Monthly Archives: January 2016

my studio

I was once asked to describe my studio. I had to laugh as my “studio” is my dining room table. Today I thought I would show you where I draw when I am not out and about being an “Urban Sketcher”.DSCF1136

I draw everyday in a Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook, sometimes on location and the other times at home. There are days when one dominates another depending on social events, projects, the weather etc.

My “ studio” is my dining table in my living/lounge room. When I moved to Melbourne just over a year ago I was determined that the main use of my big silky oak dining room table would be my art. I decided that the books, objects and information I needed for art would be in reach and I would be surrounded by things to inspire me. The bookshelves behind me have books  about art.

I have a small breakfast table in my kitchen where I eat some of the time, Sometimes I eat at the dining table.

Let me take you on a tour of my table.


1 The Derwent Box (which you can barely see, as the wood colour is almost the same as the table) contains a double layer of pencils – an amazing gift from a good friend many years ago. Now I use Faber Castell pencils and this box contains the pencil colours that I don’t use regularly, spares, and various weights of graphite pencils. I am not sure why it is here, as I do not use it regularly and it potentially could go in a cupboard. But it is beautiful and makes me feel good.

2 These are stacks of papers related to upcoming art projects . They include– snail mail stationery, a exhibition project and my UK holiday.

3 Pens/pencil in mugs – these are some pens and pencils that I use frequently. They include white gel pens, inktense pencils, ink markers and a few ordinary coloured pencils. The containers they are in have significance to me.

4 Pencil sharpener CARL CP -80 – sharpens to a very fine point if needed!

5 Light – an OTT LIGHT craft light. It is a daylight lamp to help me see details clearly and colors accurately.

6 Laptop – This gets moved off the desk frequently. I do this to stop me from constantly checking email, etsy, flickr, WordPress, feedly (for blogs) , facebook AND to give me some clear desk space.

7 My current project – drawing eggs


8 Watercolour pencils in a pencil wrap. I use the same colours on projects at home that I use everyday. I just roll this up and put it in my bag. If you would like read more about my watercolour pencils and my sketchbook see my earlier blogpost

9 Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook 13 x 19 cm

10 Water bowl – a gift from a friend. Too beautiful not to use, although slightly impractical. At home I have three brushes – a fine, medium and large. I use the fine one the most. When I am out I use a waterbrush.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour !

Where do you draw- from a studio or dining room table or wherever you can ?





Melbourne Zoo sketching

(On Saturday I went sketching at Melbourne Zoo  with Meegan and Kaz.

It was a sketching visit to the zoo, not a general visit. The three of us have three very different sketching techniques and approaches, using different pencils, crayons and paints.

23Jan16 zoo merged page

I wanted to sketch in a larger book than my everyday 13 x 19 Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I had an old account ledger book I had bought years ago at a market. It is foolscap size, which is a bit bigger than A4. I knew the paper would be thin and not take much water with my water colour pencils. It would buckle and the colours would not be bright. I decided that it was an opportunity to experiment with some ink pens had been given. I mainly used the Sumiro – Thin line

23Jan16 zoo4

It has a soft tip and you can vary the thickness and thinness of the line, depending on how much you press the tip of the pen on the page. I am pleased with the result. In one way there is a lot less control of the line the pen makes, but you also get more control as you can press heavier to quickly create thick lines to show shadow or weight – great for sketches where you are trying to get the basic details down on paper quickly.




We saw about one third of the zoo. We walked past some enclosures where the animals were obviously not in sight or were staying undercover (tiger , lemur, otter) or in the distance (pygmy hippopotamus, mandrills ) and others were too lively (red panda). At the end of the day we had spent quality time sketching and closely observing the Elephants, Gorillas, and Orangutans, Tree Kangaroos,  and Colobus monkeys.


My sketches from the day – five animals

23Jan16 zoo8 23Jan16 zoo9 23Jan16 zoo10 23Jan16 zoo13

Asian Elephants – The first elephant was on his own, having a great time playing with tyres against a tree. I did some  warm up sketches, not finishing many, but trying to get an understanding of how they move and parts of the body fit together

We then move into the elephant barn, where four (of the eight)  elephants were being cleaned and  measured by the keepers. There was a large audience.

I’ve drawn elephants before for my Elephant in the Room Sketchbook Project.


Tree kangaroo

23Jan16 tree kangaroo merged

There were two tree kangaroos in the enclosure. One stayed in one place the entire time we were there, the other moved a bit, giving us the chance to sketch from different angles. There was also time to use colour . There were some active monkeys on the next enclosure and they attracted everyones attention, so the tree kangaroos were not as popular and  people moved on quickly. Tree kangaroos are from New Guinea, far northeastern Queensland and some of the islands in the region. Most tree-kangaroos are considered threatened due to hunting and habitat destruction.

Gorillas – There is a family of Gorillas including a baby, a few adults and one Silverback . He has  a commanding presence and such power.

(I heard a young girl say “One day can I have a gorilla in my home?”)

23Jan16 zoo3 gorillas 23Jan16 zoo14 23Jan16 zoo16 23Jan16 zoo17


The Black-and-white colobus’ monkeys have beautiful contrasting black and white fur. Hunting led to the colobus’s extermination in some areas. excessively for its beautiful fur. Its skin was  used to make dance costumes, hats, and capes. The biggest threat to the colobus today is habitat loss.

(I heard a young boy say “Mum , have a look at these luscious locks”)

23Jan16 colobus monkey 23Jan16 zoo5






Why draw at the Zoo?

