-- 14 August, 2008 --

Fabric painting experiments

Fabric painting experiments
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.
In my new incarnation as a D&T teacher, I have to learn about cookin' and sewin'. These are a couple of experiments I did using Caran d'Arche Neocolor ll wax crayons on calico.

Advice from anyone who has worked in this medium is most welcome ... PLEASE!

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-- 31 October, 2007 --

The Wood Pile

The Wood Pile
The Wood Pile
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

I wonder why these drawings always look better in a photograph than they do in real life.

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-- 01 October, 2007 --

Same page, new layer

Same page, new layer
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

I love lavender.

At the cottage where The Poet and I have stayed in Berrima, the path from the front gate to the front door has lavender growing down each side. The bushes are so big that they almost touch in the middle so when you walk to the door you carry the fragrance of the lavender into the house on the legs of yours jeans. It has been a long time since we were there and the last time we went we found out that the cottages was up for sale. I really want to go there again.

Being the world's worst gardener, I never thought that I would be able to have my own little patch of lavender. What we laughingly call soil in our yard is really tough clay and very hard to dig into. I did dig into it earlier in the year, though, and committed 3 plants to the soil. They are still alive and, better yet, they are blooming!

I love lavender!

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-- 13 August, 2007 --


Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.
Stir together a list of scenarios and an assortment of unrelated items with the instruction to include any three of them in an artwork inspired by one of the scenarios and this is what you get.

I'm pretty sure that that he meant the drawing to be a but more realistic but why be boring?!?

His question at the end of the night was 'How much of this art work is you?' Maybe my skiing these days is so bad that I could be under the influence of a bottle of plonk or even trying to ski in one patent leather shoe. Who knows?

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-- 10 August, 2007 --

A new twist

A new twist
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.
When you were a kid, did you do scribble patterns on bits of paper and then colour in the spaces? This exercise that we did in Monday night art class this week was a bit like that. We made a series of straight, curved, spiralled, horizontal and diagonal lines on the paper. The job then was to make something out of the mess of lines. This is mine.

Soft pastels on velour paper.

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-- 24 July, 2007 --

Warm & Cool

Warm & Cool
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

As The Poet enters his seventh week in hospital and the likelihood of him ever being able to live at home again disappears because of my inability to care for him adequately, making art seems to be of very little importance.

All I have to offer are these two drawings done over the last two weeks of Monday night art class. They are pastel pencil on velour paper and are responses to exercises in using warm and cool colours to depict the same stimulus. The photograph was taken with my new Nokia E65 phone cam and uploaded to Flickr straight from the phone, via email

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-- 10 March, 2007 --

Dorian Gray?

Dorian Grey?
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

This was supposed to be a portrait of my Number Two Son. Our exercise for this week's art class was to draw each other. Trouble was, we both had to do it at the same time. Every time I looked up to get more ideas, he looked down to add to his work.

I really wanted this to be a good picture of my boy but I have made him look as if he is in the grip of a bad case of the flu, at the very least. Strangely enough, now it is Saturday - 5 days later - and the poor kid is in bed with a nasty case of the flu. Spooky!

I have drawn him before and did a MUCH better job. He did sit still that time so that could be saying something about my concentration span. If you would like to see the difference then you need to flip over to this entry. What do you think?


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-- 28 February, 2007 --

Guess who??

Guess who??
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

The object of the exercise was to create a funky twist on a portrait, using photographs as a reference.

GIVE ME A BREAK!!! I'm old! I don't even know what funky means! (Strangely, I can't get my teenage students to give me a satisfactory definition either.) Number Two son had more success at funky than I did I think. You can see his effort here.

I figured that I needed to do something that was a departure from my usual style for portraiture. Instead of very carefully molding the facial features, I have tried to execute this one using very obvious directional lines. I think that it works well with the pastels, showing the character of the medium as well as the character of the subject

It has been a while since I spent a reasonable time working on a portrait so some of the features are slightly wonky but you get the idea. Now ... can you guess the subject?


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-- 24 January, 2007 --

Headland Warren Farm

Headland Warren Farm
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

Like all good things, holidays must come to an end. We spent four weeks on Headland Warren Farm this time but now we are back home in Australia again and soon it will be time to go back to work.

The weather on the farm was very wet and very windy for almost all of the time that we were there. It was the complete opposite to that which we left - and came back to - in Sydney. It was such a relief to feel the wind in my hair and the rain on my face instead of just drying out and cracking up.

The only difficulty was that it is not possible to do plein aire art work with pastel in the rain. Not to be defeated, eventually I made this memory of the farm by sitting inside my favourite window and drawing what I could see outside.

