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
Its always great to sketch in a new place, especially one with history and character, so when one of the Manchester Urban Sketching Group organized a trip to her home town-Kendal in Cumbria yesterday, I was keen to make the trip. It’s always great to see what you can capture of the place and to see a place with your own eyes after seeing it through other local sketchers eyes.Like a true urban sketcher, I love to travel and visit other places to draw so we set off early to get there in good time for our meet up at the Brewery Arts Centre. Continue reading
This blog is not really a review of the course as much as a brief summary of my results and key learnings, so it’s something for me that I can return to as an aide memoire. I try to do this for all the drawing courses I take as a way of making the most from them. The course was, as usual for Liz Steel’s courses, packed full of useful examples and tips about drawing architecture not to mention some excellent demos and incredible handouts so its well worth checking it out when she runs it again. 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.
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
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
This week I have been continuing with the practice of fast people drawing and drawing people in motion and with that comes an interest in using different pens and pencils as well as finding sketchbooks that are good enough quality to allow practice of different media, including watercolour, but without breaking the bank. This blog reviews some exploration from the last week. Continue reading
Phew, what a month of drawing for Inktober. Now I can’t say I did an ink drawing everyday but I certainly did do quite a few! It has been great to think about line in isolation and although I did add watercolour to most of my drawings, the focus on ink did make me think more about my line and the way in which I was using the line to convey a range of elements: depth (through line weight), detail, shadow through hatching, movement etc. All of these have a valuable part to play in the build up of a drawing and tie in well with a previous blog that I produced about Edges following Liz Steel’s course. It also made me think about the way in which I used different pens for different effects, from the carbon platinum pen which gives a very clean fine line for facial features, to the pentel brush pen for solid darks, to the Lamy safari with a 1.1 italic nib pen for text and the green Sailor pen which can produce a range of line thickness depending upon the angle you are holding the pen.
Initially, my intention had been to focus on people exclusively this month for inktober but in the end, I chose to draw a range of subject matter, often the urban environment but also other objects and activities. As this is my first inktober, there will be plenty of others where I can chose one theme! In addition, there were plenty of activities and things going on in October, so it was nice to be able to capture a range of them.
Given this outcome, I have chosen to group my drawings into some key themes: People, buildings, miscellaneous (a mix of individual items) and to end with, captured for on last day of the month, a couple of reportage pieces! Here they are:
I have really enjoyed participating in Inktober and do hope you have enjoyed following the journey. Please do continue to follow my adventures on here and if you’d like to check out these images individually then don’t forget that they are all on my instagram site here:
Throughout August I have been getting involved in the #DrawingAugust activity on Social Media (twitter) as another means of encouraging me to draw daily. I post my drawings regularly on social media and have to confess that I have been a little confused by the comments about being ‘prolific’. This is because my understanding is that to get good at anything you need to practice regularly and in order to get anywhere with drawing, you need to do this daily (not a few times a week or when you feel like it, but daily). Now that is not to say I am critical of anyone else that doesn’t do this, its just for me, in order to stand any chance of improvement, I need to do it daily. I need to focus on regularity and in the past, where I haven’t done this, I have slipped back to irregular practice. In summary, I wouldn’t say that I am prolific, (actually, I take too much time and I do not do it for hours and hours daily), it is more about trying to improve by regular practice. I would advise anyone who is getting into drawing and wants to improve to do this, because I think without the regular practice, it becomes just too hard and not second nature enough to weather the inevitably bumpy rides.
Now to drawing August. There have been a variety of themes in my month so I thought I would share my month’s worth of sketching in these themes. That way you can get to see the ways that I have tackled them. On some days, especially those where I have been doing some reportage sketching, I have done more than one drawing, so I have selected 31 sketches to share here. You can see my sketching practice on Flickr here and on Instagram here.
I am particularly interested in reportage sketching of events and activities and so it makes sense to start with that aspect of my drawing first. The beginning of the month started with reportage sketching at the Manchester Dig the City gardening event. You can read the full blog about this here .
