Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ocean Time

August days have been as warm as Spring. The grass in my yard is long enough to wave in the breeze, pink blossoms are bursting out of their buds and swan couples cruise the wetland lakes with lines of fuzzy toddlers between them.

I have been walking on the beach, breathing deeply of the salt negative-iony air. Walk, sit, sketch, walk back. A couple of days ago the pattern expanded: Walk, swim, sit and sketch while drying in the air because I forgot to bring a towel, walk back wearing a crust of sand.

I'd like to make it regular, this new thing, this walking on the beach. The swimming too. New beginnings, new enterprises, blossoming, burgeoning, bursting out of old moulds ( the shape kind, not the fungal) - it's a spring thing.

Looking north from Port Beach towards Cottesloe and Scarborough.

Looking south from the same place, to Rous Head where all the containers are stored for shipping.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Playing Fast and Loose

I have had no patience lately for intricate detailed work or careful renderings. Perhaps it is the influence of our recent anachronistic spring weather that has my blood rushing and my branches stretching to wave at the sky. Perhaps it is my love affair with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen which responds effortlessly to every nuance of rhythm and stress.

Whatever the reason, my recent drawings have been more gestural than usual. I look more at my subjects than at the paper. I dive in without preamble. I seem to be skipping the part of the process where thinking happens as I abandon myself to the feel of the thing.

It's true that I sat for a couple of hours in front of a Fremantle facade, exploring its details and architectural patterns, but I was restless throughout, half loving the lines of arches and columns, half rushing to be done with them.

Here are some recent sketches:

These first two were done at the Indianna Tea Rooms at Cottesloe. A group of us gathered there for a Sketchbook Skool inspired outing and drew our morning tea and each other. Some white oil pastel found its way into the bottom drawing - I was simply too impatient to think about leaving the white or highlights of the hair and carefully painting the greys or navigating the pattern on the left hand blouse. A quick scribble of pastel, instant wax resist!

Above: This is ot brush pen but a fairly chunky sharpie. It doesn't have the melodious flow of the brush pen, but I also love the uncompromising, sturdy line of this pen.

This one (above) was wild indeed. I asked my students if they'd mind if I sketched them as they worked on their projects ( relief teaching, when not fraught with bedlam, can be boring for a supervising teacher). They assented, no doubt comforted by my assurance that they would be in no way recognisable. This is a more scribbly pen - possibly a Uniball. About 80% looking at the subjects, not the paper. NB some of these guys were sitting on couches reading - hence the laid back, half asleep look.

Fast lines coloured with a big brush.

Brush pen again.

How about you? Do you have these urges to dive in and let the lines run where they may?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Face in the Mirror

I do not like having my photo taken. The thought of being captured on video is right up there with the idea of taking a dive off a bridge with a bungee cord attached to my ankles. 

Drawing self portraits is different.

At first there is this face in the mirror. It is fatter than I'd like. I see the coarseness of my skin and the way folds of it sag in places. My chin is no longer as well defined as it used to be and my eyebrows have no sense of decorum at all.. 

Then I pick up my pen and take a closer look. I start with a nostril. Why a nostril? I don't know - it's a place to start. I look at the shape of the dark opening of the tunnel that runs up the inside of my nose. It isn't round. The darkness isn't all the same density. I draw the outside line of my nose around my nostrils, feeling the shape and texture in my mind and somehow relaying that feeling to the hand that holds the pen. I observe. I sense. I am present with every line. I am subject, verb and object. There are no more eyes, nose, wrinkles, ears. There is only shape and curve and light and dark, delicate lines, heavy lines. 

Then colour. I see green and blue where I thought there were only skin tones. Crimson and ochre. Warm and cool. 

When it is done and I look at the drawing I have made, it is not good or bad. It is a faithful record of my seeing in that time and place. Even if it doesn't look like me, it has something of myself in it. 

These five selfies were all drawn looking into the same mirror. I used different materials each time. In some I used one continuous line. In others I tried to capture light and shade.

Drawing these self portraits there was no room for judgement; only seeing. Looking in the mirror can be the same. Looking with judgement limits what we can see.  Seeing without judgement opens up a whole new world.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

North and South: Days in Lonnie and Hobes

I didn't have a lot of drawing time in Launceston. It was time to spend doing family things: going to see Alec's assembly, getting educated by Grace in the art of  playing with Barbies,  collaborating with the kids to make a book for Pop's birthday (The Adventures of Lily and Bert) and hanging out with the adults in the evenings. But there were a few hours when I'd returned from visiting Dad in George Town before my bus left for Hobart. I set off for a stroll, wound my way past the TAFE college and Launceston College, the buildings heavy with memories; down past the corner shop, now revamped and nothing like the place that sold pies and greasy chips that I remembered. I stopped at Richies Mill and sat in the late afternoon sun drinking tea as the shadows lengthened.

There was still plenty of time, so in spite of the growing cold and fading light, I walked over the bridge to the Cataract Gorge. So many years had passed since I walked along that path in the damp shade smelling of earth and leaves and age.
I stopped at a wooden seat and drew the rocks till my fingers were too numb with cold. Then walked back to the transit centre to catch my bus.

The weather in Hobart was comparatively mild, but not so mild that sitting outside drawing seemed like a great idea. I did brave the elements one morning to the extent of sitting on Jo's patio long enough to sketch the view across the valley to the hill on the other side of it - but mostly I drew interior things.

While Jo was at work I mostly read, drew, and wrote things down. Lennie, her elderly border collie, slept or occasionally shuffled, blind and arthritic, from one sleeping location to another. He's bigger than he looks here and very heavy. Jo has to help him up stairs and into the car. His back legs collapse under him sometimes and he just falls down. He is not as spiky as I drew him below:

I didn't stay inside at Jo's house all the time. I went to the movies at the State and had a tour of the building - the first time I'd seen the new additions - amazing architecture! I wandered around North Hobart, the city and the docks but only in short bursts interspersed with long periods of having coffee, browsing in bookshops and other warm pursuits. There was one terrific afternoon when I rocked up to a Japanese restaurant in North Hobart way past lunch time and had the place to myself, except for the staff, of course, and a boy who sat at a table near the kitchen and slept with his head propped up on his hands. He kindly woke up for long enough to re-fill my water brush for me.  Here is the sushi drawing from that day:

Now I'm back in Perth, back at work, back in the present. I've been working on self portraits - I'll post some soon.