Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Details are Sketchy!

Brighton Living Room - 1985
Historic House in Albany - 1989
Federation Home - 1989

I have some exciting news! Soonish, my sister Jenny and I will be spending five weeks in the UK together. It will be an early celebration of my fiftieth birthday which is still a few months away. The fact that I'm soon to be half a century old is almost as hard to believe as the fact that I will soon be swanning around Ireland, Wales and England. The latter is much more exciting of course!

We plan to take sketching materials along in the hope of creating some blogworthy works of art to accompany the photos I intend to post along the way. This reminds me that I will need to work out how to post via my i-pad!

It is a long while since I have done much in the way of sketching and pen and ink drawings, so long in fact that I had literally forgotten of the existence of the second and third of these three pictures. I found them this morning while hunting for the top one. While it is the least accomplished of the three it has a lot of sentimental value to me. It is the one-and-only ink sketch I did while on a backpacking holiday around the UK and Europe when I was twenty-one. Near the beginning of my eight month adventure I stayed for a few days at a friend's house in Brighton in the lead up to Christmas. I was totally entranced by their beautifully decorated town house and felt inspired to try my hand at sketching their living room. I didn't do any preliminary pencil drawing as you can see by the wonky walls, but worked in ink from the beginning. I suspect I used a Rotring pen which was a favourite tool of mine at the time. I definitely drew the second one in pencil first as it is too neat to have done otherwise but the tilt and looseness of the third makes me suspect I may not have done much preliminary drawing first at all.

I confess to being a bit startled at some of the techniques I used in the second sketch as I don't remember ever having these skills under my belt. I was very keen on ink drawings at the time so I probably familiarised myself with different cross-hatching styles before beginning; something I want to do again now in the lead up to going away. I'm not sure exactly what style I will come up with while I'm away. Before I found these I had imagined just doing a light ink outline with a watercolour wash - or maybe just pencil alone. Who knows! As long as I at least produce a few pieces of art I will be happy!

I have been very remiss with creating and posting of late but my excuse is that a lot of my time has been taken up with booking this holiday. Also, I needed a bit of a break. I wasn't getting enough down time as my stiff shoulders and continuing sore back could attest to. As for my book - I was a bit precipitate in announcing it was near completion. After getting further feedback from my latest round of readers, I know I have more culling and honing to do. It will be at the top of my list of things to do upon my return.


I am also posting some photos of a beautiful hand made note-book my daughter made for a friend's birthday recently. I thought to post it after visiting Celia Blanco's blog where she showed how she'd cleverly made her own sketch book and asked if others had made similar items.
My daughter had learnt how to bind her own sketch book during an art class she had taken as a broadening unit at university last year. She has used hand-made paper bought from Oxfam for the cover and used some paper she'd bought in Japan for the end papers. She sewed it all together with bits of cotton she found around the place. I have dropped some VERY heavy hints that I would like a book like this for my birthday!!


  1. Okay buddy so you may be getting two comments in a row for this post! I am not sure what happened but while I was typing I "lost" all my text! So if you get two entries you know why!
    Such a wonderful and content full post Wendy! I so love your pen and ink drawings! They are so well done! So many interesting and fantastic details. Done in a very loose manner! I am so glad you found them and shared them on your blog! They would look great framed or better still as illustrations in one of your future books. Maybe even as and intro to your newer up and coming "UK Book Of Illustrations And More" by wicked awesome author and illustrator Wendy Barrett!
    Happy very early fiftieth birthday cobber! Fifty is a wonderful time to look back at the past, stay focused on the present, and plan the future! I remember when I turned fifty my students marveled at the fact that their teacher was "half a century!" Enjoy and savor every second on the planet mate! Take many photos and do even more pen and ink, watercolor, pencil works of art as possible! Or of course any art medium of your choice! Collage! Whatever! You and your sister are certainly in for an exciting and wonderful memories filled adventure. Have a grand time!
    So very sorry about your shoulder and back pain! I so hate pain! Arrgggh! I also have chronic back pain! Hang tough buddy! I wish you well!
    I love your daughter's hand made book! Beautiful! Even more beautiful when it is full of art and or writing! Hope she gets the hint and gets you one for your birthday! I also follow Celia's blog. She is another one of our shared great art blogging buddies. Aren't we lucky to have so many wonderful worldwide art friends!
    Thanks again for sharing your art and a bit of what is happening "Down Under!" in your neck of the woods! I hope I wasn't too pushy with my hints for more posts!
    Take care my almost turning fifty and soon to go on a wonderful UK adventure art mate!
    Michael Who Is Constantly On The Lookout For Hummingbirds And More From HIs Little Neck Of The Woods!

