Friday, June 12, 2015

Scenes from an Exhibition

Not proud of myself that I completely baled out of my commitment to draw Every Day in May last month, but you'll be pleased to know (I hope) that it succeeded in making me realise what it was I really wanted to be doing. So I've spent the last couple of weeks with canvases, brushes and paint, and though I don't really want to talk about it yet, I am happy that the ball is kind of bumpily rolling in that direction - I'll show you when there's something finished and worth showing. 

In the meantime, the sketchers were invited to the Rotary Art Festival at the upmarket shopping centre of Hyde Park over three of the ten days that it was on for. Loads of artists exhibiting over three floors, life drawing, painting and printmaking demos, restaurants and viewing public, there was plenty to sketch. I think next time, if there is one, we should have an Urban Sketching display with explanations of what we try to do, as we attracted some quizzical and suspicious looks.
This was a group of exhibiting artists having what looked like a very entertaining lunch
 And some unsuspecting patrons at the same restaurant
where some very busy waiters were the next victims
We sat up on the top floor looking down at more restaurants and some of the people milling around the exhibition. Then an attempt to catch in colour people as they stood on the escalator coming up. Those things go much faster than you think, and everyone looks up startled to see eyes fixed upon them, so it was short-lived!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

James Hall Transport Museum

It was International Museum Day on Monday, and to mark it, on Saturday our sketching group motored over to the James Hall Museum of Transport on the other side of the city. As we wandered around the halls crammed with metal, rubber and chrome I admit my heart sank a bit at the prospect of trying to draw some of these mechanical beasts with all their precise angles, lines and engineerings. But down one rather dusty row of cars waiting for restoration I spotted a curvy, lumpy old character that took me straight back to my childhood and my grandparent's home and car in the (then) little seaside town of Hermanus.

My mother stretching to see over the unfamiliar wood and leather dashboard and straining to turn the big circle of steering wheel, my sister and I bouncing around the roomy back seat excited to be the first to see the blue of the sea, smell the smells of Sea&Ski suntan lotion, icecream, salt and sand, peering through the slatted blind of the tiny back window... I'm not even sure it was the same kind of car (I am of the ilk that describes cars as 'red' or 'black') but I was away, drawing and appreciating the beauty of these relics at last. Such craftsmanship, attention to detail and solid gravitas, the more you looked the more there was to love.
Joburg Sketchers produced an impressive set of sketches of a fraction of the collection of this wonderful museum - another place we'll just have to go back to!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

11,12, Dig and Delve

We've had agonisingly slow internet connections for a while, interspersed with power cuts so a big batch of Every Day in May sketches in one post... I feel I'm doing this challenge a bit like my great-nephew's quick way to count to a hundred..."one, two, miss a few, ninety-nine, a hundred". Although I've only missed one, Day 13's The last thing you bought, I've combined a couple - 11 and 12 Hat and Steps - the ones outside my studio where I'm ever-so-slowly turning bare earth into a little garden with railway sleeper steps, paving stones, a birdbath and groundcover - and 15 and 16 Ingredients for a favourite recipe (chocolate cake - forgot the sugar!) and Something to measure with.

The others are 14. Something you use every day - my glasses, every hour of every day, when I'm not searching for them;
15. Something you could Throw Away - my bags and boxes full of jacaranda pods - They've been turned into Christmas wreaths and angels, painted in oils, watercolour and inks and still every year our two trees rain down another batch and I can't resist picking them up and stashing them, they are so pretty!

18. Lipstick - a very red one that I never wear - it just looks ridiculous on me, like a reverse No Entry sign; and 19. a Cupcake - I resisted going out to buy one or spending a morning baking because... you know why, so used a photo I took at a friend's wedding a few weeks ago.

Like others, I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep this up - other projects are calling and a possibility of exhibiting some work if I can finish it...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EDM 8, 9, 10

 Not keeping up at all with Every Day in May. This sometimes feels like a freelance job that nobody's going to pay me for, especially with the "pack shots". Once I get going on shapes, shines and reflections on surfaces though I get drawn into the happy place of total involvement, and it doesn't feel like work any more.
Days 8 & 9 combined - Something with a handle, and an interesting label. My Brown Betty teapot (discovered it was called that in the facebook group) and Eleven O'Clock Rooibos tea, been around as long as I have judging by the fifties style label and my memories of my grandmother serving it. I loathed it then but love it now as a bedtime drink that won't keep me up all night.
Day 10 - Something you can switch on and off - my trusty Crazy Duck hairdryer. Other more stylish hairdryers have come and gone, but this guy keeps blowing hot air tirelessly over 30+ years and still makes me smile. I enjoyed painting him, strangely - and my son who doesn't often comment on what I'm doing said "Cool, mom, can I have this one?" Score!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Envelopes - Days Gone By

