Over the last few years, I have developed an interest in capturing events and activities through drawing. This so called reportage approach has so many outlets! I have been commissioned to capture reportage: one-off events, weddings and festivals and series of activities to name a few. Telling stories of places and occasions through drawing is my passion! With a background in landscape design, I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to record a garden Masterclass in drawings recently. This blog describes the day. Continue reading
It’s been a while since I blogged on here. No excuses so I’ve decided to get back to it with a post about Persevering with People drawing. In fact capturing people (in my drawings) is something that is often on my mind (perhaps more so than any other element of drawing). This is because capturing busy places and people is a focus of some of my commissioned reportage work, including weddings and other events. My view is that like most aspects of drawing, constant practice is required and maybe this is even more so with people! When I don’t draw people for a while I definitely notice and find it more difficult. The way I capture people, the materials, the type of drawing, the level of detail etc, is also a source of internal debate! Continue reading
Last week I was sketching in Porto! I was fortunate enough to get over to Porto in Portugal for the 9th Urban Sketching Symposium. Continue reading
Last weekend I attended a wedding at Tower Bridge where I was commissioned to draw the occasion. You can read more about my drawing at weddings here. Usually, as I am based near Manchester, my weddings are in the North West. Often my clients are very familiar with my work and drawing style and like my reportage approach! Despite that, there is always a degree of nerves, especially ones at such impressive venues as Tower Bridge and Dickens Inn, St Katherine’s Dock!
Since January of this year I’ve been working on a little exhibition of my work called: From Chorlton To The City. The exhibition is at The World Peace Cafe, The Kadampa Meditation Centre, Chorlton. The preview is on Friday 4 th May 5-8 pm. In this second part of a two-part discussion about the work (you can read the first part here), I’ll explain the illustration techniques I’ve used. There are 3 different types of images in the exhibition: Colour-first sketches; Ink-first maps and Collages. Each approach requires specific techniques.
Since January of this year I’ve been working on a Chorlton exhibition of my work called: From Chorlton To The City. The exhibition will be held at The World Peace Cafe, The Kadampa Meditation Centre, Chorlton. The preview is on Friday 4 th May 5-8 pm. In this first part of a two-part discussion about the work, I’ll explain what the exhibition is all about.
I can’t believe that we are already into February and My last blog was over a month ago! To be fair I have moved and it does take a while to settle and organise. Excuses aside it’s good to be back! As this is my first blog of the year I thought I’d share my plans for 2018. I’m really looking forward to the challenges of some new approaches: The ‘What Next’? My commissioned reportage work including several weddings (London and the North West) will also continue to be a focus of my time this year. I am also always on the look out for new reportage projects. Here are some additional things to keep me busy!: Continue reading
Last week,after 11 years living at Irlam’O’Th’ Heights , SaIford M6, and several of them spent sketching Salford, I fled for the hills. (Mossley to be precise!) Actually, it took a number of trips, over several days and there was little in the way of fleeing! This post shares a small selection of my illustrations of Salford completed over the last few years ( I wasn’t sketching regularly when I first arrived). They range from the streets immediately surrounding where I lived to the well known public locations that Salford has to offer like Salford Quays. There are stories associated with many of them and I will mention a few as I go.
The starting place-The streets around where I lived
It was whilst walking my greyhound down Sumner Road in Irlams ‘O’Th’Heights that I had this need to be able to draw my surroundings more effectively! As a trained designer, I was frustrated with my drawing abilities and decided I needed to draw much more regularly (and better!). From that day, I just made a start, then I joined Manchester Urban Sketchers. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sketching Salford: Museum and Art Gallery
For the last couple of years I have been a member of Salford Art Club that meets and exhibits at the Salford Art Gallery. Coincidentally, as of 9th December 2017 there is a Manchester and Salford Urban Sketching Exhibition at the Art Gallery. Like a number of other urban sketchers, I have several pieces in the exhibition.
Sketching Salford: in Monton
I often went to Monton to sketch. It has an interesting high Street and the Bridgewater canal runs nearby. I was also invited to capture the Bridgewater Weekender day held on Worsley Green.
Sketching Salford: those well known places and famous buildings
There are numerous amazing buildings and well known areas in Salford, including:Salford Quays, Media City and Salford Lads Club. The very first sketch I had printed and sold was of the Lowry. War Horse was running a the Lowry and one of the lead actors saw my sketch of the venue, including the WarHorse trailer. He was keen to buy a copy, which we did. We also auctioned a copy, signed by all the warhorse actors, for charity.
Sketching Salford before I left
Although the weeks before and during the move were hectic, I managed to create these last black and white sketches. They include the local streets and some views/buildings (like my local garage) that I had always had in mind to sketch, but hadn’t! I have only recently created black and white sketches as a matter of course. Now that I have the Duke Confucius 551 fude, I am enjoying the simplicity and clarity of these simple drawings.
Salford, I’m going to miss you. Because you won’t be on my doorstep, I will not be sketching you regularly. But I will be back. Onwards and Upwards, quite literally as I am in the Hills now in Mossley, Tameside. I will be posting my local sketches and those further afield as usual so please stay tuned for more of my sketching adventures. Wishing you all a very peaceful and healthy 2018. Thank you all so much for all your support and comments in the last year and here’s to a fabulous 2018 for us all!
I can’t believe that its been so long since I posted on here, the topic of this blog will give you a better understanding of why!
I have never been a very fast sketcher so snappy sketching has not been a particular focus. This is despite the fact that I do a lot of capturing things as they are happening in my drawings!- my subjects are very varied from weddings to events and special occasions to the development of places and capturing aspects of scientific research. You can check out some of my #reportage projects here.
In order to manage my time better and achieve a finished sketch more quickly I have historically turned to colour first. I love this approach but with an A4 size or more it still takes hours rather than minutes. Then a few months ago lots of things started to change. Well they say that a change is as good as a rest! I got a small studio; an additional job; I was travelling more.. You get the picture! Sketching every day was not going to be easy and pretty much impossible in the way I had been sketching. I started to take my trusted Duke Fude and notebook in the car and spend 15 – 20 min maximum ( often no more than 10) sketching before work. Under these circumstances, colour wasn’t an option and I wanted to create illustrations that had at least some identity with the place/people!
A preferred approach to snappy sketching :
- My sketchbook is anything that has good quality cartridge paper (that doesn’t have to take watercolour) and is no bigger than A5 size. My current sketchbook for this type of drawing is an A6-size handbook with a hard cover.
- I use only one drawing implement. My current preference, virtually exclusively is the Confucius Duke 55 fude with black ink. This wonderful pen enables me to vary my line width and add darks easily.
- My preferred drawing approach is single line contour (at least in principle!). That way, even though I don’t have time for endless measuring, I can use the contour approach to get a reasonably proportional sketch. Sometimes, when I am in a hurry, I try to cut corners and it really doesn’t work very well!
- Most of these sketches are done from the warmth and comfort of the car. Although people sketches tend to be on a bus or cafe. Busy street scenes have also been captured standing in the street.
- I try to use simple texture and darks to add depth and interest to the sketch. This is even more essential in a black and white drawing.
- I’m still keen to have a layering of foreground, middle ground and background to create depth in the sketch, using weight of line and detail to try to convey this.
- Simplification is critical at this scale and I try to fade the detail out towards the edges of the sketch.
Recent Snappy Sketching examples
On the way to work
Top and Middle Mossley
Bottom Mossley (Manchester Road)
Around Woodend Mill, Mossley
Sketching from the street :
As you can see, there is nothing particularly new about the approaches I am using. But I haven’t done this type of sketching routinely before. It’s useful to have a range of approaches for different situations and this simple quick technique means that however time-poor I am, there is always a sketch to be done!.
Until earlier this year, most of my urban sketching was done in a sketchbook. Sketchbooks of all shapes (landscape, portrait, concertina), sizes (pocket, A5, A4, A3) and brands. Moleskine, Stillman and Birn, Handbook and Seawhite of Brighton are a few of the brands I’ve used. However, as I increased my sales of sketches and prints, it seemed sensible to create more of my sketches on loose paper. You can read about my #ThisPlace series of original drawings and limited edition prints here. These images were saleable and easier to scan. This in turn resulted in a dramatic reduction in my sketchbook work and a rather haphazard use of sketchbooks in the following months. This blog is about the impact that I believe reducing my sketchbook sketching has had on my drawing practice and how I propose to move forward.
My sketchbook sketching practice
Earlier in the year I was using an A4 moleskine watercolour sketchbook much like a visual diary. I sketched in this sketchbook very regularly using a variety of approaches and often wrote notes of explanation about the scene. Sometimes I divided the page into a series of smaller thumbnail sketches. Subject matter was varied. I also had different sketchbooks for different subject matter eg. people sketching notebooks.
My Sketchbook sketching alternative loose paper work
For some reason as I started to do more loose paper work I did less sketchbook work. The loose paper works tended to be whole scenes with very little in the way of descriptive text. A title and date were the norm for these sketches. Often, they were colour first and they would take longer than my average sketchbook sketch: perhaps 2 plus hours. Because they were to be prints there was also a tendency to be more precious about them. I enjoyed these pieces and there are strong benefits to creating them. However, I do feel that my sketchbook sketching work took a back seat. This in turn had an impact on the variety of things I was sketching. In hindsight, I think I should have put more effort into creating both types of drawing in parallel.
Sketchbook sketching-The benefits
Here are what I consider to be some of my key benefits of sketchbook sketching and the reason why I need to do more of it!:
- I am creating a visual diary, something to look back on, a chronology of events and ideas.
- The sketchbook automatically provides stories: of places, of occasions, of objects, through the visuals and narrative.
- It keeps me observing and recording: anything that catches my eye, so increasing the variety of subjects that I sketch. Inside, outside, from the car, waiting for a bus etc (this seems less likely with a loose piece of paper!).
