Saturday was an Urban Sketchers event. I nagged for Cockatoo Island (again) and they humoured me because it was my birthday. My nephew Geoff came down from Brisbane with a friend and we caught the ferry to the island on a perfect morning.
As the interstate visitors hadn’t been to the island before, we set off to walk around the lower island. All blocked off. We were directed in a different direction, but on the west side of the island you could only get to the cafe. Why? Angelina Jolie has been there filming. All celebrities had left the island, but the barriers had not yet been removed (and won’t be gone until 20th).
That left us a little less choice of sketching spots out of the sun, and it was hot. I went to a place that has a conglomeration of pipes, where I have sketched before. You might be able to see that the previous one has this same metal box from a different angle. This time there was a tiny piece of shade so I had very little choice for composition if I wanted to stay cool. I wasn’t so happy with my result. Our aborted walk around the island seemed to have put me off my stride.
So I went for a chat with a friend who was still sketching and decided to do a quick sketch of this little tap. I like it a lot better.
Delicious hamburger for lunch. A long time since I had a hamburger.
When I got back from my trip to Europe, my adult nephew from Brisbane came down to visit. I showed him my travel sketchbook. after a while he said, ‘I would like to do that. But I failed drawing when I was six’. And then he said, ‘But then again, I do technical drawings for my work.’ I said, well, in that case you can do it. Anyone can do it. I showed him Danny Gregory’s book The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are. I also gave him some paper and a pen. He sketched several times a day for the next few days, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was reading Danny’s book. He got on to amazon.com and ordered it too.
Then I gave him a sketchbook – a bought one – but he expressed the wish to make one like mine. A few weekends later he came down again ‘to go sketching’. The weather forecast wasn’t good, so I went up to the art shop and bought enough Canaletto paper to make two books. Just as well.
So Friday night we talked sketching and painting and he ordered The Art of Perspective: The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium. I have a review half-written to post on this blog. This book is perspective but so much more. He also ordered The Complete Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook: A treasury of watercolor secrets discovered through decades of painting and experimentation. This is two books in one and has everything you need to know about watercolour, particularly for landscape.
Saturday it poured with rain. I made the blue book above. I really loved this format while I was travelling, and I think I will stick to it for a while. My nephew chose some of my paste paper in burnt sienna and green for his covers, and an old map for the end papers. He had never done this before, but he took to coptic binding like a duck to water. Stitching faster than me, and a beautiful professional result. He has every right to be proud of it.
Then later he looked at some more of my books and ordered Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, and also The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World. I think you could say he is hooked.
Sketching yesterday around Newtown. A little park with some lovely old houses around it. One row of very elaborate large houses had so much architectural detail that you could sketch there for a month and still do something different every time. The first sketch I was trying out the three-media technique (with a variation). I used a red Copic Multiliner to sketch it initially, then put my mid-tones on with pink and peach Tombow pens – a bit too similar to each other. I needed to do that before the light moved around. Then a purple Tombow to reinforce the main lines and the darks. A waterbrush to just wash some of the purple over the windows. Very quick, and even better…nothing to finish afterwards.
The second one was from a row of small simple, but still old houses on another side of the park. This is the two-media technique. Green Copic Multiliner and watercolour mix of Antwerp Blue and Paynes Grey.
I did enjoy doing the pink and purple one. I have been wanting to do something in completely unrealistic colours and now I have. It is the monster technique of course. Such fun to do, but perhaps I should get back to some serious stuff. I do enjoy trying new techniques though. Any suggestions?
For a while I have wanted to try another of Lynne Chapman’s techniques. In fact I did try this one at Cooks River and was a bit dissatisfied with my results. After attempting it a second time, I decided it might be better for me to knock out a few problems while working without external distractions like boats swinging wildly in the breeze. We have had many rainy days recently so I looked through for a photo from my travels to try this technique with and found this very complicated roofline of San Marco in Venice.
This is the technique. It comes from Lynne Chapman’s Barcelona workshop Sketches that Sing. You choose three colours, each of a different medium. In this case I chose a Wine Copic Multiliner, a red-violet Big Brush Pitt Pen and Ulltramarine watercolour. I would have preferred it with the orange-red Copic Multiliner because it is very different to the red-violet colour of the Pitt Pen. The technique is about patterns and textures, so I have emphasised some of those, more than I perhaps would have otherwise. The sketch was straight in with the pen, quite quick, but it would have taken me a week if I had tried to do it ‘properly’. So its another ‘monster’.
A couple of weeks ago I sketched this tree using the same technique. It had a lot of patterns in the bark. First wrong step (remedied later). You need a strong dark. I chose a yellow Big Brush Pitt Pen, a brown Copic Multiliner, and olive green watercolour. The problem is the brown Copic Multiliner. I am still on the hunt for a pen with a rich dark brown. Both Copic and the Pigma Micron have a medium brown that is more like a sanguine and doesn’t give strong darks (so I don’t use it much). When I got home I used a Tombow Pen in a Burnt Sienna colour to strengthen the darks. It was a great improvement, but the colours would have been better if they were totally unnatural, (purple, pink, orange?) rather than earth tones.
What I learnt from the boats swinging in the breeze was this. It’s not a good idea to use your biggest strongest pen to sketch them initially unless you are drawing large. I had some small boats on a page. As they moved on the water, I needed to restate my lines, and there just wasn’t room. So start with a finer pen with moving objects, or work larger.
A beautiful day in Sydney last Thursday so we were off to Cooks River again, on the northern side of the bridge, closer to the boats. I did do more than this one sketch. I did try another of Lynne Chapman’s techniques, but not so successfully. So I’m not showing you……yet, till I get it right. The breeze was up, the boats were swinging about and I had used one of those jumbo Pitt Pens. Because I needed to restate my line when the boats moved, and the sketches were fairly small, the original line was too bold. Something learnt there.
So I tried the technique with the red primary object again, because that one was fun and successful first time. (Well, I thought so.) Funny shaped boat, isn’t it? I had to sketch it. Though it was a beautiful sunny day, it got chilly in the shade, yet it was too hot and glary in the sun. In the end the breeze drove us away. I was really hungry and we went to the Locantro cafe for some of their delicious pizza for lunch.
An online sketching group I am part of occasionally has a ‘Sherlock’. This is how it works: there are a set of parameters that each person who takes part must abide by. Then we email our sketches to one person, who puts them online anonymously. After the deadline, all sketches are revealed and everyone has to try to guess which sketch belongs to who.
In this Sherlock, we had to work on a 10cm square. We had to use all of the materials listed:
- black ink
- a twig
- one brush
- cotton wool ball(s)
I began with the ink and a twig, then lay on ultramarine glazes with a brush. I made a ‘cotton bud’ from the twig and the dampened cotton wool ball and softened the edges with that. My two sketches were from photos taken in the Tuscan village where I stayed in September.
It was a very interesting exercise. A number of the sketchers sharpened their twigs (I think from a tutorial by an Asian Urban Sketcher found somewhere on the net). However at art school I became very accustomed to sketching with twigs, so that option wasn’t of interest to me.
In discussing afterwards, we found varying results with the twigs. Some of the sharpened ones took up a lot of ink, making it an expensive proposition. Another sketcher tried a number of twigs from different trees and found the results quite different. My twig was from an albizia julibrissin (Persian silk tree) in my courtyard. I think I’ll stick to that.
You should be able to see all the Sherlock entries on this Facebook page.