Thursday, April 3, 2014

Blubird of Happiness

Refiloe behind her veggie stall

View from our café table

Honey and pots for sale

Pastel de Nata!
 The Joburg Sketchers went to the Blubird Wholefood Market on Sunday morning - invited by the organiser, it was nice to feel so welcome! Interesting to note the different reactions to our presence in this upmarket shopping centre after the lively feedback we had in the city a few weeks ago... some surreptitious peeks over my shoulder, sideways glances and generally non-committal. One lady came over for a friendly chat before asking, "you are going to vote for the D.A. aren't you?" so I think she had an ulterior motive!
We were joined by four new sketchers - with one originally from Lisbon, and Pasteis de Nata on sale at a bakery stall, it was lovely to reminisce on the Lisbon urban sketching Symposium of three years ago. Registration has opened for the 2014 Symposium in Paraty, Brazil and I'm sad not to be rushing to put my name down - just too far away and too much expense for a few days of sketching indulgence, tempting as it is!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Market Theatre

Just two of us on our First Friday of the month sketch date last week in Newtown - we walked around to the other side of Mary Fitzgerald Square to sit in front of the Market Theatre to draw. When I sketched here a couple of years ago, it was the up and coming, vibey Market Precinct with art galleries, restaurants and street markets, but it's taken a bit of a backward step with nothing much happening besides being a thoroughfare. Lots of building going on though (hence the construction workers in top sketch), so perhaps it will rise again as a hub of activity and enterprise.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Conversations in the City

Three of us lucky ones who weren't at work on a Tuesday morning went back to the CBD to do more sketches for the Joburg Joburg exhibition which opens on Saturday. It was fascinating for a suburban-dweller to sit on the streets of a normal working day in the city, and to experience the responses that our presence there generated.
Old Standard Bank building and Victory House
Our first stop on a pavement next to some workmen fixing a manhole was fairly uneventful as people rushed past, some comments drifting to us about "iArtisti" with the odd quizzical glance. But later we moved to a public square in front of the City Hall (closed off last week for the filming of the Avengers) where we were more exposed, and visitors arrived thick and fast. Here's the gist of some of the conversations that took place, as I remember them: 
Barbican building and burnt out and ransacked Old Rissik St Post Office, opposite City Hall
Security guard: "Hello ma, I have been told not to allow anyone to sit here"
Me: Oh, why is that, isn't this for the public?
S.G.:  "Yes but you see this tree (a large, elderly palm tree in the middle) - it might fall down and squash you."
Me: Well, it's been there for quite a while, I'm willing to take my chances.
S.G. "There are CCTV cameras all over here, watching us as we speak."
Me: But we are doing nothing wrong, I am sketching here as people do in cities around the world (short explanation of urban sketching)
S.G. "Well all right, but if the tree falls on you, don't blame me"
Me: OK, if I survive, I won't...

Well dressed older man: "Hello Mami, what is this you are doing?"
Me: (short explanation of urban sketching)
WDOM: "Do you sell these things for money?"
Me: No, it's just a hobby, for my own enjoyment and to show our city to the world.
WDOM: "Are you a pensioner? (Me:  >:-O) What do you do for your job?"
Me: I sometimes make drawings for educational books and other businesses that I get paid for.
WDOM: "Oh, you are very rich then... Are you married?"
Me: Yes
WDOM: "He must love you very much to do these things. How long have you been married?"
Me: Almost 35 years
WDOM: "Oh, he knows you inside and out then"

One of two young dudes, as his friend engages my friend Leonora: " Wow, no way! Hello Ma! What are you guys doing here, you drawing this place!?"
Me: (longer explanation of urban sketching as he's so interested)
Other YD, draping himself over Leonora's shoulders: Come take a photo of me with this artist!
After photo, my YD: Can I take a photo of your drawing? Can I take a photo of you? Can I have a photo together with you?  And finally, a stinging parting shot: It's great but ma, you're too old to be doing these drawings...
YD to other YD as they move off: Hey, this is our lucky day!

