Summer21-22: My Break begins

December 20, 2021 | 12 Comments

On Saturday I started a 2-week summer break! (Remember here in Australia, Xmas occurs in the middle of our summer.)

It’s going to be another staycation and this time I hope to explore new parts of Sydney (Note: back in September I was limited to my Local Government Area). I’ll be doing a little work on some days (the joys of running your own business) but my main focus will be sketching… and spending time with family.

Last week I asked my Instagram followers which sketchbook should I use for this two-week break:

My usual travel sketchbook (A4 portrait format Moleskine watercolour book) which I absolutely loved using during my April-May 2021 road trip.


An 11×14 inch spiral Alpha by Stillman and Birn (My everyday sketchbook paper in a larger size). I really loved using a big square book during my Sept 2021 staycation so I’m keen to try a larger size again.

The response was close to 50/50… so I decided to go with the Moleskine as it would make me think of big exciting trips and a change of paper is always good. Hopefully, I’ll fill the book up during my two weeks and then I’ll move on to the larger Alpha to begin the year.

Saturday (Day 1)

In the past few months, I have significantly changed my daily routine and this involved getting my takeaway coffee in the morning rather than the early afternoon. I also changed the cafe (there are about 8 different coffee shops in Lindfield!)


So on Saturday morning, being the start of my break, I went back to Goodfields and then went and sat at a favourite spot opposite the green door of St Albans. As I haven’t been to this part of Lindfield for about 2 months,  I noticed lots of little changes… and it felt new and exciting! Starting a new sketchbook, using my micro palette and a different sized dagger brush (3/8 size) all added to this ‘new and different’ feeling. The feeling was like the one I get on the start of a big trip.

It might seem ho-hum to you (“I’ve seen you sketch this door many times” I can hear you say) but it felt fresh for me. It made me realise that it’s possible to create an exciting vacation feeling without leaving my suburb – just by setting a specific routine for a few months and then changing it!

As I work so instinctively – I sketch quickly with lots of wet-on-wet – changing from Alpha to Moleskine is an adjustment. So next up I did a teacup sketch – one of the best ways to get a feeling for the paper. 

This sketch reinforced the thought that I have to adjust the water I use when working wet-on-wet on this paper. Otherwise, I might end up with some out-of-control granulation. Those of you who followed me during my big road trip might remember that it took me 2 sketchbooks worth of sketching to get used to this paper. The Moleskine paper does have some quality issues, but overall its properties suit my style of sketching the best, so I stick with it! See this article for more about that.

Then I had a family Xmas gathering in a park… on a day that turned out to be about 38C! The first hot day of our summer. After our long lockdown and restrictions, it was so lovely to see my family together again. I managed two quick sketches at the time…

… and then finished my pages off later in the day. It’s the first time I sketched while being surrounded by people for over 6 months… so I need to get more practice!

You might notice the comment about staying behind to mind the table while everyone went on a walk… this is a classic strategy to fit some sketching in! This park is right next to Gladesville Hospital – a great sketching spot in Sydney – so I hope to return in the not-too-distant future and explore this area further.

Back home around 3pm and then after a nap I decided that I needed to do another teacup sketch and do an architectural sketch to explore my use of the paper further. I chose a JimmyB (James Barnet) building that I had promised the Buildings group I would sketch. I was more focused on testing the paper than the actual sketch, but it was still fun to do.

Monday (today)

Two of the themes for this staycation are to sketch a few JimmyB buildings and explore parts of Sydney that I don’t know as well. So this morning I headed to Redfern to sketch the Post Office designed by Jimmy.

I don’t know this part of Redfern at all, so it felt brand new. It was also super fun to be sitting at a busy intersection with lots of people and cars constantly going by.

I had a good number of fun conversations with locals (BTW good to be in a different type of suburb!) and I can’t think of when I was last in an inner suburb sketching like this (nearly two years ago?).

Although I was loving being out urban sketching I wasn’t feeling totally at ease (the busy-ness around me and the fact that I was sitting on a stool which is never comfortable for me – I prefer being on the ground cross-legged) so there is a special kind of energy in my lines and strokes that perfectly capture this mood. I don’t think I quite have a feeling for the size of the book either… it’s larger than my usual Alpha… but not that big! Thankfully I manage to fit the building on the page – just! 🙂

On the walk back to my car, I did this quick line drawing of the Redfern Court House building (by Walter Vernon) and later drew a map of my morning outing. Doing a JimmyB post office and a Vernon courthouse really made me think of my big road trip!

Next, I drove to the neighbouring suburb of Chippendale to sketch another JimmyB – The Mortuary Station. I’ve sketched this before (during a USK Sydney meet) but I thought it would be good to sketch it again after my recent visit to Rookwood Cemetery. There was a special train that was used to take the dead from this station to one in Rookwood Cemetery. The station at Rookwood was also designed by JimmyB but no longer exists… there. It was transported to Ainslie ACT (Australia Capital Territory) and converted into a church. (Note: This means that I have a JimmyB building to track down next time I visit Canberra and ACT!)

I found a really comfortable spot to sketch the station from and I really enjoyed doing this sketch.

I finished my morning outing with this exploratory sketch of an old brewery from Chippendale Green – trying to vary my washes and work out what works best.

Those of you who have done my Watercolour On Location course will know all about the importance of doing more than one sketch per outing in order to really see some benefit. This morning, doing these four quick sketches have really helped me to get back into serious Urban Sketching mode! Even though I have been sketching out on location a lot in recent months, I haven’t been in busy locations, so it felt really great to be outside and have busy-ness all around me!

The first few days of any break/trip are important for setting the tone… so I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far. Of course, things could change at any time (eg. restrictions!) but it feels great to be focused on sketch again like this.



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