Saturday morning was a hot and windy but that didnâ€™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 Melbourneâ€¦that I did not know!).
Regardless of the weather I almost always choose an outdoor aspect to capture. Not sure why â€” indoor spaces just donâ€™t grab me â€” and besides, they are harder, so maybe thatâ€™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 â€œthe ultimate art bagâ€ â€” 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 ephemeraâ€¦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 â€œcolouring bookâ€ 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 donâ€™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.
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 â€” old coin designs and a machine of some sort.
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 Chiâ€™s review is good, as is Steve Mitchellâ€™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)