AnneLawsonArt My art work

How does drawing teapots become drawing spirals?

You know me by now….I like to jump around from project to project. So instead of finishing my painting for the exhibition I decided to paint teapots. I have painted them before, and from that my friend Liz lent me one of hers to paint. I love its sensuous curves, and the wide belly looked like it would be good to experiment with watercolour washes.

Liz’s wonderful teapot.

So off I went and created these two paintings. The photos show them with the original drawing.

However I wasn’t happy with the proportions of the original drawing, so more paper and more drawing. I began with spirals, to help form the elliptic shape of the pot.

Working out the proportions by using spirals (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I did pottery many years ago (and would love to return to it). My teacher showed me how to make a teapot, and I remember him telling me about the spout. The end of it has to be higher than the lid and to attach it we cut off the side of the pot. I used those ideas to help me ‘sculpt’ the drawing.

Spirals on the spout! (Copyright: Anne Lawson2016)

While I was understanding more, I still wasn’t happy. More paper, more drawing. Some geometry, some measuring, and some understanding of angles. One trick I have learnt is to think of angles as a clock face. It helped me to see that the line of the spout went at about where the 5 is on a clock.

My drawing started with the complete pot and went in a clockwise direction around the page. (Copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

Now I was more confident that I understood the pot and could draw it more accurately.

(Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

The next step was to trace the outline of the drawing ~ this makes it easy to transfer onto good watercolour paper for the painting. Now that I am looking at this simple line drawing I wonder if I haven’t made the belly of the pot, under the spout, too wide. I will notice more inconsistencies as I paint.

Simple line drawing on tracing paper (Image and photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

Lastly I did a tonal drawing. This is a map of the dark areas and highlights. Drawings like this are an invaluable reference tool, helping give the painting a 3D effect. To make it I put another piece of tracing paper over the line drawing and started to really look at where the darks and lights are. You will see that I left the highlights white, because when I do the painting I have to remember to leave these areas the white of the paper. It is the darkest darks that add oomph to the drawing. Often artists are too scared to go as dark as is necessary. I haven’t done a very good job of modelling the belly of the pot, but there is enough there to help me understand some of the tonal complexities.

Tonal drawing to map out the darks and lights on the pot. (Image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I love working my way through drawings like this. It reminds me how lazy I can be, with my first attempt being ‘good enough’. Until, as I painted and realised that it wasn’t good enough, because I had been listening to that lazy part of my brain that says “It is a teapot. You know what a teapot looks like. It looks like this….” The problem with this process is that I don’t take the time to really look and analyse. Where is the edge of the lid in relation to the foot? The top of the spout to the top of the handle? What angle does this line take? Is the pot as tall as it is wide? (Actually it is wider.) Where would the spout attach? How does the handle attach?

So, instead of drawing a teapot I ended up drawing lines and angles and spirals and negative spaces. Now I am intrigued to see what the painting looks like. I will certainly let you know!


Melbourne My art work

My sketchbook — Yarraville, North Melbourne and the Incinerator

Some pages from my sketchbook….

The first are of the Incinerator Gallery in Moonee Ponds. You can tell by the name that originally it was an incinerator. It is a special because it was designed by Walter Burley Griffin. Many will know that he designed Canberra, the capital city of Australia, so it is always a surprise to know that he designed humble buildings like incinerators. I recently found out that the one near me is not the only one of his in Australia.

It has strong lines and is a fabulous mix of flat planes and sharp angles, simple surfaces and intricate detail. It was some of those contrasts that I was attempting to capture in my sketches.

I first went down there with coloured pencils.

I liked what I did, but felt that it lacked spontaneity. I was approached by a woman as I sat sketching. She asked me if I was there for the talk. I said no, knowing nothing about it. She went on to tell me that there was a free talk in the gallery about women artists in the Impressionist movement. I finished the sketch and went inside. It was a fascinating talk, and I have signed up for the rest in the series. 🙂

I went back another day (no talk this time!), just with my Lamy pen and tried to capture some of the detail. You can see how that pattern is found in the odd angles of the roofline, as well as on the chimney. To sketch the building I have to break it up into sections; the whole is difficult to put successfully on the page.

