Drawing, for pleasure and business.

tiger airways airbus 320
Drawing - Ballpoint sketch on a Tiger Airways Airbus 320, "follow your instinct, arrive richer", I did too..

If you dig into some of the more technical pages on this site, you will see that I am fairly well up with modern trends, I have been CAD drafting for nearly 25 years, which is just one of the latest of that oldest of forms of human communication and expression: drawing.

Apart from school, I was first introduced to sketching as a means on communication by the tradesmen I worked with. The foreman would say "do it like this", then take a pencil from behind his ear and sketch out what he meant on a piece of scrap timber.

Later we got around to drawing complicated sections of doors and windows, on what we called setting out rods.

I have ever since those early days, always sketched things out, many times to scale.

A simple drawing of a right angle triangle to scale would give a practical quick answer to roofing or stairs problems, without using anything more complicated than a pencil, a rule and square. The alternative to a five minute sketch, was, in my early days a set of log tables and a knowledge of trigonometry that for me was a bit shaky to say the least.

I took to pocket calculators when they came out, and then computers, but for speed and ease of use I still draw things out on a sheet of ply or such.

A steel square can be used for roof and stair calculations, but you have to invest some time and effort into learning how to use it. I say spend that same time and effort in learning the basics and then you can do far more than the steel square. All these so called easy ways have limitations. Plus they cost. A pencil is cheap.

Another aspect of drawing that has been working for me for many years, (I just didn't know it until I started sketching for fun), is the fact that if you spend time looking at something, puzzling it out and then drawing it, whatever you have done stays in your memory a lot longer and a lot clearer.

If you rely on some gizmo or some computer program, to do it for you, you won't remember anything, and it (the gizmo) may just be wrong, but you won't have the ability to check it any more, that ability has been taken away from you by the easy fix.

sketch of Mekong river at Xuai Zhai
Drawing - Pen and ink wash, sketch of the Mekong river at Xuai Zhai Northern Laos.

The sketch above took about half an hour to do. It has no aspirations to be anything but a memory jogger for me, personally.

  • I looked at the scene for a while and decided what I wanted to get on paper, to eliminate detail that's not important.
  • The process of drawing was very intense, look, draw, check and do it again and again.
  • The end result is that it took me far longer to try to capture that scene on paper than the quick fix. A camera.
  • The good thing about the sketch is that I can, for a start remember where it was. (how many holiday shots have you got that you can't even remember where they were taken ?).
  • I can also remember heaps of things about the whole place that are not on the paper at all. Memories that are fixed and they come back when I see the sketch.

With the sketches on the right you can click on any of the thumbnails for a larger version. (not necessarily better :-). Also with the larger version there may be one or two other sketches and photos. There may also be a small amount of rambling text. (I am allowed to stray off topic on my own site:-)

After I had been using my CAD program for a couple years I got thinking that it would be nice to do sketches of people in some of my drafting jobs. Make the concept drawings (as the architects call them) look more professional.

I soon found out that if you can't draw with a pencil, you have no chance with a mouse. No computer aids were going to change that fact, so I decided to teach myself how to draw, and let me tell you it isn't all that hard you know. It is just practice.

I picked up a book from the library, "Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain". Within a few pages I was hooked. In a few hours I was making progress. I loved it.

One of the things that the author Betty Edwards says is that when the right side of the brain cuts in, you start working on auto pilot. (my words, not hers, she's a lot more technical than that).

She is right there, many times I have looked down at a stone cold cup of coffee that I had completely forgotten about.

I never did do any figures in my drafting drawings. Boring.....

I used to think that copying a photograph in great detail was great, and I enjoyed it while it lasted.

A lot more instructive was copying a famous artist's work. Most of the hard work has been done, the subject has been framed, the lighting sorted out, no extraneous details, etc. Yet the actual fact of looking at a great work of art in the concentrated way that you need to draw it, is a great way to learn.

I have to admit that in my charcoal and pencil days I have been know to make a few corrections. Since I discovered Conte Crayon it's been different though. What goes down stays down. Warts an all. The rich black or brown colour is great, but a trifle hard to keep clean.

