Portrait in oils inspired by a surprise trapeze workshop

Portrait in oils inspired by a surprise trapeze workshop

In previous blog posts I have written about the amazing experience that I had at the Aerial Arts Retreat in Costa Rica with Maia Adams and Nadine Johnson. While at the retreat, we were lucky enough to have a surprise trapeze workshop run by Costa Rica local Maximus Barnaby. In this blog post I will talk about the workshop, interview Maximus and describe the creative process used to create his portrait.

‘Look to the Sky’ Oil on canvas portrait of Maximus Barnaby on trapeze


The wonderful experience of attending the Aerial Arts Retreat in Costa Rica last May was made even more special by the surprise trapeze workshop that Nadine organised featuring Maximus. Maximus trained at the Circus Centre in San Francisco but had moved to Costa Rica. He currently teaches students circus skills there.

Maximus made the observation during the workshop that it is now unusual for him to be teaching in English. So he had to think more about how to describe the movements in English since, let alone describing them to adults for a change 😉

Photos from our workshop with Maximus


There were students of several different levels in the workshop, from absolute beginner (me) to students who had several years of trapeze experience. Maximus did an excellent job of catering to all of those levels. He taught several levels of tricks that were accessible to beginners and still stretched the experienced students.

Side by side comparison of ‘Look to the Sky’ and the reference photograph of Maximus Barnaby

Q&A with Maximus

what made you decide to try trapeze?

I first came to the trapeze when I was 26 years old. I had never been into fitness; I considered myself a theatre nerd. At 26, I noticed my metabolism was starting to slow down. I examined my life, and realised I was dissatisfied with my exercise (or, more correctly, complete lack of) routine. I realised I needed to make a change, to feel good about myself, and to age in a manner in which I had some control.

I was in San Francisco at the time. I heard about the Circus Center, and it captivated me. I had tried regular gyms, in vane. At the Circus Center, exercise made sense. One can not simply get bored and quit when you’re climbing a rope 8 meters in the air. It is, quite literally, a matter of life or death. Aerial work appealed to me as an exercise routine for its theatrics.

what made you decide to go through training at the circus centre?

I was immediately drawn to working on the vertical rope. It was so simple, so sexy, and hyper-masculine. I started working on the trapeze to build strength needed to train on rope.

has what you like about trapeze changed from when you started to now?

When I started on trapeze, and aerial work in general, I was an adrenaline junkey. I just wanted to do drops. The bigger, the faster, the better. Now, I’m much more into moving in the opposite direction, moving upwards through space, in an obsessively- control, slow-motion (appearing to gracefully defy gravity).

how did you get into teaching trapeze?

I started teaching trapeze when I moved to Costa Rica, 4 years ago. I began teaching as a way to learn Spanish. I soon discovered how amazing it felt to help others overcome their fears, to (not only watch, but to) help grow their self-esteem.

what do you hope your students take away from your classes?

From my classes, I hope the students take away the belief that they can do anything, with discipline and dedication, they can overcome the impossible.

what are the differences between teaching kids compared with teaching adults?

The biggest difference, I find, with teaching children is that they require much more imaginative play in class. I disguise conditioning exercises as games. With adults, I feel a need to present myself in a much more serious manner.

what is your favourite type of venue to perform at?

Currently, my favourite venue to present in is any rural community space, as part of a non-circus, variety show, as the audience has no expectations, and often no previous exposure to trapeze. Here my presence feels much more profoundly impactful.

what do you hope to convey when you perform?

When I perform, I hope that an audience will forget their worries, if only for a moment, and imagine how marvellously different life is for each individual.

what are the different aspects of performing and teaching in San Francisco compared with Costa Rica?

I’ve only taught in Central America (from Guatemala to Panama). I have no reference of teaching in other parts of the world. In Central America, Aerial arts is a very young art form, circus skills are traditionally shared at conferences, yearly campouts where we gather with the vigour of revolutionaries sharing the little information that each one has gained.

Reference Image

Maximus sent me several amazing shots to choose from for his portrait, but I think that this one really captures him. I love the unusual composition. The low angle gives a really cool depth effect on Maximus while he is hanging upside down. His jacket and hat also provide lots of cool shapes for me to work with.

Reference photograph taken by Michael Preston

Creative Process

This was my first ever oil painting and I began painting it at the  Introduction to Portraiture in Oil Paint workshop at WOTSO Workspace taught by Julia Townsend. I will describe the workshop in greater detail in an upcoming blog post.

I wanted to keep the colour palette more neutral than I often use as a nod to the black and white photograph. The focus is on the shapes of the jacket, body, hat and trapeze rather than on bright colours.


