting. Get artworks ready to hang 
   Update your website and other online social networking sites with photos of your artwork and information about the exhibition.

1week to go 
   Email contacts and media with invitations and artist statement of upcoming exhibition opening and launch 
   Post mail out of invitation in time for launch (usually 2weeks before launch, however 3-4weeks depending on your art scene) 
   Get installation bag ready (artist statement, exhibition statement, price list, extra picture hanging equipment for emergencies) 
   Touch base with caterers. Pay deposit or complete payment


Week 1 
   Get launch night bag ready (DL price lists, extra invitations, business cards, receipt book, pen, guestbook) 
   Send reminder emails of upcoming launch -1 week away.



Download the above information from this document exhibition timeline countdown 

Click the image below to see a visual chart of the exhibition process timeline

This table highlights possible timeframes to complete tasks as outlines above.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

eScapism exhibition: first solo

For the past 14months I have been working on my first solo exhibition, eScapism. From September 2009 I submitted the application, to applying for a grant, than researching for a few months, than working on multiple paintings at once for about 8months and the last 2months focused on the 'business' side of things. 

eScapism is a series of bold contemporary realism paintings of scenery depicting tropical far north Queensland, specifically Cairns, Australia. From the mundane and ordinary everyday life subjects to the picturesque beauty of lush greenery rainforests. The exhibition was on show at a local artist run initiative Cell Art Space from 6th November 2010 to 4th December 2010. The launch was 12th November. This exhibition was proudly supported by the Cairns Regional Council's Arts and Cultural Funding Grant.
Visit my website here to see all 12 paintings I created for the show and read more about the concept behind it.

Studio Time. About midway working on a painting.


Me in my exhibition

View from outside the space

Launch night

Launch night

Launch Night

Exhibition at night

Having fun with Mixed Media

Just before I finished my paintings for my first solo show, I was in need of some creative TLC (Tender Loving Care). I needed some fun creative 'me-time'. So I went back to my roots, what I like to do for play and experiment, and dabbled in some mixed media.

Difficulty: Very Beginner

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Roller
  • Newspaper
  • Brushes
  • Palette Knife
  • Printing Objects (stamps, containers (dish), milk container tops)
  • Palette
  • Paper Towel
  • Paper (Watercolour) or Canvas Sheets or Canvas
Here in this image you can see I have my set up. I have rolled some paint on my palette and put down a base or underpainting. Next I roll another top colour and use my rubber stamp. See the rim around my painted paper on the newspaper is the excess stamped paint. This makes a lovely effect too.
Work wet-in-wet if you choose or wait to dry.

Here is the next layer. I used the ceramic white dish rim to create the half circle by twisting only some of it in the paint. I used the green milk cap for another circle

Here I used a thin liner brush with black paint to freely paint an image. I tried not to have a preconceived idea as I wanted a flowing and unrestricted image to to shape and then I just went with it (so opposite to my working method of everything is planned).

Here is another fun piece. I tried to compose the image by only using the black from pure strength to diluted wash to create the image.

Last I had an idea of wanting to do a bookmark. So I went along with the rose theme as this was very fitting for the size format.

Once dry, I laminated it and hole-punched the top and feed a ribbon through...whoola! A bookmark.

Keyring Taggies

Since having a baby and discovery the many toys available, but also discovering many crafty people out there make soft sewn toys...I stumbled across the Crinkle Taggie Blankets (see earlier post of one I completed )

While juggling my baby on my hip, with just keys and purse in hand when I am just quickly ducking into the shops etc, often my baby likes to play with my keys or purse. As I try not to let her play with either as she sucks on my alarm and could hurt herself with the keys, and soaks my purse fabric, I was trying to think of something to add to my keys she could play with, that was baby friendly...

So I came up with a Keyring Taggie.

Keyring Taggie Mark I
My concept was to have something flexible and 'chewable' as babies like munching and putting things in their mouths. So I painted a piece of watercolour card, cut to size to fit a business card size laminating pouch. Stuck it in when it was dry and laminated it. Hole-punched one end for the keyring and hole-punched the opposite end in a few places and feed some ribbon through and let it dangle (as they LOVE playing with ribbon).

After 'testing' a number of times, the laminated pouch did not stay 'stuck' as the watercolour card was too thick so the edges didn't seal properly, and the handling and sucking from bub unstuck the double sided card. Also, the holepunches through just the laminate didn't hole with the tugging on the ribbon.

Left: Laminated painted paper. Right: Finshed -Hole-punched with ribbon

Back to the drawing board...

Keyring Taggie Mark II
So after some time I was trying to think of another solution...I decided just to do a keyring taggie with just ribbon. So I just various some pieces of ribbon, cut and knotted to metal key ring and attached to keys. So far no problems.

