Autumn in the national capital brings with it the odour of burning eucalypt leaves. The smell has complex connotations of summer and bushfires, but now it is the smell of low-intensity burn-offs, designed to reduce the level of flammable plant material. The local hills have been systematically burned over the past few weeks.


I took the opportunity to try and capture some of the ‘atmosphere’ of the burn-off. Sitting on the other side of the road I worked on those strange colour changes that occur within the smoke, white, cream, dirty red.


Burning off on Mt Taylor, ACT, 26 April 2016, colour pencil on gray-toned paper

I also had a go at sketching the moment the first flames were lit.26Apr2016b

Cover Birds

I threw caution away last week and selected these two books to read solely due to their exquisite cover art.


Darren Gilbert, Black Swan, 2012, ink on illustration board. Cover design by Harry Williamson

Wright’s post climate change apocalypse, seen from the perspective of a seriously damaged individual, was a challenging read. In the end I couldn’t leave the world of swans and global swan mythology without seeing it through to the end.


Joushua Yeldham, Prayer for Protection – Hawkesbury River, 2010, oil and mixed media on carved board. Cover design, photography and art Joshua Yeldham.

I swooned and fell into Joshua Yeldham’s writing for his daughter Indigo. I’ve seen his work and this book is full of stunning examples of his art and engaging excerpts from his journal and life story. All I can say is more please!

Architectural details

My sketching has taken a sudden swerve into architecture this past weekend. I visited two historic buildings in Canberra from different periods built in very different styles.

On Saturday we were in Kingston near the Fitter’s Workshop. Built in 1916-17, the Fitter’s Workshop is part of a complex of early Canberra industrial buildings that is being converted into an arts precinct. The Fitters Workshop was designed by John Smith Murdoch, better known as the architect of the original Parliament House (commonly referred to now as Old Parliament House). On close inspection it’s apparently simple lines reveal a refinement of detail not normally seen on utilitarian buildings.

Detail of a window, the Fitter's Workshop. Graphite and white chalk on gray-toned paper.

Detail of a window, the Fitter’s Workshop, 1916-17. Graphite and white chalk on gray-toned paper.

On the southern outskirts of Canberra is the Lanyon Homestead.  First settled by European squatters in the early 1830’s the land was granted to James Wright and John Lanyon in 1834. The Urban Sketchers Canberra group had visited here last year, but we weren’t able to make it then so we were finally making up for that outing.

We walked around the buildings and gardens trying to decide what to sketch. My eye kept coming back to the bell on the kitchen building’s roof. The kitchen complex, which also includes a cook’s room and cold store was built in the 1830’s. The bell and it’s supporting structure reminds me of an old south-western US mission bell, although Wright was supposedly influenced by the vernacular styles of his native Derbyshire.

The bell on the kitchen block, Lanyon Homestead, circa 1830s. Coloured pencil and graphite

The bell on the kitchen block, Lanyon Homestead, circa 1830s. Coloured pencil and graphite

I tried several versions of this sketch before I decided to focus solely on the bell and leave the steeply pitched roof and nearby buildings for another time.

After, I moved to sketch the farm buildings on the other side of the homestead. One of these buildings was the housing for the convict labourers who were first grated to Wright in 1835. I found the simple block style a contrast to the farm and bushland that formed the background. I also decided to simplify that landscape to emphasise the contrast with man-made structures.

Convict accomodation at Lanyon Homestead. Coloured pencil and graphite

Convict accomodation at Lanyon Homestead. Coloured pencil and graphite