Matthew Evans at the National Library of Australia

Two quick sketches of Matthew Evans, TV presenter and author, who was speaking last night at the National Library of Australia on his latest book On Eating Meat.

Matthew in conversation with Karen Hardy from the Canberra Times

Matthew is as eloquent with his hands as he is with words.

Pencil sketches were made during the event and watercolours were added when we got home.

Shopping bag soft cover sketchbooks

Inspiration for this project came my way via a video by Peter Baumgartner on how to make a simple sewn binding book, with a soft cover. I didn’t take step by step photos, as Peter’s is one of the most clearly demonstrated instructional videos I have seen.

I have 10 sheets of coloured watercolour paper (2×5 of each) to play with. For the paper nerds out there this is Bockingford Tinted watercolour paper, 300gsm, cold press, which comes in 5 different colours, oatmeal, cream, grey, eggshell and blue. Being me I’m trying all five colours in the one book.

I have had a bit of an obsession with tinted watercolour paper since I found out that my watercolour hero JMW Turner, regularly painted on blue paper.

It has taken me a while to track some tinted paper down. I tried to get some from Sennelier when I was in Paris last year, but they were out of stock. In the end it turned out that all I needed to do was look online and I found a supplier in Australia! Duh!

As these are soft cover books I have been taking the opportunity to use up all sorts of leftover bits of thinner cardboard and papers to provide inner covers, covers and end papers.

I have included some close-up photos of the spine, as I wasn’t familiar with this stitch. In short you take your thread in and out through the holes in the pages and then back under the stitch below on the outside spine of the book. This results in the ‘cross’ pattern on the book’s spine. I have secured both ends with a coptic binding stitch.

Another critical step is pasting the spine with several layers of acid free PVA to support and consolidate the spine and stitching.

Two more books clamped while the PVA dries on their spines.

Having got to the final stages of adding a cover I raided my stash of Japanese shopping bags (a dark secret from my first trip to Japan over a decade ago), to find something sturdy to use. In this case a paper carrier bag from the Isetan ‘departo’ (department store).

I have now made two further books, extending the paper with the addition of some Arches 300 gsm cold press paper. Even more shopping bags have been used for the latest covers, including one from Jim Thompson and one from Daimaru.

Of course the big test will be how well this construction technique holds up in the field. Fingers crossed.

Travels with my paintbox

It’s been a year since my big European sketching adventure, so I decided it was time to take a look at my paintbox and see what I have and haven’t used, paint-wise, over that time.

The paintbox after one year’s use.

I bought this set in Paris about this time last year, but it no longer resembles the Sennelier set that I purchased, nor does it have many Sennelier paints in it anymore.

My biggest issue is that the Sennelier paints use honey as a binder, which is fine in moderate climates but doesn’t do the job in high temperatures. It was quite an alarming experience to be sitting, a few weeks later, in the streets of Cordoba realising that all my paints were liquid under a thin top skin. It was awful for painting and even worse when they started running together across the box.

So having started out using the kit as purchased, this paint box has been modified as I have gone along. The original set only had pans in half of the box, so I immediately started filling the empty spaces with extra half pans I bought as I travelled.

Longer term I also added full pans, all of which are filled by tube paint. It took me a while to appreciate that using full pans made it easier to get juicy colours onto my palette and paintings, without unnecessarily wearing down the hairs on my good brushes. When travelling using full pans also means less refills.

Sorting out what I have ready for re-filling.

In the middle of the box sits a row of colours that get used at a lesser rate than others. Some, such as pyrol orange and diazine purple that are almost impossible to mix from scratch and for me at least, are absolute necessities in some sketches.

I can’t resist trying new colours and no kit I have seen holds all the colours that I want to use. I am also a firm believer that art supplies make excellent souvenirs, particularly as so many brands are hard to get (other than online) in Australia. Included in my box are paints I got in Japan, France, Singapore and Portugal. Brands include Windsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, Artist’s Spectrum, Holbein, Schmincke, Sennelier, Mission Gold and PWC. My latest purchases made in Taiwan last year, haven’t found a space in the box yet, even though I am desperately attached to the Mission Gold Red Brown.

Comparing colours between what I had at home (the paints at either end) and replacements bought while travelling, when I ran out or couldn’t find the right colour.

I am looking forward to travelling again so it will be interesting to see what new paints I find! Here’s to my re-filled palette.

My shiny clean paintbox , not for long!

Blown away

It was very sneaky of the organisers of the Dobell drawing prize to tell me that I got a mention in this review, but not let on what that mention was.

All good!

The full review of the show by Tracy Clement can be read in the May/June print edition of Art Guide Australia or it can be read online here. The installation photo was taken by Peter Morgan, the in-house photographer at the National Art School in Sydney.

Drawing waves

I saw some drawings on Instagram made by a friend @richardbriggs_artist , of the movement of a car over a bumpy road in Bolivia. It prompted me to pull out my own drawings made just over a year ago recording waves lapping my feet on a rising and a falling tide on the south coast of New South Wales.

I steadily drew a line back and forth across the page and if a wave washed over my feet I drew it as a peak, for the duration of it’s ebb and flow.

Falling tide, 10.30 am to 11.05 am, 13 March 2018, ink on recycled ledger

Rising tide, 3.49pm to 4.19 pm, 15 March 2018, ink on recycled ledger

This is a continuous line drawing at the same location.

Glacial erratics on the rock platform between Depot and Pebbly Beach, 13 March 2018

PS lest you think that I am even more of a tide nerd than I am, the details on the page were copied from a tide guide at the Ranger station at our campground.

Drawing the exhibition – Bodies of Art

Bodies of Art: Human form from the national collection, is currently on display in the downstairs sculpture rooms of the National Gallery of Australia. I spent the morning there quietly sketching away. The exhibition is a stimulating mix of sculpture, paintings, photography and video works which provided me with lots of interesting compositions to work on.

My first sketch was a grouping of stone sculptures, Torso, 1948 by Rosemary Madigan and Number 24, Harry Boyd by Robert Klippel and a third piece, an Anthropomorphic monument [gowe nio niha], (19th century or earlier) from the island of Nias in Indonesia. I was instantly drawn to the sandstone used in the two Australian works. The deep gougemarks on the Klippel sculpture acted like lines drawn across the surface. In contrast the smoother texture of Madigan’s work supported the subtlety of her torso’s carved planes.

Left to Right, Torso; Anthropomorphic Figure; Number 24, Harry Boyd, graphite with added watercolour

Behind me was an interesting juxtaposition of a hanging work by Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and beyond that, Triptych, 1970, by Francis Bacon.

Paolini’s work consists of two photographs of a renaissance sculpture sandwiched between perspex and hang from a steel cable. The work slowly gyrates beneath the high gallery ceiling, while underneath lies a piece of shattered glass. Behind it hangs Bacon’s equally fractured figures, curiously feeling much more grounded and solid than Paolini’s figure does.

Giulio Paolini, Aria (Air), 1983 and Francis Bacon, Triptych, 1970, pencil with added watercolour

While I drawing the partial elements of the Bacon triptych into this sketch, I became quite intrigued by the figures in the work’s central panel. After a restorative cup of coffee and some biscuits in the Member’s Lounge I returned to my final sketch of the day, the detail of the central panel.

There is certainly scope for more drawing here, so I will plan to make it back there soon.

All the sketching was done in the gallery and the watercolour was added afterwards.