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

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!

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!

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!~

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!

Process not Product

July 24th, 2021 § 0 comments § permalink

You know those times when you have too much going on and you really want to do some sketching because you know it will make you feel better, but at the same time you cannot be bothered…and cannot think of anything to draw anyway?

In the past I have turned to collage and multimedia, but I also knew that I was unable to set up and lose myself that process at the moment, because my art desk has been taken over by cats.

So I decided to just play with layers of paint. Something mindless to occupy my hands to allow my brain to tick over and process.

20210713 -process
Click for a larger view

Here are some of the things I noticed and enjoyed as I zoned out:

  • How the paint felt as it slipped from brush to paper.
  • How a watery wash and well-loaded brush felt smoother than a juicier mix.
  • Watching the paint dry and observing the patterns of wet and dry on the page.
  • Watching the paper buckle and paint pool and then start to flow back into the dry parts and create shapes.
  • Seeing how the colour changed as it dried.
  • The sensuousness of feeling something come from your hands and the feedback of the touch.

The whole exercise took place over the course of a couple of days sandwiched between other tasks. It was like meditative punctuation. An interstitial refocussing of my attention.

The end results were butt-ugly, and in years gone by I would have fretted and frothed about wasting paint and pages in my sketchbook. Art supplies are expensive! But as one friend reminded me, it’s like saving the good china for a special dinner. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, let alone a special dinner, nor a masterpiece on the next page of our sketchbooks. Use the good stuff! NOW!

So I reminded myself that not everything I create has to end up as something I’d hang on my wall. There is value in the process whether it be exploring how your materials work with your sketchbook or the space it allows you for thought and reflection. These pages were definitely a case of process over product for me.

Looking back on 2019

December 22nd, 2019 § 2 comments § permalink

2019 has been an odd but wonderful year. Much happened, but not a lot of it was art related! In fact my energy for art and blogging seemed to dwindle as the year progressed, but my yen to knit and read ramped up exponentially. It seems my brain needed a different kind of stimulation. That is not to say that I didn’t draw or paint, I did, but it was not my obsession as it was in previous years.

I was able to complete a couple of very detailed watercolour paintings, and a raft of comic portrait commissions throughout the year, and again added sketches to my sketchbook and played with zentangle-style doodles to soothe when required.

I am not sure what the new year will hold, but I do know paint and pens will be involved!

Here are some of my favourites from this year. Do you have a favourite? Tell me in the comments below.

sunflower raw scan

Sunflower
Oh I love sunflowers! They are so bright and cheerful. I had such fun painting this one.

us wedding

Wedding comic
I drew this one to use on our marriage announcement in the middle of the year. We did not have photos taken, so I immortalised our outfits in one of my comic portraits.

Booty Fruity

Booty Fruity reporting for duty
I have come to really enjoy painting pinups. I did this Royal Marine tribute for Remembrance Day – though I stuffed it the first time and had to repaint her, which was more than a little annoying. She is kitted out with a Heckler and Koch VP9 and Faibairn Sykes ready for duty, but I’m not sure she’d get far in those boots.

PCOS pinup edited transparent background

PCOS pinup
This one was a commission for a dear friend.

20190219 - Green CApe lighthouse

Lighthouse
This sketch brings back such memories! I took a trip to the NSW south coast in February … it was a very blustery day and the clouds made me think of the weather in years gone by that would have caused shipwrecks up and down the coast. That’s the best thing about location sketching isn’t it? It locks in the memories.

20190429 - be softer

Be soft with yourself
Soothing bubbles that ended up looking like bubble wrap, and a reminder to treat myself well.

20190116 - messages from minime

Never forget how to play
I have enjoyed using prints of old baby photos to add a fun collage element to these mixed media pages in my sketchbook.

All of my sketchbook sketches from this year can be found here (I can no longer embed a slideshow as in previous years due to Adobe Flash landing on the scrap heap.)

And if you want to see more frequent updates than I manage here on the blog, you can follow me on Instagram.

