Random subject appearance

I had a page of background of random watercolour washes. Nothing came to mind as to what to do with it. A couple of weeks later, flicking vaguely through some photos of Ubud, a rooster ‘appears’ to suddenly be what can be used with the random washes. 

This rooster looks nothing like the one in the photos but anyhow, it is sort of one. Drawing is like that sometimes – random, dreamy and a bit elsewhere.


An unintended elegance

 A few travel photos dropped out of a book. Mostly they were photos of people in and around Ubud going about their daily life – visiting a temple, participating in a procession, taking something from one place to another.

Great. Nice drawing subject and a chance to try out a new brush. An hour and a bit later and here it is.

What I don’t know how to capture are the floating thoughts and memories that flowed with the brush.

  • I wondered what was in those parcels. Where they were taking them and who or what they were for.
  • I wondered how it is that women and men alike, can walk with such ease and elegance carrying such a huge object on their heads. No wobbling. No fuss. Just a steady gaze and pace and walking tall.
  • I wondered what they would be talking about.

Thoughts of a curious outsider I guess.

Quite unrelated, I wore a maxi dress today as it was 30 degrees celsius (86 fahrenheit). Running late to work, I realised I had forgotten how annoying the bottom part of the dress was. It is narrow and very difficult to walk quickly in. It made me think immediately of the people in the photos. That is how they walk so elegantly – one step in front of the other – a narrow gait imposed by a narrow dress (and probably all those items on their heads!).

Elegance? Not for me. I hitched my dress up enough so I could get to work on time.

Yes? No? Dunno.

A bit aimless at the outset. Some days, when I am pfaffing about starting a drawing, I go for a default reference. Default? I look at the balcony.

See plant 1, draw that, look at plant 2, draw that, and so on. 

This, as you can imagine, leads to a what’s-next cross road.  It all looks a bit disparate (or rather, desparate!). It needs ‘hanging together’. And so, I try this, a bit of that and a bit more of that. A kind of an unplanned process, one might say.

At some point, the drawing says’enough’. No more.

You look at it. Does it work? Maybe yes, maybe no. More likely, it’s a dunno. Does it matter? When process oriented, it doesn’t matter. It’s better to keep looking, drawing, learning. I guess.

Anyhoooo. On to the next.

Balletic notations

A slight change of routine meant me sitting in the park for about 15 minutes. And, this is what I got to watch. Slow, measured, balletic moves in the form of tai chi, sword and fan.

For him, a morning exercise routine. For me, a chance to take some visual notes. 

I struggled. I realised that having a good visual memory, understanding of anatomy and proportion would help. But having said that, I enjoyed the constant motion and the challenge of finding a way to distill some of the moves.

I thought of Degas and his drawings of ballet dancers. How did he manage to capture them as if in transition – in move going to the next? He captured mass, weight and elegance beautifully. Amazing.

Even the tree is listening too

Three ladies on a park bench this morning. I can just ‘hear’ them:

  • “Well, back in my day…”
  • “Really? Where I come from we…”
  • “So, how do you make that dish so very tasty?”
  • “…don’t know why they do things like that…”

Doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that they are talking about, this is exactly what community spaces are for – getting together, being together and sharing something of one another.

It seems to me, we need more spaces like these. 

Now, more than ever.

A memory captured

This is one of those watercolours where it is like a badly taken photo that you keep anyway because it captures a place or a memory as you remember it. 

In this case, it is a simple memory of going to weekly Tibetan Buddhist sessions. I probably went about 8 times. The sessions were in Tibetan then translated into English by a young Dutch girl. I liked the sound of Tibetan and English with a Dutch accent. I also liked the routine of walking there with the view of a mountain backdrop and having the experience of being in another culture.

A shrine or an altar?

I am not sure whether this little space in the woods of McLeod Ganj is an altar or a shrine. When I do a quick google search, the term is either used interchangeably or used with distinct meanings and purpose. So if you have any ideas or thoughts or even intutions, I would be very interested. 

But, this is what I do know from observation:

  • You can see many of these little spaces on walks through uneven dirt paths walking 30 minutes or so from McLeod Ganj to the next village of Dharamkot. You can also see them when you walk around the Kora – base of the Dalai Lama’s residence which is perched above. Again, it is about a 30 minute walk and one I did most days when I was in McLeod – not for religious reasons but for the experience and…exercise.
  • The little spaces are simple in structure and made of Tibetan prayer flags, bits of stone, twigs and lots of prayers, I imagjne. 
  • Usually there are little objects inside such as text on fragments of fabric, frames and vessels.
  • Although they may look ‘old’ and abandoned, they seem to be well used judging by the feeling that an object has been placed there not so long ago or that a prayer has just been made. 
  • Their placement seem ‘random’ to me as they could be on a hillside or on a rock or along a path. But, they look like they should be there – it just feels right.

I love to see such objects and spaces as they give me a tiny insight into a culture I have little real experience of. 

And…I think there could be many more spaces like these whether inwardly or outwardly and in whatever form, that peaceful living can take place. Imagine. Surely it must be possible.

Nasturtiums aspiring

In a sunny corner, some regular watering (!) and a few dracena plants to grow tall with, these nasturtiums look happy. Nasturtiums seem to either aspire vertically or horizontally. If I were a nasturtium, I think I would be contented to grow across gardens, fields evens – new things to see, explore and learn from.

Yeah, right. Whatever.

Truth is, I just like the look of them. And they remind me of my three months in McLeod Ganj. Loved it. So, in one of my pots, is a piece of north India.

The way of water

These Koh-i-noor watercolours are so boldly pigmented I find I want to knock the colour back a bit with white or black. I do like how quickly the brush loads up with colour and then off I go. No wishy washy colours. 

But the best part? Watching what watercolour does so beautifully – merging from one colour to the next, flowing with the direction of the water – here and there and oh, ooops there too.

A bit like staring at a lava lamp. Sort of.

Thankfully not left to ruin

This is a very wonky drawing of what is a gorgeous former post office in Summer Hill Post which is not far from me. This 1900s building is very solid and looks well looked after and is now a restaurant. If you google ‘Summer Hill Post Office’ you’ll find details about its architectural design. While such building designs might be re-created, it looks exactly that – re-created. So, preservation and restoration rather than reproduction works better, somehow.

It’s funny that even with a photo as a reference, the lines are so wonky and kind of almost converge. How much more wonky would they be if drawn on site?! A lot more! Must be the wonky brain and one must laugh. I do, anyway even if at myself. 

Still, if I need to draw a series of haunted buildings, I think I now have ideas of how I might do them!