Sketching Design, Packaging & Signage

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New Sketchers. 10am Tuesday July 29 ’14. 

Everybody is in a sunny mood when they arrive for our 3rd week of travel sketching. We seem to back to sunny days again. Christy welcomes everyone and Karen is there to assist.

The setups this week look more challenging than they are. Big words, small type, borders, colour and patterns. Yikes.

A colourful collection of household products ranging from a gorgeous large olive oil can to a tiny Tobasco bottle, with all sorts of others in between.


We loved some of the fascinating expressions as people looked with shock, horror and tried to work out which were the biggest shapes and how they could possibly sketch all those details.

A quick demo blocking in the main shapes helped focus ones ‘where to start’ concern.

All that colour and design can be distracting but you get that in last.

We didn’t even change tables. It seemed best to complete the one we were on rather than have two unfinished.

Words and symbols and design would be very much part of our location sketching today.

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Street and public signage was what we were after.

The street signs where you stay when overseas can be just as interesting as the more obvious subjects. You will remember well where you stayed and on what street. Malcolm X Boulevard, Harlem NYC for instance! A great sketch in that.

No shortage of that around Manly, though maybe not as head turning.  As one sketcher has noted, there are 15 signs around one particular roundabout.   No doubt all with different messages!

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We were looking for any that amused us and there were plenty that did.  In fact it amused our sketchers more as we we start really looking at them.

And we found a few more signs along towards Chica Bonita Cantina, one of our favourite places for lunch.

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Chica Bonita is one of the most colourful designy and patterned places around, in true Mexican style. Plenty of decorative crosses, skulls, dripping candles and Day of the Dead icons.

Sean and Luke the owners, were outside doing stuff with a large motor bike, and right behind was their crazy Chica Bonita red patterned pickup truck! Plus the black Barracuda saloon car. Woohoo, we are down Mexico way! By the time I’d raced back to tell the others to come sketch this, they’d gone. 5 MINUTE PARKING the big sign said. Nope, we’re not in Mexico. Bet they don’t worry about such things.

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We were spread over several tables, inside and out, while multi-tasking and adding a little colour to the sketches, and ordering absolutely delicious guacamole and salsa dishes at the same time.

One sketcher was keen to do the coffee cup trick, so Karen guided a very happy sketcher to success. Hopefully the coffee was still hot!

Time goes so quickly and once again it was photo time for the sketchbooks and time for some to be grabbing their sombreros moving on down.

A very enjoyable day again for all of us. The sketches are all great fun as are their owners.


General Sketching. 9.30am Thursday July 31 ’14.


General Sketching. 9.30am Thursday July 31 ’14

A keen group arrived this morning ready to face a table full of bright and bold food and product packaging. A quick reminder to look for your main shapes and compare shapes helps calm those panic stricken minds.

We have a new sketcher today so Karen guides her through the beginnings of ‘how to see’ the hibiscus sketch, while our other sketchers begin theirs.

Today we are using coloured waterproof drawing pens and watercolours. Everyone was given 3 random colours and would change the colours of their sketch with each shape they saw. All designed to loosen you up.  A quick demo from me using multi coloured pens and with watercolour over. Oops got so involved I forgot to change colours. No matter, threw a few added colours in anyway. You can’t go wrong, just toss more lines and colour in!

We found that with a new technique, it’s best to take the whole hour. This way you begin to discover what your effects will be as you go.

Next stop was Whistler Street and signage wherever we saw it. Our new sketcher was thrown in the deep end at this point, and with some tips, began to sketch along with everybody else.

People found all sorts of creative places to sit,  and with their coloured pens, began sketching the signs nearby.

Time to move further along the street to where another collection of signs stuck out of every corner or footpath. Quite a few decided to take their places at Chica Bonita, which has cheerful outdoor seating with cacti and coloured pots round the entrance. And you can still see the signage.

Now we could grab a coffee and order some delicious Mexican lunch dishes as well as doing our colour. We began to see some really innovative ways with colour, and quite different from the way some sketchers usually work.

Just great work today everyone. Street signs and symbols are fun to record when travelling. They will remind you later where you were staying, or perhaps where buses or trains stopped etc.


This was something quite different for our sketchers today, to use coloured pens. Always the techniques we use are designed to be small and light and to fit into your sketch kit bag. They could become you new favourite.