I have never gone back to correcting things, I like the mistakes as much as the rest. Otherwise I might as well use a camera.

My current passion is pen and ink, but I am always trying new gear so who knows what will grab me next.

I read in a book somewhere that a good drawing exercise was to draw thumbnail sketches of the newsreaders on TV. I tried it, but I wasn't good enough or fast enough. What I did instead was to run the pause our old video player during a favourite movie.

The pause cut out after 5 minutes, and I did a couple of drawings in that time that I am happy with; but most of them I had to rewind and search for the frame again, taking maybe 10 or 15 minutes to do the drawing.
I have a peculiar memories of repeatedly searching for certain scenes.

Looking at a single frame grabbed from a movie brought home to me the difference between great directors and the rest.
Stuff that I used to take for granted I started to see how the scenes were meticulously built up. I firmly believe that that some, (only some) movie directors are up there with any of the great artists.

I did a spell at painting, but I never seemed to have the time. I also did a lot of screen printing. Serigraphs. Brightly coloured scenes of local places etc. I even sold out a couple of editions.

What I seem to do now is just travel sketching. I find that when working and getting on with life in general it is hard to switch off and get into a good state of mind to draw.

But when I am on holiday and start relaxing I find it easy to start drawing again. I usually need a few days to get into the swing of it and and then I can do a few pages a day.

My travel sketchbooks are also part diary and part scrapbook. No organization, bits everywhere.
I have pasted in boat tickets, currency calculators, entrance tickets to any number of historic monuments, and even the tag off a Lipton tea bag, to remember the day when I bought a small electric jug, and was finally able to have a cup of tea, while doing my pre breakfast planning.

Most of these sketches here were done during an 8 week holiday backpacking around SE Asia in early 2006, and again in Vietnam in 2009. I was on my own, so I found it was a great way to keep me occupied.

I also found that the drawing was a very easy way to get to know the locals. Instead of signing the visitors book in a Chinese bar in Malacca I did a sketch of the joint, to wide acclaim. Now I'll tell you, I have definitely done better drawings, (I was very... relaxed at the time). Who knows I might have started a trend and that visitor's book is filling up with pictures of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Statue of Liberty by now.

The best part of travelling is the people I meet. In the cafes and side walk food stalls they were very curious as to what I was doing. This lead to many good chats (and more than a few extra lunchtime beers:-).
My books are littered with people's signatures. The Vang Vieng sketch has the signatures of three 10 year old boys on it, and one little lad who was so shy and wouldn't put his name down, that I guessed he couldn't write, so I got him to put his thumbprint on instead.

One morning in Bangkok I was having a breather in a small cafe (opposite the back of my favourite spot, At Po) that was in an old Chinese shop house. There are still plenty of these about, but they are slowly disappearing. I started sketching details of the old timber framed front entrance, with a carved lintel, and with some curious mortices cut into the sill and head. The owner was hovering about tying to see what I was doing, but too polite to say anything.

I asked her what the cut outs in the frame were for, and she took me into the back and showed me the intricate system of posts and rails that was used to lock up the front of the shop, which she still used. All her neighbours use ugly steel grilles or roller shutters.

We had a good chat, I got a couple of free coffees and she got the page out of my sketchbook which she later framed and hung inside.

I just about always use a cheap fountain pen that I bought in Thailand, and I found this marvellous brown ink, that was very water soluble. So with only a small brush and a bit of water I could wash into the inky bits and create an ink wash without any extra gear.

One trick that used to go down well with a local audience and create smiles all round was that instead of using water, I would pour a bit of beer, or coffee et. into a bottle cap and use that for the wash part.

I can firmly state after much testing in the field, that artistically speaking, Beer Laos gives a much greater tonal range than our pale Aussie beers.

I would recommend sketching to anybody. On many many levels t is so much fun.

The hardest part to crack for me was the onlookers, and what they might think. For a long while it was hard, then all of a sudden I did't give a stuff any more. Then for me the interaction with the onlookers became the best part.

Betty Edwards says that you should keep your old sketches, not to throw them away, as they are a good reminder of where you started from. Well I still have some of my early stuff but I am not game to show any of it here. This lot's bad enough.

