The Creative Plan – Expressive drawing

Project_1_D4_Graphite_pencils

After spending so much time doing controlled exercises it was time to get messy. Expressive drawing still benefits from some control or discipline, but to me it’s drawing with feeling and energy, using your whole arm to draw and not worrying about mistakes. Even if it’s not your thing practicing this kind of drawing is great for dusting off cobwebs or warming up before your main project.

Exercise_1_D4_header

Results

Technical pencil – 2B lead

I was hoping to be very controlled with this but whenever I sketch freehand it becomes very loose and proportionately inaccurate. Why did I want to control it? Possibly as it was a tech pencil and would have been hard to get line variation and the lead would have kept breaking if I drew too quickly.

Exercise_1_pinecone_1Exercise_1_pinecone_image_1It looks like it’s spewing forth pine cone scales, which I don’t mind, however it’s not how I planned to approach this initially. The process was equivalent to speaking out loud before thinking about what you’re going to say.

2B pencil

Exercise_1_pinecone_2Exercise_1_pinecone_image_2I quite like this one, though not entirely reminiscent of a pine cone. It was hard to get various levels of tone with a 2B. I’m pleased with myself for keeping the top left section clean and ‘under worked’ to give the whole picture light direction.

6B pencil

Exercise_1_pinecone_3Exercise_1_pinecone_image_3This grade allowed me to give the pine cone more volume. I had to keep sharpening my pencil because if I had let it dull down the linework would have created an overall flatness to the shape – having that slight contrast with the finer linework and the denser lines gives the subject more depth.

POI – Point of Interest

Something I will elaborate on another time. In a nutshell, the artwork I’m always attracted to will have one or more areas that I keep going back to and get lost in. They may not necessarily be the busiest areas or the most colourful, but they keep luring my eye back wanting to explore it more and find out why it engages me so much.

Exercise_1_pinecone_4Exercise_1_pinecone_image_4I try to keep that in mind (when I remember) and as this was a line exercise, my linework had to generate that interest or energy. It’s always about balances for me as that creates contrast. Here it’s not only line widths or tonal balance but quiet areas versus busier ones; longer, fluid lines against short jabs and dots (not continuous line obviously); controlled pencil work versus expressive.

Exercise_2_D4_header

I chose portraits with lots of feeling and emotion as they are perfect for expressive drawing. I went online and found some amazing photos, which are more like artworks, to help me with this exercise. I used both 2B and 4B pencils.

Results

Anger by Mahesh Balasubramanian
Photo reproduced courtesy of  Mahesh Balasubramanian www.maheshb.com/portraitsmono

The first exercise was me being me, not really planning too much ahead, using my instincts and dive bombing into it. Though I decided to stop when I realised my face, compare to Mahesh’s incredible photograph, was verging more on being sinister than just angry. I couldn’t see how I could change it. The more I tried to fix it, particularly around the eyes, the muddier it became. I wasn’t too pleased with the outcome, but I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of gestural drawing –its impressionistic and spontaneous making it very hard to reverse.

Exercise_2_first_stage_A
First stages

 

Exercise_2_final_stage_A
Last stage, before I abandoned it

I do like the freeness of it but it needs to be balanced with more controlled areas like the mouth, nose and eyes. It’s really hard to switch from high gear to cruise control.

 

Exercise_2_first_stage_B
The original photo reference by Jonathon Rosser can be viewed on flickr

The next drawing I approached with more thought and the results are much better. The nose and possibly forehead could have been a bit better but I’m really happy with the variety of linework and texture, which took a lot of restraint not to overwork it.

 

Exercise_2_stages_B

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Results

Light

A much better result. I started off by using the continuous line method for my structural lines then towards the end added speckly and short lines for contrast.

Exercise_3_light
The original photo reference by Jonathon Rosser can be viewed on flickr

Another factor that does count, as I’ve had this happen before, is that if you are spending the whole day drawing it can take a while to warm up, so by this stage I was feeling more confident, therefore more instinctive too.

 

Exercise_3_stages_light

The other thing I did this time was before I began I spent a few minutes studying the subject – seeing where all the highlights were, the mood of the image, what areas were of interest to me. I saw it as a whole before I drew the first line so I could then see my drawing in its entirety as I was working on it.

Dark

This one was challenging because the top of his head was cropped off. It was difficult knowing where or how to end my drawing. As an overall observation I need to work more on my eyes and noses, despite today’s exercises not really focusing on drawing portraiture per se.

Exercise_3_light_start
Early stages

I do like his beard and mouth. As the subject had darker skin I found myself wanting to shade in the more subtle areas where again I was falling into my habit of focussing on sections rather than seeing it as a whole. Which was also counter-productive with regard to the areas I kept working on, as they were losing a lot of tonal value and volume. I was also really conscious of not slowing down and becoming too controlled.

