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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Chinese New Year 2016

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Waiting around to start

I’m part of Jin Wu Koon Liondancing and Chinese New Year is a massive month long celebration in Sydney where the whole city joins in. It also means there a constant and intense schedule of lion dance performances for us that can range from morning till midnight and take us to all regions of Sydney and further.

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Its a very physical thing and the long hours and minimal hours of sleep can take its toll – I didn’t go to all of them and I was exhausted! I think what compacts it more is all the time in-between waiting to do each performance – standing around on the street or in front of a restaurant. I find that quite tedious as its not necessarily enough time to really chill out but not short enough to keep your momentum going.

That’s why a few years back I decided to bring my sketchbook with me. Originally I wanted to capture what we do, click here to see. The second time it was to kill time, click here. This year it was a bit of both.

You also can’t carry much around with you – a small handbag or pack is about it, so that restricts what I can carry with me. I also need something that is also going to give me instant results as well.

So I used disposable Japanese felt brush tip pens.

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“Behind” the scenes

Up on high

JWK have a team who also perform lion dancing on poles – normal lion dance takes some practice and experience, but this – this takes a huge year round commitment and you need something of a fearless character to do it. Below is footage from last year.

Its always hard to draw and capture fast moving objects, especially in this case where its a 360˚ performance. As I’ve seen them perform a few times before I had already worked out the moments I wanted to capture. Still not an easy thing but it helps you block out the temptation or natural tendency to want to capture everything.

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cny2016001_LR cny2016004_LR cny2016010_LR cny2016011_LR cny2016012_LRIts always a good opportunity to draw the crowds who watch with great anticipation.

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Lion? Dragon?

For those of you who thought it was a dragon, no it’s not. These next  few drawings are of a dragon dance, thanks to the Chinese Youth League.

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aaaaanndd if you still can’t tell what that is, here is some footage of them in action.

And when I’m not drawing the “entertainment” I look for inspiration elsewhere.

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Dixon Street
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Chinese New Year display

Lion dancing can have you performing at all sorts of events and venues. This was a wedding held on a restaurant boat. These couple of sketches are us waiting for our water taxi so we could head off to our next performance.

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Possibly someone’s dinner – a lobster waiting its fate at a restaurant in a shopping centre.
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The aftermath of a late afternoon yum cha.cny2016020_LR Hanging out at the gym and watching the Legacy Brazilian Ju-Jitsu students practice tumbles and moves.
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I ended up finishing off my sketchbook, so I went and bought the cheapest pad and pens I could find.

materials_LRIt was tiny, bigger than a business card. I also bought a thick marker which probably wasn’t the greatest of choices too, but I’m always up for a challenge. I did also buy a thin one to get some balanced detail in.

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Some scenes around Chinatown, as we waited for the State MP to rock up.cny2016027_LR cny2016028_LR cny2016029_LR

We also have the largest lion head in the country, again, probably not the best sized notepad for him, hee, hee.
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Amazingly my last performance with them this season was at the Art Gallery. Sadly it was just for some sportscar promotional event, so I doubt many would have given a fig about the art around them. But at least it gave me a chance to visit.
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I think I broke my record on the number of drawings for Chinese New Year. Question is, how will I approach it next year…

Cheers, Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Animals! Animals! Animals!

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Elephants – chinagraphs and watercolour

Back in January I went down to Melbourne for a short break to catch up with some friends, and in particular sketching friends.

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Gorilla – chinagraphs, oil pastels and watercolour

I chose  Melbourne Zoo as a location for a day out having not been there since I was probably 16. Its very different from what I remember, a lot more trees and winding paths. The weather never started out well my whole trip but always ended up better as the day progressed.

Orang-utans - oil pastels
Orangutans – oil pastels

There was a bit of rain in the morning threatening to ruin the day for us but then the hot humid sun emerged an hour in which made things like finding a good spot to draw more open. However, I ended up scrambling for little scraps of shade anyway!

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Orangutan – oil pastels

As I was travelling I wanted to minimise what materials I took down with me. Even just sketching around Sydney I tend to take more than I need and there’s nothing more frustrating than a suitcase full of stuff that’s not used.

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Orangutans – oil pastels

I’ve got a new studio space at home now and have since sorted through all my art supplies. I have so much stuff that has barely been touched, a lot from when I was a kid! So my objective was to use some of this stash.

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tree kangaroo – oil pastel, watercolours, ink & dip pen

My selected tools were to be oil pastels, chinagraphs, watercolours with brush, ink and dip pen, and a permanent marker.

It was lovely to use oil pastels then brush over them with watercolours to get that nice texture created from the water’s repulsion.

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Elephant – watercolours and oil pastels

I’m really happy with this elephant. Considering it was through a window with many vertical bars obscuring the view, but my persistence paid off and frankly, I think having a limited view helped me pull back in terms of not overdoing it, i.e. not adding too much detail. I do love the textures I created and the white space, and I seemed to have captured a bit of personality as well.

Gorilla - chinagraph
Gorilla – chinagraph

I’m not sure why I decided to try out chinagraphs. I had a few that had never been touched – don’t even know where they came from. They have a strong colour and application that you would expect from a piece of charcoal or oil pastel but with more control on smaller drawings. They give you an opportunity to put some detail in and it’s not as messy. The black one has nice deep blacks which sometimes I find a 6B pencil won’t achieve. It’s really soft so using it the way I do wears down to the wood quickly but it does feels more fluid.

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Elephant – chinagraph

This last lot I did was with a black Artline permanent marker. I was using it on water soluble paper so it would dry my pen out half way through a sketch – which I was hoping for as it creates a nice texture and a subtle variation in tone as well.

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Colobus monkey – permanent marker

The great thing about working with a permanent marker AND drawing moving objects is that you cannot think too much or linger too long with your sketch. Its permanency and colour intensity means you can’t hide anything.  And if you leave a (fresh) marker too long in one spot it tends to bleed making your lines blurry. So its a great medium to practice expressive drawing.

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Colobus monkey – permanent marker

I didn’t see many animals that day but felt like I got some substantial drawing in. The only thing these drawings don’t show are how many other people you have to content with for a good spot as well as how generous an animal is with their time, or lack of.

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chinagraph

Then a week later I went horse riding at Centennial Park, Sydney with my work. It was a lead up to a brainstorming session for a new client that specialises in animal products, particularly horse care. I’d never been horse riding before so it was quite an experience. I take my hat off to anyone who rides horses for a living. As it was a work thing, I didn’t think I’d get much time to sketch, but I at least managed to fit this one in.

Anyway, not a bad start to the new year.

Quick sketches

I’ve had so much on this year that getting out to sketch on location is a luxury. I’ve allowed  myself once a month to go out with one of my local sketch groups. On the weekend we went to the Sydney Fish Markets.

The weather has been really unpredictable lately so packed mediums that I could use under any (or no) shelter. I think the biggest issue was finding some space to draw amongst all the visitors who come down not only to buy but to eat.

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Inktense pencils and disposable felt brush pen
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Inktense pencils

As I was scanning this sketchbook I realised there were some other drawings I had done awhile ago outside the Art Gallery of NSW.

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Scribble technique using 3B graphite pencils
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Inktense pencils

 

Blue Lining

ballsheadpoint&coalloader_01 LR I headed out with a friend to sketch at the Coal Loader and Balls Head Point on the north side of Sydney. Usually when its a planned day of sketching I decide the night before what mediums to take. Sometimes it’s everything – inks, watercolours, inktense pencils, graphites etc. but I end up not using them all. This time I couldn’t decide so I used an old faithful – the blue biro.

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It’s one of my favourite tools and probably one I’m most comfortable with as I used it quite a lot as a child. I may have mentioned before that having used permanent pens instead of pencils to draw with helped discipline my drawing skills throughout those early years. Not having that back up of being able to erase a mistake forced you to be more thoughtful with every line as well as more confident.
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Biros are cheap, available to buy anywhere, durable and don’t need to be prepared, packed or pampered. They’re consistent in distribution of ink, they dry quickly and despite its hard point you can get so much tonal range and dimension as seen with all the different applications I used on the day. The blue pens also have such a unique finish that makes them more interesting than black ones too.

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Some people like using gel pens but I don’t, at least not to draw with anyway. Its nature is to glide over the page smoothly and effortlessly, great for writing, but I like the traction you get with biros. They’re grittier and there’s more of an interaction with you and the pen, and the pen with the paper.
ballsheadpoint&coalloader_04 LRSo give it a go, there’s probably one sitting right next to you. Take that doodle to the next level!

Cheers,
Meegan

More info:
The Coal Loader in Waverton, Sydney, NSW was an industrial site used in the last century to transfer coal for large vessel use. Now it has been reinvented as a learning and display centre for domestic eco-sustainability, including a community veggie garden and chook run. Even more impressive is that way before any of this it was (or still is) a cultural and spiritual place for the local indigenous people, the Cammeraygal. Thankfully somewhere down the line an effort was made to preserve this amazing whale stone carving found at the Coal Loader that is thousands of years old.

Going mad in March

How did we get so far into the year already? I’ve had so much on this year with home rennovations and a new job that I never find any down time to post to this blog. However, I feel a bit of a routine returning to my life …even though I should be in bed by now (not use to being back into full time work!!).

Anyway, I did manage to do some sketching over the last month, how? I don’t know.

Ministry mayhem

ministry_01 LROn impulse I bought tickets to see American industrial metal rock gods Ministry. I do have one of their albums but hadn’t followed them intensely, though from previous experience I know bands like this are really good live. They were puh-lenty awesome, releasing the closet metal head in me, however its music not for the timid or pure of heart.

ministry_02 LRThe venue was the Metro – my favourite live music venue. It’s intimate, the sound is good and doesn’t matter where you stand as everyone can see. Perfect not just for headbanging but for sketching. I took a black Artline 0.8mm pen possibly inspired by their sound and look, and I tried a scribbly drawing technique which is as soon as the pen hits the paper you scribble like mad, a motion similar to tapping your fore-finger really faster – just short jabs across the page and never lifting the pen off. It’s a very free flowing style and creates wonderful texture.

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Photo credit: Christhian Ferenc visit his flickr site for more cool images

I was told it might have been the farewell tour, I hope not. But glad I managed to see them. I feel its important to include an image of the band here just to validate my drawings of Al Jourgensen (singer) as not a figment of my imagination but that he actually looks like that. A band like this is so much fun to draw – their look is very graphic and physical input on stage is ferociously animated.

ministry_04 LRNow to go and update my Ministry cd collection…

Sunnyboys and Riptides

About a week later I saw two Australian bands that I have so longed to see since I was a teenager. I was too young to see them in the 80s during their primo years but thankfully they have started to play reunion gigs and I managed to see them at the Enmore Theatre. Admittedly this time round I was having too much fun dancing and singing along so didn’t get any decent sketches done.

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riptides_02 LR The Riptides

That and being compressed in by loud and drunk 50-somethings who obviously got the night off from their kids and were going hell for leather to have a great night, to my amusement some of them were wiped out by 10pm. When the Sunnyboys came on I was further away from the stage I couldn’t pick up much detail so I tried some blind contour drawings and shade only sketches.

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The Sunnyboys

Hope you enjoy, like I did! ;D
Meegan

 

 

Coogee Beach

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Pencil and Intense colour pencils

I made a promised myself to join my sketch club or urban sketchers group at least once a month. Life just gets busier and busier and I’m afraid my outings with them are becoming less and less. I’ve mentioned before how important they are to me as I use them get out of my comfort zone and experiment with techniques or materials I might not otherwise make time for, or I use them to practice the rudimentary skills of drawing.

Still inspired by my trip to Canberra and seeing the black & white works of Daumier and Degas I kept to my 3B pencil for most of this excursion.

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Pencil

It was around 9am and already the sun was quite intense. As beaches are almost devoid of shade I scrambled to the slither of coolness on the far side of the beach where I was fortunate in that there were some wonderful rock formations to sketch.

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With no hurry to leave this baby-sized oasis I decided to allow myself some moments to study it. When I set myself up for these types of sketches I take a few minutes to study what I’m about to draw. I look at it and ask myself what is it that really attract me to this scene that I want to draw it? Even though its cool by anybody’s standards, I’ve singled this out amongst other possibilities to sketch, so what makes it more enticing as a drawing exercise? Is it the shapes, the textures, the heaviness of the rocks, the shadows..? Whatever it is I use that as my objective for my drawing. This will “drive” my sketch and in particular my thoughts as it starts to take shape. It’s even useful when you get a bit lost in all the detail of your subject matter as it helps you re-focus, and I believe you get a more unified drawing as well.

In this case I liked the weather eroded shapes with their rounded edges and the way the shadows heightened their mass. Hopefully this animated gif file below works so you can see the step by step stages.

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And here is the finished result.

coogee beach 2 LRI also did an inktense pencil version too.

coogee beach 3 LRI have two photos of the lead up for this.coogee col LU 1 LRcoogee col LU 2 LRThen when it was time to meet up with the others fortunately my slither of shade had turned into a whisker, so I had no other choice but to take on the sun. By that stage the number of beach goers had increased considerably so I did a few gestural drawings while I was waiting. Although they were lying around sunbathing they still do move a lot. Because I was up high it was also a great exercise in foreshortening.

Arline felt pen and water brush pen
Arline felt pen and water brush pen
Arline felt pen and water brush pen
Arline felt pen and water brush pen
Arline felt pen and water brush pen
Arline felt pen and water brush pen

Well I hope you enjoyed my trip to the beach. Now to deal with the sunburn…

Cheers,
Meegan

 

Hidden in Rookwood

Sydney Sketch Club organised a meet up for the annual Hidden Walk art exhibition at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. Thankfully it was only in a small section of the grounds as it is one large mother of a cemetery. This is my third or fourth sketching venture to a cemetery so won’t bore you with the reasons why I enjoy them so much. But if you would like to see and read some of my past trips to them please click on this link.

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Katana, Bushido Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria

One thing I did aim to do this time was to work solely with graphite pencils and a rubber/eraser. I liked the results of my Bushido series (shown above)  drawn when I went to Melbourne a few months ago (click here for link) and wanted to revisit that technique. So I took the below equipment with me. I’m not sure how I ended up with so many of the same pencil and pencil grade but it proved quite useful.SSC Rookwood Hidden equip LR

They were mostly 3B and 4B pencils which meant that only after a few seconds of sketching the sharpness of the soft lead point would disappear, and you can lose your momentum having to re-sharpen the same pencil over and over again. What I do is sharpen them all before I start and lay them out next to me. As soon as one goes blunt I pick up a sharp one and continue.

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Mind you my first drawing of the day is always the least successful (image above). It’s like what they say about making pancakes – the first one is always the “throw away” and the rest get better after that. The next three drawings show artwork installation from the exhibition.

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The rest are just wandering around the older parts of Rookwood. Its early spring in Australia so all the overgrowth is in full bloom.
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This next one I attempted to use some of my inktense pencils. I’m not sure if I like it or not. I don’t know if it adds anything extra being there. I will have to make a few more attempts next time.SSC Rookwood Hidden7 LR

This last one is my favourite of the day because I treated it more as a completed composition rather than just sketching what I see and then “finishing” it off. So I was very conscious of it working as a whole from start to finish.SSC Rookwood Hidden8LR

Thanks for stopping by.
Meegan

South of the border

I spent a week in August with my sketching friends down in Melbourne. A few had other objectives that week other than sketching,  but for me that was my main focus. After a very personal ordeal, I needed to get back on track and remember what it is like to sketch out and about again. There was also a touring exhibition at the gallery that I wanted to see as well, so that was another incentive to get out of town for a bit.

There’s not much I want to detail about the trip. I wasn’t aiming to achieve any artistic breakthrough this time round so I stuck with my regular mediums and just enjoyed the opportunity. So hope you like.

Vic Markets

First full day in Melbourne and it was pretty cold, even the local produce workers were complaining about the weather. Luckily there were a few benches, undercover, situated midway between the aisles that made it easy to set up for a few hours.

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Watercolours and brush, followed by colour inks and dip pen
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Watercolours and brush, followed by colour inks and dip pen
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Watercolours and brush, followed by colour inks and dip pen
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Colour ink and dip pen

The Old Treasury

We met up with a couple of local Urban Sketchers at The Old Treasury building. Although Melbourne is known for its buildings (old and new) I’m not a huge fan of drawing buildings as I don’t always feels they capture the “soul” of the place. It was a weekday so not much was happening outdoors, so I decided to draw the fountain as it had the  most “life” in it.

melbourne-govhouse fountainA technique which I have started to employ (when I remember) is applying water to the paper first then throw on the colour. This is to get a cool blurry blended feel which adds dimension to any finished picture.

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Watercolours and brush, followed by colour inks and dip pen

Koko Black

To warm ourselves up we went for coffee and chocolate. The interior had a nice rococo influenced style so sketched a bit of that. For some reason I folded by paper into three panels. I don’t know why, it was irrelevant in the end. I think it was because we had such small tables but lots of plates and cups I didn’t think I would have had the space to lay out an entire sheet.

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Watercolours and brush, followed by Micron pigma pen.
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Watercolours and brush, followed by Micron pigma pen.

The Rest of Melbourne

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Southbank – Watercolours and brush, followed by colour ink and dip pen.

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Southbank – Watercolours and brush, followed by colour ink and dip pen.
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Flinders St Station – artline pen and water brush pen
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Fitzroy – artline pen and water brush pen
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The Block Arcade – wedding dress display. Drawn with Black calligraphic brush pen and watercolours.
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The Block Arcade – a tailor’s front window. Drawn with blue biro and watercolours.

Bushido exhibition

At the National Gallery of Victoria they had an exhibition of Bushido artifacts. Always never enough time, I focussed on the armour that was on display. And only had time for one katana. I did plan on doing an “eraser/graphite pencil” technique for this, but I couldn’t find my eraser so just attacked it with my 4B pencil. I ended up finding it in my pocket!!! but I had already gotten into it, so will save that technique for another time.melbourne2014_bushido1 LR melbourne2014_bushido2 LR melbourne2014_bushido3 LR melbourne2014_bushido4 LR

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