Urban Sketching : Duffy precinct renewal project

July 19th, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

The project was conceived as the COVID lockdown adventure was winding down in mid-June 2022. I was itching to get out of the house to sketch but wasn’t keen on being around too many people, and I hadn’t yet started meeting with my local Urban Sketching group again.

As many ideas do, this one arrived as an ambitious thought whilst driving home from some mundane errand, that I would like to draw each of the local suburban shops and track changes as they are upgraded since our local government seemed to have a program of works underway to do these little facelifts around the place. There were signs up announcing the imminent work all over the place. As it happened, the local shops in my own suburb were slated for a facelift that year. I needed to try to get out of the house and do stuff, and this was as good a project as any to get me moving and sketching on location again. It was close to home, accessible, and usually a very quiet place. Perfect!

The weather in the second half of 2022 and most of 2023 was very wet, so progress was slow for the landscapers. I would drive by every couple of weeks to see what was happening and see if it was worth scheduling a sketching session or if I could capture something new from within the confines of my car. Sometimes, it was months between updates. In the end it took them about 12 months to complete and me just shy of 18 months to finish capturing it.

Dear reader…I should note that now that I have finished this project, I will most likely NOT be doing the same for other local shop upgrades. This took far longer than I thought it might!

Why track changes in suburbia? 

Change in our urban environments is constant, and it’s good to see tax dollars at work to improve the community. Sometimes, these changes are rapid, and sometimes, they creep up on us slowly, and having a way to track the transformation really appealed to me. This suburb has seen a lot of changes over the past 20 years or so since bushfires destroyed many homes, so the slow gentrification and overall update have been going on for some time. Modern design new homes nestled between homes that have been there since the seventies. Now was the time for the village centre, as it is known, to be zhoozhed up.

I had been accustomed to sketching fancy buildings and monuments in my urban sketching adventures to date. Working on something closer to home and far more mundane is also equally valid and offered an opportunity to look at my neighbourhood a little closer and to develop my skills. Or, to be more accurate, to dust the rust off my skills that had been confined to virtual sketch walks from photos and videos throughout the pandemic.

I was lucky enough that the work had not yet begun when I started this project, so I started out by sketching the original state of the shops and playground. I had initially thought that the shops themselves were going to get a facelift, too, and I was super excited because they are quite run down. My excitement was short-lived when I tracked down the government project plan page for the upgrades and found that only the landscaping and playground were to get the love and attention. Rumour has it that the shops themselves are owned by an investor who doesn’t live in Canberra and who isn’t interested in brightening things up. Bummer.

All told, I ended up with 23 sketches, and I am pretty pleased with the result. I hope you enjoy them too!

In the beginning there was a little set of shops

The sign reads “Duffy Village Shops” but it’s not so much a village as a suburb these days. I am unsure if it may have been a village when the area was first established, or perhaps they were trying to foster a bit more of a community feel for the place.

The old signage sat up at the corner of the main road with the shops in the distance down the little hill. The parkland surrounding was full of weeds, and one dared not wander over it barefoot for fear of the thorns and various other nasties. Not attractive at all. I didn’t draw this signage until after doing several other “before” sketches. I was filling in time while I waited for the groundworks to begin.

Jim, the proprietor of this little supermarket, would have loved to be able to update his shop! The paint on the posts is all chipped and weathered, and the pavement is cracked and worn. Still, he keeps a great range of things and has saved my butt more than once when I forgot to order something we needed for a recipe.

I really had high hopes that this old restaurant would be given some love. I have lived in the suburb for about ten years and saw it open once in the first couple of months I was there. It has been closed ever since. We really could use a restaurant in the area!

The extent of the landscaping amounted to a bunch of oversized boulders strategically placed in the centre area to prevent people from parking up there under the trees.  No gardens, just gravel. It looked dry and tired. I am pleased to say the trees have been preserved though.

I suspect the playground had been updated in the nineties by the look of the gear. Typical Australian playgrounds before then were made from treated pine logs, later found to be treated with arsenic. It’s not exactly ideal for playground material. Two swings, a seesaw and a climbing frame with a slide were hardly inviting, particularly since it was surrounded by a sea of pine bark that turned rather swampy when it rained. Suffice it to say the playground was not well used.

Though unsightly, the back of the shops wasn’t particularly messy, and there wasn’t a lot there to sketch. A couple of bins, and that’s about it. A lick of paint out there would have done a world of good! (That’s Jim’s car!)

