Australia Day: The calm before the big party

January 26, 2017 | 10 Comments

Today is Australia Day – our national day. It’s a day for outdoor celebrations, events on the harbour, a day at the beach or a BBQ with family and friends. I rarely do anything big on Australia Day and often it’s a simple family day. But this year it was even more low-key – I needed to spend it at home doing chores as I am moving soon (more about that later). So I headed out early to do a quick sketch of the harbour before things got busy.

My destination was a favourite spot – Clarkes Point in Woolwich – where I normally catch the ferry across to Cockatoo Island or into the city. It was a grey morning but I still enjoyed sketching the view towards the Harbour Bridge and also of Cockatoo Island. By the time that I had to leave (9.15am) the park was filling up with families having picnics and people attending a local award ceremony.

This morning was a great reminder to me that I just have to make the effort to get out sketching.

Not only did this morning’s sketching session get my creative juices pumping but I also had a great conversation with Michael, a local oil painter. Having small chats with people while I am working really energises me, and I came home happy to spend the rest of the morning clearing out my filing cabinets!

Note: I know that the thought of other coming up to look at your work is one of the aspects that make many people afraid of urban sketching. But once you overcome that fear, the interaction with passers-by is the best part of sketching on location. I wrote about this in a previous article: Are you afraid to sketch in public? There are some additional tips in the comment section too.

At times the interruptions do affect the sketch, but for me that is all just part of the record I am creating. Today my conversation with Michael occurred after I had put the first ‘pass’ of watercolour washes down. I normally would just start working into wet, but by the time we had finished our chat, all the paint on my page was dry. I also realised that I only had 3 minutes till my parking ticket expired, so a little mild panic ensued and the end sketch isn’t quite what I had planned. But I am happy with what I have.

My big takeaway from today is that I must schedule some regular short sketching outings during my daily life. I do try to sketch when I go out for other reasons, but it’s all too easy to feel the need to rush back to my work. Dedicated sketching sessions are what I need!

Do you schedule sketching time (outings) in your daily life?



  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Yes, i do schedule outings. I have a date with myself tomorrow to have morning coffee to sketch people and then to find a building. I do this at least twice a week. My happy days!

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Happy Australia Day!

  • Sharon Roy says:

    I recently joined a “Meetup” group that gathers at a coffee shop on a Tuesday nights for conversation and sketching. It is lovely to be able to enjoy the companionship, receive encouragement, and devote time to sketching. However, when I also drink a coffee or tea, my sleep is sometimes disturbed. Oh—what I am willing to suffer for the pleasure of my Meetup Sketching Group!

  • Nicole Barbier says:

    Because I have a fairly long commute with 3 trains, I tend to leave early in case there’s any train issues (frequently there are lol) but when the weather is nice and there’s no delays, I will sit outside my office building and sketch in Central Park. It’s a wonderful way to start the day and I can’t wait for warmer weather so I can do more of that.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Nicole – long commutes and lunchbreaks are great. I used to arrive to work early and sketch before work. Hope the weather warms up soon for you!

  • Amy Weaver says:

    I joined a small sketch group 3 years ago. Some people have come and gone but there’s a core 4 that’s stayed together. We usually meet once a week for an hour. In nice weather, we meet outside and vary the location. If the weather is not cooperating, we meet at one of our home’s or a coffee shop. We’ve even gone to the food court of a shopping mall. We’ve all commented how much better our sketching has become and feel its due to our weekly gathering.
    Our mediums vary too. One of us sketches in permanent marker then burnishes it with colored pencil. Another mostly sketches in colored pencil and adds watercolor. I sketch mostly in watercolor. I’ve purchased a LAMY pen and tried it but my watercolor paper is too rough for it.
    I have visited Australia and love it there. I hope to visit again in 2018. Happy Australia Day!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Amy – that is wonderful to hear about your local group. Sounds wonderful to have such an inspiring and supportive group.

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