Sunday, September 30, 2007
I got some new glasses last week (the pair on the right). More often than not I get new lenses put in my old frames but occassionally I have to get new frames as the old ones start to look dated! The pair on the left would look rather ridiculous on me now but I had these about five or six years ago, I can't remember exactly but the case indicates I must have got them in Scotland or England. I got a 'two pairs for the price of one' deal so I have two of these oversized things! The pair in the middle I know I bought in Kuwait because it was seeing a friend's rimless pair that made me realise how dated mine looked. These are half rimmed and looked OK at the time but now the Nicky Hambleton-Jones look is in, glasses have to make a statement and they are out again! (I'm addicted to her make-over show, 10 Years Younger - it ought to be compulsory viewing for any female unsure of the effects of smoking on their skin!) I was unsure whether to get new frames or just replace the lens but I went to get my eyes tested and the decision was made for me - unlike all my other visits, this time old age has caught up and I need two pairs! My old ones are now my distance glasses and the new ones are for drawing and reading. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I choose some quirky Chanel frames! The drawing doesn't show them so well but they are a little more rectangular than they appear and the arms (?) not centrally attached to the front. Unlike Kuwait where I got my eyes tested in the morning and collected the glasses in the afternoon, here it took almost a week! I'm thinking of drawing all the fancy Chanel packaging that came with them too, it did seem like overkill with the bag, the box and a case! Anyway, I realised this qualifies as an EDM challenge so it's no. 61 ' draw a grouping of two or more similar objects'.
I tried to do some drawing every day last week and managed it although not everything is worth posting. I find it hard to inject any personality into sketches of the backs of peoples heads on the tram but looking at the two sketches I can see how size can vary a lot when you compare them to the seats.
I didn't have time to sketch this man's companion but I noticed them as I got on because they were of similar build, wearing similar clothes and both seemed to swatting imaginary flies! There were a couple of interesting subjects I didn't have time to sketch (especially the man with the plaster on his enormous hooked nose!) but it is amazing how much more you notice about people when you're watching them with a mind to drawing.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
First of all, my own challenge for this week is to draw something every day. I've had a few slow weeks and I need to push myself again. On Sunday I drew these two things, aiming for quick but not too rough. The kettle is for challenge no. 137, 'something that you can turn on or off' and the hand blender I thought about for the appliance challenge but decided to make it no. 42 'something you are grateful for'.
When I first read that challenge last year I thought it was the best and every day since I've thought about all the things I'm grateful for. But I didn't want to complete the challenge in case I stopped thinking about all those positive things! So instead, I've decided to make it a series that I can add to now and again. I won't go for the obvious choices like health, life, family etc., as everyone feels the same about those, but instead focus on the less obvious ones, the little things that we need every day to make life easier but perhaps don't realise until we don't have them.
So why the blender? Well, I have a whole list of foods I avoid and should avoid (with the migraines and food intolerances) but since I went on the Atkins diet a few years ago I realised that the best and most agreeable food for me is...scrambled eggs! I have them most mornings and they keep me going for hours without going hungry. Hunger can bring on a migraine so a substantial breakfast has always been important for me. I also noticed, quite some time ago, that people who say they have weight problems and claim not to eat much almost always say they skip breakfast! I'm amazed people haven't seen the connection so I have a big breakfast and try to make lunch and dinner light. I suspect I don't need dinner at all really. But anyway, whenever I go away and try to make scrambled eggs, nine times out of ten, there isn't so much as a hand whisk! Some self catering places we've stayed in didn't even have decent non-stick pans. So, I'm always grateful to get back home and whizz up my eggs in a second with this handy gadget! It makes light work of loads of fiddly jobs so it's hardly in the cupboard before it's called into service again!
This kettle actually has two switches one for boiling and one lower down for keeping water hot. I thought that was a bad design, that I would always be knocking it on and wasting electricity but actually I've only done it once. It has to be cleaned out at least once a week as the water is so hard and chalky here. I also wanted to draw it as I simply cannot remember old appliances we've had in the past! I wish I could, I'm sure they'd be a laugh to see now! A strange thing about us moving house/countries, is that it always coincides with appliances breaking down, usually three together and always including the toaster! It's hard not to be superstitious about them!
Finally, some more art materials! New pencils by Daler Rowney and 'watercolour leads' by Caran D'Ache (their factory is actually a short walk away!). I don't think I'll ever need anything other than my Faber Castells or Berol Venus but I like Daler Rowney so their pencils must be worth a try. I found them to be a bit softer than the other brands in the same grades and feel fractionally lighter/cheaper. The wood is softer so it's easy to take off too much of the lead when sharpening with a knife.
I haven't been using the watercolours at all for a few weeks. I did a course during the summer where someone brought in a book, Carnets d'une Longue marche : Nouveau voyage d'Istanbul à Xi'an, illustrated by Francois Dermaut. The illustrations are lovely but it seemed to me as if they were two artists' work here. One I thought much better to the other but as I looked closely, I realised that it was the colour pencil work I preferred to the watercolours. Thankfully it was on the last day of the course because it completely took the wind out of my sails! Then a couple of weeks ago, walking around the Art Air event, I noticed one of the freebies given out to the participating artists. So last week I popped into the art shop and found them - 'watercolour leads' by Caran D'Ache. They dissolve much better than ordinary watercolour pencils and according to the blurb, the pigments are superior too. But what I love about them is that they are as hard as an 3H pencil and can be sharpened to a fine point - they feel so good! I can see that these are going to suit me very well. And now I'm grateful to whoever designed them because although I didn't realise it, these are what I've been waiting for!
