Posts Tagged ‘chalk’

The Endless Transience of Being

September 3, 2015


This blog may well have been in a state of inaction, but believe me I haven’t !  A new solo show titled The Endless Transience of Being opens tonight at Megalo Print Studio & Gallery.  Every show is important of course, but this one feels especially so.  It’s my first solo show in Canberra (where I currently live) since 2012, and the first big showing of a new body of work since a rather serious crisis of confidence and subsequent withdrawal from making much new work through 2013 and 2014.  Many artists suffer from a lot of uncertainty about the value of their own work, and whether it will be perceived by others in a way that even remotely matches how they themselves see it and its meanings.  The more personal the work, the greater the existential risk of course.  Well so far the feedback I’ve had on this show has indicated that the way other people interperate the work is quite within the bounds of where I wanted it situated, and if anyone has decided on the basis of the show that I might be a bit unhinged, they’ve kept it to themselves!

Noted art historian Sasha Grishin has published a review in the Canberra Times here.

McLean enjoys velvety blacks which have been pushed back with a cloth and brush to release brilliant contrasts, where white forms appear with an almost hypnotic intensity and develop a ghostly presence. Within this grid of monotypes there are some stark and beautiful images including Sacred grove and Fallen feather, which have a crispness of definition, while at the same time a certain sophisticated abstraction. It is this quality of something existing and being present, but within an undetermined passage of time, that seems to be implied in the title of one continuous meditation on the “transience of being”. The mood of the whole installation is slightly melancholic and sombre with rocks, water and the naked human flesh appearing as recurring elements. The whole installation could be interpreted as a young man’s meditation on being and time with a considerable dose of passion, angst and high romanticism.

I’m pretty happy with that!

Chalkboard 003

July 23, 2015


These rough and ready quick chalkboard sketches were all done in one fairly short brainstorming session last night. I’ve got a solo show coming up soon, and want to make the main wall a grid of monotypes. I have a set of nine that I have shown before, as a single line of prints, but now I want to extend that series further and make a grid. The decision to hold the show was something of a short notice thing, and so now I’m planning on being quite busy with new monotypes over the next month. Hence returning to the chalkboard for brainstorming white drawings which mimic the way I like to make monotypes. Although I only had yellow chalk available for this lot.  Had a reasonably successful printing day today and made four prints, of which two might make it into the show. I started with “Luna” from last nights ideas, as something not too difficult to warm up on, and then a different image entirely not featured in the chalkboard drawings. Not a bad start I think.

chalkboard 002

August 16, 2013



You will recall, that I made myself a new chalkboard way back last summer.  The idea of the chalkboard is that it is a way to ‘free up’ drawing practice.  By using such an inherently ephemeral medium, not intended to be kept as a finished ‘work’ takes away all sense of anxiety over how a proposed drawing might turn out.  Trouble is, this process does its job all too well and so I end up making a drawing I like and wish I could keep.  So, this drawing was made last summer, and has just now been washed off, but not before a new version has been produced as a woodcut.  A woodcut is of course a very different medium to a chalk drawing, and so off course they are quite different images.  To see the woodcut, you had better take yourself along to the next show at The Left Hand Gallery in Braidwood, NSW.  Open on weekends, 24/25 August, 31 Aug/1st Sept, 7/8 Sept.  As Julian Davies, the resident curator at The Left Hand says of relief prints, “Once something is sliced away it cannot be put back. This is way of making pictures that asks for daring and imagination.” So the antithesis of a chalkboard really.




December 4, 2012


I’ve made a new chalkboard which is a little more manoeuvrable than the last one on an old door.  Today I made the first drawing on it and here it is.  It depicts a scene inspired by my explorations in Wollemi National Park recently.  Well, more than inspired by, it represents quite a specific spot.  From Newness Campground, the main Pipeline Track led off downstream along the Wolgen River.  I followed an unsigned side track, that led off through the ruins of what must have been the fancier houses attached to the old oil refining works.  Now only sandstone  chimneys remain, like strange trunks amongst the forest.  The track dwindles, as it traces up a creek line which becomes increasingly densely forested, with high cliffs looming overhead on both sides.  In parts the track becomes difficult to follow, but after tracing it up and down several times in the days I was there, I can confidently follow it to it’s end, which is the place depicted here.  A truly magical spot, especially the first time you see it.  The deep narrow gorge, filled with high forest, is rather dark, cool and calm, oblivious to the sun filled and windy weather above.  Here the cliff on one side is particularly shear – glowing orange up above in the afternoon sun, but with a deep recess at the base.  Carved over the ages, by the smallest of ephemeral watercourses, is a great tube-like, vertical chute.  It carried no water on the day I was there, not even a dripping, but instead it shone a column of soft reflected light onto the circular, sand-filled depression at its base.  In the gloom of the forest it was like an enchanted stage, lit at just this time of day, waiting for the arrival of some cosmic actor.

I have photographs, though none look anything like this drawing.  It was one of those places that was too large, yet at the same time close and intimate, to capture in one frame.  This chalkboard drawing is instead based on a pen drawing from my notebook, made on that first days visit.  Even in my sketch, there was a figure at the base of the chute, although I was there alone.  I’m not entirely sure why I inserted the figure, perhaps to help with scale, but when it came to doing the chalk drawing, I certainly wanted to retain it, something to make the image more lively, and excentuate that point of focus at the base of the chute.  The figure I had drawn was a rather generic standing silhouette, and really not sufficient, so I started browsing books for another pose.  I soon settled on the works of William Blake as a good point of departure.  When I saw “Albion Worshiping Christ” I knew I had the right one.


Albion Worshiping Christ is one of the plates from Blake’s epic work Jerusalem , a book of 100 etched and hand coloured plates that took 16 years to produce.  My drawing has omitted Christ, to be replaced by the wonders of nature, so it seemed a rather fitting choice.  Of course my chalkboard drawing is only meant to be a temporary sketch, and the landscape elements did come fairly easily.  The figure, however, was a labour.  I re-did it many times, and also extra sketches on black paper.  The more I worked on it, the less it looked like one of Blake’s cosmic men, and the more it looked like a distorted half man/half frog, perhaps by Francis Bacon! (I love the work of Francis Bacon by the way, but it really wasn’t what I was trying to achieve in this instance.  I hope I get the chance to see the show on at Art Gallery of NSW)  Eventually I stopped trying to force the figure into the particular scale and position where I though it should be, and instead let it and my hand have their way, and Albion came out twice as big, as he kept wanting to, over and over.  He still took quite a bit of fiddling – perhaps I was trying to achieve too much with a piece of chalk and an eraser.




February 12, 2012

Yesterday I finally did something I’ve been saying I was going to do for at least a couple of years.  Not that it was difficult or needed a huge investment in materials, it just takes me a while to get to things sometimes.  So, I’ve made myself a nice big chalkboard!  As simple as buying some paint and applying two coats to the back of an old door.  Fabulous.  So today I got to play with it.  Unsure what to draw first, I flicked through some old sketchbooks, and chose a small pen drawing that had never progressed into anything else.  It was labelled ‘Nursery Hill from Little Pig Swamp’ and was in my sketchbook from 2009 when I spent a fair bit of time in Namadgi National Park.  You’ll be able to find Nursery Hill on the official maps, but Little Pig Swamp is unique to my personal mind map.  When you are in the bush on your own for a while, these things can happen.  It was interesting to work up the tiny black on white sketch, into a larger white on black image, with the visual memory of the place somewhat faded now, so pretty much relying only on the sketch.  Anyway, here’s the chalk drawing.

chalkboard drawing, Peter McLean, 2012

art out and about

November 10, 2008

You just never know when the opportunity for some art out and about might arise. This grotty table top only needed the addition of a minimal amount of chalk to reveal this figure.


And I certainly didn’t expect to be using the leftovers from a children’s party in the park. Two figures that are rather immaterial in an interesting way.


art out and about in Sydney

August 5, 2008

I was up in Sydney to check out some more offerings from the Biennale, but found some time to do some art out and about while I was there.  Perhaps I was inspired into action by the graffiti-like chalk works of Dan Perjovschi, which fill the voids on the facade of the Art Gallery of NSW, where long ago envisaged bas reliefs never came to completion.  Not a lot of intact autumn leaves were left blowing about to trace, but there were a few, including these couple.

I continued tracing and filling the shape of the odd leaf here and there as I walked through town.  I didn’t get the impression that any of the many passers by were paying the slightest attention to me or the drawings.  Perhaps Sydney people are too busy for that – or they have just trained themselves not to make any eye contact with nutters on the street! I did a whole collection of white leaf tracings further down near Circular Quay, but it was getting a bit dark for photography by then.  Passed by again two days later, but the area had been swept and cleaned.  A faint trace of the chalk remained – but none of the leaves or rubbish.  Thus is the nature of ephemeral work.  The red tracings were still quite prominent though – they had been drawn on wet pavement so had a good dense covering of chalk.

Meanwhile a little re-arranging of fallen male cones, in this case from a Queensland Kauri Pine (Agathis robusta) in the Domain.  Not entirely sure what this type of work is about yet, maybe nothing more than delighting in the grub-like shape of these little objects.

shadow drawings

July 31, 2008

Did some shadow tracings in chalk today.  Firstly the bare branches of an oak tree on the curved wall on University Ave.  It was sunny and warmish today so I began to think of the arrival of spring and added some nice green leaves.  A playful fond memory here in the middle of winter.

Followed by a tracing of the shadows of the main trunk and branches on the ground.  With both of these works and with other shadow tracings I have done before, it is always surprising just how quickly the shadows move.  By the time the drawing is finished the first parts are already way out of alignment, so the drawing can never perfectly replicate the shape of the shadow at any one time.  Then of course there are clouds.  An annoyance when the shadow disappears and thus interrupts the drawing time, but great for photographing the finished work with the “source” now removed.

leaf tracing

June 24, 2008

Did a new leaf tracing while out and about today.  I have been doing a number of these ephemeral works lately that involve tracing around fallen leaves with chalk.  I did this one in front of the new tax department offices in Civic.  They have nice new dark grey slate pavers so I thought white chalk would be ideal for this one.  Actually I’ve been keeping my eye on this site for a while, but the big Plane tree accros the road has been very slow to drop it’s leaves.

These works are part celebration of autumn, but they also reference a lot of other things like fragility of beauty, the fleeting nature of life etc.  On top of that they are just a lot of fun, especially when they are in a busy place like that.  I think it is important that I trace around actual leaves.  I could just draw leaf shapes anywhere but then it would be what I think leaves are shaped like – and size and position on the pavement – rather than the real shapes and sizes of real leaves.  Also the leaves blow about and move. When I trace them I leave them in place but they soon move – this is all part of the work – and of course there is a seasonal element – we might be able to buy strawberries in the shops in June these days, but you still wont get autumn leaves on the footpath in December – some things remain transient.

%d bloggers like this: