Drawing Sydney (not all cafes)

Well it’s been a while since I posted, mainly because I have been busy finalising my first solo exhibition in Sydney, (more of that in another post). We had to drive up from Canberra for the installation so once we arrived we had some spare time to get some sketching done.

You probably won’t be surpised that this has meant sitting in cafes and sketching, although it’s also been about taking the opportunity to look out at the busy urban settings as much as drawing people. We are staying in the inner-ish suburb of Strathfield, close to the railway  station. It’s a lively area with plenty of activity all day.

Early morning coffee sketching at Maldini’s Espresso. The place across the road must have the good dumplings because there were always queues there at night.

The area also has a very strong Korean focus. You can’t go wrong with Korean barbecue restaurants and the style and content of the local grocery and specialty shops is a far cry from what we have in our local area. It makes a heady mix for us sketchers!

We also spent some time at the Art Gallery of New South Wales,  where I had just enough time to sketch some sculptures as fit in another cafe sketch.

Lyndon Dadswell, The Birth of Venus, 1944. One of a number of smaller sculptures displayed together.

I love the way these groupings of sculptures relate to each other and the art around them. It was a bit of a challenge to see enough detail in the Dadswell sculpture to draw it, as it was silhouetted against a bright window. The view of the back of the sculpture was much better lit. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to sketch that as well.

The rear view of the Birth of Venus by Lyndon Dadswell.
One final cafe sketch.

Teaching at the underpass

This year I have twice taught introductory classes on urban sketching for our local Community Arts Centre. We have been sketching at a local shopping centre focusing on sketching the underpass and the toilet block.

I have actually become quite fond of sketching this underpass.

Strange subjects for sketches I know, however they are simple enough shapes to practice proportional measuring and drawing for people with limited sketching experience. I want to help people experience the satisfaction of making a ‘good’ drawing; good enough to encourage them to keep on trying.

I won’t go into the details of what this all means, suffice to say that getting the relative proportions relatively correct means a much more satisfactory outcome to the drawing.

Above is a quick sketch where I’ve demonstrated how to use a pencil to measure the proportions of the underpass.

Demonstrating the results of making light and dark shades with watercolour pencils. The challenge is encouraging people to use a wider tonal range, particularly strong darks, which if nothing else save the sketch from death by mid-tone values.

Secondly some suggestions on how to use watercolor pencils. Then a small drawing demonstrating how you can emphasize the background, rather than focus on a tree in the foreground of your main subject.

A small sketch using ‘negative space, to make a tree trunk pop out from the over pass railings behind it.

And finally my piece de resistance a sketch completed upside down. This sketch shows the relative values of the underpass and how to include the two trees in front of it, without them detracting from the main subject.

All my best ideas are nicked from other sketchers. This one is no exception. Alvin Wong, an urban sketcher from Hong Kong, once explained that one of the most useful skills he learned in his early days as an architect was how to draw and write upside down, while delivering presentations to clients. Not only does it impress the socks off people, but in this case I could demonstrate the ideas I was trying to share so the sketcher could easily follow my drawing.

Not bad for my first upside down drawing.

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.

DESIGN Canberra sketches

DESIGN Canberra Festival is currently on and our local chapter of Urban Sketchers has been actively partcipating for the first time.

We ran a Drop in and Draw session in Civic Square on Thursday and a Sunday sketching event at Callam Offices on the weekend.

Our first event was marred by strong winds. I found this out the hard way when I got slapped with a big spray of water from the fountain I was sitting next to.

Some of the brave few that turned out to sketch.

The University of Canberra’s temporary architectural installation in Civic Square.

The statue of Ethos, by Tom Bass, at the entrance to the ACT Assembly building, with fountain (notice the water splotch in the dark grey section of the paint).

Sunday was marginally better weather wise. Callam Offices looks like a futuristic space module dropped into the Woden Town centre.

It was designed, amongst other things to demonstrate construction to survive potential floods. Hence it is set above the ground suspended around a series of concrete cores.

Designed by architect John Andrews and built in the late 1970’s these buildings are currently used as local government offices. It was originally intended that 26 modules be built, but only 3 were completed. Sadly one of Andrew’s other major Brutalist buildings in our city, the Cameron Offices has largely been demolished, which is pretty awful, but par for the course as far as our local lack of interest in heritage buildings goes.

My watercolour of one of the building cores.

Along with my main sketch I painted a detail of this ventilation outlet.

Tonight we are off to hear a conversation between the architect John Andrews and Tim Ross (a great promoter and documentor of Australia’s modernist heritage). I am really looking forward to hearing more about Andrews ‘ work.