Purple Jacarandas and Green Trees



Hello’ it’s Christy here. Erin would be joining us a little later this morning, and so to get started I met with the sketchers at the studio before heading to the first sketching point, the Jacaranda tree nestled in a side road across from the studio.

We had a cheerful lot today, 9 in total, as we headed for the Jacaranda tree, which we found standing proudly in all it’s purple glory. This particular tree, if you look closely at the sketches, is equipped with what looks like a ‘bird box’! Later Erin let us know that it was in fact a ‘Possum box’, which the human neighbours’ had put up to entice the furry creatures from their roof. Alas, the roof was preferred …even though this cute little ‘Possum box’ did look very inviting.

Thursday 2

We had several in the class today who were starting watercolour paints for the first time. Yay!  So with a brief demonstration, about how to wet our paints first, then drawing colour into the little palate area, before heading for the page. We saw to mixing the ‘Rose and Cerulean’ which made for perfect Jacaranda blossom, in varying shades, and everyone was well on their way to producing truly beautiful sketches. We remembered the principles of keeping white space down the edges, and of course making sure we work with a clean brush between colours, so as not to muddy our layering. I think everyone, especially those who produced their first watercolour sketch, did remarkable work.

We were coming to a close on the first sketches, when Erin joined us, and with her lovely company, and input, I’ll hand over to her to let you know how the rest of our day went…

Thursday 3

Yes it’s Erin here now.

I can see everyone sitting on the edge of the road, studying the beautiful Jacaranda. The ones who were first time watercolorists were having a lovely time. Christy had given great instruction on how to get started already.

Next on our plan is to walk a few steps into to Ivanhoe Botanical Gardens and find 5 trees or shrubs with differing shapes. The idea is to note its intrinsic shape and to get that info onto your page. In other words what is the difference between a palm tree and a eucalypt tree?  What is the trunk shape? What is the leaf shape? Is it tall or wide or pointed. By seeing this and sketching what you see, you can quickly show the tree style in a few lines.

This is a very serene and quiet place to be, despite the fact that you have an enormously busy main road within meters of you. You simply don’t hear it. You hear birds instead.

The tree sketches all take shape and none look like apple trees. Just as well. There aren’t any.

Everyone actually did 5 sketches even if colour wasn’t applied to all. Not a problem.

Thursday 4

Further on down the pathway we go past the bowlers competing against a visiting team and the little chortles as someone seems to be scoring well.

Past the Oval where Saturday’s cricket game will be played and out the far gate to Cafe La Bas. Cynthia is most welcoming as we all file in, some of us quivering through lack of caffeine. They do an excellent coffee which restores us to being normal humans again.

Most people sit at the big communal table and some are at the outdoors ones. Lunch is ordered and happy munching takes over. We look at the colour we have used for our 5 trees and decide in most cases a touch of red – yes red, will pop the colour. Plus a little yellow where outer leaves glow in the sun. When you get used to observing green trees, you’ll begin to see all the 4 main colours there, even if its just a hint. But it gives your sketch balance instead of looking all too green.

What a happy group we are. Much laughing and bantering takes place and we are all getting to know each other well now.

Thursday 5


Friday 1


Grey skies look a little ominous early in the morning, but good ol’ Sydney doesn’t let us down and rain.

It’s Christy and I today. A big class and we can give everyone more help if we work together. Our whole lesson is outside.  There we all are sitting on the edge of the street paying homage to one of the last jacarandas still covered in delicate bell like blooms. More like a lavender cloud than anything else.

Friday 2

A little girl wearing a ballet leotard walks with her Mother towards us. She is immediately fascinated to see all these grownups sitting on the ground painting. ‘What are you painting?’ she asks Tiere and settles down beside her to get a better look. The 2 of of them have a chat before Mum decides maybe its time to go. Big kids and little kids everywhere love to be involved with paint.

