Category Archives: Sydney

New city – New pencil colours

After a few sketches in Melbourne, I realised that the Faber Castell watercolour pencils colours that I had used to draw Sydney buildings in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook were not going to capture the buildings of my new city. 

It was only a subtle difference, but I could tell and was very aware of it. Often I feel that getting the colour just right can make or break a sketch for me. And sometimes colour makes an object or building recognisable, even if the actually drawing is way out of kilter!


St Stephens Uniting Church

Sydney hospital and eye hospital

The sandstone of many of the historic buildings in Sydney gives the city some of its personality. It is called Yellow block  and is known for its warm, golden straw colour. The main public buildings in Sydney, completed from the 1850s until the 20th century were built in sandstone from Pyrmont where some 50 quarries operated.  Pyrmont yellowblock was hard, and had good texture, and colour, and it was also suitable for carving. By coincidence Pyrmont is the suburb I used to live in in Sydney . No quarries now, just streetnames, pub names the landscape continue the history

In Sydney I used to following watercolour colours to sketch buildings:
  • Ivory
       combined with either

  •  Burnt Yellow Ochre or
  • Light Yellow Ochre or
  • little Raw Umber (which is a Derwent colour)

 The other colour I used in Sydney was Magenta on the ironlace and rails of buildings.
  • Magenta


    In Melbourne, the city buildings have more grey than yellow to the stone. There are also other building materials such as  the completely different bluestone.
    I made a quick trip to explore a new art store where I tested a few new Faber Castell watercolour pencils for their colour, with and without water, and I came away with a few potentials.

    My new watercolour pencils are:

    • Warm Grey !
    • Warm Grey II
     and for the red ironwork
    • Burnt Carmine



     I have only had the chance to try out my new colours a few times, but I already feel a lot more comfortable with the colours and I think they are going to work just fine.  I will still continue to use Ivory and just a touch of the other colours, but now have a new set of colours for my new city!


    Supreme Court
    Melbourne Town Hall

    and here are the tested watercolour pencils drawn on a page together


      birds at the museum

      I  spent a few hours at the Australian Museum in Sydney on Saturday and today. I wish I visited more often. I have a membership so can get in for free, so I should make effort to visit. The problem is  – to many wonderful things to draw, to many projects !
      The Australian Museum
      Although there are many wonderful floors to explore and sketch, I seem to always head for the Search & Discover Room . It is an information and resource centre. You have a chance to  touch and feel real specimens, and take them to a desk to position and sketch. I had SUCH a good time. Sometimes lines just flow from the pencil. It happened here.
      I have sketched a few Australian birds before . As with any subject, the more you draw and really LOOK and SEE  it, the more understanding you have of it and the better you get.
      I usually draw in a 13 x 19 cm Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook.  The only times that I want to draw BIG are at the Museum and the Zoo. So I took an A3 sketchbook this time.
      I also took an old ledger that I had bought. I want to explore drawing on printed surfaces.

      He is almost all black in colour. but I decided to finish in this sketch stage and not “colour in”
      A3 Arches 300 GSM Smooth Watercolour Paper
      Pied Currawongs are found throughout eastern Australia. They prefer forests and woodlands, and has become well adapted to suburban areas. Throughout its range it is common and familiar. Average size: 48cm Source:
      Their song  can be heard in Australian suburbs

      I sketched him again, but really  had to add all black otherwise he looked like a penguin with a white front.

      The Australian Magpie is black and white. It is slightly smaller than the currawong  Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. Across most of Australia, the remainder of the body is black. They are common and conspicuous birds.Australian Magpies are found wherever there is a combination of trees and adjacent open areas, including parks and playing fields. Australian Magpies can be very aggressive during breeding season and attacks on humans and pets can occur.
      They have a beautiful song which I love to hear. It is a loud musical flute-like song, often performed as a duet or by groups

      I always draw in watercolour pencil. On this page I was showing another sketcher, Jane how I use watercolour pencils to draw and blend. I have been using them everyday for over five years and love what can be done with them.
      I draw lots of things and they all go on flickr

      My different styles of sketching

      Today, Saturday, I did four drawings, each in a different style. I thought that this would be an opportunity to write about it.

      I draw with watercolour pencil and also use a Lamy Safari Joy ink pen. Depending on the day, how I feel, I use them in  different ways. Sometimes in combination and sometimes on their own. Some are quick sketches in minutes capturing a moment, others are completed over a few nights, as a study. 

