This is the first watercolour painting I ever did, so many years ago, and I have just had it framed. It was painted on a full sheet of watercolour paper.
At that time, a friend and I went to Art in Action, a weekend of workshops held annually by the Combined Art Societies of New South Wales. In visiting other classes at the venue, we came across Lyn Butchart, and decided we would like to do some classes with her. Lyn had a studio in Manly at the time, so it was quite a trek across the bridge in peak hour traffic, but worth it.
Lyn teaches ‘creative watercolour techniques’. This was my first introduction to watercolour painting (I was an acrylic painter at the time) so consequentlyI have never learnt traditional watercolour. In Lyn’s classes, you decided what you would paint, and everyone painted something different. I wanted to try her underwater techniques, so she directed me to a big stash of source books. I found the big fish in one photo, the weed in another and the small fish in a third photo.
First, I masked everything. Then added some watercolour texture mediums at the bottom and allowed to dry. Next, the background was put on, very wet indeed. Time for a walk to the art shop and probably lunch as well, while this dried. It had to be very dry before the masking fluid was taken off.
So then there was a layer on the leaves, and more masking. It went on and on. It look me a lot of time to finish this painting at home, layering, and under each water drop on a leaf, I had to paint a shadow. Finally it was finished and has been sitting in one of my art bags for at least fifteen years, maybe more. Big paintings like this are expensive to frame, but now it is done and on the wall. My new teal wing chair comes today and will sit below it.
I made Kylie in a sculpture class in my first year at the Sydney Gallery School in 2002. Everyone in the class made one. We had to copy a Greek head using Hebel block. They no longer use this material for sculpture for safety reasons – dust, I think. Somebody said ” we ought to give her a name”. Someone else said, “what about Kylie?” And it was agreed. She is Kylie.
Sculpture was a mandatory class. I was hopeless at it. My hands and wrists are weaker than average due to having polio when I was two years old. Luckily I had a kind teacher, who would say ” show me where you want to cut, and I will do it for you”. I not only passed, but got a credit, much to my surprise. Probably for attendance.
I have had a lot of experience with faux finishes in the past. Kylie previously had a different finish…pewter. She lives on the floor in the lounge and holds back the door when the breeze blows through and it would otherwise slam. As I have been redecorating my lounge to a certain extent, I decided to do Kylie with a verdigris finish. I have another “head”. It is a self-portrait in clay, which was easier on the hands. That one is also in verdigris and lives in the kitchen. Doesn’t look a lot like me, but there is a bit of resemblance.
So this week, when I had cleared away my daily bookcloth-making equipment, I would put another layer of paint on Kylie. It took me a couple of days as the weather is cold and I wanted to be certain each coat and the dribbles of paint were totally dry. She is back in place now and the colour looks great.
Most mornings, for over a week, the first thing I have done is make book cloth. It needs to dry overnight and the only place I can keep it safe from the cat is on top of the washing machine, so it’s one sheet at a time.
Three of these pieces are from silk scarves bought in Bali in May for this purpose. I previously used this beautiful red and gold, and another similar fabric of a vibrant purple from fabric I had bought about ten years ago. After much searching, and a visit to the fabric market at Klung Kung, I found that although there are many gilded fabrics that look similar to these, they are all polyester, and not suitable for bookcloth. One must use pure cotton or silk, which is then laminated to kozo paper.
At Klung Kung market in February I found a navy and white pure cotton man’s headcloth from which I have made one piece of bookcloth so far. It will be very robust and look good too. When I got home, it occurred to me that I could make bookcloth from the silk scarves that are available everywhere in Bali. So in May, I bought these three scarves. The blue one at the top is not as blue as it has photographed. More a burgundy/tan colour with some blue and magenta. I think it is my favourite.
The pink has photographed true to colour, though the one with the peacock green pattern is brighter.
Three scarves (and a headcloth) make a LOT of bookcloth. Each scarf has used a whole sheet of kozo paper. The silk is not very robust. When I made my first piece of bookcloth, I thought I had damaged the silk in the process, but once I went on to make the others, I saw that the silk, which is finer than silk I have used for bookcloth before, has many small flaws and I am not making them worse. See close-up.
I’m not sure how the silk will last ‘in the field’. The books are intended for the 30th anniversary of my first trip to Bali in 1986. We have enough bookcloth though, that should it become too ragged, we can make new covers.
This Volterra sketch is done on pale grey paper. The choice of colour was inspired by the colour of the building. It was partly grey, partly ochre. So I got out my Prismacolours to add some yellow ochre, partly to make this sketch fit in with the rest of the group, partly because the grey is a little pale for a mid-tone.
Something completely different coming up in my next blog post.
So far in this new Volterra series on toned paper, I am sticking to earth tones. Maybe when I get further down the track I may surprise us all with something entirely different. Strangley, I have found, now that I have three of the new series on toned paper done, that two of the earlier series can also be included, as they are predominantly ochre in colour. See below; I have included them again so you can see what I mean.
I am enjoying working on the toned paper again. However this Posca pen
has inspired me to buy a few more, and when I get off the toned paper I will be experimenting with them.
A number of other people are doing Volterra drawings from Google Maps travelling a particular route, which can be seen here.
Our drawings are due on 20th August and are slowly being published on the Facebook group SW Games.
This is my strategy for my new Volterra series. Some time recently I saw a sketch I really liked on toned paper. It occurred to me that I had a sketchbook of toned papers, half full. This is the first of my new Volterra series, aiming for streetscapes, and the ‘look’ of a series.
Another reason for this strategy is that on Saturday I bought a white Posca pen to try it out. That’s what I am using for the whites here.
I had forgotten about this sketchbook. I don’t like the cover. Now I have decided to make a new cover. The problem was that the itajime paper I had used for the cover was semi transparent, so when I glued it to the grey bookboard, it didn’t look so good. I shellacked it all over, but was never thrilled with the result. I think I will use itajime paper again, but put some plain white paper underneath. Then I will be more inclined to pull out the book and use it.
So I started the Gordon Cullen inspired walk through Volterra last week. I wasn’t happy with how it went. I had taken my own images from Google Street View, and they were mostly of doors and windows. Those, along with rooflines are what I like to sketch when I’m out in the field.
The second image (the yellow one) was the one I did first, then I realised my ‘mistake’ in not including more streetscapes, and pulled out some more images to work from. I had painted the basics in watercolour first, then used Noodlers brown ink which does not smudge. Then final watercolour and a little white pen.
But the second image I drew – the one with the red awning, I used a different process. Ink first with Super5 fountain pen with Noodlers Bulletproof black ink. But it smudged under my hand, even though I had gone away for a while to let it dry. My second step was to paint in the shadows with a mixed black, then some minimal colour. Even hours later, the ink bled into the pale yellow ochre wash on the buildings.
Well….on the third day, Cosmo the cat didn’t want me to draw. He wanted attention. He sat on the sketchbook and bit right through the page…through the yellow drawing and one on the reverse side that I was just starting. Which is why it is smaller. Eventually he had to be shut in another room because when I started the third sketch with very wet watercolour, reserving the whites – he rolled on it.
At this point in the project, there was some discussion with others who are doing the project and I decided my sketches didn’t look enough like ‘a series’. So I have started again with a new strategy to ensure that it will be more like a series.