Succulents

Succulents watercolour sketch
A quick sketch of the succulent cuttings in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (Landscape 21×13 cm) while they were drying out – I read that letting the cut dry for few days helps to prevent the plant from rotting after it is planted. After few days (or maybe even weeks) I planted them with the kids, who were asking for the terrariums for their bedroom. These are not exactly terrariums, but everyone is happy.
Planting succulents
Cup of succulents
This one is for my son’s bedroom. I found the mug in the op-shop (charity second-hand shop) and bought it specially for him as it was in the exactly the colours I want to decorate his bedroom. He was very excited to add pink sparklies (as he calls them) to his little garden.
Succulents in a jar
This one is my daughter’s creation in the coffee jar – I suspect she has plenty of little treasures hidden away for many more terrariums.

Ben Quilty Exhibition

Watercolour sketch of Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro, Bendigo Art Gallery

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (14.0 x 21.6 cm)

Yesterday I went to the Bendigo Art Gallery to see the recently opened Ben Quilty exhibition. Beforehand I spent an hour sketching the artificial grass covered Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro in front of the gallery.
Folly by Sebastian Di Mauro, Bendigo Art Gallery
I know very little about Australian art and would probably remain totally oblivious to the significance of the Ben Quilty’s exhibition if Jodi haven’t mentioned it to me. The quick research revealed that Ben won the Archibald Portrait Prize, one of the Australian biggest art competitions, in 2011 with his portrait of Margaret Olly and had a solo exhibition in the Saatchi Gallery, London. The works currently displayed in Bendigo are from that exhibition.

I was lucky to have a chance to learn more about the ideas behind Ben’s works during his talk. He sounded passionate, straightforward, confident in his vision and the ideas he is aiming to express via his paintings. The underling theme of the exhibition is his exploration of being “straight white male” in the country that had very reach, complex and ancient culture before the arrival of the white colonists. After hearing his talk I can’t imagine him painting anything else in any other way. His paintings are HIS, they express his view of the world, his opinions and his life experiences. A sign of true artist.
Ben Quilty Evening Shadow

Ben Quilty – Evening Shadows, Rorschard after Johnsone.

The reach textural quality and the depth of his works can only be glanced from photographs and need to be seen in person to have the full impact. I wished I could stroke the paint, trace the bumps and hollows with my fingertips. The colours are strong and beautiful, but upon further looking one starts to see the underlying darkness and the gravity of the subject matter.

There is an interview with Ben Quilty in the Time Out and an article in the Age that touch on the same topics as his talk in the gallery. The Ben Quilty exhibition in Bendigo Art Gallery is on until 1st of March 2015. His works are also currently displayed in Australian War Memorial, Canberra and another one of his exhibitions will open on 15th of January in Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

In the Garden: Tomatoes

Yellow cherry tomatoes
I attempted to grow tomatoes few times in London, but they would always succumb to some disease, so I’m very chuffed with my success at growing them here in Australia. The kids got to eat the first two, but there are plenty about to ripen and I’m looking forward to using them in salads.
First two yellow cherry tomatoes
I wanted to record my first yellow cherry tomatoes in the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (landscape 21×13 cm) and had grand plans of sketching them slowly outside, but by the time I got out into the garden at 10am the sun was shining down mercilessly, I could feel it burning the uncovered parts of my skin and had to downgrade my plans to a quick 15 minute sketch.
Watercolour sketch of yellow cherry tomatoes
I also have few other types of tomatoes growing, including Black Russian, which I couldn’t resist due to the name.
Tomato Black Russian

Record of Friday

Watercolour of friday tea

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (14.0 x 21.6 cm)

On Friday I went to the Bendigo Art Gallery since I haven’t been there for awhile. Paul Guest Prize for the contemporary Australian drawings is currently on and contains many impressive drawings that made me want to work even harder to improve my own drawing skills. The gallery shop had T2 tea on sale and I couldn’t resist getting a box of the Gunpowder Green to try.

