CNY 2017

Chinese New Year came a lot earlier this year as it follows the lunar cycle rather than a set calendar date. I missed most of our lion dance performances this season so only did Friday and the weekend but that was exhausting enough! Usually I feel this tired after doing 2 weeks worth, not three days – I must be getting old.

I’ve written (plus sketched) in more detail in previous posts about what lion dancing is so if you would like to check them out please click on these links 2014, 2016.

Supplies – graphite pencil and inktense pencils

Lion dancing is always on the move – not just the performances themselves. We cover so much of Sydney and constantly broken up into teams that at anytime we could be sent off in different directions. So everything we need is carted around with us.

Unloading – 6B Pencil
Outside Star City – 7B pencil
Waiting for a car space – 6B pencil

It can also make parking an issue. This sketch was done at the Marigold restaurant in Chinatown. It’s four levels up with a very small ground level and basement carpark. Despite the number of years we have been booked here they still never leave car spaces for us. There is this constant ritual of having to negotiate space so we can unpack.

Macquarie Centre loading dock – 6B pencil

When we do shopping centres some at least allow us to use their loading docks.

Raise a glass

6B Pencil
6B Pencil

During this period large Chinese restauarants offer banquet deals – you book a table and they serve you a set menu with a lion dance included. Its such a celebrated event that in some restaurants its become more of a spectacle. When the lion dance starts it gives everyone the licence to go mad.



6B Pencil

Traditionally what happens is a table will offer the lion a red packet of money. The lion will come over to their table and collect it in its mouth. Many people place their red packet on a cup of tea or a glass of wine or beer with the intention that the lion also shares a drink with them, like spreading good cheer amongst the table.

Some like to take it to another level and cheekily stack the red packet on a tower of wine glasses, beer bottles, saucers, cups, bowls or teapots. The idea is that the lion “swallows” the entire tower and when its finished pulls away to reveal a different combination of cups and so on. Occasionally they are a little too high, or the lion head is a little too drunk (can happen) that it all comes crashing down. Thankfully the atmosphere is so lively and jubilant even the managers aren’t upset with the mess and damage. Though not so pleasant when the lion reverses into a chandelier or expensive light fitting.



Image courtesy of JWK LionDance Assoc

At the Marigold there is a low stage at one end where we set up the drummer and cymbal players. We also pop colourful paper confetti that makes the kids go crazy. They flock to the stage and collect it handfuls. Basically once they’re on the stage they don’t leave and jump and dance around.cny_2017_006_LR.jpg


A couple of little girls watched me draw, almost sitting right on top of me. As I was doing this sketch below, I hadn’t drawn the faces in yet as the drummer and cymbal players swapped with new people halfway through my drawing. They were completely different sizes or stood differently so it threw me a little. One of the girls asked me to finish the face of the cymbal player [left hand side] which was completely blank. I just drew in his glasses and left it, but she wasn’t satisfied so she took my pencil and drew in the eyeballs for me. They were so good I decided to leave them in – she drew with the book upside down too you know!

7B Pencil and Inktense pencils

Chinese New Year is all about family, and we are seeing a young generation of lion dancers taking shape with my friend’s kids. cny_2017_009_lr

6B Pencil

Lion Frenzy

It’s amazing how fanatical people get over the lion, especially the Chinese. I suppose because I am a part of it I have a different perspective. There is no other way to describe it than they just go apeshit for lion. I apologise for my language but you watch mature well respected or at least mild mannered adults go manic over a lion, like Beatlemania or Beliebers. So when there is more than one in a room its a lion frenzy.

7B Pencil and Inktense pencils
6B pencil with inktense pencils

Later that night we performed at Sze Yup Temple in Glebe, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Sydney and still visited frequently by the Chinese community. During this period it is incredibly busy and on the eve of  the New Year it’s standing room only. The dragon dance performed by another group had already finished. This temple has a very small forecourt and dragon dances need some decent floorspace so I don’t know how they managed.


Even before we started the crowds already encircled us, they crept closer and closer like sharks around prey. Not only was it tight on the ground the air above was thick with burning incense or joss sticks both in and outside the temple.

It burns!

6B pencil
Sze Yup Temple 2015 – Photo courtesy of JWK Lion Dance Assoc.
6B Pencil

One worker who was dressed more like a hazchem cleaner would push his way out of the temple every ten minutes with a bucket loaded with lit joss sticks and candles because they were overwhelming the small urns inside. Only inches from your head were handfuls of lit joss sticks clutched in people’s hands as they pushed past to make their prayers. That’s why I drew this picture, it reminded me of a torch relay but one that stings your eyes from all the ashes.

Your typical day



Flemington Markets – 6B pencil with Inkense pencils
Flemington Markets – 6B Pencil with Inktense pencils

The next day I was out and about covering a whole lot of Sydney. That’s probably the most exhausting part to this side of lion dancing – the amount of travelling that happens from morning to midnight.

For the papers, Macquarie Centre – 6B pencil
Waiting at Blacktown – Inktense pencils

The only time I get to chill is when the others perform the lion dance poles – heartstopping, dramatic, highly skilled and disciplined moves. Admittedly I have drawn them jump before so gesturally I already know the most dynamic moments to draw. So even if I can only capture a fraction of it, I can, to some degree, fill in the rest of the sketch based on what I know and have drawn before.

Market City – 6B Pencils with Inktense pencils


Market City – Inktense pencils

Happy New Year folks, hope its a great one!



4, 5, 6, 7…Sketchbooks

Before I met all my sketchbook buddies I only ever used drawing books to work out ideas in – they were full of scribbles, notes and taped in clippings and especially not for sharing.

But the phenomena of sketchbooks more as personally illustrated journals has rubbed off on me. Now I probably have more sketchbooks than I need. I slap my hand for going down this path. Sometimes I think they cause more grief than pleasure. Especially the way we have started to perceive sketchbooks these days – as visual narratives of our lives. Some are like lovingly prepared visual journals than a messy processing of our creative thoughts. Maybe because they are are such wonderfully bound books with lovely paper inside that forces us to make sure that whatever we put in there is special. And when you do flip through them and look at all the finished pages one after the other it is like a little storybook. Though it can place pressure to keep the contents consistent or neat and perfect.

The small page format can also be constraining and I will always prefer a big old sketch pad or watercolour pad than a small sketchbook. But they do have a plus side. The small format does make them a practical size to pop in your bag so you have absolutely no excuse not to sketch when you’re out and about. It’s also neater than having piles of loose leaf sheets piling up on your shelves. And if you decide to theme them, like I do, it can push you to explore your artwork with different mediums or subject matter. So I like them for that. And if they are travel journals its a wonderful way to preserve memories.

So below are links to a few of my sketchbooks.


I started this in 2008 on my last trip to Antarctica. I wish I had kept travel drawing journals all my life because most of my travelling was done before then. Oh well, admittedly though, even at this point in time, I still wasn’t very comfortable about drawing out in public, so the entries aren’t as extensive as I would have liked.

To view click here.


My first forray into showing my work online. It’s a great idea for anyone of any drawing skill. It shows you that you don’t have to travel to an exotic location to find something interesting to draw.

To view click here. Or to see the EDM challenge list click here.


When I cook at home sometimes during the preparation certain foods, cutlery etc. looks really cool. Whether it’s the natural lighting, the way they the ingredients are cut or how the food looks when it comes out of the oven – it looks really awesome. So I’ve been taking photos to use as inspiration for paintings and drawings.

To view click here.


As most museums don’t allow people to sketch with things other than pencils or writing pens I found it pointless taking in so many art materials to an exhibition. So it’s usually just a pen or pencil, and depending on the gallery I will sneak in a pocket-sized water colour palette and my water brush pen. Also, these places get very congested with people so there is very little room for anything more than a small sketchbook.

To view click here.


Since my Urban Sketches books are stylised and themed I wanted one for any occasion when I’m out and about. This one is freer in style and subject matter, and it’s good to have so I wont have any excuses to draw when I’m out.

To view click here.

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