This is what I did in class yesterday. After an initial contour sketch and more detail (mimicking the variety of marks to be made in pen), I drew over most of my pencil lines in Staedtler Fineliner pen. I’m about to erase the pencil lines.

Some comments:

* I’m a bit diffident about traditional pen-and-ink which fills the page with a mass of pen lines. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating on filling the page more than I normally do.

* Personally I’m more interested in sticking closer to reality than this and less interested in radically alterating reality just to make a pretty picture. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating here on maximising the number of interesting geometric shapes throughout the drawing.

* When all is said and done, leaves can be remarkable homogenous and compete with tree trunks. In overcoming this prejudice, I am concentrating on exploiting the variety of marks: lots of little branches, dark areas within the leave masses, lines reinforcing the curves of the trunks, shadows of limbs against trunks, stipping and scattered lines for transitions, reflections in water and of course the anchoring effect of an horizon.

* I went in a bit too hard with the dark darks because the example we were copying seemed not to have a focal point. Traditional Pen and Ink aims for an all-over, whereas Painting goes for a focal point.

* Traditional Pen & Ink stands alone without colour. I am tempted to re-do this a couple of times with different experiments with watercolour wash, watercolour with salt, watercolour with plastic film-wrap, etc. 

* Copying someone else’s drawn or penned lines is incredibly easy. The upside is that you come out with something that looks good; the downside is that they’ve done all your thinking for you. What’s more challenging, is applying all this to one’s own composition.

* Lastly, there’s nothing like practice. If drawing daily is too difficult, try drawing every other day. Skill starts to fade after leaving things for three days in my case.

This is all fortuitous since it was only yesterday I was out drawing Moreton Bay fig trees (though they may be Port Jackson fig trees – Ficus macrophylla versus Ficus rubiginosa*) so for the next class in a fortnight’s time I should re-do yesterday’s trees in the park as a Traditional Pen and Ink. Alternatively, look at a Hans Heysen or Albert Namatjira and translate it to pen-and-ink. 

Also there’s an ‘endangered’ tree in Laura Street Newtown, so I want to sketch that as soon as possible before anything happens to it. Also a new planting of ten trees by Marrickville Council (two have been vandalised already) in Richardson Crescent Tempe – it will be interesting to compare a sketch of them now with one done in ten years’ time since they will radically alter the rise of the railway bridge.

(*) Rubignosa is smaller – see the one outside the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Macrophylla has roots which drop, curtain-like, from limbs. Will check out the example on Observatory Hill next time I’m there.


Part of the second-last spread in my handmade book. And I still haven’t managed to attempt to draw the tree itself…

10 October 2011, Staedtler Fineliner over pencil.

Tuesday 12 Oct 2011. Staedtler Fineliner over pencil.

My little book of banksias is close to being finished and I am taking short breaks away from ecriture feminine  and Verghian verismo this week. Given some of the more complex interactions between leaf outlines, leaf veins and shadows, I now need to add some colour.

I’ve been inspired by Danny Gregory’s filmclip of sketcher, Tommy Kane, at work:  Tommy Kane, Red Hook – a film about Tommy Kane,  In this filmclip, he draws with pen on-site, directly on to A4-sized looseleaf w/colour paper, and adds colour at home: watercolour washes plus coloured pencil highlights, referring to a reference photo. Needless to say, I found actually WATCHING an urban sketcher at work like this enormously useful and inspiring!

See also Tommy Kane draws Red Hook at where he paints on-site, as he does in his short film sketching on the Cote d’Azur (on a large A4 sketchbook). Tommy Kane did some black-and-white pen sketching when he visited Sydney. I found it very instructive to my own hometown through the eyes of a foreigner: Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Waverley Cemetery and the Woolloomooloo pub near where he stayed.

Danny and his son have also just made a short film about another sketcher, Butch Belair, He works sitting in his car, into a small notebook, starting with light pencil lines and then with a lot of chisel-edged watercolour brushes.  The stamina and staying-power of both Kane and Belair are very impressive (something I need to emulate), over and above their attention to detail (with which I strongly identify) and their commitment to filling the entire page (to which I aspire).

Day lilies (1)

September 18, 2011

The blooming has just begun. I thought I’d “get in early” before the trumpets appeared, making drawing these huge flowers all that more difficult.

Draughtmanship is one thing; capturing the texture correctly is another.  Just as I had trouble conveying the spongey “rubberiness” of the orchid flowers yesterday, here I was tackling cast shadows and light through the translucent leaves, as well as local colour. I realised I wasn’t getting too far at all just with contour using graphite pencil, so added watercolour washes, one for sunlit and the other for cast shadow. Having lost the beauty of the lines inherent in the contours and folds of the individual petals, I had to bring them ‘back’ with pen. Working quickly was the go, since the bloom at far left was literally expanding’ as I was sketching. As with the magnolia and orchids, I’ll return to this one in coming days. Next time round I won’t set them against a white background.

Here’s a photograph taken a week later, when all the individual flowers are in full bloom and where the translucence is in evidence:

Magnolia (1)

September 15, 2011

Graphite pencil, Winsor & Newton watercolour

Flowers having now been set, this magnolia has now put its energy into making leaves. I am in the process of working out where the initial, small vertical growths associated with the seed pods are appearing.

What this sketch doesn’t convey is the fact that almost no sky is visible behind a mass of leaves, with just a few remaining flowers.

Having opened the handbound sketchbook with dried specimens, I thought I’d move the focus to the dried seedpods. Here’s my first go: difficult to render in pen and ink because the seedpods are entirely in charcoal greys and browns which are nearly black. But this is, after all, a sketchbook – warts and all!

This first seedpod is a small one; other longer ones show the natural geometry to better effect. More of that anon!

The stylized geometric pattern to the left comes from a Gustav Klimt painting, currently on show in Melbourne. It’s chair upholstery fabric, accompanying the full-length figure.

Staedtler Fineliner pen 01mm on 180 gsm cartridge-type paper.  Wanted to back away from the ‘close-up’ approach, hence this ensemble of the many parts in a white glass vase.

This wraps up work on the dried specimens.