Tricky insects

dip pen and ink
dip pen and ink

One afternoon I felt like doing some drawing. I do a bit on a regular basis but they are always project-based and at different stages requiring thought and patience. So after some “serious” art I wanted to splash out and have some expressive fun. A few months ago I came across a link to the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab flickr site, which displays amazing photos mostly taken by Sam Droege. Apart from being phenomenal images, I immediately thought they would be great reference material to draw from – so much wonderful linework, texture, shapes, detail, etc.


Watercolours, dip pen and ink
Watercolours, dip pen and ink


4b pencil and eraser
4b pencil and eraser

So I highly recommend a visit to this site and even if you aren’t interested in drawing them they are well worth viewing.



Newcastle USK

Newcastle, Queens Wharf
Newcastle, Queens Wharf

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!

Stephenson Place

USK Newcastle 1 scene

I pencilled in the structure with an Inktense pencil

USK Newcastle 1 stage 1

Then threw lots of watercolour in for the background.

USK Newcastle 1 stage 2

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.

USK Newcastle 1 stage 3

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.

USK Newcastle LR 1

Newcastle Beach

USK Newcastle 3 scene
I shaped the scene with a few inktense pencils.
USK Newcastle 3 stage 1To spread the colour instead of using water I used watercolours instead.
USK Newcastle 3 stage 2
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.
USK Newcastle LR 2

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.

USK Newcastle 4 scene USK Newcastle LR 3

Newcastle Cathedral

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. USK Newcastle 5 scene 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.USK Newcastle 5 stage 1I added details only in the areas that jumped out at me and that gave the building character.

USK Newcastle 5 stage 2
And the finished piece below – I thought about inking in linework but I only had indian ink and it would have been too overpowering.USK Newcastle LR 5

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.
USK Newcastle 6 scene

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.USK Newcastle 6 stage 1 USK Newcastle 6 stage 2 USK Newcastle 6 stage 3 USK Newcastle 6 stage 4 USK Newcastle 6 stage 5
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.USK Newcastle LR 6
If you would like to see the work of my fellow sketchers from this weekend, please visit USK Australia.

A rainy weekend full of sunshine

Japanese sumi watercolours and brushes
Japanese sumi watercolours and brushes

Two years ago I started to meet up regularly with three of my sketching friends to work on our Sketchbook Projects. We enjoyed the catch ups so much that after the project was over we decided to continue the drawing sessions but work on our own projects. We sketch, eat and chat (not necessarily in that order) for most of a day once a month.

All systems go - only four of the smaller bags were our clothes.
All systems go – only four of the smaller bags were our clothes.

A topic that always seemed to pop up in our conversations was how we have all bought, or been given, art supplies and never have the chance to try them out. Or how we would like to try out different styles or approaches that we don’t normally sketch with.

So I came up with an idea of the four of us heading off somewhere for a weekend and spend the whole time trying out and experimenting with a lot of the art supplies we own, and more importantly, to do something different. That was the paramount objective. The golden rule was to NOT use what we normally sketch or paint with, or in the style we always use. However, there were no rules on how you used the new mediums or what you drew.

Packed and... un packed
Packed and… un packed

We booked a “summer” house up in the Blue Mountains, 90 minutes out of Sydney. It was listed to be able to accommodate up to 8 people, but with all our equipment it was just enough space. Although this area is a wonderful and popular tourist location, we banned any sight-seeing, eating out and scenic drives and closed the doors for much creative art-making.

and this stuff.
and this stuff.

When we unpacked all the supplies it was quite intimidating at first but as we tested out some things that night, so we were able to go to bed with some plan of attack for the next day.

Bring it on

After a brisk morning walk we got stuck into it. We eased in with a 10 minute warm up where we all grabbed three different mediums and drew a picture. Then it was all systems go and nobody needed any prompting for the next one, or the next, or the next.

Because we only had one full day of art we even minimised time spent making lunch and dinner, by having a cold antipasto buffet for lunch where everyone could pick and eat as they worked, and for dinner we let the oven do all the cooking and popped a lamb roast and vegges in the oven. The dinner table was covered more with paint brushes and paints than cutlery and plates the whole day.

my artwork 1 LR
My 10 min starter featuring our fifth adventurer we dubbed as “Numb”.

