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The Little Guy Holds Out – Forever?

April 13, 2007

This afternoon I was prompted by the question, “why no accounts about travel in Australia?” I had no sensible answer for that, except perhaps that I have not kept any diary or log of any domestic travel. Other than the 6000km return trip into the depths of the tropics in a Suzuki van powered by a tired 900cc engine. In midsummer. 90km/h downhill only. Windows wound down the whole way. That was the the backbone of our honeymoon – some trips are best forgotten.

But putting that prompt together with the weekly, now fortnightly, drawing challenge at Blue Sky Studio, I thought I could tie both challenges together, although my art is nowhere as accomplished as those professionals. Their current challenge is “On the Way to Work this Morning I Saw…”

On the way to work this morning (yes, sadly Saturday) I saw something that makes me smile most mornings. In North Sydney, stuck between two large office blocks is a small two story building which is perhaps only 5-6 metres wide. It belongs to a watchmaker. He has managed to hold out and not sell his little premises. Something like the nail house guys in China. Not only is the shop front narrow but the shop is very shallow. The owner strikes you as one of those European types who managed to get out of Nazi Germany just in time. A careworn look. Maybe that look has come about from years of fighting developers, rather than the oppressive politics of a home country. His advertising has that blue tint of faded colour prints left on the wall far too long and many of the pieces are out of your grandparents house. And if you are a 1974 James Bond he has just the time piece for you. But he seems to get enough custom to keep him going. I have no idea how long he thinks he can hang on there.

Inspired by Xian Sketches and Sketchers

April 9, 2007

Along the main street in Xian, OK, along one of the main streets in Xian, just near the Bell Tower roundabout, dozens of artists sit along the kerb and entice passers by to pose for their portraits. Sure you see plenty of these sorts of guys around town, hanging out at train stations and tourist spots, even in this town. Funny how they all seem Asian. Maybe they have come out of Xian! Not likely since the teenage artists sitting along the sidewalk in Xian are, without exception, seriously talented. That they can take any person, in half light and through pressing crowds at that, and sketch an uncanny likeness had me transfixed for, well seconds. Stay there any longer and they are wanting you to pose and before you know it you have a bunch of sketches in your bottom draw you will never do anything with. But they did not need my business to stay in business – parents with cute toddlers with braided hair and ribbons were the models of choice and like young parents anywhere they are happy to cough up for a cute picture of their children. Dozens and dozens of them.

However what these artists did do was prod me to get the old HB out and to get sketching again. That creative urge ties in nicely with the blogging. But there is nothing quite like a soft pencil on quality paper. Except perhaps a nice viscous Indian ink used for painting Chinese characters, and the soft, smooth paper they practise on. Now I did take some instruction on that in Xian, some of which I will get up on the site here some time. In the meantime here is a quick “one sitting” sketch from last weekend’s paper of Catherine Deneuve. Scanner did something neat with the highlighted look – I can’t take credit for that.

St Matthews

December 2, 2006


In 1981 I spent six months on a training course in Toowoomba. Semi rural Queensland. It was a bachelor’s life. And thoroughly pleasant for that. I sketched this old stone church modestly posing behind a large pinus radiata, but parading with something more exotic in its other garden. These sorts of buildings lend themselves to sketching. But I may have been attempting some sort of atonement for my primary school stories of churches. Most of those stories and the accompanying sketches have the church burning down. A child psychologist would have a field day with that.

1949 Robinson Harvester

December 2, 2006


Other creative pursuits in the past have included pen and ink and pen and pencil sketching. Far too little of it though since my school days. In one summer holidays from school I worked on a farm in northern Victoria. It was 45 degrees and oven hot. Most days. I sketched this one afternoon when it was too hot to do anything else. The sweat evaporated before it reached the ground – though some remains smudged in my sketchbook to this day. I tried to catch the harsh light on the gums in the background by putting little detail in there. To no effect given there is so much white background. The harvester had long gone to the cracked timber and rusty frame boneyard found in every farm. I was wary of it because the occassional black snake would rest under there.

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