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.


A quick-ish hop around the world via Singapore and now I find myself sketching in Rotterdam.

Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi. Watch our for large numbers of people dragging their luggage around while looking at their smartphones.

First sketch in Rotterdam the Markthal (Market Hall) by MVRDV architects, (2014).

Next the Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) by Pier Blom (1984).

This is an earlier version which I wish I had left at this stage instead of turning it into a turgidly overworked mess.

Then part of Auke de Vries sculpture ‘Maasbeeld’, with De Rotterdam, by Rem Koolhaas (2013) and the Erasmus Bridge in the background.

Today even further challenges with De Hef, (Koninginnebrug) a now defunct, lifting railway bridge.

‘Good Bones’ with Stephanie Bowers

We recently took off to Melbourne for a few days with friends to take a workshop called ‘Good Bones’, with architectural illustrator and urban sketcher Stephanie Bowers. Obviously the desire to learn how to handle perspective and use of water colour for illustration appealed as folks came from as far afield as Brisbane and even Perth to attend the workshop. I’ll spare you the blow by blow description of the workshop because Stephanie teaches these techniques in her online classes.

Our base for the two days of the workshop was the ‘Old Quad’ at Melbourne University. The university was founded in 1853 and sought to impress with buildings based on the cloisters and quadrangles of older European institutions. The Quad, with its arcades and arched cloisters certainly was a challenge.

Day one focused on basic instruction and demonstration on single point perspective. Sketches were in pencil with watercolour to follow on Day 2.


The Old Arts Building, Cussonia Court, University of Melbourne

Sketching in this much detail in pencil is definitely not my usual approach!


My second sketch with watercolour added on the following day, the Old Quad, University of Melbourne

Focused practice is always difficult. Another study in pencil.


Finding the perspective lines was challenging and I doubt I would have gotten this far without Stephanie’s expert tuition

After a day of concentration Stephanie had us make two quick 10 minute sketches.

Day 2 was spent trying out colour combinations and practicing our watercolour technique.

Following the workshop we spent a final half day with Urban Sketchers Melbourne. We had the advantage as we stayed at the University. Without the previous two days tuition I would not have had the skills to successfully tackle the design buildings at the university.


The dramatic extension of the Design Building with the Elisabeth Murdoch Building in the background

I would recommend taking a class with Stephanie, either on-line or in person.

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

Concrete pergola – three ways

I didn’t intend to do this drawing 3 times, but while I was sitting at one of the local libraries I saw this intriguing piece of architecture – an outsized concrete pergola. The structure itself is two stories high, each of the horizontal blades looks to be at least a metre high.

Firstly I tried drawing it with my fountain pen. I found it hard to control my tonal values and got rather lost somewhere between the vegetation and the structure.

Concrete pergola outside Woden Library, 24 February 2014.

Concrete pergola outside Woden Library, 24 February 2014.

The second attempt, from a slightly different perspective. This drawing shows a much better grasp of the structure, as I started by drawing the negative spaces. I also decided to skip most of the vegetation.

Second version of the concrete pergola outside Woden Library, 24  February 2014.

Second version of the concrete pergola outside Woden Library, 24 February 2014.

My last version was done on my phablet using PS Touch. I decided that one of the most attractive aspects of this scene were the colours of the concrete against the clear summer sky. So I ditched the vegetation and just stuck to the architecture. I quite like this one.

Third view of the pergola outside the Woden Library, 24 February 2014.

Third view of the pergola outside the Woden Library, 24 February 2014.