Roxy Parramatta

August 8, 2012

5×8″ Daler-Rowney 150g sketchbook. Pencil. 40mins only, standing up, from 3pm. Parramatta footpaths are blessedly wide; there are in fact several cafes from which to draw this colossus, but a 3/4 view looked too difficult to attempt first off.

The Winter sunset shadows were setting in fast. So fast, I didn’t have time to re-sharpen my pencil. There was some minor re-statement after I’d done the blocking in. One good thing to start with was establishing my eye-line horizon which was at about the lower edge of the white umbrellas. Perspective lines are very clear given the roofs, arches and staircase close to the footpath. Like my Santo Domingo exercises, today’s really rlied on symmetry: what happens on one side must match up (drawn straight away) on the other side.

There are acres of white unadorned stucco-on-brick, contrasting with fairy floss decoration; the horizontal bands across the facade are a brilliant grey and red. Set against a bright cobalt blue sky, it’s a sight to behold! I had to work very fast, working from the top down and the background towards the foreground, thinking all the while of the workshop at the 3rd International Urban Sketchers Symposium which I suspect emphasised a split between foreground and background, emphasised by detail at back and simple line in front. I guess this was aimed at establishing depth of field in urban sketching instead of the ubiquitous flat picture plane – that ‘evenness’ which comes with sketching everything “mid-field”. I started in this direction, but didn’t quite get there.

Around ?3.40pm the shadows to the east started to darken; the dramatic shadows are a late-afternoon phenomenon since the building faces north.  The building really deserves at least an hour, if not longer. I’ve visited earlier in the day previously, but the shadows really do provide a good sense of mass and volume. There is tremendous potential for doing small thumbnail-vignettes of some of the architectural detail. You can see this to good effect in the photos of the building at the SydneyArchitecture website:

I’ll be back, next time to consolidate a proper line-work foreground and a dramatically detailed background. For the moment, I’m leaving this sketch untouched.


65-69 George Street Parrmatta NSW 2150; Inter-war Spanish Mission style, opened 6 Feb 1930 (Moore & Dyer in association with Herbert & Wilson, architects). My photo accurately shows the three shades from white to dark grey across the main facade.

This is a vast architectural complex: a tower many storeys tall, with white stucco flanks, two extended arms of shops on either side of the entrance, the courtyard full of benches and umbrellas. Currently it’s a theatre, nightclub and pub, with sundry eateries in the courtyard. The building complex is far from being a pristine heritage item, though the paintwork of russet red and steel grey doesn’t appear old. The ‘picture palace’ (I can’t think of another in Sydney of this enormous size) is set back a long way from George Street, with high walls all around. The two ‘arms’ at far right and left form shopping arcades with mock Spanish terracotta rooftiles (1988 refurbishment). The black wooden front gates contrast with the white gateposts; their original iron lightfittings may have gone, but the concrete balls, set in a four-point clasp from below are still there. It used to seat 1,923, making it bigger than the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House. How one gets to see inside the building during the day, I don’t know; I suspect it has been carved up inside so that the original auditorium has been halved (now seats 600), with cinemas in the remaining spaces.


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