lilliput mountain

What should you paint on?

painting tipsClaire Hansen

My rule of thumb when choosing painting surfaces is it must be beautiful and tough. Because when I paint I keep on painting with grit and determination until all the problems in the picture have been resolved I can be demanding on surfaces, sometimes removing paint, or heaps of layering.


When using oils and acrylics I like the surface to be smooth so I mostly use birch-wood artists board. it is expensive, doesn't come in large sizes but I prefer it because strong and hardy and never stretches.

WARNING: I have recently learned that when sealing the wood it is critically important that no water goes near the raw surface of the board. So that means the acrylic gesso must be dry and undiluted.  If using oils I recommend using an oil based ground rather than acrylic gesso to prep the board. It becomes smooth as silk and I believe that the wood appreciates the oil far more than a plastic adhesive.


For watercolours I prefer thick cotton rag paper of 600gsm. When I started painting I used watercolour boards but no one is stocking them in Hobart any more.  Cold press has more texture and hot press is smooth like it has been ironed.  You can cut or tear the paper down to any size you like. Tear the paper by folding it then reverse folding and maybe even tearing down the pressure of metal ruler.  

This video shows the birch-wood board I damaged by adding water to the foundational layer of gesso. It developed split seams throughout the painting within a few weeks. I have decided to sand off the acrylic paint and glue linen on top which is a traditional hard wearing painters surface preferred by Brad Kunkle. PS: The song is called "So Sorry" by Fiest.

Green & Bryksenkova

painting heroesClaire Hansen
'Fire Flies' by Rebecca Green

'Fire Flies' by Rebecca Green

I have been actively seeking to emulate my aesthetic heroes working to expand their awesomeness to both include and assimilate my paintings.

Two of my most favourite painters in the world are Rebecca Green and Yelena Bryksenova.

My painting the Night Twins is very much based on themes of animal rescue and connection that run through Green's paintings. I even replicated her beautiful feathery trees you can see above in "Fire Flies".  I admire Green's work so much because she paints such a wide variety of subjects and her colour work blows me away. I am colour blind, and so cognitively understand all images and subject matter in grey scale and absolutely struggle to achieve sophisticated colour work. Sadly, I rely heavily on my paint's tube labels!

I am comforted that Green admits to recolouring her paints over and over until she is perfectly happy, and that too much planning and pre-painting ( to determine colour and composition) often serves to take the fun out the creating. I agree! Too much planning, for me, often serves to kill the painting dead in the water and they end up perfectly planned never finished wannabes.

My painting Nancy's Book is inspired by 1940s Scottish country living, and stylistically draws heaps from Bryksenova's private lives series. Private moments of comfort, introversion, grief run throughout Bryksenova's paintings. I have studied her work intently and I love Bryksenkova's miniature decorative patterns, and folk art motifs that help to create a sense of place and space in her works. Bryksenova's paintings are exquisite little windows into peoples private moments. And of course, her colour work is exceptional and the perfection of the image below  *sighs*... so good!

Yelena Bryksenkova - private lives series

Yelena Bryksenkova - private lives series

 

You can buy Bryksenkova's prints here, and one day (hopefully) Rebecca Green will sell hers from here. 

Aurora

painting heroesClaire Hansen
Aurora by Mark Ryden 2015

Aurora by Mark Ryden 2015

My current obsession is the great masterpiece Aurora by the painter Mark Ryden.  Mark Ryden is one of the the GREAT painters of all time, his meticulous and painstaking patience layering glaze after glaze of oil paint results in this painting taking over a year to complete. 

Note the meticulously painted grains of sand - a miracle of patience and technique

Note the meticulously painted grains of sand - a miracle of patience and technique

Ryder’s mastery of technique, subject and composition reminds me that there are no short cuts to a masterpiece. It is always the result of time, intelligent efforts and patience. When I look at Aurora and truly start to comprehend how beautiful she is it is clear to me that every other work Ryden has painted led to this one and it was a pathway to perfection. 

For me Aurora is most obviously a Goddess painting, a representation of the feminine divine. She represents a type of perfection of being and is brought forth by a perfection of execution and technique and through the aesthetics of neo-classical idealism. She crosses dimensions, the imagery of the water suggesting light and dark, the conscious and unconscious put also the past and the future.  Aurora has a sublime serenity and sensitivity in her expression and to me feels not static, but gentle. Everything that surrounds her, in all its microscopic detail is an expression of the beauty of nature and being and invites us to slow to her vibration and to really experience that in truth, all is perfection. 

Aurora in her frame which has been designed and painted by Mark Ryden, hand carved in Indonesia by master artisans the painting size is 112 x 58 inches; 284.48 x 147.32 cm but reaches to 340cm in her frame.

Aurora in her frame which has been designed and painted by Mark Ryden, hand carved in Indonesia by master artisans the painting size is 112 x 58 inches; 284.48 x 147.32 cm but reaches to 340cm in her frame.

I have trawled the internet to discover who bought Aurora. She has been purchased by a private collector, unnamed, and the price is speculated to be approximately two million dollars.  The painting is priceless, making any selling price a bargain. I wish that the USA had the same level of commitment to public art galleries as in Europe, because I would far prefer this painting to live in a public gallery, fawned over by careful curators and visited daily by loving fans. Aurora should be available to the world, so that I can travel to visit her just like a person might choose to visit Paris

I suspect Aurora is the greatest painting of all time.

the secret life of trees

painting processClaire Hansen

I started by looking a lot at paintings by my hero Diana Sudyka and thinking deeply about what I love about her wonderful work.  I am so struck by Diana’s use of black, it is so bold so strong and capitalises on the strengths of gouache as a medium. I also love that she paints trees and animals of the forest in such unique way. 

The forest is so special to me. I love trees so much that it hurts to consider them being harmed in any way. I started painting without our any real idea how the painting would turn out. I just thought, I want to paint a bit like Diana, I am going to use black and have birds and animals. 

When I came to painting the ground I was completely lost, so I just started to experiment and play and work with my mistakes. What started to emerge was a dream like soft mossy and fungi wonderland in miniature. 

Within the paint I searched for translucence, luminescence and transcendence in the fragile forest floor and ended up creating an environment not designed for humans. That is because we are too big heavy and loud for this kind of forest. This is a delicate place. A realm of barely there mushrooms, tiny flowers where even the fallow deer steps through gently.

The central tree reaches up the the heavens, roots into the earth, she has roots and wings but her branches also curl  downward to gently touch the fern fronds and stroke the mother deer. I feel that the deer is seeking a safe place to foal, and that she has found it, in this place where the white wallaby and white echidna also find sanctuary.

The forest ravens, butcher bird and the tiny tit are nestled in the tree. I hope that the birds connect us to our own feelings of spirit because our view of the forest is also on wing.

I have decided to call this painting "forest floor" which is pretty modest description of the wonderland that coats our forests. 

monsters of consumption

pop cultureClaire Hansen
Who wears white to school?

Who wears white to school?

Yesterday I re-watched all 5 Twilight films. And I am not ashamed and I will do it again someday. However, how awfully awkward are the amateurish plot devices and the endless inconsistencies in characterisation and mythos! It is a hack job at best, saved by the rolling shots of forests and snow caped mountains and a gorgeous soundtrack.

What struck me hardest on this viewing is the Cullen family’s arguably inappropriate display of wealth and privilege. As an out and proud critic of capitalism/imperialism and all forms of tyranny; I declare that there is no wealth that has not come at the expense of others. 

The Cullens’ must have ripped off a lot of folk over the years because they hold far more than their fair share of the Earth’s resources.

Awkward Plot Device
To be discrete; and to not draw attention to themselves; the Cullen kids attend high school over and over again. This is so they can start out aged 16 and reduce the probability that neighbours may notice over the next 10- 20 years how none of them look any older.  It is really important for vampires to blend in and to not be noticed as being different. It is so important that discretion is policed by the self appointed police of the vampire world. It is also important that they live in small towns to be close to wild spaces so that they can hunt wild animals to eat.

Plot Device: epic fail
Forks is a small town on the coast supported by tree felling and the fishing industry. Five foster kids, four who are coupled, attend the small local high-school. Edward, Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalee are all super beautiful, with perfectly styled hair, stiletto heels, designer clothes and select their vehicles from a private fleet of brand new European cars.  They are all white as ghosts and “weird” and speak as if they are from another time.  They don't come to school on sunny days, they never actually eat anything and they don't look or act like teenagers. They are not friends with other students and their family is not friends with any of the local families. Their dad works at the local hospital, and drives a “fuck off I’m mega rich” car and shirts so shiny and well fitted they look hand spun by angels.  The Cullens are anything but discrete.

 The most embarrassingly awkward birthday party ever

 The most embarrassingly awkward birthday party ever

Fat Piggery and Greed
Why are the Cullen’s such conspicuous consumers? Surely this is fatally incompatible with the whole premise of seeking to blend in and go unnoticed?

