Art Adventures and appreciations


This blog focuses on my studio practice. How I go about my art, what I use and the challenges I encounter. My initial aim is that it offers some insight into the life of a practicing artist and some useful tips for other creatives. In hindsight I think it may help me more that others. The self reflection about what you do can uncover some sloppy habits and manic moments. Maybe it’s my self therapy? As an artist we spend a lot of time in our heads. This blog will expose my thoughts, focus points and revelations. I can’t guarantee it will all be pretty or insightful, but I’m inviting you to join the ride anyway … strap yourself in for a seat on THE GINGERNUT EXPRESS!


The Tropical Adventures of an Art Retreat

Sketching in the Tropics
Sketching in the Tropics – Mary Knaggs, Annette Sadler, Jenny Climas-Dockhorn, Jasmin Bullock and Susanne Page.

Yes, it’s been a while since the Gingernut Express has surfaced. I was bunkered down completing artworks for my solo show and preparing for my art retreat. Just returning home now from the Retreat and then heading south to the launch of my show ‘Coastal’ at the Manyung Gallery at Mt Eliza in Victoria, opening this coming Friday.

I am hoping that all students who joined me in Fiji on the Art Retreat, felt inspired and energised by their experiences, and continue creating after their week in paradise. They got to explore many locations while on their Art Retreat. All the local tropical destinations ranging from the rainforest to the reef were bursting with colour and provided a multitude of inspiring subject matter.

Our studios ranged from the seaside, the pond and a mountain top. For most there were never enough minutes in the day to capture these places to canvas. I am still finding that a problem myself. These expansive locations can be quite overwhelming. The trick is to start small, start something and start it now! 

I am incredibly proud of the courage each participant exhibited in to going beyond their comfort zones and trying new ways of seeing and creating. For many of us artists, we can be terribly harsh on ourselves and in our achievements in attempting to translate artistically, what we see and feel. I do it all the time. I have to listen to what I tell my students…“that in order to do good work, you often have to get the ‘not so good’ stuff out of the way. There is no fast track.” Angela Duckworth calls it Grit. Passion is one thing, but creativity doesn’t evolve without perseverance.

My wish is for all those who experienced the colour and vitality of Fiji, to let it soak in and provide inspiration for future work.

As per every trip, my faith in the human race is always renewed by my interactions with the locals. I learn what grace, dignity and compassion really looks like and how much richer your world can be when you inject it into your own life. Perhaps this is what Gauguin wanted us to see and feel when he created his own visions of a tropic paradise? Perhaps this is why he was so frustrated that the rest of the world just didn’t get it at the time?

I am leaving in order to have peace and quiet. To be rid of the influence of civilisation. I only want to do simple, very simple art and to be able to do that, I have to immerse myself in virgin nature, see no one but savages, live their life, with no other thought in my mind but to render, the way a child would, the concepts formed in my brain and to do this with the aid of nothing but the primitive means of art, the only means that are good and true. ”  Paul Gauguin

PS. Thankfully that the rest of the world now understands that these island people are not savages and have always had highly complex systems that their communities connect and thrive from.

I am already planning some upgrades to my schedule for next year’s Colourplay Art Retreat. Stay tuned for more details.

Aqua Swell by Kristine Ballard
Aqua Swell by Kristine Ballard

There no such thing as ‘solo’ when you do a solo show

And now back to the land of Aus. My next art adventure is my first solo show in Victoria with the wonderful team at Manyung Galleries. It’s all about the coast. Water is an element links us all together. It makes up half our body and 70% of the world’s surface. One single drop from a cloud has the chance to travel the world via our oceans, lapping the edges of the continents and crossing the paths of hundreds of cultures and thousands of creatures. This new body of work focuses on that view out that we humans take from the edge of our foundations. Coastal’ is a show of works capturing the colour and spaces we take in, when we look out to those expansive deeps of the ocean. The ocean can mean different things to all of us. From the playful grounds on the Mornington Peninsula, to the topic oceans of the pacific, an onto the Italian waters of Venice, an impossible idea that offered a new hope and freedom from persecution. The images and spaces in the new works have been created in order to provide the viewer a space to breath and look out, re-centre and dream of possibility.

Alas these notes are not really about what the works are about or why I created them. These word are about the reality of putting on a solo show. In a way I feel a little inauthentic calling it a solo show. While I may have been the one that painted the works, there are many people I have to thank for helping me get them on the wall. It starts from those who accepted me for art residencies and enlightened and educated me about their coastal locations onsite. It follows on with the framers that stretched my half finished works for me to complete and framed them in record time. And then there’s the colour experts who scanned and photographed my paintings and recorded the images digitally. Then there is thanks to the courier for collecting my work to transport it way beyond his 12 hour working day and the gallery warehouse who received, itemised and uploaded the images and all the staff at the gallery who create the invite, mail outs and promos. Of course I could never forget to thank my husband who puts up with my long winded complaints about never having enough time, my family who I never visited as I was stuck in the studio, my students who gave up their classes when my deadlines got tight and Sketch the art critic cat who was totally unimpressed with having to sleep in the studio with the lights in til 2am some mornings!