Things were still quiet at this point in the process. Not too many people were out and about, and I rarely saw families at the playground. The occasional person would stop and ask me what I was up to, but most smiled and kept walking. It wasn’t until the construction phase, and I had been sighted sitting out sketching several times, that regulars started to stop for a chat.

The long middle!

Months and months of rain and mud, the removal of the old landscaping elements and the earthworks to prepare for the updated play area and forecourt provided endless opportunities for me to sketch.

Kubota digger that I dubbed the killer of playgrounds. The earthmoving equipment became a permanent fixture for several months and served as some gritty art installation surrounded by mud and screened-off fences. Getting a good line of sight to sketch them meant peering through the gaps in the material attached to the temporary fencing.

This little loader looked like it would be a lot of fun to drive!

The old playground equipment looked rather sad and twisted sitting off the side. It seems they had not been gentle in dismantling it. There was twisted metal and broken bits of plastic strewn everywhere.

At least the temporary fencing and shielding material (I have no idea what that stuff is called!) was colourful during the long grey days. This one was sketched from the car because whilst there was a little sun poking through the clouds, there was plenty of intermittent rain too.

Getting to the shops for a while was a bit of a chore. Naturally, the fencing was up to protect patrons, but it meant taking quite the detour to get to the supermarket or the coffee shop. There is also more earthwork equipment, this time between the diggers and the roller.

At about this time, the landscape contractors started noticing me sketching around the place a lot more. They appeared to be quite chuffed that I was sketching them this time. These stonework walls are a consistent feature in the new design, and it took a lot of patience and precision to make sure the rocks fit together like a jigsaw.

It was an exciting day when I saw the new wooden playground installed! Things were taking shape, and the fun part of the refurbishment was starting to take shape.

Shade sails and the canopy for the covered seating area went in just as the colder weather arrived again in 2023. The playground had some new elements added, too, but it was not yet ready to be used. 

The home stretch

Finally, we get to see the whole facelift revealed! It will take some time for the newly planted trees to become established, but the landscaper’s screens and fencing have been removed, and local families are making good use of the new facilities. And the coffee shop is always busy. It all looks terrific. Now, if the shop owner could give the building a little facelift, too, that would be great!

The central island the contractors were working on in my earlier sketch is complete, and the new grass is filling in nicely. This is one of the benefits of the vast amount of rain we had during the whole process!

The landscaping from the side. I am so pleased they kept the big old gum trees and some original rocks.

Undercover tables are available for families to enjoy a snack or lunch while the kids play. One setting is high, like a bar table, and the other is lower to the ground, ideal for the kids. Being able to get out of the sun or rain is a brilliant addition to the area.

On one particularly rainy day, I chose to sit in the café and sketch the scene. As it turns out, the fellow working that day was someone I knew from my former life and hadn’t seen for more than ten years. Chatting and showing him the earlier drawings from my project was fun. The coffee they serve is ethically sourced from New Guinea, is organic, and tastes fantastic.

These fabulous wooden ones replaced the old metal and plastic rockers. I love the warmth and added textural element these solid little vehicles provide. I also wish I was small enough to have a go on them! 

On the day I drew these rides and the jungle gym in the next sketch, I was visited by a little fellow named Milan, who told me he was four. He was riding laps on his little bike and calling out to me each time he came past, wanting me to see just how fast his little legs were peddling. Eventually, he parked his bike — I needed to remind him to park it off to the side so it wouldn’t get schmooshed by the other riders — and sidled up beside me to have a look at what I was doing and started asking questions about my paints and the colours. So I took a little detour and pulled out a spare sheet of paper from the back of my sketchbook and showed him some of the colours. He started asking what would happen if I mixed some of the colours, so I showed him that too. I started my adding a couple of puddles of pure colour to the paper and then mixed them on the page. His eyes were as large as saucers as he watched the magic happen. Question after question, he chatted away about what was happening. After a while, he decided he needed to ride another lap but then returned to talk some more. This time, he told me all about his bike and his muscles — they were huge, of course! Mum and Dad tried to shoo him on his way from time to time, but I assured them I was having as much fun as Milan was and that he was more than welcome to talk my ear off.

Little Milan had a bit of a climb on the jungle gym, too, but he was far too quick on his feet for me to capture him in my sketch. Needless to say, my sketching adventure took far longer than I had planned that day, but it was worth it to share a sweet few moments with a curious child.

