Big cat in the city

By Vita Forest

A giant cat lounging on the grass beneath the jacaranda trees, the train clattering over the elevated tracks behind it.

I’ve been pacing up and down, forward and back, looking at the tiger from every angle, judging the view and judging the heat of the sun, the amount of shade, the location of seats and weighing up whether I will be able to sit there and draw comfortably.  But I want to focus on the tiger’s head, I want to look right into its eyes, so I choose this place, beneath this tree in front of the MCA on the lawn.  The ground is slightly damp, so I look in my backpack and find a scarf.  I drizzle it into a puddle of fabric and it falls from my hand in layers and layers, a spiral on the damp grass.  I sit cross-legged on my fabric seat in the shade of the tree and look across at the tiger.

I remember Quentin’s sketch of this same cat, his use of watercolour, how he caught the vibrant golden yellow.  But I have not brought my paints today.  I will have to catch it another way.  I rummage through my pencil case and find my graphite pencil, 6B – capable of the darkest blacks at the press of my fingers.  I decide to use that.

I map out the figure on my page, lightly drawing in the bulk of the body, the angle of the head.  The tiger’s toes are often obscured by children bouncing on its limbs (before its keeper in an official high-vis vest tells them off) and adults stepping boldly between the tiger’s paws to smile at a camera, to catch the encounter forever, though they have hardly stopped to look, hardly paused to stare up into the eyes of the tiger.

I stroke its face with my pencil and it seems to like that, it rocks back and forth as if dancing, as if moving in time to the clashing cymbals accompanying the lion dancing somewhere out of sight in The Rocks.  Its eyes emerge on my paper, its stripes, the shadows that I notice when the sun bursts through the clouds in a brilliant dazzle.  Is it watching me from those deep streaked eyes, or is it looking over my head to the ferries, or across the bay to the pink gridded pig snuffling beneath the sails of the Opera House?

Does it welcome the rain that splatters my paper, that sends us all running and huddling for a few brief minutes beneath the deep overhand at the entrance to the MCA, that leaves watercolour fireworks, a happy accident amongst Lara’s bright sketch of fighting cockerels?  Perhaps it is a longed-for respite, those fat drops that pit its tight yellow skin, that staccato drumming across its shoulders.

The rain stops as quickly as it starts and I return to stand beneath the shade beneath the tree, the ground too wet to sit on now.  I cradle my sketchbook in my arm and continue to breathe life into the outline on my page.  It’s strange what your mind notices in these moments – the colours of the tiger’s stripes are also found in the carriages and doors of the trains that streak beneath the Cahill Expressway and onto Circular Quay.

And after I have met up with the other sketchers, after we have admired each other’s work and told our stories and taken our photos and said our farewells, after I have caught the train home and made a cup of tea and lain down to rest on the couch, one of my own cats, my Isaboe, casually walks along the length of my body before settling, purring, like a sphinx on my chest, weight on her forelegs, in a pose that mirrors that of the big cat in the city.

See the train in the background?

 

I like to look at beautiful things

By Vita Forest

Yesterday I saw

  • From the train – mauve jacaranda blossoms rubbing shoulders with swathes of magenta bouganvillea blooms.  The sight of it momentarily silenced the woman behind me on the train in mid-sentence.
  • The headland of Barangaroo on the approach from Wynyard.  Noticing how the lush terraces of Sydney trees are now obscuring the paths along the hillside.
  • The splendid sight of all those beautiful clay vessels at the Clay Canoe stall at the Finders Keepers Market at Barangaroo.  All those layers and lines of vases and sculptures, as if a bunch of drawings from Shaun Tan’s books had come to life and were congregating together.  I mentioned this to one of the owners – apparently I was not the first to make such a comparison.  They did not know Shaun Tan’s work and were going to have to look it up…
  • A gorgeous gal from my class who noticed me as I stood lounging in the shade of the entrance of The Cutaway sketching the Stoop Bros’homemade, steam punk airstream trailer.  Kids are always amazed to discover I don’t actually live at school…
  • Sketchers perched in shadowy spaces under trees on the terraced steps on the hills of Barangaroo.  After a week of crazy, unpredictable weather, it was hot and sunny.
  • A family paddling barefoot in the water lapping over the sandstone slabs at Nawi Cove, Barangaroo.
  • A nifty paint palette made by one of the sketching gang from a tiny fishing tackle case.
  • The smiles on the faces of the Stroop brothers as we surprised them by holding up our sketches of their stall.

I chatted to one of the potter-extraordinaires from Clay Canoe as I stood admiring their wares.  I explained that I was not in the market for another of their vases just at that current moment (having already bought one very recently).  ‘So you just like looking at beautiful things?’ she remarked.

Indeed.  Indeed I do like to look at beautiful things.

Things of my table

By Vita Forest

Things on my table

  1. Three scarlet pomegranates in a blue pottery bowl.
  2. A streaky white resin bowl containing shells from various sea-side holidays, mostly pale.
  3. A stack of four water colour palettes that screw together to form a pleasing shallow cylinder.
  4. A tall vase of luscious pink and cream peonies.
  5. A hexagonal glass jar half-filled with water.
  6. Two writing notebooks and sharp HB pencil.
  7. A 6B graphite pencil, solid lead sharpened with a knife, pewter-coloured shards flaking off to form a point.
  8. My sketchbook and a wad of thick, textured water colour paper.
  9. Two cats, alternating between napping and eyeing the bobbing heads of the peonies, aliens from The World Outside.
  10. A finished sketch of those pomegranates in their blue bowl.

Eryldene 2018

By Vita Forest

Under the red pavilion

In the quiet of the garden

Brushing my pencil over the white to

Build the retreat out of triangle and square

Stretching up a pink angophora

from the bottom of the page

Listening to the lorrikeets against the softly misting rain

And the scratch of the brush turkey beneath the camellias

Under the deep roof of the verandah

Sipping tea

Cosied under a knitted posy

Spreading scones with cream and jam

And coaxing out the rough bark of a jacaranda

As I chat to Kate

Sipping coffee and eating scones as

she waits for her paint to dry.

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

DISCUSSING our writing and having a good laugh with my Writers’ Circle pals

READING

  • Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

CATCHING up with all sorts of friends during the school holidays – lovely to see you all!

SKETCHING at Carriageworks and enjoying the warmth of the winter sunshine

DOING a whole bunch of ‘Life Admin’ chores

VISITING

  • Manly with Briony
  • Carriageworks, Redfern

INDULGING in a few mornings of sleeping in

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

READING

  • Men explain things to me by Rebecca Solnit
  • Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

WRITING Tai-chi and Tennis rackets

MAKING a collage of a Christmas Island crab on a grand scale with my class

LEARNING about the migration of the crabs

WATCHING Casablanca with my kids

WALKING and TALKING with Saskia on a cold windy winter’s evening

SLEEPING in as it’s now the holidays

PLANNING the next term and the big trip

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  • The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

VISITING Balmoral Beach for some sketching on a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

WATCHING The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 – OMG!!!!

HAVING a very interesting discussion at Writers’ Circle about how we each write and edit and generally fit writing into life.

DOING a whole bunch of yoga.

SEEING our performance through fresh eyes at the dress rehearsal in front of the whole school (it went well – phew!)