I also write here, though updates have been sparse there this year too!

Procrastination, thy name is knitting!

August 22nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Alternate title : an update on the Canberra Churches Calendar.

Why is it that when I get close to a milestone in a project that I choke and do everything in my power to sabotage myself? I don’t think I am alone in this dilemma. There are any number of memes around the interwebs that show writers and artists cleaning out fridges and answering ancient correspondence and the like in an effort to avoid the fact that there is a deadline looming.

procrastinate-productively-work-hacks-02

I’d like to present the following two photos as evidence of my extremely well developed ability to put off starting what will likely be the last painting for my Canberra Churches Calendar project. In the past three weeks I have finished a scarf I started two winters ago (bottom grey, chevron pattern), finished off the last of that grey yarn with a bias knit cowl in a honeycomb sort of pattern (right side middle), used up an odd ball of pink 8 ply from my stash for a super warm cowl (middle left), tried my hand at lace knitting with a shawlette in a cream 2 ply merino yarn, and then started a brightly coloured patterned scarf in 2 ply yarn (that is not working as well as I had hoped). I have knitted approximately a billion stitches in order to avoid putting paint to paper. Sigh. At least it is crafty… and I have justified this obsession as a change of scenery that will help me paint when I get back to it.

*ahem* *cough*

Right.

They’re pretty though… and we are forecast to get snow again next week… so totally useful…………. ok…stop talking now Michelle…….

This is a particularly good piece of procrastination if I do say so myself. Blocking knitwear is stupidly satisfying.

So.

Here’s where the Canberra Churches Calendar is up to. I have painted eleven of the twelve buildings, and whilst I appear to be procrastinating by writing a blog post about procrastination, I have actually finally started the last painting. I am still enjoying the project … but speed bumps are normal and inevitable. It has been a busy couple of months at work, and concentrating on painting just wasn’t happening, so I wasn’t going to push it and make a mess of it. But I am back in the saddle again now – no I have not run out of wool – and may even do a thirteenth painting so that there is something different on the cover of the calendar. I love the way they all look together and am excited about doing the scanning and pre-press work to get it all ready to upload.

I will be doing a series of blog posts with a little history for each of the churches over the next few weeks in the lead up to release day. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you have access to the pre-release special pricing that will be available only to newsletter subscribers. There’s a link over on the right-hand side of the page there.

Urban Sketching at Old Parliament House

July 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

What a difference two and a half years makes! The top sketch was done this morning in about 45 minutes flat. Mostly because I misread my watch and thought that I had been sitting there for an hour longer than I had been. This was not a big leap for my poor brain to make since it was 9 degrees C with an apparent temperature of about 2 degrees with the wind taken into account. The next sketch was done in the opposite conditions – a midsummer scorcher. I remember sitting there for almost the full two hours labouring over the proportions and perspective. It was, I think, my second ever Urban Sketchers meet up.

20180707 - old parliament house

20160113 - king george monument

The two sketches are wildly different. I tried something different with today’s one, in that I focussed on a single part of the facade rather than trying to capture all of the rather long, low building. It is far looser and was completed quicker but the lines feel steadier even if the sketch is pretty wonky. I also left a lot of the page untouched with pigment.

The older sketch has far more tentative line work and I appear to have worked hard to cover the entire page with paint. It feels scratchy and wonky even though I was trying to be careful. The shadows are clumsy and I think I may have turned King George V into a little person. It is fascinating to be able to compare my growth as an urban sketcher using samples of my own work rather than looking at the giants in the field and winding up feeling defeated. I can see improvement in what I am producing, and that is encouraging.

At the end of the day I like both sketches, not just for the fact that I exited my hermitage to interact with other urban sketchers for a couple of hours, but for the life memories attached to them. Oddly I can remember what was happening in my life when I was trying to figure out how to render a bronze statue on a flat piece of paper. There’s something about drawing that sucks everything in and locks it into the image. I love it!



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