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

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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.

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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

This week

By Vita Forest

Reflections at Rushcutters Bay

This week I have been

WRITING Mobile Tales 10: in which Christabel is charmed by a singing stone

READING

  • The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Spark Joy by Marie Kondo which spurred a bit of

TIDYING

Yachts at Rushcutters Bay

LAUGHING when one of my students won a “look alike” competition with a Poo emoji soft toy…

FINISHING a very busy Term 3 at school

SKETCHING a fantastically gnarled tree at Rushcutter’s Bay on a summery Saturday


GIVING myself permission to laze in bed and sleep in rather than doing a yoga class

PLANNING some holiday expeditions and catchups

PICNICKING near the Lane Cove River with my parents and my sister Briony

And here’s that tree again!

A rabbit goes a marketting

By Vita Forest


I sat on Katrina’s special collapsible portable stool, that weighed almost nothing and folded to fit in her backpack.  I sat in the shade and looked out at the sunny side, the side of the building, the side with the sunbakers, the coffee takers, the side with the arched windows and metal pipes and picturesque bricks and the old boiler that could have been part of Howl’s moving castle.  Maybe it had broken off on one of his jaunts and he hadn’t noticed it yet with all that creaking and banging and carry on.  Perhaps it had found this spot in the sun by the railway track and decided to take a rest til he came back.  There was plenty to see here after all.


There was a small boy wearing a milk crate on his head and a woman in a floral silk robe belted about her waist  that billowed behind her as she strode along in her fluffy magenta slippers.  There were dogs of all sizes pulling their owners along by their straining leashes and children making trains of upside-down milk crates lined up in a row.  There was music drifting outside from inside the huge metal shed where a man on a cello stroked its strings with a long bow as the shoppers wandered by, their bags full of watercress and tomatoes and home-made pasta sauce.  There was the smell of coffee and sourdough bread and the patina of flaking paint on the sturdy old brick walls.


I sat on my friend’s stool, placed just so, right across from the boiler, in the shade not the sun, against the rippling corrugated iron wall, not as sketchable as the sunny side, not as warm either, truth be told, but sometimes you gotta suffer for your art.  I sat and flicked a blade across the tip of my pencil, sharpening that graphite to a point (how I love a sharp pencil to work with) and my knife slid down the pencil and my eyes slid across the tracks and the pavement to the boiler and I thought about how I could draw it (all the while aware of the blade of the knife of course, all the while taking care not to cut away a finger or a thumb).  And I sketched out the composition, the segments of the cylinder, how it would fit on the page.  And I sketched in the milk crate seats in front of it and I noticed that someone had just sat down on one of those milk crate seats and had set down a few items on a milk crate table and looked like she was there to sit awhile so I started to sketch her in too.  And as I quickly drew in the angle of her head and the slope of her shoulders I noticed her place a clump of green on the ground for her dog I presumed, her dog on a lead, there were so many dogs, but a dog eating greens?  I looked again and saw that the animal with its harness and leash and thick brown fur was not a dog, not a dog in the slightest, but a large, placid rabbit sitting in the sun at the market and eating its morning tea while its human ate hers.

I have never seen a rabbit out for a walk on a leash.  I have never seen a rabbit relaxing in the sunshine as dogs sauntered by, not seeing, not sensing, not bothered by the rabbit nibbling fennel fronds on the concrete.  Perhaps they knew each other, saw each other every week, here at the market, doin a bitta shopping, hanging out in the sun.  I didn’t notice any animal greetings but I noticed passing children doing double takes and stopping to crouch and look and gently stroke the rabbit and one sat quietly and was rewarded by having the rabbit carefully lifted and placed on her lap to pat and whisper to and scratch behind its long velvet ears.

I mapped out the girl and the rabbit then sidled back to Katrina (very subtly of course) and brought to her attention the furry friend that was Not A Dog.  She had not yet noticed the rabbit, she was drawing the boiler and the roof and the windows and wasn’t up to adding any people, not yet, that would come later.  Then I sidled back and kept on drawing and delighting in the nonchalant girl who sat there self-contained but not self-conscious in the sunshine with her juice and her pastry and her rabbit on a leash.

Had they walked far? I wondered as I scribbled in her boots.  Had they hopped all the way? (while I shaded her cardigan).  Was this a regular excursion on a Saturday morning in September?  Did she have a favourite stall for her nibbly greenery or did they try the rocket from the Hawksbury one week and the radish leaves from down south the next?  Would I draw her looking up or looking down at the rabbit, stroking its head, or holding her drink, or leaning on her elbow?  People always move so you have to work fast, adjust, approximate, make it up.  She sat and sipped her juice and I scribbled and drew and tried to get it down before she up and left with her bunny and her bags.

Nell strolled by with a coffee and her photogenic stalk of broccoli and a bunch of lavender and peered over my shoulder.  She hadn’t yet decided on a setting for her sketching, on a subject, on a place to sit awhile.  I brought the bunny to her notice and she laughed out loud and leaned against the wall and watched the girl with her bunny sitting under the boiler and said, “There’s a story in that.” And maybe there is and maybe this is it or maybe there’s something more to come.

So Nell wandered off to find her own sketchable moment and I drew in the milk crates and the drink and the table and the shadows and the sunglasses, but before I could go and ask if I could pat her rabbit and what its name was and how they came to be at the market that day and did they come often and a million other questions, before I could ask all that, she picked up her rabbit and her rubbish and put them both carefully in her calico tote bag and walked away.

So I sat and drew rivets and rust instead of rabbits and shivered in the shadows while drawing what was in the sun.