Urban Sketchers Adventure in Sydney, Australia!

Expressive Urban Sketching Workshop – Cockatoo Island with Liz Steel and Paul Wang – by Uma Viswanathan

Last month I traveled to Australia for the first time, took part in Liz Steel and Paul Wang’s Expressive Urban Sketching workshop, and had the chance to meet and draw with the wonderful members of the Australian Urban Sketchers (USK) group. Any one of these experiences would have made for an unforgettable trip but I was lucky enough to have all three!

I’m a lifelong artist who loves to travel and is new to Urban Sketching. When Marc Taro Holmes posted a notice on the Urban Sketchers Montreal blog about the Expressive Urban Sketching workshop by Liz Steel and Paul Wang on Cockatoo Island, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to finally see Australia. (http://urbansketchersmontreal.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/announcing-liz-steel-and-paul-wang-workshop-in-sydney/)

In taking the workshop I hoped to learn some new techniques and develop a more spontaneous approach to my work in Urban Sketching (I already knew I would have fun!).

In addition to the techniques and exercises expertly imparted to us by Liz and Paul involving mark-making, colour, and creating a focal point in a drawing, some key points I took from the workshop were:

–       There is no judgment at Urban Sketchers or in the workshop

–       No one is allowed to call themselves ‘hopeless’

–       USK is all about sharing one’s work

–       Ask yourself: Can you get your sketchbook out in 10 seconds or less? (My answer was No –time to ditch the backpack!)


The site of Cockatoo Island (http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/) was ideal for the workshop in terms of its location and its rich assortment of subject matter – as a tourist it was one of the places I likely would have missed, had I not been enrolled in the workshop.


A huge thank-you to Liz and Paul for a fantastic workshop – I felt very inspired and encouraged by your instruction. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to take another one with you in the future. I’d also like to thank all the workshop participants and USK members I met for their warm welcome to both their sketching group and to Australia. I’m looking forward to sketchcrawling with all of you again, hopefully very soon!


2 Replies to “Urban Sketchers Adventure in Sydney, Australia!”

  1. I was new to Urban Sketching too, so like you was keen to see how Liz and Paul and the group would express the wonderful industrial landscape of Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour!
    It was great getting the sketch book out amongst the group and then sharing the results.
    My takeaways were having a focal point and stopping where the story ends – not necessarily where the surrounding buildings end –
    And how paint is not a colour – its a medium to create effects –
    Loved meeting you Uma – Till next time 🙂

    1. Hi Linda, I agree – creating (and maintaining!) a focal point is key, and something I hadn’t necessarily been doing in my sketches before the workshop. I also loved the exercises we did with the paint and I refer often to the “Creative Matrix” of tools, mediums, and techniques that Paul and Liz had us create. It was great to meet you as well –I look forward to seeing you again too! 🙂

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