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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sketchcrawling Norwood

I'm very behind in posting the last couple of weeks efforts! These are from the 51st Worldwide SketchCrawl on the 23rd April, when a good gathering of ten of us turned up in Norwood (we crawled there three years ago too). Like many of the older suburbs, its fortunes go up and down, but the main street, Grant Ave, is dotted with lovely shops and restaurants who were all very welcoming and supportive of us. We were given free rein at Vovo Telo café & bakery inside The Factory where beautiful jazz accompanied us as we started sketching, and allowed into Crafters the roof bar which hadn't opened yet - very windy up there so sketching was, well, sketchy.

Then down the road to The Lamp Post antique and vintage shop, which has moved since our 2013 visit, where Jenny the owner and her lovely staff had tea and cake and comfy sofas to greet us. And ended up at the Tattoo Parlour with some very macho bikes parked outside, and caught the tattooist on his phone having a smoke break.

 I really wanted to get through a variety of subjects so except for the rooftop didn't add colour to these scenes until later - not strict urban sketching practice I know, but I just can't figure out how to get so much done in just a few hours! Gave me a chance too to think about how much colour and where, but I still overdid it on the café and the antique shop.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Life, oh Life

I've been back to life drawing sessions again - just a model and a group of fellow strugglers, no tuition. I stopped going some years back as I'd collected such a pile of drawings that I didn't know what to do with. It is one of my favourite things to do, when you get into such total concentration on contours, shadows and the subtlest of tones and hues that you lose all sense of time or whatever else is going on... but I did get to a stage when the whole exercise seemed a bit pointless, so since I've returned to it I've been trying to find new ways to interest myself - which for me usually comes by way of happy semi-accidents. Semi because I do use the watercolour very wet, and allow it to do its thing with just a little guidance from me. This one came closest to making me feel a bit excited to go further with this approach, with other more controlled or less successful attempts below. I tend to get some great bits, like an arm or a left leg, together with some awful ones, a bad torso or face, I need to get all the great bits together in one painting!

The model for most of these has been bringing her Jack Russell with her, which has provided another lovely dynamic to the poses (and two models for the price of one). A bit sad though as the little dog is old and not well, and so content to lie quietly wherever she's placed - the closeness between the two is obvious. 
The charcoals are quick poses, I think the first was half an hour and the others five minutes. The watercolours mostly half an hour - the one at the bottom an hour.


These are all quite big - perhaps I wouldn't have such trouble storing them if they were smaller, but strangely given all the small scale sketching I do, I feel compelled to do large figure studies - even A2 paper isn't quite big enough!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Braamfontein Cemetery

Our sketchers group went to the historic Braamfontein Cemetery on our last Saturday outing - a place I've driven past hundreds of times, vaguely wondering what was behind the dilapidated fences. Doing some research, I was astounded by the number of significant events and people in Johannesburg that are commemorated here. 

It's divided into sections, including an Anglo-Boer War section, Jewish, Muslim and Chinese sections, firemen & policemen, priests & nuns, and the School of Mines section holding 12000 miners - now represented by a green field and a single huge granite cube which guards the remains of Enoch Sontonga, who wrote our national anthem 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' - as well as many other graves of early Johannesburgers. Also a Dynamite Memorial for when a train, loaded with dynamite for the mines stood in the hot sun and exploded in 1896, destroying 1500 houses and killing hundreds of people, horses and donkeys.

One very moving grave was that of 24 year old Chow Kwai For, who registered under a new law requiring racial registration, unaware that the Chinese community was refusing to do so as a protest against it (he spoke a different dialect and hadn't understood). When he realised what he had done he committed suicide. His letter of apology is engraved on his headstone in Chinese. Sadly looking a bit derelict as are many, but still with a bunch of dried flowers placed before it.

We - and especially me, I seem to be a magnet for them - had been plagued by mosquitoes the whole morning and at this final stop in a remote and neglected part of the cemetery (not sure what section it represented) I found the mother-lode. Trying to draw as fast as possible while squirming and swatting at mozzies made for some interesting linework. Though I quite like the result, I wouldn't recommend it as a sketching technique!