Dromkeem LitFest

I attended the Dromkeen Literary Festival again this year at Riddells Creek, 45 minutes train ride from Melbourne. It is a festival celebrating Australian Children’s Literature and Storytelling and this the second year that this wonderful festival has been held. Read my report from last year 


I arrived the day before to join the group of volunteers who were setting up.I swept the courtyard of leaves, peacock poo and feathers !!

Dromkeen Homestead has became a home for Australian children’s literature and in 2013 it was purchased by the Joiner family and reopened as a centre for Australian children’s literature. To read more about Dromkeen please visit their website.

The theme is Books Can Take Us Anywhere

There was face painting, storytelling, cartooning demonstrations, puppetry and book mural art. The blue skies and sunshine saw families picnicing on the lawn when they were not going to workshops, talks, book signings  and demonstrations . 

Some of the guest presenters included Gabrielle Wang, Mark Wilson, Claire Saxby, Marc McBride, Glenda Millard and cartoonist Brett Cardwell.

.I am looking forward to next year !


Drawing a bottle of ale

A quick blog post this week. I thought I would show a drawing as it progressed along the way.
I was fortunate to attend an event at Parliament House in Melbourne a few weeks ago . It would have been great to sketch at but was just the wrong time and place . However as soon as I saw the  bottles of ale being served I knew that I wanted to take an empty one home to draw . Why? It is called The Library and has a design of the arches and curving stairs of the Library at Parliament House .



I asked the caterers to keep me a bottle and I collected it at the end of the evening and took it home along with two macaroons , They sat on my dining table for a week and I drew them over a few nights , then threw them away .

I remembered to scan them as I went. I hope this provides you with an idea of how I approach a drawing . I sketched it in pencil to get the place on the page then I drew it in the colour pencil of the object and build up layers and definition .


Colours used. Faber Castell Watercolour pencil. 

Earth Green
Chrome oxide green
Schwarz black
Walnut brown
Burnt sienna
Burnt umber
Burnt ochre
Orange glaze


Lettering is so difficult and I have not figured out a technique of writing fine lettering on an object so that it does not look like my handwriting . This is something I will have to practice as I love to draw books which have lettering on the spine and inside . Jodi Wiley is so good at this and I will have to talk to her about it .
I have three gold pens that I tested to  used the top one in the photo , a Uniball , Signo. 

Interested  in more step by step drawings?

I have written a few others

Drawing biscuits

Drawing a feather 

About me and my watercolour pencils

I hope that they inspire you to use watercolour pencils ! They are such fun !

East Melbourne Art Deco walking tour

Yesterday, on a beautiful autumn morning, that felt like summer, I went on a two hour walking tour of Art Deco East Melbourne . With hat, sunburn cream, sunglasses, waterbottle and walking shoes about 9 nine of us met to be guided through the suburb of East Melbourne by the friendly and knowledgeable Mark & Shelley from Melbourne Architours. Of course, I also took my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, Lamy Safari ink pen and watercolour pencils (in their pencil wrap).  I was not sure of the opportunities that I would get to sketch, but came prepared!


We were given a wonderful map of the Art Deco houses that they would be guiding us to.  I decided to draw on the map instead of in my sketchbook. At this stage i was still not sure what opportunities I would have to sketch. At our first stop, away from the traffic, our guides provided a history of Melbourne architecture and explained what Art Deco is. It appeared that we were going to be there for  while, so I stood at the back of the group and sketched most of them. 

As we started walking I realised that I was not going to be able to sketch on the tour. I wanted to listen, learn and ask questions. I then had the idea that I would retrace out steps after the tour and sketch. So I enjoyed the tour as we explored the suburb. All done in freehand ink- no pencil – hence the wobbly lines and suspect perspective. 

 East Melbourne is close to the city and home to some of Melbourne’s earliest houses. It has a variety of architectural styles from Gothic, Victorian, Federation,  Art Nouveau, Art Deco, California bungalow through to Moderne (and combinations of many) . It was wonderful to have the social and architectural history explained to us as well as  the growth and development of the suburb, We were very fortunate to have two locals, Diane and Ian from East Melbourne Group and East Melbourne Historical Society on the tour, who were able to provide extra insight into local matters and the changes that have been proposed and fought along the way to protect and improve East Melbourne’s  heritage and amenity. 

I will definitely be taking another tour with Melbourne Architours and also will be looking closer at the buildings I walk past everyday. The East Melbourne Historical Society has published some very informative books about the suburb. Perhaps I need to carry the publications around with me everyday (along side of my pencils and sketchbook) to refer to as I walk to work. There is so much history that I walk past everyday in Melbourne without appreciating its significance. 

East Melbourne Picnic market stall

On Saturday I was fortunate to be invited to have a stall for my Greeting cards at the local East Melbourne “Picnic on the Green” at Bishopcourt . It was a community  event organised by East Melbourne Group to gather friends and family and was a wonderful day.

Bishopscourt is the residence Melbourne’s Anglican Archbishop. It is a blue stone building in a style of gothic architecture and was completed in 1853. The red brick wing was added in 1903.

The grounds were open for a picnic, with children’s activities and face painting, sausage sizzle, cool soul and jazz. It was a pleasant 20 degrees (after a week of cold weather) and many local families set themselves up for the evening from 4pm.

I was one of five stall of local craftspeople and artisans. This was my first solo market stall and it a great introduction to running a stall. It was a friendly environment, and I had a huge amount of support, style guidance and assistance from a good friend Louise. I had done a bit of planning and thinking about set up and things we would need, such as change and a float and a mailing list . 

I took fifteen of each of my card designs, with five cards out on display. We were flexible on the day as we did not know what size tressel table would be provided or where it would be situated. I would not change anything that I did on the day. It all went very smoothly. I sold 26 cards on the day . The most popular seller were the squirrel (there are no squirrels in Australia) and the red books on the library shelves. All of my cards are available on my online Etsy store.

It started weeks before locating and ordering display shelves from United States. I knew the “look’ I wanted my stall to have and thankfully, when I opened the box, they were just right. Then I put them together and filled them with cards to see what they looked like. 








Selling my cards  was exciting. But most importantly I met some local friends who did not realise that I drew the cards or had not connected me with the displays of my sketchbooks in East Melbourne Library last year.  It was lovely to be able to proudly stand behind my stall and explain that I was the artist and talk about my drawings and sketchbooks. 







finding my sketches

A bit of a different blog post this week.

I am spending a lot of this weekend cleaning my apartment as I am renting and have an inspection by the property agent next week.  So some of my sketching plans have disappeared. I thought about sketching my cleaning tools, but realised I would not be getting any cleaning done if I did that !

Instead, I have added any drawings that I have done in the past in relation to cleaning and they are the images scattered through my blog today.

Today I am writing about how I locate those drawings and sketches from the last 10 years in over 63 sketchbooks that are sitting on top of my mantle piece.

The answer is Flickr. Have you heard of it? Flickr (owned by Yahoo) is an online photo management and sharing website. You create an account and upload your scans/photos and it also allows you to organize your images. It was around before facebook, many other sites today.

I joined as a member in 2008, mainly to share my sketches with my family interstate. My sketchbooks are often my daily journal, so my family could keep up to date with what I was doing in Sydney .

 I scan all of my  sketches and upload them to Flickr. I have over 4600 images on Flickr . I then add “tags” which are descriptive keywords.  The tags are the key to finding images.  I can do a search through the archive of my “Photostream” and locate any drawings that match that search term. For example, for this page I searched for the words  housework, dusting, cleaning, tools, broom and dirt .  


Once I have found the image I can see the date I sketched it and find the original on my computer or in my sketchbook. I  decided early on to include the date in the title eg 18Feb2017. My early scans are not great as I had not really learnt about scanning and I did not have Photoshop. Now, I have access to Photoshop software and I use it can ‘clean up pages’ ie. remove the edges of the sketchbook, remove scratch marks and make the background paper lighter (scanning often picks up every mark and distorts the colour a little). I do not do anything to the sketch. I sometimes remove the words so that the images can be used in another context on a website on printed ( such as on a birthday card).

Of course, searching through the tags is only as good as the information that I put in the description or tags in the first place. Gosh , do I sound like the Librarian that I am?  When I started I was not very consistent with my tagging and now when I am rushed, or lazy I forget to add tags. 


A small part of the floor where the dining room/living room meets the kitchen. Hmmm another part of the house that needs cleaning

Some of my  early Flickr friends are still on Flickr, others are on other sites including  facebook , instagram, websites.  I post some of my drawings on the  various sites (below) but  everything goes onto Flickr, as it is my archive and database.



Instagram : alissaduke1


I also have organised some of my Flickr sketches into”Albums’ .  Albums are a great way to keep  sketches grouped by topic or theme. Some of them are :

My family history project drawings. 

My hospital stay 


Coffee and tea and cups

curious about Albums  ? See them all

There are many ways to organise and locate sketches so that you or anyone else can search them. What do you do?

My exhibition at Blarney Books & Art

Last weekend I travelled to Port Fairy from Melbourne (four hours by train and bus) for the set up and opening of my exhibition “You Can’t Draw in Books?” at Blarney Books & Art.

Jo , the owner of this wonderful secondhand book store and gallery , had already set the books out beautifully on display in cabinets and on tables,  and all I had to do was add some small display panels that I brought along.  These talk about these books and why I drew in them and also my process of drawing.

You can see by the photo above that I am very happy and excited to have my art in books on display and sharing them with a new audience in Port Fairy. 

Jo had printed  a fabulous glossy postcard that I later saw in cafe’s around town – another ‘pinch me’ moment. Gosh I am an artist (of sorts) . I have a few spare postcards if you would like me to post you you one. Click on the contact me Tab and send a message. 








There was a Meet The Artist session on Saturday and a few locals dropped by especially to have a chat . We talked all things art and they asked lots of questions, And there was bubbly to celebrate.












Some have already sold but all others are all for sale ! 




The next day the clouds came over, then the rain began. I sketched in Blarney Books & Art, with the rain sounding on the high tin roof. I could have stayed there for days. (That is Craig the mannequin sitting opposite me. Quite disconcerting. ) 

We had explored Port Fairy in our spare time and I completed a few pages of sketches. See them on my flickr site where I post all of my drawings. 

The exhibition is on til March 5 – so if you are in the area , please have a look. Let me know if you if you visit. 

new exhibition up this weekend

This is a short blogpost as I am currently installing my “You Can’t Draw in Books?” exhibition at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy. It opens on Saturday 4 February and runs until 5 March . Blarney is open Thurs, Fri, Sat & Sun 11-4.  It is a fabulous bookshop, with fascinating second hand books, comfy couches and a fish tank, . Their art exhibitions tie in with books, book art, artist books, and/or storytelling. 

“You Can’t Draw in Books?”  was originally created for Melbourne Rare Book Week last year. I then had the opportunity to display it at my local library. And now it has travelled to Port Fairy (with the help of the Wiley family) , a lovely seaside town about four hours from Melbourne (out along the Great Ocean Road). 

A Tale of Two Cities . if you read the page – it describes Madame Defarge and the other women knitting as the executions take place

There are 45 books in the exhibition, some new to this exhibition, as some books were bought from the previous exhibition. If you are not familiar: I drew in books that were about to be thrown away, or that I bought for a few dollars.  The next step for them  would have been the bin.I gave the books a new life by drawing on the pages with my watercolour pencils. The image I choose to draw, reflects the words on the page.

I have blogged about  it .

My MRBW exhibition 

My East Melbourne Library exhibition 

Here are some of the new drawings on pages




Lunar New Year sketching

Over 40 (perhaps up to 60) Melbourne Urban Sketchers met on a blue-skied sunny day at Queen Victoria Markets to sketch for Lunar New Year. Although the markets are busy, especially on weekends, we found spacious, shady places to sketch. 


such a wonderful sight to see sketchers all around

The Queen Victoria Markets have been operating in Melbourne for more than a century. This historic landmark is spread over two city blocks, and you can shop for everything from Australian fruit and vegetables, and local and imported gourmet foods, to cosmetics, clothing and souvenirs . A place to visit for locals and tourists ! (www.qvm.com.au/about/)

There was so much to sketch, and I choose two of the mythical creatures that were between the market sheds. I used my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen and watercolour pencils. I wanted to capture the people as well as the Lunar New Year.

a group photo at 1pm

We were one of at least 25 worldwide Urban Sketching Regional Groups that were sketching for the Lunar New Year.  

and here are some roosters I sketched a while ago . For Year of the Rooster

a day trip to Woodend

On Saturday I took A day trip to Woodend with my friend Louise, Woodend is only one hour by train from Melbourne. It is a delightful town, settled in the 1800’s and transformed by the gold rush of 1851 in Bendigo and Castlemaine. Now it is a pleasing day trip combining the old and the new.  There is historic architecture, a few secondhand shops, bookshops, antique shops and lots of sidewalk cafes. 


I knew that I wanted to sketch during the day , but was not sure of the opportunities I would get.  I realise that I have not actually sketched the town of Woodend itself. This is more about my day. I will just have to return to sketch some of those beautiful historic buildings, This is what I ended up with today……

When I think about it three drawings in one day is a lot but only some of what I could have done.

See more gum leaves in 2011 Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Sketchabout in the Gardens album (about half way down the page) 

Below are some links to blogposts about travelling journalling. Although these blog posts were written three years ago, my approach is still the same. Even for a day trip to Woodend !

AUG 2013 written in October  2012 Thoughts on creating my Travel Sketchbook and travel sketchbook journalling

OCT 2013 The practicalities of travelling with my sketchbook and pencil wrap.

Oct 2013sketchbook travel journal : the reality

enjoy !!





why I sketch what I sketch

This week I contemplated what I draw and why I have the approach that I do.

Rubbish bins under an overpass at Darling Harbour Sydney

Specifically, I was thinking about the fact that I do not have any difficulty in finding a subject to draw. To me anything is interesting. Sit me in front of anything and I will draw it. I do not concern myself with sunlight, shadow, or arranging of objects. True, sometime there will be a bit of positioning as to where to get the best point of view and a little shuffling of objects. And some scenes, buildings and objects certainly inspire me more than others.

There is beauty in the everyday .  Garbage bins or old mushrooms can be beautiful (for a short time).  When you draw, you look closely and observe details . There are many articles written about this aspect of drawing (which I can’t find right at this moment).

I think that  my approach comes from my drawing background.

I have been drawing since high school, when with my best friend, we would draw in weekends and after school. We would copy from pictures of popstars from Smash Hits (UK music) magazine.

Ah Ha 1985??

 I was not very prolific and a drawing would take ages, as I agonised over every line  (but I like to think that it taught me that the slightest change of angle to a line can alter the personality of a person on the page).

For many years after that I drew from pictures in magazines, but I began to spend more and more time looking for the ‘perfect’ picture to draw, sometimes not drawing at all. I can still remember the frustration and angst I went through in looking for a picture to draw. 

After many years of not putting pencil to paper I began again to draw again sometime in 2000? I was given a sketchbook and a challenge. To draw everyday . I think that each month had to have a different theme.

  people at a cafe

a long hospital stay filled two sketchbooks

demolition of Sydney Convention Centre


I sketched intermittently between 2004 when I moved to Sydney and then sketched regularly with Liz Steel, then other sketching friends as my sketching world broadened with Sydney Sketch Club and then Urban Sketchers. This has directed and influenced my approach to sketching and drawing. I have gravitated and embraced the Urban Sketchers movement. My sketching and drawing approach is all about drawing on location  and capturing the moment, big or small. It is also about drawing the everyday, as I drawing things around me or in my life. I draw everyday and have just started my 63rd Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook since December 2008. 

I was also influenced by the Everyday Matters (EDM) challenges were on Flickr and each week provided a new prompt for something to draw. They dominated my creative process each week as I excitedly looked forward to posting my new drawing and finding out the challenge for the next week, EDM’s  provided the path of my other ‘drawing hat’, as I took more time to finish a page over a few nights. 

So now in 2017 I carry my sketchbook around, sketching all the time, capturing the moment and also am involved in a number of projects that involve more studies drawings. I love to draw !

However this is to say there are not challenge – peoples faces are difficult to capture, I find it hard to draw from my imagination and commissions scare me ! 

Discover your own path and have fun !