Life as an Artist and the importance of an Artist’s Log

Who would ever have thought that there would come a time in my life where I had to actually sit down and work out how many paintings I have ever painted! ….

Not an easy task, as many years ago I never dreamed that there would come a time when I would not be able to remember, as there were so many. So unfortunately, I do not have record of them all.

I managed to scrounge up old photographs, bits of paper, newspaper articles, gallery invitations, magazines, pamphlets and anywhere where I could find some sort of reference on paintings and work I have done. I thumb sucked some of the sizes and compiled a log book from as far back as I could find.

My last painting that I have record of is number 285. Not bad going considering that I am not the most organized person. But I do keep stuff…..lots of it!

Then I started to think about all the paintings for which I have no reference. Countless wall murals in restaurants and games arcades, ice cream parlors, garden nurseries, baby nurseries, garden walls, swimming pool walls, function halls. I even painted massive backdrops for a dance play production called The Pulse of Africa. I lived in a little town in the dusty Freestate where I kind of left my mark.

Working as an Artist for a neon signage company, I created many of the logo’s and signage for the businesses in this little town.

Unfortunately, in the 80’s, cameras and film was a costly luxury. So I have little or no reference. Sad really. But I do have so many, many memories. Like the time that I painted a 66.4m mural around a Garden Nursery wall called the Secret Gardens.

It was magical. It took me 9 days in the freezing cold Winter. Bundled up with scarf and beanie and a big, ugly, paint covered army jacket, I painted till my fingers nearly dropped off! The Nursery owners had a young man working for them who would pop out to see how I was doing every now and again.

He realized that I was really struggling with icy fingers and was taking strain. My finger were so numb that I sometimes dropped my brush simply because I could no longer feel it, or them!

I perched on a 5 litre paint tin and dragged it along as I worked. Imagine my surprise when I got back to my bucket of water that I used to wash my brushes and discovered warm water!

My hero was this sweet young worker who was so intuitive. Oh my word! I was so grateful! I defrosted my hands, dried them off and then covered them in a thin layer of vaseline to protect my skin. (disgusting I know, but it worked!)

Every painting holds a memory for me. I used to do a lot of sign writing too. In 1989 I was about 8 months pregnant with my youngest son and had landed a job to paint the front of a building. The only thing was that the sign had to be about 2 storeys up and they wanted it ON the building not on a board!

I recall sitting up in the air on a shaky scaffolding tied to an hysterical friend who insisted that he was going to sit up there with me in case I became light headed. He chatted away constantly to me and asked me every 10 minutes “Are you ok? You’re a bit pale. Are you light headed?” It was funny and wonderful at the same time.

A Wall Mural painted on a child's nursery wall

Another crazy memory was when I offered to paint an H on a heli-pad out on a mine somewhere. An H …I mean how difficult could that be right?…..WRONG!

Firstly, another Winters job. Freezing cold – no trees for miles ( a heli-pad obviously has to be open) Secondly, not just any old paint it was ROAD MARKING paint.

Now what I never realized was that this paint dries the instant it is exposed to the slightest bit of wind. Oh my word!

I missed the deadline for when it was to be finished because it took me FOREVER to get the paint on correctly and arrived on the day that a VIP was transported to this heli-pad and encountered a great big helicopter in the middle of my work area where I had to finish off the job!

The pilot was sitting in the helicopter reading a book when I arrived and started working. He watched me closely for a while and then ignored me until I banged on the helicopter and yelled

“Move this lump of metal I have work to do!!”

He slowly got out of his helicopter and strolled over to me. I had a feeling I was about to get a man-sized slap from this pilot. He was angry at my rudeness. I stood up and pulled the beanie off my head and said in the sweetest voice

“Will you please move your helicopter so I may continue with my job ?”

He stopped dead in his tracks and burst out laughing “You’re a girl!!” he exclaimed.

“Um…last time I checked …yeah!” I replied indignantly!

Anyway he moved his chopper and when I had finished my paint job, he invited my for a cup of hot flask coffee…..cos I was a girl!

I am sure that many of these painting jobs and signs and murals are long gone. It really would be wonderful if I had taken photo’s.

Please remember to record your artwork memories if you are an artist.

My log book contains size details, painting name, medium used and the owner if the work was sold or given away, and of course some sort of visual reference if you have it. And keep your log safe!

This may be all you will have left of your artwork someday.

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