Smuggling? Love. Racism ? In Melbourne 1878? Sketching in 2017 resurfaces it

Sketching an old building that I admired in 1983 when I worked around the corner, made me look further into its history. 112 Little Burke st in Chinatown looks a little unloved now, but holds a lot of history around it. Now the dumpling village the building was completed February 8 1887. Designed by the architect DeLacy Evans who designed Melbournes Parliament House!  It’s called the Sum Kum Lee building and was built for Lowe Kong Meng who at the time was a wealthy businessman, ship owner and philanthropist. 

The Argus newspaper of 1882 wrote a story of smuggled goods (including 250,000 cigars, spirits &Amore) being found on the property of the first Sum Kum Lee building, goods stamped with SKL on them. But no one owned up to them so no charges were brought about…… was the times of the gold rush, and the north eastern end of Melbourne was ” well known for its criminal elements “! Squizzy Taylor was based in this area at later dates

I don’t know why Lowe Kong Meng named his buildings Sum Kum Lee… but he had the £ to have the best known architect design his second building for his wife that he married in Tasmania, (he got around), Mary Anne Prussia. The SKL building was “first class” with thought regarding shade and lighting. ” a beautiful building in an unfortunate location” one newspaper said. 

It is supposed be a western interpretation of Chinese style. It took me a lot to see the Chinese influence…..

Before SKL building was completed Lowe Kong Meng was already influential, and was co author of a pamphlet regardng “The Chinese Question in Australia “. Upon reading today I can see ripples of the present! 

He later became board member of the Commercial bank of Australia. Research on Lowe Kong Meng
But now I am puzzled Lowe Kong Meng died 1888 yet this building finished 1887, yet he brought his wife here in 1860 and was said to have brought her to SKL building…. and he died at his Malvern home in 1888  which was two homes after SKL….?…I think the heritage base may be wrong….Ballarat times mention the house/building in 1863

Examples of Work thus far


Although some sketching, in fact quite a bit is done inside, I like to get out and use my own outdoor experiences at least to get the sketch down. And see the poeple walking past. Or like the guy in the red shirt below, sitting and having a drink (can of alcohol at 0800am)


Brisbane Old treasury building, Now a casino, no irony in that??? June 16


Errol St North Melbourne, not so lively at this time of the morning, the characters were looking at my shoulder asking me,  “is this some sort of art class?” May 16



Or sketching where we have been from a photo, I dont think I am losing my hair but in this sketch I appear to be??? August 16

Version 2

Flinders St station Maybe its about capturing Icons, such as FLinders st, whilst there is a wedding going on in the church behind me. Well, it was about to go on, but Grandpa hadnt arrived yet. It was very entertaining trying to sketch whilst evesdropping on phone conversations about where grandpa was. He was only 10 minutes kater than the bride. Apprently it was a bathroom malfunction…..need I say more.  Feb 2015


I drew the central part of the theatre on site and realised I should have gone smaller. Jan 15

Outside scenes


I couldnt draw this one live, I’m also on the back of a vespa but there is my wife red helmet and son orange helmet, heads swivelling like tourists do. Feb 16


Wife and daughter on the quiet street(?) of Hoi Anh Nov 15


Food stall HoChi Minh Drawn feb 16



Model T at Penlink. Some people put a lot of money into their vehicles. Me? I am attracted by the shiny bits, perhaps I was a magpie in a former life? Jul 16


Drawn on the ferry , wedged against the ships rail, but I wanted to capture it. Feb 16


Drawn Easter 2016 at Pakenham car display for RCH


The Winey Cow MorningtonThe Winey Cow Mornington. Sometimes its the happy waitering staff who eventually cotton on to what I am doing and want to be in the picture Dec 15

Laneway Espresso Dromana

The Laneway Espresso, and the Barfly, a fellow I see usually on the stool. Do all barristas ghave beards??? June 16 

Beechworth- mining ones talents over a week

Taking a break camping in Pearl (our caravan) in the town of Beechworth. Its origins as a town are based on the great gold rush in Victoria, when gold was found here in  1852. The new towns location made it a central area for government as it was a few hundred kilometres from Melbourne. As a central hub it built up post office, hotels, police station, hospital, jail and more .

