Monday, August 22, 2016

Printing and sketching at WAM

I'm sorry my posting is so erratic - I have been painting, but nothing I feel quite OK with showing anyone. Oil painting feels a bit like wading through mud right now... hoping it will change into a flowing stream soon, I'll keep trying.

It was a busy sketching weekend though, with a friend's wedding on Friday. I may post those sketches later as they need a bit of work. I've sketched at a few now, and it's hard to convey all the colour, ceremony, movement and emotional importance of weddings on the spot. I always hope for much better results than I get and I would like to give them something worth keeping!

On Saturday our group went to the Wits Art Museum where a Walter Battiss exhibition is on, and a children's printmaking workshop. I had already had a good look at the exhibition a couple of weeks ago, so I concentrated on the oblivious back views of the people looking at the art. We went to the coffee shop to find the children's workshop in full swing. There were a lot more kids and adults than I could fit into my sketch but it was great to see a museum space being used to stimulate children into actually making art themselves instead of being passive (and often bored) onlookers. The tall photographer did double duty as one of the few who could reach the drying lines.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tai Chi Sketching

Just a lot of little sketches from the tai chi class I've been taking since the beginning of the year today... My teacher Masako kindly allowed our sketching group to sit in on a lesson, and a masterclass in ryuku kobujutsu (using weaponry) she gave to a student practicing for his black belt. I foolishly thought by drawing the exercises I'd be able to remember them in future classes (my brain just won't, although Masako says my body eventually will!), but although it looks slow and meditative, I couldn't keep up with the constant seamless movements.

The first two sketch pages were warming up - the tai chi bodies and my sketching fingers both - and I tried out various pens and brushpens before settling on my trusty Pentel brushpen, which made appropriately calligraphic marks.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Doing the Laundry

I went back to life drawing at the nearby Figures&Form group for the first time in months yesterday, and was taken aback to see that a washing line was strung up behind one of the models. Somebody, or the universe, seems to be trying to tell me something... (I was quite pleased with my painting here but unfortunately did it on cartridge paper which buckled and didn't take kindly to too much layering).

The washing line outside my studio and its drapery and shadows have been grabbing my attention for some time now and I've been wondering if it could possibly become the subject for a painting or series of paintings. In a podcast I was listening to on Tuesday, from The Savvy Painter with Christopher Gallego, he talked about how certain unorthodox motifs around his home and studio grabbed and nagged at him to paint them, and that one should go with those urges... I've been thinking I must be crazy to want to paint the washing, but John Singer Sargent did it, and actually it has many associations for me as my children have grown over years and my husband and my lives are changing. Maybe I should have been painting it all this time. These are some sketches - a notan scribble in my studio sketchbook, a watercolour in which the laundry came out quite well but I badly messed up the shadow... and another where it's the other way around. Shall I do an oil painting, or am I crazy?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Moving Into Dance

Our Joburg Sketchers group was given kind permission to sit in on a practice session at Moving Into Dance, a professional company which develops and produces award winning Contemporary African dancers, choreographers, arts administrators and teachers, many from disadvantaged communities. It was exhilarating, not to mention exhausting (I know I know, sitting there on my derrière...) watching and trying to sketch the ceaseless movements of the young first year dancers - it's obvious they must have come a long way since January.
I thought perhaps there would be some repetitive practice movements that would give us a chance to capture postures, but those were few and far between as they flew, spun, stomped, twirled and leaped around the room, sometimes almost landing in our laps where we sat lined up on a bench at one end. So we had to do what we could... I drew with pencil as I couldn't find a gap in the action to even reach for my watercolours at the time, but added colour later to help define some of the frantic lines I put down - and to convey some of the energy of these beautiful dancers. Only 5-10 of them will go through into second year, and even fewer into third - heartbreaking I'm sure for the ones who don't make it, everyone is passionate and dedicated - how on earth do they choose?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Greek Day at Rotary Arts Festival

 I cannot believe it's almost July! I have so much I should be doing but finding it hard to knuckle down and do any of it, including updating my blog (doggedly keeping it going though, as proof that I actually DO do something every now and then).

These sketches from a few weeks ago at the annual Rotary Arts Festival... I see this time last year I was thinking of having an Urban Sketchers display or stand there next time, which never happened.
We had fun though on the Greek-themed day, sketching the kids from the Saheti School playing bouzoukis, singing and dancing, as well as catching other scenes from around the shopping centre - over coffee in the bookshop, a life drawing session from the Figures & Form group, and a lone pianist who I hope realised his beautiful playing was appreciated even if he didn't draw the crowds. I stuck to simple contour line drawing after a brief attempt to take my watercolours out in a shifting, shuffling situation!

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Farm in Franschhoek

As promised, more watercolour sketches from Franschhoek - done in my large w/c moleskine, which is getting a bit old and the paper sucking up paint around the edges (to make excuses for some of the murkier bits). I'm looking forward to when I can call them paintings, but have a long way to go finding the best palette for these landscapes, and in which order to put the paint down, it's all a bit random! The old La Cotte mill is in a dilapidated state, but due for restoration. A friend from Cape Town joined me for this one (and the stoop view) - we sat in long grass, lightly 'tickled' around the ankles by spiders, which erupted later into madly itchy, swollen, angry lumps, will be much more careful next time.
The flower is a tibouchina, of which there are several big bushes around the guesthouse, as well as lavender, proteas and what I think is Lantana montevidensis - it smells exactly like baby powder. Such beauty everywhere you look in this valley, what a privilege to be there!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Down in the Valley

I'm adjusting to being back in Joburg after another blissful week in the magnificent Franschhoek valley (a small preview: you will probably be seeing many more posts from this neck of the Western Cape woods in time!) Not an entirely peaceful or quiet stay as we were on this estate where a pine forest had been cleared to make way for vineyards - the roots of which were being bulldozed and put into piles, and builders were hard at work nearby making an old cottage habitable and charming - but completely made up for by the scenery and the glittering autumn weather. I sketched this from the window of our bedroom, thinking I'd make a record of the changes taking place - landscape and mountains are new sketching and painting territory for me and I almost scrubbed through my poor sketchbook paper trying to get the colours. Much more sturdy watercolour paper required until I get this right! 

A few days later, my husband and I went up the hill to a winery where the first batch of La Cotte wine - made from grapes from the estate that we were on - was being bottled. These guys had to work like clockwork passing the bottles from pallet to washer to packer to filler... during a short break while they waited for more empty bottles to arrive, they came and had a look what I was doing and I said I'd email them a copy if they could give me an address... which caused a slight hiccup in the proceedings and suddenly there was breaking glass, red wine gushing out onto the floor and some frantic smashing and tugging to get the broken bits out of the machine! I did feel bad, but only three bottles were lost, and I was told the bottlers were happy to be drawn, and they will get their copies! I didn't capture the loud banter, laughter and repartee that started after I been drawing for a while, all in the local vernacular, which I can follow if spoken slowly and clearly, not at 900 words a minute with clinking bottles and machinery as soundtrack (I did catch "teken" = draw!)

And a photo of another attempt at the mountains and valley in my watercolour Moleskine - the urge to paint everything was strong and constant, such a change from hunting for subject matter as I seem to always be doing here - more of these in another post.