Tag Archives: watercolour pencils

Following the path of the Night of Purnama

mt_agungPurnama is the night of the full moon.  In 1963 an English couple went to live high up on the slopes of Mt Agung,  this supposedly extinct volcano. On the night of Purnama,  the volcano blew its top. Things became very dramatic for several months, and Anna Mathews wrote a book about it, The Night of Purnama (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks). I have had this book for some years, and long been interested in going high up on Mt Agung to see where this all took place. I forced Broni to read the book, and once she had done so she was just as keen as I was.


Ikat weaving at Sidemen

The first part of the book is about the English couple coming to grips with living in Bali. Then the volcano erupts.  Balinese Hindu religion revolves around the Kalender Bali and  the ceremonies necessary to please/placate the gods. In 1963, a ceremony held once every hundred years, called Eka Dasa Rudra was due to be held high on Mt Agung, at Besakih, the mother temple. Travel agents from all over the world were due to arrive in Bali to see this spectacle. Consequently the government was keen to play down what was happening in East Bali, and the people affected were on their own.


Ergonomic seating at ikat weaving establishment

The Mathews lived in a high village called Iseh which is on a ridge looking directly across to the volcano, so they had a birds’ eye view. About two thousand people in the villages were killed. Those who were still alive came down the mountain to avoid the lava. And went back up. They had nowhere else to go, and they wanted to protect any livestock or property they had left.

From Iseh, the Mathews could see the lights going back up the mountain at night, even though it was forbidden. They were friendly with a village headman/policeman and went with him up to the high villages and saw the death and devastation (and picked up a small puppy that they eventually took back to England.)  Anna Mathews walked to Klung Kung and then Sanur.Having been up there now, it is just incredible. Read the book! I can’t tell the whole story, though I would like to. It’s gripping.

We first went to Sidemen. It was surprisingly high already. We stopped at a place where they were handweaving ikat cloth. No OH&S in Sidemen, or ergonomics. This is where my beautiful sarong had been made. I had seen ikat made before, but it was a more comprehensive look at the process here.


Quarry for lava.

All the way up the road there were many trucks, carrying lava down to be used in building. At each small village would be a small roadblock of villagers taxing the trucks with a small fee (for ruining the road). Which they were. We passed up through Selat, a market town that features in the book, and beyond that we came to the quarry where the trucks were loading up with the lava. A little further on, we found a cliff overlooking the quarry where were able to stop and take photos.

We went further up, on and on. No trucks now. I wanted to visit the high villages where the people died and see what he terrain was like.  Even on the Bali Pathfinder map (produced in Bali) not all the villages were showing. Had they been wiped out? There were two villages, Badeg Tengah and Badeg Kelodan, that I wanted to see. The people of one of those villages had practised black magic, so I wondered if a driver would take us. In fact our driver had not been there before, and we left him blissfully unaware of the black magic.  So,up we went, through the Badegs. I hadn’t been able to find a village called Sorgres on the map. It was the village where the Mathews found their puppy. However on the way back down, our driver spotted a  ‘Selamat Datang” (welcome) sign for Sorgra. It still exists, but is not even ‘a pub and a petrol pump’.


Steps up to the temple.

We came to the end of the road at Pura Pasar Agung (Temple of Agung market). The temple was way out of sight beyond the top of many stairs. We didn’t go up. We took photos of the vista from the car park. We could see for miles, all the way to the coast, but we were so high that in the photographs the landscape is obscured by the atmosphere.


View from the restaurant at Rendang


Iseh. The house of the Mathews is near the parked cars on the left.

We turned around and went down on our way to Iseh, which was on a different road, below Selat. We took a side trip for lunch near a town called Rendang. A hideous buffet at a restaurant with a beautiful view. That is where I sketched. When I looked at my photos aftwerwards, I was amazed how much more clearly I could see the distant landscape at the time, rather than in the photograph. Lost in the atmospheric mist.


Looking across at Mt Agung from the road near the house at Iseh

After lunch we continueds to Iseh, where we located the house where the Mathews lived. There are black and white photos in the book, and we saw the same view across to the mountain which unfortunately was obscured by cloud.