Friday 3

With our watercolours we mix a little cerulean and permanent rose to get as close to that ‘jacaranda ‘ colour as possible. On the trunks we use yellow ochre, then cad red and a little ultramarine dripped into it. Not brown.

The colours really lift when you use 2 or 3 together like this.

All the sketches are a delight and many include the red possum box which give it a sense of fun. Colour is an essential part of your travel sketch. That quick dash of colour over a few well placed lines. Let it be just that.  Try to let it take its own shape and not to make it ‘perfect’. Free yourself up. Take away all those expectations of what it ‘should be’.

Friday 4

Down we go into the tranquil Ivanhoe Park. Being here brings out the calm in one. A sense of peace. Take in the beauty. Observe your 5 different tree shapes and see what it is that makes each one different. We are looking for more colour now. What else is there apart from green? We think for a minute and notice the blues, caramels and ochres, the hints of red and purple, and a speck or two of yellow. This brings the whole sketch to life.

Coffee addicts are ready to get on down the hill. By golly we deserve this. Cynthia is onto the orders straight away. and Emre gets our coffee going. We once again take over the whole cafe and await our coffees and tasty lunches. Most people add a little more colour to their tree sketches now that they have looked at them freshly.

Friday 5

There is an amazing Turkish chandelier light fitting above the big table. It has multi coloured glass mosaics as shades which drop in a semi circle above our heads. It’s a fascination to some and several sketches are done.

Once again Christy does the pics just before it’s time to leave, and another lovely relaxing day has taken place.

Friday 6




It’s Erin again. Oh my goodness, this morning when I looked outside, it was completely fog bound. Or so one thought till sniffing the air. Smoke. Drifting in from another bushfire. That golden smokey sun again. The bushfire sun.

Walking to the Studio there is still a smokey smell but it’s lifting. How will the Jacaranda look through this haze?

A couple of the girls are quite early so I have them start a small white rose sketch. It’s good for them to have a time limit and sketch to fit the time available, and both do well.

We are moving most people into watercolours today so a quick demo of how to begin is important. Wet each colour to dampen and have it ready for when you want that colour.  All colour is mixed in the palette above not between colours and certainly not straight onto the page. Keep colour pure and clean. Keep brush washed between each change of colour. It’s a hanging offence to leave your brush in the water pot. Look after your little brush and you’ll have it forever. These can’t be replaced.

We all walk to the green space where the Jacaranda looks as lovely as ever. Once we’re all settled on the ground its a matter of seeing where to place your tree on your sketchbook page. So lets measure the height. I use my handspan. Two handspans high. Three handspans wide.

We can start with the trunk and get the twisty branches in place. Actually we can use colour to indicate the blooms on the tree. We won’t need any lines there.

Very lovely colour and some terrific watercolour effects.

We wander down the steps and pathway into Ivanhoe Park. People comment how gorgeous it is here, and the birdsong is deafening. Most people are unaware of this little haven. This quiet and calming little place.

Our five trees begin taking shape. Observing the trunk shape, the branches and leaves will tell you all you need to know about the differing designs. Now for the colour. When using watercolour on your sketch, you need to use the 4 base colours. Red, yellow, blue, green. Not all in the same amounts, for instance green trees. You’ll be using green of course, but you also be adding the 3 other colours in tiny amounts to stop it looking tooooooo green.


We decide to make our way the see Cynthia and Emre at Cafe La Bas. The minute my foot is in the door they start making my flat white. I know I should be polite and make sure everyone has ordered and is taken care of first – but I could fall over without my coffee infusion and then I couldn’t teach you anything!

Our big table is waiting and we all get seated and our orders placed. I’m really impressed that everyone completes their tree sketches and a cafe sketch. I do a coffee cup demo and use water colour to show how strong colours layered on to give loose look, but also a sense of roundness. The others have a go and with colour added, a lovely memory of today.

Next week we’ll be sketching something everybody gets confused about. But you’ll see how they rise to the challenge. Until then, have a good sketching week.



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