USk Singapore Symposium Day 2

Another early start. We were up and out to find some breakfast before the day’s workshop . This I was with Virginia Hein for Dark and Light with a Punch of Colour.
Virginia started us of by explaining the concept if notan, a Japanese word for the harmonious blance of light and dark. Not a 50/50 split but rather a means of examining the bones of a composition before making a study or final work. It turns out , unbeknownst to me at the time that this is something I really love doing.
There were three steps to the class. First drawing a thumbnail sketch in pencil , preferably a flat carpenter’s pencil, or a regular pencil drawn using it’s side , marking in the dark tones. It may help to use a view finder, that is a piece of paper with a rectangle torn into it , so you can frame a scene and select what you want to draw.

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By the way its easy to say that there’s not enough time to make a thumbnail sketch, but it is time well spent as we were reminded. Since the class I’ve tried to stick to this approach and I’ve found it very helpful way of noting a scene particularly if I don’t have time for a full drawing.
Next step is to fill in the mid-tones. For some reason I struggled with this at first. Virginia suggested that this should be in grey. You can mix your own or use Payne’s grey, just remember that the mid-tones can also be used to delineate objects.

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Finally for that punch of colour. For our first attempt Virginia suggested that we limit it to one colour. But once you’ve got the hang of things you can try it out with more colours. One tip, remember that some of your colours may act as mid-tones, this can make your final image less satisfactory.

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USk Singapore symposium, Day 1 workshops

It was pretty chaotic as all the workshop participants got themselves organised this morning.

I started with ‘Thin line bold sketch‘ with Inma Serrano and Miguel Herrantz. We were literally across the street from the Nation Design Centre in the Bras Basah complex. Starting with a quick try out of different line techniques to get us thinking about how we might draw lines. After that we we let loose to do a cartoon of what was happening in the centre. We didn’t need to format it into cells but try and capture what was happening. The idea is try and capture busy scenes without drawing from A to B.

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We also did a second exercise drawing in a spiral. Again another technique to present complex subjects. Starting with your most important subject then moving around it adding relevant details.
A bit hard to explain as the result looks similar to a ‘normal’ drawing, but you capture what you want first and work around it.

In the afternoon I went to ‘Sketching the Sketchers‘ with Mark Taro Holmes. I have Mark’s book on Urban Sketching so I was always going to choose this workshop. I need plenty of help with drawing faces so Mark’s tuition was invaluable. We went out into the Albert Mall, a bustling street which has two temples in it so there were lots of subjects to choose from.

I took my usual approach of trying to sit and draw unobtrusively but that just isn’t going to happen in Singapore. Before I knew it a stall holder had come over to see what I was doing and then she called out to the person I was drawing! No one was concerned and before I knew it I had a line up of stall holders waiting to be drawn.

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

Shop owner, Albert Mall, 23 July 2015, pen and ink and brush pen

We started with a thin pen line then added stronger lines with a brush pen. Mark emphasised drawing the skull shape and hair first, then the shadows on the face. With any luck he said, you may never need to draw eyes!

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

Shop owner, Albert mall, pen and ink and brush pen, 23 July 2015

I was really pleased with the days work, but we were so tired that we ate at the hotel and went to bed very early.

On the ground in Singapore

We are here in Singapore just about to register for the Urban Sketchers Symposium for 2015.
We’ve already run into several other sketchers and there are reports of sketchbooks and watercolours across the city.

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Drawing boabs in the Flower Dome

We spent yesterday wandering around Gardens at the Bay an amazing place with two hugh climate controlled conservatories. In the surrounding grounds stand the Super Trees, massive metal structures some 3 stories tall, with vines and plants growing up them. You can take a lift up the towers and do the sky walk that links several of them. Behind them is the triple building with the ‘surfboard’ on top. Such a sight.

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Super Trees and the Marina Sands Hotel


It’s pretty exciting and will get more so when we start our workshops tomorrow.
PS Please excuse the dodgy pictures as I am using the phone camera (no room for the scanner in my luggage).

Drawing the exhibition – The Daylight Moon

It is an amazing thing to drive for an hour through a landscape, to arrive in a room where that same landscape has been abstracted into 10 works of art.

