Last Saturday was the 34th worldwide sketchcrawl and we ended up at the Australian Museum. The original plan was to go to Hyde Park. We met there and by that time it was already sprinkling with rain. We hoped it would stop, but as we waited for latecomers, down came the rain. We had to put our wet weather plan into action right way because it was bucketing down. We only had to cross the road, but it was like wading through a creek. We were wet through. They put all our wet things into a room for us and we dispersed throughout the museum till lunchtime.
There is a reason I chose to sketch these two. I live 4km from the very centre of Sydney. Nearby there is a park and an old church. In the churchyard there are possums. Less than 5 times in the more than 25 years I’ve lived here, as I’ve walked along beside the churchyard, possums come to the fence, or low down on a tree. Just before Christmas a possum started coming to my courtyard. Then he’d go from my tree to the roof, and end up in a tree out the front. (Possum poo on the roof of the car.) At the beginning of January, one night I was sitting in my kitchen with a friend, quite late, having a glass of wine. Arabella, my cat, came near the screen door and started to hiss and hiss. I turned the outside light on, and here was a possum with its pink nose sniffing along the screen door. I put some rejected cat food in an old plate out on the table just outside the window. The possum retreated to the bottom of the tree while I was out there, but as soon as I was safely back inside, it climbed up on the table and had a leisurely meal for 10 minutes or so, with the two of us just sitting the other side of the glass, watching.
The plover is another story. I went to Cockatoo Island with a friend in the spring. As we walked along one particular path, a plover started to divebomb us. At first we ignored it. They’re bigger than, say, a pigeon, but not a huge bird. Obviously we were getting nearer its nest though, because it has quite a wingspread, and it got very scary. We retreated with our arms wrapped round our heads.
The second drawing is one started in Hyde Park as the rain was starting. I used a sanguine Pitt Pen, size M. I noticed the white reflections of the flagpoles on the wet ground as we ran off to seek shelter. The background was drawn in with watercolour pencils.
Finally the rain stopped and we had out fourth day at the zoo. We had decided that it was silly to go to the zoo four times & not take photos, so we took our cameras as well as our sketching materials. We spent a lot of time taking photos before we got down to sketching. It was a very hot day this time, so many of the animals were sleeping out of the sun, and we missed taking their photos. As you see, we went to see the baby tiger cubs.
We were passing by the spider monkeys again and they were more co-operative this time and sat and posed for us. I named one Ginge, because a woman asked her grandchild what he thought the monkey was called. The child didn’t answer, so I made a decision – his name is Ginge. In Australia these days, redheads are often called Ranga, but this monkey is definitely a Ginge, not a Ranga.
At lunchtime we went to the lawn where we usually eat our lunch and at the end of the path was a turkey putting on a dance performance. He danced the whole time it took us to have quite a leisurely lunch, and still while we sketched him. Finally his turkey girlfriends came along to admire him.
After lunch we went looking for this lovely area of pools and fish and birds that we’d seen another day. It took us a long time to find it. The zoo is on the side of a hill and we were wandering about for a long time in the hot sun, looking .Always remember the name of the place you want to go back to. It turned out to be the Wetland Aviary. I drew the beautiful mandarin ducks, and the royal spoonbill who really was trying to fish.
Another beautiful day at Taronga Park Zoo, and this time we had a plan. We went straight to the Barbary Sheep – gorgeous calm looking beasts with shaggy hair like a mane, but falling down from their throat. Apparently they are a species of goat-antelope, and they’re a beautiful caramel colour.
There are quite a number of them, but on this hot morning at first they weren’t cooperating. They stood far from where we were. Fortunately with some patience, some of them decided to come and sit quite close to us, and I was able to get some better drawings.
After a large coffee and a few short visits to other favourites, we were on our way to draw the spider monkeys. As we passed the floral clock, a peacock was putting on quite a display. He was there for quite some time and totally gorgeous (and he knew it).
The spider monkeys saw us with our sketchbooks and immediately went to the other side of the enclosure. We stayed put, hoping they would come back. They remained fairly unhelpful,so we just did the best we could. I’m certain if we’d moved closer they would have moved away again. These animals know what you’re up to!
Our last drawing of the day was the colourful Cassowary. There were two of these amazing birds. We’d seen them prior to our (late) lunch and one had been sitting at the front of the enclosure. By the time we settled down to draw them they were both wandering their enclosures, so again it was a matter of waiting for one of them to take the same pose for a second time. There was a large heap of big green round eggs. An adult cassowary can be 6 feet tall or more, and the eggs were sized accordingly. Though they are native to Australia – not from around here -I’d never seen one before. It’s ‘hat’ is called a casque. It actually had metallic gold colouring at the back, so I had to get the gold acrylic paint out to finish it off when I got home.
It’s already a week ago and I’m not keeping up with my blogging. It was a Spring Sketchabout in the Royal Botanic Gardens. The previous day had been foul, but much to our surprise on the day it was sunny, though cold and windy. We were drawing along the ‘Spring Walk’ which was stunningly beautiful, and even sheltered so we weren’t cold at all.The panorama, as you can see from the photos, was daunting to say the least. I didn’t want to do a flower study, because that was getting a bit too botanical. So I found this stand of iris that looked pretty wonderful, drew them, then moved along and drew a polyanthus border.
During lunch, some hopeful ibis came hanging around. I managed to quickly sketch them before they were chased away by sketchers guarding their lunches. There have been ibis in the Gardens as long as I can remember. Over recent years they have become scavengers, and are often seen in numbers on the wheelie bins of restaurants around Sydney or anywhere with food scraps.
After lunch I wanted to draw a tree. However I wanted to sit with my friends more than that. I liked the yellow tulips, so I drew them pretty much ‘blind contour’. I don’t look at the page a lot when I’m drawing anyway. The colour is not true to nature and that wasn’t blind contour – I looked! In the background are the lyrics of ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips. I’m still singing it.
It’s winter again so the Australian Museum is the place to go to get out of the cold and rain. The only one of these birds I had drawn before was the southern boobook (owl) and my previous drawing is very different.
It was school holidays and by midday we needed to get away from the noise. That often happens and it doesn’t matter because it’s such a wonderful place for children and adults. You just go and get a bird or an animal on a plinth, put it in front of you and draw. Then when you’ve finished you go and get a different one.
The photo of the kookaburra was taken some time ago, but I often hear them from my house. If you haven’t heard one it would be a good idea to listen. It’s one of the best sounds in the world.