Sketching in Civic

On Sunday our local Urban Sketcher’s chapter met for our May get together. It was great to welcome two new participants and catch up with some others who I haven’t seen in a while. We met in the centre of the city which is referred to as Civic. We were in part of the system of pedestrian plazas and near the Canberra Centre Mall.

While the weather didn’t deliver the hail that was forecast, the wind was quite blustery. Some brave souls sketched outside, but others took advantage of a seating area that overlooked the City Walk. I stayed outside as I had become fascinated with one of the more recent sculptures that have been added to the pedestrian areas. Anne Ross‘ work The Other Side of Midnight, 2012, is in three parts the centrepiece of which is a running girl flanked by two running hounds.

The Other side of Midnight, central figure, coloured pencil on cold pressed paper

The Other side of Midnight, central figure, coloured pencil on cold pressed paper

I had some more time before meeting up with the others so I pulled out my new Strathmore sketchbook which is the toned tan. It will be interesting to compare the sketches I’m making in this book compared to those in the grey-toned book I’ve just completed. This second sketch was a more traditional view of the plane trees that are planted in City Walk.

Plane trees, City Walk, coloured pencil on Strathmore toned-tan paper, 1 May 2016

Plane trees, City Walk, coloured pencil on Strathmore toned-tan paper, 1 May 2016

In my haste to capture the scene I botched the perspective and scale up – something I didn’t realise until I looked at the sketch after I got home. Oh well, there’s a lesson there! After having the obligatory group shot we went down to the food court for lunch and a catch-up.

If you are in the neighbourhood and would like to join us our next Urban Sketchers Canberra outing will be to the National Portrait Gallery, on Sunday 5 June at 10.15 am.

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

Cafe Wednesday, construction continues

The renovation work is continuing at our local shops, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone from dropping by for a coffee.

The last two weeks I’ve been drawing the machinery on site. Unfortunately no good figure sketching opportunities have arisen since my previous post on this subject. Two weeks ago I drew the bobcat, which was parked up at a pretty uninteresting angle to where we were sitting.

The bobcat, 16 march 2016, coloured pencil and graphite on gray toned paper

The bobcat, 16 march 2016, coloured pencil and graphite on gray toned paper

I’m not very excited by this drawing, I could have used the coloured pencils more effectively, rather than just ‘colouring in’.

Last week we found a better seat to observe what was going on. Thankfully the small digger that was being used to work on the replacement of the drainage system was parked at a good angle to our table.

Small digger, 23 March 2016, coloured pencil, ink and white chalk on gray toned paper

Small digger, 23 March 2016, coloured pencil, ink and white chalk on gray toned paper

This time I thought a lot more about how I was going to use my colour, which was probably helped by using the pen for the initial drawing. I kept my drawing loose, which is how I prefer to work. However there was one glaring mistake. I didn’t look carefully enough at the angle of the digger before I started. Had I done so I would have seen that the bucket was actually well below the level of the tractor treads. So now I have a more interesting composition instead, with the bucket tucked in the middle of the sketch.

Federation Rocks

It would have to rank as one of the weirder birthday presents, but when the city of Canberra turned 100, in 2013, we got a set of boulders, one from each state and territory in the Commonwealth of Australia. They are collectively known as the Federation Rocks. We stumbled across this place when we followed a small stub of a road to see what was there.

Each boulder, with the exception of the ironstone from WA, has a small ‘window’ where the surface has been polished so you can enjoy the beauty of these rocks. They also have a descriptive plaque attached to them, hence the odd rectangle in the painting below.


Queensland’s contribution, a limestone boulder from Chinaman Creek, studded with marine fossils, 23 December 2015, graphite and watercolour

While the Chinaman Creek boulder from Queensland is the most dramatic of these boulders, I do enjoy the way they have been placed in a graceful arc.


From foreground to the rear, Chinaman Creek limestone (Queensland); My Goyder Syenite (Northern Territory); and Canberra Limestone, (Australian Capital Territory). 23 December 2015, graphite and watercolour 

The ironstone boulder from Western Australia is the oldest in the collection coming in at nearly 2.5 million years old. The colours in it are so beautiful.


Brockman Formation ironstone, 2490-2450 million years old. Now that’s ageing gracefully!

At present these boulders grace a turning circle and small parking area which appears to be home to every spare road sign in Canberra. While I was drawing the boulders one of my sketching companions had lots of fun capturing the absurdity that is that turning circle.

There are plans for greater usage of this area. It is to be the entry point to the National Rock Garden, a relative to the National Arboretum which is located up the hill from this area. If you like quirky tourist destinations then I suggest you give this one a go.

The Federation Rocks are located at the corner of Lady Denman Drive and Barrenjoey Drive, (close to the National Arboretum), just drive the two hundred metres to the end of Barrenjoey Drive to find them.

Flower Power

Today the Canberra Sketcher’s Group braved the massed tulips, not to mention the crowds, for our October sketch outing. It took awhile for us to collect ourselves as the parking was problematic, but eight of us did manage to meet up and get to work.

Several of us chose to work from highest part of the display area. We had plenty of interaction with people coming to see what we were doing.

Working from the high ground

Working from the high ground

The view across the display beds to the Ferris wheel was popular.

Rob's view to the Ferris wheel

Rob’s view to the Ferris wheel, watercolour and marker pen

But getting in all those people and plants was definitely a challenge.

Hard to fit 'em all in!

I found it hard to fit ’em all in! watercolour and graphite

Other’s chose to focus on smaller scenes,

Elaine's sensitive linework view of a picnic spot

Elaine’s sensitive linework view of a picnic spot, pencil, fine pen and watercolour

and flowers

Tulip study by Deb

Tulip study by Deb, watercolour and pen

and traders stalls.

Mandy's tulips and traders

Mandy’s tulips and traders, watercolour and fine marker pen

Of course ther’es always room for that ice cream.

Ice cream vendor, watercolour and graphite

Ice cream vendor, watercolour and graphite

In the end we were grateful to sit down and enjoy our picnic lunch, while comparing notes and catching up on what people had been drawing in the previous month.

The day's collective effort

The day’s collective effort

I thought we might have had time to sketch some of the tasty treats that people brought along to share for lunch, but they all disappeared before anyone could even get their books out!

We will continue the floral theme with our November outing which will be held at 10.30am on Sunday 1 November, at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. We will meet on the lawns in front of the cafe. Hope to see you then!