Archives For Urban Sketching

The Auto Italia car (and motorbike) show was on in town this weekend and despite the crazy cold and drizzly weather, an intrepid few Canberra Urban Sketchers braved the weather and the crowds to see both the quirky and the flash cars on show. I love drawing cars! Had the weather been more pleasant I would probably have stayed on for a lot longer.

I fell in love with this little Fiat 600 Multipla from the moment I saw it. It almost looked like it was built backwards … funny shape it was! Definitely would not want to have a crash in one, there is absolutely nothing between driver and whatever one might hit. I had one gentleman tell me the story of his mother having one and driving from Belgium to Italy in it. It was apparently the perfect car for her and her twin babies since it was the only one that could fit a twin pram in the back at the time. There were lots of people interested in what I was doing and had several photos taken in action. I was also highly amused at the number of people that suggested that I should just take a photo, it would be far quicker. Ah yes, it would, but then I would not get to enjoy the details of the bug-eye headlights or the bumper that looks like warthog tusks as I drew them! One lady liked the sketch enough to want to buy it from me, so it won’t be staying in my sketchbook for long – it will be heading off to it’s new owner this week!

20180415 - fiat 600 mulitpla - autoitalia

I had 20 minutes left after I finished the Fiat and started on a modern Alpha Romeo Gtv, but didn’t quite get it finished before the rain sent me running for cover. I’ll splash some colour on it during the week when I get a moment.

I finished off another sketchbook yesterday – it’s the little back one in this picture. Flip through video coming soon! I have been getting a little frustrated with the size of it of late, and annoyed with painting spreads and fighting with the gutter, so I am going to try the next size up and see how I get on. Despite being larger it is lighter than the black one because it has a soft cover. (They are both made by Stillman and Birn.) I am interested to see if the extra size is a help or a hindrance for everyday sketching.

I have followed Austin Kleon’s lead and added a picture of one of my heroines in the front to watch over me and keep me on track.

Next step is to draw my palette on the page that faces and get over the “new sketchbook” boogie man.

 

Saturday morning was a hot and windy but that didn’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 Melbourne…that I did not know!).

Regardless of the weather I almost always choose an outdoor aspect to capture. Not sure why — indoor spaces just don’t grab me — and besides, they are harder, so maybe that’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 “the ultimate art bag” — 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 ephemera…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 “colouring book” 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 don’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.

20180224 -royal australian mint

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 — old coin designs and a machine of some sort.

20180224 - mint

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 Chi’s review is good, as is Steve Mitchell’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)

I don’t get out as often as I would like to sketch on location, so when New Year’s Eve was forecast to have some lovely moderate temperatures – as opposed to the crazy hot we normally get at this time of year – I put out the call to our Urban Sketchers group for an ad hoc get together and we headed in to the High Court. I had been wanting to draw the brutalist building for a long time. The facade is imposing, but the water feature that runs down the side of the ramp softens it somehow. I positioned myself down at the base of the ramp and listened to the water burble away as I sketched.

20171231 - high court

I had a little time to spare after the first sketch, so I turned my stool 90 degrees to look at the National Portrait Gallery and did a quick 15 minute sketch of the front entryway.

20171231 - portrait gallery

This Sunday just passed was a similarly cool day for our regular Urban Sketchers meet up. This time we were at Parliament House. I opted for an outside perch to see if I could capture the curved forecourt entry properly. It came up a little wonky…curves in perspective are tricky! I included the imposing flag pole as a collage element since it’s the most recognisable feature of the building, but couldn’t be seen from where I was sitting.

