I was just a child when …

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Me @ 6

Since my last post much has changed for myself and my family. The Covid-19 virus has shut down the New Zealand we have known. I had thought that two granddaughters were coming from Melbourne to stay for the holidays, and I’d be taking them places, enjoying their company. I was looking forward to that. This week I’ve been self-isolating as I am someone who has a couple of auto-immune conditions, and I’m not as young as I think I am.  I shall be shopping online for our food from now on, but that’s okay. I feel fortunate that I have many interests, such as reading, writing and art, which will keep me well-occupied over the next month or more. Continue reading

A Reflection

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Me sketching in Spain last year

Well, did I make the 100 sketches in a week? I’m afraid not. Yesterday was day 7 of the challenge and I didn’t have a sketch left in me. My grand total was 87, and although I was just 13 away from the 100 target, yesterday I just needed a rest. I feel good about my decision, and as a result I feel considerably more refreshed today. I also chose not to post my sketches on the Facebook page for this oneweek100people challenge, as I realised early on that I am just happy to be out sketching, and that I didn’t need to compete with zillions of others who were racing to reach the 100 mark.   Continue reading

Day Six: sketch challenge

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0.5 pen, Aquarelle pencil

What a difference a day makes, as the song goes, and Day six of my sketch challenge was certainly the best sketching day of the week. The Saturday sketch group that I am part of met at a different venue this week: Britomart, Auckland’s central train station. Our tutor Tony was continuing to look at one-point perspective, in relation to trains stopped at the terminus, as well as sketching people on the platform. I had told Tony about the sketch 100 people challenge, so that would be my focus. But first … Continue reading

Day Five: sketch challenge

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nib pen, black ink

I have to admit I am very tired and achieved even fewer sketches on Day five than on the previous four. Although I do realise this challenge is self-imposed and not a ‘do or die’ commitment. I entered this challenge to get me outside sketching, as often I am absorbed by writing, which means that I am inside at my computer too much. However, I had many other commitments on day five, and going out and about wasn’t possible, so I rustled up some images from sketchers I had on my computer, and sat at my desk – yes, inside. Continue reading

Day four: sketch challenge

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.05 black pigment liner

Today just didn’t pan out I had wished. A bad sleep. A morning meeting. But I did do two contour sketches in pen (from photos) before I left for my second attempt at finding people at the ferry terminal. And what a beautiful day it was for walking. Oops, bumped into a friend and accepted the invite for a cup of tea. At least we chatted about sketching. Continue reading

Day Three: sketch challenge

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Day Three, a late start. Travelling a little further from home to Brown’s Bay beach. Kerry had a dental examination, and told me I had ’15 minutes’ to get to the beach and do some sketching. Okay. I was onto it pronto, and practically sprinted to the grassed area beside the shore. A rain shower had just passed over and I spotted a woman with an umbrella walking. Out with the art gear. She was moving quite slowly down the beach and I tracked her with my pencil. Next a man and another woman walking the opposite direction. Not my best sketches ever, but hey, I got something down. Continue reading

Day Two: sketch challenge

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ink pen, aquarelle, graphite

Day two of my sketch 100 people challenge proved rather amusing.  I set off walking swinging my art bag, after doing a quick pen sketch (above) from a photo. I was keen as mustard to get going. I had hoped to sketch a friend, but she wasn’t home. Okay; next on the plan was to visit the ferry building – always crowds of people there. Good idea, except the ferry had just departed. No commuters in sight. Right, there were a few visitors hanging about outside, so I pulled out my sketch pad and just managed to get one man in before he moved off. Oh, good, two people at the bus stop. Better than nothing I thought. Continue reading

What did I do this for?

