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‘Sometimes the best hiding place is the one that’s in plain sight.’ Stephanie Meyer.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

Out on an early morning walk through the park last weekend I stopped for a moment to take in the quiet and stillness.  The girls were puddling about happily in the undergrowth (school holidays, although over now, had brought lots of new visitors and their dogs to the area so there were still plenty of new smells to investigate), the river was ambling silently by and the sun was just coming up.  We were the only ones out and about.  Or so I thought . . .

Calling the girls to me so we could begin to wend our way home I had to do a quick sidestep to avoid tripping over Maudie who, as usual, had tried to charge ahead of me.  In doing so I pirouetted (gracefully, as you might imagine) and found myself looking directly at a low slung tree branch.  What I did not expect was to find was that low slung tree branch had bright orange eyes—and was looking directly back at me!

Once I got over the initial ‘ . . . what the . . . ?’  I realised I was looking into the eyes of a large Tawny Frogmouth.

What a treat!  The Tawny Frogmouth is  a fabulous bird but although they are quite common around here and I hear them a lot (they make a deep ‘oom-oom-oom-oom-oom’ sound) I hardly ever get to see one close up—not only because they are nocturnal, but also because they are so damn good at camouflage.  After their nightly hunts, when they are ready to settle in for the day, they like to roost on low bare branches (as in this encounter), tree stumps, and even shady patches of ground.  I must have come across this fellow just as he was bedding down and probably surprised him as much as he surprised me.

I stood back a bit to get a good look at him.  He had already frozen in place and now closed his eyes and I swear if I didn’t already know he was there I would never have seen him.  How many of these incredible birds do I walk blindly past every morning I wonder?

I said hello to him, and told him he was a beautiful bird (one does these things when no-one else is watching) but he was having none of it.  He moved not a muscle.  Not even a peek under his eyelids to see what I was doing.  I watched him, fascinated, for a couple more minutes but, as he seemed determined to pretend he hadn’t seen me, I reluctantly decided I should leave him to his rest.

Looking around to see where the girls had got to (they had all gone suspiciously quiet) I found them all sitting at my feet, exchanging nervous glances and looking worriedly up at me.  I imagine it could be bit alarming for any child, even a four-legged one, to watch your mum engaging in what appears to be a one-sided conversation with a rotten old tree stump . . .

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.’ Spike Milligan.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I live in a coastal town.  The Camden Haven River runs right past the end of my street and North Haven Beach is only a short walk away.  I really like living so close to the water.  I like the sound of it and the smell of it and the beauty of it.  Even on a crappy, overcast, rainy day our river is beautiful . . .

And because we are a coastal town, everywhere you look there are people in, on and around the water.  People paddling, swimming, surfing, kyaking, and boating.  Especially boating. There are boats all over the place.  They are on trailers parked in driveways (and on front lawns), and in queues lined up at the boat ramps, and idling about in the lagoons, and chugging up and down the river, and moored in any one of our small local marinas.

I like looking at all these boats too―there are so many different shapes and sizes and styles (and names―there are some hilarious names out there . . .’Ship for Brains’―HA!) and it always looks like everyone on these boats is having a simply fabulous time (except perhaps those still parked on the lawn or in the driveway . . . )

But that’s as far as it goes.  Looking.  I like looking at boats.  I have no overwhelming desire to actually be on one.

To be perfectly honest, even sketching these boats from my nice, stable, dry spot (under a tree) was starting to make me feel kind of queasy . . .

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Posted by on March 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.’ e.e. cummings.

northhavenparkThis is a photo taken at the park across the road from where I live (and yes, I do know how lucky I am to live here).  The girls and I walk there most days, often twice a day.  Although, sometimes I don’t walk.  Sometimes I just sit on the grass and listen to the birds or the sounds of the river or watch the girls as they potter happily about (crowding around an interesting smell they have found, then weeing on it, repeatedly)—just chillin’  . . .

Although it might be hard to believe looking at this scene today, last week we were virtually housebound for two days due to inclement weather.

The wind howled and the rain hammered and it was cold.  I did tentatively enquire once or twice whether the girls might like to go out for a quick walk but was met with stony stares from Maude and Molly and the sight of Mabel’s bottom disappearing hurriedly under the couch.  Well, okay then.  But by Friday the weather had started to clear, and this time when I asked ‘Anyone want to go for a walk?’ I was nearly trampled in the stampede to the front door.