Another activity attended was the Saturday market in my home town of Bury St Edmunds Suffolk, a market town with a fruit and vegetable market every Saturday and Wednesday. Then most recently I attended a new vintage fair at Manchester cathedral and a boat show in Redhill. Well they say that variety is the spice of life!
here are the most recent sketches a little larger for easier viewing:
Café Sketching of people
I have been trying to improve my people sketching and therefore have frequented several cafes and shopping centres to capture people. People in cafes are usually moving to a lesser extent than those in crowds and it is often possible to capture a little more detail because they are often in one position for a period of time! These sketches are usually done as a gesture in pencil to which the detail is then added in pen or a contour. I am trying to improve my cleanness of line.
Allotment and plant sketching
It’s a great time of the year to be sketching my boutique allotment and some of the fruits (and flowers of our labours), so here are a few of such images, some in situ on the plot and others already picked! Oh and Mum and Dad’s apple tree in their garden is included too! You can see more of my sketching on my boutique allotment here.
This month I have also been out and about sketching with the Manchester Urban sketchers: earlier in the month at Piccadilly train station and then more recently at Salford Quays. Other location sketches include a visit to Pomona, a wonderful wild landscape on the edge of the city and the start of a series of sketches around the streets of residential Salford. Oh and almost all the sketches throughout this blog are in a moleskin watercolour sketchbook using watercolour paint. The 4 on the right below (and the dill picture left above) are different: done in a strathmore tinted paper sketchbook and using coloured pencil.
This is somewhat of an eclectic mix of subject matters and I am thrilled to have taken part in this useful sharing activity throughout August. Now that September is nearly here, I have plenty more drawing activities to occupy me! Thank you for joining me on my sketching journey and I hope that you will continue to follow my sketching adventures!
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.
This week, I was fortunate enough to attend a 3-day Urban sketching workshop: Space Oddities-Pushing your sketching boundaries in Coventry, UK. The tutors were 3 well-known urban sketchers from the worldwide urban sketchers USk group: Isabel Carmona, Simone Ridyard and Swasky, What a great workshop! With participants from all over the UK and beyond it was great to be able to get to know other sketchers, learn something of their techniques and experiences through sketchbook sharing and group work, (not to mention sketching portraits of them for a whole afternoon!!) and the local bar visits for more sketching after a long day…. well, yes, sketching!
Some of us also took the opportunity for some early morning sketching before the workshop began! Here’s a couple of my morning scribbles. I was trying hard to work outside my comfort zone: each of the thumbnails was done in 10 minutes (from the same crossroads, different street corners) and the Tudor building done much more loosely and by putting paint on early on in the process. Oh, and one thing, don’t be disappointed by these rough scribbles, the workshop approach is about learning the technique not producing pristine pieces of art!
Coventry appears very much a tale of two cities with some wonderful old buildings and medieval ruins as well as somewhat brutalist architecture and the usual takeaway,/shopping centre street scene. The cathedral area around the Herbert Gallery where the Workshop was run, provides a stunning backdrop for the drawing workshops as well as usefully being right on the doorstep! And I have to mention one of the stars of the show: the weather!-after weeks of rain, wind, cold etc, we had a completely rain-free, sun-filled week! Unprecedented!
The morning sessions were taken up with one of 3 tutors, each with a different angle on visualizing space. I guess in some respects, the phrase pushing your sketching boundaries can be taken literally as well as metaphorically!
Team Simone-Perspective views
Those of us that work with street scenes and buildings a lot will always need to represent the perspective view in some way, whether it is looking at a typical 1 point perspective with two sides of the street running away from us with a view or scene at the end, ie the horizon straight on, or something more complicated! In this session we were able to look at a number of perspective scenes around the cathedral, get tuition from the Master of perspectives, Simone, and practice our hand at a few scenes.
Here are a few of the handy tips she shared with the group:
- Understand the relationship of vanishing point to eye level; the vanishing point is always at eye level.
- Things above door level are always coming down to the vanishing point; things below eye level are going up to the vanishing point.
