Monday 28 April 2014

Sketching Antiques in Brisbane

On Sunday I joined fellow Urban Sketchers from Brisbane on a sketch crawl. We met at the Woolloongabba Antique Centre & Cafe. It is an Aladdin's cave of wonderful antiques and collectibles. 

There were so many things just begging to be sketched it was hard to choose. The Barber Shop was wonderful. The colourful decor coupled with a comfortable seat made it a perfect sketching spot. One of the barbers was happy to pose for us. I didn't do him justice but we had a good time.

 The Barber Shop - Ink - Fabriano Venezia Sketchbook ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

After spending an hour or so drawing inside, we walked up the road and spent some time in the pedestrian precinct near The Gabba Stadium. I loved the corner building housing Absolutely Fabulous - it's famous for gifts. 

Absolutely Fabulous - water soluble ink & watercolour ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

In spite of packing carefully, I managed to forget two important pieces of sketching equipment - my favourite Lamy Safari and my little bottle of water for painting. Sketchers are a resourceful lot so I used a water soluble Pilot pen and a black ball point pen. The Pilot was quite good used with some watercolours and a water brush, although I do prefer using my travel sable brush.

The old Moreton Rubber Building has been around since 1890. My recent sketch of the Bonded Stores in Margaret Street has spurred my interest in old buildings. This article from 2008 in the Courier Mail tells the story of this building.

Moreton Rubber Building, Logan Road Brisbane ink, gouache and watercolour
 ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

A page pre-prepared with grey gesso that echoed the aged building seemed to be the right choice. However, there are drawbacks to using gesso. A good pen can be ruined by the rough surface and both the Pilot and the ballpoint weren't tough enough for the job. A traditional nib pen would most likely be best for this surface. On my return home, I added gouache and more pen lines with a fine liner. The toned paper is enjoyable to work on but I think in future I will keep to a watercolour wash or invest in some proper toned paper. My plan is to return to this grand old building to do another painting.

I had left my car near the Antique Centre so after lunch I returned and completed a couple more drawings inside. For these I used the Bic ballpoint and was rather pleased with the results.

  Blue Willow - ballpoint pen ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

 Giant Fork & Spoon ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

Old Telephone & Coffee Grinder ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

Monday 21 April 2014

43rd Worldwide Sketch-crawl Brisbane

My day started early with a stop in Margaret Street, Brisbane to draw the Bonded Stores. These buildings have just lost an appeal by Brisbane Heritage to the Queensland Heritage Council to save them from demolition by developers. The vote was close by 6-4 votes but it still means that they will come down.

Bonded Stores Margaret Street, Brisbane - Fabriano Venezia sketchbook 
©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

My sketch was on a page prepared with gesso/gouache under painting. On site I did a drawing using a Lamy Safari (EF nib) and Noodler"s black ink. On my return home I added more gouache - a sad drawing.

Next stop was the Queensland Parliament House in George Street. I wanted to try using loose watercolour washes for the building with no pencil or pen drawing. I left the double spread to dry planning to return later to do the drawing.

I joined my fellow sketchers and moved on to Old Government House. This building now forms part of QUT Garden Point Campus and houses the William Robinson Art Gallery, museum and café. (Unfortunately all closed during our visit as it was Easter holidays!)

Old Government House QUT ink and w/c Fabriano Venezia sketchbook 
©2014 Carol Lee Beckx 

Turning to face a different direction, I was struck by the contrasting modern buildings - Garden Theatre and the Science building.

Garden Theatre Ink and w/c Zeta Sketchbook ©2014 Carol Lee Beckx

The drawing of Parliament house was quite a challenge, particularly as it was almost lunch time. I used a Zeta A4 Sketchbook with a Lamy Safari (EF nib) and Noodlers black ink. Zeta is wonderful for ink but watercolour reacts very differently so smooth even washes just don't happen!
I debated whether I should add more watercolour for greater depth to the sketch.In the end I have left it as it was…I may still add more colour. The eternal question - when to stop?

Our crawl ended at Pancake Manor for coffee, lunch and a last quick sketch - a good day.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Drawing - facing fears and overcoming one's inner critic

Over the last two weeks I have been taking part in an online class on Illustrated journaling. I figured there is always something new to be learned and I was right. 
It's been a busy time as I have had commission paintings to complete as well as work needed for an upcoming exhibition.

Chinese ceramics - Ink wash, gouache and dip pen © 2014 Carol Lee Beckx

The course has been a good impetus for daily drawing; for trying new materials and exploring different methods. Certain aspects of my art practice have also been clarified. I am a painter. I am a drawer (?) that sounds like a piece of furniture - sorry draftsman.

I am not and never will be a "coloured - penciller". However, I do have new found respect for those who practise the craft. One needs loads of patience and a vast number of different colours.  The former I have when doing something that I love, but this medium uses up my patience quotient rapidly. Yes, I enjoy watercolour pencils used in a rough calligraphic way, but endless layering and blending - no way, not for me.

Beetroot - FW Acrylic inks calligraphic pen © 2014 Carol Lee Beckx

The course has also highlighted a common problem among the participants - how to overcome the critic that sits on your shoulder telling you that what you are doing is rubbish; that you can't draw; that people will laugh at your efforts etc. etc.etc. It's a boring monologue that doesn't let up, a constant stream of negativity. Consequently you stop, tear out the page, throw the book across the room and stop trying.

I like to couple advice on beating the inner critic with this quote by Chuck Close talking about inspiration:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.

All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction." 

So often we stop doing things because we are afraid of criticism, failure and rejection. Sometimes we don’t even start. Creative people often use procrastination as an avoidance technique.

The dialogue goes something like this:
            Ill start drawing when my children are at school/ university/ when I retire/when I build a Studio/ after the holidays/ when I am on holiday and so on.
I encounter this constantly in my classes. Students have not done anything since their school days because the inner critic keeps telling them their work is no good. Before even picking up a pencil there are exclamations of:  “I can’t even draw a straight -line.” Well, that’s where a ruler is very handy.

The Solution ?
  • Just start - draw something; anything. It doesn't have to be an important thing. Then draw another thing. Keep working.
  • Set a time limit with a reward for yourself when the time is up and you haven’t stopped working - this can be as short as 20 minutes (and the reward doesn’t have to be chocolate!)
  • Try to avoid constant self-criticism before you have completed the task.
  • Rather than sitting with your work, walk away from it and come back to it later when you can assess your progress in a less emotional way.
  • Assess it as though you are someone else and try to be kind. Look for the positive qualities first; then honestly look at where you could improve.

I encourage my students to own their first attempts. I suggest they buy a proper hard cover
bound journal which makes tearing pages out really hard. A ring bound book says - 
“just rip out your feeble attempt, no one will ever know."
Ultimately, if you constantly do this you will end up with a very slim book indeed. I ask them to look at the drawing, realise that perhaps they could improve; date the page and turn to the next page and do 
another drawing.

When your book is full of drawings you can look back on previous work and see how far you have travelled - and you will feel proud.