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

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BACK IN THE SADDLE

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Sydney Uni – sketched last year

Most of last year has been an absolute blur and I can’t believe its already 2017. I think the reason time flies for many people is that we try and cram so much into each day (well I do anyway!) it makes the days, weeks, year go so much faster. I had more than enough on last year – some fun and pleasure, family commitments, but a large chunk of it work and that all-consuming ever lasting gob stopper list of home repair and improvements.

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Sydney Uni – inktense pencils

But I got through a major hurdle in September re: getting my house in order and since I ticked that off, it had also mentally freed me as well. So my advice to anyone who has been putting off getting something done because it seems painful or tedious to do – get it done asap! Its amazing how much of a mental hurdle it can create for every other aspect of your life.

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Sydney Uni – inktense pencils

Anyway, so as that was done and dusted, and Christmas not being as whirlwind as it used to be, I could allow myself time to get back into drawing. Although I haven’t stopped working on my personal projects, having the spare time just to draw or sketch purely for the exercise of it was very rare. The easiest way for me to get back into it was to head out with my sketch groups again.

LAVENDER BAY

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Attempt with a blue biro

I met up with Urban Sketches Sydney on the north side of Sydney. A very pleasant picturesque view overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park. It ended up not being a great day for me sketch-wise. I don’t know whether it was because it had been a long time since I had sketched outdoors, that I was rusty and didn’t know what to bring, or because I slept in and then found out all the trains I needed weren’t running so it took me over an hour to get there arriving flustered and hot! I think it was around 30˚ that day…. Or as my friend pointed out – it was too pretty a scene for me. I thought it was a combination of all the above.

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Ink and dip pen

But on further consideration I think it was more the latter. I’m used to not having a full arsenal and drawing on the fly with very little art supplies – once I didn’t have anything so I used a gallery flyer and borrowed a pen. Another time I only had a dried up brush pen at a concert. So I’ve always managed in those situations. And as Everyday Matters shows us you don’t need a lot of time to get something down.

 

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Lavender Bay. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, Warwick Kent.

I think it was just too damn pretty there. Even the stormy sky which looked to  threaten all day never really announced itself to us. The Harbour Bridge and Luna Park were also at such a particular distance that could be considered as a harmonious viewing distance, engaging but not confronting.

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The only thing that intrigued me was a Moreton Bay tree trunk and a local resident exercising his dog in the water. But no decay, no distortion, nothing awkward or unkept. Even all the boats were shiny and new. There was no discord to be found!

LEICHHARDT

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3B Pencil

Undeterred by my less than useful results at sketching the week before I met up with the Sydney Sketch Club in Leichhardt. One of the more older suburbs in Sydney’s inner west. Its an area visited more for its Italian food and culture but it seems to have diversified a bit more lately, though you can always find a decent cannoli here. We centred around an intersection with the town hall and a church on opposite corners. Sometimes these locations are chosen because they also afford the most street space for us to set up without creating congestion for the locals.

Everyone was already underway when I got there…and I wasn’t late either! It was another very sunny day. And in Australia when I mean  “sunny” it means whatever you do DON’T sit in the sun, particularly in summer, find whatever shade you can otherwise you’ll be crisper than pan-fried bacon. Everyone was dotted along the same wall in a slither of shade. It reminded me of a flock of swallows all sitting on the same telegraph line. I wasn’t particularly captivated by the town hall nor the church, but when I looked at everyone from the other side of the road I noticed  they were sitting in front of the local public school.

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3B Pencil

Partially hidden behind the trees was a turret and below a feline-like grotesque. I thought it was a bit unusual for a primary school and all the levels seemed to be stacked and compressed too, so I thought that was a interesting. The challenge was was it’s hulky shape which was partly obscured by trees and that because of its positioning I couldn’t sit far enough back to view the entirety as a whole. The problem this causes is your proportioning can be distorted, for example, the ground floor I was looking at it straight ahead or at eye level, but for the turret I had to tilt my head up to draw it, which changes the angle. It sounds minute but it can create so many problems including making your picture look or feel wrong. There was also this wedge shape in the wall that was hard to show the angle, especially because I couldn’t see where it started and ended.

