Archives For Urban Sketching

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.

20180812 - Ainslie shops

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

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.

20180707 - old parliament house

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!

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.

20180623 - NMA dinosaur

 

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.

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!