Fancy new signage and matching stonework wall were installed up by the road to replace the dilapidated old one, and fresh new grass has taken over from the weedy, prickled mess that covered the parkland before. The whole place looks lovely and fresh with all the vibrant greens in the metalwork and the new plantings.

And last but not least, the park got a public toilet … FINALLY! No more kids hopping from foot to foot when they need to go mid-play, and no more of me crossing my legs and gritting my teeth while I finish a sketch and my bladder complains at me. It’s plain white now, but I hope that it gets a mural painted on it like some of the others I have seen around town. If it does, I will have just one more sketch to add to the series.

On my final sketching day, I wanted to try at least to feature someone using the new equipment, so I set myself up on one of the benches by the riding track that runs around the jungle gym and was lucky enough to be able to watch this little fellow climb this wall ladder several times, each time begging mum to let him play for just five more minutes … pleeeeeeeease. I smiled as I sketched and remembered all the times I took my sons to playgrounds when they were young. They were forever begging to stay a little longer, even if they were rosy from the exertion or shivering from the cold.

Eighteen months is a long time to stick with a sketching project for me, and I am pleased that I stuck with it. Being able to flip through the sketchbook from start to finish brings a great deal of satisfaction and joy.  I hope you enjoyed the journey from afar. 

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of my kit, here is my list of gear:

  • Stillman and Birn Beta Series 7×10” spiral bound sketchbook
  • Daniel Smith watercolours
  • Uniball eye fine waterproof black pen
  • Jelly Roll white gel pen
  • Rosemary & Co travel watercolour brushes
  • Various coats and hats and water pots etc.

A tantalising taste of France

April 23rd, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

We were fortunate to happen across a guitar gig in the city on Saturday afternoon while we were having a little staycation at a nearby hotel for a special milestone. The artist was a Franco-Czech guitarist by the name of Jan Vanek. He is a multi-instrumentalist who lives in France and travels all over the world, sharing his unique interpretations and style of playing. For this gig, he was playing solo and played a variety of recognisably French tunes, jazz and world music, including his own compositions. To say he is talented is an understatement! Technical skill combined with obvious emotional investment and enjoyment of a virtuoso on full display! We were treated to two hours of fabulous music and witnessed an artist completely lost in his music.

Lucky for me I had my sketch gear on me, so I took the opportunity to practise my people sketching as the music washed over me. I managed a couple of sketches before I set my kit aside and lost myself in the music and hypnotic movement of his fingers up and down the fretboard.

Sketch one as I sipped my wine and let the music wash over me.

The gig was at Smiths Alternative in the Melbourne Building. I had never been there before but I immediately fell in love with the boho feel of the bar and gig space. We will be going back!

Sketch two before the brief intermission. I love how sketching during an experience like this imprints my impressions and reactions onto the page. Every time I go back to these sketches I will remember precisely what it was like to be there.

I was too shy to sit closer to the stage and sketch, but thankfully no one sat in front of us.

At the end of the concert, I mustered up my courage, dusted off my high school French, asked Jan to sign my sketch, and told him how much I had enjoyed his playing. We had a brief conversation that flipped between French and English, and I went away energised as I always am after seeing live music.

Here’s a video of Jan playing at a radio station. He played this one during the gig, and I could picture myself cruising into a little French village in a CV2 ready to collect my afternoon baguette from the friendly boulanger!

Jan’s interpretation of Dave Brubek’s Take Five with a percussive modern jazz slant.


  • Stillman and Birn Zeta Series sketchbook
  • Lamy Safari with Lexington Grey Noodlers ink
  • Daniel Smith watercolours

Autumn sun in Kingston

March 11th, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

I almost decided not to attend this month’s Urban Sketchers meet-up. The temperature was predicted to hit the mid-30s, and I am not a huge fan of hot weather, but I figured a morning outing would let me get in and out again before it really got unbearable. We met at Green Square in the old part of Kingston, and I settled under one of the big old plane trees to sketch the Caribou pub — a Canadian-themed establishment that I REALLY want to visit for dinner sometime. I have always wanted to try poutine! I have added it to our date night list of places to visit.

The building itself is one of the fancier ones in the vicinity, and try as I might, I have not been able to find out its origins. The area itself was established in the early 1920s to support the nearby industrial area and has recently been gentrified after languishing in urban decay for decades. There are snazzy new apartment buildings and shops all around, but this lovely little old-style village green has been preserved as a place for the community to gather and enjoy the oasis of grass and shady trees … and, of course, fabulous coffee and food.