Still intrigued by this building I went closer and found to my luck the school gates were open. Again I was confronted with the situation of not being able to pick and choose my angle and distance because of a very narrow walkway at the base of the building and a garden area next to it.  Even when I could sit further back the trees obscured my view. I had no choice but an ultra tight close up where i was looking up at a 90˚ angle.

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3B Pencil

With about 20 minutes to go before the group review, I did a quick one of this strange little boutique shop on the opposite corner. It was strange because the roof and walls looked as though at one time in its life it was a much larger house. But they just sliced it in half and patched up the walls. It had all these wonderfully odd angles and geometric shapes like a house of cards.

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

 

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

Newcastle USK

Newcastle, Queens Wharf
Newcastle, Queens Wharf

The first Urban Sketchers Australia outing for the year was a day trip to Newcastle. Over two hours by train from Sydney – the three things I always associate with this city are – surfing beaches, mining and the rugby league team, Newcastle Knights.

I had never been there before (I know, shameful) so I decided to stay overnight. If there was anything we missed, I had a chance to see it the next day. But the weather was so sunny hot, I ended leaving Sunday around noon – everywhere I wanted to draw had no shaded areas to sit under. The sun was relentless, it was just too damn hard. But I got a bit done and I’m happy that I came away with some interesting paintings.

So enjoy, and Happy 2014!
Meegan

Stephenson Place

USK Newcastle 1 scene

I pencilled in the structure with an Inktense pencil

USK Newcastle 1 stage 1

Then threw lots of watercolour in for the background.

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To give contrast to the very loose splashy areas I selected areas for a more detailed execution. To tie the whole picture together I kept my palette to four or five colours.

USK Newcastle 1 stage 3

The above images were photos I took of the different stages on location, and after cleaning them up in photoshop they look different from the finished art scan, so apologies for that. I finished off the scene with a dip pen and indian ink, but held back on the linework so it wouldn’t take over the entire piece.

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Newcastle Beach

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I shaped the scene with a few inktense pencils.
USK Newcastle 3 stage 1To spread the colour instead of using water I used watercolours instead.
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I wasn’t sure how to finish this. I wished I had brought along my bottles of coloured ink but they can collectively weigh a bit. I’m not sure if I am a fan of landscape drawing as I really wanted to put lots of details in the rocks and cut-away hills, but it wouldn’t have helped me create a true perspective/depth of field drawing. If that makes sense.
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Newcastle, Queens Wharf

Later that afternoon we sat along the wharf, mostly longing to be sitting amongst the cranes and industrial buildings on the other side. But it was pleasant enough where we were.

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Newcastle Cathedral

After a calf-burning hike up “The Hill” – I think naming it such was stating the obvious. The Cathedral had some interesting angles, sadly to capture them would mean sitting in full concentrated sunlight. My only option was across the road in a slither of shade. USK Newcastle 5 scene It was a very blocky cathedral and I didnt want it to look heavy and grounded, but make it lift up towards the sky. I thought the only way to achieve this was to not draw in the walls and all the various points and spiers, but keep it very loose and free.USK Newcastle 5 stage 1I added details only in the areas that jumped out at me and that gave the building character.

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And the finished piece below – I thought about inking in linework but I only had indian ink and it would have been too overpowering.USK Newcastle LR 5

Back to the Beach

I headed back to the beach on Sunday because I love all the rock formations. Again, it was too painfully hot to sit out under the sun to get any closer. So I found a little refuge in the shade of a street lamp! Lucky it was a big street lamp.
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I used inktense pencils and a waterbrush pen only, and kept layering it. Lucky it was good drying weather, so I didn’t have to wait that long inbetween washes.USK Newcastle 6 stage 1 USK Newcastle 6 stage 2 USK Newcastle 6 stage 3 USK Newcastle 6 stage 4 USK Newcastle 6 stage 5
I wasn’t particularly happy with the result because I couldn’t get the texture and shapes of the worn down rocks (which is what I love). I think I was positioned to far to capture it the way I wanted to.USK Newcastle LR 6
If you would like to see the work of my fellow sketchers from this weekend, please visit USK Australia.

