Friday 23 December 2011

A homemade rainbow

It has been a while since I have had time to post anything here. Well, rather late than never. Here is a photo of the sun's light falling through water in a wine glass and in the process being broken up into a spectrum of its constituent wavelengths:

And here is a closeup of a part of the rainbow:

Finally, a photo of a "real" rainbow I took some weeks ago:

My simple point-and-shoot camera is not the best tool with which to capture the rich colours. All seven, er, six, er... how many colours are there in a rainbow anyway? At school, we are usually taught that there are seven. Precisely seven, no more and no less, and the clever kids, none of whom have ever taken the time to look - really look - at a rainbow, can even name them for you: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Or something like that. I can never quite remember, and I don't think I have ever seen more than six clearly defined colours in a rainbow. Because the colours smoothly flow into one another, one can perhaps see more than seven. Or, depending on your culture and language, fewer than six.

Next time you see a rainbow, take note of how many colours you see. You may be surprised.

Edit, 24/12/2011:
There is a good article in Wikipedia about rainbows, that explains quite a lot about them, here.

Sunday 28 August 2011


Haven't had much time to draw for a while. This sketch was done from a photograph from the reference library at WetCanvas. Even though I dislike working from photos - it was part of a monthly work-from-reference-photo thing they run there.

Friday 29 July 2011


In a fit of madness, I decided to try out drawing with charcoal. Well, it is like watercolour: impossible to control, and quickly turns into a powdery mess. The drawing also tends to be extremely fragile compared to a pencil drawing: the slightest accidental touch, and your carefully placed line is smeared all over the paper. I am astonished at the way in which classically trained artists can use it to produce highly detailed and precisely naturalistic drawings. Perhaps practice will make perfect.

I do like the medium's rich, velvety blacks and grays, and its essential simplicity: it is the one drawing tool you can easily produce yourself (and indeed, until fairly recently, artists did burn their own charcoal instead of buying it). The drawing process itself is also an exercise in simplicity and minimalism: stick of charcoal, paper, eraser, and nothing more. In the old days, artists used a piece of old bread as eraser; these days we have a thing called a kneaded eraser that can work miracles in forgiving our artistic sins.

Without further ado, here's the powdery, murky, messy horror that resulted from my first excursion into this medium; it is about size A5:

This is going to take some practice...

Sunday 24 July 2011

Egg and glasses

I went along with friends to go see the last Harry Potter film, in 3D, some time ago. The film was okay; I disliked the 3D effect. It gave me a headache: everything seemed constantly slightly out of focus, and the colours and light dark and somehow not "there." But those 3D glasses, in combination with an egg, made for a somewhat surreal still life:

Monday 11 July 2011

Pear and pocket knife

Another attempt at something metallic, and again not entirely successful. HB mechanical pencil on printer paper; about size A5.

Thursday 7 July 2011


I had a mighty battle trying to render the metallic shine, and didn't quite succeed...

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Broken bottle

What is dangerous trash to everyone else, is priceless treasure to the artist. I found this piece of broken bottle on a sidewalk. I picked it up because it seemed like a rather dangerous thing to leave lying around on a surface where children walk, and because I liked the way the sun's light glinted on it and fell through it. How can one not want to draw such a marvelous thing?

Saturday 2 July 2011

Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary

A nice place to kill a few hours is the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Pretoria, where a large enclosure is home to all manner of critters, such as this steenbok:

As one might expect, there is also a large variety of birds, especially waterbirds, such as comb ducks (a.k.a. knob-billed ducks, for obvious reasons):

Blacksmith lapwing (so named because of its call, which resembles a small hammer hitting an anvil):

 Little egret:

 And the ubiquitous Egyptian goose:

Also commonly found at the reserve is the white-faced duck:

and yellow-billed duck:

It is a congenial place to make sketches of birds, something I try now and then when I can work up the courage to try sketching moving targets.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Another weathered leaf

Sketched at Pretoria Botanical Gardens. HB pencil on printer paper, size A5:

Saturday 25 June 2011

Glass, metal and plastic

An empty mustard jar and penny whistle. Couldn't quite capture the metallic look of the whistle's tube. lots of other problems I can see as well, now that the thing is done! But who knows, another few hundred such sketches and they might begin to look like something.