Collage and mixed media is something I dont dabble in a lot. It requires patience, and cupboard space to collect just too many things to make up these pictures. Although it was fun, and I could do it every now and then, I didn’t find it as satisfying as drawing or painting a picture. Its more about cutting, gluing, sponging and so on.

creative_1 LR
Getting stuck into it
my artwork 3 LR
The finished piece
Another one I did using old Chinese prayer books, red packets, gouache, indian ink and a gold oil pastel
Another one I did using old Chinese prayer books, red packets, gouache, indian ink and a gold oil pastel on the back of a cereal box.

I’ve been clearing out the family home and I found a box full of old Gestetner carbon paper. My mum used to work as a school assistant and when I was growing up, this stuff was used to reproduce work stencils and school newsletters. I think most from my generation, and past ones, will remember this stuff quite fondly. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here.

Gestetner paper
Gestetner paper

Anyway, the carbon still worked well and we started to experiment with it. Another thing that was quite exciting about it was when you applied water to your finished drawing, the purple coloured exploded everywhere and gave an interesting bleed to your linework.

I placed my drawing paper inbetween
I placed my drawing paper inbetween
Typically you would use a hard pen/biro to write on it or typewriter. But I found a 4B pencil gave a great result.
Typically you would use a hard pen/biro to write on it or a typewriter. But I found a 4B pencil gave a great result.
The "carbon" copy
The “carbon” copy
i added copy to give it texture
i added copy to give it texture

creative_15 LR creative_16 LR

I then washed water over the background and used watercolours on the centre object.
I then washed water over the background and used watercolours on the centre object.
My mixed media piece using gestetner paper, blue biro pen, water soluble crayons and drawn on cut out pages from a second-hand story books.
My mixed media piece using gestetner paper, blue biro pen, water soluble crayons and an old writing pad.

I tried using some of the plastic stencils with acrylic paints. These were fun but I think it takes a bit of trialling to get it to do what you want it to do.

Acrylic paints and stencils
Acrylic paints and stencils on a vintage cash book

All of us had our own objectives to achieve this weekend. Mine was to try and put more “interest” in my pictures. What I mean is to give it more direction and more contrast, whether it is through light/shade, busy/quiet, loose/tight. While the others wanted to loosen up and be more expressive, I wanted to reign that looseness in and find that balance between drawing purely with instinct and executing some discpline.

First layer was using Derwent XL Charcoal that is water soluble.
First layer was using Derwent XL Charcoal & Graphite that is water soluble which I wetted with a short-hair dry brush
Then I went over it with Derwent Inktense pencils, and used a dry brush to paint with.
Then I went over it with Derwent Inktense pencils and continued with the dry brush.
Finished piece - after several layers
Finished piece – after several layers or inktense pencils

I was quite happy in the end. My goal was to lead the eye around the page through the dark blue shadows under the waves and rock, so that your eyes are moving in a continuous spiral.

Then a straight up acrylic paint picture and I kept my palette down to three colours. I also tried not to mix the colours too much beforehand, but rather let them mix on the paper. The key in this picture was to use the black sparingly, keep it “unblemished” and hoped that it tied the whole picture together. I also wanted to created balance between the flat surfaces and the textured areas.

Acrylic paint on paper

My next one was from photos I took of some old building blocks. Initially I wanted to play around with the strong lighting and shapes. So I used another water soluble medium, and wanted to spread the colour with my old Letraset markers I used to use for storyboarding. But they were sooooo dry I couldn’t barely colour in one side of a block. Thus, I lost track of what I wanted to accomplish in my attempt to get some ink out of these pens. I will say this, they didnt get re-packed for the trip home!

