Chinese New Year 2016


Waiting around to start

I’m part of Jin Wu Koon Liondancing and Chinese New Year is a massive month long celebration in Sydney where the whole city joins in. It also means there a constant and intense schedule of lion dance performances for us that can range from morning till midnight and take us to all regions of Sydney and further.


Its a very physical thing and the long hours and minimal hours of sleep can take its toll – I didn’t go to all of them and I was exhausted! I think what compacts it more is all the time in-between waiting to do each performance – standing around on the street or in front of a restaurant. I find that quite tedious as its not necessarily enough time to really chill out but not short enough to keep your momentum going.

That’s why a few years back I decided to bring my sketchbook with me. Originally I wanted to capture what we do, click here to see. The second time it was to kill time, click here. This year it was a bit of both.

You also can’t carry much around with you – a small handbag or pack is about it, so that restricts what I can carry with me. I also need something that is also going to give me instant results as well.

So I used disposable Japanese felt brush tip pens.



“Behind” the scenes

Up on high

JWK have a team who also perform lion dancing on poles – normal lion dance takes some practice and experience, but this – this takes a huge year round commitment and you need something of a fearless character to do it. Below is footage from last year.

Its always hard to draw and capture fast moving objects, especially in this case where its a 360˚ performance. As I’ve seen them perform a few times before I had already worked out the moments I wanted to capture. Still not an easy thing but it helps you block out the temptation or natural tendency to want to capture everything.


cny2016001_LR cny2016004_LR cny2016010_LR cny2016011_LR cny2016012_LRIts always a good opportunity to draw the crowds who watch with great anticipation.


Lion? Dragon?

For those of you who thought it was a dragon, no it’s not. These next  few drawings are of a dragon dance, thanks to the Chinese Youth League.

cny2016005_LR cny2016006_LR cny2016007_LR

aaaaanndd if you still can’t tell what that is, here is some footage of them in action.

And when I’m not drawing the “entertainment” I look for inspiration elsewhere.


Dixon Street


Chinese New Year display

Lion dancing can have you performing at all sorts of events and venues. This was a wedding held on a restaurant boat. These couple of sketches are us waiting for our water taxi so we could head off to our next performance.

cny2016016_LR cny2016017_LR cny2016018_LR

Possibly someone’s dinner – a lobster waiting its fate at a restaurant in a shopping centre.

The aftermath of a late afternoon yum cha.cny2016020_LR Hanging out at the gym and watching the Legacy Brazilian Ju-Jitsu students practice tumbles and moves.

I ended up finishing off my sketchbook, so I went and bought the cheapest pad and pens I could find.

materials_LRIt was tiny, bigger than a business card. I also bought a thick marker which probably wasn’t the greatest of choices too, but I’m always up for a challenge. I did also buy a thin one to get some balanced detail in.

cny2016023_LR cny2016024_LR cny2016025_LR cny2016026_LR

Some scenes around Chinatown, as we waited for the State MP to rock up.cny2016027_LR cny2016028_LR cny2016029_LR

We also have the largest lion head in the country, again, probably not the best sized notepad for him, hee, hee.
cny2016030_LR cny2016031_LR cny2016032_LR cny2016033_LR cny2016034_LR
cny2016036_LR cny2016037_LR cny2016038_LR

Amazingly my last performance with them this season was at the Art Gallery. Sadly it was just for some sportscar promotional event, so I doubt many would have given a fig about the art around them. But at least it gave me a chance to visit.
cny2016039_LR cny2016040_LR cny2016041_LR

I think I broke my record on the number of drawings for Chinese New Year. Question is, how will I approach it next year…

Cheers, Kung Hei Fat Choi!


Animals! Animals! Animals!


Elephants – chinagraphs and watercolour

Back in January I went down to Melbourne for a short break to catch up with some friends, and in particular sketching friends.


Gorilla – chinagraphs, oil pastels and watercolour

I chose  Melbourne Zoo as a location for a day out having not been there since I was probably 16. Its very different from what I remember, a lot more trees and winding paths. The weather never started out well my whole trip but always ended up better as the day progressed.