I set up my sketchbook spread ahead of time with the heading, map and metadata stamp and completed the main sketch on location. My experiment this time round was to use Mike Daikubara’s paint first, draw second method, and paired that with using brown ink rather than black to give it a softer feel. I am pleased with the way it turned out, though I think I should have done the drippy technique on the red sign as well to lift the bottom of the sketch where the details are sparse.

As always I finished the spread at home with photos and some journalling to fill it out.

Sketching alongside me and looking at the same view was my friend Sally, who you may remember I went out food sketching with last month. She kept up a steady stream of fun chatter, and we laughed together at the kids running around near us and quietly applauded the parents who were most effective in corralling their little ones with firm but fair guidance. We giggled most at a little girl being called by her mum … “Squirrel…come here please.” Was this child really named Squirrel? Perfect! We learned her real name after mum had repeated her pleas to the youngling several times … “Julianna! Come here now!” Sally and I both have grown sons, but remember vividly those times when we were the mum in that position. Though, Sally is an early childhood teacher, and she encounters squirrelly kids regularly!

We were lucky not to get whacked with the soccer ball that was whizzing around on the green beside us. I cannot get cranky at little ones enjoying the sun, running around, making happy noises, and having fun. No chats with strangers this time!

I had time to make two small postcards to leave behind as abandoned art to bring someone a smile with absolutely no expectation of hearing whether or not someone picked them up (though I did give the portrait to the lady I sketched, and she rewarded me with a surprised smile.).

Like last month, I videoed my act of guerilla kindness.

Green Square has some lovely quirky spaces. I took the photo of the laneway with the intention of sketching it sometime — it would make for fabulous perspective practice, and provide me with a challenge to make a traditionally dull space look interesting.

Autumn is here, so in spite of the summery temperatures, there were leaves of various hues dotting the ground. I also happened across this pair of handsome fellows in one of the arcades. I was not expecting that! Isn‘t it fun when we are greeted with these little surprises?

It has been a while since I showed my face here, so I had a play with my new phone — the portrait mode is fun — and saved one of my experiments to share with you. Hello!

Thank you again for reading. If you are interested in my Urban Sketching, I currently have an illustrated essay running in my newsletter that covers an 18-month project I completed to document the facelift of my local shops. Part two was published a couple of weeks ago. You can subscribe using the link in the side bar … it‘s free.

Sketching on location in February

February 16th, 2024 § 1 comment § permalink

Urban sketching at Lanyon Homestead

One of the lovely things about living in Canberra is having access to some amazing venues for sketching. This month, our local Urban Sketchers group trekked to the deep south of the Canberra ‘burbs to Lanyon Homestead. Canberra is such a spread-out city that even though there was little to no traffic, it took half an hour to get out there, and I live on the south side already. I cannot imagine how long it took the northsiders to get there! But it was well worth the drive.

The early clouds cleared to reveal a spectacular morning. Sunny weather is excellent for sketching buildings since it casts dramatic shadows and allows for a little more drama in your sketch. The photo above is what I did on location — with the exception of the map and heading, which I had prepared the night before.

This is the final spread with a couple of added photos to help me remember the day and some journalling. The gardens were spectacular, with a stunning display of dahlias on the forecourt. I took lots of photos to use as reference for some botanical painting at some stage.

I took a leaf out of Nishant Jain, the Sneaky Artist’s book, and created a quick watercolour sketch to abandon on site as a gift to whichever stranger finds it. It’s a way to give someone a smile and to give an outward focus when I am out sketching, and it pushes me to do something a little different in a short time frame too. With the economic climate the way it is, not many people are spending on arty stuff, but art has a way of speaking to people and lifting spirits … so why not make a little bit of it accessible 🙂 I pop my details on the back in case anyone wants to let me know they found it, and maybe I will get to hear their story as well. Win win! I plan to do this a lot more.

Food sketching with Sally

I am on leave from work at the moment, so I took the opportunity to catch up with my friend, the very talented Sally Black, for brunch and some food sketching. Food sketching is one of her many artistic passions, and she is very good at it … you can see her sketch on her Instagram feed.

