Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twelve days on Norfolk Island

I am just back from a wonderful two week trip to the remote Norfolk Island which is 2.5 hours flight from Sydney and 1.5 hours flight from Auckland. It is a stunningly beautiful island with a fascinating history and the intention of my trip was to have a rest – a true vacation. This is something I rarely do these days as most of the time my trips are intensive sketching sessions. But the slow relaxed pace of the island, the lack of exciting tourist attractions and my own limited quota of three sketches per day meant that I only did a fraction of the sketching I would normally do.

There are a lot of fascinating things about the island both its history (settled by the descendants of the mutiny on the Bounty) and the unique aspects of island life due to its remoteness but I was rather taken with one small part. The Kingston precinct includes a beautiful beach, a fishing pier, and constantly changing light a collection of historic colonial buildings - what more could a sketcher want? I returned to this area over and over again to sketch different aspects, different views and in different times of the day.

Another feature of the island is the native tree, the Norfolk pine tree. These majestic trees are everywhere and are a major part of the beauty of the island. I don't think I have ever had such a feast of beautiful subject matter from which to sketch.

I will just share a few of my sketches here in this post but you can find them all over on my blog. You can also find out a little bit more about the island (including photos) on this post and a little bit about how I enjoyed totally unplugging from social media for the entirety of my trip.

One of the major parts of my trip was the fact that I took an untested sketchbook. I was given a Pentalic sketchbook by Stephanie Bower and I thought it would be a great occasion to use it. I had a few challenges initially which I described in detail on this post but managed to develop a way of using the book to suit the way I paint. Thankfully I took an emergency sketchbook as well which gave me a chance to do some loose sketches while I worked out how to get the results I wanted in the Pentalic book.  I have just done a detailed review comparing the Pentalic paper with the moleskine paper on my blog here.

I really got addicted to this particular grouping of buildings around the Kingston Pier area, the space between the buildings was really interesting and I did at least one sketch every day I was in the area.

The most famous Norfolk pine tree on the island is referred to as Lone Pine - I think this is a poetic symbol of how this little island supports itself in the middle of the ocean.

Despite how remote the island is, I am pleased to report that there is one urban sketcher on the island. Bronny  from Adelaide moved there year ago so it was great to have someone to hang out with towards the end of my stay.

I do hope to return there one day – it would be a great venue for a group sketching trip.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Brisbane Sketches ... finally

I realised that I hadn’t sketched much of Brisbane, so I am making an effort to sketch my city. Only about 10% of my sketches were of Brisbane and I repeated the same views multiple times. 

Brisbane is the smaller cousin of Melbourne and Sydney and may get left off the itinerary for some overseas travellers but hopefully I can document some of the things that I enjoy about Brisbane (apart from the coffee and matcha tea). 

Most of the year the weather is fantastic for sketching outdoors except for a few months when it gets a bit (to very) humid; it has a bubbling cultural scene with Li Cunxin (the dancer from Mao's last dancer) taking the helm at the Queensland ballet and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art opening at the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in late November; and, lots of great cafes and restaurants.

We also have some interesting buildings, some are borrowed (like our Story Bridge), but some of our houses (some are called Queenslanders) are unique and are beautifully captured by another local and urban sketcher Robyn (see her blog here).   

For me the best thing about Brisbane is the proximity to some beautiful bush-walking tracks at Mt Tambourine, Tree top walk in Binna Burra or much closer at the Mt Coot-tha tracks in Brisbane and the day trips/weekenders to some of the best beaches and islands. So I am getting my sketch kit ready to take try and capture it and deciding how much time I might have!  

For now, I have been toying with opposites. 

Story Bridge - pushing a grand structure/building and pushing it into the background

For those that follow me on Instagram (@asuka_art), you may already know that I have decided to set a challenge to myself to sketch 36 views of the 75-year-old Story Bridge. Why 36? It was to emulate Hokusai and his 36 views of Mt Fuji. I thought that the number was high enough that it will force me to find interesting spots to sketch it from.

The Story Bridge was the star in my first two views but as I have progressed onto View 11 the Story Bridge is taking a more supporting role to the trees or the water reflection.

I thought in the future it might be interesting to change the perspective of something quite grand or big and to push them into the background of some people or trees.

