Marrickville NSW 2204 – Alex Trevallion Place

September 14, 2012

Several influences at work today: judicious use of a ruler (Paul Hogarth); flat colour (William Sim, urban sketcher, Singapore); foreground context as visual lead-in which is important since a lot of urban sketching involves subjects which are in the middle distance (www.lizsteel.com). I had intended this as a two-part “panorama” on Simo Capecchi’s advice about the ‘cone of vision’ being at 30-45 degrees when drawing scenes with multiple viewpoints. I’ve also taken on board the method of Adebanji Alade (urban sketcher, London) who will take hundreds of photos of a particular scene before painting it alla prima to give spontaneity; in a similar way, I come back to this spot to sketch (in the main because I’m visiting the post office next door to post off university assignments) and every sketch is very different. Probably not noticeable here is the fact that I never have enough time to sketch a complete car; the churn is so great on Marrickville Road. I’m not worried one car blurs into another.

I applied some gouache direct from the tube using a waterbrush after the on-site drawing. William Sim would use a lot less graphite than I do. He’s about the only Singaporean urban sketcher who keeps a very sober, “clean” look, qualities which aren’t popular or promoted by urban sketchers. There’s tremendous pressure to produce images which are lively and layered; that is, every city is expected to mimic New York. There are aspects of urban sketching which are thoroughly American, and which therefore grate, but I guess Amerika has to learn that everything need not be in their own image.

I suspect my use of colour highlights expresses a certain frustration with Sydney’s lack of colour. Sydney is either uniformly grey, or beige or black or sometimes a sandstone ochre. Colour only ever seems to be used to indicate danger or is used to sell a product (in today’s sketch, yellow red signs and multicoloured phone booths to ‘sell’ Telstra). People adopt the same monochrome look in their clothes, especially in the city. I’ll go so far as to say that only women wear colour; the men I sketch are almost always wearing black, white, grey or indigo.

Having used a ruler (really for the first time in my sketching), I notice how “hard” it looks, forcing me to realise that Paul Hogarth invariably covers up the “hardness” of his ruled lines (no more than two or three in any one sketch) with watercolour paint. It’s noticeable only if you really look; it operates on the lazy viewer very subconsciously. Soon I’ll sit down and work out the Top Five big things I’ve learned from Paul Hogarth’s watercolour sketches and put up a post.

A lightbulb went on in my head recently when reading Veronica Lawlor’s advice in her book about drawing daily. I know it applies to practice with music – my instruments mope in tghe corner of the room because they don’t get played every day. Ultimately, we don’t get a different result unless we change the way we do things, so I think I’m doomed to keep drawing in the same manner unless I change the ground rules and ‘upgrade’ from drawing every so often to daily. I’ve now come across the same advice in a vimeo video about London urban sketchers Adebanji Alade, who I notice not only draws on his daily tube commute around London but posts to Flickr almost daily. I think part of my own personal commitment to sketching is to keep posting; I make no value judgements about my own work – sketching and posting go hand in hand.

I need to squeeze in as much outdoor sketching as possible because it’s expected to rain all next week.

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