Last week on Halloween we went shopping in Burwood. Summer is just beginning but my summer clothes seem a bit worn after wearing them on my travels.
After lunch we decided to go into Burwood Park to sketch. The main objective was a place to sit in the shade. There was a good place, but occupied. I sent thought waves about it being time to go back to work to the young man sitting there, and sure enough, he got up and went.
Soon after I started sketching, my friend K called, to tell me his mother had died. I knew he had been keeping a vigil for several days, so it wasn’t a surprise. But this sketch will forever be associated with the death of K’s mother, just like this one is associated with the loss of my friend Adriana. This is how sketches take you back in time.
I used the ‘monster’ technique again, though this one is not ‘monstery’ enough for my liking. I have to go wilder next time. It is ingrained in me now to try to get the perspective right, and as each end was actually obscured by trees, I was concentrating on trying to overcome that. Still, same technique, slop on the watercolour and draw into it with coloured pens, fast. The tonal values didn’t aid me in getting the sketch to make sense, because the sun was almost directly above, so I had to work at it, to get it happening.
Last week I went printmaking again after a very long break. I have missed it. I only had this one totally new solar plate, made from my sketch of the western door at Palazzo Borghese. I hope to do a small series of the big doors of the palazzi of Rome. This one is from a sketch I did while I was in Rome and I plan to make another solar plate from my Palazzo Barberini sketch for when I go printmaking at the end of November. And I have lots of photos of doors from various places in Italy.
You have probably seen a print of this gymea lily before. I sketched it in the Botanic Gardens some time ago. But you will have only seen it in this colour before, and I far prefer this version. It is amazing how different they look in different colours.
The other one is from a sketch of the Trocadero building in Newtown. It was printed quite some time ago, but only in one colour which I watercoloured. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to print it in glorious technicolour.
If you look on the glossary page, you can see a little bit about how I make my sketches into solar plates for printing.
Back before I went to Europe I read this article on Lynne Chapman’s blog about Inma Serrano‘s workshop in Barcelona at the Urban Sketchers Symposium. I had meant to try this technique in Europe, but….well…. there was too much else to think about.
Last week we went again sketching to Cockatoo Island. On the ferry I remembered this technique (which I read about three months beforehand), and decided to give it a go. I had my usual sketching kit, n0 special materials, so I had to make do with what I had. Watercolour and some Copic Multiliners in various colours.
In a nutshell, the idea is that you draw the object as if it was a monster. In Barcelona, Lynne Chapman drew the Cathedral; I drew machines at Cockatoo Island. We had planned to sketch outside. It was a beautiful day, but the breeze was flipping the pages of our books so we went into the Turbine Hall. The first one I sketched was the Scary Monster. It sends rays out of that white thing at the front to disable its enemies. You can see what a complicated piece of machinery it is. I NEVER would have chosen this particular machine if it hadn’t been a monster. This technique takes the technicality out of sketching and the fear not not ‘getting it right’. And it is quick.
How I did it. Well, as I said, the memory of the technique was slightly dim, but I gave it my best shot. I used a biggish round brush and put the blue on, then I dropped Alizarin Crimson into the darker areas, a little bit of yellow on the highlighted areas and tried to leave some white for the lightest lights. Straight onto the page – no pencil guidelines. I allowed it to dry then worked into it with a wine coloured Copic Multiliner. Brought back two little highlights with white gouache and – finished.
I didn’t worry about realistic colour; it is far more fun to have colourful monsters. In real life though the top one was battleship grey, the next was grey with a greenish cast, and the last was a creamy sort of colour(ish).
Perhaps my strategy for travelling with a non-sketcher would interest you. Originally I had been going to Europe alone and it would have been a sketching holiday. However when Broni offered to come with me I jumped at the chance. We always have fun together and laugh our heads off. But from a sketching point of view, things were different. It’s my view that on a holiday, if one person is not having a good time, nobody has a good time. I knew I needed to compromise and not spend hours sketching when my travelling companion was itching to see the sights. I prefer to keep my friendship. But how to fill my book?
I was very lucky that Broni is the sort of person who is always willing to have a go. We had a 15 day holiday in Bali in June and I learnt what worked and what did not work for us. From Europe, I was determined to go home with a full sketchbook, even if it was only a few sketches, a lot of collage and some writing. I had a bit of a panic as it got closer. I knew I would be very disappointed to go home without a full sketchbook. So I planned and prepared. As it worked out, Broni finished her sketchbook before me. She sketched quite a few times, mainly from memory (how did she do that?) but with all the collage and writing, now she needs to add a fold-out for the Thailand days. How good is she?
- I made Broni a sketchbook and gave her some art materials (don’t we all have plenty to spare?) In Bali I had had a concertina (ox-plow) style of book but for the Europe trip we had a square format coptic-bound book of watercolour paper (about 8″). It really works better when one spread stands alone, when you want to add collage. Glue an envelope inside the back cover to put the collage bits you pick up.