Progress photos of ‘Look to the Sky’


Initially I had a bit of trouble with the facial features. Specifically the eyes, because the brushes I was using at the workshop were quite large. However, once I got home and could use some of my smaller brushes I was able to get more detail.

Prints of ‘Look to the Sky’ are available in my online store


It was such a pleasure to attend Maximus’ workshop in Costa Rica. I love combining my travel with taking new classes. You can find his classes in Costa Rica at Vol’Air. Maximus is also involved with a social circus program that provides free classes and training for the local children called Circo Caribe.

Drawing inspiration for nude art from painting in a beautiful paradise

Drawing inspiration from painting in a beautiful paradise

Over the Easter long weekend I visited the beautiful paradise of my family’s shack at Port Julia. I was inspired by the glittering ocean scene to create a golden hued portrait of my stunning friend Dannielle doing yoga. The metallic shades and serene yoga pose seemed to go perfectly with the reflection of sun off the water.

‘Crossed Nude’: Acrylic on canvas



I have been coming to the beautiful paradise Port Julia (near Port Vincent on Yorke Peninsula) for as long as I remember. One of my favourite things to do there is to set myself up out the front of the shack and enjoy the ocean view whilst painting. It is such a serene location and always gets creative ideas flowing.

Also looking back on the artwork and the fact that I painted it at Easter time, perhaps the metallic colour scheme was influenced by the plethora of shiny easter egg wrappers that surrounded me. Who knew overindulgence could reap such rewards 😉

My idyllic studio location at the beautiful paradise Port Julia


Reference photograph

One of my lovely friends Danielle Hundertmark is a yoga teacher and sent me a beautiful photograph of her in a variation of cow face pose. She sent it to me a little late to be part of my upcoming yoga collection. I am still working on the full collection of yogis that I announced in February. Currently I am about half way through the 12 pieces.

So instead of painting Danielle’s yoga portrait in the negative painting watercolour style that I am using for the yogi collection, I decided to use one of my favourite high contrast acrylic painting methods.


Drawing inspiration from painting in a beautiful paradise Drawing inspiration from painting in a beautiful paradise

Side by side comparison of ‘Crossed Nude’ and the reference photograph


The photograph captures all the variations of light and shadow across her skin. This emphasises the muscles she used to hold the pose. So I wanted to do it justice in the high contrast style of acrylic painting that I have used several times previously in my ‘Inverse Diamond’, ‘Hanging by a Thread’ and ‘Hoop Trio’ aerial artworks. This is the first time that I have used this technique for a yoga portrait. I have tended to go for a softer watercolour style up till now.

‘Inverse Diamond’, ‘Hanging by a Thread’ and ‘Hoop Trio’ aerial portraits available in my online store


I think that this high impact style makes perfect sense for a portrait of Danielle. Recently I attended a Female Empowerment Workshop  on Body Love and Confidence that Danielle ran with her business partner Asti. They kindly let me display my artwork at the workshop. So the strength of the style matches the confidence that I see in Danielle.



Inverse Nude‘, ‘Poised Dancer‘, ‘Stretching Nude‘ and ‘Side Stretch‘ displayed at The Few Female Empowerment Workshop

Creative Process

In the progress photos you can see that I softened the high contrast style. I did this by using a sponge to pick up some reds and earth tones. This technique was also used to create some flow throughout the piece. The angle of the sponging from the lower left corner to the upper right was able to achieve this flow.

I wanted to give her skin a luminous quality which is why I decided to use various shades of metallic gold acrylic paint for this portrait.

Progress photos of ‘Crossed Nude’


Whilst working on this painting in the beautiful paradise Port Julia I had an audience. They provided a running commentary from my friends and family. There were even two puppies who kept an eye on my progress throughout 🙂


Painting ‘Crossed Nude’ with an audience


In the picture below you can see how I propped up the painting at each stage. Thus I got feedback from my audience 😉


I liked the way that the coppery tones in ‘Crossed Nude’ work with the stone wall at the Port Julia shack


I am a bit mad about metallic tones at the moment and am really happy with how they work in ‘Crossed Nude’.  If you would like to comission your own metallic themed artwork feel free to contact me at contact@the-art-of-flying.com. Artwork can make a great gift if you have a special occasion coming up!


