Composition with Cat

“Composition with Cat”  drawn in June 2020 with Luminance coloured pencils. 32 x 29 cm.

Serendipity!  Three days before I took the photo which became my source for “Composition with Cat” Alicia and I had already visited the cat community at Ospedale Civile in Venice.  I showed the image below of Alicia (middle daughter) talking to the cats in my recent blog post “The Hospital Cat“.

Alicia is stroking the SAME CAT as in my drawing!

I had already begun drawing “Composition with Cat” when I happened to look back at this photo of Alicia with the cats.  What a surprise I had to see that my current subject was THE CAT Alicia was stroking.  From then it was a  double delight to work on this little puss, knowing what an affectionate character he was.

In the pose for my drawing he has intense concentration on his face.  Perhaps he was eyeing a Venetian pigeon in the hospital grounds!

This composition brings to my mind the spacial divisions of Piet Mondrian’s art.  His paintings were pure abstraction.  Like him (but not like him) I am working with contrast of proportion and contrast of hue in a pure realism way.  He used to call his paintings either “Composition in…” or “Composition with…” hence the title I have given my drawing – “Composition with Cat”.  I am doffing my hat to Mondrian.

Make Your Own Mondrian – A Modern Art Puzzle.  We bought this at Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Initial under-layer of colour right back at the beginning of the work.

 

 

 

The Hospital Cat

“The Hospital Cat” drawn with coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 30.5 x 27 cm. June 2020.

On our first afternoon in Venice on 2 November 2018 my daughter and I wandered into a grand looking edifice.  We didn’t know that we were entering the Ospedale Civile or Public Hospital.  Through automatic doors and into a courtyard we went.  What did we discover?  A cat community!

A courtyard within the grounds of Ospedale Civile, Venice.

The automatic doors appeared to be operational for cats as well as humans.  Even though the (slightly spooky) corridor is empty in the photo below, on my second visit I saw a cat padding nonchalantly along a section of it, exiting at the door leading to one of the courtyards.

I took a photo of the entrance to the cat house.  The cat in the porch looks like the cat in my drawing.  If it isn’t the same individual surely it must be from the same family.

Though the tabby in my drawing looks rather aloof with a “Why are you bothering me?” expression (typical of felines) the cat community was welcoming and affectionate as the following photos affirm.

Alicia and cats.

Julie and cats.

If it hadn’t been for Covid-19 I would have returned to Venice in March this year and come away with a whole new batch of source photos to draw from.   I would have been spoiled for choice with 2020 material and would almost certainly have overlooked making a drawing from the Venetian hospital visit 17 months ago.  The 2020 world health situation is forcing me to re-evaluate the photo-treasure I already have.

A final word of deepest gratitude to all the brave compassionate human beings who work in hospitals.  And thank you Venetian hospital cats.  I saw visitors (probably their loved ones were patients) sitting on outdoor benches beside you, comforted by your purring presence.

 

 

 

 

 

Mayday

Today in Western Australia we are having a storm.  My camera and I head out to see what’s happening.  First stop is my local beach – South Beach.  Usually this is a big wide beach where dogs and people frolic but today the surf is right up to the dunes – in fact – eroding them before my eyes.

Where we usually sit having coffee is, on this May day, a maelstrom of spray!

Some time last night the waves had ripped off the top of the sea wall.  The sandstone blocks sprawl on the lawn like fallen soldiers.

In Fremantle the tide surges right up to the buildings at Bathers Beach.

I drive a few minutes further up the coast to Cottlesloe.  Have a look at the disappearing man.  Now you see him – now you don’t.

….and from another viewpoint.  It looks like he is taking photos.  (I presume he is a he.  A woman wouldn’t be that daft.)

Each time I get out of my car I can hardly stand up straight due to the force of the westerly winds.   I dodge squally showers to watch Cottlesloe Beach being consumed by the tide.  (Historic Indiana Teahouse on the left will presently be swallowed up too – disappearing into a modern awful-looking redevelopment.)

From Cottlesloe one gets a wide southern view back to the port of Fremantle.  All down the coast the storm-driven tide is battering and eroding land.

I drive back through East Fremantle following Swan River to Point Walter.  As you can see by the jetty, the river is experiencing ‘acqua alta’.

The enormous sand spit which is the main feature of Point Walter is thoroughly submerged.   For most of the year you can walk across the sand spit as far as the little island on the left of the photo below.  (Not that you should walk right to the end – because birds nest there.)   A curtain of rain sweeps across the river.

