February 2008


USA Sketchbook 44

I did not want to repeat the pattern of previous holidays which resulted in collections (envelopes, packages, bags, boxes) of papers, brochures, tickets, advertisements, envelopes, squashed pennies, packaging, cards and labels.

This time, I implemented a policy I referred to as Cut Things Out and Stick Them In.

Every night, before bed, I had to cut up the papers collected through the day, cut them up, stick the relevant sections into my sketchbook-journal and Throw The Rest Away.

There were a few late nights, but it was not generally an onerous task and tiredness could make me brutally selective. As I carted the glue stick with me, dead time in airports (“the planes in America have never been so safe or so late”) and planes and trains or while other people were in bed could be used productively.

My bags were lighter, there were no folders to sort or store when I arrived home, and I don’t regret throwing out anything I did.

Best of all, the journal was always up to date. I could not show photographs to people, but I could show them scraps and sketches, and when I arrived home, the journal was almost complete: pictures drawn, scraps stuck in, observations made at the time. All that remained was to add in the few pieces that had fallen through the cracks and into the back pocket of the sketchbook: a menu, some currency, a greeting card.

Scraps, however, were not the only things that were stuck in. Before I left, I treated myself to one of the unsung treasures of the stationer’s: numbered stickers. I took a package of black-on-white to label the days in the planner at the start of my sketchbook, and white-on-black to label each day as I progressed through the sketchbook. It was unnecessary but fun, with some of the mild excitement of an advent calendar, and knowing that as each day was sketched and written and pasted, I could mark it off and start a new one with a fresh new sticker.

USA Sketchbook 21

The sketchbook is here: USA 2007 Moleskine.

Other parts:

Bought an umbrella

I divided the tools I took into two bags: a large ziplock bag in my checked luggage with scissors, brushes, watercolours and so forth; and a smaller bag in my handbag with markers, prismacolors, unipins and mechanical pencil. The glue stick travelled between this smaller bag and my clear-onboard-toiletries-and-liquids-for-inspection bag according to whether or not we were airborne.

And in the end I used only:

  • the monochrome markers
  • the prismacolour pencils
  • the mechanical pencil
  • stickers
  • glue stick and
  • scissors.

The first two were unexpected. I have almost always drawn in pencil or pen. Markers were still unfamiliar territory, unwieldy and permanent and blending poorly. I disliked coloured pencils – using them, what they could and couldn’t do, what art in coloured pencil looked like.

They were, however, the most travel-friendly: light, portable, not messy, quick to use, bold, handy. Both travel in my handbag still and if I am again travelling light, I might leave behind all the excess security blanket of other media.

The last two were used for cutting things up and sticking things in, of which more anon.

Freezing on a tour bus.

The sketchbook is here: USA 2007 Moleskine.

Part 1 is here: What was lugged.
To come:

    I really, really enjoyed my dinner tonight.

    It’s a very quick and easy dish which has its roots in chilli con carne (chilli con pollo?) and trying to stay in budget. I made it again for Deb on Saturday.

    • part of a roast chicken (usually 1/2 or 1/4 when on sale at the end of the night).
    • can of lentils.
    • can of red kidney beans.
    • can of diced (or otherwise tortured) tomatoes.
    • some salsa, and assorted spices: chilli and anything else that smells appealing.*

    Heat the pan with a bit of oil and herbs. Chop up the roast chicken, put it in, stir it around, add the beans and tomatoes and some salsa and let simmer. That’s about it.

    I served it on cous-cous, mixed in the bowls, with a dollop of plain yoghurt.

    It reheats well and cous-cous is easier to make up at work than two minute noodles. But the best way to eat it is in a tortilla with some crumbled tasty cheese (can’t find the grater) and a glass of cold milk.

    Man that was good.

    ———————

    *You could add onion and garlic, but we’d just had the Great February Onion Cull, and I couldn’t be bothered crushing garlic.

    Multiple

    A chain of paperdolls, seven sisters (the seventh is on the side and back of the canvas), a selection from the 12 dancing princesses, multiple roses, a four-leaf clover, multiple media. The shamrock is for the multiple leaves, and for the music and where two of my names are from, and because March is coming.

    I painted the background in acrylic and impasto medium. The green and pink were too candy-nasty so I toned it down with brown and ochre pastel in gell medium. The chain of dancers were cut out of folded paper. I printed out sheet music (“I’ll take you home, Kathleen”) and used gell medium to paste strips across the dancers, then pasted them down on the canvas with more gel medium and trimmed the edges. I decided to keep the last dancer with my pencil sketch, and she is wrapped around to the back. I went over them again with the sepia pastel/medium mix and added colour with the same mix and rubbing pastel on with my finger, which I then coated with fixative before coating the whole canvas with another dose of pastel and gell medium.

    The main figure was transferred from a quick sketch (referring to the bathroom mirror) onto white sketch paper and coloured with pastel in gell medium. The yellow top is from the back page of the sheet music, coloured and tortured in photoshop to age it and then treated with fixative (which made the paper a little bit crispy). Shadows were added with pastel, and I painted the details and the shamrock.

    The colours are more pastel than I like and the main figure should probably be a little further into the picture. I’m also struggling with getting good colour reproductions on this scanner, so if anyone knows of a good tutorial on adjusting colours in photoshop, I’m all ears – there’s a strong lemon-yellow on that top I can’t quite catch.

    As ever, comments and criticism are very welcome!

