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 am I to draw?  Am I supposed to think about what has the best chance of selling?  In my opinion the answer is no.

Whatever the subject is, I am passionate in wanting to draw it.  That is more important than wondering if there are potential buyers for such a piece.

I like to build up atmospheres and recreate situations where I found myself in a happy state of mind.  This means I am most often drawing about my travels.

In the case of “Snow Showers” I had to convince myself to draw it because it looked so complicated.   Though I loved the idea of it, I wasn’t sure where to start.  In the end I simply began, deciding that I would learn on the job.  It was a challenge which, thankfully, succeeded.

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

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.

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

I like dereliction and grunge.  In the scene of “A Vendre” I saw a vacant shop front as 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 in front of it.  Finally the right subject came along – a rather stylish Parisienne, who contrasted with her backdrop.

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

“Composition” is another drawing which explores the tension between ugliness and beauty.  Besides, which is which?  Ugliness has its own beauty.

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

“Still Life” – is it ugly or beautiful, or both at the same time?

“Still Life”
February 2018

The two drawings below illustrate different approaches to the same subject (Notre Dame).

Coloured pencils.
June 2018
“Far from the Madding Crowd” drawn with Sennelier oil pastels plus coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle. October 2017.

I mentioned at the conclusion of my page “Failures!” that I had watched the film “Hitchcock”.  In that film, the actor Anthony Hopkins who plays 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.

Have a look at my full range of subjects, over 40 years of paintings and drawings on my brand new website at

“Honey Pie” November 2021

8 thoughts on “The Subject of Subject Matter

  1. Malcolm

    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


    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      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

    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

    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

      1. Peter Sim

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

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