QVB NSW 2000
August 1, 2013
Milini 150gsm A4 sketchbook; graphite pencil B; 6×7.5″ sketch using a 4×5″ Albertian veil; 30mins, early afternoon
I spied this particular location quite a long time ago, but a sketching colleague sketch inside this Victorian Romanesque ‘lump’ of a sandstone building motivated me to go and draw it at long last. It involves bringing one’s own seat and setting up just near the doors of the Lower Town Hall, looking north along York Street, somewhat sunken below normal street level. You can see how imposing the building is from ground level in this photo I took ages ago:
Here are some other photos of the building from vantage points far too busy and dangerous to sit and draw:
Lovely light effects in the afternoon are possible, highlighting the very “Venetian” style of the building. I think a lot of copper domes elsewhere in Sydney owe their existence to the QVB. Certainly the elaborate interior provided work for local artisans in the 1890s Depression, rather like the Building Better Schools project of the Federal government straight after the Global Financial Crisis to keep the construction industry afloat.
Today I was particularly interested in the tonal values of the sky and clouds (since erased and not visible at all in the reference photos) only because there’s lots of cloud and rain around of late and the effects are worth capturing. I ought to have spent more time measuring correctly with the Albertian veil. Perhaps next time! It’s difficult to think clearly and logically on a busy city footpath; I was interrupted by a friendly photographer and later by a tattoo parlor owner who was impressed with the facility of my linework.
The influence of my watercolor teacher shows in the focus on the top of the building at the expense of its base, as well as simplifying fenestration; my perspective teacher is getting me to look more closely at the picture plane (cropping to increase drama, and a somewhat unfortunate outcome in many respects of Japonisme in late 19th-century Europe, has the unfortunate tendency to weaken the ground plane, as in my sketch – the structural elements need to “breathe” more). And I’m spending a lot of time looking at the Australian Impressionists (e.g. Tom Roberts’ paintings of Melbourne) and J.M.W. Turner and his contemporaries, especially Cotman and Girtin. I’ve been working on trees a lot lately and I brought today’s very much more ‘forward’ than I ought to have. It’s impossible not to draw any streetscape in the central business district of Sydney without a tree or two. Sydney shop awnings are far less interesting than in cities overseas and do terrible things to any photography or drawing: it’s hard to tone down their dominance. Historical photos of the QVB without the awnings brought on by the Singaporean makeover are worth seeking out.
Here’s a cropped photo of what I saw from my vantage point today: