At Casa Cuseni in Taormina, this blue door was across the terrace from the room at the top of the house where we had breakfast each day. I would have liked to sketch it at the time, but I was jet-lagged and getting used to how cold it was in Sicily.
Taormina is built on a hill, and Casa Cuseni is quite high up with wonderful views of the bay. The house of Casa Cuseni is a museum and we were so happy we had chosen to stay there. It was cold and rainy except for our last day, but the gardens are wonderful. It would be so nice to be there in the warm weather.
With this sketch I used some techniques from my John Lovett book. I have used watercolour, ink and gesso. I would have liked to introduce more of his techniques, but I have photographs of grungier doors that will suit them better. I wanted to keep the colours of this lovely blue door more true to life.
This is my Christmas present, but I didn’t get it until May. There is a story behind that. Last year when I was in Barcelona, there was a wonderful ceramic shop near our apartment. I very much admired, but didn’t buy, an oil bottle there. When I got home I wondered around WHY I hadn’t bought it.
So Annie gave me one for Christmas. She bought it here locally, and just as well, because when I put it into action, the top didn’t fit. She took it back without any problem, and as we had already decided our itinerary in Italy, I said ‘you can buy me one in Arezzo.’ There is a lovely shop with ceramics and food delicacies underneath Santa Maria della Pieve, on the corner with the Corso. But when we got there they didn’t have any oil bottles. So this one came from the market in Florence, home of all good things.
The reason I drew it in green is because I bought myself a new fountain pen in Rome. I was wandering the streets near my hotel and came upon this pen shop having a closing down sale. It is a Campomarzio Disengo pen. I loved the bright colours, and it came with green ink. They had the most amazing pens (and they are available in Australia…..at a price.) Just as well,as they use cartridges (there are cartridges in that bottle) and I will be able to get them here. They have a shop in the QVB. So, this is with my new pen, with ink that is not impermeabile, and some watercolour washes.
Bologna has the most amazing windows. This is just one of many I photographed. They are set off by these wonderful red blinds. I sketched this with a dip pen and my dark brown ink I bought in the pen shop in Florence. First opportunity I have had to try it out. It is not “impermeabile” (waterproof.) I am totally up to speed with Italian words regarding pens and inks now.
I am a bit tempted to GET red blinds, but I don’t know how well the look would go with a Newtown terrace house. Mine would probably end up rather more like this one. But I am in the market for new blinds at the moment, so you never know.
Another thing I love about Bologna windows is the sheer variety of windows in the one building, randomly placed, obviously over centuries. This is in one of the great palazzi of Bologna, but smaller buildings can have an amazing variety too.
This is a drawing of a small building with random windows in Bologna I did about ten years ago. Does anyone know where in Bologna this ? I have no idea. I didn’t know the city so well then.
Here are some more with the red blinds. These ones are in Piazza Santo Stefano.
An unusually rustic one here with plain wooden shutters.
An oval window. In Sicily they said it was the Arab influence.
Two for the price of one. A shuttered green window reflected in another window.
So many beautiful windows. I could show you so many more. What’s not to love about Bologna?
Although things have been busy since I got home, I went out sketching at Summer Hill with Chris Haldane recently. Chris showed me some local architectural gems and we both chose this old milk bar to sketch. You can see Chris’ sketch here, and she tells a lot more about the history of the milk bar, that I didn’t know at all. She knows the area much better than I do, though it is not so far from where I live.
It is winter here, but the sun was bright and we could sit outside on a corner without getting cold. We both found this sketch a challenge in the bright sunlight. To me, the point of interest was the pale washed out blue around the upper window. But the sun on the red brickwork was so strong. It was hard to get the tones right. We both want to go again and give it another try.
On my final day in Hong Kong I went for a walk around Tsim Sha Tsui. I always stayed there on my previous visits to Hong Kong, so it was revisiting familiar places. But it was a Sunday morning and none of the shopping centres were open.
Shopping in Hong Kong has changed a great deal since I was last there in 1983 (!) and seems to be completely aimed at visitors from China. Back in the old days there were shops with beautiful things from China, cloisonné, jade, embroidered linens. Now shop after shop contains Chinese traditional medicine, of interest to visitors from China who prefer to buy in Hong Kong, but not to me. Although I did have a quick look to see if I could find the product called ‘Rejuvenation of Youth’ that I saw in Shanghai in 1983. No luck. The shopping centres were slow to open after midday, but again, not much of interest to the westerner. Wrong shopping centres, obviously. I went back to the hotel to pack and have lunch, then the heavens opened.
In the early evening I caught a cab for the airport. I had high hopes of sketching an amazingly attractive cocktail. Hong Kong airport is huge, and Cathay Pacific has three business class lounges. On our previous visit we had gone to one called The Bridge. As I had gone to get a second drink, I had seen people sitting up at the bar drinking these amazing cocktails. But this time I was directed to a lounge called The Pier, where drinks were plain and the food plainer. Cathay Pacific is supposed to be ‘best business class’. I think they can do better than that. So here is what I had. A vodka and tonic, a muffin, then the ten hour flight home ( and yes they did feed us on the plane).
Hong Kong airport, as I said, is huge. I think I’ve got the hang of it now. Once I had divested myself of my large suitcase, I still had my hand luggage which while not so huge, was heavy. It contained all the Italian ceramics, both for me and for gifts for a friend. Heavy.
So, after passing through immigration and security, up and down many escalators, and then catch a train, and more escalators. Rome is the same, catch a train to the boarding gate. But I am wise to them now, where there is an escalator, there is a lift. So I sussed out the lifts and didn’t beat my heavy little bag about on the escalators.
This particular Saturday in Hong Kong I was lucky enough to be there for an Urban Sketchers Hong Kong event. Three of us got off to an early start, and the rest of the Urban Sketchers arrived around lunchtime. We were sketching the Sheung Wan area, as the group had an upcoming exhibition in a coffee shop there, and wanted plenty of sketches of the local area.
There was plenty to sketch there. Lots of urban grunge with a Hong Kong flavour. What I chose to sketch was limited by finding a handy step or wall to sit on. I was so lucky to find somewhere right opposite the wonderful old green door. Or would you call it a gate?
Then I moved on to Tai Ping Shan Street, a steep street where the upper area was populated by urban sketchers and the lower part by graffiti artists. A real artistic happening, much commented upon by passers-by.
The rain mostly held off, but during a little sprinkle of rain I saw something that will remain in my mind. One of the sketchers, sitting on his stool, sketching in the rain, with another person standing holding the umbrella over him. I guess that’s what happens when you’re so good that people want to watch you work!