Out and about in Sydney

December 31, 2012

Sydney is preparing for New Year’s Eve, with barricades going up everywhere, people discussing which of their friends has balcony views overlooking the Harbour and “No Alcohol” signs.

Sydney Sketch Club Meetup took in “Nutcote”, the house-museum of Mary Gibbs, children’s book illustrator.  The weather was distinctly overcast, at the point of raining and I had a suspicion I’d be taking in views of the city skyline from Neutral Bay: a Landscape day. My Strategy for Sydney Sketch Club Meetups is now to Draw People and leave Architecture for Urban Sketchers Australia meetings. Today’s group scattered widely around the property. Absurdly, I took along Derwent Pastel Pencils, which kept breaking, when coloured pencils would have done perfectly well in their place. I ought to have done what I did yesterday: a single 2B pencil and a pencil sharpener, but I wasn’t to know I’d be jumping from one 20min sketch to the next. Am thinking about doing some pastel (as opposed to pastel pencil) on location sketching: the venue would have to be right, with backed coloured sheets of Canson and ‘room to move’.

The morning was a series of 15-20min sketches: Wolli Creek from Tempe (the sky was in three shades: grey, mid-grey, dark-grey); Kirribilli House/Sydney Opera House from Wharf 4A, Circular Quay; Sydney Harbour Bridge and Kirribilli skyline/Neutral Bay from Kurraba Point and Sydney Opera House and central business district from Spain’s Lookout, Kurraba Point, Neutral Bay.

Sydney Opera HouseNeutral Bay 1


Sydney Harbour Bridge (left) from the lower vantage point of Spain’s Lookout, a public seat; Opera House (right) from the slightly higher vantage point of The Hodgson Lookout, with my sketching stool. Remarkably quiet except for dog-walkers and joggers. A nice coffee stop at Kurraba Wharf, the sort of place where you’re greeted as a fellow local by complete strangers. The area positively oozes Money, the smell of which is initially overpowering. Some interesting 1920s/30s residences near Neutral Bay Wharf but they are so clean and bright, it’s hard to tell whether they are original or mock.

I settled into the lower (Australian) garden below the May Gibbs’ studio for some views across Neutral Bay to Lady Macquarie’s Chair, Garden Island and Fort Denison. As the hours passed and the clouds lifted, it was fascinating to watch the midday sun shed more detail on the subject. My handbound-A4 sketchbook came out with pastel pencils; should have splashed around an acrylic paint ground though as a foundation. As it was the true potential of the landscape (Lady Macquarie’s Chair in particular) only revealed itself after several hours, from 11 to 2pm.

Neutral Bay 2  600_191319082

Fort DenisonGarden Island


A great day, magging continuously about media, techniques, locations. I need to check out ships and works at Garden Island from Lady Macquarie’s Chair close-up; I never realised, too, that there is a Sydney Ferry stop at Garden Island. I’ve previously worked out how to catch a ferry to Fort Denison and draw the city skyline from the middle of the harbour, a little challenge for 2013. Need to get me some Noodler’s ink, a replacement Lamy Safari which has disappeared and check out people sketching at the public library at Customs House Circular Quay (in fact, any large library space where I might go relatively unnoticed). I’ve ordered some Milini 150g sketchbooks as my ‘everyday’ sketching stock for early 2013.

Thinking about changing my m.o. somewhat: developing at least one or two urban sketches into ‘paintings’, i.e. acrylic/gouache versions on small gessoed panels. Paintings of urban scenes per se  seems vaguely pointless, except for developing skill in compositional structure and interplay of tones. That said, North Shore retail art galleries are full of painted Sydney Harbour views. In contrast to the ‘standard’ Arthur Streeton sunny views, today’s dreary views certainly lend themselves to Clarisse Beckett-type limited palette ‘impressions’. Am feeling restricted by 5×8″ sketching – they are too small, dainty and precious for decent, “full-bodied” Art. I want to move beyond the Scrapbooking approach of Visual Journaling: my life is compartmentalised, a backbone with offshoots, not linear and resolutely uni-directional. I take on board though what Roz Stendhal says as well: having ‘too many’ sketchbooks for different purposes can contribute to spreading oneself ‘too thinly’, to a fragmentary approach to skill development. I’ve yet to meet urban sketchers though who keep very close tabs on their personal progress in each of the genres (Landscape, Streetscape, Portraits, Figurative) righting the balance here and there despite the obsessiveness associated with what we are good at and what we’re used to.


http://rozwoundup.typepad.com/ – see Roz’s posts on how Journal Size Matters


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: