A double dose of drumming

As several of you know I am a student of Japanese taiko drumming, and over the last month Australia’s TaikOz and Japan’s very own Kodo have been touring the country together. To explain how exciting a prospect that is, it would be like the Avengers teaming up with the X-Men. I did promise myself not to spend the whole evening drawing as I tend to not listen and absorb it all as a musical performance, so I decided to draw only one drawing per piece, give or take.

It was a brilliant concert, it was so full of energy and the character of both groups came through. So hope you enjoy my results.


Out at Rookwood

I dont know what it is about cemeteries that I enjoy drawing so much but Rookwood has always been on my checklist of places to draw, so when the Sydney Sketch Club headed out for its Open Day I thought it was a great opportunity.

Artwork using light watercolour washes and colour inks. For more ink work please click here.

Rookwood Cemetery is the largest neocropolis in Sydney. It was established in the late 1800s when the city location became overcrowded. No existing towns wanted a cemetery built where they lived, but land was purchased out in western Sydney which was quite rural then. It was also situated near the newly built rail line, so people could board a special train back in town that would not only take them to Rookwood, but their deceased in coffins too.

It is still a very popular cemetery as it provides for people of all denominations. My own grandparents and other relatives are here, but today I visited areas that I never knew existed. I headed up to the older Anglican section. Many of the graves in this area date around the early 1900s and seem to be neglected, which from an artistic point of view, is appealing.

Artwork using light watercolour washes and colour inks. For more ink work please click here.

As sad as it may be, some of the graves I saw had flowering trees growing from it which I thought was really heartwarming, and the weather was so perfect it was really peaceful and pleasant sketching away from all the noise. I couldn’t think of a more idyllic location.

Artwork using light watercolour washes and colour inks. For more ink work please click here.

The last place I visited seemed to be an area dedicated to fallen Australian soldiers with a simple, but striking memorial called The Crown of Thorns. This monument seemed to reach into the sky and yet I never knew it was there.

Artwork using light watercolour washes and colour inks. For more ink work please click here.

Even as I caught the bus back to the station, it drove through all these old sections which were “new” to me, and I decided I must return to draw more. The deceased are just as interesting as the living.

Harvest Moon Festival

Many Chinese celebrations do not have fixed dates, like Christmas or New Year, they are instead governed by the appearance of full moons. The Harvest Moon Festival celebrates the change in season, and the main day is when the moon is at it’s brightest, fullest and highest in the sky. For those in the Northern Hemisphere it is a Mid-Autumn festival, but for us “Southerners” it is the beginning of Spring.

I belong to a martial arts school where lion dancing is one of its disciplines. As part of these lunar celebrations we walk around Chinatown visiting stores and restaurants to wish them good luck. They in return wish us good fortune by tying a red packet with money in it to a head of lettuce or choy. However it is not easily handed over, the lions have to reach them as they hang from door ways or awnings, even if it means climbing a 10 foot pole.



Let’s pencil that in

I’m doing a personal project using colour pencils and thought I’d share my process. I’m no expert with colour pencils and hardly use them, in fact these are the same ones I’ve had since I was twelve. But there are a few things you might find interesting or handy to know. And as always, I would love to hear other people’s processes and tips using colour pencils.

The design series I’m working on has a circus theme and there are twelve designs all up. Before I started I wanted to work out the colours combinations, so I printed out little thumbnails and used my watercolours to do a dummy run. Then when I was ready to start I used them as a reference guide. I also wrote the names of the pencils and the order in which I used them in just in case I had to finish it over a few days or wanted to use the same combination for another design.

Rather than commit it to memory I scribbled notes on a thumbnail to use as a reference guide.

Eventually I will get them professionally printed, more specifically digitally printed. With that in mind it was important for me to test out my materials because what looks great on the original, when reproduced the colours can shift.

I was made aware of this when I reprinted some watercolour art and found all my yellow tones looked the same. Some of the lighter tints were completely “bleached” out so I wanted to home test my colour pencils before starting.

I drew up little swatches of each pencil on the same paper I was using for my artwork. I then scanned them as hi-resolution images and printed them out on my desktop inkjet printer. It’s not a completely accurate representation as inkjet printers produce different quality from a laser printer, but I felt that it was adequate enough.

My little sketchbook where I keep all my ideas and working out. Left side is print out, right side are original swatches.
Comparison – Although this is a bad photograph you can see that with some colours there is only a slight difference, but others are quite varied.


I dont want to go into too much detail but when you’re setting up artwork for professional printing, especially on paper or a hard surface, its important to convert RGB (Red, Green, Blue) images to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). If you’ve ever printed out an RGB image and noticed colour shifts or a lack of intensity compared to what you see on your computer screen, it’s because your printer uses CMYK toner. You are printing out an image made up of 3 colours through a machine that reads images through 4 colours.