Started off with
Started off with Portfolio 24 Water Soluble Oil Pastels – a very smooth flowing medium

creative_6 LR

At the beginning of my attempt to use half-dried Letraset markers
At the beginning of my attempt to use half-dried Letraset markers
my artwork 6 LR
The finished piece

For the last one of the weekend I wanted to apply this new approach to materials I DO use all the time (ok I broke the house rules), but I really wanted to exercise some discipline with my splashes of colour and free flowing lines so that it had quieter spaces and points of interest.

creative_7 LR
Inktense and watercolours
creative_8 LR
colour inks with dip pen and more watercolours
my artwork 9 LR
and… a bit more of the same

It was a great weekend, and for anybody else who might have spent the weekend in the Blue Mountains, the unrelenting cold rain, hail and mist (in spring!) would have ruined their time away. But for us it was the perfect weather for staying in and being creative.

Below are some of the results from my friends. If you would like to see more of their stuff, please click on their names below.



others_art_1 LR others_art_2 LR

kaz e dru

others_art_3 LR others_art_4 LR


others_art_5 LR others_art_6 LR

Wolli Creek

On the weekend was National Tree Day. Lots of local councils organised tree planting events and a friend of mine is a member of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society (WCPS). They are a group of volunteers dedicated to protecting a rarity – native bushland in inner Sydney. It would be like finding a natural woodland in Notting Hill or the Bronx. Sadly it is threatened into having a freeway extended right through the middle of it, and that is the WCPS’s fight.

Flyer for the event - illustration was painted with watercolours & inks
Flyer for the event – illustration was painted with watercolours & inks

They held an event called “Inspired by Wolli” and my friend asked me if I would like to participate. They had musicians, photographers, poets, etc joining in. Initially I was asked to run drawing workshops but I felt that was out of my comfort zone. Plus the event was only a few hours long so it would have been too formal a structure.

I ended up sketching in 2 different locations and we had extra material if people wanted to join me. And I was there to assist if necessary. It’s amazing how adults were very reluctant to participate but kids needed no encouragement at all. Where did we go wrong growing up? When did we become so intimidated by a blank piece of paper?

So my skills weren’t needed except to hand out paper and crayons. That gave me some time to sketch for myself and join my fellow Sydney Sketch Club (SSC) members who came out for the day. I did the below as a warm up before everyone arrived.

watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen
watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen

Then one of the organisers brought some scrap cardboard and I used it with a charcoal pencil. I was very impressed by the results. Honestly, this drawing was dictated by the coarseness of the fluted card, and by its length and the qualities of the pencil. It was very easy going and now I aim to do a bit more cardboard sketches.

Charcoal pencil on corrugated cardboard
Charcoal pencil on corrugated cardboard

I did my usual colour inks one and I tried to bring in other colours than just typical “tree” colours.

Colour inks and dip pen
Colour inks and dip pen

wc_photo_lr_2I caught up with the SSC. It’s been awhile since I last joined them. Apart from our inspired organiser, Jenn, I didnt know a single soul. I drew this clump of trees near me (see left – that’s not me by the way) as they reminded me of a bunch of celery. I love the texture and how they are huddled together. I wanted to created some depth even amongst all that woody thickness, so decided to draw the foreground trees in a different colour. I didnt particularly like the Winsor & Newton greens. They were too dark or “rich” in intensity. Not very in sync with Australian natural colours. So I mixed my sunny green* with some cadmium yellow* and created a more Aussie sap green.

Watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen
Watercolours/brush and inks/dip pen

Initially I didnt think there was any depth but looking at it now it does. I think its also become one of my favourite drawings, the best I’ve done in awhile.

Below are a mix of sketches I did on previous visits or from photos I took. I couldn’t be bothered sorting through them.

Anyway, enjoy and go hug a tree!


Dip pen and inks
Dip pen and inks
Technical pencil
Technical pencil
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush
Charcoal pencil and Watercolours and brush
Charcoal pencil and Watercolours and brush

*These are the names I have given to the W&N inks as their real names were totally misleading as to what colour they really were.

Urban Sketchers meet up

I finally found time to head out to an Urban Sketchers Australia meet up. I couldn’t stay the entire day so I went in earlier to get a head start.

