31 October 2015

Happy Hallowe'en!

This man is blowing a glass pumpkin -

See the entire process - it takes about 6 minutes - here.


Meanwhile, in Annecy, as we dragged our suitcases to the train station, we walked past a bar that overnight had sprouted some Hallowe'en decorations -

30 October 2015

Car boot miscellany

(Click photos to enlarge.) Objects in their groupings become still lives - you could paint these scenes - amid so much dross and wasteful clutter, amid sadness and desperation. What is it, though, that makes this "stuff" fascinating?

29 October 2015

Last bike ride of the season

Revisiting (mid-October) some favourite places in the Olympic Park, taking the time to get the camera out. And finding new things!
Walking towards the Velodrome, over the river - there's been lots of kayaking activity here
A discovery - the Waterglades wetlands area
Florid hillside! All those seasonal changes since the start of the sessions in May
Another encircled tree
Reminds me of a Klimt birch forest painting (or maybe this one)
The "mirrored bridges" -  two bridges at angles - the park reveals itself in layers

As the fountains were pretty much deserted (as in this little video) - no shrieks of delighted children - it was possible to hear the waters' rhythms and the different sorts of noises they made throughout the sequence -

Here's hoping Bikeworks will run these "cycling in older age" sessions again - I for one feel so much more confident on a bike now. Once you know how, you may never forget how to ride a bike, but it does take a while to build up a bit of bravado.

28 October 2015

North of Vauxhall

Strictly speaking, Bonnington Square is slightly east, rather than north, of Vauxhall station. I came across its leafy corners on the way home from Camberwell one day in 2012, and it was a pleasure to revisit, seeing the lunchtime crowd at the cafe/deli -
and finding the passage into Harleyford Road Gardens, what an oasis -
A detail of the gardens, with interesting tile or bricks -

On the way to Newport Street Gallery, this mosaic sign caught my eye -
Horatio Myers & Co. Ltd - iron and brass bedstead manufacturers
 A view of the Barbara-Hepworth-inspired pop-up garden -
 Heading north...

Veering towards the Albert Embankment, these tiles along the window ledges at street level -
 Another view of that building, some sort of secular cathedral by the look of it -
It's called Southbank House, and is the only surviving part of the Doulton Pottery complex in Lambeth.

 On the embankment, this strange edifice commemorates White Hart Dock -
Another plaque reminds us of the cholera epidemic that struck the area in 1848-9, killing hundreds. At the time the housing was squalid and crowded, with no standpipes for getting water - it had to be obtained from the river. And what a river ... it would be another decade before "the great stink" forced Parliament to do something about it; Joseph Bazelgette brought in sewers and water treatment.

A further view of the White Hart Dock artwork-
And this leviathan stands in front of the International Maritime Organization building on Albert Embankment -

Techy ... or tetchy?

After successfully writing one post with Blogsy, I have suffered a setback - failure to repeat the feat. Or failure to follow instructions? I managed to turn the ipad into a truculent, uncooperative piece of technology, and sent it off to its room to sulk.

Creative tracing - making pretty patterns based on photos - has been proceeding. Latest discovery: when drawing with thin lines, zoom in till the line is wider than your finger.

This short post is brought to. you by the limited facilities of Safari.

27 October 2015

Drawing in London museums

"Drawing Tuesday" has been going for a year, starting with my anticipation of a course I'd signed up for, called "Drawing in museums". When that course didn't run, I decided to go drawing anyway, and since October 2014 at least a dozen people have joined me at various times and venues, some consistently and others as their schedules permit.

We've drawn, one or more times, in -
  • Wallace Collection - armour 
  • - furniture 
  • Wellcome Collection 
  • V&A - glass gallery 
  • - medieval gallery 
  • - ceramics gallery
  • British Museum - Assyrian gallery 
  • - Korean gallery 
  • - Islamic gallery 
  • - Japanese gallery
  • - Barkcloth exhibition 
  • Natural History Museum - minerals 
  • - spirit collection 
  • Horninam Museum 
  • Museum of London - downstairs 
  • -medieval gallery 
  • Docklands Museum - top floor 
  • Imperial War Museum - WW1 galleries & central court 
  • Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood
  • Maritime Museum, Atlantic gallery
  • Science museum - Flight gallery 

Other possibilities for future Drawing Tuesdays -

  • Hunterian (Royal College of Surgeons) 
  • National Gallery 
  • National Portrait Gallery 
  • Somerset House 
  • Sir John Soane's Museum (your necessities must be transferred to a plastic bag)
  • Bank of England Museum
Some appealing places aren't open Tuesday mornings -
  • William Morris Museum, Walthamstow 
  • UCL Museums - Grant Zoology Museum 
  • - Petrie Museum
"Tuesday is drawing day" - Tuesday is the highlight of my week - I look forward to it and, through writing up a blog post each time, look back on it. The time spent writing and reflecting allows me to do my own evaluation, even if not all of that makes its way into the post. ("Never point out the things you did wrong" - !) Well, you can probably read between the lines...

One of the "best bits" is the time spent absorbed in the drawing, especially when it works. Though even when it's going wrong, and you carry on regardless, you often find you break through "wrong" and it starts to go "right" in unexpected ways.

