messy desk

My art desk is currently piled with the detritus of my day to day life. It is a flat surface and thus collects the bits and pieces that need somewhere to reside for a short time before moving on, like the box filled with goodies for a friend that I really need to finish filling and tape it up to put in the post. It also has the drawing bag I took to the concert I went to last weekend that I haven’t yet unpacked. There are other bits and pieces there….scissors and tape left over from the christmas gift wrapping event….brushes lying around drying before I can put them back in their containers…balls of wool that I wound off the skein over the weekend for a project to keep my hands busy (like I need anything else!)

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My sacred creative space is piled with junk. I am prevented from creating at my desk because there is crap all over it. Well…perhaps that’s a bit harsh; it’s not exactly crap. It’s just stuff that shouldn’t be there. But it is there nonetheless, and it is blocking my creativity. It needs to go.

Art is one of the things that makes me happy and feel satisfied with life and helps me process the not so wonderful things in life too … so why is it the one thing that gets covered – literally and figuratively – with other stuff? It consistently gets pushed to the bottom of the list in favour of sometimes legitimate tasks, but many times, mindless procrastination and time-wasting on things like Facebook and inane websites about things that don’t matter? I replace something that makes me feel good with meaningless time-wasting that more often than not leaves me feeling dissatisfied and cranky. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense does it? Something to consider for the new year. I have long since given up making new years resolutions, but I think it’s about time I found a word to guide my year ahead and figure out which direction I want to steer this life of mine (yes, it’s the time of year for the existential crisis to occur). To remove the junk that’s blocking my creativity and to start paddling a bit … the boat has been drifting long enough.

I haven’t posted much here of late, Instagram and the RS Facebook page is where I post more regularly, and I had considered closing the blog down altogether, but I am feeling the need to write again…so perhaps this will remain! Stay tuned. Meantime, while I get my head together….

  • Follow me on Instagram to see regular art updates and the things that inspire me (this is where you will be notified of sales in my store.)
  • Follow my Facebook page for a more interactive experience as well as giveaways and competitions in the new year
  • Take a look at my Flickr account if you would like to take a look through my sketchbooks and art back through the years

Finally before I toddle off and clean my desk…I went to see Keith Urban on Saturday night! There was plenty of waiting around to get in, so I sketched while I waited. Here’s the fruit of my scribbling. I had hoped to sketch during the gig, but there was a problem … you cannot dance and draw at the same time :O I had a blast! Such a great night out. (ok… enough procrastinating.. going now!)

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Learning to draw buildings with Liz Steel

For the past six weeks or so I have been joining with a couple of hundred other students from around the world to work through Liz Steel’s SketchingNow Buildings course.

This sketch of the St John the Baptist Cathedral (Canberra)was drawn about six weeks ago during the first week of the course. We had looked at various types of sketches from painting the negative shapes, painting the abstract shapes and then finding the edges of the building and attempting to see the volumes that made up the complex buildings we selected. It is easy to see that this sketch has perspective issues and lacks any depth to the edges of the roof lines and the windows. It is a very flat representation of the cathedral.

Constructing Volumes exercise
The sketch below drawn today (from a slightly different angle) and I am very pleased with the change in detail and approach, and I can feel that this building has some solidity to it, and the overall proportions are far better (though the onion dome thing is still a little big). I spent about 45 minutes on this one… I think I could probably have slowed down and paid a bit more attention to the lifework, but it was blowing a gale and a little unpleasant. I am also slowly refining my urban sketching kit so that it is less juggling and more art-ing :). I am most pleased with the reduced stress levels that Liz’s method has allowed. Over all I found this drawing far more relaxing and meditative than it’s predecessor.

20161018 - st john the baptist

For the sake of comparison I had a bit of a dig back though my old sketchbooks and found this one… I think this is the very first building that i attempted to capture back in 2010…it really has no body to it at all and looks like cardboard cutout of a house.
26-2010 // coast trip

This vignette was drawn in 2012 on location in Sydney. The elements of the building seem pasted on and I did have a go at adding at light and shade.

