City of Shadows

Conte crayon sketchAbove is my sketch of Barbara Turner. Barbara who? Apart from her name I can tell you only this. In the early 1920s she had her photo taken as a mug shot by Sydney Police. I don’t know her crime, that information has been lost. Her  photograph however, has not been. It is included in a superb collection published in

City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948 by Peter Doyle with Caleb Williams.

Andrew bought a copy – not without drama – through an online bookseller that he won’t be using again! It is availability from the Historic Houses Trust directly. For an excellent review and a glimpse of a few more of the photographs, take a trip over to the My Darling Darlinghurst blog post on the subject: My Darling Darlinghurst: City of Shadows. As the blogger says, with the series Underbelly:Razor it’s an era attracting high interest at the moment. If the historic houses trust sell more books on the back of that, good on them. I’m pleased that Organisations such as they exist to preserve Sydney’s photographic history – including the seedier sides!

Dad, you’ll notice that Barbara only has one eye – just for you! For readers unfamiliar with my art work, I have a habit of drawing only one side of the face. I’m not sure why, it was never a conscious decision to do this. If I go back to some of my early pictures from 2006/7, it’s already there. When I start a picture, I don’t know whether they will have one eye or two. I just draw and see how it progresses. Barbara was sketched last night while Andrew was cooking dinner (yes, I’m spoilt! I can sit and draw while he cooks. Girls – that’s a tip for you. Don’t live with your boyfriend and therefore you’re always a guest and guests don’t cook!)

I also sketched this man (again adapted from a photo in City of Shadows), however he ended up with two eyes.
Watercolour pencil sketch

To be honest, I far prefer Barbara! They are in different media. Barbara is using a navy conte crayon and Mr De Gracy is using water colour pencil.Yet it is not just the media. Barbara is more ‘alive’ in my eyes, whereas this guy is a little stylized; caricature; flat; stilted maybe even unemotional. Barbara has emotion – or at least to me she does.

I’ll have to con Andrew into cooking dinner again so I can have another stab at him (no pun intended… I think he was in Sydney cells for theft of a ring not stabbing).


Posted on November 20, 2011, in Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I prefer the one of Barbara too. The other has a look of Kid Creole about it, minus Coconuts.
    Barbara has a very lived in face hasn’t she. She certainly doesn’t look like a spring chicken.
    We don’t have the series you mention here, but it may come.

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