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Saturday, April 25, 2015

ANZAC Centenary


Today was 100 years since the first ANZAC campaign and a big day for our nation. 'ANZAC' stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula.

I knew that there was no way I would make it to a dawn service but looked in my local paper to see what was happening. I discovered Ryde's 2000 poppy project - collecting 2000 knitted poppies displayed in the letters RYDE. I read that the poppies would be at the Ryde Memorial on ANZAC eve and that there would be a service there on ANZAC day 9.30-10.15am. I decided to head that direction, not necessarily planning to make it for the service. It was 11am by the time I arrived and there was not a poppy in site - instead just a few wreaths on display.


So I sat down to sketch the memorial and some of the wreaths… and have my own quiet period of remembrance. I have done this a few times before. I don't have any family that went to war (both mum and dad's families were dairy farmers and needed to stay home) so ANZAC day has never been a big family affair for me growing up.

I enjoyed my time sketching and a few chats to a few people that walked through the area, including a woman that was looking for the knitted poppies too. She told me about the Poppy Park in Penrith…. wish I had know about that beforehand as I would have liked to visit it…. but then again, I doubt I would have the time today. A lovely family day filled in the rest of my day.

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3 Day Travel Sketching Workshop in Launceston, October 2015 -  more details here

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New sketchbook, new cafe, new project


Started a new sketchbook this week...here is my usual title page. I normally add the sketchbook number and the date but my system is a little all over the place at the moment (too many sketchbooks on the run) so the page is textless at the moment. Don't ask me what the colours are as they are either listed on my current tools page or I am not ready to tell the world what I am playing with ( I am such a tease aren't I?)


Needed to do a quick visit to Macquarie Centre today and rather than go to The Missing Piece (which I love) I decided to try out The Vogue Cafe (run by the sister of the boys from TMP). Very quick sketch of my coffee(yes, more coffee) and some raisin toast and the view from my table. This cafe is VERY sketchable and lots of great food, like TMP.


The new project, isn't really new, or is it a project. It is more like an old skill that I was never good at and I am still hopeless - model making. Made a few boxes with special outer skins for my Sketching Architecture Workshop tomorrow. The boxes are rough but I am happy with the design of the outer layer. They will be fun to draw! ( for people who have done my classes before... yes, the return of the boxes but these are very sophisticated ...for cardboard boxes that is!)


It has been terribly wild and wet in Sydney this week - lots of damage. I hope everyone is safe! We only lost power for 1.5 hours yesterday so I did a few perspective diagrams by candlelight.
Hoping that the rain is mainly over now ... I do have wet weather plans but so hope that we don't need them. Will have fun anyway!


And, oh! by the way, I finally finished the title page form my Melbourne sketchbook so the big scanning job has started!

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3 Day Travel Sketching Workshop in Launceston, October 2015 -  more details here


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and news of my next SketchingNow online course coming in a few months time!



Monday, April 20, 2015

Seven Reflections from my Melbourne Trip - April 2015

and how many Flinders St Station sketches can I fit into one post?

As I often do, before I start the big scan job from my recent trip to Melbourne, I want to share a few reflections from my fortnight of non-stop sketching. (Other posts from this trip can be found here.)

I did this recently after a visit to Tasmania, and also after my Brazil trip 2014 and Penang/Singapore trip 2013. I personally find these post extremely helpful to re-read when I am preparing for the next adventure. I hope that you will enjoy reading my musings and that you can relate to some of my decisions and challenges. I am always thinking about my travel sketching - how to best capture the essence of a place on my page and record my adventures throughout each day. Having a strong strategy in place is on of the most important means of coming home with a full sketchbook!

So here are seven things that I am thinking about on my return.

1. Sketchbook Decision

Like my recent trip to Tasmania, I decided not to take my usual travel sketchbook (A4 moleskine watercolour) but to take my everyday book instead. And that is the Stillman & Birn Alpha 9 x 6 - its good for general sketching but is not true watercolour paper. This was a dedicated sketching trip but I didn't want to put pressure on myself to do a lot of sketching (particularly as I recently had an injection in my left wrist). I also took some loose sheets of watercolour paper but sadly didn't use them once.

