Watercolour painting created by Libby Hyett, art work named Little Girl Lost

Completing Water Crystals is in sight!

I'm filled with joy because I went for a walk on the beach today, to try and study the light hitting the water, and BOOM I've found what I was searching for.

Libby Hyett with her oil painting, Water Crystals, work in progress. Artwork
Feeling heaps cute; we took this photo on my birthday!

Entries for the Archibald Prize are closing soon. I don't have an entry this year. Alongside the Archibald (which is a portrait competition) the Art Gallery of NSW runs two sister Art Prizes - the Wynne Prize for landscape art and the Sulman Prize for 'genre' art, 'subject' art or a mural.... I think I've figured it out: the Sulman is a catchall for any artwork which is not portraiture (vis a vis the Archibald) or landscape (vis a vis the Wynne).*


No, seriously. A portrait is an artwork depicting an identifiable person. A landscape is a scene covering a great distance. And so a genre painting must (to my reasoning) be the opposite of a distance painting, ergo, be something up close.


Right, Water Crystals fits that criteria.


It's a foot (my foot) kicking up splashes while walking along the ocean shore. I feel like I could defensibly enter it in the Archibald Prize as a self-portrait. After all, it's life-sized and includes my foot.


Why should I paint myself as others see me? Why shouldn't I paint myself as I see the world?




Ultimately, though, I'm not narcissistic enough to bother with the argument. While I'm watching splashes in the water and following sprinkles raining down, I'm looking deeply into the scene. I don't see myself in the ocean; I don't even think about myself. So I have not been painting a self portrait.


Have I been painting a landscape? I would still want to argue no. In the vertical orientation I maximise the illusion of distance because I can; however, the image is basically on a 1:1 scale. I'm looking no further than two metres ahead. My focus is sharpest in about the centre and the remainder of the canvas is seen in my periphery.

Artist Libby Hyett, sketch of ocean shore, drawing light in water

Please allow me to refer you to the following nerd diagram:

During my walk along the shore, I found out that there's a system to how light refracts through water. The side of the wave facing the sun has a dazzling streak of concentrated light; behind which is a shadow; and the lee side of the wave reflects the blue sky (please note, this is an unbroken wave. I haven't included any white water or ocean foam in my composition because the airborne splashes will be white, and the contrast will be strongest if there's no white in the water on the shore).


The ocean is in motion and the system works for whichever angle the water is facing. Cool!


When I'm walking, I want to kick the splashes in the ocean because the flowing water creates a tension for me, and I need to break it! The splashes arc through the air until they reach an apex then collapse.


I'm being very careful with my painting.


I'm painting the white crystals, and I need to practice restraint, so I can keep the tension tight. If I paint too many crystals the arc won't appear natural. I need the movement to be caused by the foot and to follow through to the leader crystal which shimmers like a diamond filled with rainbows. THAT is the moment I am painting- the peak of the apex- the moment of pure resolution.


No, seriously. A portrait is an artwork depicting an identifiable person. A landscape is a scene covering a great distance. And so a genre painting must (to my reasoning) be the opposite of a distance paintike, be something up close.at I think I see." I work for so long on a painting because I know exactly what I'm trying to replicate. I don't know if I see what other people see (how can anyone know what anyone else sees?). I see things which are so beautiful I want to recreate them. That's what drives me as an artist - to share the moments of perfection trapped within my mind.



* This is my independent deduction and is likely to be inaccurate


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