Monday, March 30, 2020

Just a Box - and the Kitchen Sink

The scary time continues, may you continue to stay safe... I feel so fortunate to be an artist at this time. There is nothing that takes my mind off all the agonising news, thoughts and possibilities than just trying to draw or paint something. Even an empty cardboard wine box is so full of variations and fascinations it completely absorbed me for many hours. As you can see in the series of steps below, I started with a cobalt blue ground, and stuck to a limited palette of yellow ochre, a touch of burnt sienna and white and I think a touch of Paynes grey to reclaim some of the darks.

And carrying on with Urban Sketchers everywhere, another scene at home - my kitchen window sill and sink. Mess is now an excuse to sit down and draw it instead of a guilt trip to clear it up - although that does have to happen eventually, I suppose (rolls eyes).

Monday, March 23, 2020

Staying Home

What a very strange time this is for the whole world - my thoughts go round and around it, to the places and people who are badly affected and suffering from Covid-19, to the places, including this country and continent where the full effects are still to be felt and dealt with - we really are all in it together. Our government, thankfully has taken early (crossing fingers) and decisive action to restrict the spread of the virus, with more to come. So we, like you more than likely, are staying at home as much as possible and finding ways to cope and keep in touch. I read a nicer way to think of this new situation, as 'Physical distancing, Social interaction', which is my experience of the online art and sketching groups and support systems that have sprung up to encourage each other. The Urban Sketchers with their #uskathome #outthewindow #SketchwithHongKong and other hashtags - prompting my sketch from the sitting room - my under-used car and the pavement ash tree and its autumn leaves which overhangs our wall.

My local Whatsapp friends studio group is posting a challenge a week - last week was self portraits (it's hard to find a willing model when you're isolating!) I find doing them initially excruciating but of course you get caught up in the process and forget your appalled self-criticisms, and capturing the folds and wrinkles becomes an objective exercise. I think I've actually made myself look younger in this one, and more highly coloured, I'm pretty pale IRL!

After that intense effort I made a series of blind contour drawings, with water-soluble wax crayons - not looking at the paper until finished (well, a peep or two to find my place) and added a bit more colour and a watery brush afterwards. They're all a bit frightening, but it's fascinating to notice resemblances to family members here and there, and for some reason I find them more interesting than my conventional attempt. Bottom right reminds me of the work of Del Kathryn Barton..?

This week's challenge is 'Elevating a humble object' if you feel like joining in, let me know in the comments or tag your work with #artinthetimeofcoronavirus on Instagram.

Please take care of yourselves and others - stay at home and stay safe. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

One Week 100 People 2020

Marc Taro Holmes and Liz Steel's #Oneweek100people project came around much faster than I was expecting - I'm sure it's not a year since the last one!? But I always enjoy this challenge, in spite of a great feeling of laziness and denial beforehand. Once out, I love the people watching, trying to capture the variety of shapes, styles and characters, and usually notice an improvement during the week. I started almost by accident last Sunday when I had been standing in a long, long grocery queue for a good 10 minutes before I realised it was a great sketching opportunity. Of course as soon as I started doing that, the queue started moving along really fast.

It was a real effort to get out of the house and seek people the next day. First I sat at my steering wheel and sketched people moving around in car parks - mostly going far too quickly for proper observation. 
I've been asked how I sketch moving people so fast, and of course they're very often out of sight before I finish. I can draw basic figures, in about any position, from memory - after many hours of figuring it out, and staring without always trying to sketch (if the left foot is forward, which arm is swinging to the front?...if I've drawn that leg there, how would the other leg make sense, at what angle/where is the weight? etc.etc.) and practicing, and trial and error. Observing the live subjects provides details like body shapes and postures, hair and clothes styles, defining features, and I'm often craning my neck to see my subject's particular standout shoes or headwear, or whatever captured my attention in the first place as they disappear into the crowd or distance. 

I then decided to find more stationary subjects, and found a table at a café with a good view of the other customers. People on phones are pretty much oblivious to anyone staring at them, I find, but had to peer surreptitiously at others through sunglasses. 
It's ironic that the week I ventured out of a long semi-hibernation is the week Covid-19 arrived in this country. I certainly noticed very thorough and regular cleaning of surfaces by restaurant staff at the two I visited, but were still bustling with customers. I'm sure that will drop off drastically this week after the president's announcement of a state of disaster last night, and infection numbers double every other day. Please take care and stay safe everyone.

Another outside table at the Zone in Rosebank, some people staying put for a few moments on what is apparently Smoker's Bench right in front of me - others approaching from or departing into the distance, giving me a little time to catch some details.

