The Subject of Subject Matter

"Through the Looking Glass" - a shop window in Oxford Street, Sydney.

“Through the Looking Glass”400 x 610 mm, 2004 – a shop window in Oxford Street, Sydney.

What to draw?  Is one supposed to think about what has the best chance of selling?  In my opinion the answer is no.

Whatever my subject is, I have to be passionate in wanting to draw it…rather than, say, wondering if there could be potential buyers for such a piece.

I like to build up atmospheres and recreate situations where I found myself very happy.  This means I am most often drawing about my travels.

"Snow Showers" coloured pencil drawing, 2012

“Snow Showers” coloured pencil drawing, 410 x 500 mm. 2012

I had to convince myself to even begin “Snow Showers” (above) because it looked so complicated and I had no idea in advance how I would draw it.  In the end I simply began, deciding that I would ‘learn on the job’. The drawing has received lots of attention as it is unusual to have an out-of-focus landscape through dirty and streaked plate glass.

Incidently, the following drawing “Snow on Les Halles” is exactly the same scene taken from the same window of the Pompidou Centre, except that the camera is focussed on the view rather than focussed on the raindrops.

"Snow on Les Halles"

“Snow on Les Halles”370 x 560 mm, 2011

"Dichotomy" coloured pencil drawing, 2010

“Dichotomy” coloured pencil drawing, 530 x 640 mm, 2010

Since my first trip to Japan in 2003 I have been drawing maiko (apprentice geiko) and geiko (the Kyoto word for geisha).  The drawing “Dichotomy” is another example of a drawing I had no idea how to tackle because of its detail and complexity.  Once again I had an internal tussle, trying to convince myself to take the plunge.  As an artist, one simply has to attempt harder and harder challenges; not all the time but enough times so that one gains from experience and ‘goes up a notch’.  Anyway, it keeps the grey matter ticking over, problem-solving being good for us.

"A Vendre" coloured pencil drawing, 2012.

“A Vendre” coloured pencil drawing, 370 x 430 mm. 2012.

Some subjects have less chance of selling than others.  This drawing “A Vendre” is rather grungy.  I saw the backdrop (vacant shop front) as rather abstract expressionist when I came across it on Rue Saint Antoine in Paris.  I stood on the other side of the street, photographing people as they walked past ‘my’ staked-out wall.  I thought there wasn’t too much chance of this composition being snapped up but that wasn’t a problem.  I simply had to draw it.  (It didn’t sell.)  Another grungy Paris drawing which also didn’t sell at my last exhibition is …

"Composition" coloured pencil drawing, 2012.

“Composition” coloured pencil drawing, 390 x 500 mm. 2012.

…”Composition”.  I enjoy the contrast between ugliness and beauty.  Besides, which is which?  Ugliness has its own beauty.

I mentioned at the end of my page “Failures!” that I had watched the film “Hitchcock” today.  In that film, Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, says at the very end “But you know as they say in Hollywood: ‘You’re only as good as your last picture.’ So, now, if you’ll excuse me, I must toddle off to begin the exhaustive search for my next project.”

He holds out his cigar towards something we don’t yet see.  He continues “Unfortunately I find myself once again bereft of all inspiration.  I do hope something comes along soon…”

Yes, those regular gaps in an artist’s life when the inspiration dries up for the next project/subject/drawing/painting/book are familiar to all of us who create.

From late 2016 I have been working with out-of-focus Paris subject matter as well as, on the home-front, seabirds around Fremantle.

"Nearly Dusk" 2016

“Nearly Dusk”

"Rain Bird" 2017

“Rain Bird”


8 Responses to The Subject of Subject Matter

  1. Malcolm says:

    Hi Julie
    Have just had a good look through your “street art”, mind blowing, there are a million questions about technique tied up in those few images, the detail is astonishing. Having said that, the image I would like to ask you to comment on is “snow showers”. Could you say something about the technique involved in achieving the shower effect on the glass. Did you used impressed lines prior to drawing the background ? or was it careful erasing after the image was drawn, or something else ?.

    As always I very much look forward to your reply.

    best wishes


    • Good evening Malcolm, I saw your question this morning but I decided to wait until evening as I thought it may be a long answer. Plus I have just begun to draw again after my trip so I need all the daylight hours for drawing; evening hours for writing. (No hours for tv.)

      Regarding “Snow Showers”, sometimes when I start a work I have no idea how I’m going to actually achieve a result. It was this case with Snow Showers. I really wanted to draw it but did not have a clue how I would. There is another drawing almost like “Snow Showers” called “Diffusion”. I call it the ‘little brother’ of “Snow Showers”. When I have finished writing my reply to you, I will add “Diffusion” to the page above so that you can have a good look at it. Both drawings caused me great anxiety but I loved the results. (Though I thought I had failed with “Diffusion” until I managed to pull it together.)

      I guess, really, it was just like how I draw everything else. In other words, I did the tracing; tracing the outlines of the drops on the window as well as the blurry background shapes.
      Then, as I filled in the colours, I rubbed out the traced lines as I went. What was extremely difficult, however, was trying to relocate where I was working from – from the photo – as I had to look from photo to drawing to photo to drawing – as I always do – but I would get lost! So I ended up using a long pencil in my left hand as a pointer, pointing to the bit of photo I was concentrating on – to help with relocation.

      Plenty of people asked me about “Snow Showers” during the opening night of my exhibition. Even then I had to say (with honesty) I’m not quite sure how I did it.

      There may be some more drawings like this in future as I took photos out of ‘The Hermitage’ window in Saint-Petersburg of the frozen port outside. In this case it was the distortion of the old glass itself which made the outside shapes look abstract. Distortion and reflection are two fascinations of mine.

      So, just getting the photo is difficult because one has to ‘trick’ the camera into focussing on the glass instead of the view which it wants to focus on. One has to focus on something very close, ie a window ledge, half depress the shutter release and hold it exactly while one ever-so-gently moves the camera so it is looking at the view. Many times the camera wins and automatically zooms into focus but sometimes I win and get a photo such as that which inspired “Snow Showers”.

      In the end there were no tricks to this drawing. I drew it like any other. I seem to think I put the dark bits into the drops later. That really gave them three dimensions. It took about five weeks to do because of the complex nature of the work.

      Thanks for asking, Malcolm. I love your questions. Now I’ll add “Diffusion” to the page.

  2. Malcolm says:

    Hi Julie, thanks for the answer and for posting “diffusion”. I guess that focussing on the image as a series of related shapes and colours rather than the specific objects that they are would help in rendering them on paper, but even still these two paintings are quite incredible. I do have another question for you but I’ll leave it for a few days to let you get on with some painting.

    best wishes


  3. Peter Sim says:

    Hello Julie,
    I just love all your drawings . I am particularly drawn to your Geisha drawings…Just fascinating!!!!
    Do you give classes? I do wish very much to enrol if you do
    Peter Sim

    • Hi Peter, thank you very much! I’m sorry that I don’t give classes. However if you have specific questions I will do my best to answer them.

      • Peter Sim says:

        thank you Julie… I was just at early works gallery and was introduce to you by kate…. just exquiste your paintings… thank you

  4. Ahh Pete, I see. Kate is a wonderful person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s