In East Fremantle the local black swans are busy scrutinizing the water.

They come over in case I have a treat for them.  (I don’t.)

One of them has a big stretch.

What is normally parkland is, at this moment, river.

Finally I drive homewards, stopping at East Street jetty to visit wing-aerating cormorant and darter.  The darter yawns as I photograph him.

The Bureau of Meteorology says this is an unusual and wide-reaching storm.  Not a typical May day.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Postscript:  Aftermath – photos of our beach the next day.

 

Quiet Time

“Quiet Time” is a drawing in coloured pencils and Neocolor II wax pastels. 33.5 x 53.3 cm. April 2020.

In the Covid-19 time in which we are living, local cafés and restaurants are shut – except for takeaways.  In Fremantle (Western Australia) Matthew and I line up to buy coffees then take them to some isolated spot or other overlooking the port.

As we sit on canvas chairs facing sky and sea, we may speak our thoughts, or, just listen to water lapping, breezes and bird calls.  More often than not a seagull comes to check on whether we have some food to share.

I am describing a daily ritual during March/April 2020.  However my latest drawing is from when we visited Lido in March 2019.  What were we doing on Lido? … quietly regarding Venice from across the lagoon while being checked on by a seagull!

I’ve spent the last four weeks working on “Quiet Time“.  I could have responded to the ‘new normal’ by drawing something dark and ominous – suiting my pessimistic mood.  But I decided on an uplifting subject from which I could perhaps find comfort.  What could be more self-nurturing than sky, laguna, hazy Venice and seagull?

At first, working on this piece I felt disconnected and unable to concentrate, just as I felt disconnected (in shock) to the dystopian daily news. I forced myself on.  (How does one get one’s head around a pandemic?)  In the end, the serenity of the subject reached out to me.  The drawing and I eventually connected.

Even though the composition was sourced from 12 months ago in Northern Italy, it feels entirely relevant to a part of bubble life now, especially to that hour each day when, sitting before local waters with coffees, Matthew and I share our isolation quiet time.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

“An Italian Dream”  (from nearly the same position) was drawn in October 2019.

 

 

 

Morsels of Happiness

On my morning walk today I saw six black cockatoos in a tree quite close up.  I didn’t have a camera so you’ll have to take my word for it.  I watched them for about five minutes and do you know, seeing them made me happy.

Can a day be without any happy moments?  Even in these anxious times there are gentle interludes: – look at that cloud formation;  the neighbour’s cat has popped over to be stroked; outside our local cafe Rupert the dog is waiting for his pat;  wow – a cormorant is spreading its wings in front of a rainbow!

Happy moments spontaneously pop up.

I find that if I mentally register these morsels of happiness, they nourish me throughout the day.  Later on I see the news and feel all the things that you are feeling.  But it helps to remember those sweet tastes of positivity.  I remind myself that even if I’m feeling anxiety now, I felt joy earlier – and that helps me not to be overwhelmed.

When I experience a moment of peace, something that provokes a smile, registering it might be the most important thing I do all day.  It is an inoculation against misery.

Two mornings ago I took myself down to the waterfront to visit the birds.  Their presence uplifted me.

What lifts your spirits?

 

 

Ascension

“Ascension”        Wax pastels and coloured pencils, 36.5 x 36.5 cm. February 2020

Yes, all the complaints are true; tourists, floods, cruise ships, corruption, commercialization – not to mention that Venice is actually sinking.  It is mortal, as is everything physical.

But look past all that, to the utter beauty, and the spirit.  Her soul soars – as does mine when I am there – embraced by her environment.

Close to Heaven.

Most Serene

“Most Serene”   Neocolor 2 wax pastels and Luminance pencils. 33.5 x 48.5 cm. January 2020.

On my final morning in Venice I plan to sleep in, having risen before daybreak for the previous six days in a row.

In our dark bedroom at 5 o clock, a mosquito is sent to wake me up.  Eventually this insistent messenger’s whine is enough to toss me out of the room into a cold foggy dawn.

I cross the Accademia bridge without a particular plan.  As I wonder which way to go, a vaporetto (little steamer) materializes through the mist.  As she glides nearer she brings the scene to life – aglow, awake and at work (as am I) in a still-slumbering city.

Venice – La Serenissima – Most Serene

Postscript:  What a funny thing that something as irritating as a mosquito could lead to a serene situation.  There must be a moral to this story.  Happy endings may come out of perceived misfortune.