The next two are more examples of how I am finding it difficult to fit the whole onto the page — although, I hasten to add that the statue in the first sketch was never intended to be part of the garden area at the back. I did her first, and them wandered onto find the view of the trees. The face of the nymph makes me understand how much work I have to do on faces too!

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015

As the notes on this North Melbourne page say, I thought I would have room for the whole of the terrace house. As I was drawing I realised that I was only going to fit in the top story and chimney. I think I need more guide lines in my initial setup. A little more time looking and comparing.

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015

I drew these plants while standing in the sunshine in my garden. Each one is a simple line carried through the drawing. Compositionally the ivy geranium helps to give a horizontal movement and leads your eye from one page to the other.

I was very happy with this last sketch, created while sitting having coffee outside the Sun Theatre in Yarraville. As the notes say, I loved the contrast between the curved brickwork and the flat plane of the paper stencil of the lady shopping, the old and the new, the red of the bricks and the black/white of the stencil. I also really loved the homage to the shopping lady with her middle-aged spread!

Artistically I was trying to show the detail of the bricks without drawing every brick.

Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
Image and art work copyright: Anne Lawson 2015
My art work

Another outing for my homemade sketchbook and a special surprise for you

My little handmade sketchbook went to the exhibition of Jean Paul Gaultier‘s creations at the NGV, along with many, many other people. However, I managed to find a couple of odd corners to sketch in. (If you intend to see the exhibition, hurry, as it closes this Saturday.)

So many people at the exhibition! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
So many people at the exhibition! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

His creations are amazing, and I hope to post photos soon. In regards to sketching, I was interested in the folds and lines of his work. What I sketched was also limited by where I could stand without being buffeted by people. Also his later works were way too complicated for me to capture in a quick sketch.

I have been going on a bit lately about my sketchbook [thank you to all of you who have written positive comments about it] because I am delighted with the whole idea of making sketchbooks with odds and ends of paper. So happy about it that I have a cunning plan. As Black Adder says, “I have a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a weasel”. But firstly let me show you a couple of other little books I have made.

Miss C and Miss B came for the day last week and were delighted to have their own little books. They chose the paper for the front cover, and then added their own flourishes.

In return Miss C made me a pair of earrings. 🙂


So to my cunning plan. I would like to make a little book for you to sketch in. Lots of people tell me that they would love to draw, but don’t know how, or feel that they can’t or haven’t the time or any of a trillion other reasons. Well, I would like to present you with your own little sketchbook, because drawing is not only great fun, but relaxing.

It is not a book to be precious about. While other journal-type books are wonderful to use, they can be intimidating. What if I make a mistake? What if the lines are wonky? What if I can’t draw as well as other people can? This little book won’t care what you put in it. It likes doodles or portraits or thumbnail sketches; it likes pencil or ink or coloured pencils or watercolour; it likes things being stuck on it such as tickets or wrapping paper; it loves going outside, but is perfectly happy to stay inside with you, helping you draw your toast or your comfy slippers.

Okay, not everybody is a sketcher or even a wanna-be sketcher. I get that, sort of. [Although is it just your inner critic telling you that you would be crap at it?] Maybe you are itching to have a little book for writing in. Ideas for your next story. Words that make your heart sing. Snatches of conversations on the tram. Stories that will fit onto a small page. My little books love any sort of creative passion.

Each one will be different, depending on what I feel like adding. The one I am using is 12 x 17 cm, so yours would be around the same size. Great for slipping into your bag or pocket.  I can also tell you that each little book will have 4 sheets of paper folded in half (16 pages to write or draw on) and some of those sheets will have half-finished odds and ends of my work. Do what you like with them. Leave them there and use another page. Incorporate it into your own drawing. Draw over the top of it. Whatever you want to do.

Have I convinced you that you would love to have one of my little books? Shoot me an email at with your address and I will make one for you and post it off. It’s that easy. There is no pressure to show me (or anyone else) what you create, but  of course if you want to show me I would be delighted to see. Hope to hear from you very soon.


Artists Melbourne My art work

An outing for my homemade sketchbook

Before I show you what I sketched, let me tell you about the exhibition where I sketched.

Outer Circle: The Boyds and the Murrumbeena artists shows the work of members  of the Boyd family, one of Australia’s artistic dynasties. The Boyd name pops up in many areas of art. On the wall of the exhibition is a large family tree and against each name is their artistic pursuit. This was the list:

  • writer
  • painter
  • potter (lots of these!)
  • photographer
  • sculptor
  • musician
  • architect

The odd ones out were a naval officer and a social worker! Robin Boyd was Australia’s premier modernist architect, Martin Boyd a novelist and Penleigh painted the most beautiful watercolours.  However, the strongest branch stemmed from Merric Boyd.

Merric was a potter and established a pottery at his property “Open Country” in Murrumbeena, then a village of Melbourne.  Colin Smith’s pamphlet The Boyd walk describes the area:

By the time Merric Boyd arrived in the area [1913], this village boasted two estate agents, a laundry, a fruit shop, bookmaker and newsagent. To its south lay the market gardens of East Bentleigh, and to the north, open paddocks and scrub. The east was open country, and beyond it, the township of Oakleigh.

I found this engaging snapshot from Colin Smith’s pamphlet:

Murrumbeena provided Merric with the resources he required to make pottery, including space to construct a studio and kiln, and good clay deposits. It also had a hansom cab service operated by Mr Grey from the front of Murrumbeena Station in Neerim Road. His horse was watered from a trough in front of Billy T Motors on the southern side of Neerim Road. During the 1920s and 30s, Merric and his wife Doris would be picked up from their Wahroongaa Crescent home by Mr Grey and dropped off at the station to catch a city train. Carrying cases packed with Merric’s valuable pottery, they would walk the city to stores like Georges, and Mair and Lyon, who sold his pottery to collectors, many of them wealthy, who appreciated the quality and originality of Merric’s work.

His son, Arthur, became one of Australia’s most famous artists, especially as a painter. However, he was also a very talented potter and some of his pottery is in the exhibition.

“Open Country” was one of those places where creativity was nurtured and therefore thrived. An amazing array of talented artists were attracted to it, artists who were at the forefront of modernist art in Australia — Albert Tucker, Danilla Vasillieff, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and John Perceval, who married Arthur’s sister Mary. These artists were also frequent visitors to Sunday and John Reid’s house at Heide, and there was a great deal of discussion and exploration of ideas across the two communities.

It’s an interesting exhibition, and worth visiting if you get the chance. I came away from it with feeling very fond of Merric Boyd. Apparently he drew prolifically and older residents in Murrumbeena remember him walking the streets with his sketchbook and pencils. He would set himself up on a fence or a nature strip and draw. Apparently he kept his pencils in his socks! He often gave away his drawings.

So, back to my little homemade sketchbook. I was attracted to the pottery, wanting to capture the lines and shapes. The size of the sketchbook was just right to stand beside the jugs and bowls and sketch. It rested in the palm of my hand but still gave me enough paper to catch what I wanted to. It fitted nicely into my bag, an important point when you are walking around all day.

You can tell that I was happy to draw over and around the older images on the paper. It helped me feel less precious about the paper. Later at home I added the water to blend the ink a little more. Next time I will take the water brush with me to add those details on the spot. Also, many of the lines are wonky and the proportions are skewed. But it doesn’t matter. My eye improved as I drew more, I had fun standing sketching and I smile to myself when I think that the lines of the jugs were not perfect either!

I am forming a plan at the moment that will involve sketchbooks and those of you who would like to begin their sketching journey. Stay tuned!

My art work

My new, handmade sketchbook, and some other sketchbooks too.

I love books. I love their smell, their promise of adventure into a new world, and how they feel, weighted in my hand. I especially love notebooks and especially, especially sketchbooks. They have thick white pages that beg to be marked.

I am currently sketching in a Strathmore Art Journal, 400 series. It has 48 pages of watercolour paper. I love holding it. I love the sound of the pens across its paper. It takes watercolour washes well, as it should. I am still coming to terms with the rectangular format. It makes me plan my pages. Otherwise they end up looking a little higgledy piggledy, and I don’t like that. And it fits nicely into my bag.

An earlier sketchbook was one of those visual art diaries. It travelled overseas with me. I doodled in it, practised Celtic braids and Art Nouveau patterns in it, stuck wrapping paper in it and doodled from there and recorded small events while we travelled in Alice the Caravan. Higgledy piggledy was fine and encouraged. But the paper was only cartridge, and went funny when I tried to use watercolour on it. I loved the freedom of that sketchbook. Somehow my current one, the Strathmore, doesn’t allow doodling.

For much of last year I worked in a Hand.Book (That’s the brand name.) I really enjoyed its square format. If I wanted to I could divide each page up further and do little drawings. Only occasionally did I work across both pages. It has heavier paper that took watercolour so well but ordinary pencil smudged easily. That was okay, as it made me use pen. Pen doesn’t allow rubbing out, so I had to be sure of the lines I put down. It developed my confidence in my hand/eye co-ordination.

I decided that this sketchbook needed a fancy cover, so I glued on a piece of freeform knitting a crocheting I had lying around. I also included a handkerchief ~ clean, of course! ~ that had a special meaning for me.

So that’s where I have been and where I am. I have other sketchbooks that I use in other ways, and I will tell you about them some other time. My next sketchbook will be different.

I have been quite envious of sketchers like Roz Stendhal who speak about making their own sketchbooks and journals. One of my Pinterest boards is a collection of bookbinding ideas and sites. Making my own sketchbook was up there on my list of projects. Then I had this brain wave. I could make a sketchbook using papers of drawings and paintings I had rejected  ~ and there were quite a few of them! The backs of them were usable, and the painting might only have been a little mushroom or a colour swatch. I was so carried away that I was up at 2 o’clock the other morning punching holes in the paper! This is the result ~ and I have plenty more paper to make more, maybe bigger ones!

Front cover of my first handmade sketchbook  (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
Front cover of my first handmade sketchbook
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

I like the idea of some pages already having something on them. I can sketch and doodle around them or even over them without having to fret about stuffing up a precious new page of “good” paper.

It didn’t take much ~ odds and ends of paper and a few sheets of new paper from a sketch book, thread that I have miles of, a thick sewing needle and the needle from the sewing machine. This was sharp enough to pierce the paper to make the original holes.

Now the fun begins in using it. I have a plan for its first outing. Wait and see.

My art work

Coffee and cake — outdoor sketching

I am stepping out of my comfort zone and sketching in public. At this stage it is still discrete sketching. I am not up to sitting on the footpath madly sketching away! This was latte and cheesecake at the cafe that is not Brunetti’s in the Nova Cinema complex.

As I sat there, drawing in ink, I let the conversations around me drift in and out of my head. I did pick up on the waitress saying to me “That’s fantastic” as she whizzed by with a pile of dirty dishes. That made me feel good.

Drawing the cheesecake made me eat it more slowly!

The paint was added at home.


My art work

Outdoor sketching

As promised, a couple of pages from my sketchbook. The homework brief (from Liz Steel’s online sketching course, Foundations) was to use rooftops to compare the set-up I needed for a sketch.

The first one took me a little out of my comfort zone, in that I had to be sketching out of doors. It is one of those things that is more difficult in thought than action. Like going to a party where I may only know a few people. It is the thought of it that makes me nervous, once I am there I am fine. Once my sketchbook was out I was happy to stand there. I do have to admit that “standing there” was over the other side of the railway line from the house. It still feels a little intrusive to blatantly stand drawing in front of someone’s house. (I would love to know what you would think if you saw someone standing, sketching, outside your house.)

As for the artwork….well, I was drawing, and that always makes me happy. My aim was to only have a few initial lines, drawn in Indian Red pencil, the most important lines needed to create the drawing. You can see them under the ink and they completed my set-up. I had an idea of where the drawing would be going. As I drew with the ink, using my brand new Lamy pen, I was able to restate some lines and add in features such as the chimney. It was obvious that some of the proportions were out, but it didn’t affect my pleasure in the  drawing.

The original red pencil lines with the ink lines over. (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
The original red pencil lines with the ink lines over. (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

As I walked home I thought about how I would continue with it. I decided to use coloured pencil. The ink I am using is not waterproof, so any paint would smudge those original lines. This is how it ended up, perhaps a little too fussy. You can also see where I worked out the actual angle of the roofline.

