SketchingNow Adventure: Kurnell Sydney

November 5, 2014 | Leave your thoughts

Yesterday was my first SketchingNow Adventure.
Each week, till the end of January, I will be going on a specific outing to generate fresh example sketches for my Foundations online course (starting next week Wednesday 12 Nov). I will be sharing the report of my day here on the blog but reserving the instructional component for the class. It is a general day sketching  so I never quite know what will happen.


I will be using this kit with two sketchbooks. Stillman & Brin Alpha 6 x 8 for my quick sketches and notes… and (to start with) Stillman & Birn Zeta spiral bound 9 x12 for my more stand-alone sketches. My kit is my minimal watercolour palette (with a few extra colours perhaps – cobalt turq has already snuck in), my watercolour pencil collection and my lamy, a graphite aquarelle pencil, brushes … and perhaps a few different pens with more expressive lines. In essence a slimmed down version of my daily kit – more details of my everyday kit here.


I wanted to find a location that was suitable as a starter and Captain Cook’s Landing Place in Kurnell came to mind. It is a bit of drive but totally worth it!


In my research for the day I also checked out cafe options – so had planned to spend the afternoon in Cronulla. Here is the map of my day.


Captain Cook’s Landing Place is the location of the start of “modern Australia” – the place where the British first came ashore and claimed the land as theirs in April 1770.  I understand and respect the sensitivity of this moment in history and the impact on the indigenous peoples of the land – it is certainly hard not to be conscious of this when visiting the site.
I was last at Kurnell in 2003 – back then I was taking photos and doing some photoshop collage work so this is the image I created back then.


There is not a lot to see at the Kamay Botany Bay National Park to mark this historic spot – a few simple monuments and a very informative visitor centre – but plenty for me to explore and sketch during the 3 hours I was there. The most interesting monuments are these two – the obelisk on the land and a marker showing where they first set foot on shore.

 The landing place marker was on a very uneven rock – pot holed, barnacled and rook-pooled. I am not that balanced on my feet especially with my two sketching bags so I did not jump across to read the inscription. (I try not to do too many fool-hardy things when I am on my own!) As it was I had already got my feet wet getting to the main rock outcrop.


However I sketched standing up on the uneven rock and once the basics were done, retreated back to the land to add my paint in a more comfortable position. I love all the interesting shaped industry around Botany Bay these days (from an aesthetic point of view) but it was a little far away to be more than a backdrop.
I was using my Sailor pen with De Atramentis brown and getting a feel for the Zeta paper in this first sketch. The brown has quite a different appearance to black and I was working out what happens on smooth Zeta paper. (I have used Zeta for a daily sketchbook in July but not much out on location which is always a different kettle of fish!)


I then started sketching the obelisk and was attacked by flies – welcome to an Australian summer!


I used my Alpha book to do a quick warm up (after my first sketch of course – not before… sigh! happens all the time!)


As always, I had stopped instinctively to sketch what caught my eye – I didn’t walk around first and choose the best location. I sketched where I was. It was while I was doing the above sketch that I realised I could have made a more descriptive sketch of the place rather than just the two landmarks and their immediate surroundings. I also had a lovely chat to Philomena who makes great soups. (you can see why it is important to have a sketchbook I can write notes like these in – a working book as well as a book of more finished pieces)


When I chose this location I didn’t realise that it was also the spot where the first western style watercolour was done in Australia. Part of Cook’s purpose for the journey was to collect samples from the unknown land. On board the Endeavour was Joseph Banks – a wealthy man who had had private lessons in botany. He took with him two naturalists (Daniel Carl Solander and Herman Sporing) two illustrators (Alexander Buchan and Sydney Parkinson) along with lots of equipment for drawing and preserving specimens. We all know about Banks in Australia – here is his monument – but on my return home I found out some interesting things about Parkinson in a book “The Art of Bird Illustration” by Maureen Lambourne.

Buchan died on the journey getting to Australia and Parkinson passed away as well, on the way home. However, between the two of them they produced 1,300 drawings of flora and fauna. Both men are not well known at all.  It is unclear where the following details refer to Parkinson working in Tahita or Australia but I like the image.

On shore he had to work in a mosquito net to prevent flies from eating the paint, while at sea in the captain’s cabin he diligently drew the fresh specimens the naturalists had collected.

So there is a nice connection for me with the origins of watercolour in this land. Of course the Australian Aborigines have a wonderful art heritage of their own but what I do has its roots in European art.


I love the way things catch your eye when out on location. From the Banks monument I loved the blue between the grass and the Norfolk Pine trees and decided to have fun experimenting mainly with paint – very wet – with a little of my watersoluble graphite over the top.


Time to get moving – so I jumped in my car and drove around to Cape Solander and looked south down the coast. I wanted to sketch outside but the wind was too strong – thankfully there was a good view from the car. No ink this time.


Quite a productive 3 hours – hey? I was hungry and rather than stop at the local takeaway (see below for more trivia) I headed straight for my cafe destination at Cronulla – a popular beach in the south of Sydney.


I spent a hour few hours at grind espresso. Enjoyed my coffee…


Also enjoyed sketching the interior of the cafe – very ‘hipster’. Is that the right term? I am so out of touch with the latest – so much so – that until I saw 3 over-dressed girls cross the road as I was leaving Kurnell I didn’t realise it was Melbourne Cup day. I am not a fan of the horse race that stops the nation (this is an understatement). There were no ‘fascinators’ to be seen on the heads of female in the cafe  but the TV volume was turned up at 3pm. Despite my concentration on my sketch I did happen to pick up the fact that a German horse won (or was that a German owner? I wasn’t really listening)


However, I was rather excited by what my tea was served in… a fancy teacup and old china. That made my day.

 The coffee was very good but the tea was special.


I ended the day walking along the beach and then felt the urge to sketch a local house – small weatherboard cottages were what caught my eye during the day. I realised while I was sketching this that fatigue had struck -ie. bad location of sketch on the page, drawing the corrugation lines at the wrong angle and losing control of my wetness. I ended up doing a re-take back at home last evening as a way of testing further the paper and my brown ink. I don’t like sketching from photos – if I haven’t sketched at the time I don’t add to my sketch collection for the day – but if I am unhappy I often re-do.

I then had 1.5 hours of driving – with lots and lots of red light stops on the way home.

Finally two bits of trivia… just because I am silly…


Steve and Effie’s Takeaway at Kurnell. I ate an old style burger here last visit with my brother and friend from Sailsbury UK. I was tempted to re-visit as there was a special connection between my half eaten works burger and a postcard I had bought at Salisbury cathedral. This probably way too random to explain but I came across the weirdest postcard ever showing a magnification of paint layers in the cathedral. It just looked like an Australian works burger. (hmm… this was probably better left unexplained hey?)
Second – I rarely make it to the beach. ‘Feet in the water’ 5 times in a summer is my very simple goal and I hardly ever reach that. So here is feet in the water #1 for this summer.

As you can see – it was a full day! 
Now which sketch/es will be included in Foundations Lesson 1 and why??


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