Seeing Henry

By Vita Forest

img_12061

Reclining Figure: Angles 1980, by Henry Moore

Joan Didion said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

To this I would add, “I don’t know what I see until I draw it.”

Today at sketch club we fanned out to find a subject from the steps of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.  The weather forecast was iffy – rain was predicted, but the sunny skies contradicted that certainty.  The art gallery is a good standby – lots of scenery outside, and easy to duck inside if the heavens open.

Some artists went straight for the interior, borrowing the handy stools that the art gallery will lend a sketcher and searching for a subject in the cool inside.  The sun was shining, the breeze was gentle, so I decided to stroll around outside and see what I could see.

I didn’t walk far before I came to the large Henry Moore sculpture on the lawn of the gallery.  It’s a female figure sprawling casually on a rectangular plinth, like a sun bather on a beach towel, or one of the many picnickers you will see in the parklands around the gallery.  She leans back on her elbow, glancing over her shoulder, feet bare.

I have always liked the monumental solidity of it, the way the folds of the skirt are captured in the hardness of bronze.  I have walked by it a million times.  But when I started to draw, I realised there was a lot I had never noticed.

If you stand close (which I did to do a study of the face) you can see the imprint of Moore’s tools leaving scratched lines in what I took previously as smooth metal.  As if he sketched over the whole body.  You can see how the weather has streaked the bronze with green, so again, that smooth colour that you register from a distance, is fact rather painterly, with contrasts of icy mint green and deep chocolate brown.

I moved from the shade of one tree and into that of another – a new vista appearing.  I could now see that the figure, rather than being a bulky simplification of forms, had some quirky character details – there were toenails on the feet, and the left foot was turned in, slightly pigeon-toed, with the toes raised from the solidity of the plinth.

img_12071

She is wiggling her toes.

I could record the lines of the hair pulled back off the face, the eye peering behind as if in surprise, the thin indent of the lips and again the patina of the weathered bronze which suddenly made the face so vulnerable.

img_12081

Detail of her face – notice the lines of her hair

I guess that is what happens when you spend an hour or two looking at the one object, unpicking it, discovering its secrets.  You learn how it fits together, how the light and shadows move over it, you appreciate the way the parts make up the whole.  So, as various sightseers stepped in for a quick photo and were then on their way, I stayed with her, luxuriated in having one focus, and made a friend out of an old acquaintance.

Later, I moved back to the steps and tried drawing some passer-bys and a fellow sketching pal who was across the road.  (He caught me at the bottom of his sketch too – hat and all!)  Then I turned and saw another bronze sculpture – a gallant soldier on a horse and began doing some quick sketches of the pair.  This time I noticed that despite having on a rather solid looking helmet, the soldier had bare legs and bare feet!  I wonder how he fared in the battle…

Soon it was time for our Show and Tell, we trickled back to where we first met, crossing the road, walking up the hill, back out into the light after the dimness of the gallery.  We compared and praised and marvelled at our different styles and what a range of subjects caught our attention in the same place.  It’s comforting to realise how individual we all are.  And what secrets are illuminated if we take the time to stop and look.  Thanks Henry!

img_12091

The folds in the fabric of the skirt is the main feature that I used to notice.

Advertisements

This week

By Vita Forest

img_12061

Reclining Figure: Angles 1980, by Henry Moore

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith

VISITING

  • The Art Gallery of New South Wales for some sketching
  • The Sydney Opera House with our fabulous performance group (they were wonderful!  The end of nearly a year-long project…)

WATCHING more Scandi-Noir The Killing…

CELEBRATING World Teachers’ Day with a slap-up lunch from the P and C – including fresh prawns and macaroons.

SEWING up the last few costumes for Lucy’s play.

CATCHING up on sleep after a couple of late nights.

SIPPING tea in the dark on the balcony after a long day, looking up at the stars.

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

READING The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith

WRITING Mobile Tales Despatch 2 – in which our heroine simply listens

WATCHING

  • Max on his skateboard (eek!)
  • the luscious Julieta by one of my favourite film directors, Pedro Almodovar.

REHEARSING our dance group for their big inter-school performance next week.

MAKING cupcakes galore for Lucy to take to school.

MEETING with Saskia for an indoor picnic after the weather failed to cooperate.

CELEBRATING Lucy’s 12th birthday with brunch at a cafe and afternoon tea with family on a windy, windy day in a harbourside park.  Happy Birthday lovely girl!

Mobile Tales Despatch 2 – in which our heroine simply listens

By Vita Forest

img_10751

Christabel La Mouse awoke in her snug cabin on the Good Ship Possession and listened.  She liked to do this before she opened her eyes, before she really started the day.  She snuggled deeper into her cosy woollen eiderdown and simply listened.

To port there was the occasional sliding swish! from the Deep Distance which must mean rain.  (There were huge creatures called Cars and when their swift feet touched water they made that delicious swish!  So Christabel had learned at school.  She was yet to actually see one).

To starboard was the chatty murmuring gurgle of the Refrigerator in The Room Beyond.  It was a kind of hotel for the food that arrived in The Home, including, and most importantly, cheese.  Christabel lived for those days when, on one of her fishing expeditions, she managed to secure as the catch of the day, a tasty morsel of that supreme delight.

img_11381

And directly below the ship, down deep on the rain-pitted surface of The Table, was a busy sort of brushing-kind-of-scratching, that stopped and started in an irregular fashion. It was That Person with the Paper and the Pencil.  Christabel sometimes liked to watch this (when she was not so cosy and tired, of course), for onto a flat white rectangle, tiny scribblings would pour from the end of the tool the Person used.  They were hard to make out, what with the currents passing over them, the distance between Christabel and the pages and the Person’s quite atrocious handwriting.  Her spyglass did not work on such occasions, and the spinning of the ship did not help.

img_11431

Still it was a comforting sort of scratching whisper.  Every now and then there was a pause and a Ting! which Christabel knew meant the Person had stopped to take a sip of her milky tea, chiming her pencil against the china as she did so.  Perhaps one day she would find some implement to assist her in discovering what the Person wrote.  But now just now.  Now was the time for a little more sleep wrapped in her eiderdown in her cosy cabin.

One must always prioritize rest.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

A glorious spring morning in Hyde Park, Sydney

A glorious spring morning in Hyde Park, Sydney

This week I have been

READING

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Careful use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith

WRITING Mobile Tales – A Despatch from The Good Ship Possession

LISTENING to the soundtrack of Alexander Hamilton (over and over again – how amazing is this hip-hop musical?  Anyone been lucky enough to actually see it?)

NOTING the appearance of the first jacaranda blossoms.

MEETING up with the rest of the costume team for Lucy’s school musical and celebrating our progress.

MAKING a giant collaborative collage of a rainbow with my class at school.

CELEBRATING

  • Betty’s engagement at school – how delighted we all are for the happy couple!
  • My nephew  Dylan’s birthday – he is now a two year old man.

VISITING Hyde Park for a spot of spring sketching.

WALKING from the city to Rozelle via Pyrmont.

The Glebe Island Bridge in the distance, Pyrmont

The Glebe Island Bridge in the distance, Pyrmont

Mobile Tales – A Despatch from The Good Ship Possession

By Vita Forest

img_10751

In which we first meet sailor Christabel La Mouse aboard The Good Ship Possession.

Christabel grasped the side of the ship in her soft green leather gloves, took a deep breath and peered over the edge.  It always took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the distance.  Through the gentle eddies that spun the bow softly this way and that, descending deep into the silence of the drop-off, before flattening and nudging out into the dark expanses of the

Tabletop and Tablecloth.

It was dark most days down there, with its rain-splatter circles, the sort you would see on the surface of a still lake if you were sheltering beside it, beneath a pagoda, with a cup of green tea and the time to stop and notice such things.  The dark memories of those raindrops were sprinkled over with animals – horses, does, butterflies, and, Christabel’s particular favourite, the hummingbird.  There it was!  Right below her today.  For the hummingbird had the unsettling habit of moving about.  One day she would look down on the port-side to see the reassuring little creature, only to panic at its apparent disappearance.  A quick scamper to the starboard side of the ship however, revealed that the bird was still in the depths of Tablecloth, merely having hovered over a little.

img_10851

Or was it the ship itself that had moved?  But no, the galleon did not change course, though it spun on the axis of its anchor which had curiously been flung from the top of the mast and lay wedged securely into the Ceiling above it.

img_10761

Most disturbing of all was the morning Christabel had leaned over the side of the ship in her usual morning ritual and found that the Tablecloth had been completely erased.  No raindrops, no animals, nothing but the bottomless void of white that seemed to have no beginning and no end.  The Tabletop.

She had spent the remainder of that day resting in her cabin below deck, curtains drawn, with a cold compress resting on her forehead.

Luckily the Deep Darkness of Tablecloth returned the next day, complete with its cantering clouds of horses, butterflies and hummingbird.

Christabel straightened her back and pulled out the spyglass from the strap across her chest.  She faced north now and turned the brass cylinder in front of her eye until the flying fish came into focus.  They lived across the expanse, closer to the Distant Doorway and were sometimes battered most ferociously by the breeze that blew into the room on warm days.  When the door was closed, they circled lazily, as they were doing now, always maintaining a respectful and steady distance between the members of the small school of four.

img_10841

Christabel lowered her spyglass and smiled.  It would be another calm day on the Ceiling.

This week

By Vita Forest

img_10091

On the Grand Canyon walk near Evan’s Lookout

This week I have been

READING

  • The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith

Delightful holiday reading!

WRITING Brief Encounter

VISITING

  • The Blue Mountains with Vastra, Saskia, 7 children and one dog!
  • The Grand Canyon walk near Evan’s Lookout in the Blue Mountains (magnificent).
  • Newtown for a spot of sketching.
  • School to get ready for Term 4.

MAKING more costumes for Lucy’s school musical.

ENJOYING having our booth seat rebuilt and reinstalled – Thanks Dad!  (Now we really feel back to normal after “The Great Flood”).

CELEBRATING Lucy’s upcoming birthday with a dinner, movie, sleepover party.

img_10461

Graffiti in Newtown