Still Life Sunday 2 – heat-stressed roses

February 6, 2011

7×10″, pencil, Staedtler Fineliner pen and w/colour pencils. With a record minimum temperature overnight (low-30s at midnight), following 42 degrees during the day at the airport nearby, two small heat-stressed roses seemed to sum up today’s mood. The geometric shapes of petals and leaves of your average rose are wonderful! Judy Martin says in her book that flowers are an ideal subject for the beginner given their “complex forms and rich colour variations (which) are contained at a scale that makes enables them to be observed in close detail” (Martin: 140). As a sketch, I’ve drawn them entirely as-is; a drawing or painting of same would mean altering shapes considerably.

John Townend features in Judy Martin’s book and is for me just about the only artist whose work I find in this book at all convincing. His drawings have a delightful spontaneity about them; they fill the page but have large areas of blank paper, so they lack the mania often seen in coloured pencil works to completely fill the page. There is a focus on landscapes in Townend’s contributions and, coming obviously from England where the sky is not blue but pearlescent grey, there is only ever the merest suggestion of colour or activity in the sky – some directional linework delineating clouds and dots for birds. This obviously poses considerable additional problems for an Australian artist who cannot get away with a white-paper sky. There is a strong propensity for tertiary greens and browns with the darkest shadows in black graphite pencil; I like this limited palette. The contour work is extremely loose compared to mine, so I should experiment with pulling back a bit, perhaps opting for fountain pen. I hesitate when it comes to dip pen and India ink; before launching the Lagonda on that one, I really need to get back and have a look at Donald Friend’s use of the medium in combination with colour. We have a certain anger in common, which expresses itself in Friend extremely well in his ink work; my anger is somehow different. Jeffrey Smart goes very Apollonian to express his anger; it’s to be found deep in the shadows. Friend’s anger is more direct, but it smells of middle-class anger; it’s truly frightening the extent to which Australian painters and artists come from private-school, middle class backgrounds, since success in the art world is all about networking, the true curriculum of private schools. Mine is not middle-class anger since I don’t envy the class above me; I’m at the bottom of the heap, so mine is scattered in all directions. I can trace this anger back three generations on my father’s side; in that time, none of us has risen above the working class. Why anger all of a sudden? Well, February IS Mardi Gras month, when some of us get quite antsy. But last weekend there was an excellent tv documentary about an Irish pianist, Connor, who runs a Beethoven master class at Wilhem Kempff’s Positano summer house every Spring: his concept of allowing Beethoven’s anger to come through vindicates a great deal about what I feel about his oeuvre. Connor makes the fascinating point that Beethoven refused to enter a noble’s house via the servant’s quarters; he always demanded, as an independent artist and a Mensch, to come through the front door. My involvement with Mardi Gras goes back to 1978 and before; I won’t get ideological about it here, but suffice to say I’m thinking about not just sketching Fair Day, but perhaps also some very quick figure studies of the Little Black Dress footrace the day before. Sketching the Parade would be impossible unless seated in the VIP Section; you can’t see anything if not in the front row on Oxford Street. Like the Royal Botanic Gardens and Cockle Bay Wharf and Manly Beach, Mardi Gras just seems so improbable personally as a subject for sketching; perhaps sketching is, for me, all about ‘viewing’ the impossible and finding needles in haystacks. Unfortunately Townend doesn’t feature at all on the Internet, as far as I can deduce; the thing would be to emulate his style using subject matter of my own., since I can’t reproduce his work here

Note to self #1: get some white gouache to bring back some of the highlights in w/colour pencil washes.

Note to self #2: what 50 works would I choose exactly to have printed on the back of my own personal MOO cards?

Note to self #2: Sheile used buff-coloured paper for his black crayon/gouache works, not white. Similarly, Klimt used coloured paper for his black crayon and blue coloured pencil drawings. 


Martin, Judy.  The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques (East Roseville, Australia: Simon & Schuster, 1992).

Leopold Museum: [works by Shiele, Klimt, Kolig, Kokoschka et al.]. Vienna: Leopold Museum Management, 2001.


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