Thursday, January 15, 2015

Late, but Happy 2015!

We returned last week from a frosty but lovely Christmas and New Year in England where we spent a relaxed holiday with family. I didn't even try sitting outside in that cold (though everyone said what a mild winter it was) to draw, but I did this sketch from a warm living room window. Those wintry tree skeletons could provide years of inspiration with the varying veils of mist and colour, this is a very rough and inadequate quickie rendition. I only managed a few other even rougher sketches when I found myself twiddling my thumbs in a warm spot...

...and now here we are back in warm if not quite sunny South Africa and our jungly green garden that needs some serious taming.
Wishing everyone who looks in, a wonderful, productive and creative new year!

Monday, December 8, 2014


We went sketching on Saturday in the Maboneng Precinct, an area on the East side of town that was once a no-go but which has been mostly reclaimed from crime and urban decay by private developers who've built galleries, shops, studios and restaurants . It was a nightmare getting there and back, as much of Johannesburg was experiencing one of our now frequent power cutting programmes, trying to save us from total blackout in the near future - so all the robots (traffic lights to you in the rest of the world :)) were out. A few of us managed to make it all the way there, and once our jangled nerves were calmed, we found a lot to draw - the most interesting being the street life and characters.

 Uncle Merv's serves coffee and smoothies and hires out bicycles if you're brave enough to take on the taxis, jaywalking pedestrians and other surprises.

A different kind of Food Truck - an old Chevvie with a container on the back serving customers on the pavement. I had two little boys accompanying me for this one, first gleefully setting off firecrackers all around me till I complained, then sharing the tyre I was sitting on (lost my little sketching stool) one very helpfully holding my palette for me.

And a last few squiggly sketches of passersby - there were so many interesting characters wandering past, and a beautiful old building in a bit of a sad state that I wanted to sketch but couldn't spend the hours that it would take me. The squiggle on the left was a recycling collector surfing expertly past on his home-made trolley with his huge sack of plastic behind him - SO fast downhill on his tiny wheels - one of the surprises you wouldn't want to collide with on a bike!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Following the Steel Wings

Last weekend we drove to the little town of Clarens in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, known as an 'artist's haven' as so many artists live there, or visit regularly. Apparently it is also a Biker's haven, as both times we have been we've had these growling, throbbing machines follow and overtake us all the way there. Once in the village, they're parked outside the pubs and restaurants while the leather-clad, be-studded, tassled and tattooed riders mill around on the pavement and occupy tables not too far away from their metal beasts. 

I started sketching the approaching road, but found it a bit stressful and decided to relax and enjoy the scenery - but grabbed a quick scribble at a 'pitstop' in Harrismith. It must be one of the prettiest places to fill up and get coffee and a snack - rose bushes and flowers everywhere with sandstone mountains as a backdrop - bikers had stopped here too so in they went.

Late afternoon and over a beer at the Clarens Brewery, I started sketching some wire sculptures outside the window, when more bikers arrived and I had a view of them through the doorway. I discovered that it was, in fact, Harley-Davidson weekend in Clarens, and that the Steel Wings raise funds for Aids orphans and other charities. They did seem perfectly nice and normal once you got chatting (my husband chatted while I sketched) in spite of the intimidating outfits.
On Saturday I sketched at a wedding - a commission and the main purpose of our trip - scary... a whole lot more pressure than choosing your subject and it either working, or not and nobody cares. I'm still fiddling around with those!

With the annual Cherry Festival on this weekend in nearby Ficksburg - we were delighted to find bucketloads of the beautiful fruit being sold along the edge of the town square, and the cherry sellers happy to be drawn if I bought their wares, which I did in abundance.

