Moving On: Hooray for heroes but don’t be a sheep!

It has taken me longer to move on from the urban sketching symposium in Manchester than I had expected although I wasn’t sure what I expected really!  You can hear about some of my takeaway lessons from my role as correspondent here.  The olympics has certainly helped me to move on over the last two weeks and I don’t mean because it was a diversion or that I sat and sketched the activities ( although that may have been a good idea! ) but that the athletes talked so passionately of this concept of just keeping practicing and going on to improve skill- just keep on going… It’s a point well made.  

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After the dust has settled :What I learnt from my correspondent role at #USkManchester2016

What an absolutely amazing week at the Manchester Urban SketchersSymposium  (27th-30th July 2016)!  I don’t think anything would have fully prepared me for the incredible experience of meeting and sketching with like-minded artists from around the world! It was just magical to see the city I have come to know and love being portrayed by skilled sketchers from near and far.  It was also a wonderful sight to see the streets lined with people drawing together, old-friends and new friends.  It is a little hard to settle now that it is over so, as a kind of wrap-up from me, an attempt to collect some thoughts and learnings, this blog summarises my role as local correspondent, what I learnt from it and what next!  The images are a mix of sketches done post-symposium, they are not necessarily with a specific theme or purpose, other than to get me back into sketching!

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Preparing for #USkManchester 2016: context, Colour and Kit

My goodness time is getting short before the start of the International Urban sketching here in Manchester next week (from July 27th) although really, it begins when people start arriving this coming weekend!  This is the second blog about my preparation for my role as correspondent at the symposium.  In this blog, having addressed some of my people practice in the previous preparation blog I am going to be talking about context and colour  before finishing with a quick summary of my sketch kit for the occasion! Continue reading

A change is as good as a rest

I spend quite a bit of time sketching in Manchester and as a result, can get a little overloaded with the cityscape!  So, as this last weekend was the last chance I would have, before the Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester (#USkManchester2016), I decided upon a different environment for my sketching and headed off to the south Lakes, around lake Windermere. Recently I have been doing specific commissions and this has meant that the fast and quick sketches, that are going to be the order of the day for the symposium, have taken a back seat.  Therefore, in this first week of my own personal sketching practice countdown to the symposium I decided to let myself in gently (although the voice in my head is shouting very loudly: Don’t panic Mr Mannering!!).   Continue reading

What’s your Story?

I cannot believe that I have not posted a blog on here for nearly 3 weeks.  But I have a few excuses: firstly I have had a pretty hectic time with a few big commissions, including #citiesofhope and The Manchester Histories Festival.  Also, I have been writing blog posts as part of those commissions as well as posting on the Urban Sketchers blog on a weekly basis with my countdown to the Symposium sketches.  Am I forgiven yet?   The other thing that has been taking my time is that I have been running some Urban Sketching workshops, some for the Manchester Histories Festival and then this week I have had two days running two workshops at the Creative and Media Academy here in Manchester (MCMA).  It is this week’s workshops that I am going to talk about in this blog. Continue reading

My Local Correspondent Countdown Begins to the 7th International Urban Sketchers Symposium, Manchester 2016

As most of you that read my scribbles blog are aware, I am a keen urban sketcher and member of the Manchester Urban Sketchers group. You may also be aware that I am going to be the local correspondent for the 7th International Symposium here in Manchester 27-30th July 2016. I am thrilled and excited to have been asked to contribute in this way, but with that is a certain amount of trepidation! There are 4 correspondents for the symposium and you can read about us all here: Between us we will need to cover 26 workshops, eight activities, four demos and 11 lectures over the 3 days, sketch them and then blog about them daily! We are going to be busy! Continue reading

Developing my people skills 2-A moving target

With a fascination with urban reportage, capturing the stories of a city and its people is a main area of interest and one which, as may be imagined, requires an ability to draw people. This is because they are an important part of most city scenes and the stories of those places. People in cafes, in markets, running, walking, cycling, going about their business, and that requires an ability to capture the human form, whether still or in motion.  I have blogged about my people drawing before and you can see it here. Continue reading

‘Expressing’ my thoughts on, well, you’ve guessed it, a course called Expressing…

Over the last 6 weeks I have taken another Sketchbook Skool Course called ‘Expressing’ and I have talked about it in various blogs about different aspects of drawing and painting.  I have taken several other SBS courses and I have blogged about them here.  I guess what was different about this course for me was that it focused on approaches of how to create interesting art rather than focusing solely on drawing, sketching and painting skills.  What I mean by that was that it was technique-based and aspects other than drawing were covered including:  lettering, creating your own sketchbooks,  infographics, using watercolour in different ways, lino cutting and mono printing, detailed studies and scaling up.  Not forgetting digital approaches using software on the iPad although I will not talk further about this until I get into digital drawing (which at the moment, is in my ‘for another day’ in-tray!). Continue reading

