Sunday, August 14, 2016

Final Day at the Ekka - Day 10

I have just finished ten days straight of sketching at the Royal Queensland Show.

Rather than feeling tired, I felt kind of sad walking away. It's been interesting as an artist having a "job" to get to everyday, instead of going upstairs to the studio. Of course in both cases it is totally a case of self motivation.

My thoughts on the last day,-
"Is there anything I have missed"?
"Have I covered it all"?  - Impossible of course but I do think I have given it my best shot. My goal was to go along to the Ekka for the 10 days, capture what I could by working on location or en plein air and then come home and blog each night. I have managed to do that.

I've arrived at 9am each day and worked until about 4.30pm, went home for a break and then blogged at about 11.30pm. I could definitely do a day job like this if there was such a job for artists.

I have basically spent the 10 days observing and recording sights and settings, behaviour and body language.  People have been so polite and friendly even in the most crowded of spots, and members of the public have been genuinely surprised when they realised what I was doing. Parents in particular have made sure that small children understood what I was working on. Most kids love to draw so seeing the scene before them unfold on paper was a new experience for many of them. (Kids generally draw from imagination and memory, not from the scene before them.)

The first one I did today (shown above) was from the Pink Events Catering,  Dagwood Dog Outlet looking across Gregory Terrace. There are orange horseshoe shapes painted all over the bitumen which I didn't notice until I sat there.

This second one was also Gregory Terrace but looking in the other direction. I like to include the street furniture such as the type of signage that is usually edited out as it is a genuine part of the streescape. Lovely yellow and black No Parking sign in the foreground.

I had to include the famous Paddy's baked potatoes and I was happy that this family in the foreground stayed there just long enough for me to sketch them.

I also went back to the Dodgem cars to finish this one from yesterday. I have added a few more spectators and a lot more lights. So this was my final one on location. I will work on some bigger pieces after my October exhibition is over.

I have a few final thoughts I would like to share.  Sketching at the Ekka is not something that I imagine would appeal to many artists but the subject matter suits me down to ground. I love the variety and the action and my Urban Sketching training has made me develop skills I didn't have a few years ago.  Many of the exhibits at the Ekka come from the natural world and many of my particular interests are covered. Added to this there is all the visual drama of Side Show Alley which I find very stimulating also.

I made a few notes in the bus on the way home while the whole experience was still very fresh. I do feel  sense of relief that I managed to acquit myself well at Toowoomba, Manchester and now the Ekka , all back to back so to speak, without missing a beat.

A couple of final photos from today.

And now it is back to the studio but before that a tad of house cleaning to catch up on!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Brisbane Ekka Residency - Day 9

It's official, people really are my favourite subject. (I should broaden that to people and other things that are alive such as animals and trees). As I get to the Ekka each day it's all the people with different body types, clothes and body language that strike me as the thing I have to capture immediately.
This morning I had a coffee in the al fresco eating area in front of the RNA Council stand.

The guy on the left here was reading the paper and trying to provide a bit of shade for his face. The girls in the foreground were eating doughnuts for breakfast. Another perfect day as you can see.

I went back to the animal nursery area and while waiting for the bush poets and the shearers I spotted this dromedary who was the most elegant and motionless model I have had all week.

Her name is Fatima, she is 18 years old and she comes from Southern Cross Camels. Dozens of people photographed her while I stood there drawing her but she seemed oblivious or at least in a world of her own. She was sitting on her legs so I just did a profile portrait. While I was sketching Fatima, I just missed seeing a calf being born in the Dairy Pavilion. I did see a photo taken moments after the birth however.

In this image I have combined the Bush Poets and the Shearers in the one image as I sat there sketching while both were performed. The fleece is on top of the orange metal device on the right.

Finally today I ended up in Side-show alley and found a shady spot in front of the Dodgem cars.

Here I am in the courtyard outside the Fine Arts area.

Nine days down, one to go.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Brisbane Ekka Residency - Day 8

Today was the eighth  day of my Ekka residency and the most rewarding so far. I had a giant macaw on my head, got to hold a baby lamb and a fun photo opportunity at the Ekka love tree outside the Old Museum.

