Although things have been busy since I got home, I went out sketching at Summer Hill with Chris Haldane recently. Chris showed me some local architectural gems and we both chose this old milk bar to sketch. You can see Chris’ sketch here, and she tells a lot more about the history of the milk bar, that I didn’t know at all. She knows the area much better than I do, though it is not so far from where I live.
It is winter here, but the sun was bright and we could sit outside on a corner without getting cold. We both found this sketch a challenge in the bright sunlight. To me, the point of interest was the pale washed out blue around the upper window. But the sun on the red brickwork was so strong. It was hard to get the tones right. We both want to go again and give it another try.
The thing that drives me crazy about my own sketchbook is that, unless I plan ahead and draw a line around the page, I always fill the whole page. So with this sketch I cheated, and digitally put a white border around it. Recently while reading Matthew Brehm’s book Sketching on Location, I read what I already knew – sketches look better with white space around them (Flickr, take note).
So why do I do this? A couple of reasons.
I was a painter and drawer long before I became a sketcher. I am used to filling up the canvas. Used to filling up the paper.
The other reason is that I am used to working big. BIG. Before I went to art school I thought A4 (letter size) was big. Immediately when we started in first year, we were onto A1 size and expected to fill the page. That’s around 23 x 33 inches. Then A1 became small, and we were expected to work much bigger.
Cartridge paper – six sheets of A1
Here’s one I did of the studio. I started with one A1 sheet and it grew to six. So the whole drawing is about 99 inches across by 46 high.
Stonehenge paper – nine sheets
The next drawing is on nine full sheets of Stonehenge paper. Each sheet is about 22 x 29 inches. So this one is nearly 90 inches wide by 66 high.
This is probably the reason I can’t fathom the use of tiny sketchbooks. They make me come over all peculiar (more peculiar).
These large drawings were done about ten years ago. The last one may look abstract, but in fact it was an investigation into drawing ‘the bound object’. We all had to bind an object during the holidays as a basis of our drawing for the next term (final year- Advanced Diploma of Fine Art). I got some old metallic helium balloons with congratulatory messages on them, and bound my object (rags? I can’t remember) with yellow curling ribbon. I was the only member of a large class with a coloured ‘bound object’. Beige, white, grey, black…and then mine. I did the realistic colours first and then was instructed to do more in different colourways till I had a large wall full of them.
So on Thursday we sketched around Newtown. In this area is one of the best streets in Newtown. An interesting link on this blog. So is mine by the way, but my street is full of ‘workers’cottages’ whereas this area has large mansions with lots of lovely architectural detail to sketch. I slopped on watercolour first and drew into it. There’s a nice little park opposite where we sat to sketch. Forced to listen to a ‘lovers’tiff’ which, it seemed to me, had only one obvious ending.
Yes, sketching in purple again at the Urban Sketchers February Event on Saturday. I do like to vary the colour I use. It was a hot morning when we met on the steps of Sydney Town Hall. Sketchers scattered for the patches of shade before beginning.
My first sketch was the north door of St Andrews Cathedral. A few sketchers ended up there, because we could be in the shade and there was some light falling on parts of the door. We were surrounded by interesting buildings but not so many fitted the bill for light and shade.
For the next sketch we crossed the road and perched on our stools right next to one of the busiest intersections in Sydney. We sat back in the entrance of Citibank, otherwise we would have been run down by pedestrians. A myriad of wonderful rooflines to explore, hampered only by buses blocking our view when they stopped at the lights.
I enjoyed this sketching because I’ve still got in mind that these buildings are Inma Serrano’s monsters….a bit more organic that I would have done in the past. I think I can go a bit more organic yet.
Jeffrey Smart’s exhibition at Sydney University is not to be missed. Before you read any more, have a look at the image, ‘Night Stop, Bombay’ (1981) on the university web page about the exhibition. This one interested me, because the travellers among us have all seen things like this. (Urban Sketchers always sketch the cabin of the aircraft. I don’t because I’m perverse like that).
Jeffrey Smart was an Australian artist who lived in Italy. He died last year while I was in Bali. I think he is my favourite artist of all. He painted those hard edged things that I have come to sketch and paint in the years since I left art school (2007).
