A site to share my drawings, paintings, photographs and thoughts.
Category Archives: photorealism
I spend hours trying to get source photos for drawings. Wandering, standing, sitting, striding out and exhausting myself while looking for something inspirational and eye-catching. In November I spent a couple of days staring into garden beds at The Berry Farm in Margaret River observing birds and trying to get inspired photos of them.
The flowers at The Berry Farm are magnificent yet I find it difficult to photograph birds among them. Those poky birds are more likely to be perched on café furniture, hopping on concrete paths or playing hide and seek in leafy trees.
However patience paid dividends. I got a couple of beauties. I call this drawing “Double Happy” because the bird (a New Holland honeyeater) and flowers remind me of a burst of fireworks. (‘Double Happy‘ was the brand name of fire crackers we used to let off on Guy Fawkes night, 5th November, when I was a child.) Double happy describes my state of bliss at capturing both bird and flowers together!
Here are some more drawings I have done over the past 15 months from The Berry Farm visits…
They’re all on human furniture aren’t they!? You can see why I am double happy to finally be able to draw a bird in Berry Farm’s luscious flowers.
All the World’s a Stage
“All the World’s a Stage” Neocolor II and Luminance. 32.5 x 48.5 cm. August 2020
“All the world’s a stage...” as William Shakespeare wrote – but it would be a mistake to think that only humans are performers. The Yellow Legged Gull stands centre stage on Palatine Hill in Rome. He parades his gleaming health, strength and character amidst this imperial setting. The sound and lighting are brought to us by Jupiter, Roman god of sky and thunder, who provides a stupendous thunderstorm. It is a grand drama and we come away wet through and thoroughly satisfied.
The completed undercoat stage drawn with Neocolor II.
A note about art materials:
A new colour selection of Luminance pencils
In July 2020 Caran d’Ache launched a set of 24 colours to add to the other 76 colours of their Luminance lightfast range. I used these extensively in the making of this drawing. While the collection is marketed as a portrait set I also find the colours perfect for all aspects of landscape.
I particularly want to mention no. 639 Dark Indigo. In the image below there is a patch of dark indigo to the left of a patch of black. This is such a useful colour because it is as intensely dark as black, but here’s the thing, it doesn’t dull other colours when used in layering the way that black can, because it is BLUE, albeit an extremely dark blue. It is the darkest dark blue of all coloured pencil brands I have ever come across. Dark indigo is liberally used throughout this drawing. I have used it with minimal pressure on the light tones and with heavy pressure on the bird’s darkest feathers. It is a colour enhancer as opposed to a colour oppressor.
“All the World’s a Stage” is undercoated in Neocolor II wax pastels with Luminance coloured pencils worked into, and layered over, the top.
Here are the full 100 Luminance colours. These are my light-fast tools…
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 within the paintings of Mondrian. (Piet Mondrian – Dutch Artist, 1872-1944.) 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 wander into a grand looking edifice. We don’t know that we are entering the Ospedale Civile or Public Hospital. Through automatic doors and into a courtyard we walk. What do we discover? A cat community!
A courtyard within the grounds of Ospedale Civile, Venice.
The automatic doors appear 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 see a cat padding nonchalantly along a section of it, exiting at the door leading to one of the courtyards.
I take 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 is 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.
I thank all the brave compassionate people who work in hospitals, especially in the time of a pandemic. 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.
A View from Lido
“A View from Lido” is drawn with Neocolor 1 and coloured pencils. 39.5 x 32 cm. November 2019.
On a hazy Sunday morning in the northern spring of 2019 we sit on a park bench on Lido and look out over the lagoon. A young seagull allows himself to be photographed and even gives me a minute to studiously compose before flying away.
In perfect tune with the universe (compositionally-speaking) a vaporetto appears.
In the watery distance San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine church and campanile hover mirage-like.
Deep in Castello
“Deep in Castello” Coloured pencils, 31 x 26 cm. Drawn in August 2019.
As I walk through the narrow maze, I notice a lone figure up ahead. She is momentarily framed by lamp light before she turns right and vanishes through an archway.
In the dim drizzle there is a feeling of being submerged here, as if the lagoon had already swallowed Venice whole.
Deep in wintry Castello how do I draw the mental line between inspiration and unease, intimate space and claustrophobia?
“Sunrise Reflected” Coloured pencils, 35 x 35 cm. June 2019
As I walk home with Matthew late on Saturday night I say to him that I definitely WON’T get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday (as I had been doing every day so far in Venice) but I will sleep in. I don’t want to burn the candle at both ends.