Scanners and cameras are getting better at reducing the differences between RGB and CMYK colour modes, but as you can see the vibrancy is missing in the cmyk version.

In a nutshell, RGB images are meant to be viewed through a light source like a computer screen, cinema screen, tv, phone, etc (dont ask me to explain, its a combination of colours, a light source and mixing them optically) and CMYK is traditionally the preferred format for printing, eg. posters, business cards, brochures, magazines and so on. I say traditionally only because these days if you drop a document down to your local 24hr print-copy shop they are happy to print jobs containing RGB files.


What I remember being taught in my graphic design course is to not be too heavy handed when colouring in large areas of one colour, or even when blending in multiple colours. Colour pencils, as well as graphite drawing pencils, are very soft and wear down quickly.

Even colouring in a 1″x 1″ square, a sharp pencil can become blunt halfway through and you end up with assorted thick and thin lines. The rule of thumb is to always draw and colour with a sharp pencil in this regard. (I was also taught to hold the pencil at a 90˚ angle, but that feels a bit unnatural to me).

Filling in a small square without re-sharpening the pencil shows the difference between the top corner and towards the end.


The only time I use a pencil sharpener is if it is a HB or 2B graphite pencil, anything softer I use a stanley knife (I think in the U.S they are called boxcutters). Again, it might be me, but the angle in which a pencil goes into most sharpeners is at an acute angle where the softer leads tend to break while sharpening.

There is a technique, however, to using a stanley knife as a pencil sharpener. Some might think it’s like wittling wood, but you need to apply a bit more control otherwise you’ll end up with a two inch pencil before you’ve even started.

There are two stages to this, the first, is reducing the wood around the lead.

Holding the pencil in one hand and the knife in the other, place the knife blade against the area you wish to remove. Then using your thumb on the hand that is HOLDING the pencil, push the knife down into the wood to remove it. Try to finish the move before reaching the lead as you dont want to get rid of this. Slowly rotate the pencil around until you have evenly removed the same amount of wood.

The hand holding the knife isn’t doing any of the work, it is the hand (or the thumb) holding the pencil that is cutting away the wood.

Next is the lead itself. Using the knife lightly scratch away the lead to create a point, like you were gently sanding or polishing something, you dont want to be cutting off large chunks of lead. If you have cut away enough wood then for the next few uses you’ll only have to sharpen the point.

You might notice the difference in residue – the lead shavings are fine and powdery, and the wood shaving are large.
Voila! The sharpened pencil.


So now onto my work… Before I start colouring, or do any finished artwork, I always rest my hand on a piece of paper, any type is fine. It stops my hand from smudging the work underneath as well as not “soiling” the paper with the natural oils of my hand, or whatever grit, food crumb and paint marks I might be accommodating.

Like cross hatching, I think it’s important that your lines run with the plane of the shape. So in this case it’s better to colour in long vertical lines rather than horizontal.

This type of colouring in requires layered treatment, which is the better option than trying to nail it in one go. Although it calls for some patience and time, you have more control. It also doesn’t wear down the tooth of the paper, and if you are blending in other colours it’s the only approach. It’s very much like the shading principal, which is shade in your light areas first, then build up to the darker tones. Therefore, start light then build up the intensity.

The first layer of Scarlet Lake
Adding the second layer
Adding Venetian Red as a second colour to give it some more depth.
The finished piece

I hope that was helpful to you, if anyone has any questions I am happy to answer them as best as I can. And as mentioned earlier, I would love for others to post comments on their experiences/tips/feelings, etc on this medium.

Thanks for your time,

Welcome Spring

I’m a big fan of winter but even I’m over the cold season this year. And without fail on the 1st September (for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere) it was a warm, sunny spring day. Work has been very manageable this week so it allowed me some free time to sit in my backyard and draw this scene. It’s not that often I get to see all my flowers in bloom together. It makes me feel like a competent gardener, not a great one, but good enough.

I also broke some ground in my architecture study. One of the struggles I had was fitting in the entire scene without pencilling in structure lines to start with.

When it was too wet to sketch outside I took photos of houses in my area.

So I made a compromise. I’m use to painting first and outlining second, so I painted in very faint gestural lines.

I brushed in very quick, light gestural structure lines to kick things off.

Although they weren’t 100% accurate, it was enough to use as a guideline, and it took the pressure of worrying about whether I would fit it all in at the end.

And to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and only something I could do at a desk, I went for a walk and did a few more.


Happy seasonal changes everyone!


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