There’s something wonderful about sitting and sketching without rushing — chatting about art and life and comparing notes. She is also kind enough to let me practise my in-person portraits on her. Patient and gracious lady! The only downside of food sketching like this is that the food is cold by the time you get to eat it, but it’s a small price to pay! Needless to say, the coffee is sketched first and consumed hot.

Here’s my finished spread.

If you are in Canberra, I can highly recommend Tinker Tailor in Jameson. Excellent coffee and food that tastes as fabulous as it looks.

Urban Sketching at Eddison Park

January 13th, 2024 § 0 comments § permalink

Last weekend, I packed myself up and headed out to meet with my local urban sketching colleagues for a morning of chatting and art. I was at the designated meeting spot a little early, having wandered around the park a little to scout out the best spot to capture the scene I had in mind. The appointed time passed and I was still the only sketcher I could see. Hrmmm. I ended up messaging one of the group admins, only to be told I was a little over-eager and there a week early. Oooops! Oh well! Not one to let an opportunity to sketch pass me by, I set up my easel and got down to business.

This time, I decided to forego a pen sketch and dive straight in with paint after scribbling a few light pencil guidelines to situate the rotunda and the trees. You will notice that I edited out some of the trees in the mid-ground, and opted for a dreamy quality to the scene. I didn’t get to talk to passersby this time, even though I saw lots of families out for a stroll. I was serenaded by the resident kookaburras and a raft of smaller birds that I wasn’t able to see. A pair of cormorants hung out on the rocks in the pond for a while too.

Click to view larger versions

I used to work in a building over the road from the park and spent a lot of time walking around the paths and sitting in the greenspace to clear my head, particularly on stressful days. I have a lot of lovely memories from this place and I reminisced quite a lot while I painted.

As always I completed the sketch on location and then finalised the spread when I got home, adding a couple of photos and some journalling to capture my thoughts. You may also have noticed that I have started capturing some metadata on my location sketches. On this spread, it’s down in the bottom right. I capture the date, location, time, coordinates and altitude, and the weather. Up until now, I have been doing it freeform in my urban sketches and with a hand-carved rubber stamp in my nature journal, but I had a brainwave while I was out and had a professional rubber stamp made to make things a little neater. It arrived during the week and I am silly excited to use it. I looooove stationery and art supplies!

One last little jewel to share with you. I enjoyed this documentary about King Charles’ watercolour sketches and paintings. He speaks at length about the satisfaction he gets from sketching on location as preparation for paintings he does at home, and I was surprised to learn that he was taught to paint by his father. There are also peeks at art done by many of his forebears. I hope you enjoy it too.

Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours

Schminke gouache
Uniball gel pen – for journalling
photos printed on HP Sprocket

hand-carved M signature stamp

Farewell 2023!

December 31st, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

It doesn’t seem long ago that I was looking back at 2022, and yet here I am, trawling through my work from 2023. I have completed more sketchbook pages and standalone pieces this year than in previous years, and I have explored new areas of art in the process. It is gratifying to look back and see that I have grown and developed as an artist this year. May it be so in the coming one!

The image below shows my top nine Instagram posts for the year. It‘s always really interesting to see what made it through the algorithm and caught peoples’ eye. It‘s never the ones that I think or, dare I say, hope people will like. At the end of the day, I create for myself, so it’s not a big deal, but it IS interesting.

Here are some of my favourite pieces from this year. As always, click to see a larger version of hte pic.

20230131 - roseate spoonbill
One of my first attempts at using a combination of watercolour and gouache in a painting.
202302 - old man
Completed over a couple of months in tiny slices during work meetings. Super simple, Bic pen in Moleskine journal
20230415 - don't care
I continued to use mixed media and collage to explore my inner world and de-fang old ways of thinking. I find this format really freeing…there are no rules and I can make my images as strange as my mind.
20230826 - fairy wren
This year, I delved into the world of nature journalling and fell in love. I can see myself doing a lot more of this kind of work, and I now have a dedicated sketchbook for these explorations. Who knew grey toned paper could be so fun?
20231102 - fruit bat
I was particularly pleased with the way these bats came out! Nature journalling has helped me slow down and notice what is happening in my own very tiny back yard, as well as further afield.
20231010 - whitlam
I played with a curvilinear perspective in my urban sketching practice and enjoyed the challenge. It really made me stop and think. I will definitely be doing more of this type of thing where it fits what I want to capture!
20230726 - paris in spring 3
Another challenge has been to add more people to my sketches. I can do passable likenesses of people if I go SUPER slow, but capturing humans in my quicker sketches has been difficult. More practise required on this front, but I am seeing progress. I have added more people to my urban sketches as well.

