Monday, September 15, 2014

Portraits in Red Wine

Merlot to be exact - and it wasn't a waste, in case you're worried, just a few dregs left in a bottle after an excellent dinner. There's a food, wine and design fair coming up in November and a call went out for artists to submit portraits done in red wine (as artists do after dinner) for a possible commission. On Saturday, happily for me, my daughter decided to have a birthday braai in our garden with a few friends. The perfect chance to try this with some willing - if not too cooperative in sitting still and keeping quiet - models (spot two who didn't keep their mouths still for 30 seconds!)
It's a compelling medium - more fluid, less controllable than watercolour and pools fairly randomly to make darker tones. Some of the paper was old and had lost its sizing so soaked up the wine leaving blotchy textures, with lots of drips, drizzles and runs... lots of fun, especially when sipping your medium by mistake (or not) made everything a lot looser and carefree!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sky High in Jozi

I'm sorry Blog for neglecting you so long - one of the reasons I started here was to motivate myself to do more drawing and art - right now I'm doing so much I find no time to report back!

On the painting course that has just come to an end, was a lovely person who works for the company who built the student apartments that I've been drawing as it progressed. Jill got us an invitation to come and sketch at the top of the newly finished block, bringing to a pinnacle (I won't say end - I hope to go back) a serendipitous urban series that I had no idea was happening when I started. Mill Junction has the most astonishing 360° view of Johannesburg and its southern/western suburbs - at last was the perfect time and place to dust off my Japanese fold Moleskine that we excitingly found in our goodie bags at the Lisbon Urban Sketchers Symposium three years ago.
I sketched fast, trying not to get bogged down in details and get as much done as possible in the time, but it was the first Suddenly Summer day after winter (blink and you miss Spring) and extremely hot up there, so after only about 90° and four hours I had to call it a day. And I did do details - it was fascinating to see how streets that I've driven on and around for years connect and intertwine with landmarks, familiar buildings and each other.
Students started drifting up to start fires for their Friday evening braais (barbeques) in the beautifully designed recreation area up there, and the sketchers reluctantly returned to earth and the more familiar street level view of this ugly/beautiful city, and its high-walled suburbs.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Objets Trouvès 3 W.I.P.

Back in class in May with our 12 colour exercises (see previous post) for inspiration, and having chosen another subject - which had to include both geometric and organic forms, with photographs of it to work from - we were let loose with acrylic paint on three of four big canvases (600x600mm).

We did have some restrictions on each format - on one we were to draw our geometric forms with aids such as rulers with an acrylic line of changing hues, and then washes or glazes of pure hues, pulling back with a cloth to reveal shapes and textures (pic 2).
On another we made shapes and textures by any means other than brushstrokes - printing with textured surfaces, rolling on colour with cloth or plastic, splashing, spraying or slapping (pic 1) and transferring some of this wet mélange onto the third canvas, where colour, shape and texture was further achieved through stencils and transfers (pic 3) This last one changed completely from the way it appears here, but I forgot to take more photos until much later in the process.

So this was mostly a lot of liberating fun and playtime, especially for someone like me who tends to get pernickety about rendering things (that comes later!) I had chosen a very simple image - the bird bath in our garden with some brickwork and foliage behind and reflected in it - and was getting worried that I would be spending the rest of the year painting my bird bath.... I still am but with so many surprises and interventions in store, it's hardly recognisable - but I'll get to that eventually.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Objets Trouvès 2

I was thinking that I should focus this blog on urban sketching and not be such a scattered Jill-of-all-arts - but then I have these big gaps where it looks like nothing's happening, when it is. And I need to record it because I will forget!
 I've been busy with another of Greg Kerr's year long painting courses, this year called Objets Trouvès. Four weeks spread over the year, with plenty of homework in between (just remembered that I did in fact do a post about some of the preparation before we started back in January). To track back to what seems like an age ago in the progression of the course... we had to do a bit more slog - find an insect... I 'found' (thanks to my photographer nephew who had been given it by Pretoria university for a shoot) a nice big dung beetle, long deceased and easier on aging eyes than the little goggas that drop belly up on my windowsills... photograph it, construct it out of wire and photograph that - ready for the first session. Amazing how you can begin to feel fondness for such a creature when you study it so intently!

In class and already well acquainted with our bugs, we used our material to produce four big (40x55cm) charcoal drawings, each with an aim in mind - a history (or palimpsest - lovely word); architecture, tone and texture; spatiality and surface detail and; monumentality, complexity, personality. To put it in a nutshell - it took long hours of concentration, teacher inspiration and application!

Then... I'm rushing along here to catch up... back at home and keeping the creative force surging, we had to pick two or more of these drawings, photocopy or print (hold the toner) them onto watercolour paper to produce 12 formats on which we did different colour exercises in various mediums - watercolour, gouache, wax resist and encaustic, acrylic alla prima and glazes - to explore terms such as hue, value, tint, tone, chroma, complementary and adjacent hues...etc etc.