Orang-utans - oil pastels

Orangutans – oil pastels

There was a bit of rain in the morning threatening to ruin the day for us but then the hot humid sun emerged an hour in which made things like finding a good spot to draw more open. However, I ended up scrambling for little scraps of shade anyway!


Orangutan – oil pastels

As I was travelling I wanted to minimise what materials I took down with me. Even just sketching around Sydney I tend to take more than I need and there’s nothing more frustrating than a suitcase full of stuff that’s not used.


Orangutans – oil pastels

I’ve got a new studio space at home now and have since sorted through all my art supplies. I have so much stuff that has barely been touched, a lot from when I was a kid! So my objective was to use some of this stash.


tree kangaroo – oil pastel, watercolours, ink & dip pen

My selected tools were to be oil pastels, chinagraphs, watercolours with brush, ink and dip pen, and a permanent marker.

It was lovely to use oil pastels then brush over them with watercolours to get that nice texture created from the water’s repulsion.


Elephant – watercolours and oil pastels

I’m really happy with this elephant. Considering it was through a window with many vertical bars obscuring the view, but my persistence paid off and frankly, I think having a limited view helped me pull back in terms of not overdoing it, i.e. not adding too much detail. I do love the textures I created and the white space, and I seemed to have captured a bit of personality as well.

Gorilla - chinagraph

Gorilla – chinagraph

I’m not sure why I decided to try out chinagraphs. I had a few that had never been touched – don’t even know where they came from. They have a strong colour and application that you would expect from a piece of charcoal or oil pastel but with more control on smaller drawings. They give you an opportunity to put some detail in and it’s not as messy. The black one has nice deep blacks which sometimes I find a 6B pencil won’t achieve. It’s really soft so using it the way I do wears down to the wood quickly but it does feels more fluid.


Elephant – chinagraph

This last lot I did was with a black Artline permanent marker. I was using it on water soluble paper so it would dry my pen out half way through a sketch – which I was hoping for as it creates a nice texture and a subtle variation in tone as well.


Colobus monkey – permanent marker

The great thing about working with a permanent marker AND drawing moving objects is that you cannot think too much or linger too long with your sketch. Its permanency and colour intensity means you can’t hide anything.  And if you leave a (fresh) marker too long in one spot it tends to bleed making your lines blurry. So its a great medium to practice expressive drawing.


Colobus monkey – permanent marker

I didn’t see many animals that day but felt like I got some substantial drawing in. The only thing these drawings don’t show are how many other people you have to content with for a good spot as well as how generous an animal is with their time, or lack of.



Then a week later I went horse riding at Centennial Park, Sydney with my work. It was a lead up to a brainstorming session for a new client that specialises in animal products, particularly horse care. I’d never been horse riding before so it was quite an experience. I take my hat off to anyone who rides horses for a living. As it was a work thing, I didn’t think I’d get much time to sketch, but I at least managed to fit this one in.

Anyway, not a bad start to the new year.

Quick sketches

I’ve had so much on this year that getting out to sketch on location is a luxury. I’ve allowed  myself once a month to go out with one of my local sketch groups. On the weekend we went to the Sydney Fish Markets.

The weather has been really unpredictable lately so packed mediums that I could use under any (or no) shelter. I think the biggest issue was finding some space to draw amongst all the visitors who come down not only to buy but to eat.


Inktense pencils and disposable felt brush pen


Inktense pencils

As I was scanning this sketchbook I realised there were some other drawings I had done awhile ago outside the Art Gallery of NSW.


Scribble technique using 3B graphite pencils


Inktense pencils



An Evening with Kevin Smith


kevin_smith_state_theratre_2015_2_LRLast Friday I went and saw Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes (aka Jay and Silent Bob) at the State Theatre. Smith directed one of my favourite movies Mallrats – its very rare to find a movie that throws in cool comic book related jokes. Anyway, couldn’t find any takers to come with me so went on my own.