Colouring in 2

A year ago (doesn’t time fly when you are having fun!) I wrote two blog posts related to colour, the first: Colouring in 1 introduced my initial experiences with watercolour and the approaches I was taking to add colour in terms of media and tools, in the second blog: ‘Then don’t use brown’ I introduced the approaches I was taking to selective colouring.  During the last year colour has come up as a question in my mind in virtually every drawing I have done, but I haven’t devoted another a whole blog to it again until now.  Here are the questions I go through as I am drawing: Continue reading

The Writing’s on the wall…..The importance of lettering in a drawing

In the beginning

I have long been an admirer of elegant beautiful writing and lettering. When I started drawing very regularly, I didn’t make much of my writing. Over the years it had become scrawly and non-descript although I had originally been taught italic writing at school (yep, italic dip pen and ink, wooden desks, lines of letters, you get the picture). I realized that I wanted to be able to write more on my journal pages, but not in that scatchy sloppy writing.   Sometimes I want to just add a title, but it is is often a longer narrative, about the place, the people, the conversations.   The storytelling in words needed to become a part of the drawing and so I began thinking about my handwriting and about making my pages distinctive and attractive. I returned to practicing handwriting and to thinking about italic writing and how to use it more stylishly on my journal pages. In conjunction, I was interested in lettering such as that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and by studying this and watching artists like Pat Southern-Pearce I started to develop my own combination. It has been evolving now for about a year or so. Here are some examples: Continue reading

Lost and found: 1 sketching mojo……..All change.

I have just looked this word Mojo up in the concise Oxford dictionary and it says: ‘A magic charm or spell..’ now for the record,  I certainly don’t consider my sketching to be such (although admittedly, it is quite magical that after many years I decide I am just going to draw/scribble).  However, what I will say is that something happened this week that, well, halted me in my tracks.  Hard to pin down exactly what  led to it as I am doing a variety of things that influence my sketching including USK urban sketching with the Manchester group; Sketchbook Skool,(storytelling), Drink and Draw with Andrea Joseph and impromptu reading/looking at other artist works.  I also have a full time day job so you put all those things into a melting pot it is probably not so surprising that ‘something happened’!  Anyway, I will try to tell the story as I see it:

In the beginning

I don’t mean the beginning of time (I’d never finish this blog), the beginning of my sketching (hard to pin down exactly when that was) but, the beginning of the week…

Last Saturday I went out with the Manchester Urban sketchers and created a couple of sketches at the Didsbury Arts Festival.  They were my ‘style’, my thing, in my comfort zone etc. It was a great afternoon, amongst other sketching buddies.  But, and this is a BUT, my sketches felt a little laborious and I am not so sure they had life, activity, reality, or that they told MY story.  If they did, what was that story and who were the star players?  I didn’t know.  My drawings were stop frames rather than moments in time.  I was too caught up in accurate line (whatever that is), to inject life into the drawings….I’d hit a wall.

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The hazy bit..

At that point in the week, I just felt a little lost (violins please!).  After over a year of sketching almost every day with only a little blip here and there I didn’t feel able to draw anything and I posted this on Facebook.  Several sketching buddies came to the rescue with kind and helpful comments (the sketching fraternity with their skills and friendship never cease to amaze me with their generosity and support).  It was my wedding anniversary and I drew the peonies my husband bought me.  I went through the usual motions of drawing, I even started to put more text into the picture to tell the story.   Its all about the story, the peonies were just a simple drawing but when I looked at them, they told MY story.  I was trying to understand what it was I wanted my drawing practice to be about, what was I wanting to get and for others to get from my drawings?  How was I going to achieve that?  All big questions with no answers!  I felt out of my depth at this point, not wanting to go back, not knowing how to do forward.

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A combination of factors…

Great timing!  On  Friday two things happened which so helped me to understand a bit more.  Firstly, Veronica Lawlor started her week of Sketchbook Skool, wow-she actually describes drawing as though you were drawing…… Her language and her energy is on the one hand scary, on the other, very inspiring!  As a world-renowned illustrator, it is great to hear her talk and show her drawing practice.  Her interest in reportage and capturing motion, activity, events, makes the drawings so meaningful and alive.  This is no easy task.  Constantly watching and observing people in motion and capturing the essence is undoubtedly a lifetime’s work.   Looking at some drawings of events with people I have done recently seem somehow lumpy, wooden, static.  One important aspect that I now realise is that I am using my sketchbook (and therefore my drawings) in a non-exploratory way.  I need to use them more to explore ideas and approaches rather than trying to make it something that I think might be worthy of being shown around at a sketch meeting!  Being more experimental and willing to take risks is something I need to work on!  My tastes and direction are changing, its all a little unnerving!

