Before I show you what I sketched, let me tell you about the exhibition where I sketched.
Outer Circle: The Boyds and the Murrumbeena artists shows the work of members of the Boyd family, one of Australia’s artistic dynasties. The Boyd name pops up in many areas of art. On the wall of the exhibition is a large family tree and against each name is their artistic pursuit. This was the list:
- potter (lots of these!)
The odd ones out were a naval officer and a social worker! Robin Boyd was Australia’s premier modernist architect, Martin Boyd a novelist and Penleigh painted the most beautiful watercolours. However, the strongest branch stemmed from Merric Boyd.
Merric was a potter and established a pottery at his property “Open Country” in Murrumbeena, then a village of Melbourne. Colin Smith’s pamphlet The Boyd walk describes the area:
By the time Merric Boyd arrived in the area , this village boasted two estate agents, a laundry, a fruit shop, bookmaker and newsagent. To its south lay the market gardens of East Bentleigh, and to the north, open paddocks and scrub. The east was open country, and beyond it, the township of Oakleigh.
I found this engaging snapshot from Colin Smith’s pamphlet:
Murrumbeena provided Merric with the resources he required to make pottery, including space to construct a studio and kiln, and good clay deposits. It also had a hansom cab service operated by Mr Grey from the front of Murrumbeena Station in Neerim Road. His horse was watered from a trough in front of Billy T Motors on the southern side of Neerim Road. During the 1920s and 30s, Merric and his wife Doris would be picked up from their Wahroongaa Crescent home by Mr Grey and dropped off at the station to catch a city train. Carrying cases packed with Merric’s valuable pottery, they would walk the city to stores like Georges, and Mair and Lyon, who sold his pottery to collectors, many of them wealthy, who appreciated the quality and originality of Merric’s work.
His son, Arthur, became one of Australia’s most famous artists, especially as a painter. However, he was also a very talented potter and some of his pottery is in the exhibition.
“Open Country” was one of those places where creativity was nurtured and therefore thrived. An amazing array of talented artists were attracted to it, artists who were at the forefront of modernist art in Australia — Albert Tucker, Danilla Vasillieff, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and John Perceval, who married Arthur’s sister Mary. These artists were also frequent visitors to Sunday and John Reid’s house at Heide, and there was a great deal of discussion and exploration of ideas across the two communities.
It’s an interesting exhibition, and worth visiting if you get the chance. I came away from it with feeling very fond of Merric Boyd. Apparently he drew prolifically and older residents in Murrumbeena remember him walking the streets with his sketchbook and pencils. He would set himself up on a fence or a nature strip and draw. Apparently he kept his pencils in his socks! He often gave away his drawings.
So, back to my little homemade sketchbook. I was attracted to the pottery, wanting to capture the lines and shapes. The size of the sketchbook was just right to stand beside the jugs and bowls and sketch. It rested in the palm of my hand but still gave me enough paper to catch what I wanted to. It fitted nicely into my bag, an important point when you are walking around all day.
You can tell that I was happy to draw over and around the older images on the paper. It helped me feel less precious about the paper. Later at home I added the water to blend the ink a little more. Next time I will take the water brush with me to add those details on the spot. Also, many of the lines are wonky and the proportions are skewed. But it doesn’t matter. My eye improved as I drew more, I had fun standing sketching and I smile to myself when I think that the lines of the jugs were not perfect either!
I am forming a plan at the moment that will involve sketchbooks and those of you who would like to begin their sketching journey. Stay tuned!