Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SketchCrawl in Melville

...And crawling to non-existent internet speeds here, so an overdue post about the 50th Worldwide Sketchcrawl on 23 January. We met in Melville, a suburb we've sketched quite often because of its quaint shops and bohemian population. 

I started at the corner clothes shop where some sketchers were doing a bit more catching up than sketching for a while; then popped into the tattoo parlour who surprised me with caricatures by one of the artists in return for my efforts; indulged in a delicious iced coffee at the IT café while sketching the restaurant opposite, with pavement bead artist traders on the corner; then we all ended up at 27 Boxes, which I've sketched before but don't seem to have posted on this blog... it is up on Urban Sketchers here.
We were lucky enough to have our wrap-up meeting coincide with a young jazz band's performance at the little outdoor arena, giving us more sketching fodder as well as a treat for the ears - a very talented group, some of whom were just off to Cape Town to start on their musical studies and careers.

Even though a few of our regular Joburg Sketchers couldn't make it, so great to have a good turnout of ten! Yay!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Back to the Zoo

Our first Joburg Sketchers date of the year, to the zoo - not very original, but always lots to draw. Seeing the animals in restricted spaces like this is sad, but at the rate some of them are being taken out it may be the only place we'll be able to. 

 I hung around near the gate and the flamingos with Wendy to see if any other sketchers would arrive, not knowing that there were two other temporary entrances while the main one is being worked on. I loved these funny pink birds but the fence around them is high so you have to stand up the whole time... felt a bit flamingo-ish myself standing on one leg then the other, and capturing their endlessly coiling and uncoiling necks impossible.

We eventually found Leonora and John and joined them at the rhino pen. I sketched the sketchers and quickies of the rhinos - no, they weren't all on the same side of the fence - a bit of artistic licence to fit everybody in.

There was a long line of interesting back views (people) at the lion enclosure, which drifted off as I started sketching them, so I tried the lionesses, including some beautiful rare white ones - the males were hiding. Some rather weird and scribbly renditions but they didn't keep still, not for a moment! Again, there is a fence - a faulty electric one that clicked incessantly which must surely have miffed the animals and made them so restless. I'd like to go back on a quiet week day, take proper watercolour paper and brushes and try the birds and lions again.

Last stop the restaurant where we found a last stray sketcher, Lisa, who had been communing with the apes. I discovered I was missing my brand new dagger brush (see previous post) so trudged back to the lions, eyes fixed on the ground. It was there, under the tree where I'd been sitting - whew! A last quick sketch - some children who once again moved off before I'd got the little sister in, a chicken who fancied our pizza, some odd buildings - lunch, a chat and home!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Flighty, but Fun

I've been playing with some presents I bought myself on holiday - a few Daniel Smith watercolours from the Italian Artshop which stocks this brand that I've read about and wanted for years, not least because of the generous size tubes they come in...makes you feel a little less Scrooge-like about squeezing a dollop onto your palette with our poor Rand diving ever deeper into a hole; and a very reasonably priced Black Silver Dynasty 'dagger' shaped brush from Artsauce in Observatory, an artist-friendly shop in both price and helpful advice. I love the shapes and marks you can make with this brush, from broad flat stripes to pointy or swirly leaf shapes, to fine, sharp lines, it doesn't hold a lot of paint though so you have to dip often.

I used DS Phthalo Blue, Naples Yellow and Deep Scarlet in the top sketch of my son sleeping on the couch and on the strip underneath him - trying to see how much of a range I could get with just those. I also bought Moonglow, a lovely purplish granulating shade and Pyrrol Orange which I'm now wondering why... I did like it on my test strips hanging on the line in my studio. A transparent, glowing orange it could come in useful when painting... sunlit nasturtiums perhaps? I don't really like to fuss about colours and have actually been thinking I should trim my palette down as it's too confusing, and unnecessary to have so many. Sigh, ah well.

Hanging on a line in my (messy) studio here are offcuts of bits of watercolour paper that I've kept - very useful for playing around on and happy moodling!

Has anyone else caught onto the 'Word of the year' WOTY phenomenon? Suddenly it seems to be everywhere, with several creative mentorship sites promoting it as a creative spur or focus. I think I've decided on mine... FUN... which seems rather trivial, flighty and frivolous, but for some time I've been feeling a tad anxious and weighed down by what should or shouldn't be done and where I ought, or ought not to be artistically and otherwise, and the state of the nation, and that's the word that has jumped out at me from various sources. So I think I'll take it and see where it leads to. Would love to know yours if you have one!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Holiday Snaps

From the picturesquely perfect little town of Franschhoek in the Western Cape, more sketches from our holiday. I was determined to do some in spite of lots of eating, drinking, socialising and driving around. I'm only about halfway through Marc Holmes' Craftsy course on Travel Sketching but I took some of his tips on doing simple line drawings in the minutes you do have, and embellishing them later with texture and/or colour when you have a few more. Way off his high standards, but I'm pretty pleased with having been able to capture some little vignettes of our trip!
This was from under a big cool pine tree next to an African market that my companions were shopping at - looking through a rose garden towards restaurants and shops on the Main Road to part of the beautiful mountain bowl that surrounds the town.

 A derelict heritage building dating back to Simon van der Stel and French Huguenot times that is due for restoration, on a small farm near the village. Such textures and colours on the whitewashed walls, corrugated tin roof and ancient vines - could sit and paint this for weeks!

