Monthly Archives: September 2016

sketching York Minster – fast and slow

We stayed in the wonderful city of York for 5 nights. During this time, we walked passed by York Minster everyday and explored the interior twice. This blog is a collection of the sketches of this magnificent cathedral. They range from 10 minute to 2 hour sketches.  Some were planned sketching sessions and others were unplanned, taking opportunities as they presented themselves.


a very quick 10 minute sketch with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen

This was an unplanned 10 minute sketch on the way to our day tour pick up spot. I was unsure of the time I would have and just started at the top and just started getting crazy lines down on paper. I could see the tour group gathering, so finished up. It is not really recognizable as York Minster, but for me, it captures the moment. As I scan the pages and write my blog I am immediately transported back to that time and place


This was sketched on an excellent tour of York Minster. There is so much history and the guides are so very knowledgeable and love to share that knowledge. He thought that I was taking notes.


The arrow is pointing to me (the little black splodge) sketching outside York Minster on our last morning. Our suitcases are next to me.


And this is what was sketching with my watercolour pencils in that time. This was planned as we had checked out of our lovely Palm Court B&B and had time before our booked train to London.


There are some beautifully carved monuments, sculptures and tombs throughout the Minster. Some were on the ground or at eyelevel and there were some magnificent marble medieval tombs. I was tempted to draw them for the purity of line and the wonderful marble folds of dress and gowns. However I decided on the tomb of a significant person in the history of York Minster – the founder of the Minster as it is today. I am glad that I wrote down on the page how long each sketch took, as I would have no idea if you asked me now.

After our first visit and tour of York Minster I knew that I wanted to return. I wanted to draw more, but when we returned I was not sure where to begin. There were so many beautiful architectural features. York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe The present building was begun in about 1230 and completed in 1472. The stone used for the building is magnesian limestone, a beautiful creamy-white coloured rock. So different after the red brick of Manchester.

I decided to take a deep breath and put some of the techniques I learnt in Stephanie Bowers “Soaring Spaces” Urban Sketching Workshop at Urban Sketching Symposium the week before.

I spent two hours on this sketch and am really pleased with the result. I don’t think that I could have added any more .  It was a peaceful time, as the tourists walked around me. No one stopped and talked. I could quietly sketch in the serene surroundings and beautiful inspirational space.


York – sketching my arrival

After this weeks reviews of my Manchester Urban Sketching Symposium experiences, I am now returning to my travel holiday sketchbooks. I shall whisk you onward to York today. We spent 6 days in York and I completed 45 pages of sketches. Like all cities/towns, York is very visual , but also has so much visual (and therefore sketchable) history from Roman, Medieval, Georgian and Victorian times.


The first sketch was on a very crowded train from Manchester to York, looking out the window. When we were well into the countryside and when I sketched this there was a consistency of the view. So what I sketched on the page was a compilation of the view in the distance (which remained the same for a while) and a typical view of a changing mid-distance, then some coloured flowers out the window.

Today’s post is setting the scene in York. They are drawings done over time in our hotel room. The urban sketching of the city comes later….


I changed sketchbooks mid-York and wanted to continue the narrative in Sketchbook Two, so I sketched the page above . It was fascinating to find out that “York” is derived (potentially) from yew. I love the yew tree and the myths and history that surround it. It is a very English tree to me.

31july2016-palm-court-york 31july2016-palm-court-view-york


As I mentioned in my Manchester blog, I usually draw my hotel and this was no exception for Palm Court  This lovely eight room family run Victorian townhouse is a B&B and our comfortable home for the week. Palm Court was only 5 minutes walk from York City walls – we walked through the early 14th century Monk Bar each day, and every time I was in awe of the history surrounding me.



Across the road from our B&B was the River Foss and a small park. It was not a particularly pretty park, but it did have a large flock of Canada Geese and a family of swans. I had collected some feathers earlier in the week, but It was not until the last day that I had time to sketch them .


I sketched five of my breakfasts in York – sometimes just the toast. On the final morning I had some of the FULL English breakfast. My special customised watercolour pencil wrap, it sits neatly on the breakfast table. Sometimes the times that you stop for food are opportunities where you have control over the time and space and view. I may appear that I draw food a lot, but this is actually because these are the opportunities that are there.  I also talk and sketch at the same time, so can interact with people.  Mum and I would plan some of our day over breakfast or be checking the map to see how to get to our first place to start the day.

Next weekend I will blog about sketching in York. I really enjoyed my time there and would return to do it all again tomorrow.