When you’re in a situation like that it comes in handy being able to sketch as it whiles away the waiting time. It was also held in the beautiful State Theatre so plenty to draw. I am amazed I got a bit of Kevin Smith’s likeness as I was sitting closer to the back. I loved his expressive hands, they reminded me of the kind you see in old school Jack Kirby illustrations.


St Stephens cemetery

I made it out with the Urban Sketchers crew to one of my favourite places to draw – St Stephen’s Cemetery in Newtown/Camperdown. Its an old Anglican churchyard that has been overgrown with trees and greenery. The gravestones have lost their footing and show wear and tear of over more than a century and a half, these days locals come to walk their dogs or sit and read a book in a patch of sun.

I picked the one spot that seemed like it was meant to be drawn. I didn’t know what I had in mind, usually I do tho it never turns out the way I see it, so I started a watercolour background. While I waited for the paint to dry I started another one with my parallel pen. I went back to the watercolour, not really sure what my next step was, but ended up doing a an artline cross hatch followed by some watercolours on top.

And these are the results.

ststephens_cemetery_01_LR ststephens_cemetery_02_LR

But I was most happy with the last one. Everyone headed off for lunch but I stayed and drew this beautiful Moreton Bay Fig. Its a tree native to the east coast of Australia and is like something out of a fantasy novel. This one in particular seems to be bigger than most. Some of the roots looked like they were at least a metre high.

I used my scribble technique, which is constantly scribbling shape and tone. Its so freeing.





National Tree Day

Just a quickie – I tore myself away from renovations to attend a Sydney Sketch Club meet up. It was National Tree Day last weekend so our location was the Domain in the heart of Sydney. It has these wonderful Moreton Bay fig trees which are as old as the hills, and show their legacy in their physical nature. And most definitely wonderful to draw!

Domain National Tree Day 2015 01 LR

3B Pencil

Domain National Tree Day 2015 02 LR

Disposable ink brush pen and water brush pen

And as I got the long train home I decided to draw other commuters. It took my mind off my bladder! Ha, ha.

Domain National Tree Day 2015 03 LR

Artline Pen

Happy Tree Day,



Blue Lining

ballsheadpoint&coalloader_01 LR I headed out with a friend to sketch at the Coal Loader and Balls Head Point on the north side of Sydney. Usually when its a planned day of sketching I decide the night before what mediums to take. Sometimes it’s everything – inks, watercolours, inktense pencils, graphites etc. but I end up not using them all. This time I couldn’t decide so I used an old faithful – the blue biro.


It’s one of my favourite tools and probably one I’m most comfortable with as I used it quite a lot as a child. I may have mentioned before that having used permanent pens instead of pencils to draw with helped discipline my drawing skills throughout those early years. Not having that back up of being able to erase a mistake forced you to be more thoughtful with every line as well as more confident.
ballsheadpoint&coalloader_02 LR
Biros are cheap, available to buy anywhere, durable and don’t need to be prepared, packed or pampered. They’re consistent in distribution of ink, they dry quickly and despite its hard point you can get so much tonal range and dimension as seen with all the different applications I used on the day. The blue pens also have such a unique finish that makes them more interesting than black ones too.

ballsheadpoint&coalloader_03 LR

Some people like using gel pens but I don’t, at least not to draw with anyway. Its nature is to glide over the page smoothly and effortlessly, great for writing, but I like the traction you get with biros. They’re grittier and there’s more of an interaction with you and the pen, and the pen with the paper.
ballsheadpoint&coalloader_04 LRSo give it a go, there’s probably one sitting right next to you. Take that doodle to the next level!


More info:
The Coal Loader in Waverton, Sydney, NSW was an industrial site used in the last century to transfer coal for large vessel use. Now it has been reinvented as a learning and display centre for domestic eco-sustainability, including a community veggie garden and chook run. Even more impressive is that way before any of this it was (or still is) a cultural and spiritual place for the local indigenous people, the Cammeraygal. Thankfully somewhere down the line an effort was made to preserve this amazing whale stone carving found at the Coal Loader that is thousands of years old.

%d bloggers like this: