Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cold War

I’ve been a bit quiet here since Dr Sketchy’s; there’s a reason for that. Even though it was the models who took their clothes off- it was me that caught the cold.

Combined with trying to keep on top of the various things I willfully commit myself too (through no other reason that I can’t bear to miss out on anything), something had to give. So the blog suffered (as did I).

The annual experience of a virus put me in mind of this poem I wrote a few years ago during my 8 year stint as a regular columnist for Next Magazine. Feel free to print it out and stick it to your medicine cabinet. Irritatingly, backyard P manufacturers have made it almost impossible to buy anything with pseudoephedrine in it across the counter without a police check first. I worry constantly that the boys in blue will come knocking at my door because we’ve had 4 packets over as many weeks. Who wants to get high? I just crave a clear head!

The Cold War

This really can't be happening,

I don't believe it's true,

Yet all the signs are looming

Yes…I've got the bloody 'flu.

I thought it was a hangover,

From the wine I drank last night,

Alcohol can make you sick,

And I'm pretty crook all right.

My muscles ache from head to toe,

My throat is lined with sand,

The pounding brain inside my head,

Sure needs a helping hand.

I'm reaching for the garlic now;

I don't go much for drugs,

Orange juice and propolis,

Will fight off winter bugs.

But just in case they don't work fast,

I'll slip in Panadol,

Coldrex, Coldral, Benadryl,

And two Orthoxicol.

Having covered all my bases,

I think I'll now retire,

From work, the kids, my husband too,

And quietly expire!

Monday, March 16, 2009

DR Sketchy @ Mighty Mighty

That junk mail that comes into your inbox…you know, the thing you signed up to because you might just win a weekends shopping or dinner for two at Martin Bosley's…the one you forget to unsubscribe to? Well sometimes it’s worth reading; like KNOW Wellington- a handy little ‘what’s on’ e-guide that, this week, delivered something that I’ve been waiting a long, long time for...

Let me backtrack a little… Design School 1978, Wellington Polytech (now Massey University, but everyone who went there still call it ‘tech’), life drawing tutor, Ron Burt. Back in those days everyone smoked or got smoked over, even during class and Ron was a champion inhaler. He was the kind of man who could take a long drag of a cigarette, exhale nothing but stale air, and retain an impressive amount of ash- up to an inch I swear- on the end of his fag. Ron would always sigh loudly as he came up behind me and my work, looking over my shoulder and smoking to ease the pain of teaching idiot students who couldn’t draw but thought they could.

“Here, let me,” he’d say and I’d dutifully give him my seat and he would proceed, in three or four deft strokes, to capture the model perfectly.

“There, now try it like that,” and with ash finally falling (mostly onto your work), off he’d move to the next student. I’d come away profoundly depressed, screwing up my feeble attempts and binning them, so no-one would ever see my failures. Had I been forward thinking, I’d have kept Ron’s work scrawled so cleverly over mine. He was truly gifted.

There followed another year at ‘tech, another tutor similarly despairing of my work (sorry Roger) and I really thought by the end of two years that I should give up drawing altogether. But my photography and film making skills were equally lacking, and I couldn’t get the hang of typography (you mean there’s more to it than Helvetica?) so up life drawing popped into my timetable for a third year. I was bored with it, bored with the naked models in boring poses and uninspired lighting. No sound save the scratching of pencils and the occasional cough. Ground hog day for art.

Enter Sue Skerman. Tutor extraordinaire.

“I don’t want to see you drawing with anything thinner than a lipstick and white paper is banned,” she ordered.

“Get off those donkeys (the wooden seats with easels attached that we sat at) and onto the floor. I want you to kneel, stand, lie down if you like, anything but sit at a desk.” We were shocked; deliciously.

“You will take turns to set up the model with props, music and lighting.” This woman was smokin’ - not smoking.