After spending some time considering how to approach drawing architecture (see Brick by Brick post) I really wanted to implement what I learnt. It wasn’t so much about getting it technically correct, but how to capture the “personality” of buildings and create more direction or composition on the page.

watercolour and dip pen and ink
watercolour and dip pen and ink

What everyone loves about these Victorian buildings are the intricate details and ornate flourishes. As a sketcher they can be overwhelming. Even when you attempt to keep a lot of that detail out or decide to only focus on a smaller section, it’s hard not to get lured in.

This visit I spent more time just looking at my scene before I put pen to paper. When I decided how I was going to approach it, I proceeded to put my structural lines in as a light watercolour wash keeping it all still very loose and gestural.

I also wanted to create depth of perspective between the staircase and the building. So I watered down my ink to draw the building then used it straight from the bottle for the staircase.

I realised it was too contrasting and looked more like two separate pictures instead, so I added little hints of the saturated ink to the background – mostly in the windows. That seemed to anchor them together. A gust of wind threw some leaves into the air so I decided to capture that as well, and I think it animates the picture too.

Watercolours and brush
Watercolours and brush

I love all the archways around this main building, and at this particular moment the morning sunlight was peeking through the clouds and hitting the wall, so I wanted to capture that. I originally planned to do this as a watercolour wash and ink in the lines, but I ended up developing it so much that I decided to leave out the linework. I think it’s because I used a smaller brush to paint with – a Winsor & Newtown Cotman No.5 then my usual 8 or 10 Roymac.

Again, what ties this picture together is using some of the Payne Grey and Burnt Umber in both the foreground and background, of varying concentration. And I made it interesting by not putting detail in everywhere. I know it sounds like a simple thing to implement, but it’s so hard to pull back.

Watercolour & brush, followed by dip pen and ink
Watercolour & brush, followed by dip pen and ink

I wish I had taken my camera with me to show you how intense this building was. On the right hand side is the beginning of a clock tower and there was so much ornamentation along the walls and windows, etc. It was a big scene and trying to find a smaller point of interest was hard.

I went for the rooftop because not only did it have some lovely Victorian detail but it also had some quiet areas too. I also made use of the flat shadows that were falling across the sides to help balance out the intricacies and give it some volume.

USK sydney uni 4 LR
Watercolours brush, followed by dip pen and ink

With only a half hour left,  I tackled something not so mentally challenging. These buildings are dotted with gargoyles and grotesques that are just wonderful. As I had warmed up a bit with the other sketches, I was really loose by the time I drew these. I let my instincts take over and had some fun.

Watercolours brush, followed by dip pen and ink
Watercolours brush, followed by dip pen and ink
To see some of the work from my fellow Australian sketchers that day please visit USK Australia.

Vote now or…Hulk smash!

Hello everyone,

Following on from my last post, I have submitted more designs to Threadless t-shirts. They are running an Incredible Hulk competition at the moment, and this is my first (of two) design that has been approved and ready for voting. So if you have an account with Threadless it would super-fantastic if I could get your vote. Link is here or click on the image.




Toulouse-Lautrec to Turner

A sketching friend and I spent 10 days in Canberra and Adelaide seeing the touring Toulouse-Lautrec and J.W Turner exhibitions in each respective capital city. Apart from Canberra being the capital of Australian politics and international embassies, it has most of the national museums and galleries. I imagine it is like a mini version of Washington D.C. – which I would love to visit one day.

Canberra workings


The amazing work of Toulouse-Lautrec was on display here. He was one of my first artistic influences who wasn’t a comic artist. What I like about his work is although he painted mostly with brushes, his style of painting mimics gestural drawing. Also his bold use of colour is incredible – luminescent greens and yellows for highlights and a lavender-like purple for shading. This latter aspect of his work is something I have been trying to implement more, especially when I use watercolours.

Colour, colour, everywhere

The more I trust what my eyes tell me to paint, ie instead of my brain, I start to see glimpses of colour I wouldn’t normally think to see. For instance, when I painted the Australian War Memorial below, the building itself is a very sandy coloured, almost muted stone. But the sun was excessively bright that day with wispy clouds slowly moving past the sun creating a light and shadow play on the flat surfaces. I also sat right under the sun, so the glare was affecting my sight as well. With the combination of these factors I kept seeing purples in the shadows and decided to put them in, albeit lightly.