I didn't regret my decision until the night I came home and pulled out my A4 moleksine sketchbooks from previous Melbourne trips. This A4 version of the Forum done in April 2013 (above) was a very rushed sketch but the watercolour paper certainly did something for my sketch (look at that wonderful granulation)… and it made me realise what I had missed by not using better paper. On the other hand, the freedom I had to 'go for it', the quick ink sketches would not have been the same in a bigger book. And of course the bigger book is heavier and more expensive!


Looking at the larger book also made me appreciate the frustrations I had at the time fitting some subjects on the page. This was particularly the case with Flinders St Station - there is an optimal size to sketch the glorious bombastic details of this building and the smaller landscape sketchbook was a little too small for this.


Here are other two sketches where I realised that the size I wanted to sketch meant I wouldn't't fit the whole building in - I wasn't trying to reach the ground, but it was a little sad that I couldn't!

But as always, there is a balance and a compromise - I don't think there will ever be a perfect sketchbook for me. And in the end, all things considered, I know that I made the right choice for this trip.

2. Right Handed Sketching


Some days my left hand just wanted a rest so I continued experimenting with my right hand. The finished images look more lively and responsive than they were for me at the time - it was a real challenge to draw with my right hand, but easier to paint. I made a number of interesting discoveries using my right hand which I will share in a separate post, but it was strange to be out in public sketching with my other hand. I felt like I needed to explain to people who were looking over my shoulder, that I was in fact left handed, as the lack of control was a big issue for me. It was hard to be hanging out with fellow sketchers and not to be able to sketch and respond like I would normally do, but in the end I was very happy with what I achieved.

3. Quick Recording Sketches


Following on from the light-bulb moment in Brazil during Richard Alomar's activity, I am continuing to push myself to make super quick (sub 5 minute) sketches. Whether 3 minutes under an umbrella waiting for a tram or just stopping for a few moments to sketch.

Picking up from a technique I thought of in Brazil, I used a pentel brush pen in grey(watersoluble) to draw the shadow shapes first and then added ink over the top. I am very happy with this approach as it captures the shapes of the main values first.

Another technique was to use watercolour pencil for overall outlines and shadow shapes.I then added a few ink lines and a little water at a later date. In this example I wanted to record the row of chimneys and the straight parapet - sure I could take a photo, but this rapid sketch is MUCH more meaningful and memorial for me.

4. Ink Sketches of Scenes

I continued with my latest fad of doing more complex scene using my sailor or hero pen with a fude nib. I can't tell you how much I love doing them, how satisfying tit is be able to capture a real sense of the place fairly quickly and easily from a standing position. It is also hard to express how surprised I have been that I wasn't missing my watercolour painting… but that did change half way through the trip!

5. Cafe sketching - the food and the views

Of course I was still using my paint, but this was more for the food and tea sketches rather than my sketches on the streets. BTW there is a disturbingly high proportion of coffee sketches in this sketchbook. The coffee in Melbourne is superb, but I do believe the tea is better in Sydney.

As I was often in cafes with other sketchers who want a longer time for sketching than I normally allow myself to have, I was able to do more than just a sketch of my food, and so I started sketching the view as well. Really like these combinations of painted food sketches and linework scenes.

6. The big Melbourne USK event and the return to watercolour

There is no doubt that when you go to a big event, like the one in North Melbourne with the Melbourne USK group (approx 60 people), you see a lot of work that inspires you and that challenges you to improve or to try new things. I often say " we share but we don't compare" … and it is very important that we remember this at Urban Sketchers event. But there is no doubt that everyone of us is often awed by the work of others - other people's work is always better than our own and we see our own weaknesses more! So that 'share but not compare' saying is something I tell myself all the time too, because we DO compare! What is important is how you respond to this comparison - use it to inspire and push you further! (I want to write more about this soon!)

Spending a week sketching with Chris Haldane (she did gorgeous work everyday), seeing the paintings of number of very good watercolourist in the USK group, and as always seeing Paul Wang in action, made me want to get back to my paint! I really do love watercolour and it is sad when I don't have a colour record of a place. On the day itself, I was much too focused on meeting people to really give time to my painting but on the days that followed I wanted to do more watercolour scenes.


