Wuzhen water town

Today (23October)we spent a lot of time on the road. The driving was divided in two by spending several hours in Wuzhen, a small gem of a town, albeit stuffed full of tourists. The ‘town’ consists of several twisting narrow streets lined with old wooden houses either side of a section of canal. I took a camera battery’s worth of architectural details, wooden doorways and canal views. After lunch we had some free time so I sketched the canal with one of the stone bridges that cross it.
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Woke up it was a Suzhou morning

One thing good about waking up early while traveling is that I get to draw/paint something with a bit more detail. Across the road from our hotel are, quite literally, hundreds of 5 storey apartment blocks for local residents. I wasn’t particularly inspired by the sight. Then I looked just across the road at the shops and what remains of the previous urban infrastructure. It was a pond of blue roofs, chalky cerulean against waves of white walls and slate grey .

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Shanghai and Suzhou

We’ve moved just up the road from Shanghai to the ‘small’ city of Suzhou (1 million people). Before we left I found a spot on the corner near our hotel at the intersection of Yan’an and Ruijin roads, where the Yan’an elevated roadway passes overhead.

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Behind me was a small park, which are surprisingly quite common in the city. A cluster of large cycads caught my attention. I added the watercolour later.

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We only have one day in Suzhou. A  boat trip on the Grand Canal  was followed by a visit to the Master of Nets garden, which was overrun by horticultural students, drawing plans of the gardens and making sktches of the pavilions. I felt like shaking some of them because rather than draw from what was in front of their eyes they were taking a photo then drawing from that!
Anyway here are some extremely quick sketches which I did from the boat.

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Last stop of the day for most of the group was the Humble Administrator’s Garden, perhaps the most famous in China. However I arranged with our guide to go instead to the Suzhou Museum, designed by I M Pei, whose family comes from this city. But that story will have to wait for another wifi connection.

In Shanghai

Yes I am in Shanghai on the first leg of a month long visit to China. I first visited this city 30 years ago and not surprisingly things have changed.  The city skyline is unrecognizable, so many high rise buildings and motorways and even a Maglev train to the airport that travels at 431 km per hour, what an experience!
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This is the view from our room. I don’t have a scanner so the photos are a bit dodgy!
This is part of a wall in the 500 year old Yu Gardens.
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There may not be many posts as the wifi isn’t all that cooperative. We will see.

Arthur Boyd, Agony and Ecstasy

A major retrospective of Arthur Boyd’s work is currently on show at the National Gallery of Australia. Drawing largely on the donations of work that the artist made to the gallery in 1975, the show includes works in a range of media, from pen and ink, oil, oil and tempera, pastel and tapestry.

With a show of such magnitude I can only touch on a few points I found of interest. Firstly I agree with the friend who commented on the wide range of styles that Boyd employed or reflected over the years. To my mind Boyd’s early works went from reflections of the Heidelberg School (Australian Impressionism), then to a strong influence of the artist Albert Tucker. At the same time his drawings in pen, ink and wash have a decided renaissance feel to them, possibly enhanced by their mythological and biblical themes. By the time he gets to England you can see strong influences of Turner, particularly in his landscapes.

I also felt that the hanging series of work, such as the Nebuchadnezzar paintings and the ‘caged painter’ series, reset my response to many of the individual paintings I had previously seen. The Nebuchadnezzar series, depicts episodes in the wanderings of Nebuchadnezzar and includes quite lyrical works which I was unfamiliar with.

Arthur BOYD | Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the tree

Arthur Boyd, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree 1969 oil on canvas 174.5 h x 183.0 w cm, National Gallery of Australia, 1975.3.95

My favourite work was an oil, painted in 1979-80, titled A Skate in a Merric Boyd Pot. In this work a skate, an image which Boyd has painted many times, is merged with and is emerging from the type of pot that characterised the work of his father, the studio potter, Merric Boyd.

Skate in a Merric boyd Pot, pencil and watercolour, 15 October 2014

Skate in a Merric boyd Pot, pencil and watercolour, 15 October 2014

I spent a lot of time looking at the many examples of drawing displayed throughout the exhibition. Boyd showed the same facility with drafting, as did the young Picasso,  then proceeded to refine and simplify his style as he grew more experienced.

Arthur BOYD | Figure in a fountain with watching figures

Arthur Boyd, Figure in a fountain with watching figures 1944-1949 ink; paper , drawing in pen, brush and black ink 38.0 h x 56.0 w cm, national Gallery of Australia, 1975.3.1381

In his later works, the figures emphasise hands and feet, and faces are represented by blots for eyes and nostrils and small lines for mouths. These are no less powerful works for their brief notations. I tried to capture this focus in the quick study of the hands in one of the works in the St Francis tapestry series.

A detail of St Francis Turning Brother Masseo, pencil, eraser and watercolour, 15 October 2014

A detail of St Francis Turning Brother Masseo, pencil, eraser and watercolour, 15 October 2014

This final room is a fitting conclusion to the exhibition, showing nine of the 17 St Francis tapestries, designed by Boyd and superbly woven in Portugal at the Tapapecarias de Portalegre. As you approach, the works appear, glowing, quite literally with the strong colours Boyd used in his pastels, translated into the very large woollen tapestries.

For locals there are still another few weeks to see the exhibition, which runs until 9 November. Don’t be put off by the introduction of paid parking at the National Gallery. Visitors can validate their parking ticket at the cloak desk and will get free parking for 3 hours.

A little bit of Nookie

Earlier this week, at the Nookie Expresso Bar in the Canberra City centre I had one of the best coffees I’ve had in recent times and also found some fun drawing opportunities.

Firstly this ‘retro’ vibe flouro dinosaur planter.

You know how I like dinosaurs, flouro planter at Nookie, pen and ink, watercolour, 13 October 2014

You know how I like dinosaurs, flouro planter at Nookie, pen and ink, watercolour, 13 October 2014

Next up was an arrangement of water glasses and caraffes, against the pole supporting the roof awning. I used both my waterproof Copic liner and non-waterproof Lamy Safari pento make this drawing.

water glasses and caraffes, at Nookie, pen and ink and wash, 13 october 2014

water glasses and caraffes, at Nookie, pen and ink and wash, 13 october 2014

A day later and another cafe (our regular in Mawson) I drew this stack of chairs, pulled up out of the pouring rain.

Stacks of chairs, pen and ink, 14 October 2014

Stacks of chairs, pen and ink, 14 October 2014

Rear View

It is said that small things amuse small minds, but I’d like to change the saying to ‘small things engage inquiring minds’. I hope my latest drawing ‘tic’ falls into this latter category. Sitting, waiting in the car is something that most of us experience quite often, so I decided I should take advantage of this situation to indulge in a little drawing. I do want to emphasise that I only draw while the car is parked. I realised that there was often too much happening in all directions to quickly decide what to draw. So I decided I would draw what appeared in my car’s rear vision or wing mirror, or the mirrors themselves.

Rearview mirror and parking meters, ball point pen, 9 September 2014

Rearview mirror and parking meters, ball point pen, 9 September 2014

The more time I have, the more elaborate the drawings can get.

Wing mirror with open garage door, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 16 September 2014

Wing mirror with open garage door, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 16 September 2014

Of course I don’t always have my sketchbook to hand so when needs must, I grab one of the many car park tickets that seem to live in our car. This 5.5 x 8.5 cm (roughly 2 x3 “) format focuses the mind wonderfully!

'No parking' rear view mirror, ballpoint pen on car park ticket, 12 October 2014

‘No parking’ rear view mirror, ballpoint pen on car park ticket, 12 October 2014

One thing I noticed when I did this drawing was that if I use blind drawing technique to reproduce the writing I don’t make mistakes when I draw the reversed letters. Quite interesting.