Oz Comic-Con sketches

I spent last weekend at Oz Comic-Con. After a panel with the very excellent author Trent Jamieson (on “Pinning Magic to the Page” with Trent Jamieson, hosted by Angela who did a fabulous job interviewing us both), I spent most of the weekend at a table selling books and stickers and some little original pen and ink drawings. It was a really lovely, convivial weekend.

And of course, my table was prime real estate for being able to sketch passers-by (the only drawback was that the table blocked my view of feet when people were close by). It was further enhanced by being next to Thor of Oz, with whom people kept stopping to pose for pictures.

So here are my sketches of various cosplayers from Oz Comic-Con Homegrown Brisbane 2022, beginning with a close-up of the only sketch for which I interrupted a conversation: Kermit holding Mjolnir.

If you’re in these pictures and would like to repost the picture of you online for personal use, you’re very welcome to — just please credit it to me (Kathleen Jennings — I’m @tanaudel on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, tanaudel.wordpress.com or kathleenjennings.com otherwise). But if you’d like to buy me a virtual coffee (see below), that is very welcome, too!

If you’d like to follow me / support artists (me) / buy things with (my) art on them here are some options!

Sketchbook: Boy&Girl — Brisbane Powerhouse

Here are all the pages from my sketchbook from last night at the wild, impressive, ribald and hilarious cabaret/performance Boy&Girl (from Oscar Production Company) at the Brisbane Powerhouse (it’s still on for two more nights).

Sketchbook page with tiny sketches of audience and crew and MC

As previously mentioned, I expanded my usual limited speed-sketching colour palette by adding pink for flamboyance.

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

The joy of this sort of sketching is in capturing the movements.

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

The physical personalities of the people on stage.

(And it was delightful meeting more of the cast afterwards, and watching them pick out people — even the ones without the super-obvious costumes.)

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

Lighting is tricky in this medium, at this speed, in a show with LED and fire components.

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

But occasionally — as with the audience members at the table below, and the crew on the first page, I can capture a hint of what the light was doing.

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

Boots and heels!

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

Lyrical dance and sequins and shadows and fire!

Tiny sketches of people singing and dancing and doing acrobatics at a cabaret

As posted yesterday, here is my little setup in the balcony — the crew let me borrow a stand and light, which was great. If I get to sneak in to sketch a show like this again, I’m going to experiment with some sort of low-powered booklight.

Photo of sketchbook and pens on music stand with light on balcony looking over stage performance

The show is on for two more nights, and check out Oscar Production Company to see what else they do!

Up late sketching Boy&Girl

Sketchbook page with tiny sketches of audience and crew and MC
Audience settling in, crew in position, MC takes the stage

This evening I went to Boy&Girl (from Oscar Production Company) at the Brisbane Powerhouse — I’d been on Saturday to watch it with friends, but they (specifically Em and Bryce) let me back this evening to sketch from the balcony!

I’ll post more pictures later, but there are only two more nights of shows. so if you’re in Brisbane and want some ribald, lyrical, raunchy, acrobatic cabaret-style fun (and it certainly is having enormous fun, as well as being very skilful), head to the Powerhouse website to book.

I was working mostly in the dark, so had to limit my colour choices severely to be able to find anything. Usually, as posted about previously, I’d default to blue and gold. But given the colour and spangles (and fire, etc) of the show, I added in hot pink and a lighter pink, which actually gave a reasonable range.

More pictures soon. In the meantime, here is my setup in the balcony, on one of the lit music stands being used by the crew.

Photo of sketchbook and pens on music stand with light on balcony looking over stage performance

Flood update

Sketches of people setting off to clean and delivery cold drinks

Well, the floods got worse (and far worse in NSW), and now the cleanup is on. (I wasn’t flooded, but the street was cut off and there was no power for a few days.)

I haven’t done much sketching, because it was so many people’s immediate, personal loss, and there was a lot of harder, more important work to do.

But on Saturday the Mud Army 2.0 arrived, numerous and cheerful, and by then I was driving instead of carrying things, so I snuck in a few sketches when I was pulled over.

Sketches of people cleaning things, and police horses

If you’d like to help:

  • Givit is the main officially-recognised organisation matching donations to needs.
  • Volunteering Queensland or Volunteering NSW if you’re on the ground (or local community Facebook groups, or equivalent NSW)
  • Support directly. E.g. ReLove is one of my favourite cafes, where I edited a lot of Flyaway (it’s in the acknowledgements) and where I get a lot of my odder art reference materials. I’ve been washing vintage plates and running bags of microfibre towels through the dryer. They have a GoFundMe to replace destroyed equipment (or their PayPal address is info@reloveoxley.com).
Photo of contents of flooded shop piled on kerb

Sketching: Late night at Avid Reader

Just before Christmas, Avid Reader had a 36 hour trading session, with cocktails and early morning yoga and scavenger hunts.

I was there for the 8-9pm author signing. It was lovely and convivial. As well as signing we all got to stand up and recommend a few books by other people, which was delightful and interesting (and expensive).

I also planned to sketch, so it worked out well that I was sitting near Trent Dalton, whose queue of lovely readers made for some very good people-watching.

Then just relaxing on the back deck late on a balmy summer evening, while music played and people bought books and read quietly.

Cat sketches

Here are some sketches of a handsome and bitey cat, not mine, named Henry.

Some previous cat drawings: Cats; Twilight Cats.

Some thoughts about crowd scenes, by way of the sketchbook

A month after the residency at Concordia, I went back for their 75th anniversary. Here’s a sketch of a portion of the choir. I wish I’d had more time to draw them — it was delightful — the hairstyles, the hats, the attitudes, the varying degrees to which uniforms had been bought to be grown into.

I’ve been thinking lately about sketching groups (here’s one from the sketches I previously posted from the residency).

It’s good practice, of course — it increases speed and as well as observing motion and proportions you need to watch how these interact, and how people interact in groups. How they respond and evade, how they make different movements to reflect the same emotion or to distinguish themselves from the people nearest, or how they choose to ally themselves with another. Who is distracted, who is peering over shoulders.

I think the picture below was of a game of Werewolf at the end of IMC 2017. This is also when I started trying to draw groups more often, thanks to Irene Gallo’s advice.

(This is also why I like to sit close enough to see the orchestra at classical music performances — all the little dramas and differences among people who are allegedly working on the same task.)

And then there is the study of ways to unite people into a coherent group — overlapping them, demonstrating attention, using colour and shadow to create larger overarching shapes, ie. the blue shadow above, and the green cameo-backgrounds below (vs the independent shape of the roving photographer). These sketches were from Library Next at the State Library of Queensland.

Sometimes they are joined by light or props or patterns (of light, of poses, of uniform).

Sometimes they set themselves apart from each other deliberately — breaks in a pattern are fascinating. (These are from a Defence Innovation Bridge day at UQ).

Tiny black-line drawing with dashes of blue and yellow marker. 
Three groups sit at tables, one discussing a person in a helicopter writing a media release, others discussing a radio, and the third saying POLICY

All the little problems of perspective and distance this creates are charming, too — dancing is particularly enjoyable to sketch because while no-one holds still, they often repeat key movements so you get a chance to confirm your impressions.

And then there is all the variance and variegation of a group of people even engaged on the same very pointed activity. I’ve mentioned before, in relation to many of these same images, that sketching makes me like individual people more. However it also makes groups (as entities) more interesting.

I love this crowd around the Rosetta stone, with all their various easy-to-judge behaviours (I didn’t feel so benevolent when I sat down to draw them).

Being in the habit of seeing crowds this way does, I hope, feed into art. I do plan to do more deliberate exercises working on group scenes — here’s one where I was using kitchen objects as a guide to composition.

