Drawing the exhibition – The Daylight Moon

It is an amazing thing to drive for an hour through a landscape, to arrive in a room where that same landscape has been abstracted into 10 works of art.

Looking eastwards across the dry bed of Lake George

Looking eastwards across the dry bed of Lake George

The Goulburn Regional Gallery is currently showing, The Daylight Moon, a collection of 10 works by Rosalie Gascoigne. Gascoigne was born in New Zealand 1917 and died in Australia in 1999, (she lived in Australia from 1943). Gascoigne is, arguably, the greatest Australian landscape artist of the late 20th century. The ten works have been selected to show Gascoigne’s response to Lake George. The Lake is the major feature on the drive between Canberra and Goulburn. It is known throughout our region as the disappearing lake, as the water levels change from full to totally dry depending on the local rainfall.

The gallery layout is simple. Partitions have been placed toΒ  square up the centre of the gallery. The centre of that space is occupied by a large work called A Piece to Walk Around, (1981), which is a composition of dry thistle stems, thousands of them, laid in a simple grid pattern directly on the floor. In the gallery this takes the corresponding position of the lake as the central theme of the exhibition. The remaining works are hung on the surrounding walls, with space to breathe, as is appropriate to the sense of space that is present in the land around Lake George.

My immediate response to the gallery space was to stop and take a deep and relaxing breath, then let the art flow around me. I have seen many of Gascoigne’s pieces over the years, but those included in this show were largely unfamiliar. If you haven’t seen Gascoigne’s work you should know that her pieces are composed from found materials, such as corrugated iron and old timber road signs, that she collected from small town dumps in the area.

Gascoigne’s ability to visualise a work of art out of these basic materials remains a constant surprise. She described her process as follows “… you’ve got to use what you’ve got and you’ve got to fake it and fake it and fake it, until suddenly you personally see it. And whether anybody else sees it is of course immaterial.”*

I realised that I needed to slow down enough to really take in the work. So I borrowed a seat so I could sit down and draw one of the works, High Country, (1999).

Rosalie Gascoigne's High Country 1999, graphite, 15 July 2015

Rosalie Gascoigne’s High Country, 1999, graphite, 15 July 2015

These are my notes made in the gallery, but I couldn’t resist copying the drawing onto watercolour paper and adding some colour once I had returned home.

Rosalie Gascoigne's High Country 1999, painted corrugated iron panels on wood, 134 x 121 cm, watercolour on photocopy

Rosalie Gascoigne’s High Country 1999, painted corrugated iron panels on wood, 134 x 121 cm, watercolour on photocopy

What did reveal itself as I sat and focused on this work were the shadows cast by undulations of the corrugated iron on the wall and even on the supporting wood panel. Other works, such as White Garden, (1995), cast similar lacy shadows. With closer examination you could also see where Gascoigne had worked with the original piece of iron, cutting and rearranging the individual segments into a complete work.

A smaller work that particularly captured my eye was Poplars 19 (1996-97).

Poplars 19, 1996-97, Rosalie Gascoigne, 60 x 62 cm, linoleum on wood with retro-reflective strip, collection of Tarra Warra Museum of Art

Poplars 19, 1996-97, Rosalie Gascoigne, 60 x 62 cm, linoleum on wood with retro-reflective strip, collection of Tarra Warra Museum of Art

This is a show that invites contemplation. It would be too easy to breeze in, glance at the walls, do a quick turn around the central floor work and walk out again. Please don’t.

If you are a local you have until 22 August to see this exhibition. Highly recommended, along with the drive through the country.

Poplars, Wollogorang Creek, NSW

Poplars, Wollogorang Creek, NSW

* Rosalie Gascoigne, interview with Stephen Fenely, Express, ABC, 4 December 1997, excerpt quoted in the exhibition catalogue.

