Sydney: cafe, Royal Botanic Gardens

March 6, 2013


Double-spread, A4 Milini 120g sketchbook, graphite pencil 2B with watercolor washes added at home. 60mins, mid-afternoon sunshine.


No firm intentions today, stepping out with just the A4 and a new tin of Derwent soft graphic pencils, having worn all the previous to stubs. A sketchbook under one’s arm, a pencil and a sharpener in a pocket, make for uncomplicated location sketching.

Aware of the Danny Gregory interview with urban sketcher Steven B Reddy, who works en grisaille with India ink then in the field and adds watercolour washes at home (“tone does all the work and colour takes the credit”). Worked to the left well past the gutter because of the sandstone steps and Strelitzia blooms, then came back to do the far right, especially since halfway through the owner pulled down the large sun umbrella to reveal the original 1920s roofline of the cafe, so I went with that. AMP Building to the left with the roof of 1 Macquarie Street lower down.

Testing each of my new pencils in turn today and yesterday, so working darker than usual as I move up the grey scale. At home, laid down 12mm masking tape to create a “picture” border effect independent of the page edge, then added washes. Bit risky leaving the foreground bare, but I saw it used to good effect in a Bangkok river sketch this week. Not afraid of the greens, often avoided in watercolor; it stays true to what I observed at the time, except for the half-light half-dappled leaves at far right.

Because I moved beyond spot watercolour, my sketchbook paper cockled so will upgrade to a landscape A4 sketchbook for architecture/streetscapes in a heavier grade of watercolor paper.

It’s taken a couple of years, but this represents the point I want to each with these pencil/watercolour sketches: enough tonal interest, but with enough detail honouring architects and builders. Plus more subtlety than with pen. I was asked about my ‘style’ in Bangkok and have been thinking since about those urban sketchers I admire most; it’s fairly obvious which urban sketchers around the globe I subconsciously mimic. I’ve signed up for a proper watercolour class starting next month – at long last – so I expect watercolour brushwork and effects to improve.


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