Free the people

I’ve been working on drawing people for some months now. I don’t find it easy and I might easily persuade myself to draw something else but I am persisting with it. To try and improve the outcomes – in my eyes at least – I’ve been trying out some different techniques.

My default position to date has been a fairly realistic approach which relies on hoping my subjects are wearing sunglasses so I don’t have to draw tricky eyes and noses. Most of these drawings work, but the result is that my city appears to be occupied by shady characters at best and the random, deranged-looking person at worst.

Cyclists, pen and ink and wash, 23 June 2015

Cyclists, pen and ink and wash, 23 June 2015

I’ve been tossing around some options for changing my approach to drawing people. I was much happier with the quick sketches I did at the beach earlier this year, where I used a quick wash of watercolour that I quickly sketched into. So over the past few weeks I’ve been working on this as a new approach to people sketching in cafes.

Trying a new approach, watercolour and graphite, 24 July 2015

Trying a new approach, watercolour and graphite, 24 June 2015

I’ve mainly used a watercolour graphite pencil to add detail, I’m also trying using my pen and ink.

Busy Saturday, watercolour and pen and ink, 4 July 2015

Busy Saturday, watercolour and pen and ink, 4 July 2015

I’ve also found that if I put down a light wash that I can also quickly add some shadows and contours with subsequent washes.

Man reading, watercolour and graphite, 27 June 2015

Man reading, watercolour and graphite, 27 June 2015

And while it might seem obvious it has also dawned on me that if I am working on a small piece of paper it is actually harder to get a well drawn face because I don’t have enough space to capture the details I want, duh!

There’s no doubt that I’m still better at capturing body shapes than faces,

The coffee queue, watercolour and grapjite, 11 July 2015

The coffee queue, watercolour and grapjite, 11 July 2015

but I am keeping on with this approach.

Two people , quick sketch, watercolour and graphite, 11 July 2015

Two people , quick sketch, watercolour and graphite, 11 July 2015

(Personal) Treasures of the Australian War Memorial – Part 2

For Part 1 of my visit to the Australian War Memorial click here.

The second archive box I looked at held the ‘improvised pullover’ made by Bombadier L G Burnett. Burnett became a prisoner of war of the Japanese after fighting in Malaysia and Singapore. He volunteered, along with some 1,000 Allied POWs, to work on airfield construction in Burma and also subsequently worked on the Burma-Thailand railway project. This group was known as A Force. This jumper was made while Burnett was working on the railway and was kept by him through subsequent moves through Thailand until the end of the war.

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

What surprised both the curator and myself is how small the jumper is. Given this was made some time into his captivity I must assume that by this time Bombadier Burnett was probably quite malnourished. The text accompanying the online entry notes that this garment was worn by Bombadier Burnett during bouts of malaria and also when he suffered from dysentery so he could sleep outside close to the latrines.

As you can see from the image above the pullover is composed of different pieces of fabric. The central brown section is a scarf that was part of an Australian comfort package. The sleeves which are actually the legs of a pair of British long-johns he got in Singapore. Prior to them becoming part of the jumper, Bombadier Burnett used them, stuffed, as a pillow. The lower green section are Bombadier Burnett’s puttees. The puttees are made of a machine-knitted woollen fabric.

Unlike the previous knitted pullover with its skillful styling, this garment shows improvisation in the face of very scarce resources. The collar of the garment is made from part of a Japanese blanket and like the rest of the garment is attached with basic stitching.

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

While I couldn’t touch the pullover I was able to make notes and draw a schematic diagram of it.

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

The detail of the stitching shows utilitarian work with no particular signs of sewing experience. Basic stitches, running stitch and vertical stitching (possibly overhand) hold the sections together. Parts of the pullover are darned with scraps of wool. Various types of thread, sewing cotton, wool and some cotton twine are used across the garment. The central section has two diagonal rows of stitching which, I assume, form darts to better shape the pullover for fit.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

I found Bombadier Burnett’s name in a list of released prisoners in the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser of 21 September 1945. Bombadier Burnett was discharged from the army in January 1946.

Lionel Granville Burnett (1918-2012).

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78519034

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78519034

An interesting sideline to this story is that one of the commanding officers of A Force, Brigadier Arthur Varley MC and Bar, CO 22 Bde, instructed Jim Collins, one of the A Force POWs to make “portraits of fellow POWs, some of whom would not survive the war.” Collins made some 100 drawings. While there isn’t a drawing of Bombadier Burnett (that I could find), you can see some portraits of some of the A Force Allied POWs made by Jim Collins, which are also held in the AWM collection.

Canberra Sketchers at Hotel Hotel

We decided not to repeat last month’s Canberra Sketchers Group outdoor meeting and opted instead for the warmth of Canberra’s hippest accommodation Hotel Hotel. It was hip and happening and we were there.

We set up at the Monster Kitchen and Bar and managed to drink lots of tea and coffee and scoff plenty of tasty cakes and biscuits and didn’t even dip our paint brushes in the wrong glass once!

Watercolours amongst the coffees

Watercolours amongst the coffees

The building provided plenty of places to sit and observe and lots to look at as well.

I opted for an external view to the cold and foggy Canberra morning, not that that was deterring the cyclists who parked their bikes outside the window.

Looking out to the cold, watercolour, 5 July 2015

Looking out to the cold, watercolour, 5 July 2015

It was only after I returned to the main table that I realised there were light wells overhead which looked up into gardens, wow! I did a quick sketch but, per usual would like to go back and pick a slightly different place to capture this scene. It gives one of those illusions where you can’t quite work out if what you are seeing is approaching or receding.

Looking up, watercolour 5 July 2015

Looking up, watercolour 5 July 2015

In all our production was quite high – demonstrating the value of having several books ready to go so you could swap between them as paintings were drying.

Some of the mornings output, Canberra Sketchers Group, 5 July 2015

Some of the mornings output, Canberra Sketchers Group, 5 July 2015

Next time we are meeting at the National Museum of Australia, 10.30 am on Sunday 2 August.

In print, hooray!

I’ve known about it since this time last year, but to hold the real thing in my hand is something else completely. Yep, there’s now an article in the current issue of Craft Arts International about my work! The current issue being No 94, pps 105-107.

A quick peek at the article

A quick peek at the article

The article is written by Peter Haynes, a Canberra-based curator who I worked with in 2013. It focuses largely on work that was in my 2014 solo exhibition and also includes other works that have appeared in group shows over the last few years.

I hope you enjoy seeing the ‘other side’ of my work!

Dr Sketchy and the blue woman

Last week we went to our second Dr Sketchy event at the National Gallery. It seems odd that such an event takes place withing the formality of Gandel Hall, however everyone enjoys themselves, the burlesque is well done and the art making fun.

This time we had two male models which provided different body shapes and poses to come to terms with.

Three two minute poses, graphite, 2 July 2015

Three two minute poses, graphite, 2 July 2015

We worked up from two and five minute poses to longer poses at the end of the evening.

Two, five minute poses, graphite, 2 July 2015

Two, five minute poses, graphite, 2 July 2015

And then there was the blue woman. Two of the models were covered in body paint and despite the colour, or perhaps because of it, I found it much easier to come to grips with the shape of their bodies when I drew them. One of the women was painted blue (not Yves Klein blue I hasten to add) and wore a white wig. I really enjoyed drawing her.

Five minute pose, graphite, 2 July 2015

The Blue Woman, five minute pose, graphite, 2 July 2015

Per usual the gallery restriction on media meant I was limited in how I could respond to the colourful models. One of the other people at our table gave me some chalk pastels and pastel paper which allowed me to make a more colourful drawing.

The Blue Woman, chalk pastel, 2 July 2015

The Blue Woman, chalk pastel, 2 July 2015

I enjoy these evenings as I come away with a sense of having had a really good artistic workout.