TasTrip: Street Scenes vs Iconic Building Sketches

March 8, 2015 | 4 Comments


I have got a number of different themes happening here on my blog at the moment but thought it was most appropriate to get back to some of my sketches from my trip to Tasmania. Especially as it ties in nicely with what I was doing on Saturday at Paddington.

Every time I go on a trip, I have an amazing journey with my sketchbook. It is not just the things that I sketch but the development of my work and the new ideas I glean during the time that I am focusing on recording everything I can. This trip was no exception even though it was primarily a ‘work trip’ to plan my upcoming 3 day travel sketching workshop (click here for more details). In many ways, I felt that I just picked up where I left off after my big trip to Brazil last year. You can read my thoughts at the end of that journey here. I had two big ideas as my takeways from the Symposium and travels in Brazil: working with shapes vs architectural note-taking type sketches. It is the latter idea that was foremost last month. You might want to check out my first thoughts I had on my return here.


I have traditionally LOVED to sketch the most complex building I can find in a place, and often in a elevational view. Sitting directly opposite it so I can really see and understand its design – such as this version of Albert Hall in Launceston that I did during my last visit. In many ways this is not the most interesting or exciting view. A more oblique angle would show the 3D form of the building more, would show how it relates to the street and possibly would have more dramatic lighting…. it would also need more attention to perspective which the elevational view does not require.

I have wanted to sketch more complex views but there has always been a great urge to do these architectural studies. I felt that doing street scenes and looking at a building in a strongly foreshortened way wasn’t doing the building’s design the justice it deserved and I found it unsatisfying. This following quote from a wonderful architectural theory book explains my feelings:

When you want to be certain to give your full attention to someone, or to signal that you are doing so, you position yourself opposite them, your bodies roughly aligned. and your eyes attending to theirs. Likewise with objects: when we really want to pay close attention, we tend to place our whole bodies before them.

Donlyn Lyndon – Chamber For A Memory Palace (Donlyn Lyndon and Charles W. Moore)

I think that my architectural expertise in documentation, producing the best quality drawings possible (accurate, precise and coordinated)  to describe the buildings I had designed, made these elevational studies very important to me. By sitting on axis to the building I was engaging and connecting with the original designer of the building. I have learnt so much about the structure and the design of the facade by doing these. I feel the edges of the elements and the different wall planes in a very real and tactile way.


However last month, as it was my second visit to Launceston and as my focus was gaining an understanding of the city, I suddenly no longer had that strong desire to draw the individual buildings. And even when I did, I was more interested in how they sat in the grid of ‘Lonnie’. Here are the only iconic building sketches I did this trip. A very loose mixed ink version of Chalmers church and then a shape-based version of the other church on the same road ( I should really know what this one is… I will update this when I find out).


And then I started drawing street scenes such the wonderful changes in scale between some tall historical industrial building (not sure what this is) and small cottages.


Looking down the street at dinner time, I sketched the shopping precinct with many original shopfronts still in tact and a spire as a landmark. The churches in Launceston are still some of the tallest buildings in the central business district! That is nice isn’t it?


Even when I sketched the Town Hall (one of the most iconic buildings in the city), I was more interested in recording how it sits in the grid of the city with the tower on the corner. I did do a small detail ‘straight-on’ but it was out of character, in that I was only using my fountain pen, with no colour.


My favourite part of Launceston is the old industrial precinct – how amazing are these old brick buildings or the more colonial ones? These two sketches were down at the one T-intersection.


I then started an emergency sketchbook (a Spiral bound Goldline book by Clarie Fontaine) with thin paper and this made me more experimental. This was the view of Albert Hall that I wanted to do this trip which I completed in minutes – as my notes indicate, I would prefer a cleaner look but was happy with the ease and speed of this sketch.  I did a few more views of buildings and streets which I will leave for another post!


And finally, in the last hour of my trip, while in Battery Point Hobart, I did this sketch of Arthurs Circus. So different from my row of cottages that I did last year – this one really captures the circle of the Circus. I decided to do this in ink as I was short on time and didn’t want to get my paint tin out. Amazingly this had two very significant impacts on my sketch. First, I was standing up so the view is from normal eye level – exaclty as we all experience it when walking the streets (rather than a sketchers position on the ground) and secondly, eliminating the thoughts about colour made it easier and quicker for me to sketch the space.


And my final sketch from the trip was this one of the famous Jackman and McRoss Bakery in  Battery Point. Here the space was easier  (less foreshortening to think about) but I had lots of fun making decisions about colour, tone and texture using my pen.

So, yet another long post, but I hope that you have followed my thought processes and can see how Saturday’s sketches are an expression of a BIG change in my thinking and a change in what I REALLY WANT to sketch. There is nothing wrong with doing elevational studies – although sometimes I have felt like there was – I knew that I ‘should’ be sketching spaces more (ie. I wanted to be sketching them) but as always, I was relying on my personal response and that drew me to the building portraits.  

It IS very important to have confidence in your personal response – as I often say, “if it is the garbage bin that attracts your attention – draw it!” I strongly believe that you should follow these personal preferences and while you can push yourself in a certain direction, if you just keep doing, things will develop organically.

For me right now, I have finally broken the strong urge I had to engage with the individual buildings and am now super keen to record the city more. This is VERY VERY exciting!!!! And in a strange twist I am leaving my paint tin in my bag and working just with line. I never know what will happen next – I just LOVE it!


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4 Comments

  • Alissa Duke says:

    fascinating to read of your huge change in thought process.

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks – I suppose it is more a change in desire than anything else.
    I have heaps of ideas about drawing space as well… but that is another matter!

  • Sooner or later, some of your philosophy and words will actually sink in and become a part of my own efforts. I'm counting on it, anyway. Love how you keep your colors from getting muddy; that has caught my attention in these lovely sketches today.

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks sherry…. you just have to get a book and start sketching!
    As for muddy colours – two things help. Not over mixing, plenty or water and an awareness of the moisture of the paint on the page (hmmm, that is 3 things!) All this comes with practice!

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