I love this place! At night, when I turned off the light, I burrowed down into the absolute darkness and complete silence as though I were burrowing down under the heather and the gouse and the grass and the earth of the moor - down into the silent peace of the place. I would love to be there forever.

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-- 09 December, 2006 --

Headland Warren

Headland Warren
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

I wonder if we all carry with us some sort of ancestoral memory that says 'This is my place. This is where I belong.' Everywhere you go in this part of Devon, in all of the churchyards, there is evidence of the passing of members of my family - echos of what has made me. The names Mann, Lethbridge, Rowell are on plaques and monuments all over the area.

While all of my workmates and friends are looking forward to days on the beach, getting salty and sunburnt, I cannot wait for snow on the tors, the wind on my face and the rain in my hair. They all think that I am completely crazy but, then I think that Sydney in the summer is the pits so I can't understand them either. All that I can think about is

... in a week I will be there.

Comments turned off here because of the spammers. Click on the pic to go on over to Flickr if you feel moved to have your say.

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-- 08 September, 2006 --

Enso Meg

Enso Meg
Originally uploaded by ** Robyn **.

Our local stationers often have a market stall in an open space in the mall. At the last sale I picked up some Mont Marte Gel Pastels. The word 'pastels' pricked my curiosity and they were only $4.95 for a box of 6. They turned out to be a sort of very soft crayon-like medium in a plastic holder that twists up like a lipstick tube. They are really more like a child's toy but might be fun to play with.

One of the pictures that we saw at the recent exhibition of Zen Brush paintings that we saw at the Art Gallery of NSW was a style called an enso. An example can be seen here. This experiment with the gel pastels on Fabriano Quadrato Artist's Journal paper is my kitten, Meg. It is a bit like a Zen Circle.

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-- 26 July, 2006 --

Monday night treasures

Monday night treasures
Sennelier soft pastels
on Cason Mi-Tientes paper.
School is back for the new term so there is not a lot of time to spend drawing as there is during the holidays. Just this week we have had 2 days with staff meetings after school and one evening of parent/teacher interviews on top of all of the usual stuff that makes up a school day.

That is why I love our Monday evening art classes. It is two and a half hours to just dedicate to making marks on paper. I don't have to think about students or housework or being a carer, just about the reference, the paper and the medium.

This week Mark had a lucky dip bag of objects wrapped up in his little girl's nappies - laundered, of course. We all chose and I ended up with this little wooden chest. The next thing we had to do was think about words that described the essential elements of the thing that we had chosen. The little box was rough, rustic, old, mysterious ...

Our drawings had to place the object into a context and capture its essence. How did I do?

Posted by robynls at 10:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

-- 22 June, 2006 --

In the shadows

In the shadows
Sennelier soft pastel
on black cartridge paper.
It is the last week of the term and we seem to be running around in circles. While I would love to have some time to make some art, all I seem to to have the time for is making preparation for the ski camp next week. The Poet is going to a respite care centre so he can have a holiday while I am spending time with 120 kids from school. It is also a great chance to get to know the other staff members who are also going. Between now and then is one more get-up, one more school assembly and heaps of tidying up. I might even get to see the top of my desk ... or maybe not.

The pastel sketch on black cartridge paper with this entry is the result of Monday night's art class. We had the same setup as last week ... the one with the candles back there a couple of entries ago. This is another corner where the light shone through an old cane chair that must have featured in thousands of art work made at the Ku-ring-gai Art Centre. There were some really strong shadows made by the art light and some more subtle ones cast by the overhead lights. I made it look sort of like a bag of bones.

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-- 06 June, 2006 --

EDM Challenge #70

EDM Challenge #70
Sennelier soft pastel
on black cartridge paper.
Draw what you fear. Who? ... Me? ... I'm a grown up person with responsibilties and obligations. Of course I don't fear anything!!!

Well ... maybe growing old alone. The darkness holds lots of tiny, unexpected noises that aren't scared away by the quiet breathing of someone else or herded back into the corners by their movements. The cold creeps in under the covers, unobstructed by another body radiating companionable warmth.

Two is a much better number than one. Two lights the darkness. Two warms the cold. Yes ... I am afraid of growing old alone.

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-- 15 May, 2006 --

Pastel coffee cups

Pastel coffee cups
Originally uploaded by Robynls.
Monday night has rolled around again with its art class. Sometimes comfort zones should be recognised and snuggled into.

Stabilo Carbothello on A4 sized black cartridge paper.

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-- 20 March, 2006 --

The Onion Woman

The Onion Woman
Originally uploaded by Robynls.
This pastel painting was inspired by my recent poem which can be seen here.

