Australian Museum, Sydney.

Some of the mark making is becoming a bit slick, so need to up the ante and move to colour. Logistically, there is the challenge of working standing up and in darkened rooms!

I’ve moved from kangaroos to the skeleton of the bettong (a rat kangaroo) and the smaller wallabies (no more than two foot high). The stuffed possums cling to their branches but by rights I ought to have started with their skeletons in the Skeleton Room. For them, the freedom required by the hand – especially with the rounded curves of the Possums – really demands an A4 sketchbook rather than this 5×8″.

While Andras Szunyoghy’s book, “Anatomy Drawing School: Human, Animal, Comparative Anatomy” (Konemann, 1996) tells me all I need to know about Horses, I’m ‘on my own’ when it comes to Australian animals.

Next visit, some colour notes!


Consolidating observation of the skull and head, with a move to the shoulder/clavicle area and the front paws. The process involved moving between the ground floor Skeleton Room and the stuffed animals on the second floor. These are all Eastern Greys, as opposed to the Western Greys jumping around in the ABC TV documentary “The Roo Gully Diaries”. Once I’ve got a handle on the anatomy, I’ll be ready to go to the zoo.

Australian Museum 1 of 26

October 15, 2012

The first of 26 scheduled trips to the Australian Museum, once a fortnight for twelve months, to get some fluency going with Animals.

The light is so low in the Skeleton Room I feel like I’m drawing blind contour in the dark. Got the proportions wrong, but will return! Need to ‘prep’ this some more and get the proportions right from photos, especially comparing the clavicle/shoulder blades/vertebrae to humans and where bony bits show on the kangaroo’s face. Next stop, kangaroos at Taronga Park Zoo!


Noticed efforts to save newly-hatched turtles on islands in the Great Barrier Reef (and how turtles swim) so took a shine to these two ‘stuffed’ animals in the Search & Discover Room.  The Hawksbill was remarkably small; the brown shading of the shell dizzying. I was intriged by the four ‘stilts’ holding the upper and lower shells and this is a prelude to the Turtle skeleton in the Skeleton Room where I’ll be able to draw it front-on. Should complement these outings to visits to Sydney Unversity’s Macleay Museum.

Here are some Western Grey kangaroos, as featured in the spectacular television documentary on kangaroos, The Roo Gully Diaries (ABC DVD).

Hunting down sketching spots

Checked out Macquarie Street prior to meeting everyone at the War Memorial. I notice St James Church is under renovation, but the new domes at the entrance gates to Hyde Park Barracks have been completed. I hadn’t realised that the entrance domes replicate domes on the roof of the Barracks.

Summer leaves obscure most of the western facade of the Land Titles Office, but I found an interesting 3/4 perspective from inside Hyde Park:


I momentarily stopped by the Archibald Fountain, trying to remember the details of the cathedral facade as sketched by my father, during a lunchbreak from the office in Hunter Street, in the 1950s. Old trees have been recently removed, opening up the vista. I can’t work out exactly where my father would have sat, but this spot near one of the flower beds certainly takes in the whole building… 



Despite the darkness of the Skeleton Room, I was surprised how much my recent work on the human skeleton via the online course, The Structure of Man, helped me. I want to draw some live kangaroos sometime, so this skeleton is a start.  This kangaroo was an Eastern Grey, the east coast counterpart of the Western Grey of Western Australia, which I’ve been copying lately from the television documentary, The Roo Gully Diaries.


I found a chair in the Skeleton Room, so took in the skeleton of the prancing horse. As with the kangaroos, it became a tonal exercise given the low light.

Next up, was the Discovery Room and the Cultural Space was open today, allowing me to take in a Great Red kangaroo in its boxing stance.


If I lived in rural or remote Australia, instead of in a big city, I’d hate kangaroos with a passion and want them completely done away with as vermin. I’ve learned never to mention kangaroos in front of people who live in the countryside – it’s as if I’d sworn at the dinner table.

As for seeing malu (which I thought was a generic word for kangaroo across several of the First Nation languages, but I noticed was “kangaroo” in the Arendte language when I lived in Alice Springs), I’ve come across only four locations here in Sydney: the Taronga Park Zoo (as drawn, resting, by a Sydney Sketch Club colleague recently); the Euroka Valley camping site near the entrance to the Glenbrook National Park in the Blue Mountains; the Australian Wildlife Park at Calga near Gosford and a caravan park at Jervis Bay on the South Coast. The Zoo is the closest with Glenbrook also available by public transport, close to three hours by train all up if you include the walk from Glenbrook Railway Station. There may actually be a fifth location, the Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside.

Temporarily, I have settled for a DVD from the television series, Roo Gully. Filmed on a wildlife refuge in Western Australia, it unusually has lots of footage of the animals. It is less tightly edited than other nature documentaries which usually give you nanosecond shots of animals. I’ve sat in editing suites so I know the mania for unrelenting “pace” in the medium. In Roo Gully however, you get a real sense of the movement of the animals, the small movements of head and limbs in particular. Okay, so it’s not drawing from Nature or the real thing, but that will come, especially once I’ve gotten a handle on the anatomy.

This scan in graphite pencil copied from a newspaper photo is a first; in time, I’ll become clearer on the matter of species (being smallish, grey with black tails, I know they’re not Great Reds).

As a student of the University of New England Armidale (distance learning), I’m a big fan of their Deer Park which features a very large enclosure ( a good-sized hill) for deers and kangaroos. From my intermittent observation of them in the past, they seem to swap territories during the day. Sometimes the deer come to the fence near the carpark, alternating later in the day with the kangaroos. I note that their activity is concentrated at dawn and dusk, with resting in the midday sun.

I can’t recall exactly if I’ve copied kangaroo skeletons in the Australian Museum; I need to go back. Also I have relied on the Szunyoghy animal anatomy book in the past, but of course The Kangaroo is not one of his animals studied in detail.


The Roo Gully Diaries. 158mins.

Anatomy Drawing School: human, animal, comparative anatomy. Drawings by Andras Szunyoghy; text by Gyorgy Feher. Cologne, Konemann, 1996.

Plein air sketching

January 7, 2011


Lunchtime sketch at Rookwood Cemetery, All-Russian Orthodox Section. Overlapping forms again, with tighter perspective than Tuesday’s. I was struck by the contrast of white and black marble. As with the other lunchtime ventures this week, prelim sketch on site followed by a makeover at night.

I’ve often railed against my daily commute but have softened under the weight of a new routine: if I have to wait ten minutes or less at any transit point, out comes the sketchbook. Redfern Station, Platform 4, south end. This is an early 20thcentury building I have noticed for forty years; given the state of re-development in the area around Carriageworks and Wilson Street, it may eventually come down in the next five or ten. This gives no indication of its faded painted commercial lettering or the fact that at this angle it’s obscured by railway infrastructure. Feel good at having ‘won it over’ by drawing it after all this time. Introduced a warm grey Copic marker, which of course bled through; coincidentally it conveyed the sense of impending thunderstorm – it’s been trying to rain all day.


I’ve been thinking what I’d REALLY love to draw (next): the Gallipoli Mosque at Lidcombe; the Dutch-inspired building near Central Station and its counterpart in Newtown; kangaroos. I have long adored kangaroos or malu (Arente Language) but have never drawn them. They move to the eastern fence of the Deer Park at Univ New England Armidale every dusk, swapping over with the deer who occupy that space in the middle of the day. I always seem to be too busy whenever I’m at UNE to sit and draw them. I have noticed some urban sketchers here in Sydney tackling them at Taronga Zoo and I’ve ordered a copy of the DVD of Roo Gully, a brilliant ABC TV documentary on the Western Australian wildlife refuge where they are looked after. Copying from a video is of course not optimal, but there are protracted scenes I recall showing their movements – not the usually highly-edited quick visuals you’d expect normally. There’s also a section on drawing from TV in Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing (pp.216-217) of relevance. As for drawing kangaroos in the wild, I think I have to travel a long way by public transport across to Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside, or a caravan park at Jervis Bay or the most convenient (still 2.5-3hrs away), a clearing at Euroka Valley in Glenbrook National Park in the Blue Mountains.


Dodson, Bert. Keys to Drawing. Cincinnati, Ohio: North Light, 1985.