On a Sunday morning the Sydney Sketch Club went to Summer Hill. It is a suburb in the inner west of Sydney about 15 minutes’ drive from where I live. There are some lovely old buildings there, and I had been there once before, sketching with Chris. We sketched the milk bar that time, so I was looking for something else. One of the buildings on the ‘recommended’ list was the old Post Office. I decided to give it a go. It was quite a challenge. Such a complex building with a number of sections to it, and angles of all sorts.
Although I have been practising my parallel lines as recommended by Gabi Campanario, in his book, The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location (Urban Sketching Handbooks) my lines are less than accurate here. I am working quite large. My book is 19cm (or 7 1/2 ” ) high, and across the two pages it is about 38cm wide (roughly 15 ” ). That’s quite large to be working on your knee with your eyes not so far above the page.
On the right, below the balcony, is a coffee shop, where there were tables and chairs and people. However, due to the nature of the building, I was quietly chanting to myself ‘simplify, simplify, simplify’. And it is of the highest importance to me to get the tonal values working, and that takes time. So I omitted the people (and the cars). But since then I have watched this video of a chat between Danny Gregory and Jason Das, where Jason talks about putting the people and the cars in the sketch to place the building in its urban setting. I would like this sketch more if it had some of that.
HOWEVER, two of us sat side by side sketching, and concentrating so hard that we didn’t talk the whole time. But watch this space, because I plan to take on board that suggestion.
Out sketching in the narrow streets close to where I live, we came across this cute little house, luckily with a patch of shade opposite. The little black notice-board on the left, by the window, puts out a call for female zine artists. One assumes a zine artist (female) lives here. Such an appropriate house for an artist.
This hall, which was once called Coronation Hall, is now the heaquarters of Subud. I had never heard of Subud, though, strange, I had just come back from Ubud. It appears that Subud is a spiritual movement which, not surprisingly, started in Indonesia. The hall itself is more than 100 years old. It was all in shadow, so I plan to go back and sketch it again when there is some light and shadow falling on the facade.
The previous Saturday I was out sketching with Urban Sketchers, Bali. A week later I am with Urban Sketchers Australia in Sydney.
Paddington is a suburb in the inner eastern side of the city. I used to live in this area, back when I rented, but I couldn’t afford to buy here.
My house is on the inner western side of the city, and now my area is almost as expensive as Paddington.
The sketch of the two windows is a restaurant where we eventually ate lunch. It is a Thai restaurant, but had lots of other options. Very good Thai beef salad. I do enjoy that.
Terrace houses in Paddington are known for ‘Paddington lace‘ – elaborate wrought iron, though it is also found in other older areas of Sydney. The second sketch is a typical example of a Paddington house.
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.