Beechworth post office day 1

We walked for about 2 Hours going into town along the creek which was mined for gold. Along the path there are warnings of mine shafts on both sides. You think to yourself oh yeah! But as you walk, watching for snakes you cross strong wire grates and look down and see you are standing over a big black hole. Just like Bruce Wayne fell down…then you stop and look and there are more holes, less protected two metres away, some just have old trees shoved down them….seriously we did not wander off the path.

Beechworth Albert st

In town I drew from the positions of shade, as it’s quite warm up here at the moment.
I seemed to focus on the corner of Ford st & Albert Rd. First the post office, actually twice, (both above) then, the old gold office/bank  (below) and is now mostly a jewellery shop. These two I have not completed but I wanted to record what I had done when I returned home.

Bank of Victoria, gold, now jewellery

Then the Honey discovery centre which was also a bank. The green edging is actually an olive colour. ,which I noticed in the different light than when I commenced it.

Beechworth honey discovery shop

On the roundabout of this road is an old light(modernised now). It still has the old chain for lighting it (now welded on). Now it’s a fashionable thing for youth to place things on, when we first arrived it had a tiny rubber truck on top, over the weekend a couple of pairs of boys underpants! I omitted these!

Beechworth lamp roundabout

On Saturday night we went and watched Rachel Johnston and Andrew Clermont at the Nicholas hotel in Beechworth. Rachel sure could make the cello do some marvellous things and Andrew played guitar, mandolins x2 and banjo. I couldn’t keep up my sketching the instruments. Check them out an their tour-

Rosebud rock fest 

The clouds rolled in.

The rain held then sprinkled.

Still, I was able to sketch. I started off with this 57 Ford customline named after its owner Keala. She’s in the middle of the three ladies on the left. Plenty of room in these old cars, no wonder they were beauties for the drive in. I remeber my dads old cars where you could slide across the whole seat with no gears or handbrake in the way.

Then the rain did start to come down , just spitting but annoying enough to make my waterproof ink run…..I was about to move and it stopped raining. Ain’t it always the way? Corvettte, gorgeous looking car that I wanted to draw another one.

One of the people walking by told me I should draw the Volkswgon further along. Mmmm. Ok I am easily led.

The owner of this one told me it was a 56 beetle and people told me it was a fully imported, because of the castle didn’t have a name but found it cute anyway. Of course ther was coffee and people walk around sipping and looking.

My wife came down since this was a local event and she photographed me without me knowing. I was in the way a little but the car club people kept coming up and admiring my work. When cars came off the line they even directed cars around me. Felt like a celebrity with my own bodyguards…

Just draw

Sometimes life gets hectic, nice hectic but hectic, and sketching can take a little bit of a break. So rather than try and do serious bits, practicing and studying other people’s art can take the pressure of self creation off and allow free sketching. Trying a zebra brush marker as well as other brush pens.

Dromana art show- I won a prize

I entered my first art show, one held every year locally. Dromana Art Show.

My kids went to school there and many years ago I did calligraphy prize certificates for them, so I chose this one to be my first “Just do it” entry. 

Up until now I have only done art in my sketchbooks, so actually working on watercolour paper was an eerie feeling. I wasn’t entering to win any prizes, I just wanted the experience. I chose a local cafe sketch I had done in my sketchbook – The Alley, flinders st station, and a hottted up model t ford I liked doing in my sketchbook.

I had to decide what size to enter. I had been doing a few A4 size sketchbook and the entry fee for A4 and under was $10 each, so I told myself I could do 4 in under 2 months. I did 3. So paid my $40 and ended up ‘donating’10.

Then I had to say how much each was worth. If one sold the art show earned 1/4 for local charities and the school.

I had no idea so I said $160. It wasn’t about the money…

 I worked on all 4 at the same time, all with a little pencil of basic shapes, looking at Flinders st now I should have raised it up and a little off centre…..

