I’m a member of a kung fu school in Sydney (although to be more accurate, a lapsed student for a few years now) but when I can I help out at Chinese New Year with lion dancing duties. For those unaware of what lion dancing is please check out this link to my school, Jin Wu Koon‘s website. Admittedly I haven’t been to this in a couple of years too and limited myself to just playing cymbals.
As there is always a lot of waiting time to start I took my sketch book along. And Chinatown in Sydney is always quite interesting to draw any ordinary day of the week.
Big outing out with the Sydney Sketch Club on Saturday and the venue was Cockatoo Island which has become a bit of a happy hunting ground for me in terms of successful art exploration (see my first visit here). I think it’s primarily due to it being this huge industrial site where you can use any materials, spread out and not worry about making a mess. Plus… there are all the rockin’ cranes and machinery left behind. I also had a few new art supplies (thanks to some friends)so I was hoping to test them out as well.
The first one was drawn with a permanent white Sharpie, and I drew on the back of a breakfast cereal pack. I’m not use to drawing on tonal backgrounds so kept forgetting to NOT colour in the dark areas but instead to use the tone of the card to represent that.
The sketch below I wetted the paper before applying the watercolour background so the colours would blend in more and not have so many hard edges. Then once it dried I got out my trusty dip pen and drew in the crane with indian ink. I’ve drawn in this “jaggedy” free-flowing style before but for some reason it was really different this time. I think I applied more restraint to my linework – trying not to make it too busy and overwork it. For instance, normally I would finish the rest of that wheel you see in the bottom left hand corner, but instinctively I stopped myself from doing it. I was so happy with this, which doesn’t happen all the time. In my brain what makes a good piece of art is when you can keep looking at it and get lost in it, always finding something interesting or aesthetically pleasing to study.
How do I choose what to use and in what style? A lot of the times it’s inspired by the subject matter. It can still be quite fuzzy in my head but you just have to go with your gut feeling. But… sometimes it just doesn’t happen. And that can be a gut feeling too. It’s not that the below drawing would have been bad or wrong if I continued to finish it, but as I started to ink in the line it didn’t feel like it was gelling together with the background. It felt like I was trying to merge two completely pictures together, so I decided to scrap it.
This one was drawn again on a cereal pack but with one of those kids multi-coloured pencils. I love this medium, it’s so exciting, but probably not best on a coloured background. Only some of the colours are showing through.
This next one was using those Japanese disposable felt pens where the nibs are shaped like brushes. This drawing was just a filler till we had to meet up at lunchtime. It didn’t take me as long as I thought. They look like prototypes for Daleks.
After lunch I explored another part of the island and I took a break from drawing cranes. These towers had a large brick pattern across it so I thought I’d play around with that.
This next one I absolutely love. I know its in my style, but I can’t believe I did this. Again I wetted the paper first then threw on watercolour and I love those areas where it has bled and gone fuzzy. But the greatest achievement in my opinion is that I have made a very complicated subject matter look like a complete unit. As if all my lines are connected and complement each other. There’s balance, interest, movement and unity. So it was worth sitting through this despite all the freakin’ ants biting me as I sat on the ground, and the gale force wind that was brewing up towards the end.
Hopefully this breakthrough will transfer into my other drawings and at other locations, and it’s not something that only seems to happen in what I feel is like a spiritual ground for me.
The first Urban Sketchers Australia outing for the year was a day trip to Newcastle. Over two hours by train from Sydney – the three things I always associate with this city are – surfing beaches, mining and the rugby league team, Newcastle Knights.
I had never been there before (I know, shameful) so I decided to stay overnight. If there was anything we missed, I had a chance to see it the next day. But the weather was so sunny hot, I ended leaving Sunday around noon – everywhere I wanted to draw had no shaded areas to sit under. The sun was relentless, it was just too damn hard. But I got a bit done and I’m happy that I came away with some interesting paintings.
So enjoy, and Happy 2014!
I pencilled in the structure with an Inktense pencil
Then threw lots of watercolour in for the background.
To give contrast to the very loose splashy areas I selected areas for a more detailed execution. To tie the whole picture together I kept my palette to four or five colours.
The above images were photos I took of the different stages on location, and after cleaning them up in photoshop they look different from the finished art scan, so apologies for that. I finished off the scene with a dip pen and indian ink, but held back on the linework so it wouldn’t take over the entire piece.
I shaped the scene with a few inktense pencils. To spread the colour instead of using water I used watercolours instead.
I wasn’t sure how to finish this. I wished I had brought along my bottles of coloured ink but they can collectively weigh a bit. I’m not sure if I am a fan of landscape drawing as I really wanted to put lots of details in the rocks and cut-away hills, but it wouldn’t have helped me create a true perspective/depth of field drawing. If that makes sense.
Newcastle, Queens Wharf
Later that afternoon we sat along the wharf, mostly longing to be sitting amongst the cranes and industrial buildings on the other side. But it was pleasant enough where we were.
After a calf-burning hike up “The Hill” – I think naming it such was stating the obvious. The Cathedral had some interesting angles, sadly to capture them would mean sitting in full concentrated sunlight. My only option was across the road in a slither of shade. It was a very blocky cathedral and I didnt want it to look heavy and grounded, but make it lift up towards the sky. I thought the only way to achieve this was to not draw in the walls and all the various points and spiers, but keep it very loose and free.I added details only in the areas that jumped out at me and that gave the building character.
And the finished piece below – I thought about inking in linework but I only had indian ink and it would have been too overpowering.
Back to the Beach
I headed back to the beach on Sunday because I love all the rock formations. Again, it was too painfully hot to sit out under the sun to get any closer. So I found a little refuge in the shade of a street lamp! Lucky it was a big street lamp.
I used inktense pencils and a waterbrush pen only, and kept layering it. Lucky it was good drying weather, so I didn’t have to wait that long inbetween washes.
I wasn’t particularly happy with the result because I couldn’t get the texture and shapes of the worn down rocks (which is what I love). I think I was positioned to far to capture it the way I wanted to.
If you would like to see the work of my fellow sketchers from this weekend, please visit USK Australia.