Saturday, February 17, 2007

Unprogramming my brain

It's breaking all the conventions I normally keep for this blog but a bit over a week ago I was finally convinced get back to doing face/body studies, and since then I made agreements with at least three friends to practice with their faces. I find people like the idea of getting a portrait done for free and I like the idea of getting to practice drawing faces of people I feel I know so intimately, yet have never really looked at carefully til I have to try to render them on paper!

We look at things but don't really see them. Apparently the human brain works more efficiently by ignoring details it doesn't need to help its host survive until it suddenly becomes critical to do so, but to draw something you have to really see it and kind of 'unprogram' your brain!

So I started again today. I did my first pencil portait in over four years and I blog about it since I want to publicly compare it with old drawings from 1999 (oldest scan I could find since I don't have the actual drawings from back then with me) and from 2002 (the most recent one I could find before today). I choose drawings of similar themes, done in the same medium and quick half-hour bursts, for the sake of comparison: three great women!

This drawing from December 1999 is of my sister. 1999 face study
From August 2002, a mate I was skiing with at the time (if I remember right we were too tired to take to the slopes that morning and drawing this was a kind of hangover cure!)2002 face study
From today, one of my housemates.2007 face study Said housemate informed me she thinks the 1999 drawing is best, but I prefer the later ones since they are more emotionally accurate even though the drawing style is rougher.

More than anything though I am just so happy I can still have fun trying to capture images of people on paper!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Man attacks shark!

White pointer shark Thanks to the sharp eyes of one who comments here as jair, a jaw-dropping story of when you know you've had too much vodka to be out catching squid!
An Eyre Peninsula man is the talk of the town after catching a bronze whaler shark in his hands and wrestling it up onto a jetty.

Phillip Kerkhof from Louth Bay was at the local jetty when the 1.3-metre shark began chasing squid lures.

He says he climbed down a ladder and began to follow the shark in shallow water.

"I just snuck up behind him and eventually I went for the big grab and I fluked it and got him," he said.

"He's just thrashing around in the water but then he was starting to turn around and try to bite me and I thought 'well, it's amazing what vodka does'."

The only damage from the dangerous species was a bite mark to his jeans.

"It's not something I'd recommend to do. When I sobered up I thought about it and I said, 'I'm a bit of an idiot doing it'," Mr Kerkhof said.
Eric Nerhus, abalone diver Now, for anyone who hasn't been in Oz for the past month or so, this comes hot on the tail of another curious shark story from just a month ago, where Eric Nerhus, an abalone diver, took on a shark with his abalone iron while his head was inside the shark's mouth... and survived with only a few lacerations and broken nose.

Last time I was on Eyre Peninsula I took the chance to visit Blacks Point, near Elliston, where surfer Jevan Wright died, snatched by a white pointer, just short of his 18th birthday... pretty sad...

But now it seems vodka-fuelled man is fighting back!

White pointer image thanks to Dave Gittins
Eric Nerhus image thanks to BBC.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Under Southern Stars rates well under 5 stars

Vanstone tries to tune into reality Amanda Vanstone's freshly penned patriotic song is several stars short of a Southern Cross to me! Under Southern Stars just rings hollow to me and I would be disappointed to see it infiltrated into schools.

So here's my uninvited and likely unwelcome critique:
Home to first Australians / Joined from near and far / Shining light for freedom / Under southern stars
This is a nice acknowledgement that "first Australians" existed before being joined from near and far, but it doesn't make it clear WHO they are. If I was a five year old learning this song I would wonder to myself why it had been worded so strangely and what was the point of explaining that Australia is home to the first Australians. Isn't that a tautology, I'd think, in concept at least since it would be a while before I'd learn words like 'tautology'! When I turned seven or eight, if I was lucky enough to have good teachers I'd have come to understand the first verse refers to indigenous Australians and that "first Australians" is a politically neutral term to disguise the fact that we are talking about black people who weren't legally considered equal humans until sometime in the late 1960s. If I didn't have good teachers I'd no doubt still be imagining the "first Australians" as dashing young sailors running up the Union Jack alongside eleven boatloads of smelly convicts exported from the UK.
Nation made of many / Bound in hope as one / Building for the future / Under southern sun
Let's face it. Nationaly unity is a kind of mythology politicians use to their political advantage. Australians on the whole are well educated and therefore smart enough to know that diversity is as much a strength as unity and that in Australia we constantly are trying to strike a balance between those two forces. But that doesn't come through in these words.
Free and friendly nation / Born of our own hands / Peace our greatest virtue / Mighty southern land
Free and friendly? It's a rich thing coming from our former immigration minister to say, being privy to what was going on in Baxter, Villawood and Nauru, and presiding over the department that deported Vivian Alvarez/Solon (whatever her name was) and imprisoning Cornelia Rau.

Amanda Vanstone cartoon by Wilcox
For most citizens, free and friendly are the reality, but for muslims or non-white people I doubt it rings true. The old "land of opportunity" does ring true however. I feel like Australia is a country where if you have citizenship or have been granted permanent residency or permanent protection then pushing will get you everywhere! If have a strong enough ambition, you probably can fulfil it.
Valiant in to battle / Courage to the end / Standing firm for freedom / Loyal southern friend
Yes Australia did participate in both world wars and the Aussie diggers apparently did earn a reputation for "bravery" and "mateship". That will do, though it would be nice to talk about the bravery and courage of non-military citizens...
Nature's earthly heaven / Glory for our eyes / Ours alone these treasures / Under southern skies
I like the fact that Vanstone's version doesn't overdo the "nature's gifts" description of Australia, which is completely fair, but who's to say that Iran isn't just as naturally beautiful? What I mean is that it's not a feature unique to Australia.
Shining light for freedom / Under southern skies
Vanstone's summary[1] of her composition was: "Indigenous Australians were here first, we are an immigration country, freedom is what we've enjoyed all our lives and we are under southern stars – everyone knows the Southern Cross." Fine, why not say it like that in your lyrics then? You've done a 3-star job, Amanda, but more effort required on the lyrics. That said, good on you for trying.

Also, I find the repetitive tune majestic but dull. It is derived from Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1"[midi] which is a bit more exciting than this watered-down version, but still very British to its core. Why can't an Australian composer produce a majestic musical composition which is stirring like 'Pomp and Circumstance' or 'God Save the Queen', yet not dull like 'Advance Australia Fair'?! I believe the capability and creativity is all there; the talent just needs to be focused in this direction!

Vanstone image courtesty of National Indigenous Times (13 July 2006).
Vanstone cartoon by Wilcox via Gary Sauer-Thompson's philosophy (20 May 2005).

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