- Look at what you have drawn in a mirror. The things that are wrong will stand out!
Team Isabel-Through a FishEye Lens –A curvilinear approach
In this technique you are actually bending the edges to be able to fit in objects within 180 degrees of the viewer. The middle if the view is similar to the traditional perspective view whereas outside the central area the curves become more pronounced. It’s a challenging one to get your head around but with some interesting results! Here are my inside views (a café in the Herbert Museum) and outside (new cathedral entranceway). I can see me using this to produce some quirky results inside buildings with ceilings and floors, but also to fit onto a page, taller items that my not otherwise easily fit!
Team Swasky-Flats and folds-Hinging the views
In this session we used two quite different locations, in the first instance creating a scene with buildings (in our case the medieval cathedral ruins) but that we draw flat, almost like a map, in this way the sides of the space, are like flat elevations, so bending at the connection with the floor would produce a more 3D model. In the other exercise, we ventured to the market to stalls where we could look down (almost in plan), look in front of us (elevation of sorts) and up. Again these drawings could be hinged to produce the overall scene in 3D. I can see some really interesting applications of this technique to a couple of buildings/areas in Manchester. Watch this space as I will share them when I progress these!
People in motion
Afternoons were spent with a range of activities from drawing portraits of each other in a few minutes to thumbnail sketches of street scenes and drawing a panoramic view as a team on concertina sketchbooks made during the course!. It is probably true to say that my take-home message from these sessions was: draw more people, more faces, and more street scenes incorporating people. This is something I plan to start to develop in the coming weeks . To assist this learning I have acquired the new People and Motion Urban sketchers book and enrolled on Marc Taro Holmes Craftsy course: Drawing people in motion. More on that in other blogs!
Although I confess to being somewhat ‘Out of My depth’ in the main sessions, it was a fantastic experience and provided a great opportunity to work outside of my comfort zone, but with the support and direction of skilled tutors and other sketchers. For me, it made me start to think more about the sort of scribbles I want to create, the ways in which I may make my artwork unique and different in the future, including the ways I want to understand and represent space. It also made me think more about the main purposes and approaches to my sketchbook pages and the things I am interested in and want to create: after all, this is My Story!
With many thanks especially to the 3 tutors and also to my sketching friends for much food for thought and a rich and fascinating sketching adventure in Coventry! You only have to look at the walls of the Herbert Museum to see the huge body of work we produced as a team!
A year ago I don’t quite remember exactly what I was doing on my birthday. I might have some digital photos as a reminder but no drawings. Whilst I did draw on occasion (usually on holiday!), it was not a regular thing, certainly not every day or even every week. It was last April (2014) that I started drawing (again) and I made an agreement to myself for the first time, to do it as often as I could and that has led to me drawing something, even if its only for 15 minutes, every day.
So this year, my birthday was different, I was able to capture elements of the day (we visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park) with my scribbles. Now admittedly, they are not as fluid and spontaneous as I would like (I’m hoping that these elements will develop with time and practice), but I have captured aspects that will therefore remain with me. Firstly, because I believe that by drawing I have a better memory and vision of them in my mind and secondly because I have a physical record of them to look back on! I have written before about the reasons that I draw, you can read that here; but my birthday has bought a number of these reasons to the front of my mind.I love the aspect of drawing in sketchbooks that is about reportage and documentation of life, a visual diary. I think this is a big part of why I have continued and what spurs me on to develop my drawing and writing skills. I have a long way to go to develop good composition skills that will enable me to create full and balanced pages that tell the story, my story, but I am making a start!I have often not enjoyed my birthday; I think I have felt that it is ‘just like any other day’ (no idea what I thought would happen or why it would be so different anyway!), but by recording my day, it was fine for it to be ‘just another day’ and that day felt more special! Perhaps when you draw, there is no such thing as ‘just another day’! Drawing enables you to see better, more richly, more detail, more, well, just more! So by drawing these elements of my birthday, the ordinary felt extraordinary –good enough reason to carry on drawing for another year I reckon!
