Monthly Archives: August 2013

I sketched with London Urban Sketchers!

 Another highlight of my London holiday (and there were so many) was sketching with the London Urban Sketchers on Wednesday 17 July . It was an event organized by Pete Scully with a  Jack the Ripper theme.
 Mum & I had been to the British Museum in the morning and were taking a day trip from London the next day, so this was a perfect way to spend a Wednesday afternoon in London .We later found out it was the hottest day we were London, at 31 degrees – just like Sydney weather. Just slightly more unexpected !
We met at Whitechapel station at 3pm. I immediately saw a few familiar faces, Sue Pownall (from Oman) and Pete Scully who I met in Barcelona. Mum & I quickly met other friendly London sketchers – Margaret  and Dawn and others ( who I didn’t get their names) . We were given a  Map with history of Jack the Ripper and the area – we could choose where to go, all splitting off to explore and draw different areas . Much like a Sydney Sketchcrawl. Below are our sketches and photos (and thanks to Dawn Painter too for photos)
We were each given an exclusive  Pete Scully mini sketchbook. Who needs to buy souvenirs when you have this! By the end of the day I only drew on a few pages. I had already discovered that I find it hard to multi-sketch-book
I decided to sketch old places – the older the better – there is history everywhere in London. And yet the area is so modern busy and hectic, right on a main road.
by alissa
by Lola
Mum & I & ?  sketching. we did not last long in the hot sunshine
 We started to sketch sketched with a few others at The Blind Beggar Pub(1894) , but it was in open sun at 3.30 pm very hot and intense.
by Lola

Whitechapel Bell Foundry and Palace on Pillars art installation by Alissa


We then moved onto the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (est 1570) (the yellow building in my drawing) and then down Whitechapel Road to Aldgate High Street

 I sketched with three guys (not sure who they were)  in the cool of Pret A Manger café, looking out over the street. The Gerkin, The Shard and other modern London buildings were on the skyline.  I was fascinated  by the modern building/art installation opposite us Palace on Pillars by StudioWeave (in my sketch above) .
in Pete’s book


I then walked across the road with Mum and we sketched in  St Botolph’s without-Aldersgate Church (1744)    This was my favourite. St Botolph’s  is the Patron Saint of Travellers ! that’s us.How could I not feel a connection to this building

 We then quickly walked to final meeting spot at Christ Church Spitalfields. Lots of other London Urban Sketchers had already gathered. We talked and sketched more
by Alissa

sketching sketchers in my Pete Scully mini sketchbook

by Lola

sketching sketchers in my Pete Scully mini sketchbook



by Lola

By 8pm we were tired and caught the tube home

Erin’s Sketch class and travel journaling Part Two

Today I returned to Manly to talk to Erin’s Sketching Class about my travel sketchbooks and my recent holiday to London and then Barcelona for the Urban Sketching Symposium.

It was a smaller class this week, so that just meant it was more informal and we talked more ! As a few of them are going on a Travel Sketching Holiday to Fiji with Erin in just a few weeks, it put them in the right frame of mind.

I showed them my two sketchbooks and talked about how I put my sketchbook pages together (mentally) and decide what to include in a page and where I put things on the page. The emphasis is always that is YOUR sketchbook and you decide what to include. It a record of your own holiday and moments that are important or unique.

We also talked about making and taking opportunities to sketch on holidays when you are with non-sketchers. Also thinking about when you can find a few minutes or some longer time to record a moment.

I sketched the basics of this page as I sat on the ferry going from Circular Quay to Manly. I knew I had eight minutes before the ferry sailed . I added the colour on the ferry ride out to Manly. Would I have done this if I was with non sketchers? probably .
I left a space on the left hand side as I know that I want to spend time at home drawing my old, folded bus timetable that I used. 
I also left space on the right hand side of the page as I knew that I wanted to draw a map of my journey. I drew it from Google maps when I got home. I drew it in ink, as the main feature of the page has enough colour.
updated version with bus timetable. drawn at home (while watching tv)

 The theme this week for Erin’s class was Barb’s birthday cake (I have never met Barb. She is a Friday sketcher- Happy Birthday !) I did not get a chance to finish the balloons as we had to leave to go to lunch.

But that does not matter – capture the moment on the page, as life around does not wait for you to draw it before it moves on.

and you don’t have to “finish” a page

Lunch at the Sugar Lounge in Manly . The sketching lessons continue through lunch from Erin as we sketched our food, table accessories, other people, or for me – the lights above. They look just like upsidedown birdsnests !

