Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Joziburg Lane



After days of unrelenting (but welcome) rain and a forecast for more we headed for cover on our monthly sketch date last week and returned to Joziburg Lane in the city. This is a food, retail and residential refurbishment of some old buildings, including what was known as Motortown, where Chrysler, Rolls Royce and other car brands were based back in the day, before inner-city decline set in and they moved north to the suburbs.

I leaned against my car bonnet and sketched from the windows of the rooftop parking lot - I loved the curves, waves, angles and textures laid out beneath me, and the window shapes helped me to place them on the pages of my concertina Moleskine. As you may know, buildings and architecture are extremely challenging for me - I found myself getting more and more irritated with drawing all the details, when I knew I didn't want details, and my hand got more impatiently scribbly as I went along... until suddenly I realised I was enjoying myself again with almost handwriting-like shortcuts to describe the background buildings.


I decided I really wanted some of the many textures of the rooftops and used white wax crayon before going over with watercolour - not such a great idea as the effects were pretty unpredictable. When I got home I also added bits onto my pages to take some of the buildings up to their proper heights - what would Johannesburg city be without the Carlton Centre, once the tallest building in Africa?

With cramped legs from standing so long, I trekked down the 'Forever Stairs' - there isn't a lift yet - to the food court at the bottom of the building where I met the rest of our group for lunch. We left just before the afternoon/evening event was about to start, a pity as some pretty funky musicians were arriving that would have made great subjects for sketching.

I've just realised I haven't posted the sketches from my other trips to Joziburg Lane here, so for the record...




...some early musicians from their Birthday Bash for Joburg's 130th anniversary, and the huge birthday cake in the food court (also unfortunately before the crowds arrived - I think I'm getting too old for the hustle and bustle of these social happenings) and the last two from a quiet weekday morning...shopkeepers and restaurant staff at a bit of a loose end waiting for customers, in front of a wall mural that those little plants are eventually going to be trained up.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

People, people, everywhere


I'm in a total tizz lately, planning the series of Urban Sketchers 10x10 workshops to be held here in Joburg (that little dot on Africa) from end of March. It's really not my natural state to plan, delegate, administrate and organise but some deep perfectionist tendencies surface and I do it to the nth degree, and nothing else, causing myself terrible anxiety and heart flutterings. I know it will be a lot of fun when it happens, and I will love sharing what I know and will enjoy the people that will come along; and the sketcher friends who are also giving classes, Anni, Leonora and Lisa are right with and behind me...it will all be all right on the night!

I'm going to focus my three sessions on basic shapes and people sketching, starting with faces and quickie portraits, going on to seated and fairly static figures, and then to moving people and bustling scenes - which is why I was doing the above sketch over coffee earlier this week, trying to work out exactly what it is that I do when I do it, and how to explain it to others. If anyone reading this is in Johannesburg March - May and wants to try some urban sketching please sign up soon, the first classes are almost booked up! The full schedule is here.

People-sketching seems to be in the ether, as Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel are holding a week long challenge from March 6 - 10 for anyone who wants to join in, to sketch 100 people over that time (20 a day!) and post them on social media #OneWeek100People2017 
I think I might join in, if I can calm myself enough to venture out every day to find that many people to draw. Why don't you?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chinese New Year at Nan Hua


The Worldwide Sketchcrawl where urban sketchers around the world planned to sketch their city's Chinese New Year celebrations was on Saturday 28 January. Johannesburg had at least three CNY celebrations in different venues - one that night in 'Old Chinatown' in Commissioner St in the city; one the following day at the Nan Hua Buddhist Temple near a town called Bronkhorstspruit, about an hour and a half's drive from Joburg - the one we decided to go to as a place we'd always wanted to visit; and another a week later in 'New Chinatown' in Cyrildene, east of the city. So we missed the official Crawl, but our spirit was with everybody (and as someone said, it's still the 28th somewhere!)


Our carload of five sketchers arrived just too late for the opening ceremony with Dancing Dragon, firecrackers, and other spectacles - I thought there'd be more but that was it. We gathered at the entrance - an encouragingly large group of us - just in time to see the dragon being folded away into its trailer. The first pen I grabbed out my bag flew to catch those few moments before it disappeared, and I think it's my favourite sketch of the day!

The many temples and shrines around the arena were beautiful subjects, and I had a go, but attempting the intricacies of those was going to take too long, so I tried some sketching shorthand with squiggly lines and loose washes. I wanted to capture some of the people - two sweet little girls in their New Year best, their big brother escaped before I got him on paper.


There were loads of food stalls lining the passages around the centre courtyard, and even more people trying to buy it... I didn't try hauling out a sketchbook and pen in the crush, but managed to get hold of a spring roll and settled to sketch one of the picnic groups with greasy fingers.

The Wishing Tree, where you have your name inscribed in Chinese calligraphy on a ribbon with a medallion attached, and throw it up into the tree while you make a wish. If the ribbon sticks there, your wish will come true during this Year of the Red Rooster. I didn't risk it! Nan Hua is a huge place and apparently we missed lots more interesting sights and events, but that was about all I could manage in the heat and crowds before the long drive home.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Poplars and Pétanque


 Well, a very Happy Not-so-New Year to everybody... I have badly neglected my blog as I've become slightly enamoured with Instagram (it's so quick, and instant!) as well as really busy with the usual end-of-year festivities and making plans for the series of 10 years x 10 classes Urban Sketching workshops that we in Joburg have decided to take part in. (If anyone reading this is interested in signing up, click on the link and do it. We start our classes on the 25 March and spaces are limited...you can also email me at the address in my sidebar). And we made another trip to Franschhoek, where I managed to do quite a lot of sketching while my husband, Bruce, was working hard.

