Sunday, 23 April 2017

Want to Learn to Sketch Outdoors?


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will already know how passionate I am about drawing out on location and will have seen loads of examples of the different kinds of sketching I am interested in. Hopefully this has inspired some of you to take up a pencil or brush and to try a few new things. I am convinced that drawing is something everybody can do (even those who swear they can't even draw stickmen - yes, I've heard that a lot).


Sometimes though, what you need is a little tuition to get you started, or to get you out of a groove and introduce you to new possibilities. There are lots of drawing and painting classes around, but not that many urban sketching ones. This summer though, is a unique opportunity, as Urban Sketchers have set up workshops around the globe, to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Check out where your nearest workshops are.


There are still some places left on the ones I am teaching,  on June 24th and August 12th, in Sheffield, in partnership with Simone Ridyard and Len Grant, who will be teaching their sessions in Manchester, on other dates this summer. This is a rare opportunity to sign up for an urban sketching workshop with me. Although I do a lot of illustration workshops in schools and have taught urban sketching all over the world, I don't generally run open, urban sketching workshops here at home.


On June 24th, I will be sharing techniques for capturing the moment. The morning's class - 'Stop, Look, Listen' - will explore ways of recording different things in our sketchbooks, really observing what's around us, in a super-concentrated, multi-sensory way. The afternoon's class - 'Let it Flow' - will give you a chance to play with a concertina sketchbook. I will show how the format can be used in different ways, to capture the flow of time and link elements together.


The morning of August 12th - 'Taming the Beast' - will concentrate on sketching architecture. I will be helping you find ways of simplifying scary buildings, to make them manageable and fun. Finally, the afternoon's class - 'People at Play' - will be about techniques for doing very quick sketches of people, capturing poses in a few moments, before they move away. There are only 2 places left for this one, which is proving very popular!


The price per half-day workshop ranges from £18 - £30, depending on how many you book and whether you get concessions. Full details of costs are here. If you are interested in any of my half days classes, or in any of the Manchester workshops with Simone or Len, get it touch with Simone, who is administrating our workshops.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Dementia & Creativity: Artist in Residence



I did a second day on my Dementia & Creativity project recently. Once again, it was a presentation and discussion day, rather than one working with actual sufferers. The team were thinking through ideas ready for putting in bids for large projects. I was there, as last time, both as Artist in Residence and as an active part of the team, giving a creative's perspective.


Participants had gone away after our initial session and put together presentations on various possibilities to explore further. I tried to capture what I could of each presentation, though the ideas were many and complex, so I was up against it and only scratched the surface.


In the afternoon, we had group discussions on the presentations, to generate yet more ideas and avenues to think about. I drew some of the time and pitched in part of the time. It was hard to wear both hats, as it's hard to listen properly and concentrate on the sketching. Your focus goes in and out, so you miss bits.


During the final part of the day, people paired up to begin writing up the first drafts of bids. Since I was no use whatsoever at this point, I happily reverted to being just the artist and sketched them at it.


It has been really interesting following the methodology for creating the ideas and substance of research bids. I don't know if this is a standard way of doing things, but it certainly got people buzzing.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

I'm Really Annoyed with Myself!


I am still creating experimental squares and have been working on another pair, based on some of the outcomes from my mark-making day, as before.

I have been keeping the thread-ends from my sewing and you might remember that I used them as a texture in my church piece. I wanted to use them again and thought they would work well as a background texture, doing the same job as the random paint marks on my cut up work jeans. They are a bit tricky though: because I am hand-sewing, they are difficult to stabilise, without a lot of work.


I had an idea of sandwiching them between pieces of thin plastic. I happened to have some sandwich bags in the studio, that I'd been keeping yarn in. This worked really well, since the plastic was slightly milky, which damped down the thread colours, making the sewing over the top show up better.

I used some of my organzas to further damp down areas, to get richness of shade, particularly in the piece above, based on this square, where there are intense darks:


I am interested in the layering of different translucents, with stitching beneath and in between layers, as well as on top, to allow different stitches to interplay, as with drawn marks on paper.

I was very pleased with the results, but the base fabric needed pressing. I was worried about melting the plastic, so ironed very carefully from behind. What I hadn't realised was that there was another danger to beware of: shrinking. Have you ever done that thing where you place an empty crisp packet in the oven and get a really cute, diddy version?