Looking eastwards across the dry bed of Lake George

Looking eastwards across the dry bed of Lake George

The Goulburn Regional Gallery is currently showing, The Daylight Moon, a collection of 10 works by Rosalie Gascoigne. Gascoigne was born in New Zealand 1917 and died in Australia in 1999, (she lived in Australia from 1943). Gascoigne is, arguably, the greatest Australian landscape artist of the late 20th century. The ten works have been selected to show Gascoigne’s response to Lake George. The Lake is the major feature on the drive between Canberra and Goulburn. It is known throughout our region as the disappearing lake, as the water levels change from full to totally dry depending on the local rainfall.

The gallery layout is simple. Partitions have been placed to  square up the centre of the gallery. The centre of that space is occupied by a large work called A Piece to Walk Around, (1981), which is a composition of dry thistle stems, thousands of them, laid in a simple grid pattern directly on the floor. In the gallery this takes the corresponding position of the lake as the central theme of the exhibition. The remaining works are hung on the surrounding walls, with space to breathe, as is appropriate to the sense of space that is present in the land around Lake George.

My immediate response to the gallery space was to stop and take a deep and relaxing breath, then let the art flow around me. I have seen many of Gascoigne’s pieces over the years, but those included in this show were largely unfamiliar. If you haven’t seen Gascoigne’s work you should know that her pieces are composed from found materials, such as corrugated iron and old timber road signs, that she collected from small town dumps in the area.

Gascoigne’s ability to visualise a work of art out of these basic materials remains a constant surprise. She described her process as follows “… you’ve got to use what you’ve got and you’ve got to fake it and fake it and fake it, until suddenly you personally see it. And whether anybody else sees it is of course immaterial.”*

I realised that I needed to slow down enough to really take in the work. So I borrowed a seat so I could sit down and draw one of the works, High Country, (1999).

Rosalie Gascoigne's High Country 1999, graphite, 15 July 2015

Rosalie Gascoigne’s High Country, 1999, graphite, 15 July 2015

These are my notes made in the gallery, but I couldn’t resist copying the drawing onto watercolour paper and adding some colour once I had returned home.

Rosalie Gascoigne's High Country 1999, painted corrugated iron panels on wood, 134 x 121 cm, watercolour on photocopy

Rosalie Gascoigne’s High Country 1999, painted corrugated iron panels on wood, 134 x 121 cm, watercolour on photocopy

What did reveal itself as I sat and focused on this work were the shadows cast by undulations of the corrugated iron on the wall and even on the supporting wood panel. Other works, such as White Garden, (1995), cast similar lacy shadows. With closer examination you could also see where Gascoigne had worked with the original piece of iron, cutting and rearranging the individual segments into a complete work.

A smaller work that particularly captured my eye was Poplars 19 (1996-97).

Poplars 19, 1996-97, Rosalie Gascoigne, 60 x 62 cm, linoleum on wood with retro-reflective strip, collection of Tarra Warra Museum of Art

Poplars 19, 1996-97, Rosalie Gascoigne, 60 x 62 cm, linoleum on wood with retro-reflective strip, collection of Tarra Warra Museum of Art

This is a show that invites contemplation. It would be too easy to breeze in, glance at the walls, do a quick turn around the central floor work and walk out again. Please don’t.

If you are a local you have until 22 August to see this exhibition. Highly recommended, along with the drive through the country.

Poplars, Wollogorang Creek, NSW

Poplars, Wollogorang Creek, NSW

* Rosalie Gascoigne, interview with Stephen Fenely, Express, ABC, 4 December 1997, excerpt quoted in the exhibition catalogue.

Goulburn Regional Art Gallery
Cnr Church & Bourke Sts. Goulburn NSW 2580
t 48 234494 | f 48 234456 | e
Open Monday-Friday, 10 am – 5pm Free entry. Saturday 1-4pm

Free the people

I’ve been working on drawing people for some months now. I don’t find it easy and I might easily persuade myself to draw something else but I am persisting with it. To try and improve the outcomes – in my eyes at least – I’ve been trying out some different techniques.

My default position to date has been a fairly realistic approach which relies on hoping my subjects are wearing sunglasses so I don’t have to draw tricky eyes and noses. Most of these drawings work, but the result is that my city appears to be occupied by shady characters at best and the random, deranged-looking person at worst.

