My work had moved office location, and the final destination wasn’t ready yet. So we were temporarily located to the end of George St, which is the more touristy part of town. It’s a hop, step and jump to the Harbour Bridge, the Rocks and Sydney Opera House, plus several museums and galleries.
To make the most of our short time in this part of town, I went out a few times to sketch.
I have been completely undisciplined with posting blogs this last couple of years. Sometimes I think I have posted only to find out nothing’s there. I have been drawing a decent amount (somethings I’m not particularly ready to share with the online public yet) but I have been out sketching with my friends since January! And here’s the proof… 😉
Back in January I went down to Melbourne for a short break to catch up with some friends, and in particular sketching friends.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I received free tickets to the Asia Cup (Soccer/Football tournament, like a mini world cup but only encompasses countries from the Asiatic region). I couldn’t get tickets for the Sydney game, and as I do like watching South Korea play too I opted to head up to Brisbane to watch them play the Aussies. Both teams are very strong in this region and in this particular tournament both had won their group matches so far…
It was only an overnight weekender and took one of my nephews with me. We had plenty of time to do and see other stuff around Brisbane but the heat was exceptionally intense. I don’t think it was even in the early 30s (Celsius) but god damn it was hot! The air was so thick and humid and the sun was just relentless. It didn’t let up, even after the sun had gone down the air was heavy and warm.
So one distraction for me anyway was my sketchbook. I don’t like drawing when I’m travelling with others who don’t, but we were so lethargic because of the heat we didn’t get up to too much. Anyway, hope you like. And hope Aussies make their way to the finals! Fingers crossed!
The night at the game was almost overtaken with swarms(?) of moths EVERYWHERE. It was like some 1960s horror movie, “Invasion of the Moths”. They moved as frantically as all the press and media did on the sidelines. Sadly the home team lost, which was quite frustrating, but we’re still in contention once we hit the knock out stages.
Although we had a few hours to kill in the city before heading home, it was so damn hot to be walking around we decided to head to the airport. We had so much time I killed it by drawing this plane heading to Melbourne. While we were sitting there the South Korean team sat near us. I wish I had the guts to ask them to sign my book, but their captain, who sat closest, looked like he was dealing with a cold. And after seeing some Korean fans sheepishly approach them for an autograph – that was painful enough to watch it unfold.
I spent a week in August with my sketching friends down in Melbourne. A few had other objectives that week other than sketching, but for me that was my main focus. After a very personal ordeal, I needed to get back on track and remember what it is like to sketch out and about again. There was also a touring exhibition at the gallery that I wanted to see as well, so that was another incentive to get out of town for a bit.
There’s not much I want to detail about the trip. I wasn’t aiming to achieve any artistic breakthrough this time round so I stuck with my regular mediums and just enjoyed the opportunity. So hope you like.
First full day in Melbourne and it was pretty cold, even the local produce workers were complaining about the weather. Luckily there were a few benches, undercover, situated midway between the aisles that made it easy to set up for a few hours.
The Old Treasury
We met up with a couple of local Urban Sketchers at The Old Treasury building. Although Melbourne is known for its buildings (old and new) I’m not a huge fan of drawing buildings as I don’t always feels they capture the “soul” of the place. It was a weekday so not much was happening outdoors, so I decided to draw the fountain as it had the most “life” in it.
A technique which I have started to employ (when I remember) is applying water to the paper first then throw on the colour. This is to get a cool blurry blended feel which adds dimension to any finished picture.
To warm ourselves up we went for coffee and chocolate. The interior had a nice rococo influenced style so sketched a bit of that. For some reason I folded by paper into three panels. I don’t know why, it was irrelevant in the end. I think it was because we had such small tables but lots of plates and cups I didn’t think I would have had the space to lay out an entire sheet.
The Rest of Melbourne
At the National Gallery of Victoria they had an exhibition of Bushido artifacts. Always never enough time, I focussed on the armour that was on display. And only had time for one katana. I did plan on doing an “eraser/graphite pencil” technique for this, but I couldn’t find my eraser so just attacked it with my 4B pencil. I ended up finding it in my pocket!!! but I had already gotten into it, so will save that technique for another time.
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.
So I highly recommend a visit to this site and even if you aren’t interested in drawing them they are well worth viewing.
I spent the day at the Australian Museum, firstly to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. A yearly event that I always check out. But it was also an opportune time to do a bit of sketching as well. With only an afternoon left up our sleeves, my friend and I headed to the Search and Discover room. I’ve always thought it was an area just for school groups, but it is open to all visitors.
What’s great about this room is that they have live and um… less live (?) animals you can get a bit closer too. Well, all natural history museums are essentially a collection of dead stuffed animals I suppose. I dont know how old some of these specimens were but when you can sit less than a foot from one and they dont move at all!!! it’s perfect sketching matter.
I’ve been here before to sketch (click here), and every time I leave it fills me with the urge to draw more animals. It might be because sketching short-haired animals totally compliments cross-hatching techniques so perfectly making it easier to come up with good drawings.
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.