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!

Cressida Campbell exhibition

February 19th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

This weekend I finally managed to make it to see the feted exhibition by contemporary Australian artist Cressida Campbell at the National Gallery. I left it to the end of the exhibition run in the hopes that the crowds would be smaller. After a couple of false starts I managed to get a ticket on the final weekend. It seems many other people had the same idea!

I hadn’t seen any of Campbell’s work other than the images in the marketing materials, but several friends had been to the exhibition multiple times and raved about how wonderful it was. So I was looking forward to it.

This is the largest single artist exhibition that I have ever seen, she is prolific! Something like 140 works were on display, covering a number of themes. I thought I’d share a few of my favourites.

This piece was my absolute favourite! The cat on the stairs captured my heart. Of course!

I loved the shapes made within the roots and foliage on this narrow piece. And the glass is wonderful.

I love watching boats, and these ones made me smile. They brought back memories of watching the boats and ships come and go for hours in Victoria Harbour when we visited Hong Kong a couple of years ago, the the before times. Before COVID kicked in in a real way.

The soothing colours and water captured my attention in this scene. I stood there and let it wash over me for ages. What is it about water that is so relaxing? Even in paintings.

Campbell’s self-portrait. Love the hair! Curly hair is so hard to paint well!

Campbell uses a unique hybrid technique where she inscribes her drawing onto plywood and then paints with watercolour and prints from the incised wood block. I have never seen anything like it! In the photograph above you can see the inscribed outlines.

I was super excited when I came to the end of the galleries and discovered a huge drawing station! The large table dominated the room and the central area was arranged with beautiful ceramics and foliage, and paper and pencils placed around the table for anyone who wished to sit and have a go.

I whipped out my tiny little emergency handbag sketch kit and got to work.

I sat there and enjoyed sketching for about an hour. In that time several people came and went in the seats to my left. One young couple amused me. They each selected a group of jars and pots they wished to sketch and then proceeded to turn it into a competition, chattering and bantering the whole time. I had to smile, but I did wish they simply enjoyed the process and supported each other. Nonetheless…they were sketching! So all good. Another pair were young tween brothers who decided to draw cartoon characters instead and were having a ball.

20230218 - at cressida campbell drawing table

I was lucky not to be yelled at and ejected for using watercolour in the gallery…usually it’s dry materials only.

20230219 - cressida campbell gallery

This is the first art exhibition I have been to in years and I wanted to capture the feel of all the people in the space. It felt crowded to me having not ventured out much in the last couple of years, but I have seen it busier at past exhibitions. I did this spread from a photo when I got home. I wasn’t bold enough to sit and sketch in the presence of greatness and with moving people!

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 🙂

Your top nine and my top ten

January 5th, 2023 § 0 comments § permalink

Each December Instagram is a-flurry with people posting their top nine posts as defined by the number of “likes”, the image below shows mine. Predictably the top left image with the most likes was a Reel (a short video), which get pushed out by the algorithm. People seem to like them. It always amuses me that the pictures or posts most appreciated by others are never the ones that I like the most. So I figured I share both. If you click the picture it will take you to my Instagram feed and you can see them at full size, or watch the videos. My favourites for 2022 follow.

https://www.instagram.com/michelle.collier.art/

Shoe bill storks are the funniest looking birds I have ever seen. I saw the photo that I drew this one from on Twitter and just had to have him in my sketchbook. I love drawing birds! I can imagine this guys saying “Seriously??” He made me laugh.

20220306 - shoebill stork WTF

Last year was another year of virtual travel for me. I would love to have been out in the world sketching on location, but there are so many fabulous places that even if I was able to travel I’d never get to them all. This little tower caught my eye and made me wonder what it might be like to live in a place like this. Cold most likely. But a warm bed up in the attic would be a wonderful place to hide away and read for a while!

20220506 - bootmakers tower

I try to capture our cats as often as I can, but tend to default to a cartoon style to capture their antics. This is one of the few times I caught them as is. I love this spread simply because it has the cats on it!

20220701 - new cat tree

This year I played some more with collage and messing about with altering whole pages from magazines. It is so relaxing to fiddle around with scissors and glue.

20220823 - precious privilege

I was disappointed that I didn’t really capture the Borg queen very well, but this was I think the first time that I had used a stencil with some acrylic paint alongside the watercolours in a way that I liked.

20220909 - complex

I LOVE drawing machinery! The local shops are having a landscaping overhaul and this guy was parked up for the weekend.

20221016 - DUFFY - track loader

Mixed media is fast becoming my favourite art therapy outlet. This on in particular let me process some really difficult stuff. As much as I love the aesthetic of the spread, it is one of my favourites more for what it achieved for me.

20221103 - open hand

Recording every day life in the pages of my sketchbook is what it’s all about for me. I get to capture moments in time and embed the memories for years to come. I love watching my sons interact in the kitchen. I hope to see it many more times yet, but if I don’t this will keep it alive for me.

20221223 - birthday dinner

What can I say … BIRDS! And my favourite bird at that. We have a male superb wren and his harem of about four females that live out the back. This isn’t him, but I couldn’t go past one of these little guys for my Australian Christmas greeting.

20221224 - christmas wren

To cap it all off, this mixed media piece is my very first artwork on canvas, and I am so pleased with how it came out! It was a steep learning curve with the many layers and media and techniques. I hope to do more of this type of thing in the future.

Once again, thank you for supporting me and my art in 2022. Here’s to an inspired and motivated year ahead!


I am launching a monthly newsletter at the end of January; I’d love it if you would consider signing up! It’s completely free with an option to support my work on a voluntary basis if you so desire, but there’s absolutely no pressure.  

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 week of delight

August 21st, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

A week or so ago I signed up for Wendy MacNaughton’s paid newsletter and was overjoyed to see that she is expanding her kids’ online art show/class/club to include some fun stuff for adults as well.. she calls it the grown-ups table… or GUT for short. Which amuses me no end. This week’s exercise involved sketching something each day that delighted us, flowing out of a book she recommended by poet Ross Gay called The Book of Delights. I have ordered the book, and cannot wait to dive in after the fun that I have had this week. I have found it so easy to drown in the sad and the hard things in life, or even just drift by the delightful things as I focus on making it to the end of another week. This week of noticing and sketching has been just what I needed to kick me out of that loop.

Here are the seven little sketches I produced and the things I wrote about each when I posted them to Instagram each day

Monday

CAT FUR – it is just so very soft that it almost defies belief that this purry being – that has five end points, all of which are sharp and dangerous – could be so soft and comforting and sigh-inducing.

Tuesday

SILVER-EYES – This morning a flock of tiny little birds visited my garden looking for bugs and fluff. I always leave tufts of cat fur pegged to the tree for their nests! Tiny little things they are! About 11cm long and weighing 10gm. I love them.

Wednesday

FRESH COFFEE – The new drip coffee maker we bought has a timer function, so we have set it to start making the coffee 15 minutes before our normal wake up time. It is the height of luxury to wake up to the smell of fresh coffee!

Thursday

SURPRISE SWEETS – My latest order of contact lenses arrived this morning with special surprise – a little bag of Gummy Bears! I never buy these things for myself, so this was a wonderful treat. I savoured them slowly. I had to draw the packet because I was too busy enjoying the lollies to think of sketching one!

Friday

DANCING FAIRIES – After the rain showers this morning a couple of female Fairy Wrens came down to snap up the bugs. They were bouncing up and down and fluttering their wings like little dancers. Tiny little puffballs of joy!

Saturday

HAPPY SMILING FACES – I was greeted by my new bed of smiley pansies as I returned from shopping this afternoon. All shades and combinations of whites of purples nodding at me as they were ruffled by the late winter breeze. I could not help but smile back at them.

Sunday

MUMMA SWAN – Today I had the privilege of sketching this female swan sitting on her clutch of seven eggs. She was in a big straw nest at the edge of the wetland, and had just taken over after dad’s afternoon shift and was settled in for the evening. I could hear the froglets ramping up their chorus as the sun went behind the mountains.

The whole spread

I am really pleased with how the spread pulled together in the end … a little niggle with the colour of the swan’s nest, but over all, the seven spots of encapsulated delight gives me a good reminder of what the week was like.

Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook, Carbon ink, Daniel Smith watercolours

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!

Sketchbook Flipthrough…again

August 8th, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

And so…. I have filled yet another sketchbook and have not blogged in the meantime. Pretty slack huh? Swings … roundabouts… sometimes I sketch a lot, sometimes I write a lot, sometimes life has a way of taking over.

I hope you enjoy this sketchbook as much as I did filling it

Sketchbook flipthrough

May 1st, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

I have been putting off filming this sketchbook tour for months now. I wanted to do one with commentary so that I could explain to you what I was thinking when I was creating particular spreads. This week I bit the bullet and did it anyway. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

I hope you enjoy taking a stroll through my sketchbook and listening to me prattle on about it! Let me know what you think on the post here or on YouTube!

Look into my eyes……

January 23rd, 2022 § 0 comments § permalink

20220119 - thinking spiral
Pentel ink brush and watercolour in Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook

Keep staring at the centre of the spiral. Round and round and round. Are you sleepy yet? Or just confused?

20220119 - confusion
Lifted-type collage

It’s an interesting thought … nature knows what it’s doing … it’s us that get things all twisted up when we try to untangle it. Collage is a great way to create and unravel my mind when it becomes over-stimulated.

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