Many of these places we visited are not on any map. Google is not good with Indonesia. You will find Sidemen, Selat, Iseh and probably Pura Pasar Agung at the end of the road, but the smaller villages don’t exist for most maps.

Thoughts from the day…. It was greener than I expected up near the end of the road. No lava flowing now or volcanic gases. The distances were phenomenal. It is steep and it is a long way. And it is HOT. Having both recently read the book we could appreciate the difficulty of walking the distances involved. We are both SO glad we went.


Filed under Bali, sketchbook, sketching, Travel, watercolour, watercolour pencils

More machines at Cockatoo Island

lime_green_machine Back at Cockatoo Island last Sunday. I had hoped to go sketching on Saturday also but it had rained all night, was really damp outside and I thought I was getting a cold. Winter had arrived last week, but on Sunday the weather was much improved and we hopped on the ferry to Cockatoo Island with a visiting group of sketchers from Newcastle.

I decided to lathebaby myself a bit and stick to sketching inside the Turbine Hall, but in fact it was quite warm.  I drew the Indian Yellow machine in the morning. It was one I hadn’t seen before, and apparently it is a lathe. I blocked it in in Indian Yellow, dropped in some Alizarin Crimson, allowed it to dry, then drew with my Copic Multiliner. I made another pass, dampening it with a little more yellow, and adding some Antwerp Blue for the darker shadows.

Things are concerning at Cockatoo Island. I saw a big FOR LEASE sign – for retail, hospitality, corporate etc. Next thing they will be moving the developers in. That will be a tragedy. All the machines are being moved around, taken away,  and the view of those available is less than optimal now.  Perhaps they are being worked on by the team of volunteers, which of course is a good thing.

But finding a machine with a little light on it, while not sitting in the wind tunnel  of the walkway through the Turbine Shed proved a little tricky. After lunch I sat very close to this tall machine to sketch. I worked the way I have been doing a lot since my trip to Bali. I use either a yellow oxide or a blue-grey coloured pencil and roughly put the shape on the page. Depending on the complexity of the object, I either use pen first or watercolour first. I never rub out the watercolour pencil, so in most of my sketches, if you look at the larger size, you will see the original lines still there. Often they are a little distance from the final sketch, because I am not aiming to draw the object with the pencil, but to just get the size and proportion on the page. This one was done in Cadmium Yellow Light and Antwerp Blue


Filed under Cockatoo Island, Copic Multiliner, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour, watercolour pencils

A piece of my courtyard in Salamander Ink

salamander_treeNot the best sketch I have ever done. I was exhausted for some reason. But I told myself “do it anyway!”

The ink is a new one I bought in Florence at the pen shop and hadn’t used yet. I’ve been home since 19th May, but so many days with cold and rain. The colour of the ink is called Salamander. I was using it with a dip pen. As you see, it’s not waterproof. But the lines read as black, and when you add a little water you can pull out a wash in a sort of Perylene Green. I love the colour. I will fill up one of my fountain pens with it in a while. I added a bit of watercolour pencil to brighten it up a bit. I need the colour.

While sketching, I had Cossie Foo in a harness, attached to a chair. Immediately he goes round the hibiscus bush and shortens the length of the leash by about 90%. But he played happily there and wriggled a lot, chasing an insect as far as the leash would allow (maybe 12 inches) then wriggling on his back. Suddenly he jumped up, and ran inside, obviously scoffing at me. The harness lay there on the ground still with the clasps fastened. How did that happen? I had one eye on him the whole time.


Filed under dip pen, inks, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour pencils

Cosimo Foo the Fighter

cossie_foo His real name is Cosmo. But I sometimes call him Cosimo Foo the Fighter. It’s me he fights. Not so much now, as he will be two years old at Christmas. And I’ve worked out that when I get teeth and claws buried in my ankle, it’s always when I’m walking away from the kitchen. Food.
He’s a ragdoll, and they aren’t fully grown until they are three years old. He has settled down a lot, but we have still got a way to go.

image He’s an inside cat. Unlike my previous cats he can’t be trusted in the courtyard. He’s up over the fence and across the back lane chasing another cat, with no thought of looking out for traffic. And then there was the day he got out the front, went down the street and into a neighbours house through her security door. One big dog ignored him, but when the German Shepherd came, he came running out.

