Category Archives: travel

Exploring for a travel sketching workshop

I am very excited to have been asked to hold a Travel Sketching Workshop by Sarah at Arts On Burgundy in Heidelberg, Melbourne. 

On Friday I took a day off to meet Sarah, discuss the January Workshop and explore Heidelberg, as I have never been there. I wanted to see where I could take the Travel Sketching group on a walk on the day.

I will base it on the very successful plan of my East Melbourne Library Travel Sketchwalk except this is a full day workshop, not just an afternoon. 

I am not teaching how to draw, but how to see and to sketch an impression of your moment. No erasers or rulers,  wobbly lines are  just fine. Nothing matters but enjoying what you do. 

I also want to introduce people to watercolour pencils as a everyday art medium or a travel sketching tool. 



I also took the opportunity to catchup with sketching friend and artist Jodi Wiley. We started the day sketching our food and talking a lot.  I got a lot of ideas for where to sketch locally from Jodi and then Sarah.

I walked around and around the streets of Heidelberg.  I stopped at three places and did two 15 minute sketches at each.

This will hopefully give the participants an idea what can be sketched at each. I  looked for places to stop where we could stand or preferable sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

I need to know about the potential for shade as it will be January in Australia. However it is Melbourne – so who knows what the day will bring.  


My day ended at Heidelberg Railway Station, knowing that I had just missed a train and had 19 minutes to wait. Time flies when you are sketching !!!

Family Reunion sketching

Last weekend I spent five days interstate for a Family Reunion in Goondiwindi  (pronounced Gunda – windy) in Queensland, Australia. pop 5600

my maternal line . drawn from family photographs Faber Castell Dark Sepia watercolour pencil is perfect. I was tempted to use colours with the current generation, but liked the old world look.

It was a gathering of over 130 descendants of two migrants in 1850’s. Our family line stayed in the area until 1953, so there is close connection.

This is my art blog so it is all about the sketches from the weekend.

I took my customised  watercolour pencil wrap and Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (13 x 19 cm) with me, as I do everywhere I go. There is always an opportunity to sketch !






But first I had to get there – My journey began with a bus ride a,  two hour flight then a two and a half hour drive west to outback Queensland. 

The Cunningham Highway is a long flat road. Not as brown and barren as I thought it would be. 

Some time was spent visiting places which brought back  memories for some of the family. 

Meet and Greet at the Goondiwindi Bowls Club on Friday night. So many new faces.

I sketched this in the open hot, dry heat of 33 degrees. I did not stay out there long, heading back under the trees for conversation and food.

Group photos at Goondiwindi Boars Rugby League Playing Fields – one of everyone and then the separate families. The photographer was really quick and did not stand still for long.

Lots of social gatherings .  But I did not sketch at them all, as I wanted to socialise, ask lots of questions and try and soak it all in. The long weekend was very well organised, with names on coloured tags for which line of the family you are descended from. Great introduction and talking points. I met some lovely and interesting people. 

It was a very special moment to stand in front of the graves of the ancestors who began life here in a strange foreign land over 150 years ago. It is difficult to try to understand the difficulties and challenges that they encountered. 


and then the return journey home…..

… to start writing down some of the family stories that we were told and fill in the gaps on our family tree with the new relations we discovered. 

 Below is part of that history – Nana’s tennis trophy from 1941. The town of Toobeah now has a population of 42. I think it was about 250 when she visited, There are quite a few tennis courts around the district, and it must have played a big role in the social life of the district 

I sketched this in 2014

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.


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 .




Return from UK holiday – catching up

I have just returned from 3 weeks holiday in England, which involved a lot of sketching. Slighty jet-legged, I am sorting out, catching up, reliving wonderful holiday memories and planning ahead. The sketches on this page are a few that I have scanned today.

27Jul2016 Manchester Town Hall rooftop

I travelled to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium and then to York and then to London.27Jul2016 Symposium opening event

The holiday was wonderful and very special. I was overwhelmed with the history that surrounded me and the architecture of these three cities. I travelled with my very very patient mother, who understood and accommodated my sketching as we travelled – it is so easy to get distracted and ‘need’ to sketch something as you pass by it.

1Aug2016 York The Shambles

1Aug2016 York Micklegate Bar

I filled almost three sketchbooks (Moleskine 13 x 19 cm) with travel sketches in those three weeks. I now have the long task of scanning them. But before I can do that, many of the pages need to be ‘finished’ . This usually involves adding the date, heading, transcribing my scribbled pencil notes into the page in pen. Sometimes I want to find out more information about the place I have sketched and look online for details. I usually don’t add anymore to the sketch that I did on location, unless it is to add a bit more colour, or intensity to some areas.

5Aug2016 London Russell Square 5Aug2016 London Trafalgar Square



Once scanned, I will add them all into an Album on my flickr site, and a few on this blog.