And then Friday evening was also the Drink and Draw session with Andrea Joseph at The Studios in New Mills.  There were props, a great and very drawable actor with amazing clothes and a good dose of dramatic license thrown in!  Its like a murder mystery with a difference: we the audience are trying to draw it!  The session was, of course that of the Funeral of Great Aunt Maud hosted by the distraught (and wonderfully dressed!) Hector Littleton….. at the end of the evening, poor Hector’s demise was inevitable….

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And now…

Yesterday I went out and spent a somewhat shorter period of time than usual (over an hour)  (this was intensional to actively prevent me from going into usual mode), but enough time to get some detail into the drawing (half an hour including colour).  The big thing for me in this was that the buildings were there to show context.  I forced myself not to spend every minute getting the building lines right!  They just needed to show an impression.  The story was the people, within the context of the streetscape.    Here’s my attempt:

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Maybe the moral of the story is….More scribbling required!  Or, as Andy Warhol once said:  ‘Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.’

People Skills and my first alternative life drawing class…..

I have been urban sketching for just a year now (my first Urban sketching meet-up with Manchester Urban Sketchers was in May last year, in the pouring rain!).  During that time I have sketched in lots of locations (with and without rain!) across the city and it is clear that you cannot urban sketch, in most situations, without including people.  People standing, sitting, running, moving about in all sorts of ways, they add life, meaning and a narrative to the drawing.  This brings the first dilemma-how to include people without it ruining the drawing! i.e. I need people skills (or should I say, I need to develop skills in drawing people).  Now that is not to say that I want to become a portrait artist or anything like that, nor do I want to rush off to life drawing (in the traditional sense of life drawing) and think that will fix the situation.  But what I do want to do, is to be able to convincingly add people to my street scenes, or even make them the focus of some of my urban drawing, if that is appropriate to the scene.  So what do I need to do to achieve this?  There is a saying that ‘Practice makes perfect’ and I am a really big believer in practice, however, practice alone is not, in my opinion, enough.  I need a framework within which to practice, I need some guidance on techniques as well as some specific practice in settings that will build my confidence.

Here are the specific things I have started to do to help me with my people drawing:

This is a great course because Marc, a skilled urban sketcher takes you through, step by step, how to draw people in urban settings, with videos of the whole process.

  • I’ve got a great little urban sketching handbook called: People and Motion by Gabriel Campanario-Whilst there are many books on drawing people, I wanted a bite size urban sketching focused guide and this is it!  I also have several other urban sketching texts which cover people drawing (the subject of another blog!).

Scribbles from my first Drink and Draw Class

What I loved about this first session I attended was the drawing of people in context-there is a story, a narrative, props, clothes and a great set up such that you feel you are sketching a scene,-just as you are in urban sketching.  This is made all the more fun by wonderful vintage clothing, interesting props (telephone, sewing machine, red case, a 1920’s basket chair!) and a great model (Miriam Gent).  Here are my first scribbled attempts with some questions to be answered:

Who is she on the phone to? and what is she writing in that letter? (all are 10 minute poses, colour added later)

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I wonder if we can guess what is in that suitcase and why she is being arrested at the station!…..(10 minutes each: a 20 minute pose with an exciting event, as illustrated, half way through!)

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And for the next time:

Whilst I was happy with some of the detail and proportion I achieved given it is my first class, I want to focus more on capturing the overall gestures of figures before going in with the detail (and doing a better job of that detail in terms of hands, feet etc); I also want to get better at shadow and light and I need to practice my face drawing!  The later is, without doubt, a bit of a struggle for me at the moment!  Onwards and upwards and I am so looking forward to my next session: The funeral of Lady Henrietta Margaret Littleton (‘Maud’)………..

A trip to London: memories and missed opportunities

Over the past week we were lucky enough to pop down to London for a couple of days to visit that well known flower show: RHS Chelsea and to take in some of the other sites in the capital.  What was interesting about this trip was that the last time I visited London, I wasn’t sketching (at least not like I am now, on a very regular basis).  But what it also made me think was, I am sketching, but probably not enough, and maybe not spontaneously enough!  I managed to sketch some key scenes but I also missed other opportunities such as sketching on the tube and sketching the rather dramatic routes around Euston where we stayed.  That said, there were other things that got in the way!  No matter, I have more of a visual record from the sketches I did do and it has made me think further about my sketching practice and what I want to evolve it into!

Chelsea was a challenge because there were just so many people!  I wanted to ensure that I captured the essence of this spectacular show, but not in an obvious way.  I wanted it to be about what I remember when I think of Chelsea so the sketches were  quite poignant in what they represent:  The gardens scene was done mid afternoon whilst waiting to meet up with someone (I never did find them) but I did manage to pass the time by sketching!  What was interesting was the response by passers by!  It seemed to me that sketching wasn’t something people did at Chelsea-they take pictures….. usually, with very expensive cameras!  The middle scene was the lunchtime crowds in the picnic area.  We were lucky to get a seat and, as you can imagine, I got the distinct impression that sketching was considered less worthy than eating!  Finally, at the end of the day, we parked ourselves for a cup of tea before making our exit.  What is Chelsea about if not Pimms and strawberries!

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The following day we did a spot of sight seeing.  First to Canary Wharf and the new roof garden by Cross Rail.  No time for sketching (this is what I mean by some missed opportunities!  even some quick 10 minute sketches would have been nice-note to self for next time).  We then went over to London Bridge and Borough market followed by a trip to Camden and its rather extraordinary sites.  Again, some missed opportunities as well as some good scenes that I did capture.  At Borough market we actually managed to park ourselves on a kerb edge around the main posts of the market place-this was ‘the place’ to sit!!  on the floor, surrounded by others with the same idea although I didn’t spot anyone else sketching!  Again, here it would have been nice to get some close up details as well as the overall scene.  Some time-management skills are required here I think!   Then at Camden I was fortunate enough to find a view that captured for me, what Camden is about.  On reflection, some more detailed people sketching would have been nice to enable me to capture the full energy of this extraordinary, ‘alternative’ place!

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Finally, prior to getting our train at lunchtime, we visited The Building Centre to look at the Public Realm exhibition, before heading across to The British Museum.  The crowds at the latter were a sight to behold and I managed one last sketch before getting the train.

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As I say in the title, some sketches that provide me with great memories of my trip, as well as some missed opportunities!  I will just have to make another visit soon….

My Sketch crawl Experience in Birmingham UK

Yesterday, the 25th April 2015, I headed south from Manchester to Birmingham to attend the 47th Urban Sketchers sketch crawl with the Birmingham Urban Sketchers. I took an early train from Manchester Piccadilly and promptly started a quick train carriage scribble.  The poor man opposite wasn’t very happy because he thought he should have had the window seat! Of course the lady already sitting in the window seat soon put him right! There were a lot of sideways glances  and although I think he knew I was drawing him, he probably thought the better of saying anything further!

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This was the first time I had been out with the Birmingham group but knew several of the group from other forums.   The sketchcrawl took the route between Moor Street Station and Eastside Park, (starting at Moorstreet and ending at the Woodman pub on New Canal Street). I arrived earlier than the start time (11 am) so took the chance to do a few very quick sketches from the station. To be honest, at that point the weather didn’t look promising, grey skies, and drizzle….mmm,

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But once we got going the weather improved and the sun was out amongst grey skies which was all the better to create some moody imagery. I managed to complete one main sketch before the rains came then after lunch the sun came out and stayed out the rest of the afternoon. Good job really as one of the group was wearing shorts and looked much like he was all set for a beach holiday! Here are my main sketches from the day:

I was sitting on the wall to do this sketch, looking down on the street.  The perspective and mixture of architectural styles as well as the graffiti were the interesting aspects that I was keen to capture:

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This burnt out pub with some of the more iconic buildings in Birmingham in the background, caught my eye!

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It was the layering of urban elements and the angles and scales of buildings that I was drawn to in this scene:

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It was a good turn out with sketchers that clearly went out sketching together on a regular basis. Lunchtime and end of day meet ups enabled us to , well, you’ve guessed it, talk about sketching!! It always amazes me the sheer variety of styles and approaches to drawing similar scenes and I love to peek at others sketchbooks to see how they compile their work. As usual, I picked up a couple of tips and ideas from others and I realize that I probably need to invest in a larger A4 sketchbook if my bag is big enough!   A new technique I want to try is to lay colour onto the paper prior to going out, then drawing with ink on top of that. Thanks to Ed for sharing that approach.

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It was a great day thanks to the good organization (care of Robert Foster) and hospitality and friendliness of the group in general! I’m already looking forward to the next time!