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!

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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.

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

 

Daumier and flight delays

From Sydney to Canberra

I spent a weekend in Canberra, in what is beginning to feel like my annual art pilgrimage. The first stop was breakfast at NewActon. A bit of hipster action near the university. They had wonderful sculptures dotted around in the area too and the food was good too at Mocán & Green Grout.

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The National Galley’s major exhibition this season was “Impressions of Paris” – a wonderful exhibition displaying three French artist – Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Daumier, who have been very influential on me.

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Daumier

I was introduced to the works by the first two artists when I was in high school, at a time when I was developing my drawing skills and breaking out of my comic book self-education. Because they both used drawing tools rather than paints, brushes and canvases I related to them more.

Daumier I only came across in books about the history of western art etc. one of his oil paintings would usually sit next to a Corot or Courbet. They were painters from the Realist period in the late 1800s. ‘Realism’ was not about painting subjects as photo-real as possible, but about revealing the truth about life, and in particular the class differences that existed in France at the time.

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Daumier

And it wasn’t until a trip to Europe back in the 1990s did I realise Daumier was known more for his caricatures and satirical drawings than his fine art paintings. For all of us sketchers out there the opportunity to see a master’s sketches and drawings, more than they’re finished pieces, is a thrilling opportunity. Lead up drawings are uninhibited and they leave their notes or mistakes in so you can learn quite a lot from them. But this artist is  known for his drawings, full stop! So it was imperative I went to Canberra to see some.

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Another wonderful angle to this exhibition was that the bulk of work on show were lithographs and monographs, basically prints. Some were reworked by the artists while others were the prints from original newspapers or posters that were on display. It was very exciting to see these fine artists produce artwork specifically designed for reproduction. Many were very clean in style and were always, more often than not, designed as black & white works. I appreciate work of any kind that uses black as more than just a means of outlining or shading a picture, but as a dynamic element in a composition.

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Daumier

And print work is not always as revered in galleries like their painted partners (which is probably why this exhibition was free to enter compared the previous years exhibitions) but i think they have more relevance in our world than oil paintings. Daumier’s work was designed to be topical and relevant to everyman. The biting humour in his work created in the late 1800s and aimed directly at the French aristocracy can still make someone in the 21st Century on the other side of the world laugh out loud.
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And he wasn’t just a cartoonist or caricaturist whipping up little sketches of topical content, his illustrations have wonderful tonal balance, fantastic compositional direction and an intuitive sense of anatomy. If ever there is a Daumier exhibition near you I highly recommend seeing it. Even if you can’t draw or aren’t interested in art his work will entertain and impress you.

From Canberra to Sydney

As most of this trip was gallery hopping it didn’t leave much time for sketching. So I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not (probably not coz I didn’t get home till 9.30pm) but my plane home was delayed by more than 2hrs so I used that time to sketch. And I kept it purely monotone in inspiration of the French masters. However, I didn’t have my pencil sharpener so I kept having to pick at the wood on my pencil with my fingers!
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I tried drawing the above with these cheap kids multi-coloured or marbled pencils, but as you can see they hardly made an impression. So I resorted to my 3B pencil to capture some serious cloud action that was happening on the horizon.canberra2015_5LR

It was a very sparse terminal and little to draw in terms of texture and complexity. I saw this little truck…thing?But my brain switched into trying to replicate the artwork that i saw and it felt disjointed.
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So I tried again and just let my natural style kick in. It’s like a scribble technique. I let the pencil fly across the page and draw what I see and, especially, feel. It’s not so much about getting any kind of accuracy but more about allowing myself the joy of putting in the shapes and lines, like waving a sparkler in the air until it burns out. If there is any accuracy or tonal balance created  I guess that comes from experience and having spent a lot of time drawing more precisely and always practicing the foundations of drawing.
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Another cute little truck – I reckon it could have fit in my pocket!

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Forty minutes into my delay I went to get a drink and lost my seat next to the window, so sat in another position. I used my hotel biro. It was hard to get this right (for me) because that girl thought I kept staring at her (which I was) but probably not for reasons she might have thought (whatever that was).
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They had these large flat ottomans I thought were great for a tonal picture. I tried the multi-coloured pencil again which hardly made a dent, then I tried the hotel pen but it kept cutting out on me, so resorted to my then blunt graphite pencils.canberra2015_LR9

Finally in the air, halfway through the flight we saw some more crazy cloud coverage. Just really big and fluffy but ranging in different depths of perspective, like the multiple backdrop scenes in an opera. One day I will do a serious study on clouds, they’re impossible to do as you fly past them.