A rainy weekend full of sunshine

Japanese sumi watercolours and brushes
Japanese sumi watercolours and brushes

Two years ago I started to meet up regularly with three of my sketching friends to work on our Sketchbook Projects. We enjoyed the catch ups so much that after the project was over we decided to continue the drawing sessions but work on our own projects. We sketch, eat and chat (not necessarily in that order) for most of a day once a month.

All systems go - only four of the smaller bags were our clothes.
All systems go – only four of the smaller bags were our clothes.

A topic that always seemed to pop up in our conversations was how we have all bought, or been given, art supplies and never have the chance to try them out. Or how we would like to try out different styles or approaches that we don’t normally sketch with.

So I came up with an idea of the four of us heading off somewhere for a weekend and spend the whole time trying out and experimenting with a lot of the art supplies we own, and more importantly, to do something different. That was the paramount objective. The golden rule was to NOT use what we normally sketch or paint with, or in the style we always use. However, there were no rules on how you used the new mediums or what you drew.

Packed and... un packed
Packed and… un packed

We booked a “summer” house up in the Blue Mountains, 90 minutes out of Sydney. It was listed to be able to accommodate up to 8 people, but with all our equipment it was just enough space. Although this area is a wonderful and popular tourist location, we banned any sight-seeing, eating out and scenic drives and closed the doors for much creative art-making.

and this stuff.
and this stuff.

When we unpacked all the supplies it was quite intimidating at first but as we tested out some things that night, so we were able to go to bed with some plan of attack for the next day.

Bring it on

After a brisk morning walk we got stuck into it. We eased in with a 10 minute warm up where we all grabbed three different mediums and drew a picture. Then it was all systems go and nobody needed any prompting for the next one, or the next, or the next.

Because we only had one full day of art we even minimised time spent making lunch and dinner, by having a cold antipasto buffet for lunch where everyone could pick and eat as they worked, and for dinner we let the oven do all the cooking and popped a lamb roast and vegges in the oven. The dinner table was covered more with paint brushes and paints than cutlery and plates the whole day.

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My 10 min starter featuring our fifth adventurer we dubbed as “Numb”.

Collage and mixed media is something I dont dabble in a lot. It requires patience, and cupboard space to collect just too many things to make up these pictures. Although it was fun, and I could do it every now and then, I didn’t find it as satisfying as drawing or painting a picture. Its more about cutting, gluing, sponging and so on.

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Getting stuck into it
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The finished piece
Another one I did using old Chinese prayer books, red packets, gouache, indian ink and a gold oil pastel
Another one I did using old Chinese prayer books, red packets, gouache, indian ink and a gold oil pastel on the back of a cereal box.

I’ve been clearing out the family home and I found a box full of old Gestetner carbon paper. My mum used to work as a school assistant and when I was growing up, this stuff was used to reproduce work stencils and school newsletters. I think most from my generation, and past ones, will remember this stuff quite fondly. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.

Gestetner paper
Gestetner paper

Anyway, the carbon still worked well and we started to experiment with it. Another thing that was quite exciting about it was when you applied water to your finished drawing, the purple coloured exploded everywhere and gave an interesting bleed to your linework.

