Foliage layers: Ubud (9)


This was meant to be an exercise in negative space drawing but turned out to be positive shape drawing. I think the problem was picking a subject that had little space to beging with. Seems a bit clear now. Oh well.

The inspiration for this has come from the lush land you see in Siderman, a small village in the mountains two hours from Ubud. While the colours are not like this, the shapes and density of the leaves are like this…sort of.


Botanica exotica workshop – lessons learned: Ubud (8)

 This 2+ metre wide unfinished drawing is made up up of 2 large sheets and 4 small remnant sheets held together with masking tape. This was part of a 5 day workshop with Suzanne Archer. I enjoyed the experience of working at this scale. 

The big tropical plant running across this whole drawing was a last minute attempt at ‘bringing the whole piece together’. I don’t think it quite works. But, the beauty of working in pastels and charcoal is that it can be easily rubbed back or drawn over. This is quite freeing when you don’t know what you’re doing (!). It also allows you to  try this and that till an idea evolves. I also learnt these gems from Suzanne:

  • To create depth, ‘draw as if your arm can reach through a space and beyond’.
  • In working from dark to light, ‘pretend you’re in a jungle looking out into the light’.
  • When something’s not working, ask yourself ‘what is it that you don’t like? What isn’t working.’
  • ‘Set up an installation of objects to use as inspiration for drawing. Think in layers and what’s coming through and between.’
  • ‘Vary your marks. Change directions.’
  • ‘Keep to a theme, add text’ in your concertina book.
  • ‘Draw big’

The drawing? It is now dismantled and in Ubud. I may or may not return to it but that’s ok as the lessons are still with me.

A bit about Suzanne Archer: Video (Art Gallery of New South Wales) and the workshop: Art adventures Bali

Past and present fragments: Ubud (7)

oil pastel and coloured pencil, 19cmx21cm

Hand carved teak fragments are often sourced from Javanese Joglo houses that are beyond repair. They are often used to create furniture, small houses or in the case of my friend Stacey, jigsawed together to create gorgeous windows and doors.

Curious about these pieces, I find out this about Joglo houses:

  • They are 19th century wooden frame buildings.
  • They have a thatched and pitched roof.
  • The basic building shape is simple, either square or rectangular. The simplicity symbolises the principle of carrying out responsibility in one’s life.
  • Artisans fast and meditate before carrying out specific parts of the building process.
  • Tongue and groove techniques are used without any metallic nails or bolts. This means that building parts are numbered, assembled and can then be disassembled, taken elsewhere then reassembled.

I find this amazing, don’t you?

And for someone, there are four daybeds on their way to rural New South Wales, Turon. Different use, different place and different people – the appreciation of something hand made with care so long ago.

Sources: A remarkable Javanese traditional home architectureand Javanese joglo house

For a great read of an Australian living in Ubud: Story of the rice joglo

Past and present fragments: Ubud (6)

oil pastel and coloured pencil, 19cmx21cm
When you visit the home and shops of carpentars like Ulin, you’ll find a deep and dusty clutter of hand carved teak fragments from Java. It is almost like The feeling as a child going into a sweets shop where the eyes constantly dart from one item to another as each is more beautiful than the last.

In this case, the green caught my attention. But as my eyes settled, I noticed the framed reflection of stillness of the ricefields behind me.

Patina of Ubud (5)

oil pastel and coloured pencil, 19cmx21cm
Two hours in the Ubud Neka Art Museum gave me a good sense  of some of the traditional styles of painting through to the more contemporary. The gardens are lovely and more so with gentle sounds from a gamelan player. 

My favourite was the work of Arie Smit, a painter originally from The Netherlands whose work shows a love of colour and Bali, the place he came to live in. 

I took a leisurely 3 hour walk back to Oolong where I was staying. With it being so hot and the roads narrow and uneven, slow is a good pace. And besides, there’s so many things to see. For example, this place with its colours, motley assortment of basketware and the peeling layers of wall paint caught my attention.

Here’s a great article I just found on Arie Smit: Arie Smit Turns 99 And this is where I stayed: Bali T House Oolong

Daily rituals: Ubud (4)

Altars can be seen everywhere in Ubud. Some are old and others are new that look old. My eyes are not that discerning. Regardless, whether new or old, on most altars will be a small fresh offering. 

It was something minute that caught my eye. In this case, it was the little tiny drop of pink – a sign that someone had just given thanks, prayed and visited. 

And this particular altar, a local one to where I was staying, made me think of voices…ones from a distant universe…gentle voices.

Sorry…I can be a bit prone to getting carried away.

Daily rituals – Ubud (3)

oil pastel and coloured pencil, 19cmx21cm
I took a series of photos of little morning and late afternoon offerings. Some are very simple and others more elaborate. All are arranged with thought, a sense of beauty and intriguing to my unaccustomed eyes.

This one caught my eye, as it has a little addition to it that looks almost calligraphic.

Now back at home I want to find out what they are about. After a quick search, I liked wikipedia’s clear and simple explanation:

  • They are called ‘canang sari’ meaning canang (beautiful purpose and small palm-leaf tray) and sari (essence).
  • Each colour and their position has a specific Hindu related meaning.

‘Beautiful purpose’. I like that.

I also thought this Lesson in making a canang sari posted by Tricia Mitchellan is informative and with great visuals.

I find it interesting that there is such a habit where one takes the time to make such beautiful objects each day, allow them take their natural course – let animals and insects eat them, cars run over them, spoiling by the heat – only to clean up and start again.

Little visual reminders of how transitory our lives are.

Every day. Twice a day.

Patina of Ubud (2)

oil pastel and coloured pencil, 19cmx21cm
Patina has several meanings but the one I’m thinking about is ‘a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use’ ( The background of this picture has been inspired by a front entrance door put together by artist Stacey and carpenter Ulin from old pieces of carved teak wood he has sourced from Java. The three bowls? Traces of old beauty is everywhere in Ubud – temples and compound houses with their ornate shrines and pavillions.

A little disruption – Ubud (1)

A wonderful three weeks in Lodtunduh, Ubud has disrupted my little blogging routine. 

The first five days was spent in a workshop ‘Balinese botanica exotica with Suzanne Archer’. The drawing, learning and and seeing was wrapped with fantastic company and in a beautiful environment – home of a dear friend.

And yes, above is not my usual A5 sized morning-on-the-balcony-sketch. Lots of charcoal layering, drawing in, removing, drawing over. And yes, after 3 days on it, it is unfinished. But, no matter. The experience of working large (2+ metres) and working with traces left behind by drawings removed was new and interesting to me.

 If I could, I’d have included in the sketch above, the staccato-like sound of the geckos, the sound of carp splashing about in the pond below and the 6am prayers sounding from a distance. Enclosed by glass panels, I loved this little space with its high pitched thatched roof and immersive views of the rice paddy fields.


And here, I am back to my A5…well, at least 2 A5!

Here’s a bit about the workshop: