Saturday, November 4, 2017

The End of Inktober


I'm pleased to relate that for the very first time I tackled - and finished!! - Inktober! Spurred on by the fact that I'd committed to exhibit the results along with a lot of other artists at Assemblage, otherwise I'm certain I would have given up around day 4 as usual. There is one missing, due to being knackered after a morning's intense drawing at the bookshop (see previous post), which I'll catch up with for the show. And that yoga one 'Deep' has simply disappeared so I'll have to re-do it.

I started thinking I'd follow the official prompts, but after several attempts at No.1 'Swift', decided I'd rather draw what was in front of me around my home, and did a series of my daughter's succulents which she's left for me to plant-sit. I ran out of those and reverted to the list - from no 11 'Run', with an urban sketching day at Rhodes Park (a future post) in between 'Fat' and 'Filthy'...can you spot those? You can see them on my Instagram if you'd like to have a closer look.


It was a good discipline to do... of course it develops pen, brush and ink skills - although I tried such a variety of techniques none of them really got polished. It was far more demanding than the hour or so per day I imagined I would spend on it, and distracted me from the recent and satisfyingly regular rhythm I'd got into of going into my studio and working on my very own projects and painting ideas - a lifelong goal. Sigh, my middle name is Distractability.

Things I'll do differently if I do it again:

  • Have a consistent paper, size and format, especially if going to show them afterwards. I made them look pretty neat here, but they're all different sizes, weights and textures. I was trying to use up old stocks of paper and sketchbooks (a major throw-out has to happen soon) and the ink reacts differently on each - some paper sucking up the ink washes and making messy blots around the edges.
  • Have my own restrictions and theme instead of following the prompts - although they're fun to interpret, my results were all over the place.
  • Preferably draw from life - drawing from photographs, memory or imagination feels too much like work, or a commission, which I don't enjoy, although I've loved what others have done doing that.
  • I'd do it quickly so that it doesn't take over my life - I tend to overdo what I do do and neglect everything else that needs to be done.
This method was quick and fun - allowing the ink do its own thing within the drawing. The drawing implement was a very cheap plastic dropper that came in an Artliner refill box. I filled it with diluted ink which flowed smoothly and in varying thicknesses over the surface, then added spots of ink here and there for darker tones and drew some finer lines out with a nib while it was still wet. As in this baby bird in a nest, 'Squeak'...


And the most time consuming one, 'Teeming' where I crazily chose insects to teem, although many of them were added as doodles while I waited for pots to boil and ovens to warm, so not as painful as it looks.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Kalahari Bookshop

The Kalahari Bookshop in Orange Grove is a cavern of delights for anyone who would take the time to sift through its groaning shelves, boxes and bookcases to find their particular brand of fascination (or if you're in a hurry, ask the knowledgeable owner Richard for help). I gladly accepted an invitation, along with a few friends, to join artist Tim Quirke in this tucked-away shop's day off - a Monday - to draw in this stacked to the ceiling space. 
Tim was working on a painting, and chatting to us about his methods and approach while the rest of us sketched, as we do, recording the moment in this nostalgic corner of Johannesburg. It was really hard to keep my mind on my sketch when titles that lined my childhood bookshelves kept catching my eye and drawing me to them with squeals of recognition.


After a morning chatting about art, by lunchtime we'd agreed to return over the next few Mondays to continue drawing and painting and learning from Tim the much he has to teach us. So that's what I've been doing over the last three weeks, instead of straightening the house after the weekend, laundry and keeping up with emails and blogging (and Inktober, more of which later), it's been pure indulgence in the world of tone, pattern and observation, which of course is all good!

The sketches below are studies of shape, flow, volume, light and dark, pattern, trying to make sense of the jigsaw of shapes. Hand-toned paper helps to convey something of the feel of the shop and its vintage, well-loved contents as a base for painting on later. While in theory I know of this approach to composition - notan, grouping of lights and darks to form passages - I'm very happy to feel I'm at last starting to figure out, with guidance, how to do it in a real situation...something that's mostly escaped me up to now.




To add to the alchemy, Richard's assistant Arthur kindly sits for us - he could possibly have stepped straight out of one of the books towering over us.
Next on this final (I think!) version, more light and dark passages following the studies above it, and some colour - I'll keep you posted, eventually!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Going to the zoo, how about you?

Our first Spring sketchday was to the zoo again, where I've sketched herehere and here... You'd think I'd get tired of it, but once there I get thoroughly engrossed in trying to capture the animals, even while my heart is aching for their imprisonment. It is really the only place you can get close enough for long enough to study and draw them. I've tried in the wild and believe me, they move and disappear in seconds, even the biggest ones.
The elephants were wandering around their large enclosure and I captured them as I could - and couldn't resist including a briefly paused onlooker with remarkably similar trousers on!

Next door to the ellies was a bored and lonely looking rhino, though he seemed popular with the birds - a peacock, a rooster, plus a dozen little chirpers hung around him as he lolled around in the shade.
I wasn't sure what the pale, elegant looking antelope were in the distance - later identified by my husband as gemsbok - I haven't seen such light coloured ones before.

Lastly, after meeting the rest of our group for lunch and sketchbook chat, Leonora and I found some pelicans - one optimistically fishing in a rather filthy khaki pool - and became entranced by trying to reproduce their sculptural feathers, their nursery pastel-coloured faces and their elastic movements, and once again I thought the time at the zoo was too short, I'll have to come back another day, just for the birds.

“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I'll be darned if I know how the hellican?” 