Cyclists, pen and ink and wash, 23 June 2015

Cyclists, pen and ink and wash, 23 June 2015

I’ve been tossing around some options for changing my approach to drawing people. I was much happier with the quick sketches I did at the beach earlier this year, where I used a quick wash of watercolour that I quickly sketched into. So over the past few weeks I’ve been working on this as a new approach to people sketching in cafes.

Trying a new approach, watercolour and graphite, 24 July 2015

Trying a new approach, watercolour and graphite, 24 June 2015

I’ve mainly used a watercolour graphite pencil to add detail, I’m also trying using my pen and ink.

Busy Saturday, watercolour and pen and ink, 4 July 2015

Busy Saturday, watercolour and pen and ink, 4 July 2015

I’ve also found that if I put down a light wash that I can also quickly add some shadows and contours with subsequent washes.

Man reading, watercolour and graphite, 27 June 2015

Man reading, watercolour and graphite, 27 June 2015

And while it might seem obvious it has also dawned on me that if I am working on a small piece of paper it is actually harder to get a well drawn face because I don’t have enough space to capture the details I want, duh!

There’s no doubt that I’m still better at capturing body shapes than faces,

The coffee queue, watercolour and grapjite, 11 July 2015

The coffee queue, watercolour and grapjite, 11 July 2015

but I am keeping on with this approach.

Two people , quick sketch, watercolour and graphite, 11 July 2015

Two people , quick sketch, watercolour and graphite, 11 July 2015

(Personal) Treasures of the Australian War Memorial – Part 2

For Part 1 of my visit to the Australian War Memorial click here.

The second archive box I looked at held the ‘improvised pullover’ made by Bombadier L G Burnett. Burnett became a prisoner of war of the Japanese after fighting in Malaysia and Singapore. He volunteered, along with some 1,000 Allied POWs, to work on airfield construction in Burma and also subsequently worked on the Burma-Thailand railway project. This group was known as A Force. This jumper was made while Burnett was working on the railway and was kept by him through subsequent moves through Thailand until the end of the war.

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

Improvised pullover, BombadierL G Burnett, 2/10 Field Regiment, World War II

What surprised both the curator and myself is how small the jumper is. Given this was made some time into his captivity I must assume that by this time Bombadier Burnett was probably quite malnourished. The text accompanying the online entry notes that this garment was worn by Bombadier Burnett during bouts of malaria and also when he suffered from dysentery so he could sleep outside close to the latrines.

As you can see from the image above the pullover is composed of different pieces of fabric. The central brown section is a scarf that was part of an Australian comfort package. The sleeves which are actually the legs of a pair of British long-johns he got in Singapore. Prior to them becoming part of the jumper, Bombadier Burnett used them, stuffed, as a pillow. The lower green section are Bombadier Burnett’s puttees. The puttees are made of a machine-knitted woollen fabric.

Unlike the previous knitted pullover with its skillful styling, this garment shows improvisation in the face of very scarce resources. The collar of the garment is made from part of a Japanese blanket and like the rest of the garment is attached with basic stitching.

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

The collar of Bombadier Burnetts pullover

While I couldn’t touch the pullover I was able to make notes and draw a schematic diagram of it.

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

Schematic of the Burnett pullover and various points of interest

The detail of the stitching shows utilitarian work with no particular signs of sewing experience. Basic stitches, running stitch and vertical stitching (possibly overhand) hold the sections together. Parts of the pullover are darned with scraps of wool. Various types of thread, sewing cotton, wool and some cotton twine are used across the garment. The central section has two diagonal rows of stitching which, I assume, form darts to better shape the pullover for fit.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

Where the puttees (green) join the central section (fawn) of the Burnett garment.

I found Bombadier Burnett’s name in a list of released prisoners in the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser of 21 September 1945. Bombadier Burnett was discharged from the army in January 1946.

Lionel Granville Burnett (1918-2012).

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78519034

RELEASED WAR PRISONERS ON WAY HOME. (1945, September 21). Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld. : 1922 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78519034

An interesting sideline to this story is that one of the commanding officers of A Force, Brigadier Arthur Varley MC and Bar, CO 22 Bde, instructed Jim Collins, one of the A Force POWs to make “portraits of fellow POWs, some of whom would not survive the war.” Collins made some 100 drawings. While there isn’t a drawing of Bombadier Burnett (that I could find), you can see some portraits of some of the A Force Allied POWs made by Jim Collins, which are also held in the AWM collection.