Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heritage Day

 It was Heritage Day on the 24th September, when South Africans celebrate their very many different histories, traditions and cultural backgrounds. With my English, Scottish and Swedish ancestry long jumbled up in the past, I would have quite liked to potter around in the garden at home with a good old South African braai to finish off the holiday - but a sketchcrawl had been called, so off I went to the Constitution Hill venue, expecting to draw some of the buildings as I did nearly three years ago.
Well, it was a very busy place, with a 'Light the Way' event planned to coincide with the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York just getting into gear. I had started sketching one of the stair towers housing the 'Flame of Democracy', of the old awaiting-trial blocks which have been preserved as a reminder of the Concourt's grim past - but when some very loud thudding music and dancers started getting into action in the square, I turned my attention to them. (perhaps that distraction was why I put the leaning fellow's hand on the tree in the foreground :-o)
After some frantic drawing, eventually there were too many people blocking my view, with quite a crowd gathered around watching every move of my pen I decided it was time to escape the heat and noise and return to my corner of suburbia, and a relaxed braai with my family.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trees in the City

On a gorgeous Spring morning last Friday, a few sketcher friends and I met in Braamfontein to record a 'Parking Day' event where artists and activists were supposed to take over parking bays and transform them. It had been cancelled at the last minute and not an activist was to be found. Lots of cars in the parking bays, students to and from nearby Wits University, some vigilant security guards steering a few beggars away from the streets and cafés - I decided to try and draw the row of public art tree sculptures that runs all the way up Juta St, but all these things got in the way. I added the colours so you can spot them among the other activity!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lunar Ladies

My daughter is the designer for Lunar clothing store in a shopping centre not too far from where I live. Behind the scenes of the elegant, uncluttered showroom is a hive of activity where these seamstresses cut, measure, pin and whirr away on their machines to bring the designs into being.
I popped in a few weeks ago with the problem of an urgent hem for a 60th birthday party (mine!!) to be taken up and no working sewing machine to do it myself - quickly and efficiently taken care of by the ladies - but not before I had the chance to tuck myself in between rolls of fabric and hanging garments and sketch them hard at work.

Apologies once again for being so scarce... turning this large sounding age was one thing I've been getting my head around, along with some wonderful surprises that came along with it (my sister who was supposed to be at home in Texas popping up at my birthday party!) - and other projects, pleasures and possibilities have been claiming my limited attention, time and concentration. Drawing (apart from a big illustration job that arrived in the middle of this flurry of activity) and painting have taken a back seat, but things are quietening down and I think I'm feeling that urge to put pen and brush to paper again!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three days at the Mall

 I spent three days last week actually being paid to sketch - on a chalkboard - for a promotion in Sandton City shopping centre. I had to draw background themes for people to come and sit in front of and have their photos taken so it would look as if they had, for example, angel wings or a chef's hat grasping a wooden spoon and cake, or blowing seeds from a chalk dandelion. It was really effective and fun when people took part, though most in the centre were rushing to get where they were going or too shy, so we didn't get as many takers as I was expecting.
In the long waits between customers I sketched anyone who hung around for a few minutes - it's a long time since I've done such a lot of people watching and sketching, I think the practice did me good. Read the script if you want to know more :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Glorious Kaffe

Do you know who Kaffe Fassett is?
Only one of the world's most innovative and flamboyant colourists and author of many lovely books on knitting, needlepoint, quilts, interiors - anything you can imagine where Glorious Colour and design can be flaunted and overindulged. I've been a fan since the 80's when I first discovered his beautiful knits and books, so was astounded to hear from my fashion designer daughter that he was coming to a local fabric store and giving a talk in the church hall, to which she had bought tickets.

I packed a tiny watercolour palette and my new Hero bent nib calligraphy pen - a dear friend's son had bought it for me at the factory shop in Shanghai. It had travelled halfway round the world and was finally delivered from Cape Town via another kind friend on Sunday.
We found a front row seat where I had plenty of time to sketch the grand piano draped in quilts. Eventually Kaffe's studio manager Brandon Mably took the stage to introduce the man himself, and we were treated to a fascinating peek into his world of travel and colour, illustrated with a slide show of images from his next book. He did a book signing afterwards, and I thought of asking him to sign my sketch, but decided he might not enjoy my less than flattering rendition. At 77 he is still a very beautiful man!

I'm slowly getting the hang of my new pen. It can make a range of line widths by changing the angle at which you hold it. It works better and more predictably on smoother paper (as in the doodles on the right), but is great for expressive strokes even in my rougher sketchbook. Think it'll inspire me to get back into action and out of a rather arid sketching phase.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Scenes from an Exhibition

Not proud of myself that I completely baled out of my commitment to draw Every Day in May last month, but you'll be pleased to know (I hope) that it succeeded in making me realise what it was I really wanted to be doing. So I've spent the last couple of weeks with canvases, brushes and paint, and though I don't really want to talk about it yet, I am happy that the ball is kind of bumpily rolling in that direction - I'll show you when there's something finished and worth showing. 

In the meantime, the sketchers were invited to the Rotary Art Festival at the upmarket shopping centre of Hyde Park over three of the ten days that it was on for. Loads of artists exhibiting over three floors, life drawing, painting and printmaking demos, restaurants and viewing public, there was plenty to sketch. I think next time, if there is one, we should have an Urban Sketching display with explanations of what we try to do, as we attracted some quizzical and suspicious looks.
This was a group of exhibiting artists having what looked like a very entertaining lunch
 And some unsuspecting patrons at the same restaurant
where some very busy waiters were the next victims
We sat up on the top floor looking down at more restaurants and some of the people milling around the exhibition. Then an attempt to catch in colour people as they stood on the escalator coming up. Those things go much faster than you think, and everyone looks up startled to see eyes fixed upon them, so it was short-lived!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

James Hall Transport Museum

It was International Museum Day on Monday, and to mark it, on Saturday our sketching group motored over to the James Hall Museum of Transport on the other side of the city. As we wandered around the halls crammed with metal, rubber and chrome I admit my heart sank a bit at the prospect of trying to draw some of these mechanical beasts with all their precise angles, lines and engineerings. But down one rather dusty row of cars waiting for restoration I spotted a curvy, lumpy old character that took me straight back to my childhood and my grandparent's home and car in the (then) little seaside town of Hermanus.

My mother stretching to see over the unfamiliar wood and leather dashboard and straining to turn the big circle of steering wheel, my sister and I bouncing around the roomy back seat excited to be the first to see the blue of the sea, smell the smells of Sea&Ski suntan lotion, icecream, salt and sand, peering through the slatted blind of the tiny back window... I'm not even sure it was the same kind of car (I am of the ilk that describes cars as 'red' or 'black') but I was away, drawing and appreciating the beauty of these relics at last. Such craftsmanship, attention to detail and solid gravitas, the more you looked the more there was to love.
Joburg Sketchers produced an impressive set of sketches of a fraction of the collection of this wonderful museum - another place we'll just have to go back to!