Thursday 23 June 2011

A still life or two

Let's see if Blogger will let me post pictures now. Two recent still life setups, neither really particularly successful:

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Blogger acting up again...

Here we go again: I try to upload a picture to the blog, but the software simply flatly refuses. Well, I'll give blogger a day or two to sort out the problem, after which I suppose I'll have to go back to LiveJournal. Sigh...

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Apple and banana

I have been struggling to draw this particular cultivar of apple ("Royal Gala"- they are difficult to draw but absolutely delicious); all those intricate little patterns tend to confuse me. I always get hopelessly lost in detail, and after a while I cannot remember which particular little patch of red I am working on anymore. This one does look marginally better than some of my previous attempts, I think, so perhaps there is some progress. Anyway, one of the advantages of this sort of subject is that you get to eat your models after the drawing session, thus destroying all the evidence and ensuring that no one can come and claim that you got this or that little detail wrong.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Mug and light bulb

Battled a bit with this one, but I think I did learn the one and other. For example, if you want white objects to look like they are white in your drawing, put them against a dark background instead of on a sheet of white paper!

HB mechanical pencil; a bit smaller than A4.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Saturday 28 May 2011


I almost never have time to attend to this blog thing anymore. But here's a photo I took from my porch before sunrise this morning. Unfortunately came out a bit fuzzy and out of focus because of the low light. But one can still see the frost covering the fields in the distance. Winter is definitely here.

Friday 1 April 2011


Finally had time for drawing again, even if only a rather quick and rough sketch. As always with self-portraits, I hasten to note that I don't normally look that angry. It's just an effect of staring intently into a mirror!

About A4 size, pencil on printer paper (which is less than ideal for drawing, but has the advantage of being cheap.)

Saturday 12 February 2011

Weathered leaf

I visited the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary today. While sitting on a bench I noticed a weathered poplar leaf lying on the ground in front of me. I have a long-standing love affair with weathered leaves, so I picked it up and made a sketch of it. One could draw thousands of them, and never will any two ever look exactly alike. Weathered leaves, like (some) people, have character, and drawing a leaf is a bit like drawing a portrait, except that the model doesn't get impatient.

Here's my latest portrait; HB mechanical pencil on printer paper, about 14cm x 20cm:

Friday 7 January 2011

Scavenger hunt

I recently went through one of my periodic artistic crises: I simply couldn't draw anymore. I seemed to have regressed to the point where I was ten years ago. It was partly perhaps simply that I had been busy and had not really drawn anything for several months. But I began to realize what the problem was: I had become lazy and instead of setting up simple still life arrangements or taking a sketchbook outside to draw from life, I had begun to rely on reference photos.

Some people can make beautiful art from reference photos. I can't. Whenever I try, the result is always the same: everything is out of proportion and flat and uninteresting, and looks less real than a stick figure. I learn this lesson about once every year, and then I forget it again. So here I once again promise myself to never draw from reference photos again. Not that I ever have time for more than rather rough sketches anyway.

As part of this New Years' resolution (and I thought I never make such resolutions!), I participated in a game on WetCanvas called "Scavenger hunt," in which one tries to draw one or more items from a somewhat random list, with basically the only rule being that they have to be drawn from direct observation, rather than from photos or memory.

So here's my scavenger hunt drawing, perhaps the first of many, of a yellow cling peach and a glass tot measure:

As often with my amateurish drawings, it is in common old HB pencil on equally common and cheap old printer paper, 18cm x 12cm.

A new beginning

Some years ago, I had a blog here on blogger. One day it froze up, and wouldn't let me post anything new or edit existing posts. All it still allowed me to do was to delete it, which I then did because there seemed little else to do. I then restarted blogging on LiveJournal, but never really quite liked the format. I recently discovered another new advantage of blogger, and that is that unlike LiveJournal, you can upload images here directly; you don't have to host them somewhere else.

So I have now abandoned my old blog at LiveJournal, but it will not be deleted, and can still be seen here. But nothing new will be posted there, unless this blog once again freezes up.

Whether I'll have time this year for much of anything remains to be seen, so it is just possible that nothing much will go on here anyway.

As with its previous incarnation, I use this blog mostly to stroke my own ego: various musings on whatever strikes my fancy. And of course also to publish my creative efforts for critique by members of the various message boards I belong to, or whoever else cares to bother.