20180114 - New Parliament HouseI really enjoy getting together with my sketching buddies to take a closer look at parts of the city that I normally wouldn’t visit in the course of going about my days. It’s fun sharing a common interest wiht a bunch of equally crazy people 🙂

sketching with martians

November 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Wooo! First properly hot day of the season and the Canberra Urban sketchers were out sketching! I found a lovely shady spot to set up in and got completely lost in my sketchbook. The location this time was the Shine Dome which is part of the Academy of Science. Affectionately known around town as the Martian Embassy. I had fun with this drawing, but I’m not entirely happy with the sketch as a whole. I think it lacks interest due to insufficient contrast – it’s all very same same. The dome should have been much lighter and with enough variation to show the curve of the dome with more than the outline against the sky. I did have fun, however, imagining that the agapanthus plant in the bed right in front of me was some manner of alien life form out on an exploratory mission. 🙂

20171125 - shine dome

This painting is one that I did as an experiment in exploring composition creation using a number of photos as well as having a go at portraiture in watercolour. Needs more practice, but I am happy for a first attempt 🙂 I used Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton tube colours on Arches 330gsm hot press paper.


xx

Today’s urban sketcher’s outing was just the antidote to the busy week I’ve had. Sunny, warm-ish in a relative kind of way, and not a breath of wind. What more could i wish for when an opportunity to sketch was in my calendar? For this month’s outing we revisited the National Library of Australia down on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. We had been there for a sketching session close to two years ago, and I was excited to be visiting again. A lot of sketches have flowed out of my pen since then, and I decided that I wanted to sit in exactly the same spot and draw exactly the same aspect of the building as I did last time, so that I could see whether or not my drawing/painting skills had improved since then.

Before I got there, I was sure I had improved. As I packed up my kit and gathered my brushes and pens, I took a moment to look at the old sketch. I remembered how proud I was of that sketch. I hadn’t been urban sketching long – just a few months – and I was absolutely chuffed that I drew something that actually resembled the edifice. Memories of the day itself flooded back…it was grim and cold and rainy, and I recall retreating to cover halfway through the session to get out of the rain. I managed two pictures that day and had time to spare to chat to my fellow sketchers. But…..by the time I arrived on site this morning, chatted to my fellow sketchers and made my way to my position..I was utterly terrified that what I would produce today would be worse than my original attempt. That I would have learned nothing in the intervening 22 months. ACK!!! The pressure! Stupid brain. I really should have packed my headphones so that I could drown out that nasty little inner critic.

Let’s see how I fared.

Here’s the drawing from November 2015. It was done in a little 8 x 5.5″ Winsor and Newton watercolour sketchbook. Looking at it now I can see that there is one too many columns and inconsistent contrast and shadow. It’s a bit tall and the details have been simplified a lot. Not to mention the wonky upward tilt to the right. I recall using a tiny little brush to try to control the paint – I failed, it bled everywhere. I also remember being utterly terrified, and concentrating hard enough that my tongue was probably poking out between my teeth as I squinted to see the details and try to get it “just right”. But for all that, I was proud of what I had produced. It looked like a building!

20151101 - national library

This is today’s sketch. I worked in a Stillman and Birn Delta Series A4 spiral bound book….so probably about four times the size of the first sketch. I took almost the full two hour session to complete it, and used a big number 12 travel brush, with a terrific point, to paint. My colours are less wishy washy and there is more energy and vibrancy in the sketch.  I suspect I used exactly the same pen..my trusty Lamy Safari.

20170910 - national library
Looking at the two sketches side by side, I am pleasantly surprised at the difference. I have improved. I was so much more relaxed today, there was no angst (apart from thinking I’d do worse than last time), and I was methodical and careful about setting up the bones of the sketch before committing to ink and paint. I unconsciously applied the lessons and steps taught by Liz Steel in her Buildings class and various Sketchbook Skool teachers in the classes I’ve taken with them. It felt good. It felt relaxed, and I came away smiling and happy, having spent a morning sitting in the sun chatting to fellow sketchers and strangers passing by, alike. It recharged my batteries after I had well and truly spent them at work last week.

Today’s sketch walk was just what I needed.

It is so easy to get dispirited with an apparent lack of progress when it comes to sketching, but looking back over old sketchbooks grants a wider perspective, that allows me to take a breath and realise that I really am making some progress. I can see things in today’s sketch that I would change, and that’s part of the process for growing as an artist, but I am pleased with today’s sketch, and perhaps I will revisit in a couple of years and have a fresh set of critiques to apply to my work.

