Sketching on location in February

February 16th, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

Urban sketching at Lanyon Homestead

One of the lovely things about living in Canberra is having access to some amazing venues for sketching. This month, our local Urban Sketchers group trekked to the deep south of the Canberra ‘burbs to Lanyon Homestead. Canberra is such a spread-out city that even though there was little to no traffic, it took half an hour to get out there, and I live on the south side already. I cannot imagine how long it took the northsiders to get there! But it was well worth the drive.

The early clouds cleared to reveal a spectacular morning. Sunny weather is excellent for sketching buildings since it casts dramatic shadows and allows for a little more drama in your sketch. The photo above is what I did on location — with the exception of the map and heading, which I had prepared the night before.

This is the final spread with a couple of added photos to help me remember the day and some journalling. The gardens were spectacular, with a stunning display of dahlias on the forecourt. I took lots of photos to use as reference for some botanical painting at some stage.

I took a leaf out of Nishant Jain, the Sneaky Artist’s book, and created a quick watercolour sketch to abandon on site as a gift to whichever stranger finds it. It’s a way to give someone a smile and to give an outward focus when I am out sketching, and it pushes me to do something a little different in a short time frame too. With the economic climate the way it is, not many people are spending on arty stuff, but art has a way of speaking to people and lifting spirits … so why not make a little bit of it accessible 🙂 I pop my details on the back in case anyone wants to let me know they found it, and maybe I will get to hear their story as well. Win win! I plan to do this a lot more.

Food sketching with Sally

I am on leave from work at the moment, so I took the opportunity to catch up with my friend, the very talented Sally Black, for brunch and some food sketching. Food sketching is one of her many artistic passions, and she is very good at it … you can see her sketch on her Instagram feed.

There’s something wonderful about sitting and sketching without rushing — chatting about art and life and comparing notes. She is also kind enough to let me practise my in-person portraits on her. Patient and gracious lady! The only downside of food sketching like this is that the food is cold by the time you get to eat it, but it’s a small price to pay! Needless to say, the coffee is sketched first and consumed hot.

Here’s my finished spread.

If you are in Canberra, I can highly recommend Tinker Tailor in Jameson. Excellent coffee and food that tastes as fabulous as it looks.

Urban Sketching at Eddison Park

January 13th, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

Last weekend, I packed myself up and headed out to meet with my local urban sketching colleagues for a morning of chatting and art. I was at the designated meeting spot a little early, having wandered around the park a little to scout out the best spot to capture the scene I had in mind. The appointed time passed and I was still the only sketcher I could see. Hrmmm. I ended up messaging one of the group admins, only to be told I was a little over-eager and there a week early. Oooops! Oh well! Not one to let an opportunity to sketch pass me by, I set up my easel and got down to business.

This time, I decided to forego a pen sketch and dive straight in with paint after scribbling a few light pencil guidelines to situate the rotunda and the trees. You will notice that I edited out some of the trees in the mid-ground, and opted for a dreamy quality to the scene. I didn’t get to talk to passersby this time, even though I saw lots of families out for a stroll. I was serenaded by the resident kookaburras and a raft of smaller birds that I wasn’t able to see. A pair of cormorants hung out on the rocks in the pond for a while too.

Click to view larger versions

I used to work in a building over the road from the park and spent a lot of time walking around the paths and sitting in the greenspace to clear my head, particularly on stressful days. I have a lot of lovely memories from this place and I reminisced quite a lot while I painted.

As always I completed the sketch on location and then finalised the spread when I got home, adding a couple of photos and some journalling to capture my thoughts. You may also have noticed that I have started capturing some metadata on my location sketches. On this spread, it’s down in the bottom right. I capture the date, location, time, coordinates and altitude, and the weather. Up until now, I have been doing it freeform in my urban sketches and with a hand-carved rubber stamp in my nature journal, but I had a brainwave while I was out and had a professional rubber stamp made to make things a little neater. It arrived during the week and I am silly excited to use it. I looooove stationery and art supplies!

One last little jewel to share with you. I enjoyed this documentary about King Charles’ watercolour sketches and paintings. He speaks at length about the satisfaction he gets from sketching on location as preparation for paintings he does at home, and I was surprised to learn that he was taught to paint by his father. There are also peeks at art done by many of his forebears. I hope you enjoy it too.


Materials:
Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours

Schminke gouache
Uniball gel pen – for journalling
photos printed on HP Sprocket

hand-carved M signature stamp

Farewell 2023!

December 31st, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

It doesn’t seem long ago that I was looking back at 2022, and yet here I am, trawling through my work from 2023. I have completed more sketchbook pages and standalone pieces this year than in previous years, and I have explored new areas of art in the process. It is gratifying to look back and see that I have grown and developed as an artist this year. May it be so in the coming one!

The image below shows my top nine Instagram posts for the year. It‘s always really interesting to see what made it through the algorithm and caught peoples’ eye. It‘s never the ones that I think or, dare I say, hope people will like. At the end of the day, I create for myself, so it’s not a big deal, but it IS interesting.

Here are some of my favourite pieces from this year. As always, click to see a larger version of hte pic.

20230131 - roseate spoonbill
One of my first attempts at using a combination of watercolour and gouache in a painting.
202302 - old man
Completed over a couple of months in tiny slices during work meetings. Super simple, Bic pen in Moleskine journal
20230415 - don't care
I continued to use mixed media and collage to explore my inner world and de-fang old ways of thinking. I find this format really freeing…there are no rules and I can make my images as strange as my mind.
20230826 - fairy wren
This year, I delved into the world of nature journalling and fell in love. I can see myself doing a lot more of this kind of work, and I now have a dedicated sketchbook for these explorations. Who knew grey toned paper could be so fun?
20231102 - fruit bat
I was particularly pleased with the way these bats came out! Nature journalling has helped me slow down and notice what is happening in my own very tiny back yard, as well as further afield.
20231010 - whitlam
I played with a curvilinear perspective in my urban sketching practice and enjoyed the challenge. It really made me stop and think. I will definitely be doing more of this type of thing where it fits what I want to capture!
20230726 - paris in spring 3
Another challenge has been to add more people to my sketches. I can do passable likenesses of people if I go SUPER slow, but capturing humans in my quicker sketches has been difficult. More practise required on this front, but I am seeing progress. I have added more people to my urban sketches as well.

Remembrance Day is always loaded for me, and I try to use art each year to help process what is going on in my mind. This year I employed mixed media, including collage and gelli prints of old family photographs, and was proud of the outcome

20231029 - playtime fun
This year, I also finally finished an urban sketching project that I have been working on for a while now to capture the redevelopment of my local shops and playground. I will develop the pictures and stories as a series of illustrated essays in my newsletter in the new year. It‘s free to sign up, so please head on over and subscribe if you would like to see that. They will be posted here on the blog later in the year if you wish to wait 🙂

If you would like to look at all of my sketchbook work for this year, you can do so over at Flickr.

My plan for the new year is to start out with a location sketch somewhere tomorrow to celebrat ehte new year and then follow my nose as to how I continue to develop as the year progresses. The things I DO know are that there will be more urban sketches and more nature journalling. What happens between those two is anyone‘s guess! But it will be fun!

Thank you again for reading and for walking beside me this year. It means a lot to be able to share my ramblings and scribbles with you.

Urban Sketching at Lennox Park

May 29th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

May’s Urban Sketching meetup was again on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. This time we met at the Nara Peace Park and the Canberra Beijing Gardens in Lennox Park. It was a chilly but magnificently clear blue morning that showcased the Autumn colours. Before I show you my sketches I want to show you how beautiful my surrounds were. There were families everywhere having picnics and cycling and enjoying the day! Perfect day for sketching!

The Chinese pavillion matched the colourful leaves.

