Sketchbook Sketching -what’s the point?

Sketchbook sketching_reportage

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.

Sketchbook sketching   

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.

This Place urban sketches

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.

Sketchbook sketching_reportage

 

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!

People at Play-an urban sketching workshop

Lizsscribbles_peoplesketchi

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

My Reportage Illustration at a launch event for Manchester Airport: Platform

At the end of February this year, I was thrilled to be commissioned by the Manchester Airport Property Group to capture their first lunchtime event at Manchester Airport’s Transport Interchange. These events, which will include a wide range of community activities, including, food, seminars and product launches (publicized with the hash tag #FarFlungFridays on social media) are aimed at animating the large public realm area and are named Platform  Although video and photography were being employed to create a video of the event, the drawings were considered a welcome addition, as a way of capturing the energy of the occasion and the vibrancy and context of the set up and location. The intention is to use the drawings in marketing material. This blog shares my process and results. Continue reading

Reportage-Why I fell in Love with it!

The Oxford English Dictionary cites the origin of the word ‘reportage’ to come from the Early 17th century French, from Old French reporter ‘to carry back’.   In this way, reportage illustration is a form of visual journalism, visual storytelling.  You go out into the world around you and take back with you that experience.   That memory, in drawn form, with pen, and ink and…. whatever else it is possible to record onto a surface with. Continue reading

Drawing every day: a doddle or a drama?-Diversity is the key

LizsScribbles_RedLion

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 to a close…. My Sketching Stories of the year

Lizsscribbles2016compilation

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

Memories of Home

LizsScribbles_gardenroom1

This last month (to the day) has seen some drama in our house. When I say ‘our’ house, I use that as a general term. It’s the place I grew up, not the same house I spent my childhood in but its home because the people (my mum and dad plus others) and the ‘things’ make it so.   It’s where I have so many memories and now I have been given some time to be able to capture them in drawings. Not that I have had too much time yet, but I have made a start and I will continue. So this blog is about drawing memories: a sense of place and sense of things. Continue reading

Sketching at Manchester City and ChinaTown: Defining the Sense of Place

lizsscribbles_chinatown

Over the last two weekends, I have visited two different Manchester locations to draw:  The Etihad Stadium in East Manchester, the Manchester City Football Club grounds and ChinaTown in Central Manchester. Each of  these drawings were created over a several hour period: pencil, ink then watercolour (paint and pencil).  In terms of identifying the best main view and composition, I did this by walking around the site and observing different aspects: the angles, the depth of view, the light and shadow etc.  The other thing I do is to write down (or at least have in my mind) key words that reflect what I feel for the place and what I want to convey in the main sketch.  I can then refer to this as I draw.  Continue reading

Sketching as therapy

LizsScribbles_industrialManchester

To say that it has been a traumatic week sounds dramatic.  I received an urgent call on Wednesday lunchtime.  By Wednesday evening I was standing outside the Stroke unit in my hometown down in Suffolk.  Hugging my parents and wondering what was next.  The corridor setting was quiet, cold, remote and downright scary.  There seem to be 3 types of people around; those going about their daily routine; those who have come to know this as their daily routine and the downright fearful.   Continue reading

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!

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

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