Everyone left

I had quite some trouble sketching this morning as everyone I started to sketch got up and left. The foreground figure is a composite of several people. Thankfully the guy in the background hung around for two cups of coffee.

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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.

Urban Sketches – Madrid

I realised that I have a stack of sketches from my travels that I haven’t shared on my blog. My street sketches in Madrid came to a grand total of two. Mainly we spent most of our time in the museums, I will be sharing some sketching from of those visits in other posts.

Early evening, Calle de Zurita, Madrid, watercolour and pencil.

We painted in the Calle de Zurita the night of the first World Cup game between Spain and Portugal. Needless to say there were loud cheers and groans coming from the nearby bars. After sketching we went and joined the locals to watch the rest of the match.

My second sketch was of a building that I thought had an interesting roofline and I also liked the way the date palm appeared out of the courtyard. I was sketching, perched on a security block next to a bus-stop. An older couple stopped to explain that I was drawing the back end of the Cardinal’s Palace. They also mentioned that a famous painter was born there. When I walked up to look at the historic marker I could see that the artist was Claudio Coello, appointed to the court of Carlos II. Coello was born at the in 1642. I have no idea why he was born in the Cardinal’s Palace, but his dad was a sculptor so maybe he was working there at the time – this is purely speculation on my part.

The Cardinal’s Palace Madrid, from the Place Puerto de Cerrada, pencil and watercolour.

The Cardinal’s Palace, the plain end, watercolour and pencil.

Drawing the Exhibition – Ruebens, Painter of Sketches

One of the current temporary exhibitions at the Museo del Prado is Reubens, Painter of Sketches, by which they mean oil sketches, works on canvas or panel made in preparation for other finished works.

Reubens did, of course, use other drawing media for preparatory works. I struggle with the high finish of his completed canvasses, so the lively brushstrokes he employs in these compositional studies proved much more to my taste.

One of the Victories, part of a sketch on the unity of England and Scotland intended for the Guild Hall, London

His figures, particularly those suspended in mid air, such as the Victory above, or other contorted poses, provide a demonstration of his mastery of human anatomy and are excellent models for copying. I doubt even the most skilled life model could pull this pose off.

It was also a lovely touch for me to see Reubens quoted talking about drawing antique statues. “Artists should use Ancient statues as models, but the figures based on them should be painted to look like flesh not stone.” Included in the exhibition is a study for Prometheus, based on pen and ink studies he made of the Farnese Hercules.

The works on display show a range of ‘finish’. A series of very small studies for decorations of a house (a pretty palatial one) at the end of the exhibition particularly caught my eye. In the Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, the rather corpulent god is supported by a faun while he gropes a nearby young lady.

The Triumph of Bacchus, 1636, oil on panel. My sketch graphite on paper.

I was genuinely engaged by this exhibition and would recommend it to anyone who will be in Madrid before it closes on the 5th of August 2018. NB temporary exhibitions are not accessible during the free access hours at the museum.

Language lessons

It’s pretty obvious when you cross a border that the language might change and you will have to brush up on your new vocabulary. It may be obvious, but I didn’t think that it would apply to my sketching.

One of the staircases inside Sagrada Famila, watercolour and graphite

We have moved on from Paris and it’s neo-classical buildings, where under those twidly bits, was a regular and reliable structure you could ‘lean on’ to support your drawing. Way further south and east, in the city of Barcelona, there are no such certainties.

The Art Nouveau roofline of 582 Gran Via, Barcelona, which I can see from our hotel.

Moderniste, Art Nouveau and Gaudi, who speaks an architectural dialect all his own, have my sketches grasping for the new vocabulary. I am stumbling along not quite ‘getting’ the local lingo just yet.

From the street, sketching the facade of La Pedrera, also known as Casa Mila.

Finally getting somewhere, sketching the ‘guardians’ on the roof of La Pedrera, Barcelona. Water-soluble graphite, watercolour.