Sketching at Tidbinbilla

Way back in September I took myself out for a sketching date out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The drive out there is a lot of fun, with lots of twists and turns that my sporty little mini leaned into like a champion! It was a wonderfully sunny day and still a little warm even in the late afternoon. My goal was to walk the wetlands Sanctuary track, and try to sketch wildlife if I managed to see any. I took my A6 book and tiny art toolkit palette, a pen, pencil and waterbrush. I travelled very light!

Before the entry to the wetlands there is an abandoned cottage from the late 1800s called Rock Valley Homestead. I stopped in for a wander around and had a sit in a lovely sunny spot to enjoy the garden.

20220822 - Rock Valley homestead

This is a little of what remains of the kitchen. The inside rooms are pretty bare, it is really just a shell of the building. Some of it had been burned in the big bushfires that came through in January 2003. But what is left is well preserved and tended.

my walking poles

The path around the Sanctuary is dotted with wonderful places to sit and watch the comings and goings of the birds, or to have a picnic, or just to listen to the froglets go off.

Wetlands

I was there a little late in the day to catch much of the wildlife, and too early for the platypii but I did manage to see a female black swan on her nest!

20220822 - moth4er swan at Tidbinbilla Homestead

She had just taken over nest duty from her partner and was settling in for the evening on her clutch of seven eggs. I was able to stand a couple of metres away and enjoy watching her snuggle and shift to get into the perfect position.

20220822 - Tidbinbilla Homestead

This was a quick watercolour sketch of one of the lagoons along the way … I really need to work on my landscapes! Can you recommend a good online course by any chance?

This creek was so lovely! The bubbling of the water over rocks and around branches was so relaxing. It was getting late by the time I got to this point, otherwise I would have loved to sit and sketch the branches and rocks and grass. I shall have to return!

Snake sculpture

At various points around the loop there were iron sculptures made from scrap metal.

Platypus sculpture

They made me smile!

Kangaroo sculpture

I haven’t made the time to get out of the house much in the last couple of years, and it was so good to get out. I will do it againe!~

A week of delight

A week or so ago I signed up for Wendy MacNaughton’s paid newsletter and was overjoyed to see that she is expanding her kids’ online art show/class/club to include some fun stuff for adults as well.. she calls it the grown-ups table… or GUT for short. Which amuses me no end. This week’s exercise involved sketching something each day that delighted us, flowing out of a book she recommended by poet Ross Gay called The Book of Delights. I have ordered the book, and cannot wait to dive in after the fun that I have had this week. I have found it so easy to drown in the sad and the hard things in life, or even just drift by the delightful things as I focus on making it to the end of another week. This week of noticing and sketching has been just what I needed to kick me out of that loop.

Here are the seven little sketches I produced and the things I wrote about each when I posted them to Instagram each day

Monday

CAT FUR – it is just so very soft that it almost defies belief that this purry being – that has five end points, all of which are sharp and dangerous – could be so soft and comforting and sigh-inducing.

Tuesday

SILVER-EYES – This morning a flock of tiny little birds visited my garden looking for bugs and fluff. I always leave tufts of cat fur pegged to the tree for their nests! Tiny little things they are! About 11cm long and weighing 10gm. I love them.

Wednesday

FRESH COFFEE – The new drip coffee maker we bought has a timer function, so we have set it to start making the coffee 15 minutes before our normal wake up time. It is the height of luxury to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee!

Thursday

SURPRISE SWEETS – My latest order of contact lenses arrived this morning with special surprise – a little bag of Gummy Bears! I never buy these things for myself, so this was a wonderful treat. I savoured them slowly. I had to draw the packet because I was too busy enjoying the lollies to think of sketching one!

Friday

DANCING FAIRIES – After the rain showers this morning a couple of female Fairy Wrens came down to snap up the bugs. They were bouncing up and down and fluttering their wings like little dancers. Tiny little puffballs of joy!

Saturday

HAPPY SMILING FACES – I was greeted by my new bed of smiley pansies as I returned from shopping this afternoon. All shades and combinations of whites of purples nodding at me as they were ruffled by the late winter breeze. I could not help but smile back at them.

Sunday

MUMMA SWAN – Today I had the privilege of sketching this female swan sitting on her clutch of seven eggs. She was in a big straw nest at the edge of the wetland, and had just taken over after dad’s afternoon shift and was settled in for the evening. I could hear the froglets ramping up their chorus as the sun went behind the mountains.

The whole spread

I am really pleased with how the spread pulled together in the end … a little niggle with the colour of the swan’s nest, but over all, the seven spots of encapsulated delight gives me a good reminder of what the week was like.

Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolours

A visit to Cotter Dam

A couple of weekends ago I decided that it was time to stop being a hermit and to get out and take a walk and perhaps sketch. My destination of choice was Cotter Dam, which is a 25 minute drive from my place. I have taken up Nordic walking, so I packed my poles and grabbed my tiny sketch kit and off I went. What I hadn’t thought through too well was the fact that we had had a LOT of rain a couple of days earlier. Like 100mm of it in a day. When I got there i could hear the roar of the water spilling over the dam before I even got out of the car. The river below the dam was full to overflowing, though from the look of the debris, the water had been much higher the day before.

Much of the low lying walking track was underwater, but I was still able to head up the raised walkways to the viewing platforms to take in the view. Off I strode, arms and poles swinging and huffing and puffing like an old steam train. I got some amused looks, but I am happy to say I ran into a couple who were also striding about with poles. A head nod and a smile as we passed was lovely! I tried to explore a little further along the river after the viewing walk, but had to turn back because I couldn’t get to the other side of the river where I had parked my car from that end of the trail. Oops.

When I got back to the car park I sat to catch my breath and decided that it would be a good time to whip out my sketchbook and grab a quick sketch in the mist before the rain set in again. The result is the sketch below, which took about ten minutes. It was tricky because the paints were not drying in the cold and drizzle.

20220807 - Cotter dam in the rain
Sketchbook: Seawhite Brighton 3×5, Daniel Smith watercolours, Uniball pen

I wasn’t hugely happy with the quick sketch so I snapped some photos to do a sketch from at home.

20220813 - Cotter Dam visit
Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Daniel Smith watercolours, Carbon Platinum ink

This one took a couple of hours all up and I decided to include a sketch of a young woman standing on top of the FLOW sculpture that sits just at the end of the carpark in front of the dam. If I were younger and somewhat more nimble than I am at present, I would love to hop up there 🙂 I love climbing on things!

Sketchbook flipthrough

I have been putting off filming this sketchbook tour for months now. I wanted to do one with commentary so that I could explain to you what I was thinking when I was creating particular spreads. This week I bit the bullet and did it anyway. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

I hope you enjoy taking a stroll through my sketchbook and listening to me prattle on about it! Let me know what you think on the post here or on YouTube!

Look into my eyes……

20220119 - thinking spiral
Pentel ink brush and watercolour in Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook

Keep staring at the centre of the spiral. Round and round and round. Are you sleepy yet? Or just confused?

20220119 - confusion
Lifted-type collage

It’s an interesting thought … nature knows what it’s doing … it’s us that get things all twisted up when we try to untangle it. Collage is a great way to create and unravel my mind when it becomes over-stimulated.

2021 in a nutshell plus a sketchbook flipthrough!

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite sketch book pages from 2021 as a way to close the book on what has been (for everyone) another stressful one. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet to help me focus on beauty or to process that which I don’t quite know how to deal with!

20210301 - rower view

I catalogued various things around the house, including my view from the rowing machine in the garage

20210302 - calm ease

I played a lot with repetitive patterns as a way to soothe and think.

20210419 - krasnyy

Our new cats started to feature a lot.

20210914 - tuscany

I travelled the world via the internet and my sketchbooks and visited a diverse range of cities around the globe.

20211018 - rest

I drew things that I treated myself with from time to time!

20211204 - errands

And I squeezed in a little urban sketching toward the end of the year when I was able to venture out more.

You can view all of my sketches for 2021 in an album on my Flickr account HERE – you can watch it as a slideshow if you choose the “slideshow” button in the top right.

I also got around to filming a flipthrough of the sketchbook that I finished mid-September, so you can see how the feel as a set of sketches within the physical book. I didn’t record a commentary on this one … perhaps next time!

Here’s to a creative year ahead both for me and for you, in whatever form the muse takes for you!

World travel…sort of

We are not long out of lockdown here in Canberra, Australia, and as yet I think the international borders are still closed. Even if they are open I don’t think I’ll feel safe travelling for a while yet, so I have been tripping around the planet in my sketchbook, finding interesting places and honing my skills for when I can get out.

20210921 - santa maria del rosario

First stop was a Venetian church. I don’t have the opportunity to draw too many ornate buildings, so this was a bit of a challenge straight out of the gate.

20210923 - moulin de fresquet

This is a little auberge that I stayed at about 10 years ago. I would dearly love to stay there again sometime. It was part of a watermill and home. I remember there were lots of ducks and geese in the grounds!

20210925 - opera houses

I didn’t realise how wonderfully bizarre and diverse opera houses around the world are until I started digging around for reference photos for this spread. I love the modern buildings! They present their own kind of challenge just as the ornate ones do.

20210930 - amsterdam houses

These funny houses all stacked side by side amuse me. I’d love to see inside one day. I have never been to that part of the world! By this stage I was getting itchy feet!

20211001 - indian market

This lady in an Indian market in her wonderfully bright sari and surrounded by vivid coloured fruit and vegetables made my heart sing. I could almost hear the sounds and smell the spices in the air as I sketched.

