I live in the capital city of Australia — Canberra. It is really not much more than an overgrown country town with a population approaching 400,000. It has changed much in the last ten years and is starting to find its feet as a city, but it’s not really somewhere I’d expect to find a great number of interesting old buildings.

I am learning to love drawing buildings and tend to keep an eye out for subjects when I am moving around the place. In the 35 years or so that I have lived here I had noticed maybe three or four old churches around the place on the usual routes that I drive. I thought perhaps that they might be fun to draw them and set about looking for addresses and details so that I could go and get some photos to work from.

What I discovered surprised and delighted me! Within a few minutes of searching I had discovered somewhere in the vicinity of 18 interesting churches to investigate, and that was not an exhaustive search by any means. I no doubt will have missed some gems. Here is a collage of just a few of the buildings I gathered and photographed a few weeks ago. Stunning, yes?

Canberra is a young city — just over one hundred years old — so I was very surprised to find such a grand number and variety of church buildings. There are of course multitudes of modern church buildings, not to mention the temples of the East and West Asian religions that I didn’t look at. Perhaps they will find a home in future projects. Granted, not all of the buildings I have selected are old, some of the Orthodox religious buildings are relatively new; they are just very appealing to my eye.

It struck me in the process of narrowing down the ones that appealed to me that there was enough variety to create a bigger series of paintings and indeed a calendar. So here we are with he Churches of Canberra calendar project! Between now and the end of October I will be working away at producing at least 13 paintings. Perhaps more, so I have a choice for the final calendar selection. My plan — which may of course be derailed — is to have the calendars available for purchase through my RedBubble store at the beginning of November. Just in time for Christmas!

With the photos in hand I set about creating a master palette to use across all of the paintings so that I have a degree of unity across them all. I practiced colour mixes and narrowed down my choices.

Testing out pens and colour mixes, some will be used a lot, some will be  just the odd touch here and there — the Greek Orthodox churches have brilliantly coloured windows!

My dinner plate may never be the same 🙂 

I have made a start. The Macedonian Orthodox church in Narrabundah has always been a curiosity for me. I see it from a distance, poking out above the trees, when I drive out towards the industrial part of town to run errands. Up close it looks like a dress with its skirt billowing up. Delightful!

This weekend I am working on the All Saints church in Ainslie, which started life as a mortuary station in Sydney before being transported down here to become a church. Odd history for a church, but the building is beautiful and the large arched window at the front, iconic.

If you are interested in my calendar project, please take a moment to subscribe to my email newsletter so that you can keep up with the updates and release information. This is a brand new list and I don’t intend to write to you terribly often and won’t spam you — I have painting to do — but this is the best way to ensure you get the most up to date information.


Running just a little bit late this week because I got thoroughly sidetracked playing the new guitar The Viking sent me for Christmas/birthday. Isn’t she lovely? Her name is Nat and she plays like a dream — big mellow sound straight out of the box, I can only see her getting better with age. My calluses need to grow to accommodate the extra strings and added pressure…6-sting calluses are insufficient! Who’s The Viking I hear you ask? He’s my partner and a very private person who does not wish to rocket to fame and fortune *cough* on my blog, and as such shall remain nameless. 🙂


Playing music has been a big creative kick for me this week, but here are some of the other things that tickled my fancy from around the web this fortnight.

I could use a month in this cabin, completely disconnected, and filling my days with art, music and writing.

These anatomical drawings are luminescent! The coloured pencil hatching is super effective.

If you need a smile this weekend, this ought to do it. (if you are reading this via email, see the video here.)

The Canadians are so neat and tidy, even in their ice flows.

When I am afraid to speak is when I speak.
That is when it is most important.
― Nayyirah Waheed


The Japanese concept of Ikigai fascinates me … have you found your sweet spot in life yet?

I NEED this bath mat!!

Nature fights back in this series of photos.

An artist that inspires me … I will likely never ever play this well, but this is what a 12-string [edit: 11 string] can sound like in the hands of a guitarist with phenomenal skills!!!! (if you are reading this via email, see the video here)


Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook and Instagram both restrict what you see, and sometimes I get buried in the noise of the interwebs. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. You can also sign up for my sporadic and infrequent email list using the form on the right hand side of the page – you will be the first to hear about special projects, giveaways and special deals on shop products.

I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

Saturday morning was a hot and windy but that didn’t stop the Canberra Urban Sketchers gathering at the Royal Australian Mint to see what bright and shiny things we could draw.