Whimsical Painting: Bird Tree

This image is (C.) Copyright by Chrissy Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

 Acrylic, 100x100cm. 

Just after I have completed my first solo exhibition paintings, and working in a more detailed realistic and precise manner with planning...I decided I wanted to do something simple, relaxed and fun! Something sooo totally different to my working process and style. 

So here is my whimsical piece. The idea of a simple blue graduated background, with a silhouetted tree with birds and cages. This has a hidden symbolic meaning of caged and freed birds. Inspired by the Hong Kong Bird Markets, many trees are filled with birds in cages, some cages have a number of birds. One cage in this painting is open and the bird or birds have flown free. 

Still deciding whether or not to add some dabs of colour for flowers or leave it simple like it is? 

What do you think? Leave a comment? Flowers or no flowers?

Well after a week or so I decided to do what I was always going to do to it...add splotches of flowers.  I did this by getting a paint spatula and just smeering blobs of paint on. I like the effect.
This image is (C.) Copyright by Chrissy Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cell Art Space Energy awards - ABC Podcast

Cell Art Space Energy Awards (Oct 2010) interview with ABC: Video Podcast.

As a former Committee Member of Cell Art Space, and as a local artist who supports the art community, I wanted to share with you a short snippet interview from the Energy Awards. This exhibition at Cell is a selection of high school student artists who were award recipients at the larger Energy Exhibition awards held just prior to this at the Tanks Art Centre. These selected artists showcase some of the highest talent in the surrounding Cairns Region. Watch out for these budding young artists.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing an Exhibition Statement

Well I don't know if that is the correct name for it or not, but an Exhibition statement is much like an Artist Statement in that it is divulging information; rather than about you, but your artwork. You know when you are walking around the gallery looking at the artworks and there is a plaque with the artwork details and a description about the art, whether it is the inspiration for creating the piece or factual such as describing the materials, process, technique or even subject matter. 

Exhibition Statements tend to be displayed on the bottom left or right corner of the art. They are generally typed statements glued onto foam core. Foam core (or also known as Flute board) is a thick soft material with squashy foam stuff between two pieces of card. It is easily cut with a stanly knife on a cutting mat.

Difficulty: Easy/Beginner

  • Cutting Mat
  • Cutting Knife
  • Steal ruler
  • Normal ruler
  • Pencil
  • Rubber
  • Glue Stick
  • Foam core (Flute Board)

Questions to help you write your exhibition statements:
  1. Title artwork, materials, dimensions, year
  2. What inspired the artwork
  3. What materials have you used
  4. What techniques have you used
  5. What is the subject matter or theme
  6. What emotions or feelings does this artwork create
  7. Talk about design elements and principals but not necessarily critiquing the work e.g. colours, mood, composition etc. 
Length: It is has to been about a paragraph. Get to your point in a few sentences.

Exercise: Try writing an exhibition statement for a well known artwork. For example: If Van Gogh was writing an exhibition statement for his 'Sunflowers' paintings would go something like this:

Sunflowers in Vase
Oil paint

"Sunflowers are my favourite flower and I love painting them. They grow in the fields surrounding my cottage and inspired me from looking out my window. I set up a still life to paint these beautiful glowing flowers. I use oil paint on Belgian linen with linseed oil (how appropriate for the subject matter).  My technique is not traditional of my peers, I take my hue straight from the tube using a palette knife. I slice the paint into the hogs hair brush and paint in strokes. It is a slow and repetitive process as I don't premix my colours, I allow the multiple brushstrokes of colour to optically mix. Though I am colour blind, I hope by using brilliant yellows and oranges that the high key tones bring me a sense of joy as it would in real life seeing those colours..."

This paragraph is completely made up and a bit technical and academic for poor old Gogh, but you get the point. It is person as it is your thoughts. 

I hope this helps you to take on some creative license when you write yours.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kids Painting

My nieces and nephew were visiting and of course I suggest we do some paintings. So I set up outside on the patio where a mess a be easily cleaned and the least destruction to the house can happen. 

What you need: A drop sheet, paints, glass jars, cartridge paper, paper towel, ice-cream lids (palettes), brushes.

It was just a fun free play time of playing and experiment. There was no preconceived idea for the kids to create a specific thing (and they didn't ask what to paint either which was good). I just allowed them to create. 

*Reminder: Try to use non-toxic and washable acrylic paint. 
Ages: 2.5, 4, 8, 11. 
Duration: 1 hr
Here are the results:

Butterfly Paintings:
This activity was instructed as I used it as a good excuse to use up some of my old non usable student paints. I just couldn't bring myself to throw them out years ago, and look, they have come in great to use for painting with kids.