Two Outings to the City

December 14, 2022 | Leave your thoughts

I’ve been into the City twice recently – the first time I was with family and the second was a solo outing. The amount and style of sketching from both was, not surprisingly, quite different.


For those of you who know Sydney…

I met up with my brother, sister-in-law and their 4 kids under 11 at Milsons Point station at 4:30pm. We walked across the Harbour Bridge and along the Cahill Expressway to the Botanic Gardens. Then we visited the Succulent Garden and headed to Mrs Maquarie’s chair (pausing halfway for a picnic dinner) and then we walked back to Circular Quay station. So it was a big evening with lots of walking.

I arrived at Milsons Point station 40 minutes early and decided to go down to the harbour and sketch the view.  I wanted to see how long it would take me to sketch the full view in my A4 portrait sketchbook using coloured pencils, markers and then watercolour. It was pretty crazy to attempt this when I only had 25 minutes but as we were talking about Time Frames inside Watercolour On Location at the time I decided to go for it.

In the early days, I used to do this type of super-quick sketch all the time but in recent years I typically choose to simplify what I attempt when I have a limited time frame – either by subject matter or materials.  However, it was fun to work crazy fast once again and see what I could come up with – and to remind myself why it’s generally better to limit what or how you sketch rather than just increase speed! 🙂 

Note: I know a lot of sketchers find it very stressful to be restricted by a time limit so this kind of challenge is not for everyone.

While we were having our picnic dinner I decided to sketch four palm trees. In hindsight, this was a little ambitious with the kids running up to me and bumping my page occasionally. When the gang decided to walk all the way to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair I stopped early so I could sketch the view. I only had a few minutes so just did a simple line drawing. Yellow colour block for the sky was added back home.

Note: the grey dots are actually silver stickers that hide smudges. Due to the crazy circumstances of the evening (constantly interacting with the kids and packing up quickly), there were a lot of accidents on my pages.


The next weekend I went back to the City. I wanted to sketch in the succulent garden and do a cityscape (Watercolour On Location Lesson 4 exercise) and then do a few extra sketches (part of Watercolour On Location Lesson 5)

I had a lot of things on my mind that morning so the first sketch was simply a warmup and a way to focus my thinking on edges and shapes. I then did a second detailed version of some prickly pear. Although it was sunny when I left home it was overcast and getting very dark and this is reflected in the colours I chose.
Next up was doing a cityscape sketch so when I started I intended the skyscrapers to be the focus. But after my first pass (marker and a little coloured pencil) I decided that I liked the pastel buildings and changed my story to be more about the dark trees in the foreground. I really love working spontaneously like this – for me this is the essence of sketching!

I didn’t want to make this a big outing so I grabbed some food and then started to walk back to my car (at St Mary’s carpark) thinking that I might do one more sketch on the way.

I wanted to sketch my food but didn’t feel like adding colour at the time. So I added it as soon as I returned home. Hmm, that red marker really jumps off the page!

I stopped opposite the State Library of NSW and really felt like doing a quick sketch of it playing with some crazy colour. My creative juices were flowing by this stage so I instinctively tried a new technique that I got rather excited about. It didn’t quite work to plan though so I was keen to try again.

I stopped in the Sydney Hospital courtyard and found a nice shady bench to sit on. And then I managed one more sketch of the Registrar-General’s Building (designed by Vernon) before I left.

When I got home I was so energised by the morning sketching outing that I went out and did a Village Green sketch (in the full afternoon sun) and two teacup sketches. 🙂

What a great day of sketching!

The big idea that we were exploring in Lesson 5 of Watercolour On Location was that something special happens when you sketch all day. And even if you are not able to do an extended period, simply doing one more sketch than usual can really help develop your sketching as you are able to build on the insights that you had while doing your first sketch/sketches.

We’ve now wrapped up the Live Version of Watercolour On Location and it’s been wonderful to go through this course again with an amazing group of sketchers from around the world. Last night we went through a number of sketching adventures that members of the group had done for Lesson 5 and it was super inspiring. A huge thanks to everyone who was part of this event!


If you have missed the announcements in the past week…

I’m kicking off 2023 with a Live Version of Sketchbook Design.
Find out more about the course here and sign up for some free intro lessons here.

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