This Instagram setup appeared to be very popular. The tree looked amazing decorated with roses and red hearts and provided a great backdrop for the photos tagged #ekkalovetree for everyone to share the Ekka experience on social media. I even saw a whole primary school class getting in on the act.

Midmorning coffee time was in the Food and Beveridge Hall where I tried to give an indication of the hive of activity, shown below.

I have sketched a lot of people this week and two things I have noticed are, firstly so many people wear their sunglasses on top of their heads ( I was never allowed to do this a a teenager so I really notice it now) and secondly instead of carrying show bags around almost everyone seemed to have a backpack. And of course phone use seems to be at an all time high.

I have sketched horses, goats, chickens, ducks and people and I finally got around to the sheep. This champion ewe is called Dakabin Nyssa and she was bred at Dakabin State High School Sheep Stud. I met her handler Olivia and I got to cuddle the baby lamb after my painting was finished.

I overheard a few onlookers say they would never eat lamb again. I am a lifelong vegetarian so I had no such guilt pangs.

Finally I have to share the picture of me with the macaw on my head. I believe her name was Angela and she was heavier than she looks. She comes from the Maleny Botanic Gardens Bird World.
The Ekka is full of surprises!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Brisbane Ekka Residency - Day 7

There was one Pavilion I hadn't sketched inside (although I had done the exterior) and that was the Woolworth's Food Area. I made a beeline there first thing this morning and had a great view of all the Providores before there were too many people.

I got two done in this area and was able to sit comfortably at a table and paint in two directions. I enjoyed a Merlo coffee while watching these energetic and efficient baristas at work. They were delighted when I showed it to them. #merlomoments

The second one done in this spot was of Ilias the Greek and Butch's Smallgoods.  Just enough people around to get social atmosphere. The guys in the foreground were all wearing some uniform shirts having coffee before jumping up and disappearing. I knew that would happen so just blocked them in. Temporary patrons who have somewhere else to be asap!

I keep checking my Ekka map to see if there is any spot I have overlooked and I realised that I hadn't gone the whole length of the horse stable area. I can't stay away from the animals for long it seems.
This horse is called Warrego Landadon aka Hank and I swear he was motionless when I chose him to sketch but as soon as I started he became very curious and moved his head every which way. Consequently I have three different views of him. After his modelling session he then went off to compete in the Showjumping.

I finally made it to the Lumberjacks from Canada! It was a very funny show with a couple of death defying acts climbing the high pole. I decided to try and paint the whole setting including the audience. The lumberjacks were too far away to get much real action or detail. At least I finally found them!

And finally another onlooker took this photo of me at work below. I was in the back row of the grandstand, as high as I could get.

Another productive day. The question I get asked most often is what am going to do with all the drawings and paintings. Well I will do some larger paintings on canvas when I get back into the studio after the Ekka is finished and will show them at some stage.
If you want to keep posted just check in here occasionally!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ekka Artist in Residence - Day 6

Today was People's Day at the Ekka. It is always the most crowded day due to it being a public holiday and today was no exception.  I tried to concentrate on more figure drawing to fit in with this fact.

I chose a spot were there were a lot of children coming and going. This was the "Crazy Clowns" in the family fun area. The kids were the same size as the statue of Bob the Builder. People have asked me how I make my figures look real. The short answer is that they are real. The longer answer is that I never draw anything I don't see, and I work very quickly.

If a figure moves or walks away I wait for another one to come along so that the resulting drawings are really composite people from a couple of sources, but no less real because of this. I never resort to using a formula such as ovals for heads or triangles for torsos, as I dislike that kind of formulaic stylised image. My philosophy is "Don't make it up, just look."

This second one was done in the CWA (Country Women's Association) Tea Room. This is one of my favourite spots for a break. People are coming and going all the time and if possible I get a seat in the corner.

I did have one lady comment to me that she thought very few people paint just ordinary life.

It was great to have a chance to draw these crocheted toys. I overheard lots of conversations about the exhibits as I sat there, covering the whole spectrum from "Wow, look at that amazing crocheting" to "I could do that".