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water-soluble graphite, aquarelle pencils, pen

I decided last week to take up the challenge of sketching 100 people in a week. Day one was Monday. It is now Tuesday, and I decided that I would write about this experience as I go. I first saw the challenge advertised on Suhita Shirodkar’s site and knew that she and many other sketchers had taken up the #oneweek100people# challenge a few times in the past. I thought ‘well, why not give it a go’.  It would make me work fast, not allow me to get bogged down with too much detail, so I joined up to do this crazy thing.   Continue reading

Gaining perspective

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Jetty. Pen, soluble graphite, watercolour

Last week in art class we did an exercise on one point perspective. We were to practice  the rudiments of  eye-level-line / horizon line, and the point to which other lines travel. In short, perspective drawing. The word perspective may intimidate new sketchers. But perspective is really just a word which suggests that there are different ways of looking. And as artists, that is the most important thing we can learn.

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If you are new to writing this might help

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It is some time since I wrote about critique groups (post March 2018), so thought you might like to read a more recent article I wrote for an independent publishing house on what new writers might expect from a critique group. I still belong to a writing group and continue to enjoy the process of having others read, listen to, and give feedback on my work.  Writing can be a lonely occupation and it is good to mix with others who share similar interests. Continue reading

More about Frida

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Frida Kahlo, 1938/39 by Nickolas Muray

btrThis exquisite photograph comes from a book I’ve owned since 2000. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, by Isabel Alcántara and Sandra Egnolff.

Even before I was gifted this book I had read much about Frida, and greatly admired the Mexican artist and her work. Her story is one of triumph over tragedy. Or maybe that should read ‘triumph through tragedy’, for Frida may not have become a painter if she hadn’t suffered a dreadful accident at the age of eighteen, which left her bedridden for long periods of time. Continue reading

Alongside the writing …

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My Studio

In the run up to the start of my travel-sketching class, I have been trying to complete a sketch a day. Drawing daily used to be effortless, but now, I seem to need more motivation to get started. I have managed to get some sketches done and thought I’d show that I can sometimes walk the talk. As I have a very nice room, set up for both writing and art, I thought I’d take objects I like and sketch them at the worktable in there. Continue reading

My Brilliant Friend

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I may have not read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante if my friend Liz hadn’t passionately recommended it to me. I was down at the library to borrow it immediately. My reasons for haste were because I was going to stay with her in a couple of weeks and I wished to be prepared for the discussion about books and writing I knew we would have. Liz and I met as young teens, at school in the sixties, two clever but disaffected kids. Not unlike Lia and Lenù the main characters in Ferrante’s book, the first in her Neapolitan series, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence. Continue reading

I didn’t want to visit Australia because of our sky

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Auckland skies the week before leaving (photo not altered)

This was a long-planned trip to visit family in Australia but I was not filled with the usual mounting excitement. Our skies in Auckland reflected the awful reality of the fires burning over there, made all the more alarming given that New Zealand is over 3000 kilometres away. For days we had viewed flames ripping through communities in several parts of Australia, leaving utter devastation in their wake. And loss of life. Although we were heading north of the worst affected areas, there had been fires reported close to Toowoomba, near where my youngest lives. With assurances from her, that the area was quite safe apart from a smokey atmosphere, we flew to Brisbane, the closest International airport.  Continue reading

Just one small sketch …

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Watercolour and pencil sketch

This post is going to be amazingly short for, as many of you will know, I have done nothing for weeks but write. However, last week, with the end of my draft in sight, I took a break to quickly sketch my Japanese-inspired bowl.   Continue reading

It looks like art is on the agenda

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Art appears to be on my agenda this year, thanks in the main to Tony McNeight who runs sketch groups locally. In the past I have dipped in and out of these classes when time allows and he is amenable to my dropping in. The watercolour and pencil sketch above was done, when I joined a Saturday class at the local Ngataringa Community Gardens for a sketch session and Christmas wind-up.  I made an early New Years’ pledge that day to join his classes for a term.  I start mid-February.  My intentions to sketch regularly did not reach the mark in 2019. Let’s hope I do better in 2020.

For the record, I am on track with my writing, and am pleased about completing my  most hefty resolution from last year. Apart from seeing the book come into being, the other resolutions for this year are to finish as many unfinished projects as I can.  I am always impressed by the work I see others on-line achieve; so please keep blogging about your art, travel and writing,  as you all give me inspiration.

Happy New Year.

