Category Archives: street art

Finders Keepers

When I explore with my camera I really have no idea what I am looking for.  But when I see it, I recognize it.  Here are 20 photos, taken with an open mind from a recent trip to Europe.

Innsbruck, Austria:  At first glance I see street art. Then I notice I have been fooled by advertising masquerading as street art.  Still, I like it.

Innsbruck, Austria:  On a dingy railway underpass I am impressed by this abstract composed of ripped posters and graffiti.  Certainly beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

A huge poster – the spirit of Innsbruck…

…and the setting for it…

Verona, Italy:  A very small car takes my fancy.

Desenzano, Italy:  Sorry, Sandro Botticelli, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this.

Desenzano, Italy: An Aussie on an Italian street.  (Actually it’s Matthew.)

Desenzano, Italy: I am moved by this piece of prose pasted on the outside of a church wall.

Desenzano, Italy: A roasting hot Sunday, an art stall in the local markets. I would like to think the cyclist is looking at the art however she is studying her phone.  (Yes, this is out of focus on purpose.)

On a wall in Ivrea.  This town was once Olivetti’s operations base – hence the typewriter!

Geneva, Switzerland: An eye-catching window display employing the use of the complementary colours of yellow and violet.

Geneva, Switzerland: Looking into the window of a Caran d’Ache boutique.  Divine!

Geneva, Switzerland: Juxtaposition of shapes and textures on a wall.

Geneva, Switzerland: Warning – (curious) guard dog.

Chamonix Mont Blanc, French alps: a rook jumps from his perch into nothingness.  Air and snow.

Chamonix Mont Blanc, France: Soft toys on display and soft dogs to lure you in.

Furkapass, Switzerland: Motoring sedately on a Sunday afternoon.

Approaching Munich, Germany: Shapes as we flash by on the autobahn while listening to  “Autobahn” by Kraftwerk playing on the car stereo.  (Fantastic!)

Freising, Germany: a haunting image on a signpost.

Freising, Germany: I don’t know what this says but I am drawn to it anyway.

I search out images when I walk with my camera.  When I find them, I make them my own.  Some will become drawings.  Finders keepers.






Rebel Rebel

“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.

La Fédération Anarchiste

You may like to read Subject 4: Street Art while you’re here.


Still Life

“Still Life”
A drawing in oil pastels and coloured pencils.
360 x 385 mm. February 2018.

“Still Life” is an arrangement of shapes, colours and textures observed while eating breakfast on Wednesday 19 October 2016 at a Beaubourg café.  I look up from my chocolat chaud and there it is…an abstract collage of ordinary life…patiently awaiting my attention.

In this urban scene on the intersection of rue Quincampoix and rue Aubry le Boucher banality and elegance dance a stationary duet.   My imagination is captured, causing the art area of my brain to flash with excitement.  We have contact!


Technical note 1:  “Still Life” is drawn with an undercoat of oil pastels and a top coat of coloured pencils.  Caran d’Ache Neopastels are used for undercoat on the left part of the drawing which is depicting distance (the buildings).  For the in-your-face wall on the right and ‘sens interdit‘ (no entry) sign I have utilized the bold Sennelier oil pastel.  The different qualities of these two pastel brands work together to help create both subtle distance and strong close up texture.

Technical note 2:  On complementary colours:  How did I get the reds in the drawing to stand out?  By surrounding them with green.  While you don’t look at the drawing and say to yourself, “There is obviously green around those reds”, yet it is present; plenty of it, worked subtly into the chromatic colours.

To see the original post on working with oil pastels in combination with coloured pencils, see Brush and Pencil

source photo for “Still Life”



City Slicker

“City Slicker”
A glossy raven at Jaures.
240 x 260 mm. November 2017

“City Slicker” – noun – informal, derogatory: a person with the sophistication and values generally associated with urban dwellers.

The opportunistic raven is nobody’s fool.  He is sleek, healthy, clever, and manages just fine thank you very much in the heart of the city.  Not unlike Fagin from “Oliver“, he is “reviewing the situation” when I observe him.   Our encounter is in Jaures – a less salubrious area of Paris than a tourist might want to visit.  However not being a tourist, but a flaneuse (a female who saunters around observing society) I find myself there.

