Enjoying the process

It’s just a simple quick drawing based an iPhone photo of a fleeting glimpse of a sunny, quiet space in the middle of the city. I like this exercise of simplifying shapes and focussing on mid, darks and lights.

These are Agar Agar steps which are a shortcut taking you from a city road to the SH Ervin Gallery which is located on Sydney’s Observatory Hill where you can see lovely harbour views.


From dark to light

I started this drawing with a background of graphite. And then I alternated between erasing and adding more graphite. I would have liked to have added a stronger tint of colour but either the graphite or the paper would not take any more. And so, here it is, a bit of an observation of a small desert rose I bought recently. It looks very similiar to the azaleas which are all flowering at the moment.

Finishing the unfinished

Dawdling to draw this morning, I flipped through a sketchbook.

Mmm…a few unfinished drawings there. Can’t remember this one (top left) but I do remember buying a waratah to draw. This as subject matter, is very Margaret Preston. I see her hand coloured linocuts. Strongly drawn. Thick black outlines. Very Australian in what she chose to draw. I don’t know what mine is, but I felt like scribbling with coloured pencils, erasing, then scribbling back over the top. Oh well, at least it is finished now – for want of a better purpose!

Homage to Van Gogh (2)

I really like Van Gogh’s ink drawing of Garden of the hospital in Arles (1888). 

To spend a little time appreciating this work, I copied some of his marks. It is all lines, dots, curves. And with that, he has created a wonderfully rich shorthand depiction of this garden. The overall scene is serene and yet his marks are very energetic.

The drawing is 45.5 x 59 cm. To me, that is alot of marks to be making. For me, on a much smaller 14 x 20 cm page, it felt an an effort to draw in this way – having to create varied shapes, negative-positive shapes, dark to light, detailed shapes versus overall shape. In his work though, I get the sense, these marks just ‘flowed’ from his pen. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.

I then happened upon his painting version of the drawing and was very surprised to find that his brush strokes are the same or similar to his drawn marks. I have not compared his drawings with his paintings before and never noticed.

And then, I came across a blog post, Making a mark: Van Gogh: Drawing media and techniques which explained my surprise. Don’t you love discovery learning? I do.

And so it is…to learn from walking in the footsteps of someone with a gift that continues to amaze. Thank you.


Homage to Van Gogh (1)

This morning I sat with Van Gogh on my balcony. Just a little while. I have to say, he’s most intense. I did not feel I could interrupt him with lots of questions. Instead, I looked over to see what he was doing. I don’t think he minded.

When he starts an ink drawing, he just keeps going and at a fast pace. His drawings have strong focal points and somehow uses light to guide our attention. His visual language is distinctive and so creative. He uses a wide range of marks to form shapes and to depict texture and tone.

Making stuff up again? Well, it’s the only way I’m going to be able to have a chat with Van Gogh, aren’t I?

Brown paper drawing (7)

Yes? No? I’m not sure that either works, but they are quick attempts at using a brush pen – thanks to a little blog conversation at Leonie Andrew’s blog. The downside of the brush pen is if you spend a few seconds too long on the tip, the ink starts to swell on the paper. The upside is you have to keep moving – no time for dilly dallying about where to take the line. 

Wanting a bit of a contrast with the thick lines, I’ve used a micron pen. I think I’ll try it in reverse next by starting with the micron then brush pen. 

Anyway, rows of clivias are sprouting everywhere at the moment. The ones around here like to hang out underneath the shade of huge old morton bay fig trees (I think). From a distance, the bobbing orange flower heads look like stars in a sea of dark. There you go. Spring fever is here.

Brown paper drawing (6)

This is based on a few dried things I have on my shelf. Come to think of it, there are quite a few dried things I’ve picked up from my daily walks. Even though I live in a fairly ordinary suburb, there are always interesting twigs, leaves, seeds, flowers to collect. I have to say that it is largely due to this little habit of drawing that keeps my eyes looking.

Of course, there are cloud formations, stars and birds which I’d love to just pick up and pop onto my shelf! I guess I’ll have to get into drawing outside…one day.

Brown paper drawing (5)

Ficus lyrata this plant is called. But fiddle-leaf fig is far more descriptive. 

What you cannot see here is the pencil underdrawing. If you could, you would see lines crissing crossing, moving in and out, defining and redefining. All this, in an attempt to describe the structure and to some extent, the character of this plant. 

Seven leaves in all, one would think it would be simple. The job of observing with clarity is an ongoing challenge. 

Challenge? When one considers what unimaginable calamities are facing people in parts of our world, it is such an indulgence to be able to just draw. 

Guilt is not a particularly useful thing. Rather, I will take this moment to appreciate the chance of being able to just sit and appreciate this little item of beauty before me.

Brown paper drawing (4)

Do you ever think after a little while of drawing, you look up and think ‘goodness, what the?’! I’m referring to the top of the pot. 

Left Brain is saying: You know the deal. When you draw the top of the pot, think about persepctive and watch out for the edges – that it’s not pointy or like a pancake. 
Right Brain: Looks and looks and decides to just draw anyway.
Left Brain: Now look at your drawing.
Right Brain: Looks. Knows something isn’t quite right.
Left Brain: You’ve done a pancake. The top of the pot looks far too round, like you’re over the top of it. I think you need to review a few tips from Liz Steele (blog post) and Koosje Koene (video).
Right Brain: (Feeling a bit beaten) Yes, you’re right.

As I’ve mentioned in Left brain, right brain shenanigans drawing and creativity does need both sides of the brain (!) but I have to say, perspective drawing and explanations for it escapes me sometimes. I kind of get it but not quite. 

Methinks it’s Left Brain’s fault for not getting it. But it could be Right Brain’s fault for not seeing properly.