17-2012 // Marcus Clarke TAFE Sydney

By comparison, this building at the ANU was captured last week on location, and whilst a little wonky in the verticals, I can feel it as a solid object occupying space, and it presents me with a recognisable facsimile of the building.

20161009 - john yenken building

This one was done the weekend before, but this time from a photo I took in France a few years ago. I am especially pleased with the details in this one. My goal is to try to bring the relative precision of studio work to my onsite sketches. I have tendency to rush and it shows in the lifework in particular of my urban sketches.

20161003 - normandy

i have loved every moment of the SketchingNow Buildings course and look forward to practising and capturing my local area and the places that I travel to.

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sketching at Floriade

Last weekend we were treated to a very rare sunny Spring day here in Canberra. I say rare because we have been subjected to a particularly wet winter this year. The fabulous thing was that this miracle blue-sky day landed on the day of our monthly sketchcrawl, at the local flower show, Floriade.

I have been thinking a bit lately about how I have progressed (or not) in particular areas and had a bit of a trawl back through my Flickr albums to see what I had done in the past. I am pleased that over all I have improved and have kept up the habit of recording life in a sketchbook. I found in one of my earliest books, a capture of a Floriade scene.

This was how I captured the show six years ago when I was just starting out on the sketchbook journey.

35-2010 // Flowers and fresh air

The following three images are what I managed to complete this past weekend. I am pleased with the general progression and that I am choosing to tackle more difficult scenes. I am still struggling with drawing on location in terms of getting accurate representations of the things I see (as opposed to controlled indoor sketches). I think the ‘rush’ factor also plays a part in the quality of the sketches, so slowing down is something to tackle. The only thing for it, really, is practice…lots of it! 🙂 Not an onerous task at all.

20161002 Florade Stage 88

Stage 88 – where there were school children and local bands entertaining the crowd that grew as it got closer to lunchtime. The HUGE crowds precluded taking up a seat close to the garden beds to draw blooms unfortunately, so I settled for this structure. I chatted to a couple of little girls who came up to check out what I was doing. I love that kids are so curious!

20161002 floriade entrance

I arrived early in order to get parking and sat and sketched the entry point while I waited for my fellow sketchers.  My aim with this one was to have a go at capturing the movement through the gates….but they moved too fast! 🙂

20161002 floriade people watching

My next big practice push and learning point is adding people into my scenes….these ones I caught as they stood waiting to meet friends and family at the entrance. Most moved on too quickly, and I need to work on making them actually look like people 🙂  I am currently doing a course about drawing buildings….next people!

Stay tuned for my wrap up of the drawing buildings course and some more before and after fun 🙂

 

Top drawing: Moleskine sketchbook, W&N waterfolours, Uniball eye pen. Remaining drawings: Stillman & Birn Alpha series  sketchbook, Uniball eye pen, W&N and Daniel Smith watercoolours

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trying something new – different sketchbooks!

During my last late night online shopping excursion for a replacement sketchbook, I didn’t look closely enough at the version of the Stillman and Birn sketchbook that I popped into my cart. I normally buy the Beta series book that has lovely heavy paper that will take watercolour without buckling, but I managed to pick up the Alpha series one this time. I was distinctly unimpressed with myself when I realised what I had done, but as I have used it over the past couple of weeks I have come to think of my screw up as a happy accident. The sketchbook has more pages (so it will last me longer) and while the paper is lighter, and buckles a little if I get a little too excited with the watercolours, it takes ink really really nicely. I am also finding that because the per page price is cheaper than the previous book, I am more inclined to experiment and just “play” in the sketchbook, which I am really enjoying! I have also returned to using my Lamy Safari fountain pens since the paper is a little smoother and the ink flows nicely without the nib skipping. LOVE!
20160821 - beetle

 

If I keep the watercolour washes light, the paper doesn’t buckle too much. I couldn’t resist sketching this VW bug when I saw it parked next to me last weekend. The drawing below was done entirely with my Lami pen with Noodler’s Polar Brown ink (I was practicing seeing abstract shapes in the things I draw, so I mapped out Mr Bond’s shadows and went to town with cross hatching.)

