USK Australia – Paddington Reservoir Garden

December 1, 2012

Surry Hills Childrens Court

This was my warmup sketch of the day, the facade of the Charles Liberty Vernon building, the Children’s Court in Albion Street, Surry Hills. I found an unused doorway to shelter from the rain. The sandstone pillars were reflected in the wet bitumen of the road. This is unadorned, a Derwent H graphite pencil for 30mins; I am tempted to re-do in pen. Will return to review my measuring and work up colour, as well as including the not insignificant side-wings of this quite grand old building in the Federation Free Classical style (1910-1911). (1pm on a sunny afternoon on 10 August 2011)

Further up the road was the former AIDS Clinic (it being World AIDS Day today) and I stopped by the painted former bank building at Taylor Square (not just purple and black, but actually orange and red thrown in as well). I spotted a potential sketching spot and need to get it down before the paint (for Art & About) is removed. My vantage spot takes in an historic street posting box as well. More changes in The Homeland: interesting view from Oxford Street down Barcom Street (modernist architecture contrasting with the Art Deco former pub on the corner), especially around 9.30am; the Academy Twin has gone.  As has Oxford Art Supplies. The former Darlinghurst Police Station at Taylor Square begs to be sketched sometime too – definitely a late afternoon job though.

Paddington Reservoir Garden 1

Derwent 5B graphite pencil; Stillman & Birn, 150gsm (Gamma; Ivory, Vellum surface).

Urban Sketchers Australia met formally for the first time today at the Reservoir Garden in Paddington, opposite the Town Hall, the Post Office and Juniper Hall. Formerly a dilapidated petrol station (as I recall it from the 70s onwards till 1990), the extensive underground waterworks (not dissimilar to those up the road towards Bondi Junction) have been turned into exotic public space.

To honour the occasion, we were given the opportunity to road-test Stillman & Birn sketchbooks. I liked the yellowish toned ground and 150gsm is helping me move from dry to wet media. This first sketch is in pencil, a “standard” starter for any new paper. The pencil and the ever so slight texture in the paper went well together, compared to the slightly less textured Daler-Rowney ‘Ebony’ A5 150gsm sketchbooks I’ve been using of late; the Derwent 150gsm sketchbook has no texture on the paper surface at all. I’ll progress from pencil to water-soluble pencil and coloured pencils to watercolour and this sketchbook will become my record of Urban Sketchers Australia meetings as well as a test-bed for my experiments with Stillman & Birn.

The weather was overcast/rainy so I wasn’t looking for any tonal contrast – just the usual architectural detailing I like to sketch in this sort of weather. I would have liked to emphasise the layering of foreground to background – the Imperial Hotel was dark grey and red which would have played havoc with my creation of depth-of-field. I’ve left this raw; I may photocopy to watercolour paper and experiment with colour. The arches are in various states of disrepair so are uneven; we all commented on the beguiling but distracting nature of being drawn into sketching individual bricks. Some of us couldn’t resist contrasting the Baths of Caracalla-type brickwork (1866) with the painted surfaces of the Victorian-era hotel across the street (1890s?). My bedside reading at the moment is Apperly’s book on Australian architecture so I should be able to recite to you the relevant features that make this an 1890s building. By looking at the brick arches for a few hours, the pattern arising from their construction becomes apparent.

Paddington Reservoir Garden 2

Derwent 5B graphite pencil and Derwent graphitint; Stillman & Birn, 150gsm (Gamma; Ivory, Vellum surface).

Now this had all the hallmarks of some interesting abstraction! The upstairs area of the Paddington Reservoir Garden has lots of beautiful geometry where old brickwork meets new metalwork. Close observation shows how the restorers have mimicked the stepped curve of the original bricks in the decoration of their concrete panels.

This is the raw sketch; I will probably develop with gouache, but I have a habit of stuffing up on-site sketches with pfaffing around at home. This ‘thumbnail’ of the skyline down to the cavernous lower level probably needs to be sketched again from scratch.

In moving through my standard range of media, I’ll probably continue my road-test of the Stillman & Birn sketchbook with Prismacolor coloured pencils, Derwent tinted charcoal and water-soluble graphite.

A special thanks to Liz for leading today’s meeting of Urban Sketchers Australia. Brilliant for me to be surrounded by hardcore urban sketching anoraks!


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