‘Crossed Nude’ Framed prints available in my online store


How to use 4 media for rubber block printing nude art

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

I used to really enjoyed lino printing when I last did it in high school. However I also remember how sore my hands got after carving up a whole block. So when Michelle Stratton from the mixed media group I attend, suggested that I try a rubber block that is designed to be easily carved. This blog post is about what I thought of the rubber block and the 4 different media that I tried out for printing.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

‘Shadow Nude’ Black printing ink on midtone grey cardboard

The Steps Involved

  • preparing the block
  • printing with acrylic only
  • printing with black block ink
  • printing with block medium mixed with coloured acrylic paint
  • printing with coloured acrylic paint mixed with water based drying retarder

Preparing the block

The block that I purchased for this project was Ezy Carve Printing Block 30X30cm.  I sketched and then carved a nude bust into the rubber block.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printingHow to use 4 media for rubber block printing

On the left is my sketch and on the right is the carved image


I used my ‘Poised Nude’ watercolour painting as inspiration for the carving of the nude bust.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

‘Poised Nude’ Inspiration for the bust carved into the rubber block

Printing with coloured acrylic paint only

After I had carved my design into the rubber block I wanted to try it out straight away. Unfortunately I didn’t have any printing ink yet, so I decided to see what would happen if I just used normal acrylic paint.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printingHow to use 4 media for rubber block printing

How to use 4 media for rubber block printingHow to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Four versions of the print created with acrylic paint only


I first tried painting on the acrylic paint with a paintbrush. This resulted in a cool pattern created by the brush strokes. Unfortunately the acrylic paint dried in placed by the time I could create the print. Therefore there were parts of the paper that were stuck to the printing block. I still like the effect that was created by the first print, although next time I would try to use the brush stroke technique using ink or acrylic mixed with some drying retardant.

I then tried using acrylic paint of several colours mixed with water and applied more uniformly, using a roller. The first print was not very clear because I added too much water, but the subsequent two prints looked a little better.

I quite enjoy the unpredictable and uneven texture produced using acrylic paint mixed with water. In the future I may add other media on top of these pieces to see what other effects I can achieve in a mixed media artwork.

Printing with black block ink

Black block ink is what I had always previously used when I did lino printing during high school. So once I tried acrylic paint on its own, I went out and bought some black block ink and some block printing medium.  Black block ink has a more viscous, sticky consistency than acrylic paint. The printing ink that I purchased is still water based.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Showing the block covered with black printing ink


I applied a thin, even coating of ink over the surface of the rubber block with a roller. It was very easy to create the prints on paper there were no issues with the paper sticking to the block.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Three of the resulting prints, including ‘Shadow Nude’ available in my online store

The prints created were nice and crisp. I was even able to create a print on a piece of silk cloth. In the future I would like to experiment more with printing on fabrics, perhaps to create a repeating pattern.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Piece of silk printed using black printing ink

Printing with block medium mixed with coloured acrylic paint

The block printing medium is can be mixed with acrylic paint, to give the paint a consistency that is closer to that of printing ink. I got the medium because I wanted to be able to use lots of different colours without having to buy each ink individually.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Showing the black printing ink and the printing medium that I used


I mixed the block printing medium with acrylic paint on a tile using my roller and then applied it to the rubber printing block like I did for the black ink.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Printing block and tile where I mixed the paint and printing medium


I really liked experimenting with different colours to create different styles of this figurative artwork. The first print that I did had a little too much moisture because I had just washed my tile and printing block after using the black ink. So it turned out with some clumps at the edges of the design. In the future I would make sure to dry both surfaces more completely so that the water would not interfere with the consistency of the printing medium and paint mixture.

A multitude of prints


The subsequent prints were much more effective, with nice sharp edges. I really liked the way I could use the roller to blend one colour into another on the block to create some cool effects. Some examples of that can be seen in the photos below.


How to use 4 media for rubber block printingHow to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Two of my favourite prints created using printing medium combined with acrylic paint that I named ‘Neon Nude’ and ‘Dark Nude’

Printing with coloured acrylic paint mixed with water based drying retarder

Since my initial problem with using acrylic paint alone to print was that it was drying too quickly and causing the paper to stick, I wanted to try adding a drying retarder. I used a water based drying retarder and was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked.

How to use 4 media for rubber block printing

Three prints created using acrylic paint mixed with drying retardant


I was able to get nice sharp prints in vibrant colours. It was also interesting how it was more difficult to blend the colours on the block using the roller. Rather this medium gave sharper demarkation between the different shades, which is a cool and interesting effect.

My favourite prints

There were so many really cool prints to choose from, but I think that my absolute fave is the one using black ink where I added texture to the background space. I guess I am just a sucker for texture. The colour blend ones also really appeal to me. If you have seen my previous artwork you are probably aware that I like to try to blind people with bright colours 😉

‘Shadow Nude’, ‘Neon Nude‘, ‘Stripe Nude‘ and ‘Dark Nude‘ are all available in my online store


Let me know which one is your fave in the comments section.

