Archives For Urban Sketching

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. ūüėź 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. ūüôā 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 ūüôā 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!

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!!!!

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.


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.


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.


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.)


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!

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!)


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!)


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.

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! ūüôā 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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüôā


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

Our Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up today was at Bungendore, a small village ¬†half an hour or so east of Canberra. The weather was crisp and¬†sunny, so I took advantage of the sun after a very wet week and hopped on my scooter to ride¬†out to meet the rest of the crew. ¬†My day was fun as always, but was mostly characterised by a long line of mishaps. (the fun is always in the raucous company …who knew artists could be¬†so nutty?)

  1. I left my bulldog clips at home, so it was almost impossible to juggle the sketchbook, palette, water jar and paper towel all at once.
  2. My new little travel palette suffered from lack of grippiness and the pans ended up all over the shop inside the box instead of neatly clipped into their rows, and the hodge lodge of colours that I had assembled it from simply did not grab me. The whole setup will need some work to get it functional.
  3. My little water bottle leaked in my bag leaving a bit of a soggy mess.
  4. The selection of pens that i brought with me decided that today was a not a good day to flow well, and staged a revolt, so that everything I tried to do felt scratchy and difficult. ūüôĀ

Nonetheless I ended up with a couple of sketches after much faffing about.

This 1957 Cadillac parked just long enough for me to get the drawing done and the first layer of colour down. The gentleman that owned the car came and had a chat and looked at my drawing and asked for a copy, which was nice ūüôā I am gradually becoming accustomed to talking to people I meet when I am sitting outside sketching. I finished the rest of it when I got home from memory. Capturing the reflections of the clouds in the boot lid, and the sky and surroundings in the chrome was a real challenge! Cars are hard!!


This poor building suffered from perspective ailments…well the drawing did anyway. GAH! The real thing is lower and longer and had a much redder roof (one of the shortfalls of my palette, or perhaps my ability to mix … or both) ¬†Thank goodness Liz Steel’s Sketching Architecture online drawing class starts this week…perhaps by the time if finish¬†I will be able to do some of these lovely old buildings justice!


The mishaps unfortunately didn’t finish with my sketching. I had a little oopsie on my scooter on the way home and ended up carrying the end of my brake lever home in my pocket. Wonder what that’s going to cost me to fix?

But wait !!!! There’s more!! When I got home I found that I had forgotten¬†my house keys, and to make it more interesting my sons were out. *sigh* ¬†Eventually they returned and they let me¬†in. Now a hot bath is in order to soothe my aching muscles and frazzled mind.

(Puppy sightings and pats for the day: one tiny little French Bulldog puppy that was all about licking my hand, and one large lovely Sheppy with a very stern looking owner that wouldn’t let him have any fun at all .)

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

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

20160807 - Canberra Glassworks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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