World travel…sort of

We are not long out of lockdown here in Canberra, Australia, and as yet I think the international borders are still closed. Even if they are open I don’t think I’ll feel safe travelling for a while yet, so I have been tripping around the planet in my sketchbook, finding interesting places and honing my skills for when I can get out.

20210921 - santa maria del rosario

First stop was a Venetian church. I don’t have the opportunity to draw too many ornate buildings, so this was a bit of a challenge straight out of the gate.

20210923 - moulin de fresquet

This is a little auberge that I stayed at about 10 years ago. I would dearly love to stay there again sometime. It was part of a watermill and home. I remember there were lots of ducks and geese in the grounds!

20210925 - opera houses

I didn’t realise how wonderfully bizarre and diverse opera houses around the world are until I started digging around for reference photos for this spread. I love the modern buildings! They present their own kind of challenge just as the ornate ones do.

20210930 - amsterdam houses

These funny houses all stacked side by side amuse me. I’d love to see inside one day. I have never been to that part of the world! By this stage I was getting itchy feet!

20211001 - indian market

This lady in an Indian market in her wonderfully bright sari and surrounded by vivid coloured fruit and vegetables made my heart sing. I could almost hear the sounds and smell the spices in the air as I sketched.

20211013 - Makedonium

This bizaare monument in North Macedonia made me laugh and I really couldn’t go past it for a fun challenge to draw. It made me think of sea mines and the virus that is knobbling me.

20211020 - 1 chartres spread

Chartres is a place I have visited in the past. I had a deeply reflective experience wandering around in the cathedral and placing my hands on the pillars polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims. I think I could have spend days wandering around that little town.

20211021 - 20 min il redentor

Venezia! For this one I sketched as though I was in a rush and needing to capture a scene between sight seeing stops with my love. My speed sketching needs work, but I am happy that I captured the story in this one.

20211024 - villa foscari

Playing with different framing on another Italian classical building.

20211027 - mow cop

Ahh back to the UK. This “summer house” stands on a hill between the north of the country and the midlands. I suspect it was scene by my forebears that lived in the area. Also… the name made me giggle 🙂

20211029 - fishing village norway

I chose this photo to draw from because it looked peaceful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to settle in a place like this and hear the water bubbling past?

20211031 - hong king street

This complex scene was an attempt to capture the feel of the place with minimal pencil set up. For me I drew a couple of perspective lines and then launched into it. It was fun!

20211103 - corfe castle

Another run down old UK castle. This is a fascinating one in that it was used to imprison Eleanor of Brittany so that she could no ascent the English throne. She was the daughter of Alinor of Acquitane who was a wonderfully sassy and brave queen for both the French and the English. Well worth reading about her if you like strong women.

The question is … what to draw next? I am double vaxxed and our local area is up to 95% vaxxed for eligible people, so I think it might be safe to venture out to my local Urban Sketchers meet ups again … though it means getting out of bed early on the weekend which doesn’t thrill me. But it will be good for me to get out I think. I shall keep up with the virtual travel until i can travel further a field though. I have been enjoying seeking out colourful and interesting places to visit in the pages of my sketchbook.

What about you? Are you ready to get out and travel again yet?

Looking back on 2019

2019 has been an odd but wonderful year. Much happened, but not a lot of it was art related! In fact my energy for art and blogging seemed to dwindle as the year progressed, but my yen to knit and read ramped up exponentially. It seems my brain needed a different kind of stimulation. That is not to say that I didn’t draw or paint, I did, but it was not my obsession as it was in previous years.

I was able to complete a couple of very detailed watercolour paintings, and a raft of comic portrait commissions throughout the year, and again added sketches to my sketchbook and played with zentangle-style doodles to soothe when required.

I am not sure what the new year will hold, but I do know paint and pens will be involved!

Here are some of my favourites from this year. Do you have a favourite? Tell me in the comments below.

sunflower raw scan

Sunflower
Oh I love sunflowers! They are so bright and cheerful. I had such fun painting this one.

us wedding

Wedding comic
I drew this one to use on our marriage announcement in the middle of the year. We did not have photos taken, so I immortalised our outfits in one of my comic portraits.

Booty Fruity

Booty Fruity reporting for duty
I have come to really enjoy painting pinups. I did this Royal Marine tribute for Remembrance Day – though I stuffed it the first time and had to repaint her, which was more than a little annoying. She is kitted out with a Heckler and Koch VP9 and Faibairn Sykes ready for duty, but I’m not sure she’d get far in those boots.

PCOS pinup edited transparent background

PCOS pinup
This one was a commission for a dear friend.

20190219 - Green CApe lighthouse

Lighthouse
This sketch brings back such memories! I took a trip to the NSW south coast in February … it was a very blustery day and the clouds made me think of the weather in years gone by that would have caused shipwrecks up and down the coast. That’s the best thing about location sketching isn’t it? It locks in the memories.

20190429 - be softer

Be soft with yourself
Soothing bubbles that ended up looking like bubble wrap, and a reminder to treat myself well.

20190116 - messages from minime

Never forget how to play
I have enjoyed using prints of old baby photos to add a fun collage element to these mixed media pages in my sketchbook.

All of my sketchbook sketches from this year can be found here (I can no longer embed a slideshow as in previous years due to Adobe Flash landing on the scrap heap.)

And if you want to see more frequent updates than I manage here on the blog, you can follow me on Instagram.

I also write here, though updates have been sparse there this year too!

art freeing women from bondage

For millenia art has been used to send messages; some subtle and some not so subtle. It has been used to unsettle populations and to provoke action. It has been used as a medium for the voiceless elements of society to get a word in edgewise. From scribbled phalluses on Roman walls to Banksy’s grafitti dotted around city backstreets. From paper’ zines to online comics. Art has been a way for the voices of the voiceless to be heard and messages sent out to those who care to look.

Nigar Nazar is Pakistan’s first female professional cartoonist, and she is using her art platform to raise awareness of the oppression women and girls experience in her country, and to promote education for women and girls amongst other issues.

Read the whole story on the BBC site here… it’s inspiring! Art can be so powerful! (You can follow her work on Facebook too.)

nigarnazarcomic

Education is the key to breaking the bonds of patriarchy, terror and oppression of women and children. It will take some time for the effects to flow through, but it is well worth the effort to support these women, because they are the ones that will tell their little boys and girls how a better world can be made in the future.

So how can we support these women? You don’t draw and make a difference like she does? You don’t think you can help promote her cause?  Of course you can! visit Kiva.org and search for opportunities to lend to women needing help to fund their education from all around the world. There are no set monthly plans, you lend and relend via micro-loan providers as you are able. Just a couple of dollars here and there. (I get no kick-backs here, this is a genuine recommendation of a service that I have used for many years as a direct way to help people without the vast percentage of the cash being swallowed up by the machinery of the charities.)

Check out some of her other cartoons, they’ll give you a giggle and open your eyes to the way others are forced to experience life.

 

 

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french homework for the Sketchnote Handbook

Some years ago I was honoured to be asked to be a featured artist in Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook and had a great time creating a page that captured my approach to visual note taking, so when Mike contacted me again a few weeks ago to invite me to participate in the creation of the French version of the book, I jumped at the chance! If you have been around my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a francophile from way back, so this opportunity was a double bonus! Mercifully I didn’t have to do the actual translation work (my French is not that good!), just provide the language elements of my page in French. It has been a very long time since I had to sit down and do this kind of language homework 🙂 but I loved it!

As I type, my final artwork is sitting on my desk beside me waiting to be scanned and sent off, and I am dying to see how it all turns out when the hardcopy of the book lands in my letterbox in a few months’ time.

Here’s where it all happened…I so love creating at this desk.

It took me a couple of goes to get it all correct and fitting into the space…so many more French words to say what I said in a few in English 🙂 Mike and his fabulous team that know how to use Photoshop better than I do will take my words and combine them with the elements of the English version of the digital artwork.

Congratulations to Mike for the sensation that the handbook has become around the world! You’ve worked hard for it! Thanks for the opportunity to participate again!

 

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a Monet moment

monets studio

Standing in the open window of Monet’s studio window on a crisp Autumn afternoon and inhaling the heady mix of oil paint, dust and the perfumed garden was one of the most intensely spiritual moments of my life.

Even looking back at this photo taken three years ago I can feel the sense of peace and belonging wash over me palpably.

Sometimes you just connect with something bigger than yourself. It’s out of your control. Unexpected. It’s beautiful. Sometimes you just know.

 

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my wall of shame – a perpetual calendar up-cycle project

I was inspired {and distracted} this week by this post by Lindsey Bugbee over at The Postman’s Knock blog. She created a calligraphy calendar she has called her “wall of shame” from an old painting covered over with blackboard paint. As fate would have it, I had intended to head out to the stationery store this weekend to pick up some sort of whiteboard to have in my gym area to track my workouts. The budget is a little tight at the moment, so I hesitated on the purchase… and I’m glad I did! I remembered that I had an old framed drawing of mine from the very early days of when I started doing graphite portraits… no contrast…iffy features…YUCK!  Time to get rid of it and repurpose the frame for my own wall of shame project. Given that this is a procrastination project and I am supposed to be cleaning my house…my credo for this one is quick and non-fussy … squeeze elements of the project in between chores as a little reward … at least that’s what I am telling myself!

