Sketching on location in February

February 16th, 2024 § 0 comments § 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.


Materials:
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

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.


Materials:
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

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!


Materials:
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!

A glorious morning in Hall Village

March 13th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

I have lived in Canberra for almost 40 years and never once had I ventured out to the little village sitting on the northern edge of the Australian Capital Territory. The area was home to the Ngunnawal people until European settlement in 1826 when George Palmer established a station of about 10,000 acres in what was called the Ginnindera District. The Ngunnawal people remained in the area and are a valued part of the Canberra community at large today.

Hall Village was established in 1882 and was named after a fellow by the name of Henry Hall who was the first resident landholder in the district. He lived there with his wife Mary and their ten children.

This was the location of this month’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet-up. So many options for sketching!

Victoria Street – the main road through the middle of the village. Photo: mine

After a cloudy and drizzly start to the day over my side of town, the skies had cleared by the time I reached Hall and was greeted by this lovely avenue of plane trees. I must remember to head out there when the leaves start to turn, the yellows and oranges will be spectacular!

I decided ahead of time that I wanted to sketch the Anglican church, so after the initial meetup with my fellow sketchers I walked the couple of blocks to where it was located and found a somewhat shaded spot across the road. I was grateful to have packed my comfortable sketching chair for this one!

Me sketching in situ and starting to get some rough guidelines down in pencil. Photo by USk Canberra Admin Mandy

I struggled with the foliage behind the church … I struggle with trees at the best of times, but I was definitely a bit heavy-handed in this case. I am not unhappy with the result though, the dark frames the pale church building nicely I think. If you take a look at the photo above, you will see that I did some judicious editing to remove bushes and the fence to create a more pleasing composition.

The finished sketch of St Michaels and All Angels Anglican Church

While I sat and sketched there were lots of people walking past with their dogs. The dogs always wanted to come and have a sniff around, but the owners were more reticent about bringing their furry friends close enough for a pat. There were plenty of lycra-clad cyclists about too. It was a perfect day for a ride — no wind and not too hot! They went whirring and clicking by, depending on whether they were riding road bikes or mountain bikes, as they coasted down the hill into town in search of coffee and cake.

People started arriving at the church shortly before 1100h for their morning service, and they were very interested in what we were up to. I heard one lady offer one of the closer sketchers some morning tea. They all disappeared inside with a ring of the bell out the front.

As the sound of the bell faded I heard some ladies chatting as they did their gardening in the units behind me. They couldn’t seem to figure out what all these people were up to sitting around with books and paints, but they didn’t come close enough for a chat.

Photo: USk Admin Mandy

By the time I finished sketching the church I had 20 minutes left until we were to reconvene and have our show-and-tell session, so I wandered back down and found an old corrugated iron hall that was currently being used as a craft brewery. I did a quick pen drawing while I waited, which I thoroughly messed up. I had chosen a very awkward position to sketch from…won’t do that again! The picture above is what my spread looked like by the time we put our books out for everyone to take a look at.

Finished verso page

When I got home I added some tone to the pen sketch to see if I could save it, at least a little. It’s still pretty wonky, but that’s ok. I then added my journalling and printed a couple of photos to give some context to the spread.

Click to enlarge

This is the finished spread, with my sketching locations marked on the map.

We had 28 happy sketchers out this month, which is more than we’ve had in a while. Must have been the lovely sunshine that did it!

Duck!

January 13th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

Duck! Cover! Run!

I obviously don’t say that because I have sketched a duck! You can see that I haven’t. What I did sketch is a magpie. My immediate reaction when I see them at certain times of year is to duck and cover my head if I can. They are vicious when protecting their nests in Spring! Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Lucky for me I wasn’t in a great deal of danger from the one I sketched.

For all of their periodic viciousness though, I love them. They sing a rich and melodic song that sounds for all the world like: dorgle dorgle dorgle! Which is why I call them dorgle birds instead of magpies, in much the same way as I call cockatoos jerk birds, because they are noisy, destructive jerks! (also, I can never tell if they are happy or cranky when they are making all that racket, especially when it starts to rain.)

It had been a while since I attended a Canberra Urban Sketchers meetup mostly because of the pandemic and partly because I seem to have become a hermit of late, but I could not resist jumping back in with this location at Garema Place. Lots of fresh air, lots of interesting people to watch and a broad selection of public artworks to check out. Thankfully there was also plenty of shade given the mid-Summer timing.

I chose to draw the big magpie sculpture called The Big Swoop, and framed it as a nature journal page, combining the two disciplines of urban sketching and nature journalling by adding some labels and information to the page.

I parked myself under a tree and leaned back against the smooth trunk while I eyeballed the big bird and thought about how to layout my page. As luck would have it there were some non-swoopy (wrong time of year) real life magpies around singing their hearts out as we sat and sketched. It was really really pleasant and relaxing. I found it easy to get into the flow.

I took a moment to look up who the artist was and some of the particulars of it’s size and weight and discovered that this was the second iteration of the sculpture since the first one had been destroyed by vandals. Why do they do that?? I am pleased the big fellow was given a second chance, and that he got a fresh chip to nibble. I popped these details around my page.

20230108 - the big swoop

I have started using a non-photo blue pencil to scribble in my vague subject volumes, delineate the layout and to locate some details after watching John Muir Laws‘ nature journalling videos. There’s something less obtrusive about the pale blue lines over my usual graphite, and it does some weird magic to disappear when I take a photo of the page, though it still shows up when I scan the page, as you can see. I don’t mind that, it adds a bit of scrappiness and immediacy to the page that I like.

Other sketchers came and went around me as they moved to capture different angles, and we chatted as though it hadn’t been a couple of years since we saw each other last. Sketchers are such a friendly bunch!

I had a bit of time before we were due to come together again for the show and tell part of the sketchwalk, so I sketched two of my fellow artists that sat nearby and the magpie one more time for a little context since I was using my day to day sketchbook rather than my dedicated urban sketching one. I also captured the organisers setting up the end point for the protest march in support of the people imprisoned and in memory of those executed in Iran’s latest human rights atrocities. The main group of protesters moved noisily through the mall toward their destination with a hail of megaphone incitements and call-backs from the group just as we were taking our group photo by the big maggie. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stick around and sketch the crowd, I would like to do some reportage sketching at some point.

20230108 - the big swoop 1
20230108 - the big swoop 2

Fingers crossed next month’s sketchwalk is in a similarly airy spot so that I feel comfortable being out amongst the germs again 🙂

Sketching at Tidbinbilla

November 29th, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

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

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

20220822 - Rock Valley homestead

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

my walking poles

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

Wetlands

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

20220822 - moth4er swan at Tidbinbilla Homestead

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

20220822 - Tidbinbilla Homestead

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

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

Snake sculpture

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

Platypus sculpture

They made me smile!

Kangaroo sculpture

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

A visit to Cotter Dam

August 17th, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urban sketching at the AIS plus a new setup trial

March 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

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

20190310 - AIS
Click to see a larger version of the sketch

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

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

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

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

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