Thursday, March 11, 2010

Recent painting puzzles

This photo has fascinated me since I first saw it at the Alexander Turnball Library. It is of a district nurse visiting a family in Northland (1950s?). The man next to her is holding a clipboard one imagines on which to record the baby's weight. Is he a doctor? I doubt he is the man of the family. If he was the father and a farmer, he would be dressed differently.

I very rarely paint landscape matter but really wanted to preserve this scene.

What I love is the look on the various children's faces and the way the baby is focussed on the photographer. The way the mother has the two young ones in her grasp as though to keep them under control or just near. The juxtaposition between the families bare feet and the visitor's shiny shoes. I didn't struggle too much with likenesses but more on expressions. It is hard painting tiny little faces and making them read right. My eyesight isn't what it was but reading glasses don't work as I am constantly standing back to check the distance impression. Also I have put space around the group but wonder if it adds anything. Perhaps I should cut it differently.

And here I have reworked "Reona". No I didn't change the face colour. It's just the photograph. I had a problem with the clothing because I had added/invented it and it wasn't sitting comfortably. She looked like a cardboard cut out but taking the image to the edge of the canvas made it worse. The re-work is an improvement I think. More harmony. What I should have done in the first place.


Anonymous said...

My first thought is, if this had been a pakeha family, would the exercise been conducted outside on the lawn?

As to your question. I suggest it is the local doctor and I suspect the photo was "arranged" for promotional purposes on behalf of the public health system of the day.

Your portraits (excellent) remind me of the work of a friend of mine, Philip Holmes.


Lindsay said...

I googled him. Lovely work. Nice and clean. What do you paint Dirk? And do you start on the gin before you begin work or after?:-)

Manolo said...

Beautiful paintings.
I can say being utterly useless when comes to drawing and painting.

pdm said...

I have a question.

I see you painted the Nurses uniform a shade of green - would it not have been white in the 1950's.

Lindsay said...

pdm, you may well be right. Originally I thought she was plunket and I asked an ex plunket nurse who worked during the 50s and 60s and she thought "teal". Later I realised she was a district nurse. But looking at the photo I don't think her uniform is white. The light on her isn't as light as the light on the nappy being used to weigh the baby. There is a photo here which has the matron in a darker shade. That's what I think the nurse in the photo is wearing - whatever colour it is!

Anonymous said...


The only thing I ever painted was myself into countless corners.

My passion has been sculptural pieces in the form of furniture, object de art and the creation of a million others things associated with native timber.

I got my start back about 75/76 When Leo Van Helden opened his gallery at Days bay and asked me to sell my work there. The gallery and my career took off.
Before his death Leo sold the gallery to the Wilson family and they then sold it to John and Patsy Coltman about 87. I stayed with the gallery until about 98 when I moved on to other things. It was a wild ride and a lot of fun.

The gin only flosw after four in the afternoon. Any earlier than that people might start calling me a lush.


Lindsay said...

You are 1/24th more of a lush than I am:-) Work first (sounds like a US welfare programme). No work, no reward.

Did you know Ian Hutchings? Made furniture from native timber and sold in galleries in Eastbourne?

Anonymous said...

The name rings a bell but I never had the pleasure. During my productive years i lived in the wilderness and once a month or so I would load the truck with my souls outpourings and head for the smoke. Spend a day, Then it was back to the mountains and my creative treadmill.

A very clever man I admire once said to me " Being an artist is a fine thing. But if you want to make a buck and feed the family, you have to get into business and forget feeding the soul."


Anonymous said...

Its after four and the gin is flowing.

So further to my comment I took my friends advice and changed my thinking.
I made things people wanted and could afford, the rest is history, as i might be if I dont get busy and get dinner cooked.