Saturday, 26 July 2014

Urban Sketchers Get Wet (again) in Manchester


Yes, despite all this glorious, sunny weather of late, it poured down all day this time last week, for our SketchCrawl. At least it was still warm. I wore strappy sandals and waded my way through the streets of Manchester.


I seem to have an uncanny knack of picking the only REALLY rainy day of the month for our SketchCrawls, surrounded by beautiful, sunny days. June's squelchy day in Buxton was exactly the same, and so was our May outing, the last time we were in Manchester. The forecast was so awful, I nearly cancelled this time. 

I'm so pleased I didn't. About a dozen of us had a fantastic time and, in dodging the torrents, discovered some rather special, hidden spaces. First stop was the library, chosen mainly because it was actually open at 9.20am. Mostly it was a bit BIG and so quite hard to draw at that tender hour. So we just did a 30 minute warm-up, then sploshed our way round the corner, to the cafe at the Town Hall.


I discovered the The Sculpture Hall Cafe by chance, while researching whether we were allowed inside the Town Hall to sketch. It totally lives up to its name. Under an amazing, vaulted ceiling are leather sofas and tables draped in white linen, and its all watched over by the statues. A beautiful, very unusual place. 

I decided I wanted to fill my mini concertina sketchbook, so did this series of sketches across a couple of pages:  


Next stop was the Royal Exchange Theatre. I'd never been. What a surreal building! The traditional, and very lovely, Royal Exchange building, with its marble columns and gigantic circular windows above, is huge, like a cathedral, so big it actually encloses the ultra-modern theatre. It looks a little bit like an alien spaceship has teleported in! Apparently, the floor wasn't strong enough to take the weight of the new theatre, so they created this mad set-up to transfer weight through the columns.


I managed two drawings before we stopped for lunch. I really loved the three giant roof windows, so tackled a part of the central one:


I didn't think there was time to sketch the modern theatre, as it was visually pretty complicated, but I was struck by the contrast between old and new, so took a section of the view from where I was sitting, which incorporated both elements:


I didn't sketch them separately like this though. I carried on in my concertina book, so the end result was the long thin sketch at the top of this post. 

We lunched in Waterstones - cheap and cheerful (and big enough for us all to sit together). Stephan was showing us his Pentel brush-pen and let me have a try-out. It was lovely and fluid to use. I did this quick sketch of Mike:


The afternoon was spent at the John Ryland's Library. I had really fancied drawing the outside (it's a wonderfully Gothic building - dark stone and very twiddly) but no chance: still pouring. Luckily the inside was good too.

I had never been before but Lucie knew where to go - she took us straight to the Reading Room:


It was designed by Basil Champneys and is a mass of decorative detail. The space feels very like a church, with stained glass windows and another extraordinary vaulted ceiling. Like in a church, everyone was whispering and it was very peaceful, until someones mobile phone went off and played a silly tune VERY loud:


By lucky chance, there was an exhibition of Urban Sketching on in the Reading Room: a collection of really evocative drawings of the city, by the Manchester artist Anthony McCarthy.

We did the sharing session in the Ryland's Cafe - part of a modern wing, added during the recent restoration of the building. There were several new members again and it was so lovely chatting about what we all do and looking through the sketches. Here's me being very proud of my concertina sketchbook:


Oh, and guess what? The sun came out and the rain stopped, just as we finished our drawing time and started the sharing. Typical!

At least I got to walk back to the station with Stephan in lovely weather. I travelled back to Sheffield alone, so did my usual on the train:


Another great day out with smashing company. Thanks to everyone who came, especially given the weather conditions. If you'd like to join Urban Sketchers Yorkshire and come out to play with us sometime, just drop me an email or join our Facebook group.






Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sneaking a Day Off in the Sunshine


It's been so glorious lately. It's been very hard to work at the computer, with the blinds down, knowing all that sunshine is out there, beckoning... It's okay for all you folks in sunny lands, but we Brits never know if this might be the last bit of nice weather!

So anyway, that's my justification for taking the day off yesterday. We wanted somewhere where we could chill outside all day, but where there would be plenty of shade, as it really is hot at the moment - it's getting me in the mood for Brazil!

We drove to Rufford Abbey, about an hour away, but worth the travel. The abbey itself is mostly a ruin, but there is one bit intact. 


I sat on some steps in the rose garden and did a drawing. I was using one of the sketchbooks I made, ages ago. Lovely watercolour paper (shame about the dodgy perspective):


They had some birds of prey. People were paying to fly hawks and owls. I wanted to sketch the biggest owl really, but couldn't get near enough. This Harris Hawk was easier, but as soon as I began, he turned his back on me!


We strolled around the park, exploring the lake, then sat in the dappled shade under a tree for a while. Did I miss my computer? What do you think?



This is one of those sketches I got annoyed with: undergrowth is always tricky and easily overworked. I rescued it with watercolour pencil, but didn't really capture the heat:


There were lots of waterfowl at one part of the lake. We sat on a step right by the water's edge where geese and swans were wandering about. One swan immediately got very interested and thought we were going to feed him. They really are HUGE when you are sat at ground level and they are right in your face! He tried pecking my book then my paints.


It was lovely to be up so close. They were all so used to people, they carried on, right at our feet.


They all started grooming themselves, so I got some interesting poses. Then the swan settled down for a sleep: very cute with his beak tucked into his wing:


We had to head for home then. I didn't want to go. I wanted to curl up in the sunshine with the swans. A lovely day. Back to work now though.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Spotted in The Sheffield Star...


I had a message last night from a Facebook friend: 'There is a lovely little article in today's Sheffield Star, with a photo of you'. I couldn't think what it could be. Then she sent me a photo of the paper:


I went to visit High Storrs School a couple of weeks ago. It's only 10 minutes from where I live. I was do writing workshops with various Y7 and Y8 children. At lunchtime, they had an award ceremony for a short story competition and I gave out the prizes. 

They asked me to bring something to read out afterwards. I chose the 'packing for the trip' section from Three Men in a Boat, because it always makes me laugh. Also though, it was the very reading that a visitor did for us, when I was in secondary school. He read it out at assembly. Can't remember who he was - that's long since faded away and gone to Memory Heaven - but I do remember giggling.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Invisible Man: My Sketching People Book in Progress


Things are going pretty well on the new book, although the garden studio is officially closed now (sigh). I would SO much rather be outside in all this glorious weather than sat at my computer, with the blinds drawn against the sunshine. Hey ho.






The sample spreads I am producing ready for the Frankfurt presentation are going to be:

Sketching on trains (2 spreads)
How to sketch with colour first, then line (2 spreads)
Drawing eyes (1 spread)

These were decided on by the publisher. They know what the US co-edition publishers will be looking for. My art director has done sample designs for me to approve (which I'm afraid I don't think I can show you yet) and I have written all the text. 

I have chosen all the sketches for these sections too. Unfortunately, all my sketches are scanned at low-res for general sharing, so the ones for the book all have to be re-scanned at 300ppi. I have set John onto that task and he has done the lion's share now.


One of the train sketches had to be redone, because I tinted it digitally, originally at low res (duh). I was experimenting with digital tinting in 2010. Above is the original pencil drawing, done in a 3B: my tool of choice back then. I used a very basic drawing tool in Photoshop and a limited palette to re-created the coloured version I did at the time. Below is the final tinted version.


The weird image at the top of this post is the coloured layer, separated out, which I thought looked rather fun and funky, but also helped you to see how the digital version was created.

Right - enough chatting to you guys: it's back to work for me!