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.

Face Painting

Here are some more watercolour sketches of faces of people in cafes.


My first sketch, which also included some pen and ink (note to self I find the ink lines rather distracting, even though they give ‘definition’)

As part of my ongoing strategy to disrupt lazy habits I decided to use only a Daniel Smith test palette for my colours. This palette includes a number of colours that I don’t have in my paint selection. The other benefit using this card is that it’s a lot easier to carry if you are traveling light.


The John Orlando Birt colour palette for Daniel Smith

I was happier with my results when I ditched my pen and just stuck to the watercolours.


Man in a puffa jacket, 26 June 2017, watercolour

I think that this head of a small boy was the most successful on the day.


26 June 2017, small boy, watercolour

Another day and another cafe, same watercolour palette. Three people who were sitting at the same table.


Three portrait sketches, 4 July 2017, watercolour

Drawing the exhibition -Robert Hannaford 

On a visit to  Adelaide a week ago we saw the retrospective of the work of Robert Hannaford, a South Australian portraitist, at the Art Gallery of South Australia. It was fascinating to see what 50 years of work looked like, particularly the many self portraits Hannaford has made over that time. I also enjoyed seeing that he made the type of quick sketches in coffee shops and bars that many of us make, which are worthwhile in themselves.  

What did surprise me were two sculptures that were included in the show. His understanding of the figure in space I found to be even more compelling than his painted portraits. As I was with other people opportunities for sketching were limited.  I  sketched two versions of his bronze sculpture ‘Handstand’.

Rather wonky, but I couldn’t resist the dramatic shadow being cast by the left leg over the torso of the sculpture

You can find more of his work at his website

The Big Draw at the NGA

Today was the annual Big Draw event held at the National Gallery of Australia. Several members of Urban Sketchers Canberra met up for the event and joined the crowds. Just inside the front door patrons were serenaded by the Ukelele Republic of Canberra band, singing and playing their way through a wide ranging repertoire.

The Ukulele Republic of Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia, pen and ink, 8 November 2015

The Ukulele Republic of Canberra (most of them), at the National Gallery of Australia, pen and ink, 8 November 2015

There were eight activities on offer and per usual it was impossible to get around them all in the three hour timeframe. First stop for me was Garden Country, in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art section. Here the work of Gertie Huddlestone was used as a starting point for a group work on the floor, or for some of us some individual inspiration.

Sketch after Gertie Huddlestone, We all share water, 2001, coloured pencil

Sketch after Gertie Huddlestone, We all share water, 2001, coloured pencil

I started to walk through to some other areas of the gallery, stopping to talk to the staff members overseeing other areas such as House and Garden, where some urban houses were being put together.

House and Garden, in the Australian Art section of the Gallery

House and Garden, in the Australian Art section of the Gallery

I only managed to get to one other activity before the agreed meet-up time. At Is your face a mask, people were given an I-pad to sketch themselves over a ‘selfie’. This proved to be popular with everyone as you could get a print-out of your efforts at the end.

Self-portrait with masks, I-pad

Self-portrait with masks, I-pad

Our group decided to get together for lunch over at the National Portrait Gallery where the crowds were not so busy. Here are our collective efforts from the morning.

USk Canberra sketches from the Big Draw

USk Canberra sketches from the Big Draw


Portraits of the Famous and Infamous

What a great title for a book – it was used by Rex Nan Kivell (1898-1977), for his self-published encyclopaedia of portraits of those people from the 15th to the 20th century, who had links with Australasia and the Pacific.  A colourful character himself, Nan Kivell collected the portraits that went into the book. He was a major contributor to the collections of the National Library of Australia. At present an exhibition of works related to Nan Kivell’s book is on display in the NLA’s  ‘Treasures’ Gallery.

I took the time while attending a lunchtime talk on the exhibition to practice a bit of portraiture myself, along with capturing some of the faces that appeared on the screen during the talk.

Faces real and projected, pen and ink, 4 November 2015

Faces real and projected, pen and ink, 4 November 2015

Up in the top right-hand corner is Nat Williams, the curator of the exhibition. Below him are Abraham Ortelius, the map maker; Betsey Broughton, survivor of a Maori revenge attack, who lived into her 80’s and is buried about an hour and a half’s drive from Canberra at the charmingly named Bong Bong cemetery. Sydney Spence a close friend of Nan Kivell’s and co-producer of the book and a partially finished sketch of Kalaimanokaho’owaha, a Hawaiian Chief.

Among the anecdotes that Nat shared was, that on being shown a map of Melbourne, Robert-Louis Stevenson said “When I think of Melbourne I vomit”. I can only hope for Melbournians sake that this may be inaccurate. I’ve only just been disabused of the idea that the quote, long attributed to Mark Twain, that “Newcastle [in New South Wales] consists of a long street with a graveyard at one end with no bodies in it, and a gentleman’s club at the other with no gentlemen in it” has neither primary or early secondary sources to attribute it to Twain.

Unfortunately I ran out of time and couldn’t make it to see the exhibition, but it’s on for another month so it will go on the ‘must see’ list.