Don't you think:
 a) this is really insensitive of them making everyone else in Forks feel like untouchable peasants?
b) this is really stupid because it makes them like local celebrities?
c) they could be doing a lot more to support local businesses, sustainability and environment?
d) the excessive bloated consumption of those with disposable income is a major player in accelerating climate change, deforestation, loss of animal habitats, intensive farming, and a general degradation of the earth leading in the direction of a dead planet. Are the Cullens among the worst example of this kind of selfish, apathetic excessive consumption?

What kind of values do the Cullen's really have? Are we supposed to think they are saints because they don't eat humans? What a crock of shit. They eat endangered species! They actively reduce the already diminished populations of bears, wolves and cougars.

Charlie and the Quileutes
Lets contrast the Cullen family with Bella’s dad. Charlie lives simply in a small house, drives an 15 year old American made police car and is best friends with Billy and Harry and knows the name of everyone in town. The two Quileute houses we see on the reservation, Billy and Sam and Emily's are small, simple making a minimal environmental impact.  We can see that Charlie and the Quileutes are resourceful, restoring a ute for Bella and Jacob scrapes recycled resources together to restore vintage cars and bikes.  Apart from the reckless destruction of 100s of pairs of shorts in the film by the shape-shifters; the Quileute and Charlie are supporting local community and the environment. Jacob has “ know how”, whereas Edward only has “ buy how”.

happy times in Jake's dad's shed

happy times in Jake's dad's shed

Bella’s Guilded Cage
In New Moon and Eclipse we see Bella spending time with the Quileute community, where she is accepted in her old clothes, old ute and pony tail. She laughs, teases, eats and sits about the fire to share in the Quileute stories.  There is always a feeling of warmth and friendliness and joy when Bella is with Jacob and his people.

This is in direct opposition to Bella with the Cullen’s. where she exhibits low self worth, hides her feelings, is lied to and controlled by Edward and is dressed like a doll by Alice so that Bella better fits into their awkward and cold aristocratic world. The Cullen's mock Bella's old ute and on engagement Edward insists she drives a custom made European car, further separating her from her local community. Bella is forced into uncomfortable stiletto heels and married in an ostentatious garden wedding and designer gown creating a gulf between Bella and her past. Akin to joining a cult, by coupling with Edward, Bella is ultimately completely separated from her mother, father, friends and community.

At the end of the books/films there is a sense that Bella can balance the two worlds. That she can be both vampire-consumer-monster and a part of Charlie's and the Quileute world. This is a falsity because it is shown in Eclipse that vampires residing in the region destabilises the Quileute tribe by activating the wolf shape shifting abilities in even small children and attracts more vampires resulting in multiple murders.

CONCLUSION: the Cullen lifestyle is grossly greedy, and representative of the bloated consumerism that is destroying our planet. By choosing the Cullen lifestyle over that of her parents and friends; Bella intentionally severed herself from community, eco-consciousness, friends and family and became just another monster of consumption. Shame Bella...

Shape-shifter, immortal hybrid child and vampire, just another family Christmas at Billy's place

Shape-shifter, immortal hybrid child and vampire, just another family Christmas at Billy's place

we heart Bob Marley

viva la revolutionClaire HansenComment

Rise ye mighty people, ye-ah!
There's work to be done,
So let's do it-a little by little:
Rise from your sleepless slumber! Yes, yeah! Yes, yeah!
We're more than sand on the seashore,
We're more than numbers.
All together now:
Wake up and live now, y’all!

 -Bob Marley

bob.marley.jpeg

We have been listening to lots of Bob Marley and the Wailers in out studio and the music is super good for relaxing into a deep slow groove and encouraging natural creativity and flow. It is also deeply subversive by throwing light onto to those who hold deeply vested interests in perpetuating war, slavery and inequality. Also, revolutionary because the message always seeks to empower us to stand up against all oppression and injustice.

Marley’s lyrics call on us to unite as one people, reminding us to all look to our collective roots in Africa. To first liberate our brothers and sisters who are oppressed by forms of racism and honour our shared roots as a universal family.

I think that for anyone the most confronting moments are when we realize that our understanding of ourselves, others and our world is often completely wrong. One of the main limitations to our understanding is simply the architecture of our neural pathways.  We have been taught to think in certain ways, paths run in the same directions over and over again,  and the unhelpful beliefs, transmitted by our society, parents and peers all operate like mental roadblocks. Embedded in our soft brain tissue are neural pathways accepting and perpetuating the inequalities of our the world. Embedded is a feeling of powerlessness to change ourselves and our society for the better. Bob Marley’s music works to undo this programming.

