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!


Water soluble pencils

Since I can’t resist art supplies shops, I tend to collect materials that look interesting – the most recent acquisition was a set of 6 water soluble graphite pencils. These are interesting to work with and require different thinking from normal graphite pencils. Something I like about them is the fact it is possible to get a painterly quality to a drawing, the water marks can add a new dimension. Another interesting quality is that adding water takes away the shine of graphite which can be unappealing at times. 

The top two drawings are small (postcard size) which is convenient while I am travelling. These are on rough watercolour paper, so have a natural looseness to them. The other two are larger, about 25cm square, on smoother paper, so they have a cleaner finish. 

These have all been inspired by plants of various kinds. 

Adding a wash of watercolour adds something else as well. I’m enjoying this, so the experiments will continue!

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.

100 days under canvas – part 4, sketches


We are now in wildflower country proper, having left the wild and windy coast behind. The next post will be the flowers, but this one is catching up with some of the sketches that have been gradually filling my sketchbooks. The drawings above are of collected objects from Cape Leveque and Middle Lagoon – broken and whole shells (some inexplicably shaped), a fishbone, some petrified coral and the little plugs from shell openings. 

Cockroach bush (senna notabilis). Very common, and I think the explanation of the name is obvious!


Shells and a small pea-like flower from Osprey Bay in the Cape Range National Park, which lies along the coast off Ningaloo Reef. Beautiful coastline and a magical place for snorkelling – we saw a great range of corals, mostly sand coloured but a few brilliant reds, purples and greens not to mention the fish. Incredible colours and quite unafraid of large interlopers. 

It must have been high season for these butterflies. There were masses of them at Coral Bay, many on the grilles of cars, but also scattered in corners of buildings and just on the ground. A few were still complete, but many were damaged. Nevertheless they still have a dignity and beauty in death. I loved the abstract shapes they make, and will explore them further when I get home. 

More broken shells – they have an endless fascination for me. These were from a station stay on a wild but very beautiful stretch of coast at the end of Ningaloo Reef. When the tide was out we could walk on the reef and watch hermit crabs hurry around, look in deep clear pools that were created by gaps in the reef and see urchins, bright corals, fish and anemones that were all invisible under crashing surf when the tide was in. 

There are so many unusual plants here, but the green birdflower has to be one of the oddest. Each flower is distinctly a bird in flight, head out, wings up. Humour in nature!

This is a native hibiscus – some are pink, some blue, this one was a delicate mauve. I have also seen yellow, but with a flower head that hangs down, and a different leaf. 

Just to finish, a pic of me at one of our bush camps putting the finishing touches to my Sturt Desert Pea drawing!

Sketching the collection


Something I have often felt I should do is draw every day – there are many days I do, other times life gets in the way. With a big camping trip coming up, where I do intend to sketch every day, I decided to get into practice. A while ago I bought a small (15 x 10 cm) sketchbook in landscape format – this was the obvious choice to use, not too large but with plenty of pages. One small drawing a day has to be achievable.

For subject matter, this too was obvious – my collections of objects found on my travels, a ready resource on my desk. So, on 10 July 2015 I began, and now have 12 quick drawings. None took long – a quick drawing in pen, then colour added in watercolour. The collection will expand after the trip, so there will be an endless supply of material!

The collections book


Cathe’s book came to me a little while ago, and I couldn’t wait to get started on it. The theme is collections, and I have many, although mostly objects found on my travels – gum nuts, seed pods, shells, skulls and so on. The big decision was what to include. Due to other pressing commitments, I wasn’t able to start straightaway, but that did give me more thinking time. Cathe and Gale had already done their part and their work was beautiful. It’s a little intimidating, that blank page, knowing that the work needs to measure up, and no-one wants to spoil someone else’s book!

In the end, instead of drawing some of the objects on my desk I decided to use my ephemeral collections – that is, objects I have collected but no longer have, as they have returned to the earth. So, a sprig of leaves found in Orange, NSW, a bunch of senna pods with their flowers that were found in Bladensburg National Park in Western Queensland, a grasshopper that ended up on the grille of our car after driving through a dense cloud of them in western New South Wales, near the Weddin Ranges (where the bushranger Ben Hall had a cave, but that’s another story), parrot feathers from Bourke. Then there was a cicada shell found in the Bald Rock National Park on the New South Wales-Queensland border, and a beautiful iridescent beetle from the Victorian High Country.

The reason I could use these images is that they are all from my travel sketchbooks, with notes of where each was found. Wherever I go I draw what I find around me, especially things that won’t last – flowers, leaves, insects. I take things with me too – the yabbie claws on the first shared page I still have, but they quickly lose the beautiful rich colours that they start with. Most of these are completely white now.

So you could say these are not conventional collections!


This is the cover of Cathe’s book – made with hand-made paper from Thailand and tied with a gros grain ribbon. Cathe has added some of her collectibles which gently swing around the book – feathers, seeds and shells. For more details about Cathe’s process with book, go here.


The first page was one we all add to – Cathe painted the jar and brushes, Gale added marbles and I have added a couple of galah feathers.


The first spread is also a joint effort – Cathe painted rocks and a feather, Gale contributed the skulls and I did the yabbie claws – the space left is for Karen, who will get the book next.


This is Cathe’s page – it is beautiful, she has a very light but sure touch with watercolour and a wonderful design sense, this page is very satisfying to look at. The winding hand written labels add to the charm of it.


Gale’s page has intriguing objects, every one requires a closer look, she has chosen objects with wonderful shape and form which show off her great drawing skills. The composition of this page is a delight. For more of her work go here.


This is the last page – Cathe has drawn a lovely old pair of shears, and we each add some little notes about the media we have used. Now Karen (for more of her work see here) will receive this book and I will receive Gale’s book from her to do my page.

We are getting near the end of this wonderful experiment, and I will miss it a great deal. But maybe there is something new we can do together … there will be discussions!