USK Barcelona DAY 1 Luis Ruiz Workshop

The Urban Sketching Symposium is a three-day workshop at which artists from around the world meet to draw and learn together in the host city. It includes field sketching sessions, lectures, panels, exhibits and artists demos. Symposium participants get one-on-one interaction with local and international workshop instructors coming to the host city from every corner of the world.

Barcelona was the host city of this year’s event in July. Past Symposiums were held in Santo Domingo (2012), Lisbon (2011), and Portland, USA (2010)

Urban Sketchers, is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising the artistic, educational and storytelling value of on-location drawing, promoting its practice and helping sketchers around the world connect with each other.
In Sydney on March 25 in Sydney Liz, Chris & I synchronized our watches and stayed up til midnight to be one of the 150 participants to register and enroll in the workshops. Lots of emails between us all and Esther in Edinburgh ! But what a buzz

Symposium attendees chose up to five urban sketching workshops out of a rich menu that covers a wide range of subject matter, including perspective and architecture, picture design, storytelling and reportage, color techniques and more.

 What workshops I chose and why

Each workshop was well described on the website before and had stated goals In the end I successfully enrolled in workshops that I thought would help me build and grow my urban sketching knowledge. There were instructors whose art and blogs I had enjoyed and admired so much. However, some of them were teaching workshop themes that I did not want to learn in those three precious days. I managed to say hello to them at some time during the Symposium.

I took something valuable away from each workshop I enrolled in . It may not have always been the main aim of the workshop (sorry instructors) , but I took something away. I heard it described a “CLICK” moment and I think this sums it up – Either confirming. establishing in words something I was aware of, and tightening it up, new concept -opening my eyes.

There were also pre-workshop Panel sessions, Demos and Lectures from 2-4pm . I made a decision for my health not to go to these but instead to go back to lovely hotel, relax and rest my feet and head–.I also was going back to the hotel at 9pm when others were heading out to dinner. It was the best choice for me.

Here are some short (3-4 min) YouTube videos  I found online that show  the Urban Sketchers Symposium. They give you an idea of what it was like ! Brilliant

Now  that I am home it is up to me to put all the my Workshop experiences into practice. Some of the CLICK moments I can see on my pages or I know that I when I am applying it in my drawing.

My extraordinary experience


Day One began by going to the central CCCB centre and collecting the Symposium sponsor (ie goodies) bag and necktag with name in BIG LETTERS. You could spot a USK-er in the street and chat to them


We went back to our hotel to drop off out bag and I really didn’t get a chance to look though it properly til I got to London four days later) I had decided to use my usual Moleskine watercolor sketchbook everyday and do my workshops sessions a in a sponsors book, a specially embossed Stillman & Birn Heavy Weight Paper 150 gsm Ivory sketchbook that would take my watercolour pencils (the known) while learning the unknown. I did not want to challenge myself too much at once !

Then back to the Auditorium for the Opening Ceremony – a wonderful a warm welcome from the panel and Swasky. 

The we all headed  out to the  CCCB central forum that we would get to now so well. You then looked for your Workshop letter held in the air by the Instructor .

The workshops took place in emblematic Barcelona squares, streets and other public spaces such as Plaça Reial, Mercat de la Boqueria and Rambla del Raval, to name a few. Each workshop took 3 hours and was limited to a maximum of 17 participants) Each day had wonderful weather (except for that day it rained) It was 26 degrees – hat and sunburn cream each day.


It was a thrill to be in the wonderful Luis Riuz’s workshop
I wish I had taken more notes on paper on the day, but I was too busy living the moment and soaking it all up.

Workshop I 10 – 1pm 
Actors and Stage
Instructor: Luis Ruiz
Location: Pla dels Àngels, MACBA



Drawing in an urban context means being exposed multiple stimuli; the city is a complex environment from the visual point of view. You cannot capture on your sketchbook everything that is going on. It is perhaps preferable to select some story that has caught your attention and is worth to be told. The street and its architecture are the stage, and there each actor plays a role. And… actors are not always people! A building, a van, a dome or tower can play a role too.


Learning goals

  • Selecting what is important and what can be left out of the drawing.
  • Using the empty space of the paper as an active element.
  • Capturing the depth of the urban space: Actors play their role in the scenery.
  • Avoiding getting lost with the details. Do not draw everything!!
  • Leading the watcher’s eye to the desired place of the sketch

My Workshop Sketches

selecting what is important

Avoiding getting lost with the details. Do not draw everything!!

My Takeaway

Repetition – when sketching buildings down a street- don’t get lost in the details. Getting lost in the detail of architecture is something I struggle with and I now have a methods to put into place. For this sketch I did not even count the number of balconies and windows. Of course Sydney streets do not have those long buildings of Europe, but it is the concept that I can put in place.