“enlightenment” referred to in Buddhist and Hindu teachings is a way of describing the limitless consciousness of an awakened being.  In an awakened being those neural pathways no longer control the consciousness and an enlightened person is able to perceive reality as it really is, and to perceive it without judgement.  Experiencing Bob Marley’s music is one way of moving towards an enlightened state of being.

Hazrat Inayat Khan,  the Sufi teacher and musician, brought messages of divine unity (Tawhid) to the West. He wrote that,

‘there is nothing in this world that can help one spiritually more than music. Music raises the soul of man even higher than the so-called external form of religion’.

Bob Marley’s messages of hope, spirituality and the end of slavery in all forms , set to these booty loving rhythms is one of my favourite examples of spiritually awakening music. Just press play :)

 

FIGHT CLUB (1999) - A liberation of consciousness

viva la revolutionClaire HansenComment

 

Fight Club (1999) provides a critique of our capitalist consumer society, presents us with the options of an alternative lifestyle, actual methods for disrupting capitalism, and provides some new and subversive methods of revolution. These four things alone make this movie subversive and a cause for celebration.

In these respects Fight Club is unique.  I wonder why are there so few movies that examine the human condition as a response to the society in which we exist? On a more basic level, why are there so few movies that actually provide a critique of the values of our society?

Memories stir,  Noam Chomsky’s and Ed Herman's masterpiece Manufacturing Consent suggests because our media is owned by the rich; whom have a vested interest in keeping us all pacified and lost somewhere in-between anxiety and desire; our entertainment is manufactured with the underlying intention to create feelings of dis-empowerment.

Fight Club is different, it makes us feel strong. I love Fight Club because it names up some really deep stuff like:

1.    In truth, it is the members of the working class, working poor, and the enslaved white collar drones who hold the power in society because we number 99% of the population. Those filthy rich aristocrats only rule us because we allow them too.

2.     Our desire for possessions enslaves us and prevents us from properly connecting with our authentic selves.  We are kept so busy paying off impossible loans that we all become distracted from ever critiquing the society we have created, or questioning our masters.

3:      Hitting rock bottom can be experienced as a liberation to be celebrated. This is because by hitting rock bottom we confront; and are then are released from; our fear. It is at this point we are liberated and get closer to an authentic expression of being.

4.     It is for each of us to take personal responsibility for our own level of acceptance of what we     are given to consume by society; and by this I mean all that mass produced crap like TV, magazines, packaged food and that endless flow of crappy D grade movies that pour out of Hollywood into the consciousnesses of the credulous.

It is true that the films messages have problems, and the narrative offers no role for women in the revolution which 'cans it' as a solution to capitalism, regardless, it deserves to be treasured. Without a doubt my least favourite part is the fighting; violence is so standard in contemporary in entertainment it reeks of Orwell’s 1984.  I chose to interpret Fight Club's fighting as a crude metaphor; suggesting that we are such brainwashed and robotic clones that takes physical pain to “wake us up” out of our consumer stupor.  Reconnecting with the self through physical sensation doesn't have to be quite so dramatic, for example it is the technique of Vipassana meditation.

I take my lessons with gratitude from this fascinating film but keep my eye on the prize of a kinder world. 

a little world: to have and to hold

Claire HansenComment

Did anyone else really want a sea monkey when they were a kid? Those old Archie and Donald Duck comic books tantalised me to the point of yearning for a little family of miniature mer-people with crowns and an underwater castle; a"bowlful of happiness" was there, just out of reach. 

These days I make my own miniature worlds and so finally I can have and hold a miniature foreign world. For those who want to make their own I have started making DIY kits.

The kits are for people who don't have the time or resources to source all the different ingredients that go into making up a succulent terrarium. The ingredients are pretty basic, but can take a day of running around and most of the ingredients are only available commercially in large quantities.

We source high quality and strong cut out glass vessels in small, medium or large, then fill the vessel with the right portions of stones, activated charcoal, hessian, premium potting mix, red sand, white sand, a miniature person or animal (you choose) and decorative stones.

The only things you need to do is the fun bit of putting it all together and to add your own plants and water.

Sergio Leone

painting processClaire HansenComment
lilliputmountain_LeavingLasVegas_terrarium.jpeg

Cacti oh cacti, how shall I love thee? With your spikes and irresistible charm there is no doubt that I must love you carefully and with much respect.

