Boxing Day

The National Portrait Gallery of Australia, held it’s regular drawing session on Boxing Day which gave us a good excuse to get out of the house. We were pleasantly surprised to run into several other members of our Urban Sketchers Canberra group who also had the same idea.

I wasn’t overwhelmed by my sketch of the group ‘Humbug’, who were the musicians playing that day. Lots of mistakes and abandoned as the group stopped playing part way through my sketch.

I was much happier with my second lot of sketches where I ditched the pencils and leapt in with the watercolour. It was easier to sketch the onlookers who tended not to move so much.

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Backgrounds with people

Here are some more sketches from my current cafe sketching booklet. I am currently putting in some more backgrounds rather than letting my people float on the blank page. Some work better than others.

The red bottle, 1 December 2018, watercolour and graphite.

Woman under an umbrella, 3 December 2018, watercolour and graphite.

Mother with her two sons, 5 December 2018, watercolour and graphite.

Two women with a pot of orchids, 11 December 2018, watercolour and graphite.

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.

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.

From the antique

It depends where you come from, but there isn’t much in the way of Greek or Roman sculpture in my neck of the woods. So it has been an absolute blast to visit the Louvre and have a go at sketching some of their collection. Here are some of the sketches I have made in the last few weeks.

First stop was the ‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’ I liked her so much I drew her from both sides.

This is her ‘best’ side, apparently the carving is more detailed than the right hand side.

Not her ‘best’ side, or so the museum guide says.

We were thrilled to see another man sketching the Winged Victory as well, so we had a mini ‘show and tell’ of our combined works

‘Winged Victory of Samothrace’, 3rd-1st Century BC, marble

Well the next goddess on the list had to be the ‘Venus de Milo’, that is once we could see her through the crowds. One of our friends told us about the late evening openings (Wednesdays and Fridays) and while there are still people around, most of the large tour groups are well away. I was pleased with my rough sketch, the torso in particular, so I decided to leave the sketch ‘unfinished’.

The Venus de Milo, not much more to add.

After braving the hordes staring at Venus I decided to move to a quieter part of the galleries. There I found the Athena Parthenos who, was sent back to Paris from Rome by the artist Ingres, who was head of the Académie de France, in Rome at the time. She sometimes goes under the name of the Ingres’ Minerva for that reason. For a while she hung out with the students at the Ecoles des Beaux Arts, but she moved over the river to the Louvre in 1913. Unluckily for Ingres she wasn’t an original Greek statue, but rather one of several copies of a sculpture by Phidias.

Roman copy of the Athena Parthenos, 100-200 AD, also known as the Ingres’ Minerva

Last but not least there was a delightful torso of the goddess Artemis (Diana). I couldn’t get over how finely carved the pleats around the neck of her dress are. The sheer skill of the sculptors never ceases to amaze me. The drapery covering these bodies flies or flutters in the wind and is ‘transparent’ enough to reveal the shape of underlying limbs.

Artemis, goddess of the hunt, 1st or 2nd century AD. One of several copies of an original Greek sculpture, now lost

A fistful of cafes

I have been refining my coffee sketching process this year, applying the KISS principle (‘keep it simple stupid’) to what I carry in my bag for impromptu sketching sessions. A test card of watercolours, a pencil, a pen and a waterbrush and a ‘book’ made from one sheet of A3 watercolour paper. Both the book and the colour card fit into a plastic sleeve from an old bank passbook (gosh, do you remember those?). Here’s a shot of the set up.

Each A3 sheet is folded in half horizontally to make two panorama style pages. These are folded in half then sewn together through the fold. Each side of the panorama is the folded in half again (as you can see in the photo above), which means the final size all folded up fits in the plastic sleeve.

The completed booklet

Here are sketches from my latest book. What I really like is that, depending on your layout you can sketch over part, or the full stretch of the page.

Cafe sketch, watercolour and graphite

Celebrating ‘National (read USA) Pencil Day’, the day the first pencil with attached eraser was patented in 1858

Inspired by the woman with the red hair, watercolour and graphite

Reading the papers with the rest of the retirees, pen and ink

Arborists clearing our trees from the powerlines. The left hand page of a full spread.

Shredding the prunings, the right hand page of the full spread

At the markets, pen and ink with watercolour

A final cafe sketch for the week. Watercolour and ink.

Ultimately I plan to bind these booklets together into a single book.