Great Garden Sketchabout #13: Vintage Views and Postcard Art

March 19, 2011

My plan for strongly linking sketching content with book structure, as per my previous post #9, is more of less still intact. Jumping in with my first sketch in the handmade sketchbook at the Saturday workshop was exhilirating but still conforms generally to My Plan. I have simply moved things around a bit: my original idea for Page One was the splendid palms near the Captain Cook statue, but now I have a palm inside the Maiden Theatre courtyard on Page Two. A ginger plant on Page Sixteen may still go ahead, but a single flower may now appear on Page One. More on that anon!

But here’s my breakthrough moment of today. One advantage of the ox-plough book structure is that I can add, with ease, lots of collage. By adding additional material, I don’t affect the book’s spine, because there is no spine! In a commercial sketchbook or even a Moleskine, I could add material to an envelope on the last page, but here I can add them throughout the book, with no compensating pages or removed pages in any book signatures.

Vintage Views Exhibition linked to sketches


A banner of an historical postcard and my photo yesterday showing the location today. The elaborate marble fountain is shown at left, with the Wooloomooloo Gates in the postcard’s background having been relocated nearby. Obviously before the Cahill Expressway was built, the east-west road provided the two main entrances for visitors directly from The Domain: the Palace Gardens directly opposite the State Library in the west, and these Woolloomooloo gates, facing south then and now to the east.

 In terms of my sketch, I’d probably want to juxtapose the postcard with a modern rendering of the fountain at right.


This vista takes in the path looking north outside the Herbarium, near Bed 2. Both the postcard/Vintage View banner and my photo take in the Palm House at far left.

In terms of my sketch, this would work best in terms of fastening the postcard over the top of a contemporary sketch or completely framing the installed postcard with a sketch of the towering, present-day gums.


What sort of “additional material” becomes clear in considering the Royal Botanic Gardens’ ten banners depicting Vintage Views, erected around the Gardens as part of the Autumn of the Arts event. Yesterday I took in some of these banners, placed strategically near the ‘real thing’. I love the idea of sketching both the banner ‘inside’ the contemporary location, or parts of the postcard sketched in the present day. 

Royal Botanic Gardens historic postcards

As luck would have it, some historic postcards are also available at The Garden Shop. I won’t reproduce the images here of course, but with some photo fasteners, I can insert the postcards directly into the ‘landscape’ pages of my ox-plough book. Photo corners are necessary, imperative at least for one of the postcards, because of the wonderful reproduced handwritten message and stamp on the back. I can juxtapose the postcards with sketches of the contemporary locations of some of the statues in the historic views. The postmodern thing to do would be to sketch the location then add the postcard and transparent photo corners over the top of the sketch – to see the whole sketch, the viewer has to physically take out the photo. Or create a frame or border of a sketch of the location today around the installed postcard.

Combining the contemporary with the historic has been an important element of the Great Garden Sketchabout for me all along. Normally I keep postcards physically separate from my sketchbooks; here’s a wonderful opportunity to keep everything together and to generate some synergy in the process, being terribly ludic with notions of representation/reproduction, presence/absence!

And speaking of synergy, I missed my beloved Vivaldi being played live inside the Rose Pavilion in the Gardens last weekend; the gut stringed instruments wouldn’t have suffered too much from playing outdoors and hauling the harpsichord from the nearby Conservatorium across the grass reminds me of playing outdoors in the 17th century, when servants would trot along behind landed genry into quiet groves for a spot of music-playing. Next weekend features a talk (and walk) regarding artistic representation over the centuries of the Royal Botanic Gardens – how visual artists, mainly painters (including one sculptor) were inspired by the Gardens.

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