I have to admit that I got annoyed at myself around this point because... I know this stuff, I've been doing it forever (and forever seems to be running out). WHY don't I do this by myself in my own time, without the impetus and discipline of a class and an encouraging teacher...why don't I grow up and be a 'real' artist?
Well, now heading towards the fourth and final session, I think I've figured it out - there are big gaps in my art education, and they are being filled by this most excellent tuition - I'll keep you posted, will try not to take so long about it next time!

Monday, July 21, 2014

SketchCrawl #44 at Hillfox

For the 44th World Wide SketchCrawl I wracked my brains to think of a warm place for our Joburg Sketchers to go and crawl around. Though our winter skies are generally clear blue and cloudless, dry iciness creeps and whistles into every corner. After a small poll, we decided to go to the Hillfox Value Centre, a rather ugly and sprawling shopping complex, but which houses a huge Food Lover's Market and the B&B markets.
 After starting with coffee at the F.L.M. to warm up and to welcome a couple of newcomers, we moved over to the B&B which was looking a little empty and forlorn of crowds - cleverer people had stayed at home under a duvet or near a fireplace. At least we had good views of the stalls that we chose to sketch, without too many bodies blocking our way. A couple of our group were told they weren't allowed to sketch by officious officials, I suppose they had little else to do without customers to harass.

  I went for the more colourful options I could spot in the gloom - first the hookah stand and then onto Clive, with his incredible array of beaded creatures and plants. I only fitted about half of his wares into my sketch, and those (surely frozen) fingers just kept working away at more.

  This warehouse-like basement was no warmer than a Joburg back street in the shade so we headed back to F.L.M. for lunch, where once again I forgot to do the photos of sketchers and their morning's work, you can see them here on our Facebook page. After lunch some of us hung around the bakery section, a place that always calls to me, sketching the wares a better option than eating them, if only I'd remember that. I then crawled, shivering, back to my car which, having been standing for a few hours in the sun was deliciously warm so I did a quick last sketch - cars, shopper, car guard -  before heading home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Goodbye Sweet Gucci

The eucalyptus tree was not all we lost in June - two days before that we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog, "the oldest weimeraner known to man" as a vet friend of my daughter's said. I haven't been able to bring myself to post this up till now, but I want to commemorate a beautiful, brave, naughty and irrepressible part of our home for the past 16 and a half years. 
Our son, now 23 was 7 when he came into our lives - a silky blue-eyed pup who immediately recognised me as 'mom' and curled up on my lap to sleep after exhausting himself playing with the kids. Anyone on the floor was fair game to be chewed, rolled-over onto (head over heels, not sideways) and determinedly edged away from the heater, while he was a willing pillow for weary or TV watching heads once he had worn himself out. 
He was wild - crazy - we could have done with the Dog Whisperer's help throughout his uncontrollable life. I have scars from where he yanked me down steps to launch himself at the meter-man, or the postman or the sandwich men ringing at the gate. So much for 'Foods you Must Never give your Dog' - he helped himself to avocados that dropped off the tree next door, unripe plums within his reach, entire chocolate Easter egg stashes, fillet roasts, anything whatsoever edible (except peppers and chilli) that he could reach when standing on his bandy back legs. Doors were no obstacle unless they were locked - he opened them in- or outwards and preferred them all open, come rain, shine or freezing wind.
When our daughter brought a kitten home, we were quite sure that she would be swallowed whole in an exuberant gulp and kept watch to make sure she didn't wander into 'Orc' territory - till one day our vigilance slipped and we rushed, panicking, to find the kitten contentedly tucked under a bemused Gucci's chin - where she more or less stayed, in innumerable yin-and-yang poses for the rest of his days (she shows remarkable, cat-like unconcern about his sudden absence, though perhaps slightly more affectionate towards her humans lately). While rats, strange cats and hadedas were in great danger if spotted, and he refused to ever give back a ball thrown for him - when my son's pet rat's many babies all escaped into the garden, he gently retrieved every single one without so much as a bruise and brought them to us to put back into the cage.
He was my constant companion unless his adored 'dad' was home when he was the preferred target for underfoot and in-your-face attention. As I do the most mundane things now his image rises before me - sweeping, nobody trudging doggedly through the dust pile - vacuuming the floors, no one lying hopefully in my path wanting a vacuum-massage - eating an apple, no one behind to toss the core to (the Best Catcher in the World) - the ways to miss him are many and painful, but we are so grateful that he was ours. RIP dearest Gooch.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

End of a Eucalypt

These sketches tell their own story - the end of the long life of a beautiful eucalyptus tree at the entrance to our home. It was leaning dangerously towards our neighbour's car park so it had to be done, but I'll so miss its silvery leaves cheerily shimmering in the sun amongst the darker greens of other trees.
These treefeller guys were something else though - just amazing stamina, strength and agility climbing (without safety harnesses!) up and down while wielding a chainsaw in one hand or the other, only sometimes both when they could get a good grip with legs alone. Systematically removing huge limbs and slicing off log after log from top to bottom, avoiding power lines and precious plants, being flung around as branches sprang back from releasing a weight, they were truly awe-inspiring. I felt exhausted after standing in my nice warm kitchen all day, sketching them from the window, I can only imagine how weary they must feel at the end of a day like this - -just another working day.