Archives For Urban Sketching

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!

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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It was a gorgeous Summer morning to be out sketching! The past two days have been blisteringly hot and windy, so today’s milder temperature was a welcome change. I found a nice shady spot and got myself setup. I am finding that the steps I learned in Liz Steel’s Buildings course are becoming more automatic as I practice them more, and drawing buildings is far less stressful than it used to be.

Setup under a tree with he Old Parliament House tennis courts to my right

I used India ink to lay in the shadows before adding watercolour over the top for this one. The whole drawing took me about an hour an a half.

20170212 - NAA

I had a few moments before meeting up with the group for the group photo and sketchbook sharing session, so I had a go at a couple of quick gesture drawings of my fellow urban sketchers while I waited.

20170212 - NAA people
Next month’s meetup is at a car show…I am super excited!!!!

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Phew it was hot today! The predicted top was 35 deg C and overcast, but didn’t quite get there while we were out. Not entirely pleasant weather for sketching, but the breeze was pleasant and I managed to find a shady spot to get set up for today’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up at Mount Stromlo Observatory. There are lots of interesting buildings to draw at the facility, but I chose the ruins of the Yale Columbia Telescope building. I sat outside this burned out building for the first hour and a half and then moved inside to capture the detail of the remnants of the telescope pedestal that survived. The telescope and dome in this building were destroyed 14 years ago in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, and in recent years the whole site has been redeveloped for tourism and to allow the ANU to continue their research work. THIS is what the building looked like immediately after the fires went through (and in all it’s glory before the fires), the photo below shows what it looks like now. I have wanted to draw this building for a long time, so I was very excited for today’s opportunity.

inside-building

I wanted to take a different approach to my sketch this time so that I could slow down and focus on the line work without having to rush to draw the picture and then paint it. I am not a fast worker by any means. So I prepared a spread in my sketchbook earlier in the week. I splashed a couple of washes around and added some narrative to the page.

prepared-spread

I played around with a stencil to get some interesting texture as well. It came up rather blotchy where the watercolour leeched in under the plastic of the stencil, but the overall effect works for me.

stencil-detail

I have returned to adding more “story” to my sketchbooks to help capture some of the information that is not immediately apparent in the sketches. And besides, my memories is going the way of the dinosaurs at present!

Here are my two completed pages followed by a photo of the spread.
20170108 - mt stromlo part 1

(More about the Magellan telescope HERE)

I used my usual Uni-ball eye pen, a fine-liner and white gel pen for the line work and then added shadow and tone with a water brush filled with diluted India ink. I am pleased with the effect of the wash in the background…I think it gives a little bit of an apocalyptic feel to it, which is apt.
20170108 - mt stromlo part 2

(Difficult to get a good clean scan in this particular sketchbook…I won’t be buying it again, even though I love the paper.)

file_000

Our next outing is in a couple of weeks to check out the Lunar New Year celebrations in town. Hoping for lots of colour and maybe a dragon!

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messy desk

December 12, 2016 — Leave a comment

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!)

img_3097

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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

October 6, 2016 — Leave a comment

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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