One of my goals for this year is to develop and improve my watercolour approaches : not necessarily in the traditional ways but those of the looser; more atmospheric and dynamic artists like Jean Haines and Judith Farnworth who let the water and the colour sing! I love the life, movement and freedom of their works so I’m interested in how I could incorporate some of the approaches into my own artwork. I want to do this with three main areas of application: my existing urban sketching and reportage illustration; figure drawing and ‘other’ watercolour paintings (possibly rural landscapes, not sure yet!).
I thought I’d write this Q and A piece to fully explain what my #ThisPlace Series of sketches is all about before its launch later this month.
What is it?
Those of you that know my work will know that I am a keen urban sketcher and reportage illustrator. As a trained landscape designer, depiction of a ‘Sense of Place’, capturing in my drawings, what it is that makes that place like it is, is very important to me. Therefore, I wanted to create a series of drawings throughout the year, of the Places around the Northwest that I love, visit and connect with. Hence the name ‘This Place’ Of course I may include the odd drawing in the series that is not the North West of England, but for the main part, they will be of the North West, including Manchester. These pen, ink and watercolour wash/coloured pencil drawings created on very high quality watercolour paper (or paper suited to the medium) and framed will be available for purchase. They will be either A4 or square (8” format) (excluding the Frame so a little bit larger with the frame and mount).
When I first started drawing very regularly in 2013/14 I set myself a task to be drawing every day within 6 months. I managed that and at the time, well, until recently, I had done that. I was often doing several drawing courses, e.g. Craftsy, on-line sessions like Sketchbook Skool etc. It didn’t seem so hard. There was a variety to draw and there was direction. But as time went on, I got my own direction, my own commissions and yep, my own pressures! Bigger (I started with A5 sketchbooks but now I usually use A4 or bigger, paper or sketchbooks (a topic for another blog!), more detailed, more text, …more time…It was a treadmill and I got the impression that If I stopped, I might never start again! Continue reading
As 2016 draws (get it!) to a close, I thought I’d capture my year in sketches ( some but not all of them!), partly as an aide memoire (those of you that read my blog know how I like to document my drawing adventures!) and partly to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. Its been quite a year in many respects and those of you that have followed my #scribblescompilations on social media in my 12 days of Christmas countdown, will be familiar with most of the combinations below. However, this blog puts a narrative to the visuals and I have tried to group things so that you can see more of the approaches and types of things that I am interested in recording and the approaches I’ve taken to drawing. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about the process of creating my artworks including prints and my 2017 Calendar for my stall at Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar on Sunday 27th November 2016. You can read it here. We are now only days away from the festivities so I thought I would give you an update with some snippets of what I’ve got in store for you at the Bazaar. As I mentioned in my previous blog, although I have been a frequent visitor and sketcher at the previous events, I have not exhibited before so its a super exciting time for me (with a little bit of nervousness thrown in for good measure!). Continue reading
Autumn has always been my favourite season. For two main reasons: firstly the quality of light ; lower in the sky but with a warm glowing quality: in the UK it has often been a sunny and bright season. Predictably, the second reason is for the stunning colours; burnt reds; rich oranges and simmering golds; magentas and the like. Continue reading
For a while I have been torn between using loose watercolour paper to create my sketches and recording in sketchbooks. There are pros and cons and as an urban sketcher with an interest in telling chronological stories through drawing, I have often worked in sketchbooks (moleskine, Stillman and Birn, SeaWhite, Handbook) and most often at A5 size for its portability. For me, the issue with using that approach alone is three-fold: one is the size is arguably a little small (although of course you can buy larger size sketchbooks, but then there is the size and weight!) ; secondly creating prints from them is not always straightforward. The third is that because work for prints was in my sketchbook, I was getting tighter and more precious with my sketchbook work (which is the opposite of what I want!). Continue reading
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.
Over the last few weeks I have started to think more about quick capture and how best to produce the best sketches when I have limited time. Of course I am thinking about my forthcoming role as correspondent at the 7Th Urban Sketchers Symposium (#USkManchester2016) here in Manchester in the summer and wondering how I best adapt my current approaches to be able to deliver! With this in mind I have been trying a few sketches using watercolour first and here are the results. Continue reading
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
This trip took me up the coast from Perth, to Kalbarri and up to Denham and Monkey Mia. The total trip is about 9 hours (each way) so the itinery involved 3 stop overs: 3 nights in Kalbarri, 3 nights in Denham and a night on the way back to Perth, in Geraldton. For this trip I used a concertina Seabright sketchbook which, although it is not watercolour paper, is thick enough to manage the watercolour paint without buckling. It produces a lovely long story book of sketches but given the amount of windy weather, it was tricky to keep a hold of whilst drawing and this got very frustrating. Of course it could have been worse as I seemed to have arrived in the area 24 hours after a cyclone hit but it was still very windy!