I placed my drawing paper inbetween
I placed my drawing paper inbetween
Typically you would use a hard pen/biro to write on it or typewriter. But I found a 4B pencil gave a great result.
Typically you would use a hard pen/biro to write on it or a typewriter. But I found a 4B pencil gave a great result.
The "carbon" copy
The “carbon” copy
i added copy to give it texture
i added copy to give it texture

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I then washed water over the background and used watercolours on the centre object.
I then washed water over the background and used watercolours on the centre object.
My mixed media piece using gestetner paper, blue biro pen, water soluble crayons and drawn on cut out pages from a second-hand story books.
My mixed media piece using gestetner paper, blue biro pen, water soluble crayons and an old writing pad.

I tried using some of the plastic stencils with acrylic paints. These were fun but I think it takes a bit of trialling to get it to do what you want it to do.

Acrylic paints and stencils
Acrylic paints and stencils on a vintage cash book

All of us had our own objectives to achieve this weekend. Mine was to try and put more “interest” in my pictures. What I mean is to give it more direction and more contrast, whether it is through light/shade, busy/quiet, loose/tight. While the others wanted to loosen up and be more expressive, I wanted to reign that looseness in and find that balance between drawing purely with instinct and executing some discpline.

First layer was using Derwent XL Charcoal that is water soluble.
First layer was using Derwent XL Charcoal & Graphite that is water soluble which I wetted with a short-hair dry brush
Then I went over it with Derwent Inktense pencils, and used a dry brush to paint with.
Then I went over it with Derwent Inktense pencils and continued with the dry brush.
Finished piece - after several layers
Finished piece – after several layers or inktense pencils

I was quite happy in the end. My goal was to lead the eye around the page through the dark blue shadows under the waves and rock, so that your eyes are moving in a continuous spiral.

Then a straight up acrylic paint picture and I kept my palette down to three colours. I also tried not to mix the colours too much beforehand, but rather let them mix on the paper. The key in this picture was to use the black sparingly, keep it “unblemished” and hoped that it tied the whole picture together. I also wanted to created balance between the flat surfaces and the textured areas.

Acryli
Acrylic paint on paper

My next one was from photos I took of some old building blocks. Initially I wanted to play around with the strong lighting and shapes. So I used another water soluble medium, and wanted to spread the colour with my old Letraset markers I used to use for storyboarding. But they were sooooo dry I couldn’t barely colour in one side of a block. Thus, I lost track of what I wanted to accomplish in my attempt to get some ink out of these pens. I will say this, they didnt get re-packed for the trip home!

Started off with
Started off with Portfolio 24 Water Soluble Oil Pastels – a very smooth flowing medium

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At the beginning of my attempt to use half-dried Letraset markers
At the beginning of my attempt to use half-dried Letraset markers
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The finished piece

For the last one of the weekend I wanted to apply this new approach to materials I DO use all the time (ok I broke the house rules), but I really wanted to exercise some discipline with my splashes of colour and free flowing lines so that it had quieter spaces and points of interest.

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Inktense and watercolours
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colour inks with dip pen and more watercolours
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and… a bit more of the same

It was a great weekend, and for anybody else who might have spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains, the unrelenting cold rain, hail and mist (in spring!) would have ruined their time away. But for us it was the perfect weather for staying in and being creative.

Below are some of the results from my friends. If you would like to see more of their stuff, please click on their names below.

Cheers,
Meegan

Alissa

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kaz e dru

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Lisa

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Toulouse-Lautrec to Turner

A sketching friend and I spent 10 days in Canberra and Adelaide seeing the touring Toulouse-Lautrec and J.W Turner exhibitions in each respective capital city. Apart from Canberra being the capital of Australian politics and international embassies, it has most of the national museums and galleries. I imagine it is like a mini version of Washington D.C. – which I would love to visit one day.

Canberra workings

Toulouse-Lautrec_1887-8Cirque
link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Institute_of_Chicago

The amazing work of Toulouse-Lautrec was on display here. He was one of my first artistic influences who wasn’t a comic artist. What I like about his work is although he painted mostly with brushes, his style of painting mimics gestural drawing. Also his bold use of colour is incredible – luminescent greens and yellows for highlights and a lavender-like purple for shading. This latter aspect of his work is something I have been trying to implement more, especially when I use watercolours.