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery
Cnr Church & Bourke Sts. Goulburn NSW 2580
t 48 234494 | f 48 234456 | e
Open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 5pm Free entry. Saturday 1-4pm

Watercolour workshop

On Saturday I had the opportunity to do a one day water colour class with artist Cherry Hood, winner of the 2002 Archibald Prize for her portrait of pianist Simon Tedeschi. While Cherry primarily teaches portrait workshops, the focus of our class was drawing animals – this coincides with the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery’s current exhibition So Much More Than a Big Sheep. For non-locals, the city of Goulburn, in inland NSW has a history as a major centre of merino sheep / wool production. One of it’s most famous tourist ‘attractions’ is a very big concrete merino ram, known to all as Rambo.

I had been rather slack and hadn’t checked out much about Cherry’s work prior to the workshop so when Cherry started talking about her gridding technique for transferring images I wasn’t sure that this was what I was interested in learning. I was soon proven wrong as her shorthand technique for image transfer avoided rulers and an overly tight technical approach. Rather she demonstrated how to transfer from the source material, a photograph, using a simple ratio approach, up to a full sheet of water colour paper.

Drawing up an image into sections prior to transferring it to water colour paper.

Drawing up an image into sections prior to transferring it to water colour paper.

Once the features of the face to be drawn are located in the various sections they can be transferred to the larger sheet of paper, which has a corresponding number of sections located on it. A similar process is carried out for the width of the face. Cherry emphasised that it is important to measure the width of the face, animal or human, on the basis of the bone structure of the face, not the width of the fur or hair. It was interesting to see that the relative position of features such as eyes on animal faces is the same as for humans. So now I know that my in my dodgy dog drawing of the other week I had placed the poor animal’s eyes way too high on the head.

Source material and the full sized sheet with key features sketch-painted in.

Cherry Hood demonstrating working from her source material and the full sized sheet with key features sketch-painted in.

The key features of the subject are marked on the large sheet of paper with a mix of titanium white, tinted with some of the dominant colour of the animals fur. The idea is that these marks are covered byΒ  subsequent painting and / or lifting out of any obvious remaining marks. Cherry adds the final colour by way of large washes with wide flat nylon brushes she buys at the ‘$2 shop’. She carefully manages her edges, keeping them wet with a spray bottle or brushing vigourously to avoid hard edges, which gives a more realistic impression of fur. She is happy for blooms of paint to occur and does final emphasis with fine brushes once the work starts to dry.

The final version of Cherry's painting.

The final version of Cherry’s painting, before it has fully dried.

I was painting an image of my cat, which you can see at the top of my sheet of paper. This was my second go at the painting as where I had originally placed my cat’s head on the paper was well off-centre. Thankfully I could just flip the sheet over and start again (the paper is a full sheet of Cotman cold-pressed 300 gsm water colour paper).

Early stages of painting with some of the underpainted location marks visible.

Early stages of painting with some of the underpainted location marks visible.

Here is the middle stage of the work. At this point I was pretty happy with the upper part of the painting, but I was struggling with the lower part of the face.

In the middle stages of my painting the basic colour washes have been added.

In the middle stages of my painting the basic colour washes have been added.

I subsequently realised that I had forgotten to locate how wide my cat’s lower face was, hence I washed in a chin that was way too narrow.

This is definitely my cat when I look at those eyes! Final emphasis is in place.

This is definitely my cat when I look at those eyes! Final emphasis is in place. (The odd colour on the chin is actually a reflection off the wet paint not accurate colour).

In the end I did manage to bring back a chin more in keeping with how my cat actually looks, but as my partner somewhat cuttlingly observed, “our cat doesn’t have a pantomime beard”. I’m really pleased with how the eyes have worked out and I can definitely see my cat looking out at me. Now I’m off for some more practice.

Efflorescent, exhibition opening, 31 January

This is rather late in being posted, but I was thrilled to find out that Gardening Australia presenter Angus Stewart was opening the Efflorescent exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery. Of course I couldn’t let the chance for a photo pass by.

Leonie Andrews with Angus Stewart at the opening of the Efforescent exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Gallery.

Leonie Andrews with Angus Stewart at the opening of the Efforescent exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Gallery.