#Sketchaday 19: working with perspective, memory and imagination

boys in caboose 4.08.16

Today we finally visited the railway museum. Wherever you live in Revelstoke, you can’t avoid hearing the regular rattle and occasional screechings of the freight trains that often take more than three minutes to cross the bridge.  They continue on through the night, but they don’t disturb my sleep. They stop at the station sometimes, perhaps to switch crews and carry out maintenance, but the passenger trains don’t let the passengers off when they stop in Revelstoke. This may change when the town’s reputation as a year round resort becomes more widely known – but Revelstoke will have to pay top dollar for the privilege of being a tourist stop along the Canadian Pacific route.

The locomotive they have on show in the Museum’s magnificent building was overwhelming in its vastness and complicated machinery, so I felt it wasn’t worth starting a drawing that might take me a day and a half to do the engine justice. I was impressed with the snow ploughs in the outside yard, but they too were a little challenging given the little time I had before the museum closed. So I chose to draw the simplest piece of machinery on display: the velocipede, used in the very early days of railway building, which enabled workers to move along the tracks at their own speed, by pushing and pulling the wooden handle. I liked the combination of heavy steel wheels and the light weight wooden super structure.  The velocipede has to be light so that it can be easily lifted off the track when it is not needed. I drew it in pen in 35 minutes before we were thrown out of the Museum, then added colour afterwards.

velocipede 4.08.16

Another thing that I wanted to draw but didn’t have time to do was the caboose, the crew’s ‘cabin’, where they withdrew to sleep, eat and relax. As I was looking around, two young boys appeared from the upstairs bunk area and climbed down simultaneously. I was so taken with the brightness of their clothing, the quality of light and the balletic way they clambered down the steps, I decided to do a sketch from memory, using a photo I’d taken of the interior of the caboose.

boys in caboose pencil 4.08.16

I spent some time analysing the perspective so that the image would look convincing, then after adding the penwork I erased all the working lines.  The colour in both sketches is water soluble pencils.

The Museum has two amazing models of two bridges that were built to cross creeks in Rogers Pass, Surprise Creek and Stoney Creek. The models appear to be made of giant matchsticks and you’d think they weren’t being accurate, but when you look at the photos of the time you realise that those bridges were indeed built on towers made of wood. This link shows a reconstruction of what the original Mountain Creek bridge looked like.

Bridge over Stoney Creek

Museum model of bridge over Stoney Creek

Mountain Creek bridge

The original Mountain Creek bridge

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Drawing for the Terrified – and Not so Terrified

Download the latest schedule here:Schedule for Drawing Classes, August to December 2016 Julia Wakefield In 1992, I was asked to devise a drawing course for beginners at a further education college …

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#Sketchaday 18: earning our keep and learning that less is more

I’ve been so impressed by the fleeting glimpses that we have of the mountains on these semi cloudy days that I’m doing a quick pencil sketch from the back patio every time I’m inspired.  Sometimes you wouldn’t know there’s a mountain there at all: other times you suddenly notice a ridge on the mountain that you didn’t know was there, brought into relief by the cloud behind it. I’m thinking of the Japanese and Chinese masters now, and I’m contemplating doing some very simple Mokuhanga woodcuts on this theme.

I tried translating my pencil drawing of the Crow Tree into a watercolour. That tree is full of crows in the evening: they all go there to roost and communicate, then in the morning they fly off in separate groups to find food.  Like ravens, crows are very intelligent birds and they have a highly sophisticated way of communicating with each other.

The crow tree 3.08.16

I fell in love with a book of American/Canadian songbirds with sound effects and bought it for Leo.  I hope he grows up listening to the real birdsong.  The birds here are much more subtle with their calls than the raucous flocks we see in Australian back yards, but if you listen quietly, you can hear them.

I did some babysitting today while Leo’s parents got back into some renovating. He went to sleep for 30 minutes – long enough for me to do this sketch.

Leo 4.08.16

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#Sketchaday 17:I practise what I preach – and take lessons from the Masters

Mt Begbie from the flats 2.08.16

Today we went southeast on the eastern bank of the river, past Mt Mackenzie, to the area known as ‘the flats’, where the river spreads across the valley and creates pockets of marshland, perfect for water birds. As we arrived we saw a flock of Canada geese swimming in the shallow waters. The geese eventually took off and flew on to another watering hole. There were also herons – gigantic ones, with necks as long as the Australian egret’s. We were surrounded by mountains, but the ones I am used to seeing across the river from the township, Mt Begbie and Mt Macpherson, looked very different as we were much closer to them. The weather was overcast, which meant the rock faces and forests on the mountains were for once quite clearly defined.

In my last post in my companion blog, Touchpaper Drawing Tips, I talked about the materials that I usually take with me on sketching holidays. My final advice was to take more than you need, but if you forget anything, don’t stress – just experiment with what you have. Well today I remembered my paints, palette and sketchbook – but forgot my brushes and pencils! However I did have my set of Manga pens – a fine, super fine and extra super fine plus a brush pen – so I decided to imagine I was preparing to do an etching or engraving in the Old Masters tradition.

unknown artist, glacier

This is an interesting example of a topographical engraving of a glacier, but I don’t know who the artist was.

