Circular Quay East

August 6, 2012

2pm, mid-Winter. 30mins. 5×8″ 200g Daler-Rowney sketchbook.

After a week of armchair urban sketching, venturing Out Into The World today – it’s not scheduled to rain again till Friday.

With just a black biro and an Artliner pen, I thought I’d end up with something looking like a sketch by Luis Ruiz. I had every intention of doing several different thumbnails, but just launched in. Circular Quay East is a very studied piece of urban landscaping and the design elements come into their own when seen from above; it would be ideal for a set of Veronica Lawlor-type thumbnails suggesting a narrative, e.g. since the original 1788 shoreline is etched into the pavement, the contrasting rusticated sandstone of the old steps up to Macquarie Street, the C19 timber-clad building at the end of the road, tourists photographing each other, etc.

This is from the Cahill Expressway, via the lift from the quay proper; I’ve been here before looking for panoramas (but the only potential lies in the west – Goldfields House and neighbours – and the north-west – The Rocks and the Harbour Bridge) but this only works well before noon. Afternoon means the entire Rocks and Bridge are in dark shadow.

A great urban sketcher (Prof. Frank Ching) once said that a good urban sketch is one that teaches. Next time, I’ll realise that all the floors on the buildings at right (1,3 and 5 Macquarie Street, I think) do in fact match from one building to the next. A ‘proper’ drawing would need to take into account also the suggestion of the different materials used – the play of stone, metal and glass is more subtle than when seen from street level. If I was more architecturally-attuned, I would have gotten my eyeline horizon better placed on the first building. The palm trees in various areas of the Quay seem to take their cue from Brett Whiteley’s paintings – a case of Life imitating Art?

This sketch looked terrible till I added colour at home – Prismacolour coloured pencils. I couldn’t remember the exact shades of the tall buildings and while I wanted to suggest depth, the “sunlit” (not) Lower North Shore across the Harbour is not that far away (but at least I retained it in biro and had the good sense not to apply black pen to it).

I must come back again at night, when the open-air restaurants and Opera House crowds make this particularly busy. The only pedestrians up on the Cahill Expressway seem to be joggers.

What I didn’t get to sketch today:

* the Monorail which is slated for demolition;

* the King Street Darrel Lea chocolate shop (the company is no more) – especially since the old Gowings Building is now behind hoardings, being demolished);

* shoppers in Pitt Street viewed from the bridge linking Westfields Sydney Level 2 with the building across the street;

* the positively witchey Queen Anne tower on the Russell Hotel, George Street North (brilliant ochre-and-dark brown paintwork);

* other buildings by Liberty Vernon (the RBG Herbarium, Darlinghurst Fire Station, etc.).

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