Cockatoo Island Sketching Adventure. Term 1 Finale.

Cockatoo Island. Thursday


“Hello, its Christy here” and you’re joining us on our last class of term, our trip to Cockatoo Island!

If you were like me, and had never had the pleasure of visiting this amazing little island nestled rather secretively in the city waterways before, you’d have been immensely excited and treating this like a little bit of an adventure or a holiday away!

Those of us who departed on the Manly ferry, made our way to the front where outside seating is available, because we all know it’s a lovely way to start your first sketch of the day, and where we were guaranteed to find Erin showing us how it’s done.

We excitedly got settled and chatted our way in to Circular Quay with the fresh sea breeze rustling our jackets and giving us wind-swept hairstyles.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we were pleased to see that the wharf where we were departing, held more of our sketching buddies, and our happy little group with infectious smiles and laughter (must be all the pent up excitement to get sketching) eagerly awaited our ferry to get us to the island.

Our class today would be a combined one, with both Thursday’s groups attending, and it worked out so well, because the swell of a larger group is always a lot of fun.

I believe a few extras from the wharf wanted to come along too…looking enviously as we boarded our zippy ferry to be on our way.

Even though we were all equipped with umbrellas and rain jackets, we approved of the weatherman holding off the rain while we jetted off to the island, and so made the most of the roof top seats!

One of the sketchers and I had to chuckle, it was like ‘Riding the sightseeing double-decker busses in London!’

We were glamorously windswept when we did arrive at Cockatoo Island, but we wouldn’t have given up being able to see the island on approach like that! Beautiful!

Thursday Sketches

We had arrived!

And so had the first smatterings of rain. But without our spirits being dampened we marveled at the quaint entrance, and made our way to the nearest little café and got coffees.

We decided to give a lot of freedom in this final class, because let’s face it, when you are out and about on your travels you won’t have Erin, Judy or myself telling you what you should sketch.

‘Well, we might just climb into your peripheral vision and drop a few hints while you’re holidaying around the world one day!   But in this case, it’s what interests ‘you’ that becomes a memorable sketch and the one you come back to with great fondness.

So, off you go lovelies and we will walk the island and come find you.

Alissa Duke met up with us today, and it was truly a treat to have her company with the sketchers today too. Her beautiful sketches are photographed along with the others, and I marvel at her keen eye for observation. We had made the plan to all meet again at 12noon at the café.

Cockatoo Island adventure

Everyone dispersed and was treated to such an amazing day of sketching.

Biennale (which is an installation art show) was still showing too, and which meant that you could be entertained with very creative, sometimes brash, enlightening and absorbing points of view from other artists.

One of our sketchers spent her time sketching fantastic observations from these installations in the warehouses.

Others were drawn to the ‘still-life’ of the shipyard, with massive cranes and their rusting metal limbs awkwardly poised as if they were to take off running like some prehistoric bird with bolts for eyeballs.

Though this island is small, you definitely are spoilt for choice on where to explore. Quaint shed type housing, with peeling paint and odd little windows also held a lot of character, and another sketchers work portrayed this so well!

A dark tunnel leads through to the ‘Glamping’ site on the other side. (Apparently the ‘glamorous version of camping’ and indeed, everything you’d need for comfort when you’re camping is provided.)

Exploring the upper level of the island is steeped in history. You can see where convict quarters were situated, and the surrounding officers quarters.

This area holds you to ponder, as you can only imagine this place in the past, and the rain is trickling off the umbrella and we are urged to move on.

Thursday more sketches

We come across ‘Yerling Station Wine Bar’ and it is decided this is the perfect place for lunch! Offering a delicious mezze menu and especially for the fact that from these sheltered verandahs with beautiful rugs on the floor, you are definitely in the one place on the whole island that has the best view!

Before long, we’ve trailed our way in the rain to make sure everyone has found their way up to the new meeting point, and lunch venue, and we’re seated with all of us at one long table.

Umbrellas are shaken out, sipping on a glass of wine, delicious food on the way, and finishing touches to beautiful sketches of the day.

However, Madame Manager did approach us and said; “If you are only here for sketching, I might have to ask you to leave!” As if!!  We always enjoy our hearty lunches together, there wouldn’t be any chance of us sitting there sipping water and getting in the way!

Anyhow, our mass of different lunch orders started being served and I think our point was made! With a chuckle, we enjoyed our meals and marvelled at each others’ fabulous sketching.

Before long, it was the end of the day, and we were dashing to make the ferry. With perfect timing we were whisked away back down the waterway to circular quay and beyond. What a lovely term we’ve had everyone. I can’t wait for the next.



Well I (it’s me Judy) could feel an old Rod Stewart favourite coming on “We are Sailing, We are Sailing, Stormy waters, cross the sea….” but no, the harbour was like a millpond this morning as we met some fellow sketchers at Manly Wharf and boarded the ferry for our exciting outing to Cockatoo Island.

I’ve never been there before so can’t wait!

The sun was shining gloriously, but our bags were chocka block full of rain coats, umbrellas and jumpers… just in case…. as the forecast was pretty gloomy for after lunch, rain, rain and more rain (if we could have fitted gumboots in our bags we would have.)

We hit the Manly Ferry jackpot and managed to get the sheltered seats at the very front outside so there was no excuse for not getting our sketchbooks out! We sketched the view and each other all the way to the city.

It was smooth sailing all the way to Circular Quay.

Ooh, who have we here?