“And draw BIG.” And we did. Considering the class was held in the evening after a long day grappling with major projects and life drawing was not a subject that made any difference to an overall pass or fail, you might expect that tired students would skip class. But we didn’t; Dr Sue cured us of our apathy. I found the artist in me and produced the finest life drawings of my entire career in those sessions.

Over the years I have said, as we artists all do, “I must go to life drawing again,” remembering times we drew wonderfully and trying to recapture those days before digital media took over our lives. So I do and always, there are desks and a model who looks like she would rather be at the Kirks sale than stand naked before a bunch of mostly old farts. The lighting is harsh, and a church-like hush smothers the room. And I am a first year student again with the ghost of Ron hovering over me sighing with despair.

But not at Mighty Mighty, not with Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School. Think Toulouse Lautrec, think Moulin Rouge, think Priscilla Queen of the Desert. From humble beginnings in New York, it is now an international fringe phenomenon.

‘Dr. Sketchy is a life/figure drawing session with a twist. The concept is simple... Artists draw glamorous burlesque dancers and performance artists, compete in contests, and win wonderful prizes. And can enjoy a drink too.’

So, having seen it advertised in my inbox, I rocked up to one of my favourite bars in Wellington (grungy but good) with my paper and pastels, bought a beer and took a seat. The atmosphere was friendly, and I was relieved to see I wasn’t too old. No-one quite knew what to expect, but Foxy Rachel Rouge in a fabulous corset took us through the format of the show, because a show it is. Eva Strangelove took the stage first with a saucy purple ostrich feather fan, sparkly bra and intriguing fringes at her hips and suspenders. Lithe and attractive, she danced a lively introduction, then settled down for 5, 10 and 20 minute poses, variously reclined on a sumptuous red couch or perched atop a bentwood chair. Music played, challenges were issued (now draw with your other hand), competitions for the best dressed audience member (I must wear my sunflower print vintage dress next time)… then it was Rhubarb’s turn. A big ‘lady’, kept fully clothed and very comic. We were asked to draw her in a hat or headdress (that wasn’t there) and I took the prize with my seashell creation. Thankyou to Calico Jack's for the vouchers!

Then all too soon (could it really have been 3 hours?) it was over. We all looked at each others work, packed up our pastels, pens, paper and inks and headed away, with huge smiles back up Cuba St. Thankyou Dr Sketchy, you saved me, and I’ll see you again next month. Best $14 bucks I’ve spent in a long time.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wearable Art-Kick Start!

I'm running a Wearable Art workshop in my gloriousstudio on the 4th April. It's a perfect one day intensive to get you up and running for the creative season of WOW.
Click on the pic on the right to find out more details!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Backing Winners

If you got here from Michelle Powles blog then click here to get to my latest post!

Today the finalists for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards were announced. This is cause for much celebration amongst us supporting Children’s Literature, particularly in Wellington where no less than eleven of the writers and illustrators of the twenty books short listed books have been named. This means that per head of population- we here in Welly are doing pretty damned well aren’t we?

And I say ‘we’ like it’s a personal triumph. Well, it feels like it and I spent a moment to wonder ‘why I am so excited for everyone?’ Well, it boils down to this: I have some sort of connection with almost every author and illustrator on the list. From touring with them, drinking coffee and /or wine with them, being on the television with them, watching them meet impossible deadlines in their studios, e-mailing and blogging with them, using their books as examples of fine illustration and writing when running courses, making armour with them at Weta, being mentored by them, illustrating for them, or judging books last year with them…you see New Zealand is a wonderfully small place and it is possible to know and experience a great deal of talent personally. So I’m feeling the love!

Congratulations to all my talented friends and colleagues. Your joy is mine too, and I look forward to applauding you on the night! And if you didn’t get short listed this year and are feeling a little blue, then consider that the ones who did are representing us all to the rest of the world when it comes to Children’s Book Publishing and we all have a part in their success in some way with friendship, moral support, networking, reviewing and helping launch each other in our careers. We just can’t do it all alone.