The Kimberley in July

For almost 20 years we have travelled through Australia, top to bottom, all around and through the middle. To the wild and remote places that most people never go. On every journey I take a sketchbook, waterproof pens and a travel watercolour set and I document our journey, in words and in drawings. The drawings are mostly of the objects I find, feathers, shells, leaves, bones, occasionally a bit of landscape. I take photos too, but it is the sketchbooks that really keep the memories fresh.

The drawings are also a resource for works that I create later. I redraw loosely from my original drawings, sometimes altering them a little to suit my new purposes, but the essence remains. My present project is using drawings from a 2009 trip that went up through the centre of Australia, through the Kimberley, down the Western Australia coast and home to New South Wales via the Nullarbor Plain between July and September.

I cut sheets of watercolour paper to postcard-sized rectangles 150 x 105 mm and started, choosing images that worked with the shape, and adding the handwritten notes that I put in my sketchbook. The intention is to make these into a book, possibly a concertina that will show the progression of images, but that will evolve later. I’m not sure how many drawing I will do either … so far I have completed 6 and one is in its pen and ink stage, before I add the colour. I have included it to show how they begin.



Miniature sketchbook


The sketches I made on my recent trip to Tasmania have proved a valuable resource for further artwork – I made a large drawing using some of the elements (see here) and now have made a miniature version of my sketchbook.

In creating this miniature book, I scanned and reduced the pages from the sketchbook, then re-arranged the drawings to suit a small format, going from an A4 sketchbook down to pages that are 10.5 x 9 cm. All the drawings were redone from scratch, I felt if I traced the forms I would lose the original loose quality of them, and the painting was often reinterpreted too.

Once the drawings were done and the labels added, I glued the panels onto a long strip of mulberry paper, a thin but strong Japanese paper which has small pieces of organic material embedded in it, which felt like a nice accompaniment to drawings of natural objects. The front and back covers were made of card with mulberry paper pasted on, and the decorative corners and the panel beneath the title plate were made from offcuts from my recent prints.

This little book, along with the portraits in my previous post, and a small oil painting will be submitted to the Annual Awards exhibition of the Australian Society of Miniature Art. The exhibition is not until June, but I wanted to have the work complete well in advance.

Freycinet – from the sketchbook


During my recent visit to Tasmania, we were given the opportunity to stay in a beachside ‘shack’ for a few days. Nestled in the Freycinet National Park, a short distance from the beginning of the Wineglass Bay walk, close to Fisheries Beach, it was a delight to settle in there to enjoy the peace and scenery. It was an opportunity to read, walk, relax and for me, to draw. (See my previous post for more of the sketches.)

As a small thank you to the owner of the shack (actually a very comfortable house!) I have made up a drawing using my sketches from the local area, adding little annotations of names and places. Hopefully it will remind her of the peace and quiet of Freycinet when she is far away.

It is drawn using pen and ink and watercolour, on Arches Aquarelle 300 gsm paper, hot-pressed, 26 x 36 cm.

Sketching in Tasmania


In the middle of December I flew down to Hobart to join my partner who had taken the car over on the ferry a couple of weeks before, as he had work to do at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. After a few days there, of course visiting the wonderful MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), we spent a week in a friend’s beach ‘shack’ in Freycinet National Park, one of the most beautiful places in Tasmania. We walked – one walk that we HAD to do was a climb up to look down at Wineglass Bay, then down the other side, a long loop across a marsh, another beach and through the bush back. About 11 km it took us 5 hours and was a good workout, but worth it!

On other days we drove to walk on the Friendly Beaches – the sea intense turquoise blue and sand white, with rock pools at the water’s edge, The Gardens with the same coloured ocean and sand, but massive boulders covered with orange lichen … and numerous others. In between we relaxed, read and I drew. From Freycinet we moved up the coast to St Helens, a small fishing town in the Bay of Fires, then camped at Policeman’s Point a bit further up the coast, still in the Bay of Fires. A beautiful spot for bush camping and walking on the beach until it rained … but we weren’t daunted and took ourselves to Bridport on the north coast. An unexpected delight, the coastline composed of numerous small beaches bordered by rocks. And the sun shone again!

Our last stop was Launceston, another pretty small city, hilly like Hobart, with elaborate Victorian architecture. We watched the New Year fireworks from a park by the Tamar River – a delight to be so close and walk back to our hotel in a matter of minutes, very different from Sydney! On the ferry back to Melbourne we had a very comfortable cabin, the Bass Strait was a millpond, so a simple and uneventful (thank goodness, I am a very bad sailor!) trip. Then towards home, catching up with friends along the way.

I only had time to sketch between Freycinet and Bridport, but took every opportunity I could, walking around with my eyes on the ground looking for any attractive little object!


Sketching on trains

Having a sleeping or otherwise occupied person in reasonably close range is a golden opportunity for sketching. So a train journey is pretty good – the best position is across the aisle, so my subjects are in seats facing the other way. I don’t want to be observed so sometimes have to pretend I’m doing something else, but as soon as they are asleep again or immersed in their laptop, then I can continue. These were done between Stirling and Edinburgh or Glasgow, in my small square sketchbook with a Staedler pigment pen. 

Daily sketching (or not …)


Back in July I decided it would be a good idea to do a sketch every day in preparation for the long camping trip I would be going on at the end of the month. I knew I would be doing a lot of drawing on the trip, so this seemed like a good way to get into practice. The obvious thing to document was my collection of objects gathered on previous camping trips. This went well, and most of the July sketches were documented here. I did spend a lot of time drawing during the three and a half months I was away. (See posts from August through to October 2015).

However, once I returned the daily drawing slipped a bit and it is only now I am starting to get back into it, just slowly. So, below is a gallery of small sketches showing some of the odds and ends from my collection (and a hibiscus flower I found outside my house).

All the drawings are done with a waterproof pigment liner, mostly between .1 and .3, coloured with Winsor and Newton watercolour, in a 10 x 15 cm sketchbook.

Dried orchid flower

These small drawings were getting me back to drawing after a break of several weeks, having been travelling, then Christmas and other interruptions. My daughter had been given a beautiful orchid, but one stalk had died, leaving the crisp, dry flowers still in place. The folds and twists immediately attracted my attention, so I rescued the flowers before they were disposed of. I have drawn them larger than life, and once I had drawn the basic form I allowed my imagination to continue the drawing, so in many ways these are not an accurate representation of the flowers at all, but an extension of their form.

Maybe I will do large drawings based on these, but I have photos of more of the dry flowers that I can work from to make more small ones like these. They are drawn in a 14cm square sketchbook, using Derwent pencils for the first and Faber Castell graphite for the second – it has been interesting for me to compare the results from the different pencils – not sure which I prefer.