Such a pleasant day with a very lovely group of passionate sketchers. More fun next week.


General Sketching. 9.30am Friday August 1 ’14.


General Sketching. 9.30am Friday August 1 ’14.

The North wind doth blow, and we shall have snow…….I remember this from my childhood and it felt a bit like that this morning, but hey we’re not in Thredbo so no snow came, but I needed my hoodie!

So our sketchers were all in a jolly mood (thank goodness, better than grumpy sketchers that’s for sure) and we all agreed that the collection of tins and packets on the tables looked rather challenging.  Don’t get bogged down with the detail, that’s what I say.

Erin had left a great sample sketch at the studio so everyone got stuck in without too much hesitation.  The trick here was to get the overall impression and perspective right and not try to do every tiny fiddly bit of writing on the packets.

We didn’t mind obeying that instruction! Otherwise we’d have been stuck in the studio till next Friday.


Next port of call was the very scenic spot of Manly Council Car Park.

We were doing signs, any sign – we don’t care – “public toilets”, “no stopping” ( I presume the no stopping was nothing to do with visiting the toilets), “Give way”, well basically any sign within sight was our target.

Yes it’s challenging to do all that darned lettering I know, but quite satisfying if you put the effort in.

Chica Bonita was our spot for lunch.

It’s packed full of quirky things, a few of which might put you off your Margarita if you’re not careful, I spotted a couple of skeletons in dresses, quite a few skulls lying around and who knows what else lurking in another corner.

I believe that’s what they like down Mexico Way.  Personally I prefer live humans to skeletons.


Unusually Chica Bonita don’t do coffees “WHAT?” I can hear you all say……..yes it’s true, so we coffee addicts went to the Bakery two doors up and brought the coffees back.  They mixed well with the Margaritas, or so I believe. The Margaritas looked amazing I must say, but being an extremely responsible tutor I felt I should not drink on the job!

Everyone produced some lovely artwork and I can definitely see some great progress.  Well done everyone.


General & New Sketchers. 9am Saturday August 2 ’14


General & New Sketchers. 9am Saturday August 2 ’14.

I checked the temperature on my iphone even before looking outside. Heck 7 degrees! We are definitely in Alaska not Sydney.   But the sun looked bright and it would get to a high of 14 degrees. Coats it would be though.

Our display of packs and products had everyone shifting in their seats, and wondering how to start. A demo would be good here.  The class is week 3, so today we’d add the water brush to the darks, once all our colour was in. You won’t know where to use it till you can see the sketch as a whole.

The things to watch for with a grouping like this is, work with your biggest shape and use that to place everything else. Observe the ‘going away’ with boxes and oblongs, and match your ellipses. If it’s round at the top it’s round at the base.

Everyone spent time taking on board the shapes and checking they’d somehow fit.

We always do the ‘how wide how high’ thing before starting any sketch,  just to give an idea of where you want your sketch on the page.  It works.  And if you find not everything will fit, leave it out. We sketchers can please ourselves. And by golly we do.

Down the road we all go, heading to the very designerish ( I created that word) Whistler Street carpark. In fact we were having a conversation about that. Instead of demolishing it, as the council plans to,  use planting such as bougainvillea etc to tumble down the levels. Baskets of floral arrangements would soon transform it.

Coffee could be ordered at Infinity Bakery and either infused straight into system while sketching,  or taken to Chica Bonita. Thanks Karen, I love having an assistant.

We did need to be cautious as we all have a habit of standing in the middle of the incoming traffic while we sketch. Oh so you think I should move Mr!  Don’t you know I have to get this sketch right!

There is plenty of crazy signage here and we all look around deciding what we’ll begin with. It’s always interesting to see what people will sketch. We could scatter the sketches across the pages, or do varying sizes. You have the freedom to make it just as you wish.


The girls at Chica Bonita kindly put a couple of tables together for our group, and the minute they opened we sat in the front, in the warm sun. Aaaah you feel it sink into you.

This was a chance to put the colour on and connect your signage by adding some simple tone around the backs of them. It seems to contain them more.

You don’t have to colour everything in either. In fact we are not ‘colouring in’. We are indicating colour as an impression, as we do with the lines when we sketch.  What you see in it’s simplest form.

So many great sketches today. Everyone enjoys being together and sharing what we do. Another fab week everyone. What will next week bring!!!

©ErinHill StudioChristyPowellJudySallehAug2014


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