USK Manchester – Four Activities

In the interest of time and space , I am putting all of my Activities events in the one post.

Activities were different than Workshops. Shorter in time, larger in participant numbers. Some activity leaders provided indepth notes, others had little guidance, but provided an opportunity to do some sketching that I would not have otherwise done.

Recording a Musical City with Caroline Johnson.

Manchester Jazz Festival was on. Our group paid five pounds each to see, listen, enjoy and sketch Alabaster De Plume – spoken word, saxophone, piano, violin, percussion,  all with a sense of theatre, full of humour, slight pretention and yet down to earth. Listen here

Making Time for Postcards with Andrea Matthews


Three watercolour postcards and a stamp . We immediately queued for more stamps. I sketched the two darker archways on the day and the more traditional Manchester red arch a few days later. Unfortunately only one has arrived in Australia.

I have always taken those watercolour  postcards with me when I travel, but never sketched on them ! At last I gave myself the opportunity!

Lettering, Line & Balance with Pat Southern-Pearce


Based high up in Manchester School of Art’s Benzie building, looking out over the Manchester skyline. This was a structured session with copious informative notes. I learnt a lot about thinking about layout and page formatting. And then about lettering on the page.
My main takeaway was to stop and think and plan the page – not just the sketches, but also the white space and the words (dates, titles and thoughts). After this Activity I immediately began using red pen on each page of my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook to write the name of the place or city that was on that page. This gave structure and consistency to the pages of my travel sketchbook.

Draw if you are Sober Nelson & Vicente

Based at the Peveril of the Peak, the Urbans Sketching Symposium pub, this Activity had us amongst all of the other sketchers, but with set goals. 1) Capturing the pub environment by sketching its objects or furniture 2)Draw people of the pub (locals, not Symposium participants) 3) Draw people and the place as a scene, telling the story.

28jul2016-peveril-of-the-peak-activity-1 28jul2016-peveril-of-the-peak-activity2 28jul2016-peveril-of-the-peak-activity3





Great fun to sketch with a purpose!

USK Day 3 Soaring Spaces STEPHANIE BOWER

Saturday Morning Soaring Spaces STEPHANIE BOWER

Another really exciting event.  I had seen Stephanie Bower’s amazing sketches of the interiors of cathedrals and historic buildings and their ‘soaring spaces’ . This is an area where I am totally out of my depth. I walk into a beautiful old building and look up at the columns, vaulted ceilings and large windows and am in awe of the architecture and builders. I am also overwhelmed at where to even begin sketching this on paper. So I have avoided it.

When the opportunity came up to spend a few hours to gain an understanding of some concepts I signed up immediately !

This Workshop was held at Manchester Town Hall (1868-77) one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. Another stunning Neo-Gothic building on the exterior and soaring vaulted ceilings inside (and the rest of the fabulous detail) . The three and a half hour morning Workshop was broken into two halves. We started sketching in the grand entrance to the Great Hall (where we had the USK opening Reception) .

Part One arches


Part One (the first hour) was all about learning the anatomy of the arch and the important ‘spring’ line where columns and the arch begins. This included lots of  looking and measuring.   I put lot of dots and lines all over the paper before even putting any lines down. (I was using either a 2B or HB pencil in my Moleskine 13 x 19 cm watercolour sketchbook) I was immensely pleased and proud of my arch on the page.


Part Two vaulted ceilings



Unfortunately we were moved from the entrance to the Great Hall as the guests for a wedding reception were arriving. We voted to continuing drawing inside and went downstairs to sketch vaulted archways instead of vaulted ceilings. There was still a lot to learn and I discovered that I could add a little lean to the columns to give the impression of the space. At times this seemed like an M.C.Escher drawing, as I tried to remember which line went with which column.

I finished the morning with my head full of lots of new techniques and concepts to use in the future. However I could have spent another few hours to learn about the soaring spaces and looking up. I still had another two weeks of holidays in England (York and London) and many beautiful buildings to visit and sketch. I attempted quite a few vaulted archways , but only one soaring space. York Minster (below)



  • comparative measuring at the beginning sets the sketch up on the page
  • arches are not shaped like horse shoes
  • block the page into simple shapes
  • archways – differentiate them by making areas light and dark

USK Day 2 From Macro to Micro NINA JOHANSSON

From Macro to Micro – a Visual Story of a Building

Friday Morning with Nina Johansson


Confession .  I would have signed up for any Symposium event that went to the beautiful and historic  John Rylands Library. I am a librarian, I work in a historic (for Australia) 1886 Court Library and have an interest in old books. When the workshop list was released I was so excited to see that Nina Johannson’s  Workshop, From Macro to Micro – a Visual Story of a Building was going to be held there. It was just the sort of workshop I wanted to attend – one that assists me to build a narrative on my sketching pages. My daily sketchbook is a visual journal of my life and I want to build on that.  Also, I had met Nina at the 2013 Barcelona Urban Sketching Symposium and enjoy her sketching style.

