Friday, 21 November 2014

Getting Singed in Sitges


I never got around to telling you about my fun and games I had while I was staying in Sitges, for my Barcelona school tour. I was really lucky, as my stay just happened to coincide with a big festival - one of the main annual events for Sitges, the Sante Tecla



I've been to a few festival parades in my time, but I've never encountered anything quite like the Sitges one before so, though I've been back ages now, I still want to tell you about it and show you what I drew. 


I packed my sketch-bits and walked the 20 minutes into the old town on that particular evening, to check it out. As I arrived, odd things were beginning to appear in the streets, like the lovely blue dragon above. People seemed to be heading in one general direction, so I followed the giant below, trying to draw it on the move, as we made our way through the streets. Very tricky, trying not to trip up!


I got the chance to add colour when we got to the starting-point of the parade as there was a bit of a wait, while everybody got into position. Loads of local people saw me drawing and came up to chat. Then suddenly we were off!


The parade was hugely long, with all sorts of different elements, including different troupes of dancers in colourful, traditional costumes, drumming groups from various towns...



...acrobatic characters, musicians, people in huge papier-mache heads, religious elements, cute little children with hoops covered in paper ribbons, and much, much more. They wound very slowly through the old streets, stopping every so often for 2 or 3 minutes so the dancers could do a turn. I captured what I could, mostly at the stopping points. 


Most people lined the streets, but I figured it would be easier to draw if I walked along with the parade, weaving in and out. I spotted another dragon, so thought I'd sketch him (below). I was totally unprepared for what would happen next.

I didn't realise that fire was a big theme of the festival. There were a couple of dozen demons in the parade, brandishing big sticks with fireworks attached at the ends. A head demon went round lighting them all and the street was suddenly filled with fizzing and banging


The firework sticks whizzed round like catherine-wheels and watchers, including me, had to run out of the way as we were showered with the sparks. Then the head demon lit more fireworks inside the dragon's mouth and tail. What had gone before was nothing...


All hell broke loose, pretty literally. The fire-sticks spun and whizzed and exploded. The dragon truly breathed fire! Everyone around was shot with the sparks. Running and screaming was all part of the fun it seemed.


When the fireworks died away, I thought that was it and went back in close to carry on drawing, but no - the chief demon went round again - they had enough fireworks to reload again and again. The narrow streets filled with smoke! Here is the blue dragon I spotted in the street before it all began:




To escape the smoke and get a calmer drawing opportunity, I ran further forwards in the parade and found these guys: the Moixiganga Men. They would march normally will their long candles then, as soon as the parade did its little pause, they would climb up and do this balancing act, holding the pose as they walked on for a couple of minutes. The only way to draw it was to walk in front of them backwards, with my sketchbook held up, frantically scribbling, once again hoping not to trip.




I built it up over 3 or 4 goes and, once they saw me, one of their number walked behind me to make sure I was not going to fall. I did the painting while walking along too, which really fascinated them. I drew what it looked like behind as well. In the sketch above, you can just make out the head of the man that's stretch out in the rear view below - between the top man's legs


At one point, I thought things had finished, as the parade suddenly broke up and all participants all got a drink from whichever bar was at hand, but it turned out the parade had just stopped for a beer break! Ten minutes later, things reformed and we were off again! Here I am with the some of the Moixiganga Men, my sketch half-finished still:



I had another shot of strange and interesting sketching at the weekend, as there was another odd but spectacular custom, but I'll tell you about that next time, as I have rambled on way too long as it is.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A New Picture Book with Julia Jarman!


Remember a while ago, I mentioned that Julia and I were talking through her ideas for a new story? Well, Julia has put in a lot of work since then. The text has undergone several rewrites and the various drafts have been back and forth to our publisher, but all that work has finally borne fruit - Hodder have given us the go-ahead. Yippee!


The book is another in the series with Class Two at the Zoo and Class Three all at Sea. This one is to be Class One Farmyard Fun and involves similar levels of chaos. This time though, the action revolves around a bull on the loose. The teacher is,  once again, hopelessly ill-equipped (she ends up getting tossed into a tree) and it's the kids who save the day.

This will be our 6th book together. I love working with Julia - we have exactly the same silly sense of humour and her texts are so incredibly visual, the pictures just leap straight into my head!