Do you take time to look back over old sketchbooks to see how far you’ve come?

Today has been one of those exceedingly rare perfect Winter’s days in Canberra. Bright blue skies, not *too* cold, and zero wind! The past couple of days have been unpleasantly windy, so I was very pleased to have a change in the weather for today’s Canberra Urban Sketchers sketch walk. We met at the National Arboretum and chattered for a bit, as we do, before scattering do our own thing for a couple of hours. I came prepared with a page in my large sketchbook already painted to give me a background for some more detailed line drawings. I like the way my little collage turned out, but should perhaps have chosen a more muted palette with some earthy colours.

20170813 - Arboretum collage

I finished the first drawing more quickly than I thought, so I pulled out my small sketchbook and turned my little stool 180 degrees to draw the main building.

20170813 - village centre

There were lots of kids blowing bubbles and flying kites and rolling down the steep embankments. The happy laughs and astonished exclamations as kit’s took flight was a lovely backdrop to my sketching in the sun.

Yesterday I filmed a flip through of my last sketchbook. I’m experimenting with my son’s GoPro camera and learning how to use iMovie. Nothing flash 🙂 I find it really fun looking through sketchbooks as a body of work. I can easily tell if I was enjoying a picture or if I was rushing, or was struggling with it for whatever reason. The ebb and flow between the covers is really interesting. I hope you enjoy watching too!

This time three weeks ago I was sitting in the Barrowboy and Banker Pub at London Bridge …. today it is the location of a terror attack. It is a sobering thought. The thing I love about the Londoners is their ability to deal with this stuff without turning it into a major drama. They are not pushovers, but they respond rather than react. They have been dealing with terrorist attacks since WWII… from the Nazis through to the IRA and now wahhabists. It shows. They will carry on, and they will continue to live and thrive in their gorgeous city that I was lucky enough to explore for a short while. London, I love you.

Here is my sketchbook…

In case the slideshow doesn’t load you can see the Flickr set here.

When I was a kid “turning on the waterworks” meant ‘crying for effect’. Today it meant a visit to the Goulburn Historical Waterworks with the Canberra Urban Sketchers. The big old beam-type engine is only fired up a handful of times each year, and today was one of those times where they fired up the more than 200 year old behemoth. There was a team of men stoking the fires outside, and another team inside the pump house ensuring that everything was well oiled and running smoothly.

For my first sketch I propped myself in a corner to draw the part of the engine that is above ground. The smell of hot oil and gentle hum of the giant machine was just divine, and drawing her was a meditative experience. This is my first urban sketch done whilst standing, and I took the opportunity to test out the kit I intend to take with me when I visit London in a few weeks. It was a little awkward without a board of some sort to clip my palette to etc (my current one is too big to fit in the bag I intend to use), so I may have to play with creating a board that will fit in my bag so that I don’t need to juggle so much.

I was pleased with the looser style sketch… I wasn’t too fussed about having perfectly straight lines or capturing every minute detail, rather, capturing the feel of the machine so that I can remember how it felt to be there when I look back at the sketch in the future. I believe this is the only running engine of its type in the world. The engineers are understandably very proud of their Appleby.

This sketch took me about an hour all up and I had some time to spare before meeting up with he rest of the group to share sketches, so I headed outside to grab a quick sketch of the outside of the building.
20170423 - Goulburn Historic Waterworks

I was a little rushed and ended up with some pretty messy bleeds where colours flowed together. I spent half an hour drawing and about 15 minutes splashing paint around..it would be fun to go back with a little more time on my hands to sit and do the lovely old building justice. I need to figure out how to paint quickly without ending up with colours running everywhere. Less water is one solution (I used water brushes today … notify favourite, but they are convenient for travelling), another would be to get comfortable with leaving white space, or slim margins of untouched paper, between the blocks of colour….or I could embrace the blotches as part of capturing something quickly.

We have a hugely talented bunch of people in our sketching group. At the end of each gathering we get together to share our sketches and experiences. I am so grateful to have such a supportive and fun group to be able to meet up with!