A sketch on black paper inspired by Under the Covers Circus

A sketch on black paper inspired by Under the Covers

Two weeks ago I wrote about my sketch inspired by the Adelaide Fringe show Hand in Hand where the performers created artwork by applying paint to each other. This week I created another sketch called ‘Let Go’ inspired by a Fringe show Under the Covers. I wanted to try to capture the beautiful shiny silvery blue costume that Ellyse wore in the opening act of the show in a drawing on black paper.

‘Let Go’ Pencil, pastel and charcoal on black paper


Under the Covers was performed by some of the trainers and students from Zig Zag Circus, where I currently take classes. It was a fun show set in a hotel. I thought a few of the performers were absolute standouts, particularly the aerialists.

The opening number was an aerial silks performance by Ellyse Bunney in an absolutely stunning blue and silver costume. She had died her hair silvery purple which really set off the whole effect. It was a slow and graceful routine which was a perfect opening to the show.

Inspired by this shiny etherial act, I created the sketch ‘Let Go’.


Creative Process

I chose black paper to do this drawing in an attempt to capture the mood of Ellyse’s act. The metallic pencils contrast sharply with the black paper so that I could create the reflective tones of her costume. I concentrated on blue and gold for the coloured elements so that they would stand out.


Side by side comparison of ‘Let Go’ and the reference image of Ellyse Bunney in Under the Covers


Show lighting makes people’s skin unnatural colours. In the reference image, the skin is almost a bright pink colour. However, in my drawing I decided to use graphite and silver pencils for the figure. I wanted to make sure that the focus was on the swirls all along Ellyse’s legs as she uses them to hold up half of her body weight in the air.


A sketch inspired by Under the CoversA sketch inspired by Under the Covers

Progress photos of ‘Let Go’ 

Under the Covers

There were several other stunning performances during the show. One of my absolute favourites was Natalie’s Spanish web act where she played a jilted bride. I also really loved the aerial hammock act, which was performed by different students on each night of the show. It was great to see students performing so well!

A collection of the photographs that I took at the Under the Covers Fringe show


I always love attending cool shows and often draw inspiration for my artwork from them. If you or someone you know is going to be in a show in the Adelaide area I would love to hear from you and possibly come along 🙂

‘Let Go’ framed prints are available for purchase in my online store


If you want to let me know about your upcoming show, ask me any questions or commission a piece of artwork feel free to send me an email at contact@the-art-of-flying.com

Also just a reminder that I will still be collecting dance photos for my upcoming collection until the 31st of March.


How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

In the past I have not been a big fan of using stencils. Depending on the complexity of the stencil it feels a bit like using other artists work. However in recent weeks I have found that patterned stencils can be used to make my mixed media artworks more textured and exciting. This post describes the technique I used to add interest to two recent works using stencils.

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

‘Floating Yogi’: Mixed media including chalk pastel, oil pastel, stencils and acrylic paint


How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

‘Friendly Boatman’ mixed media including acrylic paint, stencils, chalk pastel and charcoal


My artwork focuses almost exclusively on the human body and the amazing feats it can perform. So I am always looking for techniques to create interesting backgrounds for my figurative artwork. In the mixed media group that I attend at Henley and Grange Arts Society, Michelle Stratton suggested that I try using stencils to add pattern and texture to one of my pieces.

One of the other people in the group kindly lent me some beautiful patterned stencils to give the suggestion a try. ‘Floating Yogi’ and ‘Friendly Boatman’ are the resulting pieces of artwork. The process of their creation is what I will describe in this post.


I used the stencils differently on each piece of artwork. On ‘Floating Yogi’ I used mandala style patterns to create interest in the background. I wanted to create a dreamy zen quality to the piece as the figure is in an inverted yoga pose. The background I created with the bright colour combinations is intended to make the viewer think the subject is meditating.

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

Applying stencil patterns with acrylic paint to ‘Floating Yogi’  and a close up image of the stencil surrounding the figure


In contrast to the stencil technique used for ‘Floating Yogi‘, stencils were used to add depth in ‘Friendly Boatman’. By adding patterns to the boat section of the artwork, particularly in the foreground, I was able to create the illusion of three dimensions in the piece.

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

Close up image showing the stencil pattern on the boat section of ‘Friendly Boatman’


Artistic Process

The ‘Friendly Boatman’ artwork was a commission for a 50th birthday where I was asked to create an artwork depicting someone in a Vietnamese hat.