Another "best bit" is the chat, especially the focused-on-drawing (or art) chat, that takes place over coffee/lunch. I have gained so much from this, and from seeing what objects people choose to draw, what media they use, and how they do it.

On the other hand, drawing conditions in museums can be difficult - especially when the drawing itself isn't going well. We do try to find well-lit, quiet corners, but sometimes the light is bad; sometimes the noise and the flow of people (so many people in some places!) is disturbing. It's not always easy to ignore a cluster of schoolchildren standing around discussing what you're doing! (But goodness, these kids need all the encouragement they can get...)

Making close contact with museum objects, and thereby with their makers, their context, their traditions, is for me extremely satisfying. Drawing the objects, or a collection of objects, is very different from taking a photo, or even from doing some research on the object or topic. What you draw may live in the museum, but it becomes yours. Your sketchbook becomes a museum of your own ... a sort of cabinet of curiosities, collected for your own reasons.

For some people, choosing what to draw proves difficult. There are so many possibilities; and sometimes you're determined to find something that will fit into a theme that you're working on. One approach is very simple: start anywhere. What you do will lead you on - maybe to something similar, or maybe you decide you want something completely different. After all, you've committed about two hours, hardly a lifetime! - and even if you're not satisfied with what you've done, you're getting an inkling of why that might be, and what you can change next time.

When you do a sketchbook course, you're told not to tear any pages out, even if you really hate what's appeared on them. A lot has been written on the importance of "learning from failure" - perhaps less has been written about the pleasure of looking back and realising that now you can do better, or can avoid the pits that you fell into, back then. But guidance on reworking your sketchbooks is less clear. There can times when it's good to revisit a subject, and times when it's better to move on. I have some pages that I'll return to "one day", don't we all?

Some practical things that have emerged so far:
- "blind drawing" is a great way of warming up and getting your eye in 
- a camera is so useful for getting a closer view of an object - take a photo and zoom in on the screen (drawing from the screen isn't "cheating", imho)
- when you show your work to other people, you look at it differently yourself
- looking at your work upside down can reveal things that need changing

My time in Berlin confirmed that it's exciting to go to a new city and see new museums, new objects, new ways of arranging them. Back home, though - it's wonderful to have (free, at the moment) access to London's wonderful museums ... and there's so much yet to be discovered in them.

Drawing elsewhere
On Christina Laurel's blog you can read about her contribution to her museum's (Greenville County Museum) regular activity:
"Sketching in the Galleries session .... The Museum provides Sunday drop-in opportunities that are free and open to the public, no preregistration required. During the sketching Sundays, visitors sit on stools, are loaned sketchpad and graphite pencil, and are treated to a mini drawing lesson from 2-3pm. Each week is different, with offerings of music, history, film, and demonstrations. Duke Energy is the series sponsor, but it is the Museum that should receive credit for initiating this level of community engagement. Bravo!"

I'm keeping an eye open for more of these.
The Big Draw at Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey

26 October 2015

Local show

The cafe round the corner, Boulangerie Bon Matin, has walls that cry out for pictures. This exhibition is by Joan Podel, who has lived in London for over a decade but hails from Manhattan. 
She makes woven paper collages - here are a couple (unfortunately with reflections) -

"Joan’s art journey began scouring the antique and flea markets in Manhattan, buying beautiful hand made rolls of old paper, and other quirky items such as necklines from old gowns that had been hand embroidered by skilled seamstresses in France.  She saved these special items for many years until one day, during a bout of depression, she had the idea of taking out all her saved and cherished items to create her art we see today. She began creating two collages, cut them by eye with a scissor and began weaving all the sliced and cut strips of paper to create her first body of work which is Woven Collages.   Each Woven Collage is an Original, no two can ever be the same." (via) 

25 October 2015

Testing ... testing

When it comes to the ipad,I am app-shy. Or possibly app-averse ... some would say app-phobic.

Taking the ipad course at CQ winter school has emboldened me to try other apps, Blogsy for instance. This post is a test of its resilience and my own endurance.

And of some practical things - for instance, is a double space needed between paragraphs?

Small triumph, the image actually uploaded! It's an example of "creative tracing", or at least that's what I'm calling it. It's a bit like colouring-in, only instead of getting out the crayons you open an app on the ipad. I used Brushes, and this is the sequence of steps.

1. open a new file in the Gallery

2. upload a photo from your camera roll or a folder

3. make the photo layer about 60% opaque, to see your lines better

4. using the "round ended" brush, draw in the lines - this is the bit that takes time....

In the screenshot you can see most of the settings used for the brush, but the most important ones are the width. I used 7px for the heavy lines and 4, 3, and 2 px for the others.

One of the moves that isn't automatic yet is to use two fingers for enlarging or moving the photo around. Using just one finger is likely to leave an unwanted line ... you've probably already spotted some.

For comparison, the original photo.



Some photos from a recent trip to Liverpool.

Pavements in the docks area

Dazzling ferry - by Peter Blake

A history of the dazzle ships

One of the Liver Birds looks out to sea, the other inland

Old & new

Old being made new

Colour & pattern


An especially low tide, thanks to the 19-year lunar cycle

Broken reflections
Some blurred walls seen by the camera from the departing train -