Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Three Bags Full

What an unadulterated pleasure it is to put white colour on a brown bag. I can't explain it, it is illogical that this should be such a thorough thrill when any colour on any surface involves the same actions and similar outcomes. But white - pencil, pastel, crayon, paint - on brown paper - paper bag, wrapping paper - it's the ultimate. Of course, there's art supply shop kraft paper which is admirably sturdy and hardworking ( the corduroy of papers) and any number of sweetly tinted sketch pads. Trust me, nothing comes close to the humble bag.

Potato bags are quite tough and a little glossy on the outside. Here are a couple of potato bag pictures:

Both of these are drawn with oil pastels. I love the rich colour and the luscious way they stroke the paper as though the two of them were just made for each other!

The last one is drawn on a mushroom bag; much less sturdy than its potato cousin, altogether frailer and more delicate; wistful, even. Oil pastels just felt much too robust for this tender stuff, so I worked with watercolour pencils, gently and tenderly as if I were ministering to an aged aunt. Indeed, there is a similarity in the matter of wrinkliness....Even so, adding water almost resulted in a total collapse. Happily, however, structural integrity was restored after a good long rest in a warm spot.

This is the pot of Earl Grey tea I had at Point Walter this afternoon, looking out over the Swan River.
A wonderful slice of time, pleasantly interrupted at one point when a very cheery, blustery man came over to have a look and told me stories about his mother's plans to take painting classes after her retirement, his exploits with a new border collie pup named Kip, and his own disinclination to draw.

I'm thinking of making a collection of bag drawings. I get all tingley now when I buy potatoes....

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Using Up and Re-Using

Fun and more fun this week, finding different surfaces to draw on now that my sketchbook is full and I have my self-imposed rule of no new art stuff till all other available materials are used up.

 So, lets have a look:

That same morning I stopped at Hyde Park to sut for a while under a tree. There were clumps of Strelitzias there, so I drew them on the back of a cardboard box that had contained ginger sweets. This is a detail:

At South Beach, having breakfast on Friday I had my Moleskine blank exercise book with me. I'm getting used to the semi-bleed-through, and don't mind it any more. 

Then yesterday I went with Colleen and Ingrid to a spot along the river at North Fremantle. So quiet and secluded, only a couple of friendly dog-walkers came by. The sun shone, boats bobbed gently on the water, altogether a glorious afternoon. The white boat is drawn on a system card with pen and watercolour. The red one is on a piece of card from some packaging. It is drawn in pen and watercolour pencils.

Finally, this evening, after a day of sorting out and reorganising and filing things away, I sat down with an opened out mushroom bag and a brush pen and oil pastels and drew a fast selfie. I look quite manic - which is not usual for me!

So that's it for my week of drawing on different surfaces. I hope your week was also exciting and filled with delight! Till next time,


Wednesday, September 30, 2015


I can't take credit for this idea. I read it somewhere. Someone suggested it and for some reason it stuck. Partly, perhaps, because I'm keen to declutter and simplify my life. Also because it is full of potential excitement, innovation and craziness. It's this:

Before I buy any new art materials, I'm going to use up all the stuff I have.

A few days ago I filled the last page of my sketchbook. Here it is: three water containers all made of glass. I was house sitting for a friend and these were on her kitchen bench. 

But I digress.
So, end of sketchbook. I don't keep a stash of sketchbooks. I like the choosing part - the 'what kind of book will I get this time?' thrill. So at the end of this book, I looked around at my options. 

Aha! A nice little blank Moleskine cahier. Creamy paper, but thin, designed more for writing than drawing  Still, it works ok and it is thin enough to live unobtrusively in my everyday bag. It even quite graciously, accepts some watercolour, 

Something else I found was a box of system cards. Large ones. Mostly blank. I don't have a system that they can be useful in - indeed I really only bought them because they were such tidy and inviting white surfaces... so I've started drawing on them. My plan is to get a box that they can all be put in.

I have some other ideas for sketchbook alternatives - I'll keep you posted. So far I still have watercolours, though I'm running out of Naples Yellow and my lovely orange is all used up. 
I'm weirdly excited to see what will come of this. Will I end up drawing in my least favourite colours until they have all been used? Or will I mix media - watercolour plus crayons?
Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Communing with Everyday Objects

Cup, mug, teapot, milk jug.
I'm here. It is there.
It has a history of existence before we met in this place.
Me too.
And now here we are, together for a short time.

Never before
in all my life
have I sat before this cup, this mug, this teapot, this milk jug in just this way. 
With this scent of spring in the air, 
this boy asking me if I'd prefer to sit outside, 
this feeling of not wanting to go to work today...

Here we are, together as never before.
I turn to a new page, pick up - mmm - a brush pen. 
I want the responsiveness of it.
And begin.

The lovely shape of the hole in the spout, 
the belly of the jug, how full it is; 
the line of the handle, 
the shape of the shadows, 
the changes in colour. 

There is the architecture. 
The delight in sensing design,
feeling the weight of the curves in my mind, 
sensing them as if I'm holding them, 
As if we are holding each other.

Drawing is not a one-sided thing,
It is a communion,
where we - milk jug, teapot, cup or mug and I,
become greater
than the sum of all our parts.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

not a sketch, not a drawing....

The sky is a deep blue today. The wind blows cool and steady from the south. There are spring sounds: a duck somewhere over near the lake, the chirp and giddy twitter of birds, kids squealing and yelling in the park.

When I sat by the river earlier in the day, the waves were dark blue, a deep cold dark blue and the boats tied to yellow buoys did not stay still.

Why am I suddenly inspired to write something here after an absence so long that these posts look like the work of a stranger? Because with some delight and exultation, I have rediscovered the phenomenon of 'the study'. Not the room full of books, but the drawing whose purpose is to look, observe, notice, explore, study a thing to understand it better, to become familiar with the way it is put together, its different angles, the way it occupies space. To learn it, not in the way of 'now I can draw faces' but in the spirit of recognising how jawlines change with age and how an eye sits in its socket and  brows can perch like hedges on the outcrops of the brows.

A study. Not a sketch. Here's the difference: a sketch is a (relatively) quick capture of the thing. A study is an exploration. Sometimes a dissection.

Because the boats moved around so much I worked fast, looking at how they changed shape as they moved. The result is not really a result. It is just the record of a learning process.

This is exciting to me because, for a long time, I have been uneasy with the way I feel about my sketchbooks. I don't want them to be nice, well composed, filled with 'great pages'. I don't want to think about my drawings in terms of how good they are or how satisfied I am that they capture something. Really what I want is for my sketchbooks to be full of activity, unselfconscious, dynamic, lively things in which beauty emerges in the way you see the beauty of a windswept face with wild and tangled hair, a song escaping from its lips, its eyes bright with adventure.