Part One – Macro


First – Nina discussed the importance of composition and planning the pages. We had to think about how we would place images on the page and how much space they would take up, and draw squares and circles on the pages. We were sketching the outside of The John Rylands Library from across the road. Thankfully there was a bus stop we could sit under while it drizzled. The John Rylands Library is a very complex and detailed Neo Gothic building. Knowing how I was going to position it across a two page spread helped me reign in its size, which in turn stopped me getting caught up in detail. We had about an hour for the exterior.

Part Two – Micro


As the rain got heavier, we moved inside and looked the interior architectural details- arches, gargoyles, carvings… Because my page had been planned and I had penciled in squares on the pages, I could ‘fit’  the features onto the page . They were balanced vertically and horizontally.

We gathered together at the end to discuss our sketches and  talked about composition, colour and line problems and how we overcame them.

The library, opened to the public in 1900, was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands. Today it is part of The University of Manchester Library. was designed to resemble a church in a decorated neo-Gothic style with Arts and Crafts details, The special collections, are amongst the largest in the United Kingdom include medieval I illuminated manuscripts and examples of early European printing, including a Gutenberg Bible, the second largest collection of printing by William Caxton and the most extensive collection of the editions of the Aldine Press of Venice.


  • thinking about and planning can create a balanced and visually pleasing page
  • planning assists to fit everything on the page
  • use colour to put focus on important parts of the page

I visited and sketched in this wonderful building three times during my week in Manchester and would have returned again if I had time!



USK Day 1 Hunting and Gathering FRED LYNCH

Hunting & Gathering: Sketching Vignettes and Lists

Thursday afternoon with Fred Lynch . Have a look at this great short video of Fred describing his Workshop.

Day 1 – the afternoon.

As I write this I am recalling how I spent the time between morning and afternoon Workshops –  I remember now – finding hot food and trying to get warm. After sitting out in the open in the morning on a carpark floor, I was pleased that Fred Lynch’s Workshop Hunting & Gathering: Sketching Vignettes and Lists was based indoors (although we did go outside at intervals)

I choose this workshop as I hoped it would assist me to capture the essence of a place without having to sketch the whole scene.  It did this, but was also the most challenging Workshop I attended as I had think about  technique and what I put on the page .



After an introduction to and discussion of vignettes , including examples of what they are, we were given 20 minutes to go out and sketch. We had to sketch a 4 thumbnail sketches  of one object, from 4 different views or focus. I chose the facade of a nearby building, zooming in on some features, or stepping back to show more of the building.

vignette longer study



The second sketching session was a longer study of one of our initial thumbnail sketches. This   challenged me as it involved the interaction of the white of the page and blocking out silhouetted shapes. In this case the image had to speak, to make a statement, to tell. My usual style is the ‘unfinished’ look where edges fade away,. That is the visual equivalent of the edge of the vignette saying ‘blah blah bl…” instead of telling a whole story . It was very difficult not to fall back into the familiar. I found it difficult to know where to find the hard edge to stop.



This was great fun. In the ‘classroom’ we discussed things about Manchester that were different from home. Some unusual suggestions were made. We then went  out to hunt for something to sketch  a visual list. This was easy  as I knew it would be a building feature. We do have chimneys in Melbourne (it was 12 degrees yesterday in our Spring) , but there were so many unusual chimneys in the one block that I wanted to draw them.  I don’t know why I sketched them so small on the page ! I found these easier to give distinct hard edges to.


  • lists can reveal more than a whole scene
  • they are an alternative way of describing a place by and showing your interest and communicating it to people
  • it is hard to change your normal style in three hours

USK Day 1 Cars in the city LAPIN & GERARD MICHEL

Cars in the city

Thursday morning with Lapin and Gerard Michel Read more About the instructors

This workshop  was originally to be co-taught with Florian Afflerbach (Flaf) , well known as a  sketcher of cars who sadly passed away earlier this year. A tribute wall of sketches of cars in fish eye style was at the Benzie Building at Symposium

Part 1 Car Portraits (quck sketch)


Gerard explained the elipse of wheels and axels – going through the axis of the wheels . Of course it all makes sense now !



