Sunday, July 27, 2014

Urban Sketchers Sydney meet at QVB.

It's been a busy few months and I'm a little behind with my posts!

The June sketch day for Urban Sketchers was at Queen Victoria Building. I chose to sit at a café outside the beautiful shopping arcade and make a study of 149 York Street which was once the Gresham Hotel, built in 1890.

Then in July we headed down to The Rocks - one of my favourite historical areas of Sydney. We had been offered to participate in the Aroma Festival by sketching on disposable coffee cups. They were surprisingly good to sketch on (once you get used to the curved surface) and took both ink and watercolour quite well. (The image looks a bit weird as we used the panoramic feature on our phones to try and capture the rotated surface of the cup).

Before and after the cup sketch I took the opportunity to sketch The Russell Hotel in George Street. This is one of my favourite hotels in The Rocks area due to that fairy tale like Scots-Baronial Tower. Many of the architectural features have been retained since the hotel was built in 1887.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Historic Sydney - Tempe House and Strickland House

There has been two opportunities to sketch beautiful old Sydney buildings in recent weeks.

Firstly Tempe House in April, where Ethna and I visited on an open day for the local art society. It is set on beautiful grounds and next to a picturesque garden. Once absorbed in sketching it was easier to block out the constant hum of the Princess Hwy not too far away, and the construction of the apartment blocks behind, and imagine a quieter time when there would have been nothing but the flow of the river and swaying trees for company. 
The front portico's were a good challenge to sketch and reminded me a little of sketching the rotunda at Balmoral Beach. By the time the line work on the building was finished time was short so the trees of the garden were captured best I could with just paint brush and trying to remember to vary tone, colour and markings so it didn't appear too flat.  

The second historic Sydney property was Strickland House which welcomed visitors last Sunday. No denying that my Tempe House sketch influenced composition here and the similar shape of the portico was less confronting this time. In very strong winds, but brilliant blue sky, I got down the building lines in pen (all but for that fiddly iron work on the verandahs) and mapped out the washes of colour from the distinct shadows. The green foliage was added once home, and here I tried for a looser and less distinct garden than the previous sketch. The shadows also got a boost of colour and darkening.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beach Sketching

 Lately I've been sketching down by the water.

There are still many buildings I prefer sketched with closer observation and precision, but sitting on the sand or hillside, overlooking crashing waves and enjoying a sea breeze tends to push the need for accuracy aside and respond more in colour and play.
Here's the Freshwater Beach Ocean Bath with a view to Manly Beach in the distance. A Pied Cormorant, one of my favourite birds of the area, sits high atop the light pole. Observing all and preparing to dive for its next fish.

An IRB (inflatable rescue boat) ready to go out in last week's heavy swell.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Expressive Urban Sketching Workshop - Cockatoo Island.

Last week I attended the wonderful Expressive Urban Sketching Workshop held on Cockatoo Island hosted by Liz Steel and Paul Wang. I've shared some details about my experience on the Urban Sketchers Australia Blog here if you'd like to read more.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sydney Sketch Club at Cafe Bones

Willow, Rocket and Humphrey

On a sunny weekend morning Sydney Sketch Club met to sketch dogs at Cafe Bones in Leichhardt. Expecting to find a couple of dogs content to sit still or perhaps even asleep was ridiculous of me in hindsight.  Dogs were running, playing, sniffing, barking - but of course never sitting perfectly still for a portrait! Even those kindly held for us by their owners constantly twitched their ears and turned their heads in all directions to the activity around them. But it was loads of fun and the perfect exercise for forcing to sketch fast which is what I  need. Will definitely go again. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Exploring The Rocks. Week 1.

Sydney Opera House. Tracing contours with expressive lines.
When thinking of The Rocks in Sydney, my mind begins wandering down it's quaint little laneways. Picturing Colonial buildings tucked away in tight spots, hosting cafes and restaurants and its fair share of the upmarket tourist shops. With my thoughts in that space, I often forget that only a few hundred metres away, across Circular Quay, sits the Sydney Opera House in all her glory.

So it was an unexpected, but welcome surprise that the Sydney Opera House was the on location sketch subject in our first week of Liz Steel's "Exploring The Rocks" workshop. After a dose of theory in an old Rocks prison cell (roughing it with fabulous coffee and fine French pastries), we left for a grassy park and sat in the shade of a tree, sketching away. A great benefit of a teacher who is also an architect is the added insight into the structure of a building and the tips on what to focus on. Most memorable was that the front part of the podium on which the house sits was designed partly to reflect the shape of the heads at the entrance to Sydney Harbour.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Sydney Urban Sketchers at Town Hall

Hero Pen (bent nib), De Atramentis Archive ink with watercolour wash. 270gsm paper.

Yesterday our local Urban Sketchers group gathered at Sydney Town Hall. It's a fantastic area for interesting architecture with the surrounding buildings of the Town Hall and St Andrew's Cathedral as well as the Queen Victoria Building in the next block.

I've signed up for Paul Wang and Liz Steels' expressive sketching workshop in March, so my goal was to try to loosen up with watercolour and less line. An A4 Beta Stillman and Birn from Larry Post last year (the thick pages are great for working wet on wet, so I've been saving it for when I'm feeling more courageous) served well for this. Fate also had a hand with my other choices as my favourite Lamy pen and waterbrushes are sadly missing somewhere. However, with the most perfect of timing, Liz brought along a new Hero pen from her Penang/Singapore trip! I've tried a similar pen with a bent tip (Sailor pen) before and it gives a lovely variation in line thickness as you draw.

A strategy which worked well yesterday was to lay a first layer of wash down on one page for the watercolour only sketch, and then whilst that dried, sketched with the Hero pen in more detail on the other page. Picking up on preferred patterns and shadows from the detailed pen sketch that could then be layered back onto the watercolour sketch as the progressing layers dried.
Sydney Town Hall is one of Australia's finest examples of French Second Empire architecture. Designed by architect J H Willson in 1868, it is said to be inspired by Hotel de Ville in Paris. Festoons, finials and Mansard pavilions - lots to learn about this style of architecture that I have not drawn before.
These sketching mornings always pass so quickly. With not much time to go I found this carved angel figure at the front door of the St Andrew's Cathedral. So many, many, many more things to sketch in this area. Looking forward to returning.