The Kokoda Track to Rivendell

May 5, 2014 | 6 Comments

Saturday was our monthly USK SYD event and this month we were heading to Rhodes to two locations next to each other that have been favourite spots of mine to visit over the years. So despite a certain tiredness from a huge huge week, I just had to go! (you know it is a huge week when I don’t post to my blog much!)

We started the morning at the Kokoda memorial trail during a quick sketch in 45 minutes. Of course I did more than one! (surprise surprise) this first one was of the memorial centrepiece and the idea was just to get myself in gear. So I decided just to paint and not to pull my pen out. I have to laugh that my instinctive simplification of the scene in front of me was just the marble slabs and not any of the lush tropical trees and plants!

I wanted to make sure that I took more photos this time so didn’t want to spend the full time on the one sketch (as if I would anyway?) and after a few photos decided to walk down to the northern end of the trail to Brays Bay reserve.

I have a lot of history visiting this place. It is next to one of our popular church picnic spots, and this area used to be my favourite spot to come and take photos (in pre sketching days) or just escape on a Saturday afternoon. (Here is the last time I sketched here in 2009!  )
Of course I had to do another one of the shipwrecked boat sculpture… even though I only had 10 minutes. (if you haven’t noticed I am one of those persons that love doing the same thing over and over again!)
Having a lot of fun with watercolour pencils lately – there is no doubt that they are really handy for quick sketches. I especially like combining them with a bit of watercolour.

Time to move onto Rivendell – Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital. A magnificent Free style Classical mansion on the shores of the Parramatta
This is another spot that I have visited a number of times over the years … why I don’t come here more regularly I don’t know!!!! It is amazing!

A number of us sat down to sketch the boathouse…. I so much wanted to sketch this building but just was lacking the energy to do so…. (yes, I do have days when I forget to take my energy pills!!!) Instead I wandered around taking photos of the gang first!

Ok- time to try to do a sketch….and here it is. You know, I almost abandoned this sketch at the 30% mark… just not doing what I wanted and wasn’t sure I had the energy (obviously I needed some tea and scones!)  But then I thought that it was time to try a little splashing and scraping… and well…. that just hit the spot!
Sometimes a sketcher just needs a splash!
Hmm… what was that Charles Reid quote about when it he is scared to death and doesn’t know what to do next in his painting he splashes….
For me it was more about getting the creative juices to kick in so I could keep going…

And then in the last 15 minutes before meeting up I decided to do another one. I was hungry, tired and struggling with a headache but decided to just go crazy crazy crazy and try to do the whole building. For some reason, when I am not feeling great, instead of NOT sketching, I just sketching more and faster!!!!!


We then meet up for a wonderful show and tell – my favourite part of the day. We always learn so much from seeing other peoples work and sharing – EVERYONE’s work from the beginners to the professional artist. I love seeing how different every persons work is and what it is that captures their eye. It was lovely to have a few new faces to this month as well.

A little personal reflection on the morning, the theme of sketching with physical limitations and the importance of keeping up with your sketching habit…..

A lot of you probably notice all the comments I write about “HA”s in my sketchbooks. HA = headaches! I have suffered from chronic headaches for many years and I am used to pushing myself through them. I know many other people do so as well. I am very pleased to report that the chronic nature of my headaches has gone … but I still get them from time to time as I have to be careful with my neck and shoulder (hard to do when you are busy!)

I don’t record my physical discomforts in my book because I am a hypercondriac (well I hope I am not one!) – but because I am very interested to review my work in relation to how I feel at the time. I am so responsive… the work that you see on the page is a true dump of how I feel – my linework especially gives away my state! I am NOT someone that can calm myself to always draw with the same care…especially when out on location. Sketching in my studio is another matter…I do seem to be able to work my mindfully then. Sketching for me is all about capturing the moment – and part of that is working with how I am feeling.

So it is interesting to look back on the stuff I do with HA’s. Sometimes they are more spontaneous as I am not thinking about what I doing! And some of my favourite pages over the years were done on days when I was anything but 100%.

I am always trying to find the situations when I do my best work – when it can just flow out of me…or working out ways that I can get the best result from my current limitations. There is no doubt that a lot of daily practice, having the eye-hand coordination in sync through regular habit helps in these ’emergency’ situations when you challenge yourself to take risks – your sketching reflex action comes out.

So it is very exciting to be able to be so much in the groove that I could do this last sketch – and having the creative juices pumping certainly helped me get through the morning. I am so glad that I got out on Saturday morning rather than staying in bed. BUT yes, I went home and rested!

Still got a lot of sketches and posting to catch up on …..


  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Christine – hoping to write a little bit more on this during the week!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Vicky – big hug to you and Bill!!!!!

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks Sherry! headaches are just not fun are they…but glad to hear you have strategies in place! thanks for coming to visit all the time and your regular comments!

  • Obviously, sketching is very therapeutic for you, Liz. I grew up with chronic headaches and still get quite a few of them. I also am prone to migraines, though fortunately those have lessened as I've gotten older. I do take 10 mg of Amitryptiline daily as a prophylactic for the headaches though. I'm a worrier and stress-er so this has helped me manage them better. I've also learned that ice packs help me a lot when I can't avoid a headache.

    Anyway, I do love all the sketches and I'm so glad you said you can also learn from the beginner artist. I think so too.

  • I've long had a habit of praying for you whenever I have seen "HA" in your sketch pages. So glad to hear that the chronic nature is gone! Thank you for inspiring the rest of us to not give up when we feel limited (or in my past year, when dealing with a husband's heart attack and huge life changes) but work / sketch through the challenge.

  • Christine says:

    I really appreciated seeing the stages of your sketch, especially the pencil and then the ink. I'm always trying to be looser and it was great to see what you do in so little time and how you stage it.

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