Friday, July 21, 2017

A peek at the Faraday Muti Market

Oh my goodness, blogging has got so left behind in the whirl of this fleeting year, I don't know where to start again...or whether...but I remind myself that if I don't record here some of what I've done/drawn/painted, chances are it'll all get lost in the jumble of events in my mind, and I'll be wondering what on earth I did with my life!
I'm not going to try and do a chronological catch-up, too much work and I have to spend less time on the computer - this sketch was done in May at one of our USk 10x10 workshops, 'Through the Windows' led by Lisa Martens, from Joziburg Lane (now called Hangout Jozi) where I did these sketches, only out of different windows, and looking down.


I felt like a rather illicit voyeur as I squinted down at a section of the Faraday Muti Market, which I've never had the courage to venture into myself. A traditional African healer's market, or hospital, it has animal - both common and highly endangered - and herbal products on display and traditional doctors that prescribe potions and lotions of herbs, spices, bones, flesh and more to cure every ailment or life problem. If you have a strong stomach you can read blogger 2Summers personal account, or google the market and find out more. Fortunately the area I could see below me consisted mainly of grains, herbs or husks laid out on mats in the sun and the 'bush meat' was hidden from my squeamish birds-eye view. People came and went to consult the sangomas and traditional healers for age-old remedies and spiritual and supernatural help; a Don Quixote-like figure poked and slashed at covered piles of who-knows-what with his stick as sellers sat calmly watching - and the 21st century rushed on past on the M2 highway above.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

10x10 Workshops 1 & 2: Tablescapes & Conversations; and Histories, Relics & Collections of Sketches


We had the first of our series of 10x10 workshops on Saturday here in Johannesburg, joining the celebrations around the world of the 10th anniversary of Urban Sketchers. I started off the three 'Little Stories' classes in the pleasant and relaxed setting of the Second Cup restaurant, with simple concepts of shape, space, focus and drawing faces. Quite a lot to get through... I knew some of our participants hadn't sketched at all, or not for a long time, but wanted there to be enough to work on for the regular sketchers to build onto their skills.

This was my handout booklet to remind everyone what we covered - ellipses, basic shapes, ways to create an illusion of space and focus, and faces - pointing to artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Daumier - and USker Melanie Reim - for expression and character.



To try and get over inhibitions about sketching their companions, we had a quick 'Portrait Party' with one side of the table sketching the other, with a timer on for just two minutes, and then swopping over for revenge! 


 It was satisfying, and a relief - nobody seemed bored or intimidated - to see the concentration around the table as everyone came to grips with getting all the elements in fore- middle- and background, onto a page.


I did a quick demo of making loose watercolour shapes and then drawing over them with line, using the flowers on the table, and suddenly we had a lot of flower studies in between the tablescapes, but they made for a colourful final display. The Urban Sketchers Johannesburg rubber stamp caused a lot of excitement, the highlight ,apparently, for some!


And it was over...a super group of enthusiastic partakers and really wonderful results... all my prepping and unnecessary worrying worthwhile, thanks everyone!

Histories, Relics & Collections of Sketches

Our second workshop was held on Wednesday - yesterday - at Lindfield House, a Victorian home and museum, led by excellent regular Joburg Sketcher Leonora Venter.


The session started with a tour of the many rooms of the museum by its curator and co-founder Katharine Love - her grandmother and mother started the collection and she has maintained and built on it. She is a fount of knowledge of Victorian customs and antiquities, but we'll have to go another time to hear all the stories, there was sketching to be done..

After the sketchers had selected which items interested them and they wanted to feature, Leonora gave an explanation and demo of the importance of making thumbnails to plan your page, trying different alternatives and deciding which would be the best one for your chosen subject matter.

Once everyone had made their thumbnails, they planned out a full or double page spread with light pencil shapes. Leonora then explained how to work out the boundaries of each object with light 'markers' and to measure ratios, proportions and angles within these shapes, working from bigger to smaller, and looking at positive and negative shapes.

Then came the work - and fun - of filling in the details and building up contrast using darker pencil lines, pen or wash, before going on to the other drawings in their 'collection', adding text if they wanted to and had time. There are so many Victorian gadgets, curiosities, furnishings and objets d'art in this amazing old house it would take a lifetime to sketch them all.


Leonora's lovely demonstration sketch of her collected items on a practice run a few weeks before - and the sketchbook display on the lawn afterwards.




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!]