Thumping exhausts alerted me to another group of bikers having breakfast across the square, so I found a spot behind the row of bikes and did another sketch while my husband watched cricket inside before they roared off, and we drove more sedately, back to the city,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Sheds

After a long dry spell from any drawing or painting while admin and emails and a short trip to the Cape occupied my time, I finally got out for a bit of sketching time. First over lunch with my husband at a pub called the Jolly Roger, where I sketched a scene across the street, until a flamboyant woman and her young date/friend/son? sat down at a nearby table. I couldn't resist furtively getting her down on paper, hoping very much that she wouldn't spot me and ask to see the results - not sure if she would have appreciated them...
Then I made a last minute sketch date for our group to go to a new market at some renovated old mining warehouses on the outskirts of the city called The Sheds@1 Fox on Saturday. Only four of us turned up with such late notice, but with interesting industrial spaces, delicious food and drinks stalls spread around, nice music and a relaxed vibe, we'll have to go back and explore it some more. The Happy Me in the bottom sketch is not, incidentally, referring to the wine in the foreground (though it could!) - it's a 'bubble tea, gourmet coffee, smoothies and mixology' shop in the background, which I did indulge in at that time of day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Exhibition of student's work

Hi - sorry about another long absence - I've been paddling as fast and as diligently as I can to help make this exhibition happen this weekend. Somehow or other I got to be coordinator-in-chief in spite of the almost catatonic state I get into when in administrative pressure roles.
Amazingly enough, I think we're on track and all will appear as planned on Saturday. It is, as you can see, an exhibition of student's work done in, or as a result of Greg Kerr's painting courses and has lots of interesting, unusual and provocative pieces. The image on the invitation is by Tracy Witelson, artist and art teacher, and assistant to Greg when he is teaching in Johannesburg, from The Dinner Party programme that I participated in 2013. I'll have two or three paintings on from this year's Objets Trouvès course (which I still have to show the end results of here, sometime).

If anyone who sees this is in Joburg this weekend, please come along, I'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spring in Killarney Park

Joburg Sketchers were invited (yay!) to come and sketch at Killarney's pop-up activation event to renew community interest in their local park. I didn't even know there was a Killarney Park though I've driven around there quite often, so was curious to see. An avenue of jacaranda trees has been gated off from the surrounding suburb which consists mostly of loads of large, old blocks of flats - I should think mostly of the 1950's to 60's era - on the day they were unveiling a heritage plaque at an Art Deco building, though I didn't find that. 
In a month or so those bare branches and pathway are going to be draped and drenched in purple as jacaranda season begins.
 I didn't know where to begin, but eventually decided on the jauntily blowing bunting flags that receded into the background. The people I added are of rather strange proportions, but it gives an impression of the vibe of the day.
This little group of old ladies with various walking aids at their sides seemed very happy to sit there all day in the sun, watching the world (or at least the locals) go by. It's probably a long time since they've been able to do this without worrying about safety - always a concern if there aren't many people around.
The face painter was extraordinary, whizzing through the queues of children with sponges and brushes, turning them within seconds into kitties or butterflies, spidermen or tigers. As usual, so much to sketch - a few more from the other sketchers here on our Facebook page if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Waterkloof Air Show

I've wanted to sketch at the annual Air Show at Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria for a long time but always find out too late that it was on. This time my son and husband announced they were going a day or two before, and I baled out of other sketching plans to join them. It was a terrific day - so many diverse people, displays, machines and aircraft - I started slowly with the US Air Force band playing under the wing of a huge C-17 Transporter, but gained momentum and lost inhibitions as the day wore on.

The people on the ground were just as interesting to me as the aircraft flipping around (of course these weren't all in the air at the same time, I just added them as they caught my attention) missing a few as I tried to scribble the crowds' excitement at their tricks. Families having picnics, men of every age and stage behaving like kids at a magic show, girls flirting and couples canoodling, and all the time cameras, long lenses, cellphones and tablets being waved around to capture the best shot of the day. A long time since I've spent a whole day out sketching - I think I rediscovered a certain lost love for it, even though the drawings aren't very pretty.

At the train station going home were these two glamorous women, dressed head-to-toe in white, with white umbrellas, baskets and boxes on a white trolley. They seemed bizarre until we remembered that it was the night of Dîner en Blanc, where people dressed only in white gather somewhere to be taken to a secret destination for an all white dinner (entirely different from Old South African connotations!) . I discovered later it was at Wits University, under the stars, on a night where we had the most dramatic, destructive hailstorm I've seen for 30 years or more, those elegant white umbrellas wouldn't have stood a chance - in fact I see it was abandoned, not surprising in the least.