Australian War Memorial - watercolours and pen
Australian War Memorial – watercolours and pen

Another thing I have started to do more obviously is “spread” my colours around the page to create a unified picture. When I painted the sky in, which was one of the last things I did, I threw the same blue across the building. I also did the reverse and put some of the stone wall yellow ochre into the sky despite it being a pure blue sky that day. You can also see green areas in the building which match the same colour as the dome. I find that it really completes the picture and gives it some balance, and basically, it just feels right.

Australian War Memorial sculpture garden - inktense pencils, watercolours and inks
Australian War Memorial sculpture garden – inktense pencils, watercolours and inks

Putting it into perspective

Unfortunately I left my camera at the apartment so I didn’t capture the step by step of the above picture, nor what the statue actually looked like. Another thing I am trying to improve upon when I work en plein air is creating more depth of perspective in my scenes. In this case it was making sure the sculpture stood out from the trees in the background. The easiest way to do this is by minimising the amount of detail in the background, not having objects so well defined, and toning back the colours, especially the saturation. As you can see I’m still working on this technique.  I also thought that by creating a foreground, ie the leafy boughs on the top and bottom right corners, it would also help create more dimension. I “thought”…! Didn’t work out as well.

For those who are interested, I created this picture by: first blocking in the main shapes with inktense pencils (you can see it in the brickwork); then lifting out the pencils with watercolours (I think, lemon yellow and turquoise); then inked in linework with dip pen and colour drawing inks (ultramarine, sunny green and canary yellow).

Why are we waiting?

Bus Stop in Kingston, Canberra - felt tip pen and waterbrush pen
Bus Stop in Kingston, Canberra – felt tip pen and waterbrush pen

As much as I love visiting Canberra, it is such a bastard to get around by public transport particularly on weekends. We were staying at Kingston, which is what I would call inner-city, and buses would only come either every half hour or every hour. It was excruciating to wait 20 mins for a 5 min bus ride. Anyway, one plus about being an urban sketcher is you are equipped with a sketchbook and pen to while away the time instead of getting a kink in your neck looking in the one direction waiting for a bus.

Bus Stop, Edmund Barton Building - watercolours
Bus Stop, Edmund Barton Building – watercolours

This one is looking a little French boulevarde-y, but at least I got the depth of perspective down better. This sketchbook I’m using at the moment isn’t great for wet mediums. It soaks up all the colour and doesn’t leave behind the vibrancy or saturation I apply to the page. I love it more for its size.

On to Adelaide

Link: Wreckers_Coast_of_Northumberland_ Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner.jpeg

Both my friend and I had never visited Adelaide before, so we hoped to fit in some normal sightseeing as well. We arrived to experience some freakishly hot weather. It was in the high 30s,  and the next day was scheduled for 40-41˚C. Yaaarrgghhh!!! I made the quick decision that tomorrow we would spend it in the art gallery. I’m not a big fan of air conditioned buildings (no pun intended!) but it was our oasis in a relentless heat. It also helped by looking at Turner paintings of stormy seascapes and lush, shady green country scenes too.

I remember when I visited London over a decade ago I saw many Turner watercolours at the Tate, so it was wonderful for me to relive that experience. Especially now that I have more of an appreciation and personal experience of painting landscapes, not to mention the use of watercolours. So I was learning a lot from such a great and innovative master.

Adelaide Zoo

The next day and for the rest of our stay the weather was a lot more reasonable. Not just for us but for the animals at the zoo. To deal with the spontaneity of our furry friends I used my inktense pencils and a waterbrush pen. It seemed the most practical medium.



It’s always a challenge to draw moving creatures, and I include humans in that category as well. One has to employ patience, ie waiting for the animal to appear or turn its head towards you, and you must curb any disappointment as well when it moves away before you’ve finished your sketch.



It’s also a test of your photographic memory and I had to turn to that to help me. Not that I have that skill or its better than anybody elses. It’s more that you NEED to give it a whirl in this type of situation.



By relying on quick glances and my memory to sketch these critters it made me more aware of each animal’s distinguishing features. For the tiger it was its spine and the undulating shape it creates from a side view, or the curling, flowing tail of the lemur or the large hour glass-like snout of the hippo.