Cacti and succulents are easy to love, being so fat, happy and bursting with life. Add a miniature person or animal and suddenly the entire scale of things shifts.  Lilliput Mountain HQ here in Tasmania is one of the worlds greenest and wettest places. Our local Warratah is recorded as having an average of 315 rainy days a year.  Miniature desert worlds take me somewhere else completely. Sitting on my work bench the terarriums remind me of spaghetti westerns,  moody tumbleweeds, lonesome people small against a big big sky all to a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

Every week I curate all new and never repeated succulent terrariums for people to take home with them. Lilliput Mountain can make custom orders, teach you how to make your own, or supply your own DIY kit.

tea + cake = happy

Lutruwita (Tasmania)Claire HansenComment
nansteapot.jpeg

I drink too much tea. It is shameful really. Some days I completely forget to drink anything that is not heated, infused and oftentimes soy-milky.  But no one can deny that tea, whether black, green, herbal or otherwise; really is something very special.

When I was a kid on the farm, my Nan and Pop lived just a few paddocks away. I was always keen to visit Nanny because she celebrated almost every visit with a tea ceremony. An aluminum and bakelite tea pot, Bushells loose leaf scooped into the pot, a small tea strainer, tea cups with saucers. Nan mixed her own powdered milk each morning, so her tea had a very unique flavour. The big draw card was that tea was always served with a selection of her own farm kitchen baking; perhaps raspberry jam sponge, coconut slice and butter biscuits. If it was morning tea of afternoon tea we would be joined by Pop, who would come in from his yard duties of sweeping the concrete paths, the old apple sheds and listening to the cricket on his wireless radio.

I don't know whether Nan would approve of us using tea bags, but here it is a beautiful original one of a kind, never to be repeated illustrated tea brooch by Hamish and one of the most favourite that we have made because it makes me smile every time.

lilliputmountain_teabrooche.jpeg

i heart lutruwita

Lutruwita (Tasmania)Claire HansenComment

For up to 70,000 years the island of lutruwita was inhabited by the Palawa people.  In 1642 a European explorer called lutruwita, Van Dieman's Land. That name became synonymous with the word "prison" because the British State designated this island an antipodean gulag. 

I think about the history of our island as I look out over sloping hills and valleys criss-crossed with blue bitumen roads, fences and industrial estates. When I admire the soft ochre convict-made bricks that make our cottage I remember that my ancestors were a part of the invasion and theft of this land; and complicit (by virtue of silence)  in the ongoing degradation of the Palawa people. It is a hard pill to take.  It is difficult to contemplate and is a harsh reminder that from the view point of history we are all complicit in unopposed state violence.

I take this moment to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land; just a small moment to remember the story of destruction, oppression and cruelty when this land was stolen from its custodians.  For all its smallness, and too lateness, I say sorry. I am so sorry for what has taken place in the past. I want a better future for all of the people of lutruwita and to be a part of healing the sorrow and sadness in this land.  I want to be friends respect with our beloved island home and with her people; I promise to join your struggles, to walk by your side, and to listen to your stories.

i heart snowflakes

Claire HansenComment
snowflakes.jpeg

Indulging in the bountiful back-lit images in the land of pinterest I stumbled across extraordinarily beautiful 1865 plates of individual snowflakes.   William Bentley said after 50 years of observing millions of snowflakes, “Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost.” I am happy to report that these designs are not lost because someone painstakingly examined this select group of snowflakes under a microscope, drew them and then created illustrative plates.  I am so in love with them that I used their glory to create these and many more magical large fridge magnets.

 

visiting the farm

Lutruwita (Tasmania)Claire HansenComment
Tasman Peninsular

Tasman Peninsular

My parents are farmers. Four magical words. The farm opens up a whole world of fun. Forests, orchards, animals and proximity to great open and wild spaces. Tasmania has snow topped mountains, vast grassy plains and places of deep lush greenness. The farm is in one of the very green and wet places. High rainfall, cool summers and a wet sea breeze bring an abundance of moisture creating a rich verdant landscape and dense rain-forests. This year is different, with a drought about we have been praying for rain. The hay yield is down 60% because of a hot dry spring, a low hay yield means a hungry winter. When the weather turns like this, and we have another season of wild bush-fires climate change starts to seem very real. We want to to do everything we can to support the planet to find balance again. Lilliput Mountain is deeply committed to reducing our global footprint by seeking better and more sustainable ways of making our products, reducing our waste, our emissions and by living lightly on the land.

i heart my studio

painting processHamish StevensonComment
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Our studio is best when it is raining. we can see raindrops on the sloped windows and feel so lucky to be warm inside with an abundance of pens, textas and paints. Miniature people need to be painted. This week to keep ourselves entertained we have been listening to Ed Reardon's Week; the diary of the ex-famous author, pipe smoker, consummate fare-dodger and master of the abusive e-mail, who is currently trying to survive in a world where the media seems to be run by idiots and lying charlatans whose life holds such calamity it always makes us feel better about everything.