There is a lot of detail in these ones I did today and they seemed to take more time. I worked all day and only managed three!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Artist in Residence at the Ekka - Day 5

Today I am starting with my last image first as it is the most colourful so far and shows how my confidence to work quickly is growing as I warm to my subject matter. I had a grassy spot to sit and view this "Fishing Tent" in the Family Fun area. That is a black cut out angler on the roof although he looks a bit more sinister than a fisherman.

My first picture of the morning was this view of the main arena including the iconic clock tower.  There was some horse action, a bit of dressage and later some trotting. I have tried to indicate both. I was working on this one when I did the Channel 9 interview. For the people in the far grandstand I did draw actual people, in a blind contour drawing kind of way, looking more at the people than my paper.

This image of people grew in an organic way. I just grabbed whoever I could see at different stages in the Al Fresco area outside the Fine Arts Pavilion. I do these people sketches in my downtime, whenever I am having a coffee myself. Exhibition Station is in the background.

Finally made it to the Cattleman's Bar and yes I did have drink and a chat, and patrons were very interested in what I was doing. It is no exaggeration that these people were all on their phones. I used a different paper for this one, a brown craft paper with a swish of shellac and some pastel primer. I have all sorts of papers in my folder all cut to a standard size.

And here is the evidence!

This is me working on the sketch of the Cattleman's Bar, sitting directly opposite.

Still haven't made it to the Lumberjacks from Canada!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ekka Residency - Day 4

I didn't get to sketch any animals yesterday so today I made a beeline for the Goat Pavilion. The Australian-flag-draped female goat caught my eye although she seemed oblivious to the overnight Olympic medal tally.

These animals are SO curious. The black one at the bottom had a nice motionless position until I started drawing her. She kept reaching out her head to see what I was doing. She wasn't too impressed because then she started nodding off. If you look closely at the two little kids top right you will see that there is a third black one almost totally hidden. I didn't notice her until I was half way through.

The goats are right next to the Poultry Section so I popped in there for another visit. The amount of variety in these bird breeds is amazing. I spoke to one of the breeders and she said that judging these birds depends on the perfect silhouette from the side. I couldn't get to see this because of the cages.

This is one I started yesterday but didn't get finished so I spent a bit more time on it. Bromeliads and Orchids.

For this last one, I was encouraged to sit right in front of the display in quite a prominent position. Not the kind of spot I would have chosen as I had quite an audience watching me work. I did this pretty fast as a result! So much work must go into putting these displays together. This one was full of tiger lilies, orchids and succulents. That is a second prize banner in the foreground.

Robyn Bauer

Finally a couple of shots of me working which I am happy to have as a record. This one shows the purple case I have been dragging behind me all week with my art materials. I also have a little fold up stool.

Robyn Bauer

There is an Ekka photographer who is doing the rounds in an official capacity.

Just look for the hashtag #theekka

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ekka Artist in Residence Day 3

When you ask people what they actually like about the Ekka, the answer is usually "the cows" and then "the cakes" so I thought that today I'd better get a spot in front of the cake cabinet before it got too crowded.

As I sat doing this, I was recognised by a few Dalby people (due no doubt to me mentioning my origins on the ABC story) which was lovely.

Apparently you are not allowed to photograph the cakes due to design copyright but as you can see I caught several people doing so. Yet another example where the sketcher is accepted where the camera is not.

I should mention at this point that there is a large behind-the-scenes room for the use of stewards, that I have been given access to for tea/coffee and having a breather. I was chatting to one of the stewards about what people associated most with the Ekka. I mentioned the wood-chopping and how I intended to include that.

Steward; "Did you know we have Lumberjacks from Canada here this year"?

Me;  "Lumberjacks from Canada"?

Steward;  "Would you be interested in sketching Lumberjacks from Canada? The're just here for the Ekka."

Me; "Yes I think Lumberjacks from Canada are definitely something that as Artist in Residence I should give some attention to..."

I headed to a tent where I found Stockmen (not Lumberjacks) but thought them well worth drawing. They moved so fast it was very difficult to capture them but this gives a general impression, particularly of the bright orange flame each was using to forge a horseshoe.