Exercise_3_light_finished
Final stage. The original photo reference by Jonathon Rosser can be viewed on flickr

I managed to pull back but the cropped head kept throwing me off and I was subconsciously trying to compensate for it. Apart from the anatomical ‘bumps’ I’m quite happy with this exercise.

 

Exercise_4_D4_header

I bypassed this exercise as I felt I had covered it with the last one.

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Results

I attempted this before but it failed. The idea was a smudgy, textural feel where all the light areas are erased out. My original test was admittedly half concocted but the paper I was using had a rough tooth which I don’t feel allowed the eraser to slide and smudge the pencil work enough. This time round I used a smoother paper and built up more pencil layers for the base.

Exercise_4_eraser_1
The original photo reference by Jonathon Rosser can be viewed on flickr

 

This exercise turned out better than I expected. I used a mix of 3B and 4B. The animated gif shows how I layered the base tones in a very broad hatching style, this was to build up the darker areas as well as the surface planes.

Exercise_4_eraser_stages_1Once it started to take shape I introduced the use of the eraser as a pencil to create the lighter tones and highlights. I also started to use the graphite pencils to draw in the detail and more controlled shading.

Exercise_4_eraser_1_detail
Detail

I enjoyed it so much I did another one. It wasn’t just the final result I was happy with but I enjoyed the process of creating it and seeing it develop. Exercise_4_eraser_2

Mikus Lasmanis by Errikos Andreou
Photo of  Mikus Lasmanis reproduced courtesy of Errikos Andreou. www.errikosandreou.com
Exercise_4_eraser_early_stage_2
Early stage
Exercise_4_eraser__detail_2
Detail

This is a technique I definitely will practice more, and it will be interesting to see if it translates well across various subject matter or if its only suited to energetic or gritty/textured themes. One of the keys was also using two different graded pencils – one as a base, the other for detail and volume.

 

utensils
Tools used today – graphite pencils and cut off pieces off an eraser

Your_thoughts_post_itA lot of people comment on how loose and expressive my style is and that it’s very confident too. This is largely due to having spent my childhood drawing with pens rather than pencils – I couldn’t rub out my mistakes so had to train myself to be more sure with every line I drew. Then in highschool I was introduced to life drawing where I spent several years practicing quick gestural drawing, the completely opposite approach!

I never thought these techniques would have such a long lasting effect not only on my work but the way I approach new ideas. Do you have a similar beginning where what you learnt earlier in your life carries through to what you do now?

 

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The Creative Plan – Patterns

Project_1_D3_Graphite_pencils

I’ve never really been into pattern/shape making. It’s something I would only subconsciously do when I’m in a meeting or on hold wth customer service purely to stop me from falling asleep.

Don’t get me wrong, patterns are cool. I love patterned fabric and am envoius of designers who can balance multiple shapes as well as colours. So I was very keen to start today’s exercises. They were still just black & white tasks in pencil but for someone like me who can’t work with more tha n3 colours it was a good baby step.

Exercise_1_D3_header

Results

Exercise_1_D3_prep_grid
Prepared grid

I started off small and randomly coloured in triangles of 3 different tonal values, so a set of four boxes would contain two lots of white, ligh, mid and dark triangles. I didn’t worry about the order or alignment of the tones, just let it happen instinctively. I don’t evem know why I chose triangles either.

I did fall into a few traps where I was building up too many dark triangles in one area because I wasnt thinking ahead, but as a whole it doesn’t look too bad. Keeping it to only four shades gave it some consistency and flow when it was lacking in other factors.

Exercise_1_D3_geometric_grid_AThe second one was a repeated tonal pattern built over a sequence of eight squares. I was a lot more thoughtful in the balancing of the different tones and no surprise the result has more fluidity.

For instance, comparing the two, when reading them from top to bottom, your eyes flow more smoothly over Example B. But I do like the scatter gun energy of Example A. B is graceful and harmonious, A is spontaneous and unconvential.

Exercise_1_D3_geometric_grid_B

I tried to just do square patterns but it wasn’t giving me enough complexity. I did find myself trying to balance it out symmetrically, despite not having a game  plan other than not to overwork it…which probably should have happened a tad earlier.

Exercise_1_D3_geometric_grid_C

I left out shading and focussed on solid squares. The intention was for it to be symmetrical but perhaps my creative subconscious isn’t inclined that way as I lost it in the middle.

