Sketching Beauty


Sketching Beauty

I visited the “Future Beauty – 30 Years of Japanese Fashion” exhibition at GOMA to sketch so many times that I am sure the attendants thought I was going to bring out my own range. There was such a range of creative work, so beautifully imagined and presented, that I could have continued for many more months. Matching the media to the design made sketching slightly less daunting. Brush and ink, and pencil worked well for Yohji Yamamoto’s designs, Issey Miyaki’s architectural folds were a draughtsman’s delight, and the only way I could think of rendering Junya Watanabe’s etheral design was scribbling in manganese blue and cadmium red pencil. Drawing Rei Kawakubo’s designs was fun, pure and simple.

Much though I coveted many of these dresses, the likelihood of my ever owning one is extremely remote. By drawing them however, I will always own them in my imagination.

A million mistakes



Watercolour on Arches paper, 15 x 30 cm

I was told you are not a real artist until you have made a million mistakes. Not sure if I am at the lower end of the scale or up near the top. I do know that I made so many mistakes and had so many problems when attempting these jonquils, that the first version went in the bin!

James St

03-1-James St

“James St”

Acrylic on board, 80 x 40cm

After spending most of my professional life painting unbuilt buildings and using every trick in the book to make them say “look at me”, it is exciting to paint a subject that is existing and more modest in its presentation. Walking home from school as a kid, I would look at each house, trying decide which one I liked the best and would like to live in, curious about what they were like inside. Who lives in these two houses and what are their lives like?

This painting recently won the Thomas Payne Juror Observational Award awarded by the American Society of Architectural Illustrators. The award was one of the top eleven awards chosen from a field of over three hundred and eighty entries from around the world. The painting will be displayed in Architecture in Perspective 30 Exhibition opening in Toronto later this year and will feature in the catalogue and on the ASAI website.

“Just get on with it” . . . this is so typical of Janet, so here is my first post:



acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40cm

I started sketching Janet several months ago, me wanting to improve my life drawing skills and she not being so well, enjoying the company and interested in the exercise. We were only a few weeks in when she got her diagnosis.  I found my drawing skills deteriorating – actually got worse the more I did. I think sitting and studying each other with that knowledge was just too difficult.

At one point I resorted to sketching her dogs. We did continue on – almost as a joint project, with me showing her compositional sketches, discussing what clothes and jewelry she might wear. I wanted to do the portrait with a more serious look – I guess that was coming through in my sketches.

At that point we turned to photographs and I got this great shot of her smiling. That was the look she wanted and she was correct. It highlighted her eyes, her smile. Two weeks before she passed away and when I was about to starting painting, she asked if I had enough material – she did not think she could manage that smile again.  But she did manage that smile many more times, and I would say “Hey Janet, there is that smile!” – and she would smile again.