Lunch at the Franschhoek Station now turned into a pub restaurant - the old railway station of which, incidentally, my husband's grandfather was the stationmaster in the 1920's. His mother and some of her siblings were born and went to school in Franschhoek, a very different place from the high-end tourist destination it is now. We visited here a few years ago before it had been converted. It was a bit run down but without all the canopies and pub furniture, was much easier to visualise him standing on the platform blowing his whistle... wish I'd sketched it then! Waiters Yolanda and Romarsha noticed me sketching and obligingly hovered within view so I could add them to the scene - I sent them the image but hope they see themselves here too...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wrapping up 2015 - Happy New Year!

Time to say goodbye to 2015, and a tumultuous old year it has been. Long warned of climate change seems to have arrived with a vengeance, or is it just El Nino again? I just know it's too darn hot! Our rainbow nation has turned into a confused and worrisome kaleidoscope of corruption, leaderlessness and fiscal woes with strikes, protests and marches always in the news. These sketches from the #ZumaMustFall march in Cape Town that we joined - there were similar scenes in Joburg and Pretoria.

But let's not dwell on that...

My blog - halfway through its 9th year - has mainly focused on urban sketching, which brought happy times and camaraderie with other sketchers, both locally and visiting from afar. I'm uncomfortably aware that my drawing style has become ever faster and sketchier, ie scrappier and less attractive - I haven't been drawing regularly enough outside of scheduled sketch dates which is one thing I plan to change in 2016.

As usual, I've been torn between artistic pursuits - urban sketching, painting, illustrating - and having now reached a 'mature' age, probably should accept that I never will concentrate completely on just one form of artistic expression or identity.

Deciding to forego another full painting course this year, much as I love the companionship, input and inspiration, I felt like I needed to find a pathway on my own - I have spent precious time in my studio, just moodling as is quoted from Brenda Ueland* in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way - hoping that something interesting or engaging would emerge and take hold so I could fly into a fresh and unique direction. There were some beginnings, some promising that I hope to get back to, a few that flapped and failed... I haven't posted much about my painting endeavours this year, feeling strangely reticent about exposing them to the world in this time of prolific online sharing - even the ever positive and encouraging one that my generous blog readers and friends provide. I'll get braver and back to it sometime!

An idyllic moment on our Cape holiday sitting beside the sea with an old friend, sploshing watercolour around
And so into the New Year... big changes are in the air for me and mine which I hope to record here as they happen. For this reason I'm not making any plans, aims or resolutions as they will very likely all go for a loop (which is what they normally do anyway so no diffs there!)
I wish every one of you reading this, a very healthy, happy and creatively productive year. Let's hope the news globally and locally, wherever you are, is better than last year's.
May the good guys win and the light shine through! Happy 2016!

*So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering - Brenda Ueland. (I used to be VERY good at this, but motherhood and other responsibilities made me pull up my bootstrings and get more organised - perhaps to the detriment of my art.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pre-Christmas in Cape Town

My husband and I spent the ten days before Christmas on a busy holiday in the Cape. Originally from Cape Town, we always have lots of people to see and things to do and I had to grab the few moments I could to sketch here and there. In a shopping centre while waiting at a café I felt sorry for Father Christmas across from me in his red suit and fur on a hot, hot day - he stayed cheerful though as he chatted for ages to an old friend. A proud dad with his blonde, barefoot daughters waited for the photographer to arrive - and as I sketched a tiny boy chatting to Santa, their hands shot up in a high five which I had to catch in spite of a funny-looking arm!

Another chance to sketch when my husband needed to find a TV to watch the Sevens Rugby Final - at Forries pub, an old student haunt of ours still going strong in Newlands. It was rather quiet until a group of five couples arrived. The women ordered wine, getting more and more raucous as the level of the bottle dropped, while their men sat doggedly ignoring them with eyes fixed on the screen above. 
And a peaceful moment at beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens where we followed the shade on another sweltering day and I drew the tame guinea fowl who ignored us as we sat on the bench next to them. More to come from this Cape break in another post or two...

Friday, December 4, 2015

The War Museum and a Park

Skipping around from one thing to another, I returned to some urban sketching after rather a dry year... I just didn't get out much. I met up with friend and ex-Joburg Sketcher Barbara Moore at the Museum of Military History on Sunday and we sketched and nattered in the shadiest courtyard we could find on a scorching heat-wavy day - we've had too many of those! We quite logically thought the red and blue zigzags on the flag were W's and M's for War Museum, but my husband, who was a Gunner in his long ago National Service, recognised it later as the Gunner's or Artillery flag!

On Tuesday the Joburg Sketchers were supposed to meet with art counsellors from Lefika and children from Hillbrow to draw and paint together on World Aids Day in the beautifully treed Pieter Roos Park near the city. Only two of us made it there - Leonora and I looked around and listened for kid's voices but no sign of them, so we sat up at the top and started sketching the Hillbrow Tower overlooking the park, feeling out of place among rather a lot of unemployed men sitting about (actually the men with guitar in the middle sketch were from another sketch day in Newtown, but I had such a big empty page around them, I drew the park scene as if it were background, they could just as well have been there... and seeing it's confession time, I didn't fit the top of the tower onto my page so drew it alongside and photoshopped it to the top afterwards, as you can probably tell!)
As we packed up to leave in time to avoid heavy afternoon traffic, we spotted the Lefika group down at the bottom of the hill, just stopping for lunch - a pity our paths crossed too late in the day, I hope we can get together some other time.