Exercise_2_D3_header

A-brunnipennis-dorsal_australian_museum
Image sourced from the Australian Museum

When I first came across zentangle artwork online my immediate reaction was that this is just doodle drawing, the way a kid decorates their school books with, something with no thought process behind it. However, in the hands of the right creative thinking it can become something really exquisite and beautiful. I’m in awe with the amount of detail, thought and effort that goes into building one.Exercise_2_D3_zentangle

Exercise_2_D3_zentangle_quick_sketch
option for another

Results

However, I don’t think its my cup of tea. Although I’m happy with my first attempt at a zentangle I struggled trying to come up with pattern after pattern after pattern, while also being conscious that my choices must work within the shape and size of the area. I really didnt enjoy this at all.Exercise_3_D3_header

Results

I started late today and only had time to create three, so I kind of merged some of the options into one. Tiled pattern design is also something I’ve never attempted before. I learnt how to sew last year so it has made me more aware of fabric patterns and it’s rules of design.

This exercise wasn’t really about that though as it would require more than just an afternoon to dissect what makes a good pattern design. It was merely a framework for me to structure an exercise that featured repeated patterns.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_geometric_1Example 1: In keeping with today’s theme I stayed with the geometric pattern approach. I didn’t use rulers or elipses, etc. (except for the base grid) so none of the shapes or spacing are accurate. Again, I applied a similar tactic to my very first exercise where all the tones are randomly chosen. For me it lacks spark and character.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_geometric_pattern_1

After I scanned everything in, I quickly tiled my pattern to see what it would look like repeated. This might work better if it was balanced out with say, one larger flower device or a reversed block. But again, it’s not the point of this exercise.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_line_1Example 2: When I created these exercises it was some time ago so I can’t quite remember what my intention was. I dont believe I was to take the line pattern example so figuratively but after a day of drawing and colouring in squares and triangles, I needed to draw something more substantial! It’s a mix of No. 3 and 5.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_line_pattern_1I kept with the floral theme primarily because as the day wears on, it’s so easy to get hit with creative block. Time can be wasted having to come up with ideas just to carry out these tasks ‘What should I draw? No, that’s too hard. No, that’s too easy.’  By having prepared themes, images, templates or even props there’s less disruption with my creative process.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_figure_1

Example 3: This was a combination of the last three. I return to patterned shapes, but as you can see in the centre I lost count and got quite confused with all my overlapping petals. However, I do like the feel to this one. It’s very sensous and delicate.

Exercise_3_D3_tile_line_figure_1

Conclusion

Although it’s my first attempt at creating with patterns and geometric shapes I’m feeling it’s not my thing. It doesn’t seem to engage my mind enough. A lot of it felt more about keeping between the lines.

Your_thoughts_post_itThe constant need to create new shapes or patterns along with making sure my ‘colouring-in’ never clashed with other sections was sapping all my creative energy. At no point did it feel instinctive. However, I will endeavour to try again, there is definitely the possiblity that I didnt push myself further enough with it. I do love the works of Gustav Klimt and Paul Klee, both of whom did inspire this whole day initially.Quite possibly when I start using different mediums it may reveal more.

The Creative Plan – Cross-hatching

Project_1_Graphite_pencils_Day2Exercise_1_D2_header

ex1_crosshatch_mug

I chose a mug because of its cylindrical shape, its always harder than something with a straighter edge. Also, I think I’m not alone when I say the the mouth of any cup, glass or bowl can be really tricky not only in getting the shape and angle right, but where the highlights and shadows begin and end.

The reflective surface was another challenge – I had to place some black card underneath it to stop everything sitting on my table reflecting off it. I also noticed that whenever I raised my head up from my drawing to refer to the real mug, the slightest angle variation gave me different reflective shapes.

ex1_crosshatch_mug_art

Results

I didn’t look like I was getting anywhere but by the end I was fairly happy with it. I’m happier more with the exterior than the interior of my mug.

ex1_crosshatch_stages_mug
The first couple of stages

Exercise_2_D2_header

I grabbed a padlock to draw because it had a nice simple, solid shape that included curves and straight edges.

Results

Ex2_crosshatch_padlock

I’m sure there are more cross-hatching styles but the three listed are the ones in common practice, and the most distinctive.

Line hatching – (Top drawing) where all lines are drawn in the same direction or angle.

On a contoured surface it was really had to resist shading around the edges – it was going against my natural instincts. It does look nice, though it was hard to layer the darkest areas because this technique builds up colour over the same area or grain of the paper, which can only handle so much.

Cross-hatching – (Middle drawing) building up tone by varing the angle of linework with each sucessive layer.

I quite like the multi-prism pattern its created. The shiny surface of the body isn’t as convincing as the hinge (or whatever it’s called). It does feel a lot more weighted compared to the line hatch version.