1. starting place
Umm.. something not quite right with this picture.. Mr Denver just doesn’t fit… have to fix that!

I dragged out a full A2 sheet of paper I had in my stockpile… I don’t think it was even watercolour paper, possibly something I had intended for a graphite piece perhaps given that it’s about 250gsm and a smooth surface. I taped it to my plastic-covered dining table since it was too big for any of my art boards {with the exception of my A0 drawing board that currently has a half finished nude on it}. Predictably the movement of the plastic didn’t stop the paper buckling when I wet it, not that I particularly care for this one… quick and non-fussy! I mixed up a couple of watercolour washes and slopped them on the pre-wet paper to form an abstract background for my design to be applied to.

taped to table
A2 sheet taped to plastic table cloth .. and I wondered why it still buckled.. d’uh!

It dried a little darker than I had imagined, but that wouldn’t be a problem under a black ink design. I left it overnight to dry, but given the subzero temps here last night, it didn’t really dry properly….hairdryer and iron applied!

Over brekky I sketched up a very basic mudmap design for my calendar allowing space for the grid, a banner for the name of the month at the top and a box at the bottom where I can list the protocols and goals for the month.

2. mudmap
Second coffee for the morning and my trusty Moleskine and Lami Zebra

I liked the look of Lindsay’s henna doodles around the edge of her chalkboard, so I researched those too. How cool are these?

henna hand
Indian bride decorated for her wedding

henna belly
Henna design on a gorgeous pregnant belly

Next I measured up the grid and pencilled in the key elements for size and balance.

ruled up
Light pencil lines to guide the sketching

outline
Basic grid outline done

And then set to work inking in with a thin-point black permanent marker. I had toyed with the idea of using my dip pen and india ink…but I woke up to myself and remembered the quick and non-fussy credo for this {unplanned} project.

almost done
Slow but hypnotic work..got completely absorbed doing this!

detail 2
Bottom left-hand corner detail

close up 1
Partway through the bottom right

 

Eh voila! The finished design slipped into the old frame. The glass will act as a whiteboard that I can mark off my workouts and try to stay on track 🙂

finished but not filled
Ah! That looks like it belongs! Mr Denver is tucked in underneath the calendar to pad out the frame

Here’s what August looks like after I filled in the details with a dry-erase marker.

as whiteboart
Very pleased with how this turned out!

 

This was a good fun way to slip some creativity in between my housework today. Hope you had a creative day too.

Don’t forget to visit my shop … lots of new original artwork for sale as well as a new range of greeting cards alongside the old favourites.

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of curliques and flourishes

This week I cracked out a dip pen and some ink and made a wedding card for a beautiful young couple (one of whom I held as a newborn babe .. But that’s a whole other blog post).

In this world of computers and phones as ubiquitous capture devices it has been a while since I have really handwritten anything more than a scrawled note while I’m on the phone, or the odd caption for a drawing in my sketchbook. I felt somewhat rusty!

It turned out well didn’t it? I was pleased. I hope they were too.

Image

I have always loved beautiful handwriting and I am a stationery addict par excellence. I have collected pens and paper and journals and art supplies since I was a small child. Pencils that smelled like strawberries. Erasers that smelled like grapes. Paper with deckles and imprints. Journals with creamy delicious paper. Aaaahhhhhhhh 🙂

When I was about 11 my mum gave me a fountain pen (an old Parker that looked to have been a piece of company advertising) and it was at this point that I believe I was truly lost… I have been obsessed ever since. The weight of them in my hand… the way the ink flows… the search for the perfect nib…and the best way to remove ink from my fingers. Not a lot has changed…except perhaps the price of the pens I buy….or lust after if I am to be honest…the Montblancs and Watermans are pretty much out of my price range at this point, but I am a huge fan of the Lamy range for both writing and sketching.

I went to school in country Victoria in the seventies in the days when we started each day by lining up in the quadrangle, doing jumping jacks and singing God Save the Queen. Ah the glory days…. *Ahem*

In the sixth grade I had Mrs Thompson… I was voted class president, and having used my power particularly unwisely, I made a lot of enemies and never really recovered any semblance of popularity that I might have had to sure me up for the entry into high school. She taught me a love of the english language and of good grammar, but she lacked art in the delivery of said beautiful language onto paper. She taught us standard Australian cursive script .. (Although it could very well have been Victorian cursive script). Suffice it to say, I was less than impressed. I had been waiting for years for the opportunity to be taught the beautiful cursive scripts that I had seen in books. I was sorely disappointed.

