International SketchCrawl #30 Sydney Australia MANLY BEACH

January 22, 2011


A very relaxing morning’s sketching with talented Sydney Sketch Club colleagues for the international event, SketchCrawl. The overwhelming impression I gained from the plein air sketching was the truth espoused by the painters of the Heidelberg School about Sydney Harbour being rendered best at dawn and dusk. After 11am or so, everything becomes washed out in a still clear light. Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts and others were painting just a few bays along from where we were working today and it was great to take in what they would have seen.

Here are two “modified” sketches: guidelines in very light graphite pencil (which are retained throughout, even though they don’t come up on the scans) followed by heavier contour in pencil. The “modification” comes in the selection of particular lines and tonal passages. I’m learning from online sketching that Anything Goes. I retain the guidelines and additional detail, since they might be useful later; I use the heavier line as a concession to scanning and digital reproduction – the best of both worlds! These two were only 20-minute “sketches” (since I literally had a ferry to catch!), done half-blind contour as much as anything else. I see now that this contour work involving planes and perspective, with a minimum of tonal work (and ideally with some variety of marks to create interest) might become my ‘short’ style: when I’m intrigued about something compositionally and want to ‘just see how it turns out’. 

Platform 2 on Circular Quay Railway Station was delightfully deserted. In the interests of public safety, fences and barriers I find are a major part of the landscape in Sydney, blocking views. I choose not to ignore them since they reflect contemporary preoccupations. They form an ongoing commentary on shielding people from beauty. Unfortunately Platform 1 on Circular Quay Railway Station was closed for weekend trackwork, so I will get back to the planned drawing of the AMP Building and Customs House at a later date. At 8.15am, the Opera House was draped in shadow, not reflected in my quick sketch; in the afternoon sun, it takes on its sparkling white-light quality.  I was intrigued how the bulk of the moored liner, Rhapsody of the Sea, completed dominated the Sydney Harbour Bridge; hinted at here, but not entirely captured as I would have liked. 

Once full of passengers, the ferries take their time getting going. At Manly proper, I ventured a little along the 9km Manly Heritage harbour walk towards The Spit. I didn’t anticipate going to Manly to draw a landscape, but a peaceful, seated spot suited me. For its part, the East Esplanade was excellent for boats close to shore as well as sea bathers and seagulls. At an expected 27C degrees, it was warm but not at all humid. The Town Hall with its liver-coloured brickwork and bright yellow woodwork was another interesting subject, behind massive Moreton Bay fig trees. The crowds appear around 10.30am so working before then is obviously ideal. The main beach proper was busy with a surf carnival which might have been worthwhile were it not for being in the open in the sun. Of course I’m wary about mixing Art and Sport; there was that controversy about photographing surf carnival participants and there was a sense that the beach and boardwalks had been thoroughly taken over for the day. I put a spot of yellow into the sketch of the merry-go-round as my concession to Piero della Francesca’s use of spot primary colours, though red would have better linked the black and sepia penwork.

I was able to very briefly take in the John Guppy painting exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum with its juxatposition of disparate objects and people – a fitting commentary on my own art-making process today. I would have liked to have flipped through a book on sale there devoted to drawing Manly, “Drawn to Manly”.


Managed to use a variety of pencils for the ‘long’ study; aimed too much to copy Nature rather than simplifying it perhaps. I’m still coming to grips with the logistics of plein air work. No problem with public seating on this occasion; the upcoming NRMA MotorFest with no public seating will however be a challenge! I’m fast learning that wearing the Right Clothes is important, as is taking the Right Waterbottle.

I felt very privileged to be part of long conversations at lunch with colleagues about life drawing, weights of paper, media, journalling, tone and contour. The variety of approaches by the participants was astonishing – virtually no two in the Sydney Sketch Group seem to have at all similar styles. There was none of the fevered quality of Darling Harbour setting of last weekend and it was great to break my normal routine of resting at home on weekends after a busy work week. If I don’t get out on the weekends, I might as well opt for living in a small country town!

On this bright and sunny note, I finish The Artist’s Notebook Project! I have been contemplating this week’s online sketching challenges: Every Day Matter (some bow ties in watercolour pencils?); Urban Sketchers (May Street St Peters with its renowned graffitti as an example of Alleys) and Illustration Friday (last week would have called up a drawing of some homemade chicken stock for “Chicken” and this week’s “Dusty” surely calls for  some blind contour portraiture of Dusty Springfield!


4 Responses to “International SketchCrawl #30 Sydney Australia MANLY BEACH”

  1. quirkyartist Says:

    Your lines have a wonderful graphic quality. I think it might be the simplification. I envy you your style. A very interesting post with the thoughts behind the work being made clear. Must talk more when we’re at a meetup again.

    • rodbyatt Says:

      But yours have this wonderful balance of considered sobriety and lyrical joy about them! I’m learning to play with line now, something I’ve long derided…

  2. raena Says:

    Wonderful sketches! I’m a bit envious: great turnout for the sketchcrawl, and beautiful weather!

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