So here are some of the sketches from the last 2 days.  I did wish I had better paper in my sketchbook, but that is okay, I really like the narrative in this book. I know I had some loose sheets, but the last day was too late to start using it! In the end I am very pleased with the record of my 12 days in Melbourne that filled my book and I had had so much fun doing it - and that after all is the main thing!

7. Two things that I have to consider for my next trip
- I need to test how many ink pens I should carry and what colours are the best? As I mentioned in my last blog post, I did wish I had a few more colours in my kit on a few occasions.
- I want to test doing my fude nib ink sketches in the A4 moleskine to see how I like them on that paper and in a larger format. I also want  to get an idea of how comfortable I will feel doing super quick sketches in a big book as in general bigger book and better paper means that I am more careful and sketch less!

So once again, I feel like I have been on a big creative journey during this trip. There are a few other things happening in my work at the moment, but I am keeping that offline for a little while longer. Can any of you can guess what I am referring to?

And finally, did you notice?... 7, yes SEVEN sketches of FSS included in this summary post - sigh - yes I am hopeless case!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Beating the post-sketching-trip blues: 3 cafes in 3 days


It is always a bit of an adjustment for me when I come back to normal life after an exciting sketching trip like I have just had in Melbourne over the last 2 weeks. There is a special kind of creative energy that is created when you are out sketching day after day and even more so when you are have been hanging out with fellow Urban Sketchers a lot. Even though I can, and do, sketch from home it is certainly not the same as sketching out on location. So it has been nice that in the last 3 days I have been out and about with appointments and work outings and have managed 3 cafe visits in that time. Hold on! It has been 4 cafe visits!


These are the Instagram photos that I posted at the time, showing the tools I was using and the sketch in context. Aside: I think that these days Instagram is the best place to share your work. It is like Flickr used to be when I first started online - you can add your work to 'groups' via hashtags but are always building your own portfolio of work that can be easily reviewed by others. Facebook is great for chatting, for the here and now, but is terrible if you want to find something. If you post only to groups you don't have anywhere that you or others can see your work easily. I am finding IG more and more interactive and a lot less distracting than FB. BTW my IG feed is here.

Anyway, going back to my cafe visits….

The opening image is from yesterday's visit to The Teacosy in the Rocks. There is no doubt this is my favourite tearoom in Sydney. The best scones (with great jam and cream) and how special is it to get a teacosy? I REALLY love the tea they serve these days as well - from my favourite tea supplier TeaLeaves in Sassafras VIC. Their standard Earl Grey Blend is wonderful! It was nice to relax and sketch my tea and scones, playing with lost and found edges, and also texture. I decided to use my Rosemary squirrel brush for this sketch as I don't use it that often and want to really get a feel for it. I have also been very conscious lately with my wrist in a splint that I move my wrist a lot when I paint using a dagger brush - so maybe it is better for a little while to go back to a round brush.


First day back, I headed up to Beecroft to check out a cafe I have known about for a long time. It is called Longshot and as it is known for its good coffee, I had to start with that. After just arriving back from 2 weeks in Melbourne the pressure was on! The coffee in Melbourne is so good - I didn't have a bad one there, although it is normally served warm rather than piping hot. Warm coffee is disastrous for a sketcher but once I started asking for hot coffee it was better. Anyway, back to Longshot, the coffee was hot and strong and quite nice …but oh! not as smooth as the coffees I had had in Melbourne. The cafe interior is very nice, and there is a leafy outdoors area as well so it is a perfect spot to chill. That is exactly what I did, following my coffee with tea and a little cake. Very nice tea with a big pot. My sense of proportiob was a little off and I managed to draw the light fittings too big so my 'cafe scene' sketch ended up being focused on the ceiling. Oh well!

I knew I could fit the tea and cake on my page in a realistic composition so decided to overlay the elements. Hanging out with Paul Wang recently made me think of trying this. He does a lot more interesting compositions, but it is a very useful technique and one that I would like to use more often - ah! you always pick up ideas to try out when you hang out with other Urban Sketchers.