The drive from Perth North is a monotonous one, lots of open landscape, few trees and very very limited habitation. There are a few cars and mostly large wagons transporting freight. You get the picture! There were also bizarre snippets of information on the sat nav like turn left in 294 km!
It was sunny but windy for the whole 3 day stay. The B&B had a sweet little staffy dog called Butter (no idea why!). I captured her in one of my drawings! In many ways it is a typical sleepy seaside town, not so much going on but some breathtaking landscape. Oh, and there are pelicans, lots of pelicans and these are fed each morning on the beach by volunteers. There are two things of note here as far as I could see, firstly, the beaches are stunning, with creamy white sand and the most stunningly beautiful turqoises and blues in the sea. The other notable feature is the oranges, browns, beiges and pinks of the sandstone: in the form of the most amazing coastline and also in the form of gorges. The later are a half hour drive out of Kalbarri and up an approximately 20 km rough track but it is worth the trip! There are several rock formations, including the stunning Natures Window, a sandstone formation with a hole through which you see the landscape beyond. Oh and their fish and chips are good too , with locally caught fish. I didn’t draw mine as I was keen to eat them hot! There are no trendy cafes here, unlike Perth and down south but you can’t have everything!
Denham and Monkey Mia, Shark Bay
Three days later saw a similarly monotonous drive from Kalbarri to Denham although at 4 plus hours this was a shorter trip than that from Perth to Kalbarri. Arriving early afternoon, it was a Sunday and the small town of Denham was even more deserted than that of Kalbarri! It was bright and sunny but very very windy! Even so I managed to sketch the accommodation and the views out to the sea. This place doesn’t appear to have much going on, but what is here is the stunning colours of the sea and amazing sea wildlife. Therefore, the next couple of days sought to explore that and make the most of it: snorkeling; visiting an aquarium run by marine biologists to hear about the sea life and importantly about the importance of shark conservation, going out in a catamaran to see dugongs, an endangered species, feeding on the sea grass, seeing dolphins and turtles being fed on the shoreline were all the things that made this a special place. Monkey Mia is essentially a resort from where the wildlife adventures go out from and is 20 minutes drive across from Denham.
The trip down from Denham to Perth started on the 23rd December with a nights stop at Geraldton. On first glance, this is a typical seaside town, perhaps busier and with quirkier shops and cafes than Kalbarri and Denham. However, after visiting and talking to some interesting boutique owners (one in particular who sold me a gorgeous pair of sandals!) I started to get a feel for the more interesting cafes and restaurants and of the drive to make this place trendier! On 24th December the next stop was Subiaco, Perth, for Christmas!
Please stay tuned for the last instalment of my Aussie Adventures which sees a return to Perth before flying back to the UK.
It has been just under two weeks since I last posted a blog on here and I have to say that I have been thinking about several different aspects of drawing, going off in all directions and getting myself in a bit of a spin! I have been starting to incorporate more people drawing into my sketchbook drawings, but at the same time, have started Sketchbook skool Storytelling and have additionally been exploring some different approaches to my watercolour work. Further to all this, I read a very thought proving blog by Fred Lynch entitled : Pictures of Pictures on the Urban Sketchers site. It got me really thinking about the purpose of my sketch book scribbles and how I wanted to be able to tell stories through my drawings, not just produce pictures of well known landmarks and buildings! In the words of Fred Lynch in his blog: ‘We can’t just show things, we have to say things’. I have always maintained that my interest in urban sketching is related to reportage and being able to tell stories of Urban Life, however, until recently, I think I have been a little caught up with the mechanics of drawing as opposed to using the drawing to describe and illustrate: something that I have an enthusiasm for and a unique angle upon. I am starting to think quite differently about my drawings now, although it is probably true to say that I need much more practice in exploring how I communicate most effectively in my sketches. Here is a somewhat eclectic mix of some of my drawings from the week.
A visit to Stockport Vintage Fair
Last weekend I attended the Fair alongside other Manchester Urban Sketchers. What a fabulous building to sketch and what an extraordinary and electic mix of stalls, from clothes to pictures, to household items: a real step back in time. A central stall caught my eye with its flurry of activity and I just managed to catch a little girl buying an old wooden dolls house. The building itself is stunning too, inside and out but I found it lovely to capture the look of the building, having already documented activities going on inside.