So what has taken me so long to start sketching him, when I sketched my other cats regularly? He hasn’t sat still. Here is what he was like when I first got him early in 2013.

imageNow you see he is a lot woollier, a lot bigger, and better still he has grown into his nose. He likes to get involved with the sketching. He knows if he can sit on the sketchbook AND the iPad he’s more likely to have my full attention.


Filed under cats, sketchbook, sketching, watercolour pencils

St John’s College

 st_johns_collegeLast Friday was a filthy day and I was stuck in a small room for several hours with only a view of these rooftops to amuse myself. It was so dark and rainy that often I couldn’t see the edges of the buildings at all. I had only my Lamy pen, and a blue-grey watercolour pencil. The little extra colour was put on later.

I also had only one hand free, so had to keep my sketchbook steady with the hand I was sketching with. At one point the sun came through the clouds and I was able to see where the shadows would fall. A crowd of people were walking along in bright sunlight, and suddenly umbrellas were up, coats were pulled over their heads and any free object held above their heads. Pelting down, while the sun was shining.

St John’s College is a residential Catholic college attached to the University of Sydney. It has a number of well-known alumni including the prime minister and treasurer (enough said) and is a beautiful building. However I am in two minds about it, because this college was relatively recently involved in a scandal about bullying. You can read about it here. Privileged young people with an over-developed sense of entitlement. Beautiful building or not, I turn my nose up at it as I go by.


Filed under Brown ink, Lamy Safari, sketchbook, sketching, Sydney University, watercolour, watercolour pencils

Siracusa relections

siracusa_boatsI have the John Lovett DVD and the way he does reflections is just amazing.  I watched the video, but mine is nothing like the way he does it. His are so simple and direct. Mine are played about in. But then again he has done it a million times.  I was working from a photo. (No turning your nose up here. It has been raining for three weeks and I also have some health issues.)  My water does look like the photo, so that’s something.

It is a photo I took in Siracusa, in Sicily. We were staying on the island of Ortigia, which is part of the city of Siracusa. It is joined on to Sicily by three short bridges and I took this photo when we were on our way to the flea market one morning. Although it was supposed to be an art tour, there was no waiting for anyone who stopped to take a photo, so it was just ‘grab a snap’ and move on.

And yes, I bought some interesting little things at the flea market.



Filed under boats, Charcoal pencil, Copic Multiliner, dip pen, inks, Italy, Ortigia, pen, Sicily, Siracusa, sketchbook, sketching, Travel, watercolour, watercolour pencils

Jorge Royan

jorge_sketchA valued friend of many sketchers, Jorge Royan, died unexpectedly just over a week ago as the result of a medical procedure. He is being missed by many people all over the world. Though I never met him face to face, I always thought I would. There is nothing I would have liked better than to sit and have a chat with Jorge.

Jorge’s sketching friends are doing a book of portraits, or they are sketching floral tributes, that will be put together as a book for his family. This is my contribution. I didn’t know how to approach it. A hard thing to do. I decided to use the mixed media techniques I have been using recently. Watercolour, watercolour pencils, gesso, charcoal pencils, both black and white. I am not a portrait artist, so I am happy enough with it.

Jorge started the Sketching Workshop a couple of years ago and I was lucky enough to be asked to join right away. The group is deliberately kept to 150 members, so that we all have the opportunity to get to know one another.  We are all peers – relatively competent in sketching – so that we can critique one another’s work from an equal footing. And critique we do.  The words ‘wow’ and ‘amazing’ are forbidden. It is a truly international group – not dominated by any one nationality. We have great projects and great fun with them. Jorge never asked for anything in return. He wasn’t selling anything.  His motto was “all that is not given is lost,” and that philosophy has influenced  the group. To me, he was the non-commercial face of sketching.



Filed under Charcoal pencil, gesso, inks, sketching, watercolour, watercolour pencils