Teaching at the underpass

This year I have twice taught introductory classes on urban sketching for our local Community Arts Centre. We have been sketching at a local shopping centre focusing on sketching the underpass and the toilet block.

I have actually become quite fond of sketching this underpass.

Strange subjects for sketches I know, however they are simple enough shapes to practice proportional measuring and drawing for people with limited sketching experience. I want to help people experience the satisfaction of making a ‘good’ drawing; good enough to encourage them to keep on trying.

I won’t go into the details of what this all means, suffice to say that getting the relative proportions relatively correct means a much more satisfactory outcome to the drawing.

Above is a quick sketch where I’ve demonstrated how to use a pencil to measure the proportions of the underpass.

Demonstrating the results of making light and dark shades with watercolour pencils. The challenge is encouraging people to use a wider tonal range, particularly strong darks, which if nothing else save the sketch from death by mid-tone values.

Secondly some suggestions on how to use watercolor pencils. Then a small drawing demonstrating how you can emphasize the background, rather than focus on a tree in the foreground of your main subject.

A small sketch using ‘negative space, to make a tree trunk pop out from the over pass railings behind it.

And finally my piece de resistance a sketch completed upside down. This sketch shows the relative values of the underpass and how to include the two trees in front of it, without them detracting from the main subject.

All my best ideas are nicked from other sketchers. This one is no exception. Alvin Wong, an urban sketcher from Hong Kong, once explained that one of the most useful skills he learned in his early days as an architect was how to draw and write upside down, while delivering presentations to clients. Not only does it impress the socks off people, but in this case I could demonstrate the ideas I was trying to share so the sketcher could easily follow my drawing.

Not bad for my first upside down drawing.

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.

Brett Whiteley – Drawing is Everything

This week we had a two hour window to see one exhibition in Sydney, before we had to catch our bus back to Canberra. So Brett Whiteley ‘Drawing is Everything’ was the unanimous choice.

Arriving early, before the gallery opened, I took the opportunity to sketch Gilbert Bayes PBRS sculpture ‘The Offerings of Peace’ (1923), from across the road. In honour, no doubt of my artistic endeavours, I was duly shat upon by Pied Currawong sitting in the tree overhead.

AGNSW

The Offerings of Peace, Gilbert Bays, PBRS, 1923

On entering the gallery we were immediately caught up in the vitality of Whiteley’s works, predominantly made with pen and ink and brush an ink. It was fascinating to see how Whiteley intensely studied the works of Van Gogh, Lloyd Rees and other artists as he developed his own style.

The gallery was encouraging visitors to draw while visiting the show, providing pencils and a small A4 folded piece of paper.

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Her‘, carvings in Mangrove wood, 1975 to c. 1980 (LHS); a quote by Whiteley “A good drawing (should be) loose, casual, abandoned, odd, wonky, immediate,swift, detached, +soaked in feeling, it should be brief, not just spare or simple, not just quick, It should be brief, beautifully brief, like the best Japanese art, like the soul’s shorthand.”

Luckily I also had my own paper as there were several other sketches I wanted to make.

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After Brett Whiteley, Wendy Drunk, 1983, original, brush and black and brown ink. My version, pencil on paper.

It was intriguing to see how Whitely playfully amalgamated and created images, such as the following sketch of Matisse, putatively sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens, reading a newspaper.

After Brett Whiteley, Henri Matisse reading a newspaper in the Luxembourg Gardens, 1989 ink and brush. My version pencil on paper with watercolour added later.

Much as I enjoyed sketching in the gallery, the relative stiffness of the pencil sketches, compared to the brush works in particular, was underlined by a quote by Whiteley “Have you ever seen a pencil drawing that isn’t safe?” (p9, Brett Whiteley Drawings, Lou Klepac, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2014)

Brett Whiteley: Drawing is Everything
Art Gallery of New South Wales, on until 31 March 2019

Drawing the exhibition: Porosity Kabari

Porosity Kabari¬†(Nishi Gallery, New Acton, Canberra) is a collaboration between Trent Jansen, Richard Goodwin and Ishan Khosla. The trio “investigates the cycle of use, re-use (and further re-use) – and how we can, simply, use one thing to make another thing.” Using only materials and skills sourced from the ‘Chor Bazaar’ (Thieves Market) and the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, the outcome is a series of objects that fascinated me with their detail and juxtapositions, and showed an enjoyable lack of concern for ‘perfect’ functionality.

