Left handed drawing

I have broken my wrist on my dominant side and it’s immobilised in a cast. Using my left hand, I write like a five year old, carefully printing each character. Each movement requires conscious control. Here are two left handed sketches. I am using as references images taken from my various twitter feeds.

This is Mo Mowlam, who as a government minister entered the notorious H block to negotiate with sectarian terrorists the peace that is the foundation of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

This was my first attempt. Anita Berber, incredible queer Berlin cabaret star of the early 20th century, who did not survive to her 30th birthday. This is from the twitter feed Whores of Yore from historian Dr Kate Lister. I can strongly recommend her book A Curious History of Sex.

Resistance

This sketch in gouache (ultramarine, burnt sienna and white) is based on this tweet from @AuschwitzMuseum.
Ala Gartner was a member of the active resistance against the Nazis and stole explosives to enable the Sonderkommando (who operated the crematoria) to sabotage the Auschwitz killing machine. Before being transported to Auschwitz in 1943, while enslaved as a worker and living in the Sosnowiec Ghetto in Upper Silesia, Poland, Ala married Bernhard Holtz. That too seems like an act of resistance.
She was murdered two weeks before the camp was liberated.

Killed by Russian shelling

This monochrome sketch in gouache (white, crimson, ultramarine) is based on the following tweet.
In memory, Oksana Shvets, a person like so many others, trapped and murdered in a brutal imperialist war.

A survivor’s story

Content warning: this post references the Holocaust.

The Galicia Jewish Museum` is sited in Kazimierz, part of the city of Krakow with a strong, centuries-long association with the Jewish population. The history of the Jews of Krakow, some 56000 at time of the Nazi invasion, is documented in the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

Briefly, most Jews were expelled from Kracow, except, by 1941, around 15000 providing forced labour in a walled off ghetto in the neighbouring district of Podgorze. The ghetto was forcibly emptied, “liquidated” in March 1943, by shooting, transport of survivors to Auschwitz-Birkenau and transfer of workers to the Plaszow forced-labour camp further out from the city. There, further systematic mass-murders took place and survivors were moved to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The museum currently hosts an exhibition built round extensive photographs and testimony from three generations starting with Richard Ores. I drew him in wash and pen while watching a video of him describing his experience in the ghetto.

Ores had been a teenager when the ghetto was established. He was thrown a white coat by a doctor who then called to him and thus he obtained the Kennkarten, the documentation allowing him to remain in the ghetto working in the clinic. He was separated from his sister and mother who did not survive.

In his testimony, he described twice meeting Amon Göth, the brutal, sadistic and murderous commandant 1943 to 1944. One of these events I jotted down. He was sent to bring Göth medication for a cough. Göth asked how long before this would relieve the cough and told him to wait in the kitchen. If the cough was no better in half an hour, he would shoot Ores. The cook told Ores to make himself scarce and not wait: Göth would shoot him anyway, cough or no cough. He also described how a survivor of a mass-shooting of a wedding party was treated in the clinic for a bullet wound in the leg. The SS came and shot him. Ores remembers him asking “Sirs, how can you shoot me without trial?” In another video, Ores walks the building that housed the clinic, pointing out each room where a doctor was gunned down. I guess this must have been in 1943 when the ghetto was liquidated. Ores himself was moved to Plaszow and thence to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he witnessed the explosive destruction of the gas chambers and crematoria by the retreating SS. Ores trained in medicine in Switzerland and settled in Manhattan where he died in 2011. He and his family frequently returned to Poland.

Ores loved Poland, but would tell his children, do not laugh or smile here, this whole place is a memorial. A separate exhibition in the museum reminds us that 90% of Poland’s 3.3 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. A succession of contemporary photographs was displayed: “synagogues open to the sky … with bushes growing out from the floor … propped up with scaffolding or with only the central pillars still standing … vanished completely or deteriorated into nothingness …”. The sketch below is of the town of Biecz 100 miles south of Krakow. This square “would have been full of Yiddish speaking Jewish traders. Today the sound of Yiddish is gone”.

Sax

Last week I went to my first live gig since lockdown. Lara Jones opened. Lara is a saxophonist who builds tracks that incorporate sounds she hunted down and recorded, from the noises of the railway station to her wife’s heartbeat. This was in St John’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. I was drawing in the dark and some distance away. A diminutive fiigure in that setting, she cast huge shadows.

Lara was opening for an hour long performance of Pendulums by Andrew Woodhead. This is a sumptuous piece in which a six piece jazz band improvised, synchronising with pre-recorded animated visuals, depicting shifting geometric shapes representing the mathematics of campanology, and with eight church bells sounded by ringers in the belfry.

Sax

Birmingham Jazz put on live gigs Friday nights.  Here are Greg Abate– Sax; Elliott Sansom– Piano; Ben Muirhead– Bass and (not shown because I was sitting behind a pillar) Nathan England-Jones– Drums.

The sketches are done small in a pocket book, soft pencil on rough paper, some of them inked over at the time or a day or so later.

I only started drawing in the final few tracks, letting the music guide the pencil.  What i wish I had captured is the way the pianist and bassist grinned at each other at the feats they were performing.

This was athletic music, rhythmic, dexterous, controlled, coordinated and, above all, fast jamming.  Abate has clearly been around, but these other guys, the Elliott Samson Trio, are young, barely out of college.

Bearman does Bowie

This is another Saturday view of St Paul’s church in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.  The tools here are brushpens delivering waterproof ink, a limited selection of watercolour pencils and a waterbrush. The exercise is to draw sparingly but build texture with pen marks.

The night before we had gone to a Birmingham Jazz gig in the 1000 Trades pub in the Jewellery Quarter.  The singer was Fini Bearman, supported by amazing jazz pianist Tom Cawley and bassist Calum Gourley and the songs were lyrical, syncopated versions of Bowie classics.

I was moved to draw, but also to stop to just watch and listen.

Here are the few sketches I did that evening.

Post Modern Jukebox

I came across Post Modern Jukebox for their great cover of George Michael’s Careless Whisper (at the time, I was practicing that melody myself, badly, on guitar).  They are a rotating musical collective playing current songs with a 1930s jazz twist, brainchild of New York jazz pianist Scott Bradlee.  My daughter and I got into watching their prolific output on YouTube.  Try  Haley Reinhart singing Radiohead’s Creep or again singing All about the Bass with a three other vocalists.

They are still on a UK tour.  We saw them in snowbound Birmingham on 2nd March.  For me the star was diminutive, understated clarinettist and saxophonist Chloe Feoranzo.   I did not get the names of the guys – the bassist, the trombonist and the tap dancer.  The other singer shown below is Dani Armstrong (the linked video is not official – the best I could find is shot from the audience in another performance).  The unnamed pianist in this performance was not Scott Bradlee (a real franchise this operation!).  Ahead of Dani’s Chandelier, he slowly captured the audience’s attention by building a series of cadenzas, subtly shifting the key with each iteration.  Not pictured here is Emma Hatton, English singer who took on Haley Reinhart’s numbers on this tour.

 

These were drawn afterwards from memory and poor quality shots taken on my phone from far away.

As I say, PMJ is not a band but an ever-changing collective.  I would like it if they gave more credit to the singers and musicians they recruit as they roll through each country on tour.  They deserved the plaudits and I have had to scour the net and twitter to identify those I could.

#PMJtour #PMJofficial