Perspective Practice

This is the first in a short series that comes from tidying up my blog. I have found several draft posts that never made the light of day. So here they come.

Following on from the class with Stephanie Bowers, an architectural illustrator and urban sketcher, on getting a handle on perspective, I thought I’d better get some practice in. These are some of the sketches I’ve done over the past few days.


Thank heavens for narrow alleys

While they are not necessarily the most exciting of locations, our local shopping precinct has enough lanes and intersections to make finding a subject easy.


The bus stop provided convenient seating, as well as subject matter

Stephanie also taught us watercolour techniques, to add to our perspective drawings. I love the opportunity to pick up tips from other artists, such as a good way of getting an even darker grey by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, with the tiniest touch of Alizarin Crimson. Stephanie also demonstrated using square brushes, something I haven’t done before with watercolour.

Everyday practice

Here are some sketches from my current ‘handbag’ sketchbook. I am trying to use up one of the myriad sketchbooks that seem to spontaneously generate in my spare room. This book isn’t too good with wet media so I mainly try and sketch in pencil. The pencils I am using are a Palomino Blackwing 530 and my el cheapo multicolour pencil I got in Japan at Sekkaido.

In rough date order …

Trying to get some more interesting perspectives into these ‘regular’ events.

From the car in a roof top carpark.

Sketching graffiti from a roof top carpark.

This is a work in progress. I do a bit more every time I stop here to collect the mail.

Again, trying to enliven a cafe sketch. It gets very busy at our local cafe on Saturday morning. There are lots of parents and kids relaxing after the kids football matches.

‘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.

Drawing the exhibition – Encounters

This past weekend I visited the National Museum of Australia to see the exhibition Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum. The exhibition also provides links to contemporary Aboriginal people and communities via a series of videos that give the visitor an insight into their view of these items. But is an exhibition that is based on a paradox. That is that many of the objects on display were taken (read stolen), without permission from individuals or communities. Yet these objects would almost certainly have not survived this long, due to the perishable nature of their construction, had they not been taken. In several of the videos I watched, people commented on how they had gained both practical knowledge and cultural strength from interacting with these objects.

Two spears, taken by Captain James Cook and his men on their first encounter with Dharawal/Eora people in Botany Bay in 1770, form the literal centre of the display. The rest of the exhibition turns around this focal point in Australian history. As a ‘maker’ I love looking at the details of these spears, the long flexible prongs still bound tightly to the hafts of the spears. At the same time I was horrified to know that these examples, out of some 40 spears collected at the same time,  were taken after the local people, who tried to stop Cook’s attempts to come ashore, had been shot at and driven away by the landing party. Sir Joseph Banks wrote in his diary:

“[We] threw into the house to them some beads, ribbands, cloths & c. as presents and went away. We however thought it no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could find around the houses.”

Gweagal spears

Gweagal fish spears collected by James Cook at Botany Bay (foreground), with contemporary fish spears (background)

Before I tie myself into a total knot about my feelings about how many objects in this exhibition were ‘collected’ I’d better show you some of the items I drew.

First up is a stone kodj, or axe from King George Sound, Albany in Western Australia, collected by Alexander Collie sometime between 1831-33. This kodj was one of the tools used for butchering animals.

Kodj, (axe), stone, resin and wood British Museum Oc. 4768

Kodj, (axe), stone, resin and wood British Museum Oc. 4768

Two large stone flakes have been hafted onto a wooden handle with resin (not sure what type, but possibly from a grass tree). The sharpened end was also used in the butchering process. The strange yellowish shapes I noticed on the handle turned out to be collection labels.

A more complex construction was that of a necklace made of swamp wallaby teeth, which was collected some ten years later on the eastern side of the continent. The root of each tooth was bound by fine string to a leather strap. The teeth are in excellent condition and appear quite white, with almost a blue or violet tint, hence the water colours I added when I got home.


Necklace of Swamp Wallaby teeth, Gunditjmara and Kirrae Whurrong peoples. Collected by Augustus Strong, probably from St Mary’s, Warnambool in 1842-43. British Museum Oc. 1847, 0413.1

I also made two drawings of a Dangal, or dugong charm used for bringing good luck while on the hunt (well not to the dugong anyway).


Dangal (dugong) charm, collected by Alfred Court Haddon on Tudo in 1888

When I looked closely at this charm I could see what appears to be red ochre on it’s muzzle and also in a stripe along its back. The handle made of twine goes around the head and tail and a fine piece of twine is also threaded through the body of the animal via a small drilled out tube. This is such a refined a piece of work.


Per usual there’s so much more I wanted to draw, but there was more in store. Out the exit and into the next room is a second exhibition called Unsettled. This room showcases five contemporary Aboriginal artist’s response to the Encounters exhibition. I thought that this was one of the best small group shows I’ve seen in quite some time.

The work of Jonathan Jones is featured in a window that opens out into the main foyer. His work, Unitled (fort), reflects on a wooden fort built by surveyor and explorer Major Thomas Mitchell and his party of 21 men on 27 May 1835 . The stockade was built to protect against possible attacks by the local Kurnu Paakantji people. Fort Bourke was never attacked and no longer exists but Jones believes it remains a marker of still unresolved frontier relationships.


Jonathon Jones

Untitled (fort), Jonathan Jones , 2015, wood

I was also really impressed by the video work of Torres Strait Islander dancer/artist Elma Kris and the contemporary take on traditional burial poles by Yolŋu artist Wukun Wanambi.

I would highly recommend both exhibitions. On at the National Museum of Australia, until 28 March 2016. Entry to both exhibitions is free.

The beach again

We couldn’t resist a return to the beach. This time we moved a bit further north along the shore and stopped to draw the jetty at Henley Beach. We sat on the edge of Henley Square, part of the redevelopment of the beachfront carried out by Taylor, Cullity, Lethlean (whose work is familiar to me closer to home at the National Arboretum in Canberra) and Troppo Architects.


Part of Henley Square with the children’s water play area and shade ‘wing’ in the background.

What attracted me to draw the jetty was the blue shelter canopy at the end. The colours blended so beautifully with those of the sky and the sea.


Henley Beach jetty, pencil on grey-toned paper, 8 February 2016

I can see a lot of technical errors in this drawing, but at least I’m satisfied with the colour.

When I turned to my right I could see the beach showers, which are sculptures in their own right. I haven’t been able to find out the name of the person who designed thes, but that doesn’t detract from their interestingly functional design. As is often the case I’m much happier with this sketch than the one of the jetty that I laboured over!