As we made our way across the park we passed an area often referred to locally as ‘the swamp’—a low-lying area wedged between the park and the Breakwall.

swamp1At high tide water from the river seeps under the Breakwall and starts to fill this space, turning it into a kind of shallow lagoon.  There are always ducks, herons, plover and other waterfowl, and even the occasional pelican floating idly about, and in the drier areas there are plenty of little lizards and tiny crabs scuttling about around the rocks.  (There are also rats and snakes down there but we don’t talk about those. Shudder.)  But at low tide, the water all drains back into the river and all that is left is a muddy plateau with a few salty puddles scattered about.

snoopyexploringIt was obviously very low tide right then and this area was the driest I had ever seen it. There was virtually no water to be seen and a dry crust seemed to cover the whole area. Because it was so dry and there were no birds to be seen (and I thought it was still too cold for the snakes to be out) I figured it might be fun for the girls to go down and do a bit of exploring.

I don’t know what I was thinking . . .

After two steps I suddenly remembered why it was called ‘the swamp’—the crusty surface was actually only about 1mm thick and I immediately sunk up to my ankles.  The whole place was like quicksand.  I looked up to call the girls back but . . . too late . . . Molly and Maude were already off and running.

quicksand-11Well, at least Maudie was running.  Molly, who is . . . how shall I say this . . . somewhat rotund, got about ten feet before she crashed through the thin surface and ended up bogged up to her shoulders.  She turned to gaze at me pleadingly.  Sigh.  I picked my way slowly over to her, losing my shoes three times in the process, and, just as I got to her, she heaved herself out of her muddy hole, staggered three steps and bogged herself again.  Again I got close, and again she released herself.  And again.
Little ratbag.

I decided I wasn’t going to play that game and started to make my way back to where Mabel, the most sensible among us, had decided to wait out the madness.

muddy-dog-2Sure enough Molly soon made it to a point where the ground would hold her again (as I knew she would) and they all spent the next 30 minutes delightedly thundering to and fro—chasing penny lizards around the rocks or noses buried deep in the undergrowth—knee deep in doggy delight and delicious oozy smells.  By the time they all came back to me, ready to go home, they were exhausted, filthy up to their eyeballs . . . and the happiest I had ever seen them.

Not wanting to spoil their day I decided not to bath them as soon as they got home (that just seemed mean) so I wiped them down as best I could, fed them their dinners, and watched on as they fell into deep, exhausted (and river-mud stinky) slumber.

three-bugs-in-a-rugThe next day was a whole different story, of course.  They were all bundled into the bath before they could even think to complain (or run and hide) and I then spent the rest of the morning washing their doggie towels, doggie blankets and anything else in the house that they, or the swamp, had come into contact with.

What the hell—it was a very small price to pay for a day of  ‘mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful’ fun . . .

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is too serious to be taken seriously.’ Ad Reinhardt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I really think I am going to rename these posts ‘Struggles with my Sketchbook‘  . . .

writers-block-cartoonOver the last couple of weeks I have had a very hard time getting anything down on the page.  It isn’t as if I haven’t tried—I have—but I just haven’t been making any headway.  I have spent more time sitting staring at my blank sketchbook pages than I care to admit and then getting cross with myself when I failed to produce anything.  I kept telling myself ‘I want to draw something’ —but obviously not enough to actually draw anything.  Sigh.

doldrumsThis isn’t the first time I have hit the doldrums when it comes to sketching and I daresay it won’t be the last.  (Sketching and I have a bit of a history.  See ‘As my artist’s statement explains. . . )  To this day I still can come up with all sorts of lame excuses why I can’t (shouldn’t, won’t) get any drawing done.  Fortunately, I have learned enough about myself now (and it’s about bloody time) to know I can also find answers to all these excuses too . . . 

There’s nothing to draw (the house is full of things to draw) . . . It’s raining (not inside the house it isn’t) . . . That new ink I ordered hasn’t come yet (so use a biro) . . . There are other things I should be doing instead (there will always other things to be doing instead) . . . 

inner-criticLike I said—lame.  Happily, it’s no longer all that easy to just walk away from it like I have done in the past.  And the truth, is I really don’t want to walk away.  I have loved getting back into sketching and drawing and meeting fellow enthusiasts online (although not so sure I should include myself as an ‘enthusiast’ at this moment in time).  Now I realise that this slump is more about my ‘inner critic’ giving me a hard time than it is about my sketching skills. I thought I was getting better at not worrying so much about the end result, but it turns out I’m really not.  I’m still worrying more about the outcome than I am about the process.
That’s something I really have to work on.