Posted by robynls at 9:53 PM | Comments (2)

-- 28 February, 2006 --



I don't really think that the EDM Challenge Mistress really meant for us to do a drawing and then look for the challenge to fit - should work the other way around to meet the challenges - but that is what I did a few minutes ago for this drawing from last night's art class.

We walked into the studio to find a clothes rack in the middle of the room hung with all sorts of garments of a variety of fabric types and drapped around with scarves and things. One week we get Mark's daughter's toys and the next he raids his wife's wardrobe! After each us had done the double take, he said 'Just pick a small bit to concentrate on'.

Hence, the scarf - which was, in reality, a very soft white knitted fabric. After 2 hours of overworking the flatest drawing I have done in months and trying to make the darks darker and getting nowhere, I had really decided that I would not put this one up on my blog, but here it is. It does look a little better on the screen than on paper.


Posted by robynls at 7:23 PM | Comments (4)

-- 21 February, 2006 --

The Art Class - Part 2

Conté Pastel on Canson Mi-Teintes white paper
To those of my constant readers who are waiting with bated breath for episode 2 of 'The Art Class', I have one word ... 'Shoes'.

Yup! He decided to go easy on us this week with a pair of well worn lady's shoe on a plinth draped with a cloth - those who know me well enough know that I avoid draperies with a vengeance!. He promised to go easy on us and told us to have fun.

'HA!!, I say!' How is it possible to have fun with all of those hints, helpful or otherwise, from last week buzzing around in our heads?

'Try to use a variety of lines ...'

'Make an interesting composition ...'

'Don't use the same colour all over the work - vary the tones. ...'

Of course, the gorgeous young man (did I tell you last time that the teacher is really quite easy on the eye?) couldn't help himself. He had to add more things to think about. 'Make sure that your background lines compliment the foreground ...' . I attacked my wimpy background shading, going all dark and dramatic, following the contours of the main shape - after all, he had admired the way that my hastily applied background shading swirls complimented the curves of the shoe.

'You over did it just a little bit, Robyn ...'

Wow! Only the second week and he remembers my name ... now, I wonder what that can mean.

Posted by robynls at 6:22 PM | Comments (4)

-- 19 February, 2006 --

Outside the comfort zone


At the point in my life where I have finally come to the recognition that I actually like my comfort zone and can see little point in going outside of it, we get a new teacher for our Monday evening art class.

Mark is young - by my standards. He sports a little pony tail at the nape of his neck and boundless enthusiasm. He told us in the first class that he now makes his living from his art - which is scary enough for a group af amatuer hackers - and then proceeds to change the format of the class. No longer do we have a benign little lady who quietly circulates through the evening making encouraging comments and letting us leave early if we have had enough. This dynamo moves around the room at a pace, making at least two passes and leaving in his wake bewildered students trying to reconcile past successes with his new and different suggestions.

'Stop making all of the lines go in the same direction' he said to me, when I thought that I was using the direction of the lines to describe the shapes.

'Your shapes describe themselves - be more expressive with the lines' he says, as he points to one feral scratch that I had intended to tame later - 'That is what I mean.'

At the end of the session we all have to line up our efforts and he comments, or we comment, on ourselves or on others. 'It really wasn't so bad, seen at a distance,' I wimper.

Even the new love of my life has to get into the act of being the critic!


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-- 19 October, 2005 --

China blue

China Blue
soft pastel on Ingres pastel paper

White porcelain is wonderful for seeing colours. Tungsten light is yellow. Shadows are blue. Yellow cups have green shadows. Draw what you see, not what you think that you see.

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-- 12 October, 2005 --

She'll be apples

Still life with apples
Pastel pencils on pastel paper

'You do good apples' is my sister's response to my drawings ... and she is right. Apples don't care about shape or colour or looking exactly right ... and, anyway, I did them last, so I was warmed up.

The bottles, on the other hand, are either crooked or dense. The red one should be a beautiful ruby red and transparent instead of red and dead. I tried to be clever and only use 3 primary colours plus black and white. Serves me right, I suppose. I spend squillions on art materials and then get all precious about being artistic.

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-- 19 July, 2005 --

Tip your hat


Number Two Son and I went back for the new term of art classes last night. It is really great to have this time each week to just be purerly selfish about the time taken to make a drawing. One of the excuses that I seem to use to myself not to draw is that I don't have the time I like to take to make the image. On Monday nights time is all that we have - time to draw and time together.

