The Log Book
Tales of an Artist Afloat
It's looking like we'll have a good weather window on Friday or Saturday. Departure is getting near, the boat is well-provisioned and leak-free (for the moment anyway), and all that stands between us and French Polynesia is a load of laundry, a last shop for vegetables and rather a lot of sea.
I started drawing places I'm saying goodbye to. It's the people who are important, but the places are all tied up with the memories of the special souls I go there with and so it seemed a good way to approach leave-taking. So I've been sketching Pacific Bay and Schnappa Rock, a great little restaurant here in Tutukaka, and remembering fun sailing trips, swimming, post-dive beverages with Jill and delicious birthday dinners.
Then along came Brian Butler. He's teaching a class on Sketchbook Skool this week, and shared lively sketchbooks filled with busy drawings of concerts and road trips. He collages images together and paints enormous murals on the side of buildings to celebrate the communities he's painting in. His style is different and original, and you can find him at www.theupperhandart.com/. He challenged us to draw our own collected images of our favourite places. It seemed a perfect way to remember them and say goodbye.
His quirky style got me thinking, and gave me permission to be silly. (Why do I feel I need permission to be silly in my artwork? I don't have much problem being silly any other time. Does it all stem from the art teacher who just never got my drawing of the whale weigh station?). The result was an exploding Rangitoto spewing out Auckland landmarks, my running shoes, wine from Mudbrick vineyard and coffee from the shop across from the school where I taught. It's totally daft, it didn't matter that I can't draw a straight line and I had a whale of a time playing with bendy perspective. If I ever redraw it, I'll try so I'm looking into the volcano. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I was finished, I started drawing a fish-eye view of the Poor Knights. I challenge you to see how many fishy puns you can find.
I used coloured pencils, which take a lot of layering but are very relaxing to build up and blend. I wasn't happy with the first shark I drew on the Poor Knights, so obliterated it with a cooler version in Posca pen. One of those mistakes that turns out for the best- I like the solid colour on the textured coloured pencil.
There may be more towns and regions to come- it's certainly a great way to reminisce! I'm not so sure about trying to create a mural a la Brian- I'm not much good with ladders- though I could always decorate the side of the boat!
I've posted my more sensible watercolours down below too (pretty happy with how the shadows are working out- a big thank you to Natalie Renotte on the Sketchbook Skool Facebook page for her advice on the dark foreground Schnappa Rock sketch)- now I'm off to distort some of the beaches on the Tutukaka Coast,,,
I popped down to Auckland for the weekend, and next thing I knew, Jim and Island Prism had sailed to join me! It's early Autumn, which means we get four seasons in one day (if you don't like the weather, look in a different direction!). The light was interesting so I filmed the trip- look out for a very fast sail-by from the newest America's Cup boat (it kicks up quite a wake!). It was wonderful to see Aotearoa, the waka moana, sailing past downtown Auckland and the hulking mass of the Emerald Princess! Ocean cruising past and present... Whilst I wouldn't mind a buffet and a pool, I'll stick with the slower-paced way of doing things- it feels like more of an adventure. I wonder if I'll be saying the same thing after the passage to the Austral Islands?
Today's post is a bit on the image heavy side- click on an image to expand it for a closer look.
I've been trying to follow along with Inktober. It's a month long drawing challenge where the aim is to draw every day in (yes, you guessed it) ink. There are optional prompts to follow, but I've decided to go the route of doing my own thing and using a different tool each week.
During Week 1 I focused on using fineliners- not the most adventurous start as I use them all the time, but it was school holidays and I had time to do lots of detailed drawings, so I figured I'd make the most of it. I'm enjoying mixing up pens of different sizes- it gives interesting variation in the hatching and line. On the days I had time to draw twice, I grabbed my Lamy Safari. Sorry fineliners, I love you but don't think we're about to enter an exclusive relationship.
On a boat note, Jim's polished up the anchors and we've been working on repairing the furler, which has required quite a bit of running around and ordering parts. Finding affordable steel rope proved a bit of an epic task, but Jim managed it, and my paperwork endeavours succeeded in getting Prism an extension here in NZ- meaning we can spend the summer in NZ waters.
Week 2 of Inktober saw me going back to work. Goodbye lunches at the boat yard with Jim, sketching and playing with watercolours. Hello, long days at school! For my tool, I picked my new Noodlers Konrad pen. I wanted to explore the flex nib, and be able to work quickly in case I was pushed for time (which I was).