20160824 - skyfall
Another thing I am trying at the moment, is carrying a cheap A6 sized sketchbook in my handbag and making a commitment to draw as often as I can, and without using pencil underdrawings and as quick as I can in an effort to improve my drawing skills though sheer volume. I’m only a couple of days in and have discovered that pages this small fill up quickly, which is satisfying.
20160822 - cherrybean

I have also found that pages this small seem to need a finer nib on my pen, so I’ve ordered a new fine nib for my Lamy Safari pen! In the meantime I ferreted around in my pen stash and found a Micron Pigma pen that I trialled today, and liked the way it felt.

 

20160825 - healthy afternoon tea

 

I have been drawing a lot more this year and I am enjoying the results. I hope the trend continues! If you want to see progress shots and on location pictures, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or hit the LIKE button to join the fun on my Facebook page! If you would like to see the rest of the sketchbook fun for the year so far, you can see the sketches here.

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urban sketching at the glass works

This month’s sketch meet was at the Canberra Glassworks beside the Old Bus Depot markets in Kingston. It was cold, but mercifully, not windy. I took up position out the front of the building and set about testing out my new Strathmore soft cover watercolour journal .. and learned a few things in the process!

  • Bigger journals are heavier (d’uh!) and my hand tired quickly trying to hold it up. It was rather awkward to balance the book, paints, water and brushes all at once. I will need to find a way to handle that better.
  • Bigger pages take more paint and really would benefit from a larger paintbrush..though I think next time I will opt for a single page rather than a spread and try to get more detail in.
  • The paper in this journal is very different to what I am accustomed to in my usual Stillman and Birn books, and will take some adjusting! I was pleased to discover that I can lift pigment quite easily on this one…which conversely means that I need to be careful with layering colour and making sure things dry completely to avoid picking up what’s below when I add the next lot of colour.
  • Little people love to watch you paint 🙂 There was quite a lot of foot traffic coming past on the way to the market next door, and I ended up chatting to several little people about painting and what they liked to draw and create. It was quite lovely!

20160807 - Canberra Glassworks

Many of the sketchers chose to go inside and sketch the artisans blowing glass in the hotroom.. I am thinking I will have to check that out next time! I caught a few minutes at the end and watched in fascination as they manipulated the molten glass to make beautiful things.

I completed this sketch from a photo when I got home, it shows the rear of the building. (these following two were done in my new Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook that I use for my everyday drawing)

20160807 - back of the glassworks
We had lunch over the road on the Kingston Foreshore where there are any number of places to buy a fancy burger and a drink. I am not a huge fan of receiving a juicy burger on a chopping board that does nothing to collect the drips and juices :S

We chatted and ate and passed our sketchbooks around as we do…It was such fun to look at everyone else’s sketches both form today, and since we last met. Such a talented bunch! Also.. how fancy is the new Urban Sketchers Canberra stamp? So official!
20160807 - lunch at walt and burley

It has been a while since I posted here, but I have been drawing! You can see what I have been up to by looking at my Flickr gallery.

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urban sketching at the national portrait gallery

Indoor sketching was the order of the day here due to there being a lot of wet stuff falling from the sky. Only dry media (pencils) allowed in the galleries, so I took myself down into the section with a series of marble busts, and found that drawing those things is far harder than it would appear. I wound up with a picture of Sir George Turner that looked somewhat odd and skeletal. I tried twice without getting a likeness that I was at all happy with. The second one is just below.  I pretty much gave up at that point…. rage-quit as my son would say.

To fill the last half an hour of the session I pulled out my mechanical pencils with the coloured leads and did some quick captures of the other four busts in the area. I just worked right over the top of my first failed attempt at Sir George rather than waste another page. I have to say I actually enjoyed doing those four far more than the first two graphite ones. I think I was trying too hard… and when I let myself be loose and free flowing with my strokes, I ended up with far more pleasing drawings.

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Everyday in May … half way!

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!

 

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urban sketching in canberra city

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

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urbansketching – the goongarline

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.

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urban sketching – canberra airport

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

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