By strange coincidence, we were there within 53 years and two days of Prince Phillip opening the institution which coincided with the introduction of decimal currency the following February. I had no idea we were there so close to an auspicious anniversary! It was the first Mint in the world to achieve accreditation to International Quality Standards, and produces coinage for a great number of Asia Pacific countries as well as our own of course (Our notes are made in Melbourne…that I did not know!).

Regardless of the weather I almost always choose an outdoor aspect to capture. Not sure why — indoor spaces just don’t grab me — and besides, they are harder, so maybe that’s it. I had a bit of a wander about to see if there was a shady spot that might allow me some respite from the sun. Unfortunately the shady spot that I favoured was situated in a bit of a wind tunnel, so I selected a different spot in the sun and started to get myself set up with my new sketching kit.

In July last year I stumbled across a Kickstarter campaign for “the ultimate art bag” — the Etchr Art Satchel, created by some guys in Melbourne. I liked the look of the setup and the quality of the product, and ever keen to support local designers, I signed up and then invested. The wait was long, but absolutely worth it. The Etchrlab team have delivered something truly special, and I am looking forward to using it more.

The satchel itself is a bit heavier than my usual Crumpler bag for carting around art supplies, and I fussed about a bit and got frustrated for a while, but the versatility of the product more than makes up for it. I should have known to expect some teething problems on my first outing with a complex product.

The Etchr satchel is infinitely customisable inside with velcro bits and bobs to hold pens, pencils, secure an iPad or sketchbooks, pockets to hold ephemera…the options are endless. I set the internals of the satchel up to suit me shortly before I left the house. You can see here how neatly my pens and paintbrushes are secured and within easy reach. I added a carabiner to hang my water bucket (need to tweak this a bit) and attached a magnetic clip to hold my palette. Then all I needed to do was clip the satchel onto the tripod and start sketching.

Because this was my first session with the satchel and tripod, it took a little bit of fidgeting about to get set up. The tripod itself produced 99.9% of the issues I faced, from setting it up far too low to the ground, to not having the head adjustment tightened enough to stop the drawing surface tilting. I did manage to get the head tilt issue sorted once I got home and was not under pressure. Typical! I really should have given the kit a full dry run before I tried to take it out on site and try to set up under pressure. I found the tripod itself a little heavy, I shall consider investing in a lighter one if I am to consider using the whole set up in a hiking or travelling scenario I think.

This pic is from before I figured out I had set my tripod up too low.

Back to the sketching! My goal for this session was to attempt a looser style of sketch and move away from the tight “colouring book” type pieces I normally produce when out on site. I have been watching Liz Steel and Shari Blaukopf video courses in preparation for diving into my new project, and they both work far more loosely than I usually do. They also work far more rapidly than I do. I don’t want to go too loose, but I do want to press toward a little and keep playing and tweaking my own technique. Find some middle ground.

20180224 -royal australian mint

I am not displeased with the result for a first attempt in a slightly different style.

I moved inside to sketch for the last 20 minutes of the session and captured a few oddments — old coin designs and a machine of some sort.

20180224 - mint

If you are a Canberra area local and are interested in joining the Canberra Urban Sketchers you can find more information here.

If you want to learn more about what the Etchr Art satchel can do, Teoh Yi Chi’s review is good, as is Steve Mitchell’s. I have really only just scratched the surface of what it is capable of, I cannot wait to standing to sketch with it. You can purchase the satchel here (not an affiliate link, and I am not being paid to comment on the product)

Friday Feedbag

February 23, 2018 — 2 Comments

The creative life is all about feeding one’s imagination with a wide variety of inputs – gathering inspiration, provoking thought, tickling one’s fancy — and then making connections between all these disparate little bites.  Picture, quotes, music, videos, silly little things. Here’s a selection of what grabbed my attention this month, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.


Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.

Thomas Merton


I remember spending hours looking at dad’s National Geographic magazines when I was a kid. Their photos are still as inspiring 40 years later.


Some writing advice from TS Eliot.

I love watching the world at night. These photos speak to my soul.

I need this laundry bag. Om nom nom

Clever man! (if you are reading this via email, click here to watch the video)

Ever wondered how the bendy straw was invented?

To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive.

Robert Louis Stevenson

My grandmother passed earlier this month and this song came on the radio as I was driving home from spending a week with my parents in Victoria. It made me cry. I love how powerful music is in creating movement in my life. (if you are reading this via email, click here to watch the video)


I have a new project brewing with a planned release date of early November … stay tuned for details!

Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook and Instagram both restrict what you see, and sometimes I get buried in the noise of the interwebs. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

I was doing a bit of a mid-Summer-Spring clean the other weekend and got rid of a whole bunch of crap that had collected on my bookshelf. Bits and pieces from my dog that passed in May last year, motorcycle cleaning products, sunglasses that I cannot wear because I need prescription lenses. You know…the usual stuff that has no business being on the kitchen shelves, but collects there nevertheless. Then I got to the shelf where my completed sketchbooks live. It was messy and the books that I had shoved in unceremoniously over the past couple of years were balanced precariously and threatened to fall out. So I pulled them all out, sorted and re-stacked them, and as often happens, I could not resist having a flip through some of the older ones to see if I had made any improvement — because you know — procrastination. I told myself it was a mid-task reward.

Nice clean shelves after I had procrastinated for a considerable time

I found an old drawing of a cargo pant pocket from 2012 and it seemed to me, without looking any further afield, to be far more polished and advanced than some of the pieces I have been producing in the last six months or so. It surprised me and made me wonder why.

201821108 - cargo pocket

I really like this drawing. I did it not long after I decided to try to make sketchbooking a regular thing in my life

What was the difference between the pocket drawing and one of this year’s drawings for example? This one below I did from a holiday photo, for example. Or the Bomber Command memorial sketch which seems almost childlike in comparison. After some thought I came up with a few things that I think might be the case for me and my drawing.

20170913 - westminster

I did this one lunchtime from a holiday snap on my phone. It really just did not work at all.

20171228 - bomber command

This was one of those sketches where I knew what I wanted to do in my head, but it did not translate to paper.

Spending less time on each drawing on average

When I was making those drawings back in 2012 I had more time on my hands. I was working full time but in a different set of life circumstances and I had larger blocks of time to give to drawing. My drawing was a haven into which I could escape, and I was hiding in my process. It was natural to spend a lot of time getting my sketches just right.

I had a different approach

Back when I drew the cargo pants pocket, I used to think I had to make sketchbooks full of pretty, polished pictures. I wanted to be able to flip through a sketchbook and see pages and pages of stunning drawings. I didn’t want to waste my precious sketchbook pages with scribbles. I wanted my sketchbooks to look like those of artists that had been drawing for years and were naturally more polished, when I had only been painting with watercolour for a year or so. (here is an example of what I wanted my sketchbooks to look like) So I paid more attention and worked slowly and deliberately. I was intent on making “worthy” pieces. I didn’t succeed, but that’s what I thought a sketchbook should be, and so I tried to achieve that.

There are a lot of factors that I can see that have an impact on my sketches in 2018, six years down the track.

Life in general

These days my life looks a lot different and I am exploring myself as a person as well as sketching techniques a lot more. I am trying to find my voice, so I try different things, different styles. I don’t care that my sketchbook doesn’t look like a published picture book, nor that it’s inconsistent. Now I have pages of paint swatches and colour mixes and scribbles from testing out pens. I am figuring out what I like to look at and what I like to do and how to pour my heart out onto the page. And that’s far from a neat thing to do. Life is messy, and so are my sketchbooks.

20180113 - skin tone mixes

There are several pages like this in each sketchbook where I am playing with paint to see what sort of results I can get.

Practice and learning

I use the time in my sketchbooks to practice — I am spending time perfecting little things — the shape of a leaf, or diving straight in with ink without a pencil under-drawing, or getting the watercolours to blend smoothly, or making sure I have sufficient contrast in my sketch, or learning how to sketch quickly on location. Sometimes I fail spectacularly. And that’s ok. Sketchbook pages are fair game. It helps too that I have found a good value for money option — it means that I am not so worried about “wasting” pages.

20180209 - ColeusI always have problems drawing plants and dealing with foreshortening in leaves. So this was not only therapy but practice as well.

Available time

It seems often these days that the output in my sketchbooks is what I would call sub-standard because I don’t always have a lot of time to sit and draw. I have competing priorities that I juggle. I have other stuff that I need to get done, so I spend ten or fifteen minutes filling a page with something because I need to play with paint before I sit down to write or pay bills. It could also be that my standards for myself have shifted upwards over the years. I am striving to be better and more consistent.

20180214 - connect

This literally took five minutes. It was a writing night but I wanted to at least splash a little paint around!