- Everything is in one place so it becomes a toolbox of ideas about subjects, sketching process etc.
- Because it is always to hand, it keeps me sketching daily. I have to say that by not keeping a regular sketchbook, it is easy to slip into bad habits of not sketching very regularly.
- Its not as precious as a piece of loose paper (for me anyway!) so there is a greater tendency to try different approaches.
- Sketchbooking keeps me thinking about presentation of the pages and layout and therefore storytelling. It goes beyond the composition of the drawing itself.
Sketching in sketchbooks gets me out with other like-minded urban sketchers and sketching friends. Of course it doesn’t matter whether you are doing this in a sketchbook or on loose paper! However, when using loose paper I often go on a specific ‘mission’ to do a sketch and this is often alone rather than with a group.
Getting back on track with Sketchbook Sketching
Last weekend I attended one of the Urban sketchers 10 x 10 workshops at Salford Quays. The session meant that I took a sketchbook with me (I chose an A5 moleskine that had remained half full for sometime!). I subsequently created a number of sketches over the bank holiday weekend in this small book. It got me thinking about getting back into a regular sketchbook sketching which I plan to do in the coming days. In order for me to feel the benefit I am going to use a main sketchbook rather than several at once. I will try to use different approaches depending upon the subject, time available and materials. These are likely to include pen and ink work, watercolour, collage and perhaps coloured pencil/crayon/pastel. Given that my key interest in sketching is driven by the reportage storytelling aspects, it is that which I need to focus upon in my sketchbook work.
I am also going to think about ways of overcoming the endless searching for a perfect sketchbook! There are always pros and cons with any type of sketchbook so I am going to try to live with this and stop using this as an excuse for not progressing! What have been your main sketchbook sketching dilemmas? I’d love to hear about them!
I haven’t posted about my people sketching for a while, although I am always looking to improve my people drawing. This is because my area of interest, reportage illustration, involves telling stories of people and places through drawing. Last weekend I attended one of the 10×10 Manchester and Sheffield Urban sketching ‘Reporting from your city’ workshops. These types of workshops are taking place all over the world to celebrate 10 years of the Urban Sketching organisation. The session on Saturday is one of 4 that I will be attending, entitled : Great Stories. Each one will cover a separate aspect of drawing the big picture on location. Continue reading
Over the last couple of Wednesday evenings (2 x 2 hours) I ran a demonstration and workshop on Urban Sketching at Salford Art Club, held in Salford Museum and Art Gallery. I am also a member of this art club so for some reason (I think it always is when you know people!) it was a little bit more nerve wracking than usual. However, members made me feel very at ease and we had a couple of great sessions. Fortunately, on the first session earlier in July, the weather was great, enabling me to demonstrate my colour-first technique outside and also set the group off with some thumbnail sketching practice around the outside of the gallery as a way of capturing snapshot views of the place before settling on an overall view. Unfortunately we had to run the second session inside the gallery but with plenty to sketch (and an example to hand of how this compares with the outside situation), this wasn’t too much of an imposition! The main focus of both sessions was capturing the essence of the place using relatively quick techniques and creating depth in the drawing (without necessarily focusing on perspective only). Members seemed to really enjoy the sessions and engage with the approach of drawing from life. For me, with an interest in reportage illustration as well as urban sketching, this is the focus of all of my work. Continue reading
This weekend (July 15th 2017) I attended my first ever proloco event in Longridge Lancashire. The Create Longridge event was launched in September 2016 and challenges artists to create a brand new, original piece of art, from scratch, in one day. And what a day it was! I decided to attend after seeing the event on social media. I was interested in learning more about these types of events and as I sketch on location and enjoy the process of capturing places (and people) from life it seemed like a good idea! Continue reading
Manchester’s King Street Festival is now in its 3rd year and it is the first year it has included the top area of King Street, with parking bays turned into mini parklets for the duration! All along this iconic and historic shopping street there was al fresco dining, free fizz, gifts and goodiebags, a bandstand, a grand piano, pop-up parks, an art garden together with heritage tours and events from Manchester’s premium names in shopping, food and drink. The festival was also supporting The British Red Cross We Love MCR emergency fund for those affected by the Manchester arena attack. This year I sensed, amongst the sadness and quiet reflection of the St Ann’s Square flower memorial, togetherness and a feeling of Manchester pulling together in solidarity. This is what makes Manchester special: its people and its places. Continue reading
This May I was fortunate enough to be commissioned to capture a wedding celebration at Browsholme Hall Tithe Barn, outside of Cliteheroe in Lancashire, UK. Reportage Illustration, the art of visual storytelling, is a particular interest of mine. You can read about the sorts of thing I’ve covered through reportage sketching here, including events and special occasions, travel destinations, restoration projects and journalistic correspondence. The focus of my work is to capture a sense of place, a sense of occasion and a sense of emotion. Weddings are therefore a natural occasion for me to be interested in drawing. Continue reading