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Even after the pilot said we are now preparing for our descent into Sydney, it still took long enough for me to sketch these two. Impromptu sketching does help one deal with the anxiety of wanting to just get home.canberra2015_11LRAnyway, hope you enjoyed my flight!

Cheers,
Meegan

(NB: I cannot find the original ownership of the Daumier prints, so post thanks for allowing me to reproduce them in my post)

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

Toko and Band of Skulls

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The Lounge Bar at Toko

A rare night out these days, a friend and I headed out to see UK act Band of Skulls. Beforehand we went to dinner at Toko in Surry Hills. Only at the last minute I decided to take a sketchbook and pens. I have drawn quite a few bands lately and felt not much more could be discovered in that kind of environment. And I am always self-conscious of delaying my friends to eat the food we order because they allow me time to draw it.

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Thankfully I did as we sat at the bar. Toko is an izakaya style of restaurant, which I think is a casual seating environment where diners share dishes and the food is usually prepared in view. We were given seats right in front of the “sushi” chefs (I’m sure there is a better word for them as they do more than just prepare sushi) so it was with immediate glee when I realised I could draw them in action.

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We got there early and the three chefs in front of us were just hanging round wiping their knives and boards. I was thinking I would get very little opportunity to draw their skilled hands at work, but about ten minutes later they were flying. In fact the entire kitchen was like a busy intersection at peak hour.

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I only drew a couple of sketches at the gig. I could see very little, as you can tell in my drawings, and it can get a little dull not only not being able to see the main attraction in view, but that you are drawing so little of it and in darknesstoo. Not a great combination to advance your drawing skills.

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Anyway, hope you enjoy. Oh, and all the drawings were done using disposable brush pens.
Thanks for stopping by,
Meegan

A Day at the Museum

Echidna - drawn with a blue biro
Echidna – drawn with a blue biro

I spent the day at the Australian Museum, firstly to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. A yearly event that I always check out. But it was also an opportune time to do a bit of sketching as well. With only an afternoon left up our sleeves, my friend and I headed to the Search and Discover room. I’ve always thought it was an area just for school groups, but it is open to all visitors.

Tasmanian Devil - drawn with a micron pigma pen and painted with watercolours
Tasmanian Devil – drawn with a micron pigma pen and painted with watercolours

What’s great about this room is that they have live and um… less live (?) animals you can get a bit closer too. Well, all natural history museums are essentially a collection of dead stuffed animals I suppose. I dont know how old some of these specimens were but when you can sit less than a foot from one and they dont move at all!!! it’s perfect sketching matter.

Ring tail possum - drawn with micron pigma pen
Ring tail possum – drawn with micron pigma pen

I’ve been here before to sketch (click here), and every time I leave it fills me with the urge to draw more animals. It might be because sketching short-haired animals totally compliments cross-hatching techniques so perfectly making it easier to come up with good drawings.

Cheers,
Meegan

Chinese New Year, Part II

A week after the first lot of drawings, the lion dancing performances intensified but I still fitted in some sketches in between all the rushing around. If you would like a larger view of the sketch, just click on the image

This is a shop entrance that sells Chinese ornaments and decorative hangings. If you think the doorway is jam packed you should see the inside.

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Usually around 3pm we get to have something to eat, usually…

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This is a pole jumping performance, where the lion jumps, runs, swings, bounds, cavorts ;P across a series of 4-10ft poles with very little cushioning below. As you can see in the tree it was a bit windy that day, not great conditions for jumping.

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While waiting for our next orders,  I sat on the footpath opposite Market City (a shopping centre) and started to sketch the old features of the building. I didnt get far as I bumped into an old family friend I hadn’t seen in a while.
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Our next performance I tried to capture the firecrackers going off behind the lion, but it just looks like a christmas tree. Ha, ha!cny2014_14LRThe school also does dragon dances, which I dont have the muscle for (you have to hold it up with a pole, run and move it from side to side). This was drawn at our gym where everything was stored for the new year.
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Again waiting for the lion dance to start. This was out at Flemington in front of the local bbq shop. A queue started to form which wasn’t there when I first started.cny2014_10LR

Back in Chinatown for another peformance. The Sydney mayor and other politicians were doing the rounds with us, but I think the crowds were more excited by seeing about five lions together. It looks like a paparazzi moment.cny2014_11LR

Getting one of the vehicles ready to head out for a performance.There is an art (or science) to packing a vehicle full of lion dance equipment.

cny2014_12LR One of the last venues on my schedule was the Randwick racecourse for a corporate function. Unfortunately we couldn’t wait around outside where the horses were, but hidden away from the approaching guests until we had to perform. I would have much rather drawn them than a boring race track.cny2014_13LR

Cheers,
Meegan

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