Ex2_crosshatch_padlocks_art

Contoured hatching – (Bottom drawing) the layering of linework follows the object’s surface contours.

It looks a little weird. The whole thing looks as though it’s been wrapped in cotton. However, the reflective surface is good and it feels weighted well.

Overall, I prefer the second version, primarily because the texture created also gives the drawing some personality. It’s not just a drawing attempting to replicate a real object – it embraces the technique and almost flaunts it, making you want to look closer at the detailing and lose yourself in the linework.

Exercise_3_D2_header

My model for today was this little fella I bought at a Salavtion Army (thrift) store, he caught my eye as I walked passed. When I went in, I literally said (and unintentionally) “How much is that dog in the window?” The store manager was waiting for someone to say that. I’m glad I fell for it!

Ex3_crosshatch_toy

Results

For this exercise I used 2B, 4B and 6B pencils. I completed the 2B version first and it was only after finishing the 4B that the differences were more obvious. I’ve always preferred darker pencils to 2Bs but I’ve never done a comparison test.

Ex3_crosshatch_toy_2B_art
2B pencil

The 2B, on reflection, was a lot more labour intensive. In this case you can see that in order to create the fluffiness of the dog, the linework ends up being harsher, as well as more energetic.

Ex3_crosshatch_toy_4B_art
4B pencil

With the 4B being a softer grade it was easier to graduate the tones without necessarily layering my linework, meaning in one stroke of the pencil I could change the tone from light to dark quite easily, in a tapering movement. So much easier to create darker tones. The shapes feel more defined because I could get more depth tonally and therefore, I think, more personality.

The drawing has more volume and it involved less effort. It only took me half an hour to finish compared to the 2B which was about forty-five minutes.

Ex3_crosshatch_toy_6B_art
6B Pencil

The 6B was so soft, it’s probably suited to larger-sized drawings (these were set on A5). It was so sensitive I had to really control the pressure, making it harder to create variation in the darker tones. The pencil also went blunt more regularly so required regular sharpening which tends to interrupt the flow of rendering.

Ex3_crosshatch_toy_comparison_art
Comparison from left to right  – 2B, 4B, 6B

Exercise_4_D2_header

Results

Under: My first attempt was a crumpled piece of paper – but the size of it and the amount of creases in it would have taken me the whole afternoon. So I opted for a tissue.

Ex4_paper_attempt_treratment
The crumpled piece of paper was scrapped
Ex4_light_first_attempt
First attempt – but subject was too complicated for the exercise at hand

I’m not sure if cross-hatching suits drawing something so light and soft. I think I succeeded in the whiteness of the subject, but maybe the cross-hatching made the end result feel a bit heavy and clunky..?

Ex4_tissue_treratmentEx4_light_treratment_artPossibly instead of shading in every tone I saw, despite how subtle, I shouldn’t have put it in. I think I should have been more selective about what to put in so that my drawing retained all the qualities of the tissue.

Over: Like the other cross-hatching exercises it never looks like much in the beginning, so much so that I think I’ve totally ballsed it up, only seeing it come together towards the end.

Ex4_choc_treratment

However, this was looking more like an iceberg than a chunk of chocolate and as per usual I started to fill in the lighter areas with tone too much. Thankfully I was more aware of it while in progess so I removed most of it.

Ex4_dark_treratment

Before I finished I decided to add some contoured line-hatching purely to define the subject matter rather than for tonal values.

For instance, the rounded surface on top of the main piece – although that heavy shading along that left edge doesn’t exist, what little shading I originally had there wasn’t expressing the moulded shape enough. By adding contoured hatching it helps you make that mental connection with the typical shape of a block of chocolate.

I also had to use some creative license on the base of the chocolate too. The piece I broke off was a corner section so it had clean cut sides, and didn’t have the yummy chocolate chunkiness I wanted, so added diagonal lines to give it character and much needed contrast.

Your_thoughts_post_itCross-hatching is not something exclusive to pencil but it is associated by tradition. Although if you do a google search on “drawing, sketching, pencil” there aren’t many finished examples where cross-hatching is employed. Maybe some people find it too intrusive. Admittedly it is very labour intensive before you see any results. Personally, I find it adds a lot of energy and character to the drawing. Hell, if it was good enough for Rembrandt it’s good enough for me. Your thoughts?

 

The Creative Plan

A personal journey exploring art making to find out who I am as an artist. See post.

Project_1_Graphite_pencils_Day1

Exercise_1_header

I ruled up a few squares (10x10cm) and using a 2B pencil drew an egg pre-dawn, morning, noon, afternoon and dusk. I chose an egg because it had a clean, simple surface and shape, but with some level of complexity as it had no hard edges, and I had a few left in my fridge too!

Results

6.30am
6.30am

Unfortunately it was a very overcast day, all…day…long. Any changes in the light were really subtle, so I gave up after the 4.00pm drawing.

Ex1_930am_egg
9.00am

The only one that was different was the 6.30am drawing. But that was partially due to me drawing in very low light conditions where I could barely see the paper, and had only woken up five minutes before I started, so was still a bit bleary-eyed.

 

Ex1_100pm_egg
1.00pm

The toughest part was locating the darkest area on the egg, every time I would look at it, it seemed to shift. If I darkened too great an area, the egg would have looked flat. It may well have been the diffused sunlight I was dealing with.

 

Ex1_400pm_egg
4.00pm

I tried to omit linework work too, but they crept in a few times. Despite the ordinary results, it’s probably worth attempting again on a brighter, sunnier day.

Exercise_2_header

This exercise consisted of five separate drawings, starting simple and rising to more complex in regard to tonal values. I used a 3B pencil.

Results

Ex2_PebbleI kept the subjects simple in shape and as plain as I could. I didn’t want to get bogged down in capturing patterns or surface graphics. I drew these under natural light, again on an overcast day, so I don’t know if that effected what I saw.

I tried really hard to keep the images clean but I kept overworking them. Initially I wasn’t happy with my pebble but upon reviewing it, it has that smooth slightly dappled texture that I liked.

Ex2_pebble_art

The flashdrive and silk ribbon I feel weren’t as successful. The angle I was drawing the flashdrive at wasn’t reflecting anything so it looked quite flat. In this instance, I probably should have changed view or used creative licence and added it, as it doesn’t come off as being made out of plastic at all. I also overworked the slithers of white highlights too.

Ex2_FlashdriveEx2_flashdrive_art

The ribbon isn’t as bad (I forgot to take a photo at the time), it does have the silky feel of the material and the twists seem believable. However, I don’t think it has the lightness of the ribbon due to me going a bit hardcore with the shading.

Ex2_ribbon

Ex2_ribbon_art

The shot glass was a better result. I managed to retain the weighted feel of the thick glass. There were a lot more refractive shapes in the real object, but the softness of my 3B pencil kept filling in the finer detailed areas so I left it.

Ex2_shotglassEx2_shotglass_art

The sock… does it “look” like a black sock? I picked a dark coloured sock because I thought it would be more challenging to seek out the shadows.

Ex2_sock

Ex2_sock_art

Exercise_3_headerResults

It was tricky not to draw in lines. It does look like I have drawn quite a few in, but some are the shadows sitting beneath the matchsticks or the grain of wood that runs along the length of them. I do feel I captured the lightness of the matchsticks.

Ex3_matchsticks_1ex3_matchsticks_art_1

This was a fun exercise as they were quick to execute, so many compositions to be made and they have a nice, clean shape. It would be nice to return to this again.

Ex3_matchsticks_ex3_matchsticks_art_2

 

Exercise_4_header

I had to prep this exercise well in advance as I knew if I would waste time trying to think of a layout to “colour in”. So I developed the character and scene during my lunch breaks at work, including all the seasonal nuances. Later I transferred them to cartridge paper ready for the day.

ex4_seasons_original_art
Initial template design
ex4_seasons_template_art
Customising the template with a scanned printout for the summer and autumn scenes

Results

By the time I got to it I only had time to finish one, summer. However, I enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to fit in the rest at other times during the week. Luckily it was the Christmas break so had opportunity to get them done.

ex4_seasons_summer_art_LRex4_seasons_autumn_art_LRex4_seasons_winter_art_LRex4_seasons_spring_art_LR

Your_thoughts_post_itEveryone starts out learning how to draw with the trusty graphite pencil, but many of us move on, sometimes never to return. Why is that? Is it because it’s so simple that it exposes our flaws to easily or that it requires far more discipline than we care to commit to. I know there are lovers of pencil out there, and I would love to hear your thoughts on what this medium gives you that others can’t. Or if its just endless frustration of smudge marks all over your paper that somehow transfer up your elbows.

