Urban Sketchers Australia – Newtown


On a damp day in Sydney, nineteen sketchers met in the inner city suburb of Newtown for an Urban Sketchers Australia, Sydney event. We immediately headed a block away from busy King Street and scattered in the backstreets, sketching together and in small groups from 10 to 12.30.

Newtown is an inner Sydney suburb that went through (and still is going through) a transformation from a working class to a trendy cosmopolitan one. It is eclectic, individual, and unusual. It has a wide variety of 19th century commercial street architecture and includes a vast array of styles from high Victorian gothic, Queen Anne revival and Italianate. There are restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, retail stores, book shops, fashion designers and food shops.

In the area we were sketching in there we got to see the back of buildings with their pipes, chimneys, garages back stairs and doors. The buildings are higgledy piggeldy, and the rooftops are so interesting to see. It was difficult to know where to begin.

On the day, the weather chose my scenes for me.


The first ink drawing was a quick one, just to set the scene for the place and day. This is how I like to approach a day sketching outside. I would like to show where I am first before throwing myself into the detail. I am trying to give context on my page by doing this. It is something that I discovered when doing my Sketchbook Project last year “Travelogue: Paris 2007”. I made a sketchbook of my 2007 holiday to Paris, as if I was actually there, but from photographs and diaries.  In 2007 I was not drawing as much as I do now, so I wanted to think about what I would have done, and prepare for future travelling.  I noted down my thoughts in the sketchbook along the way.

I will get to try this in July when I go to London and Barcelona !

I was able to sketch the above scene sitting down on a paper bag (wet ground), with a umbrella propped up over me, held under one arm. It rained lightly for about half of this first drawing. Not enough rain to wet the paper, but enough to make it damp. I could still draw in ink on in. Then I added watercolour pencil from the brush (as if the paper needed more water on it!). Then the rain stopped, I put my umbrella away and finished it.

I walked a few meters to sketch the pink building in the photo below , but was so overwhelmed by it, that I turned around and saw drew this park bench. It is obviously someone’s home, with its collection of flattened cardboard boxes. I think that we were all very aware of it all morning. I had been drawing the backs of houses previously and this was someone’s entire house. Very sobering.

It was then suddenly 12.30 . We all met up to show and discuss our sketches and to go to lunch. See the other people’s results from the day as they go online over the next week at Urban Sketchers Australia.

Our sketchbooks – all shapes, sizes and styles

Urban Sketchers in Sydney in front of a building that many people sketched on the day

I sketched my lunch and also did some more sketches on the train on the way there and back


8 thoughts on “Urban Sketchers Australia – Newtown

  1. Art by Wiley

    I love this idea of doing the quick ink drawing as a way to set the scene. I think for me this would also be useful as a ‘warm up’ drawing as sometimes it’s a while between drawings and I feel a bit rusty launching into a full-blown street scene or whatever. These are absolutely gorgeous sketches and the park bench ‘home’ very poignant.

  2. Alissa Duke

    Thanks! I have learnt that it is best for me to do a quick sketch of a building. It stops me from trying to fill the page, getting lost in details and spending too much time.
    I also like the way I can balance a page by doing the building (or only part of it) in the “background” and then also do a more detailed, coloured section or feature on the page as well.

  3. Diana Zipeto

    Beautiful work, really like your palette of yellow, green and reds and your way of hiding and showing things. The large drain pipe on a rainy day seems especially poetic.

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