Traditional Chinese gate to welcome visitors to the park. I was besotted with the stone stairs. The people at the top are my fellow sketchers having show and tell time; sharing their sketches and telling their tales. I forgot what time it was and was still finishing up my painting at that point! This photo was taken from where I set up my easel. The Beijing Garden was a gift from the Beijing Municipal Government, and was designed in the style of the imperial style of the Qing Dynasty.

Two of these lions sat at above at the entrance to the welcome gate.

This was one of five stork sculptures in this group. They watched over my shoulder!

This is the first time I’ve taken my full setup out with me in a very long time … since before the lockdowns in fact! It’s a bit of a fiddle, but it was worth it for the experiment that I wanted to do with the style of painting this time. I needed to let layers dry and work on the two paintings simultaneously, which would have been night on impossible if I was juggling everything on my lap! The drying time was rather slow given how cool it was.

As always I prepared my spread with the title and a little map to show the location. This is the finished spread. The two paintings were done on location, and the photos and journalling added at home.

My experiment this time was to create the painting without using ink outlines like I usually do. I started by blocking in the shapes in pale blue pencil to get the proportions right, and then did a more detailed graphite sketch before several layers of watercolour. I LOVED painting all of the rocks in the staircase!

I had two lovely chats this time. The first was with a shy little girl with a big smile who eventually told me that she liked to draw rainbows, and then a brief one with an elderly Chinese fellow via mime and made up sign language. Whilst these interactions break my concentration, they one of my favourite parts of getting out and sketching on location.


Materials:
Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours

washi tape for masking
Uniball gel pen – for journalling
photos printed on HP Sprocket

hand carved M stamp

I had a little debacle!

May 21st, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

There has been some random weirdness happening on this blog over the last couple of months and in the end I had to export the posts and rebuild from the ground up. Sigh. My apologies if you have tried to look over the last week or so! I managed to lose some images here and there, and I hope to trawl through and fix as much as I can. If you find something that looks like it doesn’t belong (think nasty spam :S) or there’s something missing you’d like to see please drop me a line and let me know and I’ll jump in and fix it if I can!

Thank you so much for your patience!

In the meantime, please sign up for my monthly newsletter… it’s free with an option for you to support me if you would like to support my work in a small way. The content is the same either way.

Urban Sketching at Blundell’s Cottage

May 9th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

I am running a little behind with my posts! A month ago, as our local sketching group are wont to do, we met up for a sketchy get-together down by the lake and had a closer look at Blundell’s Cottage. It was an absolutely stunning autumn morning! Not too cold, not too hot, a bit of wind and a stunning sky. We had a decent group out too, considering it was Easter Sunday!

I decided beforehand that I was going to sketch the same thing using two different techniques, so I found myself a sunny spot and got myself set up in my comfy camping chair and set to. I chose a simple front-on view of the cottage so I didn’t have to wrestle with perspective twice over.

Before I show you my sketches, here are a couple of photos of the cottage from outside and in. I share some fun facts in the video I link below, but suffice it to say that I was somewhat boggled that such a large family lived in such a tiny house. I am not a fan of big houses anyway, but this was something else! The tiny house movement has nothing on this.

Taken from a couple of paces in front of my chair before I started sketching. My eyeballs did a better job of seeing in the shadows than my phone did! There’s a door and two windows hidden in those shadows.

A corner of the small kitchen.

One of the teeny tiny bedrooms.

This is what I had on my spread at the end of the two-hour sketching session. The sketch on the left was done by slapping down the paint first and then adding pen and enhancing the details. The sketch on the right was done using my normal method of sketching first and then adding colour. I flipped between the two as various layers of paint dried. And I like both for different reasons. The paint-first method was a lot quicker and perhaps livelier than the other, but I like the detail in the one on the right. I had a couple of minutes left at the end so I also captured a couple of my fellow sketchers to add some context to the page.

When I got home, I added some journalling and photos to finish off the spread. I recorded my process and prattled on a little bit about the various occupants of the cottage through the years. This is the first one of these I’ve recorded. Let me know what you think.