And my last day, at Emmarentia Dam's dog park, where people seemed to arrive in batches. I had to include some of the dogs, so much fun to watch (and yes, I did get dam water shook all over me and my sketchbook!) but I ended up with some strangely rendered specimens! I counted 95 attempts at people - the most I've got to doing this challenge over the years, only five escaped!

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Rand Club

Well, hello - it's been a long long time and I had almost decided that blogging was all in the past for me, when someone (thank you Ginny Stiles!) emailed to say she missed my posts, and someone else needed a link for my sketches besides Instagram - so here I am again. Not knowing where to begin as there's so much I haven't posted and so much has happened... so just starting at The Rand Club, where I sketched on Saturday, and have sketched a few times over the last couple of years... A music and story-telling event (at the bottom), a book fair in 2018 (these three colour sketches) and ending with the recent event for 1000Drawings where we donated A5 doodles or drawings for charity - both with our Joburg Sketchers group.

The Rand Club was founded by Cecil John Rhodes and Johannesburg's mining founding fathers with a very restricted admittance and membership policy - basically only wealthy white men were allowed in. When I was a very young art-director's assistant, newly arrived in Joburg back in the late 70's, I went with my workmates for drinks there at the longest bar in Africa - as it still is - and didn't realise at the time that the reason we circled the building to find a side door and not just walk into the main entrance, was because I, a Woman! was present - by then we were allowed into certain rooms, but had to go in the secret door! Since the 80's all may enter, but there's quite a struggle to attract enough paying members into the middle of the city to finance the upkeep and preservation of the quite beautiful building and its features. Now that the admission policy is more ethical, I hope they do.

Apologies for the poor quality of these images - they were snapped with my phone in dingy light before popping into the donation box. One of the reasons blogging became too much, was the time taken to scan and clean up images, and write and research blog posts (the upside being that I learnt a lot more about the city I'm living in) so I'm trying to find ways to do it faster. This post has nevertheless taken me forever, but it's good to be back!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Holding thumbs this works out - a video of some sketches from 2018 in my Seawhite-of-Brighton big black sketchbook. Thanks to my techier husband Bruce for adding the soundtrack... Perhaps I could have sketched more... perhaps the next one will be better... perhaps I'll take my sketchbook out today... I'm always glad when I did, and regretful I didn't do so more often. 

Here we're fastening seat belts for a rough ride in 2019, with elections coming up, all parties and factions at each other's throats, and much damage to be repaired - I'm really hoping it won't be as tumultuous as I fear. To you, all my sketching, painting, drawing, blogging, following friends, wishing you a very happy, peaceful and productive New Year.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Paying Attention

I have been listening to a lot of artist's podcasts - too many, there are a million of them out there! But a couple of phrases have stuck in my head from other nuggets of wisdom I've heard recently. (I will credit them here if I can find my bitty notes, but both have recurred in a few interviews.) 

One, regarding subject matter, is "Pay Attention To What You Pay Attention to" (sounds obvious doesn't it?) and the other is "Work in Series". I think both of these will help with frustration at myself for continuing to have such a diverse range of styles, medium and subjects. I dread the question, "So, what do you paint?" and should really have a ready reply by now!

Something that keeps stopping me in my tracks with a longing to capture them, are the groups or pairs of (usually) women in local streets, chatting, sitting or walking around - wearing bright colours, with umbrellas, children on backs or otherwise attached; mostly in summer when shadows are strong or people are out and about later in the day. Such a warm, convivial feature of Johannesburg, I've painted and sketched these scenes often but haven't found THE way to do them that isn't a rather slavish copy of a photo, but more finished than an urban sketch. I did two versions of this group - dressed all in white in this case, walking home from church through the leafy green streets of Emmarentia - trying to keep to strong, simple shapes, the results not what I'm after yet... are they ever though? 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Can you do the Canna, can!

Is anyone still out there? It's been another long time since I've been here on the blog, and no excuses, but back with an intention to post more regularly, even if just for my own documentation.

I've been trying to find the pure pleasure of drawing and painting again - after far too long of producing work to order, that seems to have gone by the wayside a bit. I think less writing, which takes me longer and longer, and more artwork is the key to keeping up.

These drawings I made when I had a problem with my left eye recently, which was frightening to say the least. After months of fussing about what to draw, what to paint, when, how and why... when faced with an actual threat to my ability to do so, I just sat down and drew what was in front of me, a desiccated canna flower on my studio windowsill. I resisted doing Inktober again, as a pressure I wasn't feeling up to, but got out my Indian ink, watercolours, and the dregs of my morning coffee to make these. My eye is OK again, thankfully, after a small op, but a lesson was quickly learnt - less pondering, more action. Seems obvious doesn't it!?