The finished page. that's my new yellow Lamy fountain pen. I chose yellow so that I could find it more easily! (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
The finished page. That’s my new yellow Lamy fountain pen. I chose yellow so that I could find it more easily! (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

The second go at rooftops was to not use any pencil lines for the set-up. Before I began I had a conversation with myself noting which geometric shape each plane of the roof was. I still made assumptions. I assumed that the front triangle was an equilateral one. As I was not face on it couldn’t have been. But I was pleased I was painting the shapes I was seeing, using my hand-eye co-ordination and not relying on pencil. It made it a much more spontaneous painting. You can see that later I used pencil to work out the angles of the eaves.

Rooftops, this time only using paint (except for a little pen help with the windows). (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
Rooftops, this time only using paint (except for a little pen help with the windows). (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

I was very pleased that I painted it sitting on the grass by the oval, looking at the new housing with all the interesting rooflines. Again, enjoying finding the place in myself to be in the moment.

After I had made my notes there was a corner of the spread left blank. So I painted in the candle holders, again just by painting their shapes. Just going for it.

Candle holders. (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)
Candle holders. (Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2015)

The finished spread.

(Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
(Photo and image copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

Which set-up did I feel happier with? The pencil set-up, even with only a few guide lines feels very comfortable. I need to understand the angles better, to be more thoughtful about where lines are going, but I know I can do it. The other, paint straight onto the paper is much more of a high-wire act, and therefore more challenging. So it’s the set-up that I want to do more of. And do it outside too!

My art work


When I worked full-time there was little time to be creative. Even when there were free hours I was often mentally exhausted and craved passive reading or TV watching. I kept up some creative efforts by going to weekly classes. I always vowed that I would practise during the week, but most of the time I didn’t. When retirement came along I knew that I would love it. I was made for retirement!

While I stil fritter away time, I have so much more of it. One of the things I love to do is creative play. Botanic art is my foundation. It is an art form that is controlled and detailed, usually working on small areas. Now I have had time to explore in other ways, to play with watercolour paint, mixing colours, making washes, learning that often wonderful art comes from the unexpected, uncontrolled.

I have blogged about both forms of my art, the Cullen palladium that I painted for the exhibition and the limpet shells and oyster shells.

Today I wanted to tell you about another challenge of my artistic life, my sketching. When I first started drawing as an adult I drew regularly. It was a practise that really helped my artistic hand-eye co-ordination. For some reason — time? TV? — I stopped. Now I have taken it up again, but I don’t sketch as regularly as I would like.

I have always loved sketchbooks, their fluid drawings, their exploration of ideas, their colour and vibrancy. Don’t you love to look at sketchbooks of artists, professional or other wise? Turner’s sketchbook on display at a recent exhibition of his work was a treasure. I have a Pinterest board devoted to other people’s sketchbooks, my version of eye-candy!

A sketch book from his very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.
A sketch book from Turner’s very extensive collection. He was a prolific artist, and seemed to have a sketch book ready to use at all times.

For about a year I have been a semi-regular sketchbooker. I have had help from online courses. One was Sketchbook Skool, an initiative of two wonderful, but very different, sketchers — Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene. They have brought together a range of talented artists to tutor the courses. Some I had “met” online, some were new to me. All were inspiring and definitely worth the price of the course.

Liz Steel is another sketching artist who is a great inspiration. I am about half-way through  her course, Foundations and I am very impressed with her through preparation for each lesson. As the name implies her lessons are designed to give the basics, the foundations, for drawing confidently out of doors. So far we have explored edges and volume, contour drawings and blind drawing. She has encouraged us to understand my equipment better — I have even done a colour mixing chart in my book! For each lesson there are written materials, videos, PDFs and homework challenges. Liz generously gives more of her time to answer questions and offer advice.

One of my sketching challenges is to take my sketchbook out into the world. Actually, that should read “to take my sketchbook out while I am in the real world”! Sitting on the couch and drawing the things I see in front of me is easy. Sitting outside and drawing the things I see in front of me is much more difficult. My challenge is to get myself out of that comfort zone.

Liz’s homework has been a big help. Like all good homework the exercises are to help understand the concepts covered. One part of the homework is inside, but the other part is an outside task, such as drawing letterboxes or my front door. And you are going to help me meet that challenge too. I am going to post my outside sketches here, and I know that you will be positive and supportive, even of the wonky lines!

I will leave you with some outside sketches from the last few months. Remember there will be more to come!