Notes on colour-building with Neocolor 2 and Luminance are in my previous post Perfect Partners

Neocolor 2 undercoat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Partners: Neocolor and Luminance

Recently I have been sharing a method in Facebook coloured pencil groups which has piqued the interest of some of my peers; therefore, I have decided to write a post about it.

My method is to use Neocolor 2; a water soluble wax pastel by Caran d’Ache (I use it without water) as undercoat for coloured pencil drawings.

Putting Neocolor onto the paper before coloured pencils are applied speeds up the process of the drawing – which is especially good if I am working on a large picture.  (The drawing shown here is 33.5 x 48.5 cm.)  Anyone who uses coloured pencils alone to render big areas like sky or still water knows how tedious it is.  Neocolor makes the process faster and more pleasurable.

The texture of Neocolor 2 makes a welcoming cushion-like base for coloured pencil to relax into.  The pencil glides over Neocolor so much more readily than it glides over virgin paper.

I find that complicated areas (such as Venetian palace facades) cannot help but be simplified when the initial layer is put on with Neocolor.  You can’t be too fussy with this medium because it is never super-sharp.  (I use a knife to sharpen the pastel but even at its sharpest, it is kind of blunt.)  Therefore it attunes my brain to the main shapes as opposed to fiddly tiny details.

I use very light pressure when putting Neocolor on.  It is barely there – and yet it makes SUCH a difference to the surface texture.

Work in progress 1:  undercoat of Neocolor 2 before any coloured pencil is applied.

Because I don’t like holding a crayon-length instrument, I use a Fixpencil 0012 (also by Caran d’Ache) to hold it with.  I find this longer length much more comfortable for my hand and it gives me added control.

Applying Neocolor 2 (held inside a Fixpencil 0012).

If you’ve read other posts of mine, you’ll know that Luminance is my number one pencil.  However in the photo below you’ll see I’m blending using a Derwent Blender.  This blender is hard and dry.  There’s enough wax already in the Neocolor/Luminance mix.  It doesn’t need added wax in the form of a wax-based blender, so the raspy dry Derwent blender makes the perfect tool.  Once I’ve blended, that isn’t the end of it.  I can carry on adding more colour over the top; no problem.

Enter the Derwent Blender

The final image shows where I’m up to currently with the drawing.  In my opinion, the partnership of Neocolor with coloured pencil gives a soft painterly aesthetic which, to me, is delicious.

Work in Progress – as it was on 13th January 2020.

Work in progress – as it was on 18th January 2020

Postscript:  The drawing is finished on 24th January, 2020.  It is called “Most Serene”.

Most Serene January 2020

See also Art Materials page

See also Brush and Pencil post

 

 

Look Out

“Look Out” – a drawing in Neocolor 2 and coloured pencils. December 2019.

I don’t fall in love with Rome until there is a thunderstorm.

We are exploring Palatine Hill, the two of us huddled under one umbrella.  As we reach a magnificent lookout, the deluge ceases.  Rome, freshly washed, is before us under a dramatic thunder-sky.  As usual I am exclaiming loudly in my excitement.

A yellow legged gull swoops up from below and places himself right there.  (Some people are scared by these enormous gulls – LOOK OUT!)  But I think they are beautiful.

As we regard one another while he poses this way and that, a plan for a drawing is hatched.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

A technical note:

Neocolor 2 colour mapped onto the paper, ready to be layered over with coloured pencils.

A light Neocolor 2 underlay makes a welcome base for coloured pencil work, adding soft richness to the drawing.  Only the sharply focused seagull is 100% pencil without Neocolor undercoat.

Fixpencil 0012 by Caran d’Ache fits Neocolor and coloured pencils.

 

Eventide

“Eventide”     Neocolor 2 and coloured pencils. 34.5 x 42.5 cm. December 2019.

Here we are, our first evening in Venice.  We emerge from a labyrinth of claustrophobic lanes to the grand  promenade of Molo.  Before us is a floating world which takes our breath away.

Love at first sight.

The drawing “Eventide” is from that moment of euphoric discovery.  Resting gondolas bob on the high tide, San Giorgio Maggiore perches erect in the distance: elements of Venice juxtaposed, enveloped in blue.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

I have made three drawings from the evening of 2 November 2018 (All Souls Day).  They are …

“Deep in Castello” – one of the paths taken on our walk towards Molo.

“Eventide” – as described above.

“A Room with a View”  – the view from a window of our Cannaregio apartment.

Love at first night.