 

I have been lucky enough to have a weekend  where I was free to get out and draw on location for a couple of hours each day. It’s such a lovely, relaxing way to pass the time and decompress after a busy week. Today’s outing was with my local Urban Sketchers group, and we ventured out to the Shannon’s Wheels car show. It was heaven! I was like a kid in a lolly shop…so many shiny things! I was hoping for an old Morgan to draw but couldn’t find one…so I set up shop by the Aston Martin club set up and drew this fabulous red Vantage. There was a DB9 there that I would have preferred to draw, but it was obscured by flags and such. I had an attack of nerves when I first sat down to draw. Being situated in the midst of a crowd was pretty confronting; I am almost always tucked away in a stairway or under a tree or something , but this time it was me and my stool in the middle of a carpark with people streaming past constantly. My hand shook ridiculously for the first half an hour or so. 😐 In the end I settled and even chatted to a couple of elderly gentlemen that stopped for a sticky beak. I am mostly pleased with how this turned out after two hours of faffing about…some of the proportions are a bit off, but not bad for a location sketch I think.
20170312- astonmarin vantage 1
Yesterday’s adventure included a solo brunch excursion to the Five Senses Gourmet Bar so that I could draw something lovely and edible for this week’s Sketchbook Skool assignment. I spent a couple of hours drawing and painting and it felt like five minutes… I love it when that happens! My food was of course cold by the time I got to eat it, but it was still delicious. The other patrons were particularly chatty and curious, as were the staff. At one stage the chef was sent out to have a look. Most were aghast that my eggs were getting cold. I would like it noted that whilst this yummy brunch presented something called “turkey bacon” I opted for the salmon variant since there is clearly no such thing as turkey bacon! Bacon can only come from piggies and this is the way it must remain!
20170311 - eggs benedict

Drawing in public is always an adventure. I hope my nerves settle as I do it more often. People are of course invariably lovely and say nice things, or tell me about how they used to draw, or how they can’t draw a straight line or a stick figure. And they aren’t there for more than a minute or two anyway. 🙂 As with anything…practice! It’s a long weekend here in Canberra, so I may yet get out for another adventure tomorrow. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend too.

This month has been all about nourishing my inner child and letting her play. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened to be what flowed out into my sketchbook when I sat down to draw. So many childhood memories flooded out and then having a go at drawing strange things from my mind in a style that I had always wanted to do since I was a little girl in school drawing aliens in the margins of my books.

Childhood songs became earworms when I started to draw these eyes…

20170213 - eye eye eye!

An attempt at comic style drawing led to this little story about my dog and reminded me of the Asterisk books I used to pore over.

20170207 - fergus the long doggo
My gender-confused rabbit from when I was about five featured when I needed to find something to draw for the prompt “memory” for the Sketchbook Skool challenge.

201702123 - Thumper!
And right towards the end of the month my inner child was fairly dancing about with glee as I had the privilege of taking a week’s worth of tuition under master illustrator Mattias Adolfsson in the Sketchbook Skool course I am enrolled in. Mattias’ quirky drawings are a more polished version of the Richard Scarry illustrations I grew up with  and always wanted to emulate.  This style of drawing is not something I have attempted before, so these two drawings were a challenge and a delight to do. It was like cracking open a new packet of pencils and getting lost in the fabulous creations that burst out onto the page. I was surprised and pleased with this first drawing in particular.

201702121 - first day of school

This next  drawing didn’t quite turn out how I saw it in my head, but nonetheless I had a lot of fun daydreaming the concept and attempting to get it out onto the page. I think I shall have to try it again some time 🙂 The idea for this one must be credited to my friend who has a vast disdain for sports and a clever way with manipulating words that lends itself well to this kind of silliness.

201702126 - Superb Owl Sunday

Letting my inner child out to play so much has left me feeling happy and content even in the midst of busy work weeks and not feeling well. The more she plays the more she creates. There’s a lot to be said for drawing and painting as therapy!

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