I used watery, loose acrylic paint to create a background to represent the river around the boat. Dry paint, along with stencils and charcoal were used to create the wood texture in the boat.

The figure was drawn in using chalk pastels. Then to finish the piece, circles of metallic paint were added using a spray bottle in gold and bronze shades.

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

Progress photos of ‘Friendly Boatman’


Similar to ‘Friendly Boatman’, acrylic paint was used for the background of ‘Floating Yogi’. The first chalk pastel layers were then added to the figure. I drew the figure upside down (so that the face was up the way we normally see them), as I have some trouble drawing upside down faces.

Then I added the stencil patterns that I previously talked about. More layers of chalk pastel were added on top of the first so that the figure was more closely integrated with the stencils.

Finally some black and white oil pastels were added to emphasise the brightest highlights and darkest shadows.

How to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media artHow to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

Progress photos of ‘Floating Yogi’



‘Floating Yogi’ prints are available in my online store


How to use stencils for exciting mixed media art

‘Friendly Boatman’ prints are available in my online store


I quite like this style of large scale mixed media artwork creation, combining paint and pastel. This results in multiple different finishes for different parts of the pieces. I think that I will use the techniques described in this post again in the future.

The fringe circus show that created beautiful artwork

The fringe show that created beautiful artwork

A bit over a week ago I went to see Hand in Hand, a Fringe show in the put on by Vertical Insanity Circus which is made up of many of the trainers from Circobats Community Circus. The show was so creative and colourful that it inspired me to create this chalk pastel pencil sketch ‘Carry Me’.

‘Carry Me’ Chalk pastel pencils on mid tone grey paper



I absolutely love Adelaide during Fringe time. There is so much going on and things to see. This year has been even more special because now I know a lot of people in the Adelaide circus community through the classes that I have been taking at Circobats Community Circus and Zig Zag Circus. So that meant that I had a long list of shows to see this year that had my friends in leading roles.

It has been so lovely to see people that I know and learn from strutting their stuff. One show that I thought was particularly artistic was Hand in Hand.

Hand in Hand  was a playful acrobatics show where the performers used paint and their bodies to create beautiful colourful shapes. The show had such a charming innocence to the story line. For me, the transitions, musicality and facial expressions were a stand-out in this show. It was a well rehearsed and creative performance which inspired me to create a rainbow sketch inspired by one of the poses in the show which I called ‘Carry Me’.


Beautiful shapes and colours

The following photographs are my favourites that I took during Hand in Hand. I especially loved the range of shapes that the ensemble cast created through their acrobatic feats of strength and balance. The sunlight streaming in through the open Empyrean tent in Gluttony set off the colours of paint splattered bodies of the performers as they moved through a stunning series of tableaus of human connection.


Vertical Insanity Circus will be reprising their Fringe show Hand in Hand at Circobats Community Circus in Edwardstown on the 14th of April at 3pm and 7pm. I would thoroughly recommend that you go along if you are available to experience it for yourselves!

Creative process

I created this rainbow sketch on mid-tone grey A4 paper using chalk pastel pencils. My aim was to emphasise the coloured paint adorning the performers bodies and clothes by sketching them in a multitude of rainbow colours. I used a rough sketching style to mimic the splattered coloured paint.

In contrast to the performers, I kept the backs of the audience member’s heads black and white. This is to emphasise the brightness of the performers.

Side by side comparison of the reference image with ‘Carry Me’


It is always so nice to create artwork inspired by performers that I admire. I am super excited that in the near future I am going to be able to create two pieces of an aerial silks duo that I have admired so much for a long time. When these two amazing people agreed to be part of my blog I had a fan-girl party in my art studio. I wonder if you can guess who this pair are. More details to come soon…..

Are you a dancer who wants to be in my next art collection?

Dancers are often featured in beautiful works of art. Some of my favourite artists have used dancers as their muse for figurative artwork to great effect. I have decided that for my second collection I would like to create a series of paintings inspired by dancers. If you are a dancer of any kind and would like to be featured in my dancer collection, I would love for you to submit your interest at contact@the-art-of-flying.com

‘Uplifted’ Charcoal drawing on A3 paper


Starting to collect dancer photos

Currently I am hard at work on my first collection, featuring 12 beautiful yogi photos that were submitted in my last call for reference photographs. Last week I wrote a blog post about the first piece I tried to create for the collection and some of the challenges I faced. Once I have completed my yogi collection I want to get started straight away on my second collection that will be inspired by dancers. So that is why I wanted to put out my call for dance photo submissions nice and early.

