Sketching at Tidbinbilla

Way back in September I took myself out for a sketching date out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The drive out there is a lot of fun, with lots of twists and turns that my sporty little mini leaned into like a champion! It was a wonderfully sunny day and still a little warm even in the late afternoon. My goal was to walk the wetlands Sanctuary track, and try to sketch wildlife if I managed to see any. I took my A6 book and tiny art toolkit palette, a pen, pencil and waterbrush. I travelled very light!

Before the entry to the wetlands there is an abandoned cottage from the late 1800s called Rock Valley Homestead. I stopped in for a wander around and had a sit in a lovely sunny spot to enjoy the garden.

20220822 - Rock Valley homestead

This is a little of what remains of the kitchen. The inside rooms are pretty bare, it is really just a shell of the building. Some of it had been burned in the big bushfires that came through in January 2003. But what is left is well preserved and tended.

my walking poles

The path around the Sanctuary is dotted with wonderful places to sit and watch the comings and goings of the birds, or to have a picnic, or just to listen to the froglets go off.

Wetlands

I was there a little late in the day to catch much of the wildlife, and too early for the platypii but I did manage to see a female black swan on her nest!

20220822 - moth4er swan at Tidbinbilla Homestead

She had just taken over nest duty from her partner and was settling in for the evening on her clutch of seven eggs. I was able to stand a couple of metres away and enjoy watching her snuggle and shift to get into the perfect position.

20220822 - Tidbinbilla Homestead

This was a quick watercolour sketch of one of the lagoons along the way … I really need to work on my landscapes! Can you recommend a good online course by any chance?

This creek was so lovely! The bubbling of the water over rocks and around branches was so relaxing. It was getting late by the time I got to this point, otherwise I would have loved to sit and sketch the branches and rocks and grass. I shall have to return!

Snake sculpture

At various points around the loop there were iron sculptures made from scrap metal.

Platypus sculpture

They made me smile!

Kangaroo sculpture

I haven’t made the time to get out of the house much in the last couple of years, and it was so good to get out. I will do it againe!~

A visit to Cotter Dam

A couple of weekends ago I decided that it was time to stop being a hermit and to get out and take a walk and perhaps sketch. My destination of choice was Cotter Dam, which is a 25 minute drive from my place. I have taken up Nordic walking, so I packed my poles and grabbed my tiny sketch kit and off I went. What I hadn’t thought through too well was the fact that we had had a LOT of rain a couple of days earlier. Like 100mm of it in a day. When I got there i could hear the roar of the water spilling over the dam before I even got out of the car. The river below the dam was full to overflowing, though from the look of the debris, the water had been much higher the day before.

Much of the low lying walking track was underwater, but I was still able to head up the raised walkways to the viewing platforms to take in the view. Off I strode, arms and poles swinging and huffing and puffing like an old steam train. I got some amused looks, but I am happy to say I ran into a couple who were also striding about with poles. A head nod and a smile as we passed was lovely! I tried to explore a little further along the river after the viewing walk, but had to turn back because I couldn’t get to the other side of the river where I had parked my car from that end of the trail. Oops.

When I got back to the car park I sat to catch my breath and decided that it would be a good time to whip out my sketchbook and grab a quick sketch in the mist before the rain set in again. The result is the sketch below, which took about ten minutes. It was tricky because the paints were not drying in the cold and drizzle.

20220807 - Cotter dam in the rain
Sketchbook: Seawhite Brighton 3×5, Daniel Smith watercolours, Uniball pen

I wasn’t hugely happy with the quick sketch so I snapped some photos to do a sketch from at home.

20220813 - Cotter Dam visit
Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Daniel Smith watercolours, Carbon Platinum ink

This one took a couple of hours all up and I decided to include a sketch of a young woman standing on top of the FLOW sculpture that sits just at the end of the carpark in front of the dam. If I were younger and somewhat more nimble than I am at present, I would love to hop up there 🙂 I love climbing on things!

Urban sketching at the AIS plus a new setup trial

I love getting out to draw on location at this time of year. The weather is warm but not too hot, and whilst it can be blowy, it wasn’t overly so this past weekend. I joined the Canberra Urban Sketchers for the monthly sketchwalk at the Australian Institute of Sport where there were a multitude of sculptures and odd shaped buildings to focus on for sketching. I chose the facade of the visitor centre because it presented a challenge due to the slope of the entry apron compared to the ground line and the way the building fit in with it all. I knew I would give my observation skills a good workout.

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Click to see a larger version of the sketch

I started by holding up a ruler at arm’s length to gauge where the natural ground line was, and transferred that to my page. I then compared each of the angles of the building to that horizontal line. You can see that line in the middle of my sketch where the seven white pillars are under the visitor’s sign. The rest of the sketch flowed from there. The colours of the scene were a little underwhelming, so I punched them up a little and made sure I got the shadows in to show the sunny day, and included a couple of my fellow sketchers to show scale. Looking at it on the screen, I can see that I could have gone darker on the shadow where the entry doors are! Next time!

It was a Sunday morning, so there were lots of families coming and going to swimming lessons at the pool that was to the left of the visitor centre. I was sitting close to a walkway, so I had lots of little people coming to take a look at what I was doing, asking questions and telling me how much they like to draw and paint. The oooohs and aaaaaaahs made me smile.

I tried out a new set up this week, using a photographic tripod and a piece of corflute attached to the head. Because I came up with the idea in the late hours of the previous evening, I had to bodgy up the arrangement and found some picture hanging velcro-type strips in my toolbox to attach the corflute to the tripod head. Two strips on the board and two strips on the tripod, then press together. Easy!

It worked…sort of…but there were a couple of moments where I leaned too heavily on the board, detached the lot, and sent my sketchbook sliding down to my feet. The hangers are brilliant for attaching things to walls, but not fabulous for something that has non-shearing forces applied. The concept is sound, but I need to find a more secure way of attaching the board to the tripod. The whole setup was light and fit in, or on, my backpack for easy transportation, so I’d like to explore a more durable solution. I could of course just buy an easel attachment, but where’s the fun in that? 🙂

Urban sketching at Ainslie shops

It was a lovely crispy winter morning at the Ainslie shops with the Canberra Urban Sketchers mob today. Had the wind stayed away it would have been very pleasant, as it was the cold bit hard and I was grateful that I had had the forethought to include some handwarmers in my kit. It was particularly rough on our new members from Malaysia and those of our number who have recently returned from Europe’s heatwave conditions. Nonetheless we persisted and enjoyed warm company and had fun sketching.

The Ainslie shopping precinct is one of the few around the place that hasn’t had a large-scale facelift. It has retained it’s original facade and has been perked up with a whole zoo of public art. The snails in the photo below made me smile! Whilst we normally visit the larger “tourist” and institution type buildings to sketch, we decided that it would be nice to capture some of the older parts of town before they get swallowed up in the Lego-like modernisation program that seems to be sweeping the city.

I focussed in on the bright yellow signage of the laundrette, all the while being entertained by a couple of older fellows who started out chatting about the lottery, but then moved on to talk about animated movies featuring ants… in the end I heard snippets of Ant Bully, Antz and a Bugs Life. At one stage there where character voices and a scene being acted out. It was all highly amusing! The highlight of my morning however was a young kiddo walking though where a bunch of us were spread out sketching and he was quite amazed… “Mum! There are sketchers eeeeeeverywheeerrreee! Can I go look?” Love the wonder of little people.

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As always, click on the sketch to see a larger version.

Urban Sketching at Old Parliament House

What a difference two and a half years makes! The top sketch was done this morning in about 45 minutes flat. Mostly because I misread my watch and thought that I had been sitting there for an hour longer than I had been. This was not a big leap for my poor brain to make since it was 9 degrees C with an apparent temperature of about 2 degrees with the wind taken into account. The next sketch was done in the opposite conditions – a midsummer scorcher. I remember sitting there for almost the full two hours labouring over the proportions and perspective. It was, I think, my second ever Urban Sketchers meet up.

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20160113 - king george monument

The two sketches are wildly different. I tried something different with today’s one, in that I focussed on a single part of the facade rather than trying to capture all of the rather long, low building. It is far looser and was completed quicker but the lines feel steadier even if the sketch is pretty wonky. I also left a lot of the page untouched with pigment.

The older sketch has far more tentative line work and I appear to have worked hard to cover the entire page with paint. It feels scratchy and wonky even though I was trying to be careful. The shadows are clumsy and I think I may have turned King George V into a little person. It is fascinating to be able to compare my growth as an urban sketcher using samples of my own work rather than looking at the giants in the field and winding up feeling defeated. I can see improvement in what I am producing, and that is encouraging.

At the end of the day I like both sketches, not just for the fact that I exited my hermitage to interact with other urban sketchers for a couple of hours, but for the life memories attached to them. Oddly I can remember what was happening in my life when I was trying to figure out how to render a bronze statue on a flat piece of paper. There’s something about drawing that sucks everything in and locks it into the image. I love it!

Dem Bones – Sketching at the National Museum

We’re in the midst of the coldest start to winter in 10 years here in Canberra, so I figured sketching inside at this week’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up was the thing to do. We met at the National Museum of Australia, and whilst there are LOTS fabulous things to draw, I have always wanted to draw a dinosaur skeleton, so I settled in the atrium and drew the muttaburrasaurus cast that was towering over everyone. The background ended up a bit of a smudgy mess because whilst I was aware that the ink was not waterproof, I failed to take into account that any moisture from my hands would also make it slide all over the place…or perhaps I was too impatient and didn’t let it dry long enough before resting my hand on the page. I will admit to rushing the background… it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the big pile of bones in front of me.

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Dinosaurs that slide right off the page

Why is it that I never see that my sketches are are on an angle and look like they are going to slide right off the page until I get home and scan them?  I thought I was being so careful to get by guidelines parallel to the bottom of the paper.  How frustrating!  Ugh! Perhaps I need to resort to using a ruler to set up the basics next time. Or just embrace the wonkiness of it all.

20180513 - National Dinosaur museumAfter a slow start in Canberra this year, the cold weather has hit with force in the past week, and for the first time this year I cracked out a beanie and my fingerless gloves to go drawing. I also had the presence of mind to bring plenty of bulldog clips to stop my bits and pieces from being blown away.

No matter the weather though, I always love getting out to sketch with like minded people, and it’s not every day you get to draw dinosaurs!

Funny comment of the day came from a young dad with a junior burger on his shoulders… “Look! This lady is painting! Watch how she looks up at the dinosaurs and then looks down and paints and remembers what she was looking at! Sometimes she even changes paint colours. Oooh … now she is washing her brush in the water jar. She is very good… daddy cannot draw stick figures” “Ok daddy. Can I go in the dinosaur mouth?”  Hehehe. Made me smile.

Urban Sketching at Auto Italia 2018 and a new sketchbook

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.

 

Sketching at the Mint and christening my Etcher Art Satchel

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.

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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.

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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)

Urban Sketching: High Court and Parliament House

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.

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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 🙂