My first sketch was of Trent Jansen’s ‘Dropping a Kumbhar Wala Matka Vessel’, 2016. This work is composed of three photographs of the potter Abbas Galwani dropping ones of his pots on the ground, along with a number dropped pots that have subsequently been fired with all their distortions and cracks. Jansen’s work is a riff on Ai Wei Wei’s 1995 work ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’. (Ai Wei Wei’s work gives me the same squirmy sensation as fingernails scraping on a blackboard). But Jansen is drawing a different observation on ‘value’. These pots are in widespread use but their makers gets little respect for their skills and only minimal financial returns for their labour.

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Dropped Jugs, from¬†Dropping a Kumbhar Wala Matka Vessel’, 2016. by Trent Jansen. My sketch, pen and ink, coloured pencil and watercolour

The second sketch is of one of Ishan Khosla’s ‘Constructed-Deconstructed-Constructed’¬†series, 2016. These works are made from scavenged wood and odd bits of old furniture. Either a stool or a table, take your pick, these pieces have their own aesthetic which Khosla calls “do first think later”‘

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‘Constructed-Deconstructed-Constructed’¬†, 2016, by Ishan Khosla. My sketch pen and ink

Two sketches was as much as I could manage while standing up to draw, (no stools were available). So I will finish off with photos of two pieces that I really responded to by Richard Goodwin.Twin Charpai Exoskeleton for Mumbai, 2016, Richard Goodwin

This final piece really spoke to my own explorations of stitch, and I always enjoy a good wrapped object!

Klein Chair, 2016, Richard Goodwin

The exhibition finishes on 9 July, at the Nishi Gallery, New Acton, Canberra.

 

Art practice, not Art perfect

I was reminded earlier today that the phrase is ‘meditation practice’ not ‘meditation perfect’*, so I’m nicking that idea to apply to my art. I don’t know many artists who think their work is ‘perfect’, but¬†sometimes I¬†seem to operate as if that should be the¬†default. So in the spirit of it being Friday I’m cutting myself some slack and having fun with my art ‘practice’.

Returning from interstate last week I was making this rather stiff drawing of 4 people who appeared to be related …

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Waiting at the airport, 3 related women and one girl, coloured pencil

… when this bloke stuck himself right in front of my subjects.

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What gets in the way of art, becomes the art!

The pen I was using¬†wasn’t running smoothly as the cap is a bit loose and the ink dries and causes blockages. I sort-of revived it a bit by putting water from my brush pen onto it, so while the sketch is a bit pale, I think it’s way more interesting than my first effort.

The next day the pen¬†wasn’t much better, but I couldn’t resist sketching this cheeky magpie, hanging around the cafe for a feed. The first parts of the sketch were pale and then with help from my partner we managed to get the ink¬†flowing a bit better . Once that was done I realised that I had made a much more interesting range of marks than if the ink¬†had been flowing properly.

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Necessity becomes virtue as the paler initial marks allow for more interest in the feathers and offer a contrast to the background

I picked up that pen again today, but not before actually checking and re-filling it. This morning I didn’t find my¬†fellow cafe-goers very exciting subjects, so¬†I decided to include some of the graphics from the nearby reptile shop to make things more interesting. I decided the whole could be improved if I¬†added¬†some paint when I got home.

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Cafe habitues with green paint

I then decided, in short order, that the result¬†wasn’t quite what I was after. So I resorted to even more paint.

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My fix

I’m feeling much happier about this version.

Sadly I have to report that since the big make-over of the small precinct where we go for coffee, that our dinosaur has ‘left the building’. It has been replaced by two trees some ground-cover plants and a lot of wood-chips. Making my sketches ‘interesting’ will become more of a challenge with the dinosaur.

*Phrase thanks to Headspace

Cafe Wednesday – same same, but …

Same name but different location. Our local cafe has contracts for coffee shops at the university. Today, as we were in the area, we decided to try one of these venues.

It was a completely different atmosphere and demographic from our nearby place, which is a ‘hole in the wall’ with a few outdoor tables. This other version was crammed full of students, with obligatory laptops, in the still under construction, College of Business and Economics. It is a lively scene that¬†I plan to go back to again.

Biginelli's @ the College of Business and Economics, the Australian National University, 11 My 2016, Koh-i-Noor magic pencil white chalk and gel pen

Biginelli’s @ the College of Business and Economics, the Australian National University, 11 My 2016, Koh-i-Noor magic pencil white chalk and gel pen