If I hadn’t been keeping to my deadline, I would have…

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My sister Kath, Dad and me

I would have written more posts of an arty nature if I hadn’t been so busy keeping to a different kind of writing deadline. For those new to my posts, I began a story about my father a couple of years back and I was never diligent in keeping to the schedules I set myself. Well, finally I decided that enough was enough (see my post, Deadlines, Oct 25th). Yes, it’s true, an amazing thing, for I have been keeping to that self-set deadline, of finishing the draft of a novel by mid-January. I have found the going sluggish at times, not with the writing itself, but with the research and detail I need to keep this story authentic. Continue reading

Feeling Lucky

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It is two years since we moved to our apartment in Devonport, a village at the end of a peninsular across from Auckland, where ferries, tankers, cruise ships and yachts fill the watery divide. It is a moving spectacle. Daily, I look out at the scene thinking how lucky I am to be living here.  I am also lucky to have met the people I have since arriving. On Sunday 1st December we held an early Christmas party, as is our custom, and invited many of them to our home, plus others we have known a long time.  Continue reading

Passing it forward

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As Christmas approaches, I attend to jobs that need finishing in order for me to complete my gift-giving. My sewing machine had long needed a service; it’s almost as old as me. But even old things can still be good (yeah!), and my machine is a good example. What stories it could tell… from sewing baby clothes to teenagers’ dresses, to shorts and shirts for my son, until he learned to sew on my machine and made baggy shorts for himself, and covers for his surfboard. Continue reading

When life gets too busy, just sketch

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My watercolour paintbox

The past weeks have seen various family members come and go, each group staying a few days, making for a very busy time. This has meant, however, my ideas for new posts have been like jelly waiting to set.  That was, until yesterday, when I was invited to join another of Tony McNeight’s sketching classes, the subject, linking typography with watercolour sketches. He asked me to bring something to sketch which held a special meaning.   Continue reading

From a novel to film to performance

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I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frames’ writing carries the reader into these worlds using  unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading

Experiential Learning

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The week started well. I kept to the deadlines I’d set myself regarding my story: meeting with the editor, sending her the ‘almost ‘finished’ manuscript and continuing to write, write, write. I set my deadline for finishing the entire MS too, just eight weeks away from the day of meeting. After a week of writing I decided to work on my painting;  just for a day. I opened the ‘how to’ art book at the page which suggested ways to achieve tonal values. The best option for beginners was to use one colour, mixed with white.  I chose Sap Green, mixed it with white and thinned the paints with linseed oil. The addition of Phtalo Blue was a personal inspiration. Continue reading

Deadlines

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Deadline

Deadlines are something usually associated with the workplace, school or universities. Who hasn’t sweated to complete an assignment or task on a specific day? Those days were over, I thought, when I began writing to suit myself, when I could apply my own rules to the short stories, or novels I wished to produce. This worked, for a while, but when I was no longer in the paid workplace, or engaged in study, I found that the earlier discipline I’d applied to both my art and writing, was lacking. Continue reading

Everyone should read this

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“Everyone should read this,” my friend Betty said, handing me a book she’d been telling me about. I glanced at the tile The Choice, noted it was an International Best Seller, and immediately slotted it in the popular novel category I mostly stayed away from. “It really is worth reading,” she emphasised, no doubt sensing my scepticism. I needed something to take my mind off my husband’s illness and my stressed state, so thanked her for the read and left.

That night, I couldn’t sleep and began reading The Choice. The author, Edith Eger, is a Holocaust survivor, but before I reach that part of her story, the introduction has captured me. Continue reading

The week that was

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At the lagoon

It really was a week of extreme contrasts and I wondered if I’d be able to get a post out at all for a couple more weeks. The story goes something like this, beginning and ending on a Sunday, the day I left for Rarotonga and the day I returned home with my two oldest children. Rarotonga is a small popular island in the Cook Islands and the stay was ultra relaxing.

