The Creative Plan

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Initial template design
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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.

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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

 

 

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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

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.

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

 

 

Tricky insects

dip pen and ink
dip pen and ink

One afternoon I felt like doing some drawing. I do a bit on a regular basis but they are always project-based and at different stages requiring thought and patience. So after some “serious” art I wanted to splash out and have some expressive fun. A few months ago I came across a link to the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab flickr site, which displays amazing photos mostly taken by Sam Droege. Apart from being phenomenal images, I immediately thought they would be great reference material to draw from – so much wonderful linework, texture, shapes, detail, etc.

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Watercolours, dip pen and ink
Watercolours, dip pen and ink

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4b pencil and eraser
4b pencil and eraser

So I highly recommend a visit to this site and even if you aren’t interested in drawing them they are well worth viewing.

Cheers,
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

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