It is business as usual for this feathered city slicker – while I make a hasty retreat back down the more genteel (and safe) path beside Canal St. Martin.


Once Upon a Wall

“Once Upon a Wall”
Luminance pencils over Sennelier oil pastels.
380 x 540 mm. June 2017

Once upon a wall there was a corroding remnant of street art.  Only a head and shoulder remained.  Whatever the rest of the image was had long gone.  It had presumably cracked up then flaked off, washed and blown away over time in brittle particles.

But look again.  The peeling layers of paint have transformed into tulle!

Once upon a wall there was a princess from a fairy tale; an apparition of Marie Antoinette; a dancer from Les Folies Bergère; a Belle Époque courtesan (maybe Camille herself);  or perhaps Saint-Säens’ Dying Swan.

I was touched by the vision of this tattered graceful wallflower – enough to prolong her life and give her a new audience by drawing her.

During the course of my drawing I searched the internet to find the street artist and see what the paste-up had once looked like.  The artist goes by the name of Sobr.  The original was a head-to-toe paste-up of a woman dancing in bandeau and shorts.  Weather and time have combined to transform the figure from nonchalant female to tragic romantic heroine.

Of course you might simply see a dirty wall.  And you wouldn’t be wrong.  We each bring our own stories and interpretations to that which we encounter.

Here are two more figures by Sobr which I photographed.  The subject of my drawing had been similar stylistically to these.  Sobr made a series of stencils of dancing women which he called his “It’s Time to Dance” project.

Technical note:  I used Sennelier oil pastels (a French brand) to ‘map’ in the colours on the paper before I put any pencils on.  Here is a detail of Sennelier under-colour before pencils were applied.  The addition of oil pastel adds to the richness and saturation of the finished coloured pencil drawing.

How it began:  initial layer of colour applied with Sennelier oil pastels, using a bristle brush to push the colour into the paper.

This image shows the range of 120 Sennelier oil pastels.

Here are the three sizes the pastels come in (shown next to a pencil to give you a comparison). The biggest one only comes in black and white.  So far I have been using the smallest size.

This drawing has won the Drawing Prize at the City of Stirling Art Award & Exhibition 2017.

Visually Conscious in New York

Visually Conscious. A small piece of street art on the Manhattan Bridge.

Visually Conscious.
A small piece of street art on the Manhattan Bridge.

Recently Matthew and I were in America.  One of my favourite days of the trip was an overcast New York Saturday when Matt and I walked across the Manhattan Bridge, through part of Brooklyn,  returning on the Williamsburg Bridge.  Under a leaden sky we enjoyed unrelenting urban bleak and layers of historic grunge.  I invite you to walk with us.  (All the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

The expert in concrete walks through a desert of the stuff.

The expert in concrete walked through a desert of the stuff.  I think this was Delancey Street.

Street art on the entrance to Manhattan Bridge.

Street art on the entrance to Manhattan Bridge.

So much noise. Constant deafening trains roaring past.

Constant roaring trains thundered beside us.

Other visually conscious people.

Other visually conscious people.

Matt strides ahead.

Matt strode ahead usually not noticing that I had stopped to take photos.  I had to run to catch him.

This is where the "visually conscious" eye was.

This is where the “visually conscious” eye was.

Juxtaposition of glamour and grunge.

Juxtaposition of glamour and grunge.


Urban textures

New York pigeon

New York pigeon – looking slightly rough

I love a good water tower.

Skyline with water tower

A wide view of the East River and city.

A wide view of the East River and Brooklyn Bridge.

YO. Literally - a YO structure on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.

Literally – a YO structure as seen from above.



sign of change

sign of change to come

I requested that Matt pose with a couple of fellow Aussies.

I requested that Matt pose with a couple of fellow Aussies.

Residents of Williamsburg.

Residents of Williamsburg.

I felt like I was in deepest Europe.

I felt like I was in Eastern Europe.

Bedford Avenue. Williamsburg fascinated me. It was monotone and there were no shops. Bleakly neat!

Williamsburg fascinated me. It was rather stern and bleak – in a neat way.

I was entranced by the Hasidic Jews who live in Williamsburg. What marvellous clothes!

