Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Take a Chance: The Art of Micro Travel

I had my sketchbook under my arm and my pen and watercolours in my bag. There was a folding stool slung over one shoulder and, smallest but most important, in a pocket of my bag there rested the two items that would determine my fate for the morning: a die and a key card.
The die is a normal die but the key card is not like a normal hotel-style key card. It is a piece of card with the key on it. It looks like this:

I drove to South Fremantle, parked my car and got out on South Street. This was my chosen theatre of travel. South Street from King William Street to just past Jenkins St. Only a couple of blocks.

At the corner of South and King William I held my sketchbook flat and rolled the die. 6.
Reading my key, I saw that a 6 means I have to draw what's at the back of me. So I put down the stool facing the way I'd come. And drew a couple of containers of plants that were in my line of sight - a Jade plant (I think) and something with pink flowers.

When that was done, I walked on. The Roasting Warehouse is on the next corner and I felt that a second breakfast would be a good idea. The Roasting Warehouse has terrific tables - large enough to spread out drawing stuff and not get in anyone's way. I rolled the die - 2. Draw what you see when you look down. Aha! That was my plate of poached eggs on toast and a juice of various red and orange vegetables. So I drew them.

Stop number three was at the end of that block. I rolled a 4: Look right and draw what you see. I oriented my stool to face the right hand side of the street where a clump of sunflowers half hid a parked bicycle.

At the fourth stop I rolled a 2 again: look down. This time when I lowered my eyes I saw dead leaves and Bougainvillea bracts littering the footpath.

At the fifth and final stop I rolled another 4: Look right. To my right this time there were three conjoined shops. What struck me about them was their doors - same style but different colours.

By then I'd filled a double page spread and the heavy humid air had erupted into thunder and lightning. Time to call it a day.

Adding elements of chance to a sketch walk, randomising the experience, is a way of forcing myself to look at things I might otherwise ignore. It adds excitement and transforms an outing into a real adventure. No fancy gear needed - no expense - no responsibility to make choices about what to draw.

I highly recommend taking a chance with micro travel. I'd love to see where it takes you and what you create along the way!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Of Bulls and Bluebirds

The vision:
Sitting on a grassy verge breathing in fresh country air scented with eucalyptus and wildflowers, sketching.
Then driving on to the next inspiring scene or object and repeating the above, possibly substituting a convenient rock or ant free log for the grassy verge.
Returning home with a sketchbook full of drawings telling the story of the day.

The plan:
To drive to Dwellingup, sketching as described in the vision.

The unexpected:
Flies in enormous sticky clouds.

The way it all turned out:
I began in true documentary mode, writing down things that we said, things that I thought.
'Roe Highway exit 11kms. Really?'
'A burnt out car - Wow!'
'Dwellingup used to be such a sweet little place.'
'The sky is like a blue bowl upended over the world with little bits of beaten egg-whites still stuck to the insides.'

We drew. We stopped on the side of the road and drew what was in front of us. I drew a paddock leading up to a hill full of trees and the deeply fissured bark of a Jarrah tree. A butterfly landed beside me - I drew it too. Cicadas whirred, dogs barked somewhere in the distance and trucks rolled on down the highway. There were flies, but not in vast numbers. The day was young.
Ingrid sat further down along a side road sketching a windmill. That led to a discussion - should they be called wind mills when there is no mill attached. Should it not be a wind-water-pump, since pumping water is what it does?

We kept notes of the more quirky and interesting place names: Cardup, Dwellingup, Nanjedal, Uungula, Medulla Creek, Coogly Road.

The second stop was at a place in Serpentine, called Stockman's Rest, a cafe/ restaurant run by a Dutch couple called Mr and Mrs Stokman. The menu had lots of Dutch specialties, including rollmops, which I have not eaten for many many years.
I drew my glass of tea perched on a white paper doily. Ingrid drew one of the clay things that you build fires in. A chimera stove. There was a tractor museum in Serpentine and we thought of going in and drawing tractors but, although all the signs said it was open, there was a hefty chain across the door which said otherwise.

Ingrid was keen to draw cows, but for a long time there were none to be seen. Then at last we spotted a herd in a paddock fairly close to the road. We piled out of the car all eager to sketch them, but seriously, you would not believe the flies! Impossible to stand there with no free hands to wave them away. They were little bush flies that aimed straight for the moist surfaces of eyes and mouths and nostrils.  So goodbye cows
At last we arrived in Dwellingup and found our way to the Bluebird Cafe, a most delightful spot with big tables for spreading out sketching gear and interesting things to look at. There was good tea too.

Ingrid drew the signposts on the road outside and I focused on a curly little shelf that had an odd array of things on it - tomato sauce, a shopping bag, a roll of kitchen paper.

On the way home there were bulls in a paddock. Of course we stopped. It was a bit cooler and breezier and the files weren't so bad (though still very noticeable). The bulls cavorted and danced, swung their heads and their hips, swooshing long strands of spit as they did so. Happy bulls! Sweet, frolicking bulls. Bulls with mellow bellows. We drew them with our sketchbooks propped on fence posts. Mine don't look like bulls very much, their faces are more doggy that bully! But such a delight to be in their company and to spend that time getting to know them.

So, that was our drawing expedition to Dwellingup.
Next vision:
A game of chance with pen and watercolours (and possibly other gear). Stay tuned!