Thursday, March 12, 2015

Growth, style and change

It's been a while since I've posted but I've still been sketching madly. (I show many of my sketches daily on Instagram these days.) And I've been thinking a bit about how my sketchbook practice is developing.

Around the beginning of the year I realised if I wanted to sketch more regularly, my style would have to change.

I love nothing more than spending an hour or more on a sketch. Like this one done with fellow urban sketchers over a relaxed catch-up in a cafe.

Jodi Wiley - Kinfolk Cafe, Bourke Street, Melbourne in a Stillman & Birn sketchbook

But in day-to-day life, like most people, I just don't have the luxury of time. I have to squeeze sketches in between errands, or scratch something out before the kids beckon.

I've been experimenting with a looser style, smaller sketchbook and limited materials.

Jodi Wiley - Brunswick Street, Melbourne in a Rhodia pocket sketchbook

I happened upon the blues by accident one day when all I had in my bag was two different shades of blue markers. I did my sketch anyway and liked the result. So I've continued with the blue. It's very versatile.

Jodi Wiley - Melbourne sketches

And I really don't mind the bleed-through of the markers. It makes me less precious about putting pen to paper.

The orange of the scooter is thanks to my five-year-old kindly lending me her colour pencils.

Jodi Wiley - Degraves Street, Melbourne in a Rhodia pocket sketchbook

What I've also realised about myself is that I find these sketches much more fun to do. When I'm at home and have a stretch of time and all my materials at hand, I just don't feel motivated to experiment. But when I'm out and about, pressing up against time, with only a handful of pens, I feel energised.

When I think about why I sketch, it's not to create a perfect book. It's because it's fun (why else would you do it?), I want to experiment and grow as an artist, and I have an irrepressible need to record and interpret my world.

A book full of imperfect sketches is better than an empty one.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Painting my books: Motherhood and lingering questions

'Common Sense' (watercolour on paper) - Jodi Wiley

When I had my first daughter five-and-a-half years ago I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. They often caused me more trouble than they were worth. Ditto for internet forums.

When I had my second daughter I barely opened a single book. I began to trust myself more when I silenced the white noise of advice.

I found Common Sense in the Nursery in this second-hand bookshop not long ago and I bought it immediately based on the title alone.

Now, I don't know who Mrs. Sydney Frankenburg is but I can tell you, she terrifies me. Just now I read her bio on the back cover which informs me she also published books called, Latin with Laughter and More Latin with Laughter - which terrifies me even more.

Common Sense in the Nursery is a book full of 'shoulds' and 'musts' and 'certainly need nots'.

'From the beginning the child should be trained to go to sleep alone. He should be put into his cot and left.'

'Crying should be systematically discouraged.'

'A most useful invention for the baby in a flat or townhouse with no garden, is the cage fastened to the outside of the window.'

You see? Common sense!

First published in 1922 it is, as you can imagine, full of the common sense of its time. Which made me realise, 'common sense' is always of its time.

The middle book is my mum's very own copy of Book of Child Care: The complete guide for today's parents from my own childhood. This book has a softer tone - it's much kinder. It's been well-thumbed. You can see the spine has been taped up. I remember seeing it around the house as a kid.

The bottom book is mine. I bought it a few years ago in the dark muddle that is early-motherhood with new baby and active toddler and eye-bulging sleep-deprivation. I haven't finished reading it. You might be able to see the bookmark.

Parenting is hard. I'm always grappling for answers. I have plenty of lingering questions. And it comforts me to know that many mothers before me obviously did too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Four great books on sketching

This year has seen a surge in titles about sketching to match the growing interest worldwide in urban sketching and sketchbook journalling. And because books are my weakness, I think I've read most of them!

Here are my thoughts on four titles. If you love sketching and you love books, you might be interested in one (or all!) of these:

Urban Watercolor Sketching is a bit of a misnomer because it's not so much about urban sketching as about watercolour. I'm the kind of person whose eyes glaze over when I read theory so this title by illustrator Felix Scheinberger is a real stand-out for me. It has pretty much everything I ever wanted to know about watercolour techniques and colour theory in the most non-boring way possible. I would go so far as to say I couldn't put it down. If you're interested in using watercolour in a non-traditional (exciting!) way, then this is the book for you.


The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes is most definitely about urban sketching. It's the latest offering by the founder of the Urban Sketchers organisation, Gabriel Campanario, and is full of tips and tricks on drawing in the field. He covers composition, creating scale, depth and contrast, using line to good effect and injecting creativity into your work. He also writes briefly about the use of different media, accompanied by examples. I particularly like the smaller format - it's designed to look a bit like a Moleskine sketchbook and comes with an elastic closure (which fell off my copy pretty quickly) - but I like that it's small enough to throw in the bag on a sketch outing for a burst of inspiration on location. (I'm also looking forward to the companion title which will be published soon: People and Motion.)

Sketch by France Belleville-Van Stone is another book full of inspiration. Her particular angle is that she is completely self-taught (she is actually a French language teacher by profession). She makes daily drawing seem an achievable task. She even has a whole chapter titled: 'Drawing when time and resources are limited'. As a teacher and a mother, she is obviously busy (that's an understatement!), so the tips she gives to maintain a drawing habit come from experience. I particularly like what she has to say about the concept of talent: 'artistic talent is a shorthand for countless hours, months, and years spent drawing'. In other words, it's not something 'bestowed upon a lucky few' but something that comes from actually doing the work. This book is great for those just starting their sketching journey or for people wanting a bit of encouragement to keep up the drawing habit amid a busy life. It's also a treasure for fans of her blog Wagonized as it's full of her wonderful drawings.

