Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Impromptu Sketch-Moment: Preparing for the Symposium


I was walking home across the centre of Sheffield the other day, when I was struck by this view. You mostly don't get such a broad open vista in the city centre, because there are usually buildings in front of you. 

It's not the sort of thing I would normally choose to sketch, but I was in the mood for experimentation, so I sat down on the pavement.


I decided to try out a technique I want to use for part of my workshop at the Urban Sketchers Symposium next month. I am trying to find unusual ways of using colour, so thought coloured line might be interesting. It's always a good idea to do the exercise yourself first though, to check how well it works. I allowed myself 3 coloured pencils to interpret the view and applied the 'negative space' in watercolour, at the end.


It's typical of me that I managed to draw everything just slightly too big, so I cropped off the top of the building and made it way too tight at the bottom too. Hey ho. That's the price of not planning anything out first!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Step-by-Step-by-Stagger...


I'm finishing off the work on the first stage of my sketching people book. The two 'drawing people on the trainpresentation spreads are all done. 



I have been working on the spread 'using colour first, line later'. One of the things that has been quite tricky is that I've had to do a step-by-step set of images. My publisher felt it was useful for the reader to see one of my sketches built up in stages. Trouble is, the very nature of them is that they are quick and instinctive.



I tried to sketch John in the garden, but it was a nightmare. After each paint mark, I needed to go upstairs and scan my sketchbook, before coming back down to John for brush-mark two, then back up to the scanner again, and so on. Because of the palava, I felt under terrible pressure to get each mark right. Well, there's no better guarantee of failure than that. 

So I gave it up and decided to create a mock-up, repainting an existing sketch. The guitar-player at the top was done a few years ago, but it's a good example of the technique. I created a print-out to trace on the lightbox in paint.


I scanned it in 5 stages. The line-work was the hardest. Trying to draw as if you are drawing quickly and intuitively, when actually you are copying, is a bit like trying to forge a signature (I don't make a habit of that, honest). 



It didn't turn out quite the same as the original, but near enough and it does the job. Phew.



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.