Learning from the Masters (2)

I am sure you can barely see the dabs of colour in the rough thumbnail sketch. But that was how it was to me to get the two more detailed views below – in this amazing painting of Francesco Guardi. But, there’s something about the paint dabs that beckon a second look and then a closer look – closer, if I weren’t concerned about the gallery alarm!

The details, the glints of light and of course, overall postures captured through these tiny paint dabs are amazing. I am learning a lot about the power of the paint dab.

It seems to me you really have to ‘let go’ of reality, be obsessed about light, shape and colour to…in a round about way…to capture reality. 

Well…reality as one sees it.

Francesco Guardi? Never heard of him, but so pleased I have now. And I thank him for a wonderful lesson.


Learning from the Masters (1)


‘The Greats’, Masterpieces from the galleries of Scotland exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW was a feast for the eyes. The works span from early Rennaissance to Impressionism. As with many exhibitions of this kind, there are many pieces that become ‘familiar’ through books and the internet. But it is always amazing to see the difference in the real form. I am usually surprised by:

  • its scale – it is either bigger or smaller than I thought
  • its detail – the brush marks and layering which is not always evident in reproductions
  • its colour – it is either brighter or duller than I imagine
  • its simplicity or complexity technically – it always seems the reverse of what I would have thought.

Some of the pieces are so rich in what they show. Like a landscape, there is so much to take in, it can be a bit hard to know where to start in appreciating it. 

As I was not able to stay more than hour or so, I decided to take iphone shots of the ones I liked – one in its entirety and another for a tiny detail that caught my attention. 

And what you see here is an exercise in appreciation. 

The dab of colour in the thumbnail sketch (left) is the detail I’ve had fun doing (right). It’s a treat to ‘unpack’ a fraction of what each artist was doing. Though, to be honest I was not quite sure how to ‘do’ Seurat’s technique. It seems a bit compex to me but very interesting nonetheless. 


  • Johannes Vermeer, The house of Martha and Mary (1664-5)
  • John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lucknow (1892)
  • Paul Cezanne, The big trees (1902-4)
  • Georges Seurat, La Luzerne, St Denis (1885)

Fiddling about

Can’t get enough of this fiddle leaf plant! It’s all the positive and negative spaces and shapes that I love. Turn is slightly and you get another configuration to draw.

It is a lovely feel in the air at present – warm breezes, quieter roads and relaxed routines – holiday season has begun. Love it. 

To make and to review (2)

Still making more little stationary sets. Not perfect nor extravagant as gifts. Just handmade.

In looking for ideas I am going through sketchbooks. But I find that it is somehow easier to make designs up by looking out onto the balcony for ideas. Do you find that too – that observation gives so much more variety or scope for inspiration?

What to draw is one exercise. The other is choosing which colours to use. As I am enjoying the convenience of this kids palette with its range of 36 sorbet-like colours, working out colour combinations is another exercise.

All good fun.

To make and to review (1)

Not much blogging, but still drawing – little drawings to make a few simple stationary sets as little gifts.

When rummaging around for ideas, I’m going through sketchbooks – quite a few by now. 

It’s kind of a way of reviewing what I have been doing. Needless to say, there are a lot of balcony plant sketches. Some plants have since drooped, gone and new ones added – an inadvertant record of balcony life!

Drawing. A way to travel.


Listening to Nuran Zorlu (ABC Spirit of things podcast: 53 mins) talk about his photography of Persia’s world heritage sites, has inspired me to ‘travel’ to Isfahan, Iran, a place I have not been to and may not be able to for some time. 
A quick Pinterest search is all you need to appreciate the richly detailed beauty of the architecture and the layers of history and meaning embedded in the designs. Humans are capable of creating so much that is wonderful and yet…

If I were to put together an itinerary, it would have to include:

  • The Music Room on the sixth floor of the Ali Quapu Palace
  • Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
  • Imam (Shah) Mosque
  • Vank Church.

Sigh. If only this were easily possible.

So, for now ‘exploring through drawing’ is one way of getting there.

Queen of the night

Mum accidentally knocked this flower off its stem (leaf?) and put it into a small jar feeling rather apologetic that it had not yet bloomed.

Coming into the hallway after returning from a dinner, she noticed a strong yet delicate fragrance. Queen of the Night had opened up and beautifully. But, not for long. The next morning, it had returned to its closed and restive state.

Short-lived but worth appreciating.

A nice little exchange

This one particular Saturday was pleasantly spent with a friend just walking around Paddington (near the city of Sydney) and catching up on life – ordinary, everyday things – things that only dear friends would care to catch up on.

There are lots of interesting design, art and fashion window shopping one can do in Paddington. In one such shop, we struck up a conversation with the shop assistant about the plant that was perched on the cash register. I find out that the plant is easy  to look after, can grow in water and has lots of irregular shapes. 

I find faces hard to capture. It’s not that I want to do an exact likeness of physical features. I would find it more interesting to be able to capture congeniality, politeness and kindness. But how? What do these qualities visually look like on paper and without the support of text? 

This ‘little’ problem is stalling me. I need to research. I am sure it has been done. 

So, for now I think this incomplete attempt is better left, completed in the imagination.