Material concerns

Sketching materials often cause me a dilemma. Like many sketchers I run the risk of paralysis from too much choice. When I made my trip to Brisbane last week I decided on one sketchbook – a grey-tone Strathmore and a limited selection of pens/pencils. My main pencils were Koh-i-noor Magic pencils, so I couldn’t ‘control’ to any extent  the colours that came out. I didn’t know whether I could do it! Indeed I did resort to one digital drawing.

Brisbane River Bridges, digital drawing on PS Touch app (for Android)

Brisbane River Bridges, digital drawing on PS Touch app (for Android)

Despite this small detour I did get back on track.This sketch uses only coloured pencil and white chalk. I used several types of the Magic pencils: Original, Fire and America.

Late afternoon sun on the Storey Bridge Brisbane, coloured pencil, white chalk, 20 January 2016

Late afternoon sun on the Storey Bridge Brisbane, coloured pencil, white chalk, 20 January 2016

The next day we took our sketch books up to the Roma St Parklands where the twisting shapes of the Moreton Bay figs captured my attention.

Fig tree, Roma Street Parklands, white chalk, graphite and coloured pencil, 21 January 2016

Fig tree, Roma Street Parklands, white chalk, graphite and coloured pencil, 21 January 2016

Back home I realised that I hadn’t picked up a pencil in days so I grabbed what was to hand, a green Artline fibre pen and my black ink pen and got down to it.

Backyard, green fineline pen and ink, 29 January 2016

Backyard, green fine line pen and ink, 29 January 2016

It can be a challenge just getting past that ‘perfection’ monkey, but it’s always worth getting out and just drawing.

Drawing the Exhibition – Asia Pacific Triennial 8 (APT8)

We took advantage of the post-Christmas airline sales to grab a cheap flight to Brisbane during the week to make a flying visit to the Gold Coast City Art Gallery and the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. The first because I wanted to see the Gold Coast Art Prize that my piece Paperboat for an Inland Sea was selected into and then to spend a day at APT8 in Brisbane. And yeah, my work in the Gold Coast Art Prize has been sold!

Anyway back to APT8. It’s a really big exhibition to take in in one day. Spread across both the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) we had a lot of works to cover. As is often the way with these big shows there are many works that take up a lot of space – and that’s about as exciting as some of them get. Then there are lots of video works – for the most part they don’t really float my boat. So finding the good stuff can take time. Thankfully the first place we headed, on the ground floor of GOMA, had one of my favourite pieces and it was BIG.

Min Thein Sung‘s Another Realm (horses) 2015, is a giant puppet of three horses that hangs against a background of two walls of comic book pages.

Min Thein Sung, Another Realm (horses) 2015, my sketch, graphite and chalk on grey toned paper

Min Thein Sung, Another Realm (horses) 2015, my sketch, graphite and chalk on grey toned paper

I didn’t want to ‘spoil’ my first sketch, so I did another focusing on the detail of one of the horses head and using one of my Koh-i-noor Magic pencils to indicate the comic book pages behind.

Detail of the head of one of the horses, Min Thein Sung Another Realm (horses), 2015, my sketch graphite, white chalk and coloured pencil on grey-toned paper

Detail of the head of one of the horses, Min Thein Sung Another Realm (horses), 2015, my sketch graphite, white chalk and coloured pencil on grey-toned paper

We made it through two floors of GOMA before deciding to have an early lunch. While we were waiting to eat we had fun watching the Sacred Ibis scrounging for food around the outdoor tables of the cafe. I know they can be a nuisance but it was quite amusing to see them negotiate the polished concrete floors, which clearly weren’t suited to their large spreading toes. Each step was taken with a small skid. No bird ever slipped too badly but they clearly have had to learn to skate their way around.

Sacred Ibis, white chalk, pen and ink.

Sacred Ibis, white chalk, pen and ink.

After lunch we went to the Queensland Art Gallery  (just a short 150 metres away) where I was thrilled to find the section of APT8 in Gallery 4 called Kalpa Vrishka: Contemporary Indigenous and Vernacular Art of India. This whole gallery was, for me, by far the best part of APT 8.

Key works for me were the Warli paintings of white on cow-dung coloured paper.

Detail of Diwali, by Rajesh Chaitya Vangad

Detail of Diwali, by Rajesh Chaitya Vangad

The central screened area with sculptured Rajwar figures and objects.

Figures by Bhagat Ram Rajawar

Figures by Bhagat Ram Rajawar

Not to mention the beautifully detailed paintings of the Pardhan Gond artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam.

Under the Tree, 2015, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

Under the Tree, 2015, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

That’s the thing with the Asia Pacific Triennial, you never know just what unknown artist/s work will just grab you by your imagination and take you somewhere unexpected in the world. Always worth the visit – see it if you can, otherwise you can check out this video link.

Taking the line to the landscape

Following on from my ‘two pencil’ practice in my last post, I decided to try the technique out on some nearby landscapes.  We are down at the coast for a week. At one end of the beach are some small but interesting cliffs, full of bulges and striations, layers and different colours.


The cliff at the northern end of Long Beach, near Bateman's Bay, NSW. Graphite, coloured pencil, gel pen and watercolour

I had so much fun working on this piece. As I was by myself I had plenty of time to fill the whole page with colour.  In trying to keep the loose approach I applied my paint with some small sticks I picked up on the sand.
I’ve done two more drawings since, but I haven’t had as much time to work on them.


Snapper Island from Surfside. Graphite, colour pencils, gel pen and watercolour.

The bay and nearby coast provide plenty of subjects to sketch. My most recent one is a bit further down the coast at Guerrilla Bay, one of the most popular dive and snorkeling sites around. Jimmy’s Islet protects the bay from the worst of the weather.


Jimmy's Islet in Guerilla Bay NSW. Watercolour, ink, graphite and coloured pencils

We’ve snorkeled here for the past two days. The variety and number of fish and the size of the various seashells makes you realise just how degraded many coastal areas are. This bay is part of a marine park so we have had some great experiences particularly spotting Banjo Sharks on both days.


Unlike some people I was too overwhelmed to find, let alone review my sketchbooks from 2015, so I took the easy way out and reviewed my Flickr posts instead.

I think that while exploring new ideas and techniques I lost my way. I started out with some drawing exercises to expand my techniques and also had classes with some great teachers at the Urban Sketchers Singapore symposium mid-year. But I didn’t integrate what I’d learned with my own style. So while individual results may have been good, I often found the quality of the drawing disappointing.

So it’s back to exploring and applying some previous exercises and being conscious about using all the techniques I’ve learn to express my own style. To avoid getting stuck on what to draw I’ve been working from photographs taken by Nic Walker , of the Sydney Dance Company, (published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 November 2015).


Pen and graphite used together, drawing from photograph by Nic Walker

The first step is to return to ‘blind drawing’, focusing on keeping my eyes on the subject and not looking at the page while drawing. Then applying some loosening techniques by drawing with two pens or pencils or a combination of both.
I also tried another loosening technique, drawing while holding the pen or pencil at the very end.


Right: graphite held at the end; Lower left: Copic Multiliner held at the end, drawings based on photographs by Nic Walker

It was interesting to see how the quality of the line varied between the graphite and the Copic Multiliner. Where the graphite flowed easily across the page, the Copic stuttered and hesitated, bringing a quite different quality to the line.
These simple exercises have already produced encouraging results and things like line quality to keep in mind for future drawings.

Vale Ellsworth Kelly

I’m a bit behind the news, but I learned today that Ellsworth Kelly had died on 27 December 2015. I have posted previously about his shadow drawings and I find that there is still much to explore in his lifetime of work.

One quote from the New York Times Obituary that struck a chord with me was about ‘finding’ his art in his surroundings:

I realized I didn’t want to compose pictures, I wanted to find them. I felt that my vision was choosing things out there in the world and presenting them. To me the investigation of perception was of the greatest interest. There was so much to see, and it all looked fantastic to me.

Drawing Cut into Strips and Rearranged by Chance (detail) ArtistEllsworth Kelly Date 1950 Dimensions sheet 16.5 × 77.25 × inches Materials ink on paper, collage

A Little Pomp and Ceremony


Sculpture of Kin George V, Rex , Imperator 1927 by Sir Bertram Mackennal , pen and ink sketch, Old Parliament House Canberra

Today was the first sketch outing of 2016  of our Urban Sketchers Canberra group. We met in the foyer of Old Parliament House (now the Museum of Australian Democracy). There were sixteen of us, including two new members and a visitor. I was thrilled that we had such a good turn out while so many people are still on holidays.

I’d already decided to sketch the sculpture of King George V, which is located in Kings Hall. This sculpture portrays the King in the robes of the Order of the Garter and is the second casting of this statue, originally commissioned for New Delhi. I couldn’t capture the full regalia from the angle I was drawing (another day perhaps), but the King shows a very fine leg in his hose and garter.

Inspired by his decorative garments I decided to try another location to sketch parliamentary regalia, in the House of Representatives chamber. It turns out five others of our group were already in there, with some fine sketches being made (see more here).


Replicas of the Mace, foreground, and the Dispatch box, rear right, in the House of Representatives chamber, Old Parliament House. Pen and ink, 3 January 2015

Resting on one end of the main table is a replica of the Mace, the original of which is now in the new parliament building, in the House of Representatives chamber. At the far end of the table you can see one of the Dispatch boxes. I was amused to learn from one of the guides that these replicas of the Dispatch boxes were made when the movie ‘The Dish‘was filmed in the chamber. The film company kindly left them with the museum after they finished filming.

After all this pomp and ceremony I decided to make my final sketch in the Senate Opposition Meeting Room, where I could sink into the comfortable large lounges, much as many a Senator has no doubt done before me.


The Opposition Senate Meeting Room. Pencil sketch, koh-i-noor coloured pencils, 3 January

The upholstery is in the maroon coloured leather, that is used in the Senatorial wing of the building. Original furniture and fittings were designed by John Smith Murdoch, the architect of the building. I’m currently testing out my new Koh-i-nor Magic pencils (more in another post). I think that the paper I used was not perhaps very well-suited to these pencils. I will try paper with a bit more surface bite to it next time.

And finally here is our group, along with His Royal Highness.


Urban Sketchers Canberra at Old Parliament House, 3 January 2016