The first part of the  Workshop was to sketch a car from a distance of about a metre or so, maybe a little more. We sat on the sidewalk or near a car and sketched three quarter view. The instructors  provided an example of how to work out the shape using simple boxes and we worked from that . I have no idea what I  wrote  here at the end of the page or what I was trying to make a note of. I think we had about 10 minutes each sketch.

and then the rain got heavier…so we moved

Part 2 (detailed sketch)

We found a nearby carpark and choose the car of our choice . I tried to find something interesting or obscure ( does nobody drive a gogomobile or a P1800S or Old Bentley to work ?) but a nice shiny black AUDI A5 was sporty enough for me. A hour here.


I sat at the far end of the carpark and was adding  lines to the page. After a while, Lapin arrived and said no – move closer, move closer to the car. I was really close – but you can see how it changes the view of the car.

We were encouraged to start with the headlight and then draw organically through the reflections in the light (including your self if you were there). I found this very difficult without the context of the rest of the car, so sketched it in pencil. There is an immense amount of comparative measuring involved , as nothing your mind tells you is correct actually is!

I am so proud of this sketch, I cannot believed that I produced something so amazing that is outside my comfort zone. It is a character and almost a monster car. Each time I look  at it I amaze myself .


We gathered to discuss what we had learned, but the parking attendant in charge of the car-park turned up and moved us on as it was a private carpark. oops .

Part 3 Cars in the City

We walked around the corner and found a sheltered area outside an office for the final part of the Workshop (and asked permission to use it). It had a row of parked cars and the city skyline (thanks to some building demolition). This final part was about drawing cars in context with the city around them. Gerard explained how to add depth by adding the foreground anchor to help understand the perspective of the scene. Cold and raining . an hour here.



I was more comfortable with this scene. I enjoy drawing cars. But the challenge here was how and what to emphasize. I decided where to add colour right at the end of the session.

dscf1199 dscf1204 dscf1205


  • The perspective of an object can dramatically change as you get closer to it or you change your angle or height.
  • Draw what you see and the perspective can figures itself out
  • Dress warmly as you are going to sit on the ground outside

Manchester Urban Sketching Symposium 2016

It has been four weeks since I returned from my UK holiday and even longer since I attended the Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester . I am still slowly scanning my sketches .  I feel the need to catch up and share my experiences from the Symposium before it becomes a distant memory. To do this  I plan to post a blog one day a week this week on the Workshops I attended.

What is the Urban Sketching Symposium

The Urban Sketching Symposium is a three-day event where people from around the world meet to draw and learn together in the host city. (This year it was Manchester). It includes on location sketching workshops, activities, lectures, panels, exhibits and artists demos. Symposium participants get one-on-one interaction with local and international workshop instructors. We got to choose urban sketching workshops out of a rich menu that covered a wide range of subject matter, including perspective and architecture, picture design, storytelling and reportage, colour techniques and more. This year there were 478 participants from 44 countries !!!!

Who are Urban Sketchers

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.

USK in Manchester

In October 2015 when the location of Manchester was announced, I booked my flight. In January  I successfully registered for a ticket and in March chose the workshops I wanted to attend. I registered for 4 workshops of 26 on offer and 3 activities of the 9 . I did not go to any Lectures or Demos , which was just as well, as I don’t think I would have had the time or energy.  Today I am reliving the excitement of the event itself. Tomorrow the Workshop blogs begin.


Just some of the wonderful sponsor products in the Symposium goody bag.

My extraordinary experience

Registration .The Wednesday day before Symposium I joined other Urban Sketchers and collected my Symposium sponsor (ie goodies) bag and necktag with name in BIG LETTERS from the Manchester School of Arts Benzie Building. This building would be the starting and ending venue over the next few days. With the name tag on you could spot a USK-er in the street and chat to them. Once again, I really didn’t get a chance to look though the goody bag properly until I got home. I had decided to use my usual Moleskine watercolor sketchbook everyday and my watercolour pencils (the known) while learning the unknown. I did not want to challenge myself too much at once !

27Jul2016 Symposium opening event

The Opening Reception at Manchester Town Hall . Sketching from the back of the room.



The string quartet were surrounded by about 20 people sketching them

The Opening Reception was held on Wednesday evening in the magnificent 19th century Neo Gothic Manchester Town Hall with its crystal chandeliers, mural walls and organ . An grand venue to start our four day adventure. We were met by waiters bearing trays of wine glasses. There was an amazing buzz in the room as people met, chatted, mingled and talked (and sketched too). I felt that this set the scene for the collegiate and welcoming feel of Symposium.


