Christmas Flowers

Each year I indulge my childhood memories by buying myself a bunch of New South Wales Christmas Bush (Cerapetalum gummiferum), to display on my festive table. This plant was grown around my family home in Sydney, but is too frost sensitive to last in Canberra’s icy winters – I know I’ve killed two plants already. This year I fleshed out the display with some other Australian daisies, the drumstick-like Billy Button (Crasspedia sp.) and another with chalky whitish green flowers, which I don’t recognise, but I assume is from Western Australia. At the last moment my partner added in a large branch of his Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) which lent quite a dramatic diagonal to the ‘arrangement’.

Once again I was practising my sight measurement and angle checking. I made a light pencil outline then worked, fairly freely over this with my Copic Multiliner.

Initial ink sketch with Copic Multiliner, 29 December 2014

Initial ink sketch with Copic Multiliner, 29 December 2014

I knew I wanted to add watercolour to the drawing so I set out to do this as simply as possible.

A Christmas arrangement, pen and watercolour, 29 December 2014

A Christmas arrangement, pen and watercolour, 29 December 2014

I am pleased with a finished result but again would like to re-visit the subject matter without using a sketch outline. Unfortunately I’ll have to rely, in part, on photos as the Christmas Bush is now way past it’s best.

Boxing Day sketchfest

On Boxing day we decided to head out for another sketch-a-thon. We chose to go to the Sculpture Garden of National Gallery of Australia, because of its wide variety of potential subjects to draw, not to mention its proximity to a good cup of coffee.

I was trying to put into effect some of the lessons outlined in my Christmas present, The Urban Sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location, by Marc Taro Holmes. In particular I was working on sight measuring and angle checking. This isĀ  something I mainly do by instinct, so a bit of practice wasn’t going to go astray. Holmes comments that it’s the measuring process that underlying the sketch that provides your framework to draw spontaneously – “Loose is how a drawing looks, not how it is made.”

My first subject is a favourite sculpture of mine, Gaston LaChaise’s work Floating Figure, 1927, in bronze. In the garden the sculpture floats above a pool of water. I had just turned away from my drawing when I saw that a dog belonging to some passing pedestrians had decided to have a quick dip in the pool! Sadly I wasn’t quick enough with my pen to catch the moment.

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Meanwhile my mother-in-law was tackling Rick Amor’s nearby sculpture called The Dog. It certainly isn’t the most handsome of animals, but it is an interesting subject to draw. Here is the view I made of the work.

26Dec2014b

The Dog, Rick Amor, cast bronze on a steel base, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

I’ve decided that I would like to go back and spend some time drawing this piece from a variety of angles. I’d also like to take a greater variety of media with me next time. I was working in my Strathmore visual diary and I found that the Copic Multiliner wasn’t moving across the paper as easily as I would have liked. I’d managed to leave my Lamy Safari pen at home, because I hadn’t checked my kit from the previous day’s drawing. Live and learn.

After lots of discussion about drawing negative spaces and how, from certain angles, the dog looked rather like an anteater, we went inside for a break. Later in the day came some of the best news we’ve had from the National Gallery in a long time – they are lifting the blanket ban on taking photos in the NGA! You can read about it here, National Gallery photography ban lifted.

Cafe Wednesday – Christmas Eve

Obscured landscape, partial view from the National Arboretum cafe, Copic Multiliner, 24 December 2014

Obscured landscape, partial view from the National Arboretum cafe, Copic Multiliner, 24 December 2014

The shopping was done, the presents were wrapped so what better way to spend our time than to do some sketching. Our local cafe had closed for the holidays and it was overcast and raining so we took ourselves to the cafe at the National Arboretum Canberra for some of the best views of the city and surrounds.

It’s complicated …

Our second, all singing and dancing family sketching event took place at the footbridge near a local high school. We thought that the dramatic central pylon which suspends the footbridge above the road and the sweeping curve of the bike ramp would make an excellent subject to draw. It does, but it turned out to be rather more difficult than we anticipated.

I started off with a blind drawing, just to get some idea of which section I might draw. I initially picked an area that was fairly complex and included the main ramp, and the stairs off the bridge. By the way, the main structure of the bridge is painted a bright orange colour, (which has upset some of the nearby residents).

Initial blind drawing, pen and ink as well as using watercolour to indicate some of the different elements of the bridge, 19 December2014

Initial blind drawing, pen and ink as well as using watercolour to indicate some of the different elements of the bridge, 19 December 2014

I thought this section was perhaps a bit ambitious for a first attempt, so I switched my attention to the curving bike ramp instead. I was reasonably happy with this until I realised that I was struggling to getting the double hand rail and its’ support structure in the correct position. I added the watercolour as I wanted to keep in mind the silhouette of the ramp against the skyline.