2013ADELAIDE ZOO 9 LR 2013ADELAIDE ZOO 10 LRThroughout my life I have spent more time drawing the human figure, and one advantage if you are drawing people on the move is that we all have the same skeletal structure and more or less turn and move in the same way. So if I couldn’t capture someone in full before they moved on I could complete the sketch from memory.

But with animals – not only do they look different on the outside and come in different sizes, but their skeletal structures are so different. The face alone varies so much. Some animals have their eyes in front while other are on the side, some have legs tucked in and concealed under their bodies while others look awkward and gangly. They are so intriguing and challenging.2013ADELAIDE ZOO 12 LR

However, it was a successful day and its a lovely zoo. It does seem to be in need of better enclosures for some of its animals and that it relies heavily on donations and visitors to the zoo. So if you’re in Adelaide for a few days, take a trip to the Adelaide Zoo.

Botanic Gardens

I was hoping to get more paintings done at the Adelaide Gardens, but it wasn’t as big as it looked on my map. And despite the drop in temperature, sitting out in the sun was still intense and not much shade could be found. The Palm House, however, was the big attraction so we set up for that.
I got out my dip pen and inks for this, and I was also hoping to use my masking fluid this trip. Sadly I left my old masking fluid brushes at home and I refused to ruin my good paintbrushes just to experiment with (see my masking fluid notes in this post). I found a very cheap set ($2!) in town and my expectations were even worse than I imagined. All the bristles came out every time I washed it.
I used it on the painting below, but I ditched it for the rest of the trip. I’m not sure what I had in mind with this picture, maybe it was me warming up. Or I was possibly inspired by Turner’s sea storms but applying it to a static glass house. 😛
You can see in the finished picture below where I applied the masking fluid in the sky. I would like to take it out again, but not with those brushes. My objective was to make it not only look like a glass and iron structure but to also capture that vintage feel too. It does have a French Riviera atmosphere about it, and some of Raoul Dufy’s work springs to mind.2013ADELAIDE RBG 1 LR
As I had to wait not only for the masking fluid to dry but the watercolours as well, I started up another drawing of the Palm House. This time I inked the lines in first. If you’ve seen a lot of my ink drawings of buildings you might notice that they’re a little askew in places. That’s primarily because I don’t pencil in structure lines of any kind. I start at the very top and weave my way down, sometimes taking a detour to the left or right. I made that decision a long time ago not to worry about things like that as I can get too caught up in getting it right, especially when it is just a sketch. It also forces me to look harder and try to achieve correct perspective and structure as I work, but its a hit and miss thing.
Here is the finished piece, very different from the first. I think this works better as an overall picture. My personal sense of what makes a picture interesting is if you find yourself exploring the entirety of it. You look at the linework, the squiggles, the shapes, the brushwork, where things overlap, the texture etc. As opposed to something that might grab your attention immediately but it doesn’t pull you in for more review. I dont know if it’s because there is more detail in this picture or that I feel that everything is working together better. And there is more variety in my brushwork to give it more texture. Again, in this picture, like the War Memorial, I have circulated the colours across the whole picture to unify it. See the peach and blue colour in the top right palm tree.