A question on facebook recently about what sketchers get from drawing by artist and teacher Roisin Cure really got me thinking. I was actually already thinking about it but it got me even more thoughtful about certain experiences that have developed my approach, be it, a book (Drawing on the Right side of the Brain by Betty Edwards), a course (Sketchbook Skool ) or a group (Urban Sketchers, particularly Urban Sketchers Manchester all come to mind. I have been starting to consider the great things about what it means to me to scribble and how it has changed my perception of the world around me. It may sound a little far fetched to say ‘it has changed my life’ but I certainly believe that drawing/sketching/making art has a huge amount to offer and really does change my perception and understanding of what’s around me. From listening to and reading about others, this certainly doesn’t seem to be an usual response either, others are equally enriched by the process. On reflection, here, in nutshell (or should I say in a very small sketchbook!) are the things I see as benefits for me, at this moment in time:
The process of sketching helps calm my mind and focus my attention I often have difficulty on keeping my attention focused upon one thing and this creates stress and anxiety. I flit from one thing to another and this compounds my ability to concentrate, creating a somewhat nervous disposition. To be honest, its something I have come to live with and over the years, it seems to have worsened. Through sketching, I am able to just focus on the drawing, nothing else. It calms my mind and enables me to relax. I become completely absorbed in the drawing and the process, giving me valuable ‘time out’. I have not found anything else that is able to do that!
It enables development of a much better awareness of the world around me and a deeper understanding of the places I live and visit Since becoming a member of the Urban Sketcher community, going out and about, particularly in Manchester with Manchester Urban Sketchers and beyond, I have developed a greater awareness and interest in the city I live in: from the new modern skyscrapers to the old Mills and other stunning historic buildings; their colours, textures, scale, detail. The same applies when I visit other places. Through the drawing, I am able to unpeel some of the physical layers and develop a better understanding of the place. This is an ongoing process of understanding and revealing! What fun! I am aware of more of the dynamics of the place, the festivals, events, traditions. It makes for a much richer experience and helps with feelings of belonging, helping connect me with others, be it through social media or other means. When standing outside, people may come up and chat, either about the process of drawing or about the place. It all adds to the experience and the ‘Sense of Place’.
It provides me with a record and therefore a clearer memory of an experience, a visit etc. Recording visits and trips in the form of a scribble, provides sketchbooks to revisit and remember-to recall ‘that time when I was drawing that’. Through drawing, I have to study the place/the person/the location so much more than I would usually do. I have to stand/sit and look and look. It etches it on my mind and provides a richer, more vivid memory. This is where the reportage comes into its own in a sketchbook. The notes accompanying a scribble provide valuable clues and dimension-I need to get better and creating these diverse and richer pages of narrative in my book! Here are my scribbles from last year’s trip to Wales. I remember it all the better for the scribbles!
It enables me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary Even the most simplistic of everyday scenes have a depth, substance and interest when looked at carefully, with more than a cursery glance! This narrative develops the more you scribble and draw. It provides you with a visual clarity, a fascination, a better pair of glasses! Even the most supposedly ordinary of places and things, train stations, street furniture, queues are the most fascinating when you look carefully!
Sketching enables connection with like-minded people Through the drawing groups I belong to where I live and also on line. This type of support is great because it provides friendship and a forum for dialogue and development of understanding. It’s a richer and more fulfilling way of living! In addition, through sharing these drawings on-line, it enables engagement with others that may have some connection with the drawing, be-it a memory or sentiment about the place or an understanding of its significance or history. This Cooperative building in Pendleton, Manchester is a good example. The Manchester Tour Guides posted a picture on social media and it prompted dialogue about the building, its history and me to go out and draw it!
Sketching gives me a voice and allows me to express my views of the world through a visual diary. Of course, there are lots of ways of expressing yourself, but I find drawing to be a great way of self-expression. Through the recording in sketchbooks, adding notes and other memorabilia I have a record of that time and place and of my ‘take’ on the scene. It is mine and mine alone, my visual signature. You only have to attend an urban sketching session to see the variety of ways in which a scene can be seen!
