This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 11: a sky full of stars

READING The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making by Catherynne M. Valente

PLAYING Muggle Quidditch at school after

MAKING broomsticks out of newspapers and masking tape (but no one completed their homework and learned how to fly…)

VISITING The Finders Keepers Market at Barangaroo with the whole family

ATTENDING the Year 6 Farewell

FEELING rather exhausted

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Mobile Tales 11: a sky full of stars

By Vita Forest

In which Christabel awakens to discover changes in the night sky.

There were bumps.  There were rattlings and bangs.  There were loud voices as storm clouds disagreed with each other.  There were preparations for A Party.

Below the sea, it was tempestuous too.  The usual inhabitants of The Tabletop were swept away by the sudden maelstrom, even the whales had left, seeking refuge in Another Room.  Spiralling silver whirlwinds snaked down from the ceiling and strained toward the sea, ready to snatch up the unwary sailor.  The sun was having difficulty peering out behind the storm clouds and so the colour had been fairly removed from the world.   The Good Ship Possession swung about on its anchor in this monochromatic new realm.

Christabel, like the whales, was quite put out by the sudden disturbances in the atmosphere.  Why was there a need for all this whirling and washing, this spinning and stretching?  Why could the world not stay as it was?  For despite being an adventurer, the truth was that Christabel preferred routine and the predictable to savage disruption and hurly burly.  And so, after stowing the sails, and ensuring the anchor was still firmly lodged in the ceiling, Christabel retired to her cabin (and, in truth, to bed).  She would pass the remainder of the storm below deck (for she was fortunate to have a strong constitution and did not require fresh air to keep sea sickness at bay when the waves swelled and broiled).  Thus it was, that through the noise and the tempest, through the shrieks and the celebrations, through the games and singing of ditties, Christabel slumbered and snoozed under her cosy down quilt.

As was often the way in times of discord, Christabel slept when it was tumultuous, but woke when calm returned.  She opened her eyes and listened.  Through the thick paper-mache walls of The Possession, all she could hear was muffled voices, the clink of glassware in The Kitchen and gentle music.  The Party was Over.

She crawled from her bed, wrapped her gold silk kimono about her and climbed the ladder.  When she reached the deck, her eyes widened in wonder.  The Ceiling had been transformed.  Where once she had looked out on wide expanses of clear white skies, she now found The Possession floating beneath a sky full of stars!  Christabel clutched the side of the ship and gazed in delight at the new constellations.  How they sparkled!  How they twinkled merrily about her!  She leaned on her elbows and smiled up at the sky.

Perhaps there were good things that came of storms after all.

A sky full of stars

 

This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

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An unknown land…

READING

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making by Catherynne M. Valente

WRITING Layers

PAINTING

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Galleons and sea creatures encountered on the voyage to the unknown land…

  • my galleons and sea monsters and antique-style map at school.  Our Year 4 classes made maps, ships, sea creatures, storm clouds etc and wrote short narratives about them.  Then they made common craft style videos of their voyagers adventures to the ‘unknown lands’ using their maps and paintings.  What a fantastic day of creativity!
  • my sketch from the Tramsheds at Harold Park (see Layers)

LISTENING to Melina Marchetta talking about Looking for Alibrandi as we were

DRIVING to Manly through heavy traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

GOING for our first swim of the season at Shelly Beach, Manly (it was mighty bracing to start with, but then merely refreshing).  We were not the only ones there…

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On the non-peaceful side of the headland at Shelly Beach. Look at all those people on the sand!!

WATCHING a crazy plan doing aerobatics over the water at Manly as we floated about.

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On the peaceful side of the headland at Shelly Beach, looking north.

 

 

 

 

 

Layers

By Vita Forest

Inside the Tramsheds, Harold Park

This morning we went sketching at the Tramsheds at Harold Park.  Here are some of the things I saw

  • a girl at Central Station wearing a long dark skirt emblazoned with a print of Hogwarts at night.
  • a toddler sitting on his father’s shoulders on the Light Rail carriage.  It was crowded and his father held the boy’s foot with one hand and a pole with the other.  The little boy helped by holding onto a strap with his  tiny hand.  It looked precarious but they were quite relaxed and there were no accidents.
  • Preparation and setup at the Tramsheds by the staff before they opened for business.

Preparing pasta

  • A group of men meeting for coffee with their boosted (skate)boards leaning against the walls, waiting.  They left later, some wearing helmets, some without.
  • Lots of still lives – native flowers in vases or pots or jars resting in alcoves.
  • Men watching sport on a corner screen as they waited at the barber, their spouses waiting outside on comfy text-splattered arm chairs.

At the barber

  • a boy having a tantrum as his parents watched, bewildered.
  • An old tram turned into a cafe (a popular subject for the sketchers in all its green and gold).
  • cricketers in white playing on the oval in Jubilee park.

Here are some of the things I drew

  • Stacks of bowls and plates making pleasing shapes on shelves.
  • Long, freshly made strands of pasta drying on hanging rods.

Making Pasta

  • A wall of brightly coloured lockers.

Lockers

  • Studded grey/green leather diner stools.

  • layers and layers and layers (screens and windows and shelves and slats) that you could peer through).

Layers and layers

  • the dangling roots of an indoor fig tree.
  • sculptural pendant lights.
  • a service bell in the shape of a crab.
  • pipes from an exhaust fan
  • a stack of baskets
  • a rowing boat suspended from the ceiling with swinging silver fish hanging beneath it.
  • Orange lentils, golden cashews and brown almonds in matching jars.
  • scarlet plastic coated wires near metal tubing.
  • electric globes hanging in trees.
  • neon signs.

One of my sketches

With a touch of colour added

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING school reports!

READING

  • The Wonderling by Mira Bartok
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (loving it so far!)

MEETING Vastra and Saskia for dinner at a favourite restaurant


SITTING  barefoot on a rock on the island at Balmoral Beach


and SKETCHING a fig tree growing out of a cliff and


NOTICING a bride and groom, the groom long-haired in a caramel-coloured suit, the bride wearing a dress in strapless white, conventional until she turned  around to display her bare back – covered with tightly-etched tattoos! and


WALKING along the sand and

WONDERING how warm the water was and

FINDING out.


 

This week

By Vita Forest

A wet day in scenic downtown Sydney


This week I have been

WRITING

READING

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (til very late one night I might add)
  • The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

 

ATTENDING the announcement of some local literary awards.  I didn’t win but was long-listed for the Memoir prize and short-listed for the Poetry prize.  Max’s reaction – “Mum!  Next time write a better poem!”

HAVING a Thai dinner with Sui-Sui

MAKING Halloween costumes at school out of paper and cardboard for a mini-STEAM project

FAREWELLING Minna as she goes off on maternity leave (my great teaching buddy and dance teaching partner).  How will we manage without you?!

SKETCHING at the MCA in Sydney (see Swimming with the yawkyawk) and

The aforementioned yawkyawk


GETTING rather wet in the rain

CELEBRATING my Dad’s birthday

Jacarandas at Circular Quay near the MCA


 

Swimming with the yawkyawk

By Vita Forest

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Sketch of Lena Yarinkura’s Yawkyawk 2002

It’s a wet day so the others think it’s too hard, they’ll come another day when the weather’s perfect, when the trains are running, when they feel… inspired.  But Fiorella comes to sketch, rain speckling her glasses, and so do I.

We’re at the MCA and there’s a giant cruise ship blocking the view of the opera house.  But you can still see the harbour bridge.

If you want to draw it.

There’s a sculpture on the terrace outside the café and we sit at a table out of the rain but still in the wind and Fiorella pulls out her sketchbook as I sip my chai and eat chunks of warm banana bread.

We laugh.  It’s not only a sculpture it’s a weather vane.  It’s not only a weather vane it has two moving parts which move two different ways – a giant windmill that lazily spins, a horizontal female form which rotates as the wind blows.  This doesn’t matter unless you are trying to draw it.  Unless you are trying to commit to one angle, one view.  Fiorella persists valiantly while I go in search of another subject.

I trail down the stairs and notice vistas of rooftops and historic façades out the windows.  I enter another level and pass through rooms of paintings and installations, none of which suit my purpose.  I notice an artwork by Fiona Hall, pieces of driftwood, twisted and bone-like.  I earmark it but continue on.

Behind a strangely out of synch clock sculpture, is a small room off the main gallery.  It’s a room focusing on the work of Indigenous artist Lena Yarinkura.

I have found my subject.

There’s wonderful woven sculptures – a yawkyawk, a rainbow serpent, a selection of camp dogs and even a bronze echidna with sticks for spines.  I’m attracted to textures, to natural elements, to objects that are organic and surprising.  Yarinkura’s sculptures are perfect.

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Echidna by Lena Yarinkura

I sit down cross-legged on the concrete floor in front of the Yawkyawk, a kind of female water spirit similar to a mermaid.  As I sketch it out, I remember seeing a puppet show years ago at the Maritime Museum with yawkyawks floating and diving through dark space, a hint of menace despite their gracefulness.  I map out the bands of colour that circle the body and realise the white ochre pattern suggests fish scales.

You never see what is right in front of you until you draw it.

Patrons drift in and out of the little room and I wonder if they see the scales?  If they know the masked figure is drifting in water, not air?  I am on display and used to it now.  I think back to long ago sketching days when I used to hide away.  Perch out of sight.  Now if I want to draw something I do.  Even if I have to sit right in front of it.  Even if I become something of a novelty, another exhibit in the museum to inspect.  People talk to you when you draw.  Or peer over your shoulder.  Or think you’re an expert on yawkyawks (I did pass on a few facts).  And then there is the crazy English woman who leaps in front of the yawkyawk, arms outstretched, shielding it from my view.

You thought you were nearly finished but now you have to add in this feature! she cackles.

But she moves on too, so I don’t have to alter my composition after all.

I can hear the clock in the other room ticking to a strange rhythm, striking every now and then.  It’s keeping a different time, a faster time, cycling to another heartbeat.  It’s a little intense and disturbing, a steady grind just beneath my consciousness.  I drift in and out of the present, in and out of the room, between the dark still waters of a billabong and the white walls of the gallery.  The pressure of my pencil changes as the colours deepen as the body swells and narrows.  At last the drawing is finished and I blink and shift my buttocks on the hard ground.

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The Rainbow serpent

I stand and notice Fiorella on the other side of the room drawing a kooky camp dog.  I give her a wave and stand to peer at the rainbow serpent hanging from the ceiling.  Its body is a tight woven tube with a mane of feathers and antlers of sticks.  I stand and draw its portrait.  Its face like a dragon, its downy pelt.  My lines are looser now.  Quicker.  I finish and start on the echidna, noticing how each stick making up the spines has been sharpened to a point, you can see the strokes of the knife.  And later, I capture the camp dog as Fiorella moves on to the rainbow serpent.  We circle each other in the small room and meet up again at the echidna to look at our work.

Look at all we’ve done!  says Fiorella.  The others will wonder how many sketchers came today when they see the album on the internet with all these drawings in it!

We collect our bags and jackets and say goodbye.  Head back out into the world.

I pull up my hood.  It’s raining outside.

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My sketch of the rainbow serpent