Big day out

Unsatisfied with having only created two pictures at the Gardens, I decided to do a sketchcrawl of my own the next day. We were staying in North Adelaide so my first stop was a nearby park looking over one of many churches.
I like using a mix of all my art mediums – inktense, watercolours and dip pen. But when I sit down to draw something, the subject matter dictates to me what it would look best in, so I may not always use the same things. The photo below was taken after I applied watercolour to my inktense penciling. Since posting it I quite like it at this stage for the white areas I’ve left. Again, I’ve tried to frame the church by throwing in the hanging branch above and the flower bed below.
I think the end result is overworked. I know I was trying to create more contrast with the shadows and light areas but I couldn’t get that intensity with my brown paint. I do like the flower bed and the retreating windows on the side of the building. I managed to show some restraint there. 2013ADELAIDE CITY 1 LR
As I was sitting there I noticed one of the smaller palm trees near me and really like the shape of  the tree trunk. I drew this by first outlining the entire shape, then added the details inside it. I’m also using a new paper that is smooth and occasionally my pen nib gets caught in it or collects some of the paper fibres on the surface. 2013ADELAIDE PALMTREE LR 2013ADELAIDE CITY 2 LR
Then I made my way down to the grand daddy of all churches in Adelaide, St Peter’s Cathedral. I sat across the road from it. Thankfully the traffic in Adelaide is nothing like that of Sydney otherwise I would have been poisoned by toxic fumes. Instead I was almost bitten to death by ants. Not good when you’re wearing sandals and a dress!2013ADELAIDE CHURCH2 LR
I really had no idea how to tackle this or what to use. So I spent some time studying it. I decided it was too hard to take seriously, especially considering the heat, the ants and wanting to covering a lot of locations that day. I went a bit free form with my lines and threw in a bit of blind contouring/continuous line technique for good measure. I inked in the black first and ummed and arrhed about adding another colour, but I went with a brick red. It looks a little Dracula-gothic-blood-thirsty-like but I want to start putting more dimension into my line drawings.2013ADELAIDE CITY 3 LR
Then I headed into town. All along North Terrace are wonderful old building, several dating from the late 1800s. It was almost overwhelming as to where I should start and what to do first. But as it was still such a hot day, finding a good angle in the shade (any shade!!) narrowed down the choices for me.2013ADELAIDE CITY 4 LR
As it has been awhile since I’ve drawn exclusively with my colour inks and dip pen, I found it really difficult to decide whether to colour it in with watercolours or keep it as a line drawing. When you’re drawing on location you don’t have the luxury of, say, scanning version 1in before attempting version 2, and if it goes wrong then hey! I still have version 1 saved. You instead have to decide how far you want to take it. This time round I decided to leave them as line drawings. I think primarily because this isn’t somewhere I can pop out to on any weekend and do an hour or so of sketching. I didn’t want to ruin my travel souvenirs of Adelaide. I’d love to know how other people feel in this type of situation and how they handle it.
Me drawing at Ruby Red Flmingo. Photo courtesy of Kaz e Dru.
Me drawing at Ruby Red Flmingo. Photo courtesy of Kaz e dru.
My last sketch of the trip was at dinner. North Adelaide is known for its restaurants, cafes etc. and we found the Italian Ruby Red Flamingo. It was a converted manse (living accommodation for a church’s minister). Very unassuming decor of colourful bric and brac drinking vessels, old wooden school and kitchen tables and used tomato cans for cutlery. But more importantly the food was amazing. I highly recommend to anyone in the neighbourhood. Lovely atmosphere and service, it was a great way to end a trip.
Well hope you liked the post!
Thanks for stopping by.

Abu Dhabi Do!

Me drawing a very willing 4WD driver out in the desert. Photo courtesy of Heidi Yuko Lincoln.

In February I was given the exciting opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to play with TaikOz. A huge honour, considering I’m not one of their more dedicated students. It was a unique advenutre and a bit of an insight into the life of a professional touring musician, and it was to a part of the world I’m not sure I would have visited in my own time.

So I hope you enjoy my sketchbook slideshow of my time in Abu Dhabi. Please click on any image for a larger view.

1 Taikoz Title page LR

1 Taikoz UAE Syd Airport LR
Sydney Airport – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Plane LR
Dinner and a movie – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE AD Airport LR
Arriving at Abu Dhabi airport – – watercolours and artline

There was plenty of time waiting in our portable dressing room, so I’m thankful I brought along my sketchbook. Most of these sketches were done during this period – waiting to do a rehearsal or sound check, waiting to go on, waiting to go to lunch, waiting for the bus to take us back to the hotel. There weren’t any windows looking out onto anything either, so all my inspiration came from within the room.