Thanks for your time,
Meegan

 

 

Bon voyage

I made a significant lifestyle change last month where I ended full-time employment and went part-time. Although it was only a two-three year stint (a temporary situation after a stretch of freelancing), minimising my working days to just three days a week will be a new circumstance for me.

freelance_square
Illustration opportunities as a graphic designer

My whole working life has been as a graphic designer. I have had some amazing experiences and opportunities but I’ve also worked some incredibly long and hard hours in very stressful conditions. I may not have done everything a graphic designer is capable of achieving, but I came close to it. There’s nothing more it can provide me in terms of challenges and motivation. Occasionally I was given the chance to create illustrations however, they were always designed to suit the client’s brief rather than my own taste.

misc_art
The beginning of my exploration

So in my spare time I would paint and draw what I liked. It was an escape from the daily deadline-driven drudgery. Breaking away from the computer was uplifting and freeing physically and mentally. I guess it was the beginning of my personal art renaissance.

taikoz_square
Artwork commissioned and created as gifts for my taiko community

All Aboard

I was given opportunities to travel as an artist-in-residence and I also joined some local sketch groups. Being around other artists, professional and amateur alike, I learnt so much and more importantly I was now drawing regularly. My range in subject matter and art mediums expanded as well, but I knew there was more to discover.

antarctica
My first experience drawing landscapes and on location, in Antarctica

That’s why I have decided to make illustration a priority in my life. I want it to be my new career. The only problem is I don’t know what I want to do. I like all sorts of mediums. I like drawing from life and from my imagination, and I like detailed work as well as being expressive. There is nothing that screams out as “my thing”. I’m not even sure if I want to do commercial or published illustration, or create my own products. And is online the way to go? Or through retailers or a market stall? This is what I need to find out first.

onlocation
Finding any opportunities to practice sketching on location

Also, I feel it’s the right time as we now live and breathe in an online world where everything from getting small quantity print runs to promoting your artwork and profile use to be an expensive step or an exclusive one not open to amateurs or unestablished artists, and it didn’t necessarily guarantee you success either. The internet not only provides more accessible services and a global audience but there are choices within that as well.

online projects
Worldwide participation art projects initiated online

I also feel this worldwide community celebrates individuality too. It encourages anyone, despite their skill level, to follow their heart and pursue what they love. As long as it is, from the heart.

submissions
Submissions for online retail websites competitions

Full speed ahead

I’m calling it ‘The Creative Plan’ and every Monday will be dedicated to this grand plan. The underlying motive is to explore and find out what I like through exercises. At this stage I cannot think about what would work commercially as it will influence my endeavours in a negative way. With my design background it’s too easy to manipulate your work to make it “marketable” or as the term goes “on trend”. I have to be true to myself and develop my own instincts.

creative_plan_notebook_cover

I’m using a structured plan rather than freewheeling my way in an unhinged, emotionally driven “go with what you feel” approach because, well, that’s not me. I am a little anal in planning things, I am a coverer of any possible scenarios type of person, and if I like or dislike something I want it to be based on more than first impressions. So having a structured plan wont let me overlook anything that might be worth trying because of my limited experience.

day1_mugs

In a methodical manner I will carry out exercises specific to a given medium. I’ll include tasks that require tight, detailed rendering to expressive gestures, and cover subjects like portraiture, still life, on location, fantastical, fashion illustration, mixed media and calligraphy, to name a few.

day1_shelf

The exercises will be simple as I don’t want any to continue on to the next day. It’s not about completing a nice portfolio of artwork but what I can learn from the experience. This also means I will be making notes and reflecting on each outcome, which I hope to share with everyone.

day1_tools

On the horizon

deskSadly, I can only dedicate one day a week to this (the other days will be spent completing long-standing projects I started a decade ago). It will be hard living off and managing a smaller income, but I think the financial sacrifice will be worth it. It’s where my head and heart is. Plus, I’ve never studied fine art so this will be as close as I get to that. It’s all getting exciting as I have been concocting this for sometime and now it’s finally happening. I’m feeling a bit girlishly giddy about it.

Your_thoughts_post_itIt would be great to hear from anyone who has done something similar or plans to. Any thoughts or words of advice would be helpful. Did it change your art or your approach to art? How did you manage it with everything else in your life.

 

Thanks for your time!
Meegan

Hey St Peters!

Who likes storage containers?! I’m not talking about any Scandinavian interlocking eco-friendly pantry organisers. I’m talking about the big mac of storage containers, like so…

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You know you are an artist when an industrial site gets you excited. So on a cool winter’s day I met up with the Sydney Sketch Group in St Peter’s, an inner city suburb that is round the corner from Sydney International Airport, hence the storage facilities nearby.

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Artline pen and waterbrush pen

This particular area is pretty much boxed in by highways or main roads but our club organiser found these little lanes behind a pub that gave us some great views, and room to set up comfortably without inhaling petrol fumes!

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4B graphite pencil

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4B graphite pencil and Artline pens

Rediscovering Sydney

My work had moved office location, and the final destination wasn’t ready yet. So we were temporarily located to the end of George St, which is the more touristy part of town. It’s a hop, step and jump to the Harbour Bridge, the Rocks and Sydney Opera House, plus several museums and galleries.

