Plein air scribbling

IMG_4342.JPGPlein air drawing is a busy activity – shielding the eyes from the sun, fighting off ants, balancing a little drawing book and avoiding the eyes being overwhelmed by the many choices of what to draw. Truth be known though, these scribbles would still be the result!

This is the Hawkesbury River which is a small village that is a pleasant one hour train ride from Sydney.IMG_4339.JPG
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The sound of a perfect A

IMG_4304.JPGYou know how it goes. Look at the overall shape, look at the spaces between. Draw. Look more. Draw what you see and so on.

Well, that’s exactly what I did. But as is usual, I will also try to explore something else too – a creative problem, just a little one. In this case, I want try to explore what to do with the background. And what you see is what I did.

Ok. Drawing completed, I leave it.

A couple of days later…

I set up the drawing to take a photo (for this blog post) when I notice something. I see gentle movement. I hear sounds, distant sounds – violins, an oboe, a cello and I see a baton in slow movement.

Amazing, it is the scene of a little performance. I wonder, if you stay still a moment, just a moment and soften your gaze, that you too might hear it.

The sound of a perfect A? It is one of my favourite bits of a concert – the bit before it all begins.

It is when all the many disparate and individual sounds come to a point where there is a rich unison, a coming together and a warm yellow sound. Then a lull, a collective in breath and the various voices begin…all from a common purpose.

It is beautiful. Well, it is to me.
And I hope it’s ok with you, but I wouldn’t share this with any muscians. Shhhhh.

Another experiment…four minutes

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Quick experiments bring with it a little uncertainty, randomness and well…they’re just quick to do.

The child is a 40 second, minimum-number-of-stroke drawing on tracing paper. The other drawing took about a minute. It’s a two-pen drawing of an unfinished paper basket weave. I did about 10 other quick drawings. Just random drawings of random objects, random people. Then, another two minutes to play around with a visual idea.

Drawing on tracing paper is a fun and simple way to play with visual ideas, composition and layering. Try it. Here are a few others I’ve tried:

Two-pen drawing? Leonie Andrews describes this well in her blog post ‘Taking two lines for a walk‘. Try that too.

Have a good week everyone.

Another experiment

IMG_4219.JPGI’m sure I can take this one further but here is where I’ll leave it until an idea comes along. I’m experimenting with layers of charcoal, goauche, watercolour and pencil.

The image is based on a tiny bit of green on a pavement that caught my attention on a pavement while I was rushing to get the train one morning.

Simply drawing

IMG_4300.JPGSometimes drawing from simply looking – not thinking about colour, not working out tone, not thinking about composition – feels like doodling. Just looking, dreaming, moving the pen over the page. You kind of wake up, look down and…there it is.

Something drawn.

A bit like the feeling of arriving by car to your destination but not quite remembering how you got there. Oh dear.

Starting and continuing

IMG_4293.JPGThis drawing started with a flapjack. It’s the closest succulent to where I sit. Some days it’s as unplanned as that. Then it’s plant a, plant b and so on.

Other days I might start with a pencil or waterbrush or collage or fountain pen. Or it might be an idea I want to try.

Whichever way, the drawing evolves. If something doesn’t quite work – often for no particular reason other than it doesn’t seem to work – it then becomes something I have to work at.

At some point, I get stuck. This happens most of the time. Maybe it’s the colours not working together or the lines are too stiff or the texture is not varied or there is no contrast.

Leaving it for the next morning helps.

I wonder if this is what is meant by ‘trusting the process’? That is, you start and you keep going, resolving little creative problems along the way, till the whole piece seems complete.

Maybe that’s what it is. How do you start? How do you keep going?

Little lessons along the way

IMG_4292.JPGI can still see and hear Gopal a miniature artist, sitting cross-legged on the floor of his little art shop, patiently telling me (again) that the shape of each leaf must be exactly the same. I’d say ‘yes’, while yet another oddly shaped leaf would appear from my brush.

The setting is in a hot, dusty, tiny part of Rajasthan – Bunda, a place I visited especially for its forts, palaces and stepwells.

For the few days I spent there, I dropped into Gopal’s shop in the mornings, watching him paint either in silence or when he felt like it, listen to him share snippets about life in Bundi and the Bundi style of miniature painting. A simple and contented life is what I felt he had.

And so it is…to learn something new from someone or about someone.

Gather snippets along the way in life, absorb what one’s inclinations, ability and level of receptiveness allow and add it to a mix that becomes a part of who you are.

The mango tree? Although heading towards end of summer, these are in abundance in Sydney at the moment. The trick though, is to get to the mangos before the fruit bats do.

In amongst it all

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I only have one pot of bamboo – hardly a bamboo forest. But one can imagine, can’t one?

Here’s how:
Put the pot on your table – at eye level.
Start drawing.
Make sure you notice the shapes (leaves) at the front, middle and behind.
Turn the pot around so you get a slightly different view.
Resume drawing.
This time, listen. Listen to the rustle of the leaves, the swaying of the branches.
Feel the breeze on your cheeks.
Look across the forest, look through, look upwards.
Keep drawing.

And that, is how you come to be.
In a bamboo forest.
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Leonardo’s trees

IMG_4263.JPGit took me four hours to walk around the Uffizi in Florence (in 2010). The first two hours was simply to walk across each floor taking a survey, an overview of what was there – the artworks, the architecture, the long corridors, the views through the windows.

I then took another two hours going back to the few I wanted to be with. Just sitting, drawing but mostly looking.

The experience is rich.

Leonardo’s ‘The Annunciation’ was one of the paintings I spent time with. I realise that the focus of this painting is about someone (angel) delivering a message (impending birth to Someone Important) to someone (a virgin). But for me, it’s the trees in the background that I particularly love. I don’t know why, but I do. How frustrating for Leonardo if I were to tell him that.

It reminds me of the often said point, that it is what one sees in something that makes that thing important (or not), valued (or not), beautiful (or not). What one communicates is not what is necessarily received by another. What to do? For someone like me, getting different perspectives is great for creating a richer or more expansive understanding on something. Otherwise, it’s just me and my views.

Oh dear. Am I being obtuse or something? Anyway, I really like Leonardo’s painting. I do.

BTW: A fantastic podcast ‘Learning from Leonardo’ (1 hour: ABC Radio National): http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/learning-from-leonardo/5863056

What is composition exactly?

IMG_4256.JPGChloe my soon-to-be-seven year old neice, handed me an A4 sheet she had covered with furiously coloured scribbles asked ‘well, what do you think?’ I said I really liked the colours and asked her what she might do with it next.

Nothing. She was on to her next piece.
And yes, she said, I can use her first piece.

I cut it up in small pieces then moved them around on an A5 sheet, trying to find a way to make all the bits form a whole.

How does one do that? When does something ‘come together’? Rule of thirds? Golden mean? Negative-positve space? Proximity, balance, line considerations?

I don’t quite have a definitive answer but found that moving pieces of paper around on a sheet of paper a simple and satisfying way to explore this question.

I looked up to see Chloe making a story about a bee and a flower in a collage and Em, her nine year old sister creating a still life.