Monday, September 18, 2017

10x10 Workshop 6: Watching, waiting, walking - People of Gandhi Square

I'm finally getting down to a report of the second workshop I presented in the series to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Urban Sketchers, on the 29th of April. (I missed out on workshops 3, 4 and 5 presented by Anni Wakerley and Lisa Martens, having been away from Joburg).

Photo by Leonora Venter
My focus was on sketching the people, and Gandhi Square being a main bus terminal in the city, was hoping for fairly stationary subjects waiting or slowly moving around there. We met at Joziburg Lane, which is in easy walking distance of Gandhi Square. Once again we warmed up with quick portraits of each other, but this time doing 'blind contour' drawings without looking down at the page - a little cheating went on but it produced lots of laughter and surprising, lively results.

Photo by Leonora Venter



After a short explanation and demo of 'contact points' and relating sections of the face or figure to each other and to the background - which in this case was to be minimal - and encouragement to just go for it - not to worry about results but to enjoy letting loose with line, we set off down to the square.




Of course such a large expanse of public space is overwhelming and intimidating to begin with, but it's surprising how quickly one feels right at home, once you've chosen a viewpoint and a perch, and concentrating on the task at hand helps to push curious onlookers into soft focus.



Photographs by Liesl Percy Lancaster of House of Lancaster 
 I was thrilled with the results (not all shown here) and varied attempts to capture figures who really never do stay still for more than a second or two. The act of looking hard and trying to put down some essence of them incrementally improves the ability to do so, most especially when you do it regularly and don't let the efforts of the previous day grow dim in the conscious and muscle memory. As I try to remind myself!

Here are are images from my handout booklet for the session. It covers rather a wide range of figure-sketching tips and approaches as my group consisted of a large range of sketching experience and skills.

 We also took the opportunity to record Urban Sketchers Johannesburg's happy 10th birthday message to Gabi Campanario and USk at this gathering, which was shown to him as a big surprise and tribute at the Symposium in Chicago in July. We're at 1:22 minutes in...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What a Mess!

We are lucky to live in a leafy suburb with a wonderful green space in the middle of it - the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, fondly known as Emmarentia Dam - but boy, do we have a lot of events arranged around us - many with loudspeakers booming across the valley from 6 am onwards.
Last Sunday morning, thankfully not as early, was the Color Run, "the happiest 5K on the planet", starting and ending at a nearby school; so I took my Koh-i-Noor Magic rainbow pencil (unfortunately not the sharpener) over there and started sketching the shenanigans.
It was a hot, hot morning... why anyone would want to run through arches where kilos of coloured powders are chucked over you, sticking to your sweaty brows and limbs and no doubt getting in your eyes, nose and ears, I don't know. I was much happier perched on a small grandstand observing and drawing than down there getting colourfully doused - even so I caught a few splashes on my hat and jeans.
Is too much colour a bad thing? I preferred my simple line sketches before I filled some of the shapes in later - the colours all blended together to make nondescript dusty shades, which in fact is what most of the runners ended up looking like too - red and yellow and orange and purple and blue and green make - mud.
But the real messy sketching came when my pencil was down to the wood and I turned to my new Sailor pen, which is perfect on its own with its variable line possibilities... I got way too creative trying to get coloured powders from the event to stick to my sketch, using candle wax first and later fixative, neither of which worked, the powder fell off with the gentlest blow or shake.
But did I stop there? Oh no, I persevered with watercolour splashes, ink brushes, more spray and white crayon until it was a total shambles and those pages fit only to be glued closed together. Ah well, a lesson to keep it simple and remember my sharpener next time!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Randburg Shuffle

Not my finest sketching five hours, standing up mostly and in a soft-cover sketchbook, but I was very glad to have it with me to help pass the interminable wait in the queue to get my driver's licence renewed at Randburg Licencing Centre last week. It was my fourth trip there, having been turned away on previous mornings as only 200 people per day are accepted into the line, making sure there's no chance that anyone might have to work a minute over the 3 o'clock closing time. 
 This time I made sure I got there early, was relieved to have No.146 scribbled onto my application form, resigned myself to a long wait and pulled out my sketchbook. I noted times as I sketched in the upper left corners...
8:45 - outside the magical doorway to legal driving.
9:30 - just inside the entrance and peering through the window at the expectant faces outside
10:15 - we'd inched around the corner and a fortunate few grabbed a seat on the windowsill
10:45 - shuffled round to the back of the reception desk, where there was a bit of a show to watch. First a group who had successfully completed their applications or collections were locked into the building while a cash-in-transit vehicle collected the previous day's takings; then a series of hopefuls came to ask at the desk if they could have an application form and upon hearing the answer, responded in various outraged/desperate/crestfallen ways. [Note to self: Never throw a hissy wobbly wailing fit before this desk, it provides huge entertainment to the bored audience in the dingy background and has no effect.]
11:00 Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, I reached the bottom of the stairway, a mere 10 metres (I would think) from the front door
11:30 Halfway up. What would we do without our phones?
11:45 Up on the first floor and looking down...
12:30 At last a row of seats that we had to shift up on every few minutes...within tantalising sight of the final stage - the queue for the Cashiers. After this seat-shifting came The Room, the utopia of activity, technology and red tape, where we submitted our many documents, had eye tests, biometrics and fingerprints (of which I have none, apparently) taken - where I paid close attention and stopped sketching for fear I got sent to the back of the queue for some misdemeanor.
By 1:45 pm I was out, blinking in the sunshine, good for another five years before I have to do it all over again.

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.