Great Garden Sketchabout #25: Fountain near Woolloomooloo Gates

April 4, 2011

4 April 2011, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. Fountain near Woolloomooloo Gates. 5×8″ Derwent graphite pencil and Prismacolor watercolor pencils. I took a closer look at this fountain on the basis that it featured in one of the Vintage View postcards on display nearby. I liked the contrasting textures and colours of the variety of ‘wet’ marbles.  This sketch has conveyed my delight in the sinuous line from base to top, but I failed to capture the very “pencil”-like quality of some of the grey marble work to the left – something for another attempt. I found myself inadvertently working in blues, despite the urns being much blacker in reality. I could have made more of the contrast between the black/grey and the orange in the differrent marbles, but that’s for another timne.

Thinking in terms of the sequence of studies and sketches leading to a painting as explained by Ian Simpson, I was also sorely tempted to include the background of green vegetation, but stopped – since the impression was about the falling water of the fountain and the ‘wet’ marble. In so doing I was able to exploit the white negative space around the urns. A painting developed from a series of sketches and studies – e.g. getting the perspective right, getting the black marble urns right, adding more of the fountain’s detail, the footpath in the background and the background of trees, let alone the sky – is certainly feasible.

These coloured pencils give me the firm feeling that I’m able to work with colour in a more painterly way than normal. I see my sketching colleagues move quickly into colour after establishing the most basic foundational drawing; similarly, I have launched into (water)colour as soon as possible here, whereas I just want to try and convey everything in pencil. Today, I’ve combined ‘hard’ colour with no paper showing through, with ‘softer’ colour allowing the background white to show. I’ve been considering the transition in Lloyd Rees’ life of drawing from 2B pencil on clay-coated paper, capturing Moreton Bay figs from around Waverton where he lived,  to working in later years with a pen nib upside down on paper layered over a strongly textured base like sandpaper. These later drawings are much more ‘painterly’, or to be more exact (since colour is very muted) more like prints. What impresses most me as a beginner was that Rees took simple and deep delight in drawing for its own sake; some of his best work was ‘for himself’, not designed for exhibition or sale.


Ian Simpson, ed. Practical Art School: Twelve Lessons in Painting, Drawing & Sketching. Surrey, Eng.: CLB, 1995.

Kolenberg, Hendrik. Lloyd Rees, Drawings: Centenary Retrospective.  Sydney: Art Gallery of NSW, 1995.


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