At the Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is the most visited tourist destination in Canberra but it has been some time since I last went there. While we were actually taking a visitor to see the Memorial I realised that it would also be a great place to do some sketching. Following the advice to practice drawing people where they are likely to be doing similar things so you can build up a composite picture, I found a bench in the WWI gallery and started drawing.
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The Poziere diorama
Sculpture: Frank Lynch
Painting: Louis McCubbin, Murray Griffin

I actually had my back to the Poziere diorama when I realised that the shiny partition in front of me reflected the people looking at the diorama, so I could draw them without having to look directly at anyone.

People looking at the Poziere diorama, Australian War Memorial, Copic Multiliner, graphite and watercolour, 31 December 2014

People looking at the Poziere diorama, Australian War Memorial, Copic Multiliner, graphite and watercolour, 31 December 2014

Things were going swimmingly until a guide brought his tour group between me and the partition. Then someone noticed my drawing and started apologising for being in my way, then the next person also apologised – I knew it was time to move on.

After a break we moved down into ANZAC Hall where I found plenty of space to sit and draw next to the remains of the Japanese Midget submarines that attacked ships in Sydney Harbour in 1942. The low angle allowed me to draw the somewhat dramatic view past a gun from the SMS Emden, (the target of an attack by HMAS Sydney in November 1914), up to the next level and the Landing Place Cafe.

Gun from the SMS Emden and the Landing Place cafe, Australian War Memorial, 31 December 2014, pen and ink, graphite and watercolour.

Gun from the SMS Emden and the Landing Place cafe, Australian War Memorial, 31 December 2014, pen and ink, graphite and watercolour.

We glanced out one of the windows and noticed a ship’s bridge and gun sitting in the courtyard (as you do). So we had to check it out before we left. It turned out to be what remains of the HMAS Brisbane, which was in service from 1966 up until the 1990’s. Not surprisingly this is the largest naval relic in the Memorial’s collection.

The bridge and gun 52 of the HMAS Brisbane, Australian War Memorial 31 December 2014, pen and ink

The bridge and gun 52 of the HMAS Brisbane, Australian War Memorial 31 December 2014, pen and ink. Also an unrelated sketch of several visitors looking down into ANZAC Hall pen and ink and graphite

Our visit today reminded me of what a wealth of interesting subjects could be found at the War Memorial. I’m planning on re-visiting it during the coming year.

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Christmas Flowers

Each year I indulge my childhood memories by buying myself a bunch of New South Wales Christmas Bush (Cerapetalum gummiferum), to display on my festive table. This plant was grown around my family home in Sydney, but is too frost sensitive to last in Canberra’s icy winters – I know I’ve killed two plants already. This year I fleshed out the display with some other Australian daisies, the drumstick-like Billy Button (Crasspedia sp.) and another with chalky whitish green flowers, which I don’t recognise, but I assume is from Western Australia. At the last moment my partner added in a large branch of his Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) which lent quite a dramatic diagonal to the ‘arrangement’.

Once again I was practising my sight measurement and angle checking. I made a light pencil outline then worked, fairly freely over this with my Copic Multiliner.

Initial ink sketch with Copic Multiliner, 29 December 2014

Initial ink sketch with Copic Multiliner, 29 December 2014

I knew I wanted to add watercolour to the drawing so I set out to do this as simply as possible.

A Christmas arrangement, pen and watercolour, 29 December 2014

A Christmas arrangement, pen and watercolour, 29 December 2014

I am pleased with a finished result but again would like to re-visit the subject matter without using a sketch outline. Unfortunately I’ll have to rely, in part, on photos as the Christmas Bush is now way past it’s best.

Draped

Today I got to play, at last, with my newest sketching ‘toy’, a tin of Art Graf watercolour  graphite. And I think I’m in luuurve. I first heard about this product over at parkablogs review. He suggested using this for tonal studies and I had the perfect subject – the dark cloth that I use to hang my works in progress on. We’d hung the cloth up out of the way so we could get a light background behind the vase of Christmas flowers that we were painting (more of that later), those drapes just begged to be painted.

After an initial pencil outline I just started laying in the graphite, working with fairly light washes to start off with.

Some light washes get the shaping underway, Art Graf water soluble graphite

Some light washes get the shaping underway, Art Graf water soluble graphite

It’s quite easy to build up the layers, allowing it to dry in between. I was pleasantly surprised that I could use the graphite directly from the tin onto the page as it was fairly easy to get the tone I was after by controlling the amount of water on my brush. Here is the result after a number of layers.