Colour, colour, everywhere

The more I trust what my eyes tell me to paint, ie instead of my brain, I start to see glimpses of colour I wouldn’t normally think to see. For instance, when I painted the Australian War Memorial below, the building itself is a very sandy coloured, almost muted stone. But the sun was excessively bright that day with wispy clouds slowly moving past the sun creating a light and shadow play on the flat surfaces. I also sat right under the sun, so the glare was affecting my sight as well. With the combination of these factors I kept seeing purples in the shadows and decided to put them in, albeit lightly.

Australian War Memorial - watercolours and pen
Australian War Memorial – watercolours and pen

Another thing I have started to do more obviously is “spread” my colours around the page to create a unified picture. When I painted the sky in, which was one of the last things I did, I threw the same blue across the building. I also did the reverse and put some of the stone wall yellow ochre into the sky despite it being a pure blue sky that day. You can also see green areas in the building which match the same colour as the dome. I find that it really completes the picture and gives it some balance, and basically, it just feels right.

Australian War Memorial sculpture garden - inktense pencils, watercolours and inks
Australian War Memorial sculpture garden – inktense pencils, watercolours and inks

Putting it into perspective

Unfortunately I left my camera at the apartment so I didn’t capture the step by step of the above picture, nor what the statue actually looked like. Another thing I am trying to improve upon when I work en plein air is creating more depth of perspective in my scenes. In this case it was making sure the sculpture stood out from the trees in the background. The easiest way to do this is by minimising the amount of detail in the background, not having objects so well defined, and toning back the colours, especially the saturation. As you can see I’m still working on this technique.  I also thought that by creating a foreground, ie the leafy boughs on the top and bottom right corners, it would also help create more dimension. I “thought”…! Didn’t work out as well.

For those who are interested, I created this picture by: first blocking in the main shapes with inktense pencils (you can see it in the brickwork); then lifting out the pencils with watercolours (I think, lemon yellow and turquoise); then inked in linework with dip pen and colour drawing inks (ultramarine, sunny green and canary yellow).

Why are we waiting?

Bus Stop in Kingston, Canberra - felt tip pen and waterbrush pen
Bus Stop in Kingston, Canberra – felt tip pen and waterbrush pen

As much as I love visiting Canberra, it is such a bastard to get around by public transport particularly on weekends. We were staying at Kingston, which is what I would call inner-city, and buses would only come either every half hour or every hour. It was excruciating to wait 20 mins for a 5 min bus ride. Anyway, one plus about being an urban sketcher is you are equipped with a sketchbook and pen to while away the time instead of getting a kink in your neck looking in the one direction waiting for a bus.

Bus Stop, Edmund Barton Building - watercolours
Bus Stop, Edmund Barton Building – watercolours

This one is looking a little French boulevarde-y, but at least I got the depth of perspective down better. This sketchbook I’m using at the moment isn’t great for wet mediums. It soaks up all the colour and doesn’t leave behind the vibrancy or saturation I apply to the page. I love it more for its size.

On to Adelaide

Wreckers_Coast_of_Northumberland_Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner
Link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File: Wreckers_Coast_of_Northumberland_ Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner.jpeg

Both my friend and I had never visited Adelaide before, so we hoped to fit in some normal sightseeing as well. We arrived to experience some freakishly hot weather. It was in the high 30s,  and the next day was scheduled for 40-41˚C. Yaaarrgghhh!!! I made the quick decision that tomorrow we would spend it in the art gallery. I’m not a big fan of air conditioned buildings (no pun intended!) but it was our oasis in a relentless heat. It also helped by looking at Turner paintings of stormy seascapes and lush, shady green country scenes too.

