Last sketches for 2018

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This year both our daughters were away from Sydney for Christmas, so we decided to take the opportunity for a short camping holiday over Christmas and New Year. We spent most of our time in Beechworth, a small, historic town in Northern Victoria, on the edges of the High Country. Beechworth is famous for its excellent bakery, but is also full of history – Ned Kelly, Australia’s most notorious bushranger was tried in Beechworth in 1880, and the area was also well-known for its gold fields. The town retains many of its old buildings which are still in daily use, and the locals are friendly and welcoming.

It was quite hot while we were there, so many of our intentions for long walks were thwarted, but nevertheless we made the 20 minute walk into the town each day, just to check out the bakery, and some very nice clothes shops …. We were camping in a grassy, open caravan park, in a perfect spot right next to the bush, with a lake on the other side of the park. Sitting quietly we were delighted to be joined by numerous birds. The noisiest animals there were koalas – describing their call is not easy. It is not a beautiful sound – a cross between a roar and a resonating belch, and surprisingly loud. Not what you might expect from such a cuddly looking creature. We did see some in the trees, but never close enough to draw or photograph. However, I did manage to find some leaves, pods and pine cones to draw.

After five days in Beechworth, including Christmas Day, which we spent with Sydney friends who were also travelling, we moved on and spent 2 nights bush camping at Geehi, in the Kosciusko National Park. We managed to find a campsite right next to the river, which is called the Swampy Plains River, not a very attractive name for a lovely small river, shallow, with large, rounded river rocks, perfect for sitting on to cool down on a very hot day.

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Our final stop was Broulee, a small town on the South coast of NSW, this time staying with friends, so back to sleeping indoors! Their house faces the beach, a perfect place for leisurely walks and for me to find flotsam and jetsam to draw. We had New Year’s Eve with our friends, then back home again!

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Travel sketches from the dry west of NSW

In late September we packed up the camper trailer and headed towards the west of New South Wales, to camp on the banks of the Darling River, one of the great rivers of Australia. This year has been severely dry, and the vast majority of NSW was declared to be in ‘extreme drought’. The river was very low, mostly pools rather than a healthy flow. In summer you expect to see parched landscape but usually at this time of year, in spring, there is some green to be seen, but not this time. Even the big gum trees are pale, the colour sucked out of them. This also means there is little wildlife, the birds, kangaroos, even the big lizards seem to have gone searching for food elsewhere. The only animals we saw a lot of were goats, and even they were looking tired and thin. So searching for things to draw was not such an easy task. Plenty of bones, and some hardy plants and trees but little else. This sounds depressing, and in many ways it was, but the landscape is still magnificent and has an ancient power to it. We camped with friends, then met a group of people who have the same camper trailer as us, made some new friends and enjoyed the old ones! I’m doing this post on my phone, so quality control could be an issue, so forgive me for any oddities!

Small concertina collaboration

The two-part collaboration project with my friend Sue continues – more portraits (see here for previous post) are being done, and the four small concertinas continue to grow. Each has a theme of its own – the garden, household objects, landscape and toys. The one I have found most challenging was the landscape one, but a challenge is good for the brain, and I am happy with my contributions so far!

The first two books (garden and household objects) are bought ones, made by Sennelier – I found them in an art shop sale, couldn’t resist them and when Sue and I agreed to do the concertina collaboration they were perfect for the job. The other two I made, they are the same size, 15 x 9.5 cm, with board ends and folded 250gsm watercolour paper for the pages.

The way it works, we each do a drawing or painting on a double spread, leaving a little bit of the image hanging over to the next spread to anchor the following image. We have taken it in turns to be the starter, Sue started the garden and toys, I started the landscape and household objects ones. The subject matter has been very broad and ranging from very real to completely imaginary. We are working on both sides of the books.

Each one has been a joy to work on, and receiving them back from Sue I’m always excited and curious to see what she has done. Our styles work well together, and the ideas from each push the next forward.

I must apologise for the quality of the photos, I took them quickly before I packaged the books up to send to Sue for her next contribution and didn’t realise till too late that the focus wasn’t great on some of them, but hopefully you get the idea!

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The Kimberley in July, Part 2

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Twelve drawings are now complete, so the next stage will be working out how to put them together in a book. I think it will be a concertina, as this gives the opportunity to see the sequence of the images.

See the previous post (here) for more background to where the imagery for these postcard-sized drawings comes from. Below are the final six.

Freycinet – from the sketchbook

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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

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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┬áby 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!

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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!