Many people have been sharing their sketches and summaries and videos of their Symposium experiences on facebook and their blogs. I am looking forward to spending time looking through these one day.

I had decided not to blog, scan or try and keep up with any social media while I was away. I wanted to spend my time experiencing the sights, meeting people and sketching. However I did end up posting one drawing a day to Instagram. I am alissaduke1 if you want to see them. I also shared these to my facebook page Alissa Duke Art.

travel countdown drawings

In six weeks my mother &  I will be on a plane to England.

Once a week I write a letter to her (a real letter, on paper,  in an envelope, in the post) and draw something related to our holiday. It is a way of building the excitement and also being aware of how the weeks are flying by,

Last holiday, three years ago, I drew on the envelopes that I mailed each week in a ten  week countdown . This year I have only managed one original drawing on an envelope. 20May2015 squirrel envelope

This year, life  is a lot busier, so I am using the drawings from one of my other projects, which neatly fits into the holiday. My exhibition for Melbourne Rare Book Week title “You Can’t Draw in Books?” involves me drawing in old (about to be discarded) books, illustrating the words on one of the open pages. One of the books is an old A-Z London Street directory . I am drawing images of iconic images of London or something that reflects the place on the page.

I then cut and paste my final saved and drawn image into an envelope to mail to my mother. That means that this year she is not getting ‘an original’ on the envelope – but still gets a surprise each week !

I have completed (or started) five drawings on pages so far and identified another few pages with potential, including Regents Park (draw a squirrel) , Kew Gardens (a flower) , Battersea (Power station), Greenwich ( something to do with time OR the Cutty Sark ), Hampton Court (the palace) ….

5jun16 paddington 3May16 telephone boxA-Z london bus London A-Z Womblesharrods

my travelling Visconti ink pot

I am excited to be writing this blog post about my new travelling ink pot – because it means that I am travelling !!!

13May2016 draw a suitcase13April2016 GBP

In seven weeks I will be flying overseas. We are going to England, flying directly to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium … more about that later.


4Jun16 travelling ink potl

The Visconti travelling ink pot, eyedropper and my Lamy pen

I have recently purchased a Visconti travelling ink pot to carry and refill the ink for my Lamy Safari Joy pen. I will be sketching furiously for three weeks in England and will need to refill the ink in my pen during that time. It is like an old-fashioned fountain pen where you dip the pen into the ink bottle and draw the ink up into the pen. At about $100 (more than twice the price of the pen) the travelling ink pot was a little investment, but it will bring me the peace of mind that I  will not open my suitcase to a leaked/broken ink bottle. It is vacuum sealed and received excellent reviews.

My last overseas holiday was three years ago to Barcelona for a previous Urban Sketching Symposium. To transport my ink, I  used a small interesting plastic bottle wrapped in bubble wrap, put in another plastic jar, sealed in a plastic bag. Secure, but it took up valuable luggage space. See my post from three years ago to read more about it

I will start using my new travelling ink pot now, so that I can  figure out how it works ! I will be refilling with Noodlers Bulletproof Black ink until I finish the bottle. Noodlers is not stocked in Australia anymore and I have purchased DeAtramentis Black Document Ink as a replacement product.

Over the next few weeks/months my weekly blog will be about my Melbourne Rare Book Week  activities, Urban Sketching Symposium and  as well as drawing in the countdown to holidays.



My burger at Lost Trades Fair

Yesterday a friend and I spent the day at the Lost Trades Fair at Kyneton, just over an hour by train from Melbourne. The Lost Trades fair showcases traditional, rare and unusual arts and trades and actively promotes the people who practise these skills.

The weather was just perfect  and I sketched all day completing 10 pages. I was experimenting with reportage sketching – telling a story.  I still have to scan my sketches and write commentary. I need to reflect on how I managed the day and what I would do differently. These will be the topic of a later blog.

Today is all about my lunch at Lost Trades Fair.

14mar16 LTF lunch

After sketching and talking to some incredibly interesting stall holders, we stopped for a well earned lunch at Sidonnia Hills Natural Beef for their Drover’s Burger.







We sat on hay bales and I sketched my burger and finally ended up eating a slightly cool, but delicious burger. I chatted to people in the queue about sketching and my pencils. 

I like to draw a detailed object in watercolour pencil and then use my Lamy ink pen to sketch the context. In this case it was the people at the markets.

Here are the watercolour pencils I used (with a waterbrush)


Left to right : Grass green, Chrome Oxide Green, ivory, Burnt Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Light Yellow Ochre, Deep Scarlet Red, Walnut  Brown, Burnt Umber, Magenta, Burnt Sienna, Madder Crimson.

All are Faber Castell  Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, except the last , which is a Derwent.