I'm delighted about this one in particular, as Julia has been trying to get another in the series published for some time. The other two have been so popular and successful, it seemed such a waste not to. 


I can't start on the artwork until half way through next year, as I have too many other irons in the fire, but will certainly share my sketches with you as soon as I get going.

Well done Julia!!


.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Auction: Your Chance to Buy my Growly Bear


Remember, ages ago I showed you a canvas I had painted of the little,  growly bear from Bears on the Stairs? Well, his time has finally come! He is being auctioned right now, as part of the Stars on Canvas campaign, to raise money for the amazing charity, Willow Foundation, which sends seriously ill 16 - 40 year olds on unforgettable Special Days out, to help them reconnect with their families, focus on quality time together and create positive memories for people to treasure. 

Little bear is on Ebay here. It's only at £21 at the moment, so I'm sure we can raise a little bit more than that, as there's another 6 days to go.


Luckily for the little bear,  and for the charity's coffers, he won't be alone - dozens of other illustrators as well as tons of celebs, have also created canvases to be auctioned.  


So,  this is your opportunity to bag yourself some great art, or a one-off special by that special celebrity you have a secret crush on.


Go get bidding right nowIt for such a good cause and there's loads to choose from. Treat yourself, or get some very unusual Christmas pressies.  At the very least, make sure my little,  growly bear gets himself a good home!


If you're in London, there's a big Stars on Canvas exhibition on at The Hub, Heddon Street from 20th - 24th November (12 - 6pm, 4pm on the Sunday). I was invited to a posh private view evening, but I'm too busy to get down there, so will miss all the champers and celebrity-spotting. Hey-ho.

You could tweet the auction for me too, if you want to help a little more, and spread the word: #StarsOnCanvas. The event happens every two years and raises tons of money. Remember the Class Two at the Zoo anaconda I painted last time? That went for £155, which was great. Let's see if we can do even better this time round.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Usk Yorkshire: Celebrating our 50th Sketch-Walk!



Yes, it's hard to believe, but Urban Sketchers Yorkshire has managed 50 sketching days since I started up the group in September 2010. We were called SketchCrawl  North in those days though, before we became officially affiliated to Urban Sketchers.


Our 50th outing was a pub-crawl sketching day in Buxton, last Sunday. We've been to Buxton a few times, and we did a pub-crawl in February, but Buxton's so lovely - there's still plenty to draw.

Here we all are, posing outside Buxton Opera House, looking a bit chilly:


I can't take credit for the organisation of the day. Every now and then, other members host the SketchCrawls and Paul Gent, an artist who lives in Buxton, put together a schedule. He created this lovely map especially for the event: 


Apparently, he chose venues according to the quality of the beer, as much as anything! 

We met up at The Old Sun at midday. I spent so long saying my hellos and giving out our new Urban Sketchers badges, that I only managed this quicky of Miriam and Matt in action, before it was time to move on:


Our 2nd stop was not a pub, but the Pavilion Cafe. We have drawn there before: it is great for drawing arial views down over the customers drinking tea below. It was also a good spot for some lunch, which meant I did more eating than drawing, but still managed this quick watercolour sketch:


Venue no 3 was The Old Hall Hotel, where most people sketched inside, but the sun had come out and it was pretty warm as long as you stayed out of the shade, so I nipped into the street instead and stood under a lamp post, rather awkwardly balancing things in the air as I painting the sketch at the top. I so love drawing Buxton Opera House.

At The Old Clubhouse, I drew the bar and barman:


At 4pm, about half the group had to leave, but the rest of us set off again, this time to The Buckingham. We chose the front bar, which had a nice big window. I drew the view, although it was already getting dark, so it was a race against time. I just got it done, as it got truly too black to see:


Weirdly, when we arrived, the room was empty, but within 5 minutes it was heaving! We pressed on to the last venue of the day: a quirky cafe/bar called 53 Degrees North. I drew the candlestick at the top and then just had time to do this sketch of Andrea, Matt and Eileen:


We did our usual sharing session, inspiring as ever, and then finally headed for home at 7pm after a really lovely, very sociable day out. We will celebrate our 50th again at our Chrismas party next month. Can't wait!