I was craving the raisin buns and upon my return home modified Cherry and Hazelnut twists recipe from Bread book by Anne Sheasby to make some. It’s the fourth recipe I made from this book and they all turned out delicious. It’s such a joy to have the established routines again that include such simple, but peaceful and enjoyable tasks like baking my own bread.

The strawberries seems to be in season at the moment and my husband brought some home.

On Saturday I decided to combine all of the above to create a sketch to remind me of this calm day. The Japaneses teapot and bowls set was gifted to me long time ago and is one of the few truly beautiful items I own. It is a pleasure to look at and bowls are wonderful to hold and make a simple cup of tea more special and magical. I want to include them into some still-life paintings, so this was a good first practice run.

Welcome Summer

These are our signs of summer arriving: the grass is starting to dry and yellow, the eucalyptus trees are shedding their bark, the baby birds are venturing outside their nests and shedding their baby feathers.
Signs of Australian summer
I’ve been seeing this Currawong in the garden for weeks and loved observing his careful, yet confident behaviour.
Currawong
I suspected he was a male. Now the whole family comes to the garden, adults staying next to their baby and being more cautious.
Currawong family
Baby Currawong
My son calls the bits of the eucalyptus bark strewn across our lawn dinosaurs and collects them into the piles.
Eucalyptus bark
Is it winter or summer where you are? Is it snowing yet? Did the trees loose their leaves or do they still linger in their bright golden, red, yellow glory?

Urban Sketching: Bendigo Cemetery

Watercolour of Burke & Wills monument

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour sketch of Burke & Wills monument at the Bendigo Cemetery done in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (14.0 x 21.6 cm)

On Sunday I went to the Bendigo Cemetery to search for the second time for the memorial to Burke and Wills expedition. The first time I had no idea where it was located or how it looked, so after walking around the biggest landmarks and few gravestones I had to give up. I expected something grand and impressive looking, but upon checking found out that the monument consisted of “a Corinthian column mounted on a foundation stone and topped with a Grecian urn draped with the Union Jack”. You’ll notice that my sketch doesn’t have the urn, which you can see in the photo at the Burke & Wills website. I wondered if I managed somehow to miss a whole part of the monument while sketching, but the check of the photos that my husband took proved that it is gone (I wonder what happened to it).
The story of Burke & Wills expedition is tragic and full of the mischances. I still remember reading about it as a teenager back in Russia and being captivated by the story – at the time I had no idea that I’ll end up living in Australia only 30 minutes away from Castlemaine, where Burke worked as a Police Superintendent.

In the garden: abundance

Delicious cherry
There are two young cherry trees at the front of the house. They produced a handful of cherries, which the kids ate excitedly. I loved seeing their happy faces and thought that I should buy a wider variety of fruit, some of which I perceive as being expensive, for them more often as a special treat. Why do sugary cakes, biscuits and lollies often tempt me instead?
Cherries on a tree
Like most Russian families when I was a child we had a dacha where my parents grew vegetables and fruit. So while fresh fruit and veg weren’t available all year around, there were parts of the year when they were abundant, but cakes, biscuits and chocolates were rarely bought or made. I miss that seasonal abundance of fruit and vegetables.
Young growing apple
My kids are growing up being able to buy many types of fruit and vegetables from the supermarket at any time of the year, but they haven’t experienced the cycle of caring for the plants to be rewarded with the huge crop, of being able to gather the cherries or apricots or apples and eat as much as one wants and have plenty left over to be shared with friends and to be preserved for winter.
Growing plums
It is a different kind of abundance from the supermarket one – an abundance enriched by work, by intention, by the connection to the land and the nature and the seasons. Somehow I need to get my kids to spend more time outside with me gardening and learning about this land and this climate.
Watercolour sketch of one corner of my garden

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour sketch in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (Landscape 21×13 cm)