Sunday 31 May 2020

Sri Lanka Sketches

In March 2019, I took a sketching group to the tropical island of Sri Lanka for 10 days. Sir Lanka  is located in South Asia in the Indian Ocean.

The diversity of sights to see and places to visit was extraordinary. We travelled by coach from Colombo through to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage to Mt Sigiriya in Central Sri Lanka. Further north were the tea plantations and we sampled many variations of delicious teas. 

So I will begin to take you on my journey and show you the other places we visited. 

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The group was able to sit just above the elephants as they splashed and walked around in the water. Our local tour leader had booked the restaurant there, and we sat comfortably at tables, enjoying cool drinks, sketching and having some lunch. We were also positioned right next to the road that the majestic elephants with calfs walked down to  the water and we were close enough to touch them. What an experience!

This sketch was of Mt Sigiriya, a rock fortress with is nearly 200 metres high. It was a 5th century ancient city when monks lived earlier.

There are approximately 1200 steps to the top and the climb takes from 1.5 hours to 3 hours, depending on fitness, age and crowds. The climb is well worth it, as the panoramic views are incredible. There are guides along the way who explain various aspects of the rock, and there is a deep cave with frescos.

The Sigiriya frescoes are a set of paintings created by ancient artisans in the 5th century AD. Some are beautifully preserved but a large number of paintings have been destroyed over the last centuries due to the rain, wind and sun.

Remains of the Audience Hall at the Polonnaruwa Ancient Kingdom

The Polonnaruwa Ancient Kingdom is the most ancient of Sir Lanka's Kingdoms, developed in the 10th century and is now a World Heritage Site. There is an Archaeological Museum which had scale models of the buildings and temples of the city, as they may have looked when first built. 

Minneriya Tank Pond

The tank pond is a handmade reservoir covering 5000 acres . It was built by King Mahasena (276-303). The scale was incredible and to image this being built by hand was amazing.  Other reservoirs were created in this era and resulted in a growth in agriculture that opened up trade links with South East Asia.
Just outside the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy, I discovered this wonderful little temple. There were other temples in the immediate area, and the group spread out to sketch their temple of choice. As seen in the sketch, there were many people around, visiting these temples. The day we were there was a very special day in the Temple of the Tooth, with thousands of workshippers lining up to visit the temple.

Saturday 23 May 2020

Cambodia Sketches

A country I have visited on several sketching tours is Cambodia. My group sketched at many different locations, and we saw many unique sights. There was brilliant colour everywhere, incredible food, and wonderful friendly people.  And it was also extremely hot and humid, but I loved every minute of it. 

The markets were an amazing experience, the hustle and bustle was intoxicating. Who doesn't love a market?  

So I am sharing with you some of the sketches I did while in Siem Reap. Once again, they bring back some wonderful memories.

Angkor Wat Temple

A visit to Siem Reap is not complete unless you visit the Angkor Wat Temple complex which is the largest religious monument in the world. There are over 1000 temples in the Angkor area, ranging from piles of brick rubble scattered through rice fields, temples that have been overgrown with tree roots, and the temples that have been so wonderfully restored.

Angkor Thom Temple
This temple is situated in the temple complex and is outstanding and unique due to the tree roots growing over the temple. Inside, there has also been some restoration. 

This is a sketch of the north gate into the ancient city of Angkor Thom.

This monk statue is within the grounds of the Preah Prohm Rath Buddhist Temple in Siem Reap and is painted in gold. I purchased some gold paint at an art shop in town and my sketch glows with vibrancy and iridescence. There are many monks living in this very large complex. 

Wat Preah Prom Rath Buddhist Temple

The gold tiles on the main building glittered in the brilliant sun and it was a very imposing and spectacular building. Monks could be seen casually strolling around the grounds going about their everyday lives.  This temple is one of the oldest in Siem Reap and was built around the Old Market in 1371 and has been renovated in recent years. Among the many buildings is a gallery hall of incredible paintings of Buddha and stories of his life.

Kampong Phluk Stilt village
This village was about 30 kms southwest of Siem Reap. This was a full day trip. The first part was a tuk tuk ride on a very rough, rutted dirt road before we came to the boats waiting in the river to take us to the village, which was not flooded at the time the group visited. We sketched from one of the house balconies and enjoyed an amazing lunch, which could not be more authentic. We were able to wander around and take in more sights in the village. This was an amazing experience.

Of course, a visit to Pub Street in Siem Reap is a must. It is very famous for its shops, cafes, restaurants and entertainment. Of an evening it just vibrates with noise, colour and excitement. This sketch was done from the verandah of a restaurant. Very civilised, enjoying a cool drink and having some lunch, while doing our sketches.

Monday 18 May 2020

Vietnam Sketches

Over the years I have done a lot of travelling and a lot of sketching. I have just finished updating my Gallery pages on my sketching site

It was so enjoyable to revisit places in my sketchbooks that I haven't thought about for years. All the memories came flooding back. I could remember clearly where I stayed, who I was with, places I visited and much more. 

So I am going to do regular blogs on my sketches to share with you. The first are some from Vietnam. I also put out a Sketching Newsletter with tips, hints and information on where I have been, and trips I have planned.
Of course the upcoming trips have been postponed until 2020, as due to COVID, flights are still uncertain but my Australian tour to Kakadu and Litchfield Parks is confirmed for May 2020. To register to receive the Newsletter, enter your email address on the home page of the above website, Holiday Sketching.

Cuc Phuong National Park
Cuc Phuong National Park is Vietnam's largest nature reserve, situated in the Ninh Binh Province in the Red River Delta. Staying right in the park was an experience, as my group were the only tourists there. We ate in the local cafĂ© which was built on stilts, enjoying steaming bowls of absolutely original Pho beef soup, rich with chilis and beef. The mornings in the park were bitterly cold, and the soup really warmed us up. This was my first visit to Vietnam in 2008, and I have revisited many times. 

Gom Thanh Ha pottery village
This pottery village is a 3km scenic boat ride from Hoi An. It is a 16-17th century traditional occupational village, where the pottery is still made the same as when it the village was built. You are free to roam around the village and see the families making their pottery in the original wood fired kilns.

Hu Hua temple, Hoi An
Tucked away in a little back street, this was a perfect place to sketch which was away from the crowds. It was a traditional temple, very small, but of significance. Hoi An has so much to offer.

Sampan on Halong Bay
Halong Bay is a World Heritage site and not to be missed while in Vietnam. We were fortunate to spend a night aboard a boat which was an incredible experience. The atmosphere on the bay with the towering isles in various shapes and sizes is almost ethereal with a light mist descending on them. The bay is also abundant with thousands of limestone karsts, floating villages and caves that can be explored.

Tam Coc temple
When I was in Tam Coc in 2008, the group stayed in a wonderful hotel, very close to the Ancient Houses Complex which was still under construction. This is where the temple was sketched. Tam Coc is in the Ninh Binh province and the scenery around the town was incredible. This province has much to offer.

Markets Lang Son
Lang Son is situated in the far north of Vietnam, close to the Chinese border.. The ladies we sketched were so excited and kept running over to look at our sketches. Ancient history of the province is linked to the Bronze Age when the trade route that existed between China and India passed from the Red River Delta.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Celebrating Banks & Solander's expedition 1768-1771

Renowned botanist Sir Joseph Banks and naturalist Dr. Daniel Solander returned home to England from Endeavour's 1768-1771 first voyage to Australia, with an estimated 3000 species of exotic flora, many of which had never been seen or examined by Europeans.

The Florilegium Society at the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens is celebrating their achievements and the collections through exquisite paintings from 39 botanical artists, some of the best artists in Australia and globally.

Their paintings have been published in a wonderful book called 'Botanic Endeavours'. Many of the paintings represent plants collected at the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, the same plants discovered by Banks and Solander.

This publication will be invaluable to historians, botanists, horticulturists, artists and lovers of gardens for the next 250 years and beyond.

Below is my contribution to this book, the Melaleuca thymifolia. There will be a Sydney exhibition later in 2020, or early 2021, date yet to be decided, due to delays caused by COVID-19.

Book cover

My painting with dried specimen

Painting the plant


Painting details

Final painting

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Sketching Buildings in your local area

With the onset of COVID-19 our lives have mostly changed dramatically. Many of us are working from home where extended periods of isolation have become difficult. We need to look at our lives in a very different way and the negative of the pandemic can result in a positive to our way of living.

I know I have been doing much more cooking than I usually do, but to me this is another creative activity. Cook up special meals that are healthy and nutritious and send photos to friends and family, and encourage them to do the same. This makes it much more interesting and almost a challenge.

We need to have a purpose to what we do and we need to stay healthy.

Menu 1: Chili con Carne with pasta and Greek yoghurt, Spanakopita, Zucchini slice with corn, onions and sun roasted tomatoes,  peas and onions with triple smoke hickory ham.

Menu 2: German Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), roasted beetroot, cabbage with onions and carrot, fresh broccoli and grated vegetable bake.

We know how important exercise is, so I began my walking regime with half an hour, exploring the back laneways and streets in my neighbourhood. I love architecture and I love sketching buildings, so what could be better than being a tourist in my own area, soaking up the heritage and the beautiful old terrace houses and cottages? Then, what makes it even better, is that I am combing my morning walk, now an hour, with taking photos of the buildings I want to sketch.

My project, combining walking and sketching, is to fill a new sketchbook with my neighbourhood building sketches.

I really look forward to getting out in the morning and seeing what new buildings and history I can discover through some research. My area has Aboriginal heritage and its name means camp, meeting ground or a sitting down place. The name was officially used by the first speaker of our legislative assembly of New South Wales, Daniel Cooper, when he laid the foundations for his house in this area in 1856.

Above are just a few of the buildings I am going to sketch.  I have tidied up my studio (tidy studio - tidy mind), have laid out my new sketchbook - Stillman & Birn Beta series, because I like the proportions and the very smooth paper will allow me to sketch very fine detail, which I love!

So - happy cooking, happy sketching and enjoy those walks!  Keep safe and healthy.

Sunday 19 April 2020

More arum paintings from Java

I have just completed a painting of three Amorphophallus decus silvae and A. decus-silvae x gigas (hybrid) which are endemic to the primeval forests on West Javas's southern coasts.

Amorphophallus is a large genus of over 200 tropical and subtropical tuberous herbaceous plants from the Arum family.

I was fortunate to see them in the Cairns Botanical Gardens in North Queensland where they are thriving. Botanical artists say that you do not choose the plant, it chooses you.  A voice told me "you have to paint them." I took many photos and six months later I have finished the painting.

Of course it did not take that long to actually complete the painting, but with many other painting commitments, workshops and art tours, it just took a while to begin.  With the onset of COVID-19, my workshops and tours were cancelled, giving me time to work on the painting.

The centre plant in the painting is an Amorphophallus decus silvae, and the plants on either side are a. decus silvae x gigas.

The plant above is the A. decus-silvae.

The final painting is tall and narrow, 75cm x 38cms, which suits the subject perfectly. I worked on each plant separately and ensured the tones hues and proportions were well balanced.

The colours and patterns on these plants were what drew me to them as well as their majestic size of around 3 metres. I love working with the detail and I used a lot of overglazing to get the colours to glow.

 This is the A. decus silvae x gigas.

 This is the final painting with the three plants.

The three very different and unique stems

 The three flowers

Friday 20 March 2020

Australian Artist magazine article - Borneo rainforest

The latest edition of Australian Artist magazine is now available. It's titled 'How to Sketch in a Rainforest'.

The May edition is part 2 of this adventure where I will tell the story of my rainforest sketching experience and introduce you to some of the amazing creatures found in the Amazon rainforests.

Here are a few images from the article.

My sketching group stayed at Rimba Lodge, right on the Sekonyer River and we visited three orangutan rehabilitation stations: Camp Leakey, Tanjung Harapan and Pondok Tanggi.

This was my initial sketch for the rainforest scene. I added a page to the existing watercolour book which folds down back into the book when closed.

This was the finished pen and wash sketch of the rainforest scene with various creatures in the rainforest.

Watch out for part 2 of the Australian Artist article which is available in May, 2020.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Amorphophallus titanum

My painting of the Amorphophallus titanum (Titan arum) is finished. I painted on Arches 640gsm hot pressed paper and the size is 75cm high x 57 cm wide. It was definitely a labour of love and I enjoyed working with many techniques.

Some of the detail and use of masking fluid for the stem. 

Final painting

More detail on the spadix, achieved with masking fluid.

I will be painting a partner to this flower - same family and slightly different species. It is not often I have the chance to paint 'at my leisure' and have things nicely finished before an exhibition.

Thursday 13 February 2020

Titan arum - new painting

Recently I visited the Cairns Botanical Gardens in northern Queensland. The very hot and humid conditions were ideal for their collections of tropical plants.

I fell in love with the incredible Carrion Lilies with their huge presence, colours and design elements.  They grow to about 3 metres.

Above is the Amorphophallus decus-silvae which is found in Java, Indonesia.

After returning from Cairns I visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and discovered the wonderful Amorphophallus titanum - Titan arum,  which is an herbaceous flowering plant with the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world.

It is commonly known as the Corpse Lily due to its foul smelling inflorescence. The odour resembles rotten flesh which attracts the pollinators Flesh Flies and Carrion Beetles. The Titan arum is endemic to the hot and humid rainforest areas of Indonesia but they can be seen in many botanical gardens worlewide, including Sydney, Australia.

They only bloom every 4-10 years which make them a very special addition to any collection.

Below are the initial washes of my flower, and I am planning to do a second painting of the Amorphallus decus-silvae to compliment the Titan arum.

The spadix has a very 'bubbled' surface, so I applied masking fluid over a very light wash. More washes are to be painted over the masking fluid.

Still lots of detail to complete to finish off this painting - and this is the part I love the most!!!