Urban sketching in australia

Urban Sketching in Australia

In December 2019 – January 2020 I travelled to a few cities in Australia. Take a sneak peek at how I filled my sketchbook along the way. I hope this inspires you to get out there and sketch!


Flinders Street Station is an incredible building in Melbourne.  As soon as I saw a photo of it I knew it would be my priority to sketch it.  It didn’t disappoint in real life.  We braved the searing 46-degree heat of this particular day to get a glimpse of some of the Melbourne sights.  Luckily enough we stayed in the area long enough to visit the city a few more times when it was not quite so hot, including getting tattoos at the Melbourne Tattoo Company.  When in Melbourne….!

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

One of the really cool things we came across is the free city tram which looks old school and just does a loop around the city.  They run in opposite directions and turn up every 20 minutes or so. It’s a great way to get from one side of the city centre to the other.  There is a commentary telling you about the city but its not loud enough for how busy the tram was when we were on it, so we couldn’t here.  It’s such a great thing to have these old-style trams for free, we were big fans.  I had to draw it of course.


Driving into Sydney, across the harbour bridge and catching my first glimpse of the opera house was a magical moment.  I just never thought I would really have the opportunity to visit Australia, so I was pretty excited to see the famous sights I’ve only see in photos.

A few days after we arrived, on Boxing Day, we got to have a proper walk around the city, starting from Luna Park, which I was desperate to sketch the moment I saw it.

Luna Park, Sydney, Australia

From the park we walked across the bridge down to the opera house – I was so excited to see it in real life and from every angle – you just can’t appreciate its form until you see it in real life.  This was a real highlight of the trip for me. So, yes, of course, I sketched it…I want to try many more sketches but this is the first and only version currently.

Sydney Opera House, Urban sketching in Australia

On a separate day, we took a drive to the most northern part of the city, to Palm Beach.  We parked the car near the beach and took a walk up to the Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse.  As you climb the hill you can look down at the coastline and the distinctive hammerhead shape of the land.  The whole Palm Beach area is very nice…the houses (mansions with ocean views) are incredible, this is certainly where the richer inhabitants of Sydney live!

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We only had one day to see some of Canberra. We went to the Australian War Memorial first.

It’s a huge and extremely impressive museum.  Even if you’re not into military history I think you can appreciate how incredible this museum is.  It seems to be one of the top sights in Canberra and you could easily spend an entire day (or two) here.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Secondly, we went to have a nosey at Parliament House.  Luckily it was open so we could actually go in.  If you stand in front of the “new” Parliament House and look behind you, down the hill is the “old” Parliament House which has been repurposed into the Museum of Australian Democracy. 

The “new” Parliament House is built into the hillside!  There’s grass on the roof.  I like it!  If you stand on the roof and look across the city you can certainly see the wheel and spoke design of the roads, its a pretty cool view.  I opted for a paint-only approach below, no heavy black outlines, I was happy with the result.

Parliament House, Canberra

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Great Ocean Road

Torquay is the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road.  Our first stop was Point Impossible beach, little did I know that I navigated us to the nude-y beach, oops!  After that, we drove through town to Bell’s Beach, where (apparently) the closing scene of Point Break was filmed.

Sketching a beach scene is not my strong point, however, I am super happy with how this turned out.  I thought I would get a little help on how best to approach the subject matter, so I turned to the universal teacher…YouTube.

I came across the vide below by British artist, Charles Evans.

It really helped me try to achieve a somewhat convincing scene.  I drew some minimal outlines in pencil and then went straight to paint.  I had to hide my pens…the temptation to start doing a pen drawing was huge.

Bells Beach, Torquay, Great Ocean Road

I was so happy with how the paint first, or even paint-only approach worked out on the sketch of Bells Beach that I decided to do it my next sketch that way too, and I am happier with how this sketch turned out.  This is the Memorial Arch in Eastern view on the road between Torquay and Lorne. 

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Urban sketching in australia

Our second day of travels started with a visit to Cape Otway Lighthouse. The drive to the lighthouse was amazing. Once at the lighthouse area, we paid for tickets and in the grounds there is this cool monument to a shipwreck which I sketched below. This whole coast is known for its multiple shipwrecks and there is a big map listing how many and the ship names in each of the areas that we would be visiting along the Great Ocean Road.

After a bit of walking and braving the extreme winds, we made it to the lighthouse which I have sketched below.  This is the oldest working lighthouse in Australia and considered a significant landmark.  Apparently it’s an excellent point for whale watching too. 

After the lighthouse, we moved on to the even more famous landmark, the Twelve Apostles, which are famously not twelve anymore, more like four.  They have eroded over the years, one of them is almost about to disappear, it’s just a little stump now.

Situated in Mt. Dandenong area of Victoria, in the greater vicinity of Melbourne, the William Ricketts Sanctuary contains approximately 90 sculptures, mainly from the trees and rocks, by artist William Ricketts.  The sculptures feature aboriginals and aboriginal philosophy.  The artist spent time living among aboriginals and encouraged Australians to become more in tune with Mother Nature. Some of his pieces also acknowledge the desecration and stealing of the land by the white settlers.

It’s a really moving place, yet also somewhere tranquil and serene to spend some time.  It’s free entry and you can spend as long as you like. There’s a small hut within the sanctuary that plays a 20 min film which tells you more about the artist, William Ricketts.  You can also see some works in progress that he never finished.

Here are a few of my sketches of the sculptures:

William Ricketts Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia
William Ricketts Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia

If you would like to join an urban sketching group in Australia, you can find one here.

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