I had a hugely rewarding but financially disastrous 9 months or so, when I quit my day job and took up printmaking about 5 years ago. I did a couple of courses at our local uni, where they taught me etching. I took to it like a duck to water.

Sooner or later I will do a page with some of my screen prints and etchings on it. In the meantime here is a link to site in tropical North Queensland that is just starting out and has some top artists work for you to see.

A friend of mine in Darwin creates some beautiful wildlife artwork, well worth a look.

Kerry has a site for beginner pencil artists

If you want to put a smile on your face, pop over to Sheri's site . It is a colouring in site which would not normally be my cup of tea, but it is far more than that, great designs and use of colour.

If you are into arts and crafts then pop over to Julie's site. She is a great one for helping out other people and sharing her wide knowledge.

"The art of drawing which is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing... should be taught to every child just as writing is... " John Ruskin 1819-1900

Not found it yet? Try this FAST SITE SEARCH or the whole web

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elder from Peppermiati daly river region
Detailed charcoal and white chalk drawing of an aboriginal man from Pepperminati, in the Daly river region. From a photo I took at the local arts festival. Charcoal sketch
wood carving by Grinling Gibbons
A sketch from a photo I took of the underside of a pew seat, a misericord, in a small parish church in Cumbria. Done by the master woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons. He makes it look so easy. Grinling Gibbons
sketch after Kathe Kollwitz
Another supreme artist, Kathe Kollwitz. My poor attempt in conte crayon after one of her charcoal drawings in a book. Kathe Kollwitz
Akira Kurosawas Rashomon
If you are into movies with great drama and visual imagery, Akira Kurasawa is your man. From his movie Rashomon. Conte crayon. Akira Kurosawa
Movie Notting Hill
Notting Hill shouldn't be on the same page as Kurosawa, but somehow it slipped into the same sketchbook when I was doing Conte Crayon
Jack Russel Terrier
A watercolour that is far better than the oil painting I did later for the dogs owner, a client and friend. Watercolour sketch
Phimai, Thailand
A good draughtsman always lays it out first, and gets the proportions right. But hey, I was rushing, it was getting dark and they wanted to kick me out. I ran out of time, and I ran out of page. The Khmer temple at Phimai, Isaan Thailand. Pen and ink
Khao San Rd bangkok
I have got to be fairly relaxed to draw, and that's why a lot of my sketches feature bottles of beer on the tables in the foreground. Khao San Rd Bangkok. Singha beer at $5.50 a big bottle. Khao San Road
Bangkok river boat landing
Tha Tien river boat stop, Bangkok.
They pulled a bamboo blind down half way through this sketch, so I finished it through the gaps Ball Point Sketch
Raffles hotels Singapore
Raffles Hotel Singapore. A magnificent restoration of a colonial building. I should have done more detail of the stairs, but I was thinking more about the $60.00 for two small glasses of beer. I sort of lost my rhythm. Raffles Hotel
Vang Vieng, Laos
Rice fields lying fallow in the shadow of the Karst (limestone) outcrops. Vang Vieng, slap bang on the backpacker trail, Northern Laos. Vang Vieng Laos
Hindu temple in Singapore
A Hindu temple in Little India, Singapore. These things used to drive me mad, just too much detail to absorb, then this particular morning I just squiggled about, not a recognizable figure anywhere. Hindu Temple Singapore
saigon street sketch
I have heaps of photographs of Saigon, but none of them seem to capture the incredible chaotic nature of the joint. For me (and only me I guess) some of my sketches help me to recall it. Saigon Sketch
silk weaving
A trip back in time to the early days of the industrial revolution to those Dark Satanic Mills
stone pediment over a temple door
A quiet muse on ancient Sanskrit among the ruins of the old Cham civilisation at Nha Trang
butghers of calais
An undisputed masterpiece - Auguste Rodin's, Burghers of CalaisRodin Sculptures
gothic church
My poor attempt to convey the soaring majesty of the interior of L'eglise Saint-Eustache near Les Halles in Paris.A couple of marker pen sketches



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