This week (or so)

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Holiday at home

READING

  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

SWIMMING in the waters of Balmoral Beach

SKETCHING at the Art Gallery of NSW on day too wet to sit outside

WATCHING many, many episodes of The Bureau (C’est formidable!)

MAKING Jules Clancy’s chocolate and pecan tart (spectacular)

MEETING Sui-Sui and Alessandro  for a long lunch full of good company, good food, good chatting and cat-patting!

PERCOLATING lots of ideas for writing, teaching and general creative endeavours in the year to come.

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This week

By Vita Forest

This week I have been

WRITING Through the wardrobe

READING Thomas Appleby Convict Boy by Jackie French (getting ready for next year’s history topic).

SAYING farewell to students and teachers and other staff who are leaving the school.

CLEANING the classroom

WATCHING the excellent Year 6 musical

PERFORMING a surprise teachers Christmas dance for the students (we felt like rockstars!)

SEEING some old pals at our Christmas party

SKETCHING a witch’s house at Annandale

EATING fish and chips at Balmoral Beach with Vastra then seeing a movie

PUTTING up the Christmas decorations at last

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

IMG_3387[1]

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.

IMG_3376[1]

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.

IMG_3370[1]

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.

IMG_3384[1]

My sketch of the rainbow serpent

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Barangaroo, Sydney


This week I have been

WRITING

  • lots more of my novel – I am on a roll!
  • Creep

FALLING over and skinning my knee.  Ironic as I had just written about a character doing something quite similar.

READING

  • The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis with my class.  We particularly focused on the description of Lucy’s first visit to Narnia…

REHEARSING our performance group ready for the big combined schools show on in a couple of weeks

WATCHING

  • Riviera on SBS
  • early morning lorrikeets visiting the bottle brush trees outside my window as I write.

MAKING my kids cook one meal each this week (Max – ramen, Lucy – fish and veggies).  Making sure they have some life skills.

Barangaroo – this week I drew rocks


SKETCHING at Barangaroo – it even rained a bit!  (We are a very intrepid bunch of sketchers).

The different textures of Barangaroo


MEETING with Sui-Sui for a bit of lunch, sharing of books and an intense conversation