    This model works cheaply:

    The yellow blouse


    Serendipitous placement of lyrics:

    Your heart will feel no pain

    Reading Charles Addams in The Strand Bookstore

    I knew, when I went to America last October, that I wanted to draw while I was there (I draw every day) and, if possible, to keep a sketch-journal. I’d done this once before, in Melbourne when /Karen/ and I went to Continuum and met Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb and I had been putting it off doing it again until an occasion justifying the purchase of a Moleskine sketchbook (that first was a present from Deb).

    This is what I generally keep in my handbag: Debden notebook (indexed), Moleskine sketchbook, diary, another sketchbook and notebook if I’m in transition, an exercise book if I’m in the middle of a first draft, scratch paper with drawings on the back which I have forgotten to take out and file, a packet of monochrome Pitt markers, a packet of earth tone Pitt markers (new arrival), a pencil box with Prismacolors and a mechanical pencil, a pencil sharpener with shaving catcher. That’s my everyday handbag. If I’m going somewhere art-related after work, I may take another bag with charcoal and pastel pencils, kneadable eraser, water colour pencils, travel watercolours and a larger sketchbook. If I’m going home for the weekend, there will also be at least a document box of paints, paint brush roll, rubber stamp blanks, corner cutter, lino carving tools, stamp pads, dip pen, bottles of ink, more sketchbooks, some pads of paper, watercolour postcards, canvas boards, glue, scissors, fancy paper, scrapbook, ruler, etc.

    All this for someone who does most of her drawings in biro on memo pad.

    Since I was planning to travel relatively lightly (interesting fact: my total luggage weighed in less than the change in my weight in the last two years) it was impractical to pack on the usual scale.

    In the end, I took advantage of large ziplock bags and packed: Unipin pens, Pitt markers, glue stick, scissors, Prismacolour pencils, watercolour pencils, a few inexpensive paintbrushes, numbered stickers, blank labels and index cards and a mechanical pencil.

    I agonised over the sketchbook/notebook/diary/travel journal situation until the night before we left, and settled on an A5 moleskine sketchbook for everything related to the trip and my usual debden notebook for everything else (ideas, fiction, notes, transient stuff), with a moleskine cahier for backup (not needed).

    Coming Soon:

    If you can’t wait to see how it ends, the journal is up as a set on Flickr: USA 2007 Moleskine.

    Grand Central Terminal
    1. Wearing my blouse inside out. Worked this out at the bus stop, but I had to wait to get into the city, through two blocks and into MacArthur Central bathrooms before I could fix it. Trying very hard to be cool and deliberate but hampered by not remembering where the tags where and consequently walking with my arms very close to my sides in case they were in the seams. Of course, it turned out to be in the neckline and my hair was down, so that was why I couldn’t find them with my elbows.
    2. Trying on wigs. Genevieve even joined in! With a bob I look even more like my mother.
    3. Changing into sneakers and socks in the middle of Queen Street Mall. I saw stranger things go by.
    4. People watching and asking if they could take photos of me drawing the latin dancers. Well, this sort of thing has rarely embarassed me at the time.
    5. Buying the most delightfully awful book I could have cause not to regret buying. I’ve been dithering on this for a few months now and didn’t quite manage not to defend myself, but after telling the cashier it was for “comedic value” I salvaged the situation by asking if he read fantasy and (as he did) inviting him to look at the pictures, and he agreed with me. If you are particularly unfortunate, I may even review it.

    It was an artistic Friday evening. After Genevieve and I had our semi-regular melting-moment-and-mocha at a cafe in the Myer Centre, we went to the photo shop so I could show her last weekend’s paintings and print out copies. While we waited, we tried on wigs in the wig shop (I found a nice length of bob for… $400+, so might get a more theatrical, cheaper wig unless I can bring myself to the overwhelming question of whether to cut my hair before the 1920s banquet). Genevieve left to practice her scales in the music shop and I returned to the photo store to discover they had printed 24 copies on gloss instead of matte. While they reprinted them I avoided buying a tripod (most of my photos are self-portrait/reference shots so my gorillapod and a chair will do for now) and resisted art books in QBD. Then I sat on a bench in Queen Street Mall and sketched passersby before buying a canvas board and the above-mentioned terrible book. I then proceeded to Brisbane Square, where I drew people dancing and other people watched and commented and cactusdude took photos over my shoulder which he may put up when he gets back to Sydney (he asked first and gave me his card after).

    Then I walked back to Milton and had a bite in what is invariably the dirtiest McDonald’s of my acquaintance and would have finished being artistic then and there except that Sinatra came on the radio and two policemen who were just leaving started singing and whistling to “I did it my way”, so I drew a quick picture of that. Then I walked home and tried to take a picture of a frond of bougainvillea (hah! got it right first time!) which would have made a very pretty border ornament, except it was too dark to pick up anything except a distant pool of streetlight on my phone, and so was home by a little after 11.

    In the end, the photo shop gave me both sets of photos (glossy and matte) so there may be some left over and I will probably offer them to the earliest takers before very long.

    I make a point of reading everyday, and sometimes on weekends when I don’t want to read a book I associate with bus travel and coffee in McDonalds, I pick up odd volumes at home – Labyrinth manga, histories of King John and bound volumes of Windsor Magazine. As a result of which I am left cold by internal inconsistencies, fascinated and frustrated by introductions to books that keep sinking down in the pile of Books to Read and calling friends and saying “Oh. My. Word!”

    Oh. My. Word.
    This last is because the story I read this weekend was just the sort of story that Anne Shirley and Katy Carr and The Story Girl and Jo March and their friends-and-relations read and wrote and swooned over and learned through the trials of life not to write anymore. Exactly.

    (more…)

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