Remembrance Day is always loaded for me, and I try to use art each year to help process what is going on in my mind. This year I employed mixed media, including collage and gelli prints of old family photographs, and was proud of the outcome

20231029 - playtime fun
This year, I also finally finished an urban sketching project that I have been working on for a while now to capture the redevelopment of my local shops and playground. I will develop the pictures and stories as a series of illustrated essays in my newsletter in the new year. It‘s free to sign up, so please head on over and subscribe if you would like to see that. They will be posted here on the blog later in the year if you wish to wait 🙂

If you would like to look at all of my sketchbook work for this year, you can do so over at Flickr.

My plan for the new year is to start out with a location sketch somewhere tomorrow to celebrat ehte new year and then follow my nose as to how I continue to develop as the year progresses. The things I DO know are that there will be more urban sketches and more nature journalling. What happens between those two is anyone‘s guess! But it will be fun!

Thank you again for reading and for walking beside me this year. It means a lot to be able to share my ramblings and scribbles with you.

Urban Sketching at Lennox Park

May 29th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

May’s Urban Sketching meetup was again on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. This time we met at the Nara Peace Park and the Canberra Beijing Gardens in Lennox Park. It was a chilly but magnificently clear blue morning that showcased the Autumn colours. Before I show you my sketches I want to show you how beautiful my surrounds were. There were families everywhere having picnics and cycling and enjoying the day! Perfect day for sketching!

The Chinese pavillion matched the colourful leaves.

Traditional Chinese gate to welcome visitors to the park. I was besotted with the stone stairs. The people at the top are my fellow sketchers having show and tell time; sharing their sketches and telling their tales. I forgot what time it was and was still finishing up my painting at that point! This photo was taken from where I set up my easel. The Beijing Garden was a gift from the Beijing Municipal Government, and was designed in the style of the imperial style of the Qing Dynasty.

Two of these lions sat at above at the entrance to the welcome gate.

This was one of five stork sculptures in this group. They watched over my shoulder!

This is the first time I’ve taken my full setup out with me in a very long time … since before the lockdowns in fact! It’s a bit of a fiddle, but it was worth it for the experiment that I wanted to do with the style of painting this time. I needed to let layers dry and work on the two paintings simultaneously, which would have been night on impossible if I was juggling everything on my lap! The drying time was rather slow given how cool it was.

As always I prepared my spread with the title and a little map to show the location. This is the finished spread. The two paintings were done on location, and the photos and journalling added at home.

My experiment this time was to create the painting without using ink outlines like I usually do. I started by blocking in the shapes in pale blue pencil to get the proportions right, and then did a more detailed graphite sketch before several layers of watercolour. I LOVED painting all of the rocks in the staircase!

I had two lovely chats this time. The first was with a shy little girl with a big smile who eventually told me that she liked to draw rainbows, and then a brief one with an elderly Chinese fellow via mime and made up sign language. Whilst these interactions break my concentration, they one of my favourite parts of getting out and sketching on location.

Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours

washi tape for masking
Uniball gel pen – for journalling
photos printed on HP Sprocket

hand carved M stamp

I had a little debacle!

May 21st, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

There has been some random weirdness happening on this blog over the last couple of months and in the end I had to export the posts and rebuild from the ground up. Sigh. My apologies if you have tried to look over the last week or so! I managed to lose some images here and there, and I hope to trawl through and fix as much as I can. If you find something that looks like it doesn’t belong (think nasty spam :S) or there’s something missing you’d like to see please drop me a line and let me know and I’ll jump in and fix it if I can!

Thank you so much for your patience!

In the meantime, please sign up for my monthly newsletter… it’s free with an option for you to support me if you would like to support my work in a small way. The content is the same either way.

Urban Sketching at Blundell’s Cottage

May 9th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

I am running a little behind with my posts! A month ago, as our local sketching group are wont to do, we met up for a sketchy get-together down by the lake and had a closer look at Blundell’s Cottage. It was an absolutely stunning autumn morning! Not too cold, not too hot, a bit of wind and a stunning sky. We had a decent group out too, considering it was Easter Sunday!

I decided beforehand that I was going to sketch the same thing using two different techniques, so I found myself a sunny spot and got myself set up in my comfy camping chair and set to. I chose a simple front-on view of the cottage so I didn’t have to wrestle with perspective twice over.