When I painted this the sky on the right “ran” and lead to the blue line so I had to give the whole sky this happy mistake look…..

I used a brush pen for the hot rod to push myself to get a bit intricate with it. I debated really hard whether to add more background and in the end just stayed plain. At this stage I abandoned the 4th picture.

All three had 4 stages, pencil outline, ink lines, grisaille (shade) then watercolour.
Each phase has its own enjoyment, getting those bricks in, choosing which music to play whilst working, drawing little dogs…

Then they needed framing. Never done that before so off I toddled down to the local Dromana man who charged me $75 per frame =$225.

I gave myself two and half weekss for framing, 2 were done in a week and Flinders a week later 4 days before the show, but I was not panicking (much).

Line work on left, grisaille on the right , and of course completed below.

Dropping the art at the show was an experience in itself. Some of my “fellow” artists were quite rude, wanting to drop off and run, not reading the instructions properly and blaming the system for their errors. I found it straight forward but entertaining whilst I waited my turn. The workers were volunteers trying to raise money for charity, they were very patient.

I was fortunate enough to win Best piece under $500 and was very chuffed I can tell you. I was rung in the afternoon.

 I couldn’t get to the opening night as I had agreed to run a trivia night for a work colleague who had cancer ( and actually unbeknownst to us passed away that night, a blessing in some ways)….

The Alley also sold! I am told the owner of the alley bought it, so I understand why it sold , but am pleased it went to a happy home. My wife wants me to do another!

Motorclassica – the line files

You don’t always see classic cars on the road. I mean old expensive ones that people decide it is too difficult or too risky to take their car out on the public road.

Then again it might happen and it’s a long way away from where I am. So going to Motoclassica over the last few days I tried to get as much ink down as I could in the time available. SO here are the cars I drew at the event, in order,  including the people sitting on the train.


the guy in the black hat was much trendier than I drew him, he seemed late 20s and too old for his get up and his breakfast in a tetra pack! The man in the blue shirt was playing two handed iphone game, again too old for that. The guy with the umbrella was VERY cool with his yellow shirt and umbrella, The student went too school before I finished her, and the girl with her tight hairI had to draw!


1925 Rolls Phantom, one that a chaffeur drives. Bob was the friendliest bloke at the show, explaining every bit of the car to visitors. From my angle the wheel circles looked dark green but were actually black!  The statuette on the hood , turns to allow you to open the hood!


NOt pleased with this one, there was a Pillar where the door was, but I wnated to draw it, but I think I lost a bit because of my decision, Ah serendipity!

mucked up 1

This Rolls I liked the bottom half but then he opened the bonnet and I lost the top half……


I decided to try an angle from upstairs, whihc I expanded upon later

alfa romeo

Day two I sat with Alissa Duke (see her site here). We both liked this one, lots of reflections so colour will be interesting later.

overview d2

I had two hours to capture this one from above. Not sure how it comes out but I enjoyed the process, should have noted my lines better


Enjoyed this one even with lots of people living old dreams or wishes. everyone from young to old stopped in front of me to look and discuss this.


The Masrati are had a couch where one lady was sleeping so opposite her I sat down and drew this one


Only had 15 minutes to spare so ripped out the brush pen sat on the floor and scratched this one out…….

Let me know what you think? email me 

Hobart Day 4 – Half day of sketching

I only had a half day this day to sketch as T’s course fininshed at 1300. So out at 0800, The Theatre Royal was my aim, as one of the oldest theatre in Australia I decided to give it a go. (click here for a bit of history about it).

Blast and dagnammit its a construction zone for the Hospital. OH well serendipity! P1190190.JPG

Couldn’t get the angle I would have liked, but the foreman did move a big truck when he saw what i was doing. Very Kind of him! I ended up on some concrete steps which turned out to be the secret smoking spot! I met Theo who had lived all his life in Hobart. HE said he liked the lifestyle here better than Greece where he had lived for 10 years????

Anyway, lovely sunshine (cool air). theatre-royal-hobart

This is what I got done on site and will add the name etc later.