And I’d also like to think more deliberately about crowd and group scenes in writing — how to take all these same considerations and render them in prose. As with this example from Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern which features (among other things)

  • A generic specificity of the description, describing a group by the sub-groups (rather than individuals) within it.
  • The contrast/linking effect of only describing one element of each group’s appearance.
  • The pleasing way hats/aprons etc falls into the repetition of cuffs/cuffs/cufflinks.
“We'll take your cushion and put it on the new refrigerator, and you'll feel right at home.”
At the Daily Fluxion an hour later, Qwilleran reported the good news to Odd Bunsen. They met in the employees' lunchroom for their morning cup of coffee, sitting at the counter with pressmen in square paper hats, typesetters in canvas aprons, rewrite men in white shirts with the cuffs turned up, editors with their cuffs buttoned, and advertising men wearing cufflinks. 
Qwilleran told the photographer, “You should see the bathrooms at the Villa Verandah! Gold faucets!”

And here’s a great episode of Every Frame a Painting which touches on (among other things) the movement in Akira Kurosawa’s crowd scenes (and also the effect of emotion in a crowd scene):

Writing/drawing exercise:

  • Find a clip of a crowd scene (not CGI) — movies, documentaries, train station cameras, news footage (movies obviously are usually more choreographed). Search “good crowd scenes” or perhaps “[your large railway station of choice] at rush hour”, etc. (Or find a real-life crowd, if that’s a reasonable option where you are.)
  • Do a quick sketch of the people in the scene. This is fastest and least rigorous if you don’t actually stop the video (you could try playing it at a slower speed rather than stopping it). I recommend this step even if you aren’t an illustrator, because it’s a good way to make sure you look closely at what’s going on.
  • Write a paragraph novelising the scene. Try to get across the effect of that particular crowd scene. Can you keep a similar pace/mood to the original video? I recommend this step even if you aren’t trying to be a writer — some things (e.g. movement and noise) can be more obvious when writing.

School sketches — Concordia

My week as artist in residence at Concordia Lutheran College was wonderful (lively, inventive, intense), but without much time for drawing. So, since I finished just before lunch on the Friday, I sat out in the quadrangle and did some very quick sketches.

The uniforms have changed since I was there (ours were brown, white and yellow). (Also I hardly ever sat in the quadrangle when I was there — I mostly spent lunch hours in the library).

I don’t draw groups as often as I’d like to, but it’s always worthwhile — the different attitudes and interaction, the necessary speed.

The flocking which happens in any group of people with overlapping interests, but concentrated, like birds wheeling on the sound of a bell.

Bird’s-Eye View

I’ve been scanning in some sketchbooks and found this page. I was in a queue by an upstairs window, so I passed the time drawing people passing along the street outside, below, in the morning sun.

I often need to remind myself not to draw (or write) the obvious, eye-level view of things. When I actually do this, new details (the location of parts in hair or the structural role of boat-neck tops) abruptly become important. Sometimes the part of the sketch doing the heavy lifting (explaining where things are in space, hinting at movement, orienting the viewer) shifts from the figure to the shadow.

Some previous thoughts on viewpoints (and points of view):

Sketches at GOMA — European Masterpieces

Last week I snuck out to visit GOMA with Shayna, and see the exhibition of European Masterpieces from the Met. They’re renovating, we’re briefly not in lockdown…

I don’t sketch much when I’m visiting galleries with friends — there are important conversations to have, the backgrounds of Renaissance paintings to examine, people with cameras to dodge.

But I did get to do some of my favourite gallery sketching, which is sketching OTHER people sketching.

But I did get in a sketch of one of my favourites — which is MUCH larger than I imagined. I like it because it is so direct and frank, odd in its blank expanses and then unexpectedly detailed, not unlovely but far more concerned with what the sitter is doing. And if you look at it too long, it feels exactly like when a friend is drawing you and staring very hard at you but never quite meeting your eyes because they’re fixated on the shadows of your nose.

Here is the portrait — you can find out more about it on the Met’s page.

Marie Denise Villers — Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes (1786–1868) 1801