HB and B pencil (Daler Rowney) - and a tiny hint of colour.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Continuing - very slowly it must be said! - my series of shoes and bags. Or in this case sandals and probably quite old ones compared to most women's collections.
I've been reading David Hockney's controversial book Secret Knowledge and pondering, amongst other things, why art has so much nonsense attached to it. When we ask 'is it art?' it's as if to qualify it has to be something magical, something out of this world, loaded with meaning that can't be explained, done by the hand of some demigod with mystical powers. The more of that propaganda I read the more convinced I am that 'Art' does not exist! Art can be many things but one of them, for me, is that it can simply be a record. I think that is (just) one of the reasons why I admire Holbein so much. His portraits are a very accurate record of the times. His faces are real people, his honest portrayals cut through the centuries the way, I feel, no other artist has managed. If he had been an impressionist, for example, we wouldn't have had all the same amount of information about the sitters or the environment they lived in.
So I rather like this recording of things. They probably show a lot about me and my taste and as time goes on, of passing fashion (or lack of it!). I have a terrible memory but these possessions tend to spark off long forgotten things. The top shoe is a little bit too 'classic' for me normally but I bought them in Kuwait to match an outfit I wore to a do at Al Boom restaurant (actually a huge wooden dhow and the only photos I could find were on someones blog, written at the time I was there). The middle sandal is elasticated and really comfy but that square toe has me tripping up all the time so they hardly got worn! I can't remember when I bought them but they remind me of Marks & Spencer in Marble Arch (my Mecca!). The one on the right is a beaded one that reminds me of Marina Mall, the place I bought it. Actually, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever worn them! It's that jutting sole again!
And the less I say about this drawing the better! Perhaps no-one will notice but this should have been abandoned but I kept trying to revive it for the sake of the blog. Oh well, it's only a record of my fave bag of the moment. The problem was I started it in May but took up watercolours just after I got the outline and a bit of shading done, then gave it up( there are a couple of splashes on it where I was practising my splodges and drips!). So now the bag is more floppy and the highlights and folds drove me mad trying to get them to look the same. I know what's wrong with it but I just can't be bothered now, it's time to move on!
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The summer holidays seem to have flown by this year so I very nearly missed Geneva's plein air event. I just happened to spot a poster for it last week - great! I asked Mark if he'd like to come - it was a beautiful day for a stroll around the lake - and he surprised me by accepting! I was determined to be more positive about it after last year's review but I have to say, it was even more disappointing.
Last year there were a lot of abstracts (or so it seemed to me) and this year I noticed many artists going for, I'm not sure really, something 'loose'. There were far fewer watercolours even than last year and hardly any drawings even though we were there fairly early (hoping to see at least some under drawings). This oil painting, above, is an example of what I find strange and disappointing about this event - setting up an easel on a beautiful day, in a competition to capture the essence of Geneva, and copying a photo. In this case it was a photo from an Oil of Olay advert ripped from a magazine. (This is an public art competition, what about copyright?) One artist was painting Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, others painted abstract shapes.
There are no real rules in art, I do believe that, and artists should be free to depict whatever they want to. The website says it's purpose is to create an 'original, urban happening' but also to 'reveal the full charm of Geneva'. So I think from what I can see, most are just there to be a part of it - and that is great! - but I would like to see a little more of Geneva's influence in the artwork. I find it hard to comprehend how an artist can be in such a beautiful place and completely ignore it or not be influenced by it.
This artist had one of the most beautiful settings, in Jardin Anglais. I wonder what the finished painting looked like?
The other disappointment was that so few artists are willing to engage with the public! In fact, many looked as if they were doing their utmost to avoid any eye contact whatsoever! I only saw one artist with a sign giving her name and promoting her work. So many of them were doing their best to ignore everyone even when they were walking around or having lunch or taking a break from painting. Some had family or friends with them so there was no chance of anyone else talking to them. I know from experience that drawing in public is scary, but this year they all seemed positively anti-social!
We walked from the Jardin Anglais across the Pont du Mont-Blanc and what should be crossing at the same time but a herd of elephants! Actually, that's an exaggeration, there were about 6, in a procession to advertise the Circus Knie.
Another beautiful setting on the side of the lake. After this, Mark gave up. I'm afraid not one painting really stood out. He felt he had got the feel of it and seeing any more wasn't necessary. I walked on up into the Old Town hoping to see something that would change my mind but again, more artists who were not interested in communicating and looking like being in public was an ordeal. But then as I walked a little further, one of the artists looked up! As I came around to see what he was doing, there was a blank white canvas. He asked me what I thought about it, and what did it mean to me! I said it was amazing! And in fact, it was the best thing I saw all day, and the most fun! As I left, more people came over to chat to him. Well, I don't know what he was planning to do but it seemed to me that he was making more use of the day than any of the others I saw.
I felt it was a missed opportunity for artists to make connections and to make this day much more enjoyable for themselves and for the public. (I know they are not obliged to, but why not get more out of it?) I don't think I'm being too critical to say I think most painters there were probably not professional so maybe that wasn't the objective (or maybe that's even more reason?). But if you are going to participate in a art event outdoors, which is a pretty rare and unique event, and a rare chance to meet fellow artists, why do it if you don't want any interaction with the public? Maybe they only talked to each other at the prize giving ceremony the following day but I didn't go along to find out. Oh well, there is always next year!