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A silly selfie

While my son worked, my daughter and I walked, paddled in the lagoon and lay on the sand watching palm trees sway overhead. We drank cocktails, ate way too much and had a thoroughly good time. The only minor negative was the dozen roosters cockadoodledoodling at four am as they chased their girls around the yard. We were staying inland near the hills which were often shrouded in misty rain. We looked out onto lush plants, palms and grass, and the aforementioned roosters. It was the perfect place to relax, after our terrible time lounging or walking beside the sea. Watching others on their paddle boards or snorkelling was also quite fun. Continue reading

A process indeed

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pencil self portrait

A few months back I did a pencil portrait of myself, and was pretty pleased with the results. I wrote a blog about that process at the time. More recently, while in London, I visited the Portrait Gallery, as they run the BP annual portrait competition and exhibit the short-listed paintings, and winners. I liked many of the paintings, but there was something special about Frances Borden’s work that appealed to me: the (seeming) simplicity of the composition, and the bold choice of colour. “I think I’d like to try a self-portrait in oils,” I told my husband, buying a postcard of the work from the gallery gift shop on the way out. Continue reading

Off the page and into print

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typingI know many authors who have tried publishing their writing through various online sources, and have found the experience, difficult, tedious and frustratingly slow. It needn’t be that way.

It is my pleasure this week to welcome guest blogger Holly Dunn, who works in the world of writing, books, and independent publishing. She is just the person to help if you are thinking about publishing a book, whether it be a novel, short stories, essays, memoirs … Continue reading

A return to the art classroom

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Ink & watercolour sketch

As I’ve mentioned before, I can get stuck with what I know when it comes to sketching, but nothing beats joining an art group from time to time and just going with ‘the flow’, literally.  On the last two Saturday afternoons I attended Tony McNeight’s class in the teaching block close to my home. Centre table was a large striped vase filled with silk flowers and dotted around were a bundle of twigs, and numerous pots of coloured ink. ‘Mm’ the class said. Continue reading

It breaks my heart

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Ready and waiting

The post I planned for this week was going to be about my process of executing a self portrait in oils – a first for me. That will happen, it is just that I needed to attend to a far more important matter, another first, which involved helping my friend Gabby decorate clothes-peg dolls, for an extremely important cause. Continue reading

An artist who lived her dream

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Frances Hodgkins was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1869 and died in England in 1947. Last weekend the exhibition, Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys finished its run at the Auckland Art Gallery. I made sure I saw the exhibits, over 150 in all, as this artist has been a trail-blazer for the many female New Zealand artists who have followed. This particular artist stands out from the crowd because she forged an art career at a time when the art world was completely male-dominated. Frances Hodgkins left her birthplace for Europe in 1901 at a time when just a handful of women travellers were experiencing the world. What made Hodgkins different from those women was not mere travel to exotic countries, but her personal mission of becoming an artist of international repute. Continue reading

I have a thing about fountains

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Cherub fountain, Prato 2012

I do love drawing fountains, ones with figures spouting water in particular take my fancy. The first I drew was a few years ago when I happened to be in Prato, Italy. It was summer, and hot. My husband was at a conference, so I had time to sit and sketch. But when I found my subject, the sun beat down, my hands got sweaty, and I was forced to close my sketchbook.  Back home, with the aid of a good photo I drew the cherub-like fountain feature above. It now hangs on the wall of my study. Continue reading

Bratislava; where is that?

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Prešporáčik: tourist train

This was the question friends asked when I mentioned I was going there. And now since visiting, I can answer this question more definitively for them.  Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia. Any the wiser? I thought not, because until recent times it made up one of the two states of Czechoslovakia, and only in 1993 did Bratislava become the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic, with the Czech Republic being the other part of that change. So? Where is it? Continue reading

A great idea does not always deliver a great outcome

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Hebei province by BenBenW licensed CC BY 2.0

I have already mentioned how much I enjoyed  Madeleine Thien’s book Do Not Say We Have Nothing (see post 29 July) but what it stirred in me was not just the plight of its characters and the awful choices they had to make, but the strength of the love which bound people together despite their dire circumstances. It reminded me of a novel that someone I know intimately wrote a few years ago, but left untouched, as she struggled to think of a way to correct the structure.  Continue reading