 I am definitely coming back here and there was plenty to sketch and next time I will include the tables and the people in the cafe!


Second day back I had another appointment which meant another change for a quick cafe visit. I was long overdue for a haircut and now have symmetrical bangs - or 'fringe' as well call it. I think 'bangs' is a silly name but just felt like using it! I popped in to my favourite cafe in Crows nest - Sparrow - for a cup of earl grey tea. I had realised that I have been carrying around a Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencil and never use it - so it was time to get it out. I had been talking quite a bit with Chris Haldane when we were in Melbourne about using pencil for visible line work as it was something she was doing more and more. Paul uses a dark pencil instead of pen for his paintings and we were thinking also about the incredible work of Fabrice Moireau. Still a strong line but softer when you use a pencil. Anyway, I enjoyed using my pencil for this sketch very much.


And then the final sketch was yesterday at Hyde Park Barracks Cafe. I wasn't going to draw my coffee, but I had just gotten a new exciting idea in my head and I often find that sketch helps me process the idea and at the same time acts as a 'brain dump' so I can back to the task at hand. For this sketch I used one watercolour pencils and waterbrush.

Wow! what a long post. How have I managed to write so much about a little coffee and tea sketching - but each one used a different technique, and all four as a set seem a fitting full stop (period) to my Melbourne trip.

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3 Day Travel Sketching Workshop in Launceston, October 2015 -  more details here


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Friday, April 17, 2015

'Workshop Prep' and some sketching just for me



I was back in the city today for some workshop preparation. It was a nice way to feel like I was still on a 'sketching trip' even though I was working. So I couldn't resist a quick sketch of the Sydney Opera House before rushing to catch my ferry at the end of the day. I called it the 'FSS of Sydney'. I sometimes refer to Flinders St Station as the 'SOH of Melbourne' - now I am thinking the other way around.

 Sketching workshops take quite a lot of time to prepare. I needed a 'site visit' initially to see if there were suitable subjects and find a cafe that would agree to me running my class in a corner for the first 1-1.5 hours. And then the week before I have to refine the locations for the exercises and also check sun, shade and shelter. Today was wet, so I couldn't check the sun, however it is a good time of the year where it is not critical to find either sunny spots (for mid winter workshops!) or shading areas (for summer workshops!) and there is such an abundance of architecture subjects that I don't need to be quite so concerned about what the light is doing (I can often work it out to a certain degree because as an architect I am fairly aware of the path of the sun during the year and what shadows it would cast). 

 I was very happy with what I discovered today (but not sharing these till after the workshop!) and did the required confirmations that all is ok with cafe owners and museum admin staff. So then it was time for a little sketch. This is of the Land Titles Building - a lovely building that I have often wanted to sketch but  always seem to be passing by and not making it a sketching destination in its own right.


I then walked back to catch the ferry home and as I had the time, decided to walk across the Cahill Expressway walkway. I don't think I have ever walked along here - incredible!

The views are great - it really gives you a good feeling of Circular Quay - the busy-ness of the vessels and the relationship between the Bridge and the SOH.


It was nice to see the 'much sketched' strip of George St in context as well. You can also see the MCA cafe (sandstone building on the right) which is our favourite spot for taking overseas visitors.


I got back down to Circular Quay with 20 minutes spare for a sketch, the one I included at the start of this post. Here is a closer view. I used three coloured De Atramentis Ink - my mixed raw sienna, brown and fog grey.


Another detail. I just LOVE drawing into wet paint with the permanent ink. It is a strange addiction to have since the whole excitement of the DeA document range is that they don't move when you put watercolour over the top - so why am I doing the reverse?

Anyway... fun day and I looking forward to my 2 day sketching architecture workshop next week  (the workshop is fully booked but if you would like to go on the waiting list please let me know!)
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3 Day Travel Sketching Workshop in Launceston, October 2015 -  more details here
2 day Sketching Architecture Workshop in Sydney, 23-24 April - more details here

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and news of my next SketchingNow online course coming in a few months time!



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