I remember when I visited London over a decade ago I saw many Turner watercolours at the Tate, so it was wonderful for me to relive that experience. Especially now that I have more of an appreciation and personal experience of painting landscapes, not to mention the use of watercolours. So I was learning a lot from such a great and innovative master.

Adelaide Zoo

The next day and for the rest of our stay the weather was a lot more reasonable. Not just for us but for the animals at the zoo. To deal with the spontaneity of our furry friends I used my inktense pencils and a waterbrush pen. It seemed the most practical medium.

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 1 LR

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 2 LR

It’s always a challenge to draw moving creatures, and I include humans in that category as well. One has to employ patience, ie waiting for the animal to appear or turn its head towards you, and you must curb any disappointment as well when it moves away before you’ve finished your sketch.

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 3 LR

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 4 LR

It’s also a test of your photographic memory and I had to turn to that to help me. Not that I have that skill or its better than anybody elses. It’s more that you NEED to give it a whirl in this type of situation.

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 5 LR

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 6 LR

By relying on quick glances and my memory to sketch these critters it made me more aware of each animal’s distinguishing features. For the tiger it was its spine and the undulating shape it creates from a side view, or the curling, flowing tail of the lemur or the large hour glass-like snout of the hippo.

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 7 LR

2013ADELAIDE ZOO 8 LR
2013ADELAIDE ZOO 9 LR 2013ADELAIDE ZOO 10 LRThroughout my life I have spent more time drawing the human figure, and one advantage if you are drawing people on the move is that we all have the same skeletal structure and more or less turn and move in the same way. So if I couldn’t capture someone in full before they moved on I could complete the sketch from memory.
2013ADELAIDE ZOO 11 LR

But with animals – not only do they look different on the outside and come in different sizes, but their skeletal structures are so different. The face alone varies so much. Some animals have their eyes in front while other are on the side, some have legs tucked in and concealed under their bodies while others look awkward and gangly. They are so intriguing and challenging.2013ADELAIDE ZOO 12 LR

However, it was a successful day and its a lovely zoo. It does seem to be in need of better enclosures for some of its animals and that it relies heavily on donations and visitors to the zoo. So if you’re in Adelaide for a few days, take a trip to the Adelaide Zoo.

Botanic Gardens

I was hoping to get more paintings done at the Adelaide Gardens, but it wasn’t as big as it looked on my map. And despite the drop in temperature, sitting out in the sun was still intense and not much shade could be found. The Palm House, however, was the big attraction so we set up for that.
2013ADELAIDE PALMHOUSE LR
I got out my dip pen and inks for this, and I was also hoping to use my masking fluid this trip. Sadly I left my old masking fluid brushes at home and I refused to ruin my good paintbrushes just to experiment with (see my masking fluid notes in this post). I found a very cheap set ($2!) in town and my expectations were even worse than I imagined. All the bristles came out every time I washed it.
I used it on the painting below, but I ditched it for the rest of the trip. I’m not sure what I had in mind with this picture, maybe it was me warming up. Or I was possibly inspired by Turner’s sea storms but applying it to a static glass house. 😛
2013ADELAIDE GLASSHOUSE DRG1 LR
You can see in the finished picture below where I applied the masking fluid in the sky. I would like to take it out again, but not with those brushes. My objective was to make it not only look like a glass and iron structure but to also capture that vintage feel too. It does have a French Riviera atmosphere about it, and some of Raoul Dufy’s work springs to mind.2013ADELAIDE RBG 1 LR
As I had to wait not only for the masking fluid to dry but the watercolours as well, I started up another drawing of the Palm House. This time I inked the lines in first. If you’ve seen a lot of my ink drawings of buildings you might notice that they’re a little askew in places. That’s primarily because I don’t pencil in structure lines of any kind. I start at the very top and weave my way down, sometimes taking a detour to the left or right. I made that decision a long time ago not to worry about things like that as I can get too caught up in getting it right, especially when it is just a sketch. It also forces me to look harder and try to achieve correct perspective and structure as I work, but its a hit and miss thing.
2013ADELAIDE GLASSHOUSE DRG2 LR
Here is the finished piece, very different from the first. I think this works better as an overall picture. My personal sense of what makes a picture interesting is if you find yourself exploring the entirety of it. You look at the linework, the squiggles, the shapes, the brushwork, where things overlap, the texture etc. As opposed to something that might grab your attention immediately but it doesn’t pull you in for more review. I dont know if it’s because there is more detail in this picture or that I feel that everything is working together better. And there is more variety in my brushwork to give it more texture. Again, in this picture, like the War Memorial, I have circulated the colours across the whole picture to unify it. See the peach and blue colour in the top right palm tree.
2013ADELAIDE RBG 2 LR