Each morning would begin at 9am with a half hour morning meeting, which was a lovely way to bring people together, continuing that ‘buzz’ as well as providing any practical updates.

It is exhilarating to be with so many like minded people and to see sketchers everywhere  – and for those of us who had travelled (the majority of us) it was all in a new exciting city .30jul2016-usk-morning-meeting1
Over the next three days I drew the grand Midland Hotel (where I was staying) each morning from 8.00 for about 15 – 30 minutes. I sketched at the morning USK meeting, ending the day with another Symposium event (Peveril of the Peak or the Closing Ceremony). There were morning and afternoon Symposium Workshops and Activities which were challenging as I tried to absorb new and different concepts or techniques in just three hours.  During this time I was also meeting new people and seeing friends. All of this time I was carried along my the excitement and energy of the people and the event.

If you are curious about what actually happens, there are a number of videos online
A five minute  video  by Urban Sketchers

or 5 , 15 minute videos by Parka as he travels with his camera around various events. Capturing snippets of the day.

 Day Before USK Symposium in Manchester (26 Jul 2016)

USK Manchester Day 1 (27 Jul 2016)

USK Manchester Day 2 (28 Jul 2016)

USK Manchester Day 3 (29 July 2016)

USK Manchester Day 4 (30 July 2016)


Over the next week I will be sharing my experiences of the following Urban Sketching Symposium events

  • Cars in the City Workshop
  • Hunting and Gathering : Sketching Vignettes and lists Workshop
  • From  Macro to Micro- a visual story of  building Workshop
  •  Soaring Spaces Workshop
  • Recording a musical city Activity
  • Making time for postcards Activity
  • Pub crawl- Draw if you’re sober Activity
  •  Lettering, Line and Balance Activity






my UK holiday sketching journey begins

I am not sure where to begin sharing my sketches and stories from my recent three week holiday to England from Australia, which included the Manchester Urban Sketching Symposium, a week in Manchester, York and London. I have so many wonderful memories associated with each sketch.

I have started scanning the first of three sketchbooks.

My sketching for holidays always begins months in advance. I like the excitement of the countdown to a holiday, the research it involves  and the little things that need to be purchased that let you now you are going on a holiday . I have already written about these:

and that is before the plane leaves the ground !

When I leave, I already have in mind some the opportunities I may have and the scenes I may draw although I do not know what some specifically look like. These are fairly controlled situations and usually involve a lot of waiting time.

  • on the bus to the airport
  • at the airport
  • on the plane
  • my hotel – the exterior and the room, breakfast if it is included

These are the sketches I that I am including today. They are only a selection.  I am adding them all to flickr albums .

Each sketch is a specific memory of time and place, although some are contain generic shapes and objects (airplanes ). The more I draw these the better I get and the more comfortable I am with the process and limitations of time/space/equipment.

23Jul2016 to the airport

On the Skybus on the way to Melbourne airport.

It is a 20 minute bus journey to Melbourne airport . From previous experience, I know that I will have a view of the luggage racks or the back of someone’s head in front of me.

23Jul2016 at the airport

Melbourne airport . our plane !

At the airport there are always lots of planes to draw. It is great if I can draw the plan I am flying in (as in this case), but any plane will do. They involve lots of strange shapes (at the nose of the plane) and inconceivable foreshortening for the rest of it (lots of measuring and comparing size and angles). I usually end up with the wing going off the page . I wrote the notes on the page later to try and remember the process of customs and immigration and what we had to do when.

23Jul2016 on the plane Melb to Abu Dhabi23Jul2016 on the plane Melb to Abu Dhabi 2






22 hours of flight provides lots of drawing time – the people, their shoes, the food and more. How often are you given time like this ! I can easily spend the time trying different techniques. However I am also distracted by the movies,  reading, and discussing our upcoming travel adventure.

28Jul2016 The Midland Hotel

Midland Hotel . Manchester

We were staying in Manchester for a week. I thought that would be plenty of time to sketch the exterior of the stunning Midland Hotel, as well as the interior of the rooms. As usual there was not. Life was so busy and I was still completing the drawings  on the day we were leaving. This drawing was completed in four sessions of between 15 and 30 minutes. I would  leave the hotel at 8ish , walk across the road and sit on the same bench at the back of Central Library and add a few more lines and colour. My new best friends are Venetian red and Dark Sepia Faber Castell watercolour pencils. But more about that later…..

I hope you enjoy joining me on my sketching journey . Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to talk about. I could talk on and on about travel sketching .