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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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.

South of the border

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

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

Vic Markets

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

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

The Old Treasury

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

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

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Watercolours and brush, followed by colour inks and dip pen

Koko Black

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

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

The Rest of Melbourne

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

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

Bushido exhibition

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

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 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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Wolli Creek

On the weekend was National Tree Day. Lots of local councils organised tree planting events and a friend of mine is a member of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society (WCPS). They are a group of volunteers dedicated to protecting a rarity – native bushland in inner Sydney. It would be like finding a natural woodland in Notting Hill or the Bronx. Sadly it is threatened into having a freeway extended right through the middle of it, and that is the WCPS’s fight.

Flyer for the event - illustration was painted with watercolours & inks
Flyer for the event – illustration was painted with watercolours & inks

They held an event called “Inspired by Wolli” and my friend asked me if I would like to participate. They had musicians, photographers, poets, etc joining in. Initially I was asked to run drawing workshops but I felt that was out of my comfort zone. Plus the event was only a few hours long so it would have been too formal a structure.

I ended up sketching in 2 different locations and we had extra material if people wanted to join me. And I was there to assist if necessary. It’s amazing how adults were very reluctant to participate but kids needed no encouragement at all. Where did we go wrong growing up? When did we become so intimidated by a blank piece of paper?

So my skills weren’t needed except to hand out paper and crayons. That gave me some time to sketch for myself and join my fellow Sydney Sketch Club (SSC) members who came out for the day. I did the below as a warm up before everyone arrived.

watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen
watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen

Then one of the organisers brought some scrap cardboard and I used it with a charcoal pencil. I was very impressed by the results. Honestly, this drawing was dictated by the coarseness of the fluted card, and by its length and the qualities of the pencil. It was very easy going and now I aim to do a bit more cardboard sketches.

Charcoal pencil on corrugated cardboard
Charcoal pencil on corrugated cardboard

I did my usual colour inks one and I tried to bring in other colours than just typical “tree” colours.

Colour inks and dip pen
Colour inks and dip pen

wc_photo_lr_2I caught up with the SSC. It’s been awhile since I last joined them. Apart from our inspired organiser, Jenn, I didnt know a single soul. I drew this clump of trees near me (see left – that’s not me by the way) as they reminded me of a bunch of celery. I love the texture and how they are huddled together. I wanted to created some depth even amongst all that woody thickness, so decided to draw the foreground trees in a different colour. I didnt particularly like the Winsor & Newton greens. They were too dark or “rich” in intensity. Not very in sync with Australian natural colours. So I mixed my sunny green* with some cadmium yellow* and created a more Aussie sap green.

Watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen
Watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen

Initially I didnt think there was any depth but looking at it now it does. I think its also become one of my favourite drawings, the best I’ve done in awhile.

Below are a mix of sketches I did on previous visits or from photos I took. I couldn’t be bothered sorting through them.

Anyway, enjoy and go hug a tree!

Cheers,
Meegan

Dip pen and inks
Dip pen and inks
Technical pencil
Technical pencil
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Charcoal pencil and Watercolours and brush
Charcoal pencil and Watercolours and brush

*These are the names I have given to the W&N inks as their real names were totally misleading as to what colour they really were.

On Saturday aftenoon

I went to one of my favourite sketching spots with a friend on the weekend, Camperdown Cemetery. It was established in the mid 1800s and I would say the last time it was used was a century later.  The main kind of activity it sees now are dog walkers, people on lunch breaks, history buffs and anyone that wants to take a short cut to the other side of Newtown. The trees are the constant companions of those who rest here and have free reign to grow as they please. It is almost too perfect a scene the way they entwine with each other, and it makes it a setting so desperate in need to be drawn.

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ink and dip pen

Whenever I get out my inks I try to attempt something a little different. This time I decided to use a colour (green) for the shadows and another (yellow) for the highlights.

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Watercolours and artline pen

The weather was very changeable that day. It was mostly bright and sunny warm, but the clouds rolled over and it started to shower.  It seemed like it was sticking around for a while, so we took refuge at Berkelouw bookstore. There was a cafe upstairs and we found a sofa and sat and sketched for a bit. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we got our drinks the sun came out.

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Japanese brush, ink and dip pen
We agreed to give the cemetery another shot. It was breezy but the sun was out, although going down for the afternoon. I bought some Japanese brushes (for the first time) and found them really good to use. They were a lot more fluid in movement, especially when making “sharp turns” with it. So I will give them a spin more often.
Stay tuned for more…
Cheers,
Meegan

You Am I

I went and saw one of my all-time favourite bands in the whole wide world last night. And it was awesome freakin fun. They’re an Aussie band and have been around for a  few decades now, and every time I have seen them they put on the best damn rock n roll show ever. Seeing You Am I are like re-visiting your favourite restaurant that you haven’t been to in awhile. It’ s not a frilly froo froo fancy restaurant, they probably only wipe down the table once, but the food is good, and when you go back and order your favourite dish, like, say, a masaman curry, it’s exactly like how you remembered it and wonder why you dont go more often.

I started off standing midway on the ground floor. The Enmore has since removed all its permanent seats which is great, coz there’s nothing like seating that kills a rock concert.

Watercolours and artline pen
Watercolours and artline pen

I felt like I wasn’t getting it right, so at half-time I went to the front.

Drawn during halftime – artline pen and dirty waterbrush
Drawn during halftime – artline pen and dirty waterbrush
Drawn during halftime – artline pen and waterbrush
Drawn during halftime – artline pen and waterbrush

But I’m not sure if the portraits were any more successful.

Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen
Artline pen

I think I was trying too hard…? Anyway, I put my sketchbook in my bag, then after a bit of jumping around I gave it another shot. I stopped using my pen, which although I love, for action gestural drawing it is to stiff, and just worked with my brush pen and mini palette. How I did NOT get paint on the guy’s white shirt in front of me I’ll never know.

Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen
Watercolours and waterbrush pen

So although I didn’t capture individual personality as much as I wanted, I think the feel of the show is there in the end. Apologies to the band for the lack of facial accuracy.

Cheers,

Meegan

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