Thursday, October 19, 2023

Aotearoa New Zealand Watercolour Journey

Last month I posted about my New Zealand Sketchbook.  I made it primarily for my European friends, none of whom had been to my homeland, but when I received my copy I was disappointed with it, because although it was for my friends, there was nothing personal in it. I had included information about each place I had painted, but it seemed bland without the personal touch. 

So I decided to have another try and added personal information about why I was in the place I was painting and with whom. The paintings are the same but this time there is a story accompanying the pictures.  I posted copies to my EU friends and they tell me the personal stories made the book special for them. 
Perhaps even tourists wanting a momento of their travels would prefer the Watercolour Journey version as well, I'm not sure. 

It's available through your local online bookseller or through Amazon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Life drawing in 2002

A 2002 story from my pre-blog days: 

Community art courses are/were held in Grafton for a week every year and in 2002 a Life Drawing course was advertised as 'not for beginners'. I had been attending a Sunday life drawing group for some years and had already done the watercolour courses on offer, so I registered. 

Normally you have a single model for life drawing but we had an extraordinary couple, man and wife, who had were able to hold poses for long periods.  In the breaks they did stretching exercises and yoga to help their weary muscles. 

Our teacher was the gifted Michael Taylor, originally from the UK but by then living in northern NSW. 
I soon discovered why the class had been advertised as not forbeginners. The participants were experienced and committed. They worked like Trojans from the beginning, getting to the class early to set up their gear and working until late before retiring exhausted to the pub. I had never attended a class like it. We all knew that having two models who could maintain poses over long periods was a seldom gift. 

Michael started gently each morning with poetry, easing us into the day.  We worked mainly in pastel and charcoal on paper. Once I got my hand in, by about day three, I changed to watercolour. 
'Oh yes, use what you prefer,' said Michael.

I was staying in an old wooden hotel in town, one of those two storied period buidings with a veranda around the top floor. Early each morning I would take my cup of tea out onto the veranda and sit outside for a while preparing for the day. As the days went by I was joined for a chat by Michael who happened to be staying at the same hotel. I discovered a charming and thoughtful man. 

One morning late in the course Michael asked me if I had noticed anything about the work being produced. The 15 participants were all women as I recall, and they were producing very diverse work. We did a 'show and tell' each day, turning our easels towards the centre so we could discuss the work as a group with Michael providing commentary, nudging us into broadening our scope. I couldn't think of anything that stood out about the work. 

'Well, have a look today and you will see that only you and one other participant are producing work that is not aggressive,' said Michael. 

I had heard one participant complaining that her drawings always looked as if the man was raping the woman but I hadn't thought much about it. That day I looked with fresh eyes and discovered Michael's observation was correct. A distinct feeling of threat was a common thread amongst  the flailing arms and legs. Our models were unfailingly gentle with each other and seeing the drawings through this new lens was thought provoking.

By day five I was using full sheets of paper, 56 X 76 cm. Doing life drawings in watercolour is rewarding but difficult because you can't change anything so you have to get it right the first time. Using a large format increases the pressure because the paper is made from 100 percent cotton and is expensive. By the time the course finished I was exhausted. 

I drove away tired, thoughtful and elated, with lots of work packed in the back of the car. Most of it has been discarded over the years, but I hung a large picture of the backs of our two standing models which I thought successful and which reminded me of those five rewarding days.  
I put a couple of front views into storage to work on 'some day'. They seemed dominated by explicit male genitalia and I wasn't sure what I'd do with them but last weekend when the world seemed even more than usually crazy and I needed a break from social media, I remembered them and finally retrieved them from the folder in the garage. 

I made a beach scene out of them, splashing blue with abandon and collaging one of the figures in twice. It was a good distraction, though I'm not sure about the final result. Anyway, I put it in a frame so when I next retrieve it from the garage I can view it with a dispassionate eye and decide if it is worth keeping. 
In the meantime I am considering adding some blue to the picture I particularly like, but I'd be more careful with that one.