Big day out

Unsatisfied with having only created two pictures at the Gardens, I decided to do a sketchcrawl of my own the next day. We were staying in North Adelaide so my first stop was a nearby park looking over one of many churches.
2013ADELAIDE CHURCH1 LR
I like using a mix of all my art mediums – inktense, watercolours and dip pen. But when I sit down to draw something, the subject matter dictates to me what it would look best in, so I may not always use the same things. The photo below was taken after I applied watercolour to my inktense penciling. Since posting it I quite like it at this stage for the white areas I’ve left. Again, I’ve tried to frame the church by throwing in the hanging branch above and the flower bed below.
2013ADELAIDE CHURCH DRG2 LR
I think the end result is overworked. I know I was trying to create more contrast with the shadows and light areas but I couldn’t get that intensity with my brown paint. I do like the flower bed and the retreating windows on the side of the building. I managed to show some restraint there. 2013ADELAIDE CITY 1 LR
As I was sitting there I noticed one of the smaller palm trees near me and really like the shape of  the tree trunk. I drew this by first outlining the entire shape, then added the details inside it. I’m also using a new paper that is smooth and occasionally my pen nib gets caught in it or collects some of the paper fibres on the surface. 2013ADELAIDE PALMTREE LR 2013ADELAIDE CITY 2 LR
Then I made my way down to the grand daddy of all churches in Adelaide, St Peter’s Cathedral. I sat across the road from it. Thankfully the traffic in Adelaide is nothing like that of Sydney otherwise I would have been poisoned by toxic fumes. Instead I was almost bitten to death by ants. Not good when you’re wearing sandals and a dress!2013ADELAIDE CHURCH2 LR
I really had no idea how to tackle this or what to use. So I spent some time studying it. I decided it was too hard to take seriously, especially considering the heat, the ants and wanting to covering a lot of locations that day. I went a bit free form with my lines and threw in a bit of blind contouring/continuous line technique for good measure. I inked in the black first and ummed and arrhed about adding another colour, but I went with a brick red. It looks a little Dracula-gothic-blood-thirsty-like but I want to start putting more dimension into my line drawings.2013ADELAIDE CITY 3 LR
Then I headed into town. All along North Terrace are wonderful old building, several dating from the late 1800s. It was almost overwhelming as to where I should start and what to do first. But as it was still such a hot day, finding a good angle in the shade (any shade!!) narrowed down the choices for me.2013ADELAIDE CITY 4 LR
2013ADELAIDE CITY 5 LR
As it has been awhile since I’ve drawn exclusively with my colour inks and dip pen, I found it really difficult to decide whether to colour it in with watercolours or keep it as a line drawing. When you’re drawing on location you don’t have the luxury of, say, scanning version 1in before attempting version 2, and if it goes wrong then hey! I still have version 1 saved. You instead have to decide how far you want to take it. This time round I decided to leave them as line drawings. I think primarily because this isn’t somewhere I can pop out to on any weekend and do an hour or so of sketching. I didn’t want to ruin my travel souvenirs of Adelaide. I’d love to know how other people feel in this type of situation and how they handle it.
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Me drawing at Ruby Red Flmingo. Photo courtesy of Kaz e Dru.
Me drawing at Ruby Red Flmingo. Photo courtesy of Kaz e dru.
My last sketch of the trip was at dinner. North Adelaide is known for its restaurants, cafes etc. and we found the Italian Ruby Red Flamingo. It was a converted manse (living accommodation for a church’s minister). Very unassuming decor of colourful bric and brac drinking vessels, old wooden school and kitchen tables and used tomato cans for cutlery. But more importantly the food was amazing. I highly recommend to anyone in the neighbourhood. Lovely atmosphere and service, it was a great way to end a trip.
Well hope you liked the post!
Thanks for stopping by.
Cheers,
Meegan