A deviation from the usual

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cordoba hotel

In May, after leaving Seville and the sketch group, we travelled on to Córdoba. The city was old and quite lovely, with streets so narrow our taxi almost scraped the walls. We turned into a  square and stopped in front of our modern hotel. I was impressed. My husband less so, when I took the invitation to ‘upgrade’ our room. Boy, what a room. King-size bed, windows and balcony; I had no regrets about my decision, after the dingy, and rather stinky room at our last stop. However, it is not our hotel, or the wonderful churches, and artisan stores which surrounded our hotel, that I wish to dwell on here, but a different part of the city where we ventured. Continue reading

What should have been on my bookshelf.

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‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’  is not a title supported by my new bookends, sadly enough, but it was on loan from my book group. The author of this moving novel is Canadian Madeleine Thien, and I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read her work.

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Domestic sketches

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To wind up this series of what I found in my art folders I have decided to show some  sketches – people, plants, animals, and objects – which I drew in and around my house. I have always loved using graphite pencil and this aluminium teapot was a perfect object to draw, given its shape and sheen. I really like the contrast of light and cast shadow. I must have placed the teapot near the edge deliberately so the curve of the table showed in the composition. Continue reading

Writing for children

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I came across more illustrations in one of my art pads; images I planned as part of a children’s picture book called Toby and the Tuatara. (see above). As in Flora’s story (2 posts back), I forwarded this work to a publisher. Again, there was praise for my illustrations, and a polite reason as to why the story did not fit their ‘lists’. I was subdued, maybe a little sad, that my stories were not considered good enough for publication. But did I let it bug me? Continue reading

Finding more than I bargained on

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As I pulled art pad after art pad from my folder and turned the leaves, I smiled, laughed and occasionally grimaced. I found sketches of my children, pets, and articles from around the house. The more I looked the more I realised the stories I’d been telling through my art. One story was perfectly clear. Continue reading

More discoveries from the art trove

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A few years ago, my husband and I lived for a year in Hong Kong, in an apartment on the Chinese University campus in Shatin.  I looked for something to do with my time while my husband was teaching and began tutoring children after school in drawing skills. One fourteen-year-old girl was passionate about art, and she was a delight to have around. Flora was already very skilled in traditional watercolour, but wished to extend her drawing knowledge. The reason? She was also passionate about cats and brought a different cat book from the library when we met on a Friday. Every day she drew a cat at the top of her diary page, and Friday was no exception. Flora’s aim: to draw every cat species she could.  Continue reading

Coming across some old friends

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charcoal 2I  have accumulated many sketches over the years; some in notebooks, on scraps of paper, in art pads and folders. Some work is good, some bad and the rest indifferent. And that isn’t all of it, when moving, I made the bold choice to give work away, or throw it out. Recently I decided to go through a folder or two, to see if I found anything interesting.  These drawings had stories attached to them; some had sold and I only had photos of the originals, but many were tucked away, waiting for me to show them the light of day. It was nice, dipping into my past and meeting old friends.

For some years I concentrated on doing life studies, using my own models, working in a studio above my garage. I used Anita, who was great to work with,   on many occasions, mostly drawing the whole form each time.  I used  charcoal pencil and willow stick on Grumbacher paper in the image above.

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A bolt of love from the blue

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I have been writing a story for sometime now about my father, John Frederick Lingard Fowlds, who died when I was a teen. He never got to know how I, or my brothers and sister turned out as adults, or ever got to meet any of our children, and grandchildren. I began writing his story, fictionalised to some degree, to give the wider family some idea of what kind of person he was. Writing about him has been relatively easy, as he was a funny, warm and loveable man. Very artistic too. The hard part is the loss I still feel for him after so long, and maybe the reason I am taking so long to write his story, is that I don’t wish to lose him again. Continue reading