Eeh, a day behind - yesterday's theme, though I sketched it last night. Personal envelopes (not the kind with little windows unfortunately) are becoming a rare sight, all covered with stamps, handwriting and postmarks.
I used to check my letterbox almost as often as I now check my emails, as one of the many South Africans with many or most of their family and old friends living elsewhere in the world. In fact sit in front of and stare at it - willing one of those crisp, fat packages of news and connectivity to plop through the slot from loved ones. Little gifts, when you consider all that went into writing, stamping, and posting them, sometimes enclosing drawings or children's scribbles, compared to dashing off a few lines in an email or dialing up on Skype. Which is fantastic and miraculous, make no mistake, but just not the same. These are from my three sisters - one sadly no longer with us - from different parts of the world, I wish I'd kept more of them. I think I'll make a new family law that says we have to write each other one real humdinger of a letter a year, except I'll probably be the first to break it. (BTW the address on the top one is obsolete so you won't reach me there if you're thinking of writing:)

An exciting white slip did arrive this week in our rusty old disused letterbox. To collect a parcel from the P.O. which turned out to be packs of postcards from images published in The Art of Urban Sketching. 100 each of three of mine, and a wonderful collection of a hundred of the other participating urban sketcher's works which I'm really thrilled to have and keep - not sending those, but postcard, anyone?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Something with Bristles

So much for posting every day - just keeping up with drawing is about all I can manage. Day 6's EDM challenge 'something with bristles' immediately made me think of the drawing into ink washes with bleach method that I first tried here. Great for fine lines and scrubby marks. I was asked to post a tutorial by a couple of people on the Facebook page, so here goes:

  • Black water-soluble fountain pen ink. Not sure if Parker Quink is available everywhere, it's a standard stationery item here. (the flower on the top is mine :)) 
  • Ordinary household bleach. I wasn't aware of how bad it is for you till someone mentioned it in the comments and I looked it up. Wear gloves and a mask, open the windows and doors!
  • Water for rinsing and diluting the ink and bleach - a small nozzled bottle is very useful - and small containers to hold the solutions.
  • Old or non-precious brushes. I think bleach would eat any natural bristle
  • Bamboo pens or sticks to draw with - likewise bleach would destroy a metal pen nib
  • Watercolour or drawing paper - different types will give different results. I masked the edges with tape.
  • Things to add texture - sponges, toothbrush, paper towel.

Prepare your paper with ink washes. Vary the dilutions - with Quink you'll see the black separate in places into blue and orangey pigments.
 Add textures if you like, flick on ink or bleach solution, dab with paper towel or a sponge - experiment. Allow to dry - or if you start working into the wash while still damp it will give softer edges.
 Dilute a little bleach with water in a small container. It seems to work just as well as full strength. Have your reference material or photo at the ready.
 I started by bleaching out the negative shapes in my leaf design with an old paintbrush
 Adding lines with a bamboo pen - if you dilute the bleach more you can get less stark lines
 and some pattern or cross hatching
 If you like you can go back in with ink washes, lines and splashes
Not my most successful result, but the more you play around, the more options you'll come up with, and are sure to encounter some happy accidents along the way. I can't vouch for the archival qualities of this method - I've heard that the paper will eventually deteriorate but so far my earlier drawings have survived. Have fun!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


I signed up for the annual 'Every Day in May' challenge on Facebook and Flickr. Am already thinking, Oy what was I thinking!?... I decided to brush up on my watercolour skills while doing this and really enjoyed the first three days - maybe watercolour is my medium after all. I've been faffing around with oils for a while now and still don't quite feel the love.

Day 1 was a favourite food, and the only appetizing things in my kitchen were some grapefruit and avocados that we'd bought at the roadside on a recent trip to the bush. Just come into season, fresh and delicious!

Day 2 - a nearby Tree -  so I looked out of our front window and lo, there was a beautifully autumnal Pride of India (or Crepe Myrtle) that I'd hardly noticed was turning. Nothing like painting something to appreciate your surroundings.

Day 3 was Curtains and as I'd left all my painting clobber by the window and had room on the side of the page, I added the sitting room curtain plus more of the rather unkempt background garden (top of this post)

Day 4 - Bottle/s of spice or herbs. Not really inspired by this one and left it till late in the day to pull a common old bottle of Robertson's cinnamon out of the cupboard and tackle it.  Drawing it took me right to my days as a 'renderer' in an ad agency - back in the day when there were no computers, digital cameras or google. We had shelf-loads of reference magazines and racks of Magic Markers and I drew for eight hours a day and sometimes more and all weekend if there was a big campaign on - no extra pay! 'Pack shots' similar to this one were where I stared intensely at glass, plastic, ellipses, shadows and logos to work out how to recreate them 2D on paper.

Day 5 - Something Hot. Seeing as my husband wouldn't pose :) I settled for my morning coffee in a hot orange mug. Thoroughly overworked in places, I seem to be getting worse at this as I go along. Should be good for me though, if I persevere!

I'll try and post every day for the rest of May to prevent having to write so much the next time - short and sweet to get bum off seat.