For some unknown reason I decided to sign up for the Everyday in May drawing challenge … I didn’t think I’d keep up, but I’m doing ok so far 🙂 I am enjoying seeing a diverse range of artists share their interpretation of the prompts supplied for each day and having fun coming up with creative interpretations of the prompts for my own drawings. The ebbs and flows of quick drawings and more involved ones as I work around what life throws at me shows me that there is always time to fit in a quick drawing here and there 🙂 I really hope this challenge keeps me drawing more regularly into he future….in the meantime I am looking forward to the final two weeks of this challenge!


Typical Autumn day in Canberra today…windy and cool, overseen by blue skies and the odd menacing cloud lurking about.  We met in the centre of town by the fountain that looks like dandelion seed that has been here for as long as I can remember, and then each took off to find our own spot to capture a scene. I chose the merry-go-round for very sentimental reasons. For many years my friend Rachel and I used to go into the city to have a ride and then to shop 🙂 That seems like a lifetime ago now!

The group numbers are growing for our Canberra Urban Sketchers group! So lovely to hang out with like minded people and learn from other artists!
20160501 - merry go round

These two quickies were squeezed into the last 15 minutes or so before the urban sketching group were scheduled to meet up for lunch. The Icarus sculpture was one of four of these huge, ominous looking figures in various poses on the one plinth. The installation was surrounded by plane trees in various states of autumnal colour and undress.

20160501 - icarus and tree

For millenia art has been used to send messages; some subtle and some not so subtle. It has been used to unsettle populations and to provoke action. It has been used as a medium for the voiceless elements of society to get a word in edgewise. From scribbled phalluses on Roman walls to Banksy’s grafitti dotted around city backstreets. From paper’ zines to online comics. Art has been a way for the voices of the voiceless to be heard and messages sent out to those who care to look.

Nigar Nazar is Pakistan’s first female professional cartoonist, and she is using her art platform to raise awareness of the oppression women and girls experience in her country, and to promote education for women and girls amongst other issues.

Read the whole story on the BBC site here… it’s inspiring! Art can be so powerful! (You can follow her work on Facebook too.)


Education is the key to breaking the bonds of patriarchy, terror and oppression of women and children. It will take some time for the effects to flow through, but it is well worth the effort to support these women, because they are the ones that will tell their little boys and girls how a better world can be made in the future.

So how can we support these women? You don’t draw and make a difference like she does? You don’t think you can help promote her cause?  Of course you can! visit and search for opportunities to lend to women needing help to fund their education from all around the world. There are no set monthly plans, you lend and relend via micro-loan providers as you are able. Just a couple of dollars here and there. (I get no kick-backs here, this is a genuine recommendation of a service that I have used for many years as a direct way to help people without the vast percentage of the cash being swallowed up by the machinery of the charities.)

Check out some of her other cartoons, they’ll give you a giggle and open your eyes to the way others are forced to experience life.



Some years ago I was honoured to be asked to be a featured artist in Mike Rohde’s Sketchnote Handbook and had a great time creating a page that captured my approach to visual note taking, so when Mike contacted me again a few weeks ago to invite me to participate in the creation of the French version of the book, I jumped at the chance! If you have been around my blog for any length of time you will know that I am a francophile from way back, so this opportunity was a double bonus! Mercifully I didn’t have to do the actual translation work (my French is not that good!), just provide the language elements of my page in French. It has been a very long time since I had to sit down and do this kind of language homework 🙂 but I loved it!

As I type, my final artwork is sitting on my desk beside me waiting to be scanned and sent off, and I am dying to see how it all turns out when the hardcopy of the book lands in my letterbox in a few months’ time.

Here’s where it all happened…I so love creating at this desk.

It took me a couple of goes to get it all correct and fitting into the space…so many more French words to say what I said in a few in English 🙂 Mike and his fabulous team that know how to use Photoshop better than I do will take my words and combine them with the elements of the English version of the digital artwork.

Congratulations to Mike for the sensation that the handbook has become around the world! You’ve worked hard for it! Thanks for the opportunity to participate again!



March 30, 2016 — Leave a comment



This is Fergus. He’s 12 years old and has had a distinctly unpleasant life as a racing dog and then (we think) as a stud dog in the greyhound industry. He’s a bit beaten up and rough around the edges these days. He’s a bit unsteady on his legs and he can’t see very well and his flatulence would clear an aircraft hangar. But he is a sweet boy in need of my loving care in his twilight years, and is always happy to see me. Glad to have you in my life Ferg!
This painting was created so that I could play with masking techniques. It was a lot of fun to be able to slop the background colour around with abandon, but I did learn to be somewhat careful with the masking fluid, which is a similar colour to the paper, and makes it difficult to see and little holes in the latex. You likely cannot see them in the photo, but there are a couple of little green spots on the Furry One 🙂 He’s not mouldy… that’s just me learning to be more thorough and not rush to the fun part 🙂

zippy vespa is zippy!

March 20, 2016 — 3 Comments

20160316 - zippy vespa

My scooter had to go into the workshop for a service this week and I was given a little Vespa scoot to ride for the day. I was somewhat unconvinced that it would have the oomph to get me where I needed to go without getting flattened on the freeway. It was only a 200cc … my Honda is a 250… what I failed to take into consideration was that the little Italian number was about 100kg lighter than my Honda. I liked the comparative zippiness of the Vespa…though I didn’t like feeling like I was sitting on a chair and speeding along. I think I’ll stick to the cockpit feel of my Honda for now. Though it is definitely time for me to consider trading up. Something with some storage so I can go touring and drawing around the place. I have been bitten by the bike bug 🙂

20160217 - goongarline

This installation by Malcolm Utley is located in the middle of the towncentre close to where I work. The artist drew inspiration for his granite and steel piece from the rocky hills around the area and took the name for the name given to the hills by the local indigenous people.

I have been working out this end of town for almost a year and walked past this sculpture almost every day, and up until I drew it the other day and hunted around for the plaque, I had the distinct impression that the steel spikes were instead pikes in need of the heads of traitors.

This month’s Canberra Urban Sketcher’s meet up was at the local airport, starting at the new Vibe hotel. The airport precinct has a lot of brilliant things to sketch  – anything from sculptures to people to buildings and funky new hotels. My challenge to day was to attempt to capture the movement in the water features up on the departures drop off area. They are hypnotising to watch…I have no idea how they work. It looks as through a tornado of water is swirling up through the middle of the glass tube and letting water shimmer down the outside. I had fun attempting to capture the reflected colours from the sky and plants and surrounding buildings, though i couldn’t quite get the shimmy of the water down the outside.

20160207 - airport water feature
Looking at this photo now I can see that i was so fixated on the feature itself that I completely missed the reflection in the surrounding support. :S

It has been a particularly wet, rainy week, so to fill some of the time I watched some art lessons on Craftsy in a bid to improve my urban sketching and watercolour work in general. I have wanted to improve my streetscapes for a long time because they tend to be the heart and soul of travel sketching. I want to travel more and capture the places I visit, and I want to capture my adventures in a way that is at least a little bit recognisable to me!

So on Sunday, I was looking for suitable reference photos in my stash, and I came across my holiday snaps from a trip to France a few years ago. At the time I took a heap of photos to use as references to draw from for my travel journal each evening (we moved far too quickly at the time to sit and draw or paint in situ, so I constructed my journal pages in the evenings and finished a large portion of them at home at the end of the trip), but also in the hope that I would get to draw them in a more detailed way at some stage. So…fast forward five years, and I want to draw … and I discover that I had captured some good references and some woefully unhelpful ones. Apparently this is a skill you learn over time too. What will work as a composition and what will not. What will translate to a sketch, and what will not. What lighting will produce dramatic effects.

After much fussing about I chose a photo of a street scene from inside the Mont Saint Michel village and set about doing a “quick and loose” watercolour streetscape using the techniques I had learned during the week. I sketched up a rough pencil outline with the big shapes and then went in and added detail with pen before hitting it with watercolour. This is the result. I consider it displeasing given that it looks like it is being viewed in a carnival magic mirror. :S

French street scene

What I don’t like about this piece….

  • The perspective on the left handside of the drawing is off. I lost my vertical lines at some point along the progression of buildings and it is looking a little like a fish eye lense attacked it.
  • The colours are muddy. I think I need to figure out how to exaggerate lights and darks in a bland photo to get more contrast (perhaps explore tube paint rather than pans to get juicy colours for depth too?) and experiment with using colours other than what i perceive as a direct match with the scene – ie trying to capture the essence of the scene and playing with reflected colour.

But for all the things I feel are wrong with it, I know that it’s an improvement on previous attempts.

Here’s a street scene from my “France” travel sketchbook back in 2011. It’s from a different place (a village south-west of Paris called Chartres), but it’s easy to see that I have learned some things since then about perspective and learning to be looser and lighter with my pen strokes and quicker with on the spot type sketching in order to capture a scene. I didn’t even bother finishing this one… I gave up in despair.

French street scene 2
Incremental progress is a funny thing.

We don’t see it unless we keep our “failures” to look back on. I learned that lesson when I started powerlifting as a way to get healthy. A friend who had been at it a long time encouraged me to take a “before” photo so that I would be able to look back and see progress, which as it turned out was a fabulous thing, because I didn’t feel like my body had changed but comparing photos, I could see a clear progression and improvement. I could not see improvement by looking in the mirror because the changes were so small each day, but cumulatively over months they were substantial. I am discovering the same with my art. Comparing these two pictures I can see that I have made some improvements over time, but see that there’s more improvement to be made too when I compare it to the work of artists I admire.

Here are some of the things that I am telling myself as I work to slowly improve my art this year. Michelle… listen carefully……

  • Learn and practise the rules and master the basics before you try to eyeball something  or bend the rules. Watching lessons by artists that have been at it for a lot longer than you have and attempting to emulate their shorthand is not helpful.
  • Give yourself permission to fail, but make sure you learn the lessons to be learned and move on mindfully. Realistically, failure is not something we can avoid in creating art, or in life for that matter. Take the time to examine things critically and work to improve. Always.
  • Try not to start a new venture on a project that is too complex… you are setting yourself up for unnecessary failure. Start small and simple and work your way up to the more complex tasks. I think I chose a scene that was perhaps a little too tricky for my skill level at this point.
  • Keep reminders of past flops so you can see how far you’ve come, and don’t be afraid to share them. Other people are learning too, they may be able to take a leap forward by analysing how you messed up. Or there may be someone with more skill or more acute perception that can help you improve by pointing out where to tune your technique. You will likely end up with sketchbooks and loose sheets piled up with scenes that make me cringe…but you will at least have something to compare to, and see how far I’ve come over the years.
  • Be consistent in your practice if you truly want to improve. The only way to get better at representing what you see in the world on the pages of your sketchbook is to do it regularly. Every day would be ideal, but not practical at this point, but a couple of times a week will still yield results, albeit a little slower. Sure life gets in the way at times, but if you want something, you need to make time. End of story.

I tend to talk to myself quite a lot, especially when I’m trying to learn something. I don’t always get intelligent responses, but there you go 🙂

What are you telling yourself this year?

a rainy day adventure

January 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

Canberra has been hit with some pretty wild weather this week… thunder and lightening (very very frightening …. yeah I know, sorry :S) accompanied by lots of rain. It’s generally unpleasant and not the right weather for adventuring with my geriatric fur baby nor being a gadabout on the scooter. So a dear friend, who understands just how stir crazy I can get at times, suggested that I go and wander around a museum or something and do some arty stuff. So I did. I trotted off to the National Museum of Australia to see what I could see. I hadn’t been there since my boys were little…and given that they are both in their late teens now…… it has been awhile.

Weapons of choice today were my sketchbook and a handful of graphite pencils. Most museums don’t allow wet media, and I couldn’t be bothered asking. To be frank, it has been a good long while since I did any purely pencil only sketching without the benefit of watercolour or ink, so I figured it would be good practice.

I had a blast…so many interesting things to see! I picked a few random small items to sketch along the way and plonked them all (none too poetically) on a spread in my sketchbook. I had a couple of challenges. The lack of seating anywhere near the exhibits that allowed me a decent view for any length of time was not especially helpful, and my feet got sore before too long. I didn’t feel I could plant my butt on the floor, there were too many people about (there were a couple of old cars that I would have loved to tackle). It was also very dimly lit, which I found distracting, but on the whole there was lots to see and sketch. I will likely go back and take another swipe…preferably on a day where I can have a go at the very interesting architecture that the institution has to offer.

Here’s my spread complete with spelling mistakes (you’d think I’d know better! gah!) :
20160130 - national museum of australia bits


One of the exhibits that made me smile, and feel very old, featured items from the old corner stores that I remember from my childhood in country Victoria. There was always a little (usually) continental man behind the refrigerated waist-high counter would lift the stainless steel lid to ladle out the milk for your milkshake from vats below the counter. The metal scoops, anodised aluminium cups and stripy paper straws. Ahhhh! Such nostalgia! This year I think I may take my scooter for a tour of small country towns in search of old-style cafe’s that still might have this kind of whimsy. I will likely find them in the same places that have the obligatory small-town Chinese restaurant that is decorated in exactly the same manner as the one in the next town along the highway.



Also, I am somewhat addicted to lovely smelling soaps, and I found this one at the gift shop on the way out. it smells DIVINE! Its ingredients look more like something that belong in a Thai dish…so if you know me, and I smell tangy and delicious and edible….don’t. 😛  It’s just my soap. I will bite back 🙂

All in all, an afternoon out that tickled many senses and chased away the feeling of having been inside for far too long….even if I was still inside………..