With a little help from my friends

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Sketch Spain group

Sketch Spain group

This post is about others –  the other sketchers whom I was lucky to spend time with on my recent trip to Spain. Why was I lucky? Because I learned rather a lot from them. The group may be surprised by this statement, as many are new-comers to sketching and are rather modest about their outcomes. But they have an approach to their sketching, that I, as a long-standing ‘sketcher’ lack. Continue reading

Third stop: Seville and Flamenco

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From my sketchbook

The contrasting landscape heading to Seville was amazing: cypress trees dark against earthen buildings, scruffy pine-nut trees, tiny old huts, and fields; where grapes replaced orange trees, then olives, as the train sped past. Undulating hills, the soil darkening to a burnt sienna and white houses with orange tiled roofs. A change back to orange groves as we neared Seville, sun-touched and golden. What a warm welcome. Continue reading

Second stop Valencia

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It was a peaceful 3hr train ride from Barcelona to Valencia, which gave me time to sketch the orange tree (above), abundant with Valencia oranges – naturally. I looked about the carriage, and saw most of the group head-down sketching, or colouring their work, assiduously. It has become clear that Tony’s enthusiasm for sketching has caught on. Continue reading

First stop Barcelona

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Barcelona map

It’s taken a few days to clear the brain-fog which often happens after long-haul flights. Factor in a one and a half hour’s flight, a seven hour stopover, a seven hour flight, a two hour stopover, a final sixteen-hour flight, and you’ll have some idea of why I couldn’t get my post out sooner. However, here I am, back in New Zealand and inviting you to share a little of my experiences of sketching in three Spanish cities, beginning with Barcelona, a city made famous by Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) for his unique take on Catalan Modernism architecture.  Continue reading

Reading someone new to me

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My husband bought this book for me, having read a review online praising the writer. I have read many collections of short stories in my time, including the likes of  Katherine Mansfield, Doris Lessing, John Steinbeck, Janet Frame, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro. Until I unwrapped the book and read the cover, this was the first time I’d met the author. Continue reading

Keeping the practice up for Sketch Spain

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Barcelona doves

Come next Monday, I shall be making my way to Barcelona, and embarking on a daily sketching sojourn in several cities. This prospect has made me slightly nervous, as well as excited, as I endeavour to keep my sketching practice up. My aim is to be as fluid as I can with my line, and use of colour. Last week, I attended two  workshops; both with live models, but each very different from the other. I knew that we were going to be covering animals in the first class, but expected that we would be working from photographs. I was rather taken aback when a rather large, although handsome tan and white boxer dog (Walter), was led into the room.  Continue reading

An approach to portraits

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After doing a recent quick ‘selfie’ portrait, I sifted through some old art folios, in which I found a few very different images of myself.  Two were pencil drawings, and the other a quick sketch in acrylic on paper. Over the years I’ve executed many portraits, in pastel, pencil and paint; some done as teaching tools, some commissions, and others as part of children’s book illustration. rbt

 

 

With all portraits, and all figures come to that, I have generally used the same techniques to plot the sketch. But the most important technique of all does not involve pencil or paint. To become accurate with any portrait, you must look. Seems obvious? I am talking about really seeing here: the shape of the head, the face; whether it is thin, long, wide, plump. Is the skin tone fair, or dark? All these features need to be observed before a pencil makes a mark. And, then comes the hair. Is it dark, light, thick, wavy, straight? Is it wispy, framing the face? When you are becoming to know the person, it comes the time to select your tools (pencils in this case). It does help if you already know your model too. Continue reading

Recapturing the passion for art

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fshbtyMonday I was back to the travel sketching class, where the focus was on people. People, faces, bodies, used to be my thing, but not consistently practising these skills has shown a gap in what I know I can achieve and what comes out on the paper. I cannot blame the pen. I have chased another passion (creative writing), too much, and let my art skills languish. By coming to classes, I hoped to renew the passion I’d once held for art.

The first sketch, was fine: a self portrait sketched from a phone ‘selfie’. I’d certainly not done that before, although I had done a few self portraits using the old-style reflection in a mirror. Luckily I happened to have a recent phone selfie, showing off my new glasses, as I could imagine the ten photos I’d have to take in class to get one I remotely liked. Continue reading