An interesting fact is that this bridge is based on the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. On a much sombre note, there was work being carried out on the pedestrian path along the bridge to erect a higher barrier fence in an attempt to minimise the suicide attempts. 
Story Bridge - View 1

I am going to paint at least 36 public views of the Story Bridge. Some I may decide to tidy up the composition / technique so please feel free to make constructive criticism! View 9 of #storybridge (click #asukastorybridgeview to see the series)
Story Bridge - View 9

Oil Refinery - painting something industrial in pretty colours and vice versa

After KK's (or KiahKiean) inspirational workshop in Singapore, I have been mixing ink and watercolour with my sketches. I did two quick sketches of the Oil Refinery in Brisbane: one in ink and Daniel Smith's Lunar Black and the other with my normal watercolours. It's interesting to get a different mood.

They were looking to reduce the capacity in the oil refineries in Brisbane as it gets cheaper to ship and process it overseas. This is a similar trend to our car and steel industry.  

For those that may not have heard, the International Urban Sketchers Symposium will be held in Manchester (UK) in 2016 and those that are interested are encouraged to put their names on the mailing list to keep up to date (link here). All four of the instructors' that I had were to a high standard in both delivery and content.    
Oil refinery opposite #pinkenba. (#asukasketchbne )
Oil refinery from Pinkenba in ink and Lunar Black (DS)
Oil refinery opposite #pinkenba. (#asukasketchbne )
Oil refinery from Pinkenba in watercolour
Industrial/Structural and the Living

I always try to put some people in my scene, especially if it's a building to either give scale or another point of interest. Lately, I have popped in a pelican and a water dragon to show some of the living things that are around. 

This tanker, I think is either loading sand (or cement or fertiliser). There was a tanker off-loading sand at Tenerife but it was a much smaller vessel.  
Loading a tanker in #pinkenba. (#asukasketchbne )
Tanker and pelican
The #tropicaldome at the #brisbanebotanicgardens
Botanical Gardens with a water dragon

Sunny and rain

The following water lilies were sketched on different days and yielded different results. I got rained on and struggled to pack up and get out of the rain quickly, the other, I think I got sunburnt ion my forehead. There are lots of comfortable seats embedded into the garden with the bush turkey scratching around.  
Water lilies from last week at the #brisbanebotanicgardens . It started to rain ...
Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens waterlilies with rain
#waterlilies at the #brisbanebotanicgardens .
Mt Coot-tha Botanic Garden waterlilies

 I hope you enjoy. 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Big Draw

Today the National Gallery of Australia held drawing events associated with The Big Draw. The aim of the festival is promote drawing, so of course, we decided it was a great opportunity for an informal meeting.  Some of the members of the Canberra Urban Sketchers group decided to go along, join in the activities and have some lunch afterwards. The Big draw is a world wide drawing festival for anyone who loves to draw and welcomes people of all skill levels.

I did not get any photos of us sketching but we did manage to share our sketches. We had a great day.

The Canberra Urban Sketchers group meet on the first Sunday of the month and everyone is welcome. You can see what is happening on our Facebook page or contact us via our email address.

Hello from Urban Sketchers Canberra

Hello everyone, I'm Leonie from Urban Sketchers Canberra, one of the newest groups in the Urban Sketchers family. Our group started in February this year when several of us 'met' on-line and decided to get together for some sketching. We found some more like-minded people and before we knew it we had our first outing at the National Gallery of Australia.

Our first outing at the National Gallery of Australia
In May we met up with our first USk visitor, from Melbourne, at the National Museum of Australia. Not only did we get some hot tips about the use of pill boxes as watercolour palettes, but she also dazzled us with the sheer number of sketches she managed to produce in our short time together.

At the National Museum of Australia with interstate visitors

In June we discovered that drawing outside when it is only 4 degrees C is not a good idea, although several new people bravely joined us that day. July saw us sitting around more comfortably in Hotel Hotel, one of the hippest new developments in Canberra, and a much better option for winter sketching!

Tea, coffee and a warm spot to paint, Hotel Hotel in July

The highlight of the year for me was the chance to meet up with other USk members at the 2015 USk Singapore Symposium. Several of our group went to Singapore and this experience, more than any other, confirmed our desire to formally join USk so that all our members could share the experience of meeting like-minded people from around the world.

Some scenes from the USk Singapore Symposium 2015

Through this year we've developed a core of regular sketchers and every sketch outing new people are joining us. There is certainly no shortage of interesting places for us to draw in this city of ours. Apart from national monuments and institutions, we've met in hipster hot spots as well as historic precincts, drawing everything from food vans to Ferris wheels.

Urban Sketchers Canberra welcome USk members from all over Australia and around the world, to join us in exploring our city. Please get in touch if you are planning a visit, we'd love to catch up with you or provide some suggestions for places to sketch (or even where to eat well!).

USk Canberra meets on the first Sunday of every month, from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm for sketching, followed by coffee and a chat. You can email us, or see what we are doing on our Facebook page.

 USk Canberra members at the National Library of Australia

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Urban Sketchers Sydney at the Fish Market

Today about 30  Sydney Urban Sketchers headed to the Sydney Fish Markets. Most people sat outside drawing boats, but a few headed inside to sketch some of the fish!

We didn’t get a full group photo as some people stayed at the tables so we had a spot to eat our lunch (yummy fish meals!) as the markets get crazy busy at the middle of the day. A great day - thanks to everyone who was part of it.

We all had a great day, here are some photos and sketches from the day.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Jacarandas are blooming in Brisbane City.

Brisbane is looking incredibly beautiful right now with her purple carpet of flowers on the trees and on the ground.  It is an amazing sight.

The Brisbane urban Sketchers have been taking advantage of this and sketching in places where the jacarandas are at their best.  New farm park, UQ St Lucia and Saturday we sketched Dockside.

Before British settlement, Kangaroo Point was occupied by the Turrbal people.  It is one of the earliest suburbs settled in Brisbane and subsequently, is one of Brisbane's oldest suburbs, rich in history and character. It had a reputation for violent and rowdy street gangs around the 1900s, with a number of street riots, even a murder. (Read the Mayne Inheritance)

I am sitting with my back to the Iconic Story Bridge looking down the Heritage Walk to the Dockside Ferry Terminal.

During Brisbane's convict era stone was quarried at Kangaroo Point for building works in the town across the river. By 1837 parts of Kangaroo Point were being farmed.  
In 1844 the first of several public houses in Kangaroo Point, the Bush Inn, was licensed.
By the late 1850s it is estimated that Kangaroo Point had about 80 houses, a wharf, a ferry service to north Brisbane, a bone shed, the remains of a derelict boiling-down works dating from the 1840s, a sawmill, a brick-works, and a postal receiving box. The industrial potential of Kangaroo Point, particularly along its shoreline, was becoming evident, and all the land had been sold by 1854.

 Main Street

 Main Street ran from the tip of Kangaroo Point southward to the Woolloongabba Five Ways. It was flanked by sawmills, tradespeople, cottages, a few larger houses, the Kangaroo Point and Pineapple Hotels, an immigration depot at Wharf Street, the primary school and St Mary's church. Slipways and engineering works were large employers.

The Holman Street Ferry Terminal was built prior to 1919 for the City of Brisbane, then responsible for the servicing of ferry routes across the Brisbane River.

 CT White and James Warner Parks at Kangaroo Point were once the home and workplace of some of Queensland's pioneering scientists and researchers.  There is now a Natural History Trail here in their honour.  I can't wait to go back witht he group to explore and sketch more wonders.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sketching in challenging conditions ...

Sketching can be a fun way to capture the moment or it can be like a test of will power. I hadn't posted anything from the Urbansketchers Symposium from Singapore so I thought I'd post about sketching in challenging conditions. 

I am hoping others share some ways they battle challenging conditions so I have some extra game plans like managing snow conditions like Shari (from Montreal Urbansketchers) by painting in the car. 

Handling the WEATHER

I can handle dry heat up to 45 C and I can handle the humidity in Brisbane. But, the humidity in Singapore was more consistent and I wasn't acclimatised coming from the Australian winter. It typically takes most people about 2 weeks to acclimatise to the climate. I adjusted how I sketched by mixing being outside to resting in an air-conditioned cafe. 