Sometimes I am sketching as therapy. Like everyone on the planet, things happen in my life that I don’t like, don’t know how to classify, or don’t know how to deal with. When this happens I use my sketchbook pages as a place to dump out the things that are whirling around in my head. It’s far cheaper than a therapist! Sometimes I can see the emotions in the paint strokes, sometimes it is the act of becoming absorbed in the drawing and painting rather than the product itself that is the therapy. My moods and feelings have a huge impact on what comes out on the paper. These pages are never going to look polished, because I’m not polished.

20170607 - meno medusa

Therapeutic … this one speaks for itself!

Artificial pressures

An odd thing that I found affects the quality of my sketches was having to do a sketch every day when I take up a particular challenge, like the Drawing a Day challenge with my Sketchbook Skool klassmates. I wrote last year about the Every Day in May challenge being a great thing, and it was, but I am having a very different experience this year. Feeling like I must produce something every day is taking the fun out of it, and sometimes I am so worn out and depleted that I really do not have the energy to pick up a paintbrush. Life is just like that sometimes. It’s a bit of a two-edged sword, because being pushed to create something each day also pushes me to think creatively and to improve my sketching skills by virtue of the fact that I am forced to be prolific. This in turn has an effect on what my sketchbook pages look like. If I am not feeling the prompt for the day, the drawing will be flat and lifeless. However, if I stumble on an idea that tickles my fancy, then the drawing will be far more lively or poignant and most likely more polished. At the moment I aim to draw every day, but accept that sometimes life just doesn’t allow for it, and try not to get wound up about a non-existent deadline.

20180128 - undone

This is an example of a “drawing a day” prompt quick sketch that worked well. I like the roughness of it, it adds to the feeling of being vulnerable.

So all things considered…when I look back and compare pages from different eras, I need to remember that the pages are not necessarily better or worse…they are just different. They each have their own context, and I would rather have something on the page than nothing. Done is better than perfect, as the old truism says — with each stroke of the paintbrush or pen, I am either learning something, soothing something, or celebrating something.

I should probably round this out by saying that I am not displeased with my current sketchbook contents. I am clearly making progress, and trust that I will continue to do so. I simply need to remember context when comparing sketches. Here endeth the existential crisis (for now anyway).

Click HERE if you’d like to see a couple of flip throughs of recent sketchbooks to see the variety of pages and sketches.

What sorts of things affect how your sketchbook pages look? Do you manage to be consistent in style and polish?


Remember to sign up for email updates. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone

I added a couple of new designs to my RedBubble shop this week! My mantra for the year (first mixed media – iPad and watercolour effort) and a whimsical purple snail (with and without the quote beneath) are available on a variety of clothing and household items in store.


I got my mantra printed up as a metal print and hung it in my bathroom where I will see it every morning and be reminded of the way I want to travel through 2018.  If you have purchased any of my pieces I’d love to see photos of you enjoying them 😀






Friday Feedbag

January 26, 2018 — Leave a comment

The creative life is all about feeding one’s imagination with a wide variety of inputs – gathering inspiration, provoking thought, tickling one’s fancy – and then making connections between all these disparate little bites. Here’s a selection of what grabbed my attention this fortnight, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.

As long as you live, keep learning how to live.

 – Seneca


How pretty are these pencils? Pass the sharpener!


The sensuousness of creating has always gripped me.

This stunning little guy walks around the Tasman Sea instead of swimming.

This made me laugh 🙂 Guaranteed to confuse your child learning to tell the time.


Nina’s urban sketches always inspire me to want to get out and draw more


There’s never been another moment like this particular one, and never will be again.

That means that at this moment, we have the opportunity to fully appreciate the miracle of this moment, and how it came to be from the infinite number of causes that created it from preceding moments. We are alive in this moment because of millions of other people who have supported us, because of everything on this planet, which just happened to be the perfect conditions for creating the person we are right this moment. What a freakin’ miracle!

– Leo Babuta


Loving this song this week


Embroidery good enough to eat!

Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook and Instagram both restrict what you see, and sometimes I get buried in the noise of the interwebs. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

I don’t get out as often as I would like to sketch on location, so when New Year’s Eve was forecast to have some lovely moderate temperatures – as opposed to the crazy hot we normally get at this time of year – I put out the call to our Urban Sketchers group for an ad hoc get together and we headed in to the High Court. I had been wanting to draw the brutalist building for a long time. The facade is imposing, but the water feature that runs down the side of the ramp softens it somehow. I positioned myself down at the base of the ramp and listened to the water burble away as I sketched.

