Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Life, oh Life

I've been back to life drawing sessions again - just a model and a group of fellow strugglers, no tuition. I stopped going some years back as I'd collected such a pile of drawings that I didn't know what to do with. It is one of my favourite things to do, when you get into such total concentration on contours, shadows and the subtlest of tones and hues that you lose all sense of time or whatever else is going on... but I did get to a stage when the whole exercise seemed a bit pointless, so since I've returned to it I've been trying to find new ways to interest myself - which for me usually comes by way of happy semi-accidents. Semi because I do use the watercolour very wet, and allow it to do its thing with just a little guidance from me. This one came closest to making me feel a bit excited to go further with this approach, with other more controlled or less successful attempts below. I tend to get some great bits, like an arm or a left leg, together with some awful ones, a bad torso or face, I need to get all the great bits together in one painting!

The model for most of these has been bringing her Jack Russell with her, which has provided another lovely dynamic to the poses (and two models for the price of one). A bit sad though as the little dog is old and not well, and so content to lie quietly wherever she's placed - the closeness between the two is obvious. 
The charcoals are quick poses, I think the first was half an hour and the others five minutes. The watercolours mostly half an hour - the one at the bottom an hour.


These are all quite big - perhaps I wouldn't have such trouble storing them if they were smaller, but strangely given all the small scale sketching I do, I feel compelled to do large figure studies - even A2 paper isn't quite big enough!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Braamfontein Cemetery

Our sketchers group went to the historic Braamfontein Cemetery on our last Saturday outing - a place I've driven past hundreds of times, vaguely wondering what was behind the dilapidated fences. Doing some research, I was astounded by the number of significant events and people in Johannesburg that are commemorated here. 

It's divided into sections, including an Anglo-Boer War section, Jewish, Muslim and Chinese sections, firemen & policemen, priests & nuns, and the School of Mines section holding 12000 miners - now represented by a green field and a single huge granite cube which guards the remains of Enoch Sontonga, who wrote our national anthem 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika' - as well as many other graves of early Johannesburgers. Also a Dynamite Memorial for when a train, loaded with dynamite for the mines stood in the hot sun and exploded in 1896, destroying 1500 houses and killing hundreds of people, horses and donkeys.

One very moving grave was that of 24 year old Chow Kwai For, who registered under a new law requiring racial registration, unaware that the Chinese community was refusing to do so as a protest against it (he spoke a different dialect and hadn't understood). When he realised what he had done he committed suicide. His letter of apology is engraved on his headstone in Chinese. Sadly looking a bit derelict as are many, but still with a bunch of dried flowers placed before it.

We - and especially me, I seem to be a magnet for them - had been plagued by mosquitoes the whole morning and at this final stop in a remote and neglected part of the cemetery (not sure what section it represented) I found the mother-lode. Trying to draw as fast as possible while squirming and swatting at mozzies made for some interesting linework. Though I quite like the result, I wouldn't recommend it as a sketching technique!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Basket Sellers

I popped out to collect my contact lenses from my optometrist and got a parking place right in front of the basket ladies on the pavement outside her rooms. Too good an opportunity to miss sketching them unaware!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Finishing things

Over the last few months, on and off, I've been spending time in the studio determined to finish a whole bunch of half-done paintings - for better or for worse!  

These you may (or well may not) recognise from a previous post on Greg Kerr's Objets Trouvé workshop in 2014. Below are some of the stages these 60 x 60 cm paintings have gone through, some rather tortuously, via a series of processes. Splashing, rolling and printing paint onto the canvases with an underlying prepared motif  - mine our birdbath - which had to consist of organic and geometric forms. Interventions followed of adding textures, patterns and elements - some prescribed by Greg (each painting had an element taken from someone else in the class's paintings, to explain some strange additions... the crystal, the water tower, the child swimming, the sardine tin) as we worked through the course, some added tentatively or recklessly by me as I eventually took the plunge and tried to leave dependency on the teacher behind me.