There were others; some wanted photos, some wanted to know where to buy sketching supplies, some wanted lessons, some got details to join Joburg Sketchers, one went to fetch his little sister from school and brought her back to have a look. Altogether a really happy few hours in the CBD, where you're never alone and ignored - even if rather forthright about how very ancient you are!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Joburg City Centre

Our small sketching group was invited to go and sketch in the city by a group of artists who are holding an exhibition called Joburg Joburg, which aims to engage its immediate surroundings and to promote the renewal of the city centre.

We have ventured to the edges of the city in Newtown a few times, but never really braved the inner streets until now. I started on one of Joburg's oldest buildings, Victory House, while we waited for everyone to arrive (finding architecture as difficult as ever!) - quite a crowd of nine when joined by some of the participating artists. We then walked along to Ghandi Square, which was fairly quiet on a Saturday morning, but a few shoppers and people waiting for buses.

We then tried to go to our next destination outside the City Hall, but found the roads closed and access denied as they were shooting "dangerous scenes" for the new Avengers movie! We did hear a huge crash while we were sketching nearby in the Library Gardens, where political and church meetings, ladies selling religious tracts and boys on skateboards were all on the go.

For the first time, the progression of a sketch of mine of a food vendor's stall was being videoed by a young photographer from Pretoria, when the owner of the stall came over, irate that we were focusing on his enterprise (we had asked someone who we thought was the owner) ...another first for me... so we had to reluctantly give up on that, after spending so long setting up angles and supports.

I sketched the skateboarders instead, who didn't mind at all! More sketches and photos of the day here....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sandton Sprawl

I had to go shopping in Sandton recently, the commercial and business hub of Johannesburg, and dubbed "Africa's richest square mile" though I think it's bigger than that now. Fifty years ago this area was all horse trails and smallholdings... Sandton City mall and office complex was built 37 years ago (dwarfed now by new developments) and currently there are 32 new buildings planned and under construction. The 'Twin Towers', only 30 years old are about to be demolished and rebuilt!
I did the top two sketches from the Sandton City parking garage across the road - the Standard Bank building that had been there a week before Christmas was gone and cranes and building piles in its place. The following day I went to the industrial area of Wynberg (two shopping trips in two days, wow!) and saw this great view of the Sandton skyline from the warehouse parking lot - the top building that I sketched the day before is on the far left of the panorama.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Draw, draw, draw

I have been busy drawing for my upcoming course, 'Objets Trouvès' with Greg Kerr which starts in Johannesburg next month. Part of our prep was to find an object - not your regular Still Life subject matter which may have been drawn and painted to death already - but something unusual and perhaps strange or unappealing that happens into your life or surroundings.
I had a few false starts with things I found - a woodwork plane - too linear, a toiletries travel bag - too tedious with its zips and meshes, a computer fan - too hard and mechanical... when one day a storm approached, the wind blew, a painting flipped off the mantelpiece knocking off and breaking an early attempt at turning wood on a lathe by my son - which made me a bit sad until...aha, voilà! I had my objets!

There's something deeply satisfying about completing and beholding 20+ drawings you've done of the very same item. I usually draw something, tick it off and seldom feel inclined to do it again, so before I began I dreaded all that slog before me, certain I'd be bored to tears halfway through. But tackling one frame at a time, and with options of different mediums to do it in I became absorbed in the challenges and new perspectives of each rendition.

Starting with three drawings with the humble HB pencil, moving onto six in charcoal and going onto my favourite method, water-soluble ink with bleach, water, brushes and pens (I had whittled a new bunch of bamboo pens while watching cricket on TV days before) which I explored and experimented with for the remainder of the 20 - I've only shown three of those ones here, will get to photographing the rest sometime. So interesting to play in this technique but be warned if you try, I'm told they won't last - the paper may rot and the ink fade!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jozi Food Market

The Jozi Food Market is held every Saturday at Pirates sports club near my home. It was very quiet this last week when our sketching group visited, as was Johannesburg with everyone still returning from their holidays away - not many customers for the lovely fresh produce. But when I woke up early this morning I heard the familiar background drone of traffic which has been missing for the last three or four weeks - everyone getting back to work and in a day or two, school.