Sydney rocks!

As per usual around this time of year the Festival of Sydney is on which hosts all types of performing and visual arts, both national and international artists. Then on top of that a lot of Northern hemisphere bands like to tour the country in our summer to make the most of our weather (although we’ve had gail force winds and serious flooding in some parts lately). So in the span of about two weeks I have seen four bands, which also means I’m absouletly broke too.

It started off with the crazy, loveable Hives (see last post) and continued on with the following:

WEEZER

Weezer at the Sydney Entertainment Centre - inktense and pen
Weezer at the Sydney Entertainment Centre – inktense and pen

I missed them the first time they toured, and 15 years later (I think) they returned. It is not my favourite venue in town but beggars cant be choosers. The only best spot in that venue is down the front. Next time I might leave the inktense pencils at home as they didnt give me enough colour, and I will admit I added a bit more when I got home that night because I wasn’t satisfied.

Post gig - Inktense Pecils and pen
Post gig – inktense and pen

It was also the start of a new sketchbook and it is really hard drawing on the left hand page while standing up with nothing to steady yourself or your book on, so I decided to leave the left page and I filled it in later that night.

weezer_3LR
Weezer at the Sydney Entertainment Centre – inktense and pen

They played a ballady-type number which meant they stood still for a little longer than normal, so I drew Brian and Rivers who were closest to me.

NORMAN BLAKE & JOE PERNICE

One of my all-time favourite bands is Teenage Fanclub, and Norman Blake is one of the lead singers/guitarist with them. They came out for the Festival of Sydney, so I decided on an impulse to go and see them perform at the Spiegeltent.

blake&pernice_spiegeltentLR
Spiegeltent, Festival of Sydney – inktense pencils and pen

As it was the day after the Weezer concert, for once I was happy to see seats at a music show. I got up close but sat to the side as sitting front on isn’t always the best sketching angle.

Norman Blake & Joe Pernice at the Spiegeltent, Festival of Sydney - watercolours
Norman Blake & Joe Pernice at the Spiegeltent, Festival of Sydney – watercolours

I found the paper in this sketchbook isn’t overly suitable for watercolours (and colour inks) – it tends to absorb them and the saturation is quite murky. So  I did another page with only pen. I love drawing hands, and being so close to the stage I could see their ‘fingering’ quite well. It was wonderful to draw – not sure if I drew them with any justice tho.

Norman Blake & Joe Pernice at the Spiegeltent, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Norman Blake & Joe Pernice at the Spiegeltent, Festival of Sydney – artline pen

OSAKA MONAURAIL

This was one of the most awesomest, fantabulous shows I’ve been to. Osaka Monaurail are a soul funk band inspired by the likes of James Brown, and as the name entails they are from Japan. They take everything that is cool and hot about soul music and play it like they were born in the 60s. Highly recommend seeing these guys live – heaps of fun and heaps of gettin’ down.

Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney - artline pen
Osaka Monaurail at Sydney Town Hall, Festival of Sydney – artline pen

So my feet are buggered. Only have enough time to recuperate before I head off to Abu Dhabi, stay tuned for that story.

Cheers,
Meegan

To check out any of these bands please click on the links.

Weezer  Norman Blake & Joe Pernice (from the same show)  Osaka Monaurail

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