The sketch above was THE BEST one hour –very self indulgent. At first, I thought that the washing and balcony was the feature of the little street, but it I realised it was the people in the street leading the eye. After getting the tight perspective right I added the people, then the repetition of he windows and balconies . Everything help directs the eye


Then we looked at each other sketchbooks – Amazing art by everyone!!
Then tapas lunch for all. I sketched mine of course (it was Esther’s as well, so she was patient to wait)

 all of my Barcelona sketches are on flickr



Erin’s sketch class and travel journalling Part One

Today I was invited to Erin Hill Sketch Class to share my experiences from the Barcelona Urban Sketchers Symposium  and my travel journal sketchbooks from London (still scanning and uploading these) and Barcelona. I basically got to talk about what I love and enjoy to a group of people were really interested. Perfect. And I get to continue my “holiday high” even though I have been home three weeks now.

AND I am going back next Saturday to do it all again ! Fabulous . If you are in Sydney and would like to book into her class have a look at Erin’s website.

Using my new Moleskine watercolour accordion fold book.

I talked for half an hour (so much to say, so little time!) while the class had a look at my two travel sketchbooks. They asked questions about how I choose the workshops I did and what I learnt (which I hope I answered in the short time we had). I have a lot of full blog posts yet to come about these.

Although we officially then started Erin’s class (theme: floral) the discussion continued all morning and though lunch. We talked about formatting pages, where to start drawing, and writing on the page. Erin guided the students on colour, tone and formatting.

Erin had chosen a “floral” theme and we sketched two cacti arrangements that were on the tables (in 25 minutes) and then walked down the road to Rambling Rose:floral atelier to draw the inside or outside of the gorgeous shop. I was attracted to the black and white striped awning and the building, but also included some of my fellow sketchers on the page.

This little cacti had marks on it which made it look like a little Japanese figure. I found it hard to remember that it was a spiky plant!

I had also started my page and my day as if I was on holiday – the ferry ride, a map ,  scenes.


I also like to write comments on the page during the day. They can either be my reactions to places, sights, sounds or smells or just what I am thinking at the time. I think that it makes the whole page more personal and individual.

At lunch I got to show some of the class how I use my watercolour pencils and of course we  drew lunch.


travel sketchbook journalling

On Thursday, October 11, 2012 I wrote the following blogpost for KateJohnson’s wonderful Artist’s Journal Workshop blog. If you are not familiar with it and the book you should read it !

I am reposting this now as I have just returned from three weeks of travelling to London and Barcelona , where I have put all of my thoughts and ideas in practice. In the next few weeks I will let you (and Artist Journal Workshop) know what worked (most things ) and what didn’t (a few things) in reality.

I am also going to share my thoughts and travel journals with Erin Hill’s Sketching Class this Saturday, so they may be interested in reading it too

Travel sketchbook thoughts : Alissa Duke

Thoughts on creating myTravel Sketchbook

I have had these thoughts going through my head for a while and I wanted to put them in an organised version on paper. The catalyst has been the Sketchbook Project that I am working on this year (more about that later) and wanting to share my learning experience anyone else who is interested.

Looking back, I always enjoyed reading books that were illustrated travel journals and sketchbooks. I enjoyed them for their illustrations as well as reading about other people’s travels, They are always more interesting if they are about a city or country I want to or have visited, especially the United Kingdom ( I am in Australia) .

This interest began many years ago with books such as David Gentleman’s Britain (and many others in the series) and Fabrice Moireau sketchbooks, to more recently Taking a Line for a Walk by Christopher Lambert, An Eye on the Hebrides by Mairi Hedderwick and Lorette E Roberts Singapore. Secrets of the Lion City. (and many many more books) . (I am looking forward to Danny Gregory’s upcoming book “An Illustrated Journey”).This is all pre-internet/self publishing era. But these are usually edited, formatted, composed, cleaned up, lovely small font with commentary, they are quite lengthy and published after the journey. Now I have many online favourites, .

I realised that I wanted to create my own sketchbooks in my drawing style when I travel.. They would be a narrative, day to day, capturing my travels, whether local, interstate or overseas.. As the sketchbooks would be created as I travel, I won’t have the luxury of all of the above editing factors. But I do have the luxury of being able to have an approach in my mind, a concept of how to approach a page composition and what works for me. That is the stage I am at now.

For the past few years I have been drawing everyday in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, using watercolour pencils and/or ink. I draw at home, on buses, in queues, sitting on stairs, at cafes,. So I am comfortable with how and when where to draw.