I was quite taken aback when I saw what the teacher had put out as a reference this time. We usually get bowls or bottles, vegies or fruit. On this occasion we got hats - two of them. I really like this one that she had perched on top of a wine bottle. It was made of green felt and I liked that way that the light refected off one side while it seemed to smooth into the shaded side. I have always been a little scared of doing folds but the cleft in the top of the hat was a 'baby steps' challenge for a fold.

Back to my old favourite soft pastels - it has been a long time. I have been trying to grow my finger nails over the last few weeks - not an easy thing with paper thin nails. Working with pastels reminds me why I do prefer to keep them short. I trimmed them back as soon as I got home.

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-- 20 March, 2005 --

IF Bloom Challenge

Protea Bloom
Pastel pencil on Canson Mi-Teintes blue paper
Almost everyone on the Internet is revelling in the fact that spring has arrived - stories of last snowfalls and first buds abound. Simple geography seems to have been lost in the celebration. When it is spring in the northern hemisphere, it is autumn in the southern hemisphere.

Not a problem in most events. I actually enjoy autumn. After a long hot, sticky, humid Sydney summer, the relief of cooler nights finally makes sleeping easier. The idea of curling up on the couch with a good book or my sketchpad is a lot more appealing then hunting for a non-existent breeze. Australia doesn't have deciduous native trees but our European ancestors populated our parks and gardens with oaks and ashes that make a walk a joy.

This bit of simple geography does become a problem when artistic challenges are issued by our northern friends which involve seasons so we southerners need to be especially creative or have lots of fore-thought. This week’s Illustration Friday challenge is “Bloom”. At the moment, most of the blooms in Sydney are laying in a crumpled mess in the mud in the gardens. So, in the words of some advertising bod, ‘here is one I prepared earlier’.

Last year, The Poet and I took off to spend the weekend in Berrima, about an hour and a half south of Sydney, in the area know as the Southern Highlands. From the porch of the coffee shop in Mittagong where we had stopped for afternoon tea, I saw a fabulous protea bush (also an import), absolutely laden with flowers. The lady in the coffee shop generously allowed me to cut a couple of the flower heads to take with me. The resulting drawing has since been framed and hangs in our sunroom – hence the reflections from the glass.

Posted by robynls at 1:53 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

-- 14 March, 2005 --

EM Toyland Challenge - My Blind Bear

Old Blind Bear
Stabillo Pastel Pencils on Olive Grey Canson Mi-Teintes paper

This bear is about as old as me - the bear, not the drawing, which I did tonight at our Monday night drawing class. He took me about 2 hours to do. I used Stabillo pastel pencils on Canson Mi-Teintes olive-grey paper - A4 size - smooth side. He is my response to the Everyday Matters toyland challenge.

When I was a little girl, I went with my family to visit some relatives. I must have been asleep when we left because the bear was left behind. When we eventually retrieved him, his eyes had been pulled out and his squeaker didn't work any more. 50 years later I am still having trouble forgiving my cousins for hurting my bear.

These days he live a comfortable life with lots and lots of other bears in my collection.

17/03/05 - PS I have done a little cheat, due to the pressure of life, and submitted this entry to Illustration Friday, too.

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-- 23 February, 2005 --

Cornwall dreaming

Levant Mine near Zennor
Stabilo pastel pencil on powder blue Canson paper

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-- 29 November, 2004 --

The Last Class for the Summer

apples.jpg This time of the year is so busy. School is winding down, or seems to have been for all of this final term. Days are swallowed up with exams and marking and camp and desperately trying to keep students engaged in something that vaguely resembles learning. In all of the busy-ness, the first thing that seems to be sacrificed is the creative self. We haven't been to an art class for the last three weeks and now we find that tonight is the last for the year. It is such a shame because the discipline of the class is often what keeps me going. It is so hard in a day of the everyday to find a space for the creative self. Something always seems to take precedence. The art class sets aside 2 hours that is only there for drawing. I will miss it for the summer. I will miss having 2 hours each week that is mine to be with me and Number Two Son.

Now the technical stuff - Staedler pastel pencils on A3 Canson Mi-Teintes paper.

Posted by robynls at 8:29 PM | Comments (3)

-- 26 October, 2004 --

A fishy candle


It has been a while since I have pulled out my softies - well, pastel pencils, actually as I have been having a love affair with the OPs. This is the first time the teacher at my Monday night art class has used this candle stick as a reference and I really enjoyed drawing it. She said that it is one of her Mexican treasures.

Posted by robynls at 6:38 PM | Comments (2)

-- 21 August, 2004 --

Apple by the teacher


I have been so depressed about not having time to do any art this week that I 'stole' some time that should have belonged to something else and reintroduced myself to some comfortable old friends. I usually give my Friday lunch time over to a virtual classroom with my Year 11 Software students while multitasking on computer room duty. This week, however, the Forbes students were having a midterm long weekend, while almost all of the Sydney students were off on a physics excursion to Luna Park. I took my lunchtime apple and the pastel pencils that I had carried back and forward to school all week, for no reason, and found a quiet corner in the computer room. This drawing on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper is the result.

