As an urban sketcher I am passionate about drawing and painting on location, capturing the detail of everyday scenes that others might never notice. It is all about the story, and I often write little notes on my sketches about what was happening at the time.

In January 2019 I started a long-term project to draw every building in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy – even the ugly ones. I see it as preserving the history of this inner Melbourne community, sketching in the street & chatting to locals as I do. 

Sketching my travels

I am a Melbourne based artist, and proud to be a “woman of a certain age” with grown children, both happily brainwashed into becoming artists themselves.

That job done, I now have the freedom (when Covid allows) to take long holidays to travel with my very patient husband. Oh, the number of hours he has sat down beside me with a coffee or two or three and his kindle to fill in time while I pull out my sketchbook to start drawing the scenery in front of us. Then, just as he thinks it is safe to go, I pull out my watercolour palette, and he has to get another coffee. He describes my urban sketching as “going analogue”. He’s a good man.

Urban sketch of Oban Scotland with artist notes by Helen Wilding 2017

Urban sketching in my home town – Melbourne, Australia

One of the best things about going away, of course, is coming home again. And I feel very lucky to live in Australia. Traveling overseas as a tourist has opened my eyes to the beauty of my own country – this amazing place which has been sitting under my nose the whole time. It is so easy to take things for granted, isn’t it?

I have especially fallen for the quirkiness of Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, home of Melbourne’s number 11 tram, hipsters, Victorian architecture, and no end of amazing cafes. In fact I love the place so much that back in January 2019 I started a long term project to draw (and eat) my way up the whole length of the street over what will no doubt be many years. I’m still going.

I want to include not only sketches and watercolour streetscapes, but research into the local history of the area. That’s where my experience as a research librarian comes in. Or maybe it’s just a general nosiness. Whatever – I am having a ball delving into the old newspapers and vintage photos courtesy of the National Library of Australia. I especially love finding a good scandal 🙂

Using art to promote wellbeing

Speaking of libraries, that’s my other job. I work as a medical research librarian. I love it because it nicely balances the left and right sides of my brain. It’s very satisfying. My week is full of different experiences. With so many things to learn, I can’t imagine ever being bored.

Part of my job is a specialist role in mental health – another area I am passionate about.

I have been a long term advocate for partnership between people with a mental illness, families and practitioners. When I couldn’t find the resources I wanted, I decided to make them. I developed the Caring Together Art Journal Project, a website which grew to include over 120 illustrations, stories, videos and posters aiming to educate mental health services on family friendly practice and to help carers feel less alone. I feel very proud of what I achieved and learnt in the process. I was invited to present my work at conferences in Australia and overseas, and also to run workshops and exhibit. I was even given a trip to Paris to present at a conference (which started my travel sketching habit). Not bad for one individual who just couldn’t find what they wanted.

That led to nearly five years in creative development and research roles for a self efficacy and wellbeing program. It fitted perfectly with my passions and experience.

All while still working as a librarian, of course.

And now? Well I’m just taking time to enjoy the moment. And recording it in my sketchbooks. I am so lucky.

You might spot me out with my sketchbook in your area one day. You’ll know who I am. I’ll be the one in the rainbow shoes.




  1. What a fascinating life, and interesting how life draws us all along certain paths. Curious too – my background as librarian (some time in medical ), with decades of travelling, and always trying to satisfy the only partly fulfilled aspiration to become a passable artist. People passing on streets, corners, trains – and the Internet. Nice to be introduced to you Helen, through my lifetime friend Dianne Colk ?

    • Thank you Jan – lovely to ‘meet’ you too! There seem to be a lot of librarians who are also artists- I reckon it’s a pretty good combination 🙂

      • Hi Helen!

        I didn’t know you were a librarian! Interestingly I just started a Grad Dip in Library and Information Management. Emergency nursing is becoming too hard these days.

        Hope you’re well! Your drawings are looking wonderful as always.

        • Thank you Eve! I hope you enjoy your Grad Dip and a new career which is likely to be much less stressful than nursing!

          • Morning I am the president of an art society in the lower Hunter just wondering if you ever come to sydney Newcastle way at all ?
            I have been looking for someone to do workshops demonstrations and I could combine them with other society around the area to possible make it worth while . ?

          • Thanks for reaching out Lyn but I’m not planning a trip to NSW in the forseeable future. We did trundle to Newcastle a couple of years ago and all the local urban sketchers were busy with an art group – quite possibly yours!

    • Hi Helen! I love my new TWSBI fountain pen! Thank you again for recommending another wonderful treat for vast collection of ever art supply ever made! ? I’m trying to limit all the things I carry around with me (it’s getting ridiculous) anyway, I have a wonderful ink and I love the way this pen is easy to refill. Keep posting and someday I may have practiced enough to have the confidence to post among amazing talent like yourself! Take care! Sarah

      • I’m so glad you are enjoying the pen Sarah – it’s so much fun sharing our discoveries and I hope it inspirea you to get out there and play! Thanks for your constant kindness and support – your message was just lovely to see when I woke up this morning 🙂

  2. Hello Helen, I just wanted to say how much I absolutely love your accordion sketch books. Of course the actual location you are drawing is without a question brilliant, but your depiction is mind blowing. I am so attracted to your actual style; bright colours, technically fluent, and really taking the viewer into the image. How long have you been doing these sketches. I would really like to improve my work. Is there anything you would suggest (classes, books, instructors,…) that would help.

    Thank you for posting and sharing your work.

    • Thank you so much Alison. Until you mentioned it I hadn’t thought of the words to describe what I was trying to do – which really is about trying to take people into the image with me. That’s why I like it to wrap around the view! I have only been doing accordion sketches (not necessarily in books, but usually on folded strips of paper) for the last year or two. The best thing I can suggest to improve is just to get out there and practice, practice, practice. All of us get rusty if we stop drawing, and I’ve especially struggled with the breaks during lockdown here. If there is a group of urban sketchers near you that is a great way to meet like minded people and pick up sketching tips. All levels of experience are welcome. There are also quite a lot of online courses – Sketchbook Skool is well known and has a wide variety of classes. But there are also plenty of others that focus on urban sketching if that is what interests you. The great thing is that the possibilities are endless! Have fun 🙂


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