To make the most of our short time in this part of town, I went out a few times to sketch. IMG_0664_LR

Circular Quay
Circular Quay – Artline pen and waterbrush pen
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Memory is Creation without End, Macquarie St
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Watercolours and artline pen
The Rocks Susannah Place Museum
Susannah Place Museum. Photo courtesy of https://sydney-city.blogspot.com.au
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Watercolours and artline pen
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Artline pen and waterbrush pen
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Macquarie Place Park. Artline pen and watercolours
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Lane behind George St
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Watercolours

CNY 2017

Chinese New Year came a lot earlier this year as it follows the lunar cycle rather than a set calendar date. I missed most of our lion dance performances this season so only did Friday and the weekend but that was exhausting enough! Usually I feel this tired after doing 2 weeks worth, not three days – I must be getting old.

I’ve written (plus sketched) in more detail in previous posts about what lion dancing is so if you would like to check them out please click on these links 2014, 2016.

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Supplies – graphite pencil and inktense pencils

Lion dancing is always on the move – not just the performances themselves. We cover so much of Sydney and constantly broken up into teams that at anytime we could be sent off in different directions. So everything we need is carted around with us.

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Unloading – 6B Pencil
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Outside Star City – 7B pencil
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Waiting for a car space – 6B pencil

It can also make parking an issue. This sketch was done at the Marigold restaurant in Chinatown. It’s four levels up with a very small ground level and basement carpark. Despite the number of years we have been booked here they still never leave car spaces for us. There is this constant ritual of having to negotiate space so we can unpack.

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Macquarie Centre loading dock – 6B pencil

When we do shopping centres some at least allow us to use their loading docks.

Raise a glass

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6B Pencil
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6B Pencil

During this period large Chinese restauarants offer banquet deals – you book a table and they serve you a set menu with a lion dance included. Its such a celebrated event that in some restaurants its become more of a spectacle. When the lion dance starts it gives everyone the licence to go mad.

 

 

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6B Pencil

Traditionally what happens is a table will offer the lion a red packet of money. The lion will come over to their table and collect it in its mouth. Many people place their red packet on a cup of tea or a glass of wine or beer with the intention that the lion also shares a drink with them, like spreading good cheer amongst the table.

Some like to take it to another level and cheekily stack the red packet on a tower of wine glasses, beer bottles, saucers, cups, bowls or teapots. The idea is that the lion “swallows” the entire tower and when its finished pulls away to reveal a different combination of cups and so on. Occasionally they are a little too high, or the lion head is a little too drunk (can happen) that it all comes crashing down. Thankfully the atmosphere is so lively and jubilant even the managers aren’t upset with the mess and damage. Though not so pleasant when the lion reverses into a chandelier or expensive light fitting.

 

 

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Image courtesy of JWK LionDance Assoc

At the Marigold there is a low stage at one end where we set up the drummer and cymbal players. We also pop colourful paper confetti that makes the kids go crazy. They flock to the stage and collect it handfuls. Basically once they’re on the stage they don’t leave and jump and dance around.cny_2017_006_LR.jpg

 

A couple of little girls watched me draw, almost sitting right on top of me. As I was doing this sketch below, I hadn’t drawn the faces in yet as the drummer and cymbal players swapped with new people halfway through my drawing. They were completely different sizes or stood differently so it threw me a little. One of the girls asked me to finish the face of the cymbal player [left hand side] which was completely blank. I just drew in his glasses and left it, but she wasn’t satisfied so she took my pencil and drew in the eyeballs for me. They were so good I decided to leave them in – she drew with the book upside down too you know!

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7B Pencil and Inktense pencils

Chinese New Year is all about family, and we are seeing a young generation of lion dancers taking shape with my friend’s kids. cny_2017_009_lr

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6B Pencil

Lion Frenzy

It’s amazing how fanatical people get over the lion, especially the Chinese. I suppose because I am a part of it I have a different perspective. There is no other way to describe it than they just go apeshit for lion. I apologise for my language but you watch mature well respected or at least mild mannered adults go manic over a lion, like Beatlemania or Beliebers. So when there is more than one in a room its a lion frenzy.

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7B Pencil and Inktense pencils
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6B pencil with inktense pencils

Later that night we performed at Sze Yup Temple in Glebe, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Sydney and still visited frequently by the Chinese community. During this period it is incredibly busy and on the eve of  the New Year it’s standing room only. The dragon dance performed by another group had already finished. This temple has a very small forecourt and dragon dances need some decent floorspace so I don’t know how they managed.

 

Even before we started the crowds already encircled us, they crept closer and closer like sharks around prey. Not only was it tight on the ground the air above was thick with burning incense or joss sticks both in and outside the temple.

It burns!