The Urban Sketcher: techniques for seeing and drawing on location by Marc Taro Holmes is a book of tutorials designed to build your urban sketching skills through experience. It is the kind of book you need to work through - and as I've only just got my hands on this title I haven't done that yet - but it's jam-packed with tips, information, advice and exercises to improve your ability to sketch on location. It's divided into three sections by media: graphite, pen & ink and watercolour - I've dipped into each section and I'm excited by what I see. I'm a big fan of Marc Taro Holmes' work and I'm looking forward to diving into this book.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Melbourne Urban Sketchers Exhibition Launch

Saturday was the official launch of 'Urban Sketching in Boroondara', a group exhibition by the Melbourne Urban Sketchers.

I got there a little early so the kids could have a look before the throng arrived. I was so thrilled with the way it was installed. It all looks so beautiful.

Seeing the work on gallery walls and framed behind glass was a very different experience from our usual practice of laying out our sketchbooks on the footpath after a meet-up. It was all so sophisticated!

I loved spotting sketches I had actually seen being created by the artist. They brought back memories of our days sketching: where we were, what the weather was like, the conversations I had (usually about art materials - how I love knowing people who don't get bored by that topic!).

I felt really proud of our group: the dedication and passion of everyone involved is so inspiring.

The turnout for the launch was huge, with the gallery space jam-packed for the full two hours of the event.

And I was pretty excited to spot these red dots on my work!

A very special thanks goes out to fellow urban sketchers, Evelyn Yee and Kym Steinke, our group organisers. Without their hard work and dedication, this exhibition would not have been possible.

And congratulations to all the artists. I feel proud to count myself among you.

The exhibition runs until 6 December 2014 at the Town Hall Gallery in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

If you can't make it, here is a promo video which gives you a bit of a taster. But if you're in Melbourne, I urge you to check it out in person. It's well worth it.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Journey of a sketch: from street to gallery

This week is the opening of the Melbourne Urban Sketchers' exhibition Urban Sketching in Boroondara at The Town Hall Gallery in Hawthorn.

We have been working towards this show for the better part of this year, regularly meeting up in locations around the City of Boroondara to draw from observation on the streets (and in cafes!).

It's been a lot of fun preparing for this show but it also forced me to approach sketching in a slightly different way, which I wrote about here.

As the show is about to open, I thought I might reflect upon the journey of a sketch - from the street to a gallery wall.

I have previously posted about drawing Camberwell Books & Collectibles but I thought I would show some progress shots from the day of the sketch.

When I started this drawing I didn't think I would put this particular sketch in the show. In fact, I wasn't at all sure it was going to work out. As I made my first lines on the page, I remember thinking that I would soon give up on it and cross the road to draw the Rivoli theatre instead.

I'll just keep going for a little bit longer and see what happens, I kept telling myself. Despite my initial thoughts, I really don't like to give up on a sketch. Before I knew it, I was enjoying myself so much I didn't want to stop. All those books! What fun to draw.

In the end, I was really happy with the drawing. It's such a gorgeous shopfront and I do have a soft spot for books. You may have noticed ;)

When it came time to decide which sketches to show, I knew I wanted this one in.

Mustn't forget to sign it!

Then it was time to frame all three of the sketches I selected. I love the way simply placing a mat over an artwork immediately makes it pop.

And here is the final piece framed under glass. I'm really happy with how the sketches have come up once framed. It's certainly a different experience from looking at them in a sketchbook.

Camberwell Books & Collectibles (Ink & watercolour on paper) - Jodi Wiley

On the weekend I dropped my work off at the venue ready for the exhibition to be installed today.

While I was in the area, I couldn't resist sketching the Hawthorn Town Hall. The gallery is part of this beautiful old building.

And finally, below are the three sketches I have in the show: Maling Road Classic Fruits, Camberwell Books & Collectibles and Burke Rd, Camberwell.

There will be a huge range of sketches on show from about 30 members of the Melbourne Urban Sketchers group. I can't wait to see everyone's work hung together. It's going to be amazing.

Urban Sketching in Boroondara opens at the Hawthorn Town Hall Gallery on Wednesday (5th November) and runs until the 6th December 2014.

The opening event is this Saturday 8th November, 2pm-4pm. Come along and say hi!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sketching Melbourne Uni

Caught up with the Melbourne Urban Sketchers on the weekend at my old stomping ground, Melbourne University.

Had a coffee and pastry at Brunetti on Lygon Street first (duly recorded in the sketchbook) and when I got to the meeting point I did a loose warm-up sketch of the Old Law Quad. I've walked through those arches maybe a thousand times but never sketched them.

After that I settled in to draw the clock tower of Old Arts. I had many lectures in that building in my day so it was nice to record it in my sketchbook. It's been quite a while since I was an Arts undergrad but sitting there, examining the detail of the building, so many memories surfaced.

Old Arts, Melbourne Uni (Jodi Wiley)

You know, one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Melbourne Uni in the first place after I finished school was because I loved the architecture so much. So many breathtaking buildings. Daunting and complicated too (a bit like being a student, really!) but ultimately, a beautiful and inspiring place. I'd love to go back and do more drawings.

Melbourne Urban Sketchers at Melbourne University

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Painting my books: The Catcher in the Rye

'The Catcher in the Rye' (watercolour on paper) - Jodi Wiley

My three precious copies of The Catcher in the Rye. For an explanation about why I own these you can read this post.

This little painting above, along with this one and also this, will be on show at the Linden Postcard Show in Melbourne opening this weekend.

The Linden Postcard show is an annual exhibition where the walls of the gallery are covered with a huge array of art in different media and styles. It's a fun show to visit and also a great opportunity to pick up an affordable piece.

It runs from 25 October - 6 December 2014. Here is the website for more details.