Final version of the tonal drapery study, Art Graf soluble graphite, 30 December 2014

Final version of the tonal drapery study, Art Graf soluble graphite, 30 December 2014

Parkablogs suggests mixing the graphite separately on a palette to get an even tone. I personally like the texture the graphite can leave on the page. There are also possibilities for getting interesting textures from a dry-er brush application which I plan to explore in due course. He also suggests using a fixative on the final work and while  I didn’t notice any obvious smudging on my page this seems to be a sensible precaution.

Another aspect I’m interested in exploring is the interaction between the watersoluble graphite and watercolours. I’ve only made the most basic samples so far, but I do like that the graphite keeps it’s line over damp watercolour, see the sample on the left. The graphite only seems to move easily when it crosses another area of still wet graphite, see sample on the right.

Watersoluble graphite over watercolour, 30 December 2014

Watersoluble graphite over watercolour, 30 December 2014

Obviously there is lots more to explore with this medium. If you are a fan of watercolour you may also enjoy using this product. You can buy a tin of Art Graf in either 20 or 60gram sizes. I sourced my Art Graf through Eckersley’s (for Aussie sketchers) and I presume it’s readily available in Europe as it is made in Portugal.

Boxing Day sketchfest

On Boxing day we decided to head out for another sketch-a-thon. We chose to go to the Sculpture Garden of National Gallery of Australia, because of its wide variety of potential subjects to draw, not to mention its proximity to a good cup of coffee.

I was trying to put into effect some of the lessons outlined in my Christmas present, The Urban Sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location, by Marc Taro Holmes. In particular I was working on sight measuring and angle checking. This is  something I mainly do by instinct, so a bit of practice wasn’t going to go astray. Holmes comments that it’s the measuring process that underlying the sketch that provides your framework to draw spontaneously – “Loose is how a drawing looks, not how it is made.”

My first subject is a favourite sculpture of mine, Gaston LaChaise’s work Floating Figure, 1927, in bronze. In the garden the sculpture floats above a pool of water. I had just turned away from my drawing when I saw that a dog belonging to some passing pedestrians had decided to have a quick dip in the pool! Sadly I wasn’t quick enough with my pen to catch the moment.

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Floating Figure, Gaston Lachaise, bronze, 1927, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

Meanwhile my mother-in-law was tackling Rick Amor’s nearby sculpture called The Dog. It certainly isn’t the most handsome of animals, but it is an interesting subject to draw. Here is the view I made of the work.

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The Dog, Rick Amor, cast bronze on a steel base, National Gallery of Australia, 26 December 2014, Copic Multiliner

I’ve decided that I would like to go back and spend some time drawing this piece from a variety of angles. I’d also like to take a greater variety of media with me next time. I was working in my Strathmore visual diary and I found that the Copic Multiliner wasn’t moving across the paper as easily as I would have liked. I’d managed to leave my Lamy Safari pen at home, because I hadn’t checked my kit from the previous day’s drawing. Live and learn.

After lots of discussion about drawing negative spaces and how, from certain angles, the dog looked rather like an anteater, we went inside for a break. Later in the day came some of the best news we’ve had from the National Gallery in a long time – they are lifting the blanket ban on taking photos in the NGA! You can read about it here, National Gallery photography ban lifted.

A Christmas full of art

Santa was very generous with art-related presents this year. There were color markers and visual diaries and drawing books and some art even got made.

Christmas, the aftermath, pencil, 25 December 2014

Christmas, the aftermath, pencil, 25 December 2014

For some post-Christmas entertainment there is also the film about JMW Turner, Mr Turner, in which Timothy Spall gives a strong and characterful performance as the artist. Beautiful photography of the landscapes that inspired Turner’s art add to the fascination of the story. Full of dry wit and complex emotions, this film is definitely worth seeing.

 

Cafe Wednesday – Christmas Eve

Obscured landscape, partial view from the National Arboretum cafe, Copic Multiliner, 24 December 2014

Obscured landscape, partial view from the National Arboretum cafe, Copic Multiliner, 24 December 2014

The shopping was done, the presents were wrapped so what better way to spend our time than to do some sketching. Our local cafe had closed for the holidays and it was overcast and raining so we took ourselves to the cafe at the National Arboretum Canberra for some of the best views of the city and surrounds.