Often I wished I could backtrack to a previous stage of simplicity or clarity, and in the one with the child swimming (I changed my classmate's child into my daughter) I was at the point of scrapping the whole thing but decided that more might be more and carried on adding flowers and fishes and glazes... it may still be scrapped...or cropped down to just the little girl swimming...or I could add the kitchen sink...

With changes and a move from Joburg sometime in the not too distant future, I have to finish and clear out so much stuff I don't know where to start. Painting is the relatively easy bit, I have to get them out of here!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Killarney Style

 A lovely day to go sketching, in the lovely suburb of Killarney on Saturday. Although it's known as 'flatland' because it consists almost entirely of blocks of flats or apartments, many of them are historic Art Deco buildings, the streets are well lined with lush green trees and the rich variety of locals strolling the streets are friendly and welcoming.
I sat at the gate of the park where we sketched the suburb's Spring Day back in 2014 with Whitehall Court across the road and tried to capture the shady elegance of its pillars and balconies. There was a constant coming and going of visitors and residents, all infused with an easy-going, relaxed rhythm. So many stopped to chat, a real vibe of a vibrant and interactive community where everyone seemed to know each other.

The venue was suggested by Fiver Löcker, visiting South Africa again and staying this time in Killarney. She invited us all up to her flat for tea and cake, and of course to sketch the view from her balcony - a huge expanse of sky (watching lightning storms there must be spectacular!) with a broad flat vista of the Northern suburbs. I drew a small section, leaving out the big beautiful sky - I need lessons in cloud painting as well as much better paper - and picked out the ever present cranes, you wouldn't think we were in a recession with the constant building operations going on.
Every now and then I threw down my cityscape for my other sketchbook as people walked past to try and snatch impressions of the colour and movement below. They do all seem to be women, but they are the most interesting, colourful and varied to sketch aren't they!?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Newtown Fridays

I've re-instated the 'First Friday in Newtown' sketch date for our Joburg Sketchers group after it fizzled out rather apathetically last year. I admit to feeling a little apprehensive before these gatherings as we stick out like strange pale objects in the bustling, noisy, lively African space - even though we've only been ignored at worst (apart from one vendor once, upset at me drawing his stall) and joyfully welcomed at best. This time we had some new faces join the regulars - a few followers of our Facebook page and newsletter who at last took the plunge into the city, visiting sketcher Fiver from Brighton, and a whole fresh bunch of young men and women from a nearby architect's studio who made me feel optimistic about the future of urban sketching in Joburg, if they only keep on coming!

I started sketching the lovely Museum Africa building, sadly deteriorating again after a new lease of life a few years ago. Apparently it's down to its last curator who is leaving, or has left after trying gamely to keep the collection going and safe with no resources or help. The wooden heads which line the streets of Newtown are also showing signs of neglect and vandalism; a ragged Rasta man scratching in a bag of rubbish for scraps next to me who it felt too intrusive to draw...
But back to happier observations - a truck driver pulled up alongside and asked what I was doing... "But this is great!", other passers by stopped to look, chat and laugh with the sketchers, the young architect's group was enthusiastic and once again we're encouraged to do this again - once you're there, it's always, always worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SketchCrawl in Melville

...And crawling to non-existent internet speeds here, so an overdue post about the 50th Worldwide Sketchcrawl on 23 January. We met in Melville, a suburb we've sketched quite often because of its quaint shops and bohemian population. 

I started at the corner clothes shop where some sketchers were doing a bit more catching up than sketching for a while; then popped into the tattoo parlour who surprised me with caricatures by one of the artists in return for my efforts; indulged in a delicious iced coffee at the IT café while sketching the restaurant opposite, with pavement bead artist traders on the corner; then we all ended up at 27 Boxes, which I've sketched before but don't seem to have posted on this blog... it is up on Urban Sketchers here.
We were lucky enough to have our wrap-up meeting coincide with a young jazz band's performance at the little outdoor arena, giving us more sketching fodder as well as a treat for the ears - a very talented group, some of whom were just off to Cape Town to start on their musical studies and careers.

Even though a few of our regular Joburg Sketchers couldn't make it, so great to have a good turnout of ten! Yay!