This month — this weekend in fact — we are headed to park on the other side of the lake! I am looking forward to getting out, even if the weather has suddenly decided to be very wintery! I will need to crack out my fingerless gloves and a beanie I think!


Materials:
Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours
Uniball gel pen
photos printed on HP Sprocket

Road Trip!

March 22nd, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

Last weekend I took a little trip south to visit my parents in Victoria and decided to make it into a sketching trip as well.

I was working in the new urban sketching Winsor and Newton sketchbook I started last weekend when I drew in Hall Village. I have decided to keep a theme throughout the book to lend it some overall coherence. I am adding a map where it makes sense, a couple of little photos and some journalling to add context to help me remember the day better when I look back through the book later.

My first stop was in Holbrook … Submarine town! I have sketched the submarine before, so I had a bit of a drive around and selected a couple of buildings that looked like they would be fun to get down on paper. I sketched the church first. The spot I chose was in the full midday sun on an unseasonally hot autumn day, and managed to get my arms sunburned in the hour that I was there. Yes, the bush was leaning over like that!

Next, I popped down the street a little way to sketch the Shire Hall and found a nice shady spot to sit under the awning of a pub that had seen better days. My unfortunate choice this time was to sit on the concrete pavement without moving much for the 45 minutes it took me to complete the sketch. My butt, legs and feet went to sleep! When I went to stand up, I very nearly fell over. Good thing there weren’t too many people around! So embarrassing!

20230317 - Holbrook
Click to enlarge

My next stop was Benalla in northern Victoria. I did this spread over a couple of days because the weather was scorching, and I also wanted to balance sketching time with time spent with mum and dad. I was chuffed when dad asked to join me on my second outing to draw the art gallery. We sat, chatted, and said hello to the locals, who stopped to see what we were doing. Dad read his book while I was concentrating too hard to chat and sketch at the same time. We spent about an hour and a half by the lake enjoying the morning together. All of those angles and peaks were kind of tricky to get right, so I spent longer on the setup drawing than I normally do.

20230319 - Benalla
Click to enlarge

On the middle day of my visit, we drove to the nearby magnificent King Valley Wine Region and had lunch at the Gracebrook Vineyards. My folks were lovely enough to put up with me whipping out my sketchbook and paint to capture the landscape that spread out in front of us as we tucked into the delicious Mediterranean-style tasting plate full to over-flowing with local produce and sampled the wine. I had a spectacular sparkling Sangiovese/Shiraz that I loved so much that I bought some to bring home with me. Yum!

I struggle with landscape sketches and tend to put in too much detail for the scale of the sketch, so for this one, I deliberately worked at simplifying the shapes and stopping when I sensed that I was fiddling too much toward the end. Nevertheless, I was happy with the way this one came out.

I had so much fun … I’d love to go back on a day that’s not quite so hot, or even in winter, so that I can sketch the fabulous interior of the cellar door area.

20230319 - Gracebrook vineyards
Click to enlarge

Overall, a very relaxing weekend away with family and a productive one at that. I think I need to plan more sketch times when we get out of town!

A glorious morning in Hall Village

March 13th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

I have lived in Canberra for almost 40 years and never once had I ventured out to the little village sitting on the northern edge of the Australian Capital Territory. The area was home to the Ngunnawal people until European settlement in 1826 when George Palmer established a station of about 10,000 acres in what was called the Ginnindera District. The Ngunnawal people remained in the area and are a valued part of the Canberra community at large today.

Hall Village was established in 1882 and was named after a fellow by the name of Henry Hall who was the first resident landholder in the district. He lived there with his wife Mary and their ten children.

This was the location of this month’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet-up. So many options for sketching!

Victoria Street – the main road through the middle of the village. Photo: mine

After a cloudy and drizzly start to the day over my side of town, the skies had cleared by the time I reached Hall and was greeted by this lovely avenue of plane trees. I must remember to head out there when the leaves start to turn, the yellows and oranges will be spectacular!

I decided ahead of time that I wanted to sketch the Anglican church, so after the initial meetup with my fellow sketchers I walked the couple of blocks to where it was located and found a somewhat shaded spot across the road. I was grateful to have packed my comfortable sketching chair for this one!