Before I show you my sketches, here are a couple of photos of the cottage from outside and in. I share some fun facts in the video I link below, but suffice it to say that I was somewhat boggled that such a large family lived in such a tiny house. I am not a fan of big houses anyway, but this was something else! The tiny house movement has nothing on this.

Taken from a couple of paces in front of my chair before I started sketching. My eyeballs did a better job of seeing in the shadows than my phone did! There’s a door and two windows hidden in those shadows.

A corner of the small kitchen.

One of the teeny tiny bedrooms.

This is what I had on my spread at the end of the two-hour sketching session. The sketch on the left was done by slapping down the paint first and then adding pen and enhancing the details. The sketch on the right was done using my normal method of sketching first and then adding colour. I flipped between the two as various layers of paint dried. And I like both for different reasons. The paint-first method was a lot quicker and perhaps livelier than the other, but I like the detail in the one on the right. I had a couple of minutes left at the end so I also captured a couple of my fellow sketchers to add some context to the page.

When I got home, I added some journalling and photos to finish off the spread. I recorded my process and prattled on a little bit about the various occupants of the cottage through the years. This is the first one of these I’ve recorded. Let me know what you think.

This month — this weekend in fact — we are headed to park on the other side of the lake! I am looking forward to getting out, even if the weather has suddenly decided to be very wintery! I will need to crack out my fingerless gloves and a beanie I think!

Windsor and Newton A4 watercolour sketchbook
Daniel Smith watercolours
Uniball gel pen
photos printed on HP Sprocket

Road Trip!

March 22nd, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

Last weekend I took a little trip south to visit my parents in Victoria and decided to make it into a sketching trip as well.

I was working in the new urban sketching Winsor and Newton sketchbook I started last weekend when I drew in Hall Village. I have decided to keep a theme throughout the book to lend it some overall coherence. I am adding a map where it makes sense, a couple of little photos and some journalling to add context to help me remember the day better when I look back through the book later.

My first stop was in Holbrook … Submarine town! I have sketched the submarine before, so I had a bit of a drive around and selected a couple of buildings that looked like they would be fun to get down on paper. I sketched the church first. The spot I chose was in the full midday sun on an unseasonally hot autumn day, and managed to get my arms sunburned in the hour that I was there. Yes, the bush was leaning over like that!

Next, I popped down the street a little way to sketch the Shire Hall and found a nice shady spot to sit under the awning of a pub that had seen better days. My unfortunate choice this time was to sit on the concrete pavement without moving much for the 45 minutes it took me to complete the sketch. My butt, legs and feet went to sleep! When I went to stand up, I very nearly fell over. Good thing there weren’t too many people around! So embarrassing!

20230317 - Holbrook
Click to enlarge

My next stop was Benalla in northern Victoria. I did this spread over a couple of days because the weather was scorching, and I also wanted to balance sketching time with time spent with mum and dad. I was chuffed when dad asked to join me on my second outing to draw the art gallery. We sat, chatted, and said hello to the locals, who stopped to see what we were doing. Dad read his book while I was concentrating too hard to chat and sketch at the same time. We spent about an hour and a half by the lake enjoying the morning together. All of those angles and peaks were kind of tricky to get right, so I spent longer on the setup drawing than I normally do.

20230319 - Benalla
Click to enlarge

On the middle day of my visit, we drove to the nearby magnificent King Valley Wine Region and had lunch at the Gracebrook Vineyards. My folks were lovely enough to put up with me whipping out my sketchbook and paint to capture the landscape that spread out in front of us as we tucked into the delicious Mediterranean-style tasting plate full to over-flowing with local produce and sampled the wine. I had a spectacular sparkling Sangiovese/Shiraz that I loved so much that I bought some to bring home with me. Yum!

I struggle with landscape sketches and tend to put in too much detail for the scale of the sketch, so for this one, I deliberately worked at simplifying the shapes and stopping when I sensed that I was fiddling too much toward the end. Nevertheless, I was happy with the way this one came out.

I had so much fun … I’d love to go back on a day that’s not quite so hot, or even in winter, so that I can sketch the fabulous interior of the cellar door area.

20230319 - Gracebrook vineyards
Click to enlarge

Overall, a very relaxing weekend away with family and a productive one at that. I think I need to plan more sketch times when we get out of town!

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