Finally of course and perhaps this was the main driver in the first place:
Through regular practice, sketching enables me to develop my drawing skills and improve my artwork It is a slow and continuous process but also one where progress is clearly noticeable as time passes-a better sense of perspective, more astute textural detail, a greater awareness of colour and shadow etc. Over time, my ability to see, and to tap into ‘The Right side of the brain’, continues to improve!
If you are a seasoned sketcher I’d love to hear your views or if you haven’t yet made a start, why not make it a New Year resolution! I am sure that as there is for me, there will be many positive outcomes for you too!
As a newbie urban sketcher I have always been keen to present my work in coloured form. Colour brings places alive, it makes them real and gives them substance. People react to colour. Black and white looks like lines on a page, a picture, but with colour, the image becomes a place: somewhere, something. I like to work with reality, colour helps me to bring my own reality to my work. At least I think it could/should/will do in time!
This is the first, no doubt of many, of my blogs about colour and my exploration, understanding and development of its use, in my work. Actually, its about my exploration with watercolour as a medium, in which colour is a big part. Like most things in life and certainly in drawing, knowing techniques and technical detail does not seem to be anything like enough, its about practice and interpretation; exploration and finding my own way, no doubt with the direction and influence of many others. These include those on line, who write the books I read or who are experienced members of the groups I belong to e.g. Urban Sketchers, Manchester Urban Sketchers, Sketchbook Skool etc.
Now I am not claiming to be an expert here. The fact that I feel I know so little is the point. Others may say something like ‘ oh, I just use a bought travel kit and work intuitively’! –Who knows what that means?! (all I can say is, I’ve tried that and I ended up with a muddy mess) so there is clearly much more to it than that! Dipping into Internet sites e.g. handprint.com (which by the way, looks like an amazing future resource!) or some detailed watercolour texts on the other hand feels much like starting a degree in atmospheric physics half way through the final year (not that I’ve ever tried, but you get my point?), so I’m trying to find some other ways!
I have a small tin box, originally part of a watercolour set, with small pans of Windsor Newton; plus a tube of Windsor & Newton Paynes Grey. I have been using this as a start point. I am now running out of a number of these and have been lucky enough to receive some good quality Daniel Smith watercolour tubes for Christmas(which I have decanted into pans):
The colour selection is as recommended by Liz Steel in her blog here. I plan to explore their use (the topic of a future blog!) and add to them as necessary, but am also keen to limit my portable pallet to a maximum of 12 if possible, for practical purposes. Although inevitably I am sure that my preferences will change over time!
I currently use pentel waterbrushes plus two synthetic round brushes: 4 and 8 size but plan to replace the later with some portable sable brushes soon from this wonderful supplier here: http://www.rosemaryandco.com. They are both local and well recommended by fellow sketchers on line.
The start of my journey with watercolour has resulted in delving into these 4 books. My current favourite for its clarity and clear explanation of a range of aspects related to painting technique, colour theory, mixing and use for urban sketching is Urban Watercolour Sketching by Felix Scheinberger.
The images of a couple of my location scribbles here show the use of the idea that opposite colours on the colour wheel attract and help intensify each other (Cowfold, Sussex):
Top 5 watercolour tips (for urban sketching)
- Use the best materials you can afford. Don’t just use student quality paints as they do not have the pigment density or the luminosity of professional quality paints.
- Bigger is not always better when it comes to paint boxes. I prefer to use small boxes (which can be filled with 12 half pans) as they are less heavy to carry around and colours can be mixed.
- Buy colours that are difficult to mix. Some are easily mixed yourself, but others are more difficult such as strong turquoise or magenta.
- Don’t just stick to one approach in applying watercolour: combine techniques to bring a watercolour image to life This may include washes and glazes, washes and splatters.
- To identify good colour combinations to use, check out those of other artists, as well as in magazines, films or nature. This helps to keep ideas fresh and prevent us from getting stuck in a comfort zone!
I look forward to sharing more of my colour adventures in future blogs.