      A quick unplanned sketch of some  buskers Winterbourne in the Pitt Street Mall. I found a place out of the crowd, leaning up against a wall, and decided what to include. I started with the main guitarist, then the second one really got into it and so I quickly sketched him.  I then added the onlookers.

      Lunch –  sushi at David Jones . Sushi is such a sketchable subject, so I chose my lunch subjects for their aesthetic value. And sushi doesn’t get cold as you sketch , and you can have multiple plates to choose from . This was drawn and coloured on the page in watercolour pencil and then I used waterbrush to spread the colour, then added some more pencil lines. I ate the avocado sushi and then drew the second  sushi and then ate it !

      The next sketch was when I arrived very early for my hairdressers appointment. I found a place in the sun, leant up against a wall and spend about half an hour on this.  I drew in the lines of the buildings, either in their colour (such as Burnt Yellow Ochre for the cliff) , or Paynes grey . I then took colour off the tip of the pencil with the waterbrush and adding it to the page. Then I added the final lines of street lights and poles.

      and finally a more studied drawing of some watercolour paper that I bought . I spent half an hour with the helpful (and patient) staff at Parkers Art Supplies in Sydney looking at a number of papers. I bought five.  I am going to use them to test as I am looking for a comparative paper block or sheets of my wonderful Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. I am still going to continue using my journals but am drawing some more “finished” subjects on loose sheets. I will be writing a separate blog post on this.

      Sydney city people and places

      Sydney city, like all others, is made up of both people and places. I have been out sketching both this week, with my watercolour pencils
      Martin Place is a pedestrian area that extends over several blocks. There are large areas for the public, including a stage and steps. There is also space where skateboarders congregate. It is school holidays, so there was a younger crowd there this week. The are so quick and hard to draw. I needed to watch them do the same trick over and over again before I could get it on paper. If I watched them often enough I would have a better understanding of where all the limbs go !

      The Big Issue seller in Martin Place. The Big Issue magazine is a fortnightly, independent magazine that is sold on the streets by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people

      a coffee shop in Hunter Connection, Wynard . I went there because someone recommended the coffee and because of the coffee cups. I did the sketch in Payne Grey watercolour pencil while I waited for my coffee. There was a bit of a queue , but they were quick, so I did not get very long to sketch. Coffee cup sketched later .

      Sydney sketches today

      Sydney is enjoying the warmest winter in years. The day time temperature has not dropped below 20 degrees and this week there have been blue skies and sunshine everyday. I made the most of this opportunity and sketched . Today I was inspired (and had the time) to do two sketches, one before work and one at lunch. These are both sketched in Martin Place at the GPO end near the Westin.

      As it was such lovely weather, lots of other people were out and about in their lunch hours too. That is why it is nice to come into work early and sketch at 8am.  I can sit in doorways of stores that are usually open through the daytime.

      I am very pleased with what I can capture on a page in around 30 minutes. I like the vignette style and the little scene. I think that this style has only come to me recently. It is one of the styles that I would like to use when travelling. I also like to use pen and ink as well to do this style of sketch. I also like to do a very quick sketch of people and crowds. I have a variety of styles and it depends on the scenes (or most usually) what I feel like on the day to which one I use.


      I start with a very few lines in pencil. Just some basic horizontal and vertical lines and for these, the arches, just so that I don’t miss out on a level of the building. Then my lovely watercolour pencils come out. I draw in the lines and areas in their colour, Then I apply the waterbrush, then more watercolour pencil and so on until it is time to go !

      Drawing Sydney in my lunchhour

       Drawing Sydney in my lunchhour
      I have been working  at an office near Macquarie Street, Sydney for the past three weeks. I took the opportunity to go out in my lunchhour and sketch some of the historic sandstone buildings.  Macquarie Street is one of Sydney’s oldest government districts with a number of heritage buildings built during the city’s early colonial years.
      The weather has been the warmist May in many years, so it has been lovely to sit in the sunshine and sketch with my watercolour pencils.It is little capture of the buildings. I made a conscious decision to draw the buildings and not include the busy street life and am pleased with the result.
       I usually spent about half an hour on each sketch .
      I sketch with watercolour pencils in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook
      Sydney Eye Hospital and Sydney Hospital
      Sydney Eye Hospital and Sydney Hospital

      St James

      Hyde Park Barracks



      St Stephens Uniting Church
      State Library of NSW

      Sketching on Cockatoo Island

      I spent the last two days  on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. A place full of Sydney history from convict to industrial era and through to the present day, where you wander and explore. While Liz Steel and Paul Wang ran their Expressive Urban Sketching Workshop on the island, I spent the days drawing and taking the opportunity to catch up with my old and new sketching friends before and after the Workshop each day. I could feel the sense of enthusiasm and excitement in the group each time I talked to them. There will be many blog, flickr and facebook posts from the 25 participants from around Australia and the world . Have a look at the Australian Urban Sketchers blogsite

      I had put aside these two days take my watercolour pencils to the island to explore and draw on Cockatoo Island. I generally ignored the Sydney Biennale Art installations that were on the island. There is already so much to see and sketch ! The Biennale was launched on the Friday and crowds were expected. But it did not cause any issues.

      The weather was spectacular – blue skies and sunshine.
      All my drawings from the two days are on my flickr site . I filled 16 pages with drawings

      Begin the day with a coffee !!

      First drawing was on my coffee cup with Lamy Safari Joy ink pen.

      Then a focus on one of the rusty cranes



      and my drawing position – on a bin ! One person stopped to say it was a great drawing. Two people stopped and asked to use the bin !

       ok – a visit to one Biennale Art installation. I listened to the Artists talk and then watched the video made a lot more sense ! 

      my morning drawing – looking up to the cliffs
      and my afternoon drawing. I was sitting in the area I drew in the morning Looking down to where I sat in the morning. Does that make sense?
      (Note to self: During the drawing, look at page without sunglasses on ! My long distance prescription sunglasses are great on a sunny day to shield the sun and focus on the distance to sketch BUT when I took them off and looked at the page at the end of the drawing the colour and linework looked completely different. )
       My quick sketches of the Expressive Urban Sketching Workshop




      Urban Sketchers – Cockatoo Island

       Yesterday, about 15 sketchers met at Sydney’s Cockatoo island (a quick ferry ride in the harbour)for the final Urban Sketchers Sydney event for the year. The weather was all blue skies and sunshine, as summer has finally decided to arrive in Sydney. We have visited Cockatoo Island regularly as is so full of inspiration and potential sketching opportunities
      I always like to arrive  a little early to start sketching before everyone arrives and I start talking. I sat the café with Phil & Chris and looked back to Sydney, sketching the panorama in watercolour pencil. Is was so peaceful.

      Often when I visit Cockatoo Island I feel the need to draw BIG-  the buildings are big, the cranes are big . I draw everyday on a 20 x 13 cm moleskine watercolour sketchbook. So this time I came prepared with some larger sheets of paper, Unfortunately, I was in the mood for drawing small….so the papers were left untouched this time. But I will return in the New Year to experiment with size and equipment


      The Drawing Office is one of my favourite buildings on the island. And that was even before I knew that it was called the Drawing Office and then that just made if more special. The Drawing Office was established in 1914 as part of the dockyards of the Royal Australian Navy, which were based there.I love the colour and textures, the greens and the rust .I have sketched it a few times previously. We only had about half and hour for this one before meeting everyone for lunch.


      some of the sketchbooks from the morning
      We chatted, compared notes on what and where we sketched and the experience of the morning.


      Liz Steel reminded me that Cockatoo Island was the first place we met and sketched together way back in 2008. It was an International Sketchcrawl and we were the only two that turned up. How much has changed in our sketching lives since then! So many wonderful art adventures, meeting some interesting and inspirational people. There have been opportunities in the art world that I never would have dreamed of.

      Certainly my sketching has changed. I think that I am more confident in my line and colour. I feel like I am capturing a lot more character of the object I am drawing. Below are my sketches from 2008.

      I can see that my subject matter has not altered at all, and I could have chosen the same objects this weekend.  That would have been interesting!
      I am still using watercolour pencils, as I had only just discovered them then and am now a complete aficionado.
      I was using Pitt pens and Micron pens then, whereas now I love my Lamy Safarfi Joy ink pen. The flow of ink off the nib is so smooth and suits my drawing style.
      I also drew on castoff sheets of A4 card stock then, and now I am up to Moleskine watercolour sketchbook number 37 since December 2008. I will be starting on sketchbook number 38 as I fly home for Christmas in a short time. I sketched at the airport for my Christmas flight in 2008 in the first pages of my first Moleskine. I am getting nostalgic thinking about it!

      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 !

      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 )