But I am determined my inner critic is not going to get the better of me this time.  Last week I decided if I was going to constantly berate myself about the quality of my sketches I was going to have to go back to basics and learn some fundamentals, so I signed on to an online ‘Foundations’ course with Liz Steel.  Liz is a Sydney-based sketchbook artist (and an architect in a previous life) who was also one of my previous teachers at Sketchbook Skool.  Coming from an architectural background rather than an artistic one, Liz has a very analytical approach to sketching which immediately attracted me.  (And, bonus, this particular course is self-directed, which means I can progress through it in my own time, with no pressure to upload weekly homework assignments.  Yay!)

spatterI had a look at the first lesson this weekend.  It was all about getting to know your materials, deciding what you you were comfortable with, what you liked using, and what you didn’t like using.  I spent a happy couple of days (with the stereo turned up loud)  ‘playing’ with my watercolour paints and pencils, mixing colours and textures and generally making an all around mess. (I have decided I am still much more comfortable with my watercolour pencils than with watercolour paints and that I really, really like sketching with my fountain pen. Who knew?)  And, guess what?  I had fun.

There was no ‘assignment’ as such.  But there was a ‘prompt’.  Do a sketch of alI the materials I would like to include in my ‘field kit’.  Mmmmmm.  I think Liz’s idea of a field kit and mine might be slight different.

Below is a sketch of the only bag at home that I found that was large enough to carry everything I decided I might need for a sketching foray out into the big wide world.  I’m thinking this might be something else I might have to work on . . .

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.’ Paul Klee.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

sunshineWe’ve just had the most stunning winter weekend.  The sun shone, the skies were a cloudless blue and the temperature went up to about 23 degrees (73F) both days.  I had all the doors and windows open hoping to lure some of the warmer air into the house.  (It’s freezing in the house—long sleeves and woolly socks inside, short sleeves and no socks outside.  Crazy.) The girls and I went for a long walks in the sunshine both morning and evening and it really felt like Spring was on the way.

(It isn’t of course—not quite yet.  The weather bureau tells us that we are expecting rain later today and the temperature is also set to drop 10 degrees, so this was just a short burst of winter warmth trying to lull us into a false sense of security. )

CafeThe weather was so nice I decided to take myself out of doors to do some sketching. This is not something I am entirely (or even at all) comfortable with.  I think I have said before that although I don’t mind walking in it (the outdoors I mean)—in fact I quite like it—my ideal outdoor experience is preferably an alfresco coffee shop, under an umbrella, in the shade, with a ‘Plan B’ to go inside if it gets too hot . . . or too cold . . . or there are too many flies . . .

watching-youI am also not at all comfortable with people watching me draw—even if they are not really watching me at all (which in truth they rarely are—it just feels like they are).  When I see fabulous drawings from artists who have sketched inside coffee shops or concert halls or at public events I always think how great it would be to do the same, but I just haven’t been able to work myself up to it.  (Yet.)  I need to get over myself.

So I decided I would start small, and packed up my sketchbook and a couple of pens and pencils and went in search of something to sketch.  I found myself a quiet corner of the local park where no one could see me (which was a feat in itself as there were people everywhere) and did a couple of quick sketches of some of the plant life I found lying around. I know I could just as easily have taken these bits and pieces home with me to draw, but I didn’t (one small step for man, or at least Sally . . . ) so it was definitely a ‘step’ in the right direction and I eventually came home quite puffed up and pleased with myself at my little outing.

And then I walked in the front door to be confronted my three cranky little dogs who did not care one whit that I had just had a bit of a sketching breakthrough but were very keen to let me know that going to the park without them was really not something they were willing to tolerate on a regular basis.  Sigh.

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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘You ain’t dun nothin’ ’til you’ve Dunbogan’.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

On the other side of the river from North Haven where I live is the seaside village of Dunboganand the place to go for a great cup coffee with a view in Dunbogan is ‘The Boatshed‘. 

This is a sketch from a photo of the Boatshed.  If I had wanted to draw the Boatshed from this angle any other way than from a photo I would have had to have been out in a tinnie on the riverand that was never going to happen.  But I wanted to do some practice on perspective and this seemed like a bit of a challenge (which it was).  Also note that there are no people in this sketch.  This is never the case at the Boatshedit’s usually packed with people enjoying their coffee and cake and feeding the fish off the deck—but I haven’t quite got the hang of drawing people yet so I just pretended they weren’t there (a little thing called ‘artistic licence’.)  One challenge at a time, methinks . . .

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‘You ain’t dun nothin’ ’til you’ve Dunbogan’.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice, as messin’ about on the river . . .’ Tony Hatch/Les Reed.

Riverwalk-earlyI got to thinking when I was out on my early morning walk today (I do that sometimes—think.  Not often,  and hardly ever in the early morning, but sometimes . . . )  Anyway, I got to thinking how easy it is to forget, when you wake up to it every day, just how beautiful it is here where I live.

I have lived in North Haven (on the mid north coast of NSW) for around 13 years now.  I love it, but I do have to remind myself on occasion not to take it all too much for granted.

The Camden Haven (of which North Haven is just one small part) is blessed with a spectacular coastline and beaches, extensive waterways and lagoons, walking tracks and cycle paths aplenty, and abundant birdlife and native animals (all of which my Mabel, Maude or Molly have attempted to chase or catch at one time or another . . . )

north haven beachThe Camden Haven River runs, literally, past the end of my street.  When the girls and I go out for our early constitutional our biggest decision is whether to turn left and follow the breakwall alongside the river all the way down to North Haven Beach (that would be Maudie’s preference—Maudie just loves the beach) or whether to turn right and follow that same pathway in the other directionup towards the boat-ramp through the mangroves and then on towards town (which would, in truth, also suit Maudie as she has a special friend at the bakers we pass, who often saves a little fresh-baked treat for her).

mangrovesEither way, the walk, and the scenery is gorgeous and it’s a calm and pleasant way to start the day. (Unless the girls see a kangaroo . . .  which we quite often do.  In the early early morning kangaroos are usually heading back into the bush after sneaking into town during the night to feast on people’s lawns.  I can always tell when one has been in our street.  My sister’s dog (in England) likes to roll in fox pee—Mabel likes ‘roo poo’ and she is always the first to find it.) 

Living by the river seems to breed early risers.  No matter how early we are up there are always a few others out and about before us.  Just before dawn the fisherman have already set up in their favourite spots along the wall, rods and bait boxes at the ready.  Then there are the other early morning walkers, one or two joggers and cyclers, and, believe it or not, once we even came across a ‘mature’ lady happily hurtling along at full throttle on her son’s skateboard.  skateboard(I think she was a bit surprised, and abashed, to see anyone else out and about before 5.00am, but she explained that her son wouldn’t let her ‘have a go’ when he was around so she had taken matters into her own hands. Go girl!)  

And, of course, you can always tell if it’s going to a nice day, even before the sun is up, by the number of cars and boat trailers lined up haphazardly across the carpark as they wait their turn at the boat ramp. As you can imagine, with the river and the sea in such close proximity, being in and on, the water is a must. Well—for most people . . .

laurietonI freely admit that, although I am very fond of the riverI am not so fond as to actually go in it.  My mother always says we come from a family of ‘people watchers’ and she is dead right. I am not much of a joiner-in-er.  I am much more in my element sitting comfortably on the grassy riverbank, in the shade, with the dogs, watching the boats and tinnies streak up the river on their way out to the fishing grounds off-shore, or waving to the kayakers as they pass me, or giggling at the lone paddleboarder paddling valiantly against the tide for all he is worth—and getting absolutely nowhere. (Bless.)

dolphinAnd then there are the dolphins.  I could sit and watch the dolphins all day. They cruise up and down our river in little family pods with such regularity that sometimes I am actually surprised when someone comments on them being there.  It’s too easy to forget that not everyone gets to see such a fabulous sight nearly every single day.

pelicans (1)And if I get bored watching the people on the water (and wondering if they are wondering what is in the water beneath them) I can always watch the parrots and galahs squabbling, or the cockatoos feeding in the trees, or the myriad other waterbirds whose names I do not knowor, my favourites, the pelicans who gather in bustling, pushy crowds around the fish cleaning tables waiting for scraps thrown by the fishermen.

Perhaps I should do more of my thinking in the early morning.  When it is still calm and clear and the day’s bustle and noise has not yet taken over.  It’s easier to be mindful and grateful for things before the working day takes over.

So I am going to try and make an effort to just stop every now and then, and take a moment, and remind myself of just how lucky I am.  To be where I am.  To live where I live.  And I am going to try and keep reminding myself of it every single day . . .

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Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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