Tip 1: Find Shade

Find shade if you can. It might just be looking closer or further on street level but you can also find vantage points from cafes and public buildings from higher levels. The sketch below was done in the shade of the outdoor stage with the sea breeze to cool us down as well as an ice Kopi! We sketched the Science Centre and Marina Bay Sands from here. 

Choir practice for the SG50 celebration underneath the outdoor stage on the Esplenade, Singapore

William Jolly Bridge from Level 3 QAGOMA, Brisbane

Tip 2: Pick a different Time
It might not always be possible, but iyou might want to do a quick pencil sketch if the subject grabs you and come back to do a painted version at a different time. If you want to do a sketch of your local town, coming back at a different time could give you a completely different mood to your sketch.  

Both of the sketches below were completed with Kumi (from Tokyo Urbansketchers). I painted the Raffles hotel from the bus seats whilst Kumi had her own seat. At this time, we were both in the shade. I still remember that even at dusk it was still hot enough to melt the chocolate in Kumi's bag.  

We would have been in the shade in the Skytree, but doing a night time sketch could be fun too! 

Raffles Hotel, Singapore (L) and View of the Tokyo Tower from the Skytree, Japan (R)

Tip 3: Ask a Local
In Singapore, a friend recommended Clark Quay to sketch in the morning. All the restaurants were closed so that we could the tables and chairs and a cool breeze was blowing. There was a view of the marina bay sands, boats to practice my reflections and a coffee shop within a 5 min walk. Great opportunity to sketch and to catch up. 

Clarke Quay, Singapore

Handling the TOOLS

Sometimes you have a location where there are tables and seats, and sometimes you don't. I tend to have a compact sketch kit with watercolours but there are times I make a slight adjustment. 

Tip 4: Find a makeshift Table

For the sketch of Career del Bisbe in Barlceona, I found a small window ledge where I could rest the sketchbook and watercolours and still be out of the way of the other pedestrians. A lot of people stopped by to have a chat. 

For the sketch below of Asakusa, Japan I rested the sketchpad on a bar and placed my watercolour palette on the sketchpad and worked in sections. I was with Kumi for this sketch and I am not sure I would have been bold enough to sketch from this location without her!

Carrer del Bisbe, Barcelona (L) and Asakusa, Japan (R)

Tip 5: Simplify your tools
Sometimes I just sketch with a pencil to capture something interesting and sketch standing up. I had the sketchbook resting in the crook of my arm and wrist. I think it would have been harder if the sketchbook was any shorter or longer. 

Museum of World Cultures, Barcelona

Handling the CROWD

There are times when you want to sketch but it's crowded. I usually make sure I am not in a main thoroughfare and I am not taking up too much room. 

Tip 6a: Be out of the way - sit underneath the railings
For the St Paul's Cathedral sketch, I walked over to Flinders St Station stairs as the sun was catching that facade in an interesting way. I sat underneath the hand railings so I would be out of the way with my bag in-between my feet with the bag strap wrapped around my ankle. A lot of other people sat shoulder to shoulder beside me and gave me commentary along the way! 

Tip 7a: Be out of the way - sit on the ground
I caught a bus to the Marina Bay Sands close to dusk. The sun had started to set and the sea breeze was picking up. It was a great time to sketch. It was light enough to see, dark enough to see the lights of the Gardens by the Bay trees! The viewpoint wasn't busy when I arrived and I sat on the ledge and started to sketch. After about 30-40 mins the area was packed. Since I was sitting down, I wasn't blocking peoples' view, I had my sketchpad in my hand and watercolour palette on the ground beside me so I wasn't taking up too much room.   

St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne (L) and  Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (R)

Break the COMFORT 

Sometimes the sketch I suffered a bit for, resulted in some of my better sketches. I sat on an uncomfortable make-shift seat for the sketch of the Sultan Mosque. I am usually comfortable sitting on the ground but sometimes, it's a bit too grotty. I think I am going to buy a compact Japanese-style Picnic sheet that I can put in my handbag. The sketch of the Science Centre was completed in a light mist of rain. I liked the splotchy mist and bleed marks.  

Science Centre, Vancouver
Sultan Mosque, Singapore (L) and Science Centre, Vancouver sketched in light mist (R)

I know some other people sketch in the rain (NB Sydney Urban Sketchers!) and would be interested in how they actually do that! 

For my other sketches please visit Instagram account on (@asuka_art).