The square at the top has survived okay, but the plastic on the second one had begin to shrink before I noticed, pulling the stitches and puckering the base fabric. The stitch-work in the centre also became baggy. Oh no!

As you can see, it hasn't entirely destroyed it, so it still works for me as a test piece. Fortunately too, the surviving square was my favourite of the two. Still, I am annoyed with myself for being so dim. Learning curve...


Monday, 10 April 2017

York Minster - Sunny SketchCrawl


It's five years since Urban Sketchers Yorkshire last visited York Minster. I can't quite believe that: it feels like two or three.

We chose an absolutely perfect day for it this time, purely by chance. I expected to be sketching inside the Minster, but the weather was so glorious on Saturday, I spent my day slowly working my way around the outside of the building, drawing it from different perspectives and recording bits of the life around it. This was my first painting of the day, looking at the side entrance:


I used my usual technique of laying in roughly placed watercolour first, looking at the main shapes and the principle darks, before going in with a green Koh-i-Noor pencil to capture the essence of the twiddly detail.  When I got home, I discovered that this is a view I have painted before, on my earliest sketch-visit:


I used watercolour and a Koh-i-Noor pencil on this one too as it happens, but the effect is quite different.

For my 2nd painting, I walked round to the back of the building. The Minster is so huge, you have to find a way to get back from it. Luckily, a road provided a vantage point, giving me the distance I needed. I experimented by painting the sky first, looking at it as a negative space, then the building's shadows, then the line in my Inktense pencils. The paper texture creates a perfect impression of the window leading, though that was a lucky chance. The tiny railings were very helpful for adding scale:


We got together on the grass outside the Minster for a picnic at lunchtime and looked at the work so far. Unfortunately, by the time we asked a passer-by to take this photo, quite a few people had wandered off to buy coffee - there were about 30 of us altogether. We had quite a few first timers too, which is always good:


There is a spot, just off to the side of the main entrance, where busking is allowed. When we first arrived, a man was singing, really belting it out. By lunchtime, he had been replaced by a singer/songwriter with a guitar. As you know, I love sketching musicians, so I planted my little stool on the pavement in front of her and started to paint. This was watercolour first, then Inktense pencils:


She was really good and it was a treat to have live music while I worked. I showed her when I was done and she was thrilled to bits and took my photo with the sketch. I didn't know at the time, but one of our group spotted me in action and also took this photo. I had a nice chat with the man to my right, who watched me from beginning to end. He was covered in tattoos and so looked a little intimidating, but was actually really gentle-mannered:


York is very busy and, by mid afternoon, there were people everywhere, but I discovered a wonderful haven right alongside the Minster, which I'd never come across previously. The Treasurer's House has a walled garden, with a croquet lawn, a little fountain and a few statues. I was struck by this statue's profile, with the Minster's windows looming behind. Because it was a fairly complex view, I drew the line-work first, using a blue and a red Koh-i-Noor pencil, then painted the colour on top:


By the time I was done, I had an odd 20 minutes left, before it was time to re-meet up with everyone at the pub. The sun was still shining and I wanted to make use of every minute of it, so I quickly returned to the park where we had picnicked and did my best to capture this lovely tree against the ruins:


The upstairs room of The Eagle and Child was already full when I got there. People were sitting around 3 big tables, passing round the various sketchbooks. I threw mine into the mix and got stuck in, looking at all the work. The standard was really high and, as always, it was inspiring to see how other people had tackled things. You can look at other people's work from the day here.

A huge thank you to Joe and Michael for helping out by organising of the day (and booking the sunshine). A great success.


Thursday, 6 April 2017

More Experiments in Stitch


I am continuing to work on textile squares.

For these next two, I cut up a pair of old work trousers that were covered in paint splodges. I liked having the randomness of this mark-making as a layer to work over.


I didn't follow the existing marks on the fabric though. I am interested in randomness, so wanted the interplay of the paint splodges and the stitching to happen by chance. As another way to introduce randomness into the process, I decided to work from a couple of the squares created during my recent mark-making day.


The richness of textures on the painted squares was another reason why I thought that starting with the painted trousers would help it to work.


I kept the colours muted, as I wanted the tones to be the main thing in play, as in the original squares. I wasn't slavishly recreating them, but using the shapes and marks as a guide, adapting things as I felt appropriate. This time I let the stitching and the base textures do most of the work and only introduced the organza sparingly.