It was blissful to do some relaxed watercolouring from the shady stoop of one of the beautiful Forest Cottages that we stayed in at La Cotte Farm. Gardeners were taking a lunch break, with ubiquitous cellphones, from digging out undergrowth from the poplar grove on a hot, hot day.

On the right, done earlier in Johannesburg, a strongly back-lit man sketched at the airport.

On Saturday mornings in summer, Franschhoek has its local market with food, wine, music, lots of stalls to browse and a regular Boules match, just as in real France. A vintageTriumph pulled right up to the cleared patch where the game takes place and a very handsome, cool guy (far right), with two young friends, got out and joined the game. Every now and then an oblivious person strolled across the court, taken with good humour by the otherwise serious pétanque players.

One of the boules participants got stranded on the recto side of a double-page spread - from our parked car the next day I filled the empty space (I was worried I'd run out of pages) with figures outside Pick'n Pay supermarket where someone was selling boerewors (farmer's sausage) rolls at a great rate - hardly any time to sketch his customers so fast was he.



Supper one evening, again, at the Station Pub, where I've sketched before and am now warmly welcomed by the two waitresses I drew, whenever they see me (with good, reasonable food and just down the road, we go quite often - plus, as I've said, Bruce's grandfather was Stationmaster there about a century ago, so we feel quite at home!) This visit had a lively, noisy crowd that I could have sketched all night without them noticing. Revellers coming and going and the two on the right engrossed in long and earnest conversation.

Lastly, a very quick sketch of one of the angel cleaning ladies who come in while you pop out and whip around your cottage, leaving it sparkling for you to come back to and start all your eating, drinking and messing up again. I could get used to that!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Thursday Morning in Bertrams




The sketchers group has been getting a lot of invitations lately - as Joburg warms up (and then some!) and events are planned before the rush for the coast in December.

One was to sketch some Street Theatre in the little, poverty stricken suburb of Bertrams just south of the city. We decided to go to a rehearsal on a Thursday morning, but sadly it had been rescheduled without our knowledge - so we found ourselves banging on an unresponsive corrugated iron gate in an famously lawless area. We recklessly decided to unfold our chairs on a corner and start drawing in spite of warnings by concerned individuals to keep our car doors locked etc etc.

As is usually the case when we venture out into Joburg's vastly varied streets, we soon felt part of the furniture as locals passed us by, some stopping to look and chat about drawing, some taking no notice; a father ushering his two sweet little boys to say hello to the gogos (grandmothers); an undoubted illicit exchange between a young chap and a passing mini-bus taxi driver; a woman coming to tell us her story of being kicked out of the nearby home for vulnerable people and being taken in by her kind friend, who came to join the conversation; men changing their car oil and pouring the old stuff into the empty plot next to us (ulp! - sometimes you have to just keep your mouth shut!) Only one very interested look into my sketching bag...luckily he wasn't interested in pens and paint. In the distance a corner café was bustling with activity, the peeling bark of the plane trees leading to it reflecting the surfaces of the decaying but still beautiful buildings.

It felt like street theatre in a way, even without the actors.

[And hooray, my blog list is back!]

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Medieval Fayre




Gosh! Experimenting with scrolling through a long image and astonished to find it seems to be working (please let me know if it's not, for you - doesn't work on my phone). ...The scrolling image has also disappeared from my view, so reverting to separate images of my long long concertina format.
This was from an event Joburg Sketchers were invited to, the Neigh-Bours Medieval Country Fayre, at Inanda Country Base way up north in horse country. I used a long sheet of paper folded into a concertina format and started at one end and sketched through to the other. It gives an idea of the wide expanse of very dry Highveld end-of-winter landscape, although the day itself was baking hot and we sought out every bit of shade we could find.I found one solid spot and stayed put, which was fine as the parade passed by without me having to move too much.

Well, I hope I can do that again if I have to, it involves html codes and posting your long image on Flickr (or some other cloud) first. I might try and make it bigger...

Still no Blog List reappeared.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Playing with Inks

Urban Sketchers Johannesburg (yes, we're now an official chapter!) was invited by Assemblage, a local visual arts community organisation to join a challenge to use only Lamy products to produce artworks or in our case, sketches. Lamy provided a range of their pens and inks to share among the participating artists. I have my own much-used Lamy safari pen plus a spare for just-in-case, so filled those and took a few extra colour cartridges...a cool pinky red, a viridian-ish green, another luminous yellow-green, purple, and a few drops of a dark prussian blue and turquoise in containers.

A shed at 1Fox - old industrial warehouses now restaurants, bars and event spaces... note the chandelier!
Most of my sketches ended up looking purply-green and I discovered that the luminous green was the only warm shade I had, and mixed with the pink had to serve to make skin tones and browns. With a high pigment load the intensity of the inks is amazing though, a little went a very long way.



Sketching friend Leonora and I sat on a busy street corner in the city and I sketched the traders. The guy selling cosmetics, combs and sundries in the "two Rand shop" never let up his call for a minute of "pondopondotworandi", interspersed every now and then by his neighbour yelling "Walalawasaba" which, I believe, means "you snooze, you lose!"


The same corner, slightly different experiment with the pens and ink. I tried swapping cartridges in the pens to see if they would show a progression from, say, green to purple, but as the pigments are so powerful, I would've had to put in a few km's of line to show the complete changeover.
Dismal attempt at the lovely old building on the opposite corner... need some architectural drawing workshops!
My Blog List has disappeared from my sidebar... I have no idea how - I reported it to Blogger Help and someone(?) said they were aware of the problem but so far nothing has been restored. Anyone else had this happen?