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6B pencil
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Sze Yup Temple 2015 – Photo courtesy of JWK Lion Dance Assoc.
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6B Pencil

One worker who was dressed more like a hazchem cleaner would push his way out of the temple every ten minutes with a bucket loaded with lit joss sticks and candles because they were overwhelming the small urns inside. Only inches from your head were handfuls of lit joss sticks clutched in people’s hands as they pushed past to make their prayers. That’s why I drew this picture, it reminded me of a torch relay but one that stings your eyes from all the ashes.

Your typical day

 

 

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Flemington Markets – 6B pencil with Inkense pencils
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Flemington Markets – 6B Pencil with Inktense pencils

The next day I was out and about covering a whole lot of Sydney. That’s probably the most exhausting part to this side of lion dancing – the amount of travelling that happens from morning to midnight.

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For the papers, Macquarie Centre – 6B pencil
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Waiting at Blacktown – Inktense pencils

The only time I get to chill is when the others perform the lion dance poles – heartstopping, dramatic, highly skilled and disciplined moves. Admittedly I have drawn them jump before so gesturally I already know the most dynamic moments to draw. So even if I can only capture a fraction of it, I can, to some degree, fill in the rest of the sketch based on what I know and have drawn before.

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Market City – 6B Pencils with Inktense pencils

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Market City – Inktense pencils

Happy New Year folks, hope its a great one!
Meegan

Mersey Paradise

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One of my all-time favourite bands from the UK came to Sydney in December. The Stone Roses were only ever an alternative (i.e. not mainstream/Top 40) band in Australia. Although they have fans here, their impact was not to the extent of say Oasis or the Cure. In the UK however, they were on the cover of every single music and urban lifestyle mag around. Everyone was dressing and walking like them and several bands even imitated their sound. They were also known for not doing the typical touring regime, but put on stand alone stadium sized concerts. I have only seen them perform once before at Wembley Arena and that was in 1995! It was close to their demise, but have since reunited in the last couple of years.

I was a bit reluctant to buy tickets when it was first announced as the venue was the Sydney Opera House. Not that its a bad venue, on the contrary, I’ve seen many performances there and enjoyed it. However, they have been classical  concerts or at least “sit-down” affairs.

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The Roses were known for crossing indie music with dance, whichever way you look at it, the music they play is upbeat and poppy. From all my years of seeing live music, one thing I was certain of is that in Australia when people see bands, irrespective of what type of music it is, if you give them a venue with seats they will sit down, like there’s some magnetic attraction between their arses and their seats. They will not raise from it unless everybody else does or its the last song, i.e. the big hit/the only song they know/the song that they’ve been waiting for. Which sucks because they also don’t like it if you want to get up and obstruct their view. I find it infuriating, don’t they know part of seeing a live band is also audience participation? How do they think an atmosphere is created?

So, I had succumbed to the belief that this was going to be a sit down affair and decided if this was the case then I’d at least get some drawing in. Not a great consolation considering the price of the ticket – a very expensive life drawing session indeed!

sroses_soundcheck_lrAs usual, I got there early, sat down and started drawing the stage and roadies doing sound checks. I was at a good vantage point to be able to get some details. However, only moments into the bands intro music starting up, everyone was on their feet. And nobody sat down at all!! What I attribute this to is that the majority of the crowd were Brits – either living here or holidaying. I’ve seen bands in the UK and watched concerts filmed there on tv and know that this embracing of the moment is typical. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting in the nosebleed seats EVERYONE gets up and dances and sings along. If you think I’m being unfair to Aussies – that night the only ones sitting down were two behind me who were Australian (because I knew one of them) and the following night’s concert I was next to an Aussie couple who stood up BUT spent the first 20 minutes of the concert texting and reading their smartphones!! His girlfriend spent most of the second half sitting down as well. I think our relaxed attitude is sometimes too relaxed.

Although we were in a prestigious and refined venue where I have seen the Sydney Symphony Orchestra perform Profkiev and Mozart. At this moment in time it was like being in a crowded pub on a Saturday night. Or in the stand at a England vs Germany football game. I’ve never seen (or felt) spilt beer on the Concert Hall floor before. Guys next to me were standing on the chairs swaying back and forth becoming a thorn in the sides of security and the people in front of them. I went by myself but I was singing and dancing with everyone around me. It was one of the best shows, nay best experiences, I’ve been a part of in a very long time.

It was so good, I went back the next night and it was more of the same. Its moments like this where you wish you could bottle it or Command Save and repeat all over again. I was surprised that I managed to get any sketches in at all. My legs were aching and I was covered in sweat and beer but I would do it again anytime of the year in a heartbeat.

All sketches were done with a black Artline pen and waterbrush pen.

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