The shining light in that year of prepubescent angst though, was my maths teacher… Mr Cleveland. He was a large hirsute man, more than a little reminiscent of early seventies Elvis, complete with belly and oversized spectacles. What Mrs Thompson lacked in art, Mr Cleveland made up for with the line of hieroglyphs that lined the top of the blackboard in his classroom. The holy grail of handwriting … Copperplate Script. Those curls! Those swirls!!! Such beauty in contrast with the bland printed letters joined together with plain straight lines espoused by the seventies standard Australian cursive. Mr Cleveland was teaching his class how to write “properly” and I was jealous. So I hatched a plan.

For months, in the snippets of time between maths problems, I would try to copy down the letters on the board…attempting to follow the swoops and swirls with an unguided and unpracticed hand. Pages and pages of misshapen capitals and crudely formed lowercase letters in what could loosely be construed as words. As I filled my exercise book up with numbers from the front, I worked steadily backwards from the end pages filling the lines with rows and rows and rows of “a” “e” “i” “o” “u” and full alphabets all joined in contiguous streams of unintelligible loops and flourishes.

Over time I brought the ink into submission and developed a handwriting style that has been called on through the years to complete wedding certificates and place cards and various bits and pieces, and filled journal after beautiful Moleskine journal.

I am a little rusty at the moment, but I am reacquainting myself with the feel of the ink flowing out from my fingertips, adding varying pressure and new nibs and styles. I am loving it. Would you like me to write your envelopes for you? Would you like me to write your place cards for you? I can make them beautiful works of art for you! No computer-generated homogeneity … just beautiful hand crafted words. Watch this space for samples, or drop me a line in the meantime 🙂

 

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Sweet Ride

It has been a long while since I’ve had the opportunity to draw a car. Which is a bit sad, because I like cars 🙂  One of my work colleagues has a GORGEOUS show car that I thought I’d have a go at rendering in ink and watercolour as a bit of an experiment. Here are a few “work in progress” shots and then the final. I am quite pleased with the way it turned out. 🙂 Working in watercolour became more and more nerve-wracking the further into the project I got…I was very nervous about messing it up and having to start all over again!!

 

Sweet Ride WIP 1

Sweet Ride WIP 2

Sweet Ride WIP 3

Sweet Ride WIP 4

Sweet Ride WIP 5

Sweet Ride Final

Sweet Ride Final Framed

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Great art makes us think…

For my weekly artist date yesterday I went to the exhibition of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s art at the National Gallery of Australia. It was fascinating. The loose lines and bold colours, the huge lithographic posters. Beautiful.

Toulouse-Lautrec  - La Troupe de Madamoiselle Eglantine

The thing that fascinated me most though was the subject of the vast majority of the artworks … they were prostitutes and cabaret personalities. Toulouse-Lautrec lived for weeks at a time in brothels in order to do series of drawings – to capture these women in their most vulnerable, humane moments. He hung out back stage at baudy cabaret shows and painted the portraits of young men who had drunk one too many absinthe cocktails. His portraits … although sensitive and beautiful portrayals … are of a very dark and seedy underworld.

As I looked around me in the gallery halls it was easy to see that there were a lot of families and several very wealthy, high society patrons visiting and viewing the artworks. The kind of people that pride themselves on being the pillars of the community…and yet here we were all standing together admiring this deeply sensual, gritty art. Were they understanding what they were seeing? Perhaps they had abstracted themselves out to the point where they were merely looking at marks on paper. No-one seemed to bat an eyelid.

I found it more than a little ironic. Was that lifestyle no longer shocking or disturbing because it was being portrayed as oil on cardboard? Would photographs have been more confronting? Was it the passage of years perhaps? Looking at the dark side of life through the lens of history….did that make it less desperate? These were real people caught in a lifestyle that left their mouths twisted in wry little pasted-on half-smiles that hid the conflict within and with eyes that seemed to lead to a haunting emptiness.

toulouse-lautrec-1889-granger

All of those artworks collected in a beautiful, pretty, clean gallery, presented as an exhibition….it almost felt as though prostitution had been normalised and made acceptable fodder for upper-class entertainment, just as it had been in the halls of the Moulin Rouge in La Belle Epoch Paris. It felt romanticised.

It’s not acceptable of course. Would you want your child working like that? No, me neither.

I don’t know what Toulouse-Lautrec’s intent was when he was capturing these tableaux, I doubt his motives were altruistic, but they certainly made an impression on me. Good art makes us think. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us react.

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