See my blog posts  and sketches from last years Lost Trades Fair



travel sketching on the go

I have just spent three days in Sydney after my first year of living in Melbourne. I was going to write a blog including my sketches from the weekend. However, after beginning scanning my 18 pages I realised there were enough interesting transport and travel sketches to put together a post on them alone.

Travelling provides so many opportunities for very quick sketches as well as longer ones.  A lot of time is spent waiting, sitting, standing and  queuing. Some of it is unexpected and some you will know about in advance.  Each opportunity can also provide its own challenges and issues.

6Aug15 bus

My bus ride to the airport (above) was very bumpy. I think I was sitting over a wheel! I sketched with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen and my hand seemed to bump along with the bus. It seemed to happen when I got to drawing faces – some big noses here. I have drawn on this airport bus previously and am used to where people are positioned and the perspective.

8Aug15 taxi
The taxi ride back to the airport was a lot smoother. I don’t catch many taxis and don’t often draw in them. The subject doesn’t move much!
8Aug15 plane
I always arrive early at the airport and enjoy the time that I can spend sketching planes. I don’t always get to draw the plane I am travelling in. Sometimes I start to draw a plane and all of the landing crew, mechanics and vehicles suddenly move away and the plane leaves. Sketched with my watercolour pencils in Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook (13 x 19 cm ) .

6Aug15 plane

6Aug15 passengersFellow passengers across the aisle can be ideal subjects to draw . (Sometimes the seats are just to close together and I don’t feel comfortable sketching with my passenger right next to me looking over my shoulder ).They sleep, have interesting hairstyles, lots of creases in their clothing to sketch. The sketch above was in ideal circumstances. This was before take-off and all the people stayed in place for me. I sketched this with my Watercolour pencils, but with no water added.  (and I received lovely compliments from the flight crew).

But passengers also move a lot in their seat and unexpectedly  change positions. The lady below moved a few times, but stayed in each one for a while. She also sat with her legs crossed on the seat (how did she do that?) but I missed that opportunity to sketch her.

8Aug15 passenger
and then there are the REALLY quick sketches as people hurry to leave 6Aug15 passengers2

The SEATBELT sign has been turned off at the end of the flight and everyone scrambles to standup, retrieve their belongings and then ….wait and wait. (and sketch)
8Aug15 on the plane

Melbourne sketching

 A weekend in Melbourne provided me with an opportunity to sketch.

I went to Melbourne to visit my four sketchbooks I had entered in the Sketchbook Project. Read all about it here. They were on tour in Australia from 1- 9 November. I visited with friends on the final day in the final hours. They had to kick us out.

But my Melbourne adventure started from the moment I left work on Friday, and arrived at the airport to find my plane delayed an hour. Sketching time !!!

baggage on the tarmac

and then on the plane

passengers on the plane

On arrival in Melbourne there was time for iconic sights as well as the iconic Melbourne weather (four seasons in one day !) Sydney does not have trams, so I was determined to draw one while I was here. I looked for the classic yellow and green trams, only to discover that they did not go down the street I was on – just very old grey trams and ones with flashy advertising

Skybus from the airport and a Melbourne tram

How could I not sketch the Flinders Street Station ?- a stunningly beautiful building

I met Evelyn and Kym , Melbourne sketchers at 11am and we sketched the historic Melbourne City Baths from across the road. We just sat down and started sketching, then it started to rain. We could (an perhaps should have) moved under shelter , but just put up our umbrellas for an hour and a half. We had our photos taken by many groups of Asian tourists walking down from the Queen Victoria Markets.

The rain has an interesting effect on  watercolour paper and watercolour pencils.
I spent a very long time on the pencil set up. We each  considered whether to add colour tour pages. I sort off wish I had not. It would have been difficult in warm, dry weather on a dry day as I could but find the right combination of colour. But added challenge of damp changed the way colours and lines reacted. In the end it actually stopped me from being fussy about the result, as it was so uncontrollable.

Were those Melbourne sketchers testing me with the weather elements or was I testing them??? Either way, we all passed!

Sketching in the rain just sketching in the rain, a Glorious feeling I’m happy again. Kym & Evelyn

me & Evelyn. Thanks Kym for the photo.


Then the rain got heavier, we decided we were cold and went to find lunch !


and then to The Sketchbook Project exhibition at the Victorian College of Arts.

Fabulous concept, amazing books ,wonderful atmosphere and the creative juices are flowing !!! We shared the books we borrowed and got to see a lot of books made by other Australian Sketchbook Project entrants of all ages.


  1. get a library card, choose a book, get a random book as well and enjoy!

with Evelyn & Kym
Halina, Louise & I browsing through my Paris travelogue sketchbook. The sketchbook is based on the holiday I took with them in 2007, so we were reliving our holiday


sketching the Sketchbook Project

the next day it was cold , but not raining! the famous coffee shops of Melbourne laneways beckoned. I was talking to much to draw more than my coffee, and even then it was cold.

and after a days adventure I was back to the airport again