    1. Hi Michael, no you weren't too pushy at all - I had been meaning to post for weeks! Yes we are very lucky to have so many wonderful blogging friends, it has opened up a whole new insight into other people's worlds from a distance in a way that can't be done via television!
      Thanks for your consistently enthusiastic encouragement. I imagine all your past students still value the encouragement they got from you back in their school days.
      I must stop mentioning my back so it gets a chance to forget it is sore. It has actually improved quite a lot of late so I'm hopeful I'll see the back of it soon (ooh a pun!). Is your back pain likely to get better Michael or is it a permanent fixture? I hope you can be free of it soon.
      It is in my DNA to take vast amounts of photos so it will be a case of trying to take good quality photos while I'm at it. I still haven't learnt to use my digital SLR camera and continue to rely on its auto setting! A pathetic effort I'm afraid but thankfully the auto setting is still pretty good!
      Your Very Excited To Be Jetting To The Other Side Of The World Soon Art Buddy, Wendy

  2. Your sketches are lovely. So is that notebook your daughter created, (She must take after you!)

    Enjoy your trip. (How exciting!) And a very happy birthday to you, too. Wow, a 5-week trip to the UK to celebrate your 50th... that's what I call doing it up in style.

    1. Thanks so much Susan!
      We are so far away from everywhere here that we must stay for several weeks at least to make the flight over there worth while. From our moment of departure from Perth airport to our touchdown in Dublin - which includes two plane changes and the associated waiting times - around 26 hours will have passed! It is a torturous journey and takes around a week just to get over the jet lag!! I keep hoping someone will hurry up and invent a teleporter!!
      I am so pleased that I discovered your blog, I really enjoy your humorous writing and your great photos and descriptions. I have made a commitment to save your book for the plane - as you can see I will need some entertainment to keep me from going stir-crazy!!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful trip Wendy. Your sketches certainly look good so it will be great to see those from your sketchbook of your holiday

    1. Thanks so much Lorraine! Hopefully I will get some sketches done that are blogworthy!
      I really love the collage work you've been doing lately!

  4. Your daughters book is gorgeous! It is addictive once you make one, you need to make another so I also hope she gets the hint. If not, I will post the link on my blog to the wonderful video which helped me make mine just in case.
    Congratulations on turning 50 this year! The plans for your trip sound exciting, and how wonderful to enjoy time with your sister. You will have a blast together! I hope you do find a way to share some of it along the way with us. I imagine it will be such a different experience from the first time you visited.
    Your illustrations are fantastic and show an incredible skill. I admire your pen work and love how you stopped to sketch these beautiful places. They say a lot more to me than a photograph ever would.
    I'm sorry to hear you are still suffering with a sore back. I hope this trip will provide the well deserved rest and distraction from everything. Wishing you the best!

    1. Thanks for all your encouragement Celia! I fear I didn't make it clear that only the first drawing was sketched from life. The second two were from photos I took while visiting a town here in Australia a few years later. I'm not sure I could have packed in all that detail if I'd done them on location. However, I'll soon see what I can come up with if we do get some sketching time while we're away. We're hoping that this trip will allow for some serious sketching time - it will be a novel activity for both of us. We don't want it to interfere too much with all the things we want to see and do though - it's not every day we get to visit the likes of London!
      I hope you make some more sketch books Celia, it must be very satisfying painting in your hand-made book. I might try my hand at it later in the year and would be interested in getting the link you mentioned. I hope you're enjoying the summer!

  5. Your sketches are great! I wish I was sketching when I backpacked around Europe for 2 summers when I was in my early 20s. I was much more into partying at the time. lol So I think it is great that you did these sketches at that age.

    Your trip sounds wonderful and it is great that your sister sketches too, so she will be a bit more patient than a non-sketcher. That is a great way to celebrate your big day.

    Your daughter's book is very lovely. I like the binding stitch she used. I have made several (including a few ala Cathy Johnson after watching her video). This one has really great papers on the covers. She could sell these. I hope she takes the hint. Enjoy!!

    1. Thanks so much Joan!! It was only the first of the three sketches that I did on my backpacking holiday - I too must have found more exciting things to spend my time on as it was the only one I did in eight months. How nice that you got over to Europe twice in your early twenties! Have you been back since?

      Your blog has been a huge inspiration to me Joan when it comes to sketching on location. You make it look so easy to come up with beautiful artwork while out and about at all those different places but I'm sure it will be harder than it appears! I've so enjoyed seeing that you and your fellow sketchers even sketch while you're out for lunch! It has put ideas into my head of trying to sketch while we are indulging ourselves in traditional Devonshire teas and tucking into scones with jam and cream. Would I dare getting out my sketch book if we end up going to the Savoy or the like for high tea! Ha ha could you imagine it! I can feel my waistline expanding just thinking about all those afternoon teas - of which we plan to indulge in many!! (well I do at least!)

      Do you have any tips to offer for us when it comes to sketching on location?