So what do I draw on the aircraft? My drink. It started when I did my first trip after a long time without travel. I was going to Bali on Garuda Indonesia, and I ordered a Bintang beer and drew that. So much associated with Bali. Then my next trip I was flying Finnair. That airline uses Ittala glassware, so another sketch closely associated with the country of origin. Next trip will be on Cathay Pacific. I wonder what that will bring.
But this image from the aircraft window interested me. It was painted before the advent of readily available digital cameras. Now, what we would do is sketch, then take a photo to aid in developing the painting. Not then. The sketchbook associated with the painting was there. Smart had done three sketches. There were also some notes which said he had used a truck tyre to finish his work for the painting because they were more readily available.
If you are in Sydney, don’t miss this exhibition. It is on until 2nd March. If not, Google Jeffrey Smart and look at the images. You will see why I like his paintings so much. Urban landscape, clear clean colours, interesting skies, not necessarily blue.
Last weekend was another Urban Sketchers Event, this time at Luna Park. Leaving home, walking up over the park, I could feel it in my chest that there was smoke in the air. Once the train emerged from the tunnel onto the Harbour Bridge I saw how much smoke. The Opera House was distinctly hazy, even from so close.
Once at Luna Park I looked for ‘monsters,’ to sketch. You’d think it was a good place for monsters and it is, but the necessity for a patch for shade and other factors sometimes limits where I want to sketch. They had just washed the pavements and one friend didn’t have a chair.
We found some seating and I sketched this roofline (they’re starting to be a habit). Colour first, then line. I tried with a yellowish tombow pen, but the line was too thick. I didn’t like the effect in this particular sketch so I washed it away.
When I had finished, I left the others and walked back towards the front of Luna Park; towards the bridge. What a surprise. Almost no Harbour Bridge to be seen through the heavy smoke haze although we were almost directly underneath. Not fires, just burning off to try to halt the fires that can’t be controlled.
I found another little shady spot where I could see a potential ‘monster’. It is the back of one of the towers that flank ‘The Face‘. I now always work colour first, so I slopped my colour on, and as she developed she turned into a nice little Rampant Rabbit female monster, don’t you think?
Another wet day for an Urban Sketchers Event. The venue this time was the ‘back lanes of Newtown’which is my local area. You might remember that Liz Steel and I went for a reconoitre to plan the venue and I sketched this portion of the building.
It started to rain almost as soon as we started sketching, but I persevered till I had all the ink on, even though I was drawing on a wet page. The paper was the robustissimo Stillman and Birn Delta series, and I was using a Copic Multiliner pen which continued to draw on the wet paper. Not only was the rain splashing on the paper, but the building turned out to be the rear of Splash restaurant.
I sometimes walk along this back lane when I go to the library, so I am very familiar with the colours of the building and I also have a few photos of it. At this time of the year, on a sunny day, the airconditioning vents cast wonderful shadows. When i put the colour on later, at home, I painted a hint of the shadows from a photo, and although I deliberately painted a rainy sky, it looks as if the sun was out as well. It wasn’t.
Well, we had to sketch fast because of the weather, and then a number of us adjourned to The Pie Tin, on the next corner. It is a relatively new cafe specialising in pies, both savoury and sweet. I had some sort of a North African lamb pie, and it was delicious, chock full with meat.
In fact the conversation was almost worth the curtailed sketching. One of the things it let me to was Rod Byatt’s interesting discussion about Danny Gregory’s new book An Illustrated Journey, which we all own, of course. The conversation also, as always, turned to materials. My view is that there is an over emphasis on materials. Yes, they must be good quality, but more is not better. Colour mixing, rather than buying every colour. Not a popular or common view. And I have heaps of stuff.
On Thursday I went out and about in Newtown with fellow Urban Sketcher Liz Steel. I was showing Liz some places around my local area where we might be able to have an Urban Sketchers event. King Street, the main shopping street in Newtown is too popular on the weekend with people lunching and brunching. Not much room for sketchers on the pavements and certainly not in the cafes.
I took Liz to my favourite building which has a little park opposite. I’ve sketched this building before here and here. I could spend a lifetime drawing this building in sections and with different media. The blue of the paper was similar to the blue of the steel, so that is why I chose to sketch this section. The scan is not really true to the colour.
I particularly like this sort of ‘industrial’ image on toned paper. Not working consecutively through the book is serving me well, but I will be glad when the book is fuller.
Here is the crazy building in all its glory. Liz sketched the whole building here.