The first go at the bike ramp, Copic Multiliner and watercolour, 19 December 2014

The first go at the bike ramp, Copic Multiliner and watercolour, 19 December 2014

At this stage there was some muttering in the ranks about sketches not quite going to plan and needing to shift position so we were out of the sun. As the happy sketching ambience started to disappear along with the shade I decided to cut my losses and try and work out just how those little support bars hold the hand rails up.

Those little tubes holding the hand rails in place, Copic multiliner,19 December 2014

Those little tubes holding the hand rails in place, Copic multiliner,19 December 2014

By the time I’d managed this small detail there was a big push to return home to a nice cool drink. Ah, happy families!

(In my defence, I will state here that no-one was forced to go sketching against their will, it just seemed like a good idea at the time!)

 

Sydney, for a day

My partner and I caught the bus up to Sydney yesterday, so we could see the Chuck Close: Prints, Process and Collaboration exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The weather was vile. Rainy with strong gusty winds so inside a gallery was just the place to be.

We were a bit stunned, when we arrived, to find out that it was a single entry ticket to the show, so our plans to take a look, retire for a restorative coffee and then re-enter the gallery for a second look were shot. Having decided that caffeine fortification was in order, prior to entry, we went to the 4th floor cafe, with its marvelous terrace with views to the Opera House, only to have to sit inside because yes, it was raining again. I took the opportunity to quickly sketch this sculpture of a ‘child’. When I finally dashed out to get a look at the title and artist’s credit I discovered that the head, turned away from me is that of an extinct and ancient fossil fish!

to be carried away in the current, to be dissolved in the Other, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, 2014, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.  Copic multiliner, 11 December 2014

‘to be carried away in the current, to be dissolved in the Other’, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, 2014, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Copic multiliner, 11 December 2014

I won’t say much about the exhibition, other than its great if you like Close’s work, as he is happy to not only reveal, but hang on the walls, examples of the processes he uses to make his work. This includes the actual woodblocks etching plates and forms he uses. I love seeing these objects as much as the finished work itself. There was so much to take in so I was thankful that the catalogue does provide lots of close up detail so you can examine the work again in your own time.

Given that we ended up spending less time at the gallery than anticipated we still had some time to expend before we headed back to return bus. My partner suggested finding somewhere to perch ourselves and draw. We walked to the eastern side of Circular Quay and found a bar on the Opera Walk where we had a good view of the Harbour Bridge, albeit from underneath the shelter of the bar’s umbrellas.

The Harbour Bridge from the Opera Walk, Circular Quay, Sydney. 11 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

The Harbour Bridge from the Opera Walk, Circular Quay, Sydney. 11 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Back on the bus and through the rain to Canberra. I was jolted awake as a brilliant light shone onto my face – the sun had broken through the clouds. I spent the next half hour enjoying the special sunset effects. This is one I tried to capture on my phablet, an impression of the small scraps of cloud catching the last sunlight.

Cloud study, late afternoon, e-drawing (Photoshop Touch), 11 December 2014

Cloud study, late afternoon, e-drawing (Photoshop Touch), 11 December 2014

Treading the fine line

Using my Copic Multiliner pen, is certainly influencing my drawing style. With such a fine line I’m inclined to spend more time putting in detail, which in this drawing meant that I took far too long capturing the people and spent too much time working on the background. *Message to self – people first and background later.

Friday lunchtime, friends picnicing at Green Square, Kingston ACT, Copic marker, 5 December 2014.

Friday lunchtime, friends picnicing at Green Square, Kingston ACT, Copic marker, 5 December 2014.

There is another issue that I’ll also have to work on, the almost overwhelming urge to use cross-hatching! Arghhh! In this second drawing my smooth plastic water tank ended up looking like a piece of 1970’s macrame. The hatching also upsets the balance of the drawing.

Old Chairs near the water tank, Copic Multiliner, 12 December 2014

Old Chairs near the water tank, Copic Multiliner, 12 December 2014

While I still like the composition this piece didn’t turn out like I expected. I was going to say didn’t turn out like I ‘planned’, but I didn’t ‘plan’ anything about this drawing except for where I was going to sit and what I going to make the drawing with.

So there are several things I need to work on here. Given that I’m not likely to get around taking the chairs to the re-cycling centre in the next little while I think I’ll try the drawing the same composition again. I will also vary the media I use and see how how that changes the work. Live and learn.

Inspiration is for amateurs

I seem to be collecting artistic aphorisms lately. The full quote, from the artist Chuck Close is:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

My old cat doesn’t seem to be paying much heed to Chuck. It was a coincidence that I still had my sketch book in my hand, looked up and decided to catch a quick pose from George (actually full name Georgina, but she rarely gets called that). Later the same day I spent rather more time drawing her asleep and butted up against my partner.

George asleep near a paper bag (left), pen and ink  and George asleep against my partner (right), Copic marker

George asleep near a paper bag (left), pen and ink and George asleep against my partner (right), Copic marker