Sunday 21 August 2016

the time it takes

Almost everyone who pages through my sketchbook asks 'How long does one of your paintings take?' The answer is ... around about 2 hours.

That's a long time to sit in one spot!

But here's the thing. I don't want to rush it. While I greatly admire the skill that many urban sketchers have to quickly capture the essence of a scene in 15 minutes or so, I like to take my time and capture the details of the place. Not all those details are shown in the sketch, some are stored in my memory or in the little notes I write on the back.

By sitting in a place for a long period of time I get to know it whole lot better. I get to meet people who stop and chat, and to take in the smells and sounds. I have enough time to become totally absorbed in what I do - a sort of meditation.

Here are a few stories behind some recent sketches. A wordier blog than normal :-)

Frassene Agordino, Italy. 

Frassene Agordino, Dolomiti, Italia

Our day started at 4.30am as the boys wanted to start hiking for their BASE jump super early. I managed to nap a little after dropping them off, but the church bells woke me and I was very early into town to sketch. It was deserted, all except for an old lady dressed in her Sunday best sweeping the street. She seemed glad of the company, and the street certainly didn't need a sweep, so she entertained me with a super long story with all the Italian gestures. My only Italian sentence is, embarrassingly, 'no parlo Italiano'. But she didn't mind that I understood nothing. We could just each do our 'job' and chat away about anything. Then the church bells did their big Sunday service ring and she put aside her broom to attend Mass and I packed away my brushes, feeling like some kind of connection had been made. A memory created with a total stranger.

Gares, Dolomites, Italy

Gares, Dolomiti, Italia

The Gares valley is super spectacular and we spent the morning climbing high above the valley and villages. On our walk back into town I spotted these lovely stone buildings, so I popped back to the car to fetch my sketching gear. Sketching peoples homes could potentially be invasive, and I try to be sensitive. I don't want to anyone to feel like I'm prying! I set up just off the main walking track, at the far end of someone's unfenced garden. Just as I was starting to ink in the sketch, a car pulled up and a women hopped out and walked up to me talking in excited Italian. I thought ... 'oops! now I've done it!' In actual fact she was just fascinated with what I was up to. She shared details about the village and her home and asked if I'd send her a photo of the completed picture. I love hearing about a place from a local, info you'd never find out any other way.

Bogo, Dolomites, Italy

Bogo, Dolomiti, Italia

While sketching this lovely old house I was sitting in the shade under the eaves of an old stone barn. School holiday time, so 2 little kids around 8 or 9 years old, were helping (or not!) their grand-dad muck out the barn. Children are never shy to have a nosey at what I'm up to and that is so lovely. These 2 kept popping by to watch my progress. Teeming with questions, I managed to answer some with gestures from all of us, but one burning question couldn't be understood. So the little girl sat next to me and drew her own sketch...

Do I sketch houses for a living? I'd certainly like to :-)

That's me in my hat with my pigtail sticking out and, of course, I'm painting a house. So clever! And the equal sign means what? Yes! You know, being an artist is my job, or at least I like to think so :-)

Then the owner of the house popped by and invited me in. What a treat! The house is 300 years old and he's slowly modernising it himself. Low ceilings, wonky floors, big wooden features. Wonderful! And it turns out he keeps bees, so I left with a jar of honey in exchange for a copy of the sketch. Gotta love random acts of kindness.

If at all possible, (if it isn't about to pour with rain, or the bus isn't going to stop right in my view, or the sun isn't going to set) I try not to rush it. It's important to me to savour where I am and not try to tick the next thing or the next thing. Works for me, anyway :-)

Until next time, Ciao! 

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