Another group of classmates sitting waiting for us at Wharf 5 (I thought it was going to be Wharf 4 or 6 but they like to confuse us).

Lots of smiles, hello’s, “ooh this is lovely” and before you knew it we were boarding the next ferry to Cockatoo Island.

We went straight upstairs to the top deck and had a fabulous time yapping and chattering away, so much so that we were not ready when the ferry pulled into Cockatoo Island, promptly dropped off two organised passengers whilst the rest of us were still chatting in cloud cuckoo land and the ferry took off!

Oops, we’re off to Drummoyne now.

No problem, this is travel sketching so we are happy to go anywhere, just we hadn’t quite planned this one.

OK ladies whip out your sketchbooks and we can get a different viewpoint of Cockatoo Island from this direction – we’re not phased.

And gee we had to wait SOOO long for the next ferry, if I recall it was all of 4 minutes and then we were on the next one heading back again!


Phew, made it – and what an interesting spot it is (just a tad different from Manly!)  Alissa Duke was waiting to join us – it’s always lovely to see her and her inspirational sketchbook. She’d already been sketching for a while so we had a bit of catching up to do.

A much needed coffee was the order of the day so we all grabbed a seat at the cafe and enjoyed our flat whites, long blacks, cappuccinos  and everything in-between including some scrummy looking cinnamon scrolls.

I saw a lot of chatting going on and not so much sketching at the start (sound like a schoolteacher don’t I?), but everyone seemed to be just celebrating the fact that this was a lovely excursion and a perfect time to connect with all the new friends made over the term.

We then all wandered off to explore the numerous buildings and art installations for the art Bienale.

Wow, so many interesting things to see – rusty cranes, ancient relics of the past, machinery that stopped working long ago, old fire hydrants, a huge knockout ball hanging from the ceiling (hope it doesn’t drop on me) – so much to look at that time whizzed by and before we knew it we were racing to meet for lunch.

Round the cliff, past the “glamping” site (looked a bit like an army camp to me I must admit, can’t say I felt a wild temptation to stay there), up and up the steps and lo and behold what a fabulous view we were met with from the restaurant.  There were bean bags on the lawn to chill on, but we nabbed our tables on the outside verandah and pondered the interesting Greek menu. The food was delicious.

Erin and I were totally thrilled and surprised when Debbie presented us with the most gorgeous hand-made Thank You card from the whole class for having enjoyed this term’s classes.

Everyone had done a wee self-portrait and written very kind words.  That was a special card, it meant a lot to both of us.

We had noticed a bit of “whispering” in the class, so now we knew why!


Jane was whisked away to a table by two dapper gentlemen who had arranged to meet her here – such a social bunch we are!

We all said our “Goodbyes” and “Happy Easters” and headed off in dribs and drabs to catch ferries.

People in the class have come from all sorts of locations to join our class – Mosman, St Leonard’s, Pyrmont, The Rocks, to name a few – “Ah – they’ll travel far and wide to go to Erin Hill’s” and why not? It’s such fun.

Happy Easter everyone, thanks for a lovely term, it’s been wonderful.

PS. When I got home my husband asked me if I’d had a nice day at Kangaroo Island – I think he got his Australian animals mixed up!




Good no rain. Bit of a swell out there though.

High winds expected later in the day.

No problem for we sketchers.

We sketch through anything.

Some of us meet on the 8.50am ferry to Circular Quay and enjoy the half hour not sketching but chatting.

Anyway it’s raining outside and we can barely see out. That’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it!

At wharf 5 we meet a few more sketchers who come from far and wide.


Once we arrive at Cockatoo Island, we decide to have coffee at a great little kiosk down by the enooooormous buildings where they built ships inside there.

That way we are ready to wander through the connecting areas without getting wet.

We’re excited about some of the huge old machinery, all left as it was from the days when it was being used in the building of ships from all over the world.

At the end of War 2, this was the biggest ship building and dock in the South west Pacific.

It’s where the USA fleet would come for maintenance and R&R. Sydney was jumping.

We have no idea what most of these machines ever did but we love the personalities they  have.

Our first sketches are done here but we did find the Danish Village with its odd fairytale houses with faces, somewhat appealing. This installation is part of the Bienale, and to be honest we can’t always tell what is in that show, and what has always been here. Fascinating.

Those who wanted to keep moving found a variety of cranes beyond the far doors.

All sorts of shapes.

Some delicate and trim, others big fierce ones that look like they’d bite you.

So many choices.

Wheels and cogs and pipes and hooks everywhere.


Today we were sketching at the south side, so at the appointed time we took ourselves up the cliff face via the South Steps and wound our way past old abandoned buildings, round corners, between things till we found ourselves at Yering Station Wine Bar.

Luckily there were still plenty of tables for our group and with sketchbooks out, much catching up of colour took place.

Greek tasting plates and a few well earned wines were soon placed on our tables.

We definitely enjoy eating with our sketches, as Madame who was in charge again today must have realised by now.

What a great term we’ve all had and this is a fitting place to spend our last session.

Travel sketching around our own city.

Why not. It has everything you could want for subject matter.

And our sketchers are all very much more clear now about getting their sketches down, with a dash of colour in whatever time they have available.

See you next term.

Happy Easter and Happy Sketching,

Erin, Christy and Judy.









  1. What a way to end your term, Cockatoo Island looks fascinating and the sketches are wonderful. I know one place I’ll be visiting next time I get to Sydney! Looking forward to following along next term.


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