And this is all before the show begins. They say you have to have a thick skin to be an artist but I think they should tell that to all those surrounding that artist too! We just can’t do this thing without you all. The art life is a lovely one but it is hard work even when you have your support team around you. I look to the past and ponder on how mentally strong some artists must have been to keep going, especially when they had no support team. I often wonder how much more work artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Clarice Beckett might have made if there path had a little less struggle about it. How many more of their works would the world have got to treasure if they had a bigger support group?

So my heart felt gratitude and thanks goes out to all the folks that hang around and support me in my ambitions for a creative life. These people have enriched my life and I’d like to think their is a little bit of them in every work I create.

If you’d like to see the results of my latest efforts you can check out the Coastal’ show from 5-20 October at the Manyung Mt Eliza Gallery. I’ll see you at the opening on Friday 5th October 5-7pm.


The Masters as my mentors … what Paul Gauguin taught me…

Portrait of the artist [Gauguin] with hat. By Paul Gauguin. Oil on canvas 1893

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848– 8 May 1903) was a French post-Impressionist artist, now noted for his ‘Primitivism and ‘Synthetic Symbolism’ styles of which would go on to influence future artists of innovation such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse

Unappreciated until after his death, Gauguin is now recognised for his experimental use of colour and Synthetist style that were distinctly different from Impressionism. Towards the end of his life he spent ten years in French Polynesia, and most of his paintings from this time depict people or landscapes from that region.

He was bullish, arrogant and unabashedly defiant. He was constantly frustrated. I am pretty sure I would not like to be in the same room as him, for his intolerance for others and their lack of vision was volatile. He brought to the world images of exotic lands and people, bursting with colour and myths. Not all of his work was well executed, but it was his drive and ambition to create something not yet seen in the world that I admire, despite his self-centered focus and vocal disregard for others.

Let nature be your guide, only.

“Do not copy nature. Art is an abstraction. Rather, bring your art forth by dreaming in front of her and think more of creation.’’

Colour is magic

“Colour! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.’’

Colour should be celebrated

“It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable colour to every object; beware of this stumbling block…..’’

“How do you see this tree? Is it green? …Don’t be afraid to paint it as green as possible.’’

Be true to your directions, and practice

“Stay firmly in your path and dare; be wild two hours a day!’’

Don’t fuss too much, try and keep it fresh

“Do not finish your work too much. An impression is not sufficiently durable for its first freshness to survive a belated search for infinite detail; in this way you let the lava grow cool.’’

‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?’ By Paul Gauguin. Oil on canvas 1897.

Be brave and create your own interpretations

“I shut my eyes in order to see.’’

Tahitian Landscape 1891


Gauguin’s feisty personality teamed with the exotic tropic isles makes great fodder for novels. He was also an avid letter writer and much of these letters have been compiled into novels. His ability to articulate his frustrations and passions makes for a great read.

Here’s a few of the best…

The Writings Of A Savage Paperback by Paul Gauguin

The life of Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), who abandoned his wife, five children, and a successful career as a stockbroker to paint in poverty in exotic Tahiti, is one of the legendary tales of the art world. Today he is recognised as a highly influential founding father of modern art, who emphasised the use of flat planes and bright, non-naturalistic colour in conjunction with symbolic or primitive subjects. 

Noa Noa: The Tahitian Journal by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin fled what he called “filthy Europe” in 1891 to what he hoped would be an unspoiled paradise, Tahiti. He painted 66 magnificent can vases during the first two years he spent there and kept notes from which he later wrote Noa Noa — a journal recording his thoughts and impressions of that time.

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

Based on the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is W. Somerset Maugham’s ode to the powerful forces behind creative genius.


PPS. I know Fiji is not Tahiti but the locals still encounter the same confusions about their culture. 


Cattitudes  >••<

Sketch taking a closer inspection
Sketch, the art critic cat, doing a close up inspection.

My inhouse art critic, Sketch >••<  has been very unimpressed by the recent long hours spent in the studio. There has been many a late nights and early mornings as the deadline for the upcoming show came around. As you can see he was always ready to review my progress. He still doesn’t get why we humans love all that water!


To those lovely folks who have heard me bang on about some of these topics before I send my apologies. It is sure to happen again as I bang on a lot.


The Gingernut Express is a monthly blog, written and produced by Visual Artist and Arts Educator, Kristine Ballard on
© Kristine Ballard 2018