Me sketching in situ and starting to get some rough guidelines down in pencil. Photo by USk Canberra Admin Mandy

I struggled with the foliage behind the church … I struggle with trees at the best of times, but I was definitely a bit heavy-handed in this case. I am not unhappy with the result though, the dark frames the pale church building nicely I think. If you take a look at the photo above, you will see that I did some judicious editing to remove bushes and the fence to create a more pleasing composition.

The finished sketch of St Michaels and All Angels Anglican Church

While I sat and sketched there were lots of people walking past with their dogs. The dogs always wanted to come and have a sniff around, but the owners were more reticent about bringing their furry friends close enough for a pat. There were plenty of lycra-clad cyclists about too. It was a perfect day for a ride — no wind and not too hot! They went whirring and clicking by, depending on whether they were riding road bikes or mountain bikes, as they coasted down the hill into town in search of coffee and cake.

People started arriving at the church shortly before 1100h for their morning service, and they were very interested in what we were up to. I heard one lady offer one of the closer sketchers some morning tea. They all disappeared inside with a ring of the bell out the front.

As the sound of the bell faded I heard some ladies chatting as they did their gardening in the units behind me. They couldn’t seem to figure out what all these people were up to sitting around with books and paints, but they didn’t come close enough for a chat.

Photo: USk Admin Mandy

By the time I finished sketching the church I had 20 minutes left until we were to reconvene and have our show-and-tell session, so I wandered back down and found an old corrugated iron hall that was currently being used as a craft brewery. I did a quick pen drawing while I waited, which I thoroughly messed up. I had chosen a very awkward position to sketch from…won’t do that again! The picture above is what my spread looked like by the time we put our books out for everyone to take a look at.

Finished verso page

When I got home I added some tone to the pen sketch to see if I could save it, at least a little. It’s still pretty wonky, but that’s ok. I then added my journalling and printed a couple of photos to give some context to the spread.

Click to enlarge

This is the finished spread, with my sketching locations marked on the map.

We had 28 happy sketchers out this month, which is more than we’ve had in a while. Must have been the lovely sunshine that did it!

Cressida Campbell exhibition

February 19th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

This weekend I finally managed to make it to see the feted exhibition by contemporary Australian artist Cressida Campbell at the National Gallery. I left it to the end of the exhibition run in the hopes that the crowds would be smaller. After a couple of false starts I managed to get a ticket on the final weekend. It seems many other people had the same idea!

I hadn’t seen any of Campbell’s work other than the images in the marketing materials, but several friends had been to the exhibition multiple times and raved about how wonderful it was. So I was looking forward to it.

This is the largest single artist exhibition that I have ever seen, she is prolific! Something like 140 works were on display, covering a number of themes. I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.

This piece was my absolute favourite! The cat on the stairs captured my heart. Of course!

I loved the shapes made within the roots and foliage on this narrow piece. And the glass is wonderful.

I love watching boats, and these ones made me smile. They brought back memories of watching the boats and ships come and go for hours in Victoria Harbour when we visited Hong Kong a couple of years ago, the the before times. Before COVID kicked in in a real way.

The soothing colours and water captured my attention in this scene. I stood there and let it wash over me for ages. What is it about water that is so relaxing? Even in paintings.

Campbell’s self-portrait. Love the hair! Curly hair is so hard to paint well!

Campbell uses a unique hybrid technique where she inscribes her drawing onto plywood and then paints with watercolour and prints from the incised wood block. I have never seen anything like it! In the photograph above you can see the inscribed outlines.

I was super excited when I came to the end of the galleries and discovered a huge drawing station! The large table dominated the room and the central area was arranged with beautiful ceramics and foliage, and paper and pencils placed around the table for anyone who wished to sit and have a go.

I whipped out my tiny little emergency handbag sketch kit and got to work.

I sat there and enjoyed sketching for about an hour. In that time several people came and went in the seats to my left. One young couple amused me. They each selected a group of jars and pots they wished to sketch and then proceeded to turn it into a competition, chattering and bantering the whole time. I had to smile, but I did wish they simply enjoyed the process and supported each other. Nonetheless…they were sketching! So all good. Another pair were young tween brothers who decided to draw cartoon characters instead and were having a ball.

20230218 - at cressida campbell drawing table

I was lucky not to be yelled at and ejected for using watercolour in the gallery…usually it’s dry materials only.

20230219 - cressida campbell gallery

This is the first art exhibition I have been to in years and I wanted to capture the feel of all the people in the space. It felt crowded to me having not ventured out much in the last couple of years, but I have seen it busier at past exhibitions. I did this spread from a photo when I got home. I wasn’t bold enough to sit and sketch in the presence of greatness and with moving people!

Duck!

January 13th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

Duck! Cover! Run!

I obviously don’t say that because I have sketched a duck! You can see that I haven’t. What I did sketch is a magpie. My immediate reaction when I see them at certain times of year is to duck and cover my head if I can. They are vicious when protecting their nests in Spring! Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Lucky for me I wasn’t in a great deal of danger from the one I sketched.

For all of their periodic viciousness though, I love them. They sing a rich and melodic song that sounds for all the world like: dorgle dorgle dorgle! Which is why I call them dorgle birds instead of magpies, in much the same way as I call cockatoos jerk birds, because they are noisy, destructive jerks! (also, I can never tell if they are happy or cranky when they are making all that racket, especially when it starts to rain.)

It had been a while since I attended a Canberra Urban Sketchers meetup mostly because of the pandemic and partly because I seem to have become a hermit of late, but I could not resist jumping back in with this location at Garema Place. Lots of fresh air, lots of interesting people to watch and a broad selection of public artworks to check out. Thankfully there was also plenty of shade given the mid-Summer timing.

I chose to draw the big magpie sculpture called The Big Swoop, and framed it as a nature journal page, combining the two disciplines of urban sketching and nature journalling by adding some labels and information to the page.

I parked myself under a tree and leaned back against the smooth trunk while I eyeballed the big bird and thought about how to layout my page. As luck would have it there were some non-swoopy (wrong time of year) real life magpies around singing their hearts out as we sat and sketched. It was really really pleasant and relaxing. I found it easy to get into the flow.

I took a moment to look up who the artist was and some of the particulars of it’s size and weight and discovered that this was the second iteration of the sculpture since the first one had been destroyed by vandals. Why do they do that?? I am pleased the big fellow was given a second chance, and that he got a fresh chip to nibble. I popped these details around my page.

20230108 - the big swoop

I have started using a non-photo blue pencil to scribble in my vague subject volumes, delineate the layout and to locate some details after watching John Muir Laws‘ nature journalling videos. There’s something less obtrusive about the pale blue lines over my usual graphite, and it does some weird magic to disappear when I take a photo of the page, though it still shows up when I scan the page, as you can see. I don’t mind that, it adds a bit of scrappiness and immediacy to the page that I like.

Other sketchers came and went around me as they moved to capture different angles, and we chatted as though it hadn’t been a couple of years since we saw each other last. Sketchers are such a friendly bunch!

I had a bit of time before we were due to come together again for the show and tell part of the sketchwalk, so I sketched two of my fellow artists that sat nearby and the magpie one more time for a little context since I was using my day to day sketchbook rather than my dedicated urban sketching one. I also captured the organisers setting up the end point for the protest march in support of the people imprisoned and in memory of those executed in Iran’s latest human rights atrocities. The main group of protesters moved noisily through the mall toward their destination with a hail of megaphone incitements and call-backs from the group just as we were taking our group photo by the big maggie. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stick around and sketch the crowd, I would like to do some reportage sketching at some point.

20230108 - the big swoop 1
20230108 - the big swoop 2

Fingers crossed next month’s sketchwalk is in a similarly airy spot so that I feel comfortable being out amongst the germs again 🙂

Related Posts with Thumbnails