I was a little nervous about the pen as I had read quite mixed reviews about it. Noodlers pens are handmade but are also very inexpensive- this can lead to a pen which requires some tinkering (it seems like the perfect instrument for people who like taking things apart). I lucked in and became the proud owner of a pen which wrote perfectly straight out of the box. The flex isn't as dramatic as you might get with a dip pen nib, but is enough to give decent line variation when sketching. I think it will take a bit of practice to optimise this, but for this week I found it fun to use.
I've been working my way through some of the ink samples I ordered along with the pen, with some pleasant discoveries. Noodlers Blue-Nosed Bear (the partly waterproof ink I used on the owl) showed beautiful colour variations when I added water, pulling turquoise tones out of the dark teal.
For more inky explorations, see my blog post inky jellyfish.
My ink samples come from Goulet Pens. It's been a great way of playing with different colours! (I am in no way connected to Goulet other than being a very happy customer!)
The list of boat jobs is steadily getting ticked off, and I'm slowly combatting the paperwork and research side of things. And, of course, sketching. The rudder is back on and smoother and steadier than it's been in a long time, the mast is undergoing some major repairs and any weekend now I could get the call to come down to the boatyard and help slap on bottom paint.
Slapping on watercolour over my Platinum maki-e brush pen is much more relaxing. I'm loving the variety of lines I can get from this pen (and look! I used the same materials for two drawings in a row!).
Sketching my Jimmie is fun too. He reckons I've drawn too much hair. I reckon he needs a haircut!
We've also checked our watermaker is in full working order. This is an essential part of our emergency kit, in case we run out of water or our water gets contaminated. Jim made up a bucket of salt water and I pumped it through. The result was excellent- salt and chemicals all removed. I had fun with a multi-coloured pen and carved my own arrow stamp from a bit of lino.
We're still not sure if we'll make the 17th October for our launch date, but it's great to see things progressing!
Jim's been working steadily on Island Prism, and I've been going down to the boatyard to take him lunch, sketch and lend a hand. I thought about making a visual record of everything we are (he is?) doing to get the boat ready for launching, but long furlers and small screws don't make for terribly arresting images. The boatyard itself is far more inspiring, so I've been doodling the boats instead.
Art-wise, this presents lots of interesting things to draw. It also highlights my inability to stick with exactly the same media for two pictures in row! On Thursday I drew a couple of boats being hauled out using Lamy ink and watercolour. I think I'm supposed to be horrified by the way the ink runs when I add watercolour, but actually I like the effect.
Both Prism's anchors are being stored on the ground. Their shapes and slight rusty patina were interesting so I sketched them in ink. I was going to paint them, but then I remembered I hadn't used my coloured pencils in a while. So I slowly built up the layers of colour in my home-made colouring pages. We spent a little while taking the roller furler apart- some of the plastic wedges holding it together were worn and needed removing.
On the drive home, the light over Auckland was absolutely stunning. I wanted my skyline to stay crisp and needed to work fast, so I pulled out my brush pen with de Atramentis document black and drew the view back to Okahu Bay and the city, then added watercolours. My flat water brush was perfect for catching the light reflecting on the sea.
Launch is supposed to be on 17th October. The timing is looking tight and we're not sure if we'll make it. We're planning to move onto the boat in November and have very exciting plans for next year... watch this space! Maybe by that stage I'll even be able to settle down into a signature style and medium. Do you tend to stick with one way of drawing, or do you flit between materials? I'd be interested to hear!
It's been an urban sketching kind of a weekend, despite the heavy rain and lower-than-I'd-like temperatures. I can blame Michael Nobbs for starting it off- our task for his class in Sketchbook Skool is to take a tiny adventure. I packed my sketchbook, pen and watercolours and headed down to Kohi Beach. A coffee from the Store was essential fortification against the rather chilly wind. I started off by sketching Rangitoto a couple of times, experimenting with how to use my ink brush to show waves and the lovely shimmer of the sun on the water. Then I spotted some kids having a tiny adventure of their own- climbing one of the pohutukawa trees which line the bay. I love the trees, so decided to do a quick drawing. Which turned into a more detailed drawing. Which turned into pulling out the watercolours then adding coloured pencils and being finished an hour or so later (JUST as it started to rain!). I'm not sure if it counts as a tiny adventure any more, but I really enjoyed it!
Sunday went a similar way- popping down to the boatyard to see Jimmie working on Island Prism led to a leisurely hour of drawing her. I've been happy with how my Pentel colour brush pen has been working for these sketches- I like the expressive lines I've been getting and have also got better at using it for fine details. The really wonderful thing is the ink dries quickly so I can use watercolours over the top.
As I finished painting Prism, the clouds rolled in. There was just enough time for a quick sketch of Jim before the rain started to pour- which did at least lead to some beautiful rainbows on the drive home!
An Artist Afloat- Painting the world one anchorage at a time.