1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals DPS 2 LR
Ten minutes to dress rehearsals – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Uniform LR
Our happy Hanten coats hanging out – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals Kevin 3 LR
Curious onlookers from the dressing room next door – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals 4 LR
Early morning breakfast box – inktense pencils
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals 5 LR
The 12 faces of my breakfast apple – inktense pencils and artline pen
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals DPS 6 LR
Yet another rehearsal call – artline pen
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals 7 LR
Colourful dengaku okedos (roped drums) – inktense pencils and watercolours
1 Taikoz UAE Rehearsals 8 LR
The youngest member of our tour group – inktense pencil
1 Taikoz UAE Tabi LR
My clean white tabi (ankle sock shoes) on the first day and last day of performances – watercolours and artline

We had afternoons and evenings free so we managed to do some sightseeing and shopping whenever we could.

1 Taikoz UAE Central Souk LR
Central Souk Market – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Mosque 1 LR
The Grand Mosque – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Mosque 2 LR
The Grand Mosque – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Mosque 3 LR
The Grand Mosque – watercolours and artline

I found the Mosque to be one of the more visually appealing and challenging sights for me. Because of its clean white exteriors the light reflections, especially as the sun set, was quite interesting. So I stayed to try and capture the sunset, and made a second visit to capture it at night. These were done with watercolour/brush and ink/dip pen.

Taikoz UAE USK 1 LR Taikoz UAE USK 2 LR Taikoz UAE USK 4 LR Taikoz UAE USK 5 LR

We had most of one day to ourselves so we headed off to do a 4WD Safari.

1 Taikoz UAE Safari DPS 1 LR
Camels – watercolours and artline pen
1 Taikoz UAE Safari 2 LR
Rasheed – dip pen and ink
1 Taikoz UAE Safari DPS 3 LR
Bellydancing under the stars – inktense pencils

An international security and defence expo was on at the Exhibition Centre.

Ready and waiting - watercolours and artline
Ready and waiting – watercolours and artline
1 Taikoz UAE Tanks DPS 3 LR
Old and new parked on either side of the motorway – watercolours and artline
Military manoeuvres - watercolours and artline
Military manoeuvres – watercolours and artline
UAE Defence force were obliging and posed for me - artline pen
UAE Defence force were obliging and posed for me – artline pen

The last day before we hit the malls, I did some sketching around Emirates Palace.

1 Taikoz UAE Architecture 1 LR
A typical sight in AD, cranes and construction – inktense pencils
Etihad Towers and a work in progress gold tower - watercolours and artline
Etihad Towers and a work in progress gold tower – watercolours and artline
Emirates Palace at night - watercolours and artline
Emirates Palace at night – watercolours and artline

And back home… sorting out the souvenirs from the shopping.

1 Taikoz UAE Goods LR
Watercolours and artline

1st Urban Sketchers Australia meet up

USK PaddingtonGardens 4 LRIt was a much needed day out of sketching for me, and although Sydney was thrown into 40˚ heat leading up to our first Urban Sketchers Australia meet up, the gods were fairly decent towards us on the day. The gardens are a lovely refuge in the inner city and even though there was a constant stream of visitors we could still spread out and enjoy ourselves. It’s also one of the few public places that provides free reading material and cabana beach chairs!

I brought along my Derwent inktense pencils, a couple of W&N colour inks and my W&N watercolours, and I was also drawing in a large format Hahnemühle* sketchbook. I always apply my colour washes first and then my linework, and sometimes I look at my finished colour washes and think “does it need linework?” So I attempted one with and one without.

USK PaddingtonGardens 2 LRUSK PaddingtonGardens 1 LR

I guess they both work well, but it is nice to know I can create pictures without feeling the need to add linework. I created these pictures by first using my Inktense pencils not just to establish structure but for colour, then instead of using water to spread the colour, I used my watercolour set instead. So in the end I think it retains enough linework but in a more subtle way.

USK PaddingtonGardens 3 LR

It was nice to start to my first USK Australia meetup by breaking some new ground and I look forward to the next.

*I bought this sketchbook at the last minute – I wanted a large format sketchbook to take into buildings I thought might have an issue with large artboards. It’s great for pencils and concentrated watercolour application, but having more watery washes and colour inks it just seeped right into the paper.  I didn’t mind the subdued watercolour result (you can see it more clearly in the sky in the third picture), but I had to apply colour more liberally if I wanted it to stand out.

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