More ‘colour cows’ join the herd

There’s not much that I like better than buying art supplies. Visiting another country, in my experience, is an excellent excuse to explore new brands and our new friends at USk Paris were most helpful in directing us to local art suppliers.

Here are the latest colours, mainly from Schmincke and Sennelier. I also have a new brush, whose name is Leonard no. 3, made by Gerstaecker (a brand I am unfamiliar with).

Down the bottom of the page are some Herbin inks that I also got in Paris at Galleries Lafayette. They come in 10 ml as well as 30ml bottles, all the better to encourage you to buy multiple bottles (see, it works). The most disappointing thing is that these inks are not waterproof. That hasn’t stopped me from using them, but I would be using them a lot more if I could be sure they wouldn’t run.

New colour cows: top row – Idanthrone blue (WN), Cobalt green turquoise (Schk), Delft blue (Schk); middle row – Payne’s grey (Schk), Potters pink (Schk), Light grey (Sen), Brown Green (Sen)

The other day I took Leonard no.3 out painting. He was a very good brush indeed. He holds lots of water and also has a good fine tip. This was the brush I used for the painting/ collage below, on the Canal St Martin.

The lock at Parc Eugene Varlin, Canal St Martin. Watercolour, pencil and collage.

Today I filled my favourite Sailor Fude nib pen with the Herbin Orange Indien and used it in my sketch of the Tropical Glasshouse at the Jardin des Plantes. When used in conjunction with watercolour you can get away without seeing too much ink bleeding.

Inside the Tropical House at the Jardins des Plantes, Paris

Urban Sketchers at the Shine Dome

Our urban sketching group met today to sketch at the Shine Dome, home of the Australian Academy of Science and one of the modernist masterpieces of this country. Designed by Roy Grounds and completed in 1958, the building is often referred to by it’s nickname as the ‘Martian Embassy ‘.

Behind the Shine Dome is a more recent edition to the Canberra skyline. The Nishi Building, 2015, with it’s green wall, includes offices and commercial space and incorporates, on the right, Hotel Hotel. This complex was designed by Fender Katsiladis Architects and March Studio, and landscape architects Oculus.

Watercolour, pencil

What I did on my Holidays – Part 1

(Warning this is a long post with lots of photos)

Flying in to Kuching (Malaysia) the sinuous Sarawak River looked the perfect picture of a tropical waterway. I was here with my partner and six other sketchers from Canberra to meet up with another 290 odd sketchers from all across Asia for the second Asia-link Sketchwalk.

Rockin’ the Asia-link Sketchwalk Kuching 2017 mascots with some friends

Organised by Peggy and the crew from Urban Sketchers Kuching, (USk Kuching) we were treated to three days of sketching, sweating, workshops, eating, making new friends and renewing old friendships. By way of explanation, a sketchwalk is where everyone goes out and sketches together in a specific location.

Our home base was The Granary, a large restaurant and bar complex abutting the older Chinese section of the city and a stone’s throw from the Sarawak River.

The Granary

The Granary, where all meals are accompanied by a sketchbook!

As most of the Aussies made it to the city a day before the official start we had some time to settle in and get our bearings. We started off with a boat trip on the Sarawak River.

Sketching our way down the Sarawak River

Luckily one of our friends speaks Malay so we able to get the boatman to let us drift downriver, so we could sketch as we went.

Trawlers on the Sarawak River, watercolour

He also took us to one of the shops specialising in those amazing Malay sponge cakes, Kek Lapis = layer cake.


Kek lapis, the brighter the better!

It was also the final day of the Autumn Moon Festival so we enjoyed the moon cakes and the evening parade with obligatory dragon and lion dancers.

'Leonie and Steve sketching at the Tua Peh Kong Temple.#alswkch2017'

Sketching at the Tua Peh Kong Temple. (photograph courtesy of Edric Hsu)


How to maintain your dragon

The organisers of the Sketchwalk arranged for a stamp, (beloved of all USk get-togethers), for every place where we sketched.

When you stopped to sketch you would soon be joined by other sketchers. Along the streets we would spread out keeping the locals amused and the official photographer very busy as he tried to capture all the sketching action.

Of course there were workshops. I did a workshop with Paul Wang (from USk Singapore), exploring the use of a credit card (or similar) as a painting tool.

Paul Wang giving us a demonstration at the start of his workshop

My sketch from the Paul Wang workshop

My second workshop was with Sanjeev Joshi (from USk Pune, India), exploring the use of collage in sketching. What I really liked about the schedule was that we had a chance to apply what we learned in the workshops in the daily sketchwalks.

My collage from the Sanjeev Joshi workshop, watercolour and brochure

The weather was kind for most of our stay, well apart from being hot and humid every day. Sadly we got rained out on the last day of the event. The planned group photograph outside the Sarawak Museum , was cancelled when the grass literally went underwater with the torrential rain.

Of course what I enjoyed most was meeting all those people


Sketchers on the final night in Kuching (photo courtesy of Jee Foong)


With a young sketching buddy

The entry gate to Carpenter Street with its many old Chinese shop houses

Our accomodation, The Marion Boutique Lodging House, a former boarding school

The colourful shopfronts in India Street


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


Sketching at the War Memorial

It might have been overcast today but we had a good turn out to the monthly get together of the Canberra Sketchers Group at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) – including 5 people who came along for the first time. Having briefly met for a quick chat and orientation everyone dispersed to draw.

Group photo time, the AWM behind us.

Group photo time, the AWM behind us.

The Memorial building itself is interesting and there are so many different¬†perspectives that is can be hard to choose just one spot to draw from. On previous visits I had discovered, not that it is hard to spot, the bridge of the HMAS Brisbane – the whole top section of the¬†battleship – which was removed and re-sited in the grounds of the memorial. Today’s cooler temperature meant that I could spend all the time I wanted to get the sketch done.

The bridge of the HMAS Brisbane with the Auatralian War Memorial in the background, watercolour and brush pen, 6 September 2015

The bridge of the HMAS Brisbane with the Auatralian War Memorial in the background, watercolour and brush pen, 6 September 2015

Afterwards we got together in Poppies cafe for¬†coffee, chat and comparison of our sketches. As always it was fascinating to see the various styles and subjects of everyone’s drawings.

Our collective efforts!

Our collective efforts!

The¬†next Canberra Sketchers Group sketchwalk will be on 4 October, 10.30 am, we will be meeting to sketch at Floriade, Canberra’s annual floral festival. If you will be in Canberra you would be welcome to come along. For more details please contact me through¬†the link at the top of this page.

On the street in Chinatown

We loved the quirkiness of our new hotel, not to mention the free wifi. But what turned out to be one of its greatest assets was the bar area at the front of the hotel which was open to the street. We could sit here and sketch in comfort with a cup of coffee or a glass of something stronger by our side. It was also a great place to meet people, including the three other sketchers who had been in Singapore at the Symposium, and were staying at the hotel as well.

The phone box outside our hotel, 29 July, watercolour, pen and ink

The phone box outside our hotel, 29 July, watercolour, pen and ink

In the lanes around the hotel were many vendors selling just about everything from coffins to fresh fruit.

Apple stalls in Thanon Mangkon, Chainatown, Bangkok, 29 July 2015, watercolour, brush pen and ink

Apple stalls in Thanon Mangkon, Chainatown, Bangkok, 29 July 2015, watercolour, brush pen and ink

I’m not sure of how the street stall system works in Bangkok, but people clearly had their ‘regular’ position. This was the vendor selling roast chestnuts out the front of the hotel.

The roast chestnut stall, Chinatown, Yaowarat St, Bangkok, 30 July 2015

The roast chestnut stall, Chinatown, Yaowarat St, Bangkok, 30 July 2015

I really loved being able to just sit and enjoy watching the people passing on the street and on Friday night the joint was really jumping. It was also raining heavily so while the kitchen was under cover,

Kitchen under the umbrellas, Chinatown Bangkok

Kitchen under the umbrellas, Chinatown Bangkok

the wait staff just had to improvise!

Quick and easy rain hats, Chinatown style! Bangkok

Quick and easy rain hats, Chinatown style! Bangkok

USk Singapore Symposium Day 2

Another early start. We were up and out to find some breakfast before the day’s workshop . This I was with Virginia Hein for Dark and Light with a Punch of Colour.
Virginia started us of by explaining the concept if notan, a Japanese word for the harmonious blance of light and dark. Not a 50/50 split but rather a means of examining the bones of a composition before making a study or final work. It turns out , unbeknownst to me at the time that this is something I really love doing.
There were three steps to the class. First drawing a thumbnail sketch in pencil , preferably a flat carpenter’s pencil, or a regular pencil drawn using it’s side , marking in the dark tones. It may help to use a view finder, that is a piece of paper with a rectangle torn into it , so you can frame a scene and select what you want to draw.


By the way its easy to say that there’s not enough time to make a thumbnail sketch, but it is time well spent as we were reminded. Since the class I’ve tried to stick to this approach and I’ve found it very helpful way of noting a scene particularly if I don’t have time for a full drawing.
Next step is to fill in the mid-tones. For some reason I struggled with this at first. Virginia suggested that this should be in grey. You can mix your own or use Payne’s grey, just remember that the mid-tones can also be used to delineate objects.


Finally for that punch of colour. For our first attempt Virginia suggested that we limit it to one colour. But once you’ve got the hang of things you can try it out with more colours. One tip, remember that some of your colours may act as mid-tones, this can make your final image less satisfactory.