- I had known Mary Ann Moss’s blog for some time and I remembered that she printed out the days and dates and took them with her, to collage onto her book. I picked up that idea, and I did each day and month in the language of the country I was visiting. (The Thai curly writing was a challenge). I made plenty to spare for both myself and Broni. But I still wanted to know what Mary Ann took with her, so I did her course, ‘Ticket to Venice‘. Recommended! Mary Ann is very very generous with her information. You will find all sorts of useful things, even up to which adaptors you will need for any country in the world. And you’ll be entertained. It is not expensive and so worth the money. Do it.
- I had a plastic box with this collage stuff, plus a little plastic ruler, scissors, and a glue stick. Known as ‘The Box’, (also ‘La Scatola’ while we were in Italy) it was critical to our success. In it were also any collage bits from home I thought relevant, like some Italian decorative paper bits, a few rubber stampings with an Italian theme, a Spanish stamp or two.
- Take the tiniest set of paints you can. I had a W&N Sketchers box, and it was too heavy. The sketchbook gets heavier as you add the collage, and you get more exhausted as you walk, and walk and walk and walk and ….walk. I took watercolour pencils to Bali and found them too slow, so it was paints only for Europe.
- Have a look at some books to see how other people handle sketchbook spreads. Get some ideas to make an ordinary spread look better when you haven’t got much time. If your travelling companion is only going to glue and write, they will still want it to look good. Things like writing text into a box with a coloured wash, for example. Just be careful not to scare them by showing them too much work of very experienced and professional artists, LOL. I suggest Cathy Johnson’s Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures and Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, also An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers
- Take a little notebook also. It is useful for writing down train times, but also very useful for remembering what you did if you’re running late with writing in your sketchbook. You will forget what you did two days ago. And it is hard to keep up and do your book every day.
- Have a light-weight bag. I had a leather one and though the size was perfect, it was too heavy in itself.
- Start the way you mean to go on. Sketch at the airport, on the plane. Also the next day even if you are jetlagged. Get the book started. It wasn’t easy for us because we were staying with friends who were non-sketchers. But people accept it. The first days are important. Once you’ve invested time in it and you’re starting to see results, you’re more likely to keep it up.
- Edited: Put your contact details inside the front cover. Mine is here. See the comment below from Irene Brady
- Grab the airline magazine. You need it as a backing when you are glueing (once you have used everything you want for your sketchbook).
- Start collecting stuff. Keep your airline luggage tags, boarding passes etc.
On the road
It can be difficult to stop long enough for a ‘proper’ sketch, because there is so much to see, so many things to do, and a limited time. It’s just not possible to do long sketches when your companion wants be out there seeing the world. But when you have the opportunity for a longer one, do it.
- Sketch something every day. It doesn’t have to be ‘good’or ‘nice’. It just has to be there on the page.
- Not enough time? Do it roughly in pencil, take a quick photo and finish it later.
- Seek out bars and restaurants with a view of something interesting to sketch. Many many of my sketches were done over a meal.
- Be devious and ruthless and inventive about finding suitable collage bits. Have fun with it. (You had to be there, the night we sneaked the beer bottles up to our hotel room in Thailand to soak the labels off and the whole basin of water ran out onto the floor.) Paper placemats are useful. Put them in your bag before you get food all over them. I have one I took from the Vatican. Watch out for the lightning bolt.
- Learn the word for ‘business card’in the local language. In Italian it is ‘bigliettino’. Then you can ask restaurants for their card. (If that sounds hard, it’s not. Bill-yet-ino is how you pronounce it.) Easy.
- If you do a number of more complex sketches, have a day or two when you do simpler ones without much finishing needed, then you won’t fall behind. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your book.
- If, like us, you have collected a number of quite heavy brochures for collage, leave time for emergency glueing before you catch your flight home.
- Finish everything off.
Above all, have fun and see everything.
When we arrived at a Bangkok airport on the way TO Europe, there were orchids everywhere. I thought, “I’ll sketch some at the hotel.” None, at the hotel. So next morning, after making our way to the lounge (seems like 3km – Bangkok’s new airport is huge) we found breakfast, but no orchids.
On our way back to Australia, we were leaving with Qantas, not Finnair. Qantas has its own lounge – a very nice lounge indeed. White orchids in several places. I went to one of the displays, pulled up a chair and sketched them.
But all too soon it was time to board the flight and be on our way home.
Last morning in Bangkok. This morning I had time for a longer sketch because Broni was having the reflexology foot massage for her ragged feet. I was waiting for her by the pool, looking across the the Sala Thai building where we went for the dinner and dancing the other night.
We then did last minute panic shopping around the hotel, then emergency glueing. We had several large and heavy pamphlets from Barcelona, Helsinki and Bangkok, so we had to get rid of them before our luggage was weighed at the airport. We had also each been carrying the airline magazine around from our first Finnair flight to use when we were applying the glue to our pieces to be collaged. That had to be disposed of also.
We skipped lunch as there was no time, but fitted in another coffee frappe from the Mackers in the lobby. There will be food at the airport.
Now you can SEE what it was like on the canals going to the Floating Market. You can also see the Thai silk(-thetic?) shawl that makes Broni look like a visiting Dottoressa. And it is the coconut pancakes she is buying.
I was holding the camera up towards us with the strap wrapped tightly round my hand so it didn’t go overboard.
Filed under Thailand, Travel