“Silent Night” – a drawing from Saturday night when we stayed out late.
However, despite sensible intentions to rest, I fling myself out of bed and out of the apartment before sunrise. I dash across the Ponte dell’ Accademia and straight onto a southbound vaporetto (water bus).
The sun is rising just as the boat glides away from the stop into the channel of the Grand Canal. In front of me are the east-facing surfaces of the palazzi (and the vaporetto stop) gleefully reflecting sunrise. It is a dawn chorus of light – a visual symphony.
After I take a whirlwind of photos from the rear deck, an inspector comes over to check that I have a valid ticket. I do. We exchange big smiles. And all is brilliant with the world.
The Remains of the Day
“The Remains of the Day” Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth. 36.5 x 30.8 cm. February 2019.
Venice: November 2018. It is nearly 4 pm and the sun is already inclining westwards. I am going west as well, plodding back towards my apartment, happily worn out. But then…a light bulb moment…
I see a vision which causes me to stop and ask myself, “What if I point my camera lens into the sun?”
The sun is poised above Punta della Dogana and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, shining directly into my eyes.
I raise my camera, quickly compose and then close my eyes against the glare as I click, click, click.
The air is all haze and halo, evaporating some objects while solidifying others (including people) into dark abstractions. Sea mirrors sky – blazing here, sparkling there. A seagull has swooped into my view. Perfect.
There are approximately 90 minutes of daylight left. I will be back sitting on my bed by 5 pm scrolling through photographic images on my camera… ‘Here’s a good one.’
The two drawings from this day are bookends – starting with “Early One Morning” (07:50) and finishing with “The Remains of the Day” (15:50). Matthew (husband) came up with the titles – the first being a Celtic folk song and the second, a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Early One Morning
“The Remains of the Day”
The Liberation of Art
“The Liberation of Art” oil pastels and coloured pencils – 290 x 420 mm. April 2018
One of my favourite Paris spots is in Saint Germain des Près where rue de Seine forks one way and rue de l’Échaudé forks the other. I returned there on my last trip and was delighted to find a blue neon sign in the window of Galerie Lumas saying “The Liberation of Art”. What a subject! All I had to do was decide on my composition and wait for passers-by.
Soon enough I had my people (and dog). They’d do very well!
On the left of the composition is a corner of Galerie L. de Puybaudet and on the right, Galerie Lumas – 42 and 40 rue de Seine respectively.
What IS the liberation of art? Perhaps the couple are discussing this very question as they stroll on a peaceful October morning past the galleries.
The undercoat of the drawing in Sennelier oil pastels, before coloured pencils were applied.
Past drawings of rue de Seine and rue de ‘Échaudé in coloured pencils –
“Paris en hiver” 2011
“Rue de l’Échaudé” 2014
“de bonne heure” 2012
“Rhapsody in Blue” 2014
“Rebel Rebel” a drawing of an eroded poster. Coloured pencils, 250 x 300 mm. March 2018
As I take one step after another on the journey towards my goal – a gallery filled with Paris drawings – I never know what the next addition to the exhibition will be. It is often the last completed drawing which steers me towards my next piece.
The last completed drawing before “Rebel Rebel” was “Still Life”.
It is obvious how “Still Life” (a grungy Beaubourg urban-scape) metaphorically took my arm and drew my attention to a tattered poster I’d photographed when last in Paris.
This is my source photo for the drawing.
Looking at the drawing “Rebel Rebel” (the title I gave it is from a David Bowie song) I am mindful of Russian Constructivist posters from the 1920s and 30s. I also think of the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, romantic heroines of film and literature, as well as the white face and black hair of both mime artists and geisha.
I wouldn’t have made a drawing of a flawless poster. What appealed to me was the texture and randomness of decay – and – the fact that this caught my eye in the first place. The tattered ripped subject is simultaneously beautiful and ugly; eye-catching and something to be ignored. These dualities fascinate me!
“Rebel Rebel, you’ve torn your dress/Rebel Rebel, your face is a mess/Rebel Rebel, how could they know?/Hot Tramp, I love you so!”
Today I found an image on-line of the poster as its complete self. If you google images of Fédération Anarchiste you’ll see that all their posters have gorgeous designs and are clearly influenced by the political art of the Constructivists [an artistic movement that extolled art as a practice for social purposes].
How the poster would have looked once upon a time.