What I am looking for

I am looking for photographs of dancers to create my second ever cohesive collection. Previously I wrote a blog post about what makes a great reference photograph for figurative artwork. I hope you can all use that as a guide for the kinds of pictures I am looking for.

You can also take a look at the photographs that I selected for my first collection of yogis.

Dancers of all kinds are welcome to submit their photographs. I am hoping to receive submissions from all sorts of dancers. Some examples of dance styles that I would be interested in hearing from are bellydancers, ballet dancers, contemporary dancers, latin dancers and burlesque dancers. However, I also would love to get surprised by dance styles that I may not have seen before or experienced.

So I am putting the call out to all you dance lovers out there to submit your favourite photographs of yourself in motion for consideration.

From the entries that I receive, I am planning to select 12 images to use as inspiration for my dancer collection.

‘Flying or Falling’ Acrylic and Charcoal on A3 paper

How to enter

I am so excited to see all your photos and hear the story behind them. So if you would like to enter send me an email with your photo attached at:


  • your name
  • photo attachment
  • a video of you dancing if you would like to include one
  • any information you would like to tell me about your experience with dance and the context of the photo
  • the name of the photographer who took the photo (even if it was you or a friend, as I would like to give the photographer credit)
  • any relevant social media pages/websites that you would like me to link to (eg. upcoming dance shows you are in that you might like to promote, dance instagram page etc.)
  • I am happy for you to send me several pictures if you are not sure which will be the most suitable.

‘Wings’: A painting portraying Angela Chu on flying silks

‘Wings‘ Acrylic on canvas

The fine print

  • entry open to people over 18 years of age
  • only submit photos of yourself
  • only submit photos I have permission to use to create artwork
  • I will be accepting entries for the next month until March 31st

I look forward to receiving your entries! Feel free to spread the word if you know anyone who would like to be in my collection. If you have any questions or want any more information feel free to email me at contact@the-art-of-flying.com

How my first negative painting was just a ‘painting’

How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'

Negative painting involves painting the negative space rather than the positive space, as artists most commonly do. It is a style that I have seen used to great effect with watercolour paints. For my upcoming yogi collection I am planning on using negative painting but have not previously tried it. In this blog post I will talk about my attempt at a first negative painting, which turned out to be more ‘painting’ than ‘negative painting’.

How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'

‘Amongst the Trees’ watercolour and masking fluid on watercolour paper


My first negative painting

It is always exciting to try new techniques and materials. I have had my eye on negative painting as something to try out for awhile now.

It may have been a bit too ambitious to plan to create an entire collection using a technique that I have no experience with, but no guts, no glory 😉 This is my first attempt at negative painting… and it didn’t go exactly to plan. It turns out that habits formed over a lifetime of painting the positive space, rather than the negative space are hard to break.

So ultimately I think that my first negative painting was not really a negative painting at all. However, I do still like the resulting artwork, so I thought I would share the process with you all.



For my first negative painting, I chose the reference photograph submitted in my recent call for yogis by Dianne Kong. I love the softness of the foliage in the background contrasting with the sharp focus on her form.

The colours in the reference photograph are natural and rich, but I wanted to add hints of pinks and purples. I thought that the addition of these colours would give the piece a more surreal quality.


Announcing the 12 yogis that will feature in my first collection

How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'

Side by side comparison of the reference image of Deanne Kong (Photographer Sofia Calado) and ‘Amongst the Trees’


Artistic Process

For this piece I wanted to use masking fluid as well as the negative painting techniques. I like masking fluid because it leaves some nice clean bright white spaces. It also gives structure to my work, as my watercolour style is generally quite loose.

I then painted a horizontal pattern in predominantly blue and purple watercolours . This pattern went over both the figure and the background to create the base layer of colour.

After that I started adding layers of paint around the figure to build up the background landscape. I also couldn’t resist adding some of the shadows to the figure.

Adding the shadow details within the figure was probably where I went wrong and this piece transitioned from being my first negative painting to being just a painting. I also think that I did not focus enough on creating depth in the figure using the negative painting techniques. Instead I put too much detail into creating the background effect.


How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'How my first negative painting was just a 'painting'

Progress photos of ‘Amongst the Trees’


Even though ‘Amongst the Trees’ didn’t really end up as a good representation of negative painting, I still really like it. I think that now that I have this experience when I didn’t achieve the effect that I was going for, that my next negative painting will be more successful.

I painted this picture as a start on my upcoming yogi collection, in which I plan to use negative painting techniques. This one will need to be re-created in order to fit into the collection assuming that the remaining negative paintings are more successful as a negative painting.