I was entranced by the Hasidic Jews who live in Williamsburg. What marvellous clothes!

Just before returning to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge I noticed some big street art.

Just before returning to Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge – street art grey like the sky.

I am thinking about L.S. Lowry paintings and Dickens novels as I photograph this.

I was thinking about L.S. Lowry paintings  as I photographed this.

Encased within the Williamsburg Bridge.

Encased within the Williamsburg Bridge, we walked back towards Manhattan.

Matthew and I were completely exhausted but it was a great walk and far more interesting, in our opinion, than glitzy Upper Manhattan.


Rue de l’Echaudé

Rue de l'Echaudé New drawing. Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 410 x 560 mm.

Rue de l’Echaudé
New drawing. Coloured pencils on pescia paper. 410 x 560 mm.

I have drawn my favourite Parisian street several times since I first found myself standing on it in December 2010.  Today I have finished my latest drawing of rue de l’Echaudé.  What is it about this street?  It is narrow, intimate and so old that the buildings lean at strange angles.  A medieval street, beyond the reach of Haussmann’s renovations, it is safely tucked away in Saint Germain des Prés.  One can gaze up at one of Saint-Sulpice’s towers in the distance, framed between sky and buildings of the street itself.  This street favours pedestrians.  It does not want to be bothered by anything faster, louder or wider than a bicycle.

If ever you want to find this tiny street yourself, here it is on the map. I have coloured it with hot pink. I have circled Saint-Sulpice with pink as well.

If ever you want to find this tiny street yourself, here it is on the map. I have coloured it with hot pink. I have circled Saint-Sulpice with pink as well.  (You will have to click on the map to enlarge it so that you can see.)

The time I like best on this inspirational street is very early in the morning when I am the only person around.  I marvel at the sky changing from night to morning blue.  I study the  electric light reflections glowing on various surfaces; wood and stone walls, plate-glass windows and (usually) wet ground.

Below are several drawings I have made of the same area.  The first is a drawing that I ripped up earlier in the year.  You can read about it on my post “A Time to Destroy“.  Unlike that sad story, the latest drawing simply fell into place.  It was like “PING!  I’m finished”.  I wish they all resolved as cleanly and neatly as “Rue de l’Echaudé” did today.

This is the drawing which didn't work out a couple of months ago. The man is walking up one of the other sides of the triangle, rue de Seine.

This is the drawing which didn’t work out a couple of months ago.

The six drawings below all made it to completion, unlike my comrade in misfortune above, and most of them have sold within the last 24 months.

Quiet I did this drawing in February 2013. It is from the same photo session as for the latest drawing.

I did this drawing in February 2013. It is from the same photo session as for the latest drawing.

Blue Dawn From the same photo source that I used for "Paris en hiver" but very much cropped. I had originally called this "Blue Dawn on rue de Seine" until I realised I was on the wrong street!

Blue Dawn
Drawn from the same photo that I used for the drawing below but I used a cropped area of it.

"Paris en hiver" 2011

Paris en hiver – this drawing shows the street on a cold mid-winter morning.

de bonne heure Same street drawn from another trip. You see how it is ALWAYS wet when I go to Paris?

de bonne heure
Same street drawn from another trip. You see how it is ALWAYS wet when I go to Paris?

Matin In this case my companions were pigeons.

On this quiet morning, my companions were of the feathered variety.

Reflecting on Art Right on the corner of rue de l'Echaudé and rue de Seine is an art gallery. Here is a drawing of the reflections in the art gallery window.

Reflecting on Art
Where the road forks between rue de l’Echaudé and rue de Seine is an art gallery, Galerie L. de Puybaudet. Here is a drawing of the reflections in the art gallery window.  (You can see the same window in three of the drawings above.)

I am sure I will draw this street again.  Rue de L’Echaudé in my mind is “Julie’s Street”.  I claim it as both my piece and peace of Paris.

Postscript:  June 20th 2014.  I DID draw rue de l’Echaudé again, only two months later.  Below is the latest interpretation of this mystical street which I have named “Rhapsody in Blue”.

Rhapsody in Blue 400 x 510 mm. Drawn in June 2014.

Rhapsody in Blue
400 x 510 mm. Drawn in June 2014.

Related post:  Rhapsody in Blue

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