I headed towards the wood-chopping arena and found the Jack and Jill cross saw competition in progress. This view gave me an opportunity to sketch the crowd in the opposite grandstand. This drawing covers several events including the tree climbing event. Again everything was fast moving. (no lumberjacks here)

By this stage of the day I had done a fair bit of fine pen work and felt like splashing some paint around. Crossing Gregory Terrace however I saw these white cranes against the blue sky and had to stop to record that. There was quite a queue for the Strawberry Sundae.

I finally decided that to really splash some paint I would have to head to the Garden Clubs and I did this side view through the bromeliads to the orchids.

Lumberjacks will have to wait!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Royal Queensland Show - Ekka Residency Day 2

Today it was all systems go from the minute I walked through the gate and into the Showgrounds.
The very loud refrain of  "a land down under" by Men at Work was thundering from the Space Roller ride. Loud music is good if it is something you know and like.

Again today the plan was to explore and sketch a variety of subjects. This first one was from the little kid's area beyond the Show-bag pavilion. I was quite pleased that I managed to capture the two selfie-taking girls on the right. They only held the pose for as long as a photo click but I am really trying to train my visual memory. I take a photo in my mind to remember the pose and replicate it.

I had a problem getting the watercolour to dry so I decided to take the painting into the toilets and use the warm air hand drier but it was one of those ones where you lower your hands into a slot from the top and the wet paint darted off in little lines as you can see. Well I am always going on about the value of the accidental mark, so here are a few of those!

This next subject would have to be one of the weirdest at the Ekka. "A Triceratops Tiara Tea Party" with the dinosaurs all dressed up outside the Old Museum Building which is now part of the Ekka for the first time in years. 

Part of my duties as Artist in Residence is to give some demonstrations in the Fine Arts area. I had thought I would take in some items from a show-bag to use as still life subjects but in the end I decided to just wing it and sketch whatever was in front of the demonstration table. So this is some of my audience.

It is very special to be able to see large animals close up so I went looking for the horse pavilion. It was impossible to get a good position looking into their pens so I found an area where a couple of people were washing them.  There was so much movement and people walking in front of me that this was the best I could get. Results are uneven when you work this way.

These days I can't even imagine taking a photo and working from it in the studio. Everything has to be done on location or it isn't real. Working from a photo means nothing to me. Why even do it if you already have a photographic image?

The last one is just some random turkey and duck heads from the poultry area. They kept moving also but I captured a general impression. This is my favourite spot. I will be going back.

I realise I have to make a list of the "must capture" subjects and there are so many of them.

Back tomorrow.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Royal Queensland Show - Ekka Residency Day 1

Today was my first day as Artist in Residence at the Royal Queensland Show 2016.
My plan is to draw and paint on location at the Ekka and record as much as I can visually, sort of like a visual correspondent. These small vignettes can later be worked up into something larger in the studio, although the freshness and authenticity of the on location sketch is all I am aiming for at this stage.

It is only two days since I arrived back in Brisbane from my stint in Manchester teaching at the Urban Sketching Symposium (more about that in another blog post). Still not fully functioning on all cylinders due to jet lag.

Today my plan was to just get a feel of the atmosphere once again. I spent the morning in Side-Show Alley just inside the Bowen Bridge Road gate.

I just grabbed a few images from different directions, the grandfather on the right, the carousel and a couple of tents in the background. A bit of a warm up sketch.

By this stage I had received a call from ABC TV who wanted to film me working and do a quick interview so I stayed in that general area. This second image is of a couple of the rides outside the Show-bag Pavilion. This is the one that features in the TV news from tonight. 

I intend to get to as many parts of the Show as possible and I know from past years that the big cows are only there for a couple of days. After the judging is done they vanish and I was determined to capture them early in the piece.

These ladies ( Herefords) were all lying down tired after  their judging so were relatively still. The owner was very happy for me to sit next to her and work. 

This one was quite quick as the cows (Shorthorns) were shuffling around and soon they all stood up and were marched off somewhere.

My overall impression of the day was that many things have changed. The Ekka evolves each year. I find it wonderful to get up close to animals particularly big ones. I think I will try and do a mixture of subjects each day. There is simply so much visual information in every direction you care to look. 
It is a great privilege to be able to do this.

And finally a picture of me at work.

Robyn Bauer