I want to create several cohesive collections of artwork this year and so next week I will be calling for photo submissions from dancers who would like to be in my second collection. That way I will have the photos all ready to get started once I have completed my yogi collection. So if you love dance, get your photos ready and follow all my social channels so you don’t miss out on the announcement!

Announcing the 12 yogis that will feature in my first collection

Announcing the 12 yogis that will feature in my first collection

Meet the 12 beauties whose images I am using for inspiration for my upcoming yogi collection! Thank you so much to everyone who sent in their photographs. I loved seeing them flow into my inbox. These 12 photographs are the ones that I chose to use to create the paintings in my first collection.

Meet the yogis

I love so much hearing about what people love about yoga, what motivates them and the stories behind the photos. So I thought I would briefly introduce each of the subjects to you in this week’s blog post.

Theresa Wagner

Photographer Theresa Wagner

“I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 16, but have been a mover since I was 2years old when I started to dance. I think there is something so beautiful about how people can connect through movement; it is organic and requires no training to start. I have developed a love of my body and how I move in it through yoga, and grown into myself through this constant practice. I love to teach people yoga in the hopes that they find this love of self as well”

Theresa teaches yoga at CorePower Yoga at the VA in Palo Alto, California. The photograph that Theresa submitted was taken in Thailand.

Tessa Overall

Photographer Noeline Overall

“I’ve been practicing yoga for awhile and find it a great physical and mental practice that gives me strength and balance.”

I have previously painted 3 portraits of Tessa in boat pose. Tessa is based in Adelaide, Australia and teaches at Cosmic Yoga Studio

Natasha Jones

Photographer Natasha Jones

“I teach just one small community class a week. I love being able to give the gift of yoga and seeing how it changes people. Yoga has helped me through many challenges.”

Nadine Johnson

Photographer Nadine Johnson

“I had just started dropping back into back bends. Standing up wasn’t too hard, anymore. I started working on my forearm balance and scorpion pose. 
I kept falling out of my scorpion. I finally made it a controlled fail, I mean fall. When I saw the timer light flicker on the camera, I lifted one leg up. Voila, fancy pic.
After that pic, I turned it into a sequence:
-Forearm stand
-Back bend on the forearms with fancy leg variations
-Transition to regular back bend by placing the hands & straigtening the arms
-And…stand up
It’s a fun sequence to practice and teach.”

I have previously painted a portrait of Nadine on lyra. She teaches yoga on retreats with Go Well Beyond and is based in San Francisco, California.

Michelle Griffith

Photographer Sylvan Christensen

Michelle explores the corners of canyons in Southeast Utah, sometimes upside down. She leads yoga adventure experiences in the Moab area through Wild Sol Adventures.

Mariela Soledad Alvarez

Photographer Mariela Soledad Alvarez

“I’m 37. I’m a translator and I work as a teacher, too. I have 2 children, Jeremias who is 15 years old and Candela is 13. I’ve just started aerial silk 2 years ago, handstanding 1 year ago, and yoga 1 month ago.”

Mariela is from the North of Argentina.

Lorie Parkinson

Photographer Bronwyn Muirhead Friend

“I started my journey of yoga 14 years ago after an accident that caused a serious Brian injury that started my life from the beginning again. Yoga is a tool that I have been learning to keep me out of the darkness and into the light.”

Lorie is from Canada.

Kate Turnbull

Photographer Kate’s Partner

“I am a passionate yoga student and teacher. Forever learning and growing through this wonderful practise. After a few years of practise I wanted to share yoga with others, and now teach several classes and week and run workshops though my own Yoga business ‘Turning Point Yoga’
Above is a photo from the room I teach at for a community class, and the garden I teach a morning summer flow class in. It is a class once a week in a community garden. The garden is next to a primary school and the children grown and tend to the garden plots. We had a large class each week and started the day with several rounds saluting the sun.
I feel very lucky to be able to be at a place where my ‘job’ is something I love so much. I leave and breath Yoga and it is truly a lifestyle choice.”
Kate is based in Adelaide, Australia.

Federica Marinelli

Photographer Michael 

“I started to train my flexibility 8 years ago and today I’m so excited to use in different disciplines. Bettering my flexibility and balance, trying to reach the perfect line is what gives me the right vibes and makes me feel confident with my body.”

Federica is from Rome, Italy and the photograph was taken on the Ponte della Musica (Music’s bridge) in Rome.

