Morning Urban Sketching at the Arboretum

Urban sketching at the Arboretum Canberra - sketchWe have started our training for our next travel adventure. Yes we are planning another long walk across Spain but that is not the sort of training I meant. I have increased my urban sketching as I hope to keep more of a travel sketch journal this next trip. I usually manage a few sketches in my travel journal but this time around I am wanting to record the trip with even more sketches.

Today we walked from our home to the National Arboretum, a trip of about 11km. The arboretum is set in a hilly part of Canberra and at the top of a long walk is a coffee shop. Needless to say we stopped for coffee and I took advantage of a corner table to sketch the Margaret Whitlam pavilion which can be seen easily from that vantage point. (Click on the image for a larger version)

When I travel I usually find time to record my day in my journal. Finding time for sketching however is always a bit more of problem. I know some sketchers say Oh I just do it! Or I learnt to draw fast! But I always find it difficult to find time to sketch. With writing I am OK as that is easier to fit a written account into the nooks and crannies of travel activities. I carry the journal in my purse and pull it out at odd moment, I write and then close the book and move on. I find it easy to pull out a journal and write at coffee shops, waiting for transport etc  But sketching for me has always been a bit more complicated mainly because I need more time to actually sketch. I find it more of an effort and that is requires more focus and concentration. Of course that focus is the very reason to do it but I do not find it easy. Also if I use watercolours the page has to dry! So unlike writing simply closing the book and moving on is not always practical.

To counter this I think sketching has to be a very natural activity. Something that you can do not matter how tired you are or over stimulated by seeing so much stuff! So I have been trying to sketch more. My aim is to have it feel as natural as writing. I am not there yet but hope that one day I get to the stage where it is as easy to record a place by sketch as it is to describe it with words.

My second tactic is to use dry media such as pens and ink, pencils and the like as sometimes wet media is not practical for travel. Anyway here is my attempt for today. Hopefully people who know the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion will recognise the curve of the roof.


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  1. Years ago I went to watercolour classes. My sister was a brilliant artist, but I preferred a needle. My friend had a small watercolour pad like a journal and she used to put a paper hand towel between the pages to go home, not the soft, tissue type, but harder paper type. Her paintings never smudged. Probably you have tried this already.

    Rosemary Dempster
  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Sharon. I agree, l prefer to spend time observing and thinking before I put pen to paper. I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous of late, and just go for it. Hoping the 100 People challenge next week will also help!

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