      I told my daughter that you thought she should be selling her books - I agree with you! Thanks Joan!

    2. Thanks Wendy. It is much more comfortable to sketch your food when at least one other person at the table is doing the same thing. lol I did sketch my lunch of mussels in Ireland, but I painted it after I finished eating. If I am traveling and sketching I think seriously about what I need and don't need with me. Things get heavy after you drag them around for a few hours. I can stand and sketch but much prefer sitting so I have a folding stool that I keep in my backpack. I have a tiny palette that fits in the palm of my hand, a water brush, a travel paintbrush (because you just can't get good darks with a water brush), a few pens...some that bleed and some that don't, pencils, etc. I don't worry about people noticing me any more, I just go with the flow. lol

      One of my friends makes sketchbooks for herself similar to the one your daughter makes. Last year she went to Barcelona for the Urban Sketching Symposium taking outdoor workshops with various instructors. She made small bound "signatures" to use. That way she could take one with her and not worry about the weight or someone stealing her bag with all her sketches since Barcelona has a big problem that way. When she came home she rebound all the signatures into one book.

      Yes, I have been back to Europe several times with my husband in recent years. We've gone to Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Ireland several times. I am pretty good at going off by myself to sketch and didn't hesitate anywhere where we were.

    3. Thanks for all that great advice Joan! Since responding to your first comment I have been talking to my sister on the phone and she blanched when I told her of my idea of sketching at the Savoy - haha! So I think I'd be on my own there!
      I have also been chatting to my daughter and if I get time she will show me how to make my own sketch pad - time might be a bit lean now this side of leaving, but I am feeling inspired to make my own if I can work it in.
      Glad to hear you've been getting across to Europe when you can - you are so close comparatively speaking. I too have been back twice in the intervening years and it is such a thrill each time.

  6. Such a happy and inspiring post Wendy ! Your sketches are great and really show that you just had it in you right from the start , and your daughters sketchbook it awesome, I would love to learn how to bind my own books ! I can fully follow your excitement by visiting Wales, England and Ireland, such gorgeous places with unlimited history and so much to see !

    1. Thanks Jane! I imagine you have visited so many places in Europe - it must be wonderful having so many different cultures right on your doorstep. It is wonderful to see all that history and it's what we love the most as there isn't much in the way of old buildings over here.
      I imagine your garden is looking stunning with summer well under way now!

  7. Wow, Wendy, your drawings are really good, I love them!! Have much, much fun in the UK, Wales and Ireland. Looking forward to your blog posts about your traveling and your new drawings.

  8. Wendy this is a lovely post! How nice to see your pen and ink sketches from years gone by. I love them, even the wonky walls. heh heh. what a nice memory for you to come across. AND how exciting about your upcoming birthday extravaganza!! That sounds simply marvelous. That is a gorgeous little hand bound book that your daughter made, I would be dropping hints too if I was you:) She's a talented gal.
    I'm looking forward to reading about your fun!

  9. Your sketches are wonderful Wendy, they have a lovely looseness and the detail is amazing!! How exciting to be going on holiday with your sister, I'll be looking forward to some blog posts!! Turning 50yrs isn't so bad, it's when you get to the next decade it gets a bit more serious! Hope you have a very Happy Birthday:)

  10. Dear Wendy - I so love these pen and ink are very talented my friend. There is always something very impressive to me in just line and yours are wonderful - can't wait to see what you will produce from your travels with your sister. Have a lovely day.

  11. Beautiful sketches, Wendy! Even the first one with the 'wonky walls' - it is lovely and loose. The detail in the other two is amazing. Like Debbie I will look forward to seeing any sketches you bring back from your holiday.

  12. Love your drawings and the first one is my fav. It looks true. The others are very accomplished and as you said, more controlled.
    Your trip will be incredible and to do it with your sister makes it evenore special.
    Take a Moleskin book with you as well as the home made one. For drawing they can't be beat. You will find your self reaching for one or the other depending on the view.
    Looking forward to seeing what you bring back. Happy Trails!

  13. Your drawings are wonderful! And how exciting to take a long trip to the UK with your sister! I think I'll mention that to my own sister! It will be full of memories for the two of you to always treasure, Wendy! I can't wait to see your drawings from there and read about your adventures!

  14. Love the sketches Wendy. Your drawing skills are fabulous. Not long now to your trip and how lucky that both of you sketch. Your daughter did a great job with the sketchbook. Hope she gets the hint. :-)

  15. Astounding drawings and lovely book by your daughter. Actually the news of making it to 50 would be pretty good news in Shakespeare's time. The poor guy did all of that and died at 52. So good for you! How wonderful to be going to the UK to spend time with your sister. I wouldn't worry about wonky walls, the drawings are superb. XOXOXOXOXO Barbara