Sketching at the Planting Dreams exhibition

September 22, 2016 | Leave your thoughts

Two weekends ago I visited the Planting Dreams exhibition at the State Library of NSW as part of a special Urban Sketchers Sydney event. We were contacted by the curator Richard Aitken a number of months ago and were allowed access as a group to the exhibition.

Richard gave us a fascinating tour of the exhibition and then it was time to sketch.


It was a lovely morning and a very rare occasion for us as a group to be sketching inside at an exhibition. I think this is a sign that we are indeed very privileged to be able to sketch all year around outside. Here are a few photos of the collection of sketches by the group.

Huge thanks to Richard for the invitation, and Chirs Haldane for organising!

I don’t know about you, but I find sketching while visiting an interesting exhibition quite a challenge.

Do you spend your time looking at the exhibition, or do you just start sketching and accept the fact that you won’t see everything?

Another consideration is deciding what to draw. Do you just look for objects to draw or do you sketch the pictures? This particular exhibition didn’t have a lot of objects on display, instead it was made up of lots of books (very unusual rare books opened to really interesting pages), historical documents and images (paintings or photos on the wall).

And finally, there is the social aspect of going to an exhibition with others – how to stay focused on the exhibition when you are longing for a good chat? One of the big challenges for me on this particular occasion was that I hadn’t seen many of the USK SYD gang for a long time, so the urge to catch up was strong. Hmm, am I the only person that struggles with this?

In the end, I went around looking at most of the exhibition briefly, and then pulled out my pen (my beloved Lamy of course!) and did a few very quick line drawings to record a few parts of the exhibition that caught my eye.

These are not the most interesting pages in my sketchbook, but they are an important record.

They are also important to me because of the ease with which I was able to do them. They were very satisfying! I am not sure that five years ago I would have been able to go straight to ink in this way but would have needed some minimal setup in pencil (something I devote a whole lesson to in my Foundations course). It is nice to know that the years of practice and diligently trying to improve my eye-hand coordination and my accuracy while working at speed, is paying off. But oh! I still have much to work on and improve.


So what are your strategies when you go to an exhibition to explore and sketch?

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