neighbourhood

spying on the neighbours...Week 2 at Sketchbook Skool was led by Nina Johanssen. She’s an urban sketcher, and took us for a tour of her sketchbooks. We watched over her shoulder as she sat in a park and painted some buildings.

I came down with the flu this week, and was also filling my manager’s shoes at work while she took 2 weeks off, so all the homeowork I managed to do for this week was a quick sketch of my neighbourhood, from the back deck of my own boat. Oh, well, I did plenty of urban sketching during my travels, so it’s nothing new.

his nibs

vintage nibsAn exercise in monochrome sketching (except that I added amber ink splatters, at the end) and cross-hatching. One of my favourite artists, as far as drawing with ink is concerned, is Ronald Searle. He drew with a dip pen—wonderful variation of thick and thin lines—and used splatters in his drawings, a lot; so I did the same here: a couple of nibs, and sepia ink. Splatters using amber ink and a toothbrush.

This was my week’s homework for Sketchbook Skool: Exploring…which I scraped the bottom of my bank account  to join because this is the last time the class “Exploring” is going to run, and urban sketcher Felix Scheinberger—one of my idols—will be teaching. But all the teachers in Exploring are excellent, and I am looking forward to doing something different each week, with each one.

I am trying to rekindle some kind of daily drawing habit, too, and paying for a class is a good way to make sure you do the drawing assignments!

This week’s class was given by Danny Gregory, also a very cool artist, and I enjoyed his demos of how to draw an object using only contour lines and different kinds of hatching marks to give it dimension and texture. His video, “Breakfast,” doesn’t just make me hungry, it really makes me want to be the sort of person who does a drawing in her sketchbook, first thing in the morning, every morning. Right after the first pee, and before having coffee and a fag (and that’s my breakfast…no toasty onion bagels *sigh*) 😉

 

aguardiente “La Quezalteca”

Aguardiente La Quezalteca
Kris needed a bottle of cheap alcohol for his homemade Elegguá (the Orisha who, as you might recall from my previous posts, is fond of cigars, strong spirits, and sweet things)…more about that later! He bought this pocket-sized flask at the local supermarket. The label was so pretty that I just had to draw the bottle, to go into my growing collection of local beers and hot sauce bottles.

No, I didn’t try it…it smells like paint thinner! And I found bottles of cabernet sauvignon, from Spain, at the same supermarket, for under $4. I have a weak spot for red wine. 😉

A compound word from agua (water) and ardiente (burning or glowing), aguardiente is what English speakers would call “firewater”…a strong alcohol, technically distilled from sugar cane, though other sweet musts and grains are also used.

Singing in my chains like the sea

painted Moleskine
painted Moleskine

The friend from university who first introduced me to Dylan Thomas went into a coma last December, and everyone who knew him left messages on his facebook…in the hopes that he would wake up and know that he’d been missed. In honor of our Thomas connection, I (mis)quoted* these lines from the poem Fern Hill.
painted MoleskineThree weeks ago Luis passed away…a mercy, really, after being so long in coma. We were not close, but his death was made more poignant because he was so young (we were born the same year, 1974). To me it seemed an urgent message to get as much as I can out of this life, because we never know when it will all come to a halt.

The lines of the poem have stayed with me… sometimes I lull myself to sleep with them. Dylan Thomas was a sorcerer of lilting, musical  language…his words dance, surge, rise and ebb like the ocean he was named after. I had a sudden urge to write them out somewhere that I would see them often, and decided to whack them on the cover of this Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. The curly waves were inspired by what I could remember of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa.

* …Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

Just erotic. Nothing kinky.

the bird book

It started with a book that I bought to read on the flight from Johannesburg to Capetown: The Search for The Rarest Bird In The World by Vernon R.L. Head, a South African bird-lover. It was a strange book, surprisingly dreamy with a lot of beautiful language, images shimmering like a tree shot with sunlight and a thousand cherry-sized birds. An emotional book, with just touches of natural science. I read that book 8, maybe 9 times…it was not very mentally taxing, just a pleasant ramble through forests and savannahs, chasing birds with one’s thoughts. I wanted to keep it, but didn’t want to read it a 10th time…felt strangely compelled to interact with it, somehow.

I started doodling and painting in its pages…beginning with the catalog of eggs used for the endpaper design, the large white spaces around chapter titles, then moving into the text…
the bird book
the bird book
the bird book
the bird book
the bird bookAt some point this feather thing took over, and I set aside the altered book project to explore feathers in my sketchbooks. Colours, brush marks, how to make a feather using a single stroke of the brush…
the bird book
the bird book

Moved from sketchbooks to watercolour paper, with a mapping pen to draw fine lines, and a lick of gouache to sometimes give a highlight.
the bird book
the bird book

The final version is at the top of this post…a series of feathers using yellow and sepia paint, on rough watercolor paper. A present for my Colombian friend Liz.

“Just erotic. Nothing kinky. It’s the difference between using a feather and using a chicken.”     ― Terry Pratchett, Eric