Escape to the country!

Last week we finally left our Canberra for the first time in months to drive an hour away to the country town of Braidwood.

The village of Braidwood started to form around the 1840s and has retained many of it’s older 19th century buildings along the main street. As such, it’s a great place to sketch.

I was sketching across the road from the CWA (Country Women’s Association) building and the post office and then later further down the main street into town.

My first sketch was made on a page that I had prepared with white gesso and ink a few weeks back. I also collaged some paper onto my page, which I had made by printing from a gelli (gel) plate. That saved me from having to paint the mountain.

Along the street my eye was caught by an interesting combination of rooflines and light poles.

Steep roofs and tall chimneys. Watercolour and pencil.

I was just getting stuck into my blind contour drawing when I had to go for lunch which we had booked at the Albion Cafe.

Blind contour drawing of the same scene of rooftops and light poles.

I liked this last one best of all. It’s probably a good thing that we had to go to lunch before I ruined it.

Life Drawing .

Last week I went to my first life drawing class of the year. We had a stand-in model, one of the class, as the booked model cancelled just before the class started.

I took the big tip from last year’s classes and bought myself a roll of paper from the kids section of IKEA for the short poses. As you can see you just keep rolling it up and over the easel.

Short sketches in coloured pencils.

For my quick poses I used coloured pencils, part of my drive to start using all those stray art materials I have hanging around.

For the longer poses I swapped over to watercolour. Our group is quite eclectic in terms of media. We ranged from pencil to digital, acrylic and watercolour.

15 minute pose, watercolour and pencil, two versions.
15 minute pose, watercolour and pencil.
15 minute pose, watercolour and pencil.

Trees

In the middle of all the hubbub that was Christmas eve I managed to get myself to the Wittunga Botanic Garden in the Adelaide Hills for some lone sketching. I was so shocked at the sight of a koala sitting on the ground just next to the footpath that I almost didn’t sketch him.

Koala and garbage bin. The latter designed with a cover to keep possums and other inquisitive animals from getting into the bins.

Wonderful to see this chap. Probably a male, as it was very big, easily up to my knee in height. That’s a waterbowl next to him so I assume he came down for a drink. The garden is fully fenced and dogs are prohibited, which is why you see this individual being so relaxed.

After obliging me for sitting for his portrait I moved on to the shelter of a small covered picnic table to sketch my main subject of the day the trees.

Here they are in the order that I sketched them. I deliberately went as fast as I could from one study to the next.

Back to the cafe

Back sketching at our favourite coffee shop this morning.

So good to get back to our favourite cafe.

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to sketch, which was one of the key points in the workshop I did with Richard Briggs last week.

Trying to leave out unnecessary details.

I was interested in the relationship between the hedge across the road and the small hedge close to me. But then I realised that I really wanted the focus to be on the cluster of small stools in front of the hedge.

A small table and stools.

While completing this sketch it dawned on me that the shadows of the stools were also fascinating. One set was being cast by the sun and the ones you see in the painting were cast from the light reflected from the plate glass windows of the cafe. Sadly time and a lack of paper meant that I didn’t make a third sketch, but perhaps I can work on that next time.

Some purchases in the Netherlands

Wherever I travel I like to find art materials as momentoes of my trip. As I was going to an Urban Sketchers Symposium I was well aware that an art supply goody bag would be waiting for me there. The market stalls at Symposium are also great places to find well-priced items. None the less I still managed to find some items that I knew wouldn’t be in the bag.

It turned out that I had set myself up to buy, without even really trying. Our hotel in Rotterdam, where we spent the first week of our trip, was directly across the road from two art shops!

To make it easy for myself I have made a visual record of my purchases.

First purchases handmade Khadi paper, a bone folder used in bookbinding, a new fountain pen (of course I need another one!) and some new ink to go with it. And a ring in , my windmill-shaped biscuit cutter.

By way of explanation this fountain pen has one of the biggest reservoirs on the market, which makes it very useful for lots of sketching without having to frequently refill it. This KWZ ink was purchased on the basis that it was waterproof. Unfortunately there was a mis-understanding and it turns out that the green-gold ink is not waterproof. The company makes another green which is water- resistant, but this isn’t it.

My new paints, with the exception of Potters Pink which was only a replacement. A second new ink also with some odd properties.

I seem to be attracted to the blues these days. I was intrigued by the Smalt Blue (AKA Dumont’s Blue). This is a very old form of blue pigment made by grinding glass coloured by smaltite, a cobalt salt, into a fine powder. I assume it was one of the less expensive options than ground lapis lazuli. From some of the reading I have done it has, in oil paint, tended to fade over time, but not all paintings show this fault. It has a purplish tinge which I really like. I expect it will be appearing in my ‘skies’ in the not too distant future.

Much as I am a devotee of Pyrrol Orange (it is one of those irreproducible colours), I do sometimes find it a bit pink. This Transparent Orange, above, is a synthetic pigment with an industrial automotive history, it looks like it fits the bill for a truly orange, orange. I swatched it out, below, with some of my other orange-y paints for a comparison.

As you might decipher in my notes on the page above my Platinum Classic ink (an iron gall ink), is listed as both water soluble and resistent to water. Mmmmm?? A bit of research indicates that while some of the ‘apparent’ colour of the ink may be water soluble, over time the ink gall element should not only resist water, but darken with age. I’m not sure that I will be happy with this latter development, as the solubility of the ink has resulted in some quite pleasing effects. I used it in my workshop with Ròisin Curé, where were were channelling Rembrandt’s use of sepia ink. Here is a sample.

Sepia Black ink, line and diluted ink, part of the sculpture version of the Night Watch on the Rembrantplein in Amsterdam.