Firstly for the pleasure in the line on the paper (See my previous blog post on Why drawing makes me happy ). Some images gradually come to life on the page, and I don’t know how they will turn out. Sometimes a few lines will capture the basic shape. Often they will not. Many sketches were not finished on the day, as I started again and again from another angle. (Only a few of the best sketches of the day are on this page). This happens as the animal changes position, moves away or visitors unknowingly move in front.

When I draw I am putting my raw and primary reaction to the animal. My two friends and I drew the same animals, but often focused on different things – colour, shape, texture – and our interpretations were very different too.

I have the opportunity to observe the animal, their colour, shape and how they move. These are things I would not have noticed at a superficial viewing or taking a photo. In general people do not have an understanding of animal bodies, and each animal is so very different. You cannot transfer the human proportions and muscles and shapes to animals, just the tools of measuring comparative shapes and distance.

We will return another day to see and sketch more of the zoo. !




On Saturday I visited Monsalvat, on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Montsalvat is Australia’s oldest surviving artists’ colony and still continuing today. It is set on 12 acres with many buildings, where various artists practice their crafts – guitar making, jewellery and art.

16Jan16 Montsalvat 1

I went to Montsalvat to visit my friend, Jodi Wiley’s exhibition which is closing this weekend. Jodi paints amazingly detailed eucalyptus bark on small canvas.

I took a direct train to the end of the line at Eltham and then a quick connecting bus and then a short walk. After an extreme week of weather, Saturday had blue skies and sunshine, just perfect for exploring and wandering a small part of the 12 acres. After viewing Jodi’s art, I stayed three hours, relaxing and sketching in the fresh air and sunshine.

During my visit I used a few different styles of sketching, depending on the time and place.

16Jan16 Montsalvat peacock cropped

I quickly sketched the peacock as I was sure he was going to go at any minute. However, he was comfortable with my presence and stayed for ages. I sketched in watercolour pencil and added a little water with my waterbrush. 16Jan16 Montsalvat 5 cropped

I scribbled down the colours and shapes of the chickens. They were in a coop and did not stay still for long at all ! I used the waterbrush used to loosen up the sketches. As you can see, they do not have any detail. (a waterbrush is pen shaped, with a brush on one end and the body is a reservoir to fill with water.)

There were also some large geese and ducks that I wanted to draw but decided to move on as there is more to this place than ducks and chickens !

16Jan16 Montsalvat 4 cropped


When I sketched the buildings I knew that I did not want to get caught up in their incredible detail. Many are built in a rammed earth style, looking hundreds of years old. It felt surreal as though I was in England, but surrounded by eucalyptus. And the buildings had corrugated iron roofs.

16Jan16 Montsalvat 3 cropped

16Jan16 Montsalvat 6 cropped

I wanted to sketch only a few buildings on the page. I was happy with the size and time I spent on this (I did not note the time – but it felt right). There were so many buildings that I could have sketched. The features and details are a sketchers and photographers delight. Another visit !

I then caught the train home…

16Jan16 Montsalvat 7

one sketch, many outcomes

I was considering what to write about this week . I had just scanned a page from my December sketchbook and it struck me how one sketch can have so many purposes.

This is a sketch of  objects Mum has left out for the Satin bower bird to collect .



29Dec15 bower bird cropped

The simple and quick act of sketching these objects allowed me to

  • document an occurrence from Mums house in a sketch.


  • have a conversation with my mother about the Satin Bower Bird visits. The visits  started recently and I really didn’t know much about it , apart from the fact that it visited. I was able to ask lots of questions and make notes. It will also have more meaning  when she talks about him in the future.


  • bring back memories of a camping trip to O’Reilly’s  National Park when I was about 12. This is the only other time I had seen Satin and Golden Bower Birds. You could feed them and the rainbow lorikeets in the campgrounds. I never thought that one day there would be one in a backyard !


  • fill in 15 minutes while waiting for a taxi to arrive to take us to the bus stop. I have always been an impatient person But since I started sketching I have never had this problem. I sketch and the time flies by.
  • practice sketching . I sketch daily and any sketch is an opportunity to observe, measure, make judgments on colour etc

And here is my finished sketchbook page.

29Dec15 bower bird

a visit to the waterbird habitat

This past week of Christmas holidays has been very busy and I have filled many pages of my sketchbook.  For this blog I decided to share one little series of sketches from a  morning walk.

28Dec15 ducks cropped

My mother and I had promised my nephew (age 9) that we would visit the local waterbird habitat and sketch the ducks. He had been there recently and videoed them. On the video he bravely started to name the ducks and then decided they were all called Geoffrey. (They are Australian Wood Ducks)


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Unfortunately when Mum & I visited, there were hardly any ducks in sight. We sketched what we could. The ducks in the above sketch may be Geoffrey 5, Geoffrey 27 and Geoffrey 341.

28Dec15 sketcher

After a while I gave up and sketched the sketcher. Mum stayed still for ages !

28Dec15 ducks3

Then a family arrived with bread and the ducks came out of nowhere but moved a lot.  Sketches completed, the day was warming up, so we headed home.

Below are some links to more duck and nature pages I have previously sketched

I enjoy drawing nature and you can view some more of my Nature Drawing on my Flickr site

I have sketched and written about another  duck . The Pacific Black Duck

some previous step by step drawing blogposts on drawing feathers and nests

Drawing a Tawny Frogmouth feather

Drawing feathers

Drawing a small nest

and of course, Greeting cards featuring my feather and nest drawings are available to purchase on my Etsy online store