A theatre trip in Cheshire
Another trip back in time with a small local production of ‘An Ideal Husband’ by Oscar Wilde. Fortunately, I have an ideal husband who doesn’t mind me sitting drawing whilst we watched the production! I found it hard to capture all the changing costumes and scenery but feel that what was captured does give a flavour of the play although it would have been better to include captions and narrative.
Our boutique allotment
This is a great time of year on the allotment site with everything growing well and much in the way of structures : bean canes, pea sticks, wigwams. I am aware that telling the story of the allotment can be a challenging one: a sea of green! I wanted to create a narrative with the canes and with simple, bold colour and strong contrast.
A quick trip to the Trafford Centre
An eclectic mix of elements! This is the entranceway into the restaurant area and China Town. The car adds another slightly surreal prop in a somewhat ostentatious space that is this well known shopping centre! Of course there were plenty of people moving through the space at a steady rate!
I have wanted to capture these garages and their surroundings for a while! They are rather attractive in their dishevelled state and it is fascinating that they are almost invisible, on the edge of activities which you might think would ensure their repair/change. The wood, pipes and barbed wire make for an interesting image!
I look forward to sharing more of my storytelling adventures in future blogs.
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!
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!
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.
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….
This may sound like an odd title for a blog about my scribbles but there are a couple of things that I often think about with urban sketching and both of them are related to focusing. The first is related to the fact that I do a lot of my urban sketching in and around a particular city where I live: Manchester, UK. Within the city there key areas, as with most places, but I tend to dot around with my sketching, depending upon where I am going and where I am when I have time to sketch. I often don’t do a series of sketches in one area (or at least not consecutively), even though that is really what I want to do: to focus in and capture the essence of a place by a series of drawings over a few days (rather than weeks or months!). The second aspect of focus I am interested in improving in my sketching is related to a composition itself: using tools and approaches to draw the observer into the drawing to the place that is the focus within the image. One way I am interested in exploring focus is by using selective colour. Now I used to do this but for some reason, have got out of the habit.
With these two things in mind, this week, in the evenings, I have chosen to go just to one area: Chapel Street on the outskirts of Manchester. A regeneration area where buildings and public realm are changing rapidly. This route has some of the most spectacular and beautiful, albeit often decaying, buildings. I have used colour selectively to try to provide a focus and draw for each image:
In this sketch of the old pub, it was a terrible evening and I sat in the car (as I did for all of the sketches here, looking out the front window)with the rain pouring down. I really wanted to make sure that I captured that rain and the look and feel of the place. I added colour afterwards so was able to practice with splatters and splurges using the flick of the brush and adding water and holding the paper vertically. I often make copies of sketches and practice with colour so that I can see the effect before ruining my sketchbook!
In this last sketch, which was a somewhat complicated scene at a traffic junction, I have tried to make the old cinema the main focus but have added some colour to the left hand side of the sketch to ensure that it connects in with the focus and can be read as one drawing.
I am quite enjoying this focused exploration work and will be progressing with more of this. I also plan to return to Chapel street as there are many more buildings and scenes to capture. I will keep you posted!
Last week we were challenged to draw our view through a window by Roz Stendahl of Sketchbook skool and it got me thinking. Of course views through windows of the house is a great one in the winter time: you can draw from life but in the comfort of your own home but it got me thinking about drawing in the car and how much I have found this of use throughout the winter. Often times, you can get quite a prime spot at a particular location and can draw in the comfort of a warm car with a ready seat too! At this time of year in the UK, it may well be lovely and sunny but the cold of winter is still with us and it makes for some very cold drawing if you are doing it outside! I know because I tried it on a Manchester Sketchcrawl yesterday! There comes a point where you can no longer feel your fingers and so control your pen-not a good recipe for fine urban sketching.
Last week whilst out and about in my landscape designer role, I was fortunate to drive through a number of great city locations, from Didsbury to Ancoats in Manchester. The first of these out-and-about sketches was done of an amazing old Fire Station building: London Road Fire Station in Manchester. This is a grade II listed fire station and from my car window, I had an great view of a small portion of the building; on other days I was equally lucky to be able to be close to other interesting buildings and with the opportunity to stop for an hour or so to draw. On one occasion, the traffic warden was about to move me on, but on seeing what I was doing, told me I could stay to finish my drawing!
Of course as I mentioned at the beginning, drawing views form the house is also very useful and this final windows drawing of the week shows the rich old bricks of a row of quirky cottages visible from the rear of our home.
Thanks for reading and looking forward to updating you on more of my sketchbook adventures soon!