Before photography, artists had to record every detail on the spot. I had started to do this, and my little sketch had already taken 25 minutes, but the weather was turning nasty – those cumulus mammatus clouds in my sketch signified heavy rain or even hail, and the thunder in the air was promising dramatic accompaniments. So we beat a hasty retreat, and I finished the sketch later using my photos. I had to enhance the contrast in the photos and turn them into grayscale, but surprisingly they still didn’t show as much detail as I had observed on the spot.

Mt Begbie from the flats finished 2.08.16

This is still just the top of Mt Begbie. There are many more forests and rock faces to the left and right and I could fill three more double page spreads till I got to the bottom of the mountain. The whole mountain would take me about five hours to draw using this method. I would add more to the sky if I were to develop this image, to show the threat of impending rain.

I looked up some more artists who love painting mountains. John Ruskin and J M W Turner are well known for their dramatic mountain scenes, but Petar Tale is new to me.

John Ruskin mountain peaks

John Ruskin, Mountain Peaks

Turner, Loch Curalsk, Skye

JMW Turner, Loch Curalsk, Skye

Petar Tale

Mountain storm by Petar Tale

This video compares Turner’s work with Petar Tale’s.

Tai Xiang Zhou, mountains on a clear day

Tai Xiang Zhou, mountains on a clear day


We actually didn’t get the heavy rain that was threatening, so we went a little further afield – V showed us the cliff that they go climbing on, which is thankfully not halfway up a mountain, but it is still a scary way down from the top. No, I didn’t try climbing it. On the way we saw a sobering reminder of the dangers of winter in these parts: a swathe of pine trees on either side of the road had been chopped in half by an avalanche in a previous winter, just metres away from a farmhouse.








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#Sketchaday 16: ‘This is what we do on BC day’….and when is a sketch finished?

I started two watercolour sketches today, when we took a trip up to the reservoir behind the Revelstoke Canyon Dam, one of more than a score of dams in the Kootenay region that supply BC’s el…

Source: #Sketchaday 16: ‘This is what we do on BC day’….and when is a sketch finished?

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#Sketchaday 16: ‘This is what we do on BC day’….and when is a sketch finished?

above the dam 1.08.2016

I started two watercolour sketches today, when we took a trip up to the reservoir behind the Revelstoke Canyon Dam, one of more than a score of dams in the Kootenay region that supply BC’s electricity. It’s one of four dams that regulate the flow of the mighty Columbia, and we had noticed how at different times of the day the river’s level varies considerably, although it is always fiercely fast flowing. In contrast, behind the dam the river forms a huge lake of clear, rippling water, perfect for swimming (if a little cold). So it’s an ideal playground for young people on the BC Day public holiday.

This was Leo’s first major outing since Blanket Creek. He took great interest in the woodlands that we had to walk through to get to the beach, then slept for most of the day while his parents partied and barbecued with their friends. I couldn’t decide which view I liked best, the lake or the inlet behind me, that was swarming with tiny fish, dragonflies and water boatmen, so I did both. I painted the lake until I got too uncomfortably hot to continue, then I turned my back on the sun and worked on the pond till it was time to go home.

above the dam, the pond 1.08.2016

I ended up with two semi finished paintings. Now I have a problem: do I work on them any more, away from the scene, or are they ok as they are? It’s always difficult to know when a sketch is finished. My guess is I need to do a bit more to the water in the first sketch, but perhaps nothing at all to the second one, other than adding a smattering of stronger greens to the right hand side. Comments are welcome, please.

While I was working on the second sketch a bald eagle perched on a treetop a little way off to the right of the picture. It stayed there for about 15 minutes, quite unperturbed by all the humans. Then it slowly flapped its way across the lake.

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What do you take for sketching on holiday?

I am currently on holiday at Revelstoke, in Canada, where you can ski in winter and hike, bike, climb and explore in summer. I decided to commit myself to doing at least one sketch a day and I̵…

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Sketchaday 15:from the cheerfully macabre back to the sublime

The weather remained uncertain today so we didn’t attempt any ambitious hikes. We gave Mum and Dad a break this morning so they could have their first trail bike ride together since Leo was b…

Source: Sketchaday 15:from the cheerfully macabre back to the sublime

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Sketchaday 15: from the cheerfully macabre back to the sublime

Taco club Sunday 31.07.16

The weather remained uncertain today so we didn’t attempt any ambitious hikes. We gave Mum and Dad a break this morning so they could have their first trail bike ride together since Leo was born. Then we all headed over to Taco club for another gargantuan meal. The decor is slightly macabre but nobody seems too spooked by it. You might detect that the two chairs in the middle are at different levels: I started the sketch from two directions at once and it didn’t quite coincide in the middle. That’s part of the risk and also the charm of sketching quickly on the spot. I added the colour afterwards, with water soluble coloured pencils. The smooth paper of this little sketchpad (a moleskin that someone gave me) suits this medium perfectly.

Trans Canada Highway bridge Sunday 31.07.16

Late in the afternoon the weather was suitably dramatic for a view of the road bridge, which is part of the Trans-Canada highway, one of the world’s longest national highways. I started a larger watercolour but became so involved in the architecture of the bridge I decided to do a quick sketch as well to try and capture the atmosphere.  This took me about 40 minutes and I added colour afterwards. That’s the edge of Mt Macpherson in the background.

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#Sketchaday14:lounging around town

I actually drew this the previous day after our adventure on the Pipe, when it got so hot and sultry all we felt like doing was sitting in a cafe and drinking iced water.  The Revelstoke lamp posts…

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