20211013 - Makedonium

This bizaare monument in North Macedonia made me laugh and I really couldn’t go past it for a fun challenge to draw. It made me think of sea mines and the virus that is knobbling me.

20211020 - 1 chartres spread

Chartres is a place I have visited in the past. I had a deeply reflective experience wandering around in the cathedral and placing my hands on the pillars polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims. I think I could have spend days wandering around that little town.

20211021 - 20 min il redentor

Venezia! For this one I sketched as though I was in a rush and needing to capture a scene between sight seeing stops with my love. My speed sketching needs work, but I am happy that I captured the story in this one.

20211024 - villa foscari

Playing with different framing on another Italian classical building.

20211027 - mow cop

Ahh back to the UK. This “summer house” stands on a hill between the north of the country and the midlands. I suspect it was scene by my forebears that lived in the area. Also… the name made me giggle 🙂

20211029 - fishing village norway

I chose this photo to draw from because it looked peaceful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to settle in a place like this and hear the water bubbling past?

20211031 - hong king street

This complex scene was an attempt to capture the feel of the place with minimal pencil set up. For me I drew a couple of perspective lines and then launched into it. It was fun!

20211103 - corfe castle

Another run down old UK castle. This is a fascinating one in that it was used to imprison Eleanor of Brittany so that she could no ascent the English throne. She was the daughter of Alinor of Acquitane who was a wonderfully sassy and brave queen for both the French and the English. Well worth reading about her if you like strong women.

The question is … what to draw next? I am double vaxxed and our local area is up to 95% vaxxed for eligible people, so I think it might be safe to venture out to my local Urban Sketchers meet ups again … though it means getting out of bed early on the weekend which doesn’t thrill me. But it will be good for me to get out I think. I shall keep up with the virtual travel until i can travel further a field though. I have been enjoying seeking out colourful and interesting places to visit in the pages of my sketchbook.

What about you? Are you ready to get out and travel again yet?

Process not Product

You know those times when you have too much going on and you really want to do some sketching because you know it will make you feel better, but at the same time you cannot be bothered…and cannot think of anything to draw anyway?

In the past I have turned to collage and multimedia, but I also knew that I was unable to set up and lose myself that process at the moment, because my art desk has been taken over by cats.

So I decided to just play with layers of paint. Something mindless to occupy my hands to allow my brain to tick over and process.

20210713 -process
Click for a larger view

Here are some of the things I noticed and enjoyed as I zoned out:

  • How the paint felt as it slipped from brush to paper.
  • How a watery wash and well-loaded brush felt smoother than a juicier mix.
  • Watching the paint dry and observing the patterns of wet and dry on the page.
  • Watching the paper buckle and paint pool and then start to flow back into the dry parts and create shapes.
  • Seeing how the colour changed as it dried.
  • The sensuousness of feeling something come from your hands and the feedback of the touch.

The whole exercise took place over the course of a couple of days sandwiched between other tasks. It was like meditative punctuation. An interstitial refocussing of my attention.

The end results were butt-ugly, and in years gone by I would have fretted and frothed about wasting paint and pages in my sketchbook. Art supplies are expensive! But as one friend reminded me, it’s like saving the good china for a special dinner. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, let alone a special dinner, nor a masterpiece on the next page of our sketchbooks. Use the good stuff! NOW!

So I reminded myself that not everything I create has to end up as something I’d hang on my wall. There is value in the process whether it be exploring how your materials work with your sketchbook or the space it allows you for thought and reflection. These pages were definitely a case of process over product for me.

My muses! I am now a cat guardian!

I have been owned by cats now for a grand total of two months. They are teaching me to be a good cat guardian, and a lot about myself. You can read about that process over on my other blog.

They have also been showing up in my sketchbook. They don’t sit still for long for the most part – one of them is a hyper kitten – so I work from photos or I turn them into comics. It’s fun having two new muses to provide creative inspiration! They are always doing something silly or lovely that is worth recording. I thought I’d share a couple of pages with you.

20210328 - baby kiska 2

I drew this one from a photo I took when I visited my little fur-ball at the breeder’s home. She was checking me out from high up on her climbing tree.

20210419 - krasnyy

This big boy was a surprise addition to our family, but he is just adorable and has adapted well to his new home.

20210507 - kiska comes home

The first night with a new kitten is always….interesting.

20210521 - krasnyy adjusts

Krasnyy was a little suspicious of the fur-ball at first, but welcomed her quickly.

20210510 - afternoon nap

Occassionally Krasnyy sits still long enough for me to do a sketch from life. I grabbed my sketchbook and coloured pencils and captured him snoozing on his tree beside my desk while I dialled into a work meeting.

I have no doubt they’ll provide continue to provide many opportunities and creative inspiration in the years ahead. Perhaps Kiska will even sit still long enough for me to sketch her while she rests!