Boats – Tempe NSW 2044

September 12, 2012

Day 1. Being by the sea, it’s impossible not to sketch boats in Sydney. I don’t know Moira Huntly tackles them in her book on drawing boats, but I notice that the book written by my hero Ernest W. Watson on boats features them all on land or at the very least very securely moored, so there’s a lesson here: draw them on the water, especially on windy days, at your peril!

Notwithstanding 76kph gale-force winds, I attempted a contextual sketch, thus:

This “bay” at Tempe has no name as such. This is the inlet of the Cooks River looking west towards Wolli Creek high-rise, the Captain Cook Bridge (1967) and Kendrick Park. I counted 27 boats in the bay and two bunches of four or five tinnies tied up together near the public mooring. One thing I learned sitting in the wind was to pick out a handful of coloured pencils and hold them in the non-sketching hand, ensuring at least a light and a dark for each colour (given the colour changes in the light). The constant movement of the boats meant doing them in watercolour was out of the question. Basically I kept coming back to the same two or three boats, so I’ll concentrate on ‘portraits’ of individual boats next time. I notice the same boats are here from a sketching session back in 1999 when I wrote down the names of the boats, including one called “Drama Queen”.

Day 2. Back again the next day, settling on a position at the bridge looking east. Nice and sunny, but high winds. Bigger A4 page this time, with the idea of doing several small sketches of the one boat. Ignoring the blasts of horns by larrikin drivers on the highway, I persisted with the ‘portrait’ of a single boat, waiting over a half-hour period for it to ‘return’ to one of several different positions. In the fierce wind, I reckon it ended up moving through a figure of eight, but the constant movement was unnerving. At least at a life drawing session, the model stays put for at least 30 seconds. By the end of the session, I had the suspicion that ‘my’ boat for the day was the one which was moving the most; I’m at a loss to understand why this should be the case: its height? its abundant flags? I left the scene feeling I’d wasted my time. At home, I found only one photo of a Tempe boat on Google that could be used as a preparatory photo, an old-fashioned one all painted in blue, which I’ll go back again for.

Day 3. Winds this time from the north. The boat under scrutiny today kept moving around so much and the sketching experience so uncomfortable, I’ve temporarily suspended doing ‘portraits’ of Tempe boats unless it’s a windless day.


Watson, Ernest W. Course in Pencil Sketching: Four Books in One. New York: Van Nostrand, 1978. He works up his sketches in 3B and 6B pencil on Bristol board.

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