Although sunny it was still a little cool so I wanted to sit in the sun for comfort! I had seen the postoffice and thought I would give that street scene a go. I still had a bit of time. Coffee to charge my insides up.

post office Murray st hobart.jpeg

Again on a hill and I had to keep moving to stay in the sun! Need to complete the lower levels of the post office corner details.

Headed back to the motel and stopped in at the coffeee shop to add some detail but still to complete.mulberry-st-cafe

Hobart Day 3 Out of the weather

I  met Patricia again and we started to draw in the Domain gardens although the weather looked threatening. We found shelter but the weatehr was against us. We visited a lovely cafe that gave us shelter and great Jazz music. The owner invited us to stay for as long as we wnted and that we didnt even have to but anything.

We chose an old shop front to draw, Old Bell Chambers. apparently the Old Bell Inn used to be on the site and these were built in the 1920s.


I haven’t added the ground floor with the modern shops, thought I would retro the bottom, I have some ideas.


Meanwhile outside the weather was looking better, although snow had fallen on the mountain, blue skies appeared, we risked sitting outside on the balcont and trying some of the church building from a table outside


SO out we went, well that lasted 10 minutes before the rain and


Some detail to add to this. Tricias was much better. See her facebook on it here.

We walked back to The Domain Gardens and unfortunately had to go our own way. Great company and great sharer of knowledge. Thanks Tricia.

IAgain I did the touristie bit and took a pile of photos for later use. Again the rain came and So I returned to complete the Elizabeth St scene





The completed pic

Eventually content I wandered back to our hotel, but need to warm up so popped into a cute little cafe. Feddy the owner let me sketch whilst he mopped up the floor. Eventually I left to return the next day and add a bit more




Hobart Day 2 Battery Point and more

Day 2 I met Hobart urban Sketcher  Patricia Hopwood-wade in Battery Point,; its an URBAN Skethcers paradise! Nokidding, for a Melbourne boy there were many buildings from the the 1840s on…. I could sketch here for a LONG time.  (See Patricias fabulous art here but come back!)

Tricia took me to  a building that she was intereseted in, she is also completing Liz Steels classes so I was happy to follow her lead. And to get out of the cold wind blowing.

We set up and we chatted like old school friends, which made it a fantastic experience. I look forward to hosting her on the mainland sometime. Part of the Urban sketching group is sharing our knowledge and getting over the challenge of sketching alone outside when you first start up. We both cracked on, and I learnt a lot about her art and processes, which was very generous of her to share. It’s amazing we got any sketching done. we went off for a coffee, I had two I needed to warm up.

We returned to our spot. A couple of people asked what we were doing and were kind enough to say they liked what we were doing.

house 1 battery point.jpeg

The curves of the balcony were challenging. The ironwork too. When you sit and sketch you really pick up some details or I am alittle finicky? , the wire to stop birds getting in up under the round roof, the bathroom window above the lower floor door. the curving bay window plaster, yeah thanks architect for that! And again its on a hill. I forgot how hilly Hobart is, my calves did too!

A lesson for newbies! Go to the toilet when you go for coffee. another hour later and Tricia said goodbye, I must have walked quite strangely whilst I walked back to the cafe  to use the facilities, (DESPARATELY).

I went into the cafe and was fortunate enough to get a window table looking at the Fusiliers house. Whilst eating my scallop pie and and drinking coffee and juice (watermelon and orange???) I sketched and coloured this onefusiliers-cottage-battery-point-hobart

There was an old labradour sitting at the front door. She was a little naughty, getting up to visit passing dogs, for a frienly sniff and then back to her spot. The owner told me her name was Olive 13y’o and starting to wander a little further than she should!

After lunch I wandered around and with the occasional rain spot I sought protection for my mnext adventure, (after taking photos of other buildings in Battery point!)


I sat outside the treasury building and got so much grit in my eyes from the wind! but that was Ok I was capturing a coulpe of old buildings in Elizabeth St and chatting to the passing bus passengers. It was starting to rain so left it at this. Quite happy with my days work and walking!

Day one over, Day 2 to come……