Brian's Notebook

Life, the universe and everything

A murdered grasshopper
The sad remnants of my cat's latest victim. She brings in a new one at least once a day. Sometimes I manage to save them, sometimes I don't. When that happens, they become artist's models before they go to the big green lawn in the sky. HB pencil on cheap printer paper; about 12cm in length (the paper, not the grasshopper.)


Groenkloof Nature Reserve, and other oddities
I went for a visit to Groenkloof nature reserve today. Barely twenty minutes or so from Pretoria's city centre, it is one of the lesser known but better attractions this city has to offer. Don't tell anyone about it. I want it to remain as pleasant as it is. Some photos I took there:

Here and there, there are stands of trees across roads or rivers that create a cathedral-like view:

And across the Apies river, which flows through the reserve:

A few views across the reserve:

This time of year, in late summer, the many species of wild grasses often stand higher than a person (here and there my attempts at taking panoramic shots were frustrated by tall stands of grass), and display a bewitching variety of shades of green, red and yellow. Their ripening seeds are a source of food for little flocks of seed-eating birds, and many species of weaver birds, wild canaries and sparrows can be seen here. It is also a good time of year to enjoy wild flowers, such as this wild hibiscus:

At a lookout point, looking more or less westward:

The big, blocky building on the right is Voortrekker Monument, another popular but somewhat dour tourist attraction.

The reserve is home to a fairly wide variety of wildlife, such as these giraffes, and a rather nice feature of this reserve is that one can walk or cycle around freely on the many trails, and therefore you don't have ugly fences between you and the animals:

Alas, my ancient point-and-shoot camera is not really the right equipment for wildlife photography. If you have good vision, perhaps you can see the impala ram near the middle of this picture. It bolted in a panic a second or two after I took this photo:

The zebras are more visible, but still not exactly the kind of thing that is going to grace the pages of National Geographic:

I fared much better with dead wildlife, such as this wildebeest skull:

So much easier when the models politely remain still!

I also made time for a quick sketch; some dead leaves from the plane trees under which we had a picnic:

On a completely different note, one of my recent attempts at oil painting. I am reasonably satisfied with the ceramic, but that apple gives me the creeps. For some reason, I struggle to paint apples. I'll have to go back to the drawing board with these infernal fruits...

Number 19
And here's attempt #19. I first hated it, but after a day or two it didn't seem so terrible anymore. Usually it works the other way round: I initially think a drawing or painting worked out nice, and the next day it looks horrible.


Some recent daubings
Two small oils, both 15cm x 21cm:

Keeping track of my oil paintings, the above two are numbers 17 and 18. Another hundred, and they might actually begin to look like something.

In a lighter vein, two small sketches made with coloured ballpoint pens:

A fun medium, but I have much to learn about it...

A visit to the Wild West
Another sketch in ballpoint pen, this time after a painting by Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936), who was noted for his paintings of Native Americans. As usual, no preparatory drawing in pencil, and thus, lots of errors I'll just have to forgive myself for...

Grazing in the pasture
I am a great fan of the work of Rogier van der Weyden (c.1400 - 1464), but I am so completely in awe of it that I tend to be reluctant to even try to copy it, because I just know I'll achieve little more than to insult the man.

But I made the effort to overcome my fear and, in a few quiet moments at work, made a sketch after a detail from his "Descent from the cross." Seeing as most of his surviving drawings are in silverpoint, I decided to use what I consider to be something of a modern equivalent, namely ballpoint pen. Like silverpoint, it gives a thin, even line that cannot be erased, and the overall result is perhaps somewhat similar, although ballpoint does not give the same light, lyrical tone. When using it without a preliminary drawing in pencil, as I did here, it is a terrifying and exhilarating medium, like the artistic equivalent of a roller coaster. Whatever mistakes you make, you just have to live with, or somehow work into the developing drawing.

I can see plenty of hideous errors here. But there isn't a thing I can do about them now, except to try to do better next time. My apologies to Mr. van der Weyden.

And what about the weird title of this post? It is a pun that only people somewhat versed in art history will get.

Back to oil
It has been almost a year since I have last tried to do anything in oil. Withdrawal symptoms compelled me to take them up again. Only to find that I have become rather rusty, and had to relearn all manner of things. Still, in the end the thing didn't look much more or less horrid than all my previous attempts.

I keep track of how many oil paintings I do. This one is number 16. Another hundred or so and perhaps they'll start to look like something.

Charitable art
I stumbled upon this link the other day:

Night of a 1000 drawings

They are collecting small art works by anyone, at whatever level of skill, to sell in order to benefit some or other charity. So why not get a bit of experience while benefiting the poor and downtrodden? Here is what I came up with; it was fairly loosely done from a photo I recently took of jacarandas in bloom in a street near here. This time of year, all of Pretoria is purple with jacaranda blooms. The sketch is A5 size, as they requested, in pen and ink with watercolour:

Recent sketches
A few recent small watercolour sketches, all turned into greeting cards...

About 15cm x 10cm:

And about 7cm x 10cm:

Another Halloween edition
Decorations for a Halloween-themed barbecue, rather loosely copied from Goya's "Saturn devouring his children":

and from Arnold Böcklin's "Medusa":

Both Goya and Böcklin are probably turning in their grave, but that's precisely what Halloween is all about, not?


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