Brisbane Sketchfest - Part 1

October 24, 2019 | 4 Comments

Last week I was in Brisbane for a big Urban Sketchers event. A few years ago Sydney organised a weekend of sketchwalks, but this is the first time we have had an Australia-wide event with workshops.


The local USK Brisbane team put on an incredible event – it was basically a symposium programme with workshops, sketchwalks, demos, talks and an evening venue for the ‘drink and draw’. There were 175 attendees and 12 instructors – 4 from Asia, 4 from Queensland and 4 from Sydney. This was a really nice size and a welcome change after the huge numbers at the international symposiums in recent years. Unlike Amsterdam, we didn’t have to contend with extreme heat, but we did have some challenging weather conditions and many of us had to go shopping for some warmer clothing.


It was so exciting to have such a fun USK event in Australia – with visiting sketchers from NZ and New Caledonia! The inspiration and creative environment was off the scale but at the same time there was a lovely relaxed vibe.


The local team did an exceptional job organising the event  – thank you Julie, Mary, Peter, Ann Marie, Judy and everyone else who helped along the way.

I’m just going to share my sketches and adventures from the week in Brisbane… so grab a cuppa as this is going to be a long article.


My usual sketch of my kit to start my sketchbook. This was done on the plane.


Flight sketches: My flight was 2.5 hours late but that was okay as I had lots of work to do… and of course I could always do a little sketching.


Sketching an old building in Spring Hill with Paul Wang (his workshop location) and catching up at the same time. So this is an example of reflex sketching.


Dinner with Paul, Rob Sketcherman and his wife Louisa included a sketch-off with Rob.


Rob certainly had an advantage in not having to wait for paint to dry.


And here is the full spread.



Breakfast with Paul and Louisa at Iconic – a hip cafe with a nice courtyard. We then met up with Tony Walker (one of the organisers) and had another coffee and I did my first sketch at City Hall.


“We” also included Deb Mostert, an artist I have known online for a while. It was wonderful to look through her amazing sketchbook. Meeting Deb and hanging out with her was definitely a highlight of my stay in Brisbane!


Here is a close up of my first City Hall sketch. After using the portrait Moleksine so much this year, the landscape format was a shock – and hard to fit a tall building on the page.


Next I went to my workshop location – St Stephen’s cathedral and did a practice run sketching the chapel. My workshop topic was Perspective and this was a challenging subject due to all the interesting gothic details.


I then had to head to the river and sketch Story Bridge…


… and Customs House. Peter Richards one of the organisers came by and chatted to me while I did this.


At lunch, I got excited about the fun perspective of some high tables which were at my eyeline. I did this sketch to show my workshop group.


After a quiet afternoon in my hotel room doing work (including preparing for some talks I was to give the following day) it was time for an instructors meeting and then dinner. It was really lovely to share a meal with other instructors and the local team the night before the big event.


I was in ‘symposium’ mood and so tried to sketch at dinner, while chatting to people at my table.

Note: At an event like this my sketching is all about taking risks and recording memories in my sketchbook – not worrying about creating masterpieces.


THURSDAY: Sketchfest Day 1


Sketchfest begins… while the participants were registering, I went outside with Paul and Deb to do a quick sketch in King George Square. I ended up doing my second version of City Hall.


The first morning of Sketchfest was dedicated to a series of talks – 5 minute talks by each of the instructors and then 5 minute talks by most of the regional chapters in Australia (plus two in New Zealand). Before these I gave a short talk on the history of Urban Sketchers and why I think it’s so special. As I joint-presented the Sydney talk, I was up the front on three different occasions. This made it a busy morning for me.

It was inspiring to find out more about the other instructors and really great to hear from other groups. So although this was a non-sketching start (for a lot of people) it was a really great way to build community and for us all to feel part of the one group.


We also got a goodies bag (best quality canvas bag ever) and later that night I simply sketched all the pens and pencils in my swag.


After lunch it was time for the first workshop session. Although it looks like perfect conditions we were actually sitting in a wind tunnel and it was very cold!


My workshop was a re-work of the one I taught at the Singapore USK Symposium – you can check out more about that here. This was my main demo, showing how I do a quick perspective setup in pencil (this time it was an ochre watercolour pencil) and then painted the shadow shapes before adding some lines.


Very impressive work in very difficult conditions.


And this was the group! We had a lot of fun – perspective doesn’t need to be serious!


I ended the day by having an early dinner and a brief catch up with my friend Jodi Wiley in a quiet corner at the ‘Drink and Draw’ venue. I didn’t take any photos but here are a few stills from my Instagram stories – lots of people sketching and socialising. It was a great friendly atmosphere with people from all parts of Australia (and beyond) sketching together.


Click here for Part 2


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