Being inspired by Lloyd Rees all over again

January 16, 2016 | Leave your thoughts


Today I had another great day sketching with a few of the local Urban sketches gang and Asuka from Brisbane. It was a casual sketching day with a much smaller group than last week’s official event in Manly, but I still wanted to get there early and do a sketch for myself before I met up with others. This sketch shows a few of the terrace houses in Phillip Street just around the corner from The Museum of Sydney, which was where we were meeting.


I had suggested this location because I wanted to see that Lloyd Rees exhibition of his pencil drawings (painting with a pencil). I mostly think Rees’ late work – abstract paintings like this one – and his sketchbooks (more about this in a moment) but he is also famous for his incredible draftsmanship of his early works. It was great to see his pencil work from the 1930s – remarkable precision on smooth paper coupled with a painterly use of the graphite that really captured the light. And I discovered today that he taught drawing to architectural students as well in this period.

You can see the feature image for the exhibition that Asuka is looking at here and the large collection of his work at AGNSW here. It is really interesting to see how his drawings got looser over time.

I don’t know a lot about Lloyd Rees but he was my first inspiration when I started my first sketchbook in 2007. 


This book Lloyd Rees In Europe is full of lovely sketches from his sketchbooks from 1950-70s (so 20-40 years after the drawings we saw today).  They are loose, experimental and lively and sometimes rather scrappy!

It was great to compare these later sketches with the precision of his earlier work.  I couldn’t help thinking that if I had bought a book of the pencil paintings we saw this morning back in 2007 I would have thought that the standard was completely unachievable – it would not have inspired me as much as his sketches did.  I can now see his expert draftsmanship behind the looser work, but it was the imperfections in these quick sketches that inspired me at the time.

I love both types of artworks, but today was such great reminder to me that I am much more interested in the spontaneous sketch than a precise accurate finished planned work, and also that the ability to be able to do loose drawings that are still accurate often comes from having the skills to be able to draw precisely.


After the exhibition we went outside to sketch the exterior of the museum and surrounds.


This sketch was done exploring the different shape and colour of the collection of buildings that I could see from the museum steps.


And another quick one – more continuous line. Note: I had to apply white gel pen back home to get the lettering. The De Atramentis white ink wasn’t working on the orange washes.


It was then time for lunch and we found ourselves back at the La Renaissance Courtyard cafe in The Rocks and I did a quick sketch of the view from table.

It was a lovely day and a real treat to have Asuka from Brisbane and also Will from Manchester once again with us – he and his wife will be heading back home soon but it’s been wonderful to have them here for the last number of weeks. I love international community that we are part of!

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