Someone who took the time to look at it on Wet Canvas noticed that it showed two light sources. How observant! The room where I was doing lunch duty had a door to the outside open on the left of where I was sitting, giving a strong light source and windows on the right, giving another filtered light source. It makes the drawing look a little odd but did make the viewers think ... I think!

Posted by robynls at 4:01 PM | Comments (1)

-- 27 July, 2004 --

Playing hookey

lighthouse3.JPGI skipped art class last night. It was cold, I was tied and Number Two Son, who is my drawing mate, has gone away on holidays for the week. I think that I must have already been feeling seedy because, after a terrible night's sleep, or rather, lack of sleep, I ended up with a migraine headache this morning. I was in serious danger of throwing my heart up so I stayed at home. I don't really like taking sick days but I just couldn't do it today.

When I started to feel a bit better, I looked on Wet Canvas to see what was going on. The Oil Pastel forum has a weekly challenge called "Pastel and a Movie" in which you are supposed to choose a reference and then spend only 2 hours on a drawing. Last week I sort of cheated by putting up the picture that I did in art class. It does, after all, only take 2 hours. Taking some time out today to draw was a great way of relaxing a bit of the headache away.

This morning the FedEx man arrived with an order from Dick Blick's that contained a beautiful box of Sennelier Oil Pastels and some velour paper. I am saving the paper for some other time but I used the OPs on a sheet of Canson charcoal grey paper for this drawing. I find them heaps easier to use than the Faber Castells that I have been using up until now. The Faber Castells are quite dry and hard while the Senneliers are almost like drawing with lipsticks. Maybe I need to use different paper for the Faber Castells.

This scan of the drawing of the lighthouse is as it was after two hours as per the challenge. I began with a drawing using a light grey soft pastel pencil, then did an under shading using the OPs, followed by a second layer of OP which I blended using the end of my finger. Because of the soft texture of the Sennelier OPs they blend very easily with just the heat from my finger. It probably needs a little more work but I am happy with this as a first effort with a new medium.

Posted by robynls at 5:54 PM | Comments (0)

-- 19 July, 2004 --

Art class

jug.JPGI went back to work today so I don't think that my entries in my blog will come as often as they have been since I began. It's a shame how work gets in the way of the fun things of life.

Since today is Monday, it is Art class night, which also began the new term too. I took along the oil pastels and the work that I had done so far with them to get some input from Maya. She had a quick look at what I had done so far but, since we had a number of new students in the class, she spent most of the class getting them going and let the old hands to do our thing.

She set up a still life with an enamel coffee pot and some lemons. I used the Faber Castell oil pastels on a pad of oil paper. I blended the background with turps but left the coffee pot and the lemon as they were. I used some of the techniques that I learnt yesterday on the Wet Canvas exercise using complementary colours for the shadows. It's a bit hard to work out which is the ideal tint of the complimentary to use with each of the pastels, particularly when I had overlaid a cyan on a green to get the colour of the pot.

I'm reasonably happy with the coffee pot but the lemon is the pits!

Posted by robynls at 10:34 PM | Comments (1)

-- 18 July, 2004 --

Shadows and folds exercise

I found a very useful web site called Wet Canvas that has all sorts of discussion forums on art. I subscribed and then joined a forum on oil pastels. The current exercise that the group is working on is to do with using contrasting colours to produce shadow of objects and folds. They are using photographs of eggs on fabric as references. Still being new to this medium, I chose to do just one egg against a background of red fabric. I still have a long way to go with depicting fold in material. I am not sure what it is but the idea of folds freezes me in much the same way as the thought of streetscapes does.

I got some mineral turps yesterday and used it to blend the oil pastels on 300gm Montval watercolour paper. I have found that scanning a painting and then looking at it in the computer screen seems to highlight all of the bits that need work eg the spot on the egg where light is supposed to reflect back from the fabric is dodgy.


After receiving some very interesting feedback from the moderator on the Wet Canvas Oil Pastel forum, I made a second version of the exercise. The instructions had said that the shadows should be done using a carefully chosen complementary colour of the fabric. This time I used green for the shadows instead of the blue that was used in the first version. The large shadow of the egg was feathered so that it is darker close to the egg and lighter further away and, finally, the green used for the shadows is also reflected on the darker shadows of the egg.

Posted by robynls at 1:54 PM | Comments (1)