I also know how I draw at the moment. I am at ease drawing objects, food, paper. I am not so good at buildings and vistas. But architecture is an important feature of a city or town and so I want to include it , the trees, roads, sky. I have been considering how it is best for me to capture a scene with these in it. And people – people are the life of the city, so I must include them too.

Sketchbook travel Journals

I currently draw my pre trip preparation – drawing my packed bag, or things in preparation – my sketch-kit, passport, currency. I also always draw at the airport, and on the airplane.( a good way to pass the time) So I am comfortable with the first few pages of my travel sketchbook.

I am entering the 2013 Sketchbook Project and have chosen the theme : Travelogue.Paris 2007. I am revisiting my 2007 holiday to Paris, as if I was there, drawing as much then as I do now ! ..My sketchbook is based on my diaries, photographs I took and where I thought I would have drawn at the time, as well as souvenirs I bought. Although this is created in retrospect, all the time I thought how would approach future travel sketchbooks. I still have a few pages to complete, as it is not due to be sent away until January 2013.

The journal can be viewed here Travelogue Paris 2007

My Travel Sketchbook :my thoughts
Over the 18 double pages of the Sketchbook Project I have experimented with composition, lettering, maps., It is different paper and size of my usual sketchbook and I have had to squeeze five days into a limited amount of pages. have come to the following conclusions 
  • it will be a combination of on the quick on the spot sketching and more detailed drawings

  • leave first page or two of each day blank – at end of day I could draw maps, streets walked that day, rail/metro routes caught.
  • draw objects such as tickets, souvenirs, food, headings also at the end of the day in my hotel room. There is time and space to draw. If there is a good view from the room, I can draw it everyday
  • MAPS. If I colour the roads or areas between the road on a map I can match them with other colours I have used on the page, bringing it all together. Below are examples of maps and date experiments



  • leave lots of white space – I can always fill it in later if it looks too sparse.
  •   write commentary about how I feel, think, react to things, smells, places but not too much. I will probably keep a separate diary. I have read a very good book by Dave Fox called “Globejotting : how to write extraordinary travel journals”. I am not a writer, but it had some great hints.

  • Re: buildings and vistas

-just try an draw a section

-leave the top, bottom or sides unfinished.- lines drifting off
  • only colour some parts  
  • don’t try and fill the page – only use part of the page
it is like a little vignette., with a little character and insight, but not too much
don’t try and get caught up in the detail and try and leave this to a ” close up ” drawing later if I get the chance
Reading over what I have written it seems a little pedantic in places but it has been a very valuable creative experiment.

Of course this is all very well in writing,

Urban Sketchers Sydney – National Maritime Museum

Urban Sketchers in Sydney met at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour on a glorious sunny morning. Liz was not able to attend, but ten of us sketched from 10am til 12.30, some continuing on after lunch. Anthony, Jennifer, Annie, Wendy, Chantal, Ethna, Phil, John and Peter are in the photo below. Phil showed great enthusiasm and had a very early start to the day, travelling from Lake Macquarie.
There is so much to sketch outside the Maritime Museum, without even entering its doors. Lots of old and new boats, the lighthouse, city skyline, tourists, to name a few. It was hard to know where to begin.

our sketchbooks.
 I am still on a holiday high, even though I returned from Barcelona and London two weeks ago. Scanning my drawings every night helps me continue this feeling, as does sharing my experiences with anyone who will listen ! I gave an overview of my Barcelona Urban Sketching Symposium experience and was happy to talk to anyone who had questions.
All of my London sketches are gradually being put in the SET on flickr 
All Barcelona sketches from the holiday have been uploaded and in the following
SET  on flickr
My sketches from the day
 I began with a little 1903 built boat, moored amongst the tallships and warships.  I consciously tried to think about some of the lessons that I  learned at the Barcelona Urban Sketching Symposium. For this I recalled the discussions at Barry Jacksons wonderful “Hither Thither and Yon” workshop. I concentrated on the Thither space. I leant SO much at Barcelona, both in the Workshops and from other participants I spoke to.
I realised that in my drawings I am building on the generous knowledge and advice shared by many online artists. From Kate Johnson, one of the many techniques I use is the Derwent Blue Grey (not watercolour) to draw the background buildings It is a nice soft tone and colour.
I then sat down with Ethna and distracted her by chatting. After an hour I moved on.
The skyline of Sydney. It was 15 minutes til lunch. But I HAD to add the blue sky as it was such a lovely day

A very aggressive seagull at my feet ( I had no food, so I don’t know why he was picking on me )