07 July 2015

Drawing Tuesday - Mezoamerica in Berlin ethnology museum

Having rushed through the Mesoamerica room several times on previous visits to the ethnology museum, I thought it might be a good idea to sit a while and draw. 
With just over two hours available, and many pages yet to fill in the sketchbook, I resolved to "draw like the wind" (in hindsight, perhaps not the best decision!). None, or very few, of the objects had their own labels, which helped in one way and was utterly frustrating in another - reading the labels wasn't a distraction, but the lack of all but general information (in German only) leaves you with very little sense of where the individual objects come from, when they were made, how they were used.
Some sort of hedgehog?
Not a hedgehog at all - the back of the figure on the right
And this is the other side of the figure on the left
The "hedgehog" drawn in compressed charcoal transferred to the other page,
marking out the shape of the front of the object

The little guy carrying a water jug on his back is also wearing a large mask.
The holes suggest it's an ocarina

Phytomorphic (pumpkin?) jar - gadrooned shape and pondrous handle
Still using compressed charcoal

Forgot to photograph the water jug with the bulbous legs ...
... and also these two small figures

So many bulgy bits!
Using pencil ... quite tentatively on the right, feeling the form

Lovely animals, especially the sleeping fox

Didn't draw these - they were brought together as examples of the four stages of Teotihuacan culture

Putting two and two together - empty chest, and the shackles - an image of a sacrificial victim?
Definitely too little time spent on these

Representation of a temple?

Wonderful plumed head-dress

Loved the look of these

Another "missing middle" - deliberate, or accidental breakage?

When I started drawing, the carving was a mass of unidentifiable lines and shapes,
but during the drawing it revealed itself
"Eagle feeding on a heart" (it's better to read the captions after you've done the drawing)

Another melon jar, and a painted bowl 
Final drawings of the session, not particularly well placed on the page
Much of what I was thinking while drawing is sheer speculation, not helped all that much by hasty online research. Is it important to know Teotihuacan from Totlec, or Colima from Huaxteken, or Nayarit warrior figures from Mayan rattle figures -- and how it all fits together? Well, it would help make "sense" of things...  I don't feel sympatico with a lot of these mesoamerican artifacts, but doing the research has thrown up some relevant vocabulary and it's enjoyable to browse various sites - eg, pre-columbian artifacts on this site, and here, and here; and closer to home, this little pottery dog from Colima, western Mexico, 300BC-300AD, in the British Museum (xolo) -

06 July 2015

Seeing and doing

One thing leads to another.

Searching for a sketchbook with blank pages, I started looking through the pages of the first one that came off the shelf ... and noticed how the strong sunlight would pass though several pages, even thick pages, at once, if the marks on them were dark enough.

Out came the camera, and then the photographs of the layered pages got a bit of tweaking in photoshop, starting with a simple conversion to Grayscale, and then trying out some filters.

Different qualities from different sorts of mark

Too realistic?
Using the Underpainting filter
Dry brush filter (under "Artistic" in the list)
Using the Cutout filter

Not grayscale
Poster edges
Graphic pen
Graphic pen with Levels adjusted
From even this short experiment, it's obvious that some effects work better than others. There are so many options in the Filters, and so many adjustments possible in each ... it's overwhelming. How do people find the ones that are most useful - how much of a learning curve is that?

Hit and miss has revealed Solarize and Cutout as worth trying again, if only to quickly see what sort of effects are possible ... before getting out the ink, brushes, pencils, scalpels and taking it forward the old-fashioned, manual way.

You could, of course, combine separate photos of marks on screen by using Layers. Getting to grips with Layers is on my list, but not near the top of it.

05 July 2015

Bikes in Berlin

In London, pedestrians increasingly have to watch out for bikes being ridden on pavements, sometimes heedlessly at speed - even though cycling on the footpath (pavement) is an offence under Section 72 of the Highways Act. But who bothers to enforce these things?

In Berlin, cyclists and pedestrians have coexisted for longer, there are many more bikes than in London, the streets are wider, and clearly marked cycleways are in place. Pedestrians still have to look out for bikes, for instance at bus stops and traffic lights, where they need to cross the cycleway. Those bikes travel at speed!

In places where the pavement is too narrow to incorporate a cycleway, it is often marked out on the road, even across junctions.

And of course, cyclists use bus lanes.

Most importantly, cars are used to bikes, and bikes are used to pedestrians. They look out for each other; there seems to be less aggression.

There is definitely less helmet-wearing, and hardly any day-glo clothing worn by cyclists. Lots of small children are on their own bikes, with the very small ones sometimes being towed in trailers.

You see some astonishing things being transported, precariously, on bikes
and personalisation of the machines -

04 July 2015

An interesting premise for an exhibition

One of our sunny-day lakeside trips in Berlin was to the Max Liebermann villa in Wannsee. It's a very popular place to visit, and no wonder. Not only was Liebermann a collector of impressionist paintings, and one of Germany's most important painters around 1900, but the house has a beautiful setting and an interesting history.
View of Wannsee from the terrace
View of house from lakeside
Back garden from an upstairs window
Liebermann had this summer house built in 1909 and produced 200 paintings here. He died in 1935, and in 1940  his widow was required to sign over the house to the Nazi state and it became a training centre of women workers in the post office. After her suicide on the eve of deportation, Liebermann's famous art collection was seized.

Subsequently the villa was used as a municipal hospital and Liebermann's studio as an operating theatre. In 1958 the dauther, Kaethe, sold the house back to Berlin, after which it housed a diving club. By 2006, consequent on the establishment of a Max Liebermann Society, the house started to be restored and is now open to a grateful public. The sizeable grounds contain a series of hedged "garden rooms" as well as, to the rear, a kitchen garden neatly planted in the French style.

Upstairs is, until 10 August, an exhibition entitled Liebermann and Van Gogh. They were both painting in the same area of the Netherlands, Drenthe, in 1882, and could so easily have met - in fact Van Gogh travelled to go see Liebermann after his brother told him about Liebermann's painting, "The Bleaching Field" (Vincent felt a great affinity with the German painter’s choice of subject and colour in capturing the nature of Drenthe) ... but three days earlier, Liebermann had left. Although the exhibition focussed in on a non-event, it was interesting to see the two painters' treatment of the same subjects side by side.
Orchard in Drenthe by Liebermann
... and by Van Gogh

Women sewing
... by Van Gogh
... and by Liebermann
Between 1882 and 1885, both painted peasants working in the fields, women sewing at the window, and weavers making cloth. Their subsequent histories are rather different - Liebermann went on to become an established portrait painter and honorary president of the Prussian Artists' Society, though after 1920 most of his paintings were of his garden at the villa.