20171231 - high court

I had a little time to spare after the first sketch, so I turned my stool 90 degrees to look at the National Portrait Gallery and did a quick 15 minute sketch of the front entryway.

20171231 - portrait gallery

This Sunday just passed was a similarly cool day for our regular Urban Sketchers meet up. This time we were at Parliament House. I opted for an outside perch to see if I could capture the curved forecourt entry properly. It came up a little wonky…curves in perspective are tricky! I included the imposing flag pole as a collage element since it’s the most recognisable feature of the building, but couldn’t be seen from where I was sitting.

20180114 - New Parliament HouseI really enjoy getting together with my sketching buddies to take a closer look at parts of the city that I normally wouldn’t visit in the course of going about my days. It’s fun sharing a common interest wiht a bunch of equally crazy people 🙂

Friday Feedbag

January 12, 2018 — Leave a comment

I am sitting here this week suffering from the inevitable Summer sniffles and bundled up in a blanket even though it is 33 degrees C outside. I am so annoyed that I made it through my Christmas break without getting sick like I normally do on holidays, and then the first week back at work I get sucker punched. Ugh.

Here’s some of what grabbed my attention this fortnight as I fed my creativity, perhaps some of them will inspire you too as we head into the weekend.

Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.

– Victor Pinchuk


How beautiful are these fairy sculptures? I’d love one in my garden!


Struggling to get to sleep? Watch this for a while.

Everyone needs to hear these seven things.

Start your weekend off with a smile – I loved the field mouse!

This song relaxes me, I love listening to these guys when I paint.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if these were available at the office?

Happiest puppy!


“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut


And last but not least .. who would not want a giant purple squid to keep them inspired?


Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook and Instagram both restrict what you see, and sometimes I get buried in the noise of the interwebs. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.


“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”  – Unknown

That is the mantra that I will use to set my intention for the year ahead, and I have chosen KINDNESS to be my guiding word.

Why did I choose kindness? It’s one of those serendipity things really. I started thinking about my hopes for this year in early December, collected a list of words that I felt fit the bill, and let it all percolate for a bit. I started seeing articles and art works relating to a couple of them consistently, and by far the one that waved its arms the most was ‘kindness’. Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at its best! Just like when you buy a new car, all of a sudden you see that make and model everywhere, I saw references to kindness all over the place! Even as I edit this post and procrastinate on Facebook, a friend posted a profile frame that said, “I believe in the power of kindness”. Thank you universe!

It may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish I suppose, having “kindness” as my word for the year … being kind to myself…being kind to others as a first reaction. Sounds naive doesn’t it? A bit like I’ve fallen headlong into the positivity movement’s blackhole?  Like I am setting myself up to be lazy about the things I need to do in my life and a doormat for everyone else? Perhaps inviting people to take advantage of me? No. That’s not it at all. Whilst it is true that I need to cut myself some slack (I have a tendency to run myself into the ground), I think I can be kind and yet maintain boundaries both for myself and for when it comes to interacting with other people. Consistent kindness doesn’t imply that I will tolerate appalling behaviour from others. Nor is it a cure-all for dealing with the political rubbish that threatens to drown us. Kind does not necessarily equate with “nice”, and I have no intention of returning to doormat status, nor do I intend to put myself in danger. Telling people no can be done with kindness. Makes me think of Churchill’s quote: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Could easily substitute my word in there instead of tact!

Seth Godin said, when he spoke of kindness: “It scales better than competitiveness, frustration, pettiness, regret, revenge, merit (whatever that means) or apathy. Kindness ratchets up. It leads to more kindness. It can create trust and openness and truth and enthusiasm and patience and possibility. Kindness, in one word, is a business model, an approach to strangers and a platform for growth.It might take more effort than you were hoping it would, but it’s worth it.”


In fact, I think perhaps that kindness might just be fabulously subversive – a theory I intend to explore this year. What can being kind achieve? What does it mean to be kind? What does it look like when I am being kind? Can I be consistently kind and not be annoying as hell? Can I be kind when I feel like death warmed up or hard done by?

The big question is…in the context of creativity… how might it affect the way I develop ideas and execute them in my artwork? What does it mean for my little business? I have no idea! We shall see as the year progresses.

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.


Do you select a word or guiding intention for the year? Share it in the comments below, and link to your blog if you have one, I’d love to read about your thoughts for the year ahead!


Remember to sign up for email updates. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.