Teaching at the underpass

This year I have twice taught introductory classes on urban sketching for our local Community Arts Centre. We have been sketching at a local shopping centre focusing on sketching the underpass and the toilet block.

I have actually become quite fond of sketching this underpass.

Strange subjects for sketches I know, however they are simple enough shapes to practice proportional measuring and drawing for people with limited sketching experience. I want to help people experience the satisfaction of making a ‘good’ drawing; good enough to encourage them to keep on trying.

I won’t go into the details of what this all means, suffice to say that getting the relative proportions relatively correct means a much more satisfactory outcome to the drawing.

Above is a quick sketch where I’ve demonstrated how to use a pencil to measure the proportions of the underpass.

Demonstrating the results of making light and dark shades with watercolour pencils. The challenge is encouraging people to use a wider tonal range, particularly strong darks, which if nothing else save the sketch from death by mid-tone values.

Secondly some suggestions on how to use watercolor pencils. Then a small drawing demonstrating how you can emphasize the background, rather than focus on a tree in the foreground of your main subject.

A small sketch using ‘negative space, to make a tree trunk pop out from the over pass railings behind it.

And finally my piece de resistance a sketch completed upside down. This sketch shows the relative values of the underpass and how to include the two trees in front of it, without them detracting from the main subject.

All my best ideas are nicked from other sketchers. This one is no exception. Alvin Wong, an urban sketcher from Hong Kong, once explained that one of the most useful skills he learned in his early days as an architect was how to draw and write upside down, while delivering presentations to clients. Not only does it impress the socks off people, but in this case I could demonstrate the ideas I was trying to share so the sketcher could easily follow my drawing.

Not bad for my first upside down drawing.

Return of the rear view mirror

On a recent sortie I found a number of sketches done on the back of parking tickets from my car. You can tell by the dates on some of these sketches that I don’t clear out the glove box of my car often enough.

When I checked back through my posts I found that I had last shared similar sketches in 2014, here and here.

Some sketches done from my car in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Also a ring-in from 2019 as I couldn’t fit them all on the next page.

I must say that with the passing of time I did struggle to work out which way was up for some of them. I think I have it pretty right. Once I thought back to the places where I was likely to be waiting in the car most of them made sense.

Mainly practice drawing buildings and architectural details. I quite like the abstraction of some of them.

DESIGN Canberra sketches

DESIGN Canberra Festival is currently on and our local chapter of Urban Sketchers has been actively partcipating for the first time.

We ran a Drop in and Draw session in Civic Square on Thursday and a Sunday sketching event at Callam Offices on the weekend.

Our first event was marred by strong winds. I found this out the hard way when I got slapped with a big spray of water from the fountain I was sitting next to.

Some of the brave few that turned out to sketch.

The University of Canberra’s temporary architectural installation in Civic Square.

The statue of Ethos, by Tom Bass, at the entrance to the ACT Assembly building, with fountain (notice the water splotch in the dark grey section of the paint).

Sunday was marginally better weather wise. Callam Offices looks like a futuristic space module dropped into the Woden Town centre.

It was designed, amongst other things to demonstrate construction to survive potential floods. Hence it is set above the ground suspended around a series of concrete cores.

Designed by architect John Andrews and built in the late 1970’s these buildings are currently used as local government offices. It was originally intended that 26 modules be built, but only 3 were completed. Sadly one of Andrew’s other major Brutalist buildings in our city, the Cameron Offices has largely been demolished, which is pretty awful, but par for the course as far as our local lack of interest in heritage buildings goes.

My watercolour of one of the building cores.

Along with my main sketch I painted a detail of this ventilation outlet.

Tonight we are off to hear a conversation between the architect John Andrews and Tim Ross (a great promoter and documentor of Australia’s modernist heritage). I am really looking forward to hearing more about Andrews ‘ work.

Look first then sketch.

It is always so easy to slip into the habit of drawing what you think you see, rather than drawing what you actually see.

This could be a correct perspective if I was sitting a good metre or so below this woman.

A perfectly reasonable sketch except when I came to add other people in I realised that they would, if drawn in correct perspective, be scraping the roof of this alley way of shops. The rule of thumb is all heads of people, near and far in a sketch, should be on the same level unless you are sitting way above or below you subject.

This is the second version of my sketch this morning after I realised the woman’s head was below the jars of honey, not above them.

Sitting at the same level as this woman this is the correct perspective as she is sitting at the same eye line as me.

Side by side.

Back to the cafe

Back sketching at our favourite coffee shop this morning.

So good to get back to our favourite cafe.

I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to sketch, which was one of the key points in the workshop I did with Richard Briggs last week.

Trying to leave out unnecessary details.

I was interested in the relationship between the hedge across the road and the small hedge close to me. But then I realised that I really wanted the focus to be on the cluster of small stools in front of the hedge.

A small table and stools.

While completing this sketch it dawned on me that the shadows of the stools were also fascinating. One set was being cast by the sun and the ones you see in the painting were cast from the light reflected from the plate glass windows of the cafe. Sadly time and a lack of paper meant that I didn’t make a third sketch, but perhaps I can work on that next time.