Swatched

This is the first time I have ever painted a colour swatch of my paints. After buying lots of new watercolours when I was in Europe earlier this year, and before we headed off on our next big sketching adventure I thought getting to know those new colours might be a good idea.

The swatch in close up.

The thing which really spured me on was seeing one of Parka blogs videos. He demonstrated that one of the points of making colour swatches was to identify if two ‘similar’ colours were worth keeping in your palatte. In my case Cobalt light turquoise and Cobalt turquoise green looked similar in the tube but gave different results when mixing. In contrast burnt umber and Quinacridone Burnt Orange mixed almost identical colours, the burnt umber being less intense. In this way I could decide more readily which colours to keep in my palette.

Just to confuse you, this is actually two slightly different palettes. The last four colours on each triangle is different.

Setting the swatches out and making sure I got the colours in the correct order took a lot of time and patience. I’m not sure how often I will go through this exercise, but they do remain a handy reference over time. If nothing else all those colours sure look pretty.

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Exhibition

In September I had a two week run at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space in Manuka, showing work that had developed from my residency in Tokyo two years ago. In between visitors (good numbers of people walking in from the street), I managed several sketches from behind the desk.

The view from the desk, including the gallery on the right and the view out the door on the left.

A more detailed view of what I could see out the doors of the gallery.

The spring blossom across the road attracted many passing photographs.

Garden of Australian ‘screams’

Here’s the next installment of un-posted drafts.

We visited the National Museum of Australia to sketch over the weekend (quite a few months of weekends back!). The building is certainly quirky and in many ways fails to fully deliver the concepts which lead it’s design. (I note that there has been a recent announcement that the rivetting stretch of concrete outside the museum will be removed and turned into a garden of Australian plants. Three cheers for common sense).

The Garden of Australian Dreams is a symbolic landscape of largely sculptural forms within a body of water, a little grass and a few trees. Encircled by the Museum, it provides an opportunity for visitors to stop and relax as they contemplate this symbolic representation of ‘place’ and ‘home’.

The garden reflects our nation in ways that I am not completely sure were intended, but seem quite accurate in an ironic sense. All the ‘relaxing’ bits of the garden are around the edge, rather like our population which is concentrated on Australia’s coastal fringe.

The centre of the garden represents central Australia and the expanse of painted concrete is certainly a blisteringly hot location on any summer day. I also find it scarily reminiscent of the asphalted playgrounds of my childhood. Although what the wooden paling backyard fence is doing there eludes me. And the screaming? I hadn’t realised before now that this area is where all the children are taken to run off all their excess energy.

Perspective Practice

This is the first in a short series that comes from tidying up my blog. I have found several draft posts that never made the light of day. So here they come.

Following on from the class with Stephanie Bowers, an architectural illustrator and urban sketcher, on getting a handle on perspective, I thought I’d better get some practice in. These are some of the sketches I’ve done over the past few days.

29mar2017

Thank heavens for narrow alleys

While they are not necessarily the most exciting of locations, our local shopping precinct has enough lanes and intersections to make finding a subject easy.

5Apr2017b

The bus stop provided convenient seating, as well as subject matter

Stephanie also taught us watercolour techniques, to add to our perspective drawings. I love the opportunity to pick up tips from other artists, such as a good way of getting an even darker grey by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, with the tiniest touch of Alizarin Crimson. Stephanie also demonstrated using square brushes, something I haven’t done before with watercolour.

Urban Sketches – Granada

Here is another sketch from the backlog of my recent travel.

We were staying in the older part of Granada and it turned out that we had some interesting views from our apartment. On our first full day in the city I started working on a sketch of the church of San Andreas, built between 1528-42. It was great to be able to open our balcony doors and sit in the cool morning air drawing while hundreds of swifts darted around demolishing hoards of insects in the morning sky. It ended up taking three days to complete this piece. I was trying to make it reasonably accurate so having drawn it one day I had to erase it and start again on the second day and then finish the drawing and paint it on day three.

The bell tower of San Andreas Church, in the Albacin area of Granada. Pencil and watercolour

This building is considered to be a fine example of the Mudéjar style of architecture, which was heavily influenced by the Moorish styles in the years following the ‘reconquista’ when the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand regained Spain for their Christian kingdom.

You can see from the photo the foreshortening in my sketch as I was looking up from underneath the bell tower.

Drawing in the gallery – The Prado, Madrid

The undoubted highlight of our trip to France and Spain (Portugal still to come), is the thrill of seeing up close and personal, works of art that I have previously only seen in books or online. The Prado is definitely in the ‘big hitter’ league, even if you only consider, Velasquez, El Greco or Goya individually and don’t include all the other amazing works of art between it’s walls.

In person I could see that El Greco really went for strongly clashing colours in his works; and that Goya borrowed the same poses in his paintings of the Spanish Royal family as Velasquez used for portraits of the Hapsburgs back in his day.

I completed all these sketches in the Prado, but I later added some watercolor to highlight certain elements of the paintings.

In his portrait of Queen Mariana of Austria, Velasquez lines up her very prominent pink cheeks with the red ribbons in her hair and the plume at the side of her wig. The Queen’s gown is a study of black and grey. The painting on the whole has a very restricted palette which results in emphasising the highly formal nature of this work.

After Velasquez, Queen Mariana of Austria, c 1652-1653, graphite

The Infanta Margarita of Austria, here painted by Jaun Bautista Martinez del Mazo, is the same little girl that Velasquez painted in his most famous painting Las Meninas, which hangs only a few metres away from this portrait. Del Mazo’s portrait was painted several years after the Valasquez portrait when the Infanta was betrothed to the Emperor Leopold of Austria (who she married in 1666). Del Mazo was Velasquez’s son-in-law and was appointed court painter after Velasquez death.

After Jaun Bautista Martinez del Mazo, the Infanta Margarita of Austria, c 1665, graphite

In his portrait del Mazo also uses the colour red to great effect. The background is treated with a range of warm-hued browns and reds and the result is far more tender than the portrait of her mother, Queen Mariana.

After del Mazo, The Infanta Margarita of Austria, graphite and watercolour, added later

The other sketch I drew was one of Goya’s ‘black’ paintings. These were originally painted on the walls of his house and later transferred onto a backing so they could be hung. These are strange and disturbing works. Their meanings have been the subject of some pretty varied interpretations over the years since they were made public.

The sketch I made is of a painting called Atropos, or the Fates (I assume that the titles were post-Goya as he didn’t intend for thees works to be public). Four dark figures float above the yellow-toned landscape, appearing to hold scissors and other attributes of the mythological Fates who were thought to control human destiny.

After Francisco Goya, Atropos, or The Fates, detail, pencil on Fabriano paper

I found this a compelling work, the sort you can’t quite look away from, but wish you could. The floating figures were quite convincing which is rather a contradiction as they are also malevolently manifest and solid. Many of the other works in this series really creeped me out. If I have to spend a night at the museum I bags NOT staying in this room.