Emily Reuman

Photographer Leslie Granda-Hill

“I fell in love with playing with movement about five years ago, and we’ve been going steady ever since. I practice Ashtanga yoga every morning, and some form of acroyoga or other flow movement at night. I’m passionate about many forms of dance and movement research, both solo in my body and with a partner.”

Emily is based in San Francisco, California and her photo was shot at Burning Man last year.

Deanne Kong

Photographer Sofia Calado

Deanne is based in Adelaide, Australia and teaches with Flex Yoga and Massage. In the photograph Deanne is in ashtavakrasana (8 angle pose), dedicated to the sage Astavakra.
“There is a story behind his name as he was cursed by his father in the womb to be born crooked in eight places (although the deformity vanished once blessed by his father later on).

This is one of my favourite yoga poses because it feels light and uplifting, like you are defying gravity, but still safe being low to the ground. I love watching students learn this pose, it’s fun and they often surprise themselves at what they can do.”

Anzhela Malysheva

Photographer Fiona Ducker

“The body movement, the awareness, and the communication are considered
the essentials of the partner yoga by many. I guess the same thing can be
related to the individual practice. pictures or images of people in yoga
poses or during their practice are striving to communicate something: I
am strong, I am aware, I am humble, I have trust …
I practice yoga fairly often as it complements very well with my rock
climbing routine, and it is usually a very personal time and I do not
have camera or phone around me.”

Anzhela is based in Adelaide, Australia.

Thank you to those who submitted a photo

I am so pleased to have these beautiful photographs to use as inspiration for my upcoming yogi collection. Thank you again to everyone who sent in your photos, I feel so lucky to know that so many people are interested in my yoga collection. I can’t wait to create all of the paintings for this collection!

Looking forward

Now that I have the reference photographs ready for my yogi collection, I have started thinking about what the theme of my second collection will be. Soon I will start the collection process again so that I can get started on my second collection as soon as I am finished working on my first.

I am planning on creating paintings inspired by dancers for my second collection. For my dancer collection I would love to get photo submissions from a wide variety of dance styles like bellydancers, ballet dancers, latin dancers, contemporary dancers and many more.

So if you are a dancer, stay tuned for my next call for photo submissions that will be coming up in a blog post soon. In the mean time, start getting your dancing photos together and subscribe to my blog mailing list to make sure that you don’t miss out!

How I created my first aerial silks oil painting

This is the first aerial silks portrait that I have attempted in oil paints on canvas. I began painting this portrait of Ashe Giovanni before I published my first post about her. However, I soon realised that this painting would take a lot more patience and time than any painting before it. Finally I have completed this portrait and in this week’s blog post I will write about the creative process.


‘Looks Like Rain’ Oil Paint on Canvas


I have always been fascinated by oil paintings done by other people. However, until last year I had never been taught how to use them. I think what I found most intimidating was that I had no idea how to take care of my brushes. That was until I took Introduction to Portraiture in Oil Paint at WOTSO Workspace taught by Julia Townsend.

This workshop gave me the kickstart that I needed to learn the basics of using oil paint and start experimenting. I am not sure if oil paint will ever become my favourite medium, as I find it very difficult to be patient and wait for the paint to dry.

Soon after the workshop, I started working on this portrait of Ashe on aerial silks in oils on canvas.


Side by side comparison of the reference image and ‘Looks Like Rain’

Reference Image

I love this photograph of Ashe. She looks so beautiful and theatrical at the same time. Her delicate parasol held aloft while she hangs in a split amongst the leaves of the trees behind her really captured my imagination. Even though the photograph is black and white, I got a sense of softness from the gradient of tones on the figure and the leafy background. I wanted to capture that feeling in my portrait.

Reference image of Ashe on aerial silks taken by photographer Seth Thompson


Progress photos of ‘Looks Like Rain’

Artistic Process

I chose a natural colour palette made up of peachy pinks and soft yellows to represent the softness that I mentioned above. Since the colour palette is so warm I added a little bit of blue to my whites to provide some cool counterpoint.

I worked from the background forewords in layers. When creating the trees, I did not want to add too much definition so that they would not overpower the figure. I still wanted Ashe to be the star of the painting and to stand out from the background.

A peek over my shoulder whilst painting ‘Looks Like Rain’


I found painting the parasol to be the most challenging part of this piece. The translucent lace combined with the unusual perspective on the shape caused my issues. However, one advantage to using oil paint is that when I messed up my first attempt at the parasol, I could just wipe it off and start again.


My slightly cluttered studio space


In my next attempt at oil painting I would like to take greater advantage of its ability to blend. I feel like I have really only scratched the surface of what this medium can do.

To find out more about Ashe, read my previous blog post about her.