Fire stick

By Vita Forest

We had met at the cafe near the station and looked at sketches  from previous occasions – Neil’s idyllic rainforest scene, drawn and coloured on an iPad, Tomas’ panorama of Cockatoo Island in scratchy blank ink  and Fiorella’s book of treasures – page after page of details  – a chair, a gnarled stump, a delicate tree fern.

We had drunk our coffees and teas and set off to find our own sweet subjects – what would catch our eyes today?  I love meeting up again in a few hours time and seeing howal though we all start at the same spot, our eyes take us in all sorts of different directions.

I started with a tree, an old twisted dead thing whose bark twisted over the trunk.  Whose trunk was scarred with the stumpy remains of branches from long ago and pocked and grooved with deep fissures.  I like a tree with character.  I also  liked that I could fit the whole tree on my page, composition being something I’m trying to improve on.  So I got out my trusty graphite lead and shaved it to a point with my knife and sat cross-legged on the grass and drew that tree in the shade of another tree, a living tree whose leaves shaded me from the hot sun.  Ants crawled along my knee and a breeze swept through carrying with it the smell of smoke.

Sydney is burning.  Parts of it.  The autumn so far has been summer hot and the bush fire season has extended.  We have hardly had any rain and there’s lots of dry branches and leaves turning into brittle fuel on the ground.

When I finished my drawing of the tree, I walked further into the park and along a path that edged a gully.  Down one side of the gully they had done some back-burning.  Possibly yesterday.  The smell of smoke hung in the air and here and there little scribbles of grey smoke rose from still smouldering coals.  The other side of the gully was still a lush green but this side looked scorched and barren.

I put my bag down on the path (away from the blackened leaves beside it) and began to draw this surreal scene.  There would not be too many opportunities to draw the effects of fire.

I hope.

I noticed that the fire must have scorched over the earth and then been extinguished almost immediately.  There were trees with one side of their trunks burned, the other side spared.  There were piles of charcoaled grass but here and there a stem of fern still stood (though it was blacked and shriveled as if drawn in ink).  I stood and drew the stand of rocks beneath the trees, the charred remains of strappy grass and the flaky ash that had crumbled over the soil.  Pedestrians marched past, some turning to look down the slope, a few stopping to snap a couple of photos.

I stood on the side of the path and remembered my dreams of fires and my concern one time that saw me taking my keys and walking outside at midnight – just to make sure I couldn’t really smell the building burning.  And later I sat on a seat with Fiorella, swapping stories and showing each other the contents of our pencil